Sunday, July 20, 2008

Odds and ends:

Sometimes I think I should enable titles here; since I've started using Google Reader to read everyone's blogs (well, not everyone, but you know what I mean) it does make one's posts stand out a little bit more. Still, after five (almost six!) years, I'm kinda "what's the point" about it.

Holy gosh, I haven't posted here since Wednesday! I was doing better there for a while, but real life has been very busy lately and I haven't really had anything particularly pertinent to say about anything anyway. As always, I appreciate those who hang with me.

While I'm going on and on about me, did you know I had a Flickr account? Well, now you do. Believe me, it won't be as impressive as those by the likes of Kevin Church, Katie West or Zoetica Ebb, but recently I've had access to a good camera and have been moved to take a shot or three, and thought it would be a good place to put them. I am no photographer, and have no pretense towards being one, but many of these shots will be of a more personal nature (i.e., me, things and places around me and stuff that informs my personal life) so if you're curious, then by all means check it out. And leave a fricking comment, whydoncha- no one has done so yet. I won't get mad.

The Flickr account isn't in the sidebar yet; actually, lots of things aren't, and that's just sheer laziness on my part. I used to simply go in and edit the template, and in some ways that was quicker, but when I changed to this look, I started using the new tables or whatever you call them, and hate to mix and match. The new way of adding links is not all that much more difficult, but for some reason I kinda procrastinate about adding stuff using it, and that's why my link list is so incomplete. So honest, it's not because I don't like you if your link isn't included at right, it's just because I'm a lazy bastard. Chances are I follow you on Reader, and one of these days I'll get around to completing (or at least updating) the list. I hope.

It seems like much of the stuff I could be using for blog fodder, I'm posting on Twitter instead. I will do some linky stuff shortly; if you follow me on Twitter, some of this will be familiar (I hope) but bear with, please. If you're on that highly addictive messaging service, and you don't follow me, well please feel free to do so- I need all the followers I can get if I'm going to rule the world someday.

OK, since at odd times in the last five plus years this has, much of the time, been a TV/Movies/Music/Comics/Sports (not necessarily in that order) blog, here's a little about each:

Last night was the big two-hour grande finale of Avatar: The Last Airbender, and all things considered it was an appropriate sendoff to a series which has been often frustrating, but more often wonderfully imaginative and sometimes moving, in spite of everything. Of course, none of it turned out like I thought it would, which just further proves that I'm not so smart. While Nickelodeon, on the one hand, has seemed to do everything in its power to dumb the show down and drive away viewers via its scheduling, at least they did air the show in the first place, and I suppose they should get credit for that even though it seems like they never really understood what made it special in the first place, preferring the more conventional likes of Spongebob Squarepants and The Fairly OddParents, lively and entertaining cartoons but neither possessing or requiring the amount of depth and attention that Avatar needed. Nick just never really seemed to like the show, as if they were confused and intimidated by the attention it got from many critics and fans outside the preteen and tweenage demographic that is their purview. Anyway, last night's episode resolved many longstanding plot threads, but maddeningly left many dangling, even creating a couple of new ones. I have it on good authority that one reason was because "they didn't get the originally planned, full four seasons" and why? "...the film that canned the series early. Timing and all that.". This motion picture, set to be made by none other than that Happening guy M. Night Shyamalan, is to be a live action version, which would seem to be counter-intuitive to the appeal of the concept, at least as I relate to it, but you never know. MNS has a lot to prove after the lackluster box office of his previous film, and that may motivate him to excel- if he's got it in him. His last attempt at full-blown fantasy, The Lady in the Water, was a bizarre disaster. I will say this- it's going to be a little strange to not be anticipating the next episode; it's an odd feeling to know that the Nick series is now done. In a strange sort of way, I almost hope they don't show reruns all that much; it just won't seem fitting, somehow, to see the "Sozin's Comet" episodes come on on a Thursday afternoon, out of order with no buildup or context to speak of. I get the same feeling from seeing reruns of Justice League Unlimited, more on that later.

Other TV shows I've been spending some time on include The Middle Man, which is still enjoyable in fits and starts but the arch tone wears me out after a while. It wants to be a hip, quirky and lighthearted adventure story, and sometimes gets pretty close, but often it just tries too hard. Venture Bros. is still going strong, showing remarkable depth and complexity while remaining as absurd and fun as ever; if you're not watching this show, you really should be. Netflix or rent the first two seasons on DVD, and you can even get caught up with season three via My NCIS viewing remains consistent, even though it's not really must-see TV anymore. Should be interesting to see what happens with the cast; looks like they're trying to break them up but that seems like a remarkably bad idea. I still watch the occasional Justice League Unlimited episode on Cartoon Network; while they seem to be perpetually stuck in episodes from late in the penultimate and the final season, many of those are highly watchable and have their share of classic moments, such as the Flash's super-speed dismantling of the Braniac-possessed Luthor, and Batman dodging one of Darkseid's Omega beams. I'm pretty much caught up with previous seasons of HBO's Entourage; new episodes begin in September. It's not exactly essential, but it has a great cast with good chemistry, and is often very funny. I started out watching AMC's Mad Men, and was quite enamored of it, but missed something like the third and fourth episodes, figured I'd be lost and decided to catch up via DVD in time for the season 2 premiere. Uh...didn't happen. There's still time, although I think the second season begins this week or next. I also kinda got interested in HBO's Big Love, about a polygamist and his attempts to live a normal (well, relatively speaking) life in the monogamous world, as well as the various situations that arise within his sect. It's got a good cast, too, with Bill Paxton as the lead and Harry Dean Stanton, Chloe Sevigny, and others in supporting roles. I rented the first DVD of season one, but never could really get the time to sit and watch it so I sent it back so I could get further down my Netflix queue. I'll get back to it someday. It's got a really nice intro, which features the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows"- you can see it right here. Anything else? Hm. Dirt's second season was a strike-truncated disappointment, and then it got canned, too bad. I find myself watching reruns of Two and a Half Men in the afternoons sometimes; it's surprisingly funny and nasty in equal measures, with a cast of pros playing the material well. The CW Saturday morning Spider-Man series overcame a tentative beginning to become a surprisingly good watch; the script is often witty and is often fast-paced and fun. I think that's it. Almost worthy of Tom the Dog, huh!

Movies? I've seen a few lately. Iron Man, Hellboy II of course; and I also caught a showing of WALL-E a couple of weeks ago. I wasn't as nuts for WALL-E as many were; it was entertaining and very well animated (I expect no less from Pixar) but I found myself second-guessing the science and logistics constantly. For example, the film expects me to believe that the former residents of Planet Earth, having evolved into still-somewhat-human blobs, could immediately begin to walk, and survive the turmoil on the ship in the movie's resolution, as well as rebuild their planet- I didn't think these people even had much in the way of bone in their legs, especially enough to support all the weight they had put on! And one tiny plant is enough to convince the ship that Earth is habitual again? What about the obviously-still-depleted ozone layer? The winds that were still coming up at regular intervals? Sure, we got a look at some more greenery as the film wound down, but color me skeptical. I've yet to go see Dark Knight; everybody and their uncle is praising it to high heaven, but I wasn't all that enamored of Batman Begins, not enough to drop six bucks towards seeing its sequel, no matter how good Heath Ledger may or may not be. I also viewed the new Watchmen trailer online; it's very impressive although it does kinda look like all the other recent comic-book based films lately; the Billy Corgan music was somewhat disconcerting as well. Just a little too 90's for a property that's still associated with the 80's in my mind. I think Ozymandias looks like a dork in that black domino mask; IIRC he spent most of the comics (which I haven't read in ages) without it. Yeah, I'm nitpicking. Recent Netflix rentals include Michael Clayton, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Black Snake Moan, Crank, and the Aqua Teen movie- the first was very good but marred somewhat by a contrived ending, the second was marvelous, the third was ludicrous but kept my attention, the fourth entertaining, and the last became too much to take after a while- 15 minute doses of absurdity can be fun; two hours of same was just too much, and I bailed on it. I plan on doing a proper movie post soon; stay tuned.

Comics? The usual suspects that I've been enjoying, and I hope you've been reading my reviews to know what I'm talking about. One which really grabbed me was Hellboy: The Crooked Man #1, the first chapter of what promises to be another excellent miniseries. Set in Appalachia in 1958, and dealing with witches and hillbillies, it shows Hellboy as almost peripheral to the events displaying a detachment that Ron Perlman couldn't begin to portray. Richard Corben is on art, and he's excellent; people forget, I think, that he was first and foremost a horror artist back in the day who used to sign his work "Gore". I'm a sucker for that backwoods supernatural stuff anyway; this reminded me a lot of Manly Wade Wellman's excellent tales of Silver John, aka John the Balladeer, who encountered various ghosts, witches, and demonic creatures as he wandered the hills with only a silver-stringed guitar and a little bit of experience in dealing with such matters. I don't know if any collections are available, but if so I give them my highest recommendation. Ah! Here's one- a bit pricey, but worth it I think if you can afford it. Also, thanks to Bully, I've been reading Blake Bell's new bio of Steve Ditko- fascinating stuff, and it reproduces a LOT of great art at a bigger-than-normal size...and the effect is somewhat breathtaking, especially if you revere Ditko's 60's work as much as I do. Of course, I'll write more about these, and the other comics I haven't reviewed yet, later this week. On a related note, here's info about some mighty sweet art books by a number of talented artists- here's a couple of samples:

Yep, that's Darwyn Cooke and Cam Stewart! Each of them has their own collection available. I really would like to get a copy of Stewart's The Apocalypstix, but I thought I was still on Oni's comp list so I didn't preorder. I haven't received anything from Oni in months now, so I guess that's no longer the case, and as a result I'm going to have to find a copy somewhere. Such is life.

Music? I haven't really picked up anything new lately- mostly it's just finding old stuff that I haven't heard in ages or haven't heard at all here and there on the Interwub. Dennis Wilson's Pacific Ocean Blue came out before I got interested in the Beach Boys; having made up for lost time since then (1977) it was inevitable that I would get around to it eventually, even though to be honest I wasn't crazy about the songs Dennis had on 70's Boys LPs like Carl and the Passions. Much to my surprise, it sounds nothing like those cuts at all; it's consistently tuneful and clever, and Wilson uses his croaking vocal to his advantage a la Tom Waits or hoarse Harry Nilsson circa Pussy Cats. I also have obtained XTC's Wasp Star (Apple Venus Vol. 2), now eight years old- better late than never and well worth the wait, the only question being why the hell did I wait so long?!? Also, the two most recent issues from Lindsey Buckingham and Fleetwood Mac, Under the Skin and Say You Will; Skin is stripped-down but tuneful, Will is overlong, and suffers from being in actuality a Buckingham/Nicks album with Fleetwood and McVie as the rhythm section and Christine McVie barely present except for a few lost-in-the-mix felt-but-not-heard backing vocals, but there are some very good cuts by both singer/songwriters. Been also listening a lot to Rosebud, the self-titled debut, and only release by, a contingent of LA musicians from 1971 that came out on Reprise and featuring Judy Henske and Jerry Yester, who as a couple released the noteworthy Farewell Aldebaran a yer or so earlier. I had heard one cut on a Warner/Reprise Loss Leader, a lovely tune called "Lullabye II (Summer Carol)", previously and was very interested in hearing the rest of this hard-to-find release. Never did find it on vinyl. It's OK, if unremarkable, kinda-country-pop-rock stuff and so far the aforementioned track is the standout. I fully intend to give it time to grow on me. Otherwise, it's been a panoply of stuff; I listen to several CDs on average every day of every week.

Boy, this is a long post, huh!

Sports? Beseball season has been pretty good so far; my White Sox are hanging in there in first place, managing somehow to hold off the Twins and Tigers in the AL Central, with smoke and mirrors, seemingly, sometimes. I think they have what it takes to win that division, and even make it to the Series if they can stay focused. My beloved Atlanta Falcons are just trying to regroup and rebuild after one of the worst NFL seasons ever with a new coach, who strikes me as somewhat vanilla but if he can get this team tougher and playing smarter, then I'm all for it, and a new rookie quarterback who probably won't see action right away, plus a new feature running back who was impressive in the backup role in San Diego, but is unproven as in the feature role over the course of a season. They've lost a ton of other players on both sides of the ball, as cleaning house was the order of the day in ATL. Hate to say it, but a 6-10 season would be a minor miracle. That said, I think they'll be at least competitive- their division isn't the strongest. The University of Kentucky is gearing up for a new football season with high hopes, and of course basketball isn't far from anybody's mind in Lexington, even in September.

One more thing- by all means, check out the "Items of Interest" box in the sidebar there at right; it's where I select other blog posts that I run across in Google Reader and want to share. I think most of them will be of interest to a lot of you!

OK, now I'll wind this up and get on with the rest of my Sunday. Thanks for reading, if you've made it this far, and stay tuned for more later!

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