Friday, October 31, 2008

Contempt for the Constitution

Few months back I overheard a little snippet of a conversation between Frodo and Samwise and their 11 year-old cousin (hmmm, don't have a blog-specific nickname for her...let's go with Cousinette, for now). Cousinette was pretty disdainful of the Ron Paul bumper stickers on our van, which left my boys incredulous, "You don't like Ron Paul?"

"No, I like Obama."

Can't remember which one of the boys replied with, "But what about the Constitution?" (you know I swelled with pride)

"Pfft...Constitution," said Cousinette, leaving the boys speechless. Ahh, the wonders of a publik skewl edumacation.

Had a flashback to that convo this morning when I watched this disheartening video from Judge Andrew Napolitano:

Thursday, October 30, 2008

We'll always have Cardiff . . .

Keening, weeping, moaning, gnashing of teeth at the Newton household (from all members, btw) today after getting the news that David Tennant, the 10th Doctor Who, has stated:
When Doctor Who returns in 2010 it won't be with me
Yeah, yeah, life will go on, it's just a show, we still have our health...yada yada yada. All that's true...just gonna mean it's all a little less brilliant.


More Ironic than Ray-yain on Your Wedding Day

Good ol' Howard Dean...don't think I've told this story before, back in May '05 I was changing planes at the madhouse called Dulles International Airport and found myself standing next to Howard Dean. I noticed three things:

  1. He's short!
  2. He has this quality, this Howard Dean-ness that you can kind of sense on's real strong in Real Life (TM)...really makes a conservative want to punch the nearest source of Howard Dean-ness.
  3. That I didn't punch the nearest source--further proof of progressive sanctification.
Anyway, author of Nanny State and blogger over at the Denver Post Editorial Page blog, David Harsanyi noted a couple of quotations from everyone's favorite former Vermont governor.
Howard Dean in 2005:
Someday, the Democrats will be back in charge again. Do we want a Democratic Party that’s in charge of everything? Well, you know, I suppose it’s my job to say yes. But the truth is, as an American, it’s better when parties share power....

[There] is a culture of corruption and abuse of power in Washington. This is what happens when one party is in charge of everything.
My inner-idealogue bristles at this notion, but my inner-pragmatist (when I let him speak) sees the wisdom in this--and it seems most Americans agree with this. But here's where it gets fun.
Howard Dean in 2008:
Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said Monday that he’s looking forward to one party controlling all aspects of government, despite GOP charges that it would be a disastrous Nov. 4 outcome. "Republicans had a chance to rule. They failed miserably. I think it’s time to give the other party a chance," Dean said on MSNBC.
This is gonna be a really long four (eight?) years--unless the mid-term elections in '10 shake things up.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives

Back in '92 I read a review for a CD called A Man Called E by, well, E. I remember I didn't hear whatever the review heard, but I really liked it--still one of my 'go to' albums for pensive moments. But I lost track of E right away, and once I started using teh InterWeb thingy, never thought of trying to find him that way.

'Til the Shrek soundtrack came along, and I just knew I knew the voice on the track by The Eels, it was like bumping into someone I went to school with at the grocery store. Since then, I've picked up some of their music--mostly by accident on soundtracks. Quirky, witty, and sad. Best quick way I can think of to describe them.

That's more than I meant to say as introduction, sorry.

Anyway, quite by accident (again) I stumbled across this NOVA special last week--Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives--which focuses on E (aka Mark Oliver Everett) digging into his father's life, particularly his career as a quantum theorist. In 1957, Hugh Everett III published a work where he laid out the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. To say that his father was distant seems to be quite the understatement, so E learned a great deal about his father during filming--particularly personal details. At several times during the documentary I felt like I was intruding.

As far as the science stuff goes--like E, most of it was over my head (tho' some of it was incredibly simplistic--'course kletois probably thinks all of it was pretty simplistic), and I think the whole parallel world thing is good Science Fiction, lousy reality. But it was interesting, and gave a good narrative frame for the human stories: Hugh Everett's career, search for acceptance, excessive drinking, etc.; E's feeling of distance from his father, not understanding him, other family tragedy; and E's growing understanding of his father.

Obviously, the human stories were the crux of the film--and I think, given a little more time, could've been developed better by the filmmakers--a lot of the documentary felt rushed. All in all, a very interesting look at theoretical physics and the people behind it (if nothing else, a great soundtrack), try to catch it on a rerun.

Backup by Jim Butcher

Well, that was a fun, 45 minutes (give or take).

Just knocked off Jim Butcher's Backup: A Story of the Dresden Files. Weighing in at about 12K words, it's almost as meaty as the 4-issue mini-series comic book Welcome to the Jungle (recently collected and published in hardcover form).

This is a different way of telling a Harry Dresden story, coming at it from the POV of his brother, Thomas. Not only does this give us a new way of seeing Harry, it gives us a better appreciation for Thomas. (In many ways, it reminded me of Crais' The Watchman from last year.)

Quick read; decent story--resolution came a bit too soon, but given the length, such was unavoidable; probably paid too much for it, given my budget; hope some of the backstory spills over into the regular Dresden File novels. Something any fan should pick up.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Spooktacular 2008

Local Borders store had their Spooktacular party on Saturday for kids--games, costume contest, etc. Good way to kill an afternoon--made even better by Frodo and Sam winning a couple of books :)

Snapped a couple of photos on our way out the door:

We start off with a SWAT team member--as a bonus, the costume includes several toys :)
Frodo was, well, if you need an explanation here, you've got problems.
The Princess opted for, shockingly, a princess. (this is a hand-me-down from her cousin, making this cooler than humanly possible for her)
Flexing his (and his parents') creativity, Samwise decided to go all literary, here he is as Skulduggery Pleasant.
and a closer look at the bang-up job TLomL did on his makeup.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Thought for the Lord's Day #26

He doesn't post often enough, but when he does, Prof. Shaw typically hits the ball right out of the park. Friday's post "Mental Images of Jesus" does a nice succinct job of dealing with one of the more common objections to the the confessional (read: Biblical) position of applying the 2nd commandment to images of Christ.

Someone Was Looking Awfully Grown-Up Today

so we snapped a quick pic:

Friday, October 24, 2008

"Godspeed" - Anberlin

Just cuz I haven't done a Friday Music thing in awhile...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Who's the Socialist?

Happy Birthday, Archie!

On Oct 23 in Chillicothe, Ohio, Archie Goodwin entered this world--no doubt with a smile for the pretty nurses--and American detective literature was never the same.

I'm toasting him in one of the ways I think he'd appreciate most--by raising a glass of milk in his honor.

Who was Archie? Archie summed up his life thusly:

Born in Ohio. Public high school, pretty good at geometry and football, graduated with honor but no honors. Went to college two weeks, decided it was childish, came to New York and got a job guarding a pier, shot and killed two men and was fired, was recommended to Nero Wolfe for a chore he wanted done, did it, was offered a full-time job by Mr. Wolfe, took it, still have it." (Fourth of July Picinic)
Long may he keep it. Just what was he employed by Wolfe to do? In The Black Mountain he answers the statement, "I thought you was a private eye" with:
I don't like the way you say it, but I am. Also I am an accountant, an amanuensis, and a cocklebur. Eight to five you never heard the word amanuensis and you never saw a cocklebur.
In The Red Box, he says
I know pretty well what my field is. Aside from my primary function as the thorn in the seat of Wolfe's chair to keep him from going to sleep and waking up only for meals, I'm chiefly cut out for two things: to jump and grab something before the other guy can get his paws on it, and to collect pieces of the puzzle for Wolfe to work on.

In case you're wondering if this post was simply an excuse to go through some collections of Archie Goodwin quotations, you wouldn't be totally wrong...he's one of the fictional characters I like spending time with most in this world--he's the literary equivalent of comfort food. So just one more great line I've quoted here before:
I would appreciate it if they would call a halt on all their devoted efforts to find a way to abolish war or eliminate disease or run trains with atoms or extend the span of human life to a couple of centuries, and everybody concentrate for a while on how to wake me up in the morning without my resenting it. It may be that a bevy of beautiful maidens in pure silk yellow very sheer gowns, barefooted, singing "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning" and scattering rose petals over me would do the trick, but I'd have to try it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Why Joe the Plumber Matters

I thoroughly enjoyed watching that initial clip of Joe asking Sen. Obama a question which gave him the opportunity to fly his socialism flag freely on camera. If only Joe knew what he was getting himself into!

All the attention, the repeated references to himself in the debate--the interviews, press conferences, and so on (and didn't he do a wonderful job dealing with Diane Sawyer?).

Oh, but then the magnifying lens got pulled out and every little secret of his was put on display for the world to see and dissect.

Just 'cuz he asked a question.

Tragic, really.

Thought the good people over at Oh, Prune Juice did a good job commenting on the whole story, pointing out why we should care about Joe the Plumber (no matter what we think of his politics)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends

Don't worry, won't be asking what you'd do if I sang out of tune (because the answer'd be "ask what was new?")...

Just wanted to take a moment to publicly thank Micah (as he's known here, other, more notable, blogs call him something else) for the great header graphic you see above you. When I asked him about a new one, I expected something like the last one--simple but catchy, and the d00d fills up my inbox with 7-8 dazzling graphics! And then he redoes one of them with some suggestions (and throws in another option for me to choose from as well...). Talk about an embarrassment of riches.

And really, it's not like he doesn't have better things to do--spending time with his wife and dog, providing for his wife and dog, cleaning up images of Erasmus' 3rd edition of his Novum Testamentum (1522), and so on.

Anyway, thanks, brother!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Thought for the Lord's Day #25

The insufficiency of nature to such a work as conversion is, shows that men may not fall down and idolize their own wit and power. A change from acts of sin to moral duties may be done by a natural strength and the power of natural conscience: for the very same motives which led to sin, as education, interest, profit, may, upon a change of circumstances, guide men to an outward morality; but a change to the contrary grace is supernatural.

Two things are certain in nature. (1.) Natural inclinations never change, but by some superior virtue. A loadstone will not cease to draw iron, while that attractive quality remains in it. The wolf can never love the lamb, nor the lamb the wolf; nothing but must act suitably to its nature. Water cannot but moisten, fire cannot but burn. So likewise the corrupt nature of man being possessed with an invincible contrariety and enmity to God, will never suffer him to comply with God. And the inclinations of a sinner to sin being more strengthened by the frequency of sinful acts, have as great a power over him, and as natural to him, as any qualities are to natural agents: and being stronger than any sympathies in the world, cannot by a man's own power, or the power of any other nature equal to it, be turned into a contrary channel.

(2.) Nothing can act beyond its own principle and nature. Nothing in the world can raise itself to a higher rank of being than that which nature has placed it in; a spark cannot make itself a star, though it mount a little up to heaven; nor a plant endue itself with sense, nor a beast adorn itself with reason; nor a man make himself an angel. Thorns cannot bring forth grapes, nor thistles produce figs because such fruits are above the nature of those plants. So neither can our corrupt nature bring forth grace, which is a fruit above it. Effectus non excedit virtutem suae causae [the effect cannot exceed the power of its cause]: grace is more excellent than nature, therefore cannot be the fruit of nature. It is Christ's conclusion, "How can you, being evil, speak good things?" Matt. 12:33, 34. Not so much as the buds and blossoms of words, much less the fruit of actions. They can no more change their natures, than a viper can do away with his poison. Now though this I have said be true, yet there is nothing man does more affect in the world than a self-sufficiency, and an independence from any other power but his own. This attitude is as much riveted in his nature, as any other false principle whatsoever. For man does derive it from his first parents, as the prime legacy bequeathed to his nature: for it was the first thing uncovered in man at his fall; he would be as God, independent from him. Now God, to cross this principle, allows his elect, like Lazarus, to lie in the grave till they stink, that there may be no excuse to ascribe their resurrection to their own power. If a putrefied rotten carcass should be brought to life, it could never be thought that it inspired itself with that active principle. God lets men run on so far in sin, that they do unman themselves, that he may proclaim to all the world, that we are unable to do anything of ourselves towards our recovery, without a superior principle....

God deals with men in this case as he did with Abraham. He would not give Isaac while Sarah's womb, in a natural probability, might have borne him; but when her womb was dead, and age had taken away all natural strength of conception, then God gives him; that it might appear that he was not a child of nature, but a child of promise.
- Stephen Charnock

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Criminal Justice?

Last month, the Idaho Statesman ran this piece, which I started to comment on at the time: North Idaho woman faces hard time over spilt soda.

The U.S. attorney's office is making a federal case out of a spilt soda.

The Bush administration's top attorney in Idaho is bringing charges against a North Idaho woman for refusing to pay for a Diet Coke and then pouring it out on a counter at a cafeteria at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Boise.

Natalie Walters, now facing two counts that each carry a maximum sentence of six months in federal prison, thinks the case is a waste of taxpayer money and plans to fight the charges.
You know there was a voice in the back of her head saying "Gitmo" once she heard "federal prison." And, yeah, the case is a waste of taxpayer money--but since when has that stopped this administration (or practically any other administration) from doing something?
U.S. Attorney Tom Moss's office wouldn't comment on the case until after Walters' arraignment, set for Oct. 8.

Roger Banks, listed on the court record as the investigating agent with the Department of Veterans Affairs, did not return the Statesman's phone call Wednesday.

Walters, though, told her side of the story:

The 39-year-old North Idaho resident periodically drives her father, a disabled Vietnam veteran, to Boise's VA Medical Center for doctor visits. She brings her own mug and fills it with soda in the hospital's cafeteria. The cafeteria does not have a posted price for refills, and typically the cashier charges her $1 or $1.50, Walters said.

But on Aug. 20, when Walters filled her mug with Diet Coke, the clerk charged $3.80.

"I told her that cannot be right and asked to talk to the manager," Walters said.

The manager told Walters the price is correct.

Walters decided she didn't want to pay that much and offered to return the soda, she said. But the manager told her there was no way to accept the returned soda and Walters had to pay. Walters refused, and she said she was angry by this point, and she poured the soda onto the counter.
I can absolutely see myself doing this. Will try to remember this as a reason to not take my father to a doctor appointment when asked.
The manager banned Walters from the cafeteria. Walters left but remained in the hospital for a couple of hours waiting for her father to finish his appointments. No one came to talk to her, so she assumed the soda ordeal was over.

What happened the next day upsets Walters most.Welcome to post-9/11 America, Ms. Walters."They did not know who I was. But they had the whole thing on videotape," she said.

The tapes also showed her with her father in other areas of the hospital.

The next day, while her father was at a dental appointment at the VA, an official came in, told him about the incident and asked him to have his daughter contact the hospital.

"They accessed my father's medical records to find out his next appointment to try and find me," she said. "I think that is a (federal health privacy law) violation. Medical records are private," she said. "They should not have used a veteran's medical records to find me. ... My dad was upset. He could not believe it."
Next time I have to sign a HIPAA form, I've got to check the part where your information can be used to track down my family members accused of heinous Federal offenses (like kidnapping, counterfeiting $100's or spilling soda).
Walters never contacted the VA, and that was the last she heard about the incident until a Statesman reporter contacted her Wednesday and informed her of the federal charges and her Oct. 8 arraignment.

She was shocked.

"My father is a veteran. It is a federal facility for veterans. This should have been handled differently," she said. "This is extreme. This is totally extreme. Well, if they have that much time on their hands go for it."
There was a sidebar describing the charges/penalties she faced
Count 1, misdemeanor larceny: " ... consuming a soft drink beverage belonging to the Department of Veterans Affairs without paying for it."

Maximum sentence: 6 months in prison and a $500 fine

Count 2, disturbance: " ... intentionally pouring soft drink beverage from a large mug over the cash register and onto the floor during a disagreement with the cashier over payment."

Maximum sentence: 6 months in prison and a $250 fine.

On the court documents, federal prosecutors estimated a trial on the case would last last two days.
Two days, months in prison and hundreds of dollars in fines. Plus the hundreds in lawyer fees, court costs, etc. Over , what? 64 oz. of flavored carbonated beerage?

Then today, er, yesterday, the Statesman ran this follow-up: Idaho woman agrees to fine in dumped soda case
BOISE, Idaho — A federal judge has dismissed a case against a northern Idaho woman who refused to pay for a $3.80 soft drink refill and then dumped it on a cafeteria counter at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Boise.

Natalie Walters has agreed to pay a $200 fine - the equivalent of more than 50 soda refills at the medical center.
$200? I can see where she'd agree to that, just to get this stupid chapter of her life behind her. But $200? That's a crime.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Sorta Like Ballet

Went to my first Judo practice tonight--only as an observer, mind you. About a month and a half ago, Frodo and Samwise started, and seem to have come a good ways with it--long way to go, tho :) It was fairly entertaining--particularly at the end of the class where the more advanced students were allowed to "play" instead of work on the particular skills learned/practiced tonight. In the words of the always wise, Jack Handy:

To me, Judo is like a ballet, except there's no music, no choreography, and the dancers knock each other down.

Frodo is, as one would expect the more technically correct wrestler. He gets the forms right, his gi is as close to immaculate as one can get, and focuses like a hawk.

Also as one would expect, Sam has more natural talent, wears a gi that generally covers his scrawny little chest, and gets the gist of what's going on. He also seems to have more fun.

Can't wait 'til they get proficient enough they can start practicing on each other--then hopefully they'll rub off on each other.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Presidential Election

Sure, McCain/Obama are getting the overwhelming bukl of the press coverage in the final days of this campaign season, but there's a Dark Horse candidate out there gaining some attention (his campaign slogan, "No, I'm the Lesser Evil" is helping). Check out this news story on him.


The coverage of the presidential election is designed to be a grand distraction. This is not new, but this year, it’s more so than ever.

Pretending that a true difference exists between the two major candidates is a charade of great proportion. Many who help to perpetuate this myth are frequently unaware of what they are doing and believe that significant differences actually do exist. Indeed, on small points there is the appearance of a difference. The real issues, however, are buried in a barrage of miscellaneous nonsense and endless pontifications by robotic pundits hired to perpetuate the myth of a campaign of substance.

The truth is that our two-party system offers no real choice. The real goal of the campaign is to distract people from considering the real issues.

Influential forces, the media, the government, the privileged corporations and moneyed interests see to it that both party’s candidates are acceptable, regardless of the outcome, since they will still be in charge. It’s been that way for a long time. George Wallace was not the first to recognize that there’s "not a dime’s worth of difference" between the two parties. There is, though, a difference between the two major candidates and the candidates on third-party tickets and those running as independents.

The two parties and their candidates have no real disagreements on foreign policy, monetary policy, privacy issues, or the welfare state. They both are willing to abuse the Rule of Law and ignore constitutional restraint on Executive Powers. Neither major party champions free markets and private-property ownership.

Those candidates who represent actual change or disagreement with the status quo are held in check by the two major parties in power, making it very difficult to compete in the pretend democratic process. This is done by making it difficult for third-party candidates to get on the ballots, enter into the debates, raise money, avoid being marginalized, or get fair or actual coverage. A rare celebrity or a wealthy individual can, to a degree, overcome these difficulties.

The system we have today allows a President to be elected by as little as 32% of the American people, with half of those merely voting for the "lesser of two evils". Therefore, as little as 16% actually vote for a president. No wonder when things go wrong, anger explodes. A recent poll shows that 60% of the American people are not happy with the two major candidates this year.

This system is driven by the conviction that only a major party candidate can win. Voters become convinced that any other vote is a "wasted" vote. It’s time for that conclusion to be challenged and to recognize that the only way not to waste one’s vote is to reject the two establishment candidates and join the majority, once called silent, and allow the voices of the people to be heard.

We cannot expect withdrawal of troops from Iraq or the Middle East with either of the two major candidates. Expect continued involvement in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Georgia. Neither hints of a non-interventionist foreign policy. Do not expect to hear the rejection of the policy of supporting the American world empire. There will be no emphasis in protecting privacy and civil liberties and the constant surveillance of the American people. Do not expect any serious attempt to curtail the rapidly expanding national debt. And certainly, there will be no hint of addressing the Federal Reserve System and its cozy relationship with big banks and international corporations and the politicians.

There is only one way that these issues can get the attention they deserve: the silent majority must become the vocal majority.

This message can be sent to our leaders by not participating in the Great Distraction—the quadrennial campaign and election of an American President without a choice. Just think of how much of an edge a Vice President has in this process, and he or she is picked by a single person—the party’s nominee. This was never intended by the Constitution.

Since a principled non-voter sends a message, we must count them and recognize the message they are sending as well. The non-voters need to hold their own "election" by starting a "League of Non-voters" and explain their principled reasons for opting out of this charade of the presidential elective process. They just might get a bigger membership than anyone would guess.

Write-in votes should not be discouraged, but the electoral officials must be held accountable and make sure the votes are counted. But one must not be na├»ve and believe that under today’s circumstances one has a chance of accomplishing much by a write-in campaign.

The strongest message can be sent by rejecting the two-party system, which in reality is a one-party system with no possible chance for the changes to occur which are necessary to solve our economic and foreign policy problems. This can be accomplished by voting for one of the non-establishment principled candidates—Baldwin, Barr, McKinney, Nader, and possibly others. (listed alphabetically)

Yes, these individuals do have strong philosophic disagreements on various issues, but they all stand for challenging the status quo—those special interest who control our federal government. And because of this, on the big issues of war, civil liberties, deficits, and the Federal Reserve they have much in common. People will waste their vote in voting for the lesser of two evils. That can’t be stopped overnight, but for us to have an impact we must maximize the total votes of those rejecting the two major candidates.

For me, though, my advice—for what it’s worth—is to vote! Reject the two candidates who demand perpetuation of the status quo and pick one of the alternatives that you have the greatest affinity to, based on the other issues.

A huge vote for those running on principle will be a lot more valuable by sending a message that we’ve had enough and want real change than wasting one’s vote on a supposed lesser of two evils.

Sweep the Leg, Johnny

everytime I start to think that I drank in too much of 80's pop culture, somebody proves me wrong:

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

2x the Laundry

Somewhere between the births of Frodo and Samwise, we were given a lot of advice on how to handle the change between one kid and two. It's a compulsion for parents to pass on this kind of thing to the newbies (one I share, much to my chagrin). One of the tidbits that stuck with me (and that I've passed along, come to think of it) was to think of each additional kid as "doubling the laundry (and every other chore)." To prepare oneself for the second, or third, or fourth, bundle of joy, you needed to think of life with twice as much laundry as you had--while technically not true, the workload seemed that way. Ditto for cooking. Ditto for cleaning. And so on.

Now frankly, I don't really remember things being that way--but maybe that's because we were prepared for it. I remember an uptick in duties with Sam, not really with the Princess, and then another with Arnold--'tho given his personal entourage of medical challenges, that might be the source of a lot of it, so I'm not sure that counts.

Fast forward to a month ago, when we started the 2008-09 school year, and Arnold joined the ranks of the formally educated (not formal enough for some of his grandparents to stop carping, mind you). Wow. I could not, cannot, and probably will not believe how much more work things are this year. Yes, part of it is the larger course load the other three are taking--but it really all seems to be coming from the time needed for Arnold. And yeah, it feels like twice the laundry. By the time four o'clock rolls around, when (94% of the time) we're done with everything, you practically need a spatula to scrape me up. I'm pretty sure I've never looked forward to weekends as much as I have the last few.

Thankfully, Arnold's a very bright boy, and he's picked up a lot of what we're doing so far faster than the others. On the other hand--he's very demanding. Now that he's started school, he wants to be doing a lot of it--now. He doesn't complain about the workload (unlike the others), he complains if I don't give it to him quick enough. Thankfully, he is easy to satisfy--and he's becoming more understanding about me spending time working with the others--once he's done his lessons for the day, he's more than content to stop and play.

Please don't get me wrong--I'm not complaining (intentionally), nor do I have any intention of quitting. Mostly I'm surprised. I really didn't expect this, I knew this year would be harder, I just didn't realize how much so. If there was any part of me thinking I was sufficient for the task, it's been killed (and stomped on, cut into tiny bits, broiled, revived and killed again).

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Superpowers: A Novel by David J. Schwartz

If one's going to write about superheroes there's really only so much you can do--A. Write a prose equivalent of a comic book or B. Go out of your way to make sure that no once can describe your work as an example of "A." Typically, the "A" books are shoddy, and wouldn't be accepted as a script by a decent comic publisher; and the "B" books are so caught up in not being "A"s that they lose something--they might do well exploring the nature of "heroes" or satirizing/politicizing the genre or whatever, but they don't work as novels.

I've had my fill of the "B"s lately, and think I've finished only one out of the handful I've started in the last couple of years--Tom De Haven's It's Superman, which really did work as a novel. Schwartz' Superpowers: A Novel, stands as an example of how to do an "A" right.

Superpowers is the origin story of a super-hero team from Madison, Wisconsin, of all places. A group of college students one day find themselves with superpowers (super-strenghth/invulnerability; super-speed; invisibility; telepathy; and power of flight), and it doesn't take too long before they decide to don costumes and fight crime as the All-Stars, despite the very clear absence of any super villainy. A solid, "A" start--and if Schwartz kept at it at this level, I'd probably really have enjoyed the read.

He did a great job of focusing on each of the five heroes in turn, never focusing on one for too long, essential to any good team book (unlike the Justice League, which all to0 frequently turns into Superman and some other guys (or Batman and...;or Wonder Woman and...; or...). The early chapters are told with a solid amount of humor--think the early parts of the Spider-Man movie, where Peter's learning about his powers. And like I said, if he'd kept it there, Schwartz would've produced a fun read.

But he didn't, and he made it a better read.

There's a cost to these powers for each character--personal, vocational, mental, physical, familial and/or academic. Each one had a full life before tacking on crime-fighting. And life keeps going on--new changes, challenges, and developments--it's possible that a decent story could've been told about these five and their associates without the powers. So they're having to grow as people, as well as nascent heroes.

Then a few short months after receiving their powers, well--don't want to give it away, but something happens hundreds of miles away from them that their powers can't help. The public as a whole isn't sure what to make of anyone being a super-hero (particularly the police). This is worsened when they make a couple of mistakes that wreak havoc on civilians.

The book is really about how people react to these powers, the costs, and the events surrounding them. The plot doesn't depend on a super villain or three for conflict--conflict and drama come from living--lLaughter, love, anger, pain, ambition, parent-child relationships (of varying degrees of health/disfunction), hatred, fear, revenge...

These are not paragons of virtue, Schwartz depicts them as people. That's what makes the book worth the time. While I was reading it, I kept saying to myself "If Robert Kirkman or Brian Michael Bendis wrote a novel, it would read like this." Come to think of it, for my comic reading friends, that's probably all I had to say in this post (a much more economical way to say everything I just did). If you're not one of my comic-reading friends, and you want to be--read this book, and if you like it, go pick up the trade paperbacks of Ultimate Spider-Man and Invincible.

You can thank me later.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

A Literal Take of "Take On Me"

Wooden literalism is just as bad when applied to 80's Music Videos as it is to eschatological passages in Scripture. Our frequent commenter, kletois, described this video as "both blasphemy and well done at the same time." Pretty much sums it up.

(H/T: Hot Air)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Just noticed this

I have twenty-two draft posts waiting to be finished. 22.

So why do I find it so difficult to post something daily?


Don't think I've done this before, but it's the kind of thing I've been meaning to do for awhile. In particular, Micah, Alex, and maybe Josh, and Julie will hopefully benefit from these* (sorry, kletois, doubt I'll find anything you can sample). I tried a new beer today, and figured it deserved a Tip of the Cap: Kona Brewing Co's Pipeline Porter. Don't ask me how this one made it to the shelves around here--never heard of this brewery before.

At first taste this is a very simple, nice porter. That alone makes it worth the space in the fridge. But, and this is why I'm bothering to write about it, after the initial smooth (very smooth) taste--comes a nice little hint of the 100% Kona coffee beans it's brewed with. Not over-powering, nothing that'll make you think it's your morning cup of coffee...just a nuance you're not going to get with another porter. This isn't one of those silly beers with caffeine or anything, either--the coffee's around for it's very pleasant, subtle flavor. (if you needed more then the apostolic and Solomonic injunctions against drunkenness, you will totally miss the beauty of this porter if you've had too much).

* As always, feel free to reciprocate :)

Catching Up

Well, it's officially Autumn here in SW Idaho--I don't really pay attention to what the calendar says, equinoxes/solstices/whatnot; for me it's what the thermometer says, what the sky looks like, what the pollen, etc. is doing to my allergies. With the exception of a couple of days last week, the dying gasps of Summer '08, it's been Fall here for two weeks.

The last couple of years I've been very susceptible to whatever airborne diseases are flying around, so I took the bull by the horns this year, and when temps started diving, I started popping Vitamin C and Echinacea.

Fat lot of good that did me.

Last Wednesday, I got knocked flat by a common cold--I lost as much work due to it as I did my ureteroscopy and lithotripsy back in June. By Friday, I had to run to a doctor for relief--I was sure my coughing had done some damage to my ribs. He didn't think so, but my oxygen levels were low enough I got a nebulizer treatment, along with some steroids and an inhaler to keep me breathing properly til I can shake this. By that afternoon, Arnold and Samwise had likewise succumbed to the cold, and The Princess and Frodo sniffled a bit. Needless to say (yet, I'll do it anyway), Frodo's birthday festivities didn't end up looking like we'd planned them.

The Offspring and I didn't really begin to feel human again until Sunday evening--still not at 100% (in fact, as I write this, am a little worried that my coughing is going to wake the clients at work). TLomL somehow has remained healthy in the midst of us all--Vitamin C works for some people, apparently. Not only were Frodo's celebratory plans aborted, but so were our 12th Anniversary plans. Instead of me wining, dining and romancing my beloved on a quiet night--she was treated to me whining, hacking, and grousing.

Not even close to romantic, but it was real life--and we were together (not too close, lest I infect her). Romantic is nice, but real and together trump that any day.

Any hey, I should have little trouble topping this one when #13 rolls around, right?