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» 2010 » January

Monthly ArchiveJanuary 2010

Comic books 31 Jan 2010 02:35 pm

Archie #605


Archie #605 is the final chapter in the “Archie Marries…” saga, tracing the freckled teen’s decision to marry wholesome Betty Cooper to its conclusion in the form of twin babies. It’s a happy wrap to the series, much better than the rather distasteful conclusion of issue #602, where Archie’s marriage to Veronica Lodge put him in the high-pressure world of finance and ulcers, working for her billionaire father.

This Archie, by contrast, teaches music at Riverdale High while his wife teaches English. It’s all a little reminiscent of Mister Holland’s Opus,  with Arch in the Richard Dreyfus role. Writer Michael Uslan also provides some unique outcomes for the other members of the cast, which I won’t spoil here.

Overall, the mini-series provided a much-needed shot in the arm, sales wise, to the Archie line, so much so that next issue, #606, serves as a coda to this storyline, likely to milk the momentum of the story. Still, I have to wonder what Archie’s younger fans thought of an issue that gives us an adult Archie riding Betty on his bicycle to the maternity ward. That may be fun for older fans awash in nostalgia, but puzzling to any 10-year-olds out there looking for typical Riverdale hijinks.

Comic books 30 Jan 2010 08:33 pm

Kick-Ass #8


You’d think one gunshot to the groin gag would be enough for any given book. Kick-Ass #8 gives us two. This tendency to take things to the extreme and then go one step beyond has characterized most of the series, so it’s no surprise the writer Mark Millar and artist John Romita Jr. (along with inker/embellisher Tom Palmer) continue the tradition in this last installment.

The plot is almost an afterthought. High-schooler Dave Lizewski puts on a costume and becomes a real-life superhero. Sometimes, this means kicking ass. More often than not, it means getting his ass kicked. There’s a little of both in issue #8, as he is joined by Hit-Girl, a prepubescent version of himself out to avenge the death of her father.

Who’d have known when issue #1 was released that by the end of this eighth issue, there would be a film version of Kick-Ass ready for release later this month, or that what started as a fairly realistic look at how a young man could become a real-life Spider-Man or Batman would end up being an over-the-top bloodbath. While I preferred the earlier issues, the later ones contained just enough sheer moxy to keep me buying.

Bring on the movie and, judging from the last pages of this issue, the Kick-Ass comic sequel.

Commentary 29 Jan 2010 07:45 pm

Howling at the moon

Here is my Review column from Jan. 28.

We see the trends we expect to see.

If we’re looking for signs that the economy stinks, we’ll find them. If we’re looking for indicators that the economy is recovering, we’ll find those too.

We can find ample reasons to support claims that today’s kids are smarter or dumber than earlier generations, or that society is more religious or depraved, depending on the lens through which we view these situations. The same is true for any number of topics that have less to do with objective truth and more to do with subjective perception.

So when I say that Saturday is a full moon and that people will be wonky, you’ll understand that I will expect to see people acting oddly and that I will look for evidence to bolster my claims. The rest of the month I haven’t look as hard, and therefore have missed telltale signs that people are eccentric all the time.
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Movies 23 Jan 2010 12:12 pm

Kill Phil

Three of my students made a parody of “Kill Bill” for a final project in Film Studies. They called it “Kill Phil.” Watch it by clicking above.

Commentary & Family life 21 Jan 2010 10:53 pm

How (not) to fix a computer

Here is my Jan. 21 column from The Alliance Review:

I am the family IT guy.

Although I use computers often, I haven’t the foggiest idea how anything works inside them, which makes it challenging when everybody in the family considers me an Information Technology guru.

For all I know, a platoon of tiny elves lurks in the hard drive, running and jumping and calculating and frantically looking up the 31 billion Google searches every month on topics as diverse as “spiced chai teas,” “the films of Ingmar Bergman” and “where can I find a hot little pink dress like the one at Charlotte Russe for half the price?” (This last search isn’t really mine. I look terrible in pink; it shows all my stretch marks.)

I am blatantly honest about the Grand Canyon-sized gaps in my cyber knowledge, but that doesn’t stop family members from leaning on me for their computer needs. This weekend, for example, I installed a router for my parents and diagnosed a computer crash for my in-laws, although all I really did for the former was follow directions in the box and for the latter, haul it off to somebody who really knows what he’s doing.
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Media & technology 19 Jan 2010 10:25 pm

Talk like a dragon


I found a great app for the iPhone called Dragon Dictation. It captures the user’s voice and pastes it into text messages, so that messages can be spoken instead of typed. I was skeptical because my last experience with voice-recognition software was less than promising; it didn’t convert for squat. To be fair, this was about five or six years ago. Dragon Dictation is much, much better. As long as I take the time to enunciate clearly, it easily converts my speech into text. When I am finished recording, I can edit the spelling and punctuation to my heart’s content. Best of all, the app is free.

Television 18 Jan 2010 04:06 pm

As seen on…


Reader’s Digest has a funny and informative article about late-night TV products. Turns out they don’t always work as promised. I know, who’d have guessed it? The magazine’s reviewers did give high marks to ProCaulk, a product I’ve been tempted to buy on more than one occasion. Guess now I have no excuse not to.

Movies 18 Jan 2010 02:11 pm

Lovely Bones: the movie


The Lovely Bones is one of the few books my wife and I have read together recently (actually, we listened together in the car), so seeing Peter Jackson’s adaptation was a no-brainer. It’s not exactly a date movie, though, since it’s all about the violent murder of a 14-year-old girl in 1973.

Jackson gets great performances out of his cast: Saoirse Ronan as Susie Salmon, Mark Wahlberg as her grief-stricken father, Rachel Weisz as her mother, and especially Stanley Tucci as killer-down-the-street George Harvey. Novelist Alice Sebold’s story is a little unwieldy, especially near the end when she can’t seem to say goodbye to her characters and instead lingers on their daily lives for far too long, so Jackson wisely streamlines the plot, cutting out or combining some characters and events. Right before seeing this, I read an essay by the late Isaac Asimov who noted that books and movies are two different animals, and that absolute fidelity in a movie adaptation to the source material is not a good thing. His words were rattling around my head as I watched.
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Books & Comic books 15 Jan 2010 06:42 pm

Vertigo Crime: The Chill


 The star of The Chill, the latest volume from Vertigo Crime, is Mick Bertilorenzi, an Italian artist whose work is stunning, even though it is wasted on this story.

Jason Starr’s script, which attempts to bridge the gap between crime fiction and horror, is mostly a failure. The plot is vile: A chimera-like woman seduces men so that her father can skewer them with a spear. A detective tries to stop them. A lot of people swear profusely and die bloodily. It panders to every male stereotype imaginable: horny teen-aged boys, power- and sex-hungry lawyers, dirty old men, pedophile priests, and cynical cops. Nobody is believable in the least.

I’m not a prude, but … (which is how writers preface a comment that is, indeed, prudish) Starr has so many characters drop the F-bomb that it becomes, if not offensive, then definitely distracting. The profanity flies so frequently in one section that it’s laughable, with twelve variations on the word “fuck” appearing in four pages. (I know, counting the instances is especially prudish. Sue me.) Plainly stated, nobody I know swears this much; if Starr is using it as an attempt at realism, he’s actually done just the opposite. (To the writer’s credit, however, he does use dialects effectively, especially the Irish brogue.)

Again, Bertilorenzi’s art saves the day. His women are beautiful, his cops tough and chiseled, his landscapes lush, and his cityscapes gritty. I would happily follow him to another Vertigo Crime entry or a different title. Otherwise, The Chill left me cold.  

Commentary & Family life & Movies 15 Jan 2010 07:29 am

Pictures jumping off walls

Here is this week’s column from The Alliance Review, published Jan. 14.

I went to see “Avatar” in 3-D and I didn’t duck once.

Whenever I think of 3-D — which isn’t often, to be honest, because usually my mind is occupied with how I’m going to make the mortgage payment or what’s for dinner or why the guy in front of me refuses to use his left turn signal — I think of the famous Life magazine picture of a theater full of people wearing those funny 3-D glasses. None of those people look like they are ducking, either, but that’s because it’s hard to tell when people duck in a still photograph.

The Life picture is so cool that I have it on the wall of the living room. I hung it there recently, which is a big deal because in the 14 years that I have lived in my house I can count on one hand the number of pictures I’ve hung and still have a finger left over to show that guy in front of me exactly what I think of his driving.
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