Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Tidying Up

Blogging

I edited all my recent posts to take out the old mailto: link for comments. I turned on the comments feature for the blog last night, so people can just leave comments here.

Now the wait begins for someone to do so...

Maybe that should be the wait for me to say something worthy of commentary.

Could be a long wait....

I could swear that adding a comments section seemed awfully complicated when I looked it up a few months ago. I guess Blogger did some updating while I was on hiatus.


Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Third Star to the Left

Shopping

Odd thought for the evening: Ever notice how many incomplete Nativity sets you can find at thrift stores? There’s something about the thought of a solitary Wise Man sitting on a shelf of bric brac without his companions that strikes me as a little sad.


Take the Ribbon from Your Hair...

Life as I Live It

I'm growing my hair out after years of wearing it fairly short. It's finally getting long enough that a lot of the wave and curl is falling out. I kind of like it.

Today, I needed to take something to a co-worker's office. She was meeting with someone, who looked at me and said, "Is that Eddie Mitchell?" I said it was, but had no idea who she was.

It turns out that she was someone I had known for years. She was on the board of an agency I used to work for and our paths had crossed several times since. I hadn't recognized her because of her hair. She used to keep it fairly closely cropped, and now she's let it grow into a cute little poufy afro. It looks really good on her, but it completely changed her look.

I told her that I hadn't recognized her because she let her hair grow. She looked at me and said, "You know what? You have too."


Black Friday Reflections

Belated Shopblogging

We actually did the holiday madness thing on the day after Thanksgiving. I’m not sure what I was thinking when I agreed to go with Keith. Actually, it really wasn’t too bad. We avoided Wal-Mart entirely and, other than some car trouble, didn’t really have any problems. It helped that we’ve been working on Christmas gifts since late summer. After dinner on Thursday, we got everything out of the closet and sorted it out and realized we only had a few things left to buy. From that we were able to narrow the list of places we needed to hit and that made things a lot less stressful.

This also meant that we both had more money to spend on non-holiday stuff, so we headed to Half-Price Books. I don’t totally know what to think about the idea of a national chain of used book stores. On the one hand, they’re essentially a second-hand Barnes and Noble, with all the pluses and minuses thereof. On the other hand, Louisville has so few used bookstores that aren’t totally devoted to Danielle Steele and Harlequin Romances. I think despite my anti-chain inclinations, I’m really coming to like this store a lot.


Since they constantly buy stuff, each store can kind of take on a local flavor, which I like. Stock also changes quite a bit due to the constant buying. The one here in Louisville has a lot of interesting stuff and the prices are quite nice. I can walk out with a stack of stuff for 20 bucks.

This visit, I got volumes 2 and 3 of the Mai the Psychic Girl Perfect Collections. Mai was one of the earliest translated manga to hit the US and it’s still a favorite of mine. I also got a couple of older collections of Gahan Wilson cartoons for about 3 bucks each. The store here has a pretty varied selection of graphic novels, a good cross section of titles and publishers from across the spectrum. They also have individual back issues, but I’ve never felt led to paw through those bins.

Music-wise, their main selection sucks. Heavy on Nash Vegas country and Top 40 pop, and little else. No folk section at all. On the other hand, the clearance CD shelves are like a treasure trove. Lots of stuff from small labels, local and regional artists, and others who tend to fly below the radar. I’ve gotten several Carrie Newcomer CD’s from this section. Most clearance CD’s only cost a buck or two. This visit, I found some Celia Cruz and Eliades Ochoa.

All together, we ended up spending enough to get a free 2005 Half-Price Books calendar, which has a bunch of coupons in it for next year. So, we actually got ourselves a Christmas present.


One word on selling stuff to Half-Price Books: they pay crap. If your goal is to make some cash, try another avenue. But if you need to clear off some space and just want the stuff out of your life, they’re a heck of a lot easier than a yard sale or eBay.

Another shopping note: Big Lots has the same super-hero ornaments that Walgreen’s does right now. There are Superman, Batman, and Spider-man ornaments and they look pretty cool. The ones at Big Lots don’t come in boxes, but otherwise they’re the same. Locally, the ones at Walgreens are 2 for 10 bucks, while the ones at Big Lots are $2.99 each. This has been your super-hero tchotchke public announcement.


Loss of Story

Comics

Last week's issue of Entertainment Weekly has an opinion piece by Owen Gleiberman about the sad fate of storytelling in movies. We live, he postulates, in an era where character-driven films are basically being neglected in favor of franchise-driven action and fantasy films. This has reduced storytelling to repetitive story arcs, where we know almost from the start of the film where (and who) the characters are going to be at the end. The purpose of these films is wish fulfillment, according to Gleiberman. We see ourselves in these characters and want to see them succeed as a form of wish fulfillment. It’s the same desire that fuels the success of reality TV, which he argues, is having the same sort of effect on storytelling on TV. To illustrate this comparison, he refers to reality TV contestants as “ready made arcs.”

This isn’t to say that blockbusters are bad, per se, but their dominance at the box office does have a downside:

“The issue is that great movies and television shows—especially great movies—invite us to enter the souls of characters who are more than just our mirrors, our walking, talking, fantasy doppelgangers. As an unending diet of blockbusters has helped spawn an audience of nerve-jangled sensation junkies, however, it gets harder and harder for subtlety to cut through the clutter, even the Godfather might now be released as an art film….If pop culture ever does lose the heartbeat of rich, deep, organic storytelling, perhaps what we’ll have really lost is the recognition that there’s something out there greater than ourselves.”

I couldn’t help but think about the American comics market the whole time I was reading it.



DAYS-Watch

Soap Operas

Yes, I do tape Days of Our Lives every day. Thanks for asking.

Just some thoughts on the way things have been going lately on the show:

Okay, I know I'm slow on the uptake at times, but it just dawned on me that this castle where Tony has his captives is the same one that Bo and Billie are headed to. The constant references to Jack being home for the holidays in today's show pretty much confirms that.

Okay let me get this straight: Kate honors the memory of her "dead" husband by trying to ruin his daughter's relationship with her son, trying to break up his brother's marriage, and trying to keep his nephew apart from his one true love. (Yes I know that last bit is more Jan's doing than anything else, but Kate certainly encourages it. Ironic given that it puts her on the same side as the little vixen who could destroy her other son's relationship.)

I like the character of Kate, but she's become so unsympathetic and one-note. Her children are all adults, for god's sake! They don't need her to arrange their lives for them. It wouldn't be so annoying if we could get some reminder of her motivation from time to time. It's obvious that she's still carries a lot of guilt for the mistakes she made when her kids were young. Would it hurt to mention that?

Would any international intelligence/spy agency like the ISA have ever hired someone as unstable as Billie Reed? She'd never pass the psych exams! I know that losing a child is a horrible thing for any parent to endure, but she shows no sign of any healing whatsoever. Apparently, she's wallowed in raw, open grief for years, and that's just not healthy. In actual time, her miscarriage was about five or six years ago. On the show, they've aged the child to teen-ager status, so that puts the death at 13-16 years ago. Yes, Billie should be missing her child, but for her to still be acting like her life is completely over and saying things like "I can't stand the thought of my baby in the ground all cold and alone" is just not healthy. She needs therapy and medications!

It's a good thing that Patrick, Brandon, Lucas, and Phillip are around. Bo, Roman, and John have become so abrasive and obnoxious that the show needs all the sensitive men it can get, especially with Jack MIA again. A little while ago, Bo had no idea where to find Billie when she was at their dead daughter's grave! Of course, Patrick found her.

I just love it when Sami totally melts down and starts throwing out her wild conspiracy theories again. It's no wonder that no one in Salem other than her family likes her. If she keeps pushing it, she very well could lose the family support, too. If I were Belle, I would have told Sami in no uncertain terms to stop the trash talking about my dad ages ago. I'm finally starting to worm to Sami and Lucas as a couple too. The pre-Thanksgiving scenes were warm and funny. I can't buy Brandon as any kind of threat to their relationship, though. He's come back as someone who is too smart and mature to still be in love with an emotional wreck like Sami.

John's in a hospital bed hopped up on pain meds and hallucinogenics and he can see that Belle doesn't really love Phillip, but Phillip himself can't? He's really become somewhat pathetic and needy as a character.


Keith asked me the other day how much longer we had to put up with asshole Shawn. Here's how I think that will play out: Shawn's drinking, which is tied to the pain from his accident and surgery, will cause another accident, which restores his memory and will most likely kill Jan. As he recovers, he and Belle grow closer and she, Hope and Maggie nurse him through his alcoholism. Just when it looks like there's hope for him and Belle again, Phillip comes back from Iraq in a coma. When Phil wakes up, Belle has to stay in their relationship out of concern for his health, which will of course eventually lead to Phil faking his condition to keep her. Kate encourages him. Brady figures it out and blows the whistle. Belle and Shawn finally make it to the altar and Jan shows up, as the latest back from the dead DiMera operative.

Of course, I may have to alter that a bit based on today's show! Mimi's found the cage! Of course, she's going to end up locked in there. Everyone will think she left town. Bonnie will think it's because of her shame over the abortion and blab that to Rex. In the meantime, Patrick will find her and rescue her from the inevitable fire that will happen because young heroines about to be burned alive is so dramatic. She gets back to town and has to deal with the aftermath of Bonnie's blabbing. At least, that's my best guess about what's going to happen.

As annoying as this new personality is, it has been nice to see Shawn rave about his dad and Billie.

Everyone has been back in Salem for days now and we've only seen Alice once? Wouldn't the whole Horton clan have gathered around her for Thanksgiving? With Shawn and Jan together, Mickey and Bonnie married, and Abby not speaking to her mother, hanging the ornaments on the Horton tree ought to be interesting this year.

Seriously, wouldn't this have been a much better Thanksgiving episode for Days?

The Horton clan gathers at Alice's for a grand potluck. In the course of the day, Alice yanks a knot in Mickey's tail about Bonnie, while she consoles and encourages Maggie. She also has a heart to heart with Bonnie, telling her that she appreciates the sweet tribute that Alice's is intended to be and that she is thankful that Mickey had someone to comfort him while Maggie was gone, but that it's time for Bonnie to gracefully step out of the picture.

Next she turns to the next generations, telling Lucas and Sami to be honest and true to each other as she gives them her blessing. She calls Abby on her behavior towards Jennifer and Shawn for his general crummy attitude. She also tells him in no uncertain terms what a jerk he was to blame Belle for her "death." Doug tells him basically the same thing. Alice tells Julie that her intentions are good but her methods regarding Mickey and Bonnie aren't helping. She reminds Bo that his family needs him. Finally, she tells Jennifer to give that damn baby a name! Alice welcomes Patrick and thanks him for caring for Jennifer.

Of course there's plenty of drama from the other attendees as well. Sami reads Shawn the riot act for hurting Belle and has one of her blow ups at Bo and Hope. (Which prompts Alice to give her another talking-to.) Maggie notices Shawn's drinking, and tries to talk to him about it. When that fails, she talks to Bo and Hope. Hope asks Lucas to talk to him, prompting another one of Sami's fits. Lucas and Abby bond, and he tells her that he knows what it's like to have a lot of anger and resentment towards family members. He says he hopes she won't make the same mistakes he did when he was her age. The day ends with Julie, Maggie, and Bonnie getting into a food fight with the leftovers in the kitchen.

If I only wrote the soaps, huh?

I'm wondering if Jack will come wandering in while they're hanging his ornament on the tree....

Okay, I've tried really hard, but I just don't buy Brady and Nicole as a couple. I know they're married in real life, and I'm sure that they have a powerful attraction and great personal chemistry, but none of that comes across on TV. None. Not one bit.

Together they are boring and unbelievable. Nicole talks about how much she loves Brady and it comes off as fake. They've always tried to paint Nicole as one of those tragically flawed characters--not quite a heroine, not quite a villain--and it just doesn't work. It's the same vein of great grey characters that Sami and Kate spring from, but Nicole comes across as scheming and pathetic. She doesn't have the history and connections that Kate and Sami do, and all those attempts to give her a tragic, horrid past seem contrived. There's nothing to root for with her, which means there's nothing to root for in a Brady/Nicole coupling.

In the meantime, she's responsible for two murders (Marlena and Victor). Even if they both are still alive, she still attempted to have them killed. Besides that, she is an accomplice to Shawn's kidnapping. That's just the kind of woman I want to see paired with Brady.



LINKSLINGING

Comics

I cannot count how many times in the past month or so that I sat down to do this, started it, didn't get done, and then got discouraged because stuff got to be to outdated to link to or comment about.

Well not this time. Here's a batch of stuff that's popped up in the past few weeks. If you don't like your commentary slightly aged, just pass right by. I've tried to cluster newer stuff toward the top.

This is also your "long and rambly" warning.

Happy Anniversary Progressive Ruin!

If I were the editor of an online newsmagazine and a columnist included a line like this in a submission, I'd bounce them off the staff in a heartbeat:

"Once again if you possess a short attention span, a poor sense of humor and/or if you’re easily irked by rampant spelling errors and really bad grammar, then feel free to skip to 'The Verdict' in all the reviews." (Emphasis mine.)

As a wanna-be writer, I just don't get the need to flaunt one's ignorance like it's some kind of virtue. It's sloppy and lazy. It's also counter-productive. If you don't care enough about what you're writing to make it the best it can be, then why should anyone want to read it?

As an editor, I cannot comprehend such a lack of oversight and quality control. You can have your "geek in the shop" reviews without a total disregard for standards. It reflects poorly on the site, on the product they offer, and insults the readers.

It just plain looks bad. Standards for most online comics news sites are low enough as it is. Dalton Wemble at Comixpedia addresses the need for editors from a web comics point of view. I would argue that the same thing applies to comics news sites as well. (Thanks to Cognitive Dissonance for the Comixpedia link.)

Top Shelf has a holiday special running right now: 10 bucks off an order of $29.95 or more. Johanna Draper Carlson has more info, plus a list of recommendations. Top Shelf also has some stuff marked down, which can stretch the savings further. I'm thinking it may be time to finally order a copy of Mirror of Love.

Augie de Blieck has his Preview Review up. Surprisingly, several of the same books caught both our eyes. I could have done without the inane blathering about The Comics Journal though. I just saw that Johanna Draper Carlson has hers up too. I don't have time to read it right now, but it's always worth checking out.

Last week on his Bad Signal list, Warren Ellis shared this link. It's a promo for an web-animated Transmet series that never went anywhere.

Speaking of Carlson, she's been reviewing more manga. Readers looking for good places to start reading manga can find a lot of pointers in her reviews. One of the series she recently named a "comic worth reading" is Marmalade Boy, which is one of my favorite anime. I don't know why I’ve never read any of the manga, but I'll obviously have to do something about that.

But she really misses the boat with her Jane's World review. "Cathy with better art." Like Cathy ever had space aliens turn a character into a monkey or floated down a river on a mobile home or dated a woman who turned out to be a secret agent or... Okay, I'm getting carried away.

Suffice it to say, Paige Braddock is prone to some wild flights of fancy in Jane's World, and she makes it work well. This collision of the fantastic and the mundane in a gag-a-day strip is hard to pull off. Jane puts a whole different spin on the search for life, love, and happiness in today's modern world.

To be fair to Carlson, I know she has to review the issue at hand and make her judgment about the series based on what she sees there. I cannot specifically recall the contents to JW #14 off the top of my head, so I don't remember how much the side of Jane I like so well is on display. It's just a shame that this issue wasn't enough to grab Carlson, since Jane really is a great book.

My personal preference would be for Braddock to actually tell stories intended to be printed and read as a comic book, rather than just reprint her strip. I'd love to see what she could do with the rhythm and pace of a comics book, which is quite different from a strip. At least she largely seems to have gotten her impulse to try to mimic comic book pages by enlarging panels from the strip.

In other reviews, David Welsh has a nice review of Alice 19th that reminds me how much I love Yu Watase's work.

Dorian at Postmodern Barney (my current favorite comics blog) posted a link to an anti-communist story from Treasure Chest. This stuff is one of my comics fascinations of the moment. There were a handful of red scare comics like this put out during the early Cold War years, mainly by Catholic publishers. They're super hard to find and tend to fetch prices that I'm not willing to pay, so I'm ecstatic to get to read this story, which was scanned from several issues of Treasure Chest. My dream comic project would be a nice hardback collection reprinting these stories. Dorian hints that he was going to be discussing this material in the future, so I hope this doesn't make him change his mind.

A couple of weeks ago, Augie de Blieck asked an interesting question, kind of a "before they were famous" type thing. He calls it the "Others," as in the "other" books that mainstream comics "names" worked on that never got huge levels of attention. Last week, he published some of the answers he got. I'm only dimly aware of who is supposed to be "hot" in mainstream comics right now, but I can tell you that my favorite Kurt Busiek series was called Jonny Demon, which came out from Dark Horse about a gazillion years ago, well before Busiek became a "comics name." In fact, it can go on the record as the only KB comic I've ever liked! Apparently, I'm the only one who remembers this one, because no one else mentioned it.

Someone does mention Valentino's A Touch of Silver, prompting Augie to wish for other stuff in this vein. Valentino did a couple of autobio comics for Renegade back in the 80's which have been collected by Image, if anyone is really interested in more of this kind of material. It's much better material than ATOS, which veered too much toward the maudlin in my opinion. My vote for "Other" material from Valentino would be the Myth Adventures-style stuff he did for Warp and Apple.

As annoying as it is to find books I bought for full price a couple of years ago on sale for just a buck, dollarmanga.com is a good way to try out some manga titles. (Thanks to Shawn Fumo, and a ton of other people for pointing this one out.) If you haven't read Joan, I highly recommend it. The art is beautiful, with lovely color throughout. It's a historical novel about a young girl (raised as a boy) who finds herself following in the footsteps of Joan of Arc, who died several years earlier. The book's protagonist finds herself interacting with the same people that Joan did and following the same path as the warrior saint. It's a good read that explores the intersections of faith, politics, gender and identity.

Finally, comics newsmagazines tend to be so mainstream and super-hero oriented that it's good to see interviews like this recent one with Charles Burns, even if the questions do seem a little weak. And again, pointing to the need for an editor: What is the purpose of repeating a quote from the second paragraph of the interview in the opener? There's no reason for it, nor is there any other text that might support its use and actually turn it into a proper introduction.

Well, that clears off my plate. Hopefully that wasn't too intolerable for a bit of slightly aged, but hopefully still tasty morsels. I hope that tonight I can put some more current stuff up. Maybe I won't reference Johanna Draper Carlson so much!


Monday, December 06, 2004

I think he’s an all right guy.

Music

Todd Snider held forth with his usual mix of wit, wisdom, and all right guy commentary to a packed house at Headliners on Friday night. Snider tends to attract an interesting audience. There’s always a large contingent of partying frat boys screaming for him to play “Beer Run.” And then there are the rest of us, a little older and more settled, who like everything else he plays and realize the “Beer Run” is actually making fun of the guys that keep screaming for it.

The problem I’ve always had with his shows (particularly those held in bars) is that the guys screaming for “Beer Run” are so wrapped up in themselves and their version of a good time that they really spoil things for everyone else. “Beer Run” is a good song. It’s clever and funny, but it’s not the only song he’s written. When we’ve seen him in the past, he’s played to that part of the crowd, which has made for a good show, but one that felt a little unbalanced.

This time around, it was different. It wasn’t that he ignored the Beer-Runners in the crowd, but he balanced the songs that appealed to them with the rest of his tremendous catalog. So we got “All Right Guy” and “Double Wide Blues” mixed in with a huge helping of stuff from his newest CD, Nashville Skyline, and a lot of great older stuff that often gets ignored, like “Horseshoe Lake.”

And he didn’t play “Beer Run.”

Ignoring what is arguably his signature song could seem like a risky move, but it worked. It felt to me like he was saying to the crowd “I know you like that song, but I’ve got a whole lot of other good stuff. Come along and give it a try.” And they did, right through the whole night, plus three encores. And the last one was a real encore. The house music had started back up, but the crowd was still asking for more, so Snider came back and gave a little more.

It was an awesome evening, opener Will Kimbrough played a great set of his best songs and then came back to play with Snider, along with a bass player. All three of them were obviously having fun together and that feeling encompassed the crowd as well.

“Beer Run” or not, I doubt anyone left the show unsatisfied.


Bardstown Road Aglow

Shopblogging

The Highland Commerce Guild held their annual holiday festival on Saturday. Bardstown Road Aglow attracts people from all over the area to one of the most eclectic shopping corridors in the city, Bardstown Road. Merchants offer specials and serve refreshments, while musicians play and Santa roams the street. It’s always a lot of fun.

This year, we decided to expand our participation. Typically, we stick to the most heavily traveled stretch of the road. This time, we took the free trolley down the road a bit to the shops on Baxter Avenue. We started at Lonesome Town Records, which is a small labor of love this man operates out of the front of his house. He specializes in bluegrass and old-time music. His selection is small, but surprisingly deep. I found a live CD from Old Crow Medicine Show there that I had never heard anything about. I made a note to pick it up after the holidays.

We then headed across the street to this kind of New Age/Pagan shop. The incense smelled really great in there. They let us take some pictures of their altars, including the Voo Doo and Buddhist altars. Unfortunately, they were about to close, since they weren’t participating in Aglow.

Lots of churches open for Aglow too, as it’s a great outreach night. We stopped in several this year, something we really haven’t done in the past. First up was the Episcopal Church of the Advent, which has a beautiful Rood carving. I got the first cup of cider there.

Just up the street, we saw he first caroler, and then ran into the bagpipers for the first time. Part of the fun of Aglow is going in shops that we wouldn’t normally visit. If nothing else, it’s good for the refreshments. Since a lot of the shops are small the crowds can get a little annoying, but it’s fun to pass through anyway.

Art Beat, a small gallery, is one of those kind of places. They had some unique objects, a guitar player, and some great art work by an artist named Cynthia Yeager. Her pieces were all patterned after medieval altarpieces and were just incredible.

We seemed to keep running into the bagpipers. The Louisville Bagpipe Society was wandering the road. Half started at one end and half at the other. They met up in the middle and did a short performance. It was pretty cool.

I ate a quick supper at Baja Fresh, but the place Keith wanted to eat at took their buffet down before we got there, so he got Chinese take out when we were done. We priced trees in a lot, but I thought they were high. We ended up going into three more churches, including the Highland Community Church, which I’ve been curious about. I thought their sanctuary was much smaller than the outside of the building would indicate. They have a lovely old building. After stopping in a Christian Church, I realized how boring Protestant churches are in general. So many of them have such great exteriors and bland, generic interiors. But St. James gave me plenty to photograph, including the Eye of God. Catholic Churches usually don’t fail to be interesting.

There are several antique dealers on Bardstown Road, but David Friedlander is my favorite. He always has the most interesting stuff, including small icons and comic books. (Which is, of course, why he is my favorite.) He’s never open for Aglow, though. But his window this year is pretty neat. I loved this doll-sized church/schoolhouse. Of course, I had to get my picture taken with the penguins!

We always make the point of stopping in All Booked Up during Bardstown Road Aglow. They always have a special sale. Things in my price range (under fifteen dollars) were 50% off this year! I found several old Pogo books, which were already a bargain at 10 bucks. With the sale, they were five bucks each!

I made a quick run in Ear X-Tacy to look at the used CD’s and ended up with the last gift I needed for Keith. He reads this blog, so I can’t mention it, but I know he’s going to love it!

We wrapped up this year’s Aglow with hot cider at Heine Brothers. All in all, it was a great night. The weather was fairly mild and we had a good time. But we never saw Santa!

If you want to see all the pics at once, here are mine and Keith’s. His of course are much better than mine.

Human Kindness Is Overflowing

Life As I Know It...

I had one of those experiences today that just has to be shared. As everyone except hermits living in caves knows, lines everywhere increase in length this time of year. The Post Office is one of the worst places to try and get in and out of right now. I made my daily lunchtime walk to the PO to get the mail and had to maneuver around a couple of women addressing their packages to even get to our box. There was a package slip in the box, so that meant I had to get into the line for the main window.

Our PO is split into two small rooms. One has the boxes and the other has the counter (main window). In the main window room, there are two tables where folks can get their stuff together. One is in the back of the room and the line usually extends past it, even when there are people standing there addressing mail or getting packages together. There was one gentleman at the table trying to shove a bunch of stuff into an envelope that was way too small to hold it all. Then there was a gap, and then the end of the line. I stepped past him and got into the line, only to hear a really disgusted “Excuse me,” behind me. Turns out dude is trying to stand in line and get his stuff together, even though the line had moved at least three feet from where he was standing. I wasn’t in the mood to argue, so I let him in front of me, thinking evil thoughts the whole time. I mean, who gets in line when they haven’t even gotten their crap together?

Well it turns out his stuff won’t fit in his tiny envelope. So he turns to me and says “You can have this space after all.” (You have to imagine a real pissy tone, like he was still miffed because he thought I tried to cut. But, hey, I get my shit ready before I go to the PO, you know.) He got out of line to look for another envelope.

There are still five or six people in front of me and one guy behind me now. We have this great postal clerk at our PO. Keith and I get a lot of packages because we do a lot of mail order. Whenever we pop up in line, it’s usually to pick something up. So, whenever she sees us, she’ll go to the back and get our stuff, if she can. Well, someone stepped up to her counter still filling out address labels. (What is it with people these days? Some day, I’m going to end up in line behind someone still trying to wrap their presents.) So, she left them there for a second went to the back and came out with two packages. She called out our box number and another one.

The guy behind me and I stepped over, grabbed our boxes, thanked her, and left. We went from the end of the line to out the door in just a few seconds! I consider it karma for being polite to the clerks and always being prepared before I get in the line at the PO.

As we were leaving, the other guy said “Nothing like personal service.” I told him I was just glad there was someone else at that branch who got so much mail the she knows him on sight. I was also glad there were two of us, just in case the envelope-stuffers and label-addressers started to riot.




Now Playing....

Music

Nek: La Vida Es

Latin pop is my guilty pleasure music.


D'oh!

Blogging

Okay, so I realized right after I sent that last post this morning that Blogger is adding permalinks. Geez! In my defense, I don't think they were doing this when I last blogged.
I didn't have time this morning to cop to my idiocy.


Learning Curve

Blogging

Things I gotta learn to do:

  • Create permalinks
  • Create a comments section
  • Create a blogroll

I know none of it is going to be that hard. I just have to take the time to do it.

Your patience is appreciated.


Where Have You Been Anyway?

Personal (some music)


Someone may be wondering exactly what I’ve been up to that’s kept me from blogging for most of this year. (Okay, so I realize that no one really cares, but humor me.)

Part of it is of course the combination of being lazy, procrastinating, and dealing with depression. (Mostly the first two, but I know that my on again off again depression plays into things somewhere. My real struggle is to keep from blaming all my faults on depression and never doing anything to improve.)

But, there have been other things going on. For an idea go here, and click on Projects to see some of the things we’ve been doing around the house. Shirtless fat gay guy warnings should apply, though. The garden was a source of peppers, tomatoes and beans throughout the summer, and was lovely to look at to boot. The flowers were just amazing to watch, even as I learned exactly how much I don’t know about gardening. The Mary statue, alas, has joined the list of Eddie’s great unfinished projects. (See paragraph 2 above.)

We’ve also spent quite a bit of time traveling and going to concerts. Some photo overviews:


Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in San Francisco
Eddie’s Shots of Churches and Other Stuff in SF
Keith’s Shots of Other Stuff in SF
Kris Kristofferson in Nashville
Eddie’s Shots of Nashville
Emmylou Harris in Indianapolis
Kris Kristofferson in Chicago
Indigo Girls in Louisville
Darrell Scott in Louisville
Patty Griffin in Louisville
Guy Clark in Chattanooga


All the good photos are by Keith.

Comments?
Return of the Grievous Angel

Blogging

It’s been a long time since I’ve done anything with this blog. I’ve had the best of intentions, but you know how that goes. I’ve finally decided that maybe I need to give it another go, for a couple of reasons. The bottom line is that I like to write, or at least blather on about things. I always have, but don’t get nearly enough chance to do it. This blog gave me a regular outlet for my love of writing, and I really miss that.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past several months reading other blogs. Thanks should go to Johanna Draper Carlson, not only for her own blog Cognitive Dissonance, but for her great blogroll. Through her, I’ve discovered such treasures as Progressive Ruin, Postmodern Barney, Irresponsible Pictures, Fanboy Rampage and several others. I’ve been starting my day with them to see if I had the time to stay abreast of other bloggers and to see if I have more to offer the comics blogosphere than yet one more set of links to other pages.

Checking out other blogs does take some time, but it’s an activity that I enjoy rather than a chore. I’d be doing it even if I weren’t blogging, in fact. Where else can one get the occasional dose of rejected breakfast cereal mascots, Hawk and Dove, and Silver Age Lois Lane? The jury is still out on what I have to offer. I do know that I frequently find myself saying “Yes, but what about….” when I’m looking at other blogs, which means that I’ve got something I want to say. That’s a good starting point, at least.


So here I am trying again. Let’s see what happens.


Friday, January 16, 2004

Conflicts

Comics

The more I think about it, the more this whole issue of comics expanding into bookstores through graphic novel sections bothers me. I’m not opposed to the idea at all; in fact, it’s something I’ve advocated for a long time. But now that it’s actually happening, I’m finding that it’s creating conflicts between several personal convictions.

On the one hand, living and traveling in a largely rural state that has seen the life of its small towns drained by Wal-Marts has pushed me to use local businesses when and wherever possible. My comic shop is a locally owned business. The staff is friendly. They know me by name, and they know my preferences. I have never received less than 100% courtesy and professionalism from them, whether I’m doing a special order or just browsing.

At the same time, it’s obvious to anyone with a brain that the comic market, as personified in the current direct market is in the kind of slow, steady decline that will ultimately lead to its demise. I’m not saying that’s a good thing and I’m not saying that’s what I want to see happen. But there’s only so long that this landlocked retail system, dominated and dependent on the sales of one moribund genre which survives in the face of an ever-dwindling and aging fan-base by manufacturing “events” to artificially spike sales and is treated by its own publishers as nothing more than licensing fodder, can survive. Even in my own fairly progressive and open-minded shop, the only way I can guarantee that I’ll get a copy of something as commonplace as Love Fights or Hopeless Savages is to pre-order. (It shouldn’t have to be that hard to get titles from an established, mid-size publisher with a proven track record by creators with established fan-bases, but that’s another ramble.)

I don’t think it’s going to happen tomorrow, next week, or even in the next five years, but it’s going to happen. If it happened this year, I know it would take most of the mid-sized publishers who comprise the bulk of my reading with it. Most of them still need the chunk of income that comes from the direct market, while they establish firm footholds in other markets. Given that these companies are what keeps me reading comics, I want to support their expansion into other arenas. But, in this day of steady market decline, I also want to support my shop to the fullest extent possible. And this is where the values collide. What it boils down to is this: Where do I get the next Drawn and Quarterly? Do I buy it in my comic shop, supporting them in their efforts to stay open? Or do I buy it in a bookstore, and support the publisher in their growing presence in other markets? It’s basically trying to be loyal to two opposing forces, both with honorable goals and objectives.

Complicating things quite a bit is the nature of the bookstore market, which is more and more dominated by the big box retailers. Can I support comics’ presence here, if it means going with a major corporation over the local guys, be they my locally-owned comic shop or a locally–owned bookseller?

Beyond that the big box book guys are trading in the super-hero myopia of the direct market for a shortsightedness that’s all their own: all manga, all the time, all over the place. I like manga and it’s great to have a place to get it, since the comic market is determined to remain manga-unfriendly. But I don’t like it at the expense of other stuff. I hardly blame the stores for going with what sells, but less than a month after Borders bought out the best of our locally-owned bookstores, all of the alternative/art material they had in the graphic novel section had shrunk to a half-shelf, while the manga had taken over a bookcase and a half. It’s the comic market all over again! I don’t know that this is a model that I want to support.

Locally-owned, independent booksellers remain an alternative, but the big box guys are putting them under fast. We’re left with one in Louisville, and while it has an expanding graphic novel section that’s rich in stuff from Fantagraphics and Drawn and Quarterly, it also pits two local businesses who need my dollars into competition against each other for them. Comic shop versus local bookseller: it’s not a choice I really want to have to make.

Maybe I’m over-thinking things a bit (which I’m always prone to do), but I don’t think it’s a bad thing to want to be as ethical a consumer as possible, particularly when it comes to the local economy. For the moment, I’m trying to split the difference by pre-ordering a few things from my comic shop and picking up other things from the local bookseller as they turn up there. I’m not sure if it’s enough to really support either side of the equation and keep it viable, and I may actually be canceling myself out by giving to both sides. But for the moment, it’s the best I can do.

Comments?

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Tidying Up

Blog Updates

I'm spending today going back through recent entries and cleaning them up. Yesterday's post had some errors in it, due to lack of sleep. (I know it's Bringing Up Father and not Father Knows Best!) Plus, I've been needing to add some links and such and just haven't had time. I'll put something new up tonight or tomorrow.

Comments?

Monday, January 12, 2004

I've Had Three Hours of Sleep, Please Don't Ask Me For a Cute Title!

Personal, Comics, and Other Stuff

Keith and I went to the Flea Market last Saturday. It was the first time we'd gone in a while. There's a promo company based here in Louisville that puts on a large flea market at the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center every few weeks-usually around holidays. This was a larger show than usual: two wings of the fairground and four days in length.

In the East Wing, we just kind of cruised through without bothering to look at every booth or go down every aisle. I picked up a used Nanci Griffith CD, a couple of books, and some alt-country compilations. Since the East Wing building is the one that's always used for flea markets, there's a pretty standard group of folks who exhibit and sell there, and they're usually in the same spots every time. Even though we don't go every time, I've still got a pretty good idea about who is where. So we just kind of hit a few of the folks we always like to check out and then moved on.

One thing I did notice was the lack of comics in the East Wing. Usually there are two or three folks who have them and I can count on getting some battered, cheap Silver Age stuff. This time, though, the only one of the usual comics dealers was this guy that I really don't like because he's over-priced and obnoxious. A couple of the other dealers were there, and they had other stuff from their shops (models, anime, cards, action figures), but no comics. I wonder if comics have just become too much trouble to mess with? Is the back issue market in trouble too? Or in this day of ebay, is it more cost-effective to sell them online and schlep other stuff to the flea markets. I would think that if that were the case, one would just stay home and unload the cards and stuff on ebay too.

We took more time in the West Wing. Since it's not always used for flea markets, the dealers who set up there aren't as familiar. They also tend to be antique dealers, and I like looking at old shit. I keep deluding myself that one day I'll stumble across a Bringing Up Father book from the pre-Golden Age days of comics. Yeah right.

In this wing there were lots of comics-really old and much more recent. I picked up a Preacher trade, some Vertigo back issues, and a couple of Silver Age DC's. Another dealer had another Nanci Griffith CD, but wanted too much for it. I also got some cool religious statues for way too cheap from a guy who delighted in telling us about his trip to Prague. It was weird, but fun. Kind of like the whole day. The next two-wing flea market is scheduled for September. I think we're planning to go again.

A couple of thoughts about the day:

  • It's unbelievable to me the number of people who travel around to these things to set up their booth full of Avon products in a large room with LOTS of other people who have booths full of Avon products.

  • The "upscale end" of the flea market is sort of freaky: leather sofas, $100 lamps, and hot tubs??

  • It's surprising how many people still have tons of Beanie Babies for sale this long after that fad went bust. Of course, they're all going for something like 27 for a dollar.

  • I keep wondering what the next craze that's going to have both kids and adults going like the Beanies did, but I can't figure it out. Maybe that's for the better.

  • I got some fairly recent Vertigo issues for 50 cents or a buck each and there was a lot of recent DC and Marvel stuff available in that price range. I wonder if I'd be better off dropping what little mainstream stuff that's left on my pull list and getting it later and flea markets and cons for much better prices. I know I'd be a lot less disappointed in all the Vertigo titles I just dropped if I had been paying 50 cents for them instead of 3 bucks.

  • And of course, there was the inevitable five dollar copy of Marvel's Battlestar Galactica in totally shitty shape. I've always found this kind of thing to be sort of endemic among antique dealers. Sigh.

  • Ebay has really spoiled me. I looked at several things and could not help thinking about the nearly identical item I had gotten off ebay for much less, including postage.

  • Coolest item: An antique wall crucifixion scene with statues of Christ on the cross, Mary, etc on a wooden plaque. Attached to the bottom was a paper scroll on two little spools that wound with a small crank. As the crank turned, the scroll displayed pictures representing the various Stations of the Cross! (Note to self: Bring camera next time.)

  • Creepiest item: One dealer who sold those ugly-ass dolls that are supposed to be "realistic" (but actually look as if they're going to come alive in the middle of the night all demon-possessed and eat you and your family) had a granny doll that was about three feet tall and wore a stereotypical little old lady outfit, right down to the wire-rimmed glasses and sensible shoes. It was being displayed in a box that was exactly its size. It looked for all the world like a midget in a casket! Brrr…..

  • Strangest sight: There is apparently a new movement in the flea market world, at least among the antique dealers. I'm calling it "dumping." There were several dealers that rented two or three booths together and literally dumped a bunch of junk out on some tables and sold it for a dollar an item. And people were pawing through it like mad, in search of some unseen valuable item, I guess. Some of it was nice, but most of it was cracked or damaged. I bought a small plastic nativity set that was missing all the sheep.

    It seems to be the next big thing in flea market retailing. One dude didn't even bother to get any tables. He just poured all his shit out on the floor. Another went one better and didn't even bother to take the stuff out of boxes! But it didn't matter, because people were just pawing all over it. One guy had a short box of comics in the middle of his stuff. It was full of Image and Valiant glut crap. I had to resist the urge to ask if it was the comics that were a buck a piece or if the whole box was a one buck item!

  • There was a time when we wouldn't have missed a single flea market. My how times have changed….




Comments?

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Were there any good comics in 2003?

Comics

Since this is the New Year and all, I guess I really ought to play the ego game and pretend my opinions about things matter to anyone else and put up some best of 2003 lists.

I don't know that any of this should be taken as anything other than the rambling of a middle-aged gay man who likes to hear himself babble. It's not like civilization is going to rise or fall based on my opinion. (If that were true we'd have ditched Bush, Britney, and the X-Men ages ago.) At the same time, though, I enjoy reading other lists like this, if only for the sake of saying "I can't believe they liked THAT." Hopefully someone will get that same pleasure out of this set of lists.

Actually, I think the real reason people do these things is for the personal benefit of reliving the year one more time. Taking the time to say "wasn't that great?" or "man that sucked." one more time seems like a good way to lay the old year to rest. So with that in mind, here are some thoughts from me. I'll start with comics and do some other stuff later.

So what were the best comics in 2003? Damned if I know. I just can't recall that many stand-outs off the top of my head. Some of the more acclaimed works of the year (Blankets for example) are still sitting in my reading pile. I've thumbed through them enough to see that the buzz is more than just hype, but without reading them fully, I'm not going to be including them on any lists. Other than that small handful, nothing else leaps out at me. I'm guessing it just wasn't a banner year for comics.

The disappointments of the year stand out more strongly for me, and there were several of those. 2003 is the year I divested myself of almost all the Vertigo titles I was following. Lucifer and Hellblazer seem to be the same issue after issue. If there was ever an overarching plot, I've long since lost touch with it. Y the Last Man continually blows its promise and potential by failing to rise above the typical "last man on earth" clich├ęs. Fables hangs on for the moment, but I'm wavering. I don't think that any of the Vertigo mini-series this year were worth the time and money I put into them. They all sounded much more interesting than they actually ended up being. Human Target is the only Vertigo title I am enjoying right now without reservation, but that hardly seems like a criteria for inclusion on a "best of" list.

The biggest let down of the year by far was 1602. The whole book is nothing more than a wet dream for anyone who does annotations on the web to tell people things about the book that anyone who had a decent world civ class in high school should know. Gaiman's laughing all the way to the bank on this one. So is Marvel.

Most of the stuff I enjoyed reading was the same old, same old: Bone, Finder, Age of Bronze. I guess it's nice that there are some reliable comics out there, but that doesn't say a whole lot about the newer stuff I tried, does it? (Sounds like I'm hitting that comics malaise thing about two months after everyone else…)

After typing all this up and giving the matter some more thought, I have been able to put together a small list of the better books of 2003. It's not much, but it's something.

  • Courtney Crumrin and the Coven of Mystics: Courtney still rocks! This series took a darker turn than the first one, as Courtney has to learn that hard lesson that people are people even if they do have magic powers.

  • How Loathsome: Ted Naifeh and Tristan Crane bring transgender life to comics with this introspective and provocative mini. Surprisingly, GLAAD chose to recognize it with a nomination this year. I keep waiting for the apocalypse.

  • Age of Bronze: The tension in the Sacrifice story keeps winding tighter and tighter as it moves to its horrifying climax: the sacrifice of Iphegenia by her father. We know it's coming and badly want it to be over with, but Eric Shanower is taking us there step by deliberate step, taking great pains never to rush. Each step closer ratchets up the drama and the tension and the reader is as involved in the story as the characters. Beautifully done.

  • Maria's Wedding: It could be subtitled The Comic Most Likely to be Overlooked by GLAAD and Most Gay Comics Readers, but this one-shot OGN about the events and family interactions at a wedding was really good. It managed to deal with the issue of gay unions without being about the issue of gay unions, by making the issue just one of a revolving series of sub-plots swirling throughout the book. While it does have one bad TV movie of the week moment, overall it avoids the overly sentimental and maudlin approach.

  • Same Difference and Other Stories: Derek Kirk Kim just blew me out of the water with this one. The lead story deals with the choices we make, their consequences, and how we address the regrets caused by past actions. It's a touching, engrossing coming of age story that was one of the best things I read last year. The art is a fascinating mix of European, manga, and American alternative comic stylings, which Kim manages to pull together using the storytelling strengths of each tradition, without letting any one dominate.

  • Unstable Molecules: Best Fantastic Four story in decades because it wasn't about the FF! The central conceit of the story, that the FF were actually based on real people, is something that not many writers could pull off. James Sturm not only manages it, but in the process turns in a glimpse into American culture of the 50's. This is a prime example of the Jemas regime at Marvel at its best, and a prime example of the kind of thing we're not likely to see any more from Marvel.

  • Forlorn Funnies: If there was a better comic published in America in 2003, I don't know what it was. Surreal storytelling devices and shifting art styles give this character study of a young boy watching his father slide into depression and despair after the death of his mother real emotional power and impact. If I had to point to one book that came out last year as the reason I still read comics, this would be the one.

Okay, that's the best I could do. I guess it wasn't that bad a year for comics, but it sure could have been better. Here's to 2004.

Comments?
Goals for 2004

Personal

I don’t do resolutions. Most resolutions tend to be too vague and, therefore, too easy to break or ignore. I set goals, trying to make them as specific as possible in terms of outcomes. I’ve been doing it for several years now. Around mid-year, I look over the list and cross off any that have been met. At year-end, I do the same. For things that did not get met, I try to look at how close I got and why I didn’t make it. Unmet goals usually go on the next year’s list, if they’re still applicable. If a goal seems like it’s not being met after a couple of years, I revise it or re-examine it. Is it really that important? Why am I not working on this?

My goals are organized by several categories: physical health, house, financial, emotional, family, spiritual, work. A goal may be relatively simple, like the several jobs that need to be done around the house or the new stove we desperately need to get. Having a few of those kinds of goals seems like cheating, but crossing them off the list gives me a boost towards working on things that will take more work and time, like getting my weight down under 200 pounds. (Again, specificity is important. I can’t for the life of me keep a resolution to “lose weight,” but I can work towards hitting a target number.)

This is an important year in terms of goals, because I’m hitting 40. (Fucking 40, as John Eddie would say.) There are some things I would really like to accomplish before that birthday. Will I make it? We’ll see, I guess.

Anyway, here is a glimpse at some of my goals for the year:

  • Get weight under 200.
  • Walk 2-3 days a week.
  • Open a savings account.
  • Save $500 by end of year.
  • Get new stove and refrigerator.
  • Have gutter, foundation and attic work done on the house.
  • Take a photography class.

There are some more, but you get the idea. Some of them I’m not up to sharing just yet.

Comments?
2003 Year End Reflection

Personal

It wasn’t the worst year I’ve had, but it wasn’t exactly the best either. I consider myself lucky for things like my job and our house in these uncertain economic times, but at the same time wages were frozen, which meant no raise this year. Keith and I had some personal setbacks. (I can’t talk about them in detail, since they concern the two of us.) It was nothing that we cannot make it through, but we will be dealing with them for a while. All I have to say is that I would hate to go through it alone. I think being here for each other has made us closer. I am grateful for things like the cats, comics, movies and music for keeping me sane. My job feels less than certain these days, moreso since one of my co-workers has proven to be the psycho-bitch from hell. I’ve never had to deal with someone that could create so many vicious lies about someone else. The only way I can deal with it is not to have any contact with this person at all. In a unit of five people, that’s not easy. My mother and I had a falling out in the summer. It was something that’s been a long time coming and is far from resolved, although for the moment we’ve settled into the routine of not talking about it. That’s not going to work for long, but I haven’t had the energy to broach the topic with her and I’ll have to be the one to do it. I won’t hear about it from her again, until she’ feels it’s advantageous for her to bring it up. 2003 was the year that I really started dealing with my depression. It’s scary to me to be taking anti-depressants. It’s scarier to think about having to take them for a long time. I went off them in the summer and plummeted hard, so they’ll be with me for a while. I’m more and more afraid all the time that I’m actually clinically depressed, and will need to take something for the rest of my life. I need to get some counseling to go with the meds, but haven’t been able to come to terms with that yet.

But there was much more good to 2003 than bad. We took some nice little trips together and saw some great shows. I bought some cool CD’s, saw good movies and read good books. I started blogging, which has led me to start doing some writing. Nothing heavy yet, just some notes, but I hope to actually crank out a story soon. With creating CD’s, I’ve actually started looking for creative outlets again after far too long. Slowly but surely, the house is coming around to the way we want it to be. Keith’s mom brought some great furniture in the spring. I coordinated two major events for work that went incredibly well. The newsletter I do has gotten some positive attention. (Now if I could just get that deadline issue under control.)

It wasn’t the worst year, but neither was it the best. If 2004 could be even slightly better, I’ll take it. If not, we’ll just keep plugging along. One thing I have learned, as corny as it may sound, is that there is no way to over state the importance of my family to me. Without Keith and the cats, I honestly don’t think I could make it.

Comments?
Hope You Had a Nice Gift-Giving Holiday

Personal

Whichever one it is that you celebrated, that is. Keith and I used to go on a two week trip every year, starting the weekend before Christmas. We’d set up camp in a cheap hotel in San Francisco, NYC, or Chicago and shop and sightsee to our hearts content. It’s been a while since we’ve done that. We just haven’t had the money in recent years, plus we’ve kind of enjoyed spending Christmas in the house. We moved in Christmas Eve two years ago, and it’s our first house, so this is kind of a special anniversary time for both of us. I bake cookies and make fudge. We decorate a tree. It’s the kind of domesticity I never thought I would go in for, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

We’ve started going to midnight Mass at a local church that has a great choir. Neither of us is that overtly spiritual any more, but the ceremony is beautiful, the music is great, and it’s a nice part of the routine. We get home a little after one, light the tree, make tea, eat desert, and open gifts. My family opened on Xmas Eve, while his did it Xmas Day. Doing it after Mass is a great compromise. It’s still dark, so I can think of it as Eve, while it is technically the 25th. Cheesy I know, but it really does all seem to fit together into what has become “our” holiday ritual. And, in the end, that’s all that matters.

This year, I went “old fashioned” and made many of my gifts. I’ve always loved holiday baking and usually do make gift boxes of goodies for some people, but this year, I stepped it way up. Family members got several tins of stuff (many new recipes), while others got a nice mixed plate. Plus, I spent several weeks ripping music and burning CD compilations for folks. (Old-fashioned with a techno-twist) I made an instrumental set that I gave to most everyone at work. My boss (who has music tastes similar to mine) got a roots music set and my clerical support person got a modern rock set. My mom, brother, and several friends all got CD’s. Keith’s mother did too. And I made Keith a 3-CD set, complete with the obligatory pontificating liner notes booklet! I had a lot of fun with it, rediscovering my own music collection, and thinking of which songs people would like. I tried to put things on everyone’s CD that might be new to them. Hopefully everyone found a new artist to check out.

I actually bought a few gifts for some folks, but really felt cool about doing so much baking and burning. Might be something I’ll continue in the future.

Of course, Keith was one of the folks I bought things for, but I didn’t do so well. One item I mail ordered ended up being out of stock (I’m holding on to the idea to use at Valentine’s Day), one arrived several days late (despite being ordered around Thanksgiving) and one he already had. Sigh! I haven’t had that much bad luck with gifts in a long time.

He, on the other hand, hit the jackpot. He gave me the Emmylou Harris Spyboy DVD, which I had been wanting for a long time. (It’s excellent!) Todd Snider’s Hotel Rooms and Naked Truths CD (Also excellent!) Townes Van Zandt’s Texas Rain CD (Beyond excellent!) and Nanci Griffith’s book Other Voices: A Personal History of Folk Music. Part memoir, part personal musical journey, part recap of the recording of her two Other Voices CD’s, it’s a great book. And I opened the cover to discover that it’s autographed! Wow!

All of that would have been more than enough, but he went one better and completely floored me in the process. He collected a bunch of photos of us, the cats, the house, the concerts we’ve seen and more and had a web publisher put them in to a hardbound book titled Making A House A Home. I cannot think about it without tearing up again. It’s the sweetest, most wonderful gift I ever could have gotten. He’s a treasure, that man.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Back to the Blog in 2004!
(Or where the hell have you been?)

Personal

Well, I’m back if anyone is actually looking. I’ve been away from this blog so long that most folks probably thought I had joined the thousands of aborted blogs littering cyberspace. Ah well!

Just like my life too. I actually got a mention in Journalista and listed on a couple of blogrolls, and then totally went to pot. But, I do have a good excuse. No I wasn’t being lazy or procrastinative, or unproductive at all. Nosiree.

I was recovering.

Yes, recovering. It was right around my birthday last time I posted, which was also Election Day. As I mentioned in that last blog, any time Election Day falls on my birthday, the Republicans win. I don’t know why. I think it’s one of the ways the cosmic forces which guide the universe get their kicks. When I was 16, the people of this fine country gave me Ronald Reagan as a birthday present. For my 39th, my fellow citizens of the Commonwealth of Kentucky gave me Ernie Fletcher.

And since then, what have we seen happen in our fine state?

Well, the Louisville paper, the largest in the state was required for a while to submit any questions they wanted the governor to answer to him in writing in advance. The C-J being known as a bastion of the “liberal press” in Kentucky (in other words, they think and ask the hard questions), it was felt they weren’t being fair to the new gov. The C-J had such a fun time with the whole idea, that Fletcher had to drop the whole thing. They’d put their questions in writing by running them in the editorial section. It seems he didn’t like the idea that the voters could read the questions he was trying to dodge.

The man who campaigned on “restoring ethics to government” and “getting rid of the special interests” appointed lobbyists and corporation heads to his transition team, to “oversee the changeover to the new system” for the cabinets and departments who regulate the businesses these dudes own and lobby for!

Finally, the man who promised to restore fiscal credibility to state government has given all his new cabinet secretaries raises! This may actually be a violation of state law, since the Republican-controlled legislature (whose gridlock delaying tactics are more responsible for the budget mess than anything else) rammed through a law forbidding the governor from giving raises to his top staff. The fear was the outgoing gov would give pay hikes to his top people during his lame duck days. Their story now is that they think what the new gov has done is perfectly legal. Some laws were only meant to apply to Democrats.

But other state workers had raises they had received months earlier yanked. A budget-saving measure, see? Except that the handful of people who got tapped for the salary rollback is going to have almost no effect at all on the budget. Can taking a raise away from six or seven people in an entire CABINET make that much of a difference?

It’s taken a while to get used to the whole deal, let me tell you. So. Of course, blogging just hasn’t been in the stars for me.

Okay, so I was really just being lazy. I fell out of the habit and took my sweet time getting back into it again. Happy? I think the other story sounds better.

More later as our labor, environmental, and civil rights laws are weakened.