If nominated I will run, if elected I will serve (#SFWApro)

So Shannon Thompson nominated me for the One Lovely Blog award which requires a)I thank the nominator; b)I volunteer seven things about me you don’t know; c)I nominate other blogs. So, things to know:
•In my teens I could identify any Gilligan’s Island episode from the first 30 seconds. Possibly I still can, but it’s been a while since I tried.
•My first stuffed toy was Stripesy, a striped cat.
•I hate corn, peanuts and eggplant. Inconvenient for a vegetarian, but there you are.
•Animal Man and Flash were the heroes whose powers I most wanted as a child.
•When I was little, I wanted to believe all the extinct dinosaurs were now living in heaven. I still think that would be pretty cool.
•I’m a graduate of Oberlin College.
Casablanca is my favorite movie.
Nominees:
•Rebekkah Niles of Walk of Words.
•Elizabeth Berger of Relative Chronology.
•Michal Wojcik of One Last Sketch.
•Allegra of Yogishaman
•And Heather J. Frederick of Fine Feathers.
Now I have to post on their blogs and notify them. I’ll get to that … soon … honest …

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Pummeled by—puppies? (#SFWApro)

I may have mentioned that we’ve been hitting the Durham shelter to find a dog to adopt. We’ve gone several times, without finding quite the right puppy. Today we struck paydirt. Twice, actually: we couldn’t decide which dog we liked best, so we’re taking too.
Dudley is a lhasa apso/Unknown crossbreed, about four years old. Fairly quiet, affectionate, very soft to stroke (that I must admit was a big selling point.
Trixie is a 1-1.5 year old cairn terrier/chihuahua, very bouncy in the ping-ping-ping mode, kind of scraggly looking but on her it works.
I was a little nervous that taking two dogs home (technically we don’t take them home for several days yet) might be more than I really wanted to take on (as the one who works from home, I will be primary parent), but even though it’s been a couple of hours and the dogs aren’t here to influence me with their cuteness, I don’t feel a smidgen of regret. So I think we made the right call.
Of course, I figure that with the challenges of walking them outside (we don’t trust our fence), feeding, petting etc., I may not get much time for fiction for a while (the paying gigs and the time-travel book come first, as usual). But that’s okay, this is a good reason not to get stuff done. Like I said, no regrets.

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And a few more book/TPB reviews (#SFWApro)

Because invariably I’ll have another post’s worth by next week.
THE ALL-NEW INVADERS: Gods and Soldiers by James Robinson and Steve Pugh is an enjoyable-enough book in which the Invaders—the WW II retcon team of Sub-Mariner, Human Torch, Bucky/Winter Soldier and Captain America—reunite in the present to battle a Kree plot to obtain an ultimate weapon. James Robinson’s work is very hit-or-miss with me (loved Starman, hated his Justice League) but this is enjoyable, though not a standout.

WONDER WOMAN: Down to Earth launched Greg Rucka’s run on the book (several different illustrators contribute) as a new staffer joins the Amazonian embassy, various plots get launched in both Earth and Olympus, and Wonder Woman writes a book. Impressive that it stays interesting without any major super-action for most of the story. However I do wonder why Diana no longer uses her lasso as a weapon (it’s indestructible, super-elastic and was always her go-to weapon up until the Perez reboot, so why use it just to make people tell the truth?).

18361516-1THE UNWRITTEN: The Unwritten Fables by Mike Carey, Bill Willingham, Peter Gross and Mark Buckingham is an oddball crossover between the two Vertigo series. Escaping the underworld, Tom finds himself in the Fables’ world except in this version the war against Mr. Dark has gone very much against them. The combination doesn’t quite work for me (Tom is almost sidelined) but it obviously has seeds for the future: Pullman gets a new lease on life and a new plan to take out Leviathan and Tom learns that the barrier between reality and story isn’t as clear-cut as he thought (“Perhaps the stairway of worlds goes up and down to infinity, with no top and no bottom.”).

THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS was a groundbreaking miniseries by Frank Miller set in a future Gotham where increasing urban collapse finally drives the retired Batman back into action, much to the displeasure of everyone except the people he saves. This vision of Gotham in urban decay was shocking at the time,and still better executed than the endless Gotham in Flames storylines we’ve seen since. The handling of the aging Batman, new Robin Carrie Kelly and the retiring Commissioner Gordon are also striking. On the downside, Miller’s portrayal of everyone else feels like recycled right-wing cliches from the late sixties (Dirty Harry, for instance): reporters are cheap sensationalists who don’t give a damn, politicians are weaselly cowards (which in this world-view means they’re soft on crime, not calling for tougher sentences) and police can’t do anything because the law ties them in red tape (although in fairness to Miller, he’s quite happy to have Green Arrow sinking nuclear submarines and other actions you don’t usually see in a comic). A classic, but I can see why I waited so long to reread it.

As we’re looking at adopting a puppy, I picked up HOW TO SPEAK DOG: Mastering the Art of Dog-Human Communication by Stanley Coren. The author argues that dogs understand us quite well, including both reading body language and recognizing words and that their own language of barks, tail-wags, raised ears and mouth movements give them a fairly sophisticated level of language. From the practical viewpoint, it also includes a breakdown of What Your Dog Is Saying and suggestions for training (dogs staring at you are trying to establish dominance, so feeding them only reinforces that; using the dog’s name before you give the command ensures she’s paying attention). A useful primer.

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And a Little Bit More Time Travel (#SFWApro)

Although I’ve been disappointed in Woody Allen’s early 1990s films, MIDNIGHT IN PARIS (2011) shows he hasn’t lost his touch. it doesn’t hurt that Owen Wilson is one of Allen’s best surrogates (he’s clearly in the role Allen would have taken 20 years earlier). During a visit to Paris with his overbearing fiancee Rachel McAdams, Wilson finds himself stumbling into the 1920s, where he gets literary criticism from Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), drinks with F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston) and falls for sexy actress Marion Cotillard who laughs at the idea the 1920s are a golden age compared to the Belle Epoque of the 1890s. A charming film that’s as much a love song to Paris (we get three minutes of Parisian scenery before the title credits) as Manhattan was to the Big Apple, also very much a classic fantasy of living in the past—getting to hang with great artists is the equivalent of imagining we’d be dining with aristocrats rather than the serfs. Nevertheless, Allen avoids the delusion Everything Was Better Back Then, and he gets extra point for not using Cotillard’s Exact Present Day Double to provide a happy ending. “That’s what the present is—it’s a little unsatisfying because life’s a little unsatisfying.

LOOPER (2012) is the story of how hit-man Joseph Gordon-Levitt finds himself in hot water with boss Jeff Bridges for failing to “close the loop” on his future self Bruce Willis, who’s determined to go Terminator and wipe out the crimelord who will murder his wife 30 years down the road. Even buying the premise this is the best way to eliminate inconvenient people, there’s no question it has plot-holes galore; that said, I found it more fun than 12 Monkeys or Donnie Darko. With Emily Blunt in a supporting role “Why don’t you do what old men, do—and die?”

TIME WARP TRIO was a 2005 TV series based on the children’s books about a boy who gets a history book for a birthday present, then discovers it can magically transport him and his best friends to the past; the book being a family heirloom, it turns out the trio’s female descendants in the future are a corresponding trio of adventurers. This has a lot of humor (“We don’t actually make people walk the plank, but after you boys mentioned it we thought we’d try it.”) but didn’t click with me the way say, Mr. Peabody and Sherman do (obviously I’m not the target audience of course). “It wasn’t such a bad place if you like fatty strips of roasted seal meat.”

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It’s always time for time travel (#SFWApro)

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Although the original Planet of the Apes got Charlton Heston to the future with suspended animation, BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES (1970) (rights to poster with current holder) has the rescue mission falling through some sort of time warp (it’s implied Heston’s ship did too, but I’m still not counting it in my book). Surviving astronaut James Franciscus takes the Heston role of the Man Among Apes, encountering chimp scientists David Watson and Kim Hunter (Roddy McDowell was unable to repeat his chimp role from the original) and orang-utan administrator Maurice Evans before stumbling into a tribe of subterranean psionics ready to use a doomsday weapon against an ape attack. A good sequel (and as many critics have observed over the years, it’s the sequel that really sells the series) and the arrogant Underdwellers (most notably Victor Buono) are great added villains with their insistence that mentally compelling other people to kill keeps their own hands clean of violence. “May the blessing of the bomb almighty and the fellowship of the holy fallout descend on us all this day.”

A WRINKLE IN TIME (2003) is a dismal Disney adaptation—it has the stiffness you often get when a movie is too self-conscious about filming a classic. It also suffers from a stiff female lead whose main character trait (massive insecurity) is now a stock staple of teen films. On the plus side, i don’t have to include it in my book as despite the title there’s no time-travel—I guess it’s been so long since I read the book that I’d forgotten. For the same reason it’s hard to say how faithful it is, but they do seem to break the power of IT better than I remember. “Like and equal are not the same thing.”

THE THREE STOOGES MEET HERCULES (1962) when they to fix a friend’s time machine and, of course, make it work. This dumps them, the inventor and his girlfriend back in ancient Greece where they unwittingly help tyrant George N. Neise overthrow Ulysses. This has some good bits, but not enough—I’m not a Stooges fan. “I’ve given you a great name—now live up to it.”

MYSTERIOUS MUSEUM (2004) is a deadly dull bit of kidvid in which the bland teen protagonists are sucked through a magic painting (among other plot-holes there’s no explanation why the good wizard creates the painting, other than plot necessity) to the 17th century to help a village stave off the Wizard of Doom out to steal an Ultimate McGuffin. Not only dull but sexist—the teenage boy gets to kick butt, his older sister just gets captured and sits helpless. “I once counseled Lincoln—I told him he was taking his job too seriously, and he needed to get out and see the arts.”

Watching HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN (2004) so soon after reading the book makes me appreciate how much little visual magical details the movie-makers add to these (plus the brief moment where Ron and Hermione find themselves holding hands and the heavy click imagery). In some ways this improves on the book by cutting out a lot of Harry’s moody brooding and the school stuff in favor of the Sirius Black plot; on the other hand, some cuts hurt the film such as the origin of the map (and the revelation Harry’s dad was a jerk) and the reason the time turner can’t be used in future films (there’s just a vague reference to Bad Things Happening). The emphasis on Harry and Hermione ducking around earlier scenes of the movie makes me suggest Back to the Future II as a double bill. “Don’t be silly, Ron—how could anybody be in two classes at once?”

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Comics trade-paperbacks: I am behind! (#SFWApro)

So time to catch up!
15806557THE ENCHANTMENT by Christian Durieux, is a charming little graphic novel that like the film Russian Ark uses a museum walk-through as a backdrop.The retiring director of the Louvre meets an eccentric young beauty, slips away from his farewell party and talks with the beauty as they wander through the halls. Lightweight but enjoyable (cover by Durieux, rights with current holder)
BATMAN AND ROBIN: Pearl by Peter J. Tomasi and multiple artists is probably the best handling of Damian Wayne (not a character I care for much) I’ve seen. However the stories are uninspired—my reaction to the villain Terminus vowing he’s going to destroy Gotham City amounted to “What? Again?” So not a winner for me.
BATWOMAN: Elegy by Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams makes me appreciate why so many people went ga-ga for Kate Kane when she appeared but also why I didn’t cotton to the series. Kate is a terrific character, a former West Pointer (kicked out for being gay—which happily will have to get retconned away someday) who turns her abilities to fighting crime as Batwoman, with the help of her equally tough father. However her big adversary here, the Cult of Crime, wasn’t interesting when these stories originally came out and hasn’t improved; Alice, the crazy leader, isn’t much better. So a curate’s egg, as they say (a mixed bag. It’s from an old joke about a milquetoast curate eating an underboiled egg and assuring his host “Some parts are very good.”).
PLANET OF THE APES: Half Man by Daryl Gregory and Carlos Magno is entertaining without grabbing me, as a peaceful city where apes and humans live as equals is rocked by scandal, revolution and war. The events going on don’t require me to know any backstory to follow them (I suspect even if I’d never seen the movies, the mythos has percolated into pop culture enough for me to follow it), but I do wonder what version of the Ape-ruled future they’re drawing on here.
VELVET: Before the Living End by Ed Brubaker, steve Epting and Bettie Breitweiser is a spy thriller mixing LeCarre’s cynicism and Ian Fleming’s flamboyance. It’s the early 1970s and Velvet Templeton is an administrative assistant to the head of Arc-7, the world’s deadliest and most secret spy agency. Someone decides she’ll make an easy frame as a double agent, but what someone doesn’t know is that Velvet’s not a paper-pusher, she’s a retired field agent. And Arc-7 field agents are very, very good … This was a lot of fun, and having a woman in her late 30s as the protagonist is novel these days.
whatif04Back in the 1970s, Roy Thomas did a story exploring who filled the role of Captain America after Steve Rogers disappeared (Cap’s original series ran to the end of the 1940s). CAPTAIN AMERICA: Patriot by Karl Kesel and Mitch Breitweiser, takes a look at Jeff Mace, AKA the Patriot and how he dealt with becoming the third man to wear the suit. This follows Jeff’s career from Captain America inspiring him to don a costume through his time with the All-Winners Squad and his eventual retirement (Kesel says in the text page that Mace intrigues him as the first man to walk away from the role). A really good mix of new material with old—thoroughly enjoyable (cover by Gil Kane, rights with current holder)
GREEN ARROW: The Kill Machine by Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino was a soft-reboot of the New 52’s forgettable Green Arrow reboot. As frequently happens in such reboots, Oliver discovers Everything He Knows His Wrong (“Did you really think it was luck you washed up on that island with nothing but a bow?”) and that he and his father are actually part of a vast, ancient struggle involving totemic weapons and the enigmatic outsiders. The new mythology didn’t grab me, and Komodo (the new adversary here) is an odd nom-du-crime name for an archer (Komodo dragons are deadly, but I don’t think of them as archers). Still a vast step up from the previous run.

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Still no fiction (#SFWApro)

But given I took Monday off, I knew I wouldn’t have the time for any so I don’t feel too wracked with guilt. Now next week, if I don’t get any done … but sufficient unto the week is the evil thereof.
That aside, I got my full quota of movie watching done so I now have 145 films under my belt (not all watched—the time-travel element at the end of Superman really doesn’t require revisiting). Demand Media work? Less than I’d planned.
I did get three stories back, but I have new markets in mind for at least two of them. It’s unusual for me to be this unfazed by several rejections in succession, but I’m not complaining. Maybe a side effect of being so busy is being too busy to brood.
And that’s pretty much it. Weekend!

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