Sunday, August 31, 2003
Saturday, August 30, 2003
As for my other team, well they're doing pretty well. They're into the divisional playoffs, and are favourites to win. Surprising.
I still can't believe that the Americans have teams called the Rochester Ragin' (note the apostrophe) Rhinos, and the Syracuse Salty Dogs(who actually call it "football" and not "soccer"...blimey). I'm not sure a British team would get away with that kind of language.
I'm currently waiting on a lot of lovely items in the post. I won a couple of things on eBay, the first time I've ever used the service. I've also got a reprint of one of my favourite comics of all time on its way from the spectacular Regie Rigby, a mystery package from the piratical Cap'n Black, and a HUGE bundle of items from my wayward brother, including the a DVD of the excellent Battle Royale, which is stupidly unavailable over here. I'm sure it'll all arrive over the next couple of weeks, which will make it a sort of added birthday gift, but it's annoying to rush to the postbox every day to find nothing but bills or junk, especially when I know things are coming. It's also strange to have to go to a postbox to get my mail, rather than have it pop through the front door. It's the little things, you know?
I was banned from wasting my day on the PC today, and forced to do some drawing. Which was a good thing in the end, as I managed to do a couple of decent pictures. Strangely enough, both featured the Hulk in unusual situations. I can't say too much more, as one of them is a present for a friend who just might be reading this...
So, I've had a long and productive day, and I'm going to go to bed with a lovely sense of achievement tonight!
Thursday, August 28, 2003
The Canadians are often thought of, internationally, as nicer, less stupid Americans. With the news that Canadians are now banned from smiling in passport photos, that reputation is going to take a hit.
And it's the birthday of my good friend Courtney today. She's small and Jewish and a fan of Bruce Campbell, which is all you need to know really. Except that her birthday was yesterday. Oops.
Wednesday, August 27, 2003
Circle I Limbo
Will & Grace
Circle II Whirling in a Dark & Stormy Wind
Post-BIG Tom Hanks
Circle III Mud, Rain, Cold, Hail & Snow
Circle IV Rolling Weights
Circle V Stuck in Mud, Mangled
Circle VI Buried for Eternity
Circle VII Burning Sands
Rupert Murdoch & FOX
Circle IIX Immersed in Excrement
Circle IX Frozen in Ice
Tuesday, August 26, 2003
I just took it again five minutes ago. This time, not so good...
-- Personality Disorder Test - Take It! --
I hear a LOUD buzzing. I think it's probably the gardener people who come to mow the communal lawns on one of those huge American lawnmowers that's roughly the size of a Ford Focus. But there's something odd about the sound. It's not...mechanical enough. I look over to the window.
Bashing against the window, in something of a tizzy, and thankfully on the outside, is a wasp the size of a sparrow.
I wish we had a camera. Or an elephant gun.
Monday, August 25, 2003
And it's St Louis' Day today. Who he? Patron saint of barbers, hairdressers and wigmakers.
Sunday, August 24, 2003
But there's something else. I'm not sure I like America. I can't properly convey what I mean because I'm not entirely clear on it myself. Today, I found this article, and realised that I'm not alone. This is by no means an exact copy of my circumstances, but there are recognisable similarities. America is a confusing place, because it is itself confused. There are so many social, political and cultural elements pulling at each other that you either dive for cover or risk, like a protagonist in an HP Lovecraft story, losing your sanity as you try to make sense of it all*.
What is often forgotten is that it is a young country. Europe is old, and safe, but also predictable and complacent. America has not formed its final shape yet. It is still going through growing pains. The problem for the rest of the world, of course, is that what they have on their hands is a mood-swinging teenager with obscene political, economic, social and military might.
I just hope that when it settles down, that the worst aspects have been expelled.
Watched The 13th Warrior today. I thought that it was a lot better than its reputation suggests, but then I'm a sucker for that kind of thing.
Blackadder is twenty years old this year. Or so the BBC says. I think that Blackadder, along with Father Ted, is one of the greatest sitcoms ever, an exercise in sheer comedic genius that really does make a mockery of things like Friends. I grew up with the show, and always loved it, even though I couldn't possibly be expected to understand most of it when it was first broadcast. Today, I still laugh out loud at jokes which I've heard hundreds of times before. Truly brilliant stuff. And now I'm here, far away from home, in a place where they're not going to show the next Great British Sitcom until a decade after it's first aired, if at all. I hope I don't miss it.
Incidentally, my favourite was Blackadder II. What's yours?
*Okay, that's a little extreme, but I'm being spontaneously poetic, so ease off!
Saturday, August 23, 2003
But reading this article on dreadlocks brought that want back. It's not going to happen, because I'm too comfortable with my buzz cut, but it was something nice to think about this morning. A happy "what if" scenario.
I can see an expensive bookshop visit in my future...
I've just finished the first Dark Tower book, by Stephen King, and I must say that I enjoyed it a great deal. It's just my sort of thing, and I felt that I knew what King was up to, understood what he was trying to do with the book.
This is all the more surprising for me as I've never been able to get into his generally more popular horror work, and was told by many people that the Dark Tower series wasn't something I could just jump into without having a firm experience of King's other books.
Good stuff indeed.
Meg's gone down to Rochester for the weekend, to help her mum babysit Meg's sister's son. This means I have the flat to myself all weekend, presumably to do something constructive with the space and time that I have.
I have lots of comics-type-things to be doing, plus I've got a great idea for a picture that I think I'll give as a gift to a friend...
Friday, August 22, 2003
It's a little morbid, but go and decimate the population of a small city with an army of zombies.
See how long the humans last against the undead!
Observe the really odd things the zombies do when all the humans are dead!
Thursday, August 21, 2003
The Republicans in Texas want to rearrange the political boundaries of the state, so that they can get rid of some Democrats and send more Republicans to the Senate. The Democrats opposed this. As a result, they were put under arrest, but fled outside the state instead. Remember, this is America, land of the free, guardian of democracy. I guess the Republicans will want to start rounding up the Jews next. Read about it here.
And now, a formal apology. It would appear that Lapdance Island is a hoax, part of a TV comedy show where they set up new (stupid) TV shows to see who falls for it. So, British TV is still better than the crap they peddle over here! My jingoistic crusade can continue! Hurrah!
Of course, this new show depends on the idea that a real Lapdance Island could happen, which is still a disturbing thought. And we're also getting, like when TV Go Home became a TV show, into dangerous areas of post-modern irony, where it almost ridicules and invalidates itself.
Wednesday, August 20, 2003
This isn't as funny as the Weapons of Mass Destruction one, but it's quite fun. I am dreading a flood of these faux error messages, however.
And a reminder: my main email address is down. But you can contact me at my earthlink account.
(And now I sound like a bigotted homophobic racist anti-Semite...)
It makes me want to write a book "set against the backdrop" of the blackout that happened over here last week, just to take the piss. Of course, this book will also have "A Novel" on the front cover somewhere, even though it'll be a short story collection or something. Bah!
So, next up is either a battered, second-hand copy of Gaiman's American Gods, or King's Gunslinger. I should probably read the latter, since it's been patiently waiting its turn for some time. After those, I have The Difference Engine and Oliver Twist (my first Dickens!) jostling for my attention. Suggestions would be welcome.
Finally, Henry McCoy needs to drop those deadbeat X-Men, and return to the Avengers. Same goes for the Ultimate version.
Sorry this has been so negative. I hope everyone is happy and well. G'night.
Tuesday, August 19, 2003
Actually, maybe this is the silliest thing to happen this year. It's becoming increasingly difficult to maintain my superiority complex over here. I can't even say that our television is better than theirs. Although the Americans did come up with this. It's a close thing though.
Life mimics art? It seems to in this case. on a largely unrelated note, this story shows that to many people "Batman" still means "camp 60's TV show", despite the comics industry's and Tim Burton's attempts to change that perception.
Monday, August 18, 2003
It all went exceedingly well. It was a very informal ceremony, and despite the priest being an African chap, it came across like those bumbling comedic Church of England ceremonies. The priest kept on cracking jokes, including one that seemed to be about the groom masturbating alone in his room, and the happy couple were very happy indeed. They were so excited and joyful that their enthusiasm infected the entire room, and we all ignored how uncomfortable it all was. The reception was a bit of a chore though, as we decided to wait until the couple had had their first dance and got the important stuff (speeches, etc) out of the way before leaving, and it took them ages to get to that point. So we were sitting in a tiny room, with 200 people we didn't know for far too long.
Still, Meg said I did very well by not ruining the day for everyone, and I had a good time, in spite of myself. And, as I realised on the day, who cares if I was uncomfortable, because this was Carol and Tony's day.
Not many links today, as I really just wanted to explain to my regular readers (that's Bill and my wife Meg, if you're counting) where I've been (although Meg knows where I've been, because she was there too...). Here's a fun one about America's illegal/immoral/ill-conceived occupation of Iraq. Leaders of the free world and defenders of democracy indeed.
I bought a bunch of new comics which were all rather good, which was surprising in some cases. I may post my thoughts on the big release-Neil Gaiman's 1602-on here, but since everyone will probably do the same, I may just save my thoughts for the Comics International review. I will be adding a synopsis and brief review of the latest Avengers comic to the relevant parts of my website though.
Now, I'm off for more water to drink, and to make some more progress through my current reading. It's very readable, but not very exciting, and it tries too hard to be clever. The best bits, ironically, are the bits from "within" the Escapist comic.
Oh, by the way, Danny has informed me that his blog may yet return in some form, so I'm leaving the link on the right up until he tells me otherwise.
Thursday, August 14, 2003
And what are all the TV channels shrieking about? Terrorism. It has to be terrorism, or as Bush has redubbed it, "terrah".
Egad. What's next? "Man steals apple from grocer. Department of Homeland Security suspects links to 'terrah' networks."
Long-time (ten dollar!) readers will remember that I bought the first Dark Tower book at roughly the same time that I purchased The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly on DVD, and that because in his introduction, Stephen King says that the Dark Tower series, and the first book in particular, is inspired by that film, I held off on reading the book until I'd seen the film. You'll also remember that I had great difficulty getting around to watching the film. Finally, yesterday, I watched it.
It's my Dad's joint-favourite film (High Plains Drifter, a favourite of mine, is the other). It has some kind of mythic significance to it that I've never understood, even though recently I've seen a lot of Clint Eastwood westerns (but Unforgiven still evades me!) and have been struck by how good they really are. Clint became such an icon that everyone sort of got used to him, and the sheen that made him an icon rubbed off a bit. You only have to see him in action in these films to "remember" that sheen. I've also been struck by how much I remember of them. I suspect my Dad watched them with me when I was very young, in a failed attempt at bonding.
Now I do understand. This film amazed me. It didn't give me goosebumps like Spider-Man did, but I could see why it had such an effect on my Dad. It's truly superb. I loved it. I can't describe it. I think this is what alcoholics call a "moment of clarity" (thanks Sam!).
if you haven't seen it, do so. Don't be put off by the three-hours-plus running time, because it doesn't feel like three hours. Just watch it!
As civil liberties are being stripped away every day in America, the ugly face of totalitarianism reveals itself in Britain.
Exam results were released today, back in Blighty, and inevitably, the complaints have begun. Every year it's the same. There's a record number of passes, and of high-grade passes, and the government decides that the exams are too easy, and go to work on them. The next year, pretty much everyone fails, and there's outcry about the exams being too hard, which they are because the government tinkered with them.
It's just digustingly rude to the kids. They're given no credit for actually being clever, and knowing the answers because they learned them. No. We can't be proud of our kids. No. We have to claim that they instead took advantage of flawed exams. That's so rude and dismissive. It angers me on principle, and also because a few years ago, I suffered as a result of it.
My year fell foul of the "tinkered" A-Level exams. The year before had done well, so we got a harder exam, with far stricter marking guidelines. The result was that the majority of our year got lower than expected grades, and those of us in the being-groomed-for-Oxbridge set fell very short of our goals. Only one of us scraped an A in any of their subjects. A letter-writing campaign began almost immediately, and surprisingly there was a response.
The way things are done in Britain, you actually apply to universities before you get your results, based on your teachers' predictions. This is why this thing is so damaging, because it hurts students' confidence as well as their ability to get into the university they want, subsequently changing their future plans a great deal. Anyway, I was lucky enough to get exactly the grades my chosen institution wanted (I was one of the Oxbridge set, but I didn't like Cambridge-far too grey and dreary, plus I'm so working class I would have felt crap going there). Others weren't so lucky.
The response: the exam boards acknowledged their mistake, and regraded people, but only if they failed to get into their chosen university based on the original grades. So I was not regraded, because it wasn't necessary. Which is crap, because what ever happened to self-respect?
Sorry. Rant over.
Dubai seems like a fun place to be. The Guardian calls it the "ostentatious emirate of Dubai", which should really be it's official designation, I reckon. Not only are they building a resort shaped like a palm tree, not only are they building a series of islands that will match the world's geography ("Yes, I'd like to stay in France please"), not only are they going to build the world's tallest building, but they're going to build an underwater hotel. Crazy place. Can't wait to go there.
Finally, a nice piece on racial diversity in America, particularly California. I'm beginning to think that any white civilisation is probably by default racist, although I do think that Britain gets it more right than the US and (particularly) Australia, BNP election wins and Oldham riots aside. It's especially ironic considering the ethnic diversity in these countries, due to decades, even centuries of immigration. Racism is a strange thing, on many levels. I don't understand racism itself, apart from on a purely primal biological level, but I'd like to think we're past that. I don't understand how people's brains can still be wired like that. Surely the intermingling of ethnic groups helps the species as a whole evolve? I don't know. Anyway, I'm rambling. I may have a think about this racist issue, and write something more coherent later. I might not. My thought originally was that this article was an interesting look at the other side of a nation which surprises/disgusts me every day with its xenophobia, racism, bigotry, heck, it's whole philosophy. The silver lining, if you will.
And that's the news. Sorry folks, it's all newspaper links today!
Wednesday, August 13, 2003
Monday, August 11, 2003
Nowadays, of course, I know exactly who Neil Gaiman is, and in fact live not too far from him. I own a couple of his Sandman books, and while I appreciate the craft, they're not my thing. I read his new children's book The Wolves in the Walls the other day and thoroughly enjoyed it, thinking it perfect for a Jackanory reading. Alas, I haven't read a new Pratchett book for years now. He became just a little too prolific a writer for me, and so I decided not to try and keep up. Well, I did get the illustrated The Last Hero a couple of years ago, but I'm not sure that counts.
Good Omens is an odd little book. I've always been fascinated with how writers collaborate. In comics, it's pretty straightforward. In most cases, the writer does a script, and the artist draws it. Simple. How two writers collaborate, I don't know. Perhaps one writer plots it, and one fleshes it out. Anyway, it's interesting to see that certain sections very clearly indicate which author wrote them, although the second half of the book definitely shows a strong Pratchett influence. Sadly, this also means that like many of Pratchett's solo books, the second half trails off in a somewhat bland fashion after what is an excellent start.
Still, a very enjoyable book which has some brilliantly realised characters, although Aziraphale and Crowley do steal the show somewhat. There are some very funny jokes in there, and there are some really clever little throwaway touches in the writing. It's just a shame that the plot is so bland, and increasingly so towards the end. Oh well.
Comicbookresources features a news article that reveals that the diabolically bad Chuck Austen (why are Marvel letting him write all their books?) is to take over my favourite Marvel title, The Avengers. Sheesh. I'm trying to be optimistic, but faced with the overwhelming lack of quality in Austen's work thus far, I'm finding it hard.
Saturday, August 09, 2003
I like even less to rant about the little things, because that just reveals how petty I really am. But I've been spending a lot of time in bookshops recently, and this annoys me...
"The Summer Book - A Novel"
It's not just that one, they all do it. Why do books have to have "A Novel" written somewhere on the cover? I know it's a novel. IT"S IN THE FICTION SECTION. And if I were really having a hard time, I'd just look on the back, above the barcode, where it would say "Fiction". No need for it. Cars don't have "A Car" written on the side, do they? Dogs don't have "A Dog" stamped on their foreheads. I think they only do it because every other book does it, and so we end up with a great big exercise in collective stupidity. Sheesh...
(By the way, The Summer Book is by Tove Jansson, the writer of the Moomins childrens' books, and Meg says it's a wonderful novel, so don't take this as criticism of the book itself. I bought it for Meg's birthday, and had it shipped over from Britain. Amazon.co.uk are so efficient that it arrived in plenty of time for Meg's birthday, seventeen days ago, and yet their order tracking service claims that it should arrive sometime between the 11th and 27th of August...)
On a happier, more positive note, Brighton won their first game of this football season. The Minnesota Thunder are still at the top of the Central Division of the Western Conference, but are now sixth overall in the nation. They now have only three "Magic" points (down from twenty-five), and I still don't know what Magic points are.
Meanwhile, in the Dominion of Kolonel K, the government decided to allow nudists to "go natural" in public if they wished to. Hmm...
Friday, August 08, 2003
Karen's coming up for the weekend, so I've been scrubbing the flat. I'm all light-headed and my hands smell of bleach. I hope she appreciates all this work I put in.
Bought Catwoman: Selina's Big Score yesterday, mainly because I think Darwyn Cooke is an artistic genius. He writes this one, a prequel to the new(ish) Catwoman series from DC. I'm not sure what I think of it as yet. I think I'll have to give it a couple of re-readings.
Something I did like was Amazing Spider-Man: The Life and Death of Spiders. I'm becoming more and more impressed with John Romita Jr's art, and JM Straczynski is doing an excellent job on the writing. Their run on Amazing Spider-Man started off well, but it seems to be getting better as it goes on. Good stuff indeed, and the big #500 is coming up soon, so it'll be interesting to see what they do with that.
Thursday, August 07, 2003
Dominion of Kolonel K update: I banned smoking in public places today. A controversial decision, but not too bad, since I was going to ban it completely. In the end, I decided that too many creative types would go mad if they weren't able to sit at their drawing desk/typewriter/computers without a cigarette in hand. I did it for the art!
A long-overdue haircut today!
Wednesday, August 06, 2003
Lots of links today. First, the fun ones. Did you all go and sign up on the site I mentioned yesterday? No? Off you go then. The Dominion of Kolonel K outlawed private corporate donations to political parties yesterday, and today made voting in elections compulsory.
Here's a piece about the National Eisteddfod and the Welsh language. I used to speak fluent Welsh, and I've forgotten the lot, which frustrates me. The cliches about spitting aside, I think it's a beautiful language, that sounds wonderfully ancient. Given that Tolkien based one of his Elvish languages on it (I can't remember which one-the other is based on Finnish), I think I'm in good company.
Here's a bit about the British being popular on the continent. Perhaps the Speaking Loudly And Clearly So They Understand tactic is finally paying off for our many cultural ambassadors? Actually, it's to do with the Euro, and as such the article tails off into dull economics towards the end. Shame that.
Finally, today is the day, in 1945, that America used nuclear weapons against Japan. People keep claiming that September 11th was the worst terrorist attack in history. I'm inclined to think this was.
Tuesday, August 05, 2003
For those of you out there who are chained to their computers today, and I know there's a couple of you, have some fun at this site. It'll bring out the George Bush in you...
Monday, August 04, 2003
I've fallen into bad habits.
I've got back into reading those Dungeons and Dragons novels again. I used to read them when I was much younger, having largely bypassed the childrens' books stage and moved on to larger, more adult books. My parents were very pleased, because all they saw were nice thick novels being devoured by their eight year old, which obviously meant he was the brainy sort.
In hindsight, most of those books were rubbish, although I reckon The Legend of Huma still stands as a pretty solid fantasy novel. I was a Dragonlance fan, and poured scorn on the other D&D series, most notably Forgotten Realms, the only series with as many books as Dragonlance had. But, I found Dragonlance first, so developed product loyalty, plus the Forgotten Realms books had really bad covers, while my ones all featured explosions and dragons, and huge armies. They just looked to be far more fun.
I've played Dungeons and Dragons a few times, but we only ever played in a generic game world, so it was only when I bought Baldur's Gate II for the PC that I got my first taste of the Forgotten Realms. Still, it certainly wasn't enough for me to get interested in those hundreds of novels that sit just opposite the graphic novels in my local bookshop.
But then I saw the title of this one, and knew I just had to read something with such an audacious B-movie title. I didn't expect to like it one bit, even though I'd heard good things about writer R.A. Salvatore.
I find myself pleasantly surprised by The Thousand Orcs, and rather annoyed that the second part doesn't come out until October this year, with the final chapter coming out an infuriating year after that. Yeah, it's stock fantasy, with belligerent dwarfs and arrogant elves, and all the rest, but it's told very well, and there is some depth to all this. The philosophical aspects are a little strained, barely rising above greeting card cliche, but there's some insightful political comment in there.
And much as I don't want to, I'm liking Drizzt Do'Urden. He really is the Batman of fantasy novels, even if he does write some bloody awful introspective poppycock between each section of the book.
A funny story about how the Reagan administration feared the rise to power of Neil Kinnock. Would the Americans have forced "regime change" I wonder?
Today, I saw a rather worrying trailer for a new Buffy-style show on American TV. Apparently, they're trying to promote Tarzan as the new teen-adventure series. He's not English, he's not Lord Greystoke, and he doesn't live in the jungle. Right...
We went to an outdoor arts fair today, which was basically a street market full of paintings and photographs. I liked a few things but it was all out of my price range, and a lot of it was rubbish. I also learned that photographers and artists really need to go to places other than Prague and Venice. If nothing else, it was a nice long walk out on a sunny day, just the sort of mild exercise I enjoy and don't do nearly enough of, hence the mysterious appearance of the spare tire...
Sunday, August 03, 2003
I should have some working comments now that I've dumped the Enetation system.
Saturday, August 02, 2003
I don't know enough about coding, nor do I have the time today to find out how to fix it, so you'll have to bear with me, I'm afraid.
If you want to comment, or know how to either fix the Comments or get a new system, please email me, either here or here.
Now, I'm off to do some drawings...
Friday, August 01, 2003
After what seems like almost a year, Borderline has returned! Well, sort of. We're all very uncertain about the future of the magazine, but it looks to be continuing as a bimonthly/quarterly publication, with a slightly different format to before.
I've really enjoyed writing for Borderline these past two years, so I'm overjoyed to see it back. I think we had something great there, and it would have been a shame for it to disappear.
So, off you go, go and download Borderline! And if you can, make a donation!
Finally saw Daredevil last night. I was pleasantly surprised. Meg points out that although it's all very impressive on the surface, it lacks depth, apart from in the early father-son scenes. I would agree, but that surface is very impressive indeed. The fights and stunts were great, although I've seen better, and like the recent X2, this film was very clever with its use of superpowers. The acting was good, especially Colin Farrell, who didn't have a lot to do, but did it really well. I can't stand Jennifer Garner usually, finding her rather soulless as an actor. Here, she impressed me as Elektra, although she is probably wrong for the part.
Affleck was good, doing a role somewhere between his witty and serious acting personas. His scenes with Jon Favreau were great, although there weren't nearly enough of them. He even managed to pull off that costume, which I'm still not convinced by, even though it didn't strike me as absurd while the film was going on. I think the black "jogging" costume from Born Again would have been a better bet, although this costume was better than that creepy one from the Hulk movie.
They got the low-key feel right, and the relationships, and the characters, but on the whole, not enough was done with any of these elements. It's a good film, but I want more. The DVD extras hint at lots of extra scenes that didn't make the final cut, and I would have liked to see them.
Not bad at all.