Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Favourite Videos 5

"Everybody Hurts" by R.E.M. always stood out to me as an exceptional song and video. The concept is very similar to "Just" by Radiohead with the running subtitles acting as dialogue while the song plays, and there's a bit of a performance from Michael Stipe keeping it from becoming a short film rather than a video, but the overall vibe and purpose of the two are different enough for me to include both on my fave videos list.

I like a lot of the shots and editing choices made by the director and editor and the slow but deliberate camera movement that keeps pace with the music is a nice touch. The ending of the video is also a nice little bonus.

I've been told that there is a goldfish cracker on Stipe's hat, placed there by the other band members. It pops off when he climbs up ontp the median or when the song hits its crescendo. I can't remember which, but I heard that if you watch for it you can actually see it go.



Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Comic Haul

In my continuing effort to start a somewhat regular comic review post (something which I have yet to truly conquer) I bring you some thoughts on my comic haul for this week, with some carry over from previous outings and library stops.

The Flash #231 - I think I like where this series is going, but I'm not sure yet. I'm a loooong time Flash fan so I'm kind of excited about the new creative team, but considering prior hits and misses, I'm reserving judgment. I reluctantly gave up on the previous Bart Allen incarnation of the character after its first storyline and will give Waid and Acuna the same benefit of the doubt here. My main worry, however, is that I'm still seeing traces of the wishy-washy soap-opera crap that made me tire of the Geoff Johns stories that came post-Waid (the first time around) but before the Bart-as-Flash stuff. I mean, for a character that doesn't really offer up much in the way of...well, character, Linda Park-West has managed to occupy a lot of story time that could have better served past storylines by being greatly abbreviated. Having recently reread some of the issues between #206 and 213 (the stories that ran parallell to Identity Crisis, I believe) I'm hoping that Waid goes in the opposite direction, takes full advantage of this new start and the new characters, and just hits the ground running like he did so many years ago when he took over from William Messner-Loebs. Gone, I hope, are the countless pages of Wally worrying about his marriage or the Rogues talking, talking and doing more talking about what's coming in the next collectable 6-issue arc in favour of fun, adventure, interesting character developments and a some, but not a lot, of melodrama for flavour. So, far, this first issue has a strong start and the makings of a cool arc for Wally and the family so I'm crossing my fingers. I really hope these guys throw me for a loop for a change. I'd love to be buying a Flash book again after all this time.

The Batman Strikes! #36 - I haven't been paying a lot of attention to the credits lately but it looks like regular series writer, Bill Matheny, has been on an extended hiatus. According to the DC site, the last few issues have been written by the likes of Russell Lissau, Jai Nitz and J. Torres (that might go a long way to explaining why I've been unhappy with the series for the past 5 months or so) and #36 is no exception. The writer's credit for 'Gearhead 2.0' goes to Mail Order Ninja's Josh Elder who brings a welcome new voice to the book, and possibly the only Gearhead story I'll ever admit to enjoying. This issue was a vast improvement over the Harley Quinn disapointment in #35, and stood out as one of the better issues of the series in recent months. My interest in this title hasn't been what I'd call very strong of late, but Elder's managed to rekindle something and I can say that my curiosity for future stories from him, and other writers, is piqued. I look forward to checking out #37 (another Jai Nitz issue) followed by the return of Matheny a month after that.

Hellblazer #234 - This one improved for me on the second attempt. The first time I tried to read it I only got a few pages in before I had to put it down again. I was really hoping that it wasn't something indicative of Diggle's run so early on into the new storyline and that it was just me not being in the mood for a horror comic. As it turned out, it was the latter as a couple of days ago I gave it another crack and thought it was very remiscient of the very early Hellblazer books written by Delano and illustrated by John Ridgeway. Pretty grim subject matter but I am interested to see how this one plays out.

Ultimate Fantastic Four #44 - A definite downswing for this title as the Silver Surfer storyline hits its third, and most blindingly dull, chapter. Carey seems to be spinning his wheels in earnest with this issue and has the Surfer mumbling a lot of jibberish about how his master will do this and his master will do that while the FF and S.H.I.E.L.D. wander around and wonder how everything went so wrong. The only real 'event' that we needed to see this issue occurs in the last three pages. I know this is so Marvel can package it as a 6-issue story in an upcoming trade, but the whole deconstructionist style only works if your timing is right, and the characters carry you through the dead points. Carey's done the SciFi/Super-hero/Space opera thing in past issues so we know he's got the touch, it's just missing here. #45 is already out so maybe it picks up again. We'll see.

Annihilation Conquest: Starlord #1 - I shouldn't like this book but I do. As much as I love the writing of Keith Giffen this is not him doing anything even remotely new. Readers of his other work will recognize the overlapping chatter, the witty quips and comebacks, and the overused hackneyed plot contrivances that drive the story's main points: suicide mission, motley crew of misfits 'volunteer' for the job, no expectation of coming back, sounds like fun. The characters within the story even acknowledge the obvious Dirty Dozen parallels and there is a definite leftover resonance from Giffen's run on Suicide Squad. Still, the art is beautiful, the dialogue better than a lot of stuff out there, and the Rocket Raccoon jokes alone were worth the price of admission. I'll probably carry through with this 4-issue mini but I won't knock over old ladies and small children to get to it.

That's all I have time for just now. I'll try and come on again later tonight and post the rest of them.



Monday, August 20, 2007

Avatar: The Last Airbender

I finally got around to checking this show out and it has quickly - very quickly - become the animated series closest to my heart. All the things that made Teen Titans the Jozic family favourite are present here: great characters, cool music, sharp humour, beautiful design, and very nice animation.

I don't have too much time to comment on the show right now so I'll leave a clip courtesy of YouTube to give you an idea of what the show is about if you're unfamiliar with it.


Thursday, August 09, 2007

Harold Bloom's Genius

Jen showed me a book the other day called Genius by Howard Bloom. The idea of the book is that this English professor/literary critic has decided to celebrate 100 of the most creative literary minds in history. Naturally, having run across a section on Fitzgerald and The Great Gatsby, Jen figured I would want to have a look at what Bloom had to say about one of my favourite books and authors.

I should preface my comments by saying that I have a long history of not agreeing with English professors and generally find them to be cloth-eared nincompoops. I originally went into University with the intention of getting an English degree, but after a couple of years couldn't stand to be a part of that department, or deal with those professors, anymore. I'm sure that it's not indicative of English departments everywhere, nor of the UofS faculty (I'm open to believeing that there are even some good profs in our neck of the woods), but when you start to bend basic historical events to fit into your romantic, idealised version of the environment a literary work was produced in, I get aggravated.

I know I'm probably being overly sensitive but Bloom got off to a rough start with me by mentioning Hemingway right off the bat and making something of a direct comparison between the two writers. His first words are, "Like his equivocal friend, Ernest Hemingway, Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald has joined American literary mythology." Now, admittedly, I'm no great fan of Hemingway. I tend to agree with Dave Sim's analysis that he was a typist, not a writer, especially when compared to the lyrical storytelling of someone like Fitzgerald. So, I ask myself, why does Bloom find it necessary to enter Fitzgerald's world through a Hemingway filter?

Looking back I found no mention of Fitzgerald in the Hemingway section. Surely, as one of the preeminent literary critics, Bloom should already know that he is speaking about an author who is three years the senior of Hemingway, and whose 'genius literary contribution' was published a full year before The Sun Also Rises, Bloom's choice for Ernest's 'genius contribution' to literature. He should also know that Fitzgerald served not only as an equivocal friend to Hemingway but as something of a mentor until the two eventually parted ways.

Instead, Bloom treats him almost as an afterthought. Perhaps, like Hemingway, he has difficulty seeing beyond the excesses of F. Scott and Zelda. Many critics have commented on how Fitzgerald's drive to write was financially motivated, earning money by writing short stories for magazines rather than devoting his life to more artistic pursuits. Scott liked his quality of life and did what he could to maintain it. He wrote sometimes for the love of writing, and sometimes he did it because that was his job. No shame in that to my reckoning, but it does get the intelligentsia stomping their feet.

This was also part of the reason why the two writers stopped fraternizing. Hemingway didn't approve of how F. Scott conducted himself as a person and as an artist. He felt that commercial concerns had nothing to do with the process of 'writing' and left to make his contribution to the literary world and show his genius. Then again, it probably didn't hurt that he and Zelda couldn't stand each other, particularly after she accused Ernie of being a closet homosexual, and if you know anything about Hemingway, you know how that probably stuck in his craw.

Anyway, the whole point of this rant was to let off some steam and I think I've achieved that. I have to say that I was honestly surprised at how impassioned I was to post this after reading bits from Genius. I don't normally care enough to comment on things like this, especially when they have that ring of "who's stronger, the Hulk or The Thing?" to it. I just needed to get that off my chest, throw my two cents in and give Bloom the bird in the process.

I feel a bit better now.


Thursday, August 02, 2007

Busy Beavers

I actually felt a little lame leaving the blog with three birthday posts in a row, even if one of them was for my eternal crush, Diana Rigg, so I feel even more lame for having left it like that as long as I have.

Still, in all fairness, I have been busy with work, family and friends, and when I haven't been busy with those I've been flooding my brain with movies, movies and some cool television shows (with a few books and comics on the side for variety) to keep the insanity away. Kinda like shaking the bugs out of the ol' grey matter with some shock treatment.

I'll be changing the sidebar soon so if you're curious to know what bits of entertainment joy I've been getting into just mosey over to the left side of the page and there will be some new Amazon links up.

I have the weekend off so I'll probably post a bit more through that, and possibly even finish off my fave music video stuff that I started last month.

Anyway, that's it for me for now. Be back soon, hopefully with more stuff.