Comic Life, Indeed

Created with Comic Life, the MacBook's iSight camera, and brownies that Mle made.

Click on the comic to see the larger version - it's ginormous!

Dial H

Warning to Monkey and maybe others: mild, essentially meaningless "Heroes" spoilers may be included in the following.

Readers may recall from a few months back my disenchantment with Studio 60. I'm watching it now with some mild level of interest. Why?

Because of the promised and sure-to-be-brief guest appearance by Masi Oka.

I don't think I've expounded enough on my massive love for Studio 60's lead-in, Heroes. I couldn't possibly love this show any more. It's as if some TV Guy out there said, "Hey, I wonder what might be exactly the TV show that Dan Stokes most wants to watch." And then TV Guy, telepathic-Matt-Parkman-style, plucked that idea right out of my head and put it on TV. It's got a schlubby telepathic cop, a Wolverine cheerleader (that is to say, not a Wolverine cheerleader, but rather a cheerleader with similar powers to Wolverine), a time-traveling Japanese nerd (and his sidekick), a guy who's a power chameleon (one of the coolest, most interesting powers I've ever seen in any super-heroish kind of thing), and the staple of any quality television show, a Creepy Guy. Actually, two Creepy Guys. Actually...well, there's no shortage of Creepy Guys, but most especially deserving of mention are Adrian Pasdar as Creepy Flying Politician Guy and the spiritual heir to X-Files' Cigarette Smoking Man, Jack Coleman as Creepy Spectacle Wearing Dad of the Wolverine Cheerleader (Who Has a Hidden Agenda) Guy. It's got an evil serial killer and a world-is-in-peril-but-how?-and-why? mystery. It's got a goofy catchphrase - Save the cheerleader, save the world! It's got fun and interesting characters, it's got compelling plotlines, and every single episode ends in a smashing, gotta-see-it-next-week cliffhanger.

And, as of this week, it's got Sulu.*

Nerdy as fuck, I tells ya. But, as you may know, nerdy as fuck is right up my alley.

Studio 60, by the way, is better than it was, but still not all that good, and the Masi Oka appearance was, as expected, blink-and-you-miss-it brief.

*If Sulu's not your favorite old-school Star Trek character aside from the Kirk/Spock/McCoy trinity, you're wrong, and I'll fight anyone who says different.


I've just added StumbleUpon to my browser - if you're using Firefox, like I do, and if you like to waste ungodly amounts of time discovering random stuff on the internet, like I do, StumbleUpon is a must.

And if you're not using Firefox (at least on a computer where you're not forced by some crappy IT department to use Internet Exploder), what the hell's wrong with you? Go download that sumbitch, right now! I'll keep myself entertained.

Mahna mahna...doot do do do do...Mahna Mahna...doot do do do...

Back? Okay, great! Now go get the StumbleUpon add-on. It's seriously one of the coolest things ever. I've been playing with it for an hour now, and discovered dozens of cool things that I otherwise would never have seen. Like this. And this. And this. And this. I told the thing that I was interested in drawing, in photography, in magic tricks and in astronomy (among other things), clicked a button, and it took me to all these cool sites.

Aw, Shit.

I'll tell you who I hate: everyone.

Wait, I was channeling Death Wore a Feathered Mullet for a second there. I don't hate everyone.

I do, however, hate the yuppie condo dwellers who live in the high-rise condos that surround Cheesman Park.

Cheesman Park is where I go running, and I do it even now, when the running trail has three inches of snow-compacted-to-ice covered in an inch of slippery slush on it and occasional patches of disgusting, sloppy mud. I don't mind the ice, and I don't mind the slush, and I actually kind of like the mud. What drives me nuts, though is that the yuppie condo dwellers take their dogs out into the park to shit (the dogs, not the yuppies, I presume). By "into the park" I mean "no further into the park than absolutely necessary while chatting about useless bullshit on cellphones." And by "no further into the park than absolutely necessary" I mean "onto the running trail."

Ordinarily, this isn't a problem. Denver's full of dogs, and 99% of dog owners are, most of the time, quite conscientious about carrying their little plastic baggies with them. But somehow, when there's snow and/or ice on the ground, it's like all rules and common courtesies are suddenly erased. There is shit everywhere on that trail, man. It's like running through a minefield. I don't understand it. "Oh, it's snowy out here. That means it's okay to leave my dog's foul, steaming mess of fecal matter right here where he left it." Yeah, perfectly alright - it's not as though hundreds of people are running or walking on that trail every day. Dogshit just dissolves in snow anyway, right?

As it turns out, it does. Well, anyway, when it's been snowed on, frozen, thawed, snowed on, frozen, thawed a few times, and the temperature gets into the forties for the first time in weeks...well, it doesn't really dissolve, but it certainly becomes more liquid than usual.

Fuckin', rage isn't my specialty. Help me out here, Todd - cuntrags? Cuntmeisters?

In the News - Hollywood Breaks Collective Arm Patting Itself on Back

The Academy Award nominations came out this morning, and I'm amazed. Not by what was nominated, or by who was snubbed. I'm stunned because I've seen only one of the films nominated for Best Picture, none of the performances nominated for Best Actor or Best Actress and one performance each (in the same film) from the Supporting categories. So at this point, I've got no one to root for except Martin Scorsese. I have no idea whether his movie is any good or not (though I think I can safely assume that it is), but the fact that the always pedestrian poor-man's-Spielberg Opie Cunningham owns a Best Director Oscar and Martin Scorsese does not is simply unjust and must be corrected.

Pan's Labyrinth

When Em and I saw The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe last Xmas, she turned to me when Mr. Tumnus, the faun, appeared on-screen for the first time and whispered, "He's hot!" Last night, we saw El Laberinto del Fauno, or as it's being called in English, Pan's Labyrinth. I guess the folks in charge of coming up with and English title figured that most Americans don't know what a faun is. Or maybe they decided that Pan's Labyrinth is catchier than The Labyrinth of the Faun (and I suppose they're probably right on both counts) - but I digress. The point is that Em didn't mention thinking the faun was hot at any point during or after last night's screening.

The faun is, in fact, quite creepy, and is one among many. Pan's Labyrinth is a fairy tale in the old, pre-Disney sense of the term. It's got a magical quest, it's got fairies and monsters, but it's definitely not about sweetness and light and "happily ever after." It's dark (not to be all emo on you here; in this case, the term is apt), it's disturbing and unsettling, and it's without a doubt the best movie I've seen in a long, long time.

One of the reasons I loved this movie is that it is concerned with aspects of storytelling that fascinate me personally - the fine line between fantasy and reality, the value of escapism alongside its perils, and the way all of us cling to fantasies of our own that help us get through our lives. As viewers, we're free to interpret as we see fit. Perhaps the young heroine, Ofelia, is only imagining it when the faun tells her that she is the long-lost princess of a magical realm. If so, she's not that much different than her mother, her stepfather, or many others in the film who cling desperately to delusions of their own, less fantastic than Ofelia's though probably no more realistic.

There are monsters in Ofelia's perhaps-imaginary realm - creepiest of all is the one I've dubbed the "Eyeball Monster," as pictured above - but in the end, they pale in comparison to the monster who dominates Ofelia's life and the film. Every fairy tale needs a good villain, and Pan's Labyrinth has a great one. Captain Vidal, Ofelia's stepfather, is brutal and sadistic, but both the writer/director and the actor manage to keep him just on the right side of the line between fantastic, compelling villain and silly, cartoonish mustache-twirler.

This movie was, for me, the kind that Roger Ebert refers to as an out-of-body experience. I became so wrapped up in it that I more or less forgot I was watching a movie and felt that I was there, that it was an experience I was having personally. I can't recommend it highly enough. If it's playing anywhere near you, anywhere within 50 miles, it's worth the drive, it's worth the time, and it's more than worth the nine bucks.


Mahna Mahna.

Doot do do-do-do.

Now, roll 12d6, or 6d12, or something...

Steve from Something Awful wants you to be able to make a sweet D&D character, and so do I.

This is so much like the process I went through to make a character when I was 13, it's scary. These days, on the rare occasions I get to play nerdgames, I like to play something that's a little more subtle - thieves and clerics and suchlike. But back in the day, my friends and I all made badass fighters and spent every gaming session beating the crap out of orcs and trolls and stuff, because none of us was capable of doing anything more interesting than that.

Damn, I've started speaking nerd without noticing again. Lemme put it this way - imagine what The Lord of the Rings movies would have been like if every one of the main characters was Conan the Barbarian as played by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

It's Here!

And, as you may have heard, it's got a built-in camera. Hi, everybody!

No more being stuck with Em's work computer, hooray! I can download programs - goodbye, MS Internet Exploder, hello Mozilla Firefox! Hello, Flickr Uploadr! Hello, Skype (as soon as I get a microphone, anyway)...

Wikid cool, man.

Don't Be a Fool, Stryker!

I'm not really what you'd call a SNAG, actually (that's Sensitive New Age Guy, for those not in the know). But I do feel some empathy for Mike Buday of Los Angeles who has enlisted the aid of the ACLU to sue the state of California to make it easier for him to take his wife's last name.

Now, Emily and I are NOT OFFICIALLY ENGAGED. This is a very important detail to remember. NOT OFFICIALLY ENGAGED. NOT NOT NOT. But we discuss such matters with increasing frequency. So we're maybe Planning to Be Engaged at Some Nearish Future Date. Amongst our discussions, we've come to the conclusion that neither of us has any particular attachment to our surnames. I don't have any particular problem with mine, but I feel no driving need to keep/perpetuate it, either. Em is not really a huge fan of her last name, either, so she's more than willing to change it.

So, progressive, cutting-edge types that we are, we're probably both going to change to something entirely new when the time comes. The front-runner so far is Stryker, which combines most of the letters of our current surnames, and is a totally kickass name, to boot. Plus, if we were to have kids--that's IF, mind you, not when but IF (Hi, Mom!)--we could give them cool names like Ace and Duke. Seriously, who's going to mess with Duke Stryker? Duke Stryker is probably packing heat, and probably knows 17 ways to kill a man unarmed. And they'll probably grow up to be something cool, like superspies or glamorous international jewel thieves.

Anyway, when we discussed such things, I always just assumed that it would be a simple matter of going down to the County office, filling out a couple of forms and paying a $50 fee. Not nearly so simple, as it turns out. You have to fill out a ton of forms, undergo a criminal background check (not too surprising, when you think about it), appear before a judge or magistrate, publish intent to change your name in the newspaper at least three times over 21 days...yeesh.

School Supplies

My Dad has always been a PC guy, and we always had PCs in the house when I was growing up. But, as you might imagine with a graphic design program, I'm using Macs in school. And honestly, I like them better. Maybe the shared fashion sense, if we go by the picture.

I bought a Macbook today - and it felt just a little weird, like buying Pepsi after a lifetime of drinking Coke. Except that there's a discernable difference between a Mac and a PC, so maybe it's more like...I donno - rednecks fight to the death about whether Ford is better than Chevy or vice-versa, so maybe it's like that. I donno. It's like something, though, that's for sure.

Clicking "Process My Order" was just a wee bit nerve-wracking, though. I don't think I've ever spent anything close to that on a single purchase in my life. Add to that the $250 I spent on textbooks this afternoon, and it was an expensive day.

Still, nerve-wracking or not, I'm pretty excited about my new toy. It's sort of like when I was a kid and I saved UPC symbols from 10 G.I. Joe (A Real American Hero!) action figures so I could send away for the special Sergeant Slaughter figure, and I was all excited but then I had to wait 4 to 6 weeks for delivery and it was the longest fucking 4 to 6 weeks of my life. It was worth it, though, 'cuz Sergeant Slaughter kicked all kinds of Cobra (The Enemy!) ass.*

I want my new toy to be here now. Why isn't it here now? Why why why? Damn it!

* Actually, in retrospect, Sgt. Slaughter was pretty lame - why would a WWF wrestler be a G.I. Joe? Still, not as lame as the time they did a special "Refrigerator" Perry G.I. Joe figure.


One day, when they inevitably get around to creating the Mount Rushmore of sci-fi authors, the first three slots would almost doubtlessly go to Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury and Robert Heinlein. There would be room for discussion, of course, especially for that third slot. And then the debate would rage about who Honoree #4 would be. My choice? Ursula K. LeGuin. She represents the leading edge of the enormous wave of female authors who would follow her in the field, to begin with. She's brilliant, eminently readable, prolific. Her Earthsea series is great reading. The Left Hand of Darkness is a mind-blowing piece of science fiction. And she's a tireless advocate for sci-fi and fantasy as literature.

Recently, she published this piece in The New Statesman.

In it, she coins a terrific new word - maturismo, "for the anxious savagery of the intellectual who thinks his adulthood has been impugned." There is a class of snobbish intellectual out there who assumes that nothing can be simultaneously fantastic and meaningful to adults. They write off genre fiction, most especially science fiction and fantasy, as trash, the intellectual equivalent of cotton candy. They then find excuses to include fantasy on their Lists of Important Books and write off the fantastic elements as incidental - The Iliad and the Oddyssey are important in the historical development of Western literature, and the ancient Greeks were all primitive and such and didn't know any better. Gulliver's Travels is important as satire, and the fantasy parts are an annoying necessity of the allegory.

Yeah, right.

There can be depth and meaning in genre fiction, just as mainstream literary fiction can be shallow, boring and pretentious. Today, Em's mom noted that she finds new layers of meaning in Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game every time she teaches it to her middle schoolers. In my opinion his sequel, Speaker for the Dead, is even better.

Science fiction and fantasy are uniquely equipped over any other literary style, genre or technique to deal with how humans respond to The Unknown and to The Other. They can speak to our history as well as our future. They can deal with big ideas like God, Death and Fate. I love these genres because they are limitless. Where else in the literary world is there such breadth and depth? Where else can an author explore literally any idea in any way? Harold Bloom would deny it, but the meaning and profundity are there whether he likes it or not.

All that, plus Conan of Cimmerria halving his foes with his mighty blade...what's not to love?

It's a Man, Baby!

Look, all I'm sayin' is, have you ever noticed that Matt Damon and Hillary Swank have never done a movie together?

Separated at birth? Maybe.

Me, I say Matt Damon is a three-time Oscar winner who owns a wig and two wardrobes.

Nerd Year's Resolutions

For 2007, I resolve to be a better nerd. Therefore:

I resolve to watch old-school Star Trek reruns whenever possible.

I resolve to give my D&D players something more interesting to do than fight yet another band of Orcs.

I resolve not to bitch too much about Spider-Man 3, no matter how much it sucks.

I resolve to catch up on reading the nerdy essentials I've been meaning to get around to for years, the Arthur C. Clarke, the Kim Stanley Robinson, the Robert Heinlein, and not spend all the time I could be doing that rereading "Watchmen" and old Batman comics.

I resolve to incorporate at least 15% more "Simpsons" references into my daily conversation.

I resolve not to spend September and October getting needlessly excited about the Denver Broncos' Super Bowl chances, and instead skip directly to the inevitable jaded letdown that usually accompanies November and December.

I resolve to get one o' them Wiis or XBoxes or PlayStations or whatever that the nerds are all excited about these days. Or not.

I resolve to wear more humorous t-shirts.*

I resolve to determine once and for all whether the Jedi Knights could beat the Green Lantern Corps in an all-out fight.

I resolve to get a new pair of Chuck Taylors and wear them until they are little more than a loosely connected string of shoe molecules.

I resolve to be prolific in the creation of webcomics, hilarious cartoons for YouTube distribution, snarky blog entries, and other such things associated with the modern, well-connected nerd.

I resolve to see at least one embarrassingly, horrifyingly nerdy movie in a theater this summer, whatever this year's equivalent of Alien vs. Predator might be.** If there's more than one to see, so much the better.

I resolve to spend many, many hours playing complex boardgames with rulebooks longer than an average Victor Hugo novel.

I resolve to build a functioning trebuchet at my friend's cabin this summer.

I resolve to learn the ancient art of Tae Kwan Leap. Boot to the head!

I resolve, in short, to be the kind of nerd that makes other nerds proud to be nerds. May 2007 be a prosperous, happy and nerdy year for whatever you, reader, choose to geek out about.

* You are free to interpret this as either a resolution to wear a greater number of humorous t-shirts, or as a resolution to wear t-shirts which are more humorous than those I wear now.

** As of this writing, I'm fairly convinced that this movie is Live Free or Die Hard, but we've got a ways to go until the summer.