Saturday, December 31, 2011

Comics Roundup for 12/28/11

Tons of stuff this week - let's keep it brief, shall we?

Star Wars:  Crimson Empire III #3 (of 6) - Another solid installment of this series, with Kir Kanos as probably one of the most interesting characters from the expanded universe.

Superman #4 - I really wanted to like this series.  I don't though.  I found myself completely losing interest about halfway through.  While I appreciate that George Perez is trying to pack as much story into each page as possible, it doesn't help when the story just isn't that interesting.  Dan Slott has been doing a much better job of this over in The Amazing Spider-Man.  Anyway, I'm done with this series.

Uncanny X-Men #3 - I've stated before that I remember Mr. Sinister from the Chris Claremont/Marc Silvestri days, so he seems a bit different here.  I never realized that he could be such a fun villain though.  Anyway, good stuff - I didn't even plan on picking this series up when it started, but I'll probably get the next issue.

Kick Ass 2 #6 - I always say that I always say the same thing about Mark Millar's writing, and I'm going to say it again - every issue moves the story forward and leaves me wanting more.  That's what comics are all about.

Captain America #5 & #6 - Since Steve McNiven can't keep his deadlines, we wind up with two issues in the same week.  Also, we wind up with some fill-in art on issue #5, and it's pretty crap-tastic.  Anyway, nice to see Alan Davis stepping in for issue #6.  Hopefully that will get this series back on track.

Aquaman #4 - Another good issue, but I hope that this isn't the end of this story's antagonists, and I hope that they'll tie into the big Atlantis story that's hinted at on the last page of this issue.  Are we going to have an Aquaman-centric crossover in the DC Universe?  That just might be the thing to give him the respect he deserves.

Captain America & Bucky #625 - I really liked this issue, but I'm confused as to why the original Human Torch was alive in the "now" time period.  Did I miss something?  Oh, and I like Francesco Francavilla just fine as an artist, but he drew Cap's energy shield way too small.

Batman:  The Dark Knight #4 - They're trying some interesting stuff here, and I like the interactions with the rest of the DC Universe and the relationship with Commissioner Gordon.  I'm not quite sure if it's working, but it's interesting enough to keep me reading.

Wolverine & the X-Men #3 - I'm not sure if I'll continue to get Wolverine's solo series when Jason Aaron leaves, but I'll probably continue to get this one.  I read somewhere that he's a fan of Grant Morrison, and it really shows in this issue.  Wacky, fun stuff.

I, Vampire #4 - Another fun read, even though I thought that we'd have Batman involved in all this by now.  Honestly though, I think that the art is a bigger draw than the story - but the story's not bad.

Batman Incorporated:  Leviathan Strikes! #1 (of 1) - Nice to see that the Batman Incorporated stuff is continuing in the "New 52" although in a somewhat convoluted way.  Any reader who came on board with the relaunch will no doubt be confused by this, but us long-time readers need some satisfaction, dammit!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Comics Roundup for 12/21/11

Pretty good week.  Let's do this:

Wolverine #20 - This issue is pretty much just a setup for a new storyline, but it was nice to see Wolverine's girlfriend actually doing something.  I'm disappointed to hear that Jason Aaron isn't planning on sticking around after this arc.  Hopefully they'll get a good writer to take his place.  I've always liked the character, but few creative teams have motivated me to buy the series.

Batman #4 - Scott Snyder is weaving a pretty intricate tale here, just like he did with his arc on Detective Comics.  This one goes far back into Batman's past and explores Gotham City's history as well.  Greg Capullo is firing on all cylinders as well.  Nice to see his artwork go with a story that actually has a plot.

Justice League #4 - While I didn't dig this issue as much as I did the last one, it still was enjoyable.  I'm worried though that they're going to wrap everything up by next issue.  I don't know how they're going to do it. Plus, Batman needs to punch Green Lantern out sometime soon.  Oh, and I love the bit where GL touches Wonder Woman's lasso and accidentally reveals a bit too much about himself.

The Amazing Spider-Man #676 - I didn't quite feel like I got as much bang for my buck with this issue, as it basically just involves the Sinister Six, and we don't even get to see Spider-Man in it.  Still, the ending was pretty satisfying, and I'm eager to see what's happening next.

Wonder Woman #4 - Another awesome book.  I really love how Brian Azarello is utilizing the Greek Mythology, while at the same time not making me feel like I've seen all this before.  Not much else to say other than this is one of my favorite books right now.

The Avengers #20 - Just like New Avengers, this is a whole lot more interesting now that Norman Osborn is playing a role in the storyline.  I guess it makes sense that after everything that happened before Siege, it wouldn't be as simple as incarcerating him in order to shut him down.

Daredevil #7 - This is a stand-alone issue, and a pretty decent one at that.  Again, this book is really finding the right tone, as the darker stuff has been pushed about as far as it can go, while at the same time, you've got to keep a certain edge to the character.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Comics Roundup for 12/14/11

Some good stuff this week, starting with:

Batwoman #4 - I'm enjoying this series more and more with each issue.  The artwork is fantastic, as always.  My favorite part was the messed-up way Chase got Flamebird to reveal her secret identity - some cold-hearted stuff going on there.

Batgirl #4 - A satisfying conclusion to the first story arc with a cliffhanger that makes me eager for the next issue.  I don't have much new to say about this series, only I'll reiterate that I'm glad that they are dealing with the fact that Barbara Gordon spent so much time in a wheelchair, and her "miracle" recovery is being dealt with in a manner that makes the character more interesting.

Batman and Robin #4 - Easily tied with Batman as my current favorite book with the Dark Knight in it right now, this issue didn't disappoint either.  Batman definitely has a lot of work to do with this current Robin, and each issue develops the relationship further.  Plus, the villain is a pretty interesting one, as he's trying to recruit Damien Wayne to join up in a more ruthless vigilante partnership than the one he has with his father.

The New Avengers #19 - This series is picking up steam again, and it had one of my favorite Spider-Man lines in a long time:  "I like to take as much blame as I can whenever I can.  Don't take that from me.  It's the only joy I have."  Good stuff - is there any wonder why I love this character so much?

Green Lantern #4 - Good stuff, yet again.  Sinestro only gets more and more interesting in this series, as he has what all good bad guys have:  the conviction that he's actually the good guy.

Avengers:  X-Sanction #1 (of 4) - Meh.  Cable fights the Avengers.  Who gives a crap?  Not me.  I'm not getting the next one.

The Walking Dead: Volume 15 - As always, I zoomed right through this trade paperback.  I once worried that this series would start to feel repetitive, but with this current story, it definitely feels like it's going in a different direction.  The main motif is "hope" and that's what these characters are trying to hold on to in a world that seems to have crushed all sense of it.  I'm curious to see where it will go from here.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Comics Roundup for 12/7/11

The Avenging Spider-Man #2 - This was another fun issue of Marvel Team-Up.  I suppose that so long as this continues to be such a brisk, entertaining read, I'll keep getting it.  Still, it feels a bit inconsequential, as they're not going to do anything major with Peter's personal life in this book.

The Defenders #1 - Even though I've never been really into The Defenders as a team, and I can't ever seem to stay with anything that Matt Fraction writes, I figured I'd give this new series a shot.  It was an interesting enough of a read, and it's always nice to see Terry Dodson on pencils.  Maybe I'll pick up the next issue.

The Amazing Spider-Man #675 - Is it just me, or are Peter Parker's girlfriends more interesting when they're ex-girlfriends?  That was the case for Mary Jane, and now it seems to be the case with Carlie Cooper.  Anyway, nothing special about this issue, but this has been such a solid series since Dan Slott took over, that it just fits in as another solid installment.

Action Comics #4 - Maybe my expectations were just too darned high with this title, and maybe I just really wanted to read a good Superman book.  However, this series just really isn't living up to what I wanted it to be.  I really dug the first issue with the socially conscious Superman who had the world against him, and I was hoping for some more of that.  This issue was fine, but it felt like a standard superhero book to me.  I'm hoping that Grant Morrison will toss in some of his wild ideas soon.

Detective Comics #4 - This was entertaining enough, but it's definitely the weak link in the current run of Bat titles (with the possible exception of The Dark Knight).  I need to cut stuff.  This might just fall victim to that.

Justice League International #4 - Speaking of cutting stuff, I might stick around for the final chapter of this current storyline, but I'm somewhat surprised that I got this one.  (Maybe because it was a slow week.)  It's not bad, and I really like Aaron Lopresti's artwork.  It just doesn't have a lot of interesting stuff going on to make me really look forward to the next issue.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Comics Roundup for 11/30/11

Crimson Empire III #2 (of 6) - I finally got around to rereading the original two series, and I'm glad that I decided to pick this one up.  Dark Horse puts out a lot of Star Wars books, and this is definitely one of the better ones.  Kir Kanos is definitely an interesting, non-canonical character, and I'm intrigued as to how his story is going to end.

Wolverine #19 - This was another fun issue, and I'm glad that it's finally starting to refer to some of the pretty earth-shattering storylines from earlier in this series.  Also, this issue sees Logan's girlfriend come back into the picture.  I had completely forgotten about her.  I don't know where she was introduced, but I know that she had a very small part in the first story arc.  If they're going to have her, then I hope that they actually do something interesting with her.

Daredevil #6 - This was probably my favorite issue of this new series.  I liked the explanation of how the villain's powers worked, and even better, I liked how Daredevil was able to defeat him in a way that only Daredevil possibly could.  Oh, and I hear that Marcos Martin isn't sticking around.  Dangit - that guy never sticks around for long.  Hopefully whatever he draws next is something I'm already getting.

Wolverine and the X-Men #2 - I told myself I wasn't going to get this one, but it was a slow week and I'm weak-willed.  Kind of glad that I did, as it was a pretty fun issue.  I'm starting to dig Jason Aaron as a writer, as he seems to be a bit of a toned-down Grant Morrison.  The ideas are crazy, but you can read one issue and it has a cohesiveness to it - unlike Morrison.  Maybe I'll pick up the next issue as well.

Uncanny X-Men #2 - I also said that I wouldn't get this one, and just like with the other X-book, I liked this one a bit more than the first issue.  I remember Mr. Sinister from his earliest appearances, so I'm not too familiar with what they've done with him since.  Still, this is a pretty wacky thing that he's doing in this issue.  Dammit...might just have to pick up the next one as well.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Comics Roundup for 11/23/11

I, Vampire #3 - Even though I don't remember too much from the past two issues, this was a pretty accessible story, and I didn't find myself confused by what was going on.  Even more so, it was pretty compelling, and I still dig the artwork on it.  I'm going to have to re-read this series, but I think that I'll be sticking with it for at least a few more issues.

Superman #3 - You definitely get your money's worth in each issue of this series, as George Perez packs every page with as much content as humanly possible.  Anyway, this was some solid superhero stuff, but not too different from anything I've seen before.  I might stick it out until the end of Perez's run, but I really need to find something to cut back on, and this series just might be it.

The Flash #3 - The story is interesting, but the artwork is really where it's at.  Francis Manapul really puts a lot of thought into each page of this series, and he does such an excellent job of conveying motion - something which is really important when you have a character who runs really fast like The Flash.  The story is pretty interesting as well, as it's a throwback to all of the sciencey stuff you'd find in Silver Age adventures of the character, only it doesn't feel ridiculously retro.

Aquaman #3 - This was another fun issue, but I'm worried that the whole "Aquaman can't get no respect" shtick is going to get old.  That's a bit of a minor complaint though, as Geoff Johns has created some fairly interesting villains along with adding a new supporting character.  Also, I wonder if that little lesson on piranhas wasn't a jab at the Peter David story where piranhas ate Aquaman's hand.  Hmm...

Kick Ass 2 #5 - I think I might just wind up repeating what I always say when I read a comic written by Mark Millar - the man knows how to move a story forward.  Other than that, this was another solid installment in a comic that definitely works better as a comic than as a movie.  (I don't know how they'd pull off what happened in the last issue in a movie.)  Nice to see that Hitgirl is back in action, but that was pretty much a foregone conclusion.

Captain America & Bucky #624 - I was worried that this was just going to be a rehashing of stuff we already knew about Bucky's Winter Soldier days, but we definitely got to see some stuff that we didn't before - like the reason why the Soviets put him on ice every so often.  Next issue promises a "new creative team" but a little bit of web searching shows that Ed Brubaker is still going to co-write, so I'm definitely on board.

Batman:  The Dark Knight #3 - This was definitely a better read than the last issue, and I'm glad that the cliffhanger turned out to be a bit of a red herring.  I was thinking of dropping this particular book, but I'm glad that I stuck around for this issue.  I'll be around for the next one as well.

Donald Duck:  Lost in the Andes - I haven't read this rather hefty volume of classic Carl Barks stories yet, but I'm definitely looking forward to it.  I'm still in the middle of the complete collection of Bone right now, and I want to finish that before I start on anything new.  Still, I got a chance to flip through this a bit, and it's certainly a nice volume - which I've come to expect from Fantagraphics.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Grandfathers and Bad Traditions

There's a bit of dialogue that always makes me grin whenever I watch A Hard Day's Night.  It involves a mischievous old man who's tagging along with The Beatles, and when asked about who he is, Paul tells the rest of the band that the man is his grandfather.

George: That's not your grandfather.
Paul: It is, you know.
George: But I've seen your grandfather. He lives in your house.
Paul: Oh, that's my other grandfather, but he's my grandfather, as well.
John: How do you reckon that one out?
Paul: Well, everyone's entitled to two, aren't they?

I'm not sure why this always amuses me.  It vaguely reminds me of talking with teenagers, as with some of them you have to spell everything out.  (Why am I picking on teenagers?  There are adults who are like this!)  The thought that John and George couldn't figure out that this man obviously must be Paul's other grandfather just doesn't occur to them.  Maybe it's the delivery, as The Beatles were all especially charismatic - especially in the early years.

There is something bittersweet about that bit of dialogue for me though.  Even though I find it endlessly amusing, it reminds me of the fact that I didn't really get what, according to Paul, I was entitled to have.  Sure, I have two grandfathers, but I didn't ever get to know either one of them.  My mother's father died when I was just a little guy, and I vaguely remember meeting him.  My father's father died when I was a teenager, but I never got to know him.  There are a few pictures of me as a youngster sitting with him, but he looks annoyed.  I asked my parents about this, worrying that I was a horrible little child who was hated by his grandfather.  They informed me that the problem was that he was basically drugged up and pretty much out of it, so therefore he wasn't even cognizant enough to be annoyed.  He suffered from mental health problems that either began with, or were exacerbated by his experiences fighting with the Marines during World War II.  This is main reason why I never got to know him, as we never visited him while he was in the hospital - and even if we did, he wouldn't have any idea who we were, as his condition had deteriorated so severely by the time he died.  (I sometimes wonder if I would take Logan to see my dad if the same thing happened to him.  I've decided that I'm glad that I don't have to make that decision.)

I mentioned to my dad once about how important it was to me that Logan would get to know both of his grandfathers since I didn't know either one of mine.  My dad informed me that he didn't know either of his either.  His mother's father died of black lung at the age of 40.  (He was a Spanish immigrant who worked in the coal mines.)  His father's father died in a tragic farming accident.  Apparently, my grandfather ALSO didn't know either one of his grandfathers.  In other words, this has been one long, crappy Johnson tradition that desperately needs to come to an end.

So, how is it working out so far?  Well, my dad lives several hours away, but as you can tell from the second photo on this entry, they sure seem to hit it off well when they do see each other.  I imagine as Logan gets older, he'll develop an even closer relationship with my dad.  The reason why is that my dad owns a ranch near Redding, California.  He already frequently plays host to my two nephews and to the granddaughters of his wife.  Surely Logan will be spending a few weekends there during summer breaks.  Basically, my dad is recreating some fond memories that he had when he would visit his relatives on a farm in Nebraska when he was a little kid, and that can only be a good thing.

My wife's father gets to see Logan much more often.  In fact, now that he's retired, he does daycare one day a week.  With just a tiny bit of jealousy, I must admit that this grandfather is probably Logan's favorite person in the world.  Whenever he sees Grandpa Howland, his eyes light up.  Whenever Grandpa's in the room, Logan gravitates right toward him.  Of course, the feeling is mutual.  My father-in-law had two girls, and he mentioned that he wanted a son, so Logan is just a tiny bit extra special to him for that reason.

I should probably mention that Logan has a bonus, third grandpa.  (Suck it, McCartney!)  The last time my mother and her boyfriend came to visit, Logan instantly gravitated toward him.  This is not so surprising, as the man is a bit of a kid-magnet.  My nephews love the guy as well.  Still, by the second day, when he came to the house, Logan ran toward him with his hands outstretched, looking for a hug.  (And yes, he did that for my mother as well - but truth be told, he went to her second.)  Obviously, this will be the grandpa that he'll see the least, but hey, it'll be more than I've seen my two grandfathers combined, so you can't complain about that.

Obviously, Logan has grandmothers as well, and we could even say that he has three.  He adores my mother-in-law, loves it when my mother does "Hoppe, Hoppe, Reiter" with him, and claps along to the Russian songs with my step-mother (and her mother as well!  I guess he has FOUR grandmothers!)  Let's also not forget that there are aunts and uncles - both family and honorary as well.

But this one's about the grandfathers.  The thing is, seeing him with any of these guys doesn't make me regret the fact that I didn't know mine, but it makes me realize that with having kids, sometimes you get to correct the mistakes of the past - even the kinds of mistakes that weren't anybody's fault.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Comics Roundup for 11/16/11

I've been out of town this weekend, so this is a bit late.  Hopefully I can remember what happened, as I finished reading these before I left!

Batman #3 - Scott Snyder is continuing his great Batman scripts with this series, and Greg Capullo is turning in some of his best art as well.  I think that these two work really well together to create a comic that's greater than the sum of its parts, to use a cliche.  The story is complex, but there is a good bit of action in it as well that serves the talents of Capullo.

Captain America #4 - This probably isn't my favorite Captain America story from Ed Brubaker, but it's still entertaining and Steve McNiven's art is pretty good as always.  Supposedly Alan Davis is coming on board for a story arc starting with issue six.  Now THAT'S going to be pretty cool.

The Avengers #19 - The new team is revealed, and it's not the members that you see on the cover.  That's okay though, as at least I got to be a bit surprised.  It turns out that Spider-Man and Wolverine will not be on the team, but I'm good with that as well.  After all, they're on the other team, which is still an official Avengers team but it has its own vibe that suits the two of them much better than this book did.  After all, I can't recall any cool moments with the two of them in this title, but I can think of plenty of them from New Avengers.  Oh, and cool cliffhanger for this issue.

Justice League #3 - This was a whole lot of fun, and I'm really liking how this is all coming together now that Wonder Woman is on board.  Some fans are critical of the "decompressed" style that Geoff Johns is taking with this series, but I don't really think that's a fair comment.  Sure, there are a few one-two panel pages, but there is the ongoing story with Cyborg that's giving the readers the best of both worlds.  Also, Jim Lee is doing some top-notch stuff here as well.  I think that this series is exactly what it aims to be.

The Amazing Spider-Man #674 - This has been such a solid series since Dan Slott took over as the main writer.  Is it the best superhero comic on the stands?  No.  But is it ever disappointing?  No.  Looks like the Vulture is back, and with yet another new spin on the character.  However, this one seems to be a bit more interesting and keeping with the original concept of the character.  Also, I still find myself liking Mary Jane more now than I have in a long time.

Wonder Woman #3 - I didn't like this one as much as the last two issues, mainly because I didn't feel like a whole lot happened.  Still, it's a good story that Brian Azzarello is creating here, and I love what he's doing with the character.  For those who don't know, her origin has been changed, and instead of being made out of clay by her mom, she's the daughter of Zeus and her mom when they had an affair.  The "clay" story is still in there - as it was the lie that she was told.  Still, this makes for great use of her links to Greek Mythology, and it also makes you care about Wonder Woman herself more, as nobody wants to have to question who they are.

Nightwing #3 - There wasn't anything necessarily wrong with this issue, but I think it will be my last one.  I've been picking up so much stuff since DC's relaunch that I'm starting to forget what happened from issue to issue.  This one I couldn't remember at all, so I think that makes for a good excuse to drop it.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Comics Roundup for 11/9/11

Batgirl #3 - This series has been one of the most pleasant surprises of all the rebooted DC Comics.  I expected to like it enough to give it a shot, but I didn't realize that it would become a favorite.  Gail Simone is doing a great job of making Barbara's former handicap and subsequent "miracle" healing matter to the overall storyline and to the emotion of the character.  Plus, it's always nice to see Nightwing interact with her.

Wolverine #18 - I mentioned with the last issue how the tone of this book has really changed.  It went from pretty dark stuff to madcap high adventure.  I like both styles, but I still wish that there was more transition from one to the other.  Still, this remains one of the longest runs that I've continued to get on Wolverine's solo title.

Green Lantern #3 - Geoff Johns is doing a pretty good job of continuing with everything he's built with this title, but I think that it's still pretty user-friendly to new readers.  Sinestro continues to be a great villain, and there are some good plot twists that make me want to check out the next issue.

The Avenging Spider-Man #1 - I guess it was only a matter of time before they launched a new Spidey title, and a new twist on the old Marvel Team-Up at that.  Believe it or not, this is my first comic that I"ve ever bought with Joe Maduriera on the artistic duties.  I'm not a huge fan, but he's pretty good at putting together the story.  The story was pretty fun as well, so I'll probably check out the next issue.

Batwoman #3 - I don't have much to say other than the fact that I'm still enjoying this series and I look forward to the next issue.  I also appreciated the recap of her past on the first page, and I think they're doing a good job of incorporating the character's sexuality into her personality without it feeling exploitative.

The New Avengers #18 - Norman Osborn assembles his new Dark Avengers.  Most of these characters I don't know very well.  Hopefully the story can start moving forward with the next issue, as I feel like the setup is overly long on this one.

Batman and Robin #3 - Just like the last two issues, I really enjoyed this one.  I think that Peter Tomasi is doing a fine job of making sure that the relationship between these two characters the centerpiece of this title instead of it just happening to have both characters in it.

Huntress #1 & 2 (of 6) - I bought these because I like the character, liked the art when I flipped through it, and was glad to see that they restored her to her original costume (more or less).  I always thought that Jim Lee's revamped version in Hush was kind of lame, as it was the "more skin = better" school of thought.  Anyway, the story is fine, but I'm reading too many comics right now, and I don't feel compelled to pick up the next four issues.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Tales of Employment - The Pickle Jar

I wasn't always a teacher.  In fact, I've worked quite a few jobs before I ever took my current teaching position at the age of 27.  I've been meaning to write about some of my memories for some time now, and I figured that since I've been wanting to blog a bit more, this would give me some good material.

I'll start off with a story from my very first job.  I was a Courtesy Clerk for Safeway in Concord, California.  I worked there for three years, from when I was 16 until I was 19.  My last day on that job was one happy day, and perhaps I'll write about that some day.  This time though, I need to write about The Pickle Jar.

One of my duties as a courtesy clerk was to do "go backs".  This was simply putting items back in their proper spaces.  Sometimes people would take something like a can of corn and put it near the magazines.  Obviously, that would need to "go back" to where it belonged.  Other times, people would get to the cash register and realize that they suck at math and didn't have enough cash to buy both chips AND salsa, so one would have to be returned to the shelf.  There were even times when people had entire shopping carts full of stuff, and their check wouldn't clear, resulting in tons of stuff to "go back".  Are you clear on this "go back" thing yet?  I realize it's really technical, and you're probably pretty stupid, but I'm going to need to move on now.

I usually saved the job of doing "go backs" for the end of my shift when I was working from eight to midnight, as the store was pretty empty by that point.  Obviously, perishable stuff would go earlier, but pretty much everything else could wait until later.  One particular night, one of the lower-ranked managers, Will, informed me that there was a jar of pickles on the "back desk" that didn't belong there.

What is the "back desk" you might ask?  It's where we'd put damaged items so the store could keep a record of it for some reason or another.  It was called the "back desk" because it was a desk that was in the back of the store.  Again, please excuse all the jargon that I'm using here, as there just isn't any other way that I can put it.

Anyway, Will had a bit of a smile on his face, so I figured that there was probably something unusual about these pickles.  He was younger than most of the managers, and I had a pretty good rapport with him, so I figured he was just joking around with me.

Sure enough, when I got to the jar, there was something that just wasn't quite right about it.  For the pickle illiterate, "pickles" are cucumbers that are preserved in vinegar, usually a clear vinegar.  Well, this liquid wasn't quite clear.  It was a bit more on the murky side.  Also, there was something about one pickle in particular that caught my eye.

I realize that this can be really confusing, so maybe you missed the part where "pickles" are cucumbers that are...umm...pickled.  See, cucumbers are normally green.  When you pickle them, that doesn't really change.  Well, one of these pickles wasn't quite green.  It was more of a brownish color, and it was a bit on the flaky side.

My seventeen-year-old mind couldn't wrap my head around this.  How could a pickle go bad?  Doesn't the vinegar preserve it?  Was the cucumber rotten in the first place?

When I walked past Will, he and some of the other workers were all laughing.  I asked him what the heck that was - some kind of rotten pickle?

And that's when Will informed me of a horrible, horrible truth.  That's right.  Somebody crapped in the pickle jar.  Oh yes, a person pooped in it.  Defecation.  Fecal matter.  Shee-it.

From what Will told me, it was a woman who did it.  She had returned the pickles and got her money back, and it wasn't until later that the checker who returned the lady's money realized the caca in the jar.  Before you think that the checker was an idiot - do you really think you would have inspected a jar of pickles closely to see if there was a turd in it?  Of course not.  The policy was to give people their money back if they weren't satisfied with something, and the checker probably just wanted to get that lady out of there.

The thing that I wonder is what prompts this sort of behavior?  Did this woman plan this out for months ahead of time?  Was she just strolling the aisle, saw the pickles, and suddenly thought, "I could TOTALLY crap in this!"  Did she buy the jar with the full intention of eating all the pickles, but after eating one decided that she had to return them, only to be ruled by some sort of obsessive-compulsive need to not return a partially-full pickle jar, a poop being the only thing she had that came close to the size and shape of a pickle?

The world may never know.  All I know is that somebody crapped in the pickle jar.

Comics Roundup for 11/2/11

Fear Itself #7.1 - This Captain America-centric epilogue to the summer's big event delivered exactly what I thought it would.  SPOILER ALERT!  Bucky's back to life - turns out he didn't die in the first place.  I've mentioned that I thought they were going to undo that particular death on this blog for some time now.  I guessed it because we've spent so many years now getting to know this character, and it felt like such an unceremonious afterthought to just kill him off the way that they did.  So, it looks like there will be a Winter Soldier comic coming out soon, and most of the world will believe him to be dead.  Sounds good to me - I'm down with the first issue at the very least.

Uncanny X-Men #1 - I thought I'd give this other new X-Men book a try since I tried out Wolverine and the X-Men last week.  It was decent enough, but I'm so far removed from the X-Men universe lately that I just don't know if I want to commit.  I understand the difference between this book and the other X-Men book, but what's the deal with X-Men?  And X-Men Legacy?  And Fat Free, Low Carb X-Men?  It's too confusing.  Even Wolverine alone has twenty books on the stands nowadays.

Detective Comics #3 - Nothing too special here, but it was a solid little bit of Batman shenanigans.  Tony Daniel has created a pretty good villain in the Doll Maker, but I don't know if he will have much staying power after this particular arc is done.

Justice League International #3 - I really enjoyed the first issue, mainly due to the fun character interactions.  I might just check out the next one, but if I don't start seeing more of that, then I just might be done with this.  A good team book focuses on that, in my opinion.  Either that, or you do what Grant Morrison did with JLA years ago and come up with the craziest threats you can possibly imagine.  The threat in this series is just too standard to keep my interest.

The Amazing Spider-Man #673 - I've said it before, and I'll say it again - the relationship between Peter and Mary Jane is SO much more interesting now that they're not married.  Anyway, lots of other good stuff in this, and it turns out that Peter will once again have to watch out for his secret identity, as the spell cast by Doctor Strange only works enough to prevent people from remembering that he publicly revealed it in the first place.  Fun stuff, like usual.

Action Comics #3 - I enjoyed the story well enough, but the art on this book has taken a serious drop since the first issue. You'd think that with an important book like this, they'd keep it pretty consistent and top-quality. I'll stick around because I believe in this new direction for Superman, but I hope they pick a more dependable and consistent artist for it.

Crimson Empire III #1 (of 6) - I got rid of a lot of my Star Wars comics recently, but I kept the last two Crimson Empire series, mainly because I enjoyed them so much.  I didn't really remember all that much other than enjoying them, so I"ve been re-reading them.  So far, they're as good as I remember them.  This one has much of the same creative team, so I'm hoping that it will be a worthy successor (but I haven't read it yet).

Key of Z #1 - A former student recommended this zombie comic to me.  It's fine, but I just wasn't interested enough to keep getting it.  While I hate to compare it to Walking Dead, it's inevitable that I will do that.  I think that the main problem is that it doesn't stay focused enough on one, or even just a couple, of characters.  I didn't feel involved enough, and I thought there were too many things thrown at me all at once. I think many of these characters and concepts could have been saved for later issues.  The art was nice though.

Hellboy:  House of the Living Dead - I have not yet read this hardcover graphic novel by Mike Mignola and Richard Corben, but considering I like the character and everything they've done with him, I expect to like this one as well.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

How to REALLY deal with demons

I've written once before about my childhood fear of demons.  You can read about it here, if you want, but in short, I used to believe that demons existed.  Not only that, but I even had my own encounters with demons.  One of them involved a particularly nasty little imp who pushed my head into the couch cushions while I was taking a nap and verbally threatened me.  I no longer believe in them though because I have learned about sleep paralysis, which turns out to be a FAR more logical explanation than some supernatural being who likes to mess with me while I sleep.  (Seriously, don't these things have anything better to do?)

Even though I probably spent more than half my life now believing in these things, I can safely say that this belief is about as dead in me as my former belief in Santa Claus.  When weird, spooky stuff happens, I don't even consider for a moment that it might be a demon any more than I consider that my Christmas presents might be from St. Nick.  Not too long ago, I was sleeping and woke to find my wife standing near me.  She walked up to me and sprayed something in my eyes, which immediately started to sting.  I then woke up to find that my wife wasn't anywhere in the room, but I did have a stinging sensation in my eyes.

Is it possible that my wife sprayed hairspray in my eyes while I was lying in bed?  I suppose, but they didn't sting THAT bad, and I was taking a nap while wearing my contacts - which has been known to result in stingy eyes from time to time.  Also, my wife just wouldn't do that kind of a thing.

Yet still, I consider my wife a more likely suspect than a demon.  Why is that?  Get real close to the computer and read the next part really carefully:


Demons don't exist, but my wife does, which is what makes her a more likely suspect.  (I can prove the existence of my wife if you really want me to do that for you.)  However, the MOST likely suspect is that I simply dreamed it.  It fits the definition of sleep paralysis, something which still happens to me.  However, it never comes in the form of demons anymore ever since I stopped believing in them.

Okay, okay, so why am I writing about something that doesn't exist so vociferously?  Will my next post be about how unicorns don't exist either?  Well, maybe it would be about that if I ran into the same amount of intelligent people who believe in unicorns as people who believe in demons.

I've told my story of my demon-encounter to people before.  The point of the story is to illustrate how the things that we experience aren't always what we think they are.  There are times when our minds play tricks on us, and what we think is real is, in fact, not real.  This doesn't make us insane; it just means that neither our brains nor our senses are perfect.  Need some examples?  How about 92 of them?

What I'm finding to be depressing when I tell certain people my story is that they STILL think that it might have been a demon who was doing that to me!  Those demons, they're trying to get to me for some reason.  Maybe they wanted me to learn about sleep paralysis so I could no longer believe in them and then they could REALLY get at me!

From this point, I ask them why "demon" even gets to be an answer.  I ask why it wasn't a leprechaun, hobgoblin, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster?  (I give the same response when people tell me about their "ghost" stories.)  They always act like I'm saying something ridiculous, as though "demon" is somehow a sensible answer!  And again, these aren't morons who are saying this.  These are people who are pretty intelligent otherwise.  Check this out - it's called "Dealing with Demons".  It's not like some illiterate buffoon wrote it.  The guy is completely serious, and does a good job of articulating his point of view.  I mean, it's bat-crap crazy, but it's well-written bat-crap.  If somebody asked me to write an article on how to deal with demons, it would simply read:  "Don't bother, because DEMONS...DON'T...EXIST."

Is it POSSIBLE that demons exist?  I suppose so, but the evidence for them is no greater than the other things I mentioned.  Of course, some people will say that encounters with those other mythical creatures were, in fact, just encounters with demons who took on other forms.  This is somewhat like what the Jehovah's Witnesses will tell you if you tell them a ghost story.  Those ghosts are not, in fact, ghosts - they're demons!

But once you've started down that path, you don't get to just arbitrarily (and let's face it, nothing could be more arbitrary) attribute it to one particular fairy tale creature over another.

There are so many real things in this world with which we should concern ourselves.  Why waste time worrying about crap that's made up?  I think sometimes about my son and when he gets out in the world.  If certain adults want to tell them about their beliefs, and even about Yahweh/Jesus/Allah/Thor/C'thulhu, then that's fine with me.  However, I'm going to have a real problem if some adult tries to fill his head with nonsense about evil beings who like to mess with you in your sleep.  If that ever happens, I'm going to make it real clear to him.  I'll say, "Just like werewolves, vampires, and zombies...DEMONS...DON'T...EXIST."

Why will I say that?  BECAUSE THEY DON'T.  Holy crap.  It's almost embarrassing that I genuinely feel like this is a point that needs to be made.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Comics Roundup for 10/26/11

I, Vampire #2 - I liked this one well enough (mostly for the art) to at least pick up the next issue.  However, I'll need to see a bit more momentum in the story if I'm to keep with it.  I still feel like I'm reading set-up with this, and I'm just not into vampires enough for that to remain interesting to me.

Superman #2 - I read this right before going to bed last night, so I had a weird dream about it, and I'm probably remembering stuff from the dream better than what happened.  Anyway, a lot of story got packed into this issue, and that's a good thing.  Also, I really think that this new direction for Superman is smart.  He's still very true to the concept, but he has the world against him without turning him into a Peter Parker knockoff.

Aquaman #2 - I would have liked to have seen more story in this one, but it was still pretty good with Ivan Reis doing the artwork.  Geoff Johns is definitely making the character interesting without giving him a faux edginess that would have ruined him.  It's somewhat reminiscent of the way Mark Waid wrote him in JLA:  Year One in the sense that he's clearly an outsider, and who doesn't root for an outsider?  Those jerks on Wall Street, that's who!  Oh, wait...sorry about that.

Captain America & Bucky #623 - Not much new to say from the last issue.  This continues to be a fun direction for this series, and I'm still pretty much convinced that there's no way that they're leaving Bucky dead after spending this much time with him - even if they are flashbacks.

The Amazing Spider-Man #672 - If this issue doesn't convince you that undoing the Peter Parker/Mary Jane Watson wedding is a good thing, then nothing will.  Seriously, this had one of my favorite moments in a Spider-Man comic in a long time, and there is no way it would work if the two of them were still married.  And get this - the scene INVOLVES Mary Jane.  As far as I'm concerned, the two of them WILL get back together and marry again some day, but I have no interest in reading that story.

Daredevil #5 - This was another fun chapter, and I don't have any other input than to repeat that Mark Waid has really found the right tone for this book, and Marcos Martin's artwork is always appreciated.

The Flash #2 - This was pretty interesting and filled with the kind of high-concept plot point that I'd expect from a Grant Morrison comic book.  Impressive, considering that the writing team is better known for their art.  If The Flash can move fast, why can't he also THINK fast?  That's a good question, and they explore the fact that he CAN in this issue.  The last couple of pages were a bit confusing, but I liked the rest to want to check out the next issue.

Wolverine and the X-Men #1 - I bought this because I'm enjoying Jason Aaron's take on Logan over in Wolverine.  This was a fairly enjoyable issue, and it definitely is a new situation for the character.  I liked it enough to at least check out the next issue, but I haven't read an X-Men book on any regular basis in years.

Batman:  The Dark Knight #2 - Meh.  This was okay, but compared to Batman and Batman and Robin, it's pretty weak.  Maybe it just suffers by comparison.  I'm on board for at least another issue. 

A prediction as clear as a foggy night

In my talks/debates/fist fights with Christians, I often hear about how remarkable the story of Jesus is when you consider the "fact" that his arrival was foretold by the prophecies in the Old Testament.  They usually say it with such certainty, the same way you'd insist that somebody had peed himself by the obvious wet spot forming on his crotch.  There are so many different ways to respond to this, but I always have to wonder: "What about the Jews?"

For those of you who don't know, the Jews are the people who gave us the Old Testament of The Bible.  Here's the catch though:  they don't call it The Old Testament.  Why?  Well, it turns out that they don't believe in the New Testament.  They don't even think that Jesus was divine.  They don't even think that he was God and impregnated a virgin with himself.  Crazy, huh?

And why can't they acknowledge the prophecies about Jesus if they happen to be in their holy scriptures?  I mean, it's laid out VERY clearly in the Book of Prophecies, Chapter 5, Verses 22-38.  (You can find the Book of Prophecies right before the New Testament Book of A Clear Explanation of What Rules Still Count from the Old Testament and Which Ones Don't.)

And lo, there shall cometh a boy
whose name shall be DA JEEBUS
but some folk'll call him Jesus
and his Mom will have him in her belly
even though she never got laid.
Don't confuse him for Perseus,
'cause he so ain't Perseus, seriously.
He won't killeth any Gorgons
nor willeth he use his willy.
He'll be the messiah, only he
won't do all that stuff that
you think that a messiah will do.
But there will be people who will
TOTALLY insist that he's the Messiah.
And C.S. Lewis will make a false dilemma
that proveth it.  Oh yeah, some time later
there will be Mormons in Utah.  Where
lieth Utah?  Do not question!  For I am

Yeah, I bet you're thinking what I'm thinking.  What's with those Jews that they can't read their own damned scriptures to see that there's a CLEAR prophecy about Jesus!  What are they, blind?  ("Blind" being an actual word used by one of the Christians I was debating.)

Wait, you're not thinking that?  You're thinking that there is no Book of Prophecies?  You're thinking that I just made all that crap up?  And I didn't even bother to make it look believable?

Okay, well what is it then?  Turns out that there's a prophecy from Isaiah 7:14 that reads:  "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel."

That's a bit better, isn't it?  Well, beside the whole "Immanuel" thing, which isn't the same thing as "Jesus".  (Immanuel means "god is with us", so that's close enough, I guess.)  But hey - virgin, huh?  That's gotta mean something, right?

Turns out that Jewish people (and many scholars) think that the word that was translated into "virgin" didn't even mean that.  (It just means "young woman".)  And then they have the nerve to say that the prophecy gets fulfilled RIGHT THERE in the same book!  In other words, those Jews have the unmitigated temerity to try and interpret their own scriptures to mean something other than what Christians tell them that it means!

Turns out that there are other prophecies, or supposed prophecies.  I seem to recall being told by one Christian that there are THOUSANDS of them.  I'm thinking that's an exaggeration, or somebody's just trying too damned hard to find them.  I think that the ingredients to Lucky Charms contain a prophecy about Jesus as well, if that's the case.

Anyway, if you want to read more, Wikipedia seems to have a pretty good rundown of the prophecies and the objections to them.  Also, you can find out what a group called Jews for Judaism (what a concept) have to say about it.

Here's the thing.  Let's ignore the fact that even IF Christians are right, and there are all sorts of prophecies for Jesus, it's still a pretty silly argument.  I mean, couldn't the Gospel writers have deliberately tailored their narrative to fit the prophecies?  Just because they wrote it, that doesn't mean it happened!  But let's dismiss that for the purpose of argument.

Was the coming of Jesus predicted in the Old Testament?  Or to put it better, does the story of Jesus match the prophecies of the Old Testament?  Honestly, I don't know.  As of right now, I'm not very convinced, but I'm willing to admit that maybe I'm not getting something, or maybe there is a passage that's as clear as the one I made up and I just haven't seen it yet.

There is only one thing that I have concluded about this though, and that is that Christianity rests upon the notion that Jews don't know how to interpret their own scriptures.  And that's pretty frikken' arrogant.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Comics Roundup for 10/19/11

Wolverine #17 - This was a pretty fun read, and it had a pretty different for this series with the Gorilla Man team-up.  Still, I felt like more needed to be resolved from the last major story arc.  Hopefully Jason Aaron is going to follow-up on some of that stuff.

Fear Itself #7 (of 7) - This was a decent ending to an otherwise forgettable crossover event.  I'm not quite sure how this changes Marvel's status quo.  The great thing about Civil War and Secret Invasion was that they both left me wanting to see what was going to happen next in the Marvel Universe.  Apparently there's some stuff going on that came out of all this, but I don't seem to have a grasp on it.  Personally, I think that Marvel needs to bring its game up a bit what with what's going on at DC and all.

Avengers #18 - There needs to be a new team of Avengers.  Why?  I'm not sure.  I saw the cover preview for the next issue and it looks like the same team minus Red Hulk (thankfully - he's such a redundant character) and Thor and plus Ms. Marvel, The Black Panther (yay), and The Vision.  Anyway, this was a decent issue, and Daniel Acuna's art is always nice to see.  (And now I hear that Storm is joining?  Could be interesting.)

Justice League #2 - This series doesn't quite live up to the hype, especially in light of some of DC's other current offerings.  However, it is a pretty darned fun book though.  Sure it doesn't have some of the more poignant moments like in Batman and Robin and Aquaman, but it's a really entertaining ride.

Nightwing #2 - I'm not sure how this compares to the Chuck Dixon Nightwing run (one of my all-time favorites) but it's a pretty fun read so far.  We get a little bit more story this time, and the stakes get raised.  What more could you want?

Batman #2 - This had a really strong start, and the rest was pretty good as well.  Scott Snyder's definitely not just going over familiar territory here, and this feels like a completely different book than when he was writing Detective Comics, and I don't think that's all attributable to the radically different artist on this book.

Wonder Woman #2 - Any reservations I might have had about Brian Azzarello being the right guy for this book are completely thrown out the window with this one.  I think it might have been my favorite of the week.  Are some old-time Wonder Woman fans going to be upset that they're tweaking her origin?  Perhaps.  But making her a daughter of Zeus makes more sense if this is all tied to Greek Mythology.  Anyway, good stuff.

Superior #6 - Speaking of better and better, this series started out decently enough, but it didn't seem all that special.  Now I finally feel like I'm reading something that I haven't read before.  Basically we've got a hero who needs to make a Faustian bargain - but instead of doing it for his own gain, he must do it for the benefit of humanity.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Comics Roundup for 10/12/11

Batwoman #2 - I definitely feel more engaged with the character this time around than during her starring run in Detective Comics.  Still, I wish that this series - which is supposed to appeal to new readers - would spend some time going into her origin.  I can understand why they skipped it with Batman, Superman, etcetera, because those characters' origins are known by people who don't even read comics.  Batwoman though?  Hardly a household name.  Hopefully they'll get to that.  Anyway, I'm glad that I like the storytelling so much more this time around, because I really love the artwork of JH Williams III.

Batman and Robin #2 - Holy crap, but this was more poignant than I was ready for.  I thought Peter Tomasi did a fine job with his three issue stint on the previous incarnation of this title.  I also really liked the first issue of this new series, but this second issue makes this series my favorite of all the Batman relaunches (so far - that might change in a week).  Maybe it's because everything hits me harder now that I'm a father when it comes to depictions of father/son relationships, but Bruce Wayne's conversation with Alfred about his son, Damian (the current Robin) reflects some of my inner fears.  I'm not giving this quote exactly, as it was part of a conversation, but this gets across the general idea:  "For the first time, I'm afraid of dying, of leaving a black hole in Damian's life and...I'm afraid of what Damian could become without me around."  Obviously, I'm not afraid that my son will become a killer, but that thought still resonated.

Demon Knights #2 - The first issue of this series was pretty fun, but I quickly found myself losing interest about halfway through with this one.  I guess it has to be really special stuff to get me to read outside of the superhero genre, and this just isn't cutting it.  It's my first casualty of the 18 or so "New 52" series that DC is putting out.

Green Lantern #2 - Hal Jordan gets a ring again, but there's a new twist.  I'm not sure how much a new reader would be digging all this stuff, but I'm sure glad that I read the entirety of the last series.  This continues to be a favorite.

The New Avengers #17 - What with all the excitement for DC lately, I'm finding my interest in some of my favorite Marvel titles waning a bit.  Still, this was pretty decent, but where the hell was Daredevil?  Isn't he supposed to be on this team?

The Amazing Spider-Man #671 - You heard it here first, kids, but I think that Kaine will be the new Scarlet Spider (they're doing a new series with the character).  Why do I think that?  Because he's all fixed up and looks exactly like Peter Parker again.  Kind of makes sense, doesn't it?  Anyway, this was another fun installment of "Spider Island".

Batgirl #2 - How did this get on the bottom of my stack?  I loved this issue as much as the last one.  I'm starting to get the whole hoopla about Gail Simone's writing.  It's good stuff, and Barbara Gordon is as interesting a character as she's ever been - getting rid of the Oracle identity didn't suddenly make her less appealing in my mind.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Got guilt? Kill a Hydra

There are time when something obvious will stare me in the face for a long time until I finally realize what it is that I'm seeing.  Such is the case recently while teaching the story of Hercules to my freshmen.  I've covered the story many times before, as I spend an entire quarter on Greek Mythology alone.  I always like to talk about it because for most of them, their point of reference is the Disney version of the character.  I tell them that they're not going to get the little-kid version of any of these myths, and Hercules is always a dramatic example of just such a thing.

For those who don't know anything about Hercules, he's the son of Zeus, and he's best known for completing the famous 12 Labors, which include such adventures as fighting the Nemean Lion, whose hide was impenetrable; defeating the Hydra, who'd grow back a head every time one was cut off; and cleaning the Augean Stables, which involved a whole lot of horse crap.  I've taught the story to my students for several years, but it always took a backseat in my mind to the story of Perseus, another son of Zeus.  I like the Perseus story so much that I even wrote my own version of it for my students to read.  As for Hercules?  I just tell that one because it's one of the most famous and influential.

Anyway, I always ask my students WHY Hercules performed those labors in the first place.  Most of them, familiar with the cartoon, say that it was to become a hero or to become a God.  Sure, in the actual myth he accomplishes both through the 12 Labors.  But that was just the result, and not the cause.  The real reason?  It was because he killed his wife and children, and performing the labors was a way to atone for what he had done.

Now you might be wondering, how the hell can Hercules be a hero when he's done such a monstrous thing?  See, it wasn't his fault.  The goddess, Hera, upset because Hercules was the result of her husband's philandering ways, drove Hercules into a madness, which resulted in the untimely demise of his family.

Then why the heck does he need to atone for something when it wasn't his fault?  That was the thing that never quite sunk in for me.  I figured it was just some relic of an ancient culture that I did not understand.  Stupid me - the problem is that I understand perfectly.  I even wrote recently that I'm the kind of person who blames himself for everything - including things that really aren't my fault at all.  If anybody can understand that, it should be me.

I have a lot of stories about me feeling guilty when it's not my fault.  Every time I have a student who doesn't do well in my class, I feel like it's my fault - even when it's clear that the kids has other issues far beyond my control.  I feel bad when my pets get sick and/or hurt, even if it was no fault of my own.  One piece of guilt that carries with me is how I didn't take in my cat, Asterix, when my parents split up and I got my own place with Kirsti.  I took in my other cat, Tyson, but I didn't take him in, and he wound up getting old and sick to the point where he just up and disappeared one day.  Never mind the fact that Asterix was only "my" cat in the sense that I was just a ten-year old when we took him in to the house.  It wasn't really my responsibility to take in him or Tyson, but I still feel like it was, and I feel like it's all my fault - even though it isn't.  And as I mentioned in the aforementioned post, now anytime something bad happens to my son, I'm going to carry that with me like a bowling ball necklace.

I finally thought it was time to sit down and write this blog when I read the recent blog post from my friend, Leah.  In it, she writes about Yom Kippur, the Jewish holiday of atonement.  In it, she writes about how she feels guilty for things - including a miscarriage that she had.  She acknowledges that it wasn't her fault and that it's irrational for her to feel this way, but she STILL feels it nonetheless.

Guilt is a strange thing, and most of us feel it to some degree or another - at least, those of us with some sense of self-awareness do.  When I posted my entry on depression and guilty feelings on Facebook, a number of friends commented that they could easily relate (Leah being one of them).  I suppose it's not so strange that we feel guilt.  Imagine how well humanity would have lasted if we were able to do awful things to each other and not ever feel bad about it.  We'd all be like Richard III and a lot less like Macbeth, reveling in the chaos left in our wake rather than wondering if "all great Neptune's ocean will wash this blood clean" from our hands.  The thing is, as Shakespeare is trying to teach us in "the Scottish play" is that there's a psychological consequence for the bad things that we do.

The unfortunate flip side is that our brains aren't perfect computers that sort everything out into "my fault" and "not my fault".  Our brains misfire, and that wonderful quality of ours - the ability to feel for the harm we cause - oftentimes works against us.  This is why Leah needs Yom Kippur and the atonement that it provides.  This is why Hercules diverted a river to wash all that shit away.

This is why I need to seek out an equivalent that works for me.  So far, just analyzing it rationally usually gets me past these feelings.  Unfortunately, I do have an emotional side to me, and sometimes that overpowers my rational side.  Perhaps that's the battle though.  You'll never completely get over the misfires in your brain.  

After all, even Hercules continued to have problems after the 12 Labors were complete.  Stupid centaurs.

Comics Roundup for 10/5/11

Action Comics #2 - Back when DC did the Superman:  Secret Origin miniseries, my main complaint was that it really didn't feel all that new as it attempted to retell the origin story of Superman.  With this relaunch though, we're definitely getting a Superman that we haven't seen since the character was first created in the late 1930s - albeit with a more modern sensibility, of course.  I like it that they've de-powered him, as it makes his physical feats seem much more impressive - more Herculean even.  I also like that he's such a representative of the establishment like how Frank Miller portrayed him in The Dark Knight Returns.  This Superman is a rebel, and he'll kick your ass for all the right reasons.  Anyway, this was a fun issue, but I was surprised that we already have a fill-in artist for half the issue.  Brent Anderson is a decent artist, but I'm really digging what Rags Morales is doing even more.

Detective Comics #1 & #2 - Since this was such a slow week, I decided to give Tony Daniel's take on Batman a try.  It's pretty good for the most part - and it's rather dark stuff as well (just as Scott Snyder's Batman is).  Daniel has quite the inconsistent art style though.  Maybe I need to take note of the inker, as it doesn't look as good here as it did when he was writing and drawing his first arc back when he was doing Batman.  Anyway, I'll stick with this series for a few more issues at least.

Justice League International #2 - While not nearly as much fun as the first issue, this was another solid installment of a team book that definitely has its own feel to it.  One thing's for sure, Booster Gold is definitely the star of this series, and that's okay with me as he's proving to be a pretty interesting character.

Superior #5 - I wind up saying pretty much the same thing about everything Mark Millar writes - it's entertaining and you always feel like there's enough plot development in each issue to justify the purchase.  This issue was no different, and while I thought that this series didn't feel original enough at first, it definitely has its own bag of tricks to it now that a Faustian bargain has been added in to the mix.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Not depressed enough to be depression

I want to start off this entry by stating that I've actually had a pretty good week, and I had a good day today as well.  I'm feeling pretty good, as I'm having some positive feedback at work, and I'm having fun with both my wife and my son.  With that said, I've been meaning to write about this for a couple of weeks now, as I wonder how many people can relate to this.

I went to therapy a few years ago because I was not dealing with small failures very well.  I screwed up a batch of homebrew and basically broke down crying.  I've screwed up batches before - and since, and I don't usually react that way.  It was basically the final straw, as I'm the type of person who blames himself for all kinds of things that aren't my fault, and as critical as I am of, well...EVERYTHING, I am incessantly critical of myself.  I can hear ten sincere compliments in a day, but if I hear one off-handed insult in that same day, that's going to be the only thing that fills my thoughts.

Basically what I learned to deal with in therapy was to recognize that I'm too damned hard on myself.  It still happens though, of course.  And while I'm genuinely a good-natured person and usually feel pretty positive about the world, sometimes I feel like just walking into a corner, curling up into a ball, and hiding from the world.

It doesn't happen often, but it comes and goes every now and then.  Different things will trigger this sort of feeling.  Sometimes it will be a bit of criticism that I hear.  Just a few weeks ago, I heard that a student transferred out of my class because it was "too hard".  Even though that's not really my reputation, and I'm sure that most students will find that to be laughable, I took it to mean that I suck and probably have no business teaching at all.  That's ridiculous, of course, but I felt that "Oh that this too too solid flesh would melt..." feeling of Hamlet's.

Sometimes I get that feeling when I just hear people who live in little bubbles say stupid things.  Sometimes I feel it when I hear people sputter thoughtless talking points that they parrot from some megalomaniac dimwit.  You know, crap like "class warfare" when you mention bringing the tax rates back to what they were when Clinton was in office.  Those kinds of things are even worse when I'm basically looking at a pay cut due to all the projected furlough days for my school district.  That kind of thing sure as hell doesn't help me to feel good.

Other times it will hit me when I think about my son.  The strange thing is that most of the happiest feelings I've ever had in my life have to do with him.  Today when I was going to take him to the park, he was hanging out with his mom, but he reached out to me when I indicated that we were about to get going.  He's the proverbial ray of sunshine in my life.  However, when I look on him as he sleeps, I sometimes feel like I love him so much that it hurts.  I worry about the future.  I worry about all the hardships that he'll have to face.  I worry how he can possibly make it in this world.

But then I look at my mom.  She was born in Germany two years before the country surrendered in WWII.  How the heck could her parents bring anybody into a world like that?  And then I worry about my son?  Logically, I know that he'll more than likely be okay.  At the same time, I feel like anything bad that ever happens to him will be my fault for playing my part in bringing him into the world.

Usually when something triggers it, I tend to think of all the other things that make me feel this way.  It's like thinking about one of them triggers something where I wind up thinking about all of them.  When I'm feeling positive though, the reverse tends to happen - one happy thing makes me think of a lot of other happy things.

Anyway, I'm not suicidal.  I don't walk around with a dark cloud floating above me all the time.  I'm not feeling extreme enough to be taking medications (as far as I can tell).  I enjoy my beer, but I still average only 1-2 a night - hardly enough to be "medicating" myself.  Overall, life is pretty good, but every now and then I feel like there's the entire Earth on my shoulders, slowly crushing me down.  Luckily it doesn't last long.  As I'm getting older, I'm just learning to deal with the fact that this is something I have to battle from time to time.  Certainly there are people who deal with far worse - both physically and mentally.

And I know what some people who are reading this out there might be thinking.  They're thinking that I'm obviously missing something from my life.  If only I had that thing that they had, then I'd feel more able to deal with those sad moments.  Well, if that's what you're thinking, let me just say that the thought of getting hooked on heroin only makes me feel more depressed - and the same goes with any other opiate.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Comics Roundup for 9/28/11

Big week, so I'm going to keep these as brief as possible:

Aquaman #1 - I've read quite a few of these "New 52" titles from DC, and I think that this is easily among my favorites.  I've liked the character back when Peter David was writing his title, and I liked him when he appeared in Grant Morrison's JLA, but I'm still surprised at how much I wound up liking him in this one.  This is Geoff Johns at his best, as he has a knack for making superhero stories focus on character.  Also, Ivan Reis is easily one of the best superhero artists working today.

Brilliant #1 - This is the new creator-owned series from Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley.  What did I think?  It was okay.  I'm buying too much stuff right now though, and I didn't like it enough to check out the next issue.

Justice League Dark #1 - I wasn't originally planning on getting this title.  It was interesting though, and I might check out the second one, but honestly, I doubt that I will.  I'm not familiar enough with many of these characters, and I didn't feel like I really got much of an introduction to them.

Kick Ass 2 #4 - Pretty violent stuff going on in this one, but what else would you expect?  It's still entertaining as hell, and just like the first series, I don't think that it would necessarily work as a movie.

I, Vampire #1 - I had no intention of getting this one until I read a bit about it and saw some of the preview artwork.  Andrea Sorrentino's artwork reminds me of Jae Lee, and that's a good thing.  Anyway, this certainly feels different from everything else that's out there, and I liked it for that reason.  It was also nice to see that it focused primarily on a long-standing debate between two characters.  Plus, we're likely to see the rest of the DC Universe get involved with all these vampire shenanigans.  Too bad Blade isn't part of the DC Universe.

Superman #1 - As modern as Grant Morrison's Action Comics feels, this other Superman book feels positively old school - well, old school for me anyway, as I started reading in the 1980s.  You definitely get a lot of story packed into one issue, and that's a nice change of pace.  Still, I'm a bit disappointed to hear that the creative team will be changing after issue seven.  Hopefully they can keep it good.  Oh, and an unmarried Superman is definitely the way to go, so I'm glad that this is another marriage "undone".

The New Avengers #16.1 - Norman Osborn returns as does veteran artist Neal Adams.  While Adams's work doesn't hold up to his stuff from the 70s and 80s, it's still pretty good, even if he does make Norman Osborn look more like Harry Osborn.  Anyway, I'm interested in what they're setting up here, and I'm looking forward to what's going to happen in what's easily the best Avengers book on the stands.

The Amazing Spider-Man #670 - Dan Slott is doing a great job of building the tension and mounting more and more problems to Spider-Man's situation in the continuing "Spider-Island" storyline.  I wonder what the long-term impacts of this story will be?

Wolverine #16 - I liked this issue well enough, but I felt that it resolved Wolverine's current self-loathing a little too quickly - or at least, it seems like it did.  Hopefully next issue will show that he still has a lot more healing to do.

Captain America and Bucky #622 - Not much to say about this one other than it was another solid installment in a storyline that started when the series changed its name.  Bucky has come a long way in Ed Brubaker's hands, and he's no longer just the sidekick who died.  Oh, and I still think that they're going to be bringing him back.

The Flash #1 - This was a series that I bought primarily for the artist.  Francis Manapul is doing a nice job in that department, and he makes the revised version of Flash's costume work better than Jim Lee does.  As for the writing?  Manapul is co-writing with Brian Buccellato, and this issue is a pretty good start.  I'm down with the next issue.

Batman:  The Dark Knight #1 - This was pretty good.  I don't think that I liked the writing as much as I did on the first go-round with this series - at least, not with just the first issue as my criteria.  Hopefully with Paul Jenkins on board though, this storyline will have a more satisfactory conclusion.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Comics Roundup for 9/21/11

Batman #1 - What a difference an artist can make.  Scott Snyer, who comes off of an excellent run on Detective Comics is the writer of this relaunched Batman title, but it feels like a completely different animal in the hands of artist Greg Capullo.  I liked the two artists that were working with him on Detective, and I like Capullo, so I can't say that this is any better or worse.  It just feels a bit more like a post-Image superhero comic now.  Anyway, everybody looks younger, and I think that this was probably the mandate from the higher ups at DC.  That's tough to pull off when you have a Batman who's on his fourth Robin, but Bruce Wayne doesn't look ridiculously young at least.  I don't have much to say other than that I enjoyed this, and I bet that it will be even better as the story continues to develop.

Captain America #3 - This is another fun, straight-ahead superhero comic.  There isn't really a whole lot going on story-wise, as it's really a bit of an extended fight scene.  Still, it's done well in the hands of artist Steve McNiven.  Captain America versus a giant Captain America robot.  What's not to like?:

Nightwing #1 - I recently reread Chuck Dixon's run on the original series, and I really enjoyed that.  This was a pretty good start to a new series, and I'll stick around for the next issue at least.  I also like the subtle blue-to-red change in his costume.  It works a bit better, I think.

Avengers #17 - Just like the past few issues, this really doesn't add a whole lot to the series or the Fear Itself crossover in general.  I'm glad that these crossover issues are over after this one, and I'm looking forward to the next issue.

Wonder Woman #1 - I liked this one when I first read it, and it got better the more I thought about it.  Brian Azzarello said that he's trying to create a "horror" comic with this series, and he's succeeding while at the same time remaining true to the character and her roots in Greek Mythology.  Basically he's just taking the horror elements that already exist in Mythology and turning them up a few notches.  I've been waiting for a Wonder Woman series that I could really get into, and it looked like I was going to with the last relaunch of the series, but that just didn't work out.  Hopefully this will be the version for me.

Daredevil #4 - The only thing that upsets me about having Marcos Martin and Paulo Rivera taking turns on the art chores for this book is that they're no longer doing any work on The Amazing Spider-Man.  Oh well, at least this is proving to be a solid new series, so I'll get to see their work on this title.  Mark Waid does a good job of building on the elements that he established in the last issue while setting up an intriguing new story where Matt Murdock has to help out a blind guy who got fired from his job without any real cause given.  Of course, there's more to it, as Murdock is now helping clients who have to represent themselves in court.  Plus, there are a hell of a lot of laser sights on Murdock and his client by the end of this issue.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Comics Roundup for 9/14/11

For anybody who's reading my "Comics Roundup" for the first time, allow me to explain the point of all this:  Mainly, it's a way for me to keep on top of what I'm buying.  I find myself less likely to buy stuff I don't really want when I have to take the time to write about them.  I guess you can call them mini-reviews, but I don't feel the need to be as thorough as I would if I was actually attempting a legitimate review site.  Also, I try to only buy what I like, so most of this stuff is pretty positive unless the title takes a sudden shift in quality.

The Amazing Spider-Man
#669 -
See the cover there?  That's the exclusive variant cover that you can only get at my local comic shop, Flying Colors.  Anyway, I'm enjoying this "Spider-Island" storyline well enough, but I think that Humberto Ramos's art is starting to get a little sloppy.  Maybe two issues a month is too much for him.  They should have split it up a bit.  Also, I'm not sure if I'm supposed to know who this "Queen" is at the end of the story.  Was she in the comics before and I just don't remember?  Maybe I'll try to Google it later.  (Just did.  Okay, I did remember her - barely.)

Batwoman #1 - As much as I liked the art of JH Williams III when he did the character over in Detective Comics, I just couldn't get into the story for some reason.  Now he's co-writing it with W. Haden Blackman, so I thought I'd give it a shot.  The art is gorgeous, as expected.  The story?  Interesting enough for me to at least check out the next issue.  I'm not sure how good of a jumping-on point this is for new readers though.

Daredevil #3 - I didn't like this as much as the previous two issues, but the end wrapped up with some interesting twists, so I'm still sticking around.  I find myself liking all the courtroom drama even more than the superheroics.

Criminal:  The Last of the Innocent #4 - I wasn't sure if I liked the ending to this at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was pretty much perfect.  Pretty dark stuff going on here, and I wonder if there's any way for Ed Brubaker to revisit this character (or at least some of the characters).  I doubt it, but it might be interesting.  A comeuppance is in order.

Fear Itself #6 (of 7) - This is a decent enough of a story, but it seems like it could have just run in The Avengers, as it's not special enough to warrant its own series.  The art by Stuart Immonen is top-notch like always though.

Green Lantern #1 - Forgive me for being blunt, but anybody who was enjoying Green Lantern, and saw the reboot as a "jumping off" point, is an idiot.  This might as well be Green Lantern #67.  Sure, it tries to set things up for new readers, but it's continuing on what was done in the last series.  Plus, the creative team is exactly the same.  Only "jump-off" if you don't like what was going on beforehand.  Otherwise, quitting it over the numbering is stupid.

The New Avengers #16 - Captain America tried to recruit Daredevil to the team when the first New Avengers team started.  DD didn't accept.  However, now he's in, and this was a good way to get him on the team.  I like the character and I like this title, so I'm looking forward to what happens from here.

Batman and Robin #1 - While I still think more could have been done with the Dick Grayson/Damien Wayne dynamic, Peter Tomasi does a really fine job with Bruce Wayne back as Batman in this series.  There's definitely a lot of potential here when it's literally father and son, especially when that son is Damien.  While I liked Tim Drake as Robin, I have to say that it's far more convincing that Damien could kick as much ass as he does, considering that he was raised by Ra's al Ghul's League of Assassins.

Demon Knights #1 - What can I say?  I wanted to give something new a chance with all of these reboots.  I've always found the character of The Demon, Etrigan, to be fascinating, and I'd love it if I could have that Jack Kirby Omnibus featuring the character.  Anyway, I liked this - a bit of medieval sword and sorcery, and I'm interested enough to at least check out the next issue.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Comics Roundup for 9/7/11

Action Comics #1 - This was probably the one relaunched DC book that I was looking forward to the most - even more so than Justice League. Even though I'm not a huge fan of Superman, I have been known to pick up his comics from time to time. I was genuinely excited for this one though because Grant Morrison is writing, and some of the best recent Superman comics - nay, comics in general - were his All Star Superman issues.

I also liked the whole conceit of the story - really getting Superman back to his roots. Before this came out, I took the time to read my Superman Archives, Volume 1 which reprints Superman's earliest adventures. I was surprised at what I read, as I could almost see a bunch of Fox News pundits protesting the character if it had come out just recently. Superman was proactive and represented the truly oppressed and downtrodden. My favorite example of this is when he trapped a bunch of rich people down in a mine in order to get the mine's owner (who was among the group of rich people) to improve the working conditions of his employees.

So what did I think of this relaunch? Good start. We've got a real (Super)man of the people here, and it was cool to read the throwaway line about how he dealt with a guy who was abusing his wife (something he did in one of those adventures from the 1930s). I also like the fact that he hasn't completely developed his powers just yet. Plus, Lex Luthor is given a pretty good motive for hating Superman. Don't get me wrong; he's still evil. However, now his reasoning could actually convince a person that Superman is an enemy of mankind.

Batgirl #1 - I figured I'd at least check out the first issue of this series so I could find out how Barbara Gordon is able to walk again. Unfortunately, all we're told is that "a miracle" happened. Now, I can buy miracles in a comic book universe, but I still feel like a plot point this significant should be given a bit more than a throwaway line. Perhaps they'll follow up on it in future issues. That said, I found this to be a really compelling story. There was an interesting bad buy and some great characterization. I especially like the fact that her paralysis is still a significant part of who the character is. She certainly doesn't seem to be taking it for granted that she's up on her feet again.

Justice League International #1 - I wasn't originally planning on getting this one, but I'm glad that I did. In a way, it was a more satisfying reading experience than the first issue of the much-hyped Justice League. It has the sort of character dynamics you'd want in a team book, and it doesn't feel like Dan Jurgens is just riffing off of the now-classic series of the same name that took the book in a more humorous direction. Everybody's in-character - especially Batman and Guy Gardner/Green Lantern - but I don't feel like I've seen these interactions before.

Spider Island - The Avengers - Yeah, this is kind of a shelf-filler issue that capitalizes on the mini crossover running out of Spider-Man's book. Still, it was a lot of fun - especially the bit about Hawkeye being one of the people to get Spider powers. That would be amusing enough, but the fun thing is that he really sucks at using them.

The New Avengers - Annual #1 - This was disappointing. Wonder Man elaborates on why he thinks that the formation of The Avengers is a bad thing. He enlists some guys to create The Revengers. Then he beats the crap out of the New Avengers. At the end, he's on his way to Avengers tower to take on the main team. The second part of this, in Avengers Annual had better offer a good payoff to all this. Plus, I don't know why they made such a big deal about Gabriele Dell'otto drawing this issue in the ads. The art kind of stinks, if you ask me.

Wolverine #15 - While bordering on turning Logan all emo, this was a compelling issue. Basically, he got his world destroyed last issue like he never has before, and now he pretty much just wants to die. How can you die though when you heal from a wound almost as soon as you get it? That's the question, and I'm eager to see how Wolverine will eventually get his mojo back.