Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tidbits to tell the Queen about

Two separate items came through my inbox and rather than send an e-mail to the QOE, I thought I would share. First is a video on Publishers' Weekly which I can't get to run on my work computer. It's called "Bar Noir" and spoofs Thin Man (an awesome, heavily drink filled movie with a fantastic couple) and bartending. Let me know if the link doesn't work. I'll have to check it when I'm home.

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

Went a Birding and Heard a Lot

The weather was so lovely today that I couldn't stand it. I had to get out. I went to one of the birding spots that my friend, Chris, had first shown me, and I walked around. Rather, I trudged a bit through mud...and saw nothing, except for a few crows and other birds that would not sit still long enough for me to even begin to guess ("hmm, loopy flight, long tail, I think I saw a white patch....")

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.

No bluebird of happiness for you.
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

You take a few days off

and lose the groove of blogging. Well, I'm finally caught up with all my e-mail so let me catch all of you up on what I have been doing.

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

Signing off for a couple of days

I'm going to visit family. Probably will not maintain web presence. See you all in a few!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Who Watched the Watchmen?

My back was finally feeling better so I made a date with a friend to go to Watchmen. We went to a 4:30 matinee yesterday and we were one of half a dozen people there (does not bode well for the film, I suppose). I'm of mixed feelings of it so I'm going to list what I liked and what I didn't like. There are lots of spoilers ahead (even if you have read the comic) so don't read on.


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

I Fall to Pieces

So, here I sit, not-having-seen-Watchmen-yet, and I am reeling in pain. I twinged something in my shoulder on Saturday that makes a couple positions (reclining or lying down) utterly excruciating. I wish I had some of those muscle relaxers that my mother took when she had her hip replacement surgery. When I was visiting her during this time, I also threw out my back. She gave me one of her pills, and I'm pretty sensitive to such narcotics. I could still feel the pain but I so did not care. Probably best I don't have them.... And oh yeah, my right foot has been hurting for a while (I blame all that walking at the Comiccon!) but it doesn't hurt that bad what with my back.

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

New York Times New Graphic "Book" List

I wasn't certain whether or not to post this here or at Anime Cake. Since it's mostly Graphic Novel related, I'll put it here. The New York Times has started a bestseller list for "Graphic Books." Why Graphic Books, you may ask? Here is a response as reported on icv2.com:

“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

The Comic Book Guy (and Girl) revealed!

Amusing article from Wired has just hit the web. To save you from the boredom, I've highlighted some of their responses with my running commentary:

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.

realistically? really?

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

The Talmud Class

I've been very busy on the web tonight. Must be because I'm procrastinating on all the grading I have to do.

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.