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Five-Minute Medicine

This morning I had a doctor’s appointment at 9:15 at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. Since it usually takes me 15 minutes, tops, to drive to the main clinic from home, I left myself half an hour. This turned out to be not nearly enough time, as I hit pretty much every single light, encountered several stupid and/or slow drivers, got stuck at a light as a train went by, and got stuck at a backup going past the high school (taking the route the clinic’s map suggested I take – I shoulda stuck with my original plan). I got there a couple of minutes late. Fortunately, it didn’t make a different.

This was in fact a follow-up appointment to last year’s world’s shortest doctor’s visit to see a dermatologist. Happily, the mole she wanted to keep an eye on has not gotten any larger in the last year. I also asked her again what term she used for the large bump on my upper chest, which hurts a bit when I mash it (e.g., when scrubbing in the shower), and she said it’s either a large mole, or it’s a neurofibroma. She said she could cut it off, but that there’s no reason to unless it’s really bothering me. Which it isn’t, really – at least not to the point that I want to cut things off. 🙂 I have another one on my lower back, although that one never hurts, so maybe it’s a mole. I dunno.

Anyway, the appointment took less than 15 minutes. She suggested I come in in another 2 or 3 years, so they’ll send me a reminder. Easy enough.

I always enjoy telling the staffers at PAMF that I used to work on the office software they use (when I worked for Epic Systems). I also enjoy looking at the screens when they’re typing to see how much has changed in the look-and-feel of the software since I worked there (in the 1990s); it always looks pretty much the same to me, although the staffer today said that they find it a little frustrating that the workflows change with each major release. Epic was a very firm Microsoft shop when I was there, and I wonder if they’ve been getting pressure to provide tools for iPhones and iPads.

The physical set-up of the terminal in the office I was in was pretty interesting; probably a bit of a pain to put together, but I bet it’s very functional for the staffers who have to type at it:

What I Like About Mondays

While, like any other working stiff, I can’t say I look forward to the beginning of the work-week with great relish, I realized today that there are things I like about Mondays when I get up in the morning:

  1. At the end of the weekend I’ve usually caught up on my sleep so I’m not dragging when I wake up.
  2. Coffee! I try to limit my caffeine intake somewhat, so I typically only make morning coffee on Monday/Wednesday/Friday. So Mondays I have coffee!
  3. Monday is the day for the new column by Mark Rosewater, my favorite columnist at Daily MTG.
  4. Similarly, Monday is Magic night with my friends!

Tuesday is a bit rougher, since not only have I been up later than usual Monday night playing Magic, but Tuesdays and Thursdays are my bike-to-work days. I like biking, but I can’t say I really look forward to it. Maybe the bike problems I’ve had the last couple of years have dampened my enthusiasm. (On the other hand, I’ve gone about 200 miles on my new, beefier rear wheel without any problems, so maybe they’re finally behind me!)

This Week's Haul

A big week this time around, but I don’t have much time to write, so it’ll be short.

I will say that the first issue of Power Girl under the new creative team is about as good as the previous team, although I’m not fond of the coloring approach. The new Dynamo 5 series fits right in with the previous series, and is a good jumping-on point if you’d like to read about a group of heroes who each inherited a different power from their Superman-like father. Oh, and a new Girl Genius volume, which is always enjoyable, even if you’ve been reading the webcomic (as I have).

  • American Vampire #4, by Scott Snyder, Stephen King & Rafael Albuquerque (DC)
  • Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #3 of 6, by Grant Morrison, Yanick Paquette & Michel Lacombe (DC)
  • Green Lantern Corps #49, by Tony Bedard, Ardian Syaf & Vicente Cifuentes (DC)
  • Legion of Super-Heroes #2, by Paul Levitz, Yildiray Cinar, Francis Portela & Wayne Faucher (DC)
  • Power Girl #13, by Judd Winick & Sami Basri (DC)
  • Superman #700, by James Robinson & Bernard Chang, Dan Jurgens, and J. Michael Straczynski, Eddy Barrows & J.P. Mayer (DC)
  • Zatanna #2, by Paul Dini, Stephane Roux & Karl Story (DC)
  • Fantastic Four #580, by Jonathan Hickman, Neil Edwards & Andrew Currie (Marvel)
  • Criminal: The Sinners vol 5 TPB, by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips (Marvel/Icon)
  • Powers #5, by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Avon Oeming (Marvel/Icon)
  • Girl Genius: Agatha Heterodyne and the Heirs of the Storm vol 9 HC, by Phil Foglio & Kaja Foglio (Airship)
  • Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard #2 of 4, by David Petersen, Alex Kain, Terry Moore, Lowell Francis & Gene Ha (Archaia)
  • Incorruptible #7, by Mark Waid, Horacio Domingues & Juan Castro (Boom)
  • Dynamo 5: Sins of the Father #1 of 5, by Jay Faerber & Júlio Brilha (Image)
Wow, I can’t remember the last time a comic destroyed my enthusiasm for a new creator’s run as has Superman #700.

To be sure, this “anniversary” issue contains three stories, and the first two are okay. The first one seems to be the coda to James Robinson’s run on the book, which featured the Kryptonian city of Kandor, Superman leaving Earth to live with the Kryptonians when they settled on another world, and a war among the Kryptonians. I didn’t follow the story, and the notion of Superman leaving Earth like that made little sense to me. The story here features him returning and being reunited with Lois Lane (his wife, as you may recall), and it’s touching enough even though Supes’ reasons for leaving don’t really hold water.

The second story is a cute little Dan Jurgens tale of years past, when Dick Grayson was a teenaged Robin and wasn’t yet allowed to go out on missions by himself. He does, of course, and Superman has to bail him out – in more ways than one. I like tales like this one, done well, as this one is.

The third story is new writer J. Michael Straczynski’s first chapter of his ongoing Superman story, and Straczynski is pretty much being handed the keys to the kingdom: Superman will appear in Superman only, and Action Comics will focus on Lex Luthor. Considering the Man of Steel has commonly appeared in 2, 3, 4 or even more titles monthly for the last 20 years, this is a big deal.

Unfortunately, Straczynski’s comics writing has been pretty shaky (his run on Thor over at Marvel was terrible, and he never completed one of his better comics of recent years, The Twelve, also at Marvel), and this first chapter is pretty bad: Superman holds a press conference regarding his involvement with the Kryptonians, is confronted by a woman whose husband died because Superman was off on another world and had no chance to save him (even if he could), and is apparently wracked with guilt over his actions. After talking with Batman and The Flash, Superman lands… and walks away.

And yes, the title of the storyline is going to be “Grounded”.

And boy, what a stupid, stupid idea.

Many writers have tried to tackle the notion of Superman not being able to help everyone, not even being able to even try. 20 years ago, there was a great story when Superman was off-world (that’s right, this isn’t even the first time this has happened) about the Justice League going through all his Christmas mail at his mailbox, a touching story of holiday cheer yet also reminding us that Superman is still a man. And of course Kurt Busiek’s character Samaritan in Astro City is a Superman character who tries to help everyone, at the cost of living his own life. But the set-up for this story is contrived, and doesn’t resonate emotionally at all. Presumably Superman is “grounding” himself to gain a human perspective on the world, but come on, that’s just not something I can believe he’d do. Superman has bouts of shaken confidence, but he’s always had a strong sense of self, and comfort with his powers. This just doesn’t ring true.

I appreciate that Straczynski tries to explore aspects of characters in ways that haven’t been done before, but as far as established characters go, he seems to consistently misunderstand what it is what embodied and drives that character. When working with his own creations he actually does this quite well, but when playing in someone else’s sandbox, he comes up with unusually contrived set-ups and changes the character’s essence in some unbelievable way.

So this already looks like another disastrous superhero comic by Straczynski. He’s got about two issues to convince me that it’s something other than what it seems, or I’m out of here. And his track record in convincing me otherwise is not good.

Spontaneous Socializing Weekend

It started when I realized that my friend Joar and his wife Karin are expecting their first child not sometime next month, but in fact next weekend. I realized if we were going to get together with them before sprog time then it would have to be this weekend. So we met them at their house and we walked over to Stacks for brunch. Debbi bought them a few baby gifts, and we had a good time enjoying the lovely weather.

Well, after we’d made those plans Debbi suggested that we get together with Mark and Yvette too, so we met them for dinner last night at The Counter, which they’d never been to before.

And then Deb suggested that we invite our friends Lisa and Michel and their daughter over for dinner tomorrow, so we’re going to do that too. All these people!

A nice change of pace after a turbulent week, which included my getting my ass kicked at a home poker game on Thursday. Someday maybe I’ll actually get good at that game… but not anytime soon, it seems.

This Week's Haul

Wow, a tiny week this week:

  • Blackest Night #4, by Geoff Johns, Peter J. Tomasi, Ivan Reis, Ardian Syaf, Scott Clark, Oclair Albert, Vicente Cifuentes & David Beaty (DC)
  • DC Universe: Legacies #2 of 10, by Len Wein, Andy Kubert, Joe Kubert, Scott Kolins & J.H. Williams (DC)
  • Fables #96, by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham & Andrew Pepoy (DC/Vertigo)
  • The Boys #43, by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson (Dynamite)
That cover to Brightest Day #4 has nothing at all to do with the contents of the issue. Okay, the two men who are the parts of Firestorm do show up, but the hero himself doesn’t, never mind as the “Black Lantern” version. What in the world is DC thinking? Do they have such little faith in the story that they can’t be bothered to come up with a cover that matches it?

To be sure, there’s very little story here, which is pretty much what happens when you only devote a few pages to each of a dozen or so characters. Hawkman and Hawkgirl are still following their stolen bodies from past lives, and have finally ended up in some alternate dimension. Something’s still up with Firestorm. Hawk has demanded that Deadman use the white power ring to try to bring his brother (the first Dove) back to life. Corpses show up in the Bermuda Triangle, and Mera seems to still be under the spell of the red power ring.

Brightest Day has been a total snooze-fest so far.

The second issue of DC Universe: Legacies reverses the pattern of the first one: The backup story, about the Seven Soldiers of Victory, is a total throwaway, unlike the interesting take on the Spectre and Doctor Fate in the back of the first issue. But the main story here is better than in the first issue, as it follows the main character through to the early 50s and the disbanding of the Justice Society, and the downfall of his friend who decided to go the criminal route. The story overall is not terribly strong, as the inspiration of the heroes on our protagonist is strong but simplistic, and I wonder how writer Len Wein can draw out this influence for the remaining 10 issues. I also wonder how he’ll cover the 50s through the 80s in this volume, as thanks to the march of time that’s a period when most of DC’s big-name heroes weren’t active (Superman, after all, would have only started his career in the mid/late 90s). Marvel had a whole series about this “missing era” in its history (Marvel: The Lost Generation, worth seeking out), but DC has mostly glossed over it. It’ll be hard for Wein to do the same here.

The big questions, though, are: Will this be more than a recapitulation of DC universe history, and what exactly are the “legacies” going to be? Or is the title going to end up not really being relevant to the story?

My enthusiasm for Fables has flagged a bit since the first story wrapped up in issue #75, but I think a lot of that is because the two main characters of that arc (Bigby Wolf and Boy Blue) have stepped off the stage, and no one’s really come in to replace them. There are many interesting plot elements, but the characters aren’t keeping me engaged.

Presently the series is doing a piece about Rose Red, the sister of Snow White, illuminating their childhood and how they ended up as such different people. While Rose Red is anything but a sympathetic character (she’s a schemer and a whiner, frankly), this run is otherwise one of the better stories of the last couple of years, as writer Bill Willingham gets to tell his reinterpretation of classic fairy tales, where he always takes their darker nature to heart. Here he presents Snow White’s famous tale (hinted at in the graphic novel 1001 Nights of Snowfall), and how and way it came to pass. And it’ll clearly be a big part of why Rose Red turned out the way she did. Fun stuff.

I do hope that the story gets back to the larger arc of the Dark Man who destroyed Fabletown, and presents some more heroic figures we can get behind in the fight against him, though.

Grill Fiend

Following my half-week of getting rid of stuff, we had a pretty busy weekend.

Yesterday we went up to San Francisco for a party/concert being thrown by Genentech, Debbi’s employer, for its employees. It was a benefit concert, part of a “giving back” program they’re doing this year. They rented out the ballpark (as they did for their Christmas party a couple of years ago), and had some surprise musical guests. We had a pretty good time (hey, free ballpark food!), but the music wasn’t really either of our tastes. Following an opening act by a former employee, the acts were Natasha Bedingfield (whom I’d never heard of, and who was an okay mix of pop, soul and hip-hop), The Fray (a straight-ahead alt-rock group who played one song I’d heard), and Counting Crows (the 90s alt-rock group whose early stuff I’d enjoyed, but they’re not among my favorites). As I’m more of a prog-rock guy, and Debbi’s a country gal, it wasn’t quite our thing. But it was a nice getaway day, and it’s the thought that counts, right?

Today we went for a bike ride through Shoreline park, having lunch at the Shoreline Cafe, and then ran some errands. And this evening I cooked dinner on the new grill I bought last week (a Weber Genesis E310). I assembled it over a couple of days late this past week, and this afternoon I hooked up the gas and ran through the tests in the manual to make sure there weren’t any leaks in any of the gas connections (I wonder how many people actually do this, or read the instructions at all, when they get a new grill?). I fired it up and it worked fine, so I grilled steak, asparagus, and red bell peppers for dinner, as well as some chicken for Debbi’s lunch salads this week. It went perfectly smoothly, and tested great, too! It should be a nice upgrade over my old Weber Q (which, to be fair, did a great job for me for seven years).

Now I need to figure out what to do with the one-and-a-half small propane canisters I have left over from my old grill.

Here are a couple of pictures of the new toy:

Alastair Reynolds: Terminal World

Did hard SF writer Alastair Reynolds construct Terminal World just so he could write a steampunk adventure? Since the world is filled with dirigibles, which as I recently observed is the flavor du jour of steampunk, it sure seems like it. But there’s a lot more in here, too.

The novel opens in Spearpoint, the last city on Earth, a giant tower jutting towards the sky, covered with several towns, each of which has a lower technology level as you get closer to the surface (the Celestial Levels, Circuit City, Neon Heights, Steamtown, Horsetown), and not by choice – the ambient nature of the city forces this on Spearpoint, and travelling from one zone to another not only constricts what technology can operate there (irreparably damaging most technology carried in which can’t), but it’s a shock to biological systems to make the transition as well.

The story opens when an angel falls from the Celestial Levels into Neon Heights, where it’s brought to the morgue of a Doctor Quillon. Quillon has a special interest in strange beings arriving from elsewhere, because he’s an angel himself, one who years ago was part of a task force infiltrating the lower levels to see if modified angels could survive there. The mission went badly wrong, and Quillon was stranded in Neon Heights alone, knowing that other angels would love to recapture him for what he knows. This fallen angels has come to warn Quillon that he’s about to be hunted, and that he should leave Spearpoint immediately. With the help of his friend (and underworld organizer) Fray, Quillon leaves his life of ten years behind, conveyed by a foul-mouthed transporter named Meroka out of the city, just ahead of pursuing angels.

Outside the city they have several adventures, where Quillon is acquainted with the ravenous, biomechanical Carnivorgs, and the drug-addled, violent Skullboys, before they are rescued by Swarm, once the fleet of Spearpoint, but now the only source of civilization (never mind law) outside the city. Befriended by Swarm’s leader, Ricasso, Quillon is carried on a journey which reveals that the Earth is dying, but also that the zones which cover the planet have an underlying cause, and that there may be a way to help heal the planet before it dies completely.

It only takes a few pages to see that Reynolds’ notion of zones in Terminal World are very similar to the “zones of thought” in Vernor Vinge’s great novel A Fire Upon The Deep, only really different in the details. Vinge has more-or-less said that he came up with the zones to allow him to write traditional space opera, which he thinks is implausible otherwise due to the likelihood of a race going through the technological singularity before they would have the technology to embark on such adventures. And it feels like Reynolds is employing his own zones to a similar end, to write far-future SF where dirigibles, horses, and pistols exist side-by-side with angels, ray guns, and Spearpoint. While Reynolds’ world here feels a bit rough around the edges (the world outside Spearpoint feels a bit too simplistic, and the excuse that the planet is dying doesn’t feel entirely satisfying), overall it’s still an entertaining milieu, particularly the dichotomy of the city vs. everything else, and the adventures Quillon and Meroka have on their way out of Spearpoint.

The bulk of the story concerns Quillon’s experiences within Swarm, as its citizens are deeply skeptical of anyone from Spearpoint, due to not-yet-forgotten crimes committed against them years earlier. There’s a combination of politics (Quillon trying to earn their trust, and various schemes going on within Swarm) and travelogue (as Swarm visits a couple of interesting locales in its travels). The mechanics of the story focus on Quillon trying to heal the rift between Swarm and Spearpoint, as he finds himself with sympathies towards both entities, and figuring out the nature of the zones and what can be done to heal the fragmentation of the planet before it’s too late. The Skullboys and Vorgs are background color and obstacles to these missions, the Vorgs being the more interesting of the two, as the Skullboys are pretty generic gangs who apparently don’t have much contention within their own ranks (another rough edge in the setting). As always, Reynolds is excellent at dealing with the mechanics of the plot, especially in the story’s climax when several ships of Swarm have to run a brutal gauntlet under adverse conditions.

Reynolds is a cut above the typical hard SF author when it comes to characterizations, and he does a good job here, keeping us guessing for a while as to whether Quillon will ingratiate himself to Ricasso and other members of Swarm. Once that’s resolved, though, the characters do tend to collapse into whites and blacks, which is a bit disappointing. But at least the characters are engaging, and Ricasso in particular is a figure who makes some interesting decisions for debatable reasons.

But Quillon is the backbone of the story. He somewhat resembles Shadow, the protagonist of Neil Gaiman’s terrific novel American Gods, in that he’s very even-tempered, and seems to be dragged along by circumstances beyond his control for stretches of the story, though he’s a little more active than Shadow when he has the chance. Quillon’s story arc is one of a man who’s been beaten down and in hiding for years, and by overcoming adversity becomes a heroic figure doing what he can to help others and improve the world. He’s the glue who holds the story together.

The novel’s biggest disappointment is the ending, as our heroes manage to accomplish all of their goals, vanquishing several adversaries and delivering an important package to Spearpoint, but despite those accomplishments two key elements of the story are left unresolved: Saving Earth from the ravages of the zones remains a long-term goal, and the frailties are Quillon’s body are left decidedly hanging. Getting to that point is a lot of fun, but I wish Reynolds had been able to take things a little bit further. I don’t know if he’s planning a sequel, but without one, Terminal World is going to feel somewhat unfinished.

Following the “bigger ideas” approach of House of Suns, Terminal World‘s sticking to a single planet makes an interesting counterpoint. Although a decent adventure, I don’t think it’s one of Reynolds’ best. Too many unfinished edges, and not quite as satisfying.

That cover sure is gorgeous, though.

Basketball at its Worst?

John Gruber on game seven of the NBA Finals:

But what struck me the most watching this series, and especially game seven, is what an ugly, ugly game the NBA has devolved into. No beauty and very little strategy offensively from either side. No ball movement, and lots of standing around. Very hard to believe that these are the two best teams in the league. The Lakers shot just 33 percent from the field and yet clearly deserved to win the game. For decades, a game seven in the Finals between the Celtics and Lakers resulted in basketball at its very best. Now, it’s basketball at its worst. Brutal.

There’s no particular reason that a sport, when played optimally, should be beautiful or even interesting. Most sports evolved organically, and continue to evolve (albeit slowly) under pressures other than what makes a good or interesting game. Strategy and tactics in baseball (the sport I know best) are clearly far superior to those employed even 20 years ago, in terms of teams trying to win games, yet certainly there’s some basis in arguing that the reliance on walks and home runs has made the game less exciting. (Stolen bases, while exciting, are very minor components of winning; a walk is far more valuable.)

So I wonder: Has basketball strategy been optimized such that the game has become boring, or “brutal”? Were the Lakers and Celtics playing a general style of game which gave them the best chance of winning (notwithstanding specific errors committed in-game)? Or were they playing a fairly stupid game and both teams managed to get to the finals only because of their superior talent (or luck)?

I have close-to-zero interest in basketball (slightly more than I have in hockey or soccer), so I really have no idea. But in the abstract, it’s an interesting sports question.

Speaking of interesting sports questions, has anyone else noticed that people (other than Lakers and Celtics fans) seem more upset that the Lakers won than that the Celtics lost? I guess that’s what being the Yankees of the NBA gets you.

Cherie Priest: Boneshaker

Cherie Priest seems to be the queen of steampunk today, or at least there seems to be an expectation that she’ll be anointed such, even though she’s apparently pushing her novel Boneshaker and its setting as alternate history rather than steampunk (though, really, it’s both). Other than my fondness for Girl Genius (which is mainly due to my being a slavering fanboy of Phil Foglio), I’ve never gotten into the genre of steampunk: Neither the punk nor the cyberpunk aesthetics were my thing, I have no particular interest in 19th century fashion, technology or culture (steampunk seems to have a very strong fashion/costuming element in it), and all-in-all I’d rather be reading far-future SF than recent-past SF. Still, I do have a weakness for alternate history, and we read Boneshaker for a book discussion group. Plus it’s up for the Hugo Award for best novel.

The flavor of steampunk these days seems to be dirigibles, which are present in Boneshaker, but more to seem cool than to serve a significant role in the story. The story’s backdrop is that in 1863 an inventor named Leviticus Blue created a huge drill to aid in exploiting the gold rush, but something went horribly wrong, the drill destroyed big chunks of Seattle, and also somehow unleashed a gas which seeped into the city and turned people into zombies. The government walled up the city, but a few citizens remained living outside the walls. Blue disappeared, presumed dead, and his widow, Briar, moved back to the house of her father, Maynard Wilkes, himself a man of some note, although he died during the initial release of the gas as well. Years later, in 1880, Briar’s teenage son, Zeke, gets it into his mind to go into the city and gather evidence to prove that Blue wasn’t really responsible for the disaster, and Briar follows him into Seattle to save him. Within the walls they discover a town flooded by blight gas and populated by starving zombies, but also by a few stubborn humans who live in sealed-away buildings and basements, where the two get caught up in the ongoing power struggle within the city.

Priest has meticulously crafted her world (which she’s named The Clockwork Century), with the Civil War still ongoing in the east after 30 years, and the west even more of a hardscrabble frontier than it was at the time. But the book’s setting seems more calculated for effect than anything else. That Seattle is still populated doesn’t make much sense, as I’d expect most people would have cleared out (likely heading to another city farther north) as there’s really nothing for them here except some bad memories. Briar in particular I’d think would have headed far away. There are a few rationalizations for why there’s still a town outside the walls, but I wasn’t convinced.

There is some neat stuff here: The humans inside the city have carefully sealed off living spaces, and the Chinese population are responsible for operating pumps which import fresh air from above the wall, to keep everyone able to breathe. There’s a mysterious Doctor Minnericht who creates fantastic devices which help people survive, and which also keep them beholden to him. Briar and Zeke encounter various eccentric characters who have been playing out their own little dramas within the walls, all of which come to a head when Minnericht stands in the way of Briar and Zeke getting what they want. Compared to this, the airships are downright mundane, serving little role in the book other than to provide a means to escape the city.

The core problem, though, is that story itself is slight, being not much more than a travelogue of the inside of the city. Yes, events develop so that there’s a big shootout at the end, at the book is a page-turner at times. But characterization is slim: Neither Briar nor Zeke really have a story arc, and they’re the main characters in the story. We do eventually learn some of the secrets in Briar’s past, but they’re added almost as an afterthought, as if Priest felt that once the main story was done she should tidy up a few loose ends in case anyone cares, but those revelations were what kept me reading, as the battles among the residents of the city felt like just an obstacle to the characters getting to the good stuff. And other than Zeke becoming closer to his mother when he sees what she risked for him, the characters don’t really change or grow. The supporting characters are quirky but not deep. The story is a lot of running around and agonizing, but the payoff didn’t justify it for me.

While Priest is a fine wordsmith, and her characters’ names are themselves quite evocative, overall I found Boneshaker disappointing, a little too long to be carried by its ideas content, and without enough heft to its characters or plot to feel really satisfying.

Where Does the Stuff Go?

This week the stuff is going out of the house. Specifically, today I sold a bunch of CDs and DVDs at Rasputin Music, tomorrow I’m taking a bunch of books to Bookbuyers, and Friday I’m taking a bunch of comic books to Comics Conspiracy. This will free up a considerable amount of shelf and closet space, and it’s way easier than selling stuff piecemeal on eBay.

At Rasputin’s today I shopped around the store while they were appraising my stuff, and of course found some new stuff. Most notably I found a hardcover copy of the graphic novel Star Trek: Debt of Honor, maybe the best original-cast Star Trek story between Star Trek III and the stuff John Byrne is doing today. It has some warts (Chris Claremont’s prose had gone deep purple by the 90s, and Adam Hughes overdoes the photo reference although his art otherwise looks gorgeous), but it’s still a lot of fun. It evokes the look and feel of the original series and the better movies, while revealing some details of Kirk’s life beyond what we saw on screen.

At least I came home with a lot less than I went in with (and with a few extra bucks besides – I sell good stuff!).