Friday, December 30, 2011

A Good Read

Ramblings Post #176
I am a reader. But I think I've said that. I read to make me a better writer. I read things I don't always find interesting, or things that I think maybe boring, if only to find out why so I don't replicate them. Which is how I ended up reading those Blaine McCraken novels by Jon Land (And no, I am not linking to those). Let's just say you need to read what you're not going to write, so you know not to write it. That, and I have a lot of free time since I'm off from school.

I love a good read. I started reading when I was young, with the typical for the time Hardy Boys and other fare. I lived in a fairly small town, and there was a time when my mother would let me and my older brother walk...across a major highway, the railroad tracks, a housing project and cut by the the county library. Unsupervised. This might have been when I was in the first grade, but I'm not sure. It was a while ago.

But I read everything. Historical novels, biographys, fiction, science fiction, fantasy, romance, westerns...most things written on paper. It has to be horrible for me not to read it, but if I get too far into it I'll finish it just because. But once I find something good, it pains me that I can't read all of it or that there isn't enough of it to satisfy me. In need something like Terry Prachett's Discworld series, now at thirty or more books or Battlefield Earth, which clocks in at a thousand plus pages. If the writer is good enough, and the story long enough you grow to like the characters and see them grow and mature which makes for a better read.

Lately, I've taken to reading webcomics. If you look around, what you get are basically graphic novels of a sort, comic books really, minus a lot of the reaching for the masses editing, while still giving enough of a story to read. And because they're webcomics...a lot of them go on for years, so as long as you're willing to hit next for a few while...okay, days...they get to be interesting.

The ones I'm going to list here are science fiction mostly, but the genre covers all areas, including Mary Worth style drama to High School Angst. I don't really read those, but I understand they are out there.

It might have been Monday when I started reading Schlock Mercenary, a series that once the art picked up has actually turned into something pretty good...and has enough width and breadth to amount something fairly intricately plotted. It started in 2001 and has run fairly regularly, with more than 3,000 strips since inception. It's a got a huge cast and continually oddly expanding storyline that just reads like one of those thick novels that has to list all the characters in the front so you can keep track.

Another I've been working my way through is Quantum Vibe, which posts five days a week. I only started a year or two again, and the art isn't as sharp as it could be, but then the author is on a tight schedule. I'm still trying to figure out where the story is going, but so far it's been readable. Mostly.

A new find of mine is Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant, a swashbuckling epic. The heroine is... "a master of forty seven different sword fighting techniques, and has fought Sikh warriors, Conquistadores, a small pride of lions and a very large Mongolian man with a large sword, a small brain and a bad temper. " It's been an good read, with great art so far. I'm looking forward to the end.

Another one that only started in the last year is Spacetrawler, a story of seven people abducted by aliens to save an enslaved race...and that story just keeps taking odd turns. The characters are memorable, and extremely flawed however, which makes for great writing. It only publishes twice a week, so I'm getting a little anxious.

I also check in from time to time on one called Endtown, another where the hero is a cross dresser called Skin Horse (don't ask), and the positively existential Sinfest.

May all time favorite however is Girl Genius, the creation of Phil Foligo one of my favorite authors. The book, which I've discussed on here follows the adventures of the title character as she reclaims her family throne. The interesting part is that the story, which posts three times a week, has been at this for years and only recently has gotten to what I guess is the meat of the story.

Two things about the stories that I like is that the characters don't fall into the normal characters that show up in every other story. They tend to move outside normal archetypes. Because the internet is such an inexpensive way to produce the stories outside the norm are possible. And the other thing I like is that the authors tend to embrace the new media of the internet properly. The sites generally don't charge for access. That's right, they give away the product for FREE. But Girl Genius and Schlock sell books of the collected comics...ala Doonesbury.. which actually sell well. I imagine most of the others will eventually if they don't already.

Their leveraging the product to build an audience for the merchandising. It's like when they sell books on Amazon for .99 cents. It's to build an audience.

Most of these I'll wait week to check out so I have a couple of days worth of work to read. And they usually post on a pretty good schedule. My latest interest is Drive, where the author was nice enough to tell you he had another project and the schedule was going to be off. It's a certain closeness to the product. The new medium makes that possible.

Barkeep, a bowl of Rice Krispies. I got some reading to do. Leave the box.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Off the Top Rope....Touchdown!

Ramblings Post #175
The sports festival that is the New Year is about to go into overdrive. Between the bowl games, the NFL, the NBA and my Playstation, it's gonna be a weekend to remember. Well, not really. Because the "match-up of the century" is going to happen every year from now until they run out of adjectives. And next year, I'll have the new iteration of whatever is supposed to be the hot sport. Maybe FIFA. Isn't sports grand?

This week the NFL, apparently desperate for ratings, has stolen a page out of the book of the people Jim Crockett Productions and staging a Loser leave town, game for the NFC East title. If the refs get "accidentally" get knocked out at some point, don't be surprised. Happens all the time in wrestling.

Sunday night, in the last regular season game of the year, the Cowboys and the Giants will square off in New York for the NFC East crown, and the loser has to wait until next year to prove they didn't give up on the game. And since neither team can mount a running game at this point - Dallas due to injuries and New York because they just can't - it promises to a battle of quarterbacks. Much to the delight of the schedulers, this will be a off the top rope type affair, a high scoring shoot-out....

...unless the Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan does his job and actually stops somebody.

Ryan is the son of Buddy Ryan, the Buddy is the man who invented modern football defense for all intents and purposes. So Rob comes from good stock. He also is running a defense that in three games this season have given up leads in the fourth quarter of more than one score. He is currently...overrated. A lot of people look down upon Romo, wondering why the media and the football experts heap so much praise upon a man whose team comes up short so often. But Romo doesn't play defense, so he's not dialing up the risky blitzes in the fourth quarter...nor is he a play caller like Manning, so he's not the one deciding to keep tossing it when the team is up two scores. But then the 'Boys can't cobble together a running game for nothing these days.

Note: The key to great offense is a GREAT offensive line.

If the Cowboys lose, most likely it will not be the fault of the offense. Most likely. I'm not saying Romo is perfect, but he's doing more than a few things right. If we're gonna assign blame, how about we assign it's where it's due.

I wonder if I'll make it all the way through this game. Cowboys games tend to make I get upset, loudly upset, at stupidity. Or at least what I deem stupidity. If there was ever a time I've screamed at a television set, it was during a Cowboys game. In the past few years I have had to turn them off lest I strike something. And since this game is a for a ticket to the big dance...a seat they weren't even supposed to have? Blood pressure medicine and a large whiskey sedative.

Barkeep...start setting them up now. Bottles, not glasses.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Looney Toons

Ramblings Post #174
Since the break, I'm watching a lot of TV. Well that and playing the bejeesus out of my game system. In fact, I have to remind myself to leave the house for an hour a day at this point. I mean, it's cold outside, and my house is warm, the food is close, the bathroom clean, and there is a movie coming one I haven't seen yet. There are no women here...major drawback. But I really don't like the cold.

I am not a big fan of cartoon remakes or reboots, or whatever you call them. The vast majority of them wash away the beloved memories leaving only the original hard shill sell we all conveniently suppressed. Now, I realize that you can do that with some cartoons, say the comic book based that have already been revamped a hundred times already. But some things should just be left alone.

At some point they rebooted Scooby Doo when I wasn't paying attention. Well, re-rebooted, because I'm certain the Harlem Globetrotters or Don Knotts weren't in the original 60's version. But they made the monsters real, snatching out the mystery element. It's a damn shame what they did to that dog. The revamped Tom and Jerry look cheap, I'm not sure what director thought starting over with Droopy was worth the investment, and the new Transformers (okay, I only saw the commercial) made me cringe. The commercial for the Thundercats looked like they might have put some thought into that I'll let that one pass. For now.

But the things they have done to my Looney Tunes. I like the original looney tunes. I once posted Rabbit Season and Duck Season signs in my office. If they ever sell the box collection of June Bugs, the 24 hour Bugs Bunny marathon, I'm buying. The classic 40's and 50's stuff is classic, its like before writers got a taste of something cynical. They first tried a restart in the in the late 60's, but the images were shoddy. But those look like gold compared to some of the latest revamps...including the "babies" version they tried or the one where they turned them into something out of Tron.

So it was with much trepidation that I tried this new thing, on Cartoon Network now. The Looney Toons show.

It's actually....good. I guess it helps that the first set of Looney Toons weren't actually intended for kids. Just because they were cartoons people have forgotten they were originally filler for adult films. The new show isn't aimed at kids, unless kids are really interested in Bugs taking dancing lessons, Speedy Gonzales opening a pizza parlor or Daffy trying to run a corporation. It's semi sophisticated humor, more on a Seinfeld-esque bent than anything else. I found it watchable, which was a first for me and reboots.

Well, Duck Dodgers in the 24th and half Century wasn't all bad, but then I only caught like four or five episodes.

I can actually recommend this bit of foolishness. It's as though they actually let the writers write, instead of the usual Scriptomatic 5000 output that has driven the masses to reality television. And the less I say about reality television the better. Seriously.

Barkeep. Let me get a Carrot Martini.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Holiday Weekend

Ramblings Post #173
Sleigh bells ring, are you listening, something something, hear them ringing, we're riding tonight, I don't think this is right, walking in a winter wonderland. We mess around a build a snowman, then pretend that he is Parson Brown, he ask are you married, we'll say "no man, but you can do the job if you're in town," something something, dum de do, something something, hum hum hum, something night, walking in a winter wonderland.

I hadn't been home to see the folks in ages. Seriously, ages. We speak on the phone weekly, but for some reason that three hour trip has been harder and harder to square these past few years. Maybe because I'm a little scared that all the stuff I left won't be there when I get back. Scared maybe too strong a term, maybe "actively concerned." But after I didn't head down for Thanksgiving due to my enhanced educational situation, I felt compelled to head down for Christmas.

The Trip.

I live in a bubble, that is Atlanta. What I mean is that when social tension rears its head, it's a sudden reminder of things that happen so rarely I'd casually forgotten the caustic nature of their reality. No, it's not that I forget I'm black, in the south, it's that it's either usually not an issue or I've already taken the steps to minimize it. So when two guys started yelling at each other over a gas pump when I stopped for fuel it took me by surprise.

I'd pulled up, swiped my card and was gassing up. The lady at the next pump smiled at me and then I heard somebody yell loudly. Two pumps over a black guy was yelling at a middle aged white guy in a jeep. My trouble radar didn't go off, so I just watched silently. The black guy was fueling up, the jeep pulled off and I thought it was over. Then the black guy, middle aged black guy, yelled something and the jeep owner stuck his head out of the window and yelled back. At this point, the lady at the next pump dashed over to the black guy to calm him down. Seriously. Random black woman intervenes to keep random black man from doing something stupid.

The driver of the jeep pulls out of the station and goes across the street, so the whole thing diffused itself in a long fifteen seconds. I took note of the other odd couple in front of the station watching the whole exchange. The elderly white farmer in overalls and the young black man with dreads who after the jeep had pulled off looked at each other and shrugged.

I guess you never know. But then I probably should.

The Grand Folks.

I'm lucky enough that two of my grandparents have made it into their 90's. My mother's parents died when I was too young to feel the full effect, but I remember my mother's father as a kindly old gent who smoked a mean cigar and was always happy to comp us the bubble gum at his store.

My living grandparents are a lively bunch for old people, although my grandmother has been trying to guilt me into marriage and great-grandson for almost 20 years. She has other great grandchildren, many other great grandchildren, but the question of me always seems to come up. I like to believe every one of the grandkids still "holding" get this treatment, but I don't think so. My grandfather is planning on buying a golf cart so he cand drive around his property since he can't get around like he used to...when he was 80.

You hate to think that one day they won't be around. But then I think I've been blessed in this area more than I realized.

Christmas Day

Quiet. Family. A smattering of gifts but mostly just relaxing.

Hit Sporty up. Sent out a few Holiday texts.

Then driving back to Atlanta, because it's nice to have the stuff you left in your house still be inside your house when you get back. Driving back in the rain. Listening to the Christmas music...and the odd old school hip hop mix on some station out of Augusta.

The Day After Christmas

I had planned on relaxing and consuming enough water to clean my system out after the huge meals I'd eaten over the weekend. Well, that was the plan when I went to sleep Sunday night. Didn't work out.

Had a hearty All-Star at the Waffle House with my brother as I delivered his gifts to him. My brother is in a long term relationship, which has established its own Christmas rituals, so he didn't make the trip. I probably need to do the same myself soon. But that meal put me in back in the bed until like 4pm or so. Then trouble called. Or rather, my psuedo cousin did.

We rode over to a house party of a one of his buddies to watch the Falcons-Saints game. Not my usual fare, but I guess it will be soon, with small kids running about while the adults watched football and noshed. I have a problem drinking in front of kids, so I had a lot of soda and ate a lot of wings. And I've found that if the Cowboys aren't playing when something goes wrong or a coach does something stupid I can keep watching instead of cursing through the next three plays and turning off the TV before I start throwing things. So I watched and gave color analysis to the surprisingly underage crowd before calling it a night right after the whistle blew.

So It was a good Holiday weekend.


Barkeep, some of that Pale Moon beer or whatever it was they were drinking last night that I couldn't.

Friday, December 23, 2011

How do you know it's Christmas

Ramblings Post # 172
The Holidays are upon us. Well, they've been upon us for a minute, but since I just turned my paper in on Monday they didn't start for me until I dropped the paper off at my professor's house. And now, I have three weeks until school starts again. And the only indication it's Christmas around my house is that Santa now dominates the commercials. I'm a guy. Give me a break.

I'm old. Well, comparatively speaking, not really, but still I can remember when I used to think the age I am now was old. I remember before the internet. And I miss certain parts of my the trees that lined the road to my Grandmother's house, or that space under my bed. But I'm older, and I have a whole house now, so a space under my bed? Oh, I do still miss it.

In any case, Christmas is different when you're a child. I once theorized that Christmas stopped really being Christmas as a child when my outgoing gifts exceeding my incoming gifts. Which may or may not have happened yet. I fairly certain there was a period when it did, only I'm not sure. But then once you've crossed the threshold, there really isn't going back. Now, because I live alone, and have for over a decade, Christmas just ain't Christmas until I hear or see certain things. I appalled at how commercial this list is just looking at it.

1. The Grinch who Stole Christmas. I have to see it at least once. I used to own it on, wait, how old am I? I had it on video tape!

2. Silent Night by the Temptations. If you've never heard it, where have you been?

3. The Peanuts Christmas Special. I've seen it a thirty times and still am not sure if that's the actual name. But I do remember that poor little Christmas tree.

4. The Rap Trio - Christmas in Hollis, Christmas Rappin, and What you gonna get Crimmus. I seriously have no idea why, but these songs put me in a Christmas mood. They're not really traditional Christmas music I admit, but I am product of my experiences.

5. I see that lady at the mall doing free wrapping. Yes, really.

6. I start seeing advertisements for A Christmas Story's 24 hour marathon.

I'm not sure why I need those things. And considering how little Christmas shopping I did this year...I am currently an unemployed student, jeez...I had to make a special trip to see that lady at the mall.

One day I hope my mental triggers will be, I dunno, a child of mine reminding me that they've been extra good this year. Or a wife reminding me she's been extra naughty this year. In either case, let's just say that things are what they are...for now.

Barkeep. Some of that Eggnog Alize.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Then, something new pops up...

Ramblings Post #171
Everything is everything. And then you get the little bit extra that has existed outside of the whole and formed of nothing. And then you realize that everything really is just a lot, not everything.

All I've had to eat today is watermelon chunks and Pillsbury chocolate chip cookies. I'm in the home stretch, Finals are done Wednesday at 11:59, and I got one more  to do and then a quick look over my paper to see if I want to call it the final draft.

My schedule was thrown off today, because my RP is a proud papa. And because the kid is a few weeks early and they weren't at home,  I had to drive an hour north to see him. We stood in the hallway discussing the vagueness of life (football, witnessing birth, property values, getting old, kids nicknames) before they let us visitors in. He's a cute kid, all swaddled in everything warm, and I was jealous because his days are pretty much eating and sleeping. No finals for him.  It was quiet and cozy.


Then I drove back and have been trying to reconcile these thoughts in my head so that I can put them on paper and send them in and be done with this final! Every time I think I got it figured out, a new thought comes to mind and I'm back into my notes trying to see if that works better. Scurry little brain cell, scurry! I only have the one, but he does good work.

Barkeep, I need a... barkeep? Barkeep? Hello? Oh, yeah, right....forgot.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Oh wither mine Cowboys...

Ramblings Post #170
You're making a sandwich right? You got the roast beef cooked to tender suppleness, a little wet but not too damp, the lettuce in crisp, the tomato is firm, the bread with a just a hint of sesame seed. You've taken the time to anoint it with a touch of oil and vinegar, a fine sheen of mustard and just a that thin glaze of mayo. Chips on the side, not that Lays but the good kettle cooked kind, and glass of iced tea. You sit down, take the first bite and you realize just then, on the verge of a taste bud explosion of sublime pleasure that the mayo is bad and not only do you have a bad taste in your've ruined the sandwich. That feeling? That's snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

From the Desk of Jerry Jones
Cowboy Stadium

National Football League

Re: Game Length

I would like to open next year's competition committee with a suggestion that the game length be shortened to 55 minutes, down from 60 minutes in the interest of, player safety I guess.

Seriously, I think we can make this work.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Bar Chatter

Bar Chatter #22
Sometimes it just ain't enough to make a post, but it's still needs to go's just bar chatter

I had four things I had to get done during this exam period. One down. I've slept the four hours on the couch I just managed to get up from - and the two hours last night - since Tuesday at 8am. I've eaten one meal in that time. I've come to appreciate the distinct difference between "almost done" and done. I've still got a long way to go and the only reason I'm not feeling horrible about my progress is that on my trip to library today that pretty much wasted my whole day I ran into a classmate that said they're in the same boat in their classes.

And now, looking at the small bottle five hour energy drink ...well, crack by another name my monitor, I think I'm gonna have to step it up a notch.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Finals are...

Ramblings Post #169
It's funny, I never thought about getting this far or writing this much when I started this. This was a shot in the dark of sorts, something to do, someplace to talk and not worry about the look on the person's face when I said it. Now it's not that and still I continue. Strange, isn't it?

This is the way I'm supposed to be thinking.

Finals are sitting in a room on a hard kitchen chair for hours because Office Depot didn't actually have the one with lumbar support they said was on sale, staring at the increasingly small type on the same two screens all day long slogging through material that makes your head hurt, your fingers cramp and makes you feel a little less happy its all not crystallizing as it should.

Finals are quiet, an eerie quiet, because music or the television you sometimes play so the house doesn't feel so empty would be distractions from what you need to do and so all you hear are the click of the keys as you type, the faint thrum of electricity, the passing cars on the narrow road outside, the squirrels leaping from tree branch to your roof and the your own heartbeat when you stop to gather your thoughts.

Finals are eating something you know you shouldn't because making something you know you should be eating doesn't satisfy that growling at the back of your soul for a friendly face, a warm laugh or the gentle touch of warm body for too long, and food is all you have at this very moment because getting all this done is the priority so you eat and don't dwell on it

Finals are wondering why you're doing what you're doing, not in the micro sense of that word or that comma or that phrasing in the paper that is taking entirely too long to conceive, but in the macro sense of what does it all mean and you find you're asking yourself the question: "where will you be when you get where you're going?"...and you realize you're not sure anymore.

Finals in law school are a lonely time.

All the deadlines come at once, and instead of working you find your mind lost in the machinations of minutiae. As you get closer to the destination for the all the toil and sweat you've put in, you begin to wonder if you're really strong enough to hold someone's life, someone's livelihood, someone's dream in your hands where they're doing more than hoping for a good outcome. You start to question basic truths and look back upon the path you've been traveling and wonder if you should have chosen the other path, the simpler path.

Then you realize you've got more days of this ahead.

Finals are you serving yourself because you've even sent the metaphorical barkeep home for the duration.