marlowe1: (Serenity)
36. Superman The Man of Steel vol. 9 by Jerry Ordway, John Byrne, Roger Stern & Paul Kupperberg, etc. - In the 1990s, DC killed off Superman which led to consternation and tearing of hair from some who liked the movies and a giant yawn (followed by a "hey let's buy those issues so they are collectible" slobbering) among those who read comic books. Superman was a terrible title and had been a terrible title for years. There was nothing interesting about Superman and writers didn't know how to make him interesting. The fun days of the 1960s when Superman was having identity crises and playing with weird kryptonite. This book is so fucking boring. I actually kind of appreciate John Byrne who has that "also ran" status in the history of modern comics. He was never going to be a pioneer but when he was popular he was the most popular. And then Todd McFarlane made his style even more bendy and Todd McFarlane's imitators totally fucked around with perspective (Oh yeah, Liefeld). But at least Byrne's stories don't make me hate the characters. And there are less shots of Superman standing in a static formation and shaking his fist in an effort to say that he is going to avenge the deaths of all the humans on the alternate-but-not-quite-alternate earth. At a certain point the book has panels that cross the spine so that there are two page stories because why not confuse the readers? Something about Supergirl but she's not the real Supergirl. She's an alien mutant turned into Supergirl.

I was much more pissed off about this book when I read it a week ago, but Pesach has been long and my legs are sore so I have it in front of me and I can't remember the sheer boredom of reading it.

37. The Book of Ballads by Charles Vess and various authors - This book's TOC is like a who's who of 1990s fantasy authors. You have Emma Bull, Neil Gaiman, Charles de Lint and Jane Yolen. And yet, I find that I am sick of Charles Vess. His cross cut art is so twee and full of small nose clones. What makes it worse is the fact that while ballads may be great stories, they are only great stories because someone sings them. It's not enough to take them and put them in literary format, draw pictures and call it a day. Also the authors might be trying to expand on them (some are. Others just leave the words there and let Vess illustrate) but never enough to flesh them out. As much as we find ballads fascinating we like a lot of songs as stories and no one wants to see an illustrated version of Darling Nikki either (ok I want to see an illustrated version of Darling Nikki).

38. The Black Dragon by Chris Claremont and John Bolton - I looked up John Bolton and saw that he illustrated the first Book of Magic in the Neil Gaiman mini-series. I didn't mind him in that one, but Bolton needs color to really express himself. Or to properly express himself. With black and white, his stuff just gets all shadowy and dark and while this is a comic about a dude who is a gargoyle/dragon and somehow also the soul of Britain and if only his best friend would stop turning him into the gargoyle thing he would be much better at things. But this is Chris Claremont and the cheesiness of the book can only be that much more cheesy. The plot is based on flat characters being all moody and conspiracy doing. Also Britain. And Robin Hood. Because why the fuck not?
marlowe1: (high school reunion)
34. Village of Stone by Xiaolu Guo - One of the hardest things about reviewing books is just how hard it is to review a book that you love. What's even worse is the fact that now I want to read everything by Xiaolu Gao and she even has a couple movies with only one on DVD that is playable in the U.S. (UFO in her eyes). This is the first book and it's beautiful. I know it's a translation so I am also praising Cindy Carter, but it's like there isn't a line or a sentence wasted and every word is measured. The story itself is hard to describe well because on the surface it's about a woman living in Beijing with her boyfriend and remembering her time in a small village in the family that was the outcast family because her grandmother was an outsider and her father ran off. The main action in the present is the fact that these two characters receive an eel and while it stinks up their apartment, they realize that it's expensive so they slowly eat it. The past is full of sexual abuse and silence where a girl can get kidnapped and raped and held against her will and when she escapes no one seems to care.

One critic compared it to a dream.

35. The Pursuit of Happiness by Anne Roiphe - One of the characters turns out to be Roy Cohn. That was the only part that annoyed me. The character begins as a brat kid who lies about stealing and gets a nod of approval from his mother, shows up in the 1950s as an anti-Communist who is very dangerous and then dies of AIDS in the last chapters with his cats all going to a shelter to die. Did Roy Cohn have cats that were put down after he died? What the fuck? The rest of the book is surprisingly engaging as Anne Ropiphe gives us a multi-generational family that sneaks on over from the old country (the matriarch steals diamonds to get to America and then keeps the diamonds that show up whenever horrible things happen in the book). The framing story is a mother worried about her daughter in Israel and only in the last few pages do you find out why the daughter gets shot while the mother is almost a footnote in her own story. There's a lot of "dear reader, do you judge this character harshly" wording which gets a little grating, but somehow it all holds together.

Oddly enough, family trees seem like the literary equivalent of maps.
marlowe1: (Teddy Bear)
32. Ufology by James Tynion & Noah Yuenkel - I liked this book. I didn't get this book. I liked this book but it felt like Lost in the middle when there were all these great mysteries and like fuck if you were ever going to figure them out. There are aliens who keep wearing the bodies of humans and there are a lot of fires and something has something to do with the past. I find it very strange mostly because it appears like it's a standalone book even though there seems to be some kind of a long series with a bunch of sequels to explain it. I think I would have liked it better if it felt like a complete story and not some attempt to create a multi-part series.

33. The Flowers of Evil, vol 3 by Shuzo Oshimi - I see this one as having potential even though it does present the classic male fantasy dilemma of two gorgeous women just totally want to be with him. One is really sad and not fleshed out at all and the other one is pissed off. The pissed off one is the more interesting one of course, and so when he decides to leave town and go over the mountain, she's the one he goes with. But then the boring crying one comes along to bring him back. The back cover blurb says that this is much more true than most books where teenage boys are tortured by angry over-sexed teenage girls. I did not know that this was a genre.
marlowe1: (Serenity)
I have been pretty much staying on livejournal out of habit. Facebook took all the major fun for blogging and since I can write long notes on Facebook I need never be on Livejournal again. I like Livejournal and it's got a nostalgia factor for me. You can read very old livejournals of when I was wanting to convert to Judaism and trying to be all uptight. You can read me getting jingoistic. You can go to any random entry and either think that I'm hilarious or a fucking asshole. It's all there. And I did learn how to write and I made a lot of contacts. I baited Nickolaus Pacione unaware that this would get me introductions to most of the horror writers out there. I started my publishing company because of livejournal and my desire to edit an anthology. I was encouraged through livejournal. I met friends through livejournal. I got laid through livejournal (more when I moved to New York - people just wanted to visit that city more) and I worked out a lot of emotional issues through livejournal.

So it's kind of shitty that this fucking bullshit is in the TOS that I just signed to keep on livejournal -
User is not allowed:
register as a User of a legal entity;
to register as a Member on behalf of another person;
misleading about its identity or its relationship with other persons;
to carry out mass messages without the consent of the recipient;
carry out activities aimed at the disruption of the normal functioning of the Service;
used without special authorization Administration automated scripts (bots, crawlers , etc... ) to collect the Service information and / or interaction with the Service;
advertise and / or political propaganda, except as otherwise specifically stated in a separate agreement between the User and the Administration;
take any other actions that violate Russian legislation and / or other applicable legislation, including legislation the seat of the user.
So that means my livejournal can be just fucking deleted if I piss off the wrong Russian? And fuck all, I fucking hate Putin. I want Putin to just fucking die. I want all the Russian soldiers currently in Syria to accidentally set off those explosions that they use to murder Syrians and kill themselves instead. Russia is a fascist dictatorship run by a bunch of fucking criminals who are stealing all the money from Russia and of course, they wanted Trump in charge of America to do the same thing.

I already got a stern warning and a block when I wrote that I was happy that the Russian ambassador to Turkey was killed and that I hoped all the Russians stationed in Syria also met similar bullets for carrying out the will of Putin. Some guy reported me and I had to take out the line about killing the Russian military. The Russian ambassador can still be dead and good riddance. But this fucking country passes anti-LGBT and pro-domestic violence bills all the time.

And don't even think that St. Petersburg won't be used as an excuse to invade Lithuania or punish more of Crimea. The only reason why it isn't play 24/7 with some bullshit "I stand with Russia because they are white" is because Russia's ally Syria chose today to murder a bunch of people with the poison gas instead of the usual bombs and torture.

But livejournal has been such a part of my blogging experience. What is Dreamwidth like? I remember so many friends, many are dead. Hell, is [livejournal.com profile] ljers4eternity still out there? I dont' want to leave Livejournal. I also don't want my livejournal suddenly deleted because I talked shit about Putin. I mean when Putin dies in May, I am not going to be able to keep my glee confined to Facebook.

So maybe this only pertains to Russians. After all, it's not a legally binding TOS. So yeah, I can't go to jail for praising Pussy Riot or denigrating Putin, but that doesn't mean that I would have all those entries there. They were stupid entries, but that's some fucking history, ok?

I already lost my ability to review things on Amazon last year (ok I have one account where I can review things. I just wrote a review saying that The Cove is racist). Don't want to lose this platform as well. And Facebook already put me in a week time out for Cathy Brennan is a Fake Goth.

Vladmir Putin is a Fake Goth.

And a fucking psycho who is robbing his people blind while he ruins everything that he touches.
marlowe1: (high school reunion)
30.House of Mystery: Safe as Houses by Matthew Sturges & Luca Rossi - Comic books are strange animals because they have a commitment to selling every month and in that case they don't want to alienate potential new readers who could get easily confused. So clumsy exposition is the nature of the beast. No matter how much you might know about the X-Men someone is going to tell you about Nightcrawler's recent trip to the Bahamas in issue #492. So the fact that I do not know these characters and don't know why there is a father-son-grandfather team is something I respect. The book isn't holding my hand and telling me everything I need to know. If I want to figure out who these people are, I can read other volumes. That's how Love & Rockets pulled me in.

Only this one isn't really pulling me in. If I see another House of Mystery collection at the library I might check it out, but I'm not hooked and the story about witches vs. puritans just bores me. It seems like the kind of story that would come out of The Dreaming or late Fables. There is some interest but ultimately it's pretty forgettable. I get the feeling that it's for 20-something readers since there's a lot of slacker angst in this thing especially with our heroine sleeping with the same guy but still in love with her old boyfriend that abandoned her. And I guess the ending means that her father, brother and grandfather have found that boyfriend. Mostly it all feels like that old joke about how "I say I am like a 21 year old and then I hang out with 21 year old people and nope, I'm 30."

31.The Shadow of the Crescent Moon by Fatima Bhutto - Napoleon was a Corsican separatist. Before I review this book, I have to mention my favorite historical irony which is that Napoleon grew up in Corsica, wrote several poems about how Corsica should fight for its independence and had a great deal of interaction with the anti-France terrorists. And then his family fell out with the main rebel groups, so he joined the French army and just took over France after years of distinguished service. Seriously, how the fuck does that happen? It's like one day a Palestinian from Gaza gets involved in Hamas, gets pissed off at Hamas, joins the IDF and then what the hell becomes to PM...for life and decides to resolve that Iran problem once and for all by invading everything between Israel and Tehran. That's Napoleon. Only in the Gaza Israeli Prime Minister analogy (which is rough), there's no winter to ruin the fun.

Anyhow, the part of this book that reminded me of Napoleon was part where the town of Mir Ali is constantly the second class town where Pakistan doesn't want anything to do with it and most of the residents want to get the fuck out of Pakistan. Pakistan soldiers routinely kidnap people and torture them (women get raped in interrogation of course) and use citizens against each other. So by the end of the book there is a part where the minister starts welcoming Mir Ali citizens into the Pakistani army, but of course it's all hush hush because the recruits are going to be traitors.

And that's not what the book is about. The book is about three brothers and their relationship to their father who is the proud warrior who keeps telling stories about fighting the Pakistani army and romanticizing his experience even as he lost. The older brother wants to get to America and study so he's unwittingly giving information to the Pakistani intelligence that is getting his neighbors kidnapped and tortured. The youngest son is working with the resistance. They are both in love with the same woman, but they are both wrong for her. The middle son is a doctor and his son is dead and you know that the story is tragic. Ostensibly told over the course of a few hours in the morning until noon, the book at its best reminds me the Ian McEwan novel Saturday where everything takes place in a time frame and it's supposed to be a microcosm of their lives. However, the thing does keep giving us hints of the history and that feels a little like a cheat. But overall, it's a pretty great book.
marlowe1: (high school reunion)
27. A Hell of a Woman by Jim Thompson - About 20 pages into reading this book, I realized that I had read it before. I specifically remembered the guy collecting for the furniture store going to the deadbeat's business and getting the money directly from the boss. I might have read this shortly after I defaulted on all my credit cards so the idea of someone garnishing wages was actually kind of scary at the time. I didn't remember anything else about the book and even as I read it, I knew where it was kind of going only because Jim Thompson is not the most surprising writer. The small time schmuck with the loser complex is going to have a grand plan and fuck it up. He will mostly likely end up dead. Very few Thompson books end with the protagonist alive.

At this point he's like Philip K. Dick for me. I still have affection for his writing, but there's a 50/50 chance I have read a book already and just forgot it. I almost feel like I should describe the plot just in case I pick up this book in another 10-20 years and start reading it and go "hey I know this book." Anyhow, schmuck meets a dame and she's a hooker or she's being pimped out by her grandmother or a woman who seems to be her grandmother. Schmuck doesn't realize that he's an asshole even though it's pointed out to him repeatedly. Schmuck's boss acts like the police inspector in Crime & Punishment who has an annoying habit of knowing everything. Schmuck gets pissy, kills people, gets away with money (oh yeah there's money), but then the boss like knows everything. In the end the schmuck either jumps out the window or has an overdose. It's a bit confusing there.

28. Biblical Poetry Through Medieval Jewish Eyes by Adele Berlin - This one got confusing for me. Mostly I was accustomed to the Robert Alter Biblical poetry books where everything is cut and dried and Alter talks about what is poetry and what isn't poetry and how it illuminates the work. This book was a survey of the rabbinical and literary discussions of Biblical Hebrew and whether it has meter, rhythm, grammar, etc. These are all things that were getting invented in the middle ages or found in the middle ages. Some of the articles are trying to go "nuh-uh Hebrew is way better than Arabic" in a purposeful argument with the belief that the Koran is the most beautiful religious text ever written. I don't know if there are Christian critics who get into similar polemics. Mostly Christians don't seem to care about the book until King James when SHakespeare comes on the scene (did Shakespeare get hired for this project? Probably). Of course, before then the Bible was not for the laity. Anyhow this is fascinating but I think I need another level of fascination with linguistics and the way scholars study language to really get into it.

29. Bandette, vol. 1 Presto! by Tobin & Coover - French teenage girl thief and her team rob from a major crime syndicate and spend most of their time working for the police. I really don't have much else to say. There are two other volumes. It's late.
marlowe1: (high school reunion)
26. The Bronze Key by Holly Black and Cassandra Claire - When I asked Holly Black to sign this book she asked if I had read it yet and I said no. Her response was "Good, I haven't pissed you off yet" and that does become a component in this book. It's not like when Rowling killed off Sirius Black and everyone was surprised that Dumbledore survived book 5. There is a shock ending and it equals the death of the best friend in Holly's first book Tithe for emotional impact.

Beyond that, this series is still too much like Harry Potter not to make the comparisons but again that seems to be on purpose as Black and Claire appear to be trying to make something that reminds the reader of Potter but in the way that they want it. You have the magic school, the three friends, the personal drama, the background of the great war that happened before the character was born and there's even the soul of the great enemy that is somehow stuck in the protagonist.

But in every way it veers away from the Harry Potter universe. First, there are no hints about the great dead enemy being part of the protagonist. He's in there and in fact, the protagonist doesn't even necessarily have his own soul. Second, there is a lot of discussion over what the war meant. In the Potter universe, the Slytherin snobs wanted to take over everything and kill all the half-blood people. That's pretty damn evil no matter where you are from. This world is about a chaos magician (there aren't many of them) who declared himself the Enemy of Death and started making zombies. The internal monologues of the protagonist are full of arguments for and against this Enemy of Death whose initial purpose was a good one. He wanted to bring his brother back from the dead. In that he becomes more of a pitiful figure than a Voldemort.

There is also a mystery and a spy and a lot of discussion about what the elementals are doing in the basement and why they are fueling the power of the magicians. It's a truly disturbing read and also great fun.
marlowe1: (high school reunion)
25. Lafcadio Hearn's The Faceless Ghost and Other Macabre Tales from Japan by Sean Michael Wilson & Michiru Morikawa - Shirley Jackson has an essay about writing where she is teaching a writing class and one of the students has a story about a group of women who wanted to buy a shawl at a church auction only to be undercut by an outsider who went and bought it out from under them. Jackson keeps trying to tell the student that this is an anecdote not a story, but the student insists that it happened that way. This is a frustrating experience in creative writing classes. Jackson goes on to talk about the ways to make this story interesting. Give a character a strong perspective. Find some nuance in the arguments. Jackson's idea is that the outsider could be a woman who thinks that buying the shawl will make her popular among her neighbors because she really wants to fit in. Or the perspective can be the minister who thought this event would bring everyone together. Or maybe there could be someone in a tree. Either way, giving someone a perspective would make this story much more interesting than the very flat anecdote that the student doesn't want to move away from.

These stories remind me of that example when the stories are more anecdotes than actual stories with perspectives and ambiguity. They are clever tales that you convey to someone over donuts. There's the guy who outwitted the ghost by challenging the soon-to-be-dead criminal to bite a brick after he's dead. So the guy bites the brick and that's pretty much it for his vengeance. Then there's the man who meets the scary ghost and promises not to talk about her. Then he tells his wife about her and she's THE GHOST!!!! Booo!!!! There are some creepy ones like the musician who is hired by mysterious people to play for them and when he finally tells his sensei about them, they turn out to be ghosts and he is covered in Japanese letters to protect him - except for the ears which get ripped off. These stories can be unsettling, but there's not a lot of character to them. The one exception is The Gratitude of the Samebito which posits an unmarried man who befriends an exiled spirit. The friendship is so great that the samebito cries diamond tears when the man might die of heartbreak. Then there's a great deal of back-and-forth as the samebito doesn't want to get used for his tears and the man is totally using him but also still cares. That's the only one that I truly liked because it says a lot more than magic demon cries diamonds.

These are fun anecdotes and they could be made into stories but as they were written, they were more like translations of translations where most of the cultural baggage is missing and therefore everything is kind of getting lost in translation.
marlowe1: (Teddy Bear)
23. Swamp Thing: The Dead Don't Sleep by Len Wein & Kelley Jones - I used to blame Nancy Collins for ruining Swamp Thing by turning it into a leftwing platform with walking daisies and very obvious jokes about David Duke. Sure, Doug Wheeler's run was no better but he was thrown into the job after Rick Veitch quit over not being allowed to write a Swamp Thing meets Jesus story (this was well before Garth Ennis gave us the Saint of the Killers blowing God away). I kept hold of this belief until I re-read the entire Alan Moore run on Swamp Thing and discovered that he left the comic nowhere to go after he left it. Swamp Thing was a deity. Nothing could really stop him. The comic had transitioned from a horror comic into a hippie fantasy (Marvel's What The-? even had a story where there was a fight between Man Thing and Swamp Thing with Swamp Thing showing up and going "Hey man, want a tuber?"). He also stuck the comic with Chester the Hippie who was the worst. And through the next decade or so, Swamp Thing stuck to the shit that Alan Moore left it in until Mark Millar threw it around and made Swamp Thing into a homicidal lunatic until Swamp Thing became the Earth Elemental - so he put us back in the same place as Alan Moore where there don't seem to be any more stories to tell. At least he minimized Chester the Hippie (even though his "Chester turns into a rightwing zealot" story was just stupid. I get that he was trying to say fuckyou to the story but it was more like he said fuck you to the audience). So what do we do now? Why should there be anymore Swamp Thing stories? To answer that Len Wein came back to the title and forgot all about Alan Moore.

Until today, I was going to use the anecdote of Jerry Siegel writing for Marvel in the 60s or 70s and not meeting the demands of the market. There are some artists who grow and change over time and some artists who stick in the same rut. However, I am now more inclined to think of one of the early writing scenes in Stephen King's Misery. This is the part where the evil nurse gets very mad at the author and orders him to write a new Misery book. The author cranks out a chapter where Misery didn't die in the last book but is perfectly fine. The nurse gets mad and the author protagonist is left wondering "what did she expect? I put all the stuff that she is supposed to want." Forget about the fact that she had a very good reason for hating the chapter (he cheated on the resurrection) and focus on the fact that he thought he could half-ass it.

That's what this book feels like. Len Wein comes back to Swamp Thing and just gives us the same old shit that came before Alan Moore. In fact Alan Moore's first major story for Swamp Thing was to get away from that shit. Alan Moore outright stated that Swamp Thing was boring because Swamp Thing wants to become Alec Holland but if he turns back into a human, the comic is over. So he's "Hamlet with Snot" and Alan Moore did away with the Hamlet with Snot element by changing the mythology to where Swamp Thing was a group of plants that thought they were Alec Holland with Alec Holland long dead.

This book demonstrates why Swamp Thing needed Alan Moore and why Len Wein can only fuck things up. The first story is mildly interesting. A zombie college student is out to eat his parents. Kelley Jones' art sustains it but then we get to the main story line and Matt Cable shows up because who cares that Matt Cable turned into a raven for Sandman comics. Matt Cable wants Swamp Thing to become Alec! And Swamp Thing becomes Alec! Only Matt Cable becomes Swamp Thing! Only he is REALLY Arcane!!!!!! So we have the same fucking story that Len Wein wrote back in the 70s. Arcane gets all of Swamp Thing's powers but he's EVIL!!! So Swamp Thing becomes Swamp Thing again and Arcane fucks off to hell. The only difference between this story and the original one is that Wein sticks a bunch of DC standard characters like The Stranger and The Demon in it.

I get that Alan Moore left writers with a trap just as bad as the original Hamlet with Snot trap. He did the same thing in Miracleman and Neil Gaiman barely managed to get some interesting stories out of it. Yet, the solution should not be "hey let's return Swamp Thing back to his first trap" and if DC is letting Len Wein write the comic then that's all that is going to happen.
marlowe1: (high school reunion)
22. Skim by Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki - The most compelling part of Ghost World (and the part that was sidelined in favor of the teenage girl totally digging the old dude story) is the friendship between Scarlett Johanssen and the protagonist and how it is slowly being pulled apart as Scarlett Johanssen's character becomes responsible, gets a job, etc. and the heroine is still fucking around and being ironically hip. This story is compelling because neither character is a bitch. They both have reasons for what they are doing and they are both right in a way. Yes, one wants to get a job and get out of the house and be responsible but when you are 18 you are still a kid and why not snicker your way through the sex shops.

This comic feels like a mirror image of the movie for Ghost World because Kimberly the protagonist is going to fall away from her comrade in snark and you can see that coming from the beginning but there's also a relationship with an older authority figure - this time the art teacher - which may actually be something that means more for the character than the teacher. In fact, you never get the motivation of the hippie art teacher since with everything from Kimberly's perspective you can only guess why the hippie art teacher kisses her, but you can see that her efforts to distance herself from Kimberly are there. Now whether she is purposefully distancing herself or getting in trouble for it is ambiguous. The Wiccans also serve as a believable group that she would be attracted to.

However, the main story that goes through this book is the reaction to a suicide of the ex-boyfriend of a girl that Kimberly doesn't even like too much. As the students react to the suicide of a boy they didn't know, Kimberly is the only one who outright admits to herself that she didn't know him and it's not affecting her. This is in contrast to her friend who joins the "Life Club" that is there to talk about sensitive feelings. Even more annoying for Kimberly is the fact that she is getting targeted as a potential suicidal ideation case. Of course, the only person who hates all the suicide sensitivity talk more than Kimberly is the girl that was dating the suicide. So this comic began reminding me of Ghost World, but the attitudes toward suicide including the sharp disgust with sentimentality and the need to find an easy answer when it comes to suicide.

The Time of the Angels by Iris Murdoch - I don't know if this is the first or second book by Irish Murdoch that I've read and I think that if I read another book by Murdoch, I will forget that I read this one. I suppose that's ironic or horrible considering that the movie made about Iris Murdoch was about her dementia. Only this book is forgettable for the way that it doesn't present too many meaningful characters and jumps from character to character so fast that they don't have enough time to develop. There's Carel the reverend who is crazy in an undefined way (but also manipulative). There's Patti the black maid who was sleeping with Carel. There's Elizabeth the sickly teenager who is Carel's niece that he has adopted. There's Carel's brother who is writing philosophical books about ethics and atheism. There's also the Russian father and son combination of Eugene and Leo. Not much happens. Ok, sure, Carel kills himself at the end but it doesn't make much of an impact. Leo steals Eugene's icon and then tries to get it back and it changes hands several times to get to him. Everyone is in love with someone else and it doesn't work out. Leo loves Muriel who loves Eugene who loves Patti who is in love with Carel who is fucking his niece (actually daughter). If this was a farce this would all get revealed at once. Only it's supposedly a "philosophical novel" which is not as odious as most philosophical novels which involve talking heads talking about the philosophical question, but I don't know if that fits since many of the talk about God feels superficial. Anyhow the main guy kills himself and he's so bland that it's more of a relief than anything.
marlowe1: (high school reunion)
17-18. Alex + Ada by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn - I don't really remember this one. I had a lot to say about the first volume where Alex woke up Ada to let her be cognizant but that one reminded me of Tanith Lee's Silver Robot Lover (was that the title?) where the ambiguity of relationships is reflected in the way that the robot doesn't have feelings. In this book, there is just a lot of stuff about very wealthy people trying to hide their relationships and so it becomes a gay metaphor. So Alex gets in trouble for Ada and finds out that some friends approve when she seems to have conscious thoughts while others do not. And in the end it's the issue of a spurned girlfriend ruining things and sending everyone to jail. Or he goes to jail. And then in the course of 20 years the world moves on and people stop being afraid of robots. So when he gets out he can find a way to find Ada and they can live happily ever after. Yeah, that's about it. So it's a metaphor for gay rights but like X-Men comics it doesn't necessarily follow everything as closely. And the story muddles the metaphor.

19. Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin - I read this one when it first came out or shortly after it first came out. So this time there was a lot of memory switching. I could have sworn that Jeyne Poole came up to the Wall on a horse begging Jon Snow to save her before he got stabbed. Another woman came to Castle Black trying to get help but she just wanted to marry a Wildling. Pretty Meris was a character that I didn't remember from before but this time I kept reading her thinking "Did Tysha turn into a scary torturer?" which would be a better fate for her than most of the ones that you can imagine after Tywin had her raped by an entire battalion. I remembered being much more bored with Bran in the first reading. This time I was pretty much meh about the whole thing. And of course, I did not have that same holy shit holy shit Varys kills Kevan moment this time. I am also more annoyed with the Aegon chapters. I really hope that they turn out like the Quentyn chapters turn out in this book. I didn't hate Quentyn but it was still fun to read about him fucking up with the dragons.

20. Last Gang in Town by Simon Oliver and Rufus Dayglo - Oy Punks. It's a fun trio which goes back and forth from the plot to steal the crown jewels in the 1970s and the plot to destroy the Trump magic money satellite in the present. They also beat up the Sex Pistols. One of the problems with reading comics is that some are just enjoyable and I can't convey about how much I like the art since I don't feel comfortable writing about art work. Rufus Dayglo is the better artist in this one and he really makes the book. Queen Elizabeth as a sociopath who has punks tortured for giving her the finger is a great addition.

21. Judge Dredd: Mega-City Zero by Farinas and Freitas - What the fuck was that? I guess that the chapter where Judge Dredd ends up in the manosphere bothered me the most since there's really not that much to say about men being all men's rights and making a dystopia where the douchiest men can treat women however they want is not so much satire as sad repetition of the kind of alt-right bullshit that passes for discourse. The rest of the comic just seems to sputter around without Mega-City. Mega-City is gone and it's in the past or it's in a dream or this is all a dream. It's really kind of stupid.
marlowe1: (Teddy Bear)
The convoluted Xmas episode just dropped the line "as a feminist it offended me to the core" because one character sang Santa Baby instead of the heroine who was supposed to sing it and her boyfriend decided to be all douchey about it.

Because feminism is stupid. That's the joke.
marlowe1: (Maggie)
Shortly after Adult Swim was coming under fire for greenlighting the alt-right "comedy" and putting in on for a season, a lot of questions began to surface. Why were all the shows male-dominated? Why did they think that throwing money at this thing was a good idea and more importantly, did this alt-right comedy really go against the Adult Swim brand? If a network is playing to the 4chan crowd, what is the difference between "ironic" racism, sexism and misogyny and the real thing?

This ruined Children's Hospital for me. When I first watched it, I thought it was funny and edgy. Hell, I quite love most of the people in the show. There are still funny bits and razor sharp parodies of hospital show tropes including the sudden death, the voiceover, the doctor walking around on crutches, but too often the jokes relied on everyone being shitty to everyone. There was even one episode that ended with a cameo from the Party Down actors talking about Jews. There was no joke. It just added the two Party Down actors who weren't in the show to the ones who were in the show talking about Jews while the Party Down music played.

I did not realize that this discussion would ruin most sitcoms for me. Too often they seem like Pewdie Pie paying an actor to dress up like Jesus and do that "Hitler did nothing wrong" gag from 2011 and then drag it out to the Jesus actor saying that Hitler was cool and in Heaven, because Hitler is edgy and edgy=funny, right? RIGHT? Come on, someone say that Pewdie Pie is funny. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Somewhere along the way, I stopped wanting to read Piers Anthony or Tom Robbins and I am a better man for it.

That's a long windup to get to the point that The Mindy Project is fucking lazy and stupid. I am so fucking sick of "funny misogynists" and broad ethnic stereotypes. The black nurse walked out of ghetto stereoytpe central casting and her white (but acts like a black stereotype) boyfriend is pathetic. They did the episode where the protagonist starts dating a snob (played by the guy from Mad Men who looks a lot like Scott Baio without the 60s hair style) who makes her feel stupid. So she makes a fool out of herself trying to prove that she has culture. This stupid fucking plot was pathetic when it was done on Full House with Jesse left bereft trying to call Picasso overrated ("did you see his blue period?" "Yeah, why didn't he use another color" - I did not realize I still remembered that exchange. What kind of shit am I forgetting to store that dialogue) and it really curdled in HIMYM where Ted kept trying to talk about interesting things and everyone kept making fake fart noises at him. It also makes less sense on The Mindy Project where the main character is supposed to be a doctor. Yes, the main character is Mindy Khaling pretending to be a doctor, but still - doctor.

Also there are people who are getting in "funny" situations that work like idiot plots in movies where the plot hinges on the characters being cluelessly awful to each other. The boyfriend character gets written off the show by being a loser who quits his minister job to become a DJ and then becomes an event planner and we are supposed to get that Mindy is VERY sad. The breakup scenes are realistic but they are unearned since the character was never going to be interesting.

I don't think there's an episode where I'm not wondering why I'm watching it. Right now I am watching the Xmas episode where our heroine gives us THE RULES for seduction. I suppose it should be funny because she will fail, but it's still tired. And then there are moments of genuine crap like the one that begins with the clinic getting a good review on a KKK webisite. The premise seems funny but then it goes to shit real fast with a guest character (the holistic healer guy upstairs?) holding protests outside the clinic to denounce the clinic's racism. Which makes no damn sense but every character will start being all whacky and "accidentally" saying racist things.

I don't know if I should watch it. Mostly I don't know why I am putting myself through this shit because there are so so many GOOD sitcoms out there that this lazy shit has no excuse. We liked Family Ties and The Cosby Show because 80s sitcoms were crap and they were comparatively decent.
marlowe1: (high school reunion)
14. Near Christianity by Anthony Le Donne - When I first started reading this book I was sad that I couldn't review it for Amazon Vine. In many ways, it felt like a journey through my own (forgive the phrase) spiritual journey. The author had many of the objections that I had to Christian/Jewish dialogue. Had I read this kind of book when I was thinking about converting to Judaism, I might have saved myself some time since I had a lot of emotional baggage to deal with in leaving Christianity. As the author talks about how Jews do not necessarily have to be religious to be Jewish and how the Holocaust looms large in Jewish thinking, I felt an emotional tug at the way that I had shifted in my perspective from Christianity when I could talk about Christian forgiveness and how Christians should forgive Hitler and how that seemed horrifying from a Jewish perspective. Also, as a friend pointed out, praying for the death of your enemy is actually pretty cool when you're Jewish. After all Christians and Muslims can always just kill their enemies. They got the numbers.

However, the book fizzles out in the last chapters. Or maybe not fizzles out so much as reminds me that I might be close to the target audience but I am NOT the target audience. The target audience is full of Christians who want to understand Judaism better. It's not for ex-Christians who converted to Judaism. Even had the author talked about Orthodox Judaism and Talmudic discussions, it would have still been disappointing. The takeaway that comes from the last chapters is that Christians shouldn't get so hung up on whether they BELIEVE or just believe. I agree with this in theory but I do find it suspicious that he got it exclusively from the fact that his non-observant Jewish friends are ok with not being observant but also being Jewish. Also there are plenty of Jews that get into histrionics and singing and BELIEF and while I find them annoying, they are part of Judaism (even if most of them were inspired by Xianity).

15. Swamp Thing: Trial by Fire by Mark Millar et al - I have always approached matters of faith through fiction. Even the most atheist fiction is still full of thought for God and religion and the like. This is a key reason why I don't want to read the books that I used to love in college. They all seems so superficial and stupid. Originally I thought they were deep and profound. I am not sure where I put this one on the scale of formerly deep books. It is still entertaining but I remember thinking that this was the greatest when I first read it. Now I see that Mark Millar is trying to hard to make things seem otherworldly when most of the plotting is abotu a power struggle between God and the Earth Spirits. Yes, Alan Moore started this bullshit and it's kind of nice that Millar is pulling away from it but there's still a lot of material about Swamp Thing becoming less human and more expansive when it comes to the world.

But I must say that I am happy that Millar hates Chester the Hippie. I did not know that I hated Chester the Hippie until I re-read the Alan Moore books and realized that he ruined the book. Millar gives us a douchebag story where Chester becomes a Republican law-and-order cop who is all racist and aggressive. It's a giant fuckyou to the character but it falls flat. When the real Chester shows up he is just boring and there is really no reason for him to be in the book at all.

Anyhow this is the end of the Millar run and it leaves the Swamp Thing in a similar place as the Moore run - really powerful and grown and not much to go on.

16.Here Comes Daredevil by Mark Waid - I wanted to write a separate post about this one becuase it's not religious. It's just stupid. There is nothing to say about faith except for the fact that superheroes are revenge fantasies and most of the book is about Murdock running into his childhood bully who needs protecting. But yeah, that's about it.
marlowe1: (Maggie)
12. Star Wars Chewbacca by Gerry Duggan and Phil Noto - These Star Wars tie-ins seem to be less stupid than the ones that people loved when I was a kid. I guess most of the Star Wars books that were so popular at one point just seemed to be working on too many assumptions about where the movies were going to go. And of course, the worst offender is Lucas with those fucking prequels. So now we can honestly say that the Star Wars tie-in stuff is canon without feeling a little dirty about the whole thing (as opposed to those books where Luke turns to the Dark Side and we get a fucking Palpatine clone). Of course, the benefit of being part of the canon is that there are fewer surprises. We were pretty much expecting Rogue One to be a good bit of fan service that managed to pull a Wild Bunch ending because those were the people that get killed bringing the plans.

So this is fluffy side adventure to Chewbacca helping out a bunch of miners in a place where the Empire is sort of involved but not really. Mostly the Empire has an interest in the mine, but the dickhead capitalists are the ones that are turning the people into slaves through capitalism. There's also something that Chewbacca has to take home which I am sure ties into some Star Wars thingy but the only true canonical Wookie story I buy into is the Holiday Special.

13. Alien Next Door: In Space No One Can Hear you Clean by Joey Spiotto - I think I might have hated a book like this when I was a kid. When I was a kid, Alien was fucking scary and there was nothing that could take away from the thrill of watching the original Alien movie when I was 8 years old in a dark theater (some may say that I have bad parents, but I loved it). There is an interesting paradox but somewhere in between toddler and early adolescent you try to prove how old you are by hating all the cute shit that everyone wants you to love. And then the place where adult life begins is when you are totally chill with all the cute stuff. Oh sure, until I am a parent, I am not going to watch Elmo by choice but I can appreciate it.

Then again, the main joke of Spiotto books is that you take the horrifying and turn it cute. You know that the original is horrifying so the cuteness of the alien feeding the cat or walking the face hugger makes it funny. I am trying to figure out if he is the same one who did the Star Wars books but I'm not sure. Anyhow these are adorable. I guess there's not much else to say about this one.
marlowe1: (Serenity)
Since Amazon removed all of my reviews, my google search for my own name comes up with even more "Tim Lieder is an asshole" posts. Some of them I regret but others I just think that I should not have been reading terrible people at 3 in the morning. So why did I find Requires Hate's new incarnation as Bee Something and go to her "I'm a poor victim of the internet" articles and tweets and then dispute the fact that she was a victim at all? Of course, she is going to take all my morning tweets and make a Storify about them (including my angry tweets at an anti-Zionist writer because she is clever enough to know that she is not going to be able to sell herself as a poor victim after the Hugos gave an award to the journalist who busted her stalkerish stupid blog). I don't think I should have done that. I don't think that Bee is a good person or that she didn't deserve to be told to fuck off, but I didn't have to do it. Nor did I have to do it at three in the morning.

But then there are other blogs about me being an asshole - Furry Jews long rant is one of them. There's also a post on Cheaters & Liars where I am not even a cheater so much as the guy doesn't like me. And then there's Yvonne Mason who was mad at me for saying that Black Bedsheets was a stupid company. At very least she's stopped calling herself Award Winning Author and is now just Indie Author for her badly written, Photoshop cover true crime books. She's like the second person. And she's calling me insecure and the same stuff (well duh - read anything I write and that is clear). She also doesn't get my line about dismissing her award-winning self-identification where I stated that a mug that says "World's Best Grandmother" is not an award that a writer can brag about (unless we are comparing the writer to Marion Zimmer Bradley).

So yeah I guess this bothers me. I don't know if it bothers me because I want to go to cons and it's not good when I am trying to introduce myself and I know they are googling me. Maybe it bothers me because there is some truth to it. I try to be a good person but often the angry shitty aspects are put out there into the world. And maybe it's a good thing that it bothers me. I don't want to be the angry sardonic asshole. I have done that. I don't want to write Holden Caulfield fan fiction with myself as the protagonist.

I have been angry. I have been pissy. I also don't necessarily take the people seriously - Yvonne Mason is an idiot. Bee Segwhatever/Winterfox/Requires Hate is a stupid asshole whose fiction is fucking boring and criticism kept going to the "I'm going to hit you with a hammer for putting an Asian character in your fiction" well. Furry Jew is psychotic (and not blogging lately). I have no clue who decided that I was shitty for Cheaters & Liars.

The only bit that I feel intrinsically bad about is defending Richard Brittain. I doubted the story of the woman that he attacked because it seemed so out there and until he pleaded guilty there really was a media blackout. So I argued that she was lying and picking on a man who was mentally ill. I have so little patience for the people that are still defending Bill Cosby or Alan Dershowitz but then I turn around and be the "nuh-uh, that's bullshit" guy? I guess the reason I didn't believe it was because I didn't want to believe it. I also didn't want to believe that Bill Cosby was guilty unil there were at least 10 women coming forth. Who wants to believe that kind of shit happens - or that that kind of shit is perpetrated by people we are normally prone to feeling affection for. So I felt sorry for Brittain because he is mentally ill. And that blinded me to the notion that the woman who was attacked was telling the truth- or possibly telling the truth - at least telling the truth enough to not require people to step in and be lawyers in the court of public.

I guess I just need to sell more stuff and get those bad ones pushed off the front page of google. Seriously, it's annoying when I am looking for writing samples when I pitch and I just see Tim Lieder is an asshole.
marlowe1: (Serenity)
10. The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary - I probably shouldn't have read this book during the week when Trump got inaugurated. Mice hiding from people so they aren't all killed off by the hotel owners is way too much of the narrative and every time that came up, I just thought about how much this is reminding me of Maus. The book is pretty cool and sweet. A mouse finds a little motorcycle that works and rides it around the hotel. He makes friends with the family and old members of the staff. His family comes along and they worry because a maid sees mouse holes because he has to eat his way out of the library and HOLY FUCK THEY ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!!! Beverly Cleary is truly a good author but wow, this was written for children who aren't thinking about the holocaust.

11. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel, You Really Got Me Now by Ryan North & Erica Henderson - This one actually still makes me laugh. I quite love Squirrel Girl and this one gave us the cosplaying Doombots. Cosplaying Doombots are the best. I love how Squirrel Girl takes comic book tropes just seriously enough to have fun with them. Kraven the Hunter driving around in a Kra-Van is beautiful - especially when we get arguments about how he did kill Spiderman, he really did and then he was dead for a time. The main story is the time travel one with Dr. Doom taking advantage of some of it but it is really just another computer science student sending his rivals back in time. There are computer science jokes that I don't get, but I love that they are there.
marlowe1: (Serenity)
8. Alex + Ada vol 1. by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn - This is a hard one to write about since it's a collection of five issues in a story line that has more to it. The first five volumes feel more like a statement of purpose than an actual complete story. The SNL line that the final episode of Westworld could have been the pilot feels real here. Still, there is some interesting dynamic when it comes to the lonely guy/perfect woman story. This has been done to death with the Manic Pixie Dreamgirl trope and Passengers being only two examples of how much the market revolves around lonely men wanting fantasies about finding love without having to do much work for it. I might be getting a tad too personal there. Anyhow, the story of the lonely man is usually one where the man is just whisked off his feet by an MPDG or just finds someone and obsesses over her and eventually wins her over because plot. Granted, most romantic comedies are Lonely Woman finds perfect man who can't stand her and if they work there's actual chemistry. If they don't work, you are at the end thinking "why did I just do this." And yes, Romance movies can work. Dirty Dancing works because Patrick Swayze and Erin Grey have chemistry but also because they are written to actually need each other - at least for the summer. I quite loved the scene in The Matchmaker when the new guy that Janeane Garofalo is supposed to fall in love with states that he finds her senator boss very unimpressive because he doesn't stand for anything, if only because this guy actually knows about politics, follows politics as a reporter and is therefore an ACTUAL MATCH for a woman who is working as a political fixer. How many fucking times do romantic movies actually give the characters something in common.

Thus far, this story is the robot variation of the MPDG trope. Alex is lonely and he's very lonely. He walks around doing not much of anything after a breakup. He's a cipher at this point, almost as much of a cipher as Ada who shows up as the gift of a robot companion bought by his grandmother who is using her own robot companion as a sex doll. There is an undercurrent of robot rights including an AI massacre and laws that prevent robots from achieving sentience. Of course, those come together in the fact that Alex is ok with Ada and doesn't want to return her but also feels disappointed because she is never going to offer a thought that isn't programmed. So he goes looking for a way to get her sentience. This happens in a hotel room and she is overwhelmed with emotions. The final moment is Ada outside on the balcony looking at the sun and saying that it's beautiful and this is the first opinion that she has had for herself.

I want to see where this story is going since at this point it's the story of a lonely man who decides that his sex robot should get a personality and emotions because he knows too well that she's a sex robot. I checked out the second and third books in the series and I hope that there's more explanation of the relationship and less hijinks concerning the hiding of the robot's sentience from the uncaring world.

9. Kill the Body, The Head Will Fall by Rene Denfeld - When I read Rene Denfeld's The New Victorians, it was the kind of critique of feminism that I had been seeking at the time. It was a defense of feminism which wasn't afraid to criticize some of the more out-there aspects of 90s feminism. Only I've changed since then. I have become more feminist. I have stopped mocking Andrea Dworkin. I realized that just because there are some feminists who are completely nuts, that feminism is a big tent and the ultimate goals of feminism are important. So I wondered what it would be like reading a 90s era Rene Denfeld book.

Turns out that she is still a major influence. I pretty much expected that I would still respect and admire Denfeld since I see her on Facebook and she is working diligently for death row inmates in Seattle and she is all around good person. Furthermore, her writing is still compelling. I was worried that she would be like Christina Hoff Sommers or Camille Paglia - one of those feminist writers that I liked when I criticized feminism but now rather odious. Turns out that she was one of the few feminists who got through my ingrained sexism by criticizing the same things that I found silly (Catherine McKinnon, Starhawk's hippie babble, etc.) and then separating these dynamics from the core of feminism.

In this book she talks about being a boxer but she also explores and disputes many of the assumptions that we have about gender and aggression. To her credit, she does not state that anything is particularly natural to any gender but that we consider these things part of gender politics. She cites multiple studies concerning aggression, domestic violence and crime. Many of these chapters are fairly basic but they are basic in the same way that the Bechdel Test is basic. You don't notice how many of your assumptions about women and fighting as well as abuse are societal until they are pointed out. So this is still a pretty great book. It was also a fast read.

(weirdly enough I thought I would have more to say about the Denfeld book than the comic book).
marlowe1: (Teddy Bear)
5. Tiger Lung by Simon Roy & Jason Wordie - This one is beautifully illustrated and since the authors are working with the distant past there are a lot of stories based on speculation. Unfortunately, it's also one that I barely remember a week after reading it. One of the problems of including graphic novels in these tallies is that the graphic novels don't always leave an impression and this one has a lot of material about spirit animals and different tribes being crazy and shape shifting but the most prominent thing I can remember is the author saying that he didn't want to be noble savage and reductive but fortunately everyone wore bears. It's a rather nothing book.

6. Heart of Ice by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill - Fucking Alan Moore has to get over the fucking Cthulu. Also the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen warranted one sequel. Everything else feels like overkill, from the third installment that required 3-D glasses and made references to 20th century pulp that only Moore has ever heard about (the Jeeves & Wooster meet Cthulu story is fun in that one but he also did a nauseating beat parody that just fell flat) to the 1910 books to the one where Harry Potter is the big villain at the end and he's saying something about story telling. As much as I loved the original LXG and the H.G. Wells sequel, I am happy that Moore has officially retired from comic books just so I don't have to see another fucking League sequel or spinoff.

This is a spinoff. Captain Nemo's daughter goes to the South Pole and encounters Cthulu. There's some time bending stuff in the middle that is supposed to go together and those aren't penguins. The obvious cameo is William Randolph Hearst bragging about how he can start a war and the rest is just a uninteresting mess with characters that only exist to make a point.

7.Personal Darkness by Tanith Lee - Have I fallen out of love with Tanith Lee? It's getting to where I don't want to read my favorites for fear that they will be shite. I felt relief when I read the first 50 pages of this book and they didn't suck. Then again, I read the first book in this series again - The Dark Dance - and I found that a book that I remembered as a favorite had turned out to be rather shallow and creepy. Vampire incest certainly has some value but it fell flat with Lee's cast of weird sociopaths. At least this one has Ruth, the daughter from the previous book, killing off families in search of the woman who raised her when her mother was being a Tanith Lee character. Those are some genuinely scary moments. It's only when Ruth comes back to the family that I feel like Lee is padding the book with a story about a man whose daughter ran off with the Scarabae and wants to get her back. He's an innocent in a grim world and his story is predictable.

So I guess it's a better incest vampire book than the first Blood Opera one but it's still incest vampire.

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Tim Lieder

July 2017

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