Wednesday, September 30, 2009

_Queen and Country_, vol 4, Operation: Blackwall

Art is from the Amazon page for this book.

I read this one on Sunday and Monday of this week. I read one volume of this series a while back and liked it; this one, also, doesn't disappoint. The art is pretty muddy, though, and if I didn't know Greg Rucka, as a writer, was a good bet, I probably would have put it back down.

Hated the cover art, which is really a bad thing for a comic.

I didn't have trouble interpreting the art after I tried, but at first glance it's hard to tell which character is which. This is a black-and-white book. The art is pretty evocative, eventually, but it takes a little work to read it.

Queen and Country books are about workaday British spies, and this one has the Service being used to save a prominent businessman from blackmail. The story is nicely handled and ties in with the main character's personal life well.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Predicting the Passing of Polymathy

A detail from Hercules slaying the Hydra, from Wikimedia Commons.

I can't support polygamy or polyamory, but I'd love to be considered a polymath. This article talks about how hard it is to be a true polymath these days. My favorite quote from this though is a sidelong reference to Mensa, which is described there as "a club for people who score well on IQ tests."

Speaking of polymathy, I like to check out Danny Yee's Pathologically Polymathic blog now and then. You may recognize its format from the venerable Robot Wisdom linkpost page.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Remembering the Death Star

The idea that Stormtroopers are people too never gets old for me. This vid from CollegeHumor does that with a twist on 9/11. Found via MetaFilter. Don't miss lines like "You're all drones. Especially the drones!"

Sunday, September 27, 2009

_The City & The City_, by China Mieville

I'm a big fan of China Mieville's, but nearly all of that is due to my boundless affection for _Perdido Street Station_. His two other books in the same world, _The Scar_ and _Iron Council_...they're less a trilogy than three books in the same setting...didn't thrill me to the same extent; their darkness was leavened with less light and less heart.

_The City & The City_ is something different. It's tied more closely to the real world, while still being strikingly odd. It's basically a detective novel, set in a pair of cities that are intertwined. It's not just a case of a city that was split by a political boundary; it's two cities that share space but studiously avoid each other. The residents of one city encounter their counterparts every day...but they pretend not to see each other...and this social barrier is raised to taboo status and enforced with terror.

This book has its dark moments, but is much lighter than the other Mieville books I've read.


I kept expecting a monster, alien, or wizard to pop up, given the general weirdness of the setting and knowing Mieville's proclivities...but it never happened. There are some hints that maybe there are high-tech, inscrutable artifacts to be found in the city, tied up with the origin of the split societies, but our protagonist never establishes whether these are real or rumor.

My only complaint about this book is that I thought we might get to find out why or how the cities were split in two (my bet was on aliens from about third of the way in) but we don't. However, I feel like any answer would have been anticlimactic. I liked the air of mystery. We did get to find out some of the secrets of the Breach, and that'll have to do, I think.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

_Runaways: Dead End Kids_ by Joss Whedon

I picked up this graphic novel at the library because it was by Joss Whedon of Buffy fame. It collects issues 25-30 of the Runaways series, and I didn't find the story arc very complete or compelling. It didn't stand on its own very well. By the end, I knew that the Runaways had apparently killed their parents, who had done something bad, but I didn't feel sufficiently sympathetic toward the Runaways to forgive them for that heinous crime. There was time travel. There were child super heroes of the past. There wasn't enough to make me want to read more volumes in the series.

Friday, September 25, 2009

_Ultimate Spider Man_ vols 15 and 18, by Brian Michael Bendis

I like what Bendis has done with Spider-Man in the Ultimate books, and I've been reading whatever volumes I bump into in the library. Since I know a lot of Spider-Man continuity anyway, I don't find this to be a problem.

With the Ultimate Spider-Man taking Spidey back to younger days, we get a lot of fun interactions between Spidey the teen hero and older denizens of the Marvel universe. And there's a lot of focus on how heroing messes up Peter Parker's life. Notable in these two volumes are a relationship between Peter and Kitty Pryde, a sequence where Flash Thompson is kidnapped by mercenaries who think he is Spider-Man, and in vol. 18, a great scene where Peter tells Aunt May about his secret life.

Aunt May comes off really well in this updating, as a smart, funny, strong older woman who has problems of her own. She's relieved to learn Peter = SM: "You don't know this but I - I was kind of obsessed with why this Spider-Man was so close to my life. Why was Spider-Man alwasys in the neighborhood? Why was Spider-Man there when Ben died? Why is he at your school? And now I see it's no mystery, it's just how unbelievably careless you are."

This leads to a sequence where Peter retells one of his superhero fight his Aunt. This lets Bendis' dialogue skills really come out. Peter's voice is great as he talks about fighting some guy with weird black-hole powers that even geeky Pete doesn't understand.

Peter: "These spots...he controlled them and they seemed to be maybe little balck holes, or little doors of antimatter, or little -- I don't know - he could toss black spots onto things and push objects and himself through them."

May: "I - I can't even fathom what you're talking about --"

Peter: "I know. I know. That's my point. You'd need to be a genius doctor of particle physics to even know the terms that describe what was happening and how they defied all of those terms and laws."

May: "Black spots?"

Peter: "I'm standing here and - and he's standing allt he way over there and I'm trying to find out what is happening and all of a sudden I'm being punched in the back of the head ... by him!"

I was charmed by how this sequence brought home the surprises of a superpowered encounter and Peter's point of view. I feel like comics readers lose some of that wonder after the fiftieth supervillain of the week shows up, and this sequence restored some of that.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Lily and play dough

Lily loves purple, so I made her some purple play dough. Photo is from 9/12/09.

UPDATE: This is the play dough recipe I like to use.

_Rising Stars_ vol 3 by J. Michael Straczynski

This volume was good, but the joy was lessened by reading it out of order. I'd read vol 1 some time ago, I think, and I don't think I've ever seen vol 2. Lots of interesting concepts are thrown out.

I think this is one of those books one should definitely read. It takes place in its own universe and has a single set of superheroes who share an origin and are all connected rather Highlander-style -- if one dies, the others get more powerful. That's not nearly as cheesy in the book as it sounds.

The book heads for a somber place, but ends on a positive note without chickening out.


A superhero's run at the Oval Office is described, but an important plot point kind of falls by the wayside when the fellow goes to many pages of trouble to get help from someone who can talk to the dead, to help him win the election by knowing all the darkest secrets of Washington, then inexplicably fails to win, twice. He only uses his blackmail knowledge after he later gets elected, but there's no explanation for why he doesn't use it to get elected. Maybe it's more moral to blackmail elected politicians into cooperating with your policy agenda than to blackmail them into getting you elected?

The power-fantasy of an enlightened despot -- if only a hero took power, we'd be saved-- isn't allowed to go very far, though, before the military betrays the heroes and destroys them in a big apocolyptic finish to the book.

Wow, this is more negative than I intended. The last bit of the volume kind of soured me on the whole thing. The point of view changed completely and I didn't much like that. The whole series, in retrospect, was about the attrition of the group of superheroes, and that couldn't be other than sad, but it ended rather well.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Open-source camera project, Frankencamera

Here's an interesting open-source hardware project...Frankencamera, a digital camera that you can program. It allows people to add algorithms to their cameras. Not something I would have thought of, but the article describes some interesting digital video that is taken in low-res, but includes the occasional high-res still, whose details are propagated to the other images for digially-enhanced resolution.

_Supreme Power_ Volume 1, Contact

I loved Marvel's reboot of the Avengers as the Ultimates, a smart, funny, modern rewrite giving them lots of very modern problems, and acting as a media-savvy government supergroup.

So how could I not be excited to learn that they also did a reboot of the Squadron Supreme, whose original mini series I still have?

It reminds me of how I feel when I see an action figure made of some character that I thought was pretty odd and obscure, like Beta Ray Bill. Either my notion of odd and obscure is off base, or they're making action figures (and comics) of every fringe idea out there, and resurrecting the 80s in volume, judgement day style.

Bring on the judgement, I say.

But actually none of that had anything to do with why I picked up the book. I had no idea it was a Squadron Supreme rewrite. I took notice because it had an incredible cover showing a scary-looking kid wrapped in the flag.

And it was authored by J. Michael Straczynski, to whom we are indebted for Babylon 5.

I've read volume 1 at least three times now since picking it up. So, if you haven't read it, I'll just say that it's well worth your time for answering two burning questions you didn't know you had:

  1. "What if Superman fell to Earth and was grabbed by the government and raised by them" (It would be awesome)
  2. "Should Marvel give J. Michael Straczynski a shot at rewriting some of their old characters?" (Yes)


One way to look at this book is that it's a gritty rewrite of the Squadron Supreme, focusing mainly on its leader, Hyperion. It's plenty gritty. In this volume, the central theme is of a vastly powerful superhero raised almost Truman-show style by the government, who seek to indirectly control him by making him an apple-pie American. It's actually a smart idea given the kid's power levels, but it's compromised at every turn...the way a utopian story inevitably goes dystopian. All of that is great stuff.

Maybe it's an attempt to explain how someone with Superman powers could have that lily-white personality that Superman is usually shown with. Here, that's done by making that personality something of a veneer. But I say that the strategy of raising him is smart because it gets the hooks in so deep they're unlikely to be resistable.

I don't know whether that'll hold in the rest of the series, but it seems plausible so far.

But the Squadron Supreme idea was always a blatant rehash of the Justice League, placing clones of the top League heroes in an alternate world in the Marvel Universe, and allowing Marvel writers to play with that. By focusing on Hyperion, with his Superman powers, this becomes yet another retelling of the Superman story. And I'm super okay with that.

To that, the story focuses on the alienation of its main character as he grows up different from everyone else, his attempts to join the general population foiled by the government...and his excitement as he starts to discover other powered folks out there in the world.

The larger story of the Squadron Supreme was about what if the heroes decide to stop merely fighting criminals and try to fix the whole taking over, basically. And that's a great story, and I can't wait to read the other books in this series, as it looks like they'll get into that.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The story behind Rush's Red Barchetta

I've long liked the evocative lyrics behind Rush's song Red Barchetta, which tells about a guy going out to the country to take a secret drive in a sportscar his uncle hid away for him, in a world that seems bent on destroying great cars. It's even more fun when you learn Rush drummer Neal Peart wrote the lyrics based on a sci-fi short story. Less fun is learning the actual story is kind of about car safety regulations gone wild. Still. The idea of sharing a nostalgic moment with an uncle like that always got me.

Now, pre-Intertubes, the trivia of the song's origin was mentioned here and there, but that would be all you'd get. Nowadays you can find the full text of the story "A Nice Morning Drive" by Richard S. Foster online, which is nice since it was originally published in a car magazine and so presumably hard to find.

Here are the lyrics to the song itself, so you can memorize them and sing them at me when we meet. Oh, and props to my brutha Joshua DaMommio for introducing me to the song in the first place, way back in high school.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Dr. Doom takes a minute for the little people

Here's a great little video about Dr. Doom conquering a new sphere of expertise. Several new spheres....grapefruits, apples, etc: The Doom-o-Matic.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Evidence of trouble

Took this photo by the railroad tracks near my house. How part of a truck ended up there, I'm really not sure. Maybe it was in a junk gondola and fell out?

Tolkien's drawings

Metafilter posted this link. I rather enjoyed browsing this archive of J.R.R. Tolkien's sketches and drawings.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

No Ethans Allowed

My girls believe in the power of signage. Here they are posing in front of the sign Chloe, 9, made for our backyard's scenic Lookout Stump Island, which includes the note "No Ethans allowed" and a photo of said Ethan in the corner.

_h.i.v. positive_ (Green Arrow No. 44, Jan 05)

I picked up this issue of Green Arrow at a Half Price Books location, I think originally based on the striking cover art, and of course the title intrigued me. Unlike most comics, it delivers on its cover. It's a story about a family dealing with one member's HIV status, and the fact that the head of the family is Green Arrow, experienced superhero, just heightens the sense of helplessness. I thought this was really well done and I hope to find some of the following issues someday. I don't usually pick up individual issues of a comic, and I've rarely read any Green Arrow.

Charlie Sheen and xkcd

There's an xkcd comic for every situation. Here's the one for Charlie Sheen suggesting that there's a conspiracy to hide what really happened on 9/11 from the public. Sheen did this in the form of a fake interview with the president, presumably his way of asking the president to listen to him. The xkcd comic, written long ago, has a nice rant about conspiracy theories.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Judging Car Mileage, from Cocktail Party Physics

The blog Cocktail Party Physics looks interesting. I like this post that shows that miles per gallon doesn't tell you everything about the fuel economy of a car -- unless you convert it to gallons per mile.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Duran Duran singing All She Wants Is, and Warm Leatherette cover

So, now we live in a world where you can remember a song from a band you liked when you were in high school, go to YouTube, and quickly pull up a video of them singing it. Awesome. You can rock out.

But on the other hand, since there was no YouTube when you were in high school, you might find that the video you get is one of them on a comeback tour when they've gotten, well, old. Which sucks.

But then on your third hand, you might find a neat version of them doing one song, and then covering another song you liked, by a different band. And that would be good.

Still not sure I can look at Simon Le Bon anymore, though.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Kookapotamus Head

Me holding Lily in 2008

On the way to day care this morning, 4-year-old Lily was singing "Kookapotamus head, kookapotamus head," over and over. After fifty repetitions, she told me that it was a song she made up, and she was going to add more words to it.

"You're going to write them for me," she said. "Kookapotamus head, kookapotamus head."

Repeat fifty more times. Google knows nothing of anything called a kookapotamus. Well, now it does.

Stone golem by Fichtenfoo, again

I wasn't happy with my previous mention of Fichtenfoo's stone golem sculpture. I later contacted him and got permission to post a couple of pics along with my links. What I find really charming about this project is the fellow saw some game characters he liked, then went on to make something different but inspired by it. And then I just like golems. This golem is made of parts of building ruins, which is nice.

Anyway, here's a link that Mr. Fichtenfoo supplied, to the forum thread where he originally posted lots of in-process pics as he worked out this project. And here are a few choice pics.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

How cybercrime doesn't pay

Here's a paper (Microsoft research, no less) that talks about recent high estimates of the cybercrime economy and why the authors think they're BS. The basic premise is that although there is evidence of a market in stolen identities, it doesn't work well because there's lots of fraud, no good way to test the product, and no recourse when the credit card number you just bought turns out to be either fake or one sold to fifteen other people all trying to drain its credit. Includes an example of a Spam campaign which sent 350 million e-mails to earn less than $3,000.00.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Make posters for wargame miniatures

I've been liking Cianty's Tabletop Wargames blog lately. This project, to create posters to decorate city walls, caught my eye.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

_The Drunkard's Walk_ by Leonard Mlodinow

The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives was a great read; I finished it in just about two days. It talks about the development of the sciences of probability and statistics and offers many examples of the role chance plays in our lives. I was quite taken with the thought that we all tend to overemphasize the role a CEO or a coach has in the success or failure of a company or team.

I have friend David Cramer to thank for the chance to read this book. He found it randomly in a coffee shop somewhere.

I drew the following conclusions from this book:

  • The one thing you can control about your success in any complex endeavor (publishing, for example) is persistence. Success often goes to the person who won't give up, because no matter how good you are, you're likely to experience plenty of failure.
  • If things go badly for you, rejoice in the fact that they're likely to get better as your circumstances regress towards the mean.
  • Accept the ups and downs of life.
  • Don't judge people too well for their successes or too harshly for their failures, as it's not necessarily indicative of their ability.
  • Cheap wine is just as likely to taste good as expensive wine.

It had a number of fun examples and problems. My favorite started with this question:

If a family has two kids, and you know that one of them is a girl, what are the odds the other is a girl?

(The answer is 1 in 3)

Now if I tell you that one of them is a girl named Florida, does that change the odds, and how?

(The answer is yes, it does, and it makes the odds 1 in 2, and I had to read the explanation twice before I believed it.)

Highly recommended.

A city for Mordheim play

I'm kind of overwhelmed by this city gaming board for Games Workshop's free Mordheim skirmish game. Link is to an extensive archive of photos.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Best Magic is from Earth

This is a story idea that 9-year-old Chloe told me about on 7/22/09. She was quite excited about it and I typed it as she told it to me. Her description of it was as entertaining as the idea itself.

Chloe said:
I've had it since like yesterday and it's good good good.
Okay, so, okay, my idea it's two world has wizards and magic and stuff...there are two..the most powerful wizards come from earth but on earth there is no magic, just peple who have the special touch there is one character, specifically a girl 9 years old...and basically a person like my friend joe...this is how most of the ideas are going to come out...anyways anyways um this is going down in my basically the first wizard, here's the good part, the first wizard was from a world where magic doesn't exist and accidentally a portal is made through the worlds and that person gets through and they discover magic, how to wield it and command it....and make hundreds and thousands of years later....then there's me and basically it's a chosen ones thing...
This comes out of frequent games of pretend between her and her friend Joe.

Dwarf pirates and more

Did you know that there are miniature figures of dwarven pirates out there? I found these on a German miniature seller's site, along with orc and goblin pirates. Looks like the maker is Black Scorpion. Also, CoolMiniorNot had this neat dwarven pirate ship. Anyway, there seem to be a lot of pirate minis out there for those who want to game with pirates, but I hadn't realized the trend extended to fantastical pirates.

Friday, September 11, 2009

_Janes in Love_ by Cecil Castelluci and Jim Rugg

Janes in Love is the second volume of The P.L.A.I.N. Janes, a comic about a high school girl who is forcibly moved to Podunkville, USA after she survives a terrorist bombing in New York City.

As her mother gets more scared, Jane turns her despair over leaving the vibrant city into a crusade to bring art to the town. The guerrilla art group she forms with several other girls named Jane at her school becomes her lifeline.

It's a great premise, and the main Jane's problems seem real. The antagonist, the police chief who wants to stamp out their art as vandalism, is obnoxious but not over-the-top. The girls' fight-for-art seems real and important and not highbrow, perhaps because it is anchored in Jane's desperation in her new locale, or because her parent's and the police chief's antagonism is realistic, or because the group of Janes, as characters, are established nicely as a cooperative of dreamers.


In this volume, her Mom gets worse, refusing to leave the house, while the Janes turn from guerrilla art to try to go legit. Also, they discover boys. Nothing beats the moment when the most athletic Jane, after listening to the other girls talk about the boys they long for, walks right up to a basketball player and tells him he's now her boyfriend and they will be making out after school.

Alien woman sculpt on the Fichtenfoo site

I have been liking the projects on the Fichtenfoo site more and more. This one was particularly interesting.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sci-fi deer hunt for predatory aliens

I see a lot of deer when I bike to work, but I can't usually get close enough to take a decent photo. This one, from Friday 9/4/09, wasn't horrid.

Thinking about deer and hunting in a sci-fi context brought me this idea:

Picture an alien race of intelligent predators. They live in an urban environment but they all want the thrill of the hunt. They don't want their prey to be too tame, because that makes it too easy.

They handle this by sensefiltering all the prey animals. It's the idea of a totally computer-moderated sensorium, where you and I could be in the same room and have completely different experiences...but applied to animal life.

So, your deer, for example, can live right in the middle of a city, in greenbelts or whatever, and never interact with buildings, cars, people.

But, when one of the aliens wants to hunt, he tells the computer (or it just senses his hormonal change) and suddenly he's visible to the prey. They want it to be sporting, so if you're too close to a deer, it gets a warning. Otherwise, you both now inhabit the same reality.

This would be fun if shown as an image of idyllic nature: that is, we first see the happy deer wandering peacefully through a city, never straying onto the roads it can't perceive, never seeing people. Then, clawed death.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Humvee Limousine Sighted

...through a window at work, on 9/3/09, driving through the parking lot. What fabulous dignitary resided within? Could it be J.R. Ewing?

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Chloe gets a cast

Chloe got her first broken bone yesterday. Today the cast was applied. Photo from Karen Watkins.

_Zot! The Complete Black and White Collection_ by Scott McCloud

This thick volume collects a bunch of McCloud's Zot! comics from 1987-1991. Hey, that's when I was in high school. I hadn't read any of these before, though I'd read one Zot! volume and all the on-line Zot! material.

This was a great read. Zot! is a series that focuses on a teenage superhero from another dimension and his relationship with Jenny, a teenager from our earth. Zot's world is the world of 60s flying cars made real, so its utopianism contrasts with our own world.

There's a bit about Zot fighting supervillains, but most of the stories revolve around things like Jenny trying to figure out her feelings for Zot. Late in the book there are several stories from the viewpoints of some of the minor characters; these are excellent. One from the point of view of a closeted gay character stands out. It's good stuff.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Lily with a hedgehog

Another visit to the pet store, this one was Saturday.

_Screenwriting 101_ by Neil D. Hicks, again

Finished and greatly enjoyed this book. I only skimmed the screenwriting business sections. I'm after the story structure stuff, which was good.

I read this book because it was recommended on the Mechanical Hamster blog.

I especially liked the chapter on elements of story. Here are my notes on that, for what they are worth:

10 elements of story
- back story...most stories include far too much
- internal need: to become fully alive, the char needs to come to grips with some personal attribute....something the char is not aware of.

The antagonist forces the char to deal with this internal need.

inciting is like no other day...unusual event that presents main char wihth a problem/challenge/adventure that he cannot ignore

external goal...something the char believes will solve the problem of the inciting incident...the char fixes on it...

preparation...devising a strategy...getting ready for the goal...must be dramatic: has a profound effect on the char

opposition...anyone with a goal that conflicts with the main chars
....'because the antag is more powerful than the main char, the main char's planning and preparation necessarily fails and he is apparently defeated....all the favorable options have been eliminated....the main char is left with no resources except himself.' the main char, at lowest point, comes to grips with the internal need, and therefore undergoes an internal significant change because of the pressures of the external dramatic conflict.
"A character never realizes. The audience realizes based on what the character does.", after revelation, the main char focuses even more intently on the external goal. External goal becomes even more import for main char and the antag, and unless the main char achieves the goal, a great deal will be lost compromise is imposs btw char and antag, so they must fight and only one can win....

resolution...the main char solves the conflict of the inciting incident and moves on to a new story...both main char and surrounding society have been significantly changed.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Paul Franken talks down Tea Party folks re: health care

Nice video of Paul Franken being confronted by some Tea Party folks, and engaging in a discussion where he showed a command of health care topics.

NASWC neighborhood bird walk

I took Chloe to pal Mikael's bird walk this morning; we spent two hours on a nice paved trail whose existence I had not previously suspected.

These are the birds I got good looks at. It was a great outing. It's fantastic to see so many different species on a leisurely walk:

  • Summer tanager
  • House wren
  • Unidentified hummingbird
  • White winged dove
  • American Redstart (I never heard of this one, it was pretty interesting-looking.)
  • Wilson's Warbler
  • M, F Cardinal
  • Blue Jay
  • M, F Lesser Goldfinch
  • F chinned or ruby-throated
  • Least Flycatcher
  • Eastern Phoebe
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Killdeer
  • Barn Swallow
  • Bell's Vireo
  • Ladderback Woodpecker
We also got to watch a kit of about 20 Birmingham Roller (I'm assuming) pigeons, who flew in circles around their presumed home, with birds frequently rolling out of the kit and returning. I identified them as rollers by their behavior. I think Mikael said he'd talked to the fellow who owns them in the neighborhood. I held forth a bit for the group on the strength of my dad having kept rollers all during my childhood, and the fact that nothing I said could be contradicted by a far-off view of the birds through binoculars. :)
    Chloe managed to find two tiny frogs or toads, smaller than my thumbnail, and a skink no longer than my index finger. I got a picture of the skink on my cell phone. I never got close enough to any birds to photograph them with the phone.

      Here's a link to Mikael's blog post on the morning's walk.

        _Goddess_ by Garth Ennis

        Ok, see, Garth Ennis can write. Most of the scenes in this thing were well written. But the villain's motives quickly degenerate into absurdity. The main villain goes from trying to capture the fantastically powerful main character, to wanting to kill her, for no reason other than his own pride. His actions get weirder and sillier as the story goes on, as do the secondary villains. Both of them are willing to kill everyone in their don't even have to be in the way, just near the path. Ooh, there's someone over there way off the path -- kill them too! Way too much collateral damage.

        This is one of those books in which super powers are gorily illustrated...where if you imagine superman grabbing someone's arm, he'd likely rip it off, with blood and sinews and tendons flying everywhere. A little of this kind of realism -- and I like the idea, mind you -- goes a long way. I thought it was done very well in Miracleman (link goes to Marvelman entry in Wikipedia), for example. Here it just grossed me out.

        Saturday, September 05, 2009

        _The Lies of Locke Lamora_ by Scott Lynch

        I couldn't put this one down. It starts out as a young-con-man-makes-good story that develops into a complicated caper/revenge novel.

        I liked the fantasy world, here centering around a watery Venice-like city of islands amidst leftover technology from a higher-tech predecessor race.

        There's one goofy element: sharks. A prominent sport in the city is having women in armor fight sharks with hand weapons while standing on small platforms just above the water. This is not played for laughs, and does not detract from the story at all. Sounds pretty goofy though.

        I like how the author doesn't inject too much exposition about the world until the latter part of the book. You don't get the detail until you really care, and I think it also then serves to delay the ending and heighten the tension.

        The ending would be my one quibble. I didn't think the final conflict was as clever as it might've been.

        Friday, September 04, 2009

        Modern western civilization teems with marvels

        Here's a nice perspective, a post in the middle of a Metafilter discussion that I liked. A quote:

        I am by no means a rich man, but in comparison to most of the world and most humans who lived in any age preceding ours, I live like a king. By the mere accident of birth, I came to live in a country that bombards its citizens with comforts. I woke up this morning and put two cups of fresh, clean water into a metal pan and boiled it on my electric stove. I then stirred in some 7-grain porridge and some raisins and cooked up my breakfast. I didn't have to grow the grains and process them and I didn't have to grow the grapes and dry them into raisins - it all came from the store, packaged and ready to go! From the same store, I also obtained some butter without having to own a cow and some honey without having to put on an apiarist's suit and squeeze it out of a hive. I put the porridge and honey and butter into a ceramic bowl that I did not cast and stirred it all together with a metal spoon that I did not forge.

        Thursday, September 03, 2009

        Rockin' egg

        Lately, Lily says this and tries to race us to things:
        "First one there is a rockin' egg."
        By the time you figure out whether you should hurry or go slow, she's already won.

        Critique of Christian Culture, in the form of hilarious blog

        Check it out: Stuff Christian Culture Likes. I learned, for example, that the Christian divorce rate is identical to the national average.

        Wednesday, September 02, 2009

        House built from lego

        Fellow builds a house using Lego bricks as bricks. Really.

        Visiting the exotic pet store

        We go to the exotic pet store about once a week to get crickets to feed Chloe's fire-bellied toads. She's the only one of us who was willing to wrap a constrictor around her neck. How is that ever a good idea? I was nervous about having 66% of my genetic heritage that close to a big snake.

        I petted the iguana, because I am very brave. Meanwhile Tanya held a rabbit, and you know what kind of filthy shenanigans those things get up to.

        Tuesday, September 01, 2009

        Disney has bought Marvel

        I don't have any smart remarks for this, just that Mr. Behrens sent me a link to decent article from NPR on the phenomenom, and I wanted to note the fact that this occurred.

        Yikes, Maker Faire Austin cancelled this year

        This is too bad. No Maker Faire in October 2009 in Austin this year. I've really enjoyed the past two.

        Chloe chasing Ethan with water balloons

        Chloe lured Ethan outside and had a stash of water balloons ready. Good thing I happened to be there with a camera...and to prevent a murder. Also good that Chloe's aim is really bad. These photos are from 8/30/09.

        Ultimate Fantastic Four vols 6-8, 10-11

        I devoured these Sunday. Got all of them from my handy local library (Milwood! Best branch library ever!). I'd read a couple of them before, but it was great to read these in some semblance of order.

        I like the Ultimate Fantastic Four books for their taking of the FF's trademark world-bending storylines (Cosmic Cube turns the earth into a fair replica of hell!) which were often silly, and making them tense and interesting. Reading these volumes in rapid succession was a thrill ride.

        The villains are actually scary in these stories. They have an edge they lacked in the more innocent silver age stories.

        Looks like the plotters dropped the ball at one point. At the end of, I think it was vol 8, Reed has a gadget in his hands that can do almost anything, and he's using it to fix all sorts of things that went bad in the story, and then he virtuously throws it away...rather than, for example:

        - create world peace
        - fix the paraplegics of recent wars
        - I dunno, maybe turn Ben Grimm normal? I mean, usually he's obsessed with fixing Ben. But throw a magic wand into his hands and he forgets?

        I'm not going to comment on each issue. I will say that if you like the Ultimates style of story, you should read these. They have a very similar vibe to the Ultimates. And the tensions within the team, especially Reed and Sue in these issues, are great.

        OH: Mustn't forget: zombie fantastic four? Best villains ever.