Monday, December 28, 2009
Anyway, my desire for violence this holiday was not due to the stress of the season nor because of family (didn't visit them). So, here starts a rambling essay about enjoying violence.
I restarted reading a manga called Berserk by Kentaro Miura and put out by Dark Horse Comics. Miura started the series in 1990, and it's been running ever since. I had watched the anime series which was obviously incomplete but, as my friend Alex has said, had an oddly compelling storyline, much different from your usual Japanese fantasy plot.
Imagine if Clive Barker wrote Conan the Barbarian and Hieronymous Bosch and H. R. Giger penciled it -- plus the gender politics of a Frank Frazetta painting. The story focuses on Guts (or Gutsu or Gatts) who is the Berserker in question, wielding a ridiculously big sword that's as wide as an elephant's thigh. The story is also ridiculously violent and dark. It has all the markings of a very guilty pleasure. Oh yeah, in typical manga fashion, there is also a cute elfin sidekick who makes comments about how he's there to "lighten" the mood.
What attracts me to these violent media? I do not think violence of any sort, short of self-defense, to be conscionable. I step over a bug on the sidewalk (and I have a strict rule regarding insects in the house that I'll do my best to put them outside unless they have touched my face or been on my bed -- both of which carries a death sentence -- and, believe me, having grown up in Georgia where our bugs could eat everyone else's bugs, this is a very generous rule).
I like violent video games -- decapitating your opponents in pixels is just so relaxing! Of course, I don't like all violence in media. Maybe it's a gendered thing, but guns bore me. When I used to play Doom, I loved to use the chain saw. Torture porn movies also bore me. Violence on par of Frank Miller's more recent fare (300, Sin City) seems silly . Hmm, maybe that's it. I only like violence that doesn't take itself too seriously (which is a sick contradiction, I know).
Which brings me back to Berserk. Most of what I have mentioned that I don't like is in full flower in this manga. I'll have to think some more on this. Stay tuned for In Praise of Violence II (or, the deathbed retraction, either one).
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Perhaps my favorite quote out of this entire debacle was from said library worker who decided to risk her soul to read the darn book to see if it was truly pornographic (dunno -- were you turned on?). From the Lexington Herald-Leader: "People prayed over me while I was reading it because I did not want those images in my head." Ye gods, this book was very tame compared to so much more that Moore has done. Are you kidding me? They should have taken it out of circulation because it was a badly written book. See my review on January 2008 (I'm actually linking to myself! Have I disturbed the space-time continuum?)
All a bunch of silliness.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
By the by, I'm trying a new thing by NOT linking everything to Wikipedia. Let's see how long that lasts (even as I am tempted to link the word, Wikipedia, to its home page -- damn you, latent OCD!).
Friday, October 30, 2009
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Single volume collection of Bone by Jeff Smith (hey, less than 27 bucks for 1300 pages). If you have never read it, it's a lot of fun just for the rat creatures (stupid, stupid rat creatures). I met Jeff Smith at a con a while ago, and he drew me the dragon. I have no idea where that thing is right now.
One Hundred Demons by Lynda Barry (which I should have anyway). I caught some of Barry's work at Krazy, a really weird exhibit of manga, comics, video games, visual art, etc.... in Vancouver last year. (It just closed in New York at the Japan Society). I meant to do a review of the exhibit, and I might on Anime Cake. Anyway, long aside, to my comment about Barry. They had some of her work there, and it's amazing to see in person because she makes a freakin' collage -- something that really can't be represented in print. Or, at least, she did this for her covers. She's just amazing.
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, the film by Hayao Miyazaki. The kids are reading the first volume of the manga and I figured I couldn't show them my fansub of it.
A Drifting Life by Yoshihiro Tatsumi, an autobiographical comic which may not be suitable for them, but I want to read it anyway.
Also, a maybe for them, The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard by Eddie Campbell. You may know as the artist from Moore's From Hell, and as the artist/writer for Bacchus.
Then, I got a bunch of theory related stuff including two books with essays from Mr. Gene!
A Comics Studies Reader (Gene's essay on Chris Ware)
The System of Comics by Thierry Groensteen (which Gene worked on). I have been meaning to buy this book for a long time. I hear it's a quick read! (ha!)
The Language of Comics (which has that same Ware essay I believe).
That's a lot of comics. I figured I could splurge since it's for teaching.
Friday, June 5, 2009
Well, it's ironic that I caught this group of films because I had just hit the Bergman sequence in my Netflix queue. Months ago, after watching Fanny and Alexander (a good one to watch around the winter holidays), I decided that I needed to see more Bergman. I had seen the Seventh Seal before as part of a film class in college but I wanted to watch it again. So, I had it at home when it was playing last night. I watched the last hour of it. Then, it went into Wild Strawberries, which has a Fanny/Alexander feel to it. Bittersweet. Lovely. I was completely drawn in. The other film I watched was Persona which was bizarre but equally compelling. Think David Lynch directing Single White Female -- which he kinda did with Mulholland Drive. Actually, I could see a great deal of Bergman's influence on Lynch. I am not even going to try to parse what happened in this movie, but the gist of it was an actress who, in the middle of doing Elecktra, decided to stop speaking. A nurse stays with her at a summer house and then things get weird(er). It was beautifully shot and I couldn't keep my eyes off Liv Ullman (the actress). It's obvious that Bergman started his affair with her during this shoot because when we look through the camera at her, you can't help but feel that as well.
The last film was The Hour of the Wolf but I couldn't stay up to watch. I was Bergmaned out. As a funny sidenote, my first introduction to Bergman was a really funny spoof of The Seventh Seal by the cartoon show Animaniacs.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
I know this is a scattered post, but anybody needs a month of Netflix, let me know. I have a free month. Hmm, what else. Oh, and Kate, send me Brad and Liz's snail mail address and I'll send you notes from Connecticut. I'll e-mail you too but I forgot before I logged off there.
Yes, I'm still alive! More structured posts (yeah, right) later. Saw Star Trek with the Queen last Saturday. Review forthcoming. And did anybody read Crumb's Genesis in this week's New Yorker? What did you think?
Friday, May 8, 2009
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
In other gay marriage news, did you catch Stephen Colbert's parody of the National Organization of Marriage "gathering storm" or how-the-gays-will-get-us-all-wet-and-confused ad? NOM actually thanked Colbert for the exposure. Now I know that I'm preaching to the choir here at the Idea of Order and I really don't want to turn this into a ranting, screaming match in the comments, but the more I see these ads defending marriage, the more I am bewildered and the more hope I have for same-sex marriage to succeed.
Monday, April 6, 2009
A few seasons pass and I even venture on my own, now easily seeing the common birds and then I find myself at dusk with a group of Audubon birders in a marshy field in the middle of nowhere, listening to the guide trying to flush out a bird in the shrubs with his iPod nano so he can hit it with a spotlight and we can see it. This must be how cults start.
Thursday evening, I paid cash money to attend this outing. We were in search of the American Woodcock, a rarely seen bird except during its mating season in early spring. It's kin to the sandpiper and sticks to its little marshy bogs until it feel compelled to draw out its mate with spectacular aerial acrobatics. It's pretty weird to see a sandpiper like creature in the woods but let me explain its mating dance to those who are still interested enough to be reading (it was the cult comment that got you, right?). After the sun has set, the male woodcock begins to beep in the shrubbery. No, really, it beeps. It sounds like a smoke detector whose batteries are running out (except maybe a little more robot-ey). Then, when the mood strikes it, it begins to beat its wings which make a tremendous noise and it lifts up into the sky, wheeling into wider and wider circles a hundred meters up. I have no idea how the wings make that noise as it flies (and it does so throughout the process), and I lack the metaphoric skills to explain. If you feel so inclined, check out the Cornell Lab where you can hear a recording. Keep in mind that besides the "beeps," all the other noises are from the wings. Then it circles back down rapidly and swoops back to the little patch of land that it is fiercely defending from other males and apparently nosy birders.
The bird we saw that evening flew over our heads to land and it danced around from us after a few spirals (the guide would whisper frantically after it had taken off -- move!! and the group would reposition itself.) We finally got a good look when it was completely dark, and he hit it with the spotlight. Every one trained their binoculars on our prey -- except for me because silly me thought I wouldn't need them at night -- a logical assumption, right? A guy loaned me his so I could get an upclose look which was very nice of him. The light didn't seem to bother the bird but thankfully the light dimmed and we had to leave before we did pester him too much.
I was happy to see it because its behavior is so interesting. I don't know if I will make a habit of going with these groups because I like the peace and quiet of going alone or with only one other person. However, I know that I would never have found this guy without a little assistance of the Pomfret CT Audubon Society.
So ends my tale of adding another bird to my "life list" and it also goes on the list of double-entendre bird names -- the tufted titmouse, the white-breasted nuthatch -- that would make my students laugh.
And I asked about owl walks but apparently fall and winter are the best time to see them. In the spring they just hunker down apparently.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
The second tidbit is just amusing -- a manga-fied Wolverine. If only Hugh Jackman had such big, anime eyes!
From the PW review/summary: "we find a teenage Logan living at the Quiet Earth School in Canada and studying martial arts. Bored, restless and channeling James Dean, the young rebel worries about his upcoming graduation as well as his missing past."
Wow, that sounds so unappealing.
Friday, March 27, 2009
However, I did hear interesting things. First, I could ID the mourning dove. And I heard such a ruckus down the way, that I risked my life around boggy water to get closer to it. I think it was a bunch of frogs, but I couldn't identify them either. They were so loud that I had to cover my ears. I did have the bright idea of using my cell phone to capture the sounds on my home answering machine, but I was not able to figure it out.
Later, after being bitten by something, I decided to head back from the meadow I was standing in and I took a rest on the only manmade object in the forest. I think it was some sort of water manhole thing. I dunno. So, I sat there waiting for the stupid birds to show up. But then I heard the call of a Great Horned Owl (and then the predictable caws of the crows who were looking for it to mob). I jumped up and ran over to the area where I heard it. Okay, it took me a few minutes to climb through the brush but I thought that since the trees were still bare, I might have a chance of finding it. Though nocturnal hunters, these big owls (nearly two feet tall) roost during the day and you can see it just like one would see the one below --
I didn't see it anywhere, and I waited a long time to see if it would hoot again. Of course, it was probably a foot above me, wondering what I was doing. I even looked at the base of trees for coughed up fur and bones. Nature is so wonderful at hiding these guys. If only they didn't blend in to the tree trunk so well. I gave up. But maybe I will see one there again.
So, I went home and did a little research. According the Cornell U. site "All About Birds"
"The Great Horned Owl is the only animal that regularly eats skunks."
In a completely unrelated tidbit, but still on the topic of birds, did you know that bluebirds are not really blue? It's air pockets in the feathers that refract the light. Also from the Cornell site:
Tiny air pockets in the barbs of feathers can scatter incoming light, resulting in a specific, non-iridescent color. Blue colors in feathers are almost always produced in this manner. Examples include the blue feathers of bluebirds, Indigo Buntings, Blue Jay's and Steller's Jays. If you find the feather of a Blue Jay or Steller's Jay you can see for yourself how this works. First, observe the feather in normal lighting conditions and you will see the expected blue color. Next, try back-lighting the feather. When light is transmitted through the feather it will look brown. The blues are lost because the light is no longer being reflected back and the brown shows up because of the melanin in the feathers.
This beautiful picture is from the site "Images of Colorado." It's Mountain Bluebird and you won't find it in Connecticut so don't even try.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Atlanta was fun although damp and cold. Not as cold as CT but you know how it is when it rains for days and the temp is below fifty. Just gets into the bones. It didn't help that the day I arrived and the day after I left, the temp was 70 and sunny! Regardless, the flowers were starting to bloom and the grass was turning green. It was a happy sight. I can't wait for a little color around here (although I did see my first robin yesterday). My flight going down was fine but I was delayed (killed by inches) on the way back and I had planned to visit somebody in a rehab center in Framingham but I couldn't. I also did not get into first class on either flight. I was way down on the totem pole for both stuffed planes.
In Atlanta, I graded papers, read books, and ate yummy home-cooked meals -- Mom always stocks up when I'm home. My niece and nephew visited, and I was taught a new card game. However, I think my nephew (who is now 6'1'') took it easy on me. It was one of those slap-the-deck type games which, I can imagine, can turn semi-violent with the right group.
Nothing else to report. Just battening down the hatches for the end of the semester. Oh, and one trip to New Orleans in April!
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
What I liked:
--The way they animated Rorschach's mask (must have been agonizing for the director and special effects people to decide how it should look at every moment -- the best part was when Rorschach was punched)
--The floating dust motes in Dr. Manhattan's aura
--The way Dr. Manhattan looked, even his blue genitals
--The casting for the Comedian, Rorschach, and Nite Owl were all good. I was dubious that Patrick Wilson could pull it off because he's too good-looking and in great shape. I wonder if they used special effects to make him look dumpy? Or did he just have permission to eat all the pasta he wanted? His "reunion" with Jackie Earle Haley (from Little Children) was also neat. Haley got the voice, the look, the shortness, and I liked his "hurm."
--though the pop culture references that tried to position the film in time were tireseome for the most part (esp. the montage at the beginning), the John McLaughlin, Pat Buchanan, and Eleanor Clift group were hilarious. Who knew that an actress could get a role based on this ability to mimic Clift?
--Sally Jupiter getting a punch in on the Comedian. I liked it better than the girly scratch in the book and the ensuing fight was interesting theoretically about women superheroes. It was a brutal scene and I have more to say about it below in what I didn't like.
--the eighties clothing and earrings (!)
--the way they shot the famous "bathroom" murder scene
--the owlship looked awesome
--Matt Frewer as Moloch.
--the way the film really showed Nite Owl's fetish and impotence problems
--Laurie's breakdown on Mars was moving
--the ending. I thought the ending of the film actually worked. I never really liked the giant alien squid and showing Nite Owl having a few moral qualms about it made sense (he was such a weenie in the book). After all, he's the schlub in the film without a grand ideology about humanity (Dr. Manhattan, Ozymandias, Rorschach, the Comedian, etc all have bleak outlooks but he's the one guy just trying to get by).
--that it was a rated R film. They didn't try to make it PG-13 even though it's going to hurt the film financially.
What I didn't like:
--The casting of Ozymandias was completely wrong. He did a horrible job or was given horrible direction. I think you are supposed to think that at the beginning he's an earnest do-gooder and then the twist is more surprising because he's the most cynical of all. In the film, his performance screams "I'm a Villain!" His line delivery was wooden and terrible.
-- the soundtrack was HORRIBLE. The mixture of different times and songs as well as using songs to push an emotion. That was lazy. If you notice the song and not the performance, you aren't doing it right.
-- the comedian as Kennedy's assassin (c'mon!)
-- Lee Iacocca getting a bullet between the eyes
--the excessive and graphic violence that was not necessary and went against characterizations: e.g., Nite Owl and Laurie killing those guys in the alley; Rorscach plunging the meat cleaver over and over again in the pedophile's head, watching the guy who had fryer oil dumped on him
-- some dramatic slow mode for pointless situations (like Nite Owl jumping out of the ship which was a prelude to talking not ass-kicking. The director did this a lot with Laurie too)
-- too much Nixon
-- I think the Comedian scene with Moloch could have been shot better
-- I wished they had done the Watchmaker scene on Mars a little closer to the original but I understand that that might have messed with the tone of the film even more
--that I still think it made no sense to those who haven't read the book
What I'm mixed about:
-- Billy Crudup's voice as Dr. Manhattan. It seemed too soft for me but I'm not sure
--I liked the opening fight scene but I wonder if it would have been better to leave it out.
-- I liked the fact that the director left references to all these other superheroes but it did bog down the film a big -- opening montage
Okay, there is more but I'll have to save that for another day. I have to sign off now.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Looking on the bright side, probably best that here-I-sit-not-having-seen-Watchmen-yet because I don't think I could make through the three hour noirish-wannabe slugfest.
Looking further into the sun, one could also say that here-I-sit-not-grading-papers (which is a usual position) or here-I-sit-not-reading-Kafka or here-I-sit-not-having-a-stick-poked-in-my-eye.
Here-I-sit-and-I-fall-to-pieces (cue Patsy Cline)
Friday, March 6, 2009
“We felt that Books made it clear to readers that our intent is to be inclusive and expansive. These rankings will grow, as we see more of the sorts of migrations you described at the [ICv2 Conference] -- adaptations from other name brand bestselling authors, and so forth. Sci-Fi, Romance, procedurals, and many others, over time.
“We also like the fact that the word Books sets us a bit apart from what might be expected by simply calling them Graphic Novels. The genre has grown even beyond novels. And novel perhaps implies a "novelty," when we might indeed be seeing the evolution of something with a far longer arc, past, present and future. They are an established form, not a novelty likely to recede as a fad. One has only to look at the aisles of any bookstore to monitor their growth."
It's amusing that they insist upon books because "novel" sounds like "novelty." What is a novel, O minds at the paper?
The NYT then divides up the list as follows: Hardcover, Softcover, and Manga (why is Manga separate??). As you can see Naruto just dominates.
Monday, March 2, 2009
From guy at Midtown comics in NYC
If you could be any comic book character, who would it be?
Obviously Superman because he has no weaknesses except a green rock. But realistically, I'd say Spider-Man.
From guy at Forbidden Planet in NYC:
Which title has fallen farthest from grace?
Wow. Half of Marvel's books [then he goes on...]
Marvel has been out of the loop for years...
What's the least nerdy thing about you?
I'm surprisingly smooth with ladies.
Pot meet kettle. Kettle meet pot.
[and I've just thought of a drinking game -- throw back a shot for everytime the comic book guy says "Watchmen" in defense of comics]
from another Midtown Comics guy
What are the best and worst parts about working in a comic store?
The best part is definitely just being around comics and getting to see new stuff before other people do. If you go into an office and walk from cubicle to cubicle you don't hear people talking about comics. You hear, "Oh I have to do this report." I get to talk comics at work. I get to recommend stuff to people. That's also one of the hardest parts — not getting too carried away. It's a job and I have to pay attention to the floor, make sure there are enough comics on the wall and do inventory. You can't get too involved.
Yeah, because if you get too involved, you might end up getting your heart broken.
What's the least nerdy thing about you?
I'm a big sports nut. I'm a huge Yankees fan. It's still nerdy because I'm a stats guy. But I'm like any jock, screaming when someone scores.
newflash: sports fans are nerdy. Jocks are nerds of the same feather.
Insert sexy picture of comic book gal here. Fan service, all the way.
And this guy is a geek after my own heart -- with specifics and endnotes for why some comic are good and why some suck.
And he also says:
What's the least nerdy thing about you?
I get one pass, right? Pass.
Know thyself, geek!
Sunday, March 1, 2009
So, as you may have read in a previous post, I've been attending a class about the Talmud. The class meets twice a month on the second and fourth Wednesdays. It's a very introductory class but extremely fascinating. A few classes ago, we were discussing some of the "narrative" parts of the Talmud. That is, not the part that necessarily talk about "law" (like dietary laws, etc.). Rav Jeremy (our rabbi) gave us a very interesting passage that I've been thinking about for weeks. So, as you may remember (or not). The section I'm about to quote to you is from the first centuries CE and just blows away my training in medieval (Christian) literature because this seems to be an unthinkable statement. In this passage, the rabbis debate over whether or not God prays. It's a weird question, right? Who would God pray to? Uber-God? Well, one guy answers with a piece of scripture that God does pray. That's not the interesting part. Instead, the passage continues with "if God prays, what does this prayer look like?" The Talmud answers (Rav Jeremy's translation)
"May it be my will that my compassion conquer my anger, and may my compassion prevail over my attributes, and may I behave toward my children with the attribute of compassion, and for them may I go beyond the letter of the law"
Isn't that interesting? It is and it isn't a human prayer. A lot of Jewish prayers ask for "may my better side overcome my weaknesses" and this prayer has that division in it. However, it is also "godly" in the sense that both attributes are very apparent in the Torah. God is sometimes very angry and sometimes shows great compassion. I also find it interesting that in this prayer, God acknowledges that compassion may sometimes go beyond "law," and this "law" also seems to bind God.
But that's not all. In the Talmudic text, the next question is "If God can pray, then can God be blessed?" The answer is: Yes.
In the Temple, the high priest entered and saw God sitting on a throne. God asked "My son, Yishmael, bless Me" and the priest said "May it be your will that your compassion conquer your anger, and may your compassion prevail over your attributes, and may you behave toward your children with the attribute of compassion, and for them may you go beyond the letter of the law." And God nodded.
One could read God's nodding as "right answer" and that the priest had been tested and passed it. I am amazed that this passage is included at all. It smacks of pretention and/or an utter lack of fear by the writers because they do not offer any further commentary than this. Or else, it is a philosophical game akin to "Can God create a rock that God cannot lift?" (or my personal favorite, "can God microwave a burrito so hot that even God cannot eat?"). I'd be interested in seeing what the other Talmudic commentators have to say about it.
However, one can also read this section with the high priest rather poignantly. At the next class meeting, Rav Jeremy told us that Rabbi Yishmael ben Elisha, who meets God in the Temple was the last high priest before the Temple was destroyed in Jerusalem, creating the Jewish diaspora. Therefore, God's compassion did not override the other attributes.
Saturday, February 28, 2009
Monday, February 16, 2009
So, last Friday (the 6th), I went to the New York Comicon (Comiccon?). I must be getting older when I am irritated by how time-consuming it is to get into the city. C'mon! It's NYC, after all! Though I usually take the Metro North from Harrison, I wasn't certain that I would find parking so I went to New Haven and took the train from there. Mr. Gene, who I was meeting there, had already arrived, having taken an early Amtrak. The train ride was uneventful and upon exiting, got into NYC walking mode (ya know, the way Kate walks everywhere). I took the subway over to Times Square and then walked the blocks to the hotel I booked through Hotels.com. The room was surprisingly big and a good deal -- even though I had to walk through a parking garage and then back outside to my room which overlooked a pool. Yes, it was a regular sized pool. It was as if they had grabbed a motel from a suburb and just plunked it onto West 42nd. Go figure.
Gene met up with me and unloaded all the goodies he had nabbed from the Con and then we walked over to the Javits Center. The previous day I had been mocked by a co-worker since my facebook image uses an anime pic that "I looked like someone who would go to a con." After I confirmed my attendence at such a place (reluctantly), she told me that she wished I could twitter the moment I stood in line behind a jedi. Well, there were no jedis (though one did appear soon after), but I stood in line behind three Ghostbusters. Their costumes were pretty cool with shining lights on their ghost catching thingies.
After receiving my credentials and lanyard, we entered the space. I've been to the Javits Center once before for the Book Expo America which had a lot of flash and promotional material, but this was pretty amazing. My feet hurt just looking at all the aisles. I made sure to hit all the manga booths although their presence was small at this con. Then, I dragged Gene through artists' alley where we saw who was the most popular by the lines forming in front of the tables. I was horrified that Bill Sienkiewicz's table was completely obscured by some other guy. I had to push through the fanboys so I could properly gush. Having never been at a proper con before and with no materials for him to sign (and I was even thinking that I would buy a sketch), he sensed my utter lost state and gave me a comic and signed it ("my gift to you."). What a nice guy!
Gene and I finally sat down at the "food court" which really consisted of sugar in all its varied forms and little of substance (except for philly cheese steaks but that is not of much substance anyway). I teased Gene about all his twittering: "What are you saying now, Gene? 'I'm twittering instead of talking to Wendy?'"
We had some interesting conversations with publishers and pseudo-academics. I only bought a copy of Action Philosophers #2 because it featured a really funny bit on Marx (I can't wait to show my students!). I managed to fend off all other purchasing bugs and the many, many freebies. I let Gene take all those (plus extras!).
After all of this, he had a meeting and I went to a panel by Vertical Publishing. I was bummed that I didn't win the signed editions of To Terra by Keiko Takemiya nor several volumes of Tezuka's Black Jack. In fact, it was quite suspicious that all the books went to people who had put their names in the bag last! I cry foul!
Then I attended the panel that Gene was a part of. The room was packed but the moderator did provide cupcakes which was welcome since I hadn't had much to eat that day. The panel had a lot of people on it and the connecting thread eluded me but seemed to be about teaching comics in all its facets (as an art, as a scholar, etc) and some research. Thankfully the talk did not descend into how scholars are ruining comics, blah blah blah. I enjoyed it though.
Afterwards, Gene and I went to a diner near the hotel and had yummy hamburgers and onion rings. You just got to love a town with true competition. No crappy one diner town for me! Then we spent the rest of the evening reading all of our items, passing out around 1. Thankfully I was so tired that when I heard the fanboys talking in the room next to me at 7:30 a.m., I didn't kill them. I just rolled over and went back to sleepyland.
A quick breakfast the next day and Gene was off to the Con again and I, to home. My only mishap was taking the first subway entrance I found which had the mark of the one I was looking for. I must have walked a mile underground to get to the shuttle to Grand Central!
All right, that's the story and I'm sticking to it. I was planning on talking about my casino trip today but I'm beat. So, here's the short side to the story -- I won 45 bucks and could have won/lost more if the idiots at the casino hadn't laid off so many people that we couldn't find another table to sit down at. In fact, blows were almost exchanged. Yegods, are people wanting to gamble.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Okay, in other news, I have been salivating over this book which depicts many layout sketches from Ghibli films. Last summer there was a big exhibit in Tokyo where I could have seen them in person (I wonder how good the security was...). The images are so amazing! But 50 bucks plus another 40 for shipping! egad! I will have to stop yelling at students so santa will bring me one.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
I've just posted so go ahead and look. Yes, it's very pink. If it gets to be too much, I'll fool around with the colors more. I'm not much of a designer, ya know.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Once students got through some of the major ideas, they debated the merits and delved in the philosophical depths. Some were rather Hobbesian: the life of man [is] solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. And others took issue with the evolutionary underpinnings of her argument ("It's just a theory"), etc.
Since the essay used many examples from the animal kingdom to prove her point, one student posited that characteristics can be passed on. After all, we breed dogs to have certain temperaments. I thought this was a good point although I was slightly galled that an international student who I had just told that he could not do a "how-to" speech on "how to train dogs for dog-fighting," was nodding enthusiastically (and I agreed with him).
Another student piped up about her dogs and I asked her what breeds they were (both were versions of Labrador and Golden Retrievers). I then asked the class "why these breeds were most popular family dogs in America?" They answered, of course, that they were friendly and good with children. This same student objected, stating that she had had another Golden Retriever which had bitten a few people and her parents had given it away.
In a low, but audible, voice, I said "Your parents didn't give him away." I immediately regretted saying it because her mouth dropped open and she turned a little red as the ramifications of my words dawned on her. Most of the class began to rib her a bit, and I apologized profusely.
As a friend put it "you won't be accused of mollycoddling your students." Such is life and death. Thank God I don't teach Elementary school students, right?
Fortunately, I held back from another student's comment about recessive genes -- she has different colored eyes than her family....
Monday, January 19, 2009
Follow it down to the darkness and the source.
Let it be your thread to what is
and what will never be. Sing the thread,
let it reverberate. No silence.
It is the poem that sees love
in the grains of wood, hears music
in a train's groan, and feels
every texture of fabric
while dressing the dead.
It weaves what we are,
and what we will become
and whether it be not true or real
is drowned in the tendons of our muscles
Friday, January 16, 2009
In the spirit of the QOE's movie reviews, here are some movies that you should watch when you are feeling cold.
Stray Dog (1949) by Akira Kurosawa, starring a very young Toshiro Mifune. Why for a cold day? Well, Mifune plays a cop who has lost his gun and spends the moving tracking it down. It happens in the middle of a heatwave. Everybody is sweating bullets and looking miserable.
Sunshine (2007) by Danny Boyle (he of Slumdog Millionaire fame), starring Cillian Murphy, Michelle Yeoh, and other familiar faces one often sees as second-tier actors. It's a science fiction story about some astronauts going to "jumpstart" the sun, which is dying. They have to get very close to the sun and it gets very hot. Fun film. Not the best but different from the usual science fiction fare. You get a sense that all of the astronauts are a bunch of nerds -- which I appreciate over the manliness of say, Armageddon, etc. The twist is a little silly and I admit that I watched this on a dying TV so I had a very difficult time discerning some of the arty action.
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994), an Aussie film by Stephan Elliot. Lots of sweatydrag queens as their bus breaks down in the desert. Great roles by Terance Stamp, Hugo Weaving, and Guy Pearce.
Lawrence of Arabia (1962) by (of course) David Lean. Just watch the scene when Peter O'Toole crosses the desert and demands a drink at the bar. He's sunburned and his lips are cracking.
Well, those gems should keep you warm for the moment.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
A waltz by the ballroom dancing club. Many of these were former students of mine! They were lovely.
A tribute by a former student who told Faye that she was a model and an inspiration for all "us nerds."
A tribute by Department Head and friend who gave away the Department gifts -- the best of which was an award to be given in her name, yearly, to the best Freshman writer. (Okay, I really teared up at this one).
A speech by the Admiral, who doesn't know her very well but spent two hours reading her Live Journal and freakin' QUOTED it at the ceremony. Let that be a lesson to you all. But the Admiral is very funny and has an extremely dry delivery. Though self-described as "boring," Kate leaned over to me and said "he's pretty funny." Hey, power and a sense of humor -- not a bad combination.
Faye said a few words as well, in which she quoted poetry and sang. She also made a reference to Bilbo's birthday party. All of this was very much in keeping with her personality. Very sweet.
I kinda wished I had begged to be on the program now.
Then she joined the Sea Shanty group which got the entire crowd to chime in on the chorus (including the Glee club which were having a great time). One member even improvised a verse for Faye on the spot.
I'm sure I've left out some other high points to which Kate and Gene can add. These were my favorite moments. We then left to go out into the cold and to the reception. Surprisingly, given the state of chaos in the afternoon, it was a wonderful reception. The noodle kugel was sublime (that should be the title of a novel) and I was so hungry, I ate a lot.
Our fears that the cake was not going to big enough were way off. A lot of people declined, even though I helped in serving and cajoled many attendees to have a piece. Boy, was it sweet!
At the reception, there were a few more presents and speeches, but all in all, it was pretty informal. I never even got to talk to Faye much since she had so many friends -- some of whom were from out of town-- that I could only hug her as we were leaving.
Kate and Gene stayed over. we had a few drinks, watched some crazy anime as I am wont to thrust upon them. Then it was up for lox and bagels and to Elena and Rod's for lunch. Unfortunately, since I'm such a wuss in the snow, once I saw any accumulation on the roads, I was out of there. Some of the hardy souls I left behind went sledding down the golf course behind their house (in the summertime, when attending bbqs there, the course lends a sense of danger that one will be beaned by a golfball). Okay, I fulfilled my promise and told the rest of the story.
Monday, January 12, 2009
Dear Bird Folks:
At a party the other night we were discussing our favorite birds. Then we started wondering what your favorite bird is. We all took a guess and my job was to write to you to find out if any of us were right. So, what is your favorite bird?
You went to a party and played "Name your favorite bird?" Talk about living life on the edge. I hope your kids don't find out what you do at night. Did the cops come by to break it up?
My favorite bird eh? I feel like I'm being interviewed for a teen magazine. Fine, I'll tell you my favorite bird. Maybe next week I'll tell you my favorite movie, my sign, and my turn ons and turn offs.
As far as I'm concerned, all birds are great. They all have fascinating behavior, incredible survival skills and diversified beauty. Yet only one bird has all the best qualities wrapped up in one package. The Black-capped Chickadee is by far the best bird ever invented. I know, right now there are millions of readers (or at least dozens) screaming "Chickadee, no way!" To which I reply, "way". Chickadees have it all. Let us count the ways.
First of all they are so stinkin' cute. Many birds have flashier colors, but with the fancy colors comes a snotty attitude. The beautiful spring warblers can't be bothered coming close enough for us to appreciate their colors. They zip about high in the tree tops and could care less that we must suffer permanent neck damage staring straight up for hours, hoping for a glimpse. Meanwhile, the inquisitive little chickadee will come to the branch just above your head, or it will even land on your head if you are pleasant enough.
As a guy who makes a living selling bird stuff, chickadees are the perfect bird. They eat just about every type of seed. They love suet. They nest in birdhouses and they come to birdbaths. Chickadees alone could put my kids through college, if, for some reason, one of my kids was accepted to a college.
Over the course of a year, Cape Cod is visited by close to 350 different species of birds, but very few can claim that they are here year round. Some birds (and many people) hate the heat, hate the cold or hate the crowds. To them the grass is always greener. But our chickadees are with us 24/7/365. They are able to deal with the hot, crowded summers and have learned to adapt to the freezing, boring winters. And never once do they complain about either. How many of you can say that?
Speaking of complaining, have you ever heard anyone complain about a chickadee? Has its sweet little song ever woken you up at 6:00 AM or have they ever taken a bite out of anything in your garden? Have they ever made a mess on your boat or drilled holes in the side of your house or charged anything on your credit card without your permission? I'm telling you these birds are perfect.
I know there are plenty of cardinal fans screaming that cardinals are the best. Please. Cardinals are a bunch of sissies. Think about it. Any time there is a predator around, crows, jays and chickadees are the first ones to sound the alarm. Meanwhile the cardinals are nowhere to be seen. Most of the time they don't even show up at our feeders until it's almost dark.
Keep in mind Monica, that I enjoy all birds. Just because I think chickadees are the best (and they are), that doesn't mean other birds aren't wonderful. Okay, maybe calling cardinals a bunch of sissies was a little strong, but I'm still not taking it back.
Before I sign off, here are a few other birds that are popular, but have one thing or another that keeps them from being my favorite:
Loon: Handsome in the summer, boring brown in the winter.
Hummingbird: Way, way,way too hyper. They need to chill.
Titmouse: A totally embarrassing name.
Catbird: It would be a good choice if it didn't have the "C" word in its name.
Great Blue Heron: Reminds me too much of Florida.
Peacock: Tries too hard.
Parrots: Forget it. If you want something that talks back, get a teenager.
Falcon: No way, they eat chickadees.
Pelican: Needs to work on its breath.
Sandpiper: Too confusing.
Bluebird: State bird of New York. The Yankees live in New York.
Crows: Very sad. The way they dress reminds me of the late Johnny Cash.
Ducks: They seem so distant.
Piping Plover: Hogs the headlines.
Goldfinch: Way too much molting.
Blue Jay: On the edge. They could snap any minute.
Baltimore Oriole: Hello. It's from Baltimore.
But what gets me, is not necessarily the song -- though it's unique and lovely and singing on full moon nights for no good reason is pretty cool. What moves me is that in the middle of the medley, also for no good reason, the bird will leap up and flash its wings, revealing broad, white bands on its wings. Then it will land and keep singing.
I want to go birdwatching soon...
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Let me review Friday since that was the highlight. I woke early -- for me -- 8 am, so I could pick up an extra cake for Faye's retirement. We were concerned that the other cake (that feeds 120) would not be enough. I bought it from Motta's on Route 6. I love to buy from them because I want to keep them in business. I carefully brought it to the car on the ice-slicked parking lot. The container must have opened slightly because the entire car smelled of sugar as I drove down to New London.
Then I taught at 1050 which was my Lit class. It went well although I was in a classroom with a computer I couldn't log into. Whoops! So, while they were working on poetry madlibs, I dashed to my office, dashed to the copier, and fired off the poems with the correct words in them. Then we talked about poetry in class. I have a few familiar faces this semester which is nice. After that, I went with a colleague to pick up the mega-cake. Kate took pics which I hope she will post. I'll link to them when she does. After bringing it to the reception hall, I decided to stick around and help set up. This meant I missed lunch and the speech from a big speaker at 1:00 (hence my 1:00 class was cancelled). I begged some food off of a neighbor across the hall from me (who mocked me when I yelled if she had any food -- she's many months pregnant. Of course she has food). Then I taught my 2:25 class. I only kept them for an hour but I already assigned the first paper.
I met up with Kate and Gene at the auditorium (also ran into my friend, Susan, and her daughter, Leah). We rushed inside because it was freakin' cold.
I would take the time now to talk about the fantastic ceremony but I'm just too pooped to create anything that would come near to capturing the event. I'll save that for next time. And I promise I will!
(spoiler: I did finally get to eat).
Thursday, January 8, 2009
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Anyway, I can't believe the first week of January is coming to a close, and I have to start teaching on Friday!
In other non-related teaching news, I'm taking a class at my synagogue on the Talmud. My medieval friends will find this particularly interesting. I never knew much about the Talmud which is a repository of commentaries on Jewish Law (everything from what is okay to eat to what should you do if you suddenly fart while praying). Right now what is most fascinating to me is the manuscript. I've put a page below. The middle column is the original law (the Mishna from Palestine, 3rd century CE) and then the original commentary (Gemara from 5th century CE from Babylonia). Then all the text around it is all the commentaries that have accrued over time. The text closest to the binding on the right is Rashi (from France, 11th century CE, which was also translated into Old French at one point). On the left, closest to the middle column are the Tosafists (thought to be students of Rashi -- France and Germany 12th to 13th centuries). Far left, cross references to other sections of the Talmud. Below that Comments of another reader (Tunis, 11th Century). The notes at the bottom are from Austria-Hungary (early 19th century) and so on and so forth.
Medievalists work with manuscripts all the time but to see a text accrue other texts like that is just something I haven't seen before. I can understand now why the Talmud is so important to Jews because it really does represent learning through the ages in one package. The image and other information about the Talmud is from here.
Monday, January 5, 2009
So I had to run out of the house to drive more than twenty minutes to the place. I was very hungry by the time I got there. Fortunately, as it was that typical Connecticut Asian fusion place (we got Thai! We got Sushi! We got it all!), I ordered sushi. Though people had eaten appetizers, soup, etc., my main course got there before their main courses. It wasn't bad. The spicy yellowtail roll was actually spicy (also unusual).
I can't believe I messed up already. I need to staple my calendar to my body.
Friday, January 2, 2009
My plan for the blog is kinda what Gene does for comics -- post news and reviews, etc. Since I come across a lot of anime and manga news I thought it would be a nice repository for myself and others.
I resolve to:
1. make this a year of change.
2. start an anime/manga blog.
3. try not to be such an awful procrastinator when grading papers this year.
4. accept more social invitations.
5. brush Boo more often.
6. buy health insurance (gah!)
7. write more letters. (If you are looking for a gift for me -- funky stationery is always appreciated).
8. volunteer somewhere.
9. eat more fruit.
I resolve not to:
1. be negative