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I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.

                     T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

25 November 2007

Two things that caught my eye this morning.
There were a pair of thought-provoking pieces in the Opinion section of this morning's Philadelphia Inquirer, one an editorial about the sacrifices being made by former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor in order to care for her Alzheimer's stricken husband of 44 years, the other a musing about the loss of our "secondary circle of communication" as a result of telephone technology.

In "Justice and Compassion: an instructive story of sacrifice," the paper's editors tell of the "heartbreaking irony" of O'Connor's husband having finally come to terms with his institutionalization by falling in love with another patient and suggest the lessons we all can learn from her willingness to accept that situation:

What are [the] lessons? That sometimes you have to drop what you're doing - all of it, career, aspirations, influence - and help. That sometimes love means letting go, letting be, wanting what the beloved wants, even if one is left out. That there can be comfort in the midst of loss.
The guy doing the musing is talk radio host and columnist Michael Smerconish, a man with a very interesting mind and life viewpoint. I tend to disagree with him more often than not, but he certainly keeps me thinking. His piece is about how the steady disappearance of telephone land lines has help isolate us all even more.

His point is that, back in the day when there was only a house telephone shared by everyone, we were forced into one another's lives somewhat, talking to our spouses family, friends and co-workers, our children's friends, a lot of people to whom we were only tangentially connected, on a regular basis.

When the phone rings today, it's a BlackBerry or cell phone, and the only person who answers is the intended recipient. There is no secondary circle of communication. Gone is the communication with the person who is a relative on your spouse's side of the family. Today, when my sister-in-law wants to talk to my wife, she calls her directly, or sends her an e-mail.

I'm out of the loop.

[ ... ]

The problem is bound to get worse. A U.S. Consumer Expenditure survey found that the percentage of households paying a cell phone bill but no landline bill increased from 0.4 percent in 2000 to almost 8 percent by the beginning of 2005. If someone asks me for my phone number these days, I never give out the house number. Instead, I offer a cell number, or better yet, an e-mail address.

[ ... ]

Today, it's shocking when you call a cell number and someone else answers. You stumble all over yourself, forgetting how to make polite small talk. It's a lost art.

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[Posted 3:15pm edt]

24 November 2007

What happens after The Rapture happens?
Because of my comic book mail order service, I get lots of samples of forthcoming titles and and one I received last week was really intriguing. It's a brief segment from Therefore Repent!, a graphic novel by Jim Munroe and Salgood Sam which is apparently already out in book market but solicited for March release from Diamond Comics Distributors, the industry's largest wholesaler.

The book describes itself as a "Post-Rapture graphic novel" and is built around the premise that fundamentalists Christians have it right and one day they are all hoist up into the sky to their eternal reward.

So, what happens next? What about the rest of us?

What will the world be like when only the immoral majority is left?

It's a fascinating concept, one I'd love to play around with...and probably will. My take will be significantly different than that of Munroe, I'd guess (I'm ordering a copy of the book but won't have it until March). He seems to be moving toward the area of demons and magic and the creation of new religions from what I get out of the short sampler, while I think I'd be inclined to a more prosaic look at a post-God, post-Apocalypses world Z(or, non-Apocalypse, to be more accurate).

On his website, Munroe compares his book with the highly successful conservative series, "Left Behind," which pretty much toes Biblical line, and says he thinks of his effort as instead "re-imagining the Bible franchise, like Frank Miller did for Batman."

I'm really looking forward to this, both my own and Munroe's versions. If I get anywhere with the former, you'll be among the first to know.

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[Posted 9:45am edt]

Damn that Moore! He's got me again.
I must admit that I bought my copy of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier, by Alan Moore & Kevin O'Neill, on a bit of a lark (the cover shown with the link is the primary one, the alternative cover, which is on my copy, is at right). I figured it would be an immediate sell-out (and it was, in the comics trade, though copies are still available at Amazon apparently) and, since it was also banned in Great Britain due to some copyright dispute or other, I could always recoup my cost on eBay if I decided not to rip off the plastic wrapping and read it.

The fact is, Alan Moore is a bit much for me these days, forcing this tired old brain to work harder than it wants to. Too little time, too many books, perhaps a beer or two over the limit, stuff like that.

Now, I'm not so sure.

Here's a review sorts from the usually reliable Douglas Wolk at Salon this morning, which begins thusly:

Years before its publication, Alan Moore described "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier" as "not my best comic ever, not the best comic ever, but the best thing ever. Better than the Roman civilisation, penicillin ... and the human nervous system. Better than creation. Better than the big bang. It's quite good."
Wolk goes on to say that Dossier doesn't quite hit that level and that there is in fact yet another LOEG novel forthcoming from Moore and O'Neill, but he does tempt me to dig into these pages and see how much of it I can sort out.

He wasn't the first one to do so, actually. My old pal Brian Hibbs, of the San Francisco's Comix Experience, posted his his thoughts a few days earlier. Allow me to quote extensively:

I thought that the LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN: THE BLACK DOSSIER was one of the most extraordinary things that I've read this year.

I barely have the vocabulary for a decent review -- not only did I miss at least a third of the references (I'm aware, intellectually, of [say] Jeeves and Wooster - but its not like I've ever personally read a word of Wodehouse's), but even the ones I actually get, I don't actually have the language to comment on. Jog, or Lester, or Wolk are much better candidates for really and actually understanding the intricacies of what Moore and O'Neill have pulled off within this book.

But, although I've never actually READ _Fanny Hill_, I'm still able to understand how well Moore has written in that style' and though I've never read a page of Jeeves & Wooster, how well the melding of the Cthulu mythos to that really flows.

This is a comic that will have you checking your internet connection every few minutes -- I like a book that actually sends me to a dictionary for words I don't know (Tribadism, anyone? -- Firefox's spellchack even says that's not a word!); or exposes me to concepts I've never heard of before.

But sometimes even Google fails you, and I have to admit that I wasn't even slightly clear on the significance of Sir John Night and Night Industries, or Bill of the hiked-up pants, and the secret spy school, or the character that allowed Our Heroes access to the Blazing World. I'll admit that I'm just barely educated enough to know that the Shakespeare section scanned properly in Iambic Pentameter, but other than that, I can't really judge how close he got it, and so on.

I think I "got" about 75% of THE BLACK DOSSIER (which is maybe high for an American?), but even the parts where I was confused about the antecedents, I could tell were masterfully constructed, which much thought and form and craft.

Kev's, perhaps, the real master here -- dancing from style to style, yet still remaining clearly the work of Kev -- I was particularly taken by the art in the Fanny Hill section which generally looks "normal" to the eye, but when you look twice is incredibly filthy and pornographic. There's at least 5 generations of styles that are covered within this work, and Kevin hits them all pretty much dead on perfect. This is really an astonishing effort on Kev's part!

I really think that on almost all levels this book is a tour-de-force, and there's hardly a level in which it doesn't deeply satisfy. There's absolutely no doubt this is EXCELLENT work.

And I want to add that I spent nearly three and a half hours with this book, which is a real rarity with comics-related material -- this is a happy and easy $30 spent.

I think I'm hooked.

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[Posted 9:45am edt]

20 November 2007

Some days I despair.
I realize that it is a time-honored tradition for those of a certain age to complain that the world is going to hell in a handbasket (even if not actually knowing what that means), but more and more I suspect that my generation is absolutely right on that issue.

This is from an Associated Press story which ran last Friday. The topic was that, despite Norman Mailer's ambition to have been the most famous and successful author of his generation, in fact Kurt Vonnegut was the one who achieved that distinction if actual sales are the measure.

"Vonnegut was the American Mark Twain," said J. Michael Lennon, the literary executor for Mailer.
I always knew that Sam Clemens guy was a phony.

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[Posted 8:15am edt]

13 November 2007

I thought it was difficult apologizing the first time.
Which I did over here, but at least there I was only missing for a week or so. It has been nearly a month since I last posted here. Yikes.

Well, I'm back, sorta, but not really until weekend. Use the link to go read why, if you care. I'll try to make it up to you when I get back in the saddle by being witty and scintillating and charming as all get-out.

How in the world will I ever manage that? I figure I can hire me one of the Hollywood writers who are on strike (for a very good cause, I should note).

Or, you know, fake it.

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[Posted 4:05pm edt]


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