Books for Soldiers

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January 31, 2005

Annoying ads, part 1

annoyingad.JPGOne of the most annoying ads that runs regularly in the New York Times is the little beauty to the left. These two fools, whomever they are supposed to be, watch the cursor as it moves around the page. What's wrong with that? Well, for one thing it keeps the scroll wheel on your mouse from working properly. Second, what is it advertising? Third, why is this supposed to be so amazing? It stops the page from responding normally and makes them watch the cursor. So what. That's the nature of a computer. It makes an aritifical image behave in certain ways based on my control of a mouse or computer keyboard. You want to impress me? Make the ad disappear when I scream at the screen. That would be impressive.

Posted by sferrell at 1:09 PM

January 29, 2005

review: Daredevil "Golden Age"

DD69.jpgThe current story arc in Daredevil (from Marvel Comics), "Golden Age", written by Brian Michael Bendis with art by Alex Maleev, has been a phenomenal batch of issues. Recently released issue #69 is the penultimate issue to this five-part piece which spans both the contemporary and the golden age of Daredevil comics. With wonderful use of retro imagry to evoke multiple eras (the hyper-pixellated images look just like comics from the pulp-paper and four color printing days, reminding me of the book's look when I was a kid and making me feel incredibly old at the same time) the story has introduced Bont, a pre-Kingpin kingpin, who made a name for himself by gunning-down a WWII era hero. Ruling Hell's Kitchen with a bloody and iron fist he brings all criminal bosses under his rule and leads them to power and money previously unmatched.

DD66-68.jpgOf course, Daredevil plays a role in foiling Bont's empire and Bendis cleverly uses images and
storylines (and characters, notice his use of The Gladiator) from earlier writers as the backbone of his Bont story. With spot-on Frank Miller-esque techniques Maleev's art and Bendis' words do capture the sense of what it was like to read the comics from several decades ago, and having that mesh and conflict with the realities of today's books (how is it possible that Matt Murdock hasn't aged a day, or that his life hasn't progressed all that much from when he first meets Bont) are part of the story, constantly reminding us that we're reading a comic. It's a reminder to pay attention to the fun we're having while we're having fun.

Bont's imprisonment and grudge-holding lasts for decades, and when he's finally released he's an old man. He finds a new world, one he doesn't recognize and which doesn't recognize him. But part of the brilliance of this arc is the merging of old and new. Bont is using MGH--Mutant Growth Hormone. With his insanely monstrous hatred matched by his insanely monstrous strength he's able to bully his old cronies into helping him get a hold of Daredevil.

Truly interesting is the use of time: Bendis bounces us back and forth and creates jumps that are meant to remind us of the comic-book-nature of the story. Everything could be happening right now and the fact that we need constant tags to remind us of "when" we are shows that. I don't think that is accidental. It feels like Bendis wants us aware of how the world around Bont is one that doesn't fit his "story" of himself. I think Bendis wants us to realize that how the world of a comic fits the era of the reader and the era of the hero inside is constructed by the reader as much as the writer. How does the comic-book-world of Hell's kitchen, which for forty years has had Daredevil in it, fit him? How does it fit us? The book has gotten very complex over the years, with a lot of history, and even though the "restarted" the series a few years back it's still very much the DD of yesteryear... it's also not.

Part five should wrap this up nicely. (Highly recommended)

(review by Sean Ferrell)

Posted by sferrell at 4:56 PM | Comments (2)

January 28, 2005

review: "The Sentry"

sentry.jpgWhen doing a history Marvel's heros you would follow a web of linkages between characters that would repeat and loop back upon itself, but you would not find that first pivotal starting point, no one "primary" character who started it all. You wouldn't, unless you count The Sentry by Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee.

When Marvel put together the Sentry mini-series and the one-shot cross-overs in Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, The Hulk and X-Men they revised their own history to include one main hero who taught all the others by his shining example. What Marvel created is in fact a wonderful revision and recasting of not only the heroic universe at hand but the idea of heroism in general, and the personal stake individuals have toward themselves and the greater good. The story reflects on how memory plays into our sense of self, how we rely upon relationships to steady and maintain us, and how overcoming trauma is both simpler and harder than we can sometimes imagine.

Jenkins' story is gripping without melodrama; in fact, toward the end it loses some energy--but I think that's in part due to his focus: this isn't about battle, it's about the preparation. Jenkins provides us with a character in The Sentry/Rob Reynolds who is not only flawed, he's dangerous. People who've grown up in abusive or alcoholic families will certainly see the self-denial and intentional blindness at work here. Despite his flaws Rob Reynolds is a genuinely likable, and heroic figure. You root for him.

Lee's art is dynamic and emotionally gripping, and the use of styles from earlier eras perfectly captures the essence of why we read comics in the first place. A sense of awe, wonder, and a need for heros in an otherwise complicated world is shown beautifully through 1960s style covers with hyperbole and Stan Lee-isms at every page. One of the best elements is the simplicity of the characters, the almost mundaneness to them: Mr. Fantastic looks like he might have a bit of a paunch; the Hulk is childlike and unasuming. The humanity in the artwork is wonderful.

What's most compelling to me is the future of this character. Introduced as the "grand-daddy of all heros," how will his "re-introduction" into the Marvel universe affect the future of that universe. Now that it appears he's becoming part of the New Avengers I think we'll find out.

I can't wait.

Highly recommended.

(review by Sean Ferrell)

Posted by sferrell at 1:22 PM

January 27, 2005

new mascot

chilly.jpgSeemed appropriate given that it was 9 degrees fahrenheit when I walked the dog this morning.

Posted by sferrell at 10:27 AM

January 26, 2005

"Tim Burton's Corpse Bride"

Tim Burton's next film looks fun. No surprises on the cast (Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter... does Tim Burton know any other people?), but still, who doesn't like to see corpses get married?

Posted by sferrell at 1:23 PM

January 25, 2005

Robotic soldiers prepped by Pentagon

SWORDS22004-12-03.jpgThe Pentagon is getting ready for robotic soldiers in Iraq. This is all well and good until Skynet decides that we're the problem and then turns on us.

"Paging Mr. Conner, Mr. John Conner."

Posted by sferrell at 9:31 AM | Comments (2)

January 24, 2005

Captain, you should come to engineering...

Posted by sferrell at 10:41 PM

January 21, 2005

Where to begin?

parisphaser.jpgParis Hilton steals herself.

For the curious, here's what her tee-shirt says in the image above.

Posted by sferrell at 5:20 PM | Comments (2)

Q: How many Bush Administration officials does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A: None. There is nothing wrong with the light bulb; its conditions are improving every day. Any reports of its lack of incandescence are a delusional spin from the liberal media. That light bulb has served honorably, and anything you say undermines the lighting effect. Why do you hate freedom?

Posted by sferrell at 5:04 PM | Comments (2)

"Luke, I am your side dish (hiss, whir, hiss whir)."

lordtater.jpgIn the words of one wiser than me: "Okay, they'll make anything. It's official now."

This kind of changes the tone of the films a bit:

"Luke... Obi Wan never told you what happened to your french fries."

"He told me enough! He told me you ate them!"

"No... I... am your french fries."

"No!! That's not true!! THAT'S IMPOSSIBLE!!"

Lord Tater.

Posted by sferrell at 2:50 PM

Wookies Packing Heat

52617_out_sm.jpgFinally, a way to make sure my wife and I are safe as we walk the streets of NYC.

Wookie pistola.

Posted by sferrell at 12:53 PM

January 20, 2005

Barret Robbins' Hulk Imitation

This is, sadly, like something from a horror movie or comic book. Barret Robbins, the center who skipped out on the Raiders SuperBowl matchup against the T.B. Bucs in 2003, was arrested for attempted felony murder.

From the article:

Robbins, 31, of Englewood, Colo., growled, snarled and "was heard laughing throughout the attack," the report said.

According to the report, Robbins beat Officer Colin Pfrogner to the floor, picked up Detective Mark Schoenfeld and slammed him into one wall and then another, then grabbed Detective Mike Muley by the face and rammed his head into a corner.

Robbins then grabbed Muley's forearms, and Muley shot Robbins twice in the torso, the report said. The former player dropped to his knees, grabbed his chest, snarled and growled again, swore at the officers and slapped Muley's gun out of his hand

I don't know, but given his history of mental disorders, does "not guilty by reason of mental defect" seem all that far fetched? - NFL - Shot by police, Robbins charged with attempted murder - Thursday January 20, 2005 11:49AM

Posted by sferrell at 12:26 PM

Revenge of the Dorks

triumph.jpg Triumph the Insult Comic Dog's roast of STAR WARS fanatics is still incredibly funny, and getting funnier as we approach "Episode III."

Posted by sferrell at 10:12 AM

January 18, 2005

Bush suggests new jury system

Based upon the quotes in this Washington Post article personal culpability for actions can now be based on a simple majority vote!

" President Bush said the public's decision to reelect him was a ratification of his approach toward Iraq and that there was no reason to hold any administration officials accountable for mistakes or misjudgments in prewar planning or managing the violent aftermath.

"We had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 elections," Bush said in an interview with The Washington Post. "The American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq, and they looked at the two candidates, and chose me." "

Based on this reasoning all we need to do is have twelve jurors listen to the prosecutor, the defense attorney, and then vote. Majority rules. What if it's a six-six tie? Well, that's just democracy in action.

Posted by sferrell at 5:10 PM

January 14, 2005

whale song

One of the saddest things I've ever read.

From the first paragraph: "For the last 12 years, a single solitary whale whose vocalizations match no known living species has been tracked across the Northeast Pacific."

What do you think it would take to actually find this thing? Maybe play it's own song back to it?

Posted by sferrell at 1:14 PM | Comments (2)

January 12, 2005

How human is human, anyway?

guardian.jpgAbuse, such as that at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, is something other people do, not us, we say. It's described as "inhumane", not human, as a way of dehumanizing the abusers. They are described as not viewing the captives as human, as if human should necessarily recognize human. As if just labelling someone else as "inhumane" removes their human essence. In truth the actions of some humans proves that humans are capable of all types of horrible acts. These acts are sadly, terrifyingly human.

Lost in all the stories about Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo prison abuse is the fact that there's something about the wiring of the human brain that leaves this sort of abuse to be a real possibility. If the powers that be don't actively stop it, abuse will happen. The fact is that those with power benefit from the natural uprising of abuse. The fact that it springs up unbidden gives them the ignorance to avoid being responsible. Not fake ignorance: true ignorance. "No one asked for this," they can say. So people in power, like the Bush administration, who don't look to avoid it--if not actually run to embrace it--invite it take place by simply not saying "Thou shalt not...". Memos are written to explain international treaties as "quaint" but they don't even need to be written for the prisoner abuse to take place.

The soldiers who carried out the abuse claim "orders" were being followed, and that no "real harm" was done, or that harm was "asked for" by unruly prisoners; meanwhile, their parents run before press corps and defend their children as "good kids" in a "bad situation." Any and all of these reasons spring up on their own, but how is that possible? How can "good kids" do such horrors?

The Stanford Prison Experiment: A Simulation Study of the Psychology of Imprisonment
shows how it is. Scary how human we are when we don't pay close enough attention to ourselves.

Posted by sferrell at 12:43 PM

See, now you're helping me.

iMonkey1.jpgFor years Apple has been trying to kill me. Finally, they realize the error of their ways and are doing something to make me happy.

Apple Unveils Low-Cost Mac, Tiny iPod

Posted by sferrell at 10:42 AM

January 11, 2005

Check your "Force powers" at the door.

Eric Neel at ESPN's "Page Two" had this to say about San Diego Chargers QB Drew Brees if he finds himself separated from Coach Marty Schottenheimer:

"[He'll be] tracking Nate Keading like Boba Fet on the heels of Solo, looking to carbon freeze his behind."

This is possibly the stupidest STAR WARS reference I have ever seen. He gets the spelling (Fett) and plot point wrong (Fett didn't want to freeze Solo, Darth "Neck-Pincher" Vader did), and makes a comment so esoteric that even if he'd gotten those two things right it would still be a stupid remark (Nate Kaeding--note that Neel misspelled his name too!--was the kicker who missed the field goal which would have won a playoff game for the Chargers). Aren't there any geeks working on the ESPN site that should have seen these? Have STAR WARS geeks fallen asleep at the switch?! Where's the fact checking?!

Please don't allow Eric Neel into the theater for Episode 3. Page 2 - Wild weekend in the cards

Posted by sferrell at 11:36 AM | Comments (1)

January 7, 2005

review: "Committed"

committed,jpg.jpgNBC's new show, Committed, left me wishing I'd done anything else with my half hour. I could have cleaned my toilet, I realized. I could have walked the dog, brushed my teeth, stared stupidly at a hole in the carpet--anything. Instead, I'm left with the gaping hole in my head that was this show.

Tom Poston, by far the best part of the show, is wasted; so is his character, a dying clown who lives in the closet of one of the main characters. Why the show isn't about him is beyond me. I would love to have heard the pitch sessions in which they described all the characters and relegated the most interesting one (why is he a clown, why in the closet, why a pie fight by mail?) to a 60 second segment, and that's it. He's there for flavor, but he steals the show and leaves the rest of it looking like a horror/formulae.

I'm not kidding about his being underused. He's the most veteran comedian on the show. Take a look at the summary for the next episode, from NBC's site:

LOST IN LOVE--After several months of dating, Marni (Jennifer Finnigan) realizes she has never set foot in Nate's (Josh Cooke) apartment. Marni invites herself over to his place and Nate, in a state of panic over his crazy, pack-rat apartment, decides to turn off all the lights so she can't see the mess. Marni's curiosity over what Nate is hiding gets the best of her, so she breaks in the next day with Tess (Tammy Lynn Michaels). Elsewhere, Bowie (Darius McCrary) discovers the true meaning of the Chinese symbol that he had tattooed on his arm. Tom Poston also stars. TV-14

Notice the "Tom Poston also stars"? That's it. "Oh, yeah, umm... Tom Poston does appear on your screen at some point too."

And why the TV-14 rating? I couldn't figure that one out. Other than a mild joke using the phrase "get busy" (apparently the show is set five-years-ago?) and manhandling a crippled man, what made this a TV-14 show? Go ahead and re-read that last sentence. Yes, a crippled man get's manhandled. Oh, and it's even funnier because he's black. Wacka-wacka.

The rest of the cast is forgetable. The male lead channels romantic-comedy Ben Affleck most of the time. The female lead is annoying, and not in a George Costanza "I can't stand him, but have to watch him" way. Just in a "I can't stand her voice" way. The supporting characters were, oddly, the strongest part--clearly doing their best with absolutely NOTHING. Notice how I went to the trouble of looking up all the actors names. (cough.)

There was one very funny element: the laugh track. It was so poorly done that the drop-off to the laughter was easily noticed. It was like hearing a busload of people having a party as it drives past you. That made me laugh.

The rest of the show did not. It made me wish that Arrested Development was on two times a week. Wait a second, I have AD Season 1 on DVD. THAT'S what I should have done with that half-hour!

Posted by sferrell at 9:23 AM | Comments (1)

Do you hear a bzzzzz??

bzz.jpgSo this morning my breakfast was brought to me by Wheaties. Delicious Wheaties, the breakfast of champions. Champions like Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts. I didn't get to enjoy it very much because the dog had to go out so badly. As I walked around the neighborhood I realized I'd forgotten to bring a bag, but luckily a plastic bag from someone's New York Times was blowing by. Bringing you the world, everyday, the New York Times. I grabbed the bag before it flew out of reach and used it to grab the pup's poop. I tossed the knotted blue bag into a Rubbermaid trash bin. Rubbermaid, making the products that make your life easier, and then headed home. The dog enjoyed the fact that I ran, because it was raining and he hates that, and he likes to run. Luckily I was wearing my new Nikes. Nike--just do it!

So, what did you sell--err, do today?

What garbage.

Posted by sferrell at 8:24 AM

January 6, 2005

Numbmonkey's new mascot.

monkey.jpgLook!! A monkey!!

Posted by sferrell at 4:47 PM | Comments (1)

January 4, 2005

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model Search


Reviews of shows I've never seen, but in which I'll say anything I have to in order to get quoted.

NBC's new show, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model Search is a refreshing change of pace. Not only are the contestants darling, and the drama palpable (think the first and third seasons of "24", not the lackluster second season--yuck!), but the title says it all. Thank goodness we've entered an era where TV show titles are so honestly direct, right?

"Sports": That's what these girls are!

"Illustrated": Or, in other words, animated, which is what these girls are!

"Swimsuit": Where less is more!

"Model": in "citizens!" Am I right?

"Search": In a nutshell that's what this show is.

NBC has a hit on its hands, and if they don't watch out it's gonna be Must See TV for all of America!

Posted by sferrell at 12:02 PM | Comments (1)

"What's Weird Here?"

Parker Brother's is proud to announce the release of its next big game. Sure to be a hit with kids and adults, "What's Weird Here" is the sur-reality game where you get to make the call on what's weird, bizzare, freako!!!

Just pull a image card from the top of the deck, and you've got thirty seconds to name as many freaky elements as you can find in the picture. Try it now with this FREE sample image!!! Is it the Olsen twins? John Stamos? The fact they're all at Disney World together? All three!!!???!!!

Posted by sferrell at 9:49 AM | Comments (4)

January 1, 2005

a-nti-yn rand

aynrand1.jpgIt seems that the Ayn Rand Institute is upsetting the applecart and Ayn Rand isn't happy about it. Why should the US Government send any money to the tsunami victims in South East Asia? asks David Holcberg at the ARI.

"ARI is asking "by what right" does the US Government send aid overseas," said Ms. Rand when contacted via paranormal psychic for comment (Ayn Rand died on March 6, 1982). She continued, "My favorite line: "...most of those affected by this tragedy are suffering through no fault of their own." From the pictures I've seen it's kind of hard to tell those who are affected through their own fault from those who are innocent victims."

ARI's argument is that the money is taken from US citizens against their will, and for the US government to use it in this way is the "vicious" morality of altruism.

"I agree with everything they say," said Ms. Rand. "But, I wonder why they don't practice what they preach. ARI is a 501(c)(3) educational organization. As such they are exempt from taxes and donations made to them are deductible for tax purposes. The basis of 501(c)(3) organizations is altruism."

The idea is that money being used for "charitable, educational, literary or scientific purpose" (in other words, for the general good) will reap benefits for the whole of mankind and should not be taxed. But is this altruism by which ARI benefits morally acceptable?

Ms. Rand shifted uncomfortably in her chair before continuing. According to an op-ed she showed us, written by Arthur C. Brooks at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University, non-profits such as ARI benefit from indirect subsidies from the US government "in the form of tax revenues not collected on tax-deductible private contributions to nonprofits."

Ms. Rand smiled. "If you follow Prof. Brooks' reasoning then the US Government's indirect subsidy of nonprofits such as ARI amounts to exactly the same sort of "vicious" altruism. I agree with ARI, this viciousness must stop. Let's start by stripping ARI of its 501(c)(3) status and work our way down."

Posted by sferrell at 5:34 PM