Sunday, September 30, 2007

Maybe Darabont Should Hire Struzan to Cut A New Trailer

This is the new "Mist" poster, which I like even more than the first one, which is saying something. I looked but wasn't able to locate artist Drew Struzan's name anywhere on the poster, but it looks like his style, so it's probably on there somewhere.

This new image suggests a grander film than the first poster (or first trailer, for that matter). This movie poster's advertising a film packed with spectacle and an almost Spielberg-brand wonder (Spielberg in the late 70s and early 80s, that is), which is great. I really hope the next trailer the studio puts out hints at a "Mist" that more resembles what this poster so perfectly evokes: awe. One thing that makes me hopeful: the overturned cars just outside the windows. The wrecked cars make me think Darabont won't shy away from filming a moment that occurs late in the story that's horrific, spectacular, and, at least as I imagine it, damn expensive to film. And beyond all that, it's just a fantastic piece of illustration.

In other news, "Halo 3" came in the mail yesterday. So far, so good. I'm eager to get pwned on the multi-player as soon as tonight.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Immigrants, Unhappy Women, Shoplifting Bird, Big Haul at the Book Fair

Some links:

1.) The federal government released some new questions immigrants seeking citizenship must answer. The New York Times put together a 10 question quiz, which you can take here. The questions are all drawn from the redesigned test, and the answer link is at the bottom of the quiz. I missed 3 straight up. Immigrants have to get 6 right, so they can only miss one less than I did. All 100 questions and their answers will be made public, so immigrants seeking to become citizens will have the chance to study the questions they'll actually be asked. There have been some complaints about ambiguity, however. For example, this question: "What is the rule of law?" The answer: "That all people follow the law." Weird, huh? When some of the other questions are so specific, trying to answer one so vague/simplistic might be a challenge for someone trying hard to answer 6 questions correctly. You can see all 100 of the questions (and their answers) here. My wife made a good point about the test: is it really more important that a new citizen of the country know exactly how many voting members of the House of Representatives there are, or that they know, once they're citizens, no one may in any way restrict their right to vote; or that their taxes are due on April 15th every year. The kind of real-world citizen stuff that might actually bite them in the ass if they don't know it. But I guess history and a basic understanding of how the US government works is better than nothing.

2.) That frown on your wife/girlfriend's face isn't your imagination. American women are getting unhappier all the time. Check it out. Some choice bits from the article: a.) men enjoy spending time with their parents more than women do by a huge margin. The article suggests this is due in part to the fact that, when visiting with the parentals, men can sit back and watch a DVD, or the game with dad, (for example), while for women, visiting parents often resembles work in that they're helping with household tasks or planning some event. And b.) dusting is at the very bottom of everyone's to-do lists:

"Mr. Krueger’s data, for instance, shows that the average time devoted to dusting has fallen significantly in recent decades. There haven’t been any dust-related technological breakthroughs, so houses are probably just dirtier than they used to be. I imagine that the new American dustiness affects women’s happiness more than men’s."

Pretty funny. So not only are women getting more frustrated, houses are getting dirtier. (Though I take exception to the idea that there haven't been any dust-related technological breakthroughs. Swiffer Dusters, anyone? Those things work like magic!)

3.) My father-in-law sent me an amusing forward today. (I know! The legend is true! Amusing email forwards still exist!) According to the email (which is true according to email-forward-debunker, there's a sea gull in Scotland who's taken to shoplifting. Here's the story, and at the bottom of the page, the video. This line from the email, was my favorite detail about the story: "Customers have begun paying for the sea gull's stolen bags of chips." I just love the idea of Scottish customers paying for the gull's stolen cheese Doritos (which is the only kind he takes, by the way). Before, a person could show their consideration for nature by going out of their way to give the Earth's menagerie of animals their space and their lives. You know, don't tease the animals, don't lay out traps that kill, whether in one's house or in the wild, don't go out into their habitats to hunt, etc., etc. . But because people have had less and less interaction with animals as we've all been pressed into cities these last couple of centuries, opportunities to show consideration for wildlife are generally rare. But when an opportunity does arise for us to show respect for animals, even the dirty annoying ones like gulls, we take it. In this case, showing respect for animals means reimbursing a shopkeeper for a sea gull's premeditated larceny. I laughed a good bit at this, so I thought I'd share.

4.) Went to a book fair this afternoon at Perimeter Mall and found deal after deal after deal on used books. Hardcovers, trade paperbacks, all of it. I got about 15-18 novels and short story collections (I still haven't gone through my haul), some of which were on the shelves as new books mere months ago. A couple of hardcover Alice Munro hardbacks in great condition, an old and hard to find Ian McEwan trade of short stories, a hardcover Margaret Atwood, and more than few major prize-winners. Anyway, it was a hell of a lot of fun and I could have easily gotten about 10 other books, but thought I should only get as many books as I could physically carry.

All right, that's all I got. Have a good weekend er'rybody.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Sundown in North Georgia

This is what it looks like, right now, in Marietta, Georgia.

Okay, maybe a little darker by now.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Hitch Wants Gore, Columbia President Lays the Smackdown on the President of Iran, MacArthur "Genius" Grants, And, Finally, Reference Photo (w/drawing)

For your pleasure, some links of (possible) interest:

1.) Gadfly, public intellectual, and quasi-liberal raconteur Christopher Hitchens resurrects the possibility of an Al Gore run on Slate today, putting it in a context I hadn't really considered by focusing on the very real likelihood that Al Gore might win the Nobel Peace Prize on October 12th. If he did, Al Gore would, in the year 2007, be the author of a bestselling book ("The Assault on Reason"), the recipient of an Oscar (for "An Inconvenient Truth"), and the recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize. According to Hitchens, this trifecta of achievement should have the effect of forcing Gore's hand. Hitchens writes:
"Should [Gore] make up his mind not to run, he would retrospectively abolish all the credit he has acquired so far. It would mean in effect that he never had the stuff to do the job and that those who worked and voted for him were wasting their time. Given his age and his stature, can he really want that to be the conclusion that history draws?"

Hitchens, who hated Bill Clinton with a passion bordering on the inappropriate (no, it more than bordered upon; it was just straight up inappropriate), who loved the idea of invading Iraq and is still one of that bad war's few deluded boosters, sounds a lot like someone who's hot for a Gore presidency. From Hitch, this is crazy, though I agree with him that Gore is the best candidate going right now. Though I don't agree with the above statement Hitchens makes, I kinda hope Gore believes it and, if he wins the Nobel Peace Prize on October 12th, feels compelled to quickly assemble a crack team of politicos, deep-pocket donors, and jump in the race. Don't get me wrong. I think Obama's great but his campaign's floundering right now; and Hillary would be a fine president, as centrist Democrats go, but Gore talks passionately about the things I care about, and Hillary doesn't. Not once. So I hold out hope, but am still pessimistic that Gore's going to change his mind this late in the game. Getting flayed unfairly by a thought-free, bandwagon mentality press, and then shafted by the supposedly above-the-fray Supreme Court should be enough to make any man say, "I've had enough, thanks." But I hope that, in this case, Gore does the unreasonable thing and runs.

Anyway, it's an interesting and uncharacteristically brief essay by Hitchens. Give it a look.

2.) Did anyone catch any of the speech Lee Bollinger, the President of Columbia University, gave yesterday? Take a look here. Given just seconds before Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke, it was harsh, awesome stuff. A lot of knee-jerk conservatives were giving Columbia a hard time for allowing Ahmadinejad the opportunity to speak. Bollinger's speech should shut them all up pretty well. In his remarks Bollinger called Ahmadinejad "ridiculous", "a dictator", "uneducated", "petty and cruel", and a "Holocaust denier" among other things. The boldness of the speech clearly took Ahmadinejad aback -- during the question and answer session, Ahmadinejad essentially recanted his previous denials of the Holocaust, saying it was "given" that the Holocaust had, in fact, occurred. A small triumph. Later on during the Q&A, Ahmadinejad said that "we don't have gays in Iran like you have here." The audience laughed and laughed, but poor Ahmadinejad was clearly not in on the joke. Iran regularly hangs gay men.

Another higher-up at Columbia started some controversy prior to Ahmadinejad's speech, telling an interviewer that Columbia would invite Hitler to speak (if he were still around, that is). After having viewed Bollinger's speech, I see why that hypothetical invitation isn't so bad as it sounds. If our nation's universities made a habit of inviting the world's nastiest world leaders to speak in their lecture halls, and then, prior to these dictators' lying, disingenuous speeches, clear-eyed and articulate professors got to insult them at length to rapturous applause, then I think that would be something everyone could get behind. I wonder if the world's tinpot dictators will think twice before accepting another invitation from an American university. My guess is they will.

3.) The MacArthur "Genius" Grants were announced today. Stuart Dybek, a Chicago short-story writer Shawn mentioned reading and enjoying, was one of the recipients. Maybe now the chain bookstores will start carrying his books and I will be able to read them.

4.) And, just for fun, here's a reference photo my wife took for the graphic novel proposal I've been working on. Just below the photo is the drawing I came up with:

Anyway, that's all I got today.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Taser Guy: Free Speech Martyr or SuperDouche?

Whoo boy, my back hurts. Lower back. It's been varying degrees of not good since mid-to late August. I think I exacerbated things this afternoon while folding shirts. Now in addition to bending down, standing up straight is a dicey proposition. But anyway. I remember how bored and annoyed I was when my brother so much as alluded to his back pain, (he tells me, "just do like ten sit-ups a day. It'll go away." What he forgets, of course, is that sit-ups are exercise, and I don't do that), so I'll quit whining about it now. [Update: I stayed in bed today, the 20th, to give my back a rest. We'll see how it feels tomorrow.]

Anyway, I've been seeing a bunch of stuff on the internets (you may have noticed that calling the internet the "internets" has become de rigueur for "hip" blogs and websites when referring to the internet, alluding, I guess, to Bush's famous verbal slip-up from the 2004 campaign; so I'm succumbing to "peer" pressure, just this once), and I wanted to share some of that stuff with y'all.

1.) Taser guy. Did you guys hear about the University of Florida student who got tazed by campus security because he was being obnoxious at a John Kerry event? Here's a video of that. After seeing it, I felt conflicted. On one hand, this guy's one of those ass-holes who go to events and ask questions primarily to hear themselves speak. There's one at almost every author signing, though never this egregious. They don't care about the answers, they just want to be the center of attention. This guy seems like that kind of guy to me. But when the campus cops arrive on the scene after he's managed half a question, standing just to one side with arms crossed as though waiting for him to ask what they might deem an "inappropriate" question, it gets my dander up. Why did the campus cops need to be there? He was being annoying, but not yet disruptive. He asks his 3 questions, all of which seemed worthwhile, if not articulately stated (though being inarticulate is still legal I believe), and then at the mention of Skull and Bones, they just start hauling him away. The crowd applauds because the punk is going away, but the question he keeps asking the cops, "Why are you doing this?" seems pertinent, and "Because you're annoying the crowd," doesn't seem like a good enough answer.

On the ground, he says, "Please don't taze me, bro." And then they taze him.

I'll spare everyone my cheap outrage. I think it was a clear overreaction on the part of the campus cops, and I think that overreaction is endemic of a more pervasive atmosphere of clamping down on speech that comes right down from the Bush administration. If it's okay to confine protestors to so-called "free speech zones", if it's okay to boot people from public places for wearing anti-Bush t-shirts, then it's not a stretch that some campus cops would think tazing an obnoxious but non-threatening questioner would be a-OK. These are not happy times for people who enjoy civil rights. Is it January 2009 yet?

On the other hand, there's this. This makes him a less-than-palatable free speech martyr, particularly the part about him barging suddenly to the front of the line. I don't know what else preceded what the video shows, but the fact that four campus cops appear alert and ready to go so soon after he takes the mic makes me think Andrew Meyer was, perhaps, up to some serious douchebaggery prior to the clips. Not that that excuses what the cops did, but it might help explain it.

One other thought: what if these cops did not have a taser? What would they have used to "subdue" Meyer? Would they have used their billy clubs a la Rodney King in front of John Kerry and all of those students and cameras? Doubtful. I think they would have done what they'd begun to do, namely carry him bodily out of the room. But when Meyer made that too difficult, the campus cops decided to pin him down and make use of the handy-dandy, non-messy, non-lethal zappy toy that makes people do what you tell them. If I dared talk back to a cop with a short fuse, would I rather be billy-clubbed into submission or tazed? Kind of a shitty choice, sure, but though a taser doesn't pose the same threat of undo concussions as a enthusiastically-wielded nightstick, I think the advent and rapid adoption of tasers by law enforcement is a real danger to we, the unarmed citizenry. (sigh) Oh, cops.

2.) The New York Times Book Review has a blog now. Called Paper Cuts, it's updated by Dwight Garner, the senior editor of the Book Review. It's cool because the blog offers a glimpse into what one important institution of the New York literary scene thinks is worth posting up about on any given day. Every now and again, Garner talks to a novelist about what music they're listening to. In this post, Garner asks Joshua Ferris, author of recent much-discussed novel (written in the first person plural -- "we did this", "we did that") "And Then We Came to the End", this question. The question I have after reading these posts, is "where are they exposed to all of this music?" Where do they get their super-awesome taste? I, for example, listen primarily to film soundtracks. This excludes me from most cool-guy music conversations, which makes me sad. Stephen King is always talking about what new music he's listening to, but a.) he's rich and could buy whatever CDs he wants, and b.) he gets whatever CDs he wants for free anyway. Is it internet radio? I know it can't be regular FM radio, so what is it? Are they just spending their money on CDs as opposed to books? Me wantee new music, the liking of which will make me cool.

I guess I'm suffering from new music withdrawal. Since downloading music off of Morpheus essentially shut down my laptop with viruses, I haven't gotten back into the practice of stealing music since the computer guy cleaned it off. Score one for the RIAA, I suppose.

3.) Did you know Richard Russo has a new book coming out next Tuesday? A review was published in the Boston Globe this past Sunday for Russo's first novel since his brilliant "Empire Falls", which won the Pulitzer in 2001. I've read everything this guy's put out and this is, for a book nerd, pretty exciting news. Pity me.

I guess that's enough for one post.

Have awesome Fridays tomorrow, all of you. I demand it.

"The View" Hires Second Crazy Host to Speak to Nation's Morning TV-Watching Crazy

New "View" co-host Sherri Shepherd was hired, like, last week. Judging from the above clip, I'd say the show's producers, quite stupidly, neglected to ask the standard, "Do you think the world is flat?" question during the interview process. I'm as shocked at their negligence as you are.

It's bad enough they have one airhead on the show who still thinks Bush walks on water, but now they have one who doesn't believe in evolution and has "never thought about" whether the world is round or flat. I never thought I'd miss Star Jones.

One other interesting thing about this clip: the existence of God is never called into question, even as a hypothetical. There may be a resurgence of doubt in a Supreme Being in the country, manifesting itself in books by writers like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and most recently Christopher Hitchens, but for the audience that "The View" is trying to reach these days, any hint of atheism is strictly verboten.

Anyway, sorry to post up another video clip (and an infuriating one at that, as opposed to a fun one like last time), but I've been working hard to get these stupid hands to draw good, and it's taken all of my time (at least all the time my brain functions on any given day). But so far the work has been coming out pretty well, and I've just got two more panels and I'll be just about done with the hard stuff. But perspective issues are making them a couple of tough nuts to crack. Perspective (along with anatomy, color, draftsmanship and character consistency) is my Achilles heel when it comes to drawrin'. But I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Funniest Writer Working Today Appears on Letterman

In case you missed it, writer George Saunders was a guest on The Late Show with David Letterman last week. In the the above clip, Saunders tells about a childhood experience at Wrigley Field involving a Bears game and not enough tickets, and life working as a "de-knuckler" in a meat processing plant in his late 20's. Quite entertaining. For those not familiar with Saunders' work, he writes hilarious short stories that also happen to be literary and brilliantly written. He won a MacArthur grant last year, also known as the "genius grant" for his, well, genius. In short, he's a great writer who deserves to be a regular on Letterman and a perpetual presence on the bestseller lists.

One other funny thing: before Dave talked to one of the brightest, funniest people contributing to American culture, namely Saunders, he spoke to one of the dimmest, least charming people "contributing" to American culture, namely Jessica Alba. I'm not just being an effete culture snob here. While I was waiting for George to show up, I watched her appearance. I was open to liking her.

But after a period of Alba being vapid and slow on the uptake, Dave showed a really awful-looking clip from her forthcoming Dane Cook vehicle, "Good Luck Chuck". After the clip was finished, Alba spent about 2 minutes trying to convince Dave that a stunt performed in the clip was done by her, when it was obvious to everyone, including Dave, that this "stunt" was actually a split-second effects shot and that she was lying. At first I thought maybe she was trying to be funny, saying not only that she'd done the "stunt" but that she'd done it multiple times, but when I realized she was genuinely trying to pass off a transparent and baldfaced lie as the truth on the filmgoing public, I had to turn the channel in embarrassment.

Anyway. George Saunders. Click, watch, and enjoy.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

"Duma Key" Cover Rocks Your Thursday

To stay with King for another entry, I thought I'd post up the cover for Stephen King's new novel, "Duma Key", which comes out on January 22nd of next year.

With few exceptions King's stories and novels have been set in his home state of Maine. This is his first novel set in Florida, where he now owns a house. He "winters" there, as the rich people say.

I think it's a cool pulpy cover and beautifully illustrated. Looks like some serious Dali influence in there. King describes this novel as "the Maltese Falcon" meets "The Shining"" and deals with, in part, the fragility and fluidity of memory. Or so I take from what I've read. I would say, "I'll let you know how it is once I've read it," but I think I said something similar about "Lisey's Story" and a quick search of this blog reveals I never did let you know how it was. So, you know, I lie.