Delenda Est Carthago

Why not delve into a twisted mind? Thoughts on the world, history, politics, entertainment, comics, and why all shall call me master!

Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

I plan on being the supreme dictator of the country, if not the world. Therefore, you might want to stay on my good side. Just a hint: ABBA rules!


Toga party, Melbourne, February 1992. Even at the age of twenty, I was insecure about my body - hence the T-shirt under my toga. Ben had no such problem. Much alcohol consumption that night. And check out my groovy big glasses! Posted by Hello

What I've been reading

Only two days left in my Contest to Win Scurvy Dogs! You know, just so you know.

Stupid Blogger sucks the past few days. I can't leave comments anywhere, and if I can't leave comments, you might as well castrate me. Guy, if you're out there, I'm trying to enter your contest, but damned Blogger won't let me!

Anyway, what I've been (re)reading:

Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner by Paul M. Sammon
441 pages, 1996, HarperCollins Publishers

I like books about movies being made, and this is a good one. Blade Runner is arguably the most influential science fiction movie ever made, and Sammon does an excellent job of showing us the behind the scenes stuff that went on during the entire movie-making process. It's well researched, well documented, and intriguing. He takes us from Philip K. Dick's fiction and the actual writing of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? through the optioning of the rights and the struggle to get the film made. He breaks down each scene and the various postproduction processes that every film goes through. He details the strife on the set between Harrison Ford and Ridley Scott and Harrison Ford and Sean Young and Ridley Scott and the crew. The wrangles over the film's ending and voice-over and given considerable page time - I remember, when I was young, not minding the voice-over, but now I can't imagine the film with it. He examines why the film was a box-office disaster and how it survived through the new technology of home movie viewing. And he finally looks at the discoveries of other prints of the movie and the triumphant release of the Director's Cut in 1992. By that time, of course, Blade Runner was a modern classic, and it did very well in limited release.

This is a fine book, although there's not much to say about any kind of deep philosophical point Sammon is trying to make, since he's not really making one. He does get into the subtleties of the movie, like whether Deckard is a replicant or not and what the replicants actually want, but that stems from the movie itself and not from any kind of philosophy Sammon is espousing. This is a fascinating book about a fascinating movie, and one you should read if you enjoy Blade Runner. And who doesn't like Blade Runner? Commies, that's who!

Well, that was short. I started reading Fast Food Nation, which will elicit a longer critique. Now that's a disturbing book!


I like the word "meme"

There's only a few more days to enter my Scurvy Dogs contest! I'm sorry I keep pimping it, but the competition is heating up!

Anyway, I don't do all the memes I come across in the blogiverse, but I like this one. I don't know where it started, but Alan David Doane did it, and then Johnny Bacardi, Mike Sterling, Tom Bondurant, and Ed Cunard chimed in. I figured, what the hell?

- Bold those you have read
- Italicize those you started, but didn't finish
- Add three books after the last one

001. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
002. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
003. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
004. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
005. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling

006. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
007. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
008. 1984, George Orwell
009. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
010. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
011. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
012. Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte

013. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
014. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
015. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
016. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
017. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
018. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
019. Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
020. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
021. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
022. Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone, JK Rowling
023. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
024. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling
025. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
026. Tess Of The D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy

027. Middlemarch, George Eliot
028. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
029. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
030. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
031. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
032. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
033. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
034. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
035. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
036. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson

037. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
038. Persuasion, Jane Austen
039. Dune, Frank Herbert
040. Emma, Jane Austen
041. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
042. Watership Down, Richard Adams
043. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald

044. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
045. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
046. Animal Farm, George Orwell
047. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

048. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
049. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
050. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
051. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
052. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
053. The Stand, Stephen King
054. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
055. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
056. The BFG, Roald Dahl
057. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
058. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
059. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
060. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
061. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
062. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
063. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
064. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
065. Mort, Terry Pratchett
066. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
067. The Magus, John Fowles
068. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

069. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
070. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding
071. Perfume, Patrick Susskind
072. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
073. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
074. Matilda, Roald Dahl
075. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding
076. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
077. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
078. Ulysses, James Joyce
079. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
080. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
081. The Twits, Roald Dahl
082. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
083. Holes, Louis Sachar
084. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
085. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
086. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
087. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
088. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
089. Magician, Raymond E Feist
090. On The Road, Jack Kerouac
091. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
092. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
093. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
094. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
095. Katherine, Anya Seton
096. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
097. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
098. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
099. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie
101. Three Men In A Boat, Jerome K. Jerome
102. Small Gods, Terry Pratchett
103. The Beach, Alex Garland
104. Dracula, Bram Stoker
105. Point Blanc, Anthony Horowitz
106. The Pickwick Papers, Charles Dickens
107. Stormbreaker, Anthony Horowitz
108. The Wasp Factory, Iain Banks
109. The Day Of The Jackal, Frederick Forsyth
110. The Illustrated Mum, Jacqueline Wilson
111. Jude The Obscure, Thomas Hardy
112. The Secret Diary Of Adrian Mole Aged 13 1/2, Sue Townsend
113. The Cruel Sea, Nicholas Monsarrat
114. Les Miserables, Victor Hugo
115. The Mayor Of Casterbridge, Thomas Hardy
116. The Dare Game, Jacqueline Wilson
117. Bad Girls, Jacqueline Wilson
118. The Picture Of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde
119. Shogun, James Clavell
120. The Day Of The Triffids, John Wyndham
121. Lola Rose, Jacqueline Wilson
122. Vanity Fair, William Makepeace Thackeray
123. The Forsyte Saga, John Galsworthy
124. House Of Leaves, Mark Z. Danielewski
125. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver
126. Reaper Man, Terry Pratchett
127. Angus, Thongs And Full-Frontal Snogging, Louise Rennison
128. The Hound Of The Baskervilles, Arthur Conan Doyle
129. Possession, A. S. Byatt

130. The Master And Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov
131. The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood
132. Danny The Champion Of The World, Roald Dahl
133. East Of Eden, John Steinbeck
134. George's Marvellous Medicine, Roald Dahl
135. Wyrd Sisters, Terry Pratchett
136. The Color Purple, Alice Walker
137. Hogfather, Terry Pratchett
138. The Thirty-Nine Steps, John Buchan
139. Girls In Tears, Jacqueline Wilson
140. Sleepovers, Jacqueline Wilson
141. All Quiet On The Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque
142. Behind The Scenes At The Museum, Kate Atkinson
143. High Fidelity, Nick Hornby
144. It, Stephen King
145. James And The Giant Peach, Roald Dahl
146. The Green Mile, Stephen King

147. Papillon, Henri Charriere
148. Men At Arms, Terry Pratchett
149. Master And Commander, Patrick O'Brian
150. Skeleton Key, Anthony Horowitz
151. Soul Music, Terry Pratchett
152. Thief Of Time, Terry Pratchett
153. The Fifth Elephant, Terry Pratchett
154. Atonement, Ian McEwan
155. Secrets, Jacqueline Wilson
156. The Silver Sword, Ian Serraillier
157. One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Ken Kesey
158. Heart Of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
159. Kim, Rudyard Kipling
160. Cross Stitch, Diana Gabaldon
161. Moby Dick, Herman Melville
162. River God, Wilbur Smith
163. Sunset Song, Lewis Grassic Gibbon
164. The Shipping News, Annie Proulx
165. The World According To Garp, John Irving
166. Lorna Doone, R. D. Blackmore
167. Girls Out Late, Jacqueline Wilson
168. The Far Pavilions, M. M. Kaye
169. The Witches, Roald Dahl
170. Charlotte's Web, E. B. White
171. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
172. They Used To Play On Grass, Terry Venables and Gordon Williams
173. The Old Man And The Sea, Ernest Hemingway
174. The Name Of The Rose, Umberto Eco

175. Sophie's World, Jostein Gaarder
176. Dustbin Baby, Jacqueline Wilson
177. Fantastic Mr. Fox, Roald Dahl
178. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
179. Jonathan Livingstone Seagull, Richard Bach
180. The Little Prince, Antoine De Saint-Exupery
181. The Suitcase Kid, Jacqueline Wilson
182. Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens
183. The Power Of One, Bryce Courtenay
184. Silas Marner, George Eliot
185. American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis
186. The Diary Of A Nobody, George and Weedon Gross-mith
187. Trainspotting, Irvine Welsh
188. Goosebumps, R. L. Stine
189. Heidi, Johanna Spyri
190. Sons And Lovers, D. H. Lawrence
191. The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera
192. Man And Boy, Tony Parsons
193. The Truth, Terry Pratchett
194. The War Of The Worlds, H. G. Wells
195. The Horse Whisperer, Nicholas Evans
196. A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry
197. Witches Abroad, Terry Pratchett
198. The Once And Future King, T. H. White
199. The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle
200. Flowers In The Attic, Virginia Andrews
201. The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien
202. The Eye of the World, Robert Jordan
203. The Great Hunt, Robert Jordan
204. The Dragon Reborn, Robert Jordan
205. Fires of Heaven, Robert Jordan
206. Lord of Chaos, Robert Jordan
207. Winter's Heart, Robert Jordan
208. A Crown of Swords, Robert Jordan
209. Crossroads of Twilight, Robert Jordan
210. A Path of Daggers, Robert Jordan
211. As Nature Made Him, John Colapinto
212. Microserfs, Douglas Coupland
213. The Married Man, Edmund White
214. Winter's Tale, Mark Helprin
215. The History of Sexuality, Michel Foucault
216. Cry to Heaven, Anne Rice
217. Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe, John Boswell
218. Equus, Peter Shaffer
219. The Man Who Ate Everything, Jeffrey Steingarten
220. Letters To A Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke
221. Ella Minnow Pea, Mark Dunn
222. The Vampire Lestat, Anne Rice
223. Anthem, Ayn Rand
224. The Bridge To Terabithia, Katherine Paterson
225. Tartuffe, Moliere
226. The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka
227. The Crucible, Arthur Miller
228. The Trial, Franz Kafka
229. Oedipus Rex, Sophocles
230. Oedipus at Colonus, Sophocles

231. Death Be Not Proud, John Gunther
232. A Doll's House, Henrik Ibsen
233. Hedda Gabler, Henrik Ibsen
234. Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton
235. A Raisin In The Sun, Lorraine Hansberry
236. ALIVE!, Piers Paul Read
237. Grapefruit, Yoko Ono
238. Trickster Makes This World, Lewis Hyde
240. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
241. Chronicles of Thomas Convenant, Unbeliever, Stephen Donaldson
242. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
242. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon
243. Summerland, Michael Chabon
244. A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole
245. Candide, Voltaire
246. The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More, Roald Dahl
247. Ringworld, Larry Niven
248. The King Must Die, Mary Renault
249. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert Heinlein
250. A Wrinkle in Time, Madeline L'Engle

251. The Eyre Affair, Jasper Fforde
252. The House Of The Seven Gables, Nathaniel Hawthorne
253. The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne
254. The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan
255. The Great Gilly Hopkins, Katherine Paterson
256. Chocolate Fever, Robert Kimmel Smith
257. Xanth: The Quest for Magic, Piers Anthony
258. The Lost Princess of Oz, L. Frank Baum
259. Wonder Boys, Michael Chabon
260. Lost In A Good Book, Jasper Fforde
261. Well Of Lost Plots, Jasper Fforde
261. Life Of Pi, Yann Martel
263. The Bean Trees, Barbara Kingsolver
264. A Yellow Rraft In Blue Water, Michael Dorris
265. Little House on the Prairie, Laura Ingalls Wilder
267. Where The Red Fern Grows, Wilson Rawls
268. Griffin & Sabine, Nick Bantock
269. Witch of Black Bird Pond, Joyce Friedland
270. Mrs. Frisby And The Rats Of NIMH, Robert C. O'Brien
271. Tuck Everlasting, Natalie Babbitt Bleh.
272. The Cay, Theodore Taylor
273. From The Mixed-Up Files Of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E.L. Konigsburg
274. The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Jester
275. The Westing Game, Ellen Raskin

276. The Kitchen God's Wife, Amy Tan
277. The Bone Setter's Daughter, Amy Tan
278. Relic, Duglas Preston & Lincolon Child
279. Wicked, Gregory Maguire
280. American Gods, Neil Gaiman

281. Misty of Chincoteague, Marguerite Henry
282. The Girl Next Door, Jack Ketchum
283. Haunted, Judith St. George
284. Singularity, William Sleator
285. A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson
286. Different Seasons, Stephen King
287. Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk
288. About a Boy, Nick Hornby
289. The Bookman's Wake, John Dunning
290. The Church of Dead Girls, Stephen Dobyns
291. Illusions, Richard Bach
292. Magic's Pawn, Mercedes Lackey
293. Magic's Promise, Mercedes Lackey
294. Magic's Price, Mercedes Lackey
295. The Dancing Wu Li Masters, Gary Zukav
296. Spirits of Flux and Anchor, Jack L. Chalker
297. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
298. The Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices, Brenda Love
299. Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace.
300. The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison.
301. The Cider House Rules, John Irving.
302. Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
303. Girlfriend in a Coma, Douglas Coupland
304. The Lion's Game, Nelson Demille
305. The Sun, The Moon, and the Stars, Stephen Brust
306. Cyteen, C. J. Cherryh
307. Foucault's Pendulum, Umberto Eco
308. Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson
309. Invisible Monsters, Chuck Palahniuk
310. Camber of Culdi, Kathryn Kurtz
311. The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand
312. War and Rememberance, Herman Wouk
313. The Art of War, Sun Tzu
314. The Giver, Lois Lowry
315. The Telling, Ursula Le Guin
316. Xenogenesis (or Lilith's Brood), Octavia Butler (Dawn, Adulthood Rites, Imago)
317. A Civil Campaign, Lois McMaster Bujold
318. The Curse of Chalion, Lois McMaster Bujold
319. The Aeneid, Publius Vergilius Maro (Vergil)
320. Hanta Yo, Ruth Beebe Hill
321. The Princess Bride, S. Morganstern (or William Goldman)
322. Beowulf, Anonymous

323. The Sparrow, Maria Doria Russell
324. Deerskin, Robin McKinley
325. Dragonsong, Anne McCaffrey
326. Passage, Connie Willis
327. Otherland, Tad Williams
328. Tigana, Guy Gavriel Kay
329. Number the Stars, Lois Lowry
330. Beloved, Toni Morrison
331. Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal, Christopher Moore
332. The mysterious disappearance of Leon, I mean Noel, Ellen Raskin

333. Summer Sisters, Judy Blume
334. The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Victor Hugo
335. The Island on Bird Street, Uri Orlev
336. Midnight in the Dollhouse, Marjorie Filley Stover
337. The Miracle Worker, William Gibson
338. The Genesis Code, John Case
339. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevensen
340. Paradise Lost, John Milton
341. Phantom, Susan Kay
342. The Mummy or Ramses the Damned, Anne Rice
343. Anno Dracula, Kim Newman
344: The Dresden Files: Grave Peril, Jim Butcher
345: Tokyo Suckerpunch, Issac Adamson
346: The Winter of Magic's Return, Pamela Service
347: The Oddkins, Dean R. Koontz
348. My Name is Asher Lev, Chaim Potok
349. The Last Goodbye, Raymond Chandler
350. At Swim, Two Boys, Jaime O'Neill
351. Othello, by William Shakespeare
352. The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas
353. The Collected Poems of William Butler Yeats
354. Sati, Christopher Pike
355. The Divine Comedy, Dante
356. The Apology, Plato
357. The Small Rain, Madeline L'Engle
358. The Man Who Tasted Shapes, Richard E Cytowick
359. 5 Novels, Daniel Pinkwater
360. The Sevenwaters Trilogy, Juliet Marillier
361. Girl with a Pearl Earring, Tracy Chevalier
362. To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
363. Our Town, Thorton Wilder
364. Green Grass Running Water, Thomas King
335. The Interpreter, Suzanne Glass
336. The Moor's Last Sigh, Salman Rushdie
337. The Mother Tongue, Bill Bryson
338. A Passage to India, E.M. Forster
339. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky
340. The Phantom of the Opera, Gaston Leroux
341. Pages for You, Sylvia Brownrigg
342. The Changeover, Margaret Mahy
343. Howl's Moving Castle, Diana Wynne Jones
344. Angels and Demons, Dan Brown
345. Johnny Got His Gun, Dalton Trumbo
346. Shosha, Isaac Bashevis Singer
347. Travels With Charley, John Steinbeck
348. The Diving-bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby
349. The Lunatic at Large by J. Storer Clouston
350. Time for bed by David Baddiel
351. Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold
352. Quite Ugly One Morning by Christopher Brookmyre
353. The Bloody Sun by Marion Zimmer Bradley
354. Sewer, Gas, and Eletric by Matt Ruff
355. Jhereg by Steven Brust
356. So You Want To Be A Wizard by Diane Duane
357. Perdido Street Station, China Mieville
358. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Anne Bronte
359. Road-side Dog, Czeslaw Milosz
360. The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje
361. Neuromancer, William Gibson
362. The Epistemology of the Closet, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick
363. A Canticle for Liebowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr
364. The Mask of Apollo, Mary Renault
365. The Gunslinger, Stephen King
366. Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare
367. Childhood's End, Arthur C. Clarke
368. A Season of Mists, Neil Gaiman

369. Ivanhoe, Walter Scott
370. The God Boy, Ian Cross
371. The Beekeeper's Apprentice, Laurie R. King
372. Finn Family Moomintroll, Tove Jansson
373. Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock
374. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Philip K. Dick
375. Assassin's Apprentice, Robin Hobb
376. number9dream, David Mitchell
377. A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin
378. Five Quarters of the Orange, Joanne Harris
379. Darkness at Noon, Arthur Koestler
380. Einstein's Dreams, Alan Lightman
381. Dance On My Grave, Aidan Chambers
382. Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula Leguin
383. Hyperion, Dan Simmons
384. Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury
385. Checkmate, Dorothy Dunnett
386. To Say Nothing of the Dog, Connie Willis
387. A Clash of Kings, George RR Martin
388. The Egyptian, Mika Waltari
389. Moab Is My Washpot, Stephen Fry
390. Contact, Carl Sagan
391. Mythago Wood, Robert Holdstock
392. Feersum Endjinn, Iain M. Banks
393. The Golden, Lucius Shepard
394. The Decameron, Boccaccio
395. Birdy, William Wharton
396. The Red Tent, Anita Diaman
397. The Foundation, Isaac Asimov
398. Il Principe, Machiavelli
399. Post Office, Charles Bukowski
400. Macht und Rebel, Abu Rasul
401. Grass, Sheri S. Tepper
402. The Long Walk, Richard Bachman
403. Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman
404. The Joy Of Work, Scott Adams
405. Romeo, Elise Title
406. The Club Dumas, Arturo Perez-Reverte
407. Memnoch the Devil, Anne Rice
408. Dead Famous, Ben Elton
409. Scarlett, Alexandra Ripley
410. Dead Souls, Nikolai Gogol
411. Look to Windward, Iain M. Banks
412. The Colossus of Maroussi, Henry Miller
413. Branded, Alissa Quart
414. The Idiot, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
415. Dharma Bums, Jack Kerouac
416. White teeth, Zadie Smith
417. Under the bell jar, Sylvia Plath
418. The little prince of Belleville, Calixthe Beyala
419. Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
420. A King Lear of the Steppes, Ivan Turgenev
421. The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
422. Memoirs of a Revolutionist, Peter Kropotkin
423. Hija de la Fortuna, Isabel Allende
424. Retrato en Sepia, Isabel Allende
425. Villette, Charlotte Brontë
426. Steppenwolf, Herman Hesse
427. Ubik, Philip K. Dick
428. Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler
429. Solaris, Stanislaw Lem
430. The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
431. Nausea, Jean Paul Sartre
432. The Island of the Day Before, Umberto Eco
433. The Elementary Particles, Michel Houellebecq
434. The Angel Of The West Window, Gustav Meyrink
435. A Farewell To Arms, Ernest Hemingway
436. Naked Lunch, William S. Burroughs
437. Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut
438. In the Eyes of Mr. Fury, Philip Ridley
439. Consider Phlebas, Iain M. Banks
440. Into the Forest, Jean Hegland
441. Middlesex -Jeffrey Eugenides
442. The Giving Tree -Shel Silverstein
443. Go Ask Alice -Anonymous
444. Waiting For Godot, Samuel Becket
445. Blankets, Craig Thompson
446. The Girls' Guide To Hunting And Fishing, Melissa Banks
447. Voice of the Fire, Alan Moore
448. The Geography of Nowhere, James Howard Kunstler
449. Coraline, Neil Gaiman
450. Hip Hop America, Nelson George
451. A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway
452. Basquiat, Phoebe Hoban
453. The Walkaway, Scott Phillips
454. Captain Blood, Rafael Sabatini
455. The Day of the Ness, Andre Norton
456. The Circus of Dr. Lao, Charles G. Finney
457. Jitterbug Perfume, Tom Robbins
458. John Lennon: The Lost Weekend, by May Pang and Henry Edwards
459. The Bonfire of the Vanities, by Tom Wolfe
460. Mason & Dixon, by Thomas Pynchon
461. Underworld, by Don DeLillo
461. White Noise, by Don DeLillo
462. If on a winter's night a traveler, by Italo Calvino
463. Carter Beats the Devil, by Glen David Gold

I don't really know what the point is. It's certainly an eclectic list, but I doubt it says much about who you are as a person. Obviously there are more books out there than anyone could possibly put a dent into. And yes, I started Dune and hated it. That's the way it is. If anyone does there own, I'd be interested in reading it, so let me know.

I know I linked to all sorts of things yesterday, but Mike linked to this today. As he says, enjoy it before the lawyers find out. It's very funny and probably infringes on some copyrights, so get there quickly!


Spanning the Internet to bring you the constant variety of crap!

Last Sunday I skipped showing you some good stuff on the web. But I'm back from the dead (whoops, is that blasphemous, since it's the Big Day on the Christian Calendar?), and ready to take you on a tour of the wackiness that is the Internet!

First, I must (wait for it) pimp my Scurvy Dogs giveaway contest! You have only until Thursday to enter. The tension is palpable! More out-of-context humor: "I thought you said the Bay City Rollers were the voice of your people." It's comedy gold!

My sister doesn't read my blog, and it makes me sad. She claims she doesn't have enough time, what with the two kids and all. E-mail her and tell her that she's ruining my self-esteem. Be nice - she's very sensitive! (Yes, I'm evil. She never reads her e-mail either, so I don't feel that bad.)

At the top of blog is a "Next Blog" button. This leads you to some weird places. One of the places I went to I'm not going to link to because I don't want the guy to get any traffic - I want him to shrivel up and die, actually. Here's an actual quote from his blog in response to a company teaming up with Bono (of U2 and self-promotion fame) to bring the Internet to Africa: "What a friggin joke. Do they really think they'll be able to wire up all the grass huts or that the negroes will stop swinging from trees long enough to even try to fathom what the internet is? This is a colossal waste of time and money. AMD stock holders ought to riot over this." Yes, that's what he said. It's not the only horrible thing on his blog. Now, we can disagree on politics and religion and all sorts of things - this is America, and that's what it's here for. But this ... I don't advocate hunting this guy down and killing him, because it's his right to be an ignorant asshole, but the sad fact is that there a lot of people in this country who feel this way. Despicable.

Moving on to nicer topics, the Disgruntled Chemist links to tales of rectal foreign bodies (Ewwww!), a cyclops baby in a jar (only in Russia!), and lots of weird medical stories. It makes you appreciate your health all the more and not worry about that random ingrown hair you might get.

A lot of people have already linked to Funky Winkerbean and its story of the comic book retailer who gets arrested for selling an adult comic book to an, uh, adult. The story starts here and goes for a couple of weeks. They've moved on to something else now. It's in the "funny" pages, but stuff like this happens in real life. Only in Bush's America!

It's a random haiku generator!

Merlin has lists of five things. Most of them are funny, and some are really, really funny ("Five things I fear I might do if I were a ten-foot-tall monster with metal claws, laser beam eyes, and razor-sharp fangs").

Thomas's blog is very funny.

These people want Condoleeza Rice to run for president in 2008. Why should you support that? Well, you shouldn't, but you must listen to the theme song! Go to the site and click on the button along the left on which is written, "The Song: Condoleeza Will Lead Us." I swear, you won't be able to sleep well for a week. The horror ... the horror. (I saw this on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart last week. Why aren't you watching that show?)

Lego Watchmen characters. Man, those are cool!

I keep linking to McSweeney's because it's always good. If you scroll down a little you'll find "Implausible Claims Made by Vanilla Ice in His 1990 No. 1 Hit 'Ice Ice Baby.'" Classic!

Captain Corey pats himself on the back - but he has reason, because the werewolf fireman picture is excellent.

Chris Brown links to this article about comics journalism. Interesting stuff.

Leave a haiku comment at The Comics Curmudgeon! It's fun! (Mine's in there somewhere, but it's not that good.)

For those of you who need all my insights into comics: remember, I'm doing that here these days!

Bad Reporter. Funny.

Republicans are desperate to save white person Terry Schiavo, but black babies are fair game, apparently. The crucial sentence in this article: "Texas law allows hospitals to discontinue life-sustaining care, even if a patient's family members disagree." Who signed that law? None other than George W. Bush. "Culture of life," my ass, Mr. President.

DougBot has an interesting take on why we blog.

John Ostrander has a new post up (it's about time!). It's about a Ten Commandments monument in Texas. You may not know its history, but it's funny.

Silver Crane Spear Burgas. That's my kung fu name. Courtesy of Knotty Yarn. (Krys's is Stone Arm, because she's obviously tougher than I.)

Wesley Clark has a new site. He's not running for president, he's taking back America.

Two very interesting stories about Tom DeLay, from an avowed conservative.

I just love the headline of this article: Sales Drop at Wendy's After Finger Found. Ya think?

There's a blog about how great tacos are. It just started - get in on the ground floor!

Someone is offended by "Family Circus".

For DC Comics geeks, this is pretty interesting.

Will Pfeifer tells us why the new "Herbie the Love Bug" movie will suck. The funniest part of the post is that he reminds us where Volkswagen bugs came from in the first place.

Well, that's about it for this week. I hope you enjoy all my hard work!


Great songs, according to me (part 2)

Less than a week left in my contest! Not that I'm pushing you to enter or anything.

RIP, Morty Seinfeld. Wherever he's going, let's hope he'll be wearing the Executive!

Anyway, more great songs, according to me. Here's part 1.

11. All I Gave (by World Party on the album Bang!, 1993): Karl Wallinger, the force behind World Party, wishes he was playing music in the 1960s. His stuff has a light, Beatles-esque, Stones-ish feel to it, and his lyrics are 1990s-left-leaning fluff - that's not to say they're bad, they're just typical of this kind of music. "All I Gave" ends this album (there's a short coda, but this is the last "real" song) and it shines with optimism and love for, well, everyone. Wallinger has done better songs, but this is great for its fluffiness.

12. All My Little Words (by the Magnetic Fields on the album 69 Love Songs, vol. 1, 1999): The second time Magnetic Fields has shown up on this list, with a cute little tune about the ephemeral nature of love. A great line: "Now that you've made me want to die, you tell me that you're unboyfriendable." The fact that it's sung lightly makes the words sting even more.

13. All That That Brings (by Straitjacket Fits on the album Hail, 1988): I bought this album in Auckland in 1992, and although it's not the greatest, this song strikes a chord with me. Shayne Carter, the lead singer, howls with passion on this song, which goes a long way. It's got that eerie, metallic guitar that was so prevalent at this time, but that doesn't diminish the music at all. The album is out of print, but I thought I'd mention the song anyway.

14. All The Answers (by Jesus Jones on the album Liquidizer, 1989): I always liked Jesus Jones, even before they blew up in 1991, and this is a nice little album (their first). "All The Answers" gets here because of the snarky little chorus: "I'm so pleased for you/I'm so pleased you have all the answers." Such a nice, nasty thing.

15. All Your Way (by Morphine on the album Yes, 1995): Ah, Mark Sandman, we hardly knew ye. Morphine died in 1999 when Sandman did, but they put out some bizarre and excellent music. A bass, a sax, and drums: that was Morphine. They sounded like you were on drugs, too - lazy and sly and wicked. "All Your Way" is a beautiful song, full of subtle lyrics and supple music: "I was raised with the strong of heart but if you touch me wrong I fall apart." Great.

16. Always On The Run (by Lenny Kravitz on the album Mama Said, 1991): Ah, Lenny. Breaking out the goofy lyrics ("My mama said that it's good to actual" - Wha?) over such a funky track - I'll forgive you. I love this song - the music kicks ass, Slash's guitar solo soars, and at the end there's a saxophone solo preceded by Lenny telling his mama to wait a minute because he, you guessed it, has to play a sax solo! Ah, the wackiness that is Lenny.

17. American Horse (by The Cult on the album Sonic Temple, 1989): Man, The Cult is a weird band. They were doing their ethereal, vague, New Agey thing for a while (Love is a fine album), then decided "fuck that" and went all heavy metal on Electric. This was a smash hit for them, and "American Horse" is a fabulous song, following up the power and glory that is "Sun King" and "Fire Woman." Ian sneers through the song, a tribute to American independence and spirit. An excellent snarly classic.

18. Amerika v. 6.0 (The Best We Can Do) (by Steve Earle on the album Jerusalem, 2002): I don't know if Earle counts as country, but if he does, he's the only country music I can stomach. This is a great song, full of anger about what's happening in our country as only someone who spent time in prison can wail about. It's full of sadly funny lines, too, about selling out and growing up: "I remember when we were both out on the boulevard talkin' revolution and singin' the blues/Nowadays letters to the editor and cheatin' on our taxes is the best that we can do." Sing it, Steve! I like when artists sing about their political convictions. It's like the '60s, man!

19. Amnesia (by Chumbawamba on the album Tubthumper, 1997): Yes, I know "Tubthumping" was played so much you wanted to shove knitting needles in your ears. This is still an excellent album. "Amnesia" is a joyous, fast-paced, techno goody with somewhat wistful lyrics ("Out with the old, cheated by the new"). Chumbawamba is a fun band who, despite their brush with radio success, has never strayed from their anarchist roots. You gotta love it!

20. Amsterdam (by Coldplay on the album A Rush Of Blood To The Head, 2002): Shit, this is a great album. I bought Parachutes and thought it was okay, but then this came out. Holy Crap is it good. This is the perfect song with which to end the album - it starts slow and quiet but builds to a stunning climax. Martin starts off by almost whispering such devastating lyrics like "I know I'm dead on the surface/But I am screaming underneath" and then the music kicks in and his volume goes up and the urgency goes up until we reach the brilliant finale: "Stood on the edge, tied to a noose/You came along and you cut me loose." I get shivers.

Well, that's all for now. Snotty comments about my musical taste (or lack thereof) are welcome!


Only one week left in the Win Scurvy Dogs Contest!

How can you afford to pass this up? Answer: You can't! All the details are here! You'll be kicking yourself if you don't enter! Here's more out-of-context hilarity: "... and now it is time for you to take a one way trip to Valhalla, courtesy of Tribute Rock's Avenging Angel ... Lita Fjord!"


Odds and ends

In lieu of my normal comic-book buying post on Wednesday, I thought I would post olde-timey pictures that I have taken. I was in Australia in 1992, so I'll start with those. That's why that photo is below.

I was watching the Seinfeld episode where they get lost in the mall parking lot today. It's not one of the best ones, but something caught my eye. George uses the fact that they're lost to get an opening with a hot red head - he asks her if she wouldn't mind driving them around to look for their car. She says fine, and then seconds later throws them out because she's a Scientologist and George made fun of them. Well, the woman is Rita Sue from Carnivale. She's blonde now and, let's be honest, she's put on some weight, but it's her. Weird.

More fun stuff: A Playboy Playmate gets arrested. Worse yet, she apparently is living in a trailer. I'll probably go to hell for this, but here are pictures of her layout. Not suitable for work, obviously, unless you work at a porn bookstore.

And the news from the south just keeps getting weirder. IMAX is pulling a volcano movie in southern cities because it makes reference to evolution. Only in America!

Melbourne, Australia. February 1992. You have to love discount beer! Posted by Hello


Censorship is weird, and an assortment of tidbits

Yes, I'm going to pimp my contest again. Deal with it. Ask anyone: Scurvy Dogs is worth the money, and I'm giving it away.

For those of you who come here for comics-related stuff, I'll now be doing that over at Comics Should Be Good. They invited me to join, and I figured, "What the hell." Check it out - it's always good, and Gail Simone might drop by!

For those of you who don't come by here for comics-related stuff, well, it won't be here anymore. Now you don't have to skip that!

Anyway, moving on, I was watching "Legally Blonde" over the weekend (don't ask). It was on TBS, and I expect a fair deal of censorship on network and regular cable stations - I even have no problem with it, now that I'm a father. While I wait with Mia at night for Krys to get everything ready to put her to sleep (save your bile; we have a very good separation of duties worked out, so she's not doing all the work), I like to put on the television, because what the hell else am I going to do? Since I live outside of the Eastern Time Zone, things are on earlier, including some of the stuff that might be telecast a little later because of "mature" themes, meaning cursing! So I don't care if TBS or the networks or USA censors things a little - I don't want to be sitting there with Mia and have someone start dropping f-bombs at 6.45 in the evening. However, this weekend's showing of "Legally Blonde" struck me as weird, because TBS, at least, is wildly inconsistent with what they censor.

As various times throughout the movie, the characters say things that I was surprised they didn't cut. Jennifer Coolidge says something about her ex-boyfriend following his pecker to another woman. Someone else calls another character a prick. And Ali Larter, in the most egregious example, tells the lawyer defending her for murder that he should have seen her dead husband's dick, meaning that although he was 60 and she was 26, the sex was wild monkey sex.

Now, this is surprising enough, but when you consider that when TBS - the same exact station! - shows "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery" (the funny, first movie, not the two god-awful sequels), they cannot allow the word "penis" to slip in - as in, Swedish Penis Enlarger. It's such a funny part of the movie, yet they neuter it (sorry - I couldn't resist). It's the technical term, people! Now, I understand why they censor it - that's not at issue - but why do they censor that and not Ali Larter talking about how her husband had a big dick and kept her screaming in the bedroom? It's bizarre.

Other stuff: via Greg Morrow's blog, we get 13 things that do not make sense (in a scientific way). Interesting reading.

Lots of people talking about the Terry Schiavo case, better than I can do. Go to for an excellent article about it. The link is courtesy of Chris Galdieri, who also has an interesting reaction to the Republicans suddenly calling her by her maiden name.


Comics you should own (Arrowsmith)

I must keep pimpin' my contest! Remember - you must tell me why you want Scurvy Dogs in good old-fashioned pirate lingo! Nothing less will do!

I forgot to do link-stuff yesterday, so I apologize to those who have no time to surf the net and rely on me to do it. It will return next week!

If I start to think about the Terry Schiavo case, I'll get angry, so I won't. If I think about this, I will also get angry. Support the war or not, but when soldiers are making what appears to be snuff films (read the article if you don't believe me), I get angry.

So I thought I'd fire away on another edition of the Award-Winning "Comics You Should Own" segment here at Delenda Est Carthago. Okay, I haven't won any awards. The Pulitzer people will feel my wrath!

Since I now have a backlog, here are some other comics you should own and why. Remember, someday I will be your supreme leader, so you might want to stock up!

300 by Frank Miller
1963 by Alan Moore et al.
Alias by Bendis and Gaydos
Amazing Spider-Man #229-230 by Stern and Romita Jr.
Amazing Spider-Man #238-251 by Stern, Romita Jr. et al.
Animal Man #1-32 by Morrison, Truog, Milligan et al.

Now, I add another!

Arrowsmith by Kurt Busiek and Carlos Pacheco
DC/Wildstorm/Cliffhanger, 6 issues (#1-6, cover dated Sept. 2003-May 2004 - really July through March)

This is (so far) the most recent of the comics you should own, but that doesn't diminish its worthiness. It's a wonderful comic book, the kind of comic that all creators should strive to do, in that it tells a self-contained story that doesn't rely on years of continuity (there's a time and a place for that) and it explores other uses of the comics medium besides superhero stories. Comics are a fabulous medium for fantasy tales, a fact that some creators have appreciated more than others (Busiek is one; his other contributions to the genre include A Wizard's Tale and now, Conan), and it would be nice to see an audience grow for this kind of book, since anyone can appreciate this story, not just hard-core comics fans.

The story is straight forward enough: World War I fought in an alternate universe where magic is real and useful in a war. The participants are the same, despite being referred to by the countries that exist in Busiek and Pacheco's world: Albion (England) fights alongside Gallia (France), Lotharingia (Brussels/Holland) and Muscovy (Russia) against Prussia (Germany), Tyrolia-Hungary (Austria-Hungary) and the Ottoman Empire (the, well, Ottoman Empire), while the United States of Columbia (wonder who that could be?) stands on the sideline. In issue number 1, a troll refers to the "Peace of Charlemagne," which apparently set the boundaries of Europe for something like 1000 years (Lotharingia is named, presumably, after Lothar I, Holy Roman Emperor from 840-855 and Charlemagne's grandson - Carolingian history rules!). Into this mess comes a young "American," Fletcher Arrowsmith (groan at the pun if you must; I did), who volunteers for the Overseas Aero Corps, an elite unit that uses the flying power of dragons to fight dogfights in the skies over Europe.

This is all stunningly rendered by Pacheco, whose art has matured leaps and bounds from his early (decent) work on the X-titles. From the fiery Prussian troll that attacks the Gallican lines in the first few pages to the destruction of a Prussian town by giant green-flaming salamanders, the magical stuff in Arrowsmith is unbelievable. Pacheco also excels at the quiet moments, drawing wonderful human emotions in Fletcher, Grace, Rocky the troll, and all the other characters. This book is worth is for the art alone.

Busiek hits all the standard "war story" notes, and it's in this where the book is weakest. When Saving Private Ryan came out, one reviewer mentioned how difficult it is to do war movies, since there's an inherent beauty in destruction (this is even more evident in The Thin Red Line - what a beautiful movie that was). Well, in a world where magical beings abound, it's even more difficult for Busiek to write an anti-war book, which is part of his point. In issue 5, when the OAC drops the salamanders on a Prussian town in a scene probably evoking the Dresden firebombing in WWII, it's a beautifully drawn tableau (blame Pacheco). When the rag-tag survivors fight off the Prussian assault in issue 6, it's majestic and stirring, even though people are dying. It's the nature of the beast, and despite Busiek's attempts to show that "war is hell," we're too amazed by the magical creatures and wonder at how he integrates them into a gritty narrative to be too disturbed by his anti-war sentiments.

Despite this, it's a good story. What makes this an interesting book rather than just a nice-looking one with a decent story is the way Busiek uses the fantastic as a metaphor. The crucial scene in the book actually comes in issue 1, when Fletcher talks to his father about the war and his desire to volunteer. His father says it's not his war, so why should he have any part in it? He says:

"And this flyin' nonsense - even more foolishness. What's it make that a man could eat, or use, or sell? Nothin', that's what. 'S a reason why magic don't work around cold iron - it's unnatural. Nothin' sensible men should put their trust in."

Fletcher tells him that some men are using magic to fertilize fields, cure sicknesses, and other things, and Martin Arrowsmith explodes in anger and says:

"They're just puttin' good men outta work with these 'miracle methods.' They'll see, when it backfires on 'em ... This new commercial wizardry may be all th' rage in the big cities - but it won't catch on here."

Martin never shows up again, but he provides the book with its dramatic tension, one that Busiek explores subtly throughout the whole work. World War I, obviously, is a moment in time when the "modern world" was created - the era of the gentleman-soldier was over, small armies and "noble" fighting were gone, and the age of the meat-grinder army was at hand. What Busiek is doing with the magical angle is highlighting the tension between the old generation and the new - Martin doesn't like all this new-fangled magic stuff (even though it's been around, apparently, a long time) and doesn't think it will catch on. Fletcher, meanwhile, with the endless optimism of youth, throws himself into the magical world with abandon. It's only after he has experienced it first-hand does he start to question his decision. However, he, like the rest of the world, can never go back - Pandora's Box is open. At the end of the book, Fletcher realizes, like the people on the Manhattan Project, that some things might be better left unexplored.

Busiek has always been a bit of a nostalgic writer - he wrote the JLA/Avengers crossover, for crying out loud! - and here, his nostalgic yearnings are channeled quite well. He never thumps us with a "things were better in the past" vibe, allowing instead his characters to discover that progress doesn't always mean "better." Fletcher never wants to return to his home, despite the horrors of war that he experiences. Fletcher, unlike Busiek occasionally, understands that we cannot go home, and he must force his way through to a better future instead of striving for a bucolic past. Magic (and war) has remade the world, and Fletcher needs to make the new world a good one.

Busiek varies a little as a writer - some of his stuff his okay (Avengers, some stories of Astro City) and some of his stuff is excellent (Marvels, the rest of Astro City). In Arrowsmith, he creates a world that allows him to play to his strengths - a "common-man" view of great events, a large cast, each with a well-defined personality, and a sense of wonder about the world. Arrowsmith succeeds because it takes a standard Busiek weakness - nostalgia for a lost innocence - and subverts that to tell a fable about growing up. It's a grand adventure story, and it works as one, especially when paired with Pacheco's fabulous art. But it is elevated by the subtext, which makes it a mature reflection on war, innocence, and the future.


Murder mysteries in comics: Are they any good? (Spoilers, obviously)

I can't go a day without reminding you about my contest to give away a copy of Scurvy Dogs! Scroll down or click here for all the ugly details! Can you afford to miss it? I think not!

I mentioned the other day that the last issue of Angeltown came out, and I was somewhat disappointed by it. Because I'm not very eloquent, I couldn't quite put my finger on why I was disappointed. Somewhere I read a review that crystallized my thinking (I'd link to it, but I can't remember where it was!). It said that Phillips spent issues 2-4 wandering around, and in issue 5, lots happened because he had to wrap it up. It got me thinking that maybe this wasn't a terribly compelling story, but I think, in retrospect, that it was a compelling story. What I think now is that maybe it wasn't a well-written murder mystery.

I don't often read murder mysteries - I'm not a connoisseur of the genre, so I can't speak for hours about it, but I do like them. In my mind, a great murder mystery should be opaque the first time you read it but obvious the second time. This is really difficult to do, and it's a reason I don't write murder mysteries - my mind doesn't work that way. In my mind, the classic of the genre is "The Murder on the Orient Express," because when you re-read it, you can see all the clues and can understand how Poirot figures it out. I decided to take a peek at some comic book murder mysteries and see how they work, because to me, comics and film are perfect vehicles for really good murder mysteries.

Why? Because comics and movies are visual as well as literary, so the opportunities to drop clues, I think, are much more expanded with comics and film. In comics and movies, you don't need to have the characters talking while you drop clues, and you don't need to write narration as in books. I think of The Sixth Sense (first spoiler alert!) and how the camera lingers on Bruce Willis while Haley Joel Osment is explaining about dead people. Shyamalan does this very deliberately, but the audience only notices after we watch the movie a second time (unless you're my friend Ken, who always guesses the endings of movies because he sucks). There are lots of other examples, but I want to focus on comics, not movies.

The comics I wanted to look at are:

Angeltown #1-5 by Gary Phillips and Shawn Martinbrough
The Joker: Devil's Advocate GN by Chuck Dixon, Graham Nolan, and Scott Hanna
The Maze Agency #2 by Mike W. Barr, Adam Hughes and Rick Magyar
Point Blank TPB by Ed Brubaker and Colin Wilson
Powers "Who Killed Retro Girl?" TPB by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming
X-Men #138-141 by Grant Morrison, Phil Jimenez and Andy Lanning (#138 has the one-page prologue to the murder)

This is not meant to be a comprehensive list - it's not even a comprehensive list of murder mysteries I own. I just thought this was an interesting cross-section of murder mysteries. If you haven't read any of these and are planning to, don't read on, because I'm giving away the murderers early and often!

First, I want to look at the two that I think are the "worst" murder mysteries of the bunch. This does not mean I think they aren't worth your time, I just don't think they do a good job of providing the reader with the means to solve the mystery on his or her own. That is the essence of a good mystery. The touchstone of a good comics mystery remains Watchmen, and Moore uses the visual aspect of the medium excellently to leave clues, especially the famous panel in Chapter V when Adrian Veidt is holding the thug who attempts to kill him and looks directly at the "camera" and says, "I want to know who's behind this." That's what I'm talking about when I mean using the visual aspects as well as the literary aspects of comic books. So, the first two "murder mysteries."

For a book with Batman, Dixon's graphic novel is weak on the detecting part of things. I really like this book, and Nolan's art is as good as it ever was, but the book is not really about finding the murderer - it's almost an afterthought to the main story, which is Batman proving that the Joker, for once, is innocent of the crime for which he is convicted and sentenced to death. Someone has been poisoning stamps, and it seems like a perfect Joker crime - random, malicious, crazy, and the dead people all have Joker venom smiles. When Batman and Robin capture Mr. Joker, however, he protests his innocence. He is sentenced to death, but Batman is unconvinced and eventually proves the Joker's innocence, much to pretty much everyone's dismay.

The problem with the book is that we first see the real murderer on page 10, when he kills his wife. That was the whole reason for the killing spree - to deflect suspicion from Ernst Kelleher, who killed his wife for the rather lame reason that she would never shut up. We see him a couple of times after his wife dies, on the television crying his eyes out. Dixon throws in a couple of red herrings - a guy who used to work with the Joker and his girlfriend, but it's an annoying red herring, because he doesn't really ever explain what they are doing. It appears they are simply using the murders to extort money from the city, but they also appear to have poisoned stamps. I don't get it. There is detective work done, but we have no way of knowing that Kelleher is the owner of the storage facility where Joker kept his venom until the moment Batman puts his hand on his shoulder. It doesn't work. It's still a good story, mind you, but it's a cheat in terms of a well done murder mystery.

You'll notice the lack of Batman stories on the list. Well, that's because most Batman stories where he does actual detecting read like Devil's Advocate - there are clues, but not enough for us to figure it out on our own. I'm waiting to see what Lapham does with his opus in Detective Comics.

The first storyline of Powers, "Who Killed Retro Girl?" is also a big failure as a true murder mystery. It irked me when I first read it, because I was expecting a lot better from this title I had heard so many good things about. It's not a bad story, it just doesn't work as a mystery, and maybe Bendis wasn't really going for that. He may have just been going for a introduction to the whole Powers universe, getting the players in position and showing the relationship between Deena and Walker starting, but if he was doing that, couldn't he have come up with a better story? Sorry - this isn't a review of the actual story of "Who Killed Retro Girl?" It's a review of the murder mystery aspect of it. We don't even start getting a sense of killed our heroine until midway through issue #5, when some random dude comes in to tell our heroes about Jon Jackson Stevens and his hatred of "capes." Walker and Deena go pick him up, and he confesses - just like that. Then Wolf kills him. Nice detective work, lady and gentleman! There are no clues at all - even the "Kaotic Chic" clue tells us absolutely nothing. This is a lazy kind of murder mystery, because it doesn't even allow the detectives to do any actual detecting. Maybe this is how "real" police work gets done, with random people coming off the street and pointing the cops in the right direction, but I hope not.

Okay, moving on, let's look at some "actual" murder mysteries - comics where the mystery is front and center, and the writers want them to be solved by the characters in the story. The most "obscure" comic on my list might be The Maze Agency - this particular issue came out in 1989. Barr's comic is really excellent - Hughes on art is brilliant, and the "Moonlighting" feel to the flirting between Gabe and Jen is spot on. Issue #2 is a murder mystery in the classic sense - it's a personal crime, and Gabe and Jen solve it in the "all-the-suspects-in-one-place" kind of way that Christie always used to use. However, it doesn't really work as a murder mystery. The set-up is this: 9 episodes of a classic sit-com, "Lefty," have been found. The creator's son, Stephen Milner Jr., and the show's co-star, Carter Andrews, are going to distribute the new material through Glenn York, who also distributes porn. On the first page, we learn that these episodes, since they are not covered under Andrews' original contract with the network, are going to be extremely profitable to both Milner and Andrews. On page 9 we learn that Milner has been killed, and Gabe's friend is in jail for the crime - he was discovered standing over the body by Milner's wife. The clues in the issue are very helpful at pointing the reader toward the reason for the crime, but not the actual murderer. The reason for the crime is that the episodes were fakes, filmed in a secret studio with an actor who looked like the young Carter Andrews, and Milner filling in for his father. The clues are actually placed pretty well throughout the book. However, when the actor who played Andrews panics and demands extortion money to keep his mouth shut, he too is killed, and the original three suspects - Milner's wife, Glenn York, and Carter Andrews - are all on the scene when he is killed, so any one of them could be the killer. Gabe figures out that Carter Andrews is the killer because he's wearing his shirt inside out, so the bloodstains from bashing in a head wouldn't be seen. The problem with that is: blood would seep through the shirt, so it wouldn't matter if Andrews turned his shirt inside out, and we never actually get to see the shirt very clearly, so when Gabe makes his pronouncement, it comes as a surprise. On page 21, we see the three suspects rather clearly, and although Hughes draws Andrews' shirt, it still looks like he's wearing it the right way. We see his shirt only one other time (on page 25) and again, no evidence that it's backward. It's a typical polo shirt with what appears to be a pocket on the left breast, so you would think we would see stitching or maybe a cleverly placed tag on the back. Because of this lack, we can't really figure out that it was actually Andrews until Gabe reveals him. It's a good issue, but not a perfectly done murder mystery. Still, it's a fun read.

That's the only issue of The Maze Agency that I want to look at (some day the first 5 issues will be a subject of Comics You Should Own, and I'll get more into depth then), so I'll move on to Morrison's X-Men, and "Murder at the Mansion." Now, let's ignore that it's not really a murder, since Hank McCoy jigsaw puzzles Emma Frost back together again like she was Humpty-Dumpty. It was intended to be a murder (Point Blank isn't a murder, either, but it was supposed to be), and that's what counts. The problem with this story is despite its title and the presence of Bishop, "mutant detective," Morrison's not really all that interested in allowing the reader to solve the mystery. It's annoying, because it ties in with the grand storyline he was writing on X-Men at that time, but because of Marvel's new idiotic policy of "writing for the trade," he had to boil it down to a short story with no real resolution. There are a few clues about who shot Emma - most particularly Sage saying "The sun in a box!" over and over in issue 141 - but no reason why exactly she was shot (besides being telepathic and possibly being able to pierce Magneto's disguise, but why wasn't Jean, a much more powerful telepath, shot too?). Esme pretty much admits to the crime, but we learn at the end of the story that it was really someone male and much taller who pulled the trigger. We learn later that it's Xorn, or Magneto, or whoever he's been retconned as, but we don't find out now, and Morrison never intended us to find out now. This is a part of an excellent story, but it's not much of a murder mystery.

I just picked up Point Blank this week, and it partially inspired me to write this post. It also, more than the first Sleeper trade, which I bought a while ago, made me want to buy the other Sleeper trades that are out there (yes, I know Sleeper is coming to an end, but if you think about it, Brubaker has had 29 issues to tell a story - not bad). Point Blank is the "prequel" to Holden Carver's saga, and it's really a good book. There's no murder, since John Lynch is simply in a coma, but he was supposed to die, so that's that. We learn at the end that Cole Cash shot Lynch, but he was under the mental domination of TAO, so TAO is really the bad guy. Does Brubaker leave us any clues to point us in either Cash's or TAO's direction?

Well, sort of, but not really. We don't ever really get clues that Cash shot Lynch, but we do get plenty of clues that Cash is fucked up in the head, and that TAO is responsible. Whenever Cash is in the bar where he was supposed to meet Lynch the night he got shot, he talks about his thoughts being messed up and he feels like he's forgotten something. When he leaves the bar because Lynch never showed up, he tells Yvonne, the bartender, "If Lynch shows up, tell him I waited." Yvonne says, "Uh, sure, Cole ... but I thought ... Nevermind." She says this because Lynch actually did come in, and Cole left with him and shot him, then returned to the bar. She isn't sure what happened because TAO is fucking with her mind as well. When you look back, it becomes obvious that TAO has his hand in it from the beginning, but that doesn't make it a good murder mystery - Cash learns that TAO is running a criminal organization, but he only finds out he shot Lynch because TAO tells him. The reader has no idea that TAO is behind this unless they have some previous knowledge of TAO and his abilities - Alan Moore created TAO for his run on WildC.A.T.s, and there's that great sequence where TAO totally destroys Fuji's mind, and Brubaker echoes that ability. However, that shouldn't be necessary to read Point Blank, and it's not really, since we get that information as we go along, but it also means that this is not a true murder mystery, since we can't figure it out ahead of time.

Finally, we get to Angeltown. In issue 5, we learn that the killer is Toasty, Paul Teddy's daughter, who killed Burnett's wife because Alison was going to expose her past in porn movies and put the kibosh on Toasty's chance at real stardom. Let's look at the so-called clues.

We first see Toasty on the set of the horror film she's making, which is her big break. Nate Hollis got her name from one of Burnett's teammates, and Nate finds out from her that Burnett had an apartment not a lot of people knew about. Nate goes there and is accosted by thugs sent by Paul Teddy, Toasty's dad. Paul Teddy is involved in this because his daughter asked for his help after she killed Allison. Teddy becomes Nate's biggest suspect, but he, like everyone else in the book, is a red herring. I have nothing against red herrings - we need suspects, but the problem is, the next time we see Toasty, it's in issue #4, and she gets only a page and it doesn't tell us anything new. On the very next page, Nate has her name with a question mark after it written on a page, and then he goes to a book of "Horror Flick Chicks" and finds out her real name, presumably - it's how he knows she's Paul Teddy's daughter in issue 5. In that issue, Nate finds out Paul Teddy had an alibi for the night of the murder (why no one found this out earlier is not explained) and that he didn't care that Allison was going to expose Toasty's porn past. Nate finally draws Toasty out and she gets caught.

The problem with this series is there's a lot of sound and fury, ultimately signifying very little. As in the other books I've looked at, Phillips isn't only concerned with the murder - he wants his book to be a saga of L.A. and a story of Nate trying to make up for letting his murdered father down - but it should at least be a mystery that we could solve on our own. We find out Paul Teddy's real last name in issue 2 - it wouldn't have been that difficult to show the page Nate was reading in the horror film book with Toasty's real last name, and then we could have at least put that nugget together. Similarly, Nate tells Toasty at the end that he noticed she had large hands, and Allison was petite, so people thought a man killed her. Couldn't that have been a plot point somewhere?

Anyway, that's all for now (finally, say some of you). What have we learned? Well, it appears that talented writers are not taking advantage of the comics medium to tell a really good mystery as well as they could. There are so many opportunities to fill panels with clues and random bits of dialogue and background information, but writers and artists are failing at it. I'm sure there are "real" mysteries in comics, but this little essay makes it clear that it's a lot harder than it sounds, and it's something that writers should take a look at. I would say that comics is an excellent place to do really clever murder mysteries, and I hope for more of them.

Sorry for the excessive geekiness of this post. Let me know if you know of any really great murder mysteries in comics. I'd be interested in your opinions.


Television shows that should be on DVD

Don't forget about my contest! Details here. More out-of-context hilarity: "Four doubloons, captain." Trust me, it's funny when you read about it! I've received one big entry so far, and it's a hoot! You have until the end of the month!

Today, simply a list of television shows that I would buy if they came out on DVD. Your suggestions are welcome!

WKRP in Cincinnati: Yes, I know that it's probably never going to happen because of the licensing fees for all the songs (Tom the Dog has the link to the news story about it). But it would be nice - what a classic show.

Real People: This was a pseudo-news/reality/variety show from the early 1980s, with Sarah Purcell, Byron Allen, Fred Willard (funny even back then!) and that kid from A Christmas Story (Peter Billingsley, I think his name was). I used to watch it religiously. It's probably never coming to DVD, because it was too "of-the-moment" and wouldn't resonate with viewers today, but if you think about it, what show isn't "of-the-moment," really?

Square Pegs: This probably has the same problems WKRP does - lots of music, so licensing fees would be through the roof. But what a great show.

Manimal: You read that right. Read it again if you didn't believe it the first time. My wife pities me for my affection for the show.

It's Like, You Know: We thought this was really freakin' funny when it was. So of course, it only lasted a season and a half. I would love to own it.

Okay, so most of the shows I liked are already on DVD - The Greatest American Hero, The Dukes of Hazzard, Wise Guy to name a few - but these would be great. Anyone have other old favorites they would love to see again?


All right, you crazy people, it's Scurvy Dogs contest time!

First of all: it's Erik Estrada's birthday! He's 56. Raise a glass to Ponch!

(My lovely wife just let me know that it's Flavor Flav's birthday too: he's 46. In light of his role in Scurvy Dogs, it's pretty cool that he was born today! Thanks, Lovely Wife Krys!)

Okay, contests are all the rage. People on the web are giving out things left and right. I've been telling you all to buy Scurvy Dogs for a couple of weeks now, and as far as I know, you haven't! (Okay, I have no idea if you have or not, I just felt like being dramatic. You can get information about how to buy it here, - you can't buy it directly from them - but why would you? I'm going to give it away!)

So, why should you want it? Because it's freakin' hysterical! I just re-read it, and it's still freakin' hysterical! Almost every panel has something quotable - you don't even need the context! (Watch: "The cow says: TRUE!" See? Hysterical! Okay, maybe you need the context. How about this: "Yes, but why should we hire you, Mr. Blackbeard, rather than some other pirate captain with a similar background in ... 'keelhaulin' and skull-duggery'?" Come on, people!)

Okay, I got off track there. This is a comic that everyone with a sense of humor can enjoy - you don't even have to like comics! And I'm freakin' giving it away. Yes, that's right: Giving. It. Away.

But ("crap," say you, "there's a catch" - well of course there's a catch - it's a contest!) you have to earn it (I typed that in my best John Houseman voice). I want you to tell me why you deserve to receive this excellent tome, why you are worthy! How can you prove your worth? Well, here's what you do:

E-mail me. The subject is "Scurvy Dogs contest." In this e-mail, you'll tell me why you deserve a copy of this book. But you must talk like a pirate in your e-mail. Go to the links I've provided to see some excellent examples! If you're of the poetic frame of mind, you can write in the form of a sea shanty. Obviously, the funnier you are, the better - it's a freakin' comedic comic book! (If you have a blog, include the URL in your e-mail. I'll give you some pub, for what it's worth.)

I encourage all the non-comics fans who read this blog (that includes you, Roxy!) to enter - I personally vouch for the excellentness of this book. Ask a comic book reader if you don't believe me! I'll give you until the end of the month. That's two whole weeks! You can almost taste the pirate goodness!

That is all. Return to what you were doing - but get to composing!

Comics for 16 March 2005

I'm actually going to post twice today - look for the next one later tonight! (I know, you can barely contain your excitement.)

Before comics, let's look at the weird world that is comic-book sales. Today the dude at my store was talking about how much he's looking forward to the new Star Wars movie. I called him a sucker. He does not like Grant Morrison, so he called me one back. That's fine, but doesn't anyone know the "fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me" vibe? Lucas has fooled me twice. Screw him and his "Revenge of the Sith" crap.

I went to the other comic store (long story) and some employee was coming out of the store with a hat on that was part of the neck and head of Godzilla. I kid you not. It was about a foot high. Sheesh.

Okay, on to this week's comics!

Angeltown #5 by Gary Phillips and Shawn Martinbrough
$2.99, DC/Vertigo

Angeltown comes to a close, and it was fine, and things got wrapped up, and Martinbrough's art was purty, and I liked it, but it was just okay. Not anything great, but fine. That's probably not good enough to spend the money on it. It's a nice noir kind of thing, but Phillips kind of throws in some "life lessons" that we don't really need and can figure out for ourselves. I don't know - it didn't really blow me away. It's a shame, because there was some nice stuff, but put together, nothing great.

Ex Machina #9 by Brian K. Vaughan, Tony Harris, and Tom Feister
$2.99, DC/Wildstorm

Marc Singer recently had a Brian K. Vaughan hate-fest (he didn't intend it to be, but it turned into one) about Y: The Last Man (and he just linked to me - thanks, Marc!), but because I don't read that title, I was just along for the ride. Some of his comments dealt with this book and how much the people hated it, and that makes me scratch my head. I guess you can hate it if you want to, but that's weird - this is an excellent book. Enough action to keep you satisfied (not a lot in this issue, but enough), lots of suspense, creepiness, politics, interpersonal relationships - lots of good stuff. Vaughan's take on gay marriage is a tad simplistic (although it's a shame that it can't be solved in the way he suggests; it makes so much sense!), but it's nice to see a book actually tackle issues beyond "What would happen if the JSA of today met the JSA of the 1940s?" We see the fall-out from September 11th, tying nicely into the weird stuff going on in the subways. Mitch gets slapped and shot - it's not a good day for Mitch. And Mitch's NSA contact Jackson Georges has some nasty words to say about the world's only superhero, and later he ... well, read the book! Harris's artwork is stunning, as usual. It's a great book.

The Human Race by Ben Raab, Justiniano, and Walden Wong
$2.99, DC

Why do these comic book creators need to have one name? They're not Cher! They're not Madonna! They're not even a Brazilian soccer player!

Anyway, remember Xenobrood? Yeah, I didn't think so. It was a seven-issue mini-series that came out about 10 years ago, and it introduced a bunch of new superheroes to the DC Universe. Moench wrote it and Tomm Coker did some of the art (I can't remember who did the rest). It was okay, but nothing great. And now we have The Human Race, which has potential, but it looks like it's going to turn out to be another Xenobrood. Fine, but nothing great.

Nice art, vaguely reminiscent of Tim Vigil (or is that crazy?). Decent story - an alien virus (Raab even uses the term "xeno-virus" - see what I mean???) came to earth and invades its host and "resequences its DNA and creates an entirely new species for it to dominate." Oooh, scary. The kid in the story (his name's Ulysses, in what I'm sure will have meaningful import in the series) is the first successful transplant. The bad guy (Paracelsus - at least he has a cool name, and Raab actually deftly explains who the "first" Paracelsus was) wants Ulysses because he wants to create a new breed of human so he can rule the earth. The fraternity (I'm not kidding, they really are a fraternity!) of heroes want to stop him and help Ulysses get his humanity back. Mayhem ensues!

Like I said, it's nice art and the story is moderately intriguing. I very much doubt I will pick up the rest of the series. It just doesn't blow me away, and that's what we need with comics.

Human Target #20 by Peter Milligan and Cliff Chiang
$2.99, DC/Vertigo

And so it's almost over. Next month, this title goes the way of the dodo. That's life. Enjoy it while you can. Seriously, if you're not reading this, you should buy the back issues - there aren't a lot! It's a wonderful book, and proof that Milligan should never write superhero stuff and stick to weird stuff like this. Tom McFadden is back to steal Chance's life, but first he has to get rid of Chance. He takes Bruno hostage, and we're led to believe that bad things will happen to Mary next issue. I hope not - we've seen enough violence against women in comics recently, and Mary's a pretty good character. The nice thing about this issue is that you're always sure who is McFadden and who is Chance - which, to be honest, is one of the weaknesses of the series - sometimes you have no idea if it's actually Chance. Wait a minute, that's probably Milligan's intent. I should shut up. Anyway, a fantastic book getting the kibosh after next issue. Bump up its sales a little before the end!

Incredible Hulk #79 by Peter David, Lee Weeks, and Tom Palmer
$2.99, Marvel

We think we get some answers with this issue, but do we really? More weirdness from the mind of Peter David, and I'm getting a little more comfortable with this arc. General Ross is clearly sinister (as he makes sure we know on page 2), we get some more of Bruce's teenage years (why was it necessary, Peter, to turn him into Peter Parker? I plan on asking David that on his blog), and toward the end of the issue, Ross gets a fantastic line when the girl (Gwen) says they're in hell, and Ross says, "But since I don't see any three-headed dogs around, I wouldn't be -" just before a three-headed dog leaps out and drags him away. Bwah-ha-ha! (Cerberus is the three-headed dog guarding the entrance to the underworld in Greek myth, for the uninitiated.) And the Hulk fights Fin Fang Foom. Seriously. The last time I saw Fin Fang Foom was in Legion of Night (what a cool mini-series that was!), and it's just neat seeing him here. He should hang out with Lockheed more often. David really loves giving the Hulk great dialogue, and it's fun here. Again, things are not what they seem, and we think we get answers, but I'm still not sure. Jesus, Wolverine shows up next issue (it's probably not really him, but again ... Jesus). Do guest stars in Marvel comics even work anymore to increase sales?

Noble Causes #8 by Jay Faerber and Fran Bueno
$3.50, Image

Crap, it's still $3.50, but this was a good issue. Last issue was good, this issue was good ... it's renewing my faith in the title and makes me not mind as much spending the money on it. Lots of stuff going on, after last issue's focus on Race and Liz. Here Rusty gets in a "whose-dick-is-bigger" fight for leadership of the expedition on the alien planet, and gets his ass kicked. Unfortunately for him, it's not the only ass-kicking he endures this issue. Zephyr learns something disturbing about Liz, and Doc Noble escapes from the bug house. See what I mean? Lots of stuff going on. I even enjoyed the back-up story, because the Quizzard (yes, he's a Riddler rip-off, for those who don't buy this) has henchmen that he forces to dress like women. It seems he wanted "hench-models," but they charged too much, so he improvised. Now that's funny stuff! (Okay, I ruined the joke. Sue me.) All in all, a good issue. Worth the money.

The Question #5 by Rick Veitch and Tommy Lee Edwards
$2.99, DC

Not much to say about this - if you've been buying it, you're probably still buying it, and if you're not ... well, there's only one issue left, so you're probably not going to. More beautiful art from Edwards, more machinations by the Subterraneans and Lex Luthor and Miles Van Vliet, and more chi crap from Six True Words and Vic Sage, although Six True Words does get thrown off a building (I'm not spoiling anything, it's on the cover, for crying out loud!) when she finds out that Lex isn't as munificent as she thought. Why do people keep falling for Lex's act - don't they read comics???? It's a good story, and like I said, the art is spectacular, and you should buy it. That's all. Superman's kind of rude in it, although he is not necessarily a dick.

Ultimate X-Men #57 by Brian K. Vaughan, Stuart Immonen, and Wade von Grawbadger
$2.25, Marvel

The other Vaughan book this week is really good. I'm serious. This might be the best Ultimate X-Men issue since ... well, I hate to say since Millar was on the book, because of my hatred for all things Millar, but I think I have to. Dazzler continues to rule all creation, Spiral turns out to be pretty cool (although not as cool as she could be), the X-Men lose (sort of), Kurt is still blissfully ignorant that Peter is gay (nice panel of Peter all alone after Kurt says, "You and I are quickly running out of available young women, no?"), and we get nice moral ambiguity that used to be a hallmark of the X-titles (as you well know, I don't read them anymore, so I don't know if that has shown up again, although I doubt it - seriously, Claremont, SAURIANS????). Really excellent stuff. I have no idea when Vaughan is leaving the book (it might be now, for all I know), but I know I'll stick around at least until then.

No, I didn't buy The Ultimates. Yes, it was pretty. Yes, I'm still boycotting Millar.

Another post later tonight! Exciting stuff! I will be giving something away soon! How can you not read about it????


Phoenix is a ghost town, and other things

I was going to let you ruminate on my awesome musical taste for a day or two, but what the hell, I'll post again.

First: who knew?

You scored as Islam.

Your beliefs are most similar to those of Islam. Do more research on Islam and possibly consider taking the shahadah and officially becoming a Muslim, if you aren't already. Despite the actions of some - who go against the teachings of Islam - Islam is a religion of peace; the word "islam" means "peace through submission to God." "Muslim" means "one who submits to God." Islam is the third of the three Abrahamic faiths, and it shares much with Judaism in Christianity; its differences are the acceptance of Muhammad as the last and final prophet, and the oneness of God - in other words, that Jesus, though he was a revered prophet, was not in fact God, and only one God exists. Apparently the Taliban could not read (though their name means "students"), because the Qur'an states that men and women are equal as believers, and that all believers should be educated and seek knowledge. Modesty in dress and behavior is required in Islam for both men and women to preserve the values of society and move the emphasis from superficial appearance to intelligence, knowledge, and God.
Islam: 75%
agnosticism: 71%
Buddhism: 54%
Paganism: 50%
atheism: 46%
Hinduism: 42%
Judaism: 38%
Christianity: 33%
Satanism: 33%

Courtesy of the which religion is right for you? quiz. Wow. Posting will re-commence once I've made the hajj.

Moving on, on Friday night Krys and I went out to dinner with her father, since it was his last night in town. We went to Famous Dave's at the picturesque Chandler Fashion Center. Krys and I got the rib tips, while Wally got a full rack. Sweet Fancy Moses, they were quite possibly the best ribs I've ever had. Melted off the bone, just melted! Dipped in an excellent, slightly spicy BBQ sauce. Unbelievable. I told our waiter that I could do commercials for it. I'm doing one now (of course, it's unpaid). Go to the web site and see if there's one near you. Then go, quickly. You won't regret it.

Finally, I drove through downtown Phoenix yesterday and today. It's weird, because it's a ghost town - seriously. People around here always talk about making downtown more vibrant, and let me tell you, they have their work cut out for them. First of all, the downtown area is really small. It's weird how small it is for a region with 6 million people. Second of all, there's nobody out on the streets. Yes, it's a work day, but in Portland, there was always street activity, even in the middle of a Monday or Tuesday. In the summertime the activity is even less - it doesn't help the area that for a good six months of the year it's too hot to go outside. Phoenix has some potential, I suppose, but it's dead. I like to point out that truly great downtowns are near water, and while Phoenix sits on the Salt River, it's not much of a river (due to the rains this winter, there's actually water in it for the first time since 1997). Everyone is in their own little communities, and Phoenix is the rotten core. Downtown Mesa is more vibrant than downtown Phoenix! My father-in-law did not like it here (I don't blame him) because there's nothing to do. He's right. The major activities in the Basin are golf and going to the mall. If you want to get a look at the future of America, people, come to Phoenix and its surrounding villages. Here it is - suburbs as far as the eye can see, golf courses, malls, very little culture beyond sports, and no sense of community whatsoever. I wish I was kidding.


Great songs, according to me (part 1)

What good is a blog if you can't throw idiotic opinions out there and open the floor up for discussion? I will now discuss songs that I think are great. Why are they great? Because I said so. Feel free to disagree.

There's really no absolute criteria here. I'm not afraid to go low-brow (see Southern Culture on the Skids or, heck, Cinderella, both of which have songs on my list), and I'm not afraid to tell you when the lyrics to a song are incomprehensible (Mother Love Bone's songs fall into that category - Andrew Wood was doing some serious drugs). I'll explain a little about each song, but these are great songs because I feel it in my gut that they're great. The inclusion of a song does not mean that the album it appears on is particularly great, or that the band is one I particularly love. It's my opinion that everyone has one great thing inside them, and some of these bands struck gold only once. These songs are also from CDs and tapes that I own, so if I don't own it, it ain't on here. Hence the lack of Beatles songs (sorry, I only own one album - Sgt. Pepper's) and Dylan (don't own anything by Mr. Zimmermann). Maybe that makes me the worst person to comment on good music, but what the hell - that's why we live in America!

The songs are in alphabetical order. I couldn't rank them if I tried. Away we go!

1. Abigail, Belle of Kilronan (by the Magnetic Fields on the album 69 Love Songs, vol. 2, 1999): Stephen Merritt is the twisted genius behind this excellent album (and yes, there really are 69 love songs) and this is a good one on it. Most of the songs on these albums are short and sweet, and this one is no exception. It has a lilting Irish-type melody going on, the deep, deep bass of Merritt, and sad lyrics about going off to fight the war (WWI, presumably) and leaving the girl you love behind and encouraging her to find new love.

2. Absolution (by Carol Noonan on the album Absolution, 1995): Carol Noonan writes folk music, so if you're not into that, you'll hate her. Some of her songs can be a bit ponderous, but Absolution, though slow, is not. Her powerful alto works really well in songs about despair, and this is one

3. Add It Up (by the Violent Femmes on the album Violent Femmes, 1983): Come on, sing along with me: "Why can't I get just one kiss ... Why can't I get just on screw ... Why can't I get just one fuck!" Well, Gordon, it's because you're weird. But we still love you. (Check out their web site - they got old!) Of course, this song also features the great couplet: "Words all fail the magic prize/Nothin' I can say when I'm in your thighs." I get chills.

4. Adore (by Knots and Crosses on the album There Was A Time, 1999): Before she went solo, Carol Noonan fronted this band. Back in 1993, I was working in a factory that made U-Haul decals (you all know what they look like). I used to listen to a lot of radio, and most of it made little impression. However, I kept hearing this song and its tale of a woman who can't keep away from a guy who's no good, and I loved it - lots of pain/joy in Noonan's voice. I never found out what group did it, but years later, I finally did, and more than that, they released this compilation disc, since their only two albums have been out of print for years. Really beautiful music, and this is a gem.

5. Afraid Of Sunlight (by Marillion on the album Afraid Of Sunlight, 1995): Marillion is the greatest band ever. There, I've said it. I will brook no argument (yes, I know the top of the blog says ABBA rules, but Marillion is better). Now that we've gotten that out of the way, I can say that the title track from this album is a haunting tune about loss and fear of the unknown. It builds to a stirring climax, too, which is something I like in a song.

6. Afterglow (by Genesis on the album Wind & Wuthering, 1976): Genesis used to be my favorite band, and I still like them, even though it's sad that Phil became a hack. This was their second album after Gabriel left, and it's a very good one, ending with this song. I'm a sucker for songs beginning and ending albums well, and this is a perfect album-ender (the band used to use it in concert to end a long instrumental set, with good effect). Banks wrote this, which may account for it not being schlock. It keeps building and building until Phil cries out, "I miss you more," and the instruments kick in and you feel like you've just heard a great song on a great album, and you have.

7. Alexis (by the James Gang on the album Bang!, 1973): I'm not a big fan of the James Gang, and this album is simply fair-to-middling, but Alexis is a great song. It's the typical late '60s/early '70s folk-rock tale of a girl who gets in over her head and the guy who's way too old for her, but it's the guitar solo at the end, all gritty and grungy and majestic, that clinches its greatness.

8. All Apologies (by Nirvana on the album In Utero, 1993): Nirvana was a great band, and this song, their "last," is even better today since it seems to anticipate Cobain blowing his brains out. It's a creepy little song: "Choking on the ashes of your enemies." Brrr.

9. All For Leyna (by Billy Joel on the album Glass Houses, 1980): You know, part of the reason I'm doing this list is because BeaucoupKevin recently bashed a co-worker of his who said Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20 is the most talented musician alive. Now, that deserves bashing, but Kevin went on to bash Billy Joel, and while that's certainly his prerogative, Joel has a ton of talent, even when he tries to "rock out," like he does on this album and, sort of, in this song. Excellent piano playing, as usual, and nasty little lyrics about how horrible Leyna is ("She didn't tell me there were rocks under the sand") and how it doesn't matter, because he's smitten. Guys can probably relate (hell, women can). A great song.

10. All I Ever Wanted (by Lenny Kravitz, on the album Mama Said, 1991): Lenny breaks out the cliches waaaay too often, and he does here, but there's a lot to be said for sincerity, and Lenny can sing with the best of them. Nice soft piano by that Lennon kid, and when Lenny screams, "When I know I want you, and baby you want me," well, that seals the deal.

Well, that's all for now. Feel free to bash away. Or, you could always read more about these people here if you're so inclined. How can I take over the world if you don't know what music will be playing ALL THE TIME and give you time to prepare yourself?