Lost In The Supermarket

One depressing thing about living in a residence hall is that you spend your time in supermarkets looking at all the things that you can’t take back and cook, no matter how appealing they look. I can fit a tub of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in the freezer section though, so it’s not all bad.

Midterms now less than a week away. And I haven’t even started revising yet. This is not going to be good….

The Telephone Bill That Refuses To Be Paid

I’m now on my third attempt. It seems that American cheques are just different enough to create confusion in just where I’m supposed to sign, so they’ve helpfully sent the cheque back, and realising that I’ve already got it wrong twice, circled where they think the signature should be.

There was a reason why they got rid of all the different flavours of Kryptonite in 1986 - they were fun at first, but soon became an obvious crutch that writers relied on all too often. Smallville hasn’t learnt that lesson, dragging out a by-the-numbers Red Kryptonite story early in the new season. Predictable and insipid. And I resent the hyping of the soundtrack afterwards, which gives the impression that the WB are selling music spots on the show.

Fall Break begins tomorrow. I plan to celebrate with work and revision. Although I do have a 400W power supply on order, so I might try to upgrade my computer again at the weekend. Hopefully it’ll go a bit smoother than last time. I’ve also ordered my plane ticket for home - I’ll be back on December 18th, and staying until January 7th. I will obviously expect Bicester to have undergone huge changes in my absence…

currently playing: Beth Orton - Carmella

(That's) How You Sing Amazing Grace

Low laughed and made jokes. Not quite what you would have expected from listening to their records. They played all the songs that I wanted to hear (with one exception; the second greatest Christmas song ever wasn’t performed, but it’s not Christmas yet, see?), and more besides. The music felt like it was an intricate cobweb that the slightest touch would disintegrate (especially on Point Of Disgust), only to suddenly transform into tempered steel as they became louder and faster, faster and louder. I met two nice people, April and Jo, who had driven all the way from Charlotte to see the show. They bought the support act a drink, that’s how nice they were. I also bumped into one of the students in the Operating Systems class that I’m assisting, so the first concert in Chapel Hill wasn’t quite the solitary pursuit that I thought it would be at the start of the evening.

Of course I forgot to bring my camera, but I will hopefully remember to take it for next week’s main event: Sleater-Kinney.

currently playing: Low - Just Like Christmas

Fun With Google

After talking to Luke yesterday, I decided to have a look through my logs and see what search requests have been hitting the site recently. Amusingly, the site is the #1 result for ‘You broke my heart, Fredo’. I’m also on the first page for seaches on ‘Jack McCoy’. There’s a few hits from the V Forum’s egosurfing event last weekend as well.

Worked a little better today, managing to get the web proxy server mostly finished this afternoon; I just need to add some code to generate the statistics for the report, and then I can move on to the testing phase. I still didn’t do as much as I wanted though, so there’s room for improvement.

MSCL update: AnotherUniverse hasn’t paid BMG one dollar for the box sets. Which means they’ve been sitting on over $300,000 for about nine months now. As you can imagine, people are even less happy than they were when the box set was listed on Amazon. AU is apparently going to meet BMG tomorrow to sort out the financial details, but I don’t think we’re ever going to see the box set materialize from them.

currently playing: Angel

Sick, Sober, and Sorry.

This entry is being written whilst being curled up in my bed, Linus-style. I did plan to get some work done today, but I just seemed to collapse every time that the thought of doing anything entered my mind. This probably has something to do with the pressure I put myself under for the compiler project this week. So I spent the day reading some more of my book, and watching His Friday and Broadcast News.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to get some work done tomorrow…

currently playing: Kelly, Gene , O’Connor, Reynolds - Good Morning

The Rain In Chapel Hill Falls Mainly On The Plain

Considering it was still warm and sunny at the start of the week, the amount of rain that’s been pouring down for the past twenty-four hours is extremely impressive. It should help the water shortage somewhat, I suppose.

This week in Transformers: Armada: the kids take the minicons to a carnival. FOR THIRTY MINUTES. Look, it’s quite simple to write a half-decent Transformers story; you take big giant robots, and have them fight each other. Having them wandering aimlessly around a fair is not exciting. In the slightest.

Did I mention that I was going to see Low on Monday? Mormons are cool.

Akaka (D-HI) Bingaman (D-NM) Boxer (D-CA) Byrd (D-WV) Chafee (R-RI) Conrad (D-ND) Corzine (D-NJ) Dayton (D-MN) Durbin (D-IL) Feingold (D-WI) Graham (D-FL) Inouye (D-HI) Jeffords (I-VT) Kennedy (D-MA) Leahy (D-VT) Levin (D-MI) Mikulski (D-MD) Murray (D-WA) Reed (D-RI) Sarbanes (D-MD) Stabenow (D-MI) Wellstone (D-MN) Wyden (D-OR)

When yesterday’s vote is as infamous as the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, remember that these Senators (and some Congressmen) voted no. In the strongest possible terms:

Make no mistake, we are voting on a resolution that grants total authority to the president, who wants to invade a sovereign nation without any specific act of provocation. This would authorize the United States to act as the aggressor for the first time in our history. It sets a precedent for our nation – or any nation – to exercise brute force anywhere in the world without regard to international law or international consensus.
Congress must not walk in lockstep behind a president who has been so callous to proceed without reservation, as if war was of no real consequence.
currently playing: Funny Face - Stanley Donen/Audrey Hepburn/Fred Astaire


In lieu of anything else to talk about, my three recommendations for this week:

  • Black Panther #50
    The best monthly superhero comic that nobody reads. Nobody ever thought it would ever make it to #50. Nobody seriously expects it to last until #60. It’s about one of those nutty characters that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created in the 1960s; King T’Challa is The Black Panther, king of a wealthy and technologically advanced African nation. For thirty years, Black Panther wavered from being a goofy adventurer, to the token honourable Black Guy on The Avengers. Five years ago, Christopher Priest (Marvel’s first black editor, and the person who hired Peter David) started writing the Panther’s first solo title for over a decade. Priest has long suffered from what is affectionately known as ‘The Curse’, where he would write five or so issues of a title before it was cancelled beneath him. We weren’t expecting it to last, but normally Priest manages to get a few good stories told before the title disappears.

    I don’t think anybody expected Panther to be the best work of Priest’s career. From the dubious origins of T’Challa, Priest crafted a deeply funny and complex book, soaked in the politics of Black America, African tribes, and superheroes. It was The West Wing, but with explosions. It had multi-layered plotlines, sharp and witty dialogue, fabulous art by the likes of Sal Velluto and Mark Texakira, and the Devil’s Pants.

    And nobody bought it.

    Priest has tried just about everything to improve the sales of the title, reducing the cast to a more manageable level, having guest-stars such as Wolverine make an appearance, and streamlining his complex plots. Nothing has worked. Black Panther #50 is the final attempt. Priest’s own take on the revamp is ‘less West Wing, more Law & Order’. King T’Challa is missing, presumed dead, but someone in the Black Panther costume has been spotted around New York, using extreme measures to stop criminals. New artist Dan Fraga’s art is quite impressive, and the ‘widescreen’ panel layout used throughout the issue gives it a very cinematic feel. It’s not Black Panther as you knew it. But it’s still infused with Priest’s excellent dialogue and plotting. You should buy it, or at least have a look at the first trade paperback, Black Panther: The Client, featuring the Devil’s Pants.

  • Stormwatch: Team Achilles #4
    Yes, Richard, there’s a new Stormwatch title. This is a little different; the new Stormwatch is a UN military unit, whose mission is to seek out and kill superhero threats. This issue kicks off a new storyline, where the team discovers that their current targets are located in Chechnya. Which just happens to be under the protection of The Authority (a hyper-violent version of the Justice League, who don’t have any qualms with interfering with the way the world works). Micah Wright, a newcomer to the comics scene, is writing an interesting story here, but the art drags it down quite a bit; Whilce Portacio’s storytelling seems stilted and rough, but if you can get past that, it’s quite enjoyable.
  • Transformers - The War Within
    Shut up. I’ve so far avoided all the new Transformer comics, as a sample reading of G1 #2 turned out to be very disappointing. However, there was no way I was going to miss this series, as Simon Furman is doing the writing. Furman was the writer on the Transformers: UK comics, and was responsible for some fantastic stories, involving extremely high body counts and copious amounts of mighty robotic angst. Titan Comics is currently reprinting some of his best work. I advise you to check out the Target: 2006 trade paperback, his first ‘epic’, featuring gorgeous artwork from Geoff Senior and Ron Smith. Anyway, this new mini-series is set in the beginning of the Autobot-Decepticon War, and is the tale of how Optimus Prime became the leader of the Autobots. And it’s got Grimlock shooting things and being Grimlock in it. I can’t really justify the purchase on grounds other than it had big giant robots blowing things up and lots of Optimus Angst. Just like when I used to walk in the driving rain to get my copy of Transformers UK.

My poor credit card

The University finally caught up with me today, so I’m $2,500 worse off. Curses.

A minor war seems to have broken out over the troubled My So-Called Life DVD set. People have been double charged, release dates have been announced and missed, special features promised failed to materialise, and so on. Everything went crazy last Friday, when Amazon listed the supposed ‘exclusive’ box set for about $30 less than AnotherUniverse’s pre-order price. It doesn’t come with a lunchbox, or the special features disc (just a few interviews so far), but it does have a release date. The MSCL site is full of angry diatribes, especially as they come to realise that AU has probably been making a nice profit off the interest from the 3,000 original orders. Not a great situation. I cancelled my original order today; I would have paid quite a lot in shipping costs, as it was going to my UK address, and I’d rather have the 19 episodes than hold out for a lunchbox and a rather sparse feature disc.

There’s a huge list of comics I have to pick up tomorrow, one of which features an appearance of The Authority….

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Apparently, I am now known by sight at my hall’s mail desk. I haven’t been ordering that much. It’s just that Amazon is being very helpful and splitting my orders up to send them faster. Yes, that’s the reason. Denial is great.

Firefly finally found its mark last Friday, with a witty and inventive episode written by Joss Whedon. No sound in space! A gun called Vera! A special place in hell reserved for people who talk in theatres! Pity it’ll probably be cancelled by Fox in a few weeks (although last Friday’s ratings were up from the week before).

Somebody needs to tie Amy Acker down and feed her several Elvis-sized burgers. In last season’s Angel, she was extremely thin; in last night’s season opener she seemed to have had all the fat in her body sucked out with a twin-vortex Dyson. Not pretty at all. Go on, have a chip, Amy.

I’m planning on going to the cinema this week. Mainly because I haven’t been for almost two months now, which is actually worse than my record back at home. What should I see? The Rules of Attraction, or White Oleander?

currently playing: Pulp - Babies

Hooray For Everything

The Warren Ellis Forum is dead. Long Live The New Flesh. After four years, Warren decided to call it a day and get back to writing, rather than spending sixteen hours out of twenty-four flirting with his many female fans. The WEF comprised a total of 25,000 members during its lifetime (incidentally that’s more people than who bought Transmetropolitan last month), and it provided a home for lively discussion about comic theory, comic titles, current news, films, music, and Giant Death Robots. It created movements, memes, various satellite groups (such as The V Forum and Grammarporn), and, hell, it almost single-handedly saved Top Shelf Comics from bankruptcy when their distributor filed for Chapter 11 protection. Over $20,000 of comics were purchased. In one afternoon. Companies such as Cyberosia, Oni, and AiT/PlanetLar used the forum to promote their works, advertising to a more diverse audience than would be normally found on a comics website, and reaped the benefits. We were mighty. We were Making Comics Better.

Sadly, there was a flipside to all this. The WEF at times resembled little more than a personality cult centred on Warren’s rather Spider Jerusalem-like online persona. Sycophancy ran high, with many posters regurgitating Warren’s screeds about superhero comics and work-for-hire contracts. The forum was regarded by most other Internet comics communities as being too elitist for its own good. After Warren’s blistering ‘This Is What You Want’ discussion, where he highlighted that many people on the Forum were talking up a storm, but continued to buy the same superhero comics every week, there was a definite decline in the atmosphere. The WEF had a strict moderation policy to prevent flame wars in the USENET style, but the satellite fora were not so controlled. Instead of preventing the bickering, all the ‘Stalinist’ moderation did was move it to the satellites. In someways, this was even worse than the USENET system, as it just built resentment rather than dealing with things out in the open; people explored various forums such as Memecenter to find that they were being mocked mercilessly. The ‘old-guard’ WEF posters drifted away from the forum, many saying that the sycophancy of the newer crowd, plus less interesting threads to participate in, meant that they were less interested in the forum now, Ellis attempted to cut back on the extraneous threads, especially the news threads that sprialed out of control whenever somebody brought up Israel. But it didn’t seem to help much. I imagine that eventually, it just got boring to Warren. People kept on asking the same questions, month after month, and Delphi’s removal of the search facility for guest users made things worse. The ending of Transmetropolitan gave Ellis an escape hatch, which he used with glee.

Having said all that, I’m glad that the WEF existed. Without it, I wouldn’t have discovered the work of people such as Matt Wagner, Jason Lutes, Carla Speed McNeil, Wong Kar-Wai, and Takashi Miike. I wouldn’t have started up this site, I wouldn’t have got back into writing comics again, and I probably wouldn’t be sitting here in America writing this (I had several discussions with a CS grad student on the forum, which convinced me to apply). It was the best arena for comics discussion anywhere on the planet, and I’m going to miss it a lot.

We were the WEF. We were Mighty. Now it’s time to go outside. It’s a wonderful world; let’s go exploring…