Wednesday, February 28, 2007


I seem to recall promising to talk about short stories this month, as well as try to write a short story. Neither has happened. I have been reading short stories, of course. I like short stories. It's a great format. Obviously, I read mostly science fiction and fantasy stories these days in large part due to my subscriptions to Asimov's and F&SF (I've gone through periods of New Yorker subscriptions too, which yielded even more stories). I also like to read story collections - I read 34 from 2002 to 2006, an average of almost 7 per year. So far this year, I've read one collection and I'm in the middle of another.

And speaking of this year, I've read 51 stories so far - not quite one a day. To the best of my recollection (I didn't keep track at the time), I read 29 of them in January and 22 of them in February. I'm going at a much slower pace on everything this year but that's still not too bad.

For comparison's sake, I've read 33 comics so far this year, including 3 trades and 3 original graphic novels. January saw me read 13 single issues, 2 OGNs, and one trade; February's breakdown was 14 single issues, 2 trades, and one OGN. I also bought a couple comics today that won't get read until tomorrow at the earliest. That's fairly consistent.

I've gotten 15 new CDs this year, 12 of them dowloaded and 3 purchased. 9 of them were in January - 7 downloaded and 2 puchased; the remaining 6 were in February, all downloads but one. I also downloaded 4 songs that were b-sides on single releases.

On the DVD front, I've finally resumed 24 Season 2 after a couple weeks of inactivity and now have only two episodes left plus a disc full of extras and a number of commentaries. Grant and I are down to only commentaries left on The Simpsons Season 8 - 4 of them. Hard to believe we could be finished in a couple's only taken us months (and seen the release of Season 9 come and go!). Beyond that, I think I've watched 4 DVDs via netflix so far this year...I'm not sure, because I haven't really been keeping track of that. I think I've written about them all but I'm not going to go back and look - I've given plenty of numbers so far.

I'm behind on my magazine reading - after I finish the Newsweek I'm working on I still have 3 issues left to catch up; I have the current issue of Entertainment Weekly and just bought the new Wizard today as well.

I'm not saying any of this to complain at all - I may feel like I'm behind on a lot of things (and should finish at least one of the songs I've been working on) but I'm enjoying life. It'll all get read eventually - not having new episodes of all these TV shows for a while will help a bit too. And I've done pretty well at posting this month too. Small victories.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Feb. 1 - Front Porch Music - The Sigh Begins (Graham Smith) - piano; Poor (Smith) - harmonica; Dear Prospective Employer; That's Okay; 23 Across (Graham on piano)

Feb. 3 - Boundary Waters - Poor (Smith) - harmonica, backing vocals; Holding Pattern (Graham on lead acoustic guitar, backing vocals); Give Yourself (Smith) - keyboard; Song For A Day (Graham on bass, backing vocals); Liquor Sink (Smith) - bass, backing vocals; 23 Across (Graham on keyboard); Dear Prospective Employer (Graham on bass, backing vocals); The Sigh Begins (Smith) - keyboard; Jews & Gypsies (Smith) - tambourine, backing vocals; Woke Up (Graham on bass, backing vocals)

Feb. 14 - Front Porch Music - Our Love (Rhett Miller); Decoder Ring; Dear Prospective Employer

Feb. 22 - Front Porch Music - Woke Up; Dear Prospective Employer

All songs are mine, unless otherwise noted. I play guitar on all songs, unless otherwise noted. We do have audio of the Boundary Waters show, if anyone is interested in a copy...

I went to Best Buy on a mission today - to buy the newly-released "Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny." I didn't manage to catch it in theaters but I love the D and there was no way I would pass it up. The first thing I noticed upon arriving at the store was a display of DVDs for $9.99 each. The second thing I noticed was that there were special edition DVDs I still didn't have in my own collection - "Boogie Nights" and "True Romance." Next I went around and found the movie I came in for, which also comes with a Best Buy bonus disc. Great. I decided to wander back to the CD section - surprise, surprise - and saw another display with "Stranger Than Fiction," which also came out today. That's another movie I didn't see in the theater but seemed right up my alley. Then when I noticed that if you bought another movie with it, they would both be $20. It was just a couple movies but one of them was "Tootsie," which Jill and I both love. So, I grabbed both of those as well. And to top it all off, after I checked out and looked at my receipt, I saw that I didn't get charged for "True Romance" at all. 5 DVDs for just over $9 each? That's what I call a good day. Now if I can only find time to watch them...

I finished my third book of the year last week - Majestrum by Matthew Hughes. It's a short novel (just over 200 pages) about Henghis Hapthorn, Old Earth's foremost discriminator. Hughes has been writing about Hapthorn in a number of short stories over the past few years and I have enjoyed them. Recently, Hapthorn has discovered that he is at the forefront of one of the periodic shifts from an age of science to an age of magic. His intergrator, a powerful personal computer with a personality, has transformed into an odd creature and even worse, his mindspace is being shared with another entity, a part of himself that used to be his intuition. In the novel, Hapthorn undertakes a case for the Archon that forces him to accept that these changes are going to take place. Hughes writes in a very florid and arch style, which works for the material. At times, he repeats the problems through Hapthorn's conversations with his other and that can be a bit annoying. But overall I liked the book and will read the next one in the series.

Over the weekend, I read Astonishing X-Men: Torn, the third volume of the current series by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday. I was never a huge X-Men reader but I really like this series. Whedon does his usual job with moments both small and big and the many strands over their storyline start coming together in this issue. Of course, this is all helped by the wonderful artwork of Cassaday, who is one of the five best artists working today. There will only be one more volume of the series, unfortunately, but I can't wait to see how things turn out.

I am currently reading my fourth book of the year, but with February ending tomorrow and me still having almost 300 pages left to read it looks like I'll end up with only the three books read for the first two months of the year. At that pace, I won't even read 20 this year, let alone 40. I did abandon a book between Majestrum and the new one but I only read about 15 pages before I threw in the towel. I also need to start my Harry Potter rereading project - there are only 4 1/2 months left to read 6 books!

As for comics, I'm going to start on my Hellboy reading project pretty soon - the first issue of the new mini-series comes out in mid-April, so I can read about one trade a week from here on and get caught up. Small victories, perhaps.

Sunday, February 25, 2007


We actually got our comics on Wednesday in Valpo this week!

52 #42 - After a brief bit with Renee Montoya (she sees herself as the Question), this issue brings the Ralph Dibny storyline to a head. It turns out the Helmet of Fate was actual the villain Felix Faust. And it turns out the Ralph has been drinking Gingold, the elixir that gives him his stretching powers, all this time. And it turns out he used a wishing gun back in the first issue and has known what Faust was up to. He defeats Faust and the demon Neron but loses his life while doing so. It was slightly confusing, just because many of the events in this storyline were so spread out. But I did like it and you get the feeling that the series is really coming to a it should be with only 10 issues left.

The Brave and the Bold #1 - The old Batman team-up book is back after 20 plus years. This new incarnation is slightly different, as it will feature team-ups between the many heroes of the DCU rather than just ones with Batman. That said, this first issue features Batman and Green Lantern (Hal Jordan). They both discovers corpses that turn out to be the same person, get attacked in the Batcave, go undercover at a casino, meet up with Roulette, and discover that the Book of Destiny has been stolen. High octane fun by Mark Waid and George Perez, who is super-hero comics to me ever since New Teen Titans in the 80s. Looking forward to seeing more of this book.

Superman #659 - Superman ruminates on what Arion revealed to him last issue about his getting in the way of man's destiny and we see a story from his early days involving a women who thinks Superman is an angel and gets hurt trying to change things in Metropolis. It's kind of a standard Superman story but Kurt Busiek always manages to elevate those (if only slightly in this case). Guest artist Peter Vale does a solid job - I've not seen his work before and hope to see him pop up somewhere else in the near future.

Checkmate #11 - Hey, look - it's a cover where a character has burnt off enough so you can see the first page! Haven't seen one of those in a while. On the inside, we have the start of a new storyline - elections in Santa Prisca have gone badly thanks to some meddling and Checkmate needs to extract a villain to find out exactly who and why. Bane, who once broke Batman's back, currently runs the country. Some side intrigue with Fire and Tommy Jagger, whose father (Judomaster) was killed by Bane. Things take a turn at the end of the issue. It sounds like a lot but it's well done; there is another artist I'm not familiar with who does a good job with it all - Steve Scott. More from him too, please.

Wonder Woman #4 - Hey, it's an actual issue! I had forgotten about Circe and Hercules but caught myself up fairly easily. The big master plan is revealed and things take a turn for the worse at the end of the issue (hmm, sounds familiar). It's a little confusing in its storytelling and the art from Terry and Rachel Dodson can tend towards cheesecake but it's still a solid issue of super-hero comics. My biggest problem is that the conclusion of the storyline is not scheduled - it's been bumped for a new storyline and creative team due to lateness. That doesn't make me feel good. You'd think they'd want to finish their "Who is Wonder Woman?" storyline before more stories with said Wonder Woman. That's been a major failing of DC over the last year - lateness and content change; I hope they can get things back on track.

The Spirit #3 - This is an origin story for The Spirit, as the name of someone long thought dead comes up in connection with killings. What I like here is that the origin is told in flashback and drawn in a different style by Darwyn Cooke and J. Bone. The story is a good one and hints that the current series will be more than done-in-one tales. This is good comics, people.

How great was Arcade Fire on "SNL" last night? Who will win Oscars tonight? Will our cable ever come back on after last night's ice storm? Should I stop asking questions and just get on with it?

1. Shiftee/The Broken West (6)
2. Fish in the Jailhouse/Tom Waits (4)
3. Get To The Table On Time/M. Ward (5)
4. Art Class (Song for Yayoi Kusama)/Superchunk (6)
5. Late-Century Dream/Superchunk (6)
6. Black Gown/The Lemonheads (9)
7. Bright Eyes Darkened/Slobberbone (12)
8. Hospital Beds/Cold War Kids (5)
9. Working Girls (Sunlight Shines)/Pernice Brothers (8)
10. What Do You Go Home To?/Explosions in the Sky (2)

Monday, February 19, 2007


I've finally started to remember to record "Legion of Super-Heroes" on Saturday mornings while we're at the Y for Grant's swimming class. You would think I wouldn't have a problem recalling a cartoon based on my all-time favorite comic book but it's all about habits. Anyway, I'm glad I finally got my act together? Why? The Legion of Substitute Heroes.

The episode, "The Substitutes," featured tryouts for the Legion and it was set up just like the early days of the comic with the Legionnaires sitting up high and with their names in front of their seats. There were many characters from the comics trying out, most of them with inept powers. The Legion rejected almost everyone but did admit two new members - Matter Eater Lad and Star Boy (though a different Star Boy than the comics). Several of the rejected members decided to band together and do what they could to fight crime, thanks to some encouragment from Bouncing Boy. Porcupine Pete, Infectious Lass, Chlorophyll Kid, Color Kid and Stone Boy went up against Starfinger while the regular Legion dealt with a potentially disastrous problem in space. Naturally, the two problems turned out to be related and the Legion was able to prevail with the help of the rejects. Thus, the Legion of Substitute Heroes is born.

I was a pure fanboy throughout the episode, especially when the Legion called in reserves like Tyroc and Element Lad and Blok...Blok! It was so much fun. And what's cool is that Grant really likes the show. I can only hope that there will be action figures - I would kill for a Porcupine Pete! When the season 1 DVD comes out, it will be purchased immediately. And the good news? It's been renewed for a second season. Yay!

"Lost" has come roaring back the past two weeks and I hope it shuts up all those naysayers who have been complaining about the show. I sometimes think people want "Lost" to be what they want it to be and not the show that it is. We are going to get answers but they're going to be at the writers' pace and not the pace we want; in addition, those answers are probably going to come with more questions. I do hope that the creators are allowed to decide an ending point so they can structure the story they way they want (they are having talks with ABC about that topic). All of that aside, what's been on the screen the last two weeks has been fantastic. Desmond's "flashback" was mind-blowing in the all the ways that "Lost" can hook you. I can't wait to see what comes next.

Finally, I loved last week's episode of "The Office," which was directed by Joss Whedon. It juxtaposed Michael talking to Ryan's class at business school with the shenanigans of Dwight trying to capture a bat that had made its way into the office. It featured a great prank from Jim and was all tied together at the end with a touching moment between Michael and a discouraged Pam, who had her first art exhibit. A fantastic half hour of television.

Sunday, February 18, 2007


It's another Sunday where I have to do my progress reports for work - 42 of them this time around. I split them up into different sections throughout the day so it doesn't get to be overwhelming. I'll probably keep iTunes on shuffle while I do them - it takes away the need to use more brain space on deciding what to listen to. Anyway, I'll just give you the first ten like usual...and without any chatter...

1. Sidi Ifni/Cracker (6)
2. (Was I) In Your Dreams/Jeff Tweedy (5)
3. Down in the Valley/The Brokedown (12)
4. Elsinore/The Essex Green (12)
5. Toward The Waves/Twilight Singers (10)
6. Get Out the State/Spoon (10)
7. Kingdom of Spain/The Decemberists (4)
8. The Chinatown Bus/Bishop Allen (6)
9. Wayward and Parliament/Amy Millan (6)
10. There Will Be No Divorce/The Mountain Goats (2)

Saturday, February 17, 2007


The weather conspired against comics lovers in Valparaiso this week - Galactic Greg's didn't get its shipment until Friday. So, I had to wait a few extra days for my comics fix...the good news is that I won't have to wait as long for my next one (hopefully!). It was another small week but I took advantage of a sale today to pick up a new trade (which I probably won't get around to reading for a bit). Anyway, here's the rundown...

52 #41 - This issue catches us up with several storylines. We see Adam Strange and Starfire continuing to have problems on their way home, most notably from bounty hunters working for the now-deceased Lady Styx (is she really?). After a rousing speech by Starfire to a despondent Adam Strange, help arrives in the form of Green Lanterns like Mogo (who's a planet!). Meanwhile, Renee Montoya continues to avoid confronting herself in Nanda Parbat, though she moves closer to becoming the new Question; Ralph Dibny continues to collect magical artifacts with the Helmet of Fate and becomes increasingly more despicable. That's about it. Not a great issue but it moves the plots along. Next week's cover indicates we'll see what Ralph and Fate have been up to...

Justice Society of America #3 - Lots going on here too - Stargirl helps Maxine pick a code name; Hawkman comes to the defense of the remnants of Commander Steel's family and brings one of them to Doctor Mid-Nite for help; we learn more of the Neo-Nazis plot against the families of JSA members and who is behind the whole thing, along with a revelation about Wildcat's newly-revealed son. It's solid stuff but not quite up to the snap of the first two issues.

Batman #663 - Grant Morrison does this issue as a prose short story with spot illustrations by John Van Fleet. It's a Joker story, in which he makes the next evolution in his personality. I guess getting shot in the head can mess a villain up. It's a dark story but done very well; the art doesn't quite reach the level of the prose, however. I like that Morrison took a chance and did something different with this issue but I'm also looking forward to the return of the Morrison/Kubert team next issue.

Last weekend Jill and I finally got around to watching An Inconvenient Truth on DVD. During the documentary she remarked that if that was the Al Gore people saw during the 2000 election campaign, things would have turned out differently. I was highly depressed when they showed what happened during the election but that's a topic for another time. The main thrust of this is global warming and all the ways the current administration is ignoring the problem, plus actions that could be taken to slow the tide. It's very alarming. And while you think that having things be warmer may not be a bad idea (especially around here the last month), the catastrophes that would occur are things we don't want to happen to us or our children or their children. But there is hope - we can all adopt some simple changes to help and voting with our dollars and well as politically can also help. It's a movie well worth seeing.

In other DVD news, I'm still in the middle of 24 Season 2. In fact, I haven't watched any of it in a month or so. I've been getting my "24" fix on a regular basis. I do still want to get through the last 7 episodes before I forget what happened...and it's not that I haven't been enjoying it. I just have to make the time.

Grant and I have been making a little progress in our DVD pile. We have now watched all but two of the commentaries on disc 3 of The Simpsons Season 8, which means we're about ready to watch episodes again. We should finish those commentaries tomorrow and might get to disc 4 by Monday. If we can stay focused we could finish all of it by next weekend and then go back to Batman or Superman.

I won't even comment on the rest of the stuff I've bought and not gotten around to...

I did something I never thought I would do - I bought an original graphic novel from TokyoPop. I didn't buy your typical manga, though...I bought an OEL (Original English Language) - My Dead Girlfriend by Eric Wight. It's the story of Finney Bleak, whose claim to fame is that his family dies in interesting ways. His ancestors also stick around as ghosts and wake him up in the night with casino nights. His parents recently dies and are now ghosts as well. He gets in trouble at school with the Deadbeats, a group of kids who big bruiser is a Frankenstein monster and also feature a wolfboy and weird fish and so forth. The one bright spot is his life is a girl he meets at a carnival...but she stands him up when they're supposed to meet the next day. You can guess from the title what happened to her.

The story is very charming and fun and Wight's art is full of things I like - thick blacks and nice sharp angles and rounded corners. I liked it a lot and can't wait for volume 2!

Another writer impressed me with their debut story, this time in F&SF. S.L. Gilbow's "Red Card" is a look at a future where random citizens are issued red cards that allow them to kill someone without any punishment from the law. The card is good for one kill; the town in the story has 4 cards out in the population at one time. It's a cool idea and it's well done. I'd like to see another Gilbow story in the near future.

The issue also featured the last story by John Morressy, "Fool." It's sad to think we won't get any more Morressy tales; while I loved his Kedrigern stories, I also liked his one-off fantasies like this story. It's the story of an ugly child who grows up to be a Fool for royalty but it so much more.

There were also good stories from Alexander Jablokov ("Brain Raid," about a squad of AI hunters trying to make money) and William Browning Spencer ("Stone and the Librarian," an odd tale about a delusional man who grows tired of literature that has no adventure). Matthew Hughes turned in the first part of his two-part, "The Helper and His Hero," which shows events from his novel Black Brillion from Guth Bandar's point of view. Having read that novel, this story is not as compelling as his original tales but is definitely worth reading. Add a short "Plumage From Pegasus" by Paul Di Filippo and you've got another solid issue.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Yep, big snows here in Indiana. Schools closed. Roads bad. Heck, even the Y shut down at noon, though I did have to go in to teach one class...for which one kid (out of three) showed up. I've shoveled twice so far but the snow keeps falling and it's blowing hard. Hopefully, this is the last hurrah for a big winter.

I haven't gotten as much reading done as planned either. Very little, really. And the problem is I'm behind - still only two books read for the year and I haven't even started a third! I have three piled up and ready to go. I have magazines piled up. Several long-form comics to read. Oh well, I'll get to it.

Couple bit of good news today - "Battlestar Galactica" has been renewed for a fourth season of at least 12 episodes. And this week's episode of "The Office" is directed by Joss Whedon!

I also spent some time making a new mix CD - Snow Day. Here's the tracklist...

Just A Little Heat/The Black Keys
Down South/Tom Petty
Let's Get Out of This Country/Camera Obscura
Manitoba/Tapes 'n Tapes
Sea Legs/The Shins
Fox Confessor Brings The Flood/Neko Case
Oceanographer's Choice/The Mountain Goats
Act Surprised/Superchunk
We Used to Vacation/Cold War Kids
Same Old Drag/Apples in Stereo
The Greatest/Cat Power
Elevate Myself/Grandaddy
Green Fields/The Good, The Bad, & The Queen
Down in the Valley/The Broken West
Mr. Tough/Yo La Tengo
Bonnie Brae/The Twilight Singers
Set in Motion/Sloan
Smiley Faces/Gnarls Barkley
Chips and Dip/Spoon
Talking in Code/Margot and the Nuclear So and So's

There was a problem with the local shipment last week (thanks, UPS), so there were no new comics until Thursday. I wonder if the current snowstorm will affect this week's as well. Anyway, here's what I grabbed last week...

52 #40 - The majority of this issue was taken up with the long-coming showdown between Steel and the newly-powered Lex Luthor. Steel has had problems with Luthor handing out super-powers and then taking them away; his niece Natasha had also gone to Luthor's side and served in Infinity Inc. until recently. It's an action issue, touching on those personal contentions along the way. It's resolved. Positively. There's also a brief coda with Osiris and Sobek. It's a good issue and part of that is due to the art of Chris Batista and two inkers. If I could write a DC book, I'd love to have Batista as my partner.

Astro City: The Dark Age Book Two #2 - Yeah, that's a long title, isn't it? I only read the first two issues of Book One, so I'm not 100% on the storyline but that's okay. It's Astro City, one of my all-time favorite comics. This issue deals with a gangwar, the new breed of costumed vigilantes, cosmic happenings, and two brothers mixed up in it all on different sides of the law. Good stuff.

Fell #7 - This is the first issue published in a while. It's an issue-long interrogation scene that looks like it's going Det. Fell's way...until it doesn't. No back matter by Ellis this time, only an ad for Casanova. But hey, it's a good issue and only costs $1.99. Quality comics at a very affordable price.

Action Comics Annual #10 - I can't remember how long it's been since I bought an Annual. 6 years or more, I'm guessing. There's only one long story in here, that of a young Clark's meeting with Mon-El. Mon-El is a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes (or at least my Legion), so this might bode well. It's a solid story too with great art from Eric Wright (I bought his new graphic novel, My Dead Girlfriend, this week as well). The other short stories and features give hints about upcoming storylines in Action Comics and are all interesting. Now if they could only get the regular book out in a timely manner...

Sunday, February 11, 2007


This week Jill and I finally made it through The Office Season 2, both watching all the episodes and me doing all of the commentaries and other extras. I had actually seen 6 of the episodes as they aired last year but none of the ones at the end of the season, including the big cliffhanger. Watching that many episodes in a short period of time (including the 6 from Season 1) can really show of the beauty of a show. That's very much the case with "The Office."

The writers and directors use the structure of the show very well. "The Office" is shot as a documentary and we see the characters acknowledging or trying to avoid the cameras in certain situations. We also are given "talking head" interviews directly to the camera about things that are happening within the confines of the episodes, which can make the show even funnier or give it extra emotional depth. The camera will swing within scenes to give reaction shots to what is happening - the go-tos for these are Jim (played by John Krasinski) and Pam (played by Jenna Fischer).

Jim and Pam are the relationship at the heart of the show. Jim spends much of his time pining over Pam, who is engaged to Roy, who works in the warehouse. As the second season progresses, Pam spends much of her time at work planning her wedding, which leaves Jim in a position of pain (plus, the two of them generally spend lots of time together at work, mostly playing pranks on others in the office) much so that he explores transferring within the company.

Jim is also at the center of another important relationship - he and Dwight (played by Rainn Wilson). Dwight is a loyal sycophant to the branch manager, Michael (played by Steve Carell). He is a weird, humorless person who also happens to be a brillaint salesman. The pranks Jim (often abetted by Pam) pull on Dwight form the baseline of humor for the show. They are brilliant (like when Jim encased Dwight's stuff in Jello) and varied.

Then there's Michael. He is vain and feels like he is everyone's best friend and the funniest guy in the office. He has little knowledge on how to truly interact with people and his brain is mostly filled with out-of-date pop culture references. He's an ass and a buffoon. But Carell also injects his performance with humanity and the show has allowed Michael to have depth, to sometimes be what he always thinks he is.

Of course, there are tons of other characters in a variety of smaller roles and the actors who fill these are wonderful as well. For example, Dwight has a secret office romance with the uptight and judgemental Angela, which only Pam and the camera crew know about. Smart.

I've know seen every episode of "The Office" and have no problem declaring it to be the best sitcom on TV right now.
52.27 - 52.39

The last Wednesday in January brought the third quarter of DC's weekly series 52 to a close. The creative team covered a lot of ground in those 13 weeks and I'll try to talk about it in terms of the individual storylines.

Our heroes in space finally had a confrontation with Lady Styx, who was carving a path of destruction through the universe (with the Green Lantern Corps unable to stop her). In the end, Starfire, Adam Strange, and Animal Man had to rely on Lobo to get the job done. Not only that but Animal Man seemingly lost his life. I say seemingly because he appeared to get better with the reappearance from the yellow-skinned aliens last seen in Animal Man's series in the early 90s (written by Grant Morrison, one of the four architects of 52). I'm really looking forward to seeing where this aspect of the story goes.

This run of issues featured another (prolonged) death of hero - The Question. We first learn that he's sick in #27 and he doesn't actually die until #38. In the meantime he helps Renee Montoya save Batgirl from Intergang; Montoya in turn tries to bring him back to Nanda Parbat and save his life. She has a hard time watching him suffer but seems to have reconnected with Kathy Kane. Speculation has been that Renee will be the new Question. I would find that an interesting development and would read that series, should one be in the offing.

Nanda Parbat also features in the travels of Ralph Dibny, who is still accompanied by the Helmet of Fate and searching for a way to resurrect his dead wife. He confronts her killer, Jean Loring (now Eclipso), steals something from the Flash Museum, meets up with members of The Great Ten, talks to Rama Kushna, and makes a trade in Atlantis. Still not sure what it all means.

The heroes Lex Luthor created, Infinity Inc., continued to play a big role in the series. They had a confrontation with the remnants of the Justice Society and saw the collapse of all the others in the Everyman project (because Luthor turned off their powers). John Henry Irons (Steel) finally convinced his niece Natasha that something was wrong and she began to investigate from the inside, turning up several problems - not the least of which is that Luthor gave himself super-powers.

The Black Marvel Family continued their quest to change their image in the world, though that was ruined by a run-in with the Suicide Squad.

We finally learned what Egg Fu and mad scientists are up to - creating the Four Horseman to unleash destruction on the world in the name of Intergang. And we learned that Will Magnus went off his meds and worked on recreating the Metal Men. Oh, and we also heard more about the missing 52 seconds from Doctor Tyme, claiming he misplace them.

Plenty of updates from around the DCU as well - Bruce Wayne says he's done being Batman; Nightwing meets Batgirl for the first time and then gives her a Christmas present; Green Arrow enlists some help for his mayoral campaign; Red Tornado continues to float at the edges of the story and also continues to speak only the cryptic "52"; and more.

Which brings us to the last big piece of the puzzle - Skeets and Supernova. In one issue we see Skeets attack Waverider and he tells us that his metal body comes from the dead body of Waverider (ewww). We also see Supernova working with Rip Hunter in the bottled city of Kandor in the Fortress of Solitude to try and find ways of defeating Skeets. It doesn't work, though Rip there is an escape. Supernova is revealed to be a hero who died earlier in the series, Booster Gold.

It's a lot to take in, obviously. The plus is that while individual issues may not always be a home run, the series as a whole continues to deliver. There is still plenty to resolve in the final 13 issues and one story will sprawl into its own four issue mini-series, World War Three (which will be released in its entirety the same week as #50). I'm looking forward to seeing what happens.

I closed out my first year of eMusic by screwing up. I had 23 downloads held coming into this last week, expecting that I would use most of them on a new release. That release, however, had 24 tracks. I spent some time trying to figure out what to do instead, sure that I had until the 10th to use up my downloads. I was wrong. I forgot completely that eMusic is on a 30 day cycle and it isn't always the same date each month. Oops. Needless to say, I won't let that happen again. And the good news is that the downloads I did managed to use were well worth it...

Sloan/Never Hear the End of It - I only had one Sloan album previous to this and liked it very much (One Chord to Another, which I downloaded a few months back). With this download, I have guaranteed that I will pick up everything they have done. This album is sprawling - 30 tracks long with short songs and longer songs, hard rockers and ballads and perfect pop songs, multiple songwriters, and many great songs which will be appearing on mixes I make throughout the year. Highly recommended.

The Broken West/I Can't Go On I'll Go On - The band formerly known as The Brokedown issues their debut album, following up on their great EP, The Dutchman's Gold. The album doesn't have as much country tinge to it, having much more of a power pop type of feel. There's nothing wrong with that. A must hear is "Down in the Valley" - check out their MySpace. Then you'll want to get the album too.

I've mentioned before that one of my greatest disoveries in the 1980s was the existence of comic book shops, places where you could buy back issues and also find comics that were only available to that direct market. I sold a lot of issues of various DC series in order to get enough money in trade for some of these new (to me) titles - Grendel and Elementals from Comico and Grimjack and Nexus from First - chief among them. These comics took that superhero archetype and added something different and I loved them. I collected those comics throughout the years and made it a priority to check back in with them when I came back to comics in 1994. Things had changed, as things do, but I was still able to buy them from time to time or buy up those issues I'd missed. Then things changed again and I got rid of all my comics (except for trades...and yes, I'd do things differently if I could) and I lost my chance to reread those adventures.

In the fall of 2005, Dark Horse Comics started publishing Nexus Archives. I wanted it immediately, of course, but the $50 price tag was a bit steep. Each subsequent volume brought up the same feelings (Volume 5) is about to come out) but I still resisted. Finally, I relented, thanks to a good discount on Amazon and extra cash I got for Christmas and I bought Volume 1. I am so glad I did.

Nexus is the story of Horatio Hellpop, who is cursed by dreams of the evil men (and women) do. In order to keep from going mad, he dons a costume and uses his great power to execute them. For this he is both loved and feared. He lives on the moon, Ylum (pronounced "eye-lum"), and allows refugees to live there with him. That's an extremely simple explanation for a tale that can be very complex and have a variety of moods. Mike Baron has filled the world of Nexus with great characters like Judah the Hammer and Clausius the Slaver and Sundra Peale and Tyrone and so on.

Another highlight of the series is the art of Steve Rude. If I were forced to list my top five artist, he would be in there (and would have been at any point since my discovery of Nexus). This first volume collects the early black-and-white issues and the first four color issues and you can see his development as you turn the pages (and he was pretty well-developed to begin with). He handles action and personal drama equally well, along with wonderful scenery and well, all of it. It's a science fiction comic with a wide variety and he handles it all perfectly. And his Sundra Peale is one of the most beautiful women is comics without being drawn in an overexaggerated manner.

I am very happy stopped having any hangups about buying Nexus Archives and I will not wait long before I buy the next volume. This is comics at its finest.

Two writers made their professional debuts this month and I liked both stories very much. The first (and lead story in the issue) is "Outgoing" by Alex Wilson. It is structured in ten titled sections (starting with #10) and each section is split into smaller sections about two characters - a young girl with brittle bones who wants to be a poet and a young boy who is very smart and dreams of space exploration. Over the course of the story their paths intersect (in space!) and lead to the discovery of another earth in orbit around the sun directly opposite from us. Sharp charactertization and the sense of wonder really work well.

The second is "A Portrait of the Artist" by Charles Midwinter. It's a lighter tale about two friends and the discoveries they make - the most important being a new species of squirrel that has a thumb-like appendage and is able to paint (with peanut butter). Obviously, it's not an entirely serious story but it is fun and has that element of the unusual.

The rest of the issue has solid work from Jack Skillingstead, Tanith Lee, and William Preston. It also has a fantastic novella by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. "Recovering Apollo 8" is a alternate history in which the Apollo 8 mission is lost and that loss spurs a man to innovate in pursuit of the capsule and then the astronauts (who had abandoned the capsule before death). It is a very touching story about the dream of space and can be viewed as a plea for us to return to those dreams. Science fiction at its finest.

I've spent this past week trying to catch up on my reading (of comics and magazines, mostly) and my DVRed TV shows and so on, as well as blog posts. Neither project was hugely successful, though I did do enough of the input to create even more need for output. So, I'm going to produce as many of those posts as I can the next couple days.

You may also have noticed I now have labels on the bottom of my posts. Today I made the switch over to the new Blogger system, which allows such things. I also need to explore all of the other options for postings and the look of the blog and so forth. I may make some changes. I may not. I also want to try and grow my readership as well. I want to do something with my MySpace account too. We'll see...

Because it's just not Sunday without it...

1. Hard Hearted (Ode to Thoreau)/Amy Millan (5) - Last played on Jan. 23, 2007
2. All The Miles/Amy Millan (6) - Last played on Jan. 23, 2007
3. The Thrilling of Claire/The National (9) - Last played on Dec. 27, 2006
4. Another Sunny Day/Belle and Sebastian (6) - Last played on Jan. 15, 2007
5. My Pretend/Apples in Stereo (2) - Last played on Feb. 9, 2007
6. Down in the Valley/The Brokedown (11) - Last played on Jan. 20, 2007
7. Priest's Knees/Destroyer (7) - Last played on Dec. 10, 2006
8. The Riverside/Cracker (7) - Last played on Dec. 31, 2006
9. Stars Fell on Alabama/The Mountain Goats (14) - Last played on Jan. 21, 2006
10. Picking Up Too Fast/Centro-Matic (15) - Last played on Feb. 8, 2007

Monday, February 05, 2007


On Saturday night Graham and I played a show in DeMotte (where I grew up) at a restaurant/bar called Boundary Waters. It was fun. My wife taped it and has now uploaded it to the internets. So if you would like to see/hear the performance, here are the links...I start on the harmonica, for those of you who have never seen me.

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four

P.S. This is my 200th blog post. It took me 7 months and 20 days to reach 100 posts but only 6 months and 6 days to reach 200. If I have the same rate of progress, post #300 should happen some time towards the end of June. We'll see...

Sunday, February 04, 2007


My second book of the year was Overclocked by Cory Doctorow, a collection of six short stories. Actually, only the first story, "Printcrime" is really short - the rest are all around the 50 to 60 page range, with the last one being close to 80 pages. I've been a fan of Doctorow's work ever since I read "Craphound" in Science Fiction Age (I believe) and that was maybe 9 years ago now. He does a good job at marrying cool ideas to solid character work.

"Anda's Game" was selected for The Best American Short Stories 2005 by Michael Chabon and for good reason. It deals with the economics of players doing all the grunt work in online games and then selling the acquired skills to people who can afford to bypass gaining that experience.

"I, Robot" and "I, Row-Boat" both deal with different kinds of consciousness for robots, deviating from the "3 Laws of Robotics" as laid out in many novels and stories by Issac Asimov. "I, Row-Boat" also features a sentient coral reef amongst its characters.

"After the Siege" deals with the horrors of war and how technology is and isn't used in important ways in those wars. It's a very powerful, affecting story.

I think Doctorow is one of the leading writers in SF today and this collection just underscores that point for me. I'm looking forward to more from him.

That's right, it's Super Bowl Sunday. The Bears, my favorite team, are playing the Colts, my second favorite team. 21 years ago, "Super Bowl Shuffle" was heard constantly on Chicago radio stations when they went to the Super Bowl for the first time. I was a freshman in high school and I loved it. I do want the Bears to win today but if the Colts win, I'll be okay. I just hope for a good game (and to be able to watch it - our cable is down this morning).

And before I get to the music, I have to say "Happy Birthday!" to my lovely wife, Jill. Love you!

1. My Love Is True/The Brokedown (11) - This band is now called The Broken West; I should probably change that in iTunes. You can also go to Aquarium Drunkard for some live acoustic tracks they performed on his radio show earlier this week.

2. Shortsighted/The Drams (8) - You know, I can't think of anything to say here. So I just won't say anything.

3. (Was I) In Your Dreams/Jeff Tweedy (3) - The band we opened for last night played covers by both Uncle Tupelo and Wilco and did them justice.

4. Trust Jesus/Slobberbone (8) - Hey, it's Brent Best's pervious band! Oh, his current one is The Drams.

5. Cool James/Harvey Danger (22) - This is my least-played song from Little By Little. Most played? "Little Round Mirrors" at 41.

6. Quito/The Mountain Goats (9) - Have I mentioned how much I love John Darnielle lately? Oh. Sorry.

7. Shoulders & Arms/Tokyo Police Club (7) - Looks like I'll be seeing them in concert (with Cold War Kids) in about a month.

8. Blue Day/Heartless Bastards (6) - Hey, the cable's back on!

9. Can't You Figure It Out?/Sloan (6) - One of the stronger tracks off of Never Hear the End of It, another album I've been obsessed with of late.

10. Nothing Is Easy/The Whigs (6) - I listened to this album (Give 'Em All a Big Fat Lip) on Monday after having another song pop up in shuffle last Sunday. It's good stuff.

Saturday, February 03, 2007


News arrived this week that the 7th and final Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, will be released on July 21. That's good news around these parts and also gives Jill and I warning that we'll be fighting over the book starting that day. I've always planned on rereading the series before the last book came out, so as to be fully fresh and able to enjoy it as much as possible. And yes, I know I could watch the movies for many of them but it's not the same. So, I now have 6 more novels to read in the next 5 1/2 months in addition to everything else I want to read.

More immediately, I want to catch up on Hellboy. Why? April sees the release of a new mini-series, Hellboy: Darkness Calls, and I want to be caught up. Unlike Harry Potter, I have not read all the Hellboy material...just one of many series I fell behind on during my years waffling on my commitment to comics. I had started down that path a few years ago before the movie came out but I abadoned the project after the first two trades. I just bought the third trade, so I'm ready to recap and move forward. Maybe I'll finally get around to watching the movie too.

And even more immediately, there's SoTShoStoWriMo. I always intended to add writing to music for "The Year of 35" and this is a good way to get going. I'm going to do my best to get a story written. I also want to make a few posts dedicated to short stories along the way. Of course, I haven't started yet and tomorrow will probably be a wash as well. So, that gives me only 24 days to get moving!

It was a very small week for me; those months with five shipping weeks tend to spread everything out. So, I only bought two comics (though I gazed longingly at the newest Astonishing X-Men trade - I'll pick it up soon) and one of those is the latest issue of 52, which I will cover in a separate post in the next few days. The other one? Teen Titans #43.

This issue kicks off the "Titans East" storyline, where longtime enemy Deathstroke (also father of two current Titans) and his new team of Titans begin their assualt about the main Titans. There's some solid character work with various groupings of Titans before the action of the attacks begins. It's obviously the setup for the arc as a whole but it's a solid setup. And Tony Daniel's art has really been growing over the course of his run on the series. It was recently announced that he and writer Geoff Johns will be leaving at the conclusion of the arc - let's hope they go out on a strong note. They're off to a good start.