The Intermittent

Why Are You Still Here?

Thursday, April 28, 2005

EAT AT JOES?

The Intermittent is taking a road trip to DC next week; I haven't been there is years and years, since my friend stopped bouncing at a horrible seventies themed nightclub and moved to Seattle. And that was back in the nineties. I'm guessing things have changed, and not simply Presidents. Which is a long way of asking for a little help: anybody know of decent places to eat in the greater Metro Center area? I'd prefer good, cheap, and healthy, but will settle for good, cheap, and unhealthy.

Anyone?
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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

REVIEWS, TO PROVE MY WEEKEND WASN'T WASTED.

No slave to the NFL draft I; while glued to the couch, I managed to get through two comics, as well as wrap my re-read of Crime and Punishment (and as an aside, Dave Fiore writes as though he were a Dostevsky character; it's uncanny). Brief reviews below, nominal spoilers.

**Through the Habitrails, Jeff Nicholson. There's the theory going around that holds that the Countdown to Infite Crisis is, at heart, an adolescent work, inasmuch as it self-consciously rejects childish fun in favor of bloated self-importance. Not having read the book, I can't say whether or not this comment is deserved; but I do endorse the idea of bloated self-importance being a teenage hallmark. But of course this bloat expands both ways; both into the childhood past and the adult future. By this standard, Through the Habitrails is very, very adolescent work.

The book is nominally a nightmarish tale about deadening effect of the modern workplace, complete with evil bosses draining workers of their precious bodily fluids; no, the metaphors are not subtle. What the book is really about is how special the author is, about how how his life would be better if people just acknowledged him as the shining little star he is. We're meant to read the book, I think, as part autobiography, if I read the afterword correctly. The mouthless protaganist is an explicit stand-in for the author; this has the unfortunate effect of introducing the real world into the story, encouraging the reader to try and find the "real" story behind the symbolic conceits. And the contrast shows us, what exactly? Well, the protaganist evidently had a shit job that he thought was beneath him. Boo-hoo, and welcome the party. Also, he had girl trouble. And....well, that's really it. These things are not a foundation for the kind of apocalyptic dissatisfaction Nicholson seeks to express. Unless, of course, one is a teenager, and every little compromise with the adult world is a matter of life or death. Over the course of the book, this limited, all or nothing viewpoint grows from grating to laughable; as this is nominally a book on the horror modern life, I'd call this a failure of execution. Moreover,there are some really weird gender issues going on. The introduction notes that Dave Sim endorsed Nicholson's work; perhaps best to leave it at that.

On the other hand, the art has a nicely downscale Alex Robinson vibe to it. So there is that. And speaking of nice art, I give unto you Paul Pope's 100%. This book is also, in it's own passionate way, a teenage sort of book; really, what story of first and sudden love isn't, at some level? But it has a sweetness about it as well, a redeeming self-awareness. The passion is tempered by an awareness of the costs of idealism, and it is a stronger work for it.

Better men than I have talked about Pope's art. I'll instead just briefly note his way with the mis-en-scene. Pope's panels are amazingly crowded with detail; but interestingly, his detail is typically more suggested than shown. Where someone like Geof Darrow will use a thin line to draw a hundred different unique onlookers to a scene, Pope uses a thick line to sketch out the rough contours of a crowd. Amazing, the different ways to the same result.
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Monday, April 25, 2005

ALWAYS WITH THE HOOKS

So, here's my question, after playing ball tonight with the older crowd down at the rec center: now that I'm over thirty, when do I get the unblockable running hook shot added to my game? I swear, every guy there could shoot this ungainly running hook with deadly accuracy. Frustrating as all get out. Damn fundamentals; it's entirely unfair to those of us raised on the latter day NBA/playground game.

In many ways, it's easier to guard younger guys than older guys. The old guys--the ones that are still playing ball--have all evolved their game; jump shots from weird angles and at weird times. The ball comes out either a half second early or later than it would in a normal game; really throws off my defensive timing. And sure, over a game or two I'd get used to it, but a game or two is really seven or eight games later when nexts are stacked three deep. Sometimes I think I'd rather be dunked on.
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Sunday, April 24, 2005

THE LONGEST DAY

Saturday, of course. And not because of 24 Hour Comics Day, but the NFL Draft. I am a geek two times over; I have a strange fascination with sport's drafts. In many ways, I think that the offseason is more fun than actual football season. Trying to determine how to best improve a team (in my case, the Packers; I'm lucky insomuch as I don't have the misfortune of following the Redskins. Actually, following this draft, perhaps Redskins fans should pity me.) is a nice little puzzle. Lots of possibilities, lots of angles to work. Lots of drama as my little plans get dashed, round by round.

The dashing itself wouldn't be that much of a problem, of course--sports exist to teach us humility, after all--but for the fact that it takes so...damn...long. The first round of the NFL draft was, what, eight hours? Way too long. Plus, that much Mel Kiper should be illegal. ESPN has in general gotten much worse over the years at running the presentation; far too much time is spent joking around, far too little talking about, you know, the players, whom I;m led to believe are the point of the whole thing. There were times when I couldn't tell who had been picked because Chris Berman and Mel Kiper were intent on reliving their bygone days of yore, or because we've cut away to Merril freakin' Hoge (and really, no self-respecting former Steeler be allowed to wear his suits. Perhaps it was the concussions). Or the interminable Jim Rome style round table, with all the manufactured controversy that entails. C'mon, guys. Maybe you should, you know, actually cover the draft rather than covering yourselves.

In retrospect, going out for Peruvian food was probobly a much better decision that sitting through the entirety of the second round.
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Thursday, April 14, 2005

THE PATH OF COMIC BOOK LAW

Found at Suspension of Disbelief:

“The trouble with applying this "superhero world" rationale to Manhunter is that none of its errors can be explained away because of the existence of superheroes. The rules about character evidence aren't going to change. The rules about what is relevant and irrelevant testimony aren't going to change. Prosecutors are still going to have to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, and they need to produce actual evidence to do that. (If anyone would like to argue that such changes would be natural consequences of superheroes, I'd love to hear the reasons.)”

Reasons? Okay, I’m game.

Short, wisenheimer reason: because the laws of god and man are trumped, within comics, by the laws of dramatic necessity.

Shorter, more thoughtful reason: 9/11. Or the DCU equivelent thereof.

In the real world, twenty seven hundred people die and weeks later we have the government conferring on itself the right to hold citizens indefinitely. We have the government inventing places beyond the reach of any court. We have detentions based on hearsay, tribunals in front of which a defendant will be forced to respond to information classified from his view. We have limitations on attorney/client privelege. We have torture. We have, in short, the creation of a parallel judicial system with radically different provisions from those found in the criminal justice system.

We have a majority of the voting population who arguably approve of this new system. Because of twenty seven hundred people.

How many people you think have been killed in superhero battles? How many people are injured when cars start getting tossed around? How many trillions of dollars of damage have been done to Metropolis? To the New York of the Marvel Universe? And to think that the legal system would be even remotely comparable to ours? That kind of thinking is not simply naïve, it’s dangerous.

The Constitution was not given us by God; it’s written not on stone tablets but on paper. It is a creation of our own devising, as are all our laws. Its protections and contours are only so large as we make them; or, in other words, what we think of as rights are fragile, transitory things. Against a strong enough force they give way. Yesterday you could drink; today the will of the people renders that beer contraband. Yesterday your contracts were your own business; today, your business is run to the whims of that Government. And maybe that’s a good thing, viewed from some Benthamite heights. But in either case, the “right” to disagree is gone, obliterated by the popular will.

If ten thousand more people die via terrorist plot, does anyone really think that something so gauzy as the Constitution will prevent radical changes in the way we the people want our Government to behave? Are we confident that the document will read the same, the day after tomorrow? The price of freedom is vigilance not against our enemies but against ourselves; our rights are only as strong as we allow them to be.

And the courts know this. Sure, behind every judicial decree there is a threat of violence. Sure. But only so long as the man with the gun chooses to enforce the decree. Andrew Jackson was a blowhard, but he was also right. And the courts know this too. For all the talk about activist courts, the real truth is that most often courts wait to see which way the wind blows before acting. When power is based on credibility, it is incredibly dangerous to stray too far from the crowd.

So let’s return to the land of make-believe, a land where sudden sci-fi death can come to citizens at any moment. Are we confident that the Constitution in the DCU wasn’t amended to allow the federal government over superhuman crimes? I would expect that amendment to be rapidly forthcoming after the second or third superhuman disaster; citizens would be begging to empower the federal government to address the issue, and politicians would be stepping over each other to do it. In a world where possession and mind-control and telepaths are common, would we expect that superhuman crimes must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt? Or would the burden of proof shift, or maybe the relelvance of character testimony, since consistency with past actions would have relevance to the issue of whether or not the defendant was acting under his own power, as it were, and not as a mind-controlled dupe? If villians have the power to level cities, on whose side is the court going to err, on whose backs will the burden lie; the individual defendant, or the mass of innocent citizens? Maybe the burden of proof in superhuman cases is not "beyond a reasonable doubt", because the risk of putting one innocent metahuman jail is worth it when balanced against the cost of letting a human tank walk free for want of better evidence.

After the nth iteration of the Joker’s patented kill-crazy murder spree, think maybe that the prevailing attitudes about the propriety of trying and executing the insane might change? About the power of the state to conduct forced lobotomies? The power of the state to assert authority over the bodies of superhumans in all facets?

I could keep going.

Now, granted, neither DC nor Marvel has given us this sort of legal backstory, largely because it would allow the setting to swallow the stage. Fair enough. It’s fair to say it’s sloppy storytelling for DC or Marvel to paper over what look like factual gaffes by reference to never before explicated changes in the way their fictional worlds work. Tends to jerk people out of the story, that. These are all fair criticisms. But to assume that our legal protections are constants both in fiction and real-life is error. Something to remember, especially insofar as forgetting it in one area ruins your enjoyment of comic-books, but forgetting in the other area can ruin your life.
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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

THE FRENCH ALWAYS RUIN EVERYTHING

Mark Kalesnkiko's Mail Order Bride has been voted as "the comic book best suit for film adaptation" by some subset of the French. A plea, in response: please don't adapt this book. It's a nearly perfect comic, and I love it to the point of obsession. A jealous kind of love. I don't want another version out there, one bound to be inferior; I doubt a film could capture the subtle ways Kalesniko uses shifts in line weight and drawing style to emphasize competing viewpoints even within panels. Nor could I stand to see a work that doesn't easily reduce into explanations or life-lessons "clarified." I don't want to know what it's supposed to say; in the purit of its confusion the book is perfect.

Please French people, no.

Link via Tom Spurgeon.
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Tuesday, April 12, 2005

iTUNES MUSINGS

Man, Kurt Cobain ripped off Mark Lanegan's cover of Leadbelly's "Where Did You Sleep Last Night" pretty much note for note for the Unplugged in New York album. Two point penalty on the dead guy. The white one.

Also, for folks who like the Decemberists version of clattering waltzes, ballads, and sea chanties, I highly recommend Firewater. Plus Firewater swings like a hanged man.
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Monday, April 11, 2005

SNAPSHOTS OF MY LIFE IN COMICS, EXECUTIVE SUMMARY VERSION

I’ve been sort of on/off thinking about the comics that really kicked my ass growing up; the books that sort of defined certain periods of my life. It's an interesting excercise. I can remember some things so vividly; not just the books but where I was, in some cases what was on the radio. Smells, even. In lieu of my participating (at least not for the moment) in the getting to know you meme sweeping the blogosphere, I offer my life in comics, the pre-college years.

1982: I started really reading comics seriously with X-Men 166. I was eight. I’ve talked about what a revolutionary thing that issue was for me at the time. I won’t bore you by repeating myself; suffice it to say, this was the first time in my young life that I had access to media that spoke to me like I wasn’t a child, that hinted at real danger. I realized as I was making this list that this sense of the illicit is something that many of my favorite comics share; and I wonder whether or not the decline in comics readership has less to do with the availability of other media in general than with the fact that specifically 'dangerous' media is more available to children. Kids today wouldn’t regard God Loves, Man Kills with the same sense of wonder as did I, given that the swearing in that book is heard now on mainstream TV. At the time, though…our neighbor had a pop-up camper; during the summer, I and my cousins got to sleep out there, a way to get the kids-who-wanted-stay-up-late out of the house. It was sort of our unofficial clubhouse, from which we would creep out to, of course, spy on our parents; I’m still shocked that I was never bit by anything poisonous given how often I crawled under the deck to sneak closer to the house. Moreso shocked that I kept doing it, given that the most outré thing I ever saw was my parents watching Caddyshack. Anyway. We kept a copy of God Loves, Man Kills hidden in the pop-up; it had bad words, and we were afraid my mom would find out. That would have been, needless to say, a bad thing indeed. The book fascinated us, like some sort of untranslated communication from beyond; we would take turns reading it aloud, for the sole purpose of getting to bits with the swearing. We’d practice spitting out the words, trying to sound worldly and tough and older. If kids today don't get that thrill, they're really missing out.

On with the show.

1983: I got Daredevil's 187 and 188 as a Christmas present; part of Sears catalog comics twenty four pack, I think. I arrived in the middle of this story, having had read Daredevil. I wound up with a subscription, I think, less than year later. Miller’s work had a beat, a drive, that was, again, not like anything else available to me, with the possible exception of Raiders of the Lost Ark; and of course that wasn’t out on video yet, and videos were still rare and precious things in my neck of the woods in any event. The O’Neill run didn’t meet the same quality, but it wasn’t far off, to my mind at the time. I gave my mom Daredevil 200 when she got worried about my burgeoning hobby; the anti-revenge murder message I think assuaged her fears about comics content, and freed her to worry full time instead about Dungeons and Dragons. Lucky for me that she picked that comic (based on the bloody cover, I assume) and not, say, the Swamp Thing annual my Grandma had randomly picked up for me at a gas station as a gift; had my mom seen Hell as drawn by Steven Bissette, the world would be one comics reader poorer, the internet correspondingly richer.

1984: Ah, Secret Wars. Like mana from God. Every summer my cousins would stay with us. Mark and Jim were, respectively, three and one year older than me; both like superheros more as concepts than as stories. That is to say, both loved staging superhero fights with GI Joe characters (Airborne always standing in for Wolverine, for some reason) or else running around the woods playing superhero. Mark had permanent dibs on Hawkeye, Jim on Wolverine. To be difficult, I think, I usually played Dr. Fate (I had discovered All-Star Squadron earlier). Secret Wars provided some sort of context to our games. Now instead of having to make up reasons why Hawkeye and Wolverine were together (we were typically sticklers for narrative consistency in our games, for some reason) we simply used the Secret Wars miliau; and while Doctor Fate shouldn’t have been there, he was easy enough to shoehorn in. Hey, the Beyonder had infinite power, including the power to reach into alternate comics' universes. And then The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, needless to say, opened up whole new worlds for us; Jimmy took a particular fondness to staging fights with an imaginary Ulik the Troll, despite none of us ever having read an actual comic about him. Sometimes we would incorporate creatures form the Monster Manual. Yes, we were nerds, but in a sort of playing outside in the woods all day kind of way. And there was always Ting to drink. I can't think of a better way to grow up.

1985: I’ve moved to Texas and start middle school all at the same time; truly, those were the salad days. I made friends with soccer and copies of Born Again, friendships soon to blossom to include Mail Order Monsters tournaments on the C64. I loved that game.

1986: X-Men 204 hits, and for the first time I’m aware that there is art and there is ART! Windsor-Smith can do that do a kid, I suppose. Gone were the days when all I cared about was a good story; now I wanted a good story to also look cool as hell. And what a pain in the ass that is to find.

1987: I’ve moved back to Wisconsin. Which means yet another junior high school to adjust to, just what ever thirteen year old always wants. My grade school friends had their own cliques already, and a surprising number had evolved into what were termed “grits”, that is, essentially, metalheads. To this day I don’t understand how a disgusting foodstuff is the right comparison for a fourteen year old in a Dio T-shirt, but I didn’t invent the jargon. Anyway. As you can expect, lots of free time for Dave! Which meant, of course, comics. The Kraven’s Last Hunt saga caught my attention, as did Legends and later, the JLA spin-off. Like many things that seemed important and profound at the time, Kraven hasn't aged well. I love it anyway, still; plus it's my first exposure to Blake, which allowed me to fake a profound knowledge of poetry in eigth grade English (I'd also come across a copy of Yeats' The Second Coming, which helped). Later that year I make friends with the help of Thor, after a kid on my soccer team somehow mentions the character. I’m still friends with the guy. He's got a kid now. Weird. Hi Owen. Oh wait, he can't read yet...

1988: At some comic book show at a bowling alley in Appleton I discover in one fell swoop The Question, The Shadow and the Dark Knight Returns. The universe expands again. The Helfer/Sienkievicz/Baker Shadow, in particular, just set up residence in my brain, forever warping my notions of entertainment; here was wrong fun done right. If pressed, I'd say to this day that that series, taken as a whole, was better in every way than The Dark Knight Returns.

1989: The year of the Punisher. Wiindigoo James and I sitting in a basement playing Top Secret, roleplaying imaginary Frank Castle-style commando missions, complete with Punisher-style looting of corpses for spare change. I half suspect our parents would rather we were down in the basement with a bottle of Wild Turkey rather than ten sided dice and a dog eared copy of the The Punisher's Weapons Locker but you never get the kids you want. It's also the year I'm reintroduced to Mike Mignola (whose seminal work on Rocket Racoon I’d loved as a kid) via Cosmic Odyssey; I have a very vivid memory of reading the third issue of that series as my dad drove us out to the marsh to go hunting. I hated duck hunting, but liked spending time with my dad. Debate eventually is my ticket out of the marsh; I make it up to dad by hunting pheasant with him, which is so much more fun than hunting duck. Moral: movement is better than sitting still.

1990: I can drive myself to the comic shop. Big times; I get a license to drive, discover the Pixies and the Before-There-Was-Vertigo grouping of DC Titles, Sandman, Doom Patrol, Hellblazer, pretty much all at once. Then of I get busted hauling ass back to school after a dental appointment—had to catch the last ten minutes of Western Culture, moreso to stare longingly at a girl than to absorb the subtle differences between Doric and Ionic column—and spend a lot of time cooped up at home. Reading comics of course, and searching for that one punk song that most perfectly expresses my alienation; I find many contenders on Husker Du's Zen Arcade. Doom Patrol was my first Morrison book, and in some ways it's still my favorite, if only because Morrison really only writes one kind of book and the read is freshest the first time. Not sure why I kept reading Hellblazer, in retrospect; I came aboard during the tail end of the Family Guy storyline, which was both continuity heavy and also terribly dull. I think it the Steve Pugh fill in issue about a possessed dog, that kept me onboard. That one issue was cool enough I kept waiting for lightning to strike twice. Also, roundabout this time I start reading Marshal Law, and once again find myself terrified that my mother will read one of my comics. I'm still terrified that she'll someday find this comic, and I'm thirty one years old now.

1991: My timelines are getting all fuzzy now. Some of the 1990 books may have belong here instead. Well, this is a subjective list anyway. I think maybe Starman started around here; the last superhero book I picked up at issue one and followed to the end, if I’m not mistaken. Though the whole “Jack in Space” bit really tried my patience. About this same time as well the bad local comic shop—the one that smelled funny and was run by an extra from Deliverence and a Hawkwind groupie gone long in the tooth—had this ridiculous, we’re too lazy to move our backstock sale. Ten books or five prestige format issues for a dollar. The Wiindigoo picks up the Epic issues of Akira; along with Appleseed, my introduction to manga. I pick up, among other things, the Giffen/Bierbaum Legion reboot. Which of course, it being my first sustained exposure to the Legion, I still think of as the definitive Legion series. Dropped the book again when the Legionaires showed up. I wind up oddly addicted to Giffen's...unique art style and later in life become the only person in America to buy all his Image titles.

1992: Senior year. I know I read a ton of comics, but damned if I can tell you which ones made that big an impression, other than continuing stories in Sandman and Doom Patrol. I had stopped reading X-men and Daredevil by this point, at least in a slavish fanboy sort of way; I'd instead stop by for an issue or two just to catch up. For old times sake. I'd started to toy around with intro-level indie titles; stuff from Piranha Press, some random books from Caliber and Tundra. It was a miracle, really, that I even had access to these. One shop carried them, and even then, 'carried' is a strong term for what was really a pretty hit or miss chance of finding them racked.

And then I went to college.

Well. Quite the trip down memory lane, putting me in the mood to sing maudlin Sinatra peaons to my lost youth. Peh. Instead I'm going to the gym to prove that my youth is gone.

I'd google up covers for all the comics I'd mention but I'm, surprise, lazy. Also, the dating here is based on subjective memory not honest to god research; the internet is for slipshod personal digressions, not for finding things out.
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Sunday, April 10, 2005

HOT IN THE PURSUIT OF THE COOL

A piece of advice, of use to likely no one reading this blog. If you are playing basketball, outdoors, in Florida, while wearing a knit skully: you are not cool. Not in any sense of the term.
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IS THIS GONNA BE A STAND UP FIGHT, OR ANOTHER BUG HUNT?

The smart money is on bug hunt. The ever-lovin' intermittent puppy is having flea problems. She's chewed the hair off her flanks, bitten her belly raw. It's tremendously sad to have this little half-bald fox walking around the house. Damnable, inevitable fleas.

This should not be a surprise, I guess; Florida is overrun with superpowered versions of most other bugs(the roaches here aren't just huge, they also fly, frex). That the local fleas are ferocious is just par for the course. Welcome to swamp living in the tropics and all that. But still. I don't see other dogs having these kinds of problems. And it's not as if I've taken a laizze-faire approach to pest-control. I've dosed the dog with Frontline, I've dosed her with Advantage. I've sprayed the yard with Malathion, I've sprayed it with predatory nematodes that allegedly feed of flea larva. I've tried to shoo off the possums and feral cats that I assume act like some sort of flea mass-transit system, running around the back yard waving a broom at them (my wife won't let me use the pellet gun). I've bombed the house, vacuumed, and vacuumed, and vacuumed. And I've still got a dog with fleas.

The vet is now working off the theory that maybe the dog is simply super sensitive to fleas; it's not that she's got more fleas than other dogs, but that her skin is allergic to the few fleas left. In lieu of another round of steroids (which would likely get my dog subpoenaed by Congress anyway), the vet recommended we give the dog Benadryl caplets. He also passed along, under the table, the name of an exterminator who uses The Good Shit. We're about to do the yard up old school style, chemically speaking.

Fucking parasites.
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