What I bought - 4 August 2010

"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

"It's the same thing," he said. (A. A. Milne, from Winnie-the-Pooh)

Hey, you know how sometimes I just don't feel like doing these things? I'm just burned out on reviewing, for whatever reason? Well, last week I didn't feel like reviewing, and I still don't. I don't know why. So I'm going to write one-sentence reviews (in bold), and then write about other shit. Proceed at your own peril!!!!! And don't worry if you think I'm being self-indulgent ... please, just let me know and I'll be happy to refund the money you spent to read this. I'm cool that way!

Casanova #2 ("Pretty Little Policeman"/"Mission to Yerba Muerta") by Matt Fraction (writer), Gabriel Bá (artist), Cris Peter (colorist), and Dustin K. Harbin (letterer). $3.99, 39 pgs, FC, Marvel/Icon.

I agree with Tim Callahan that the recolored blood (in TECHNICOLOR RED this time) changes the tone of the book a bit, making it a slightly darker and more disturbing book - it's kind of neat how much simply coloring something changes the feel of the book.

I've never been a huge poetry fan, even though I've read a lot over the years. I'm not a terribly good poet, which might have something to do with it, and I've never been good at studying poetry, which lessens my appreciation for it (yes, I'm weird that way). These days, I simply don't have time to go looking for new poetry, so most of the stuff I like is by, you know, old dead dudes. One of my favorite poems is "Lepanto" by G. K. Chesterton, a poem that demands to be read aloud loudly. "Lepanto" is one of those poems that feels older than it is, mainly because from what I've read of Chesterton, he should have been born a thousand years before he actually was. "Lepanto" is about, of course, the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 that shattered the myth of Ottoman invincibility (but not, as is generally believed, the Ottoman navy) in the Mediterranean. It's a marvelous poem; go check it out.

One of the most beautiful poems I've ever read is Pablo Neruda's "Enigmas," which is a tough one to consider. Should I love it so much because I can't read it in the Spanish? Here's the Spanish version. Can a translation ever really capture the beauty of the words, or is it just a pale version of it? I don't know. Check out the poem, though:

You've asked me what the lobster is weaving there with his golden feet?I reply, the ocean knows this.You say, what is the ascidia waiting for in its transparent bell? What is it waiting for?I tell you it is waiting for time, like you.You ask me whom the Macrocystis alga hugs in its arms?Study, study it, at a certain hour, in a certain sea I know.You question me about the wicked tusk of the narwhal, and I reply by describing how the sea unicorn with the harpoon in it dies.You enquire about the kingfisher's feathers,which tremble in the pure springs of the southern tides?Or you've found in the cards a new question touching on the crystal architecture of the sea anemone, and you'll deal that to me now?You want to understand the electric nature of the ocean spines?The armored stalactite that breaks as it walks?The hook of the angler fish, the music stretched outin the deep places like a thread in the water?

I want to tell you the ocean knows this, that life in its jewel boxesis endless as the sand, impossible to count, pure,and among the blood-colored grapes time has made the petalhard and shiny, made the jellyfish full of lightand untied its knot, letting its musical threads fallfrom a horn of plenty made of infinite mother-of-pearl.

I am nothing but the empty net which has gone on aheadof human eyes, dead in those darknesses,of fingers accustomed to the triangle, longitudeson the timid globe of an orange.

I walked around as you do, investigating the endless star,and in my net, during the night, I woke up naked,the only thing caught, a fish trapped inside the wind.

Man, Pablo Neruda could write a poem, couldn't he?

One totally Airwolf panel:

Gorilla-Man #2 (of 3) ("The Serpent and the Hawk Part Two") by Jeff Parker (writer), Giancarlo Caracuzzo (artist), Jim Charalampidis (colorist), and Ed Dukeshire (letterer). $3.99, 23 pgs + 7-pg reprint, FC, Marvel.

This is the secret origin of Ken Hale, not Gorilla-Man, and it's typically entertaining - I know, shocking, that.

With all the folderol about Senate Bill 1070 here in Arizona recently, I thought I'd weigh in, just for the hell of it. (For those who don't know, SB 1070 is an anti-illegal immigrant state law that, for the most part, reiterates federal law. Supporters say it's needed because the feds refuse to enforce their own immigration laws, while opponents claim it will lead to racial profiling. A judge last week blocked some of the more controversial sections of the law before it went into effect, and now we're kind of in a holding pattern.) I've lived in Arizona for 9 (really long) years, and I'd like very little more than to leave it, but not because of SB 1070. I'm not entirely sure where this gargantuan illegal immigration problem has come from - supporters of the bill claim that illegal Mexicans are kidnapping people left and right, living in mansions that they buy with their welfare checks, and forcing rich white kids to use all the cocaine they bring across the border, but there's not a lot of evidence for that. Opponents of the bill claim that if it goes into effect, cops will be pulling over anyone with a tan and demanding to see their identification papers and, if they don't have any, will bury them up to their neck in the desert and leave them for the coyotes (the real ones, not the ones who smuggle people across the border). Naturally, both sides have gone a little batty. I don't think SB 1070 is a good idea, mainly because there are better ways to deal with illegal immigration, but what people who don't live in Arizona don't seem to realize is how frustrated people who live here are. We do have something like 500,000 illegal immigrants in the state, and while 99% of them (note: percentages are made up) want to work and keep their heads down, whenever an illegal immigrant commits a crime, supporters of the bill point out, that said crime wouldn't have been committed if that immigrant hadn't been here. It's kind of an asinine argument (I mean, technically it's true, but crime in the U. S. by far is perpetrated by American citizens), but people are often irrational, and fear stirs people up more than rational discussion. Arizonans are angry not necessarily because of illegal immigrants (they've welcomed them for decades, after all, and didn't really care when all their produce was cheap) but because many Arizonans, being Westerners (whether by birth or choice), have an occasionally healthy and often crazed skepticism about the federal government, and they don't see the feds doing their job, which is enforcing immigration laws.

The craziness on all sides is exhausting, however. My daughter's physical therapist, who was born in Canada, waited ten years to become a citizen, and he has an interesting perspective on the debate (he's very conservative, so talking to him is always fun). Opponents of the law rant about how the Nazis made everyone carry "papers" so they could find out instantly if they needed to drag you away, and do we really want to be like the Nazis? Mia's PT points out that if you are a legal immigrant, the government makes sure you know that you have to carry your green card AT ALL TIMES and that the cops can ask you if you have them at any time. He said in ten years he was asked for them about 7-8 times for absolutely no reason except that he answered "no" when the cops asked him if he was a citizen (because he's honest, don't you know). So OF COURSE the American government wants non-citizens to carry "papers." They have for years!

The attitude of the Mexican government is kind of humorous, as well. They've been ranting against the law for months, even though, as numerous letters to the editor in our local newspaper point out, in Mexico you can be stopped completely at random and not only will you need more identification papers than you might think exist, you might have to have some extra cash on hand, too. The hypocrisy of the president of Mexico doesn't surprise me (a hypocritical politician? Quelle horreur!), but it does make me chuckle a bit. And even though I don't agree with the law, the protestors last week who flooded the streets of Phoenix to celebrate the judge's ruling make me wonder. Many of them carried Mexican flags, and I'm not sure, if you're trying to convince people you really love the U. S. and want to stay here, that carrying Mexican flags is the best way to go about it. But that's just me.

As usual, this is an extremely complex issue that is being reduced to sound bites, because that's all people really care about. The funny thing is that when I taught high school, many of the kids I taught were Hispanic and some had dicey residency status. They all wanted to be Americans, though, and what the crazy people who support this bill (as opposed to the crazy people who oppose it) fail to realize is that American culture, for good or for ill, tends to absorb and subsume all kinds of other cultures. The people who are here illegally will have children, and they'll have children, and in 30 years they'll be Americans ... just like all the other waves of immigrants who came here in the past. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose and all that.

One totally Airwolf panel:

Kill Shakespeare #4 (of 12) ("So Wise So Young Never Do Live Long") by Conor McCreery (writer), Anthony Del Col (writer), Andy Belanger (artist), Ian Herring (colorist), and Chris Mowry (letterer). $3.99, 24 pgs, FC, IDW.

I really enjoy the fact that Hamlet and Falstaff go through this entire issue still in women's clothing from last issue; that's commitment on the part of the writers!

Back when I was a teacher, I made my history students memorize Shakespeare's St. Crispin's Day speech, from Henry V. Boy, did they hate that!

WESTMORELAND. O that we now had here But one ten thousand of those men in England That do no work to-day!

KING. What's he that wishes so? My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin; If we are mark'd to die, we are enow To do our country loss; and if to live, The fewer men, the greater share of honour. God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more. By Jove, I am not covetous for gold, Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost; It yearns me not if men my garments wear; Such outward things dwell not in my desires. But if it be a sin to covet honour, I am the most offending soul alive. No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England. God's peace! I would not lose so great an honour As one man more methinks would share from me For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more! Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host, That he which hath no stomach to this fight, Let him depart; his passport shall be made, And crowns for convoy put into his purse; We would not die in that man's company That fears his fellowship to die with us. This day is call'd the feast of Crispian. He that outlives this day, and comes safe home, Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd, And rouse him at the name of Crispian. He that shall live this day, and see old age, Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours, And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian.' Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars, And say 'These wounds I had on Crispian's day.' Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot, But he'll remember, with advantages, What feats he did that day. Then shall our names, Familiar in his mouth as household words - Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter, Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester - Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb'red. This story shall the good man teach his son; And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by, From this day to the ending of the world, But we in it shall be remembered - We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he to-day that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile, This day shall gentle his condition; And gentlemen in England now-a-bed Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here, And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

Damn, that Shakespeare could turn a phrase! Anyone who claims not to like Shakespeare is either lying or hasn't heard any Shakespeare. And that's a damned shame.

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Murder of King Tut #3 (of 5) by Alexander Irvine (writer), Christopher Mitten (artist), Ron Randall (artist), Dom Regan (colorist), and Neil Uyetake (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, IDW.

Irvine does a nice job showing how on Earth a brother and sister could possibly become husband and wife, even though it offends our sensibilities - that's a tough trick, but he pulls it off pretty well.

Next Wednesday (11 August) is the first day of school for the two children. Some kids in the Phoenix area have already gone back to school, but Mesa won't go back until then. If you're wondering why they go back so early, well, I can't say. The best theory I've heard is that because August and June are so horrifically hot anyway, it's better for the kids to go in August when they're fresh and ready than keep them into June, when they're burned out anyway (most schools here finish their years the week before Memorial Day). Anyway, Norah is going to kindergarten, and she's terrifically excited. She's been going to preschool for over a year, and they do some actual work, so I think she'll have an easy transition to kindergarten. Her school is a public school and part of the Mesa School District, but it's a type that's a bit more "old-school" - they have a dress code, for instance, and a fairly strict code of conduct and they push the kids academically a bit more. Norah doesn't need more discipline - she's remarkably well behaved - but she's not much of a self-starter, so I think having a rigid work schedule will help her very much. She will work very hard if she knows exactly what she's supposed to do, but if left alone, she'll sit around and play. She loves school, so I think she'll do fine, but we can always move her if she's struggling ... but I don't think that will be a problem. Mia, meanwhile, is getting her fourth teacher in four years, which frustrates us to no end. You might think that most kids get a different teacher each year, and that might be true, but because Mia is in Special Ed., it's a bit of a different situation. Her first two years she was in a very good program that fell victim to budget cuts - don't get me started on that. She had two teachers in two years, but they were both very experienced and the program was very much tailored to kids with more severe disabilities. Last year she had to go into a more "normal" Special Ed. class - she was the only one in a wheelchair, for instance - and her teacher was a 22-year-old rookie. Man, that was tough. Mia was coming off hip surgery and wasn't eating a lot, so the first half of the year was a serious struggle just to get her weight up and get her to move around. In the second half of the year, she made great improvements because she was eating better and her physical status improved, plus the teacher started figuring out how to deal with a kid with a traumatic brain injury (they're ... different, to say the least, than other Special Ed. kids). By the end of the year, the TBI specialist for Mesa Schools and I were amazed by how far the teacher had come, and we were looking forward to this year, because Mia is healthy and back to her pre-surgery capacity (which, admittedly, isn't high, but at least her bones are fine!). So this week I found out her teacher went to a different school district and she's getting ... a new first-year teacher! Jesus. We're hoping that we can learn from last year and assist this teacher much sooner to deal with Mia, because we don't want her to slip too far from where she was last year. We'll see. In case you're wondering, the biggest problem people have with Mia when they first meet her and try to work with her is that she's so danged cute and she tends to be overly dramatic about everything (she's 7 - almost 8 - and it that way, she's a fairly normal kid). When I say "overly dramatic" I mean screaming bloody murder if you make her do anything slightly difficult. It's hard to figure out when she really hurts (which she does, occasionally) or when she's totally faking it, and naturally, most people err on the side of caution, so they don't push her if the tears come. I still worry about her sometimes, and I've been hardened to it over the course of over seven years since her injury. So it's not a surprise that people treat her with kid gloves, but they need to move past it, because it doesn't do her any good whatsoever.

Anyway, we're still considering moving her to another school with more experienced teachers, if we can find one. School is fun, isn't it?

One totally Airwolf panel:

Murderland #1 ("Set the Method Down, Part One") by Stephen Scott (writer), David Hahn (artist), and Guillem Mari (colorist). $2.99, 24 pgs, FC, Image.

This is kind of an unpleasant bloodfest with a strange mystery behind it, but it's honestly not all that interesting, so I probably won't get the second issue. I do like, however, the flip cover by Boo Cook (see left), because it's so ridiculous.

The best summer I ever had was in 1979. In May of that year, my family moved back from Germany, where we had lived for four years (my dad worked for Sperry and they had an office in Frankfurt) and I turned 8. That summer was the perfect storm of childlike awesomeness, I tell you that much. I had never watched much television in Germany (German TV was terrible in the '70s), so I had no idea what to watch when I got back. I lived behind twin brothers whom I had known for some time, and we became even better friends that summer and remain close to this day. I lived in Warminster, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia that was a great place to grow up because it wasn't dangerous, it had plenty of open space (not so much anymore) as well as plenty of people (meaning: kids), and it was relatively compact, so getting anywhere wasn't difficult. This was an era before people decided to fence in their yards, so my backyard and the backyard behind me and one either side formed one vast space (which, of course, may have been why people decided to start fencing - we traipsed all over the place, and as an adult, I can sympathize, but as a kid, I thought they were just jerks). Summer in Pennsylvania isn't horrible, but it is rather humid, and many people back then didn't have air conditioning, so we were outside all day because it wasn't any more pleasant outside than inside. Finally, on my block we had a ton of children. I was one of the youngest kids, but there were a few who were younger. We also had a bunch of slightly older kids, but none older than, say, 11. What this meant was that nobody was too cool to hang out with younger kids, so we all played together. We could get a group of 15-20 kids together easily, all from my street or the street behind me. And we played Kick the Can all summer. I had brought back from Germany a giant soccer ball - it was actually just a thin rubber ball painted like a soccer ball - and we used that instead of a can. We had to kick it up the street, because the street was on a slight incline and would have rolled forever if we kicked it downward. We had to stay on our block or the person who was "it" would never find everyone. The "jail" was a lamppost outside of my house, because my house was centrally located on the street. The "It" person had the worst job ever, and I'm surprised we had the patience to play that game all summer. With so many people playing and with a ball instead of a can, it was very hard for the "It" person to catch everyone before someone kicked the ball and released everyone. Yet we went out there almost every day and played Kick the Motherfucking Can. And it was awesome. At night we would play Flashlight Tag. And it was also awesome.

It's very weird to have such a strangely cinematic event occur in your life, where cinematic events are often few and far between. That autumn we all went back to school, and a few weeks later the neighbor's dog popped my soccer ball, which had rolled into their yard after I foolishly left it out at night. It was like a symbol of lost childhood smacked me right in the face (even though, you know, I was still 8). I discovered television that fall (The Dukes of Hazzard, bitches!) and the next summer, some of the older kids we played with the year before we too cool to hang out with us anymore, and we felt like we were too cool to hang out with some of the younger kids who, the year before, had been too young (5 or 6) the previous year but were now able to venture out on their own (I was awfully stupid in that regard, as my next door neighbor, who was maybe two years younger than I was, grew into a scorching young lady, and while I was always friendly with her, I wonder if I had been nicer to her when she was younger I might have had an advantage when she went all hot on us). So although I loved the Eighties and my adolescence during that decade, the summer of 1979 was a weirdly wonderful few months when it seemed like everyone would always be friends and we'd always play all day and a good portion of the night and nothing would stop us from that. Then we all hit puberty and got interested in sex. Damn it!!!!!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Nancy in Hell #1 (of 4) by El Torres (writer), Juan Jose Ryp (artist), Francis Gamboa (colorist), and Malaka Studio (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Image.

Another gorefest about, well, a girl in Hell (wielding a chainsaw), saved a bit by Ryp's gloriously gratuitous art and El Torres' over-the-top script, but I'm a bit put out because Ryp was the main draw for me (although I have enjoyed El Torres' writing in the past) and I just saw in Previews that he's not drawing the third issue, which is awfully annoying; I wasn't too impressed by this issue, but that might just do it for me.

Random stuff from this day in history, 5 August:

* On this day in 1962, Marilyn Monroe was found dead in her home in Los Angeles. She was 37. Monroe, of course, was found in flagrante delicto with Robert Kennedy, Marshal Josip Tito, AND an alien from Alpha Centauri, which the government covered up. Damn them!!!!

* On this day in 1861, Abraham Lincoln signed the Revenue Act, imposing the first federal income tax. Lincoln, as you know, was a vile tax-and-spend Democrat who also created Medicare, insulted NASCAR fans, and pulled back the Union soldiers when they were just about to defeat the Confederacy, thereby ensuring that the United States would remain divided between North and South, which is where it remains to this day.

* On this day in 1983, Risky Business opened. It starred the 21-year-old future crazy person Tom Cruise, and while everyone talks about the Bob Seger scene, what they're really thinking about is the Rebecca de Mornay scene. You know the (totally Not Safe For Work) one!!!!!

* On this day in 1976, the National Basketball Association merged with the American Basketball Association. Four teams survived the merger (and Will Farrell didn't play for any of them), but the only really important thing to come from it was that Julius Erving, Dr. J himself, went to play in Philadelphia, where he led the 76ers to the 1983 Championship and made an indelible impression on Young Greg.

One totally Airwolf panel:

Secret Six #24 ("Unforgivable Part One") by Gail Simone (writer), Jim Calafiore (artist), Jason Wright (colorist), and Travis Lanham (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

This issue takes place in the Old West, with all the characters making appearances and bad things happening, and I'm not sure what's going on, as Simone doesn't offer any explanation, at least not in this issue.

The two worst inventions in the history of mankind are air conditioning and the television remote control. The atom bomb? Used twice, and nuclear power can solve a lot of energy concerns. No, it's AC and the remote. Let's review:

First, air conditioning. Not only does AC do horrible things to the environment, it keeps people inside. I mentioned above that when I was growing up we didn't have central air, so we were more or less forced outside, where it was only marginally hotter than inside. Well, since moving to Arizona, I've become even more convinced that AC is a bad idea. Before the advent of AC, Phoenix was a tiny town, with citrus orchards as far as the eye could see. I've spoken to elderly natives of this area, and they claim that while it got very hot during the day, it got much cooler at night, and the smell of orange and lemon trees was a wonder. When there's no AC, the heat makes it certain that only the hard core people will come here. With AC, the people began flooding in, and soon this area was overwhelmed with transplants, the farming went away, and the paving began. With all the macadam, Phoenix has become what they call a "heat island," meaning the heat gets trapped in the pavement and takes a long time to leach out, meaning the nights here are almost as hot as the days. It remains well over 100 degrees (Fahrenheit, that is, because we're in America, damn it!) deep into the night, and we get no relief. You may question why then macadam isn't one of the worst inventions, but there wouldn't be so many damned roads here if not for the AC. Plus, as I mentioned above, not having AC makes you more aware of what's going on in your neighborhood - AC keeps you inside and isolated, and not having it toughens you up a bit. Let's be honest, we could all use toughening up. Now that I live here, there's no way I would turn my AC off in the summer - especially with Mia, who has trouble regulating her temperature - but I'm going to try something when they both go back to school next week - turning it off during the day. It's a crapload of money to run it, and as I'll be home alone, I don't really care if it gets a bit hot. That's why I have to pool! Plus, it will be nice having the doors and windows open. I don't hate the winters here because of the nice breezes that come through the house when the doors and windows are open.

Next, the remote. I hate to go all "When I was a kid" on people, but it's true that when I was a kid, we had to be more committed to watching programs because we lacked a remote. We were also committed to watching the commercials, which is more important than you might think. My theory is that this made our attention spans longer, and allowed us to be more patient than subsequent generations. I saw my students unable to sit still for 50 minutes or so, and I wondered why their attention spans were so short. I'm sure there's a number of factors, but one of them, I'm convinced, is their ability to channel surf easily. There's the minor point of actually getting up and turning channels so you don't become a complete couch potato, but it's more that not having a remote forced us to stay focused on one program. Mock if you must, but I'm convinced. Of course, I would never trade in my remote now. I mean, I'm a big fat man - I can't be getting up and changing channels (can you even do that anymore?). Plus, I love fast-forwarding through commercials. The DVR rules, man!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Secret Warriors #18 ("The Last Ride of the Howling Commandos Part Two") by Jonathan Hickman (writer), Alessandro Vitti (artist), Imaginary Friends Studio (colorist), and Dave Lanphear (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Does Captain America say he doesn't like sauerkraut because it's German and he's talking to a Nazi, or does he really not like sauerkraut?

Here's a joke. Don't share it with your children!

A businessman goes to a new city for a conference, and on Friday night, he's feeling a little antsy. So he asks around and learns about a high-class brothel where you can get all your desires satisfied. He finds the joint and tells the madam he's looking for some fun. She nods and says, "We have just the thing for you. Trust me."

She tells him to go to the top of the stairs, go to the last room on the right, and there he'll find everything he wants. So he walks up the stairs, goes to the last room on the right, and opens the door. The room is pitch black, so he steps inside and closes the door behind him. The light comes on and he sees a bed with a chicken sitting on it. "Hell, no," he says, turns, and finds that the door has locked behind him. He pounds on it for a few minutes, but nobody comes to let him out. Finally he turns around and checks out the bird. He's still feeling really antsy, so after a few minutes, he thinks, Why the hell not?

Well, his experience is amazing. It's the best time he's ever had, and he's able to keep going all night. He can't believe how great it is. He goes to his conference the next day but can't stop thinking about going back that night. So on Saturday night he heads back to the brothel and tells the madam, "I want the last room on the right. You know ..."

She smiles and says, "Of course. But it's being used right now. Perhaps you'd like to wait in the lounge with a drink for a while?"

So the guy gets a beer and sits in the lounge next to another dude. They're facing a big-screen television where an orgy is being broadcast. The businessman can't believe what he's seeing - people putting all sorts of things in every sort of hole, and all sorts of lotions and oils and other fluids all over the place. He turns to the guy sitting next to him and says, "Wow. Can you believe what's going on there?"

The guy says, "You should have been here last night - there was a guy fucking a chicken!"

One totally Airwolf panel:

S.H.I.E.L.D. #3 ("The Theory of Eternal Life") by Jonathan Hickman (writer), Dustin Weaver (artist), Christina Strain (colorist), Justin Ponsor (colorist), and Todd Klein (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Dustin Weaver continues to shine, but that page with Nostradamus getting tattooed looks terrible, and I wonder if the different colorists have anything to do with it or if Weaver is still working out his issues with faces.

I don't know if Hickman means what he writes about the fall of the Umayyads or if that's just Isaac Newton's opinion or if in the Marvel U. that's the way it happened, but the fall of the Umayyad Caliphate was certainly not the beginning of the Dark Ages, which is a complete misnomer anyway. First of all, this issue implies that Baghdad was the center of Umayyad power, when it was actually Damascus. In fact, Baghdad didn't actually exist in AD 750, so there's that. After 750, the Umayyads, who ruled Islam when it made its greatest conquests, moved to the Iberian peninsula (which the Muslims had conquered in circa 711) and re-established their caliphate there, turning Al-Andalus (as they called Spain and Portugal) into a center of learning and culture, welcoming Jews and Christians to debate philosophy and theology. Meanwhile, the fall of the Umayyads in the Middle East, far from leading humanity into a Dark Age, ushered in the Islamic Golden Age, as the Abbasids, who displaced them, promoted science, mathematics, literature, philosophy, and technology. Hickman's Newton apparently never heard of Harun al-Rashid (763-809), the famous caliph who inspired the 1001 Nights and communicated often with Charlemagne in northern France. The Abbasid dynasty was destroyed in 1258 by the Mongols, but even that didn't plunge the world into a dark age. At the same time as the Muslim cultural flowering, the Byzantine Empire was experiencing a revival under a succession of strong rulers, and of course we had the Carolingian Renaissance in France (another misnomer, but after the relative chaos of the late Merovingians it felt like one) and the 12th Century Renaissance. There were periods of anarchy in Europe during these years, but nothing like the biased view of history perpetrated by 15th- and 16th-century thinkers, who liked to believe they had rediscovered Greek and Roman culture after centuries of folk lived in ignorance. We must always be wary of labels given to eras, and in this case, the "Renaissance" culture wanted to believe they were special, so they named the period between the Fall of Rome and their own time "The Middle Ages" - and they were so influential the name stuck, even to this day. Fight the power, people! Take back the Dark Ages!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Shuddertown #4 by Nick Spencer (writer), Adam Geen (artist/colorist), and Thomas Mauer (letterer). $3.50, 22 pgs, FC, Image/Shadowline.

I really want to like this comic, but this is the end of the first story arc, and I have to say, I just don't understand what happened.

Shuddertown takes place in Pittsburgh, which is of course where the inbred Pennsylvanians live (oh, I kid, I kid). I've been to Pittsburgh a few times in my life. In 1984 we visited my aunt, uncle, and very young cousins there, and even as a kid, I was struck by what a hole it was. Then, in 1992, two friends of mine and I went back to visit another friend who was matriculating at the University of Pittsburgh (although I don't think he ever graduated). I was amazed by how Pittsburgh had changed in less than a decade - the city was fairly clean, and much of the decaying infrastructure had been renovated. It was, frankly, a beautiful city. We had a wild weekend (it was Labor Day, so we stayed a bit longer) and one thing I remember was the night we ended up in my friend Chris's apartment, drinking 40s of malt liquor and taking Percocet. I have no idea how Chris got ahold of Percocet, but he did. Drinking alcohol and taking a narcotic can be a deadly combination, but all it really did to us was slow us down considerably. I remember the night because I got in an argument with my best friend, Ken, and had we not been doped up on alcohol and drugs, we probably would have come to blows. As it was, we simply sat on either side of the room yelling at each other, no doubt with slurred voices. I even remember what the argument was about - I was convinced Ken was wasting his life because he kept enrolling and then dropping out of college. Ken is a smart guy, but he had a terrible attention span (he still might; I haven't spoken to him in years, even though we have each other's e-mail addresses and we send each other Christmas cards - I honestly don't know what happened that he doesn't want to talk to me anymore, and it remains a great mystery in my life) and he could never figure out what he wanted to do with his life. He, of course, saw things differently. He actually didn't talk to me for several months afterward, but he eventually called me up and we made peace. I was one of the first people he came out to, and he also took me on my only visit to a gay bar, which was quite the scene (it was in New Hope, Pennsylvania, which, if you know it, tells you all you need to know). I miss Ken. I have no idea if I pissed him off somehow.

One totally Airwolf panel:

Sparta U. S. A. #6 (of 6) ("Beyond the Mountain") by David Lapham (writer), Johnny Timmons (artist), Darlene Royer (colorist), and Wes Abbott (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Wildstorm.

Lapham could have gotten to the payoff a bit sooner and made this even more insane, but this remains an interesting mini-series that never quite coheres, story- or artwise.

My random memories of Europe, which is where I lived in 1975-1979:

* When we were shopping for a house, we drove around with a real estate agent in a souped-up muscle car. I was four, so I have no idea what the make or model was, but it was dark, sparkly green and the agent drove it really fast. Nothing screams "1970s" like a white Afro-ed real estate agent (and a German, to boot) driving a family of four around in a muscle car.

* My mother loves to travel, so travel we did! I've been to almost every country in Western Europe (remember, back then you couldn't go to Eastern Europe), some more than once. We drove everywhere in our Volvo, which was no fun for us kids. My favorite journey was probably when we went to Sicily. We took a ship from Naples to Palermo, and during the night, my sister started sleepwalking. We were in a small berth with two bunk beds, and she was in the top bunk of one. She started talking in her sleep, which is why we all woke up. She started climbing down the ladder saying, "Guy, where are you?" over and over. Near the bottom she jumped, which woke her up. To this day, she has no idea who Guy is. In Palermo I watched The Muppet Show in Italian in the hotel lobby, and we watched Mount Etna erupt from a different mountain at night, so it was quite spectacular.

* One day while my sister and I were playing on our swingset in the backyard, she got her thumb caught in the hinge at the top of one of those see-saws with seats that hang from swingsets. She screamed bloody murder, I'll tell you that much. I remember that the swingset was bright green, and a thin line of red ran straight down the slanted pole. To this day, one of my sister's thumb is thinner than the other one. Poor Barb. In case you think she was the only casualty of childhood, once I fell into a flower bush in the back of our yard, which happened to be full of bees. Dang, that wasn't fun.

* I went to German kindergarten and consequently could speak German better than my parents could (alas, that is no longer true). One of my teachers had a long scar on her hand where she cut herself once while she was holding a loaf of bread and cutting off a slice. Yeah, adults aren't too bright, either!

* One time when we were in London, my parents bought a fancy bookmark at the Victoria and Albert Museum. I have no recollection of going to the Victoria and Albert Museum, but I know we were there! Well over 30 years later, I still have and use the bookmark. Here it is:

* We used to visit my grandparents in the U. S. once a year. My grandmother stocked Tab, so we drank Tab. Dear Lord, Tab is icky. One time she hauled some vanilla ice cream out of the freezer, and only after we ate it all did we realize it was frozen Cool Whip. Damn, frozen Cool Whip is pretty awesome.

* My parents introduced me to ABBA. Blame them. They also introduced me to James Last and his orchestra, but that didn't take. Thank God.

One totally Airwolf panel:

Starstruck #12 (of 13) ("Drawing Dead") by Elaine Lee (writer), Michael Wm. Kaluta (artist), Lee Moyer (painter), and Todd Klein (letterer). $3.99, 26 pgs, FC, IDW.

With one issue left, there's still a lot of questions to answer, and I'm looking forward to the grand finale, because this has been one excellent series!

Possibly the best thing I have ever done is leave Pennsylvania (marrying my wife is probably higher up, but I wouldn't have married her if I hadn't left PA, so there's that). When I graduated in 1993, I had an English degree and no prospects. My girlfriend at the time said she was moving to Portland, Oregon, partly to see if she wanted to go to grad school at Lewis and Clark College (she didn't) but also to get the hell out of Dodge (or Pottsville, which is where she grew up). I had really no reason to stay in Pennsylvania, so I went with her. We had been dating for less than a year, but I was totally hooked! We arrived in Portland after three weeks driving across the country and immediately settled in. We loved living in Portland, and I wish we could move back. Portland is a fantastic city, let me tell you. It's small enough to feel cozy but big enough that there's plenty to do. The downtown area is compact enough to walk around in, and the blocks are smaller than in most big cities. There are many gorgeous neighborhoods, lots of stuff to do both indoor and outside, and it's near the ocean and the mountains (although one of these days Mount Hood is going to erupt and wipe it right off the map). We got engaged soon after moving there and got married in July 1994. I was 23, Krys was 26. We both decided that we were far too selfish to have children, and we spent the Nineties eating at Portland's wonderful restaurants (our favorite was Higgins at the corner of Jefferson and Broadway, where a wonderful waiter introduced me to the glory of Glenfiddich), patronizing the many theaters around town (we saw dozens of plays over the years, including John Sayles' "The Anarchist's Convention," based on a few of his short stories; Tom Stoppard's "Arcadia," which is a tremendous play and the performance of which was probably the best we ever saw; and performances of "Hamlet" and "Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead" a week or so apart using the same actors, which was brilliant), and seeing lots of movies. We also traveled all over the state, up to Seattle (more than once), to Victoria, BC, and just before we moved, Vancouver. I ended up going to graduate school at Portland State, getting a Master's in History, but when I finished, there were no jobs teaching around the town and, at that time, it was too expensive to buy a house. So we moved to Arizona, where teaching jobs were plentiful. And we decided that we were grown up enough to have children. Yay, us!

The point is, moving West was a tremendous idea. I would recommend moving far away from home for anyone, even if you move back (which is what we're trying to do, mainly because the grandparents miss the kids). Out West, even in Arizona, which I don't like, there's a real feeling that anything is possible, and while I love Pennsylvania, living near where you grow up can be incredible constricting. Most of my good friends still live back near Philadelphia, and while I suppose it works for them, I don't think it would have worked for me. I may not be the most mature person around, but I know that whatever maturity I have stems from moving far away from Pennsylvania when I had the chance. It's much harder to move now that we have two children, but it's a great idea if you have few responsibilities. It's totally exhilarating, building a life from the ground up with no safety net. I think my wife and I have done a fairly good job.

One totally Airwolf panel:

Whispers in the Walls #1 (of 6) by David Muñoz (writer), Tirso (artist), Javi Montes (colorist), Silvia Villamisar (coloring assistant), and Alex Donoghue (translator). $3.50, 27 pgs, FC, Humanoids.

This is a pretty good first issue about a weird hospital in Czechoslovakia after World War II where very strange things are happening; it's creepy and looks very nice.

As I get older, I'm less interested in a lot of things. I still watch too much television, but that's mostly because my lovely wife is exhausted when she gets home from work and we just like to crash. Much of what I watch isn't that great, but as I've pointed out before, I'm selective with comics (for the most part) because I have to buy them à la carte, while I'm buying the entire television package, so why the hell wouldn't I watch stuff? If I could pay a monthly fee to Marvel and get all their comics, I'd read more of their stuff! Anyway, I still watch TV but very little really, really excites me, and I hardly ever see movies (the kids require a babysitter, man!). Even when I see movies, I don't get thrilled by much. I had hoped I'd be thrilled by Inception, but while I enjoyed it a lot, it didn't make me marvel at the movies like I used to. I think the last time I was really jazzed by a movie was when I saw No Country For Old Men. Anyway, even if I still loved seeing movies, I just don't have a ton of time for it. I long ago stopped worrying about music, so I'm hopelessly behind the times in that regard. I must be getting old. I'm still very interested in comics and books, and I'm glad that the kids are both going to school so I can restart my stalled (and extremely unheralded) writing career, which I put on hold to, you know, raise them. I don't regret it at all, because raising kids is terrifically rewarding, but I'm keen to start writing in earnest again. So does this happen when you get old? Do you lose interest in a wide range of things but become keener on the things that remain? Help me out, geezers!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Young Allies #3 ("Now, Not Tomorrow Part Three: Down Time") by Sean McKeever (writer), David Baldeón (penciler), N. Bowling (inker), Chris Sotomayor (colorist), and Joe Sabino (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

I'm enjoying this series a bit more each issue, because McKeever is doing a nice job making the heroes not really a team, just people happening to bump into each other, which is kind of cool.

Finally, I offer a challenge. I don't know if Apodaca, everyone's favorite curmudgeon, still reads my columns or if he pulled his hair out in frustration at my lack of taste long ago, but Dan interests me. I don't know if you noticed this, but whenever someone mentions music in these columns, Dan is there to tell us that they suck. That's cool - if I allowed Dan to tell me what's cool, I'd miss out on all of the great Billy Joel discography! But my challenge to Mr. Apodaca is this: Please, sir, list your top ten albums of all time. I want to believe you actually enjoy some music! The gauntlet is thrown, Dan! And if anyone else wants to chime in, feel free. Dan will mock us all, but does he have the cojones to step up and expose his own tastes to the ridicule of the crowd?!?!?!? DOES HE?!?!?!?!?

One totally Airwolf panel:

Hey, here are The Ten Most Recent Songs Played On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle But Which Often Gets Reset, A Vexing Dilemma):

1. "Renaissance Man" - Midnight Oil (1993) "A new world order has been formed between the cheque book and the dawn"2. "All She Wants Is" - Duran Duran (1988) "Divine intervention couldn't keep the word from leaking out"3. "Rio" - Duran Duran (1982) "I've seen you on the beach and I've seen you on TV"4. "Bring the Noise" - Public Enemy (1988) "What you gonna do, rap is not afraid of you"5. "Crazy" - Seal (1991) "One of them's got a gun, to shoot the other one; and yet together they were friends at school"16. "In the Lost and Found (Honky Bach)" - Elliott Smith (2000) "But every morning when he wakes he thinks of you"7. "Long Road to Ruin" - Foo Fighters (2007) "Head on without a care before it's way too late"8. "This is Your Life" - En Vogue (1992) "And when I spoke up to my friends they made fun of my dreams"9. "My Country" - Midnight Oil (1993) "There was never any warning, no escape"210. "Time is Burning" - Horse Flies (1991) "Big gray bird is staring down at the half of his brain lying on the ground"

1 I suppose I have to point out that Seal is still married to this woman, so he must be doing something right!2 Weird shuffle this time around - two Duran Duran songs, and two Midnight Oil songs. Such is the way of the randomness!

Let us check in with some totally random lyrics!

"I keep straining my ears to hear a soundMaybe someone is digging undergroundOr have they given up and all gone home to bed?Thinking those who once existed must be dead?"

Thanks for indulging me, gentlemen and ladies. I hope it wasn't too trying to get through this. Of course, I warned you about it, so you could have skipped it. You have only yourself to blame!!!! We'll see what happens next week. I'm sure I'll be back on form!

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