Monthly Archives: August 2005
This weekend was the first time a good friend in the same age group as me got married. It was also the first time I was in a wedding. Despite some complications and difficulties that occurred, I had a great time. I thought I might have a lot to write about this; I thought that this would cause some deep rumination on life and love. I’m surprised to find it hasn’t. Maybe that’s a real sign of growing up, that I can just take this sort of thing in stride and not be thrown into some sort of philosophical maelstrom by the slightest sign of my own adulthood. That certainly wouldn’t have been the case a couple of years ago. In any case, I will hopefully have a PhotoBucket album set up for the wedding sometime this week. I’ll post the link when it’s ready.
So what do I find myself thinking about today? Not much — it’s surprisingly busy in my little province of Cubiclania today. I have been looking at the SPX site a little bit. I’m getting excited, the show is only one month away as of today. It really is one of the highlights of my year, right up there with Halloween and Christmas. Now I just have to get done my damn mini-comic. I noticed something that bothered me in my wandering around the site. On the page for indy-friendly stores, under New Jersey, appears a listing for Hall of Heroes in the Echelon Mall. I guess all you have to do to be an “indy-friendly store” is pay someone related to the con, which makes this ad space, not the helpful directory it appears to be. Having a few copies of Johnny the Homicidal Maniac and Lenore buried behind mountains of Digimon key chains, wrestling piggy banks, and McFarlane toys does not make someplace a comic book store that is particularly friendly to indy books in my estimation. Frankly, I can’t think of any store that I know of in the area that would qualify for that description — I’ll be the first to admit that Legends would have barely qualified when it was around. The sort of store that can be truly dedicated to offering a wide selection of independent comics can only really survive in a busy, urban market. Nobody’s going to pay the rent in the ‘burbs selling Teenagers from Mars or even something as well known (in the astoundingly relative parlance of the sub-sub-culture of indy comics) as Eightball. As Ian’s pointed out, you might have a shot if you could rent out the spot right next door to a Tunes, and even that’s a risky proposition. But hey, if Hall of Heroes is helping provide some of the cash that helps keep SPX going, I should be grateful, right? Yeah, right. You know how there are people in the South who still won’t admit that they lost the War of Northern Aggression? That’s how my grandkids are going to feel about Hall of Heroes.
The wonderful Ms. Elise Hacking and I watched the first three episodes of The Muppet Show last evening. Seeing this classic is, for me, a nostalgic experience of the highest degree. My parents, in their frequent recollection of embarrassing anecdotes and pseudo-humorous behaviors from my early childhood, are quick to mention that in those bygone years there was a time when only two things could get me to sit down and watch TV — regular showings of Star Wars on cable (I can’t recall if it was HBO or Prism, but sometimes they’d show it two times on the same day) and The Muppet Show. Actually there were three things, though for some reason my parents always tell it as two and then add the third later in the story, but since that third is Sesame Street it’s understandable, just another riff on the Muppet theme.
The brilliance of The Muppet Show is that it was one of those rare things that truly bridged the gap between kids and adults. The show was enjoyable on so many levels for so many reasons that practically any viewer should be able to find something to love. But what we watched last night were literally the first three episodes of the show and while there were still a few laugh-out-loud moments the experience was somewhat akin to reading the first draft of a beloved novel. Or, to steal a more accurate analogy from the reviewer in Entertainment Weekly, a publication who’s reviews I’m shocked to even mildly agree with, it’s like watching The Simpsons first season. It’s still funny and quirky and cool, but compared to what you know it will become? Nothing. Having had these characters be such a part of my childhood, I can’t help but feel there is something wrong with the universe when a completely different, far deeper voice comes out of Miss Piggy’s mouth. Not that it was something I heard very often, Piggy has barely evolved into a distinct character. The first time we see her, she is essentially just the “female pig” in a Muppet choir, the equivalent of of “thug #3” in an action movie. However, from that very first sketch the humor hinges on the slow development of this female pig’s lust for Kermit so the framework is there. In the third episode Fozzie and Gonzo’s voices are also markedly off from their norm.
The caliber of guests in these early episodes are also far from stellar. All three featured song-and-dance people who were most likely marginal celebrities at best when the show first aired in 1976 and are beyond forgotten now. The only one who’s name rang even a vague bell was Connie Stevens, the guest of the second episode, who I think my mom used to like for some reason. The best “guest” moment in these was Ernie and Bert’s guest appearance in the second episode. I have some high hopes for later in the season, when the likes of Vincent Price show up. I also look forward to seeing the original pilot which is included with the extras, supposedly far more adult in nature. Without doubt I will voraciously consume each subsequent season as they come out and just get better and better. The Muppet Show was one of those programs that went out when it was on top, a notion that will make these DVDs continually sweeter treats. It’s the most sensational, inspirational, muppetational thing a guy could ask for.
I watched Sin City last night, as I am sure a million other geeks did as well. Despite knowing that a “special edition” DVD will be out sometime before Christmas, I simply could not wait to own this nerd-gasm inducing piece of greatness. It was only the second time I’ve seen the movie; I never got around to the second theatrical viewing I had intended. I found my initial reactions reaffirmed: the movie, overall, is fucking spectacular, but each one of the three stories is slightly weaker than the one before it. Interest begins to wane by the time Hartigan is stalking around the Rourke farm to rescue Nancy. The saving grace of the end of the film is that Hartigan’s castration and beating of the Yellow Bastard is sufficiently vicious to bring one back into the balls-to-the-wall vibe that fills every scene of the Marv story and revitalize one’s interest in time for Hartigan’s suicide. On the note of that suicide, upon this viewing I agreed more with Rodriguez’s fairly traditional chronology and division of the stories. By which I mean, the first time I watched the movie I thought that maybe Marv’s death should have been saved to cut back to near the end of the film. But this time, despite the vast superiority of the Marv story overall, Hartigan’s death scene seemed far more resonant and effective than that of the psychopathic protagonist of the first story. Of course, Marv’s is still a whole lot cooler, if only for those famous (among geeks at least) last words.
Obviously, one of the best parts of watching Sin City is the eye-candy. I suspect that this film will end up being as imitated as the Matrix, the difference being that as long as it’s by talented directors this will actually be a good thing. In the context of the film, I think it’s actually the Big Fat Kill that delivers best on the visual side. The Marv story does the action better but Dwight’s story is beautiful to just look at. It never enters the sepia-toned realm of the bar, rather it is black and white and vibrant color the whole way through. Tarantino’s car scene with the scintillating spectrum of color washing through the inside of the car as it passes by streetlights is one of the real high points of the experimental aspect of the movie. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — this movie needs to be copied by a Batman movie. Every move Marv makes and the way his trench coats flap behind him should be duplicated by the Dark Knight. The whole look is perfect. And personally, I can’t imagine anything more satisfying than seeing a black-and-white Gotham with it’s occasional flash of eye color, lip-stick, or blood being terrorized by the one-hundred percent color, more vibrant than life Joker. Alas, we probably won’t be seeing this anytime soon. But a geek can dream, a geek can dream . . .
The summer isn’t going to last much longer. In September I go back to school. There’s always a mixture of emotions about that; I love being in the academic environment but I’m going to lose a lot of the free time I presently get to spend with certain people. There’s something else to lament, too. When you have all that school reading to do, recreational reading goes right out the window. And I didn’t get anywhere near as much of that done this summer as I would have liked.
I have been reading Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut for over a month now. This is absurd. Any Vonnegut book should take, on the outside, a week to read. It’s one of the great things about him as an author. I just haven’t picked it up that much. Not for a lack of interest, either — I have been quite intrigued by it, which shouldn’t exactly be shocking considering it’s Vonnegut. It’s his first novel, a distinction that until a few months ago I thought belonged to Sirens of Titan. It’s his vision of a future in which computers and robotics have dominated American industry to the point that the only people who have jobs anymore are the engineers and managers. It’s odd and compelling to read this pre-microchip vision now. In Vonnegut’s future, most of this society lives in an idyllic welfare state maintained to economic perfection by the computers. The only dissatisfaction in this world is the lack of any real sense of accomplishment or purpose among the jobless masses. Vonnegut had no way of knowing that instead of having American machines produce everything for us, we’d simply stop making things all together and all go get jobs as mini-managers with little to no purpose anyway. Or that the industrial employees who couldn’t make such a transition would have no utopian security net to make their lives ultra-convenient. I’ve managed to pick it up a bit more in the last few days and I hope to finish it up over this week.
Still, I’m not going to have anywhere near enough time to finish the books I planned on getting done this summer. I was going to read Battle Royale and Superfolks. I was going to read A Scanner Darkly and Blockbuster. But now they’ll stay on the ever expanding pile of to-be-reads, which is starting to reach truly monumental proportions. Some day archaeologists will discover my room and ponder how ancient man could have stacked so many books in such huge piles and what purpose it could have served. And I still won’t have read Fortress of Solitude.
When one reaches a certain degree of boredom at work, one finds oneself eating one’s own words. Here I am starting a full-blown blog. But I plan to avoid complete and total hypocrisy by trying not to make this a sounding board for my emotional dysfunction. It’s more of a refuge from the occasional mind-numbing boredom of work. Not that I am all that annoyed by my recent need to find stimulation at work. Fleeing retail is one of the most satisfying things that’s ever happened in my life. There is something that makes me feel so guilty about loving this cubicle-zombie hell; some neo-bohemian, geek-nick instinct to reject this kind of “work” as just plain evil nags at the edges of my thoughts. But the truth is I pretty much love it here. I love finally getting to work the same schedule as 90% of the world, I love not having to deal with customers, I love being able to e-mail surveys back and forth with my (gorgeous) girlfriend all day, I love that in a few weeks when I’m back in school I’ll be able to get a lot of homework done while I’m on the clock. Of course, I hate the “Office Space” overly-chipper vibe that permeates much of this place, I hate the sheer monotony and need to for a constant caffeine fix, I hate that despite not having customers to deal with I still get shit attitudes from people about things that are not my fault and are far beyond my control or even influence in the Byzantine network that is Subaru corporate accounting. And I hate that any website with the keyword “games” connected to it is blocked by the network, with one notable exception.
Which brings me to my next point. I love football as much as the next guy. I am excited about watching the Eagles fourth-string play the Steelers fourth-string in tonight’s first pre-season game. But I am just plain incapable of the level of attention required to engage in fantasy football. Despite the otherwise pervasive block on all things “games” by the WebSense network admins, fantasy football leagues are readily accessible. Even though I really have no right to be, I’m a bit peeved by the fact that I can’t so much as read reviews or rumors for X-Box or PS2 while the fantasy football player can go so far as to be involved in the actual game play. Yeah, I know that “gameplay” is a bit of a stretch when one is talking about the stat-tracking and trading involved in fantasy football, but at the end of the day I think it still fits the definition. I’m not looking to play so much as Tetris at work, but I would like to be able to read about what the initial games for X-Box 360 are going to be like. I guess this is pretty dumb, petty, and geeky thing to complain about, but whatever. I felt so inclined.