Monday, June 23, 2008

Clobbered by gamma rays

Pete Van derHaar, over at A Perfectly Cromulent Blog, advised me a few weeks ago that THE INCREDIBLE HULK was as good a movie as IRON MAN.

He was right.

Spoilers after the jump. You have been so advised.

Every actor in this film is better cast for their parts than those preceding them. Tim Roth as a super-soldiered up Emil Blonsky was the biggest stretch for me, but the essence of the Abomination's twisted, unhealthy relationships with both "Thunderbolt" Ross and the Hulk itself came through well, and the big kick of seeing Ross crack open a vial of super-soldier serum with the name "Dr. Reinstein" on it more than made up for any otherwise imperfect adaptations.

Similar efforts to weave this movie into a broader Marvel Universe tapestry were also much appreciated by this aging fanboy, as were all the quick-hit tributes to past bits of HULK arcana... everything from a quick flash of Bill Bixby in his COURTSHIP OF EDDIE'S FATHER days and Lou Ferrigno as a security guard through passing references to both Jack McGee and Jim Wilson were all warmly welcomed here.

If the movie stutter-stepped even once, it was only in never giving us a clear scene where Banner/Hulk would actually hear the label "Hulk" and begin to identify with it. Without such a scene, or any other character in the movie ever referring to Banner's bitter half as anything but "the monster" or "the creature", it came as quite a surprise to hear the Hulk self identify towards the end of the movie by bellowing his trademark "HULK SMASH!" battle cry.

As with IRON MAN, the real joy of watching this movie comes from witnessing all the various characters interacting with each other. The desperate, doomed yearning between Bruce and Betty, the loathing Betty feels for her father, and the baffled rage "Thunderbolt" Ross feels in response to it, Emil Blonsky's frustration fed bloodlust, and, later on, creepy super scientist Sam Stearn's obsessive near worship of Banner's gamma induced curse... all of these are riveting to see unfold on the screen. Even early, throwaway interactions between Ed Norton's Bruce Banner and some minor supporting characters in Brazil are fun to watch. And Ty Burrell, doing what is little more than a walk on as an unnamed Dr. Leonard Samson, makes the most of his very limited screentime, too.

I'd been very afraid that William Hurt would chew method acting holes in the scenery as "Thunderbolt" Ross, but in fact he showed a great deal more restraint than I'd expected, muting Ross' ferocious, nearly amoral devotion to the American military down until it seethed and churned just underneath every syllable the character spat and ground out. Ed Norton couldn't possibly fail to be a better Banner than prettyboy Eric Bana had been, but in fact, not only did he exceed Bana's lumbering performance, but he was such a spot on incarnation of Robert Bruce that I cannot imagine anyone else ever playing the part. Liv Tyler's Betty Ross was a welcome surprise to me; after Tyler's spectacular miscasting in the LORD OF THE RINGS movies I really wasn't looking for the moving, nuanced performance she provided here.

Perhaps best of all, in the film's entire 114 minute running time, nobody ever once mentions amphibian DNA.

The last minute cameo by Tony Stark, and his talk of 'putting a team together', was another well placed brick in the arch that will, eventually, support the long awaited AVENGERS movie, due out sometime around 2012. Of course, before that we need a CAPTAIN AMERICA movie, a THOR movie, and an ANT-MAN movie... but if Marvel studios can continue this kind of quality as they create the bits and pieces for their A-Team, I have no doubt that I'll be pleased with the resultant Assembly. (Heh.)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

And he doesn't look a thing like Jesus

Over at TPM, I put the post below up at 7:59 this morning.

As of 1:38 this afternoon, I have 22 comments on it.

Interestingly, I also have only 4 approvals.

To put that into perspective, my most popular post to date has 18 comments, and THIRTY FOUR approvals.

So this one is generating a lot of buzz, but hardly anybody likes it.

Story of my life, really...

* * *

You sit there in your heartache
waiting for some beautiful boy to
save you from your old ways
you play forgiveness, watch it now, here he comes
he doesn't look a thing like Jesus
but he talks like a gentleman
like you imagined when you were young...
-- The Killers, "When You Were Young"

During the primaries, Barack Obama talked to us like a gentleman. He may not have looked like Jesus, but nonetheless, he walked on water, healed the lame, drove the moneylenders from the Temple, and raised the dead.

But that was during the primaries, when this political season was young. Now the primaries are over, and Barack Obama wants all of us to know that he doesn't look a thing like Jesus, and if we're looking for a Messiah, we need to look elsewhere.

Obama took us all badly aback when he recorded a radio ad supporting U.S. Representative Jack Barrow of Georgia, a white conservative Democrat much despised by the more liberal-progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Obama's support for Barrow was especially hard to take given that Barrow is being strongly challenged for his seat by Georgia state Senator Regina Thomas, a strongly liberal-progressive black woman running in a district that is predominantly African-American.

Disappointment is perhaps inevitable when a mass of people look up to any political candidate with as much hope, admiration, and respect as we have showered on Senator Obama. Even the best of us are only human, after all. And it is a supposedly inevitable truth of how our political system works that a candidate cultivates the fringes of their own particular political base while seeking the nomination, and then moves back to the middle once they have it.

Yet Senator Obama was supposed to be the candidate of change, the politician who was writing a new book, finding a new path, and forging a new political truth. This was the package we were presented with, and that half or more of us bought eagerly and enthusiastically throughout the primary season. Obama was the Prince of the Rising Tide, the King of Wishful Thinking, the New Hope.

Well, now the Empire is striking back.

There can be little doubt that Obama's support of John Barrow, as conservative a Democrat as any Democrat has ever been, over Regina Thomas, is an act of the most cynical political calculation. Barrow is going into his third term in the House of Representatives, and his IOU is going to be worth more to President Obama than that of a freshman Representative with no seniority.

Yet there's also a message in Obama's method here, and that signal is a strong one. He's saying to all of us who consider ourselves to be his constituency and his base, especially those of us out here who may share his ethnicity -- don't count on me just because you think I'm one of you.

This is, perhaps, a reassuring dog whistle to many white moderates -- Obama will not necessarily put the interests of an African-American first simply because they are African-American, like he is. But it's a savage disappointment to those of us who were hoping for transcendental decision-making from this man who would be President.

Hard though Obama's decision to support Barrow over Thomas may be for all of us, it's easy medicine to swallow compared to Obama's even more recent announcement of support for the travesty of a FISA bill that has just passed in the House. At this point all those of us who, like Fox Mulder, still want to believe are clinging desperately to Obama's assurances that he "will work in the Senate to remove [retroactive immunity for the tel-coms] so that we can seek full accountability for past offenses".

Yet those of us with any kind of ear for political parsing can already smell the weakness of this non-promise. If Obama truly meant to do everything in his power to keep retroactive immunity from becoming law, he would have at the very least thrown in a 'hard' or a 'diligently' after the word 'work' to signal that intention. As it is, it seems obvious that this promise is an empty one, intended only to provide political cover to Obama later on.

Anyone can run the numbers and see why Obama has made this decision. With a majority of his own party backing this contemptible law for contemptible reasons of their own, hard opposition to it would only leave him vulnerable to accusations from the McCain campaign of being out of step with even his own base... something that might well hurt him, perhaps mortally, with those key moderates and undecideds that inevitably seem to decide every national American election in a nation as continually polarized as ours is.
And yet, again... we were led to believe we could expect more than this from Mr. Obama of Illinois. New directions. Real leadership. Change We Can Believe In.

Endorsing an undesirably conservative incumbent over a solidly progressive challenger in order to secure a political IOU is not change we can believe in. Weak, blustering non-assurances regarding lip service opposition to yet more utterly odious incursions into American civil liberties is certainly not a new direction or any sort of real leadership. This is nothing more than coldly calculated compromise, and nothing less than rank capitulation to the worst and basest elements in our current political discourse.

It's failure, pure and simple... which is, sadly and grimly, politics as usual for the Democratic Party. The politics as usual that Senator Obama of Illinois keeps telling us we are leaving behind, once and for all... but apparently, not right now, and not real soon.

Maybe Change We Can Believe In means no real change at all.


Or maybe there will be a new era of post partisan politics and government transparency, of new directions and real leadership... in a galaxy far, far away.

I still think Senator Obama was a better choice for the Democratic Party than Hillary Clinton, and is a better choice for the American people than John McCain.

But I'm starting to wonder if there wasn't, or isn't, a better choice than Senator Obama still out there somewhere.

They say the devil's water
it ain't so sweet
you don't have to drink right now
but you can dip your feet
every once in a little while....

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A day in the country

Yesterday, I got to accompany SuperWife and SuperDependable Teen up to the north country, to check out a college SuperDependable Teen might have been interested in attending.

Allow me to digress into the misty veil of no-doubt selective memory for a moment:

In my senior year of high school, after I'd applied to Syracuse University but before I'd been officially accepted, I was invited to some bogus 'Citizenship Conference' on campus. It was a mostly silly thing where a bunch of kids who were thinking about going to SU showed up, sat through a few classroom seminars, took a tour of the campus with our parents (in my case, just my mom) and got a nice certificate attesting to our participation. (I may still have mine somewhere, as I am certain it is worth at least the paper it is printed on, and maybe a few micropennies more if you throw in the value of the ink.)

I remember being impressed by the campus, and by the people -- TAs, professors, various staff members in other capacities -- that I met while I was there. These people all seemed to be smarter than I was, more adult, more mature. They seemed like they had something to teach me, and I got the impression that if I attended SU and graduated, well, that would be an accomplishment. I did not feel threatened so much as challenged. Syracuse University seemed to me to be a fine place to come of age, a place I could learn a great deal from. And, in fact, it was, and I did, and if I didn't ever graduate from SU, well, that was entirely my fault and not at all the college's.

Apparently, since those long lost days of yore (nearly thirty years ago, jesus, let me just go out to the kitchen and stick my head in the oven), things have changed a great deal in how colleges present themselves to prospective students.

We set the alarm for 5:40, and were on the road by 6:45, aiming to get to NKU by 8:45 to check in for their "Welcome Wednesday" activities. 90 minutes of singing along with Meat Loaf, Melissa Etheridge, and the Killers later, we pulled into the NKU parking lot we'd been directed to, and the festivities began.

We were among at least a hundred or so prospective students with at least one attendant family member attending Northern Kentucky University's "Welcome Wednesday" event. We started out with a one hour seminar conducted by some woman who is apparently in charge of, or is at least, the chosen mouthpiece for, NKU's Admissions Office. I can't remember her name. But I took notes on some of the amazing stuff that came out of her mouth during the hour she stood up there and blathered chirpily to us about the wonders of Northern Kentucky University:

When she was going over the various different schools that NKU has, and the curriculum they offer, she started off with "The College of Arts and Sciences, where you can study... uhm... the Arts... and... er... sciences".

At one point, she mentioned that NKU has a regional accredition, which would allow students there to transfer to other schools that had the same regional accredition without losing any accumulated credits. Now, when I went to school, the college of my choice, Syracuse University, was nationally accredited, and while I could be wrong, I believe that was, at that time, the norm for colleges. This 'regional accredition' thing seems like something of a downgrade.

While she was describing this odd 'regional accredition' thingie, she used the word 'consortium'. Then she blushed, as if she'd done something mildly embarrassing, and hastily added, "That's one of those fancy words you'll encounter in college sometimes".

Later on, she used the word 'convocation' (improperly) in a sentence, and, again, seemed somewhat abashed by her own vocabulary, quickly appending "That's another one of those fancy words".

One of the schools she mentioned in her Power Point presentation was the School of Infomatics. Infomatics is also most likely one of those fancy words one can encounter during one's college career, however, in addition to being fancy, it is also what we writer types like to refer to as 'made up'.

After waxing rhapsodic for ten minutes or so regarding all the various student clubs and student activities available at NKU, our spokeswoman returned for a moment to her muttons, as it were, advising that NKU offered honors level courses to its upperclassmen in various stimulating fields of study, such as Harry Potter, chocolate, and coffee. The coffee class, she went on to burble, had even traveled to the Dominican Republic to see how coffee was actually grown, harvested, and packaged.

Also, there are, apparently, Starbucks stands in nearly every building on the NKU campus.

In addition, she advised, the college was 'blessed' with a heavy law enforcement presence from the local County Sheriff's department, allowing her to state, with absolute authority (this is a direct quote, I was so astonished to hear it that I wrote it down word for word): "For the most part, NKU is a safe environment."

At various points during the opening seminar, our spokeswoman assured us that those who hadn't excelled academically in high school... and here she raised her hand with a cheerful wave and said "Like me!"... could still do well at NKU. (At one point, she mentioned that she was not a 'sciency' person. As she'd already mentioned that she had been a psychology major when attending NKU, SuperWife leaned over to me and said, rather drolly, "Isn't psychology a science?" I muttered something back about how if it was, she wouldn't know it, nor would she be too clear on whether it was an art or not, either.)

Following the seminar, we embarked on a walking tour of campus, guided by a cheerfully ditzy young extrovert named Billy Jo, who caused my jaw to drop slightly when she blithely assured us we could call her BJ. (Prior to this I would have laid money that the nickname 'BJ' had long since gone out of style, another casualty of the Clinton Administration. But I guess I was wrong.) BJ proceeded to walk us all over campus, describing everything in sight as 'cool' and 'fun', intermittently advising us as to various facts and figures which almost inevitably would turn out not to be true ten minutes further on. She showed us a truly ugly Sciences building, some only moderately ugly theater and administration buildings, then guided us through a couple of model dorm rooms that looked to me like something the Bush Administration would house Katrina survivors in.

BJ then walked us down a block to point out the 'cool place to hang out', a sand volleyball court and adjoining basketball court where, she advised us all but breathlessly, the wide receivers for the Cincinnati Bengals could frequently be found playing pick up games. "They're really cool guys," she assured us.

(Everything, according to BJ, was either 'cool' or 'fun' or, if it was something truly exceptional, then it was both 'cool' AND 'fun'. BJ, I should note, was a political science major intending to go to law school, and, I'm sure, if things fall her way, will be a future U.S. Attorney under some Republican Administration.)

I think BJ was prepared to walk the entire group until they dropped, like in that one Richard Bachman novel, but by this point SuperDependable Teen had decided that NKU was not for her, so we excused ourselves from the tour, found our trusty Grand Caravan, and departed for... well, as it turned out, for lunch at Penn Station, which is rarely a bad thing.

NKU's tuition costs for next year are $6,528. If you want your freshman to live on campus (and they 'strongly encourage' all freshmen to live on campus) then the cheapest dorm and dining plan is an additional $5,280 per year. That gets your freshman a spot in an open dorm room roughly the size of a walk in closet that he or she will share with one other roommate. For $6,060 your freshman can upgrade to an apartment with two open double bedrooms in it. For $6,560 you can live in a University Suite that is slightly nicer and, again, has two open double bedrooms in it, and finally, for $7,260 on top of tuition, you can live in a University Suite that has four single bedrooms in it (each single bedroom being half the size, natch, of the doubles).

For your $11,808 - $13,788, you get a campus that is "for the most part... a safe environment". One with ample access to Starbucks coffee shops, one where the dorm rooms look like jail cells, the campus buildings look like prisons, where they will be part of a consortium of 'regionally accredited' campuses, where words like 'consortium' and 'convocation' are considered 'fancy', where honors students can study Harry Potter, chocolate, and coffee, where the School of Arts and Sciences is all about the study of the arts and the sciences, where one can attend an entire curriculum revolving around an entirely made up word, and where the psychology major currently running the admissions department seems entirely uncertain as to whether or not her major field of study and/or expertise is or isn't either an art or a science, but, on the other hand, she's dead certain that her campus is 'blessed' by the presence of a great many gun totin' deputy sheriffs and it's also a wonderful place for people who did not excel academically in high school (like her!) to attend.

My summation is as follows: if a diploma mill is what you're looking for, there are cheaper ones out there. With better accredition. And, probably, admissions officers who will bother to memorize a few of the subjects being taught in their employer's Curriculum of Arts and Sciences.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair

It's been a pretty shitty day.

I want to blog, but have no time, and, really, no subject to blog on. I am, for the moment, tapped and tired and discouraged and uninspired. But Bruce is singing "Thunder Road" to me, and that always helps. Plus, Superwife is out in the kitchen making dinner, and two of the three SuperKids are around and about somewhere, and Nate is over, and all that helps more.

Still, I'm feeling pretty useless right now, for reasons I won't bore any of you with.

For lack of anything better to post, here's the latest piece of drivel I've sent off to ASTONISHING ADVENTURES.

I advise you to bail...

By Happy Little Me

It is sometimes unwise to trust overmuch in the words of wizards, this is true. But only a fool disregards them entirely.
- Gavedor, Court Recorder, reign of King Jerrane of Aquilia

* * *

Somewhere it sits, loosely rolled, all but forgotten within a dry and dusty drawer in some nameless scholar’s cluttered study. He found it in an odd little shop, one full of shadows and cobwebs, its gloomy corners bristling with dingy relics from half forgotten yesteryears. Curled into a loose brown cylinder of heavy parchment, casually thrown down on a table full of brick-a-brack, like everything else there priced at a coin or two. Liking the way the rough, grainy, thick paper felt between fingers and thumb as he unrolled it, and enjoying the neat pen strokes that delineated the details of some sunken, secretive valley holding an unknown, exotic city nestled at its narrow end, an intricate network of winding narrow streets and scrabbling alleyways, lavishly illustrated with wonderfully sketched miniature buildings, fountains, walls and gateways, and the beautifully drawn compass rose superimposed over a strangely serpentine, triple sailed ship, and the deft copperplate of the hand lettered labels – “Street of the Seafloor Grotto”, “Temple of Drowned Skulls”, “Sea Urchin’s Venom Fountain”, and “Looted Hulk Tavern”, among many others – he purchased it, took it home, showed it to a few friends, who nodded and agreed that it was indeed a beautifully drawn thing, and a lovely curio, and a fine work of art..

And, eventually, he tossed it absently into a desk drawer already three quarters full of other oddments and curios, and gave it not a further thought in the world.

And there it has rested, ever since…

Someday something he reads, or that someone else says to him, may remind him of the scroll’s existence, and he may go seeking it again, and after a few minutes or few hour’s rummaging, if he doesn’t give up first, or become distracted, he may unearth it from the depths of its drawer and unroll it once more, holding it up to the light of a flickering lamp or torch, and the scroll with its finely etched depiction of a distant, danger-filled, perhaps imaginary metropolis may once more feel the movement of air and avid eyes across its finely crafted vellum. But for now, it simply sits there, loosely rolled, within a dry and dusty drawer in a nameless scholar’s cluttered study…

* * *

The heat was like a gut-punch hitting every square inch of the human body all at once – not one impact and over, no, but something constant, unending, smothering a person like a wet blanket on a cook fire, sucking the very breath from the lungs, even in the deep gloom beneath the hellish poison green of the overhead foliage. The air was sodden as a steam room towel; the effort of moving it in and out of one’s chest was all but exhausting.

Had Markior’s mother’s mother not been a decadent southerner (a source of shame Markior’s family disliked speaking of) he would have died of the heat long ago. As it was, as long as he kept mainly to the shady areas, he survived, but he suffered.

“Ye’re a decoration, y’know,” the old lady sweeping out the street gutter gnashed at Markior through toothless gums, cackling with obscure delight at the pronouncement. “A gold button, a bit o’ fancy braid. ‘e don’t need no bodyguard; everyone in Yat-Latan is so a’feared o’ ‘is spells they’d never dare draw steel on ‘im.” She paused to draw breath; Markior earnestly, but unfortunately vainly, hoped she would choke on it. “Not ‘is spells so much,” she nattered on, after a second, “but that map o’ ‘is.”

Markior had heard this all before from many different sources, but it was displeasing to have the wrinkled old thrall who swept out the gutters on Seafloor Grotto Street – no doubt in exchange for a few coppers every ten-day from the shop owners there, and the right to sleep in one or another of their basement entryways after nightfall – state it so plainly.

“You never know,” Markior said, his young, well favored face flushing. “There could be a danger his spells won’t cope with. Pirates, or zuthang, or perhaps another wizard… something not afraid of this famous map of his.”

The old woman spat in the dust at Markior’s feet. “Fleh,” she retorted. “Pirates come here to sell, not steal; wizards have better things to do than haunt the Isthmus… well, all the wizards besides ‘imself, I mean… and as to the zuthang, well, if a race o’ magic resistant lizards that walks on they hind legs and carries odd curved blades and spits poison as far as a street thief can throws a knife really exists, they certainly don’t waste they time ‘ere at the bottom o’th’ world.” She fixed Markior with her one eye that seemed to have grown to three times normal size, perhaps to compensate for the ruined socket where her other had once sat. “And it’s not ‘s’if the likes of ye could deal with any o’em if they did appear in quest o’ y’r master’s head. Pretty northern sword or no pretty northern sword. Ye’d shit y’r trews and run off screamin’, if ye didn’t die instantly o’ a heart seizure.” She nodded wisely and spat again, this time with the edges of her gob sprattling Markior’s fur and leather boots.

Markior took his anger in hand; there was nothing to be gained from arguing with this harping hag, and while he doubted anyone would miss her much if he ran her through, the Seafloor Grotto Street merchants would complain to his master and demand compensation, and then master would most likely take it out of his hide. He couldn’t take it out of Markior’s wages, because Markior had none. Food and lodging for the next three cycles were Markior’s due… that, and the ‘pretty northern sword’ Markior wore at his side, that had been the price of his hire to this southern dirt hole.

Two seasons and another cycle – then Markior’s bond debt would be paid, and he and his fine Aquilian steel sword could get on a serpent ship and sail north. A ten-day or so sleeping on deck and working the rigging or, if necessary, the oars, for his passage, and he would be in Lesser Ra Tanis. Caravans left Lesser Ra Tanis going northward every cursed day of the thrice accursed southern cycle. He would hire on as a guard and, eventually, one fine season not too far forward of that, he would be back in Aquilia, a seasoned warrior armed with a sword finer than any that most knights or lords could boast. Branelle might well be married by then, or at least, sworn to someone else, but that was for the gods to say. And even if it were so, well, she’d had younger sisters…

Markior was snapped forcibly out of his pleasant daydream by a small but weighty leather bag bouncing off his sleeveless fur vest, causing the two finger-length wide brass buttons set on either side of its chest thongs to jangle discordantly.

“Pick that up and come along,” Markior’s master, the mage Aphaltholios said flatly. “And at least try to look like you’re paying attention.”

Flushing again, Markior bent and snatched up the fist-sized wash leather bag. It would contain material components for whatever spells Aphaltholios had been commissioned to cast over the last ten days or so; today was Kemtos Noi, “Sacrifice Day”, the one day out of each ten when metaphysical powers were strongest in the world. In Aquilia people would gather in family shrines and pass the day praying together for protection from roaming shades and malefic spirits; in the decadent south, though, folks made a single sacrifice at whichever temple they favored, or that they passed first when out and about their business… and here in the far southernmost pest hole that was the Isthmus, in its only city of Yat-Latan, they did no more than wear an extra protective amulet or two. Only Aphaltholios cared much for Kemtos Noi at all.

He did all his spell casting on this day, which made it a day Markior generally looked forward to. After the morning market run, they would return to Aphaltholios’ richly appointed manor – a three room dwelling built of expensive imported stone with a thatched roof that an Aquilian serf would have sneered at, but, well, there you were – and Aphaltholios would lock himself inside and Markior would have the whole day to idle away in the courtyard without. He could practice with his sword, or train in footwork, or, if a vendor happened to wander by, purchase a few honeyed dates, assuming the overweight wife of the merchant who lived down the street was willing to give him a few coppers, which she usually was…

“I realize this isn’t at all what you expected when you accepted my offer in Lesser Ra Tanis,” Aphaltholios said as he began to walk towards Sharkfin Circle. “It isn’t what I expected, either. But you chose to accompany me here, and you’ve chosen to remain in my service, and I expect you to at least make an effort to pay some attention to your surroundings.”

Markior knew better than to respond. Certainly, this wasn’t what he’d expected – in Lesser Ra Tanis, he’d been one of two dozen applicants for the position of Aphaltholios’ bodyguard, and had felt honored when Aphaltholios had chosen him. And he’d been more gratified than otherwise when he’d learned that the station was all for show; Aphaltholios had been wooing a highborn lady, and a highborn gentleman simply was not seen in society, or even in public, without an armed retainer. Markior had looked forward to an easy three cycles of being an ornament to his master’s social status, although he had found Lesser Ra Tanis terribly hot and humid compared with his native north.

But then things had gone spectacularly pear shaped – Markior was still dim on the actual details, all he really knew was, Aphaltholios had fallen out of favor with astonishing swiftness, and if the mage hadn’t been able to cast a fast teleport spell, the two of them would most likely have ended up burnt at a common stake by the howling mob that had condensed like dew outside Aphaltholios’ lovely mansion.

As Aphaltholios had explained, there must have been more than just a mob at work, as a powerful spell to block teleportation had been put in place all around his mansion as well. But one place any mage could always teleport to was the place of his birth, and so, Aphaltholios had returned to Yat-Latan… and when Markior had been forced to quickly choose between accompanying his master or returning the sword he’d already invested nearly a season of his life in, well, he’d found himself here, as well.

He’d never in his life imagined there could be any place on the mortal plane hotter and more humid than Lesser Ra Tanis, and now, he didn’t have to.

“And there you are, daydreaming again,” Aphaltholios commented dryly as Markior tripped on a low curbstone and nearly went sprawling in the muck. “I should trade you to Zarthane for his draft mule, I really should. I’d get more use out of the draft mule, and you’d get to learn to do something useful.”

Markior paled at that. Zarthane was a boylover, the sort of loathsome deviant that would be hounded out of any Aquilian village by a stone throwing mob, but whose perversions were tolerated or often even encouraged in the decadent south. And Markior had seen how Zarthane looked at him, even though, at the age of sixteen, Markior was a man grown by any civilized standard. Zarthane made his living training prettyboys to serve in brothels, or as concubines to rich masters in Lesser Ra Tanis, and he enjoyed his work enormously. If Markior somehow wound up as Zarthane’s bond servant, Markior would have to kill the worthless wretch… which would inevitably end with Markior tied to a millstone and tossed from Executioner’s Rock into the deeps of the Gulf of Tanis… perhaps with a judicious slash or two across the back of his legs, to attract the kreelok.

“I’m sorry, Master,” Markior said, quite sincerely. “I’ll pay more attention, I swear it.”

Aphaltholios merely grunted. They had reached his house. “Stay out here, useless,” Aphaltholios said flatly. “Turn all visitors away until the morrow.”

“Aye, master,” Markior said, bobbing his head. He knew the Kemtos Noi routine very well.

I* * *

Inside, Belrok the Black was stuffing a leather sack with gold and jewels. Belrok knew well that all wizards were rich; for some reason he neither knew nor much cared about, wizards preferred gold above all other metals (well, who didn’t?) and always kept a large supply of well cut gems about, too. Of course, few thieves were brave enough to beard a sorcerer in his own lair, and Belrok was no exception. But he’d carefully scrutinized his chosen target the last four days, and knew the mage’s routine well. Up with the dawn, a few hours chanting muffled by the stone walls of his keep, then off to the Looted Hulk to drink for the rest of the day while studying some volume of lore he’d have his tame Aquilian prettyboy tote along for him. Not much of a life for a wizard, but he seemed to have the local populace thoroughly cowed, judging from the ridiculous stories they all told of the mage’s prowess…

Belrok froze as he heard a key in the lock of the front door, which was at the foot of a flight of stone stairs he himself was barely five feet down an upstairs hall from. Today of all days the gods-damned magus chose to come back from the inn early…

Well, in Belrok’s native Votaria there was a saying about wizards – their sorcerous powers diminished in proportion to the size of the blade you sank through their black hearts. Belrok hadn’t intended to test that this day, but the gods sent men trials, and a warrior could only do his best with them. Belrok reached for the much used, well honed shortsword hanging at his belt…

Aphaltholios sniffed as he stepped into his front hall. Grand for the Raised City, certainly, but little enough compared to the manse he had owned in Ra-Tanis, and nothing compared to what he had aspired to… well, those embers were well burnt down. Still, give the fools a hundred years or so and they’d forget him, as they always had. He could alter his appearance slightly, change his name, and start in again. He'd yet rule all his hated brothers' lands...

He sniffed again. Was that… sweat? Votarian sweat? Like most mages, Aphaltholios spent an hour each morning meditating, attuning his own metabolism to its peak. His senses were not superhuman, merely the best any human’s could be. His brain, though, was nearly two thousand years old and perfectly organized; he could sort one scent out of ten thousand, and this one was definitely the distinctive odor of Votarian perspiration. Something about trace chemicals in the soil of that particularly volcanic valley; it got into the bones in childhood and never fully departed.

Now an unfamiliar creak – Aphaltholios knew every peg in every board, beam and joist within the stone shell of his ancient home; he had overseen the original carpentry there, 1900 years agone, and made a point of dwelling here for a few years at a time at least once in every generation since, to keep the locals appropriately in awe of him. There was someone at the top of his stairs… a Votarian, attempting to be still. Not a bad attempt; the intruder had some skill at stealth, and would most likely have avoided notice from anyone other than Aphaltholios.

Aphaltholios extended his perceptions into the upper hall, seeking an appropriate surrogate… there. A small trapper-spider had spun a web in the east corner of the main hallway. That would be fine; the arachnoid form was well adapted to sudden changes in mass, unlike most endoskeletal mammals. Aphaltholios fixed his attention there and muttered a quick spell under his breath, of a sort few mages would ever have heard of, and perhaps only two others in existence could have successfully cast.

Above, Belrok heard a sudden thumping in the hallway behind him, and then, a horrendous clacking. He turned, and felt the blood run cold in his arteries. A spider the size of a timber wolf was scuttling down the stones of the inner wall at the end of the hallway, its glittering ring of eyes fixed malevolently on Belrok –

Another thief might have died of fright on the spot, or stood there frozen in terror with piss dribbling into his boots, or screamed and bolted down the stairs, and any of those reactions would have led almost instantly to death, as two human legs are little match in a sprint for 8 arachnid ones. But Belrok had robbed the halls of wizards before and had faced their hellish guardians on two other occasions. Once a vaporous air elemental, which would have undone him entirely if not for the protective amulet he’d had the forethought to bring with him. Another time, a giant scorpion… which had taught him that protective amulets were useless against more solid, if still unnatural, horrors. No, against oversized vermin, only cold steel would suffice. Belrok drew his sword and shifted his weight to his left foot. He would get one good stroke as the spider scuttled towards him. He would aim for the eyes –

Too late, Belrok’s own senses, undulled by civilized influence, detected soft footfalls behind him. Borados curse him, he’d known the wizard was in the house and had let the spider distract him regardless. He deserved –

An explosion of pain at the back of his head, just behind his ear.


Belrok awoke. His head ached, and his arms felt heavy. He cracked an eye open and saw why… he was bound at wrists and ankles with heavy iron fetters whose steel chains ran through a black iron ring set in a flagstone floor. Flickering torchlight fell on him, and the air was cool and musty. The wizard’s basement, then…

There was a grating sound of something heavy being set down nearby, and a grunt of relief. Belrok turned his head. The wizard’s Aquilian prettyboy had just put a large anvil down on the stone floor a few paces from where Belrok was chained. He had a deal of strength to carry that. Belrok might have managed it, but wouldn’t have wanted to try unless his life depended on it.

“Is he going to sacrifice me?” Belrok croaked, through a dry throat.

The Aquilian shrugged. “I suppose,” he said, his voice deeper than Belrok had expected. “I don’t know wizard stuff.” He looked petulant. “This is supposed to be the day I rest; he usually spends all day inside, casting spells.”

“Sorry,” Belrok rasped. “I don’t suppose you could…” He raised his arms a few inches – all the slack he had – and rattled the chains suggestively.

Markior shook his head. “You’re stupid enough to try and steal from a wizard, that’s on you,” he said.

“He’s more powerful than I expected,” Belrok admitted.

Markior laughed, a short, almost humorless bark. “Didn’t you ask around?” he said. “Don’t you know who he is?”

Belrok looked down. “Everybody says things about wizards,” he said. “Everybody is scared of them.”

“Except you,” Markior jeered. “You’re fearless. See where that got you.” It occurred to Markior at that moment that exactly what he had predicted to the old hag that morning had occurred -- someone not afraid of his master had indeed arrived on the scene. And Markior, as predicted, had been useless. But only because he'd been shut outside. Surely if he'd been in a position to protect his master, he would have proved his worth, once and for all... it was a pleasant fancy.

“He’s more powerful than I expected,” Belrok repeated, interrupting Markior's daydreams of praise and glory. “But even you have to admit most of what the people here say about him is nonsense. I mean, it must be. People don’t live two thousand years. And all this about how this whole isthmus was once undersea, and 1500 years ago a wizard cast a powerful spell to raise it from the ocean depths, and should that wizard ever die, the isthmus will sink once more…”

“Heh,” came a voice from behind Belrok. “Well, it’s not that simple.”

Aphaltholios came into view, walking slowly, drawing kid skin gloves on, wriggling his fingers to seat them more fully on his hands. “For one thing, it was nearer 2000 years ago, not 1500 years,” he said, his tone reminiscent. “I was my father’s fourth son. My three older brothers got all the choice lands… what you would call now Mandaria, Votaria, and Lesser Ra-Tanis. I got a small chain of islands… rocks, really, fit only for goats and gulls… stretching out into the southern sea.” He smiled coldly. “How they laughed at that. They called me The Island Prince, when they were feeling mellow. The King of the Seagulls, other times.”

He shook his head, going over to a workbench, picking up various tools, holding them up to the torch light, putting them down again with muted clicks of metal on wood. “But I was the only one of our family born with the Gift,” he said. “I went to the Mages’ Academy and spent years there studying. And then I returned to my rocks, and I cast a mighty spell.” He looked back over at Belrok and raised an eyebrow. “Well, several spells, really.”

Aphaltholios picked up a large copper knife with several odd runes inscribed in its triangular blade. “First I needed to scan the floor of the ocean beneath and around my island chain. I needed to know exactly what was there. Once I did, I drew a map, showing the ocean floor around my islands. I infused that map with my will… my life force, if you will… and wrought a mighty working, lifting the ocean floor several hundred feet, until it was above sea level. Which created the Isthmus, a new land rich in precious ores and extremely fertile soil, stretching several hundred miles out into the Bay.”

The sorcerer smiled nostalgically to himself as he began to move around Belrok, etching runes on the cellar flagstones. “My brothers were considerably less amused when I suddenly became Prince of the Isthmus. But there were three of them, and none wanted the other to have the Isthmus, either. They knew if they allied against me, then they would only have to go to war against each other once I was removed. And they couldn’t have me assassinated, because, of course, the map I had drawn was now a living thing.”

Belrok the Black frowned. “Aye,” he said, “so they all say in this city. That this map changes with each change to the Isthmus, and to the Raised City of Yat-Latan itself, to reflect those changes, like a looking glass made of vellum. And that if anything should happen to the wizard who created the map, then the spells keeping the Isthmus and Yat-Latan above the water would vanish, and it would all sink back into the deeps again.” He laughed contemptuously. “Ah, you’ve sold them a bill of goods and no mistake,” he said. “But you can’t fool me. You’re a powerful wizard, but you’re not two thousand years old, and this map? Hmph. Show it to me.”

Aphaltholios scowled. “The map was lost long ago,” he said. “A demon summoning got away from me… the pentacle holding the creature was fraying; I had to banish it from this dimension in a hurry, and a brief vortex came into being. The map, and all the other papers and tools that were not well secured, was sucked in… I have no idea where it wound up, in this world or some other. But I can feel it; it’s still out there somewhere. And should I die, then the forces that keep this land above the ocean waves will die with me, and the Isthmus will indeed once more return to the depths from which I raised it.”

“That’s a great pity,” Belrok the Black said, grinning evilly. “Or would be, if I believed a word of it.” He held up his chained hands. “You should have chained me so I couldn’t get at my belt, wizard.”

Aphaltholios squinted. What was the barbarian holding…? Something small, carved of wood, with a metal tip… no, there was a hole in the end of it, surrounded by metal, projecting out of the wood --

Belrok gripped the small device and squeezed, his knuckles going white. Aphaltholios saw a small flicker of flame bloom, heard a sound like a thick branch breaking, felt an invisible fist punch him in the center of his chest.

Lying flat on his back on the hard cobblestones, the wizard felt his two thousand year old heart laboring heavily in his chest. There was an acrid smell in his nostrils… odd, he thought, that’s salt peter, and the black dust Mandarians put in their firecrackers. Did he shoot a firecracker at me…?

Aphaltholios closed his eyes, attempted to sink into a healing trance. He was damaged, badly damaged, but if he could slow his respiration, calm his thundering pulse, he could locate the wound and rejuven –

The last of his heart’s blood rushed out through the gaping hole in his chest and began to spread sluggishly on the cellar cobbles, cooling as it flowed. Two thousands years of life, and still, when the Pale Rider beckoned to him, he found he did not wish to go. He yet had hopes unrealized, schemes half-finished, much yet to do…

Markior stared in horror as the wound on his master’s chest… his former master’s chest… stopped spouting blood. He heard a long, dragging gurgle rattle up out of Aphaltholios chest, a chest which then settled, and was still.

The threat which was unafraid of his master had come, and had killed his master, and Markior had stood by uselessly and let it happen.

Shocked, disbelieving, but beginning to feel the first ratlike gnawing of absolute terror in the depths of his stomach, the Aquilian boy gasped, through numb lips: “You… you killed him!” He stared at the strange nurled knob of wood and metal in Belrok’s hands. A small wisp of acrid smelling smoke was curling up from the hole in the end. “What is that thing?”

“It’s Imperial,” Belrok grunted. “From the Empire of Man, across the Finger Sea… they call it a pistoloon. One shot only, but it hits like a thunderclap.” He grinned, showing yellow, jagged stumps of teeth. “I never rob a wizard without it, these days.”

“But he… but…” Markior looked around the room frantically. “Gods, the entire Isthmus is going to sink beneath the sea –“

“Don’t be a fool,” Belrok said gruffly. “That’s a tall tale to end all tall tales. Find the keys to these chains and I’ll split the wizard’s swag with y –“

The flagstones trembled beneath both of their boots. There was an ominous rumbling, and dust sifted down from the ceiling. The heavy beams supporting the house across the cellar visibly shifted, then sagged. The earth began to shake beneath their boots…

* * *

“Dutch? DUTCH!!”

The imperative voice coming up the stairs brought Edgar Howard “Dutch” Phillips out of his creative fog. He looked up from his typewriter, momentarily confused. Belrok the Black had just fatally shot Aphaltholios the mage with the small pistoloon he had hidden beneath his belt buckle, and the Aquilian kid was nerving himself up to search the wizard’s body for a key. And there had been some other detail nagging at him –

“DUTCH!” his wife screamed again. “There’s WATER coming down the STAIRS, what are you DOING, is the tub overflowing, it’s a MESS --!”

Water? Dutch looked around in bewilderment. Yes, that was the sound of running water but nobody was in the bathtub and –

His eyes widened. Water was pouring in sheets and rivers down the left side of his other desk, the antique rolltop writing desk he never used for typing, running across the floor of his study in a wide, swiftly flowing sheet. Erasers, pencils, pens, pages of various letters and manuscripts were bobbing along merrily in the bizarre floodtide. He noticed for the first time that water was pooling around his feet; his slippers were soaking through and his socks were wet… Where in the name of everything holy could it be coming from –

The desk drawer. The top drawer on the left. Water was just pouring out of it, through the keyhole and the cracks on either side and along the top of it. It was as if someone had bored a hole in the back of the desk, hooked up a hose, and was currently pumping hundreds of gallons of water into the drawer, and it was all flowing out onto his floor and out of his study and down the stairs –

Dutch rushed across his study, fumbling in his pockets. He pulled out his keychain, ticked through the keys on it quickly, found and fitted a small shiny key into the keyhole, forcing it in against the steady flow of water gushing through it. He turned the key and yanked the drawer open. It was heavy, full of water. The keyring jangled as it hung from the hole in the sodden wooden drawer.

Various papers and scraps immediately floated out the top of the drawer as a fresh volume spilled onto the floor. Dutch squinted, then turned on a gooseneck lamp clamped to the top of the writing desk and pulled it over to shine down into the water overflowing the drawer.

There, pinned to the bottom by water pressure – what was that? A map?

Right, right… it was the map he’d bought at that second hand bookstore the previous summer and tossed in the drawer. Hmmm… come to think of it, the streets and inn names depicted on that map must have lodged in his subconscious, as he now realized he’d been using them as he typed the story he was working on. What the hell –

Afterwards, Dutch could never adequately explain the impulse that seized him. Without conscious thought, he reached in, grabbed the map – water seemed to be flowing out of it at a pretty good, constant clip, he had to use nearly his full strength to force his hand to the bottom against the strong current flowing upward off the scroll’s surface. The whole thing was physically impossible, but Dutch didn’t think about it, simply held the map up in his left hand, grabbed up a four inch letter opener with his right, and with a savage grunt, thrust it through the vellum of the map itself, impaling it like one of his 17th century musketeer heroes might impale an evil cardinal’s minion.

The map seemed to shudder and flap in his hand, almost like a living thing going through its death throes – and then it went limp, no more than a scrap of vellum with a hole punched in it, hanging from his clenched fingers.

Dutch prodded it with his other finger. It wasn’t even wet.

“Dutch, what in the world?”

Dutch turned, and saw his wife, looking rather irate, standing in his doorway. The water on the floor was still gurgling between her feet, running down the stairs.

Dutch brandished the map and grinned. “Not in this world, Martha,” he said, enigmatically. “Not in this world, at all…”

Saturday, June 07, 2008


There's a scene in one of the Modesty Blaise books where...

No, wait, what am I doing? None of you people care about Modesty Blaise.

Never mind.

For those who think I write pretty fly for a white guy, I once again mention this webpage here, where for the past week or so I've been posting some political yimmer-yammer. One of my recent entries actually made it into the daily round up of recommended reader posts, with a link and a pull quote from the front page of the site. That particular entry wound up getting 26 comments, which is a considerable better showing than anything I've ever posted here has made for itself. So go there and read some new stuff from me, if you've a mind to.

Okay. Spider-man 3: I deliberately avoided this film on the big screen, due to my utter disillusionment with its immediate predecessor in the franchise. Had Spider-man 2 not stunk up the joint so thoroughly, I probably would have swallowed my initial distaste at all the black costume-leading-inevitably-to-Venom horseshit and seen it anyway, but as it was, I decided to wait until I could rent it cheaply or see it on cable or something.

So last night SuperWife and I decided to have a date night. This is one of those summer weekends when the movies debuting in the theaters are crap-crap-crap (You Don't Mess With The Zohan? Please. In this house, the rule is more like You Don't Go See Adam Sandler Movies Unless Doing So Helps To Free A Hostage Or Something), and we'd seen all the stuff we'd wanted to to date, so we decided to use two of our free Blockbuster rentals (my fabulously generous younger brother Pat has given me and the fam a six month membership in a movie club; every month we get a bucket of movie snacks that has a card good for a free rental in it, and we've been so busy lately that they've been kind of piling up). So we got Spider-man 3 and Charlie Wilson's War, although last night we only managed to watch the first one before having to head off to bed, 'cuz we're old now.

Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised -- shocked and stunned, really -- to find out just how much Spider-man 3 doesn't suck. Oh, it ain't no Iron Man, certainly, and it's only about half as good as the first Spidey movie, but, still, given how wretched the intervening chapter of the franchise was, it was a real pleasure to watch this one and realize that Sam Raimi still had some directing chops in him after all.

How was this one better than S2? Well, aside from the fact that it had a plot all its own, instead of a retread of the basic storyline of S1, it also had --

* a Mary Jane who didn't act like a crackhead
* more lines for Curt Conners (although, alas, it seems a Lizard he'll never be)
* Captain Stacy and his lovely daughter Gwen
* more lines for Betty Brant (although this seems to be the Ultimates Betty Brant, or something; the Silver Age Betty Brant never acted like that)
* a spot on depiction of the Sandman
* an acting job by Topher Grace that was much much better than anything I'd expected from him
* fucking AMAZING special effects.

Okay, S2 had fucking amazing special effects as well; the Spidey/Doc Ock fight scenes are the only reason to ever watch any three consecutive minutes of that bullshit. But amazing as Doc Ock's tentacles were, there were nothing compared to Sandman. I mean, WOW. I soooooooo wish I'd seen it on the big screen.

I also enjoyed Theresa Russell's brief cameo as Flint Marko's wife, and was especially charmed by Harry's brief lapse into trauma-induced amnesia, which wore off exactly at the moment the plot most needed him to start being a dick again. I can understand how some noobs might find this kind of thing overly contrived, but those of us who've been with Petey since the beginning recognize the mechanism from Pete's running series of conflicts with the first Green Goblin in the original comics.

Back in the day, Norman Osborne was forever discovering Spidey's secret identity and then using the info to try and kill him in some horrible way; Spidey would somehow defeat the pumpkin throwing asswipe one more time, and then something would happen that would give good ol' Norman amnesia for a while. Then, when the writers wanted to bring the Goblin back for more, Norm's amnesia would clear up and he'd start ranting, raving, and guh-nashing his teeth all over again. Rinse and repeat all through the early to mid Silver Age. As a dramatic device it was hackishly convenient, but despite that, the simultaneous feelings of genuine pity and sheer, unrelenting terror that both Pete and his readers would feel as Norman started to recover his memory one more time were always compelling.

Peter Parker With 'Tude in this film didn't bother me anywhere near as much as Wimpy Peter Parker Who Doesn't Want To Have Powers did in S2 -- at least in this movie, his bizarre behavior was explained by him being under the mental and emotional influence of an alien symbiote, instead of, you know, him just being a dipshit. (I will note, though, that Pete cannot hide entirely behind the "oh, I was mind controlled by a black goo costume from beyond" excuse for all his moral failings in S3, and he still needs to do some groveling to MJ for (a) kissing Gwen like that and (b) never once mentioning that Gwen existed prior to that, or that Gwen was his lab partner at college... both acts of skulking scurviness which were committed before Pete ever came into contact with the alien brain-bender.)

Much of the movie was pretty directly poured out from old Lee/Ditko/Romita Spidey stories, and I loved watching that stuff. The odd team up between Spidey and Harry at the end certainly wasn't taken from the source material -- no Goblin derived villain would ever have allied with Spider-Man for even seconds, for any reason at all -- but it worked well within the structure of the film and I enjoyed watching the results.

Stuff I didn't like? Well, the decision to make Flint Marko into Uncle Ben's triggerman was loathsomely stupid. I held out hope all through the film that in the end, it would turn out to be a case of mistaken identity or something, but, no, no, Marko really did it. That final revelation, along with Parker's wimpy ass forgiveness of the man who murdered his Uncle Ben, made my stomach hurt a little. But it's about the only really truly wrong note in the whole film, and given how good the rest of it was, I can roll with the blow.

Introducing Gwen and her father into the film franchise so late, in such essentially inessential roles, seemed very jarring and almost irreverent to me, but what the hell -- in a universe where both the Green Goblin and Dr. Octopus are dead, maybe Gwendy and her dad have long happy lives to lead still before them.

And, as I mentioned before, it makes me sad that we'll never get to see Curt Conners transform into the Lizard. Plus, it would be nice to see some easter egg scene tucked in after the credits where Samuel L. Jackson shows up and wants to talk to Spider-Man about the Avengers Initiative, and Spidey invites him to have lunch down at the dangling diner. But these are quibbles. Overall, this is a much, much better movie than I thought it ever could be, and I'm very pleased about that.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008


A while back, my brother Paul sent me a couple of CDs in the mail as a gift for some occasion or another -- HOT FUSS and SAM'S TOWN, by some band I'd only vaguely heard of known as The Killers. Paul's taste in music and mine don't overlap in many areas, so I tossed them somewhere and largely forgot about them, although the two older Super Kids got some use out of them.

At my current job, we're allowed to listen to CDs on our PC's D drive if we bring in headphones, so I did, and looking through the CDs that I had in my little travelcase, I was bemused to see one I didn't recognize. There was no writing on it to identify it, just a picture of a ram's head. Having gone through all the other CDs in the case in a day or so, I decided, what the hell, I'd throw it in and see what it was.

Turns out it was SAM'S TOWN, and, more than that, it was really, really awesome.

Not that I fully appreciated it the first time I listened to it; the odd melodies and goddam weird lyrics are something of an acquired taste. I'd already learned to like "When You Were Young" due to Super Drama Teen and Super Dependable Teen playing it over and over again while playing GUITAR HERO on our Wii, so I enjoyed that when it came up, but the first time through, I just found the rest of the tracks on the CD... strange. But haunting.

I listened again, and found myself enjoying a few other tracks quite a bit -- "For Reasons Unknown", I think, and "This River Is Wild". I wasn't sure I really liked much else on the CD, but...

...I listened to it again...

Okay, well, "Sam's Town" was definitely pretty cool, and "Bones" (a song I originally mistakenly believed must be titled "Come With Me", which, given its subject matter, was a pretty filthy double entendre) just blew the goddam doors off when all those horns came in like howitzers during the chorus, but some of the rest of it still seemed a bit dodgy to me.

But I listened to it again...

And it's all just fucking great. It's just fucking GREAT.

I've tried HOT FUSS a few times since then, and it's not hooking me the way SAM'S TOWN did. I like the first four songs okay. After that it kinda tapers off for me.

Still, I owe my baby brother Paul a big vote of thanks. So, thanks, Paul.

I still don't understand why Rob Thomas and Matchbox Twenty are bullshit stupid pop garbage and Counting Crows is transcendent, though. And I'm never going to understand what you hear in Ben Fold's Five.

Over there Talking Points Memo, I've set up a blog and hung a few posts.

I'm not exactly rocking anyone's world over there or anything, but, hey, 2 or 3 comments a post is more than I'm averaging here, and a post that gets SEVEN comments is pretty much unheard of around these parts.

Which isn't to say I'm abandoning this page. I can't do pop culture related nonsense over there, after all. There's just, you know, MORE stuff you haven't read yet, over there.

Be off with you.