Sunday, February 29, 2004


Talk about your revenge of the nerds.

OK, like I do every year, I watched the Oscars marathon, and this year was excellent (and no, it wasn't the cold medicine that was affecting my judgement). It was an powerful field of candidates this year, and the show itself worked out very nicely. No matter what you do to the Oscars, its going to close past-midnight on the East Coast. But as long as it is a taunt show, people will watch (which applies to LotR itself).

I started out with a list of the "touchy subjects" that the show might deal with, only to see Billy Crystal knock them out of the park in his opening monologue (for the record, the first gay marriage joke hit at 5:34, first reference to Mel Gibson at 5:38, and first (and one of the few) references to the Bush administration at 5:39).

Actually, it was a very apolitical Oscars - the only on-screen mentions were Sean Penn's aside about WMDs and the winner of the best documentary (Fog of War, on Robert MacNamara) saying that we went down the rabbit hole back then, and were in danger of doing it again. Measured with concern, not indignation, and very well put. (Billy Crystal's response - "I can't wait for HIS tax audit").

It was more of a family Oscars as well - More than a few winners thanked long-term spouses who they first met in third grade. The whole Sofia/Francis/Family Business thing was sweet. Lot of long suffering wives/husband/lovers/children recognized from the podium. Only two people orchestrated off the stage, and only a couple Standing O's (the last one for Sean Penn - I think Hollywood has forgiven him for Madonna).

Things I Like:
• Billy Crystal - the opening gump film (where he mixes into the nominated films) and the medley have become standards for his appearance, and he is a wonderful host for the set up. Keeps it grounded and keeps it funny at the same time.
• Michael Moore getting stepped on by a Mammut. Yeah, it was funny, and exactly what I mean about keeping it grounded as well. Points to Mr. Moore for doing it.
• Angelyne Jolie in that hot little white Marilyn Monroe number and tats. By tats I mean tattoos. No, really.
• Charlyze Theron, who was glammed to max to counter her character's appearance. As an actress, she has broken out with that role, and she will be crowned This Season's Hottie.
• The Canadian winners of Best Foriegn Picture thanking LotR for not being in their catagory.
• Annie Lennox, who I am a sucker for. Actually, ALL the songs were excellent this year, even Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara from "A Mighty Wind".
• Robin Williams, who was introduced as "the reason for the five-second delay" (He immediately started tweaking his own nipples).
• So who, looking at the Burgess Shale that was the first season of SNL, would have picked Bill Murray as the movie star? Huh?
• And Blake Edwards. I was always behind the curve on Blake's movies as far as maturity is concerned - I think his movies are funnier now for me than when I first saw them when they came out (One of my favorite movies is "The Great Race" - oh, like that's a surprise). The fact that he turned his acceptance of a lifetime Oscar into a sight gag was, well, hillarious.
• And eleven Oscars for the nerds. Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh looks like, well, nerds - lovable, hard-working hobbit-folk. The actors who played the hobbits hung out together, even when they were onstage. This was a lovefest for the cast, and deserved to be recognized for the epic work it was. Pity "Master and Commander" - it would have been a better contender in another year, but this was a strong field.

Things I cared less about (not a lot):
• Billy Crystal naked. Cutting him into the Jack Nicholson/Diane Keaton scenes from "Something's Gotta Give" was hilarious, but there was a lot of naked crystal there.
• Crud, how many Cadillac commercials have they MADE in the past year?
• Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson. Well, they pretty much convinced me to avoid their next movie.
• The "funny title" bit and the "what are they thinking" bit. Not bad, but they really were time-fillers in a show that didn't need to be filled.
• Better place for them were during the set changes between the musical numbers. Putting them in two sections is much better than five, but they need to find a way to switch the sets faster.
• And while I appreciate the recognition for a fantasy movie that is the epic statement on traditional fantasy, I have to ask "Best Editing?" The bloody film had seven endings, one after another! (OK, that's petty. I'll be good now).

That's about it. Normally, I find the race to be more interesting than the results - once the awards are given, you're the answer to a trivia question. But this particular set of Oscars encourages me to hunt down "Girl with the Pearl Earing" and "Triplets of Bellevue" and "Fog of War" and go see more films.

More later,

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Play: The Wide-Flanged Beam of Diamocles

The Time of Your Life By William Saroyan, Directed by Tina Landau, Seattle Rep.

This is a slice of life play, in this case in the slice removed from a seedy San Francisco bar in the late 1930's. Characters bustle in and out and stories weave around each other, and at the center is a character named Joe (Jeff Perry), who seems to be either being drinking himself to death, or playing Magic Christian to the people who come into the bar, aiding and entertaining as he moves through their lives.

The main plot revolves around Joe, who has money but no visible support, and his sidekick Tom (Patrick New), who Joe sends out on all sorts of nonsense errands - toys, magazines, and a watermelon (well, he forgets about the watermelon). Tom falls for Kitty, a soiled dove with dreams of normalcy. Around this slender plot are a mass of characters who drift into the bar - the old Armenian philosopher, the former cowboy who herded cattle on a bike, a starving young black man who becomes the house pianist, a pair of swells who are slumming, and young man despondant about hard-hearted sweetheart. And a really bad comedian who is a really great dancer - though amazingly, his comedy routine, which makes people happy but won't make them laugh, is a poetry slam fifty years too soon.

So the characters swirl and ebb and slosh into each other, while there are labor troubles on the docks and vice raids on the girls. The direction pitches everything together - lines run over each other, minor characters are continually in motion in the background, everyone is doing bits while the main action is across the stage. And then one of the mains gets a speech, and everything freezes (or at least slows down) as they get their moment. In normal play-time, these would be solid lumps set down in the midst of it all (like in Shaw's still-undigestable Misaliance), but here, they are breathers from the bustle. The actors are on the stage, in character, before the lights go down, and stay on stage during the intermission. The effect is to sell the reality of this, they are incredibly effective.

And through it all comes out Saroyan's main thrust - life is to be lived - embraced, wrestled to the ground, and loved. Joe is hunting for it, and bringing it, often effortlessly and without realizing it, to the people around them. The play, with its huge cast, cannot be contained on the stage, and sprawls out into the audience. The pinball machine is out in one aisle, the telephone in the other, and some of the balcony seats are replaced by tiny B-girl rooms. The bar itself has no walls, and we see past it to the docks - labor trouble, cops, and Salvation Army and all. And rising above it all a crane hanging a huge wide-flange beam over the proceedings and the audience, both a symbol of rebuilding lives from the depression and the approaching doom of WWII.

The huge cast is wonderful. Most are from the Steppenwolf production of the play, so are not the Rep regulars, and that disconnect works. Instead of seeing of familiar faces in roles, these are fresh and we're willing to get more into character than acting. We like these people by the end of the first act, and we're worried about them as we move to the end of the second. And at the hub is Jeff Perry, who has extensive television credits and was recognized by a large number of Nash Bridges fans in the audience. For me, he was a wonderful first appearance, and just wonderful in the role (and as a factoid I have found out later, Jimmy Cagney had the role in the movie version).

Risking a sentimental hodge-podge, Director Landau instead creates actingJazz, the rhythm and notes working together in a swirling. This is the land that Steinbeck wrote of and Hopper painted, the tale end of the Depression, when things were about to get worse. It does have a connection with us today, in our After Eleven world, of what's it like to be alive when the world itself is changing gears.

Kate and I both liked this one. Recommended.

More later,

I Defend a Threatened Institution

It should be noted that the current administration did appeal to the nerd vote ("Hey, we're going to Mars!") before returning to pander to its rightwing religious base. So you nerds have no one to blame but yourselves. And its no surprise that the President (who officially has nothing with the amendment process) has come out for a Federal Marriage Amendment, which pretty much says:

Man/Woman Good.

Well actually, the current Amendment up is so vague in its language that an activist judge could use it go after civil unions as well, including those between men and women. But that's OK, that gets out all the agnostics, atheistists, and non-denominationalists weighing down our government with ceremonies best given to the churches. And besides, we pride ourselves as a religious nation. So its really:

Man/Woman Religious Good.

Now, while we're at it, let's take a good hard look at what we mean by "religious". There are a lot of fly-by-night operations out there. Mail Order Ministries. Vegas Weddings with Elvis Imitators. Pagans who self-initiated after watching Charmed or Buffy. So let's take this opportunity to take them off the table as well. Put a floor on how big your congregation should be before you go off and marry folk.

Man/Woman Major Religion Good.

And on that subject, you'd think maybe we should put a timer on this as well? Just cut the line at 1776. I mean, if your faith is younger than the country, you really should be subject to the laws of the country than the laws of your so-called, jesus-come-lately faiths. So lets take out the Moonies, Mormons and Scientologists.

Man/Woman Old Time Major Religion Good.

And really, what we're talking about is christian faiths here. I mean, I'm sure that there is great respect for the other major world religions, but we've been driving for christian faith in this country for some time. I mean, we're tolerant of Ramadan and Hanukah, what else do you want? Is it too much to ask people to get into a christian church once and while?

Man/Woman Old Time Major Christian Religion Good.

But not Catholics. I mean, you guys know that when we say "christian" we're not talking about you, right? Look at the guys pushing this - there aren't a lot of priests in the mix. And Orthodox as well (everyone always forgets about the Orthodox, but not me - you're out as well). Protestants. We're talking Protestants. This is part the American Experience as well - check out the Know Nothing Party and the Klan, which both had a very anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic vector (See? THEY forgot about the Orthodox. everyone ALWAYS forgets about the Orthodox).

Man/Woman Old Time Protestant Religion Good.

And to be quite honest, a lot of these Protestants are a little bit dicey. I mean, Unitarians? There are a lot of these Protestant churchs that don't have a lot of Protest in them. They're more social organizations - you get into heaven if you bring a covered dish to pass. Vibrant, activist churches should really count. So let's make it easy and get rid of the dross, and settle on one true denomination - Say, Presbyterianism.

Man/Woman Presbyterianism Good.

And, just between you and me, a lot of the synods are a bit spotty as well. I think the best idea is to start small, then offer enfranchisement going outward. Therefore, we'll start with the Beverly Heights United Presbyterian Church. That's the only one that counts. OK, my sister's church up in Cranberry - they're pretty cool. And Bower Hill Presbyterian, but only because Rev. Barker used to play the Scottish Pipes at weddings. So it all comes down to:

Man/Woman Presbyterians That I Approve Of Good.

Yeah, I think about does it. I'm sure that a significant chunk of the country will join me in supporting the amendment that excludes a significant chunk (OK, an overwhelming chunk) of the population. But its all for the best, because, you know, marriage must be saved.

The above is an example of the "slippery slope" argument, that if X happens, then Y, Z, and Q must immediately follow. Sort of the stuff that the right-wing pundits are spewing in the popular press, about how that if Rosie can marry her girlfriend, then obviously the next step is people marrying their sisters, kitchen appliances, and (and this is Rick Santorum's major concern) house pets. Yeah, that's goofy too, but they get major media coverage.

More later

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Quote of the Day

Actually, its a quote from last week, but it still makes me smile.

"'Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the road less traveled by and they CANCELLED MY FRIKKIN' SHOW. I totally shoulda took the road that had all those people on it. Damn."

- Joss Whedon, on the cancellation of Angel

Rainbow Weather

The spring months out here are times of sporatic rains interupted with sunbreaks, often dramatic, such that you can see the mountains in one direction, and in the other is nothing but a grey wall of clouds and rain. As a result, we have a lot of rainbows out here.

On the drive home tonight, there was a full bow, rooted in Kent-Kangley on one end and the Renton Highlands on the other, arching over the house. Traffic was thicker than normal, I think because everyone was slowing down for the rainbow.

So the weather is breaking out here. Unlike my ongoing headcold.

More later,

Monday, February 23, 2004

The Opposite of Nostalgia

Fridays Kate and I do lunch at Little David's, which is a sandwich shop two doors down from the H&R Block main office on Meeker, in Kent. It makes a realy good Philly Cheese Steak (with peppers) and serves Ivar's clam chowder. But that's not the main reason why we come back.

The decor is pure post-war America. Fifties and early Sixties. Groucho and Marilyn and James Dean on photos on the wall. Old albums that you remember from your parents' collection. Laminated pages from Life, Look, and the Saturday Evening Post. Publicity stills from Bonanza and the Dick Van Dyke show. Vaughn Meader and the First Family. The Fabulous Limelighters. Old Hazel cartoons. Its definitely a reading experience, and a slice of the past. We go there and read the walls.

And the men shown are wearing suits, ties, and hats and all look identical and interchangeable. And the women wear skirts and have thin ankles. And the engineers in the pictures don't have the suits, but they are all in white shirts with thin ties like they were popped from a mold. And the black faces looking down from the walls are safe and amusing - Lena Horn and a young Bill Cosby. And there are no Asians, unless you counted Yul Brynner. And there are full page ads about how what's good for major corporations is good for America, and why automation is a boon and why your duty as a husband/ father/ American is to buy the latest and greatest thing out there.

And every time I'm in there (and the food is real good), I am consumed with a feeling of contentment. Not a longing for the past, but happiness that I'm in the present and I wear jeans to work and no one around me is an identical, replaceable white man in a suit and tie. That the world is a lot more interesting than what is on the walls, and I while its pleasant to visit, I really don't want to go back to those old days.

It is not nostalgia. It is the opposite of nostalgia, but I don't know what to call it.

More later,

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Someplace Special

One of the nice things about blogs and live journals is that they can be as local as you want them to be. With that in mind, and the fact that some of the people tuning in are from Pittsburgh, here are some local blogs from my home town.

Raitt Stuff is a racing fan and was the first Pittblogger I encountered. He mixes NASCAR with local politics, and is a good read.

Fester is definately left-o-center. He and Raitt are the two I normally check, since both mix their politics in with local news ("hey, how 'bout those gas price hikes, eh?")

Both Raitt and another local blog, Dave Copeland, have sidebars with name checks other Burgh Blogs. Have fun digging through the local news. They vary from closely tied in on one particular Pittsburgh subgroup (like music) or take on the national scene. Check them out.

And of course, all Pittsburgh blogs I have checked have been in complete agreement on one point - The Penguins really, really, really suck this year.


More later.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

I Am A Book

The weird thing is, I've been reading this, off and on, for the past year or so. Its am excellent alternate viewpoint, and a great way of leavening the white-bread history that most of us have as a basis of our thought processes.

You're A People's History of the United States!

by Howard Zinn

After years of listening to other peoples' lies, you decided you've
had enough. Now you're out to tell it like it is, with all the gory details and nothing
left out. Instead of respecting leaders, you want to know what the common people have to
offer. But this revolution still has a long way to go, and you're not against making a
little profit while you wait. Honesty is your best policy.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

More later

Friday, February 20, 2004

The Blog Goes Ever On And On

A few tweaks, and probably more as I move through the weekend.

The big change is the expanded blogs on right. I've separated them into Blogs and Web Sites, since the former are updated pretty regularly, while the latter is updated at a more leisurely pace (though still worth checking out).

Scarlett Letters used to be Times Square on Lake Washington, and is gifted editrix Janna.

Monkey King is Wolf, a fellow writer and West Coast Alliterate. He's also a Microsoftie, like Janna. Mrs. Monkey King is Shelly, who's just getting into the online journal thing.

Frabjous Dave is another Allit, as well as a magazine editor, though the Frabjous One has had book deadline make him a little more unresponsive than usual.

Mystical Forest on the other hand, is Eric, a rabid poster who has frequent downtime due to the nature of his job. I check him about twice a day and he usually has new stuff.

Nothing Good is fully titled Nothing Good Can Come of This and is the personal blog of Jon, who is a friend from WizKids. With most of this group you're going find out more about everyday life than the inner workings of the various companies, which is pretty much as it should be.

Subversive Puppet Show is another WizKid, Jason, who I discovered had linked to this site when I did an "ego scan" on Grubb Street (put the name into a search engine). I found Haetmonkey's Lair the same way. Haetmonkey is Colin, an old friend from TSR in Wisconsin who I hadn't heard from in years. We still haven't communicated, but we at least we monitor each others journals.

Kijmonkey and Mr. Kijmonkey are Kij and Chris, who were founders and keystones of the Thousand Monkey writer's group, of whom both Wolf and I are veterans. They're in Kansas at the moment.

And Stan! is an artist/writer with a full-blown site, and worth checking out, as is Thomas, another WotC/TSR Alum, who is now in Texas and still in the process of setting up his site in full. And finally, there's the Alliterates, the midwestern writer's group, which we update about once every two months (and we're due, so I have to go noodge everyone to send updates to Thomas).

Just thought you'd be interested. More later,

I Fought The Lawn (and the lawn won)

And as all things tend to do, the lousy day worked out. The bill that the client was supposed to pick up was reimbursed, I rested my knee, the solution I was searching for at work presented itself, and the client is very happy with what we gave them last week. So this afternoon, seeing it was a mild and clear day (the clouds bunched around the base of Ranier, the peak visible) and I had put in at least 40 hours already at the job, I came home in daylight.

And it being late February, I mowed the lawn.

(A brief pause here as people in other (read: colder) parts of the country hurl epithets at the computer screen)

Winter is not completely over up here, north of most of the rest of the Continental US, but its as wet as iit usually is, so our lawns get a jump on the rest of country. Plus the fact that a broad expanse of the backyard is a drainfield for the sceptic system (so its already a verdant green coming up around the last of the fall leaves) means that I already have high grass in spots. I pulled out the ancient gas mower and, after a little fiddling, got it running.

So this will be the next, oh, eight months or so, a regular battle with weeds, moss (which I kind of like), and moles. In particularly moles. As the weather warms, they will be more active as well, and the backyard is a minefield of soft sections where they have undermined, like sappers at the castle wall.

And of course, I put my foot into one of those soft sections, and re-wrenched the knee. So I'm just going to sit up and rest it tonight and play Railroad Tycoon 3 for an hour or three.

More later,

Thursday, February 19, 2004

A Lousy Day

And occasionally there is a bad day. I've been wrestling with a problem at work, and its not coming out the way I want it. I screwed up my right knee badly and missed tai chi. Kate's come down with a cold and isn't doing so hot herself. And there's been a billing problem on a hotel charge that the client was supposed to take care of and didn't. Overcast with an inch of rain in the past 24 hours. The end result was me being horizontal in bed at 6 in the evening, growling about petty irritations, with an icebag on my leg. I'm more than mildly miserable.

And then there's this moment when the setting sun breaks through the gap between the cloud cover and the Olympic range, and the backyard is bathed in unearthly radiance. The pines turn a goldish green and the bark of the still-bare oaks become a shade of molten iron. And then its gone and everything is just the same, but different. And its not nearly as bad as it was.

More later,

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

The Job

I haven’t done the update on the job for a while, since to some degree, I feel like I’m still settling in. And its feeling that won’t go away for a while.

The story so far: WizKids had its layoffs, and I was pounding the pavements for a few weeks looking for work. I then picked up a two-month gig with Wizards of the Coast for their Star Wars miniature game. In the middle of this, I started working for a small web design company called True North (that's what its called this week – we’re still in process of settling on who we are). Then Wizards extended my contract, and I spent the month of January splitting my talents between the two companies (which was a physical and emotional drain – I didn’t want either company to feel I was playing faves with the other).

So January is over, and I’m working for True North as a copywriter/game designer/consultant/general dogsbody. So far I’ve completed a first draft game design for Hasbro, and contributed to upcoming work on Super Soaker and Star Wars for the web site. In the offing I have some work for GI Joe and an online demo program for the new D&D Basic set.

It’s a rather diverse grouping of projects. Instead of not getting any respect because I use the word “Spider-Man” when discussing my job, I now get no respect because I use the word “Super Soaker”.

Now, I’m in the same location I was when I was working for WotC – most of True North’s business is with Hasbro, and we are currently situated in the WotC offices. In addition, my desk is “embedded” in the R&D department, since this is where I started out three months back, and there is no room upstairs in web design. BUt I shouldn’t get too comfortable, because R&D is going to need the space, eventually.

The good news is that this job has medical. The bad news is that it is hourly, and dependent entirely on how much work there needs to be done. Right now, there’s more than enough – the needs of web design are pretty high. But much like my position at my desk, I shouldn’t get comfortable.

It’s a weird sort of feeling – quasi-freelance, quasi- full time. I’ve decided that for the month of February, at least, I’m concentrating on this gig – they’re good people, and I really like working with them. It’s sort of like working in a clear little meadow, surrounded by this climax growth of a huge forest. A lot of the stuff that goes on in the forest has no net effect on my job, while at the same time, we meadow-folk are trying to figure out what we want to do.

OK, its a strange analogy. More later,

Monday, February 16, 2004

Chasing Yahweh (With A Stick)

Cerebus: Latter Days, compiling issues 268-285, Dave Sim and Gerhard, Aardvark-Vanaheim Press

It was some 25 years ago I discovered Cerebus the Aardvark at Eide’s Comic Shop in Pittsburgh. At that stage the “direct sale market” was just getting underway, and Cerebus and Elfquest were only available at such stores. At the time, it was a “funny-animal/fantasy comic book, in which the protagonist, a short, grey, bad-tempered aardvark, encountered characters like an Elric clone with the voice of Foghorn Leghorn, Groucho Marx as a local city-lord, and a Batman satire known as “The Cockroach”. The irreverent attitudes of the characters and the dead-on hits against comics and fantasy in general built a following for the book. Cerebus’s creator, Dave Sim, said the book would last 300 issues, and end with the death of its main character.

Three hundred issues later, the story is coming to a close. Both creator and character changed over time. The fantasy trappings have evolved into politics, social, and religious commentary and into Sim’s personal philosophy and cosmology, which is more than just a little twisted.

Here’s the personal philosophy: The universe has a male force and a female force. The female force is evil and crazy, because women are evil and crazy.

And that’s pretty much been it for the past 200 issues.

I switched to the collected “phone books” after a while, both because of the difficulty of keeping up monthly with a small-sales title, and that it was just easier to put up with Sim’s philosophy in his collected editions. A relentless monthly visit on misogyny (yeah, I’m aware of the pun in that comparison) is a bit wearing. It’s the difference between listening the cranky old guy at the end of the bar griping about “Wimmin & Feminazis” once a year as opposed to every week.

And that is what Sim has become - an old crank. He’s declared war on the opposite gender, and nothing you or anyone else says will convince him otherwise. Women are evil, evil, evil!

Now the interesting thing about his philosophy is that his own comic undercuts him. For a rabid misogynist, his female characters have always been the more interesting and deeper, while his male figures have been built upon recognizable archtypes and established figures: Oscar Wilde, Groucho Marx, Ernest Hemmingway, as well as comic figures, both creatives and characters. In Latter Days he corrects this problem by keeping women to the margins as much as possible, but he does strong women very well, which is frustrating when you’re trying to convince people they are evil, evil, evil!

Cerebus himself often sabotages Sim’s message by acting like, um, Cerebus - just as evil and foolish and emotional as any of the evil evil evil women. Cerebus is not Sim, but they do agree on a lot of points, and if your main character is screwing up your theme, either the theme or the character needs to change.

So we come to this collection, Latter Days, which is the winding up towards the big 300. Cerebus has broken up with his long-time lover, Jaka, been rejected by his home town, and now wants to end it all. After a few false starts, he decides to make himself a target for the female-controlled government of the Cirinists, but instead is kidnapped by the Three Stooges (no, really), who follow the faith of Rick (who was Jaka’s first husband and the Cerebus Christ-Figure). So the Stooges hold Cerebus hostage and read to him from the Book of Rick until he goes a little crazy, thinks himself a superhero called the Rabbi (a take on Vertigo’s The Preacher) then leads the Men against the Women, first dressed as Charlie Brown then as Spawn, and overthrows the gynarchy and establishes the rule of Man (the last bit pretty much happens off panel, and Cerebus contributes little save as figurehead).

So the second half opens up with Cerebus, after another bout of insanity (discovering his hero, the Rabbi, was himself a Cirinist feminist plot), is visited by Woody Allen, who brings the Torah to him. Not a fantasy version of the Torah, but the Torah itself – first five of the Old Testament, the Pentateuch, the books of Moses. Yeah, those books. And Cerebus spends the next several years of his life working through what they mean, and sharing it with us.

In effect, Cerebus is doing in the last half of the book to the reader what was done to him in the first half of the book - a relentless religious pummeling. And I’m not sure that’s intentional or not, because self-sabotage is both inherent in the Cerebus character AND in Sim’s writings.

Anyway, Cerebus’s definition of the Torah is that it is a conversation between the good male force and the evil female force, labeled “God” and "YHWH" (called here “Yoohwhoo”), respectively. And the difference between the two is when the Torah says something that Sim agrees with, that’s the male God. When the Torah says or does something that Sim disagrees with, that’s the female YHWH. So Cerebus takes a very, very sharp knife to the document, parsing out sentences and fragments of sentences to assign to good wise maleness or evil foolish femaleness.

Of course, the end result is that it shows that a sacred text can be interpreted any way one sees fit, if you work on it hard enough. But unfortunately, doesn’t seem to be Sim’s point here. Which is a good example of sabotaging yourself.

And, through the second half, we’re dealing with Woody Allen’s own progress through his movie and public incarnations. The fact that Sim chooses Allen as a character here is interesting, in that at the end of it all Cerebus reveals that this entire book was no more than a flashback told in order to score with a young woman -a young woman who looks just like Jaka, who he broke up with at the end of LAST BOOK (underscoring Woody Allen’s own personal life and fascination with young women).

So Cerebus undercuts himself and Sim’s message once again. One of the interesting things about Sim’s work is that it is so hermetically sealed in its own internal logic, and points like this cannot seem to be unintentional, but if they are intentional, he's saying his philosophy, lovingly presented over 25 years, is a complete goof.

I think Sim is serious about his beliefs as portrayed here. In a recent interview with Comics and Game Review, he pretty much summoned himself up in a almost-female hissy-fit about how the comics universe has ignored him for 300 issues, and closes by accusing the interviewer with being feminized (and therefore bigoted). I’m serious about this. It gives a wonderful insight into the brain.

Cerebus entertains and makes you think, even if what you’re thinking is “Is this guy kidding?” Sims has taken a bad relationship and turned it into a career. Indeed, that’s what Cerebus is really all about – relationships. Man/Woman, Creator/Consumer, Mother/Daughter, Guy/Other Guy, Powerful/Powerless, Believer/Infidel. Relationships. He just doesn’t seem to know it. I think that’s one of the things that fascinates me about the series.

And for me, I have a sudden urge to read the book of Genesis again. So this collection can’t be all bad.

More later,

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Testing the Dark Waters

Well, by late afternoon I have the internet access up (though not mail), and have loaded up Office and Railroad Tycoon 3. So far so good. The interface for blogger on the PC is much more extensive for that of the mac, but for the moment I am struck both by the fact that the san serrif typeface I have looks a little weak, and the courier header is less impressive than I would want (both look fine on my Mac). So it looks like I'll be dinking around with this for a while.

One of the reasons for the second platform, though, is to figure out what works on one system as well as the other. So far, so good, but I'm checking bolds and italics as well.

More later

I Go Over To The Dark Side

No, I'm not going Republican again. I bought a PC.

Its a Fujitsu N53 Lifebook - big time graphics-capable laptop. Got it at Frye's and I am still deciding whether it "meets my needs" - I've gotten the Office environment and a webpage builder and some games. I have two weeks to decide if I'm keeping it.

The similarities between PCs and Macs have increased over the years - the Windows interface has become more and more Macish, while Mac's operating system has abandoned the old version and embraced, what is for my machine, a more sluggy UNIX-based system X. Fellow mac-heads may revile me on this, but I am growing increasingly irritated with "the technocolor pinwheel". I hope that exposure to a PC system will make me more content with my Mac (now there's a justification for adultery that hasn't been used, yet).

The reason for buying a PC's are more than just irritation with Mac's latest operating system. Increasingly my work is taking me into PC realms, both with web page design and Massively Multi-player Online RPGs. I also needed to get a portable machine, both for my own travel (personal and business) but mobility as well in the office and home. The latter could have been a Mac, but the former pushed me fully into the PC Realm.

Anyway, its silver and black and I've dubbed it Groucho. It also has a fan that pops on only briefly, but noisily, so I have dubbed it Groucho the Flatulent. Maybe Groucho the Gassy would be more appropriate. I'll keep you posted on its progress.

More later,

Thursday, February 12, 2004

An Odd Friday Five

And sometimes questions are more interesting than answers.

1. Are you superstitious? Define superstitious. I fear no ladders, broken mirrors, 13th numbered days nor even the ides of certain Spring months. I have black cats for neighbors. I make my living by moving through the shadows of belief, mythology, and folklore, and on occasion add to both the total sum of knowledge and ignorance. Yet I do believe in karma that, in some odd way, good things that I do will come back to aid me and bad things I do (even bad thoughts) will come back to nosh on my hindquarters.

2. What extremes have you heard of someone going to in the name of superstition? In college I would set up the dice on my desk to their highest numbers face-up before a test. It didn't help.

3. Believer or not, what's your favorite superstition? Throwing salt over your shoulder should you spill it. I have done it automatically for years.

4. Do you believe in luck? If yes, do you have a lucky number/article of clothing/ritual? In my experience, there is no such thing as luck. Actually, I do believe in luck, but it is not vested in any particular number, clothing, or ritual. Or so I say - when I go to a convention, I always try to bring along a clip board that belongs to my father, and a name tag that was made for me 20 years ago that reads "TSR Hobbies".

5. Do you believe in astrology? Why or why not? I am a Virgo, so I'm not supposed to believe in such matters. Astrology is vague and provides guidance at best that the individual is supposed to adapt to their own situation. Yet, I once received a Tarot deck as a gift, after a breakup with a young woman. The first card I turned over was the three of swords, in the Waite-Rider deck as three blades piercing a heart. Make of that as you will.

So the question remains - am I superstitious?

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Riddle Me This

So If John Kerry is the Joker, that means . . . .Bush is Batman?

Millionaire playboy. Hmmmm. Inept appearance. Hmmm. No one would think he's a hero. Hmmmm. Looks pretty good so far.

Add to that the missing time that he can't account for. When he was supposed to be flying in Alabama, was he really cleaning up Gotham city? Could the secure location that Cheney/Alfred is always away at be the Batcave? And the weirdness about his trip to Iraq - did his press secretary make up stories about being spotted by British Airways planes so they wouldn't reveal that the President was flying the Batplane?

Yeah, its all starting to fit together, now.

And just imagine the conversation in the Oval Office:

Bush: Democrats are a cowardly and superstitious lot. I know! I'll dress up as a Bat!
Rove: How about as a fighter pilot?
Bush: Even better!

Now, some people might think that Bush is Lex Luthor, (who ALSO hates the Joker). But in addition to having no hair, Lex is already running the country over in the DC Universe (and doing a better job, leading us through those dark days after an extra-terrestrial menace destroyed Kansas). But that's part of the media's plan involving the Joker - will America accept an OBVIOUS SUPERVILLAIN as its chief executive?

The question is, how can Bush turn back this obvious attempt by the Joker without revealing his secret identity? Tune in for future installments!

More later,

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Holy Media Manipulation!

So I've been wrestling with the reason why I can't seem to warm up to John Kerry. I've stated earlier that any of the Demo Candidates would make a better leader than the guy we got. In addition, the Kerry campaign was the only one to respond to my blanket primary question, and his organization seems both intelligent and dedicated without being rabid. He's got a smidgen more charisma than the current guy, and seems more cool-headed, and less dogmatic. He's a little more to the left than most (though not much) and his senate record, which I fear will provide fodder for flip-flop attacks, actually shows a more reasonable and consensus-building legislator. He's a war hero. His initials are JFK. He's got a hot babe wife. So what's the problem? Why is my spider-sense buzzing around him?

Then I looked at the name again. John Kerry.  JOhn KERry. JOKER.

Oh. My. God.  John Kerry is the Joker!

Its obvious! Why hasn't anyone seen it before? That lean jawline! That hair of an unnatural demeanor! That wry sense of humor! The JOKER IS RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT!

Even the Botox rumors now make sense - the Joker used his special "Joker gas" to kill his enemies, leaving a rictus grin on their faces - its a easy leap to using it on himself to give himself a solid, stolid look! Without his own special "de-Joker gas", he'd be grinning ear to ear with maniacal glee!

And Look! There's a photo of him riding a Harley. A HARLEY! He's rubbing our noses in it!. I wouldn't be surprised if his wife refers to him as "Pudding" and "Mr. J" and has black and red spandex hanging in her closet!

Why is the media missing this? What conspiracy is going on? Well, let's see. The Joker is a character in the DC Comics Universe. DC was owned by Warner, and now is part of the Time/Warner/AOL Synergy empire!  Of COURSE! THAT's why they're going easy on him. He's one of them! Its all a plan! We have to act at once!

Tell the People! Tell the People!

More Later,

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Julius Schwartz, 1915-2004

A legend has passed.

I heard about the death of Julius Schwartz, comic editor, late this afternoon from a friend, and had it confirmed over the net. Julius laid the groundwork for a lot of lives in my chunk of the creative community. He was the DC editor that ushered in the Silver Age with the Showcase debut of the Barry Allen Flash. He was the editor on the Superman books I read when I was a kid. He was a fixture in the DC universe, and a self-effacing "living legend" of the comics industry. And beyond - as a young man, he served briefly as HP Lovecraft's literary agent. No lie.

I found out the last one at a comics convention in Chicago. This was when I was writing the Forgotten Realms book, and I was at the signing table with him. He was a raconteur, with story after story (Getting "At the Mountains of Madness" published was an early, early job for him - he was, what, 17? at the time). To be frank, I was more interested in just listening him talking about the early pulps than signing for my own book (which was OK, because those few people who came up for my autograph were quickly swept into Julie's universe as well). He was charming, he was sweet, and he was incredibly knowledgable. And he was a big piece of publishing history.

I never had the chance to work with him - he had already moved to "living legend" catagory by the time I broke in. But I have friends for whom he was not only a friend but a mentor, including Brian the Consulting Editor I mention further down. Brian had worked with Julie on his memoirs a couple years back, and Brian and I had spoken of him only last Friday. Brian said Julie's health was worsening, and he was faced with having to give up an independent life.

The Living Legend passed on this morning. He was a man who enjoyed what he did, and made an huge number of people happy doing it.

Thanks for everything, Julie.

More later,

Shorter Meet The Press

Another Sunday, another exposed boob on broadcast TV.

More later,

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Caucus Chalk Circle

So in years to come, people will ask me, "So, Jeff, how did you end being an John Edwards delegate?"

Well, its complicated.

The Washington State Democratic Party held its caucus this morning, and I attended as a Democrat of Rush voting district (yeah, I love the irony of the name, too). This was held at Panther Lake Elementary, in the combination auditorium/gym/cafeteria of the school (imagine a stage, lunch tables folded up against the wall, and a climbing rope hanging from the ceiling). It was extremely well-organized by a young man named Tyler and others of the Democratic party, and I did a couple headcounts - 80, then 100, then 120, and there I stopped with more people coming in the door. This was one of 8 caucuses in the 47th District. Tyler's organizers and the Dean campaign both brought donuts.

Several people spoke on Dean, Kerry, and the virtues of remaining uncommitted, then we broke into small groups by voting district. There were a total of nine people in our group. Most of them were next-door neighbors, and most of those were for solidly for Kerry. Indeed, I was the ONLY DEAN SUPPORTER in our little pod. Initial votes were Kerry 5, Dean 1, Edwards 1, and 2 Uncommitted.

Now under the rules of the caucus, Dean and Edwards had to get at least 15% ( in our case 2 votes) in order to move on (and how I was mocking Kucinich supporters in the earlier post- HAH!). Our Kerry group was relatively older (one was wearing her father's Adlai Stevenson button), very well prepared, and sold on the electibility meme. One of the leading Kerry supporters was a pleasant young woman that ended every sentence with the word "and", making it difficult to answer her points without seeming like interupting. This is politics at the micro level, and it was very good.

I pointed out the PAC problem. I noted a failure in reaching out to a new target market of voters. I pointed out Kerry's voting record as a senator made him vulnerable to all sorts of attacks across the political spectrum. I failed to sway them, and though several of them admitted a great preference to Dean, they felt Kerry was going to win. One of the Uncommitted went to Kerry. One of the Kerrys went to Edwards. The other Uncommitted went to Edwards.

So my choice was to drop out (leave the caucus), join Kerry, or to join Edwards. And to be frank, while I can support any of the candidates, I have more reservations about Kerry than anyone else currently in the field, so I jumped to Edwards. At the time I felt the move was SBK (Somebody But Kerry).

The groups ended up five and four, Kerry and Edwards. Our voting precinct had four delegates going on to the next higher caucus, so that broke down to 2 and 2. The Kerrys picked two of their number and Edwards group had to pick two of the four supporters. Well, the original Edwards supporter was a given, but the Uncommitted and Kerry swings (a married couple) didn't have the time, so the Former Dean Supporter stepped forward to be an official Edwards delegate.

Here are final tallies from our entire group
Kerry - 61 votes for 31 delegates
Dean - 23 votes for 11 delegates
Edwards - 8 votes for 3 delegates (two of them from Rush)
Clarke - 3 votes for 1 delegate
Kucinich - 8 votes for 4 delegates
Uncommitted - 3 votes for 3 delegates

So on one hand I'm a little disappointed - I definitely got the idea from some of my fellow Democrats that they felt that Dean was their personal choice, but were scared off by the Unelectability Sign that was hung around his neck. I mean, we were there to elect someone, and if we had chosen Dean, we would have, de facto become electable. But I may just be too much of an old radical.

But I will try to keep my bomb-throwing tendencies to a minimum (no, really), and dispence with my agreed-to duty to support John Edwards. And so I'm going to the next level, on May 1, and I have to do a little more research. Those Kerry supporters are sharp.

More later,

Friday, February 06, 2004

I Hear from a Candidate

So, on the eve of the Washington Caucuses, I should share my results of the question on the blanket primary posted further down this blog. Of the major candidates I contacted, I heard from a grand total of ONE (1) Candidate on the list.

And the winner is: John Kerry

Here's the gist of the letter:

I don't think John Kerry has taken a specific position on this issue. It will be handled by the state legislature and/or courts.

However, he does believe that we need todo more to encourage people to vote and participate in the political process, regardless of what party they belong to.

Thanks, and I apologize for taking so long to respond to you.

A-------- W---
WA State Director

So that's a bit of non-answer, and a bit rah-rah at the end, but at least the Kerry campaign took the time and effort to response, and I have to give them props for that. I just got back from my irregular Friday-Night Poker game, where a LOT of the gang are involved in the caucuses tomorrow, and took the wind out of the sails of a very passionate supporter of Dean by pointing out that at least Kerry kept up the contact. And for that, he gets a few points in my book, and I am much more positively disposed towards his organization as a result.

(And as of midnight tonight, I'm still undecided, but I have to make a call by the time I get to the caucus tomorrow morning).

More later,

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Best Laid Plans

Here's what the plan was: Kate gets Wednesday off as her day off. I take Wednesday afternoon off. Kate comes down to WotC to pick me up. We go into town, hit a few museums (she's never been to the Frye), and then have an early dinner before doing Tai Chi sword. Its an early celebration for our 21st annivesary.

Here's what happened: Kate has a few errands that need to be run, so I come up the hill. I have a low-grade fever at this point, so Kate suggests I take a nap. I sleep for two hours, awakened by a phone call with no one on the other end. Get up, help Kate with the next section of sword form, break into a heavy sweat. Go back to sleep for another two hours. Kate goes to Tai Chi, I stay home with a pot of tea and watch "Zulu" on AMC (really hate it since they started running commercials). We put the anniversary dinner off for her next day off.


More later,

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Novella: Jazz and Halloween

Pork Pie Hat, by Peter Straub, Orion Publishing, 1999

So I got a late Christmas present last month from my friend Brian in New York. Brian is a consulting editor with one of the larger publishers, and deeply dedicated to the business (as opposed to the art) of making books . The gift consisted of a collection of books he has acquired over the past year and thought I might like - an Ambrose Bierce mystery, a Lucius Shephard collection of shorts, a collection of evidence from the Smoking Gun website, and a book of alternate histories with a right-of-center slant.

And he sent me a slender volume, a UK edition of one of the Criminal Records series of novellas, by Peter Straub, who did Ghost Story and (with Steven King) The Talisman. I’ve managed to avoid both major works so far, but it was a slim book, so I curled up with this one.

Excellent stuff. This is a tale in three parts, short enough to allow you to appreciate its wanderings and slowly come to realize why the tale is being told the way it is. The first part is of the narrator, who goes to New York as a young man and becomes a jazz fan. He discovers one of the original jazz greats, who taught the artists that he followed, still alive and playing. He interviews the jazzman (the "Hat" of the title), and ends up doing what would become the definitive interview with the man, an interview conducted on Halloween night.

But Hat told him another story that evening, after the tapes ran out but the gin bottle was still half-full. A story of his Halloween as a boy. This is the second part of the tale, and is as creepy as any Halloween tale, and here Straub lives up to his reputation. He tells the tale of Hat, but makes the wise choice of not trying to catch dialect or accent, instead just following the rhythm of the way the man would talk, and in doing so brings the tale to life. The tale involves a dare to go to the forbidden shanty town, and what he and a friend find there.

The third part is what happened next, after the tale was told and the interview (sans story) was published. The callow young Jazz fan grew up and then reconnected with the music of his youth, and discovers that not all of the tale told was true, and that some of it was more true than even Hat was willing to admit. And that casts the entire story in a completely different light, frightening in a different way entirely.

Its a slender book, as I said, and a wonderful one, mixing New York Jazz Scene and backwoods Mississipi with ease. What impressed me throughout this was the way Straub fit it all together, complete with the lies told and the truths glossed over and the way the truth tends to come to the surface, like a photograph developing underneath the chemicals and the red lights.

Good book - its a British edition, so I have no idea if its available over here, or in what form. But its worth chasing down.

More later,

See America First

Here's my map of Red States - And I'm not 100% sure I've never been in North Dakota.

create your own visited states map
or write about it on the open travel guide

Monday, February 02, 2004

I Hab A Code

I hab a stubby heb, to be ezzack - Hag gone.

[Sound of blowing nose]

Sorry, I have a stuffy head, to be exact, and a stiffness in all my joints. At least I'm not sneezing my head off, which is Kate's fate right now.

Both of us are down with it, though there's a question whether I brought home with me from an office filled with people too dedicated to stay home when they have the crud, or whether she brought it from her office where a lot of clients bring small, sneezy children. Regardless, we're both running at half speed right now.

And I'm in that first stage of "Guy Being Sick" which is:


Which usually leads to stage two, which is:

Mommy? Will you take care of me?

Hopefully, hot tea and an early bedtime will save me from Stage Two, but I'll keep you posted.

Moe Ladder [sniff]

Shorter Super Bowl Halftime Show Review

"THAT thing is going to sell a lot of TiVos."
----(courtesy of the guy in the next cube over)

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Local Politics

Things have been moving along in the Sound. Here are three things that I want to comment on that have evolved in the past week.

1. Nethercutt to Eastern WA: Sod Off! Nethercutt (R-Malaprop), if you remember, was the plucky lad who ran for Representative on a platform for term limits, then ditched the idea when it was time for him to step down (he's on his 5th term). He became a lightning rod for complaining about coverage of all those caskets (sorry, Tranport Tubes) coming back from Iraq when there was so much GOOD news coming out of Babylon. Well, now he's running for Senator, and to that end he's officially moved to Bellevue, the supposed center of GOP money in the Sound.

Its a pretty lame move - he's getting a "spartan one-bedroom" that he'll be using as a base. Its akin to Texan Dick Cheney suddenly changing his mailing address to Wyoming so he could cowboy up with George for the last Presidential Campaign (and indeed, Dick has emerged from his spider hole, um, "secure location" to campaign for brother-in-arms Nethercutt). But it allows the Congressman to portray himself as "one of the locals" to people of the Sound, and get him away from those in Eastern Washington who actually know his record and his abilities.

This is nothing new - Rick Santorum of PA lived on my parent's street briefly when he first ran for Congress. He blasted the incumbent for not even having a home in Pennsylvania. When he won, Rick moved immediately to Washington, and we haven't seen him in the neighborhood since. As a result of this, my dear conservative mother refers to him with her ultimate curse - she calls him "Stinky" (She usually reserves this name for TV weathermen, by the way).

So Nethercutt is pulling one out of the standard playbook here, and hoping that the Western Washington votes he pulls in with the move outweighs those of the people he's deserted. Though it begs the question - if he really is leaving his old grounds, does that mean he's no longer representing his former district? Or is he going Pam Roach on us, moving from place to place depending on the political winds. Should he forget about the apartment and just get a Winnebago?

2. Red Meat Democrat: I also got a mailing from Geoff Simpson, our State Rep for the 47th District, which pretty much sizzles in the mailbox. Geoff puts forward his action plan for the upcoming sessions - Schools, Jobs, Traffic, and Healthcare. He's in favor of simple majorities for school levies - right now you need 60% to carry one forward, or as he puts is "Why can a politician claim a 55 percent of the vote is a landslide but 59% is a failure if it's a school levy?" He's against government contracts with job-exporters, and identifying when your on-line help is coming out of New Delhi. He's for bringing out medicine costs down to, say, Canadian levels. He's up against the bigs - big pharmacy, big insurance, big business.

But what impressed me about this mailing was not only his passion and the level of detail. There are real proposals in her along with bon-mots and rallying cries. There's a feeling of common sense and reasonability. In an environment of dour-faced reductions of services and ideological fanatics, this guys seems both sane and passionate.

And compared to the crud that Roach and Fortunato used to send out, this is a breath of fresh air.

3. Consider it Dunn: And the big sudden news is that Congressperson Jennifer Dunn (R-Bellevue - really - she lived there before there was a Bellevue), has decided to retire from political life. When a politician steps down to "spend more time with the family" you usually are looking for some horrible scandal involving kickbacks, nubile young men, and video camera, but all that is amazingly absent in Dunn's case. Instead, I really believe that she's on the level and straightforward here, since for most of her career she has been.

Dunn is a Big-D (as in Development) Republican. While maddening conservative on a local level with environmental issues (she dutifully supports the idea of clear-cutting to reduce forest fires), she opposed expanded drilling in Alaska. She's about a pro-Choice as you can get in today's Republican party without getting lynched by the fanatics (that would be legal but no government support). She supports the majority of traditional Repub beliefs - repeal of estate taxes, privatizing Medicare, fewer controls on big business - but can hardly be considered dogmatic on all points.

Whenever the Repubs needed a female face to deliver their message (such as the Republican response to the SotU in 99), they turned to her, and her name was floated around for various positions in the current administration. Of course, when she ran for House majority leader she got smoked, but that was the glass ceiling in her party. And to be frank, she probably would have done a better job than the guy they got, but would be a lot quieter.

Dunn is no bomb-thrower, and did not embarrass her constituants (Nethercutt take note). She played within the system, and accomplished her goals without having to maim the opposition. In this way, she was the most dangerous of political opponents - a competant one. Perhaps she's hoping for a position in the Current Administration's second term (Lord knows enough people currently there are prepping resumes), or it may that at 62 she wants to pass the reins on to the next generation and take it easy.

So, now all of sudden everyone is looking at this new job opening. Did I mention that Pam Roach is already being mentioned for the job?

More later,