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09 December 2004 @ 08:56 am
Job Hunting News
I was beginning to lose hope, but yesterday I was offerred the job. I was looking forward to starting at the beginning of the year, but they insist that I start on December 23rd, the last day of the year that the University is open. Maybe for payroll reasons. It doesn't matter to me, really. I'm just happy to have a new job (and a higher salary).

Credit Agency Night Terrors
I had a dream last night about an item on my credit report that I could not remove by any means. Scary, huh? I'm certain it came from my real-life experience this week in clearing up old debts that have appeared on my credit report. My telephone encounter with Verizon's collections department was particularly amusing. My debt was with the now-defunct Bell Atlantic Mobile, which became Verizon after a merger. Upon inquiry, the collections representative chuckled disturbingly and revealed that my debt was in the amount of $0.01. He apologized, still chuckling, and I offered to pay the outstanding amount, summoning heretofore unknown stores of self-restraint as the twin emotions of hillarity and outrage each threatened from the sidelines of my ego. It was funny.

Because It's Thursday
No new comics this week. Jess stayed late at work last night, so I spent much of the evening reading John C. Wright's 'The Golden Age,' which is, so far, an intriguing read. Lovers of the golden age of science fiction will adore it. I did manage to read the first Superman/Batman hardcover collection, which is a great summer blockbuster movie in comic book form. It's a little scarce on finer plot points, but still an enjoyable hour and a half spent.
Current Mood: giddygiddy
Current Music: The Velvet Underground - White Light, White Heat
02 December 2004 @ 09:11 am
Nope. No word yet.

Because It's Thursday
Bit of a thin week for me with respect to comics. Here's this week's haul:

This actually came out last week, but undershipped, so I had to wait. It's a blast, just like the first issue, focusing a little sharper in on the plot and delivering all of the dread and wonder of "big" DC stories of yore (and surpassing most, if not all, of the more recent ones). Geoff Johns' writing is stellar. If this series shows the same quality all the way through, this is going to be the story he is remembered the most for. And Van Sciver's artwork shines as well -- there are images here that have power, especially one particular splash that shows just how intimidating an encounter with the assembled Justice League might be like. Batman's characterization here is pitch-perfect, though every character is treated with care. No DC fan should be disappointed by false characterizations of their favorites (which happens a little too often these days). All in all, this one gets an A+.

This is David Lapham's first issue, and, sad to say, it's heavy on the atmosphere and not much on story. He does nail Batman's personality much better than the last few 'Tec writers, but I was hoping for less of a slow-burn story from a veteral crime writer like Laphap. But then again, this is the first issue of a 12-part story (though it seemed somewhat self-contained to me), so maybe I can cut him a little slack. Anyway, I liked it, and am intrigued enough to stick with it for a few issues, but for now I'm tentatively underwhelmed, though hopeful for a more satisfying read when read as a whole: B.

I was going to wait for the collection of this one, but I couldn't help myself, and I'm glad for it. Millar and Hitch knock one out of the park with this one. Heavily influenced by current real-world events, the story jumps right into a quagmire of moral dillemae with seeming abandon, addressing pre-emptive strategies in Iraq, the use of WMDs and terrorism, among other issues. Millar picks up the story a few months following the first Ultimates series and isn't afraid to shake up the status quo. What I appreciate the most is that he doesn't muck around with the status quo just for the sake of doing so. He actually had a point, and takes pains to make the changes spring from the characters themselves (as opposed to dropping a truckload of random changes on the reader simply for the sake of being kewl). This is a great series, and has been much more interesting than the title that inspired it (The Avengers, which has relaunched again this week with a new #1. I didn't pick it up, though, because, er, I really don't care.). This one gets an A+.

Jeph Loeb's alternate future tale about a world ruled by an iron fisted Superman/Batman team continues, and veers off into an unexpected direction. This is a real action-packed issue, and a good example of traditional superhero comics done right. This issue earns an A-, and I'll tell you why. The conflict between Superman/Batman and Wonder Woman/Uncle Sam (and the rest of their rag-tag team) happens much too quickly. While I appreciate the fast pace of the story and the fact that Loeb had a lot of ground to cover this issue, I think that the 22-page format hurt this story by preventing a more satisfying pace from being employed. Otherwise, the issue is a delight, and I can't wait to see what Loeb and McGuiness (who is showing some mean chops here) has in store. The cover for #16 looks like Kamandi, The Last Boy on Earth, makes an appearance, which would be fantastic -- he's one of my favorite Jack Kirby creations from the 1970's.
Current Mood: geekygeeky
Current Music: The Clash - London Calling
01 December 2004 @ 11:03 am
House News
Apparently Jessica and I have been approved for a mortgage of at least $180,000, which is a little mindblowing. We both have spotless credit reports, but it's still just strange thinking about that much money (and that much debt).

Speaking of debt, I've been doing some creative shuffling of mine. I had a consumer loan for an outrageous rate that I stupidly accepted to help consolidate some things last year. I realized the other night that my credit cards have a lower interest rate, so I transferred everything over to my amazon.com 4.5% interest card. Heh. Now I'll get some free books in addition to not being ripped off in interest charges.

So we're napalming Falluja. It's not really being reported, but napalm has been being used since the beginning of the war, in cities. So much for precision strikes. Falluja basically doesn't exist as a city anymore. Nice going. I wonder why they want us to leave. I know people can and will justify all that we've done by balancing it with the Iraqi's newfound freedom, and I guess there's something to be said for that ends-justify-the-means persepctive. All I know is that if I lived in a country in which the two largest cities were looted and destroyed by my liberators, that most of the population had access to electricity for only a few hours per day (if at all) and that my friends and neighbors were being accidentally gunned down, I'd want us to get out, too.

Zucchini Bread
This morning I've had my last slice of zucchini bread. I'll be replacing it with delicious, healthy fruit. So long deliciousness. :(

The folks at the IACUC contacted my boss and my reference (Dr. Horn). Crossing fingers.

Gilmore Gilrls
So who saw GG last night? Paris and Doyle?? And what about the throwaway reference to Buffy... Sweet episode all around.
Current Mood: workingworking
Current Music: Bunch of Nick Cave Stuff
30 November 2004 @ 08:46 am
Job Blahs
Still haven't heard on the job front. They are calling to speak with my boss today, which is probably a good sign (why would they bother otherwise...). I really want this, and not just because it's more money. I've been doing this for seven years now, and I'm about done. Apart from the fact that I'm not really all that fantastic at grant work, I really need to be doing something else. I'm done here, and am ready to move on to something else.

Due to Todd's unsubtle and nigh on unceasing prodding (well, he mentioned it at least), Jessica and I have finally checked out Joss Wheedon's canceled epic, 'Firefly.' While I found it typically episodic for the first two discs of the DVD set, which is only to be expected for a new series, disc three really picks up, indicating that Wheedon really did have big plans for the future of this series, which I'm itching to discover. I only have three left to watch and just know that I'll be sad when I reach the end. It's nice that Wheedon's releasing a film next year to tie up some of the loose ends of the show, but I would rather just have the show itself.

I also just received the last Buffy set and will pick up the last Angel set when it is released in February. What am I going to watch after that? I'll probably get the Wonder Falls DVD set (a show that was mercilessly cancelled by Fox after only four episodes), but apart from that, I have no idea. I'd like to get the Farscape sets, but they're something like $150 each, which is just unthinkable for me. I don't know. Maybe I'll break down and check out Alias.

Jess and I have been looking into getting pre-approved for a mortgage, though we decided to wait until after the holiday. That didn't stop her from filling out an online form, though, which unleashed a storm of phone calls and emails, all emanating from some inchoate fiscal power at the heart of the galaxy. Just what are these creatures who lie in wait for fools to feed them information?
Current Mood: restlessrestless
Current Music: Sixteen Horsepower - Hoarse
24 November 2004 @ 09:25 am
New Job
Well, one of my goals has a good chance of being met. Yesterday's interview went very well, and I've already been asked if they can contact my current supervisor. I guess everything could go to hell if my boss decides to reveal the truth about my anarchic polemicising, naked jug-playing and for trying to start a fight-club in the conference room, but I guess I'll have to take my chances.

My Addled Mind
I've been so distraught over all of this that I got really ill last night, with a headache and nausea that lasted all night and prevented me from sleeping much. Luckily two valerian capsules came to the rescue and I snagged a few hours before waking up early and getting here at 7:00. I haven't been able to read or even watch tv (luckily the Gilmore Girls was mysteriously not on the air last night -- Jess was destroyed, but I am somewhat thankful, since I wouldn't have been able to watch it).

Talkin' to Todd
I recommended a few comics to Todd last night that anyone who's either a comic fan already or interested in checking out something new might find fun. Here's a rundown.

One of my favorite new series, this is Robert Kirkman's zombie epic that takes a hard look at the lives of a few survivors, dissecting the consequences of being thrown into an apocalyptic situation and showing that zombies aren't the ownly monsters in a world ruled by the dead. Think Night of the Living Dead after the camera stops rolling. This is what happens when we start to lose, when civilization is nothing but crumbling streets and empty skyscrapers and memories.

Peter David's very dark noir tale about the mysterious town of Bette Noir. Technically set in the DC Universe and rumored to have a tengential connection to David's previous Supergirl series, Fallen Angel focuses on the dark side of power, with a "hero" unconcerned with traditional justice and a skewed sense of duty. Flawed characters abound, and secret motivations erupt in every issue. This is a really good read. Hopefully it doesn't get cancelled soon (sales are somewhat low).

Probably the best written of all the "Bat-Titles," this monthly comic isn't about Batman. It's about what it's like to be a cop in a world where Batman exists. It's fascinating for several reasons, not the least of which is that it's something of a drag being a cop in Gotham City. There are real nutjobs there. Guys who dress up in silly costumes and threaten to poison the water supply with Chemical X. Homicidal maniacs trying to erect huge likenesses of themselves in the center of town that spit nerve gas. And an equally crazy guy who dresses up like a bat and swoops in when the going gets tough and punches out the bad guys, making the cops seem pretty useless. There's also a great cast. Detective readers will recognize Montoya, the new commish and such, as well as Josie Mac, the secretly psychic cop from a series of backup stories a few years ago. All in all, this is one of my very favorite comics, written by the unbeatable team of Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker.

Another Ed Brubaker comic. This one is a spy-serial about deep cover agent Holden Carver, who's supervisor (and the only one who doesn't know he hasn't really gone bad), is in a coma. I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll just say this is Highly recommended.

Right now there's a hillarious Grant Morrison 3-part story running through this title. After that, it's going to be a Giffen/Maguire sequel to last year's foray into 80's JLA silliness called, "I Can't Believe it's Not The Justice League."

This isn't actually out yet, but I'm really looking forward to it. Here's a link to a description: Seven Soldiers

Just look at the review of the first two trades below.
Current Mood: stressedstressed
Current Music: Dressy Bessy - Little Music
23 November 2004 @ 09:04 am
'Nuff Said

Potential Job
The big job interview is this morning. Todd, I hope you don't mind, but I put you down as a reference. They never call friends anyway, y'know. I tried to call last night, as was going to mention it, but got the auto-answer. Bah.

I'll write more later. I'm too nervous right now to write anything coherent or interesting. :)
Current Mood: anxiousanxious
Current Music: Some Juliana Hatfield song that's playing in my head
22 November 2004 @ 09:28 am
Strange Visitor
Jessica's mom visited this weekend, which is always a mixed bag. We ended up getting to an argument about politics, which perhaps wasn't the wisest thing to do. It's the same old ditty: her generation doesn't understand why my generation is so critical of our own country, why we can't just accept what our leaders do. It's really sort of a silly persective, since her generation turned out in droves to protest the Vietnam war, and probably questioned the government more than mine. I think the misunderstanding comes from her difficulty in understanding that the President is not some personification of the nation, and that opposing his policies doesn't equal treason or even a lack of patriotism. In fact, I oppose President Bush because I love my country and don't want to see it irreparably screwed into a corporate-based hell on earth. Oh well.

Alas, Cherubino
We went to see Mozart's Marriage of Figaro yesterday, one of the most impressively convoluted, not to mention one of the funniest, operas ever written. The company used a modern set-design and some witty uses of costumes, including a hillarious Elmer Fudd reference. This is traditionally one of the stuffiest operas, due to the suggestive subject matter (sex) and the perhaps prudish opera scene that's existed for time immemorial, but yesterday's production was pretty racy, refusing to back down when the action got, ahem, heated.

I have two basic touchstones when evaluating an opera, criteria that have little to do with the subject matter or the performances. These are 1) nudity (male or female -- this is not a specifically voyeuristic or even sexual thing for me -- it's more a measure of daring and, well, I just love seeing the opera muck around with sleaze) and 2) Satan. Don Giovanni, for instance, earns major points for featuring Satan's silouette and his malignant cackle as the "hero" gets sucked into Hell. On the other hand, Salome, at least in some productions, calls for a creatively-lit, fully nude Salome to perform her famous dance for King David as well as giving a shout-out to the devil (he's mentioned a few times). Given this criteria, an opera showing Satan in full view as well as featuring characters in the nude would be considered operatic gold. In my opera-going experience, this standard of excellence has yet to be achieved.

Given this, Figaro had about a half-dozen mentions of Satan and no nudity. However, it did have some very suggestive costumes, surprising choreography choices (to put it tastefully) and a cross-dressing male soprano, which all told makes up for it somewhat. All in all, not the best, but not the worst either (poor Copellia and Don Quioxte have pitiful records on my scale that will likely never be equalled).

A Few Trades

I finally caught up on Robert Kirkman's Invincible series. Impressive stuff, starting out as a typical teen-with-superpowers story, with an endearing focus on the main character's relationship with his superpowered father. Then, in the middle of the second book, the story does a complete 360 degree turn, then an additional 180, leading the reader to question just what this series is about. Kirkman is ground-up creating his own universe, and though he references the DC universe extensively, he does a good job making it his own in a pretty definitive way (I won't spoil it). Simply put, the series is good fun and a compelling read, paced well, and with lots of interesting mysteries. I'm not as die hard about it as I am about Kirkman's zombie epic The Walking Dead, but I'm definitely a fan. The third book is currently in Alvin's (my morally suspect comic book vendor) file cabinet awaiting my eager hands.
Current Mood: thirstythirsty
Current Music: Papas Fritas - Buildings and Grounds
"Election" Follies
Here is a great article published in the Orlando Weekly News, which has some experience in reporting on election irregularities. A quote:

Votes collected by electronic machines (and by optical scan equipment that reads traditional paper ballots) are sent via modem to a central tabulating computer, which counts the votes on Windows software. Therefore, anyone who knows how to operate an Excel spreadsheet and who is given access to the central tabulation machine can, in theory, change election totals.

On a CNBC cable TV program, Black Box Voting exec Harris showed guest host Howard Dean how to alter vote totals within 90 seconds, by entering a two-digit code in a hidden program on Diebold's election software. Harris declared, "This is not a 'bug' or accidental oversight; it is there on purpose."

The West Wing
When did this show get good again? Seriously, this season has been a huge improvement over the last John Wells-penned disaster. This show is always at its best when focusing on the characters (as opposed to dryly dropping plot bombs on us), which last night's episode did rather well.

It's Thursday Again, Yo
I was fooled. I thought it would explore some of the issues of the recently concluded gang war in Gotham, but the script doesn't mention it at all, instead delivering a forgettable, by-the-numbers filler story featuring M. Freeze. Yawn. The art's decent, but nothing I'm going to remember. Running this story so soon after the War Games crossover was a very bad editorial choice. It loses a lot of the momentum (and a lot of potential reader-interest) to just run off into left field (and not in a good way -- I don't want to demean the very idea of running off into left field). I'll be giving this one to Josh (Jessica's nephew, whom I give lots of comics to).

ROBIN #132
This issue does, on the other hand, leads right out of War Games into a new status quo for the character, and it's generally well done. He says goodbye to Batman, moves to Bludhaven, busts up on some thugs, then meets his first worthy adversary, The Shrike. I'd like it more if the fight scene at the end didn't go on for eight pages. And the art...Daimon Scott (formerly the artist of Batgirl, where he was a much better fit) is a very talented guy, and I like his work a lot, but it doesn't fit here. Seriously, Robin looks like he's ten years old. He's supposed to be at least sixteen or seventeen at this point, right? Anyway, I'm interested to see where this is all going, as I've been following the character for a while and I like Bill Willingham's work, but I'm going to be cringing at the art every issue. They should bring Pete Woods back.

Part two of the kids' accidental trip to the future, where they find a terrifying dystopia ruled by their (villainously-misguided) future selves. Robin has become an even darker Batman. Superboy is now a self-delusional Superman. And so on. It's a good story, with lots of guest spots (Tara??) and interesting twists on Titans and DC lore. It's not a terribly original concept, but Geoff Johns pulls it off expertly and entertainingly. Along with this week's similarly-themed Superman/Batman issue, this issue of the Teen Titans is the kind of stories I like reading from DC. Punchy, imaginitive (and slightly-goofy) stories that defy expectations and aren't afraid to let the characters change. Oh, and the Mike McKone art is really pretty.

Writer Jeph Loeb, with this opening chapter of the Absolute Power story arc, takes a crack at the usually-leaden "alternate-universe" tale, with surprisingly exciting results. Superman and Batman are taken as children by time-traveling villains and raised to be rulers of the world. Living by the mantra, "Obey or die," the duo lord over a world placated by fear. Pockets of resistance (like the rebellious Green Arrow, in a chilling scene) are burned away. It's a little early to call this one, but it looks like this is going to be another example of what I like to see from DC. Carlos Pacheco's linework is the best I've ever seen from him, as well.

I also picked up a few others as well, but haven't got around to reading them: Birds of Prey #76, Catwoman #37, Lucifer #56, Ex Machina #6, Kinetic #8, Punisher #14.
Current Mood: sleepysleepy
Current Music: Firewater - The Man on the Burning Tightrope
17 November 2004 @ 09:02 am
It Came from Beyond Planet W
Listen up. The word is out, man. You're not going to believe it. You're going to think I'm crazy. But humans are on the way out and Bush is replacing them with robots. You hear that? ROBOTS!

As the World Tanks
Every day is a soap-serial cliffhanger. Like cast changes at the beginning of a new television season, cabinet members are popping out, shuffling around and being replaced by more pliant individuals. More pliant? Are you kidding me? It looks like anyone who ever voiced a contrary opinion is being jettisoned. And in the face of all of these sweeping changes, that will have a lasting impact on the world for generations to come and bring us even closer to the edge of a radical, so-called Christian-right Abyss, the television news is asking us: Should we ammend the Constitution to allow The Terminator to be President? Have we gone mad? I'm withering here in the face of serial irrationality. Is this a question we should be pondering at this moment in history? Is it appropriate to pay attention to the lives of celebrities right now while glossing over details that actually matter, like politics and the war in Iraq with puff pieces? Star Jones is married, Scott Peterson is (of course) guilty, Arnold Schwartenegger wants to be President. The analgesics of the Cult of Celebrity worm further into our collective medulla. What will be the next distraction be as the future crumbles around us? Tune in tomorrow...
Current Mood: restlessrestless
Current Music: Radiohead - Hail to the Thief
16 November 2004 @ 09:14 am
Condi is the Secretary of State
It's my new mantra. Whenever I think things are going well, when the world seems to be at peace and evil is apparently dormant, I will remember the little nugget, Condi is the Secretary of State, and immediately touch base with my inner pessimist.

The News
American news reporting is worthless. There have been reports of massive election irregularities all over the countries by public organizations, and my time is being wasted on Star Jones' wedding.

Page one of the yesterday's New York Times reports, "American commanders said 38 service members had been killed and 275 wounded in the Falluja assault." Meanwhile, Page 11 of that same issue tell me, "The American military hospital here reported that it had treated 419 American soldiers since the siege of Falluja began."

So here's a question: if 275 soldiers were wounded and 419 were treated for wounds, how many soldiers were shot on the plane to Germany?

Job Hunt
I have a job interview next week at Pitt's IACUC (Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee). It will most likely pay more, which is good, and allow me to keep the excellent benefits package Pitt offers (they match retirement contributions 150%!).
Current Mood: crankycranky
Current Music: Tom Waits - Real Gone