Tuesday, August 31, 2004

"It's Risky, But I Get My Laughs"

A lot of my August book money went toward comics, since Wizard World fell in the middle of the month--and may Stan Lee bless all of those fine retailers who had boxes and boxes of half-price trades this year. I don't have much to say about them that hasn't been covered in earlier posts, as I haven't read very many of them, but what I've looked over so far can be found below.

SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING, BOOK 1 by Alan Moore and Steve Bissette. I'm a big Alan Moore fan, but I've never picked up the Swamp Thing stuff. This volume collects the beginning of his run on the title and an introduction from Alan provides the backstory of the character so that no one is left out--I sure needed it, as my only other encounter with ST was the movie from the 80's and the week or so Adrian and I got a kick out of singing the theme song to the 90's cartoon ("Swamp Thing . . . You are amazing . . . Ohhhhh, Swamp Thing!"). The first few issues, where it is revealed that what we know about Swamp Thing isn't what we know at all and that the human Alec Holland did not become a plant-like creature at all, showcase mainstream horror comics at their finest. It is revealed that the Swamp Thing is actually a collection of plants, just like he looks, that has come to believe it was once human. It possesses the memories and emotions of Alec Holland and has even developed plant-like internal organs that serve no real purpose, except that the creature believes it needs them. The second storyline involves Swamp Thing's friend Abby and a demon that is living off of the fear running rampant in a home for troubled children. Aside from some amusing dialoge from Jack Kirby's Demon, there wasn't much from the second story that I enjoyed. It shows promise for the rest of Moore's run, however, and I'll keep an eye out for later volumes at next year's show.

THE COMPLETE PEANUTS 1950-1952, by Charles Schulz. I've been coveting this book since it first came out, and was lucky enough to snag a slightly-used copy for half-price at the show. I've been reading a few strips before bed ever since. The very first PEANUTS strip, from October 1950, is a perfect introduction to the next 50 years of strips. In a four panel sequence, two children sit on a step and watch as a smiling Charlie Brown approaches. "Well! Here comes ol' Charlie Brown!" the boy says. "Good ol' Charlie Brown . . . yes, sir!" he continues. "Good ol' Charlie Brown," he says, as Charlie passes. Then, with Charlie out of sight, the boy frowns angrily and says, "How I hate him!"

THE ESSENTIAL SPIDER-MAN, VOLUME 5, by Stan Lee, John Romita, Roy Thomas, Gil Kane, and more. This is the fifth volume in black and white reprints of Spider-Man's early adventures. I'm a Spider-Man nerd, and this is the most economically sound way for me to read the early issues. If you're not a fan, you probably won't dig it. If you are, you probably already know about this series.

I have a stuck of unread books from the show, including REINVENTING COMICS (finally), the first two volumes of CONAN reprints, OFFERED VOL. 2 (again, finally), and AGE OF BRONZE: SACRIFICE, the second volume of a series by Eric Shanower that is retelling the story of the Trojan War, and that has been going on since long before TROY rolled into theaters. Once I've read them, you'll be the first to know.

Otherwise, my book buying has been pretty conservative. I took a trip to Ohio for a weekend and picked up THE SUN ALSO RISES, easily one of the finest, saddes, most beautiful books I've ever read, and I've posted about it at length in a few entries previously. This set me on a Hemingway kick and I got going again on A FAREWELL TO ARMS, which I'd set aside previously when school reading got heavy last semester. I also picked up a few new (to me) Hemingway titles:

THE COMPLETE SHORT STORIES OF ERNEST HEMINGWAY, which collects the entirety of THE FIRST FORTY-NINE, as well as stories published subsequent to that collection and seven previoulsy unpublished stories. Mainly I've spent my time with "The Snows of Kilimanjaro," a story of a writer on safari in Africa with a woman he treats best when he's lying to her.

THE YOUNG HEMINGWAY, by Michael Reynolds, the first volume in his four (I think?) volume series telling the life of Ernest Hemingway. It's still early, but so far he's not trying to tell a day-by-day description of Hem's manly adventures as much as he is giving a broader sense of the Oak Park and Great War experiences that created the mindset the young adult Ernest ventured out into the world with. From a writer's perspective, it's interesting getting an objective look at how his mind and craft came together; from a reader's perspective, it's a shame that I've already figured out that he's not that admirable of a fella in a lot of ways. All the same, he is not, as one blogger would have you believe, "overrated."

Sunday, August 29, 2004


This is bizarre.

Firm recalls candy
with 9/11 attack toy

Check out the picture.

The Sun Also Rises

"I could picture it. I have a rotten habit of picturing the bedroom scenes of my friends."

"She grinned and I saw why she made a point of not laughing. With her mouth closed she was a rather pretty girl."

"That was morality: things that made you disgusted afterward."

"The world was a good place to buy in. It seemed like a fine philosophy. In five years, I thought, it will seem just as silly as all the other fine philosophies I've heard.
"Perhaps that wasn't true. Perhaps as you went along you did learn something. I did not care what it was all about. All I wanted to know was how to live in it. Maybe if you found out how to live in it you learned from that what it was all about."

I don't know about you, but I have a perfect habit of finding the perfect book for a perfect time in my life. I was in the airport waiting for an airplane and I'd brought only one book with me; usually I bring two or three or four, and then only read one. This time, I was going to make a choice before I left and stick with it. So, waiting for my plane, I got out DAVID COPPERFIELD and I got back to the story, as I'd left it a few weeks before, when I was distracted by schoolwork. But reading DC requires a certain sense of whimsy and wonder in your voice and in your heart, and it just wasn't with me that afternoon. I had a line of dialogue from THE SUN ALSO RISES still ringing in my head from a conversation the night before, so I sought out an airport bookstore and bought a copy. I'd read Hemingway, but never SUN.

I started it in the airport and finished it four days later, riding on the train back to my apartment.

Jake Barnes, he of the Great War and America and of an unspoken war wound, is in love with Lady Brett Ashley. Lady Brett is in love with Jake, but Jake's wound keeps them apart. Meanwhile, she sleeps with almost everyone else in the book who expresses an interest. I'm a sucker for love stories that end badly, and this seemed to be the kind. But Brett isn't in the book all that much, at least compared to the effect of her. All the men are caught up in her, and I was caught up in her too. I thought of girls like her, and I understand when Jake says, "To hell with Brett," and all the same runs to help when he receives a telegram from her. I understand when he says it's been hard on Mike that it's really been hard on him, and I understand when he tells Bill that he feels lousy as hell. I'm far from Jake, but I know what he means, and I understand how he got that way and why he stays that why, and I can't decide if he's better off. If he didn't have that wound, if he and Brett had slept together when they met in England during the war, he would be just another man she met and loved and left. But because they can't, Jake is the one she talks to and walks with and kisses in cabs.

Annie said it stabs you in the guts, but I think it's more of a light touch of someone's fingers on your elbow in a movie theater. You know it's bad news, but you can't help but want it, and more.

"Oh, Jake" Brett said, "we could have had such a damned good time together."

"Yes," I said. "Isn't it pretty to think so?"

Saturday, August 28, 2004


The Pink Bloque is dancing in dissent at the RNC in NYC this weekend. If you're there, give a high five to the ladies in pink.

Friday, August 27, 2004

The Great Big IF

The inner life is a tricky dick. It’s that thing in people’s heads that colors everything they take in, how they receive and perceive and send out again. You can talk about it with someone, but you’ll never quite get it right, never see what they see or know what they know. Or at least not how they know it. For one, you can’t verbalize precisely what’s happening in your head so that someone else will understand; you’re not even intimately aware of everything that led up to what you are and why. Maybe you’re uncomfortable introducing your new girlfriend to your best friend, for example, because somewhere in time and space you’re still smarting from when your then-pal Jimmy Daniel stole Patty Mayfield from you in the third grade. Meanwhile, you’ll happily bring your ladyfriend around to see every stoner, drunk, nowhere acquaintance you’ve met in the meantime. Maybe, maybe not.

Second, every message you send out, and I mean every phone call, love note, back rub, or snippet of small talk you use to connect with another human being, every single instance of communication you send out, is being received and interpreted and colored by someone else who is just as influenced and screwed up by their own experiences as you are by yours. Maybe Patty Mayfield, to this day, gets a little tingle in her stomach when she meets her new boyfriend’s best friend, even though she doesn’t remember way.

So the first problem, that you don’t really know what you’re saying, is compounded by the second problem, that they don’t really know what to make of it. They fill in the gaps with your persona, what they’ve invented for you, to perceive you by. Maybe you’re the Reliable One in their lives, who they call when they need twenty bucks or don’t know how to get home; or the Drunk One, who calls them for those very reasons; or the Funny One, the Shady One, the Movie One, the Complaining One, the Horny One, the One One. Nobody gets to choose which One they are in someone else’s live, as hard as they might try to exude a Oneness of something.

(A readable result of my imaginary friends research is coming post-weekend, I promise.)

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Oh! What A Day

Well boys, what more can be said? It's been a big day for us all. We learned a lot about life, we learned a little about love, we learned some about Corey. Corey is raw and rugged, he's sexy and he's addicted, and if he lives to see 30 then he should know that his glory days are behind him. We know in our heart of hearts that Corey will only hurt us in the end, but egads, who can say no to the trip he offers us? Not I, friend. And I bet you can't, either.

You're ramblin' men, my Coreys, and perhaps it is not meant for mere mortals to understand you. We can only bask in your glory for a short while, once a year perhaps, when we set aside all other responsibilities and ponder on what makes a Corey and why we love you so. So good-night, sweet princes, and may you have many adventures, may you love many women, and may you fuck up as much shit as possible!

This has been the Unstoppable Juggernaut of Corey, 2004. I remain your faithful servant, a Corey at heart if not in name,


Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Corey Hair

Annie is concerned that Corey Hart isn't getting his due on this day of All-Corey, and she's probably right. Admittedly, Hart is not my specialty--I was terribly tempted to call the Corey & Corey 900 number in my youth in order to hear a special recorded message from Feldman and Haim--and I was hoping to hear from Miss D on the subject. The lovely Sheri runs a swell site devoted to Corey Hart's hair, where you not only get lots of pictures of the Hart Head, but also such facts as:

-On Corey growing his hair out long when he wrote JADE--Corey said that the long hair had been the look he had in early high school.  He said it never got him any girls back then, either...

-Even though Corey wears his hair short again, I don't think he uses as much hair gel as in the 80's...

-Corey often pours water over his head while performing on stage and then runs his fingers through his wet hair...

-I once tried to make my husband's hair stand up and look like Corey's.  Unfortunately, my husband's hair did not cooperate!!  Even using a whole tube of extra-strength gel I still couldn't get it to stay up!!!  His hair, that is...

Corey Haggard's Chest

When I was seventeen and Adrian was seventeen and we were seniors in high school, we would drive around Newtonsville and Owensville and Eastgate and Milford in his car. His car was cooler than mine, and it had blackouts on the headlights and neon lights on the dashboard. It was a lousy car to have to sit in the backseat, but it was better to look at then my Escort, so that's the way it was.

Adrian picked me up one day, picked me up first, and then we went to get Angie Nunez. We were going nowhere in particular. She got in the back and we pulled onto the street, onto Cedarville, and we started to dive away. Angie was going through her bag and she realized she'd forgotten something, her keys maybe, I don't remember. She asked Adrian to turn around and go back, so he did, pulling into the driveway at Corey Haggard's place.

Corey's house was a split-level and it always had the garage door open and it always had a Corvette or two parked out front. The Haggards were those kind of people. As Adrian pulled into his driveway he honked his horn three short times, bap-bap-bap, because Corey Haggard was harmless, but amusing. We sat in the driveway for a moment, waiting for a car to pass on the street behind us so we could get going again. There was movement in one of the windows up above, a fluttering of the curtain, and it was pulled aside to reveal Corey Haggard with a wet head and a bare chest and a smile. He had a towel wrapped around his waist.

I lived out in the country when I was a kid--there were cornfields on either side of our house and trees across the road--and even then I would draw the curtains shut if I was moving around with no shirt off, or if I was watching MTV's THE GRIND late at night. But here, but now, this Haggard was throwing the curtain aside even as he was pre-dressed, to see what the commotion was outside. Adrian honked again and Angie clapped and I said, "Wow," and we backed out into the street, yelled and gave Corey the finger, and sped away into the day.

It's lovely.

From Betsy, a haiku:

Dream a Little Dream
A syringe and a cold floor
Corey passed out, dead.

Corky = Corey?

You say "Corky" and I think of kids with Down's Syndrome. I GUESS I'M A JERK. It's a good thing Meredith is around to set me straight:

By Mer

As a female child, I was indoctrinated in the ways of mooning over boys by the hallowed elder of fan magazines: Tiger Beat. Those monthly pinups took a place of honor in my TrapperKeeper: the boys from New Kids on the Block (Jordan was the dreamiest), Neil Patrick Harris (before he came out of the closet), and of course, the Coreys. All Lost Boys and coked out, those Coreys set the standard of hot. Edgy, cocky, yet so vulnerable on the inside.

Sometime in the early nineties, before I realized how much of a tool I was for a) having a TrapperKeeper and b) listening to New Kids, that Bible of teen stardom announced an addition to the Corey clatch. A man by the name of Corin Nemic-Corky, as it were. Ooo. An edgy nickname. Very much like a Greek conjugation: from the root of "Cor" meaning "80s/90s heartthrob." This is, of course, before "Corky" from Life Goes On, the "specially abled" Corky who taught us all how to love and laugh. Especially at Down's Syndrome. But, no. This was the first Corky. And how I loved him, his floppy hair. His Roman nose. His secret $2000 a week cocaine habit that he and the other Coreys indulged in after hours at the Viper Club.

Corky, of course, first broke into stardom as "token white friend" of that strange runt Emmanuel Lewis on Webster. He went on to star in such TV movies as I Know My Name is Steven, where his harrowing portrayal of sexual abuse and kidnapping victim Steven shook America to its core. As he aged, and acquired a leather jacket and friendship with Mr. Haim and Mr. Feldman, he landed himself that plum role as Parker Lewis in the like titled Parker Lewis Can't Lose! No, he can't. Not with Corky in the lead. He could be both rakish and lovable, that prankster with a heart of gold. Ferris Bueler for the new generation. Of course, FOX canceled it, but its cult status rivals that of The Lost Boys, but with less vampires. It's not Goonies, but can you actually name anything that fucking Haim was in? No. No you can't.

We all know Feldman was the ringleader; what we need to accept is that Corky Nemic was as much a follower as the man called Haim.

Where is Corky Nemic now? Dwindling on the C-List, passing around a joint with Haim, waiting for that phone call asking him to be on The Surreal Life. Don't worry, baby. They'll be on the horn soon enough, asking you to please, share your awesome Corey power with the world. Switch that "e" for a "k"-hey, that's a-okay with me. And Tiger Beat, proclaiming Corkey a Corey. So what have we learned? Parker Lewis Can't Lose!, yes. And with enough drugs, turned up jacket collars, and the acceptance of Feldman, you too can be a Corey.

I Don't Know What Googlism Is

But they sure know a lot about the Coreys. Once again, from Annie:

corey haim is raising your adrenalin
corey haim is one of the few juvenile performers to thrive in wacky comedy roles
corey haim is gay
corey haim is back together
corey haim is being sued for allegedly not disclosing he had been hooked on drugs and alcohol since the age of 15
corey haim is that he was in a sega cd video game called "double switch
corey haim is still hanging in there
corey haim is the younger brother who joins forces with a brash and outspoken vampire hunter
corey haim is actually quite good as marty
corey feldman is pretty sure he knows what you think of him
corey feldman is my man
corey feldman is cresting on his angry young man
corey feldman is there just
corey feldman is still the better corey
corey feldman is just one
corey feldman is going to someday be a talent to be reckoned
corey feldman is cute
corey feldman is sooooooooooo sickening
corey feldman is still alive
orey feldman is 31
corey feldman is bringing together all his fellow former child stars for a "we are the world"
corey feldman is also a writer
corey hart is moving your corpuscles
corey hart is not complaining
corey hart is lying on the bathroom floor with the door closed
corey hart is hot pt
corey hart is a good sleeper
corey hart is still singing it
corey hart is clearly one given to writing about affairs of the heart
my friend corey is okay
my friend corey is drop dead bored


Annie comes through again:

Origin and Meaning of First Name Corey
What is the ethnic origin?
What does it mean?

In other news, we have a breaking story that Meredith is more concerned with "Corkey Nemic" and not fake-Corky Chris Burke. We here at the Unstoppable Juggernaut of Corey will keep you updated on this story as it unfolds.

Back to the Question

Of course the question will be asked, and of course the question is, What Makes A Corey? New Betsy has already inquired as to the inclusion of a non-Corey, being a fake Corky and a real Chris Burke. I was all for a Feldman/Haim Special, but then I realized the specialness that is the All-Corey. AnnieD suggest Hart, and Meredith said Corky must be included as well.

"But he's not a Corey," I might have said.

"Dude, shut up. Yes he is. Practically," she probably said back.

And even though I, your humble author, might not be convinced, once the question was let out of the box, I could not put it back in. Is Corky a Corey at heart? What makes a Corey in the first place?

It's more than just being good-looking, obviously. In fact, maybe that's not even part of it. Believe it or not, there are those who are experience Corey for the first time right here on this blog--be it from age (oh, for surely you are babies!) or culture, the Coreys passed them by the first time around. And maybe one of those people looked at the Coreys this afternoon and said, of Feldman, "He's not even good-looking." And while such a response doesn't make sense to you or I, it is certainly a valid opinion, and perhaps more objective than that of someone who has sat through DREAM A LITTLE DREAM more than once.

It's certainly not moral superiority that makes a Corey, either. "You should include a picture of a heroin needle," someone might have said to me. Sure, a Corey has made a few mistakes, but who hasn't? Sure, Feldman is a vegetarian who wears leather shoes, and sure, Hart likes to show off his chest hair, but that's not part of being Corey, that's part of being ALIVE.

Is it talent? Oh. Oh, no. No, not at all.

Originality, perhaps? I'm not so sure. Feldman has been seen, more than once, dressed up as Michael Jackson, after all.

Intelligence? See: talent.

So when someone asks, Why Corey?, what are we, those who KNOW, to tell them? Ahhhh. Well, that's the beauty. All you have to do is put on your shades, open up your jacket . . .

. . . and let it riiiiiiiiide.

Fellow Travellers

MATT: Do you have strong feelings for any of the Coreys?

BETSY: um.

BETSY: i used to like corey haim when i was 10

MATT: I'm blogging on the Coreys all day long. Feel free to contribute if you wish.

BETSY: huh?

MATT: I think it would really be good for you.

BETSY: christ. do you have a livejournal too?

MATT: Stop yapping so much and go look.

BETSY: wow.

BETSY: heather graham wasnt in lost boys

MATT: She was in License to Drive. I'm throwing curveballs atcha.

BETSY: right.. but you make it sound like she was in lost boys

MATT: Haim wasn't a Frog Brother either. You have to know your Coreys if you're going to keep up today.

BETSY: christ. dude chris burke is not a corey. dumbass

MATT: oh, forget it.

BETSY: im confused.. what should i do here?

The Haim to My Feldman

When I was young, just a lad, I had a birthday party. It was more of a sleepover, really. I had two distinct groups of friends at the time--there were Nick and Chris, who were cousins and who I'd met when I was five and who I had long played G.I. Joe with; and there were Jimmy and Peter, who I'd just met in the third grade. Peter was down with G.I. Joe, but Jimmy was cooler than that, so now I was too. Jimmy and watched the Lost Boys together and daydreamed of being the Frog Brothers, out figthing vampires. Jimmy was a Haim kind of guy, I was a Feldman, and sweet, sweet Patty Mayfield was our Heather Graham.

The sleepover was a bit of a bungle. these two groups had never come together before, and here I was trying to make something quite unnatural happen. My plans for a D&D game fizzled and the Nerf basketball tournament downstairs fell apart when Jimmy and Peter decided they'd rather play pool. So we were all up in my room and the groups were separated--Jimmy and Peter going through tapes and picking out music to play, Nick and Chris going through G.I. Joe figures. I was perched on the edge of my bed, feeling a little down.

"Hey," Jimmy said. I looked up from my newly nine-year-old brood.


"You know, wearing that plain white t-shirt, and sitting there like that . . . you kind of look like Corey Feldman, actually."


"Yeah. Doesn't he, Pete?"

Peter agreed. Which got the three of us to talking about the Lost Boys, and then to vampires, which got Chris interested because his uncle, who smoked pot all day long in Chris's basement, had turned him on to the idea of vampire ladies being sexy. Nick, with no one to play G.I. Joe with, joined the conversation too. I was sent out to the living room to see if it was all clear for us to start watching movies yet. Our plan was approved and the Lost Boys was first up, then Monster Squad. We played vampire hunters as quietly as we could in the living room, Jimmy giving over the role of the Other Frog Brother so that he could, then and forevermore, be the Haim to my Feldman.

What Makes a Corey?

For Annie:

And for Meredith, against my better judgement:

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

We Are All Terrible Bloggers


This lady I know once told me that if she made a movie, she would want it to be like BIG FISH. I knew what she meant in theory, but in practice it didn't really hit me until this afternoon when I finished THE SUN ALSO RISES.

I've read Hemingway before, sure, but only in short stories and short story collections. This is the first novel I've read, and I picked it up at the airport, on a whim, because I had four days of Ohio staring me in the face and I was feeling a little more melancholy than DAVID COPPERFIELD requires for a healthy reading. Annie and I had been talking about Hem the night before, and she's all about SUN--so I picked it up.

It was a bull-fighting novel, I figured. That's what I heard, and that's what is on the cover. And it has bull-fighting, sure. It also has the Lost Generation and fishing and Paris. But it also has a girl, and goddamn, isn't it always about a girl, one way or another? And Brett Ashley does indeed make a grand entrance, and I did indeed think she was going to be at the heart of the story. And she is at the heart of it, if more in spirit than in person. SUN is sad and melancholy and it must have taken a Hemingway-sized nutsack to publish it in 1926. It doesn't follow a traditional structure, and I read today that the first two chapters, which told of Jake and Brett falling in love, were cut out at the suggestion of Scott Fitzgerald. But it's just a beautiful, beautiful piece of work, and like things of beauty, I suppose you either love it or you don't understand it. I imagine the book itself is a lot like Brett in that way.

Some Ohio pictures are up in the usual place. Chris and Tina, I didn't manage to get back over to take pictures of your cats--hold onto them for a few months longer and I'll get them next time, for sure. Or better, use some of that money to pick up a digital camera and you can start your own website. If the internet needs anything, it's more cats. The 24Hour project is still kicking, but I'm having some trouble uploading today's picture. I'm still taking pictures, but it might take some time to sort out what the problem is--I'll load all of them when I figure out what's wrong.

As a special treat, one day this week will unload Corey-Mania onto y'all--an all-Cory blog, all day long. So if you have any thoughts on any kind of Corey's, do send them in. I'm all about guest-bloggers. And a Happy Anniversy Yesterday to Jenny and Corey, while we're on that subject.

I'm sure there's something else I should report, but I'm at a loss right now. My head is still in Spain, y'dig?

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Wizard World Chicago 2004

Ah, the comic show! I'm not even sure what part of this picture is my favorite. I do, however, know that to every single one of these shows I have ever gone to . . .

. . . a blurry Lou Ferrigno was not far behind. And at this particular show,

neither was the Beastmaster, Marc Singer, pulling up his drawers and calling all the ladies "honey." Also in attendance:

The Knife! And she's much more accomplished at capturing the photographic essence of things than I. For example:

No greater picture has ever been taken.

His magazine says "Boob Club 2000." No kidding--the zoom on her camera is the best.

Where else can you watch a man in a flowery mom-dress haggle over Silver Age comics?

Sadly, the man in the Scarlet Spider outfit with the huge ballsack escaped our efforts to photograph him. I did, however, snag a really swell James Kochalka painting, and a copy of the first Fantagraphics PEANUTS collection for fifteen bucks. I spent too much money on a lot of stuff that was really cool, and wow, that sounds like a fifth grader's summer vacation report, doesn't it? Well, so be it!

Farewell, Wizard World Chicago. Until next summer, I remain your faithful correspondent . . . Staying Handsome in a Heavenly Light . . .

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Matt + Cory = Sleepover!

According to my handy stats, "sleepover" is the most popular search engine word that brings people here, barely edging out "matthew jent."

Also, someone keeps coming here looking for pictures of Cory Haim. I promise, as your faithful servant, that I have heard my public and will do my best to bring all of these interests together in one super-mega-post in the very near future.

Go see "Control Room"

Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has granted amnesty to "minor criminals" in an attempt to curb the violence in Iraq. He's also shutting down the free press:

Iraq's interim government ordered Qatar-based Al Jazeera satellite television network to close its Baghdad office for one month Saturday, a move criticized as unjustifiable by the channel.

Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, confirming the decision at a news conference, said a commission had been monitoring Al Jazeera for the past four weeks to see whether it was inciting violence and hatred, and that the decision had been taken "to protect the people of Iraq."

"It's regrettable and we believe it's not justifiable," Al Jazeera spokesman Jihad Ballout said. "This latest decision runs contrary to all the promises made by Iraqi authorities concerning freedom of expression and freedom of the press."

Iraqi police officers went to the station's Baghdad office late Saturday and argued with Jazeera staff before locking the newsroom.

Iraqi Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib said this week that Arabic satellite channels were encouraging kidnappings by showing images of hostages threatened with execution.

Another government official at the press conference said the station had "encouraged criminals and gangsters" in Iraq.

Al Jazeera's Ballout denied the charge.

"We are not a political organization that is for or against anybody. We display what happens on the ground as objectively as possible and in a balanced way," he said.

Ballout said the television would continue to cover events in Iraq despite the closure. "I'm not going to say it will be easy, but again a creative journalist will try to get a comprehensive and balanced story out there," he said.

* * * * *

Ah, bringing freedom and democracy to Iraq!

Friday, August 06, 2004

Eddie Campbell, Batman, and Comics for Kids

You wouldn't know it, but there's a new Eddie Campbell book out there from DC called BATMAN: THE ORDER OF BEASTS. I'd heard that Eddie was working on a Batman story, but I wouldn't have known it was out if bbkaro hadn't asked me if I'd picked it up yet. So, I went out, picked it up, and read it.

It's far, far better than Eddie's recent CAPTAIN AMERICA stint, but that's mainly because the folks at DC let Eddie be Eddie. THE ORDER OF BEASTS is foggy and scratchy and mysterious, with the art handled entirely by Eddie; it was co-written with Daren White. CAPTAIN AMERICA was written by Robert Morales and involves some sort of strange time-travel story that doesn't even make sense in a super-hero comic; Eddie had art assists from Stewart McKenny and colorist Brian Reber. There's a heavy Kirby-influence in the CAPTAIN AMERICA book, especially in the first issue when Cap and Iron Man are palling around, but I honestly wouldn't pick it out as an Eddie Campbell book unless I already knew it was beforehand. THE ORDER OF BEASTS, on the other hand, stands out as Eddie's work even though it involves Batman swinging around London. That doesn't even seem that strange. It's not that action-heavy, and the action that takes place seems awkward-but-natural, in an Eddie Campbell sort of way, if that makes sense to anyone.

I was looking for something to link this article to, but the closest I could find was a message board over the Comics Journal website where the consensus is that it's pretty to look at, but it's a pretty lame story. But there's been a growing rumble in the world of comic books that, after decades of trying to prove that comics aren't just for kids anymore . . . actually, some comics ARE still for kids. Or, at least, they should be. This argument was put forward wonderfully by Michael Chabon at this years Comic-Con. The transcript is now available for all to see. THE ORDER OF BEASTS isn't quite that kind of comic book--it's not a particular kid-friendly book, on the surface--it's a murder mystery in which Batman spends more time sipping tea with police inspectors in London, learns the local slang, and changes into his costume in the back of rented cars, than he does battleing Nazi spies. But at the same time, it's a very Batman-kind of story. Batman solves the crime, he is feared by the cowardly criminals and earns the respect of the local police, and Bruce Wayne charms the local female singer without even realize he's doing so. It would work well with kids because it's not trying to. It's just a straight-forward, if quirky, super-hero story that is self-contained and entertaining. It's a Batman story that doesn't try so hard to be a Batman story.

Unfortunately, it's also carrying a $5.95 price tag for 48 pages of story between two glossy covers. It was buried at the bottom of the rack at my local comic shop underneath something else. No kid will pick it up, but it's precisely the sort of story that would have appealed to me when I was nine years old--appealed to me because it wasn't trying to appeal to me, and also not trying to appeal to some 30-year old dude who buys Batman because he's always bought Batman. But the only folks who are going to buy it are either Batman completists or Eddie Campbell fans--the Batman completists won't like that Batman isn't dressed in black and brooding, and the Eddie Campbell fans will wonder when the next used-to-be-called-ALEC book is coming out. If only someone could figure out how to get a book like THE ORDER OF BEASTS into the hands of the kids who will appreciate it.

All of My Beautiful Friends

I finally updated the links directly to your right. You'll find all sorts of new exciting things, such as Juan Navarro's blog, which you should be checking out for the lovely sketchbook entries he posts; the lovely and talented Annie D. and her MySpace-hosted blog; Chicago-bound Jodi Faye Bullock, who is funnier than Kansas allows; Jen K. Messer, who takes the best pictures of the Grand Canyon I've ever seen, and whose video "Odyssey 201" should be enjoyed by all; and, though it's not in the links, who can resist a video of a monkey washing a cat?

I mean, seriously.
I was trying to figure out how to post this bit about THE VILLAGE without ruining the "twist," but Jessa from Bookslut, with a little help from the Philadelphia Inquirer, figured it out first. But my friend Jodi, who is terribly clever and funny and deserves your attention, pointed out the connection first.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Free Comics!

From the journal of Mr. Neil Gaiman:

If you'd like to read one of the Sandman parody issues of Cerebus, Dave will send you one. He'll send it to you very happily, free of charge. He will sign it for you, too. And he won't charge you a thing. Not even postage.

And if you're wondering what the catch is, it's this: Dave wants to know (as, I have to admit, do I) how many of the people out there in internet-land will actually go and do things that don't involve passively clicking on a link and going somewhere interesting. So what you have to do is write Dave a letter (not an e-mail. Dave doesn't have e-mail) telling him that you read that he'll send you a signed Cerebus, and telling him why you'd like him to send you a copy. It's as easy as that. And, quite possibly as difficult.

The address to write to is:

Aardvark Vanaheim, Inc
P.O. Box 1674 Station C
Kitchener, Ontario, Canada N2G 4R2

Sunday, August 01, 2004

July Book Round-Up

LEGENDS II, edited by Robert Silverberg; specifically "The Monarch of the Glen," by Neil Gaiman. The LEGENDS series collects short stories and novellas from fantasy series and novels like Gaiman's AMERICAN GODS, George R.R. Martin's A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE, etc. "Monarch" features Shadow from AMERICAN GODS and it starts off strong, with Shadow on a walk across the globe. As is his way, Shadow runs into creatures from myth and legend--but it doesn't come across as satisfying in the end. Shadow does a lot of walking and a lot of thinking, but not much interacting with the most interesting characters. The waitress who isn't really a waitress for example--maybe Gaiman is being more sophisticated than I realize and recalling myths that I'm simply not aware of, and to the end it still feels like the story Gaiman wants to tell, so I can't fault him for that--it just wasn't the story I wanted to read.

FEAR AND LOATHING: ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL '72, by Hunter S. Thompson. It's incredible and eerie and scary how much the election in 1972 feels like the election in 2004. From pages 55-56: "And how many more of these stinking, double-downer sideshows will we have to go through before we can get ourselves straight enough to put together some kind of national election that will give me and the at least 20 million people I tend to agree with a chance to vote *for* somthing, instead of always being faced with that old familiar choice between the lesser of two evils?" The Democratic Party seems more organized than in '72, but more than anything this book, along with continuing to read Clinton's MY LIFE, makes me wish for two things: Bobby Kennedy hadn't died in 1968, and Howard DEAN hadn't lost the primaries. I'm a politics nerd, and this is the perfect book to read in an election year.

ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN: IRRESPONSIBLE, by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley. Um, wow. I saw Spider-Man 2, along with the rest of the universe, last month and I wanted to dip back into some Spider-Man comics. He was always my favorite superhero, as far as superheroes go, but this book is just awful. If you need any more proof that "decompressed storytelling" isn't always a good idea, here's the book for you. The book seems to exist to get things back in place--by the end of the last volume Peter Parker and Mary Jane had broken up, so over the course of this one they of course have to get back together. The only villain in sight for Spidey to face is a teen-ager named "Geldoff" that can blow up cars. Some of the X-Men guest star, but they come across as just as whiney as Spider-Man himself. This one was a huge let-down after the cinematic nerdgasm of Raimi's Spider-Man 2.

AMERICAN ELF, by James Kochalka. I picked this one up at a signing James and Craig Thompson did at Chicago Comics. AMERICAN ELF collects five years worth of Kochalka's sketchbook diaries, which appear daily at americanelf.com. It's hilarious, sublime, brilliant, and sometimes a little too cute--I think it's excellent and that James is one of the best cartoonists working in graphic novels today, but American Elf isn't for everyone. A lot of the friends I've pointed to the website haven't enjoyed it, but that's because the depth of the strip is most easily seen when looking at a bunch at a time, which this collection provides. Four of the five years included in this volume have been printed seperately as THE SKETCHBOOK DIARIES, volumes 1-4, but I for one happily added this bulky collection to my bookshelf.

CARNET DE VOYAGE, by Craig Thompson. Also picked up at the signing, this is a three-month travel diary written and drawn by Craig while travelling through Europe. Craig is one of the nicest cats I've ever met, but if you're waiting for the follow-up to his killer BLANKETS, this isnt' quite it. That's coming next year, and part of Craig's trip was to do research for it. But it's still interesting to see the inner-workings of the artist's brain. It's awfully self-involved, but hey, it's a diary--it's supposed to be. Craig falls in love easily, but the fact that he's so open in what he reports in his diary is nice to see. I once heard Ira Glass say that when they look for writers to put on THIS AMERICAN LIFE they look for the people who are willing to embarrass themselves at parties, saying the things that no one else would be willing to say. Craig does that here, and he does it really well.

CONVERSATION #1, by James Kochalka and Craig Thompson. It's the book they were touring for--James started a panel and sent it to Craig who finished it and started the next. It's really neat seeing their two styles blend together and conflict. If you're interested in either, this is a neat insight into their process.