Wednesday, November 30, 2005

All Queued Up

I took a small break from the New Obsession last night in order to indulge a couple of the old ones; not only am I now all caught up on TV watching (except for Surface and Medium which are really starting to stack up), but I also wound up adding quite a few DVDs to my Netflix queue.

As before, please remember that these are things which caught my interest in one way or another; I vouch for none of them beyond that.

Good Night and Good Luck: George Clooney's look at Edward R. Murrow's crusade against McCarthyism. Been wanting to see this one for a while.

Open House: Indie musical about real estate agents. In addition to Anthony Rapp (known to theater enthusiasts as Marc in the original cast of Rent, and to everyone else as the dorky neighbor in Adventures in Babysitting) and Kellie Martin, the movie also features Jerry Doyle, a.k.a. Mr. Garibaldi from Babylon 5. There's just no way I can pass up a chance to see Mr. Garibaldi break into song.

Casanova: Period piece about the famed lover with Heath Ledger in the title role.

Underworld: Evolution: Sequel to one of the more entertaining vampire and/or werewolf flicks of the last couple years.

Transamerica: Felicity Huffman as a pre-op transsexual who winds up meeting her long lost son, who has no idea the woman he just met is really his father. Oh, and did I mention that apparently he/she's a born-again Christian? From what little I've seen in the trailer, Huffman does an awesome job.

Happily N’Ever After: Animated tale about Cinderella (voiced by Sarah Michelle Geller)'s step-mother (voiced by Sigourney Weaver) leading a gang of fairy tale villains in a bid to take over the kingdom. Will it be the new Shrek or just new Dreck? Also features voices of Freddie Prinze Jr., Patrick Warburton, Andy Dick, George Carlin and Wallace Shawn.

Edmond: William H. Macy in yet another David Mamet adaptation, this one about a businessman who follows a fortune teller's advice, which leads him into New York's seedy underworld.

Bubble: Steven Soderbergh film, which makes it an instant queue addition; this is one of his more indie/experimental efforts, a murder-mystery featuring a cast of total unknowns, and I mean total; not a single professional actor in the bunch. Genius or madness? Can't wait to find out.

Annapolis: James Franco as an outcast at the Naval Academy who gets involved in boxing to try to prove himself.

American Haunting: Horror film inspired by, and I quote from the blurb, "the only documented case in U.S. history in which a spirit caused a man's death." Stars Donald Sutherland and Sissy Spacek.

Freedomland: drama about a single mother (Julianne Moore) whose claims that her son was killed by an African-American man come under scrutiny from a detective (Samuel L. Jackson) and a reporter (Edie Falco).

Alpha Dog: Nick Cassavetes film about a young drug-pusher (Emile Hirsch) and his run in with the feds.

The Break Up: Romantic comedy starring Jennifer Anniston and Vince Vaughn as a couple who break up but are forced to keep sharing their condo due to financial reasons.

Eight Below: Drama about a sled-dog team forced to fend for itself in Antarctica.

Final Destination 3: Latest in the (so far) entertaining horror franchise; this time, the disaster is a runaway roller coaster.

A Scanner Darkly: Richard Linklater applies the animation techniques he used to such bizarre, yet mesmerizing, effect in A Waking Life to his adaptation of Philip K. Dick's novel about paranoia and fractured personalities . . . which, to be fair, describes almost every PDK novel. Still, sounds like this will be one of the most faithful PDK adaptations yet *knock on wood*

Block Party: Michel Gondry directs this look at a massive party thrown by Dave Chappelle, featuring performances from tons of musicians, including the reunion of the Fugees.

Thank You For Smoking: Comedy about a supposedly reformed Big Tobacco lobbyist starring Aaron Eckhart, Adam Brody, Maria Bello, Same Elliot, and more.

Superman Returns: I'm still unsure about the casting of Brandon Routh as Supes, but Kevin Spacey looks wicked-awesome as Luthor, and the first two X-Men films give me faith in Singer as a comic-book-film director.

Alien Nation: The Complete Series: A great series based on the movie; here's hoping they follow this up with DVDs of the TV movies that followed, especially the one with Scott "Luke on Gilmore Girls Patterson as one of the aliens.

Tideland: Latest from Terry Gilliam about a little girl who retreats into a fantasy world to escape from the realities of having a junkie father.

Neverwas: Drama about a psychiatrist (Aaron Eckhart) who gets a job at the asylum that once incarcerated his father (Nick Nolte)

CSA: Confederate States of America : Faux documentary that examines what might have happened if the South had won the Civil War.

Mrs. Henderson Presents: British comedy about a socialite (Dame Judi Dench) who decides to re-open a local movie theater as the home of a musical revue . . . a nude revue.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

TV Tues - Know What Time It Is? It's Do O'Clock!

Generally, my TV Tuesday posts are written slowly over the course of the week, with me jotting down my thoughts on each show in a draft post as I watch it. Since I was at my folks house for the bulk of this last week's viewage, that didn't really happen, since their computer in upstairs and away from any of the TVs. So now, I'm having to write down my thoughts on shows strictly on memory alone, and since most of my brain has been hi-jacked by my New Obsession, well, caveat lector.

How I Met Your Mother: As Barney began to chant "Drink drink drink" to Ted, I had a sudden flash of Memorial Day, 1996, and G'ovich chanting "Todd's getting drunk on his birth-day, Todd's getting drunk on his birth-day." And, once again, the divergence between Ted and Todd manifests: nobody ever said "Drunk Todd is fun!" Oh, and, to his credit, Dr. G'ovich has never set me on fire . . . yet.

Grey's Anatomy: Dang, I love this show. You know, I've watched my fair share of medical shows, and I never really get invested in the medical drama of the week; it's hard for me to care too much about a character I know won't be around the next week regardless of whether they survive their medical emergency or not. So, it's a sign of the show's quality that the episode from a week ago actually sucked me in and made me tear up a bit over the plight of the recently awakened coma victim. It's also worth noting that I probably laugh harder and longer at the funny parts of this show than I do for 90% of the sitcoms out there.

Lost: Well, now we know why Ana-Lucia is such a bad-ass and such a bad-temper. And it's interesting that this ep showcased both why I used to like Jack (the scenes with him playing golf) and why I really don't anymore (his self-righteous anger).

Invasion: I haven't talked about this show for a while, mainly because, to be honest, it frustrates the heck out of me; none of the characters are all that likeable, everyone talks in double-speak 24-7, and the "heroes" spend most of their time yelling at everyone and throwing temper tantrums. Why am I still watching it? I honestly don't know; I guess I just want to find out some answers. After watching the ep before last, I started to see a glimmer of hope; the storyline revolving around the girl who didn't want her baby was engaging, and actually gave just enough of a hint about what's going on to tantalize without frustrating. And then we get to the next ep, and we're right back where we started from with the yelling and the arguing and the annoying.

Veronica Mars: I like the new Veronica/Logan dynamic, the fact that they're still sparring with each other, but not at the full-on hate mode. I also liked the interplay between Veronica and her computer geek friend, hope she keeps popping up as a regular; Veronica needs all the friends she can get now that Wallace has skipped town. Really looking forward to tomorrow night's ep which promises a showdown between Buffy vets Allyson Hannigan and Charisma Carpenter. Should be fun.

Supernatural: An entertaining ep as usual, with a "don't don that to me before the winter break!" style cliff-hanger.

Gilmore Girls: Was nice seeing Rory and Lorelei back together again, but I hate that Luke still hasn't said anything about his new-found daughter. I'm going to have faith that things will not get too off-track because of it, but I can't help but worry.

The Amazing Race: As my parents can attest from the screams they heard emanating from the TV room where I was watching this, I was not happy with the end of this episode. Now, I knew from the beginning that this was going to be a non-elimination round; the first episode when they've been whittled down to four teams is always a non-elimination round; that doesn't mean that I kept a small hope burning that this time they would surprise me and do me the favor of booting the constant annoyance that is the Florida team. And as the dejected team mumbled about wanting to quit, I wanted to reach through the screen and slap Phil for giving them a pep talk. Bad, Phil, bad! Stop encouraging the self-deluded hypocrites!

The Office: I think my favorite part of the last ep was when the cameraman alerted Pam to Dwight's candy bar moment; I just find it extremely fitting that in the world of The Office that the documentary filmmakers are just as unprofessional as the subjects they're filming. As for the Dwight/Angela relationship; unexpected, but intriguing.

Survivor: Highlight of the ep was Gary's quip about people getting Stephanie's autograph actually cracking the jury up.

Threshold: Don't have much to say about the last ep, excpet for the fact that it is apparently going to be the actual last ep; the show has been cancelled, and the ep that was supposed to air tonight has been yanked from the schedule. *sigh* Threshold gone and Invasion still going strong . . . is there no justice?

And while we're on the subject of cancelled shows, I'd like to give my condolences to Pooh, who was a regular viewer of the just-cancelled Reunion. No word on whether they'll finish airing the eps that were filmed, or if the fans will ever get any resolution to the mystery. While I didn't get into this show, I feel your pain, Pooh, I feel your pain.

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And Lo, a Lightbulb Is Born

I just got off the phone with a very proud Papa Lightbulb, who confirmed that Baby Lighbulb, after being very stubborn and waiting almost two weeks past his due date, came into this world at 9:30 PM last night, weighing in at healthy 10 lbs. 1 oz. Hearty congrats to the Lightbulb Clan

Happy Day of Birth, Baby Lightbulb!

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Yes, the TV Update Is Coming

But while you wait: more blogging humor!

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Wait for it . . .

TV Tuesday post up later today, sorry for the delay, but, I've got a good excuse: I'm a lazy bastage.

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Monday, November 28, 2005

31,430

Well, I made it back to town in one piece, despite the Oklahoma winds doing their best to knock me hither and yon. While on the drive, I tested out the cassette recorder, filling up almost a tape and a half with ideas for my New Obsession, and then transcribing them once I got home. How did it all pan out? Here's the good, the bad, and the ugly of it.

The Good: I made a heck of a lot of progress today. Some of it might have lasted in my brain long enough for me to get down on paper once I got home, but as I listened to the tapes I came across tons of stuff that would have been lost forever otherwise.

The Bad: Transcribing from tapes is not the ideal way to write. First of all, I'm not used to taking dictation, which is most definitely a skill you have to develop; it's probably a lot easier if you can just put yourself into a zone where you're just letting your fingers type whatever you hear without thinking about it, but that's pretty hard to do when it's your words and you feel compelled to rewrite yourself as you go. Subsequently, about a 75-80 minute recording took me nearly three times as long to transcribe.

The Ugly: The typos. The many many typos. Early on I was just trying to keep up with the tape, not wanting to stop it too often, but I quickly decided that it was going to take me just as long to go back and fix all of the typos my speedy talking was causing as it would to stop and go. And then there was the stutering, and mumbling, and occasionaly "Er, um, uh, yeah" type pauses peppered throughout the tape. The early sections were the worst, when I was just trying to do a stream of consciousness style composition, but I eventually decided to get what I wanted to say pretty firm in my head first, and then turn the recorder on.

All in all, I have to say the recorder experiment was a success; yes, it can be a bit of a pain to deal with, especially until I work out the kinks, but I think it's going to be a useful addition to my writer's aresenal. Plus, it's not like I'll be making 5 1/2 hour road-trips all that often.

As for the New Obsession, well, I'm much farther along in the process than I thought I would be at this point; the odds of finishing it up by my self-imposed deadline are vastly improved *knock on wood*

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Movie Mon. - Bunnies? I don't know what you're talking about but I like the sound of it!

I got a total of four movies watched this week, three of which I really enjoyed; coincidentally, three is also the total number of people I could confidently recommend any of them to; strange and off-beat, every one.

Werewolf Hunter: The Legend of Romasanta: Inspired by the story of a 19th century serial killer, this Julian Sands vehicle is the story of Manuel Romasanta, a psychopath who used lycanthropy as a defense for his actions. Do not be fooled by the title, this is not a true werewolf film; it does, however, feature a very interesting transformation sequence which is probably worth the price of the rental for FX freaks. Not a bad movie, just not a terribly good one, either.

Martin and Orloff: As I watched this film starring and written by two members of The Upright Citizens Brigade, I thought to myself "Man, I need to recommend this to Zinger and to, um, let's see, how about, um, no, maybe, er, uh . . . well, Zinger." An odd movie, that zooms all over the spectrum of tone and style. Several sections felt like they belonged in an ep of the UCB's old Comedy Central show, while others felt more down to earth . . . not too down to earth, but definitely not in the "putting little girls in Rib costumes and plunging them to their doom in a giant bowl of dipping sauce from a booby trapped bridge" range of comedy like other scenes. And if that last sentence does not intrigue and/or amuse you in the slightest, then this movie about a suicidal man and his unconventional therapist probably isn't for you. Lots of cameos, including Janene Garofolo and Rachel Dratch as actresses in a Steel Magnolias rip-off written and directed by David Cross in a dinner theater managed by Andy Richter.

Happy Endings: You know, I really didn't know what to expect from this movie, but it definitely wasn't whatever the heck I wound up with. What a strange, strange movie; well-done, well-written, well-acted, but strange. Here's a brief synopsis; Lisa Kudrow plays an abortion counselor who is being extorted by a prospective film student (a very scummy looking Jesse Bradford) with information about her long-lost son, so she sets up a scam with the help of her Mexican masseuse boyfriend(the very funny Bobby Cannavale); meanwhile, her gay stepbrother has started to suspect that his lesbian best friends' child was actually fathered by his partner (played by David Sutcliffe, a.k.a. Christopher on Gilmore Girls); also, one of the stepbrother's employees (John Ritter's son, Jason), who happens to have a crush on the stepbrother, finds himself being taken advantage of by a coniving young woman (the excellent Maggie Gyllenhaal) who threatens to out him to his father if he doesn't let her move in, before quickly deciding that the dad (Tom Arnold) makes a better target. Is that everybody . . . yeah, think so. The use of title card inserts throughout was well-done; informative, funny, and not over-used. And hey, if nothing else, after seeing this movie you can tell all your friends "I just saw Tom Arnold's first big screen love scene." Now, who wouldn't want to brag about that?

Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical: While you don't have to have seen the original Reefer Madness to appreciate this movie, you should at least be familiar with it; a "serious" anti-drug film from 1936 that decried the dangers of "marihuana" and its tendency to turn wholesome all-American teens into axe-wielding mass murderers, which later became a cult classic as a comedy in the 60s and 70s; it's so over-the-top and poorly done you'd half expect it to have been directed by Ed Wood. Anyway, the musical version borrows heavily from the original's plot and dialogue, but with a modern tongue-in-cheek twist, not to mention some catchy tunes with wicked lyrics. Don't know which lyrics I liked more: "You once had all the brains now they're just carpet stains!" or "Creeping like a communist, it's knocking at our doors, turning all our children into hooligans and whores!" I thought Christian "Neve's brother" Campbell did a great job as the poor all-American boy turned reefer freak, and it was fun to see Kristen "Veronica Mars" Bell as his all-American girlfriend; there was at least one scene where her resemblance to Emma Caulfield as Anya on Buffy was uncanny, especially when she exclaims "Bunnies!" But then it turns out she's pro-bunnies, so the illusion was ruined. Again, not for everyone; mom and I laughed all the way through, but dad was forced upstairs into his office to read before the second number was done.

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Sunday, November 27, 2005

22,701

You know what the biggest problem with New Obsessions is? How they affect the Old Obsessions.

I feel like I've been letting the blog monkeys down this past week or so, what with the skimpiness of postings and all. But it's not just CoIM that's suffering; even though I've had several days off to do nothing but read, blog, and/or watch TV and DVDs, I've done very little of any of them; all have fallen to the wayside, victims of neglect.

I did take a bit of a break on the New Obsession today; needed a bit of a brain break. Got a couple of movies watched, got caught up on a little TV, and finished up all of the TPBs I had checked out from the library, so I might have a little bit to blog about over the next few days. Although, odds are good that after my mini-break the New Obsession will take over again tomorrow, strong as ever. That seems to be its pattern.

On the positive side of things, my dad dug out his old mini-cassette recorder for me, so I should be able to dictate ideas on my drive home tomorrow morning; if I had had it on the drive up, I would be much further along on my obsession than I am; spent way too much time trying to remember everything I had come up with on the long, lonely drive.

So, there you have it, my "Gee, I need to post something today, what should it be?" post. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go and make up some more anecdotes . . .

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Saturday, November 26, 2005

Wrath and the Thanksgiving Curse

Here's a quick Thanksgiving-ish story for y'all, involving former roomie Wrath teh Berzerkr and his Thanksgiving curse.

During our Freshman year, Wrath and one of his friends drove to Norman for the OSU/OU Bedlam football game, which was taking place around Thanksgiving weekend; while there, they got into a wreck.

Fastforward to the next Thanksgiving, when Wrath was heading down to Talihina for Thanksgiving and, due to some operator error which I believe may have had to do with loose casette tapes, ran off the road and wrecked his car.

Of course, having two wrecks over the course of two Thanksgivings was enough to get the rest of our gang to decide that Wrath was cursed, and as the next November rolled around, we all started discussing just when and how the curse was going to strike that year.

Now, not too long before the Thanksgiving break, Wrath broke a toe or two while playing the Doc's "let's kick the crap out of each other" game, and was limping around. Since he had already invited the Doc home with him for the holiday (the Doc's family all being in San Diego), the Doc volunteered to drive Wrath's car so that Wrath wouldn't have to worry with driving with his injured foot. We all decided that letting Doc drive might be enough to stave off the curse.

Skip ahead to the Sunday after Thanksgiving; most of the rest of the gang had already made it back into town, so there were a few of us around to witness Wrath and Doc pulling up into our driveway in Wrath's parents' mini-van. The curse, it appeared, had struck again.

According to the duo, Doc had started getting a little sleepy towards the end of their drive down, so Wrath had volunteered to take over for the last hour or so and, after taking over the wheel, proceeded to have his third Thanksgiving wreck. We were all rolling over this, of course; it was just too perfect, too funny.

It was also, of course, total B.S.

In actuality, the trip down to Wrath's home was uneventful; the reason they had possession of the mini-van was that they used it to cart up stuff for his sister's place in OKC, and he would swap out their van for his vehicle in a few weeks. And after all of the teasing about the curse, it was just too perfect of an opportunity to pass up.

When they finally fessed up to me several weeks later, I wasn't upset over the joke itself; if I had been the sole target of it, it probably would have triggered my psychotic tendencies which were, if you will remember, in full swing by this point in time, but the joke had been aimed at pretty much or whole group, so I didn't feel singled out. Nor was I necessarily upset that they dragged it out for as long as they did, since, while I might not have been the first clued in, I know I wasn't the last.

No, what did bother me was that, in between the time of the joke and the time of the confession, Wrath had had a first date with a girl, and had not wanted his first impression on the girl to be driving around in the mini-van on the date, and so had asked if he could borrow my car. Now, for those of you who are familiar with my car and are surely thinking that even a mini-van would be less embarrasing than that, let me remind you that at this point I had only had the car for a few months, so it had not yet suffered through ten years of damage from my not-so-tender care. Anyway, the fact that he played on my sympathy for his car-less status when he asked for the favor instead of fessing up first was the only thing about the situation that bugged me at all. Other than that, a flawless prank, worthy of the names Wrath the Berzerkr and Dr. G'ovich.

My hat's off to you, gentlemen.

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Friday, November 25, 2005

Well, That Was an Exercise in Futility

You know, I was sure more people would speak up when they got a chance to tell me what to do, but I guess you blog monkey's aren't as bossy as I thought. So, what did you guys pick for me to read next?

Make Up My Mind For Me!
Which of these books should Cap'n Neurotic focus on trying to read next?

Kate Elliot's Crown of Stars v.6 (2)
George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire v.4 (0)
Greg Keyes' Kingdom of Thorn and Bone v.1 (2)
Robin Hobb's Farseer Trilogy (1)
Robin Hobb's Liveship Traders v.1 (0)
Robin Hobb's The Tawny Man v.1 (0)
David Brin's Kiln People (0)
David Brin's Glory Season (0)
Peter David's One Knight Only (2)

Total Votes: 7


Oh, look, a three-way tie; since I'm kind of at a loss for what to poll about this week, I suppose I could have a run-off, but I have a feelig it would just wind up being another tie, so why bother?

Instead, I'm going to make an executive decision and read the next installment of Kate Elliot's "Crown of Stars" next since (a) the last book in the series will be out in a few months and (b) I'm currently loaning the previous book to Rocket as part of our on-going fantasy book exchange; keeping that in mind, after I finish up CoS, I'll probably totally ignore the poll results and go straight for the Robin Hobb books, since they're on loan to me from Clan G'ovich.

Of course, all of this is assuming I can tear myself away from my New Obsession long enough to sit down and read something.

As for my new poll, I have compiled a list of the first 10 movie comedies that popped into my head; let me know which of them is your favorite. Or not. Whatever. I'll try to have something a bit more clever/engaging/interesting/whatever next week.


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Thursday, November 24, 2005

It's Called Thanksgiving, Not Thankstaking

Happy Thanksgiving, my dear blog monkeys. I'm writing this at my folks' house in Miamuh, OK, where I'm currently trying to recover from stuffing myself with our non-traditional feast of porkchops instead of turkey.

I know I didn't really follow through on the whole "Thankful Thursday" for which I apologize; I suppose I should be thankful I have such a forgiving bunch of blog monkeys huh? Huh?

Anyway, I'd like to take a quick moment to talk about one of the things I am truly thankful for: my parents.


I'm thankful for the way that mom and dad raised me; I am thankful that they did not feel the need to shelter me, but instead trusted in their ability to explain to me what was right and what was wrong, and trusted in my ability to follow their lead.

I'm thankful that they did not try to force me into being a carbon copy of them, that they were willing to accept me for my own likes and dislikes, my own skills and interests.

I'm thankful that they knew when to give me space, and knew when to push; without mom making me join 4-H and TSA, the odds of me actually developing into a full-functioning social being would have been much slimmer.

I'm thankful for the way they allowed me so much freedom as a child, but still managed to give me boundaries; when they said "no," they meant "no," and I knew it. I'm thankful that they treated me like I was a rational being, and yet still allowed me to be a kid; they didn't talk down to me, and didn't coddle me, but didn't overburden me with more responsibilities than I was ready for.

I'm thankful that they've always been so straightforward with me about their past, and their youthful indiscretions, and about the mistakes and stumbles they made along the way to becoming the people they are; I learned from their mistakes, and also learned that even the big mistakes are correctable.

I'm thankful for the example they gave me during our times of trouble, which helped me to realize at an early age that money and possessions do not equal happiness.

Most of all, I'm thankful for growing up in a house that was filled with laughter and love; no matter what all this world may throw at us, we can always relay on that to pull us through.


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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Written Word Wed. - Behold the Turtle of Enormous Girth

As promised last week, here is a not-so-brief discussion of one of my favorite series of books; Terry Pratchett's Discworld series.

The basic idea is this: somewhere in the deepness of space roams The Great Turtle A'tun; standing upon the back of his enormous shell are the four Great Elephants; balanced on their ginormous backs is the Discworld, a humongous disc inhabited by creatures of all shapes and sizes.

Sound ludicrous? That's because it is, purposefully so. The series started out as a pretty standard spoof of fantasy novels, particularly those with heavy D&D influences which once ruled the fantasy market. The thing that sets Discworld apart from most of the other fantasy spoofs and parodies I've read (Heck, why qualify it that much; let's just say spoof and parodies, period) is that it's funny. Consistently. Consistently very, very funny. Consistently "make me burst into frequent laughter embarrassingly loudly in public places" funny; I've gotten many an odd look when I'm reading a Discworld novel in public . . . well, odder than usual, anyway.

At the time I'm writing this, Pratchett has released 30 regular novels in the series, not to mention some illustrated novels, comic book adaptations, companion guides, etc. Now, getting started on a series with 30-odd volumes might seem a bit daunting at first, but don't worry, this isn't a Robert Jordanesque sprawling epic of unresolved plotlines and needless annoying misunderstandings and book after book where nothing fricking happens and . . . sorry, got a bit carried away there. So, yeah, the Discworld books, not like that at all; each novel pretty much stands on its own, although some of them are best read in sequence.

There are a couple of things that have helped keep the Discworld books fresh and engaging; the first is that Pratchett doesn't feel obligated to follow the same two or three characters through each book; to be honest, if he was written 30+ volumes just about Rincewind the Wizard, I probably wouldn't have stuck with it this long. Unless, of course, the second factor had come into play: Pratchett’s willingness to allow his characters and world to grow and evolve. I think this second factor is all to rare in on-going comedic work, whether it be in print, film, or TV; too often you see characters devolve over the course of a prolonged series instead, until they become pale shadows of their past glory, pathetic caricatures of their former selves (I'm looking at you, Friends and Joey!)

As mentioned above, Pratchett likes to spread his novels around a rotating cast of characters; many different people have tried to categorize his novel in many different way; the truth is you never know when what looks like a stand-alone novel might turn out to be the launching pad for new series-within-the-series. For a long time I divided the series into 5 sub-categories, but have recently added a sixth.

(1) Rincewind the Wizard: The character who started it all. The first two Discworld books followed the misadventures of the world's most inept wizard, a man so cowardly that he makes Scooby Doo look like Daredevil, the Man Without Fear. I really recommend that anyone wanting to try the overall series out get started with the first two Rincewind books, since they set up the basic rules and geography of the world, as well as an introduction to one of the most frequently used background characters, The Librarian. Probably my favorite Rincewind novel is The Last Continent in which the hapless wizard finds himself transported to a place suspiciously reminiscent of Australia, complete with spoofs of The Road Warrior, Crocodile Dundee, Priscilla Queen of the Desert and just about any other Australian stereotype you could think of.

(2) The Three Witches: First introduced in the third Discworld novel, Equal Rites, the wizened old witch Granny Weatherwax soon became the central character in the Three Witches group of novels, which focus on the typical triune coven structure of maiden, mother and crone. The crotchety, stubborn Granny Weatherwax is the crone; the fecund and bawdy Nanny Ogg serves as the mother; and the naive newbie Magrat. The first few books take on the traditional witch tropes, parodying Macbeth and tales of fairy godmothers and such, but later volumes expand the scope of their adventures, bringing them into conflict with vampires, elves, and the Phantom of the Opera. In the last few installments Pratchett has started to play around with the makeup of the coven, again not allowing his characters to grow stale.

(3)Death: You'd be hard pressed to find a Discworld novel in which the Grim Reaper does not make at least a cursory appearance (even if it is in the form of his lesser avatar The Death of Rats), SPEAKING ALL IN CAPS (or, in SQUEEKING, as the case may be). The Death novels usually focus on Death's adopted family, particularly his son-in-law Mort and granddaughter Susan, both of whom have been forced to fill in for him on occasion. If you want to find out the story behind The Death of Rats, you'll need to pick up Reaper Man.

(4)Tales of Discworld: This was sort of my catch-all category for all of the various stand-alone novels which didn't feature any of the major characters from the other series in anything other than a cameo role. I have recently subdivided this category yet again, because there has been a recent trend in Pratchett's stand-alone novels which I felt deserved its own category.

(5)Tales of Ankh-Morpork: In the Discworld novels, Ankh-Morpork is the city of cities, the metropolis of metropolises, the place to which all roads on the Discworld lead. Ankh-Morpork has become almost a supporting character in and of itself in many of the novels, particularly those of The Watch. I have arbitrarily selected some of these to be moved to the Tales of Ankh-Morpork section, instead of the more generic Tales of Discworld section, even though some of the Tales of Discworld selections do take place primarily in Ankh-Morpork. What makes the big distinction between the two categories for me? Well, if hard pressed, I'd have to say that the larger a role played by the Patrician, the Machiavellian ruler of Ankh-Morpork, the more likely I'd be to move it into this section. Sure, there are only two books that fall into this category right now, but they just happen to be two of my favorite books in the series, so I have hopes for more.

(6)The Watch: I had to save the best for last. By far my favorite of the different sub-groups of novels. I've loved seeing the evolution of the City Watch from a group of drunken, shifty, bumbling fools to a well-oiled machine. Okay, maybe not well-oiled; how about oiled-more-often-than-not-if-they-remember machine? To me, The Watch novels are the heart of the Discworld series and Sam Vimes is the heart of The Watch. I think the character of Sam more than any other shows Pratchett’s ability to have his characters grow and change without losing the core of who they are. In addition, The Watch novels have a great cast of secondary characters, including werewolves, golems, vampires, Captain Carrot the 6-foot tall dwarf, and the one and only Nobby Nobbs, who is technically human, but has to carry around a certificate of humanity to convince most people, and even then they think it’s forged. The last book I read, Thud! was the most recent of The Watch novels, and it was just as excellent as all the rest.

I’m not sure if my descriptions here have done Pratchett’s work justice, but I hope my enthusiasm at least will prompt someone to give them a try. And now, before I go, a list of the major novels in the series in order of publication, with my own personal label out to the side. Enjoy!

The Colour of Magic [Rincewind]
The Light Fantastic [Rincewind]
Equal Rites [Tales of Discworld]
Mort [Death]
Sourcery [Rincewind]
Wyrd Sisters [Three Witches]
Pyramids [Tales of Discworld]
Guards! Guards! [The Watch]
Eric [Rincewind]
Moving Pictures [Tales of Discworld]
Reaper Man [Death]
Witches Abroad [Three Witches]
Small Gods [Tales of Discworld]
Lords and Ladies [Three Witches]
Men at Arms [The Watch]
Soul Music [Death]
Interesting Times [Rincewind]
Maskerade [Three Witches]
Feet of Clay [The Watch]
Hogfather [Death]
Jingo [The Watch]
The Last Continent [Rincewind]
Carpe Jugulum [Three Witches]
The Fifth Elephant [The Watch]
The Truth [Tales of Ankh-Morpork]
Thief of Time [Death]
The Last Hero [Rincewind]
Night Watch [The Watch]
Monstrous Regiment [Tales of Discworld]
Going Postal [Tales of Ankh-Morpork]
Thud! [The Watch]

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

How Do They Do It?

How do fantasy and sci-fi writers come up with alien languages and names? Do they actually build up a lexicon of grammatical rules and structures a la Tolkien or that guy who created Klingon? Or do they just throw a bunch of random syllables together till they come up with something that sounds passable? "Let's see, jo'druba? No, how about zi'wrikbor? No, that's no good. Ooo, I know: ta'veren! That one's a keeper!" Inquiring minds want to know!

And no, this has nothing to do with my New Obsession.

Nothing at all.

Um, forget I said anything.

*whistles innocently and backs out of the room*

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TV Tues - I Think Lex Luthor Said It Best

Yes, I'm behind; yes, it's partly my New Obsession's fault; yes, the fact that Arrested Development has been pulled from the schedule while The War At Home is still on makes me cry myself to sleep at night; what of it?

Let's get this out of the way so I can go back to obsessing.

Lost: I was unfortunately remiss last week in discussing Lost, which is one of those few shows that I insist on watching while it's on if at all humanly possible, just to avoid any and all potential spoilerage. I guess I had just discussed the episode so much with Zinger while it was on that it didn't dawn on me that I forgot to include it in my blog post. So, even though it's a little late in coming, I'd just like to say how danged thankful I was that Shannon was the doomed castaway; out of all the characters she has been the only one who I have detested from day one; the only other other characters that would have been acceptable to me are the horribly irrational Michael and the increasingly smug and self-righteous Jack; if the hand of death had fallen on either Locke or Hurley, there would have been much wailing and gnashing of teeth. As for the more recent episode which gave a Cliff's notes version of the first 40-odd days of the other group of survivors, I thought it was a pretty interesting ep; Zinger made the observation that apparently all of the whiny passengers were in the front section of the plane, to which I replied "Well, that is where all the pampered rich folks sit . . ." Zinger and I also concurred that hardcase Ana-Lucia makes Sayid look like a major league wussie; I'm ready for tomorrow night's ep to open with him launching himself at her in a rage over the death of Shannon, only to have her kick the living crap out of him. I'd pay good money for that show. My only complaint about the ep was that they brought in Dr. Mike Burton from the late lamented Ed as the potential traitor among the group, only to kill him off because he had served his red herring purpose; first he gets a recurring role on Scrubs just in time for them to decide not to put it in the Fall schedule, and now this. Poor Dr. Burton. And no, I can't remember what the actor's real name is, and I am currently too lazy to look him up; the whole time he was on screen, I kept wondering if he knew that Carol Vessey had been in a car wreck and hooked up with Dr. Jack. Have I mentioned how much I miss Ed?

My Name Is Earl: Lots of great moments in the ep as usual, but nothing beats the slow reveal of Randy watching Joy and Earl making out on the bed with a look of total abject horror on his face; the slow reveal is one of my favorite comedic devices, and this show often uses it to great effect. My other favorie touch of the ep was Joy's son calling Earl "Old Daddy."

The Office: So many great things with the background characters this ep, especially Kevin and his knowing looks to the camera. And here I shall confess my geek moment while watching this ep: I said Smallville mere instants before Dwight did: mock amongst yourselves.

Gilmore Girls: I swear, if Kelly Bishop does not get nominated for an Emmy for her performance next year, there will be serious consequences; serious, serious consequences. And yes, there will also be consequences if Lauren Graham doesn't get nominated as well, but man, that scene on the plane when Emily finally breaks down: heartbreaking stuff. On a lighter note, I enjoyed the revelation of Luke's daughter, funny and original, just what you'd expect from this show; while I may have reservations about where certain plot lines are heading, by this point I'm prepared to give Amy Sherman-Palladino the benefit of the doubt.

Supernatural: My first thought as the little kid climbed into the fridge was that somebody needs to show him that very special episode of Punky Brewster. Wonderful guest appearance by Loretta Devine as the psychic.

Desperate Housewives: I seriously underestimated just how far psycho-George would be willing to go to keep Bree; switching out Rex's meds was one thing, but assaulting the psychiatrist was quite another.

Bones: Watching Bones dealing with her accidental drug exposure was danged funny, as was her sudden love of hip-hop. It was odd seeing the jerkwad cop from The Closer show up as the highly religious father of the murder victim; I had so much dislike of his The Closer character that it sort of seeped into my view of the actor.

Oh, don't forget: CBS has juggled their schedule a bit, and the newest ep of Threshold is airing tonight at 9 instead of Friday

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Monday, November 21, 2005

WoW! It's a Berzerkr Birthday!

I was going to do a special spotlight post in honor of the birthday of my good friend and former roomie Wrath teh Berzerkr, who just happened to be runner-up in the Parkerite Spotlight Poll, but my New Obsession has sort of put that on hold for now, so for now I'll just have to settle for wishing him one World-of-Warcraftastic b-day . . . not that he'll ever see it, since he subscribes to the "I'd rather stick pencils in my eyeballs" school of thought when it comes to blogs, but hey, it's the thought that counts, right?

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And the Thievery of My Identity Continues

I really should sue.

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Movie Mon. - It's Not Suspicious . . . It's Unusual.

Another slow movie-watching week, due to my New Obsession and the realization that several of the Netflix I have to watch would probably be good ones to watch with mi madre when I head to Miamuh for Thanksgiving. I did, however, get to go see a movie on the big screen. How did I like my limited viewing? Well, two out of three ain't bad . . .

Millions: From the man who brought you dead baby hallucinations and rage-infected zed words comes a very well done British family film about a young boy who's coping with his mother's death by creating imaginary friends; the hook is that his imaginary friends are all Catholic saints. Added into the mix are a bag of thousands of pounds which he thinks is from God, but is really from a huge bank heist; the upcoming E-day, when Britain officially moves from the pound to the Euro, meaning the bag of money must be spent or converted post-haste; an older brother who sees opportunity to advance himself with the money; the young boy's desire to give all of the money to the poor, much to his brother's dismay; and, of course, the appearance of the original thief wanting his money back. Lots of very cool visuals here, and some first-rate acting from both of the main kids; I highly recommend this one.

Stealth: To be honest, I kind of half-watched this one; not a single thing about it made me feel compelled to get off the computer and devote my full attention to its hackneyed plot. My advice is to give this one a miss; not much in the way of redeeming values, IMO.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Having bowed out of attending the midnight screening with Cap'ns Cluck and Disaster, I instead went to the 10:30 showing that evening with Trouble. Definitely the best film in the series; don't know if that's because the director is British and so really gets the spirit of the books, or if he's just a better director for this sort of film. Wonderful casting decisions for Mad-Eye, Rita Skeeter, and Voldemort (Brendan Gleeson, Miranda Richardson, and Ralph Fiennes, respectively), and it was nice to see the return of Shirley Henderson as Moaning Myrtle, even if I am still freaked out that a 40-year old can play a teenager so convincingly; true, she's a teen-aged ghost, but still! I know there are some who fixate on the changes made to the plot, and I can empathize, since I fall into that same trap myself from time to time (I will never forgive Sydney Pollack for the asinine changes made to The Firm), but its been so long since I've read the books that none of the changes jumped out at me (for example, I had forgotten it was Dobby who gets the gillyweed, not Neville). One of my favorite things about this film was that we finally got a director who understands the importance of highlighting the antics of the Weasley twins, who are consistently my favorite characters in the books but who, up until now, have been given short shrift in the films. I'm sad to see that Mike Newell won't be directing the next installment in the series, but at least they hired another Brit to do it, even if he's someone I've never heard of before.

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Sunday, November 20, 2005

Another Pleasent Valley Birthday

Mere minutes after I posted my b-day greeting to Strengthy girl yesterday, I got another response to my BirthdayAlarm invite, this one from a former co-worker from the Book Monkey days whose birthday happened to be the next day which, in case you're having trouble doing the math, is today. So, happy birthday to formerly nicknameless Monkees fan, Madame Monkees; may you always be too busy singing to put anybody down.

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Six Things You Need To Know About Rose Hips the Enforcer

Taking a quick break from my New Obsession to do the promised spotlight on the winner of the Book Monkey poll, Rose Hips the Enforcer. I apologize in advance if it is lacking in scandal or psychologically scarring material; not everyone can be a Flunky or G'ovich, y'know. Now, on to the spotlight!

The first thing you need to know about Rose Hips is this: she and I are 100% compatible. At least, that's what an Internet personality test several of us took back in 2001 said, and you know Internet personality tests don't lie, right?

The second thing you need to know about Rose Hips is this: she's a born storyteller. Now, I can ramble on endlessly in print with no problem, but if asked to relate a story or joke out loud, nine times out of ten I'll freeze up and fumble my way through it. Not Rose Hips; I don't know how many times one of the other Book Monkeys would mention some incident, only to beg off of telling me more because "Rose Hips tells it so much better." A favorite recent story involved a trip home to West Virginia, a projected field full of pugs, and an assurance that one particular pug's eyes did not, as a general rule, pop out of its head; trust me, it's a lot better when you hear Rose Hips tell it in person.

The third thing you need to know about Rose Hips is this: she's a Book Monkey thief! To be more specific, she's a "Cap'n Neurotic's Book Monkey assistant" thief! To be yet even more specific, she's a "The only two Book Monkey assistants that Cap'n Neurotic really liked" thief; that would be Rebel Monkey and The Mag, for those of you playing along at home. Rose Hips stole both of them away from my office through that most fiendish of devices: better paying jobs in her office! The nerve! The Mag did make a brief escape back to the library for a while, but was once again lured away by a better paying job in Rose Hips new office.

The fourth thing you need to know about Rose Hips is this: she's a roller coaster junkie! When we make our sojourns to Six Flags, her addiction is so strong that she even insists on riding the Texas Giant, or, as I like to call it "Bruising, whiplash, and internal injuries just waiting to happen." Rose Hips' favorite roller coaster sensations are going backwards and going upside down: if she gets to go upside down backwards, she can die a happy woman.

The fifth thing you need to know about Rose Hips is this: even though she ranks much higher in the computer technical skills than most people I know, she ranks much lower on the obvious geek scale as well, despite having a fondness for Farscape and Joss Whedon shows; of course, I guess when her usual companions are Rebel Monkey, The Mag, and myself, she pretty much can't help but look less geeky. (Yeah, I'm going to hear about that comment from Rebel Monkey, you betcha)

The sixth thing you need to know about Rose Hips is this: she is deaf in one ear. Once, when the Core Four went to see a musical, I was placed on her deaf side just in case I was unable to keep from bursting into song. I wish I could fault them for their lack of faith in my self-control, but seriously, who can blame them?

There you go, six things you need to know about Rose Hips the Enforcer. And now, back to my New Obsession.

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Saturday, November 19, 2005

Have a Strengthy B-day!

This morning I received an email from Kookamama wanting me to submit my b-day to BirthdayAlarm.com, which is a service set up to help forgetful people not forget about b-day, anniversaries, and other dates of interest; being someone who is absolutely horrible about such things, I decided I'd partake of the service myself.

How horrible am I? Well, let's put it this way: out of everyone I know, I can only consistently remember the birthdays of three people without having to resort to some sort of elaborate mnemonic device: Coronela, Dr. G'ovich, and Wrath teh Berzerkr. Coronela and G'ovich are easy, since they're both born the same month as me, on the first and last day, respectively; as for Wrath, I have absolutely no clue why I remember his so easily; Rocket theorized that when we were rooming together he used to creep into my room and whisper it in my ear when I was asleep; it’s a creepy thought only because I can almost see him doing it, but more on that soon. I don't even remember my parents' b-days easily: I always remember that Dad was born in July, and Mom in August, and that one is the 22nd and the other the 24th, but I'll be danged if I ever can keep straight which is which without much self doubt. With luck, the BirthdayAlarm will help out with that.

When I signed up, it gave me the option of auto-sending requests out to everyone in my gmail address book; I've already gotten several indications that folks have filled it out, as well as a reply from Zinger telling me that if I couldn't figure out his b-day (which is in his email address) I didn't deserve to know it; so, I had to put aside my inherent laziness and fill his info out manually; there's 30 seconds of my life I'll never get back again. Thanks a heap, Zinger!

Anyway, all of that leads me to the most fortuitous of the responses I got: namely, that today just happens to be Book Monkey Strengthy Girl's b-day! Now, is that serendipity or what? So, Happy B-day, Strengthy Girl! May it be a day filled with many opportunities for you to create new and exotic words for your lexicon.

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My New Obsession

Well, my blog monkeys, I have some news of sorts: I have a new obsession. It came upon me in a burst of inspiration last night, and now it is consuming my thoughts; consequently, there might be a slight drop-off in the breadth and depth of blog posts for the foreseeable future. There shall still be postings each day, but the new obsession will probably help me keep to the "pacing myself" plan I had a couple of weeks ago. Of course, it all depends on just how long it takes for this new obsession to burn itself out, or how long before my blog muses reassert control. Either way, this obsession sort of have a built in time limit of a month or so; if I haven't accomplished what I want with it by the end of the year, it won't be an issue any more. Oh, and if you think I'm being secretive about what the obsession is, there's a reason for that: it's a secret.

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Friday, November 18, 2005

Like Father, Like Spawn

Another generation of Evil Chair fighters is born!



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R.C.o.S. (Not to Be Confused With the R.O.U.S.)

Why do I get the sneaking suspicion that the majority of the latest poll votes were cast by the CAP'NS themselves?

Spotlight on Book Monkeys
Which of these scintilating Singles would you most like to see featured in a special spotlight post?
Papa Lightbulb (1)
Mama Lightbulb (0)
Cap'n Disaster (7)
Cap'n Cluck (5)
Trouble (1)
Smooth Money's Girl (2)
Angel (0)
Hyperlad (0)
Freezeout (0)

Total Votes: 16


And it looks like Cap'n Disaster was a little more diligent in her self-voting than Cap'n Cluck, so the first Singles Spotlight shall be on the good Cap'n, and her prediliction towards lying drunk in ditches.

I'm afraid I haven't gotten around to the Rose Hips spotlight yet, my apologies: my muses have had other things on their minds, apparently. I shall strive to have that finished before the weekend is over.

I like the idea of doing weekly polls, but right now am at a bit of a loss as to what else I can poll y'all about; since I'm also at a bit of a loss trying to decide what to read next, I figured I'd combine the two losses for a gain: over to your left you'll see some of the possible reading choices I currently have in my immediate possesion; whichever you select will be my next project, to be discussed in an upcoming Written Word Wednesday column. If you have any suggestions for good reading that isn't listed to the side, feel free to comment away, and I'll take it under advisement. And what will I be reading in the meantime? Well, I am currently drowning in TPBs, both from the library and from my last couple of comic shipments, so I really need to start plowing through them sometime soon.

Ah, it feels so nice to have that pesky decision making taken out of my hands; maybe I should do this more often. Next week: should I buy the tan or navy slacks?

RCoS (that's Random Change of Subject to those of you unfamiliar with Rebel Monkey terminology): our slow moving sister-site, Curse You G'ovich!, has finally updated again. Man, the guy in charge of that sure is a lazy cuss, ain't he?

In other random blog-stuff, I spent about an hour last night scanning in pictures of the Parker gang to help enhance future anecdotal posts; on a semi-related note, as soon as I get copies of some pics from Cap'n Cluck, I'll fill y'all in on the surprise that was waiting for me in my Sunday School class last week. Here's a hint: it involved monkeys.

6 comments:

Bubblegum Tate's "Two-Fisted Philosophy": the Thrilling Conclusion!

All right, boys and girls, here be the conclusion of Fellow Book Monkey and Blogger Bubblegum Tate's guest post on comic books and philosophy; last week, you got the philosophy: this week, you get the comics.

Fellow Book Monkey and Blogger Bubblegum Tate’s Two-Fisted Philosophy Part Deux

At last we come to my wheelhouse. In almost every way, the supermen presented in glorious four color and newsprint are exemplars of Nietzsche’s philosophy in pop culture. Let’s look at a few examples of how they’re the best examples and then I’ll share with you the two I consider to be the BEST of the BEST examples.

1. Rise above the Herd and live glorious lives…
Imagine if every single day you saved somebody’s life. Or went to a distant planet. Or fought monsters. Or romanced princesses of lost continents. Or traveled through time. Or met beings of godlike power. Or if you WERE a being of godlike power. If any one of these things was true, let alone all of them, what would you have in common with your family or co-workers? Absolutely nothing, your concerns would have risen as far above the Herd as the average person’s thoughts are above the animals. This is how most superheroes live. To paraphrase a comic writer Cap’n Neurotic and I enjoy, comic book universes are a day-glo funhouse where the world is threatened every ten minutes and godlike beings clash in the skies like fireworks. Does this describe your life in the cubicle?

2. …That ultimately end in Tragedy.
Nearly every super hero is in the midst of a mission that cannot be successful. Superman actually describes his daily activities as the Never Ending Battle. Wonder Woman seeks to bring Peace to Man’s World by fighting for it. Spider-Man and Batman will never be able to save their lost loved ones no matter how many people they protect each night. Each catastrophe is averted, but a few more lives are lost, a bit more property is destroyed, a few more comrades fall. And when they wake up the next morning, they’ll be ready to do it all over again. THAT’S tragic optimism.

3. Become the next step in human evolution.
The absolute best example of this is the X-Men. Although they technically go against Nietzsche’s concept that the next leap in human evolution will not be merely biological, there is another aspect to the X-Men that is VERY Nietzschean. They were born a step above, but the Herd looks down on them. The Herd KNOWS that it is inferior, and it fears the X-Men because of this. Despite the hatred and fear, the X-Men strive for acceptance and co-existence which will never be given to them. They know it’s a hopeless goal, but they strive for it anyway because the alternative is stagnation. All of that on top of the “typical” activities of visiting distance worlds, traveling through time and doing combat with beings of godlike power!

4. There is no religion in super hero comics.
Oh sure, there are a few exceptions, but for the most part, nobody in super hero comics belongs to any organized religion. The closest you get are the characters that actually interact with those beings that are considered gods. However, in true Nietzsche fashion, the heroes are arrayed against the gods as often as they are the agents of the gods. In a world devoid of religion, a standard for ethics and morality can only come from within. Superman does what’s right because it’s what’s right (Sound too simple? I challenge you to find a better explanation of Superman’s motivation). Spider-Man does what’s right because of a lesson he learned in tragic circumstances from his Uncle Ben. Batman ignores the law in order to serve Justice. If you are living the life of the ubermensch, then mere morality cannot hold you accountable.

Unfortunately, this is also where the parallels fall apart a little. Nietzsche would be horrified how often the ubermensch of comics are tending the needs of the Herd and protecting the status quo. Is Superman really maximizing his potential for the betterment of everyone if he’s not using his powers to END crime (or war, hunger, poverty, pollution, ethnic cleansing, etc), not just fight it? Are the X-Men working in the best interests of both humanity and mutants if they aren’t using their powers to take over the world and institute a government of mutants that ENFORCES peaceful coexistence with humanity? Batman operates outside the law, but refuses to kill even the most deranged dangers to the lives he holds dear. Is he REALLY serving the public good by not ending the Joker’s rampages once and for all? According to Nietzsche, the superhero may actually be a bigger failure than the Herd. In every way they live the Dionysian lifestyle, but they can’t quite let go of their last vestige of mere humanity.

Didn’t realize that there was that much philosophy in comics, didja? Well, it can certainly go deeper. Take the examples I used of how the superheroes still conform to traditional morality. There’s a fertile ground for discussion there. How many times has Superman flown into a country like Iraq or North Korea and deposed the leader who’s oppressing or starving his people? Right now, I can’t think of even one time. But if you were Superman, wouldn’t that be the right thing to do? We are told to act locally and think globally, but with that kind of power acting globally would be easy. But where do you stop? Do you put the world under your control? If you do, what happens when the power starts to corrupt you? If you have a book club, I challenge you to make Watchmen by Alan Moore the next book you read and see if you’re group doesn’t wind up in similar conversations. When the high schoolers and I started kicking these questions around, we inevitably landed on “Who is the best example of the Nietzschean ubermensch in comics?”

Up until I sat down to write this post, I believed that Batman exemplified Nietzsche’s ideal. After all, here is a man who had everything important in his life taken away from him while he was too young to do anything about it. He did not fall into the quiet misery to which so many of the Herd would have succumbed. He took his sadness, his drive, his ambition and his existing advantages and forged a new destiny for himself through sheer force of Will. When the Herd’s laws were shown to be a hindrance, Batman ignored them in the interest of his self imposed definition of Justice. In the face of a hopeless war, he fights on night after night, losing a little bit more of what ties him to humanity with each sunrise. He trains lieutenants despite a loner nature because he knows the work must go on when he inevitably succumbs and his mind or body fails him. Batman has so separated himself from humanity that he barely bothers to maintain the so-called secret identity. Bruce Wayne is merely another tool he uses in service of higher ideals. Batman has had very few love interests, even fewer friends and has even managed to alienate Nightwing, the original Robin, a man he raised, because of devotion to his ideals. Batman even holds himself aloof from the other ubermensch, believing himself to be superior to them because he does what they do without the benefit of special powers even as he’s separated from the Herd by the fact that he can keep up with the other super heroes. All these things are true, but I kept coming back to the major failing of all the super heroes from Nietzsche’s standpoint. Batman has morals and CARES for the Herd instead of disdaining them.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this is a fundamental flaw. Batman couldn’t be the truest ubermensch. Then it hit me like a gamma bomb in the desert. Batman isn’t the ubermensch, but the Hulk IS.

The Incredible Hulk is a superman that is set in stark contrast to the Herd mentality of Bruce Banner. It was Banner’s scientific genius that created the gamma bomb that would give birth to the Hulk. It was Banner’s own force of will that allowed him to survive the gamma bomb by becoming (a key Dionysian concept) the Hulk. Since that moment, though, Banner has hated and feared the superior being he created. And he has, in true Herd fashion, tried to destroy it at every turn.

The Hulk is raw power and passion in a rampaging form. In true Dionysian fashion, he knows nothing but his own desires from moment to moment. He has literally frozen time for himself through sheer force of Will. Nothing can stop him because of the strength of his Will. After all, the madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets. The Hulk knows no morality beyond his own needs; whether Hulk wants Betty, the world to “leave Hulk alone,” or the sheer joy he takes in wanton destruction, he makes his desire into reality. He is the next step in human evolution and hates the man he once was even more than Banner hates the Hulk. The Incredible Hulk exemplifies Nietzsche’s overman.

That about sums up my thoughts on Nietzsche and how he relates to comics. The only thing you guys got that the kids didn’t was my musing on the Hulk, and I intend to add that the next time Dallas invites me to help teach his class. I’m pretty sure that this entire line of discussion would absolutely appall Nietzsche. If anybody knows where he’s buried, let’s go get him. With a couple magnets at either end, I bet I’ve got him spinning fast enough to light the eastern seaboard!

Thanks for indulging me and I look forward to some good conversation in the comments section.
Excelsior!
Tate

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Later, When Chris Berman Would Remark on the "Rasputins of Football" It Would Conjure Up Very Unpleasant Things For Me. . .

In my Flunky Flashback post I made a passing reference to a certain group of individuals, which raised some questions from some non-Parkerite blog monkeys about who the heck those individuals were. Well, I'm not sure who first coined their name; I'm pretty sure it was meant as a jab at them, but they appropriated it with gusto and glee, making it their own badge of honor, sullied as it might be. Most of them were only around for that first year in Parker, but they definitely made an impression on just about anyone who walked through the doors. Let the easily offended be warned: the realm of the Gutterboys is not for the faint of heart.

I don't know if my descriptive powers are up to the task of doing the Gutterboys justice, especially hampered as I am by my desire to keep CoIM at least moderately family-friendly; it's hard to accurately portray the Gutterboys when your vocabulary is limited to what you might find on prime-time TV; of course, that leaves a lot more open for use than what such a restriction might have excluded 12 years ago, when the Gutterboys first formed.

As with so much from that time, I'm unsure of just how it all began, what strange set of circumstances led to the formation of the proudly obscene group known as The Gutterboys; what I can tell you is this; at some point early on in my Freshman year, a group of 3rd floor residents made the Parker lobby their base of operations; at almost any hour of the day you could find them gathered together, making rude and crude comments about anyone and anything that crossed their path. Though there were several who styled themselves as Gutterboys, and a couple who were granted a grudging honorary title, there were really only four guys who truly earned the name through and through; four guys who seemingly shunned all that was expected of an Honors student to enjoy an endless litany of profanity; these four guys who were undeniably Boys of the Gutter, and the one known as Everclear was their king.

I don't know how much of their behavior was done for the benefit of each other, and how much was done for their shifting audience; the majority of the dorm shunned and ignored them, but enough people provided them with attention to encourage them to keep their show going non-stop. I confess to spending a great deal of time observing the Gutterboys in action; this was the semester of quicksilver relationships, of alliances formed from shifting sand, and I wanted to be in the middle of everything; hanging around the Gutterboys in their center of power seemed like a good place to start. Plus, I think a part of me was endlessly fascinated by just how brazen, how outrageous, how downright perverse they allowed themselves to be. Coronela was another frequenter of the Gutterboys entertainment zone, and was, I believe, conferred with an honorary Gutterboy title before that first semester was over; I'm pretty sure she was even included in their theme song.

Ah, the theme song; to this day I cannot hear "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" without hearing the Gutterboys version in my head. You see, one of them had heard a bit of trivia about the mad Russian monk Rasputin and his, oh, how shall I put this . . . his, um, prodigious manhood. And so, inspired by the story of his uncanny equipment, the Gutterboys composed a song they felt was worthy of the gutter, comprised of verses filled with sexual innuendo, each verse connected by the chorus of "Swing Low, Rasputin," said line always being accompanied by a chopping motion near the singer's knee; do I have to spell out why? I remember going to see Addams Family Values that semester with a group from the dorm; during one scene a depressed Gomez begins to sing "Swing Low Sweet Chariot," which prompted all of my group to scream "Noooooooo!" in horrified unison, much to the surprise of all those who had yet to be scarred by the presences of the Gutterboys.

Many were the ways in which the Gutterboys reveled in their profanity and obscenity, from generic dirty jokes to specific conjectures about dorm residents to the oh-so-clever adoption of nicknames for themselves designed for embarrassing others; Everclear was "thirsty," Big C. was "hungry," another one was “tired” and so forth; if someone with a bit of a potty mouth were to slip up and say "I'm f-bomb hungry," well, much hooting and hollering and banging of the chair would ensue.

What's that, you ask? What does "banging of the chair" mean? Well, now we get to the heart of the tale, the true axis on which it spins: The Evil Chair.

At some point in time, the right arm rest of the chair most often frequented by King Everclear somehow came loose; it was easily put back in place, but it was just as easily dislodged again; the arm of the chair quickly became the way in which the Gutterboys signaled approval of a particularly amusing, biting, and/or obscene comment, dislodging it and banging it loudly against its base. They soon began to attribute mystical attributes to the chair, claiming that it was the source of their perversity, and declaiming that anyone who sat in it would be corrupted. I couldn't even begin to count how many times I heard one of them shout out something along the lines of "Oooo, that one deserves a bang of the Evil Chair!" The Gutterboys were expanding their mythology, and the Evil Chair was their Unholy Grail.

Of course, even with the power of the Evil Chair watching over them, there was one thing the Gutterboys were vulnerable to: low GPAs. By the end of that first semester, three out of the four were kicked out of the dorm because their grades had fallen too low to allow them to stay in the Honors program; apparently, spending all of their time worshipping at the altar of the Evil Chair rather than going to class had a negative impact on their scholastic activities; who knew? And who, you may ask, was the one Gutterboy who was able to maintain a sufficient GPA? You probably already guessed it: King Everclear. Maybe the Evil Chair offered some protection to its most loyal subject after all.

Now, even though they were no longer official residents of the dorm, all that meant was that they no longer slept in Parker; but considering that most of their time had been spent in the lobby anyway, it really didn't make that big of a dent in their activities, and the Gutterboys continued to terrorize and entertain Parker residents throughout the rest of the year; still, I think there was a subtle shift in the general dynamic due to their ouster, and tolerance of their activities began to grow a little thin now that they weren't actual residents of the hall. It was into this environment that newbie Flunky entered and decided to shake things up.

I can't claim to speak for his exact motivations; maybe his status as a fresh pair of eyes and ears made him much more sensitive to their activities than those of us who'd lived with it for several months and had come to accept their presence as an unavoidable pitfall for living in the dorm; maybe their actions offended him on some fundamental level; maybe they just rubbed him the wrong way; or maybe he just wanted to stir things up. Whatever the reason, one night while The Gutterboys were all off doing who-knows-what, Flunky took it open himself to launch an attack at the center of their power: The Evil Chair.

Now, since The Evil Chair was technically university property, Flunky couldn't do anything destructive to it without repercussions; he could, however do something constructive to it. The plan was simple: some glue to reattach the arm, and a quick exchange with one of the similarly styled chairs in the living room, including an exchange of colored cushions to make the illusion complete; but first, a trophy picture of the conquering hero, foot confidentally planted upon the less-evil arm of his prey:

Flunky and the Evil Chair

After that, it was just a matter of waiting for the Gutterboys to return and make a comment worthy of banging the Evil Chair. I don't recall if Flunky stayed around to watch the show, but I wasn't going to leave that lobby for love or money until I saw Everclear's reaction.

Sure enough, it wasn't long before the Gutterboys congregated in the lobby yet again, a crude comment was made, and Everclear went to bang the evil chair, only to find his throne had been replaced by a seat much less inclined towards wrong-doing. There was much consternation on their parts of course; they at first theorized that the Physical Plant had replaced it, but quickly decided that they were the victims of resident-induced reverse-vandalism. Everclear, perhaps using only his logic, perhaps being drawn in by the Evil Chair's siren call, quickly began the hunt for the cursed thing; in a depressingly short time he was able to locate the abused piece of furniture, thanks to the fact that the right arm was so danged worn down and scarred from the constant banging. Within instants of locating it, The Evil Chair was back in its original place, and a couple of good hard yanks undid the good Flunky had managed to do with his wood glue, and the Evil Chair was banging away again. I think they held some grudging admiration for Flunky’s nerve; it was a valiant effort, Flunkrow, and I salute you for it.

By the time my Sophomore year rolled around, the Gutterboys were no more; the three who had been kicked out of Parker apparently didn't learn their lesson, and were no longer even enrolled at OSU; the Evil Chair had been replaced by new furniture; Everclear was still around, but had moved out of Parker. He hung around the dorm a bit in the beginning of that year, but was never able to reclaim that base of power; the Gutterboys were officially defunct, leaving behind little in their wake but unhealthy and disturbing associations in my mind for a gospel song and an historical figure; so I suppose, in some ways, their legacy lives on; after all, the Evil Chair may have been replaced, but was it destroyed? Or is it out there, somewhere, haunting the night, and waiting for the opportunity to revenge itself on the one who was able to humiliate it . . .

Watch your back, Flunky, watch your back. Evil never dies; it just gets reupholstered.

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Thursday, November 17, 2005

Just a Perfect Blendship pt.2 : B.F.F.

Welcome back for round two of my ruminations on friendship; again, I’m kind of letting my rambling side take the wheel here, so I’m never sure what I’m going to wind up with; there’s no telling what weirdness is slumbering beneath the surface of my mind. For this installment, I’ll be pondering what exactly it is that compels me to label someone as My Best Friend.

Growing up an only child with an Outsider complex, I think the concept of the Best Friend has always held a fascination for me; it was almost like if I could find that one person with whom I really clicked, then it didn’t matter if nobody else gave a tinker’s dam about me. That was the unconscious theory, anyway. So, I was always on the lookout for that best of the best, without ever truly thinking through what the term Best Friend really meant to me; I was operating on the theory that I’d know it when I saw it, and so left it up to my subconscious analysis to let me know when it popped up.

Now, in the course of my life my internal assessment processes have saddled exactly three people with the onerous titles of My Best Friends: Ol' Vick, Flunky, and Dr. G'ovich; out of those three, only one still holds the title (the poor fellow; the other two were lucky enough to escape). My friendship with Ol' Vick was a pretty shallow one, of course, and he basically claimed the title of Best Friend because, well, he pretty much held the title of Only Friend at the time, too; he won it by default. While I've traced the ups and downs of my friendships with Flunky and G'ovich ad nauseum, let me sum it up thusly; they were both granted Best Friend status in my head because they were the first two people I ever felt comfortable lowering my guard around; after I took a few too many psychic sucker punches from the Doc during my Dark Years, up went the guard again, and, eventually, off came the title; it’s hard to think of someone as your Best Friend if you can’t carry on a normal conversation with them.

Does that sound harsh? I don’t mean it to, but I suspect it does; yet another piece of evidence the Doc can use to show that he’s the villain of CoIM. And really, aren’t some of the best hero/villain rivalries born from the falling out of Best Friends? Not that the Doc and I had a falling out so much as a falling away; now that that weird awkward phase is mostly in the past, not sure where in the friendship hierarchy he falls now: might have to invent a new category for Eeeeeeeeevil Friend; but I digress.

I had raised my guard around Flunky as well during my Dark and Bitter Years, but that last year rooming together helped me lower it again, and firmly entrenched him in my mind as my one and only Best Friend, even through those large periods of time when we don't communicate at all. Which, I suppose, kind of begs the question: why? Don't get me wrong; I'm not taking a crack at Flunky here; he's a great guy who has put up with a lot of my crap over the years, which has earned him a permanent position as Honorary Best Friend and The Brother I Never Had until the day I make one “Flunky won’t email” jab too many and he snaps, hops in his car, drives to Denton, hunts me down, and beats me to a bloody pulp with a baseball bat while screaming “You want me to reply, do ya? Well, how’s this for a reply, ya Jackass?!?!”: I might have to downgrade his friend status just a tad after that . . . once I finally come out of my coma.

Anyway, my question isn't "Why do I think of Flunky as my Best Friend" as much as "Why don't I think of so-and-so as my Best Friend as well?" Why don't I think of J.D. or Papa Lightbulb or Insert-name-here as my Best Friend? What is there that relegates them to the status of "good friend" or "close friend" or "old friend" or what-have-you? Let's look at another example a little more closely: Wrath teh Berzerkr.

Now, technically speaking, I've probably been friends with Wrath longer than anyone else out of the three groups, with the exception of Coronela; got to know her during the weekend before classes started, got to know him a week or so later. Over time we became pretty good friends; over the years I think I've had more serious, in-depth (and occasionally downright bizarre) conversations with Wrath than with anyone else; conversations about religion, politics, sociology, etc.; where my conversations with G'ovich and Flunky forced me to clarify my views about myself, my conversations with Wrath forced me to clarify my views about the world. I was definitely on better terms with him during the Dark Years in the house than I was with either of my Best Friends at the time, never having any problems past those which will always crop up when guys share a living space for extended periods of time; heck, he's the only friend whose wedding I’ve ever been in. So, why is it that he rests firmly in my mind as a Good Friend, rather than a Best Friend?

Think the answer to that is really self-evident: in the last installment, I defined the Best Friend in general terms as a Good Friend you don’t feel the need to censor yourself around; and, while I was willing to talk to Wrath about my views on almost any topic under the sun, the one thing that I never addressed was my neurotic nature; as much as we clicked on certain levels, to be perfectly frank I used to feel pretty intimidated by Wrath; it's kind of hard to let down your guard around someone who intimidates you.

And that bit of insight leads us to the larger answer of the Best Friend mystery; it’s all about vulnerability. Ol’ Vick aside, my Best Friend fixation was formed around feeling like I had found people I could open up to; after that backfired on me, and my mind went through its period of degradation and despair, that idea of the Best Friend was seriously injured; even when I was willing to open up to others, there was generally a little part of myself that I held back, fearful of being hurt again. Flunky’s kind of grandfathered in to the whole Best Friend thing; not sure what circumstances could arise to get me to label some other poor sucker with that tag.

You see, back in the Parker days, the act of lowering my defenses pretty much consisted of being forthright about my role as Cap’n Neurotic; over the years I’ve become more comfortable sharing the neurotic side of myself with others, and as it became more and more common, the instant connection between myself and those I told weakened; the more people who know, the more diluted the effect. And now, here I am, doing the Internet version of Queen Inos screaming the magic words to the teeming masses waiting below her balcony, spreading the power of my neurotic words so thin that I feel no major connection with my audience, only a lessening of the pressures that threatened to consume me; and if you don’t understand that reference, that’s okay; I ‘m pretty sure My Best Friend does.

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Just a Perfect Blendship pt.1:Move Over, Maslow, There's a New Hierarchy In Town

Here's an honest-to-goodness "thinking out loud and have no clue exactly where I'm going with this" rambling post for y'all. The topic: the friendship hierarchy.

Let’s see if I can somehow make it through this without going too far off course, shall we?

Back in pt.2 of my Secret Origin, I wrote the following:

[M]y biggest stumbling block is determining just how to refer to the people I hung out with back [in high school]. Is there some word which adequately covers the ground between "acquaintances" and "friends"? Pals? Chums? Homies? My need for specificity of verbiage defeats me.
I wonder if I'm in the minority in this sort of over-analysis . . . okay, okay, I know I'm in the minority, but I wonder how small of one it is; does anyone else think about our societal impulse to just choose words without thinking through the exact connotations evoked by the choice, trusting to context to sort it out? I'm as guilty as anyone of this, usually as a result of my hyperbolic nature; the word "love" has become my standard unit of measurement for anything I enjoy: I love this show, I love that show, I love that book, I love that actress in that one movie which I also (in case you were wondering) happen to love. I'm usually only aware of it after someone questions the depth of feeling I've just expressed (You love her in that? Really?), and then I rein in the exaggeration a smidgen and downgrade to "I liked her a lot." Do such distinctions really matter? And just how far off topic have I strayed, anyway?

Getting marginally back on track: what makes a friend? Or, more accurately, what makes somebody think of someone as a friend? And what wide range of variations are contained within that word for each person? Have you ever been telling a story and been forced to refer to someone as your “friend” because it sounds less awkward than "this guy I used to know and kind of hang out in the same circles with, but really didn't have a whole lot in common with otherwise"? I know I have.

Another thing I wonder is just how far off the average person's concept of "friendship" my concept is, and how much of that deviation is a result of my younger, Outsider nature coupled with a fascination for fictional friendships; does the influence that TV played on my idea of group roles also creep up in my view of who I consider a friend? I don't think the parallels are nearly as strong there, but I think the influence can still be felt; the stronger influence is probably my innate need to categorize, to collate, to define; a place for every thing and everything in its place.

There are lots of different levels of friends: the Old Friend, the Good Friend, the Friend of a Friend, etc., as well as that most elusive of creatures, the mythical “Best Friend.” To be honest, most of my views on the level or kind of friendship I have with someone are formed on an instinctual level; I don't sit around with a pen and pad and work out the formulas to assign the labels: "Okay, number of years I've known them times the number of in-depth conversations we've had, divided by the number of years we've been out of touch, minus the number of times we've ticked each other off squared equals . . . 0.075. Fair-weather Friend it is!" No, like just so many of my worldviews, most of the cogitation is performed far below the surface, where my conscious mind is blissfully unaware of it; it's not until the right circumstances come along to jostle those thoughts free that I suddenly have an epiphany: "Hey, you know what? I consider Papa Lightbulb a Good Friend; imagine that!"

So, we’ve established that, for me at least, friendship determinations are calculated on an instinctual level; but what factors play into that? That’s a pretty impossible question to answer fully; as I look at the list of friends I have, I see so many variations in sense of humor, temperament, interests, beliefs, politics, career, etc.; I see no common factor amongst all of them other than the fact that they’re all somehow able to tolerate me for extended periods of time.

Now, I do not have a solid list of all the different levels of friends, complete with definitions; I'm kind of winging it on this one (remember the whole “thinking out loud” intro?); I will, however, provide you with some basic thoughts.

My general sketch of the hierarchy of friendship unfolds thusly:
LEVEL ONE: REAL FRIENDS
  • Best Friend: pinnacle of the hierarchy; in overly-simplified terms, a Good Friend you don’t feel the need to censor yourself around
  • Good Friend: slightly below the Best Friend, the Good Friend clicks with you on multiple levels, both shallow and deep; someone with whom you can have a fun time and then switch to a serious heart-to-heart without missing a beat
  • Old Friend: someone whose friendship has been maintained mainly through inertia and the accretion of memories; if all you have in common now is nostalgia for the good ol’ days, then you have yourself an Old Friend. The Old Friend straddles the line between Real Friend and Semi-Friend.

LEVEL TWO: SURFACE FRIENDS
  • Casual Friend: someone you enjoy hanging out with, someone you can have a good time with, but who doesn’t necessarily “get” you; the potential for a real friendship may be there, but has not yet been able to develop
  • Contextual Friend: gotta come up with a better name for this one; someone with whom you share an interest, but little beyond that; you could talk for hours with a Contextual Friend about that interest for an eternity, whether it be church, work, hobby, etc., but once you stray from the topic, you both flounder.
  • Fair-weather Friend: someone who only remembers you exist when all of their real friends are MIA; not necessarily a bad guy/gal, just obviously not as invested in the friendship as you are
  • Friend of a Friend: a bit self-explanatory; for me, it’s always been hard to break through the imaginary barrier that separates a FoaF from being So-and-so’s Friend to them being My Friend; no matter how much I might like the FoaF, getting myself to accept that they might also like me takes some mental gymnastics that have always been difficult for me.

LEVEL THREE: NON-FRIEND
  • Former Friend: someone who was occupied one of the higher levels, but with whom there has been a large falling of such a degree that a workable friendship is nigh unto impossible; it takes a lot for someone to get relegated to this spot for me; my need to be liked, to repair what is damaged, will keep me clinging onto hope long after its obvious to all others that the hope is long dead.
  • Unwanted Friend: the hanger-on who likes you, but who bugs the ever-living crap out of you, and whom you’re constantly trying to avoid; I spent most of my Dark Years feeling like I was the Unwanted Friend in all social situations; for me, the Unwanted Friend is often a reflection of my less admirable qualities, or a projection of what I fear I could become: nobody likes to look their negative attributes right in the face.

A brief interruption to stave off the comments, questions, and suggestions I can sense headed my way; I can hear G'ovich in my head now, suggesting that I make a list of everyone in the Cast List and what sort of friend I see them as, and don’t leave out any details, make myself vulnerable, controversy is good! To which I say: get thee behind me, Eeeeeeeeevil one! That way lies madness and hurt feelings; I’m not sure I want to deal with the fall out of telling someone that I don’t view their friendship status the way they view mine.

Along those lines: does friendship have to be reciprocal, or can it be a one-way street? Granted, to have the goodwill flowing both was is preferable, but not truly necessary; I’m sure there are people out there who I’ve considered friends who wouldn’t bat an eye if I dropped off the face of the earth; I can think of a couple of cases from over the years where I felt the same way. Of course, the lack of relational balance might not be so extreme; it could just be a matter of degrees: my view of Flunky as my Best Friends is not dependent on him viewing me at the same level in his own personal hierarchy; whether he sees me as Good Friend, Old Friend, or Damn Nuisance has little to nothing to do with it. Now, I couldn’t have said the same back in the college days, when my need for validation and recognition was at its paranoiac heights; but now I’ve come to terms (of a sort) with the vagaries of each individual’s personal perceptions.

And now, we shall take a brief recess from my ruminations on the nature of friendship; I know that the typical reader can only take so much of my rambling before the cracks in their sanity begin to show, so I’ll let you have this break to gather your wits about you before you return this afternoon to read a little bit about my thoughts on the top of the hierarchy: The Best Friend.



6 comments:

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Get Out of My Head, D.C. Simpson!

Seriously, how did he know my alternate title for the Secret Origins series?

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Written Word Wed. - Millenium Hand and Shrimp!

Running a little late with the posting today because I got sucked into reading last night, and by the time I was able to make myself put it down, my brain wasn't really in "coherent thought" mode anymore.

Finished one book and got about 3/4 of the way through another this past week; probably would have finished it if I hadn't been compelled to watch Earl, Office, and Gilmore Girls; it's so sad when my obsessions get in each other's way, don't you think?

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman: On the whole, still not my favorite Gaiman novel; I enjoyed American Gods much more. However, after my wishy-washy feelings which I related last week, the book definitely took a turn for the better once Fat Charlie decided to become more proactive and stand up for himself. I also enjoyed it more once it started to delve deeper into the mythology of the world that Gaiman had created. In the end, I would still recommend this to fans of Gaiman's work; I think my dislike of the early goings was more of a personal taste issue rather than a reflection on the actual quality of the work itself.

Thud! by Terry Pratchett: The 31st (!) installment in Pratchett's excellent and hilarious Discworld series; I can't say enough good stuff about these books. I think I might devote a later post to exploring this series more in-depth; for now I'll just say that Thud! contains my favorite of Pratchett's characters, Commander Vimes and the City Watch. While I love pretty much all of the series, the Watch books are by far my favorites. One of the things I've enjoyed in reading this series is seeing it evolve; if you were to go straight from reading The Colour of Magic, the first book in the series, to Thud!, you would see a world of difference. Over the years Pratchett has managed to turn what was essentially a Sword & Sorcery satire into an insightful societal and political satire as well. I think the earlier books may have had more laughs per page (not to mention more silly footnotes), but the later books contain much greater depth, while still managing to make me laugh out loud constantly. I have about a 100 pages to go on this one, so I'll try to have a nice Discworld post up next Wednesday.

Once I finish Thud! I’ll probably start on either A Feast for Crows, the much-anticipate and even much-more delayed latest entry in George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire, or possibly In the Ruins, book 6 in Kate Elliot’s Crown of Stars series which should be completed with the 7th volume in February *fingers crossed* And, at some point, I need to get around to those Robin Hobb books Rocket loaned me. So much to read, so little time not spent indulging my TV, movie, and blogging addictions. *sigh*

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