Thursday, July 29, 2004

Maus

I finally got around to reading Art Spiegelman's Maus. There have been a few billion reviews of it already so I won't go into detail. What surprised me is Spiegelman's story-telling. Imagine sitting down to write/draw the true account of your parents' ordeals through Auschwitz and the Holocaust (while depicting Jews as mice, Germans as cats, Poles as pigs, and so on), and spending as much time on your father's penny-pinching as the gas chambers. In the story, Spiegelman (or his characterization of himself) worries how to honestly depict his father other than a stereotypical Jewish miser. Although I'm sure a number of readers were angered, it gives the book a deep and unforgettable quality.

I didn't pick this book up for years, thinking "Hitler as a cat" was absurd (and not absurd in the good way). I couldn't have been more wrong. If you haven't read Maus, it's probably the best (and most respected) way to introduce yourself to modern comics.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Hell linked to Economy

A study that I don't trust a bit says that believing in Hell is good for the economy. On a related note, another study shows that believing in Valhalla is good for skiing.
Sick, Sick, Sick

The stereotypical hill-billy doesn't have a lot going for him but he doesn't have to worry about this.

Spaceship Won

We've entered the age of commercial space flight.

(Why am I coming up with bad puns? Is there that much hate in the room?)
Blue Whale Sighting

Yes, I know that no one else cares but my parents have a house in Florida and I've gotten big on whales (weak half-pun not intended).
Be a Minister in Five Minutes

I'm still thinking about this. I'd like to marry somebody to their dog just to provide people who are against gay marriage something solid.
More Crap

Snopes posted another e-mail chain about Kerry. No surprise--it's fake. In the interest of fairness, there have been several about Bush--this, this, and this.

It's interesting about the scope of the claims. The first two about Bush center around a slip of the tongue (something possible for anybody) but the two recent ones about Kerry (as well as the one about IQs) throw a lot of facts at the reader that could easily be proven false.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Coolest God

Just read up on Guan Di, the Chinese god of martial arts and diplomacy. Based on a real-life general who was incorporated into the pantheon after his death, Guan Di tried to end fights before they started, often using his great size to bring an opponent to his senses (he was said to stand eight feet, ten inches tall—big, but still shy of Robert Pershing Wadlow.) Despite his prowess, he tried to talk his enemies out of fighting and used violence only when everything else failed. Guan Di was considered very wise, well-read, and a patron of scholars.

Of course, judging on Jesus's followers, people who worshipped Guan Di would be short illiterates who loved to start trouble but had no fighting skills whatsoever.
Facts of Life

Here's a few interesting facts from "Life Counts: Cataloguing Life on Earth":

For every human, there are approximately 500 trees (each, on average, produce three million liters of Oxygen per year). For each human there are 50 birds and 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bacteria (one sextillion). However:

For every elephant, there are 10,000 humans
For every lion, 100,000 humans
Panda, 5,000,000 humans
Sumatran rhinoceros, 100,000,000 (although the pregnant one at the Cincinnati zoo may affect this)
Spix's macaw, over 6 billion (only one is known to exist)

By estimating that modern humans arose 50,000 years ago and applying the best estimates of population over the years, the authors figure that 106,147,380,169 people have been born (as of 2000). Approximately six percent are still living. I've read estimates ranging from 80 billion to 120 billion but never one so exact. (If you've ever heard that "Because of the population explosion, more people are alive today than have died," keep in mind it's a blatant lie.)

The biomass of earth rounds out to approximately 1,850 million tons (British system) of which only 2.3 million tons are animals. In Brussels, plants make up 91.5% of the biomass, humans 7.16, earthworms 0.97%, dogs 0.12%, and cats 0.09%.

In England, there are 75 million field voles (population declining), 59 million humans, nearly 42 million common shrews, 38 million wood mice, 37.5 million rabbits (population rising), and 31 million moles.

What animal is most commonly kept by humans?
Bees - over three trillion
Chickens - nearly 13.5 billion
Cattle - nearly 1.5 billion
Sheep - over one billion
Pigs - nearly one billion

Strangely enough, people keep over 2.6 million "farm" crocodiles

In just the U.S. and Europe people keep 106 million cats and 94 million dogs (but more people own dogs than cats). More people own fish than dogs and cats combined.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Ebert on Catwoman

Yuck, there's a visual.

If anyone had the powers of my cat, he'd sleep and throw up all day.
Bad Chicken

Here's another story that I tried to post with no success--18 tons of diseased chicken.

By the way, never order chicken at a supermarket deli. Since turkey, ham, and roast beef are the staples, chicken tends to sit a long time. Long enough to develop long strings of green moss-like tentacles in one case. And since chicken tends to be spiced or flavored, it's often impossible to tell the meat has gone bad until long after the fact.

No, don't go vegan. It's even worse in produce.
Creepy but True

I meant to post this a while back. Very disturbing story about a mother at five.

According to one of my reference books, the youngest grandmother was 17. Oh, but due to television and video games, morals today are worse than they've ever been.
More Load of Crap Destined for Covington's Mailbox

Latest anti-Kerry e-mail that's making its rounds. Hey, what do you know? It's a pack of lies!
Corporation

Ebert's review of the documentary.

The review (and possibily the movie itself) are wrong on one count. The infamous Supreme Court ruling wasn't as legitimate as many in Amercorp would like you to believe.
Want Me to Marry You?

No, not in that sense. I just stumbled across Ohio's web page for getting a Minister License that allow you to legally marry a couple.

Anyone want to start a religion?
I Can Blog Again

As I sit in the P-T office, my blogger postings seem to be ready to roll. (Crap! I wasn't ready for anything.)

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Anybody else having a problem with Blogger? My new post screen keeps coming up blank.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Parody/Satire

It's sad that this will go over so many heads. "Aha! I knew it!"
Second-Hand Smoke Kills Birds

Well, I'm switching to smack.
F

One of the options for class papers for my current course was to evaluate a film. As I mentioned before on this blog, I used F for Fake, a film by Orson Welles which looks at art forgery, frauds, and critical thinking.

I think two of 27 students didn't complain about it. True, many of the subjects are singing with the choir invisible but I was surprised how inaccessible they found it. (Howard Hughes is forgotten. This seems to say that in 20 years, college students won't recognize the name "Michael Jackson.")

Personally, I'm more impressed by this Welles' picture than Citizen Kane. There was a little too much 70s-style direction but the dialogue, the visuals, the editing, the overall concepts were incredible. They hated the clip of Un Chien Andalou too. I blame Titanic.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Thursday, July 15, 2004

The Curse

This story comes from the Piaroa people of the Orinoco Basin in what is now Venezuela.

Long ago, the wives of the great hero Wahari were playing on a swing over a deep ravine in the jungle. Buoka, Wahari's dim-witted older brother, came by and "played" with them too. Buoka's most striking feature was his penis, which was so long that he could sling it over his shoulder. After swinging on the penis for a bit, each of Wahari's wives invited him to have sex.

This did not sit well with the great Wahari.

Using his magic, he changed himself into a beautiful woman . . . without a vagina. In this form, he skipped out to the ravine, immediately attracting Buoka's attention. From a far distance, Buoka shot out his penis to violate him/her. The lack of a vagina did not dissuade him. He tried with her thighs and belly-button but could find no opening (Buoka, it would seem, had never been to prison). Annoyed at his idiot brother, Wahari sliced the giant penis into five pieces so the remaining stump was regular-sized but gushing blood.

In shame, Buoka went to hide in his house. When Wahari came to check on him, Buoka told him that he was indisposed and could not come out. Wahari's wives went back to the swing to look for Buoka but, unable to find him, went home. When they asked about his brother, Wahari told them that "it was that time of the month."

The women, or anyone but the two brothers, had no idea what that might mean.

The wives all went to Buoka's house and had sex with him, taking the bleeding from his penis and forever giving it to all women. From that day forward, menstruating women could not so much prepare food for a man or he would sicken and die.

The five severed pieces of Buoka's penis changed into snakes and forever search the jungle for human women to have sex with, a warning for young girls who might venture too deep into the woods.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Carbs are In

Thank God that the Dr. Atkin's craze seems to be dying (although it outlived him quite a bit).

Working at a grocery store, it constantly disgusts me that even beer companies advertise "low carbs" (sure, "lite" isn't much better but I've grown used to that). Other than Graeters ("Get your carbs here"), the world seemed under the evil spell. I think I'll eat a loaf of bread to celebrate.
Dark Matter/Energy

Dark Matter might be the same thing as Dark Energy. Or maybe they're not related at all.
Understanding Comics

Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art

I'm dropping this book back to the library tomorrow. There is no excuse not to reserve it.

To my knowledge, art appreciation classes never cover comic books. Most literature professors omit them from the curriculum (exception being P. Andrew Miller with his "Studies in Literature: The Graphic Novel" course). One of the chief reasons is that comics don't fall into the basic theories and understanding that we have of visual or written art.

McCloud provides criteria involving sound impressions, projection of time, sequences of action, the gutter (the white space between panels), color, and style. Many of his main points about comic art also apply to other art forms (he provides a six-tiered system of artistry that explains the difference between artists like Joyce, Picasso, and Orson Welles from Dickens, Charles Schulz, and Frank Capra). In a shameless plug, I dare anyone to read that section and not think of Nathan Singer.

One practical benefit I gained from the book is that I can now understand the appeal of the Japanese comic style known as masking in which features a very cartoonish character against a highly detailed realistic background. I'm still not a big fan of the style but I can understand psychologically what's going on.

I doubt if comics will ever gain real critical attention but McCloud at least establishes a framework to judge and evaluate comics as an art.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Rank

I checked out Cities Ranked and Rated from the library the other day. Charottesville, VA, ranked the highest; Laredo ranked the worst at spot 331.

For you Purdue grads, Lafayette ranked the highest of local cities at 23. Pittsburgh was at 28. Dayton (!) was 41 (I immediately lost faith upon reading that). Cincinnati was at 92, ranking very high in Arts and Culture and Quality of Life. Columbus was two notches down.

You probably saw all this before (and if you haven't, Google for it). I thought it would be interesting to compare my old neighborhood to my new one, Clifton vs. Anderson.

The book lists ten categories--Economy and Jobs, Cost of Living, Climate, Education, Health and Healthcare, Crime, Transportation, Leisure, Arts and Culture, and Quality of Life-- of which not all are applicable (the weather for both neighborhoods shouldn't be a factor).

Employment
I'd guess Anderson has a stronger employment rate simply because there are notably fewer college students in the area. My guestimate, based on the book's scale of 1-10, would be Clifton 7, Anderson 9. (This is entirely unfair to Clifton but it evens out.)

Cost of Living
Both stink (for local neighborhoods). Clifton stores gouge college students, "Here's $750 for your textbook; $5 for a dozen eggs." Many Anderson stores cater to rich snobs. However taxes are slightly lower in Anderson (a nod to the trolls). A home search shows 400 Anderson houses for sale ranging from $54,900 to $2,799,000. Clifton has 113 houses listed, ranging from $24,900 to $1,695,000 (none of the cheaper houses are anywhere near "real" Clifton. Most are in Corryville or Mt. Auburn. Some are far away as the West End.) Even though this is based on outright lies by the realtors, Clifton wins: 6 to 3.

Climate
In the sense of weather: tie.

Achievement
This category looks at education in the area. Although UC is technically not in Clifton, Cincinnati State is, giving Clifton a nod in the college/university slot. Also it's impossible to ignore the influence that UC has upon "real" Clifton. However, with elementary and secondary education, Clifton has absolutely nothing to offer (but private schools). The Forest Hills District consistently ranks in the highest of Ohio schools (and for you trolls, has a much lower cost/student ratio). Anderson wins big: 8 to 2.

Hazard and Illness
Clifton has better access to hospitals, even with Anderson Mercy and the 9,000 doctors' offices in the area. (I'm guessing that cancer rates and pollen counts should be similar.) More people in Anderson have health insurance but I'll give the edge to Clifton, 7 to 8.

Crime
I lived in Clifton from 1986 to 1998 and only suffered three minor property crimes. Although crime is nothing like many suburbanites believe, Anderson has the advantage here (local police do nothing but ticket speeders), 6 to 9.

Transportation
Clifton definitely has better Metro service and is closer to Union Terminal (if that means anything). It's a little easier to get to the airport from Anderson but traffic is worse (not that Clifton's is good). Anderson never suffers from the annual driving hell of "First Day of Classes at UC" but the number of idiots in SUVs is much higher. Clifton has easy access to 71, 74, and 75. Anderson has only 275 and 471. However it is quicker to get downtown from Anderson (even though it is farther away). Year after year, both Clifton and Anderson have the two most accident-prone intersections (King and Clifton; Five Mile and Beechmont). Low scores all around but Clifton clearly wins: 4 to 2.

Leisure
The book uses several factors that I'm not going to dignify with a response (# of Starbucks in area, # of outlet malls, etc.) Clifton has better bars (which doesn't factor into the book's equation!) but neither have great restaurants (Anderson does have more but none are very good). Neither has a pro sports team but Clifton has closer access to UC, as well as being closer to the zoo (although it's easier to get to the Aquarium from Anderson). Anderson wins big on golf courses but neither do well with ski resorts. Again, Anderson is a little closer to Kings Island but the amusement park category is a let down as well. Clifton does have Burnet Woods and Mt. Storm but Anderson parks are significantly better (and you don't have to worry about kids picking up feces-encrusted bloody condoms off the swing sets, the reason I stopped taking my step-daughter to Burnet Woods). Neither have a coastline but Anderson is closer to the river (Clifton is closer to Mill Creek but I'm not sure if that's an advantage). For the categories the book lists, Anderson wins by a nose, 5 to 6.

Arts and Culture
Clifton is closer to WGUC so has the edge on "Arts radio." Both have a single library but Clifton's is the smallest branch I've been to and Anderson is the largest (the library is arguably Anderson's strongest point). Anderson has nothing in terms of performing arts (Classical music, ballet/dance, professional theater, and university arts programs). Even the Beechmont Players, the local theater group, has to perform in Batavia because there is no local venue for them. Clifton kills here. Anderson has a large park museum but Clifton is closer to Union Terminal and the Art Museum (although the commute would be about the same timewise). Clifton wins, 8 to 5.

Quality of Life
The book has no factors for figuring this category.

Total

Due to the public school system and lack of crime (or excitement), Anderson squeaks by with 49 to 46. Of course, this is coming from an equation that listed Lynchburg, Virginia as the 15th best city in America. Personally I enjoyed living in Clifton far more than Anderson. It was possible to walk to the grocery, the post office, or anywhere else. Anderson is so spread out that cars are mandatory (and the average idiot opts for an SUV ten times the size he needs). If I didn't have kids, I would never have left Clifton. Cliftonites without children, take a moment to consider just how lucky you are.
Wasted Day

Last Friday was the first real day I had off since June 3 (one day I stayed home with stomach flu but was in the bathroom pretty much nonstop and another my wife was so late getting home that I had to stay with the kids during my shift). Mondays and Wednesdays I only have my night class but the kids stay home which eliminates the possibility to do much.

I'd meant to post something and possibly write a few lines. No such luck. On the bright side, working everyday I've lost 25 pounds in the last two months. (Not that it's gone towards anything but bills.)

Looking forward to the end of summer.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Library List

Things I have checked out from the library:

Maisy Cleans Up, Lucy Cousins (daughter loves Maisy)
F for Fake, VHS (Found the damn thing but haven't watched it yet)
Wiggle Time, VHS (The Wiggles were an unsuccessful Australian band until they hit on the idea of playing for kids. Not nearly as annoying as it might sound.)
Dora the Explorer: Christmas Special, VHS (I delude myself by thinking that they might learn Spanish.)
Bob the Builder: Bob's White Christmas, VHS
The Wiggles' Wiggly, Wiggly Christmas, VHS (Yes, another Christmas special.)
Maisy Goes Camping, Lucy Cousins (More fun with Eddie the elephant.)
Myth: Myths and Legends of the Ancient World, Kenneth McLeish (One of the best mythology books I've seen.)
Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud (Great book. I'll review it soon.)
Movies that Changed Us, Nick Clooney
Undersea City: A Story of a Coral Reef, Dana Meachen (Science book to go with Maisy)
Eating the Alphabet, Lois Ehlert
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, William Steig (His other donkey story.)
Maisy's Rainbow Dream, Lucy Cousins (What's really sad is that we already own a million Maisy books.)
Dave Barry is not Making This Up, Ayn Rand (No, actually Dave Barry wrote it. It's at least vaguely readable. A student used this for his book review.)
Amazing Bone, William Steig
Tenacity of the Cockroach, the Onion A.V. Club (Read this book.)
Cities Ranked and Rated (I'll review this eventually.)
The Pursuit of Poetry, Louis Untermeyer (I taught three semesters of Intro. to Lit. without knowing a damn thing about poetry.)
Teach Yourself Latin (For a macaronic poem I'm trying to write.)
The Demon-Haunted World, Carl Sagan (First time I've read it.)

Nothing really subversive at all (except maybe the Onion). Maybe Ashcroft's file on me will go down to yellow.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Eunoch Faking for Fun and Profit

There must be a million one-liners about how to fake being a eunoch but I have to wonder how you'd do it. Similar to faking that you have a third buttocks, I suppose.
Disturbing Wreck Video

I walk to work five days a week (but drive two). Here's something I'll be thinking about on the way. (Click on video at bottom of page.)

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Yes, I Know You Don't Care

For my 3,000th Straight Dope link of the week, "Do elephants ever forget?"

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Man-Eater Love

I started a short story along these lines but stopped, thinking it was too convoluted. Apparently that didn't stop God.
Color-Blind Cats?

Dogs and cats aren't so much color blind as they are apathetic.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

More Cheats

It would be nice if the university developed special search engines for this but I'm dreaming.
What the--

I read things like this--pit bulls wander into cat shelter and go on killing rampage--and wonder if the media is completely untrustworthy or if the world is completely insane.
Strange Thing

The Museum of Hoaxes is reporting that this thing is real.

Oh, what a wonderful world.

Friday, July 02, 2004

F for Fake

Has anyone seen Orson Welles' F for Fake? I'd like to use if for a class but it's hard to find. (Amazon has it for $30 but I'd like to see it before springing.)

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Geek Talk

Having already passed into the realm of uber-geek with my review of Mark Millar's Red Son, a "what if" story with Superman as the hero of the U.S.S.R., I feel less ashamed to do it again, especially since the artist in question is Alan Moore.

I just read two collections by Moore. Both were good but one was vastly superior to the other:

Supreme: The Story of the Year

In the last issue, before DC Comics "tooled down" the Man of Steel's powers (he'd been able to move whole planetary systems; now he's only strong enough to lift an aircraft carrier), Alan Moore wrote "Whatever Happened to the Man of Steel." Set decades in the future (which would make it about now), a new reporter for the Daily Planet interviewed Lois Lane about the death of Superman. It's regarded as one of the best Superman stories and worth reading if for nothing else to see Krypto the Superdog go ballistic and tear out a supervillian's throat.

Supreme is an intentional Superman knock-off and deals more with comic continuity and revisions than supervillians. One of his many flashbacks (that revert to the styles of storytelling and visual art of various comic book ages), the Allies—Moore's version of the Justice League—recount how they were visited by three apparitions on New Year's Eve 1949. The ghosts (imitations of EC comics Old Witch and Crypt-Keeper) show the superheroes visions of the future set in EC continuums. The best of these sends Supreme into a parody-world of Mad Magazine (EC's only surviving comic). After their humiliations, convinced that the future makes superheroes irrelevant, the super team gives up and disbands. Good Moore-material.

Although it's well-written and detailed but still comes off as a superhero story. If you're into that, check it out. If not. . .

From Hell: Being a Melodrama in Sixteen Parts.

I put off reading this for years. I'd already heard the various police and FBI profilers' takes on the Jack the Ripper murders and knew enough about Moore's story to know that it was incredibly unlikely. The plot—a deranged English mason committed the murders to cover up Queen Victoria's grandson's marriage to a commoner—is about as likely as the theory that the Vatican was behind JFK's assassination.

But From Hell isn't really about solving Jack's identity. It's more of a look into the nature of murder, society, and spirituality. It also has murder scenes that are painful to look at. Jack spent at least two hours on Mary Kelly, his final victim, and Moore makes you feel every second. It's one thing to hear, "He mutilated her for two hours" but seeing it acted out is numbing, the difference between thinking of a two-minute span compared to spending it underwater.

Page 3/4 of Chapter 1 was ripped out of the copy I read (from the Mt. Healthy branch of the library). With the language, violence, and sex acts in the rest of the book, I have to wonder what was on it.