Is There a Spell for Creating a Tempest in a Teacup?

I know that sexism remains a major problem in American society. I know that the way women are depicted in comics, sci-fi and fantasy literature is often demeaning at best. A lot of writers and artists have difficulty depicting women in a realistic manner. Piers Anthony is a name which comes to mind. Dave Sim, creator of Cerebus, is a complete and total wack-job in this regard.

Johanna at Comics Worth Reading submits as an example of sexist behavior, though clearly on the part of studio publicity photographers or magazine cover designers rather than the usual suspects, this week's set of three Harry Potter covers on Entertainment Weekly. It seems that this is an example of mistreatment of women because Harry and Ron are both brandishing their wands on their covers, while Hermione is wandless on hers.

Okay, I'll admit that it's a little odd, a little puzzling, perhaps, that the person shooting what seems to be meant as a matched set of publicity photos didn't give Hermione a wand, too. But to say that it's sexist seems odd and overly sensitive.

Isn't it safe to assume that anyone with even the slightest interest in the new Harry Potter movie already knows that Hermione's a total ass-kicker? Does she have to be shown with a wand because the boys have them? Moreover, doesn't complaining that she doesn't have a wand when the boys do go straight to some very silly, outdated and idiotic pseudo-Freudian territory? Everyone knows Hermione's smarter than the boys, and it's worth mentioning that in six books and four movies so far, she's the only one who's given Malfoy a richly deserved slug in the mouth. Complaining that she's not depicted in the exact same manner as the other two in one set of publicity photos is just strange.

Really, the only crime here is on the part of the magazine's cover designer, who apparently picked the three blandest photos he could find to create these covers. In a fictional universe as colorful as Harry Potter's, this is the best they could do?

Mostly, looking at those photos, I'm just glad that they've ditched the awful shaggy haircuts that Harry and Ron were both sporting in Goblet of Fire.

For All The Good it Does Me

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Springtime in the Rockies

As many of you may recall, the Vernal Equinox occurred about a week ago. This means that it's now Spring. This also means that Coloradoans like us should expect that it might snow any day for another month.

Here's some photos of the results of the storm we awoke to this morning. Enjoy!

Here the guy who writes the blurbs for Denver Post's electronical scrolling latest headlines thingamajig demonstrates his mastery of the blindingly obvious.


It's not April Fool's Day for a few more days, is it?

I didn't think so.

Ergo, I demand that somebody explain the existence of this.

To paraphrase Lisa Simpson, I know those words, but that article makes no sense. This makes my brain hurt and my soul feel bad.

Top Five - The Joker

Writing about Marshall Rogers yesterday got me thinking about other artists' work on the Joker. So...welcome to a new occasional feature here at Great Big Nerd (inspired, of course, by Nick Hornby's High Fidelity), All-Time Top Five. Here I present what are, in my humble opinion, the five best renditions of the Joker.

Honorable mentions go to Jim Aparo for the infamous and truly creepy sequence from "Batman" #427 where the Joker beats the crap out of Robin with a crowbar, Jim Lee for his truly over-the-top take, and of course to Bob Kane for creating the look of the character in the first place.

5. Marshall Rogers: Rogers' Joker was tall and spindly, creepy, and clearly quite mad. Rogers also was able to convey the Joker's sheer delight in his own insanity. Rogers appears to have taken a great deal of inspiration from Kane's version. The eyes are hollow, the grin is mirthless, and this Joker is truly scary.

4. Bruce Timm: Timm was a producer and the chief designer for the '90s Batman animated series (which was fucking awesome - Mask of the Phantasm was far and away the best cinematic depiction of Batman until Batman Begins). He created a Joker who is no less scary for the cartoonish simplicity of his design. He's made up of aggressive, angular shapes. His hunched posture and the dark circles under the eyes suggest frenzy and insanity. Being a character on a show (ostensibly) aimed at kids meant that Timm's Joker rarely actually killed anyone. He appeared no less murderous for it.

3. Dick Sprang: The quintessential Batman artist of the '50s, Sprang created wonderfully stylish and grotesque versions of all of the Batman villains. Though the Batman comics of the day were sillier and more childish than those that came before and after, Sprang's Joker remains memorable. Though the Joker was always grinning, Sprang took the grin and stretched it, over-exaggerating it to the point of absurdity. It worked, though, and it has been the standard for (nearly every) artist drawing the character ever since.

2. Alex Ross: Because Ross paints characters in a realistic style, he isn't able to create a Joker as grotesque and exaggerated as other artists. He makes up for it by making his Joker scary as hell. I think it's because of the realistic painting. Where other Jokers are firmly bound in comic book world with black lines stylized rendering, Ross's Joker looks absolutely mad, completely evil, and almost ready to step right off the page.

1. Brian Bolland: Maybe I'm biased because he drew the greatest Joker story ever - "The Killing Joke," written by Alan Moore - but Bolland just seems to nail the character. Under nobody else's pen or brush does the Joker seem quite so thoroughly insane. Obviously, the Joker is never going to be a physical match for Batman. So if the depths of his evil and insanity don't present a challenge for Batman, he becomes, well, a joke. Bolland creates that. Just looking at his rendition of the Joker, you can get a sense of why an evil clown in a purple zoot suit can be the greatest and most implacable enemy of a character who is both the world's greatest martial artist and the world's greatest detective. Simply awesome. If you have any interest at all in superheroes, "The Killing Joke" is a must.

Laughing Fish

Comics artist Marshall Rogers died yesterday at the age of 57. He's best remembered for his six-issue run on Detective Comics with writer Steve Englehart. Despite its brevity, fans consider theirs to be the definitive interpretation of Batman of the '70s, and indeed in the entire history of the character.

Of special note is the two-parter from Detective #475-476, cover dated February and March/April 1978, "The Laughing Fish" and "The Sign of the Joker." This is widely held to be one of the greatest Joker stories ever. Random Panels highlights one of the reasons why - Rogers' truly creepy rendering of the Joker. He's up there with Brian Bolland and Neal Adams in terms of drawing Batman's arch-enemy. The creators of the '90s "Batman" animated series created one of their best and most memorable episodes based on this story (with a bit lifted from the O'Neil/Adams classic, "The Joker's Five-way Revenge," too). And if the Nolan Brothers and David Goyer know what they're doing, they've looked to this one for inspiration, too, when writing The Dark Knight.

It is worth noting that Marshall Rogers also drew one of the most completely kick-ass Batmans* ever, too.

Anyway, he died yesterday, and that is very sad.

* Batmans? Batmen? I donno...

If Ever I Were to Squeal Like a Little Girl, It Would Be Now

One of my very favorite books on our overstuffed bookshelves is my signed first edition of Neil Gaiman's Stardust. He is without question my favorite author, and sometimes that one is my favorite book of his. Of his solo work, anyway. Good Omens is one of my very favorite books ever, but he co-wrote that one with Terry Pratchett.

Anyway, the point of this is that director Matthew Vaughn, who made the excellent Layer Cake (starring before-he-was-Bond Daniel Craig and well worth a watch if you're looking to fill a slot on your Netflix queue) has made a movie of Stardust. The trailer is now up at Yahoo! Movies.

It looks thoroughly and completely awesome. There is now a movie coming out this summer that I want to see even more than Spider-man 3, which is saying something.

Yeah, I know I was ranting just the other day about nerds clamoring for the movie adaptation of Watchmen. There are some key differences here, though.

First, I believe Watchmen, an enormous, sprawling, complex, multi-layered story, to be essentially unfilmable. Stardust, on the other hand, is a quite straightforward and simple fairy tale/adventure story, and eminently filmable. I recall thinking the first time I read it what a great movie it would make.

Second, the fanboys want a Watchmen movie that looks exactly like the source material in every way. If the director deviates from the source material in the slightest, they'll flip out, ranting and raving on the Ain't It Cool message boards about how Zack Snyder is "raping my childhood" and other such hyperbolic absurdities. You may think I'm exaggerating, but you should see some of the things they're saying about Michael Bay's upcoming Transformers movie. Yes, there are grown-ass men in the world who are completely obsessed with the details of a big screen adaptation of a cartoon about robots who transform into cars and airplanes and shoot at each other, and would like to see Michael Bay drawn and quartered because Optimus Prime transforms into the wrong kind of semi truck and Megatron transforms into a tank instead of a handgun.*

But I digress. The point here is that I'm interested in the Stardust movie not because I want it to be an exact and literal transposition of the novel onto the movie screen, but because I want to see Vaughn's version of it. If it's not completely faithful to the novel and still good, then it's a win-win (a la Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies). If the movie's no good at all, well, too bad, but it doesn't have any effect on my enjoyment of the novel. I won't call for Vaughn's head on a stick or anything. I'll just be a little disappointed, that's all.

* I wouldn't mind seeing Michael Bay drawn and quartered, myself, but it has nothing to do with his treatment of the 30-minute toy commercials of my childhood. I mean, did you see Pearl Harbor? Or Armageddon? Dude's got far worse crimes to answer for than fucking up the Go-Bots.

C'mon... know you want to.

This, too.

My New Favorite TV Show

A show I'd never heard of before was making noise for the last hour. I wasn't much paying attention to it. It's called "October Road." It's about some dude who's in lurv with some chick and she has a cute moppet of a kid and there's a town with quirky residents and suchlike. Anyway, it caught my attention at the very end in the now-obligatory closing musical montage (a la "Lost" and "Gray's Anatomy") where they play some crappy song over footage of the characters absorbing the important lessons they've learned this week and all that jazz. Usually it's total piano pussy-rock (a la The Fray's "How to Save a Life" on "Gray's Anatomy") or some chick trying to be Joni Mitchell. The show tonight caught my attention because they didn't play a crappy song.

They played a FUCKING AWESOME song.

What song? The Single Greatest Hairband Power Ballad of All Time.

Sing along if you know the words...

Ev'ry rose has its thorn...
Jus' like, eeeeeev'ry night has its dawn...
Jus' like, ev'ry cowboy...
Sings a

[insert kickass C.C. DeVille guitar solo here]

Fuckin' sweet, man.

Next week I'm hoping they do their Closing Musical Montage with Cinderella's immortal "Don't Know What You Got ('Til It's Gone)." Or maybe "Alone Again," just so it can truly be said that their show is Rockin like Dokken.

Nerd Classics - Best. Fight. Ever.

Seeing 300 has Frank Miller on my mind. He's kind of old and cranky and somewhat misogynistic these days, and perhaps a bit of a self-parody. But back in the day, Frank Miller was The Fucking Man. His run on Marvel's "Daredevil" was so definitive and influential, he might as well get co-creator credit for the character.

Comic book geeks, as you may be aware, love nothing more than endless discussion of the minutiae, chiefly who could beat who in a fight. An infamous example of the form comes from the letters page of "Wizard" magazine in the mid-'90s, where there was a years-long running debate about whether Iron Man could singlehandedly defeat the X-Men. That was a little absurd, but mostly it's just idle speculation to while away a lazy summer afternoon, or kill time while the GM gets the next encounter set up. The Marvel-vs.-DC debate is the classic - Aquaman vs. Namor the Submariner, Flash vs. Quicksilver, Green Arrow vs. Hawkeye, etc. There's also plenty of speculation about characters from the same universe - Would Captain America beat Daredevil? Would the Martian Manhunter beat Captain Marvel?

The one question that is essentially settled, however, is that of Batman vs. anybody. The fandom cliche states that, "if he's prepared," Batman could take on all comers. Why is this a settled question? Frank Miller and the climax of his epic Batman saga, The Dark Knight Returns. It has lodged so firmly into the collective fanboy brain that no comics reader with more than a single overstuffed longbox to his name doubts for a nanosecond that, given a day or two to prepare for the fight, Batman could whup Superman.

There is also no doubt, nor should there be, that this sequence is the single most kickass fight scene in any superhero comic book ever. Batman has had the required time to prepare. Also, conveniently for Batman, Superman is just on the mend from being caught in the heart of the explosion of an experimental Soviet super-nuke. So the Man of Steel isn't exactly on the top of his game, here. Batman also has an assist from Robin and Green Arrow.

Still, the fight is totally badass. Yeah, Batman's cheating like nobody's business, but he's in a life-or-death fight with a demigod, can you blame him? And more than anything else, it's flat-out HAWESOME to watch Batman and Superman trading blows, beating the shit out of each other.

In the comics geek world, it's just assumed that Dark Knight is cool as fuck and universally beloved. But we never really stop to appreciate just what it is that makes it so cool. It's not, in this case, the little things. It's the fact that, in Dark Knight, there are no little things. It's too big for little things. It's HUGE, full of Batman being the Coolest Guy on the Planet, kicking ass and not bothering to take names, 'cuz why bother? It's not great because it's full of the neat little details and nuances; it moves at such breakneck speed that it has no time for nuance.

And it ends with Batman and Superman punching each other.

Fighting in Underpants

Yesterday, we went to see 300. I thought it was a well-made and reasonably entertaining way to kill two hours. Not bad, not brilliant, but pretty good. Worth matinee admission prices, anyway.

Here's the thing - I'm already getting a little tired of highly stylized adaptations of comic books that are absurdly faithful to the source material. The previous entry in this field, Sin City, was similarly well-done, entertaining, gorgeous to look at. But I'm getting tired of drooling
fanboys getting nerdboners over side-by-side comparisons of frames from the movie and
panels from the comic book. It's certain to happen again when Sin City 2 comes out, and even moreso when the long-awaited adaptation of Watchmen comes out next year.

Here's what I don't get - why does there have to be a movie in the first place? A lot of fanboys seem to be under the impression that having the comics they love adapted into movies validates them in some way. Maybe once there's a Watchmen movie, then the public will finally recognize comics as a brilliant art form and the fanboys as the geniuses who knew what everyone else was missing for all those years.

is stunningly brilliant in comics form - why does it need to be a movie? Even though comics and movies boil down to essentially the same thing - visual narrative - the two forms aren't nearly so compatible as some people seem to think. Take a look, for example, at the "manga adaptation" of Hiyao Miyazaki's Spirited Away. It's just word balloons and sound effects slapped onto frames from the movie, and it just doesn't work. Everything is stilted and strange, because the visuals were created for film, not comics. It reads like a glorified storyboard.

300 has the opposite problem - in his eagerness to recreate the panels of Frank Miller's comic book, director Zack Snyder has created something that plays at times more like a noisy slide show than a movie. And it really is just like its comic book source - entertaining and forgettable.* I read the book shortly after it came out, enjoyed it, and have never felt much need to own a copy so I could go back and read it again. Similarly, I can't imagine any desire to see the movie again having seen it once.

I found it quite amusing how carefully Leonidas described the strength of the Greek phalanx, how important it is to stand side-by-side, each man protecting the man next to him with his shield. Then when the battle begins a few minutes later, the Spartans are dashing around, jumping and thrusting in stylized slo-mo like they're in a Bronze-age version of The Matrix, fighting in a way that bears absolutely no resemblance to the style of combat Leonidas explicitly described not ten minutes before. Not that I begrudge Miller or Snyder their right as storytellers to play it fast and loose with history, mind you. But why have such a detailed description of exactly how the Spartans do not fight? It makes no sense.

Of course, historical accuracy isn't the aim of the movie, nor should it be. Real Greek soldiers, Spartan, Thespian, Athenian, Theban, whatever, wore quite a bit of armor. 300 Spartan soldiers wear underpants and red capes. A little beefcake eye-candy for the wives and girlfriends brought to see the movie by the nerds, I guess. The body-jewelry covered Xerxes is perhaps the least threatening villain in a movie since the makers of Stargate said, "Hey, let's see if we can get that skinny, androgynous dude from The Crying Game to be our bad guy!"

* For a deeper and more involving look at the Battle of Thermopylae and Spartan society, try Stephen Pressfield's novel Gates of Fire. Good stuff, I tells ya.

Tell Me About the Penis Mightier

Promos for tonight's "Jeopardy!" promise something amazing. Something that has never happened in the show's 23-year history and, "may never happen again."

Internet fandom is predicting a three-way tie. Some are saying it will be a $0 tie, with all three contestants having bet it all in Final Jeopardy and getting it wrong. According to Wikipedia, however, that has happened before. So my guess is just a straight-up three-way tie, with all players finishing with the same (positive) dollar amount.

Meh. The problem is, ties are boring. There's a reason baseball games go into extra innings. More to the point, there's a reason the NHL has instituted the "shoot-out" format to determine the winner of games still tied at the end of overtime. Ties are deadly dull. Navy football coach Eddie Erdelatz famously said, "A tie is like kissing your sister." This is true for both participants and spectators. I want to see the Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat, not "Well, I guess you all three kind of won, and all three kind of lost. Kind of.

What "Jeopardy!" needs is another Ken Jennings. Someone to go on a huge winning streak and draw in the viewers. Someone starts breaking Jennings' records, that's an event. Someone runs the entire board in one game, that's an event. Nobody really wins, that's meh.

28 Things I Love About Emily

1. She doesn't think she's funny, but she makes me laugh a lot more than she gives herself credit for.

2. She does nice things for people she likes not because it's socially expected, but because it really means a lot to her to be able to do so.

3. She makes all the appropriate yummy noises when she eays my cooking - which is good, because one of the main reasons I cook is because I want to impress her.

4. She delights in small things that most people don't care about - snow falling in ploofs, the first tiny flowers blooming in Spring.

5. She's a perfectionist about pie, and hates when she has to use canned pumpkin in a pie rather than making it from scratch.

6. She's a nerd, too, and really enjoys watching "Heroes" or "Battlestar Galactica" with me, or the same 14 episodes of "Firefly" for the tenth time.

7. She likes playing nerdy games like Munchkin, Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne with me and our nerdy friends. She's even getting into roleplaying games, a little bit.

8. She's full of fun ideas like, "Since we're passing by, let's stop in at the erotic bakery and see the penis cakes." Unfortunately, the place was closed. Next time, maybe...

9. She's as perfect a traveling buddy as I could possibly hope for. We've hiked six miles on the Great Wall of China together, stood on a corner in Winslow, Arizona together, visited Mount Rushmore and Wall Drug and Carhenge together, and we're looking forward to more adventures great and small, grand and absurd.

10. She likes hiking and camping and doesn't think that sleeping in a tent is necessarily a bad thing. She agrees enthusiastically that we should register at REI rather than Crate & Barrel for wedding gifts.

11. She has a sense of humor nearly as juvenile as mine, and agrees with me that farts are hilarious.

12. She carries on entire conversations with me in strange nonsense words we've invented.

13. She, unlike most adults including myself, sings and dances without a hint of self-consciousness.

14. She wants to wear a green dress at our wedding (but not a real green dress, that's cruel).

15. She is perfectly comfortable leaving the house nearly every day without wearing so much as a trace of makeup.

16. She refuses to conform to nearly any feminine stereotype you can name...but still has a hard time passing by any shoe store without at least stopping in to browse a little bit.

17. She makes the best goddamn french toast on planet Earth.

18. She'll save children, but not the British children.

19. She falls asleep inside five minutes when I read to her in bed.

20. She moved 1000 miles away from home and family mostly just because she wanted to try it and see what it was like.

21. She tells me my paintings are good, even when they're not.

22. She wears her hair in braids.

23. She knows all kinds of things about subjects I know almost nothing about.

24. She always wants to have a sip, or at least a sniff, when I drink beer or bourbon and always makes the same "eew gross" face while handing the glass or bottle back to me.

25. She makes me feel totally at ease with myself and never asks me to be anything I'm not.

26. She's dead sexy. Her arms and shoulders, so often overlooked in the female sex-appeal department, are simply stunning.

27. She's beautiful, even though she seems not to believe me when I tell her so.

28. She loves me, and what more could I possibly ask?

Happy birthday, Emily Rose. I love you madly.

Take That, Hitler!

In "memory" of the Sentinel of Liberty, here's my entry in superleezard's Draw Captain America meme.

Geisel & Zimmermann

Somebody out there who does a great Bob Dylan recorded this and put it up on the internets for us to hear. Some of it is way too long - "The Cat in the Hat" goes on for 12:00 minutes, long after the humor has worn off - but "Green Eggs and Ham" is an absolute riot.

Music Makes The People Come Together

I've switched over the last week or so from Pandora to, and I'm totally digging it...mostly.

I've never been totally happy with Pandora. I get tons and tons of repeats on all my Pandora stations. I donno, maybe I'm doing something wrong. But one of my stations keeps playing the same four or five Cowboy Mouth songs over and over again. I dig Cowboy Mouth quite a lot, but when I'm listening for two hours and every fourth song is the same band, that's pretty annoying. On a different station, I keep getting Louis Prima's "Just a Gigolo" and "Jump Jive and Wail" over and over. Tremendously annoying.

I'm not getting nearly as many repeats on, though it does seem to want to play "In the Waiting Line" by Zero 7 pretty frequently. Overall I'm much more satisfied with the variety. The biggest problem I've had with Last is the strange things it decides are "similar" to the stuff I like. I enter the name of an artist I like - Weezer, U2, Barenaked Ladies, doesn't matter, every now and then it decides I need to hear some fucking Death Cab for Cutie or Fallout Boy or some other shit that in the realm of guys who inexplicably think they look good in skintight low-rise jeans. Eventually, through the use of the "Ban" button, I'll weed out every goddamn Death Cab song out there. I just have a hard time accepting it when I say I want music similar to the Pixies and the internets tell me that what I want is Sufjan fucking Stevens.

He's Only Mostly Dead

You may have heard that the fine folks at Marvel Comics killed their iconic superhero Captain America (depicted here socking Hitler) in the issue which hit stands today.

On eBay right now, copies of the issue are going for $75-$100 bucks.

In 1993, DC Comics killed their iconic superhero Superman (depicted here giving Hitler a stern look), and that issue was the hottest thing going. Sold out almost instantly. Went back to press four times. In the fall and winter of '93/'94, you couldn't find a copy of the first printing in any nerdstore in the land for less than a hundred bones.

Comics fans wanted the issue, of course. And the general public, operating under the completely bizarre premise that the Man of Steel's death was going to be permanent, thought they needed to get their hands on the Valuable Collector's Item Last-Ever Issue of Superman. Superman, as every comics fan knew he would, returned to life the following summer. In the nearly 70-year history of superhero comics, exactly three characters have stayed dead for good: Batman's parents and Spider-man's Uncle Ben. Of course Superman was coming back!

Are you getting the point here? Of course - Captain America is going to be "dead" for three months, tops. And those issues that collectors and speculators are snapping up for $75 on eBay right now?

Well, put it this way: lists Superman #75 at $8.00 near mint, $16 graded 9.6 by the Comics Guarantee Corporation. It can be had on eBay in VF/NM condition for three or four bucks. Quite a collector's item.



ETA: As of this addition, mid-afternoon 3/08, there's an eBay auction with both the regular cover and the variant cover ending in half an hour with a current bid of $200. Estimated worth of said books in ten years: $20. Nice investment.

Tricked into Watching Gay Sex

Remember a few years back when not just Western Civilization but in fact LIFE AS WE KNOW IT ON EARTH was nearly destroyed because millions of people saw a microsecond-long shot which contained an image of a semi-nude feminine body part during the Super Bowl halftime show?

Well, the general idiocy level of American society has, if anything, only increased since then, and this year the Super Bowl was once again broadcast on that notorious purveyor of prurient filth, CBS. In case you had forgotten, it was those perverts at the Columbia Broadcasting System who inflicted a blink-and-you-miss-it glimpse of Janet Jackson's boobie back in 2003. And yes, that same depraved network that brings us such nearly-pornographic programs as "Fat Schlubb Has a Hot Wife" and eight different iterations of the popular police procedural, "Science Cops!", was at it again.

Here's The Smoking Gun with 12 pages of utter morons complaining about Prince's vaguely phallic guitar and a dumb Snickers ad in which two men accidentally kiss (on the lips, no less; shameful!). One person reacts to the ad as though the Snickers people had aired 30 seconds of Shaving Ryan's Privates. Another, Homer Simpson style, says his son, "hoped to be a quarterback and now he will turn out gay...Thanks CBS for turning my son GAY." His son is going to become gay because he saw two men kissing briefly and accidentally on televsion, it seems. This brilliant parent will undoubtedly be taking his son for a visit to the nearest gay steel mill to straighten him back out again.

Nerd Classic: He Save Every One of Us

Today, whilst studying, I pulled out the Flash Gordon soundtrack by Queen.

I bought this CD shortly after my 15th birthday in the spring of 1992, with money given to me by my Grandma. My parents gave me a Sony 5-disc carousel CD player, but it had been sitting for a few days, hooked up to my stereo but unused, as I hadn't received any CDs for my birthday. Fortunately for me, the Greeley Mall ("Where good things happen!") was right across the street from John Evans Junior High and there was birthday money burning a hole in my pocket. So on the Monday after my birthday, I skipped the school bus home after 7th period and headed over to the Disc Jockey to find something cool.

And when I say "something cool," you must keep in mind the title of this blog, and consider that I'm nowhere near as big a nerd now as I was in 9th grade.

Anyway, I was a huge fan of the 1980 Flash Gordon film. At the time, it was in heavy rotation on TBS, WGN and all the other "Here, watch an old movie with cheap broadcast rights so we can make a few bucks" basic cable channels, alongside such other cinematic gems as The Beastmaster, The Ice Pirates and Conan the Destroyer. I watched it pretty much every time it was on. My brother and his friends had kind of a thing for Flash at that time as well, but it was an Ironic thing, combined with the music of Queen being hip at the time thanks to the death of Freddie Mercury and the Wayne's World movie.

As for me, I hadn't an ironic bone in my body, and I just totally dug the movie. I understood that it was cheesy and absurd, and I didn't care. Its heart was in the right place. It managed to perfectly walk the fine line between being completely earnest, wide-eyed sci-fi adventure and ridiculous campy self-parody. It had a bland hero who wore a T-shirt with his name on it (I would have killed to own a copy of that T-shirt, and probably still would), but that was nicely balanced by the villain, a gloriously hammy Max von Sydow, and equally hammy supporting players Brian Blessed and Timothy Dalton. And the music was awesome, too.

Which brings us back to the Disc Jockey at the Greeley Mall, May 1992. It was the era of the CD longbox, well before someone realized that you could put the jewel cases in those same plastic jaws-of-death thingies that they kept the tapes in to prevent theft. I flipped through the CDs, not sure what to get. I didn't know all that much about music - I was starting to get into Nirvana, but I already had Nevermind on tape, and I wanted something I didn't already have.* My first impulse had been the Star Wars soundtrack, nerd that I was, but that didn't exist on CD at the time. I thought about other stuff that was popular at the time, like the Red Hot Chili Peppers' BloodSugarSexMagik and Metallica's Black Album, but I didn't really like Metallica (for whom I later developed at least an appreciation) or the Chili Peppers (still don't). Probably inspired my own self by the Wayne-and-Garth-inspired resurgence in popularity, I flipped idly through the Queen CDs, and there it was... all its bright yellow glory.

It was, of course, the only CD I owned for a couple of weeks, so I listened to it quite a lot. Brian May and Roger Taylor go nuts, especially rocking out to back the scene where Flash, Prince Vultan and the Hawkmen attack War Rocket Ajax (track 13, "Battle Theme"). And of course, the album is wall-to-wall with not just music, but dialogue and sound effects from the movie. Listening to the album is almost as good as watching the movie. The only thing missing is the movie's best line, which was included in the single version of "Flash's Theme" that's on the Greatest Hits collection: "Flash! Flash, I love you! But we only have fourteen hours to save the Earth!" Alas, one can't have everything.

My love for all things "Flash Gordon" knows no bounds. It's a tremendous piece of sci-fi pulp adventure, with tons of potential. Apparently, the SciFi Channel is currently producing a new "Flash" TV show to begin airing later this year. It makes me nervous - could be "Stargate" bad, could be "Battlestar Galactica" good. If it's really happening and it's good, along with HBO's upcoming series based on George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire novels, there might just be enough reason for me to break down, join the 20th Century, and get cable TV.


* I never did acquire Nevermind on CD, and somewhere along the way, my tape copy disappeared, probably lent to a friend and never returned, so I don't actually own a copy of one of the most iconic albums of my generation. It's kind of a moot point, as it's now been two or three years since I even owned a functional tape deck...

True Dat, Yo.

From Randall Munroe's consistently amusing xkcd, a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math and language.

As I've said before about many, many things, it's funny 'cuz it's true.

Too Little Too Late

Here's my latest creation in Photoshop for my Creating the Digital Image class.

It was inspired, in part, by this Time cover story from last year, which stated that polar bears are likely to be extinct in the wild within fifty years due to the destruction of their habitat.

One of the more difficult parts of creating this image was in adding the New York skyline in the background. I found the perfect NY photo, except that it dated from the '60s, when the World Trade Center was being built. The under-construction towers were visible and clearly identifiable on the left side of the image. This obviously didn't jibe with the concept, so I had to erase them, which was pretty painful.

My professor asked in class on Wednesday when he saw my image, "Do you think this is good?"

"Well, I don't think the scenario is good at all," I said, "but I think the image is good."

Don't Know Much About Geography

You have 10 minutes to name all 53 African countries.

Try it.

I got 28 - can you do better?

Friday With the Kids - Evan the Shoe Salesman

This week, without any particular reason, Bruce McCulloch sells Scott Thompson some shoes.

"I Said Ha-Ha..." - N. Muntz

Main Entry: scha·den·freu·de
Pronunciation: 'shä-d&n-"froi-d&
Function: noun
Usage: often capitalized
Etymology: German, from Schaden damage + Freude joy
: 1. enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others
2. a word Hulkster is thoroughly proud he spelled correctly on the first try when doing the dictionary search.

So this blogger, The Hey Lady, decided that she would attend last weekend's New York Comic Convention in order to get a date. She wrote:

Comic Book Conventions should be a great place to meet guys. We're talking about a virtually untapped market. In theory: for a smart, (somewhat) attractive girl, getting a date should be like shooting fish in a barrel, no? Thousands of men are gathered in one place (granted, some of them are taken; some are gay; some, undoubtedly, live in their mothers' basements) with a very small proportion of available women around. The statistics alone would lead us to believe there have got to be a few good men in this crowd.

So that's great. I can't object to going to a convention to meet people, or even to get a date. But her attitude going in is so superior - "I'm assuming that I can just go to this nerdfest and have my pick of guys, because though I may not be what you'd call a catch, these comic book people are such lonely dorks that they're desperate enough to settle for anyone." Just lovely. They'll throw themselves at her feet, grateful for the mere presence of a female, right?


Today, she posted her results.

So here's what I'm wondering - if you were the kind of person who might write something like, "First of all, crowds make me nervous. And so do people in costumes," would you go to a fleurking COMIC BOOK CONVENTION, f'god's sake, in order to get a date? I'm deeply unsettled by bagpipe music and caber tossing - am I going to go to the Highland Festival in search of a date?

She goes on to describe her embarrassment at being recognized (her previous blog entry hit the front page on Digg), mentions multiple times how shy she really is, and discusses in a thoroughly condescending way what freaks the women there are (OMG, there are actually women there, there are girl nerds too, who knew!). One woman she encountered was dressed in a silly and apparently sexy costume, to which she sniffs, "There, but for the grace of god, go I." Say what you will, Hey Lady, but at least she's not too shy to talk to a bunch of dorks.

I really don't wish loneliness or misery or unhappiness on anybody. But when you talk big about how you'll be the only woman within a mile of the Javits Center, how the nerds will drop everything they're doing and flock to you the moment you step through the door like Cinderella making her grand entrance to the ball, how you'll be able to pick and choose, buffet-style, like you're Daniel Radcliffe at a gathering of Catholic priests...well, you gotta back that up. Am I wrong?

I'm also thoroughly amused by her assumption that there would be no other women at the convention. It never occurred to her that she would be surrounded by Wonder Women and Scarlet Witches and such? Let alone the fairly decent proportion of the Nerdworld that is comprised of actual women? Yeah, there's probably more men than women at any given nerd gathering. But, believe it or not, there are females out there who like comics (and not just Strangers in Paradise, but Green Lantern and Spider-man, too), who like science fiction and fantasy, who like roleplaying games. I've linked here to the comics-blogging world's two most well-known women, but there's plenty more out there.

I guess the buying into stereotypes just chaps my ass. The assumption that comics-reading men are nothing but lonely and horny. Yeah, there's more than a few of them who are Comic Book Guy. There are also plenty of comics readers who are perfectly ordinary, nice, intelligent guys who just have lousy luck with women. I was one of those until I met Emily. The thing is, that doesn't make them any different than any other subculture out there. There's lots of guys obsessed with football or cars or anything else who have lousy luck with women, too, but nobody assumes that football fans or car guys are inherently lonely and desperate for female attention. No one would write, no matter how tongue-in-cheek, "The auto show's in town this weekend, I'll go down there and picking up guys will be like shooting fish in a barrel!"

Maybe, in spite of everything you hear, comics readers are just normal folks, after all. Maybe.