Friday, July 30, 2010

Comics Roundup for 7/28/10

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #4 (of 6) - This was probably my favorite issue as far as the story is concerned, but it was my least favorite art-wise (not that the art was bad - it just wasn't up to the standards of the previous artists). As I've mentioned before, this series has been somewhat confusing; however, I'm continuing to buy it as I have some faith in Grant Morrison. I just re-read every issue of Batman and Robin and all the stuff that confused me when I read it issue by issue was pretty much cleared up. I'm figuring that when all is said and done with this series, I'll be able to say the same thing. Anyway, Bruce Wayne in the Old West? What's not to like, especially since Jonah Hex (who I understand was pretty much ruined in that bomb of a movie) and Vandal Savage get thrown into the mix.

The Flash #4 - Speaking of stuff I recently re-read, I went through the last three issues of this series recently, and I was reminded of why I liked it so much. With that said, I was a bit disappointed that the subplot, where Barry Allen opens up an old file, wasn't followed-up on very much, this was still a pretty solid installment in the life of the Silver Age Flash. Also, enough can't be said about how Francis Manapul is the perfect artist to draw this series.

Green Lantern #56 - Larfleeze, the greedy "Orange Lantern" finds out about Santa Claus in this issue, and his arguments for Santa's existence somewhat remind me of the arguments that people make for God's existence. Maybe that's just me though. Anyway, this was an amusing issue, and it's nice to see that they're finally doing something with Hector Hammond, a villain that they've been teasing since this series began.

Secret Avengers #3 - Speaking of stuff that will probably read better when you don't wait a month between issues, I only moderately enjoyed this one. Still, this is one of the more interesting combination of superheroes ever put into a book, and the new Ant Man is definitely intriguing. I'll keep getting it, as I have stacks and stacks of comics written by Ed Brubaker that I count amongst my favorites, so I'll give this series the benefit of the doubt.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Primus sucks!

Last year, one of my freshmen wrote in his journal about how one of his favorite bands was Primus. I wrote in the margin: "Primus sucks!" Now, you might be thinking: "Hey, Lance, just let the kid like what he likes. Why do you have to editorialize and judge people who don't like what you like?"

Well, if that's what you're saying, then you're not a Primus fan. I was worried that he might not get the reference, actually. After all, I'm a fan of Primus, and I saw them play New Year's Eve for three years in a row starting in 1992. This kid wasn't even born then! Luckily for me, he got the reference, and I think that he was pleased that he had a teacher who was a fellow fan.

The thing is, just like my chili beer, Primus isn't for everybody. If you're sitting there, scratching your head, wondering why fans of a band would chant that the band sucks at their concert, then you're definitely not the type who'd be a fan. If you think it's weird to sing about fishermen, race car drivers, and an inbred hick who bashes in some guy with a baseball bat, then Primus definitely isn't for you either. If all you want to hear are bands that sound a lot like other bands, and sing about the same kinds of things as other bands, then Primus isn't gonna be your bag.

'Cause the thing is with Primus, there just ain't two bands like 'em.

So just who would like Primus then? Well, the first song on their first studio album is a song called "To Defy the Laws of Tradition." (Sadly, I can't find a decent version of it on Youtube to include on this.) Essentially the song is about just that - doing things differently from what we're used to. And whether you like Primus or not, you have to admit that they have always done things their own way. In other words, anybody with any sort of nonconformist bent to them just might like them.

Of course, being different isn't enough to make a band great. They're also great musicians. Sure, they do some wacky stuff. First of all, you don't have a lot of bands where the bass creates the primary melody. Not only that, but what Les Claypool plays can be best described as ridiculously complex. Now, complex doesn't equal good, but he manages to create sounds that are simultaneously convoluted and catchy.

And how about Larry LaLonde's guitar? Honestly, I sometimes think that's my favorite part. He manages to find that right balance between following the melody and being completely chaotic at the same time. It sounds like a buzzsaw that just got loose and developed a mind of its own. Of course, you need to have one amazing drummer with Tim Alexander (later the equally capable Brian Mantia) to hold it all together and not get lost in the shuffle.

As for their lyrics? Well, they're silly. But they're deliberately silly. I've mentioned before that I prefer a deliberately silly lyric to something that's bloated and pretentious. I also prefer it to generic, insipid love songs that completely devalue such a powerful emotion. Why not sing a song about how sometimes the only thing that can satisfy your hunger pangs is a nice slab of beef?

I'm more than aware that there are plenty of people who say "Primus sucks!" but they don't mean it in the same spirit that fans like I do. I'll even admit that I'm somewhat surprised that when I listen to their music after all this time, I still like it. (What about Claypool's solo stuff and side projects? I find that to be rather hit-and-miss.) What pleases me even more is that they have some real staying power, and I have students and former students posting on Facebook about how they're planning to see them live. Obviously, there must be some lasting appeal to loud, crazy, catchy, chaotic, nonconformist music.

I just read that Les Claypool is forming a new incarnation of the band. Here's hoping they continue to suck! And let's get some Rock Band downloads already!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Why I'm not a conservative

A couple years ago, I wrote a blog post about why I don't like to call myself a liberal. I couldn't seem to find it (not that I tried really hard) but the basic gist of it was that by labeling myself, it's like I've already determined what my opinions are going to be before I get all the information. I mean, when we have to decide which side of the war between zombies and vampires comes along, which side is the conservative side and which is the liberal? I'm going to have to wait until I get all the facts, and I'm not going to pick a side based on whoever Kieth Olbermann supports.

In all seriousness, the problem is that I just don't like to label myself. The only time the word "liberal" gets used around me is when other people accuse me of being one. I even got accused of having a "liberal agenda" one time. That seemed weird to me. I was just speaking my mind, and I didn't give any thought as to what agenda I happened to have. I guess I have the same agenda as everybody - to make the world more the way I want it to be (without breaking any laws and/or violating the rights of others.) Also, I don't think that all of my views are necessarily what one would call liberal. I think that my attitude on gun control would be considered to be more moderate. (Although I'm probably a raving liberal compared to the people with bumper stickers that say that you're not doing your job as an American citizen if you don't have a gun.)

So, I'm not a liberal because it just doesn't mean a whole lot to me. Still, I have a much easier time saying that I'm not a conservative than saying that I'm not a liberal. Why is that? Here are my top two reasons. Beware! Gross generalizations shall follow!

1. Conservatives are anti-science. Actually, a better way to word this is that the anti-science movements in this country are predominantly conservative. Intelligent Design/Creationism? It's not liberals who are pushing that one. Global Warming denial? Yup, it's the conservatives.

This isn't to say that there aren't liberals out there who are anti-science as well. Still, you don't associate things like the anti-vaccination movement as being a liberal cause. In fact, many of the most ardent supporters of vaccinations that I know of you could probably categorize as being further to the left than the right.

I mean, isn't it stupid that issues like evolution and climate change are even thought of as being conservative or liberal? Isn't it the facts that matter here? And where really is the controversy? Many conservatives would have you believe that the scientific community is mixed when it comes to these issues. Well, regarding climate change, 97% of currently published climatologists support the notion that we are having an impact on the earth's increasing average temperatures. (This is a point that many conservatives don't seem to get. They'll use cold winter days as proof that things aren't getting warmer, which shows that they don't even understand the issue in the first place.) And yes, I'm aware of the big list of scientists who deny global warming. The thing is with that, anybody with a BS could add their name to it. They even had a few dentists! Maybe we should actually stick with the experts when it comes to climate change - namely, climatologists. (Or maybe I can get a big list of people who deny that car engines run on gasoline, and I can get a bunch of podiatrists to sign it as my "experts". Hey, they're scientists!)

As for the evolution "debate"? I suggest you check out Project Steve. The gist? The NCSE was able to get a much larger list of scientists who support evolution than the ID proponents could get. Not impressed? Well, the NCSE limited their list to biologists. Oh, and you could only get on the list if your name was Steve.

2. Conservatives love strawmen and the false dilemma. I don't know how many times I've debated a self-identified conservative and I've had to point out that they were putting words in my mouth and arguing a point that I wasn't even trying to make in the first place. What's worse, when I point out that they're doing this, they don't acknowledge it. When I explain the concept of "strawman" they act like I'm pulling some sort of rhetorical trick on them. It's difficult to even engage in any kind of honest debate in the first place. Also, if you tune in to shows like O'Reilly, Hannity, and Beck, they basically thrive on knocking down strawmen. But hey, it's easier to argue an imaginary point than an actual one, I guess.

They also love the false dilemma. Everything is either completely this or completely that. A conservative recently recommended the book Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto by Mark Levin. I read through bits and pieces of it at Barnes and Noble, but I think that I read enough to say that it's ridiculous. His first chapter sets up both the strawman and the false dilemma. Basically, you were either a conservative, or you were a "statist". Essentially, if you weren't somebody who identifies as being conservative, then you essentially want a government that controls every aspect of your life. I remember reading his opening chapter and thinking, "I'm not either one of these things!" Yeah, yeah, I know, you probably shouldn't judge a book unless you've read at least the majority of it. But how can I keep going when the initial premise is so flawed to begin with?

And don't get me started on his chapter on religion. His whole argument was, "Science can't explain reason, so therefore a magical man who lives outside of space and time created everything." (Okay, he didn't use phrases like "magical man" but that's still the crux of his argument. Since you can't explain something, therefore a god must have done it. This of course is fool-proof logic, as we all know that Thor brought lightning before we could explain it.)

Anyway, I was going to give more reasons, but then I started to realize that they were things that liberals tend to do as well. Shoot, liberals might use a lot of strawmen and false dilemmas too, and maybe I'm just not noticing them since I tend to sympathize more with the left. I was going to write about how conservatives love to boil things down to simplistic talking points, but I know plenty of liberals who do the same thing, and it's just as maddening to hear it from somebody with whom I agree.

The thing is, in my experience I notice that conservatives embrace their label much more enthusiastically than liberals do theirs. This isn't to say that there aren't people who proudly identify themselves as being liberal, but I know a lot of people who are as left, if not more left, than I am, and they seem to be just as uneasy with the label as I am.

I'm not beyond having opinions that might be considered conservative, but it seems to me that if I want to identify myself as being one, it involves a commitment that I'm just not willing to make.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Comics Roundup for 7/21/10

I didn't go to the comic book store last week, so here's what I got this week:

The Amazing Spider-Man #637 - This concludes the "Grim Hunt" storyline which saw the return of Kraven the Hunter. Here I was thinking that they'd never bring him back, but considering that he's one of Spidey's classic rogues, I suppose it was inevitable. Still, the original "Death of Kraven" story came out when I was in middle school, so he's stayed dead for quite a while. Anyway, as I mentioned with the last issue, this series saw a good use for Kaine, the defective clone of Peter Parker, as well. I was worried that just as he was getting interesting, he was going to be gone. It looks like that's not the case. Anyway, all in all, this was a highly enjoyable story arc.

The Amazing Spider-Man #638 - Speaking of old Spider-Man stories, this issue actually reprints a good deal of The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21, as we finally get an explanation as to exactly how Peter and Mary Jane didn't get married after all. I couldn't help but notice that at Flying Colors, this particular issue was owner Joe Field's recommended title of the week. I've discussed the whole "undoing" of the wedding with him, and he definitely wasn't a fan of the whole thing. It's interesting that he liked this one enough to have it be his pick. I'm wondering if he knows something that I don't. When discussing it with him, he said that it was only a matter of time before everything would be put back, and Peter and Mary Jane were going to be married yet again. Is that what's going to happen? Personally, I think that now he's been single for a few years, they should just leave it alone and keep him single. One thing I can't stand is constant undoing and redoing of stories.

The New Avengers #2 - Last issue, everything was being put into place. This issue, we get a whole lot of action. However, there are some nice character bits, and I especially like how Jessica Jones gave Spider-Man the responsibility of looking after her baby. There was also some good Spider-Man/Wolverine banter. There's something about these two characters that just make them a natural pairing for comedic purposes. No wonder they're both in this book and the standard Avengers title. Speaking of which...

The Avengers #3 - I was hoping that we'd get a little bit more on how the Maestro (an evil, future version of The Hulk) tied into all of this, but that just wasn't meant to be. Still, there were a lot of good moments in this issue, and I wonder if they're going to deal with any ill-will between Spider-Man and Iron Man. There certainly seemed to be a bit underlying the moment when Spidey saved him. There's definitely some potential there considering how much these two characters interacted during Civil War. I also wonder - do the rest of the Avengers know Spidey's secret ID? I know that a lot of the New Avengers do, but what about Iron Man, Thor, etcetera?

Batman #701 - This was a compelling read, but it didn't really do much more than just fill in the gaps between Batman: RIP and Infinite Crisis. Hopefully we'll get a better explanation as to exactly why he's hopping through time with the next issue.

Echo #23 - The plot thickens, the characters interact more (and get on one another's nerves), and yet again we have a solid issue with some great Terry Moore artwork. I think I'm going to have to write a special blog entry devoted to this series one of these days.

Astro City: Silver Agent - I finally got around to reading The Dark Age in its entirety recently. It was a pretty good story, but it probably ran a bit too long. (Sixteen issues over five years!) With that said, it's nice to have a simple two-parter on a character who played a big role in that particular story. I guess in a sense this is an epilogue, but it follows a different character and is more of a standard superhero tale, so it's all good.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Your dog is not a gourmet.

Whenever I take my puppy, Freyja, out for a walk, people often compliment her on how pretty she looks. They also remark on how much energy she has and how nice her coat is. I don't take Willy out as much as I do her, but the last time I took him to the vet, he got a few compliments his way as well.

Of course, there's a reason why my dogs look so healthy. That's because in the morning, I start them off with a meal that I put together that consists of chicken breast, barley, carrots, and Vitamin E supplements. In the evening, I give them some commercial food. I usually alternate between the frozen dog dinners that you can find at PetCo (and some grocery stores) and other varieties of premium food, always making sure that no matter what it is, it's organic. After all, it's been scientifically proven that anything that's organic is a million times healthier than things that are not.

Okay, while the first paragraph was true, the second is total bull. I feed them Purina Dog Chow. (Actually, Freyja is eating Puppy Chow.) That's right - the cheap stuff. The stuff you can find at the grocery store. The stuff that doesn't have the word "organic" anywhere on the label. That's what I fed Argos too, and he was running and jumping up until the day that his cancer finally creeped up into his lungs.

One time I went to PetCo to buy some Dog Chow, as they were advertising it at a good price. There was some lady there who was giving out coupons or something who asked if she could help us. (Why don't you just say employee, Lance? I don't think that she worked for PetCo.) When I told her that I was looking for the Dog Chow, she looked at me like I just confessed to being a Nazi war criminal. (I'm Mengele, by the way.) She gave me this whole spiel about how bad it was, and how I would be better off buying this or that brand that made all sorts of claims as to how healthy it was on the packaging.

My response to her was that my vet had actually recommended Dog Chow. She looked at me like I just said that my vet was a doomsday cult leader. (He's Manson, by the way.) She said something along the lines of how my vet didn't know what he was talking about. That was interesting, considering that he had told my wife and me that his whole area of expertise was in nutrition for dogs.

How did it come up that he recommended Dog Chow to us? The thing is, we used to buy into the hype of "premium" dog foods. In fact, I think that the last brand we were buying was even called "Premium". I started getting it at Pet Food Express, and I remember some guy there making all kinds of claims as to how much healthier it was. They'll poo less! Look at the ingredients! Meat is the first one!

Guess what? That stuff was making Willy fat. When we told our vet about how we couldn't understand, considering we were feeding him such high quality food, you could tell that he was trying hard not to roll his eyes. He explained that there were only so many brands out there that had actually undergone any kind of scientific testing. He then named off a lot of brands, and I believe that Iams and Science Diet were on that list. Much to our surprise, he also said Dog Chow. He told us that most people are surprised to hear that, as it tends to have a bad reputation - a bad reputation that's wholly undeserved.

He also told us some horror stories about how some dogs were suffering from bone loss due to being fed the BARF diet. (No, that's not when you give your dogs vomit. It's when you give them nothing but raw meat - and perhaps some veggies as well.)

After that, we switched to Dog Chow. I also started to think about some of the anti Dog Chow arguments out there. Somebody once told me (so I doubt if it's true) that they put road kill in it. They said this as though it should be a turn-off. That's funny, because I remember taking Argos to the park one time, and he was insistent on chowing down on what was basically the remains of a gopher. All that was left was its head, spine and hide. (Think of a bear skin rug where the bear's head is still attached - only think of it with a gopher.) As far as a dog is concerned, road kill's good eatin'.

I now snicker when I see those frozen dinners (I wasn't making that up) that you can buy for your dogs. I also get a kick out of anything that uses the word "gourmet" on a pet food. Do you know why I have to make sure my cat's litter box is always clean? It's because my dog will eat the poop if given the chance. Not only that, but Willy is obsessed with eating Freyja's poop - no doubt due to the higher protein content that's in there due to her still being on puppy food. When my cat, Oliver, pukes on the laminate flooring, I don't have to worry about cleaning it, as both dogs make short work of it. They are not gourmets, I can assure you. They have worse taste than people who eat at Sizzler. (Okay, maybe they're not that bad.)

I recently looked at some online product reviews for Dog Chow. It's funny because there are all sorts of negative reviews. Some of them basically accused people of essentially abusing their dogs if they bought that for them. The positive reviews all seemed to have something in common, and that was something that the vast majority of negative reviews lacked - they were written by people who had actually given it to their dogs.

I suppose that there might be instances when buying some more premium stuff might be in order. I understand that some dogs have really sensitive stomachs - especially when they get older. I can say that as far as my cat is concerned, I need to buy him Iams weight control, as the cheaper stuff makes him fat. (My last cat ate the cheap stuff, and she got along just fine.)

Here's the thing - realize that your dog is a dog. That doesn't mean that you don't love them any less. Realize that out in the wild, they'd be chewing on all kinds of scraps; they wouldn't be eating chicken breasts and T-bones. (I remember the book, Never Cry Wolf, where the guy saw that the wolves got by mostly on eating whole mice - not exactly a lot of meat on those things. They were getting a lot of bone, hair, and vegetable matter from the guts of their victims.) If you need to save some money, you can have a perfectly happy and healthy dog if you give them the cheap stuff. I wasn't kidding when I say that people often compliment Freyja for her shiny coat. I don't think that she and Willy are sneaking out at night and raiding the butcher shop.

Get a job in the real world

I recently was informed that I've never had to work in "the real world" while having an online debate with a conservative. I made the mistake of letting him know that I was a teacher, and as you know, we deal pretty much in fantasy every day. To be fair, this person was referring more to the fact that I've never had to deal with the in-and-outs of a business, where my primary concern was having to turn a profit. Well, that was quite a bit presumptuous, as I did quite a few jobs before teaching, and I've definitely seen the business/money making (or lack thereof) end of things.

Still, for argument's sake, is it right to say that I don't work in "the real world"? Certainly there needs to be some distinction between teachers and other professions. Yeah, we're not out there trying to turn a profit. However, the same can be said of police officers, and I think that you'd rightfully get a punch in the head if you accused them of not living in the real world. What about sanitation workers (the garbage man, ya know)? Are you going to tell me that dealing with the crap that people toss out doesn't somehow give you a sense for how the world works? How about our soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq? I think I'm going to walk up to one of them and say, "Hey, nice job risking your life and fighting for your country, but now you need to get a job in the real world!" I plan on wearing a helmet when I do this.

Personally, I detect a bit of anti-intellectualism when this charge is hurled at teachers. And before you roll your eyes at that term, let me just say - trust me, anti-intellectualism is a serious problem in this country. How else can you explain a mother who asks me what the point is in reading Hamlet?* How else can you explain parents, who when you call to tell them that their son isn't turning in his homework, inform you that the reason why is because he's more concerned with football (as though that's a legitimate excuse)? How else can you explain kids who sit there during Silent Sustained Reading like you're torturing them by making them read anything (including magazines and/or comics!) of their choosing?

I've been told that I "dropped the ball" when a student was cutting my class for several weeks and not turning in the work. I've been told that I shouldn't mark down an assignment because the kid "worked hard" - despite the fact that I emphasized how important following the directions were. I've been told that I should let a kid make up a final that he slept through because he "didn't mean to do that." I've been told all of these things by parents.

I recently read that in the business world, you have employers who are having a hard time with new employees who have a sense of entitlement, who expect all sorts of perks that they haven't earned. They even have employees who think that they shouldn't have to do tasks that they don't like to do!

Ya know, if they talked to us teachers, we could have told them that this was coming - and we could tell them what causes it. See, we've got a pretty good way of telling what things are going to be like out there in the real world, considering we deal with those who go out and comprise it.

*Yeah, yeah, it's possible to have a reasonable conversation about why students should have to read Hamlet. I know that there are all sorts of legitimate arguments against the teaching of Shakespeare, or any other famous author for that matter. Trust me, it wasn't a critique on the play's themes or relevance. The crux of her argument was that it was "hard" and some kids "just don't get it." Yeah, that's a good reason to not learn something. I should have said that to my pre-Calculus teacher. "Hey, this is really hard, and I just don't get it. You shouldn't teach this whole imaginary number stuff."

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Would you do the same?

I wrote a little while back about how I don't really have too much concern about exposing Logan (my son who's still cookin' up in my wife's womb) to religious people and religious thought. I've thought about this quite a bit, actually. As I've said before, I realize that he's probably going to think the same thing that I or my wife thinks (not that we're that far apart) up until he reaches a certain age. Still, what am I going to do if he expresses some interest in religion? I mean, I plan on teaching him some of the basic stories like that of Jesus, Noah's Ark, etcetera, although I'll teach them in the same context as I do any other story. In other words, I can answer some basic questions. After all, I know what Christians believe (for instance) and I think that I can do a pretty good job of explaining it without too much editorializing on my part.

But what if he wants to know what church is like? Will I take him to one myself? I suppose that I could do that, but if I really want to give him a good sense of what it's all about, I'll probably have to turn to my Christian friends. Without any hesitation, I would allow him to accompany them to their worship services. Keep in mind, I can't honestly say this about every version of Christianity (or about every religion, for that matter - lookin' at you, Scientology). While I don't like the idea of forbidding him to go to any religious service, I'd definitely be less encouraging with some (like the ones who talk in tongues and preach all that hellfire nonsense) versions than with others. Would there be some where I'd absolutely refuse to let him go? Well, I don't think that there are any Snake Handlers in my area, so at least that one won't be an issue, but I don't think that I'd let him go to a place where there's a decent chance of physical (or mental) damage.

I realize that some people might be thinking, "Why don't you go, too? What are you afraid of? Afraid you're going to change your mind and start believing in Jesus?" Well, if you like the thought of that being the explanation, then fine. Honestly though, I just think that it's safe to say that at 36, church just isn't my thing. It wasn't my thing when I believed in all that stuff, and it continues to not be my thing with my limited experiences nowadays (weddings and funerals). I suppose if it was important to Logan that I go with him, I guess I'd be willing to do it for him. Otherwise, I'd encourage him to go with somebody who won't be straining to not roll his eyes every five minutes.

All this got me to wondering though, would my religious friends be willing to do the same thing with their kids. Never mind going from one faith system to another, but what about if their kids start to express doubt about their religious convictions. It's a hard thing for the faithful to understand, but quite often nonbelievers don't believe for the simple fact that they just can't. They reach a point where it just doesn't make sense anymore, and they can't pretend to believe something that they don't.

Would these friends of mine say, "Hey, you know who doesn't believe? Uncle Lance. He doesn't have any faith in our god or any other god for that matter, and he seems to get along just fine. Why don't you talk to him?"

I know what happens when you assume, but I have to imagine that for the most part, the answer would be no. I have a couple friends who I could perhaps see doing this, but that seems to be a bit of a stretch in my mind. I'd love to be proven wrong, and I'm hoping that maybe some of them will be so kind as to give me their response, whether it's a yes or a no.

I'm honestly not trying to set anyone up here. Tell you what, I promise not to even reply, unless I'm asked a direct question. Even if you say some oft-debunked assertion like, "Atheists don't have morals!" or "Hitler was an atheist!" I won't bother refuting it. In other words, you won't shout, "It's a trap!" after replying.

Comics Roundup for 7/8/10

Steve Rogers: Super Soldier #1 (of 4) - I told myself, since I'm trying to cut back on expenses, that I was going to pass on this particular series. What can I say? It's Ed Brubaker writing the continuing adventures of Steve Rogers, and this was yet another great installment since he took over the character several years ago now. The set-up is pretty good, which involves the descendant of the scientist who invented the Super Soldier serum. Apparently, he's trying to sell the serum to America's enemies, and that's what sends Rogers after him. There are lots of twists and turns though, and everything is apparently a lot more complicated than that once you get to the end of the issue. I should also note that while I have not liked Dale Eaglesham's art in the past, he did a nice job on this issue, the fight between Rogers and the faux super soldiers being a highlight. I guess I'll have to cut something else later. (I regrettably had to pass on the second issue of that new Tom Strong series. Hopefully I can pick up the trade in the future for cheap.)

Hellboy: The Storm #1 (of 3) - While I have liked both of the replacement artists for this character, I have to say that I have a bit of a preference for Duncan Fegredo, and this issue confirmed that. This continues to be a great series of miniseries that's only gotten stronger since Hellboy's first appearance. It continues the whole "last descendant of King Arthur" angle that was introduced a while back, and it looks like all sorts of dead English noblemen are rising from the grave. Also, there's your typically cool Hellboy versus a big monster fight sequence.

The Amazing Spider-Man #636 - I was intrigued when they brought back Kaine, the defective clone of Peter Parker. I have to say that I'm really glad that he's back now that they've given him something important to do. As of now, it looks like he won't survive to make another appearance, and I'm really hoping that's not the case. That's when you know that a death in a story means something - when you wish that it didn't happen. Also, I'm glad that somebody pointed out that maybe Kraven the Hunter didn't want to be resurrected - considering that he put a gun to his own head and all.

Batman and Robin #13 - Grant Morrison gives us another intriguing, although somewhat confusing, chapter in the story of Dick Grayson as Batman. It looks like the Black Hand, who nearly defeated Batman in RIP, is back, and this time Bruce Wayne's nowhere around to deal with him. I'm thinking that I'm due for a complete re-reading of everything that's come so far. I'd better do that soon, as Logan might not give me the time. (Although I might be reading some comics out loud to him when I'm trying to calm him down so he'll go to sleep.)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Better dog days

Last year at this time, I was writing about my whole ordeal with Argos, my dog who had a toe removed and eventually had to be put down due to cancer. I just reread some of those posts, and not surprisingly, they elicited a few tears. In order to make my blog slightly less depressing, I figured that I'd write about my new puppy, Freyja. I already wrote about her in April, but I thought that I'd give an update.

I have to say that I have myself one great little dog here. Kirsti and I took her to the vet last Friday, and to say that they loved her there would be an understatement. Of course, I'm sure that they get a kick out of all the puppies that they see. However, I'm not sure that each one of them has pretty much every employee come up to the examination room to see what the fuss is all about. (One of the vet techs came in to pick her up and gave little Freyja a ton of hugs and kisses. She had also been rather fond of Argos and was great for us when we were going through that.)

Our vet was also really impressed with Freyja's temperament and told us that she was glad that this wasn't our first dog because if we ever got another one, we'd wonder what the hell was wrong with it. The doctor was impressed with the fact that she was already potty-trained (had been for several weeks, actually) that she could do some loose-leash walking, and that she was basically a couch potato around the house.

Considering that Freyja is half Rottweiler, a quarter Jack Russel Terrier, and a quarter Australian Blue Heeler, you wouldn't expect her to be as mellow as she is. Of course, she gets excited when we meet new people while going on a walk, and sometimes she harasses the cat a bit too much, but for the most part she just lounges around the house. The really surprising thing is that on days when I don't get a chance to walk her, she doesn't have any noticeable change in her demeanor. I know that this certainly wasn't the case with Argos, who was always noticeably more hyper when he didn't get a walk in.

Of course, there's the "terrible twos" that dogs go through (apparently humans do the same) so the most trying times might still be ahead of us. With that said though, she is definitely better behaved than Argos was at the same age. She already seems to have a pretty good sense for what she can and cannot chew on in the house. (Our shoes are safe!) She's also better socialized, and she's eager to meet new doggie and human friends. She's also not likely to get into fights, as she readily bows down and rolls over for any dog she meets - even tiny little Chihuahuas!

The latest bit of good news is that she didn't seem to be too disturbed by all the 4th of July Fireworks. With Willy, we had to drug him (given to us by the vet!) and stick cotton balls in his ears, and he was still freaking out. As for her, she sat up and took notice, and then she plopped back down again and went to sleep.

Despite her pedigree, I'm not too surprised as to how mellow she is. After all, her mom was a gentle Rottie, and her dad wasn't as high-strung as you often get with little dogs. In fact, he was only a bit less mellow than mom was. That was one of the things that gave me a good feeling about getting Freyja in the first place. I have a feeling that she'll be a great friend to Logan.

Back at the vet, both the doctor and one of the techs told Freyja that she was a "lucky dog" to have Kirsti and me as owners. That's pretty damned flattering. Here's hoping that my ability to care for dogs will translate over to my ability to care for my son. (They're potty trained by four months, right?)

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Comics Roundup for 6/30/10

Secret Avengers #2 - While I probably didn't like this as much as the first issue, I still really dug it. I guess my biggest complaint is that Moon Knight looks kind of lame without his cloak. With that said, it's cool to see Ed Brubaker doing a team book, and for as odd of a collection of heroes that comprise this team, it still feels like an Avengers book. (I'm not so sure about New Avengers though. That feels like something else, which is not a comment on its quality.)

Captain America #607 - I really liked the last issue, and this one was really great as well. That's really saying something considering that guest artist Mitch Breitweiser isn't quite in the same league as the artists who usually pencil this book. I'm probably repeating myself from previous issues, but James "Bucky" Barnes continues to be one of my favorite characters in the Marvel universe, and I'm not eager to see him put down the Captain America shield anytime soon. I also love what Baron Zemo is doing to him, proving that Zemo is one of the best villains around.

Green Lantern #55 - The best part of this issue? Hal Jordan commandeering Lobo's motorcycle. There's a reason why this character has become so popular since the Rebirth story, and it's the moments like these. It's also good to see that all of the various lanterns haven't become an afterthought since the conclusion of Blackest Night.

Thor #611 - This issue was decent, but I think that I'm going to have to drop this series since I'll need to cut some expenses with the baby on the way. I suppose if I have the money and desire later, I can always pick up the trade. Basically, it involves an invasion of Valhalla and manipulations on the part of Mephisto. (Who else is going to do it now that Loki is gone?)

The Flash #3 - This issue was a little hard to follow, but considering that the last issue was one of my favorite single issues in some time, I'll still get the next issue. I think that I might not have been in the right mood to read it, and it involves time travel and all sorts of complex story twists.