That Smell of a Smell

So last weekend we had a heat wave, with the themometer cracking 84 on Sunday. It’s steadily tapered off since then.

Sunday and Monday it felt like spring, with that spring smell in the air. Three days later, it smells like fall, as things cool off after warmer weather. So today I felt like I should be carving a pumpkin or something. But everything’s turning green at the same time. Bizarre.

Crikey, only two weeks ’til opening day!

This Week’s Haul

Comic books I bought the week of 14 March 2007.

Actually, two weeks’ worth, since I was away last week:

The Team-Ups volume are really for hard-core Justice Society fans only, really. That said, one of the Atom stories herein is a longtime favorite of mine: Ray Palmer starts aging backwards and Al Pratt has to save him. As Gardner Fox gimmick stories go, it’s pretty good. It’s also interesting that many of these stories are treated as just one more adventure for our heroes, and not the “event” comics that JLA/JSA team-ups would later become.

Wonder Woman #4 ended with a cliffhanger, leading into the final part of the “Who Is Wonder Woman?” story. But #5 doesn’t complete the story, it was released with different content than originally solicited, and the conclusion will appear “at some later date”. The story that actually shipped is a pretty mediocre piece about the impact Wonder Woman has on the world around her, beyond her material deeds. It basically explores in depth what Kurt Busiek simply implies with his Winged Victory character in Astro City, but doesn’t really say anything more. So, shrug.

Fantastic Four: The End concludes the ho-hum series by writer/artist Alan Davis. He sort-of brings a science fictional sensibility to the FF in the future, but it’s really just a standard superhero yarn.

Athena Voltaire #2 actually shipped some time ago, but my shop didn’t get a copy for some reason. So they ordered me one and it arrived this week. Now I can catch up…

Captain Clockwork is a little black-and-white book by Glenn Whitmore about four generations of heroes named Captain Clockwork, who work to save chronology from the 1930 to the 2010s. Whitmore’s plotting and dialog is a little shaky, but his art – though not very detailed – is clean and polished. There’s some promise here, but I don’t think I’m up for “yet another superhero book”. Future installments will need to indicate that they’re going somewhere for me to keep buying. (The web site has a preview from this issue.)

In many ways I enjoy B.P.R.D., but the story has been going on for an awful long time, and with no end in sight. I’d like them to wrap up Abe Sapien’s background and deal with… heck, I can’t even remember exactly what the ongoing threat they’re dealing with is. Or else I’m getting close to losing interest.

Boneyard wraps up their current story with an adorable ending. What a great comic book series.

Evil Inc. is a graphic novel assembled from the first year of the popular webcomic about a corporation run by supervillains. It’s entertaining, maybe even better read in collected form than serially, although I kind of wish it were a more straightforward collection. Apparently there’s already a second volume, but I don’t think it’s yet been solicited through Diamond Comics’ Previews catalog.

DisneyWorld

I’m back! Back from my week’s vacation with Debbi and, well, her entire immediate family visiting DisneyWorld and her parents in Florida.

We flew out last Saturday, and the trip was fairly uneventful other than a delay with our connecting flight out of Dallas. We got in a bit late, but we picked up our car and got to our hotel with no problems. Sunday morning we drove over to meet Debbi’s relatives who flew in from Boston: Her two sisters Dianne and Janine, Dianne’s husband Shawn, and their three kids. Then we caravaned towards Orlando to meet Debbi’s parents (well, father and stepmother) for brunch at Cracker Barrel. Deb’s parents have a time-share near DisneyWorld, so we checked into two rooms in the afternoon. Shawn, Dad and I went shopping, while everyone else went swimming. With all the people, Debbi and I were fortunate to end up with one of the king-sized beds to sleep in. And we needed it because, it was a long and busy week!

DisneyWorld (officially “Walt Disney World Resort”) is an odd place, even odder, I think, than Disneyland. It’s spread over a much larger area, and you have to drive on myriad roads to get to any of the four parks within, and you’re surrounded by swampy Florida landscape along the way.

The “main” park, the Magic Kingdom, was completed in 1971, and is basically laid out the same as Disneyland. However, it has fewer rides in a large space. So you have more space to walk around without bumping into people, but there’s not as much to do. The park feels cleaner and more polished than Disneyland, but by the same token has a lot less character. This may be because the design aesthetic of 1955 has less in common with our modern aesthetic than that of 1970. But it might also be because the restrictions of space in Disneyland force the Imagineers to be more creative. Or it might just be that Walt Disney personally oversaw Disneyland and gave it an attention to detail which the forces which created DisneyWorld – mostly after Walt’s death – just couldn’t attain. (After all, the 60s, 70s and 80s are not exactly remembered as a golden period in Disney’s history.)

We started the week at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, which has a few good rides, such as Expedition Everest (basically a variation on Big Thunder Mountain), but which is mainly notable for the Kilimanjaro Safari ride, which travels through a refuge with elephants, giraffes, wildebeest, and other animals. It’s actually quite scenic. The Flights of Wonder show is also quite cool. But overall the Animal Kingdom is not a terrific park.

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(click on an image for a larger version)

Tuesday we went to the Magic Kingdom, which as I said is very similar to Disneyland’s main park. Overall I felt the rides were at best the same, but often not as good as those at Disneyland. The Haunted Mansion, for instance, is missing the nifty walking corridor at the beginning. While some of Pirates of the Caribbean benefits from the additional space, it’s missing the initial ride through a Lousiana swamp. Space Mountain is just as good, but its veneer feels a little old, since the Disneyland Space Mountain was completely renovated in the last few years. The Enchanted Tiki Room at DisneyWorld was converted to The Enchanted Tiki Room (Under New Management), a pointless revision which is not only not as much fun, but is probably incomprehensible if you’re not familiar with the original. Tomorrowland has the old Peoplemover (rechristened the Tomorrowland Transit Authority), which is a fun and relaxing tour of Tomorrowland, but it also has the execrable Stitch’s Great Escape, which is a pointless and gross non-ride to be avoided at all costs. Ew.

DisneyWorld is missing several Disneyland rides, such as Indiana Jones, the Matterhorn Bobsleds, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Alice in Wonderland, and the Storybook Land Canal Boats. Some of these aren’t exactly essential rides; nonetheless, despite its size, it feels like there’s less to do at the Magic Kingdom than at Disneyland.

Debbi’s family went off Tuesday late morning to a character breakfast, so Debbi and I got to do a number of things without the eight other members of our party. Which was nice since we could go on several rides less appropriate for kids. Debbi was able to go on all the rides she really wanted to go on, which made her happy.

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Wednesday we went back to the Magic Kingdom for part of the day, and then went to EPCOT for half a day. We didn’t see a whole lot of it, and apparently the park bears almost no resemblance to Walt’s original vision. We did ride the Test Track ride, which is quite cool, in that you get up to around 65 MPH in the little car. But we weren’t too impressed with the World Showcase, and we didn’t have a chance to ride Soarin’ or Spaceship Earth. We did see the fireworks show, which was fun. But overall we weren’t too impressed with EPCOT.

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Finally, on Thursday we spent the day at Disney MGM Studios, the fourth theme park. The Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster is quite cool (although perhaps not much better than California Screamin’ at Disney’s California Adventure next to Disneyland). Lights, Motors, Action! is a pretty neat demo of how car stunts are staged and performed for films. More than the other parks, this park packs more into a fairly small space, and we were all a little surprised that we managed to pack a full day into this park.

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Our days were long, however, and we were regularly getting up at 6 and going to bed at 11 or midnight, so we were pretty exhausted at the end of it all. The kids had a great time, though. I don’t know whether they’ll remember much of it when they’re older, but they had so much fun that I don’t think it matters. I think the adults got worn to a frazzle from time to time, though.

Thursday night we drove to Debbi’s parents’ house where we spent the next couple of days. Sleeping arrangements were, uh, suboptimal, with me on an aerobed, and Debbi on an uncomfortable couch (she didn’t seem to think doing it the other way around would be any better, though I offered). We did enjoy hanging out at the pool, and playing dominoes until midnight on Friday.

Debbi and I wrapped up our trip leaving early Saturday afternoon. We got to the airport three and a half hours early, which is good because we found that our flight to Dallas was delayed over an hour, so we’d miss our connection. But we were able to act promptly and get rebooked on a flight to Chicago, then switching airlines to fly to San Jose. Despite the longer flight, we took off 2 hours earlier and got to California at the same time we’d been scheduled to arrive. We only had a long dash across Chicago O’Hare to make our connection, but otherwise we and our luggage arrived safe and sound (much to my surprise). Debbi was completely exhausted, but Subrata and Susan picked us up, so all turned out well.

The cats were extremely happy to see us.

Sunday we relaxed. Indeed, Debbi took a long nap in the afternoon. I did some work in the yard, did some housecleaning, and cleaned the grill (and boy did it need it) before grilling hamburgers. A pretty successful end to the whole vacation – even if it wasn’t the most relaxing vacation ever.

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This Week’s Haul

Comic books I bought the week of 28 February 2007.

  • 52 #43 of 52 (DC)
  • Jack of Fables #8 (DC/Vertigo)
  • Justice #10 (DC)
  • Welcome to Tranquility #1-3 (DC/Wildstorm)
  • Eternals #7 of 7 (Marvel)
  • The Secret History #1 of 7 (ASP)

Despite a cover featuring Animal Man, 52 #43 mainly focuses on the Black Adam Family, which is my least-favorite storyline in the series. Bummer.

I’m starting to think that Jack of Fables just isn’t going to get very good. Jack is a one-note character, and not at all a likeable one, and the series has yet to cohere around an interesting plot or supporting cast. I wonder how it’s doing in sales?

Welcome to Tranquility has gotten some good word-of-mouth, so I gave it a try. It’s written by Gail Simone, who’s ended up in my consciousness as one of those “decent wordsmith, nothing in particular to attract me to her books” writers, similar to Geoff Johns and Greg Rucka (and ahead of Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Millar), but not as distinctive as Grant Morrison. That said, I’ve never actually read anything by her, so it’s just purely word-of-mouth.

Tranquility is a town which serves as a retirement home for old superheroes, but which also houses their children and grandchildren. The Sheriff, Thomasina, tries to hold things together, while a documentary filmmaker, Collette, shows up just in time to see things start to fall apart, as an old-time detective-hero, Mr. Articulate, is murdered. The town is also on edge because it houses the children and grandchildren of the old heroes, and the generations don’t see things the same way.

The book feels in some ways like Alan Moore’s take on Supreme with its nostalgia for these alternate heroes, while they’re still very much among us. But there’s more of a feeling of “days gone by and they’re not coming back” than in that book (which is more about successfully restoring the glories of yesteryear), and a lot of that feel that the characters are stuck in Tranquility and they’re not going to get out. The three issues so far are mainly setup, with some investigation into the basic mystery. There are some nifty characters, especially Maximum Man (a Captain Marvel type character who’s forgotten his magic word and spends all his time trying to remember it) and the Emoticon, who wears a mask which displays smileys.

Neil Googe’s art at its best is reminiscent of Chris Sprouse, but his figures occasionally go all cartoony, which wrecks the book’s atmosphere. It’s right on the edge of being a style I can really enjoy, but I wish he’d nudge it into a more realistic direction.

Overall, it’s not a bad start.

Eternals wraps up Neil Gaiman’s second series for Marvel. 1602 was a lot better. I’m not a big fan of John Romita’s artwork (and his depictions of San Francisco are atrocious), and the painted covers are also pretty bad. It ends up being one of those “character discovers he’s really a superhero and loses all of his personality” stories, so I’m not sure what the point was.

Archaia Studios Press continues to crank out good books, this time The Secret History, written by Jean-Pierre P├ęcau and drawn by Igor Kordley. It’s the story of four immortal siblings who each possess a runestone which gives them great powers and who basically don’t like each other. It’s not a real novel premise, but if it successfully reveals the characters over its seven issues, it ought to be pretty entertaining. The first issue focuses on the events surrounding Moses and the Jews’ departure from Egypt, and is lively with some thoughtful moments, mainly surrounding Erlin, who possesses the rune of the Shield, and who seems like a responsible and philosophical person who regards the mortal Moses as a trusted friend. I’ve seen Kordley’s art a couple of times before, but he really does a great job depicting large battles and realistic landscapes. It’s too soon to call this an unqualified winner, but I enjoyed it and I’m looking forward to more.

As a final note, I decided this week to stop buying the Jack Staff monthly comic, and switch to reading it in the collections. Paul Grist’s storytelling style isn’t well-suited to a periodical, and I’m finding that the overall stories take a long time to get anywhere (and sometimes I’m not sure where they’ve actually ended up). Basically, Grist’s writing just isn’t tight enough for my tastes

I Hope You Will Think Less of Me

Two months into the year, you’re probably wondering how my resolutions are going.

Well, the “write more” part has (predictably) been going rather poorly. (Heck, I haven’t even been writing more here!) But the “eat less” part has been going pretty well: I’ve lost 7 pounds so far this year. If I can keep this rate up for the whole year (ha!), I’ll actually achieve my supposed goal weight by the end of the year. (In reality I’d be happy to get down to where I was 6 years ago when I was hitting the gym regularly, before I started house-hunting and gained it all back.)

My strategy has mostly been to cut down on the little things: I still buy a mocha on my coffee break, but I don’t get whipped cream or a cookie. Instead of pizza or grill food at lunch, I tend to get sandwiches or salads (and not even particularly healthy salads). I’ve cut back on eating candy outside of work. Little stuff like that. Basically, I’ve tried to embrace the words of my doctor a few years ago who said if I could just cut my calorie intake by 10% I’d start losing weight.

Seems like he was right.

Quakin’

I was sitting at the computer tonight when I felt like I was bouncing around a little. Nothing else in the room was moving, but I still wondered, “Huh, are we having an earthquake?”

Yep, we were. A 4.2 magnitude quake based on the other side of the bay. People out that way felt it pretty strongly. Ceej and Bill felt it too. A lot of people did, actually.

Although not as strong, the first earthquake I felt was more memorable. But Jon Miller on the Giants broadcast will do that.

An unusual way to mark my 8th anniversary working at Apple.