Saturday, December 31, 2005

At the rock show

So, yesterday, after work, the Maddening Angel and I met up at her place. We ordered pizza and watched The Adventures Of Sebastian Cole. (Good film.) We hung around for a while, then went down to where Auric, local music hero of some national repute, was playing with the band. There must have been at least 1500 people there. I talked to all the guys in the band, and met Muffin, Anacreon, the Friar and others. Everyone assumed that MA was my girlfriend, of course, which is rather awkward. Anyway, we hung out backstage, got to flash all-access passes, that kind of thing.

Oh, and Auric even mentioned my name from on stage when he sang the French song.

After the show, MA and I joined Friar at the Hangout, where I topped off the growing drunk I'd been working on. MA got very hungry suddenly, as is her wont, so we went to her house where we ate more pizza, and watched some movie together on her tiny couch. Just as we were both dropping off, her boyfriend called. She said she was just about to pass out, and did not mention that I was there. Even though there seemed to be no reason for it, I'm fairly sure that he said something about me, to which she replied, "No. Chance is my friend." Is he jealous? If so, is he right to be? He's the one having sex with her. He'd probably have felt a lot worse if I'd chimed in with some comment, my voice six inches from the phone.

She told him she loved him (which made me jealous) and hung up, and we fell asleep, as we have a few times in the past, lying together in each other's arms on the couch. I slept fitfully. Around four o'clock, MA took off her sweater, under which she had a very flimsy half-"shirt" and bra. Nothing I haven't seen before, but... Groan. Did I try any advances? I did not, both because of Mr. Boyfriend and because any such moves would almost certainly be unwelcome. I continued to toss and turn on that narrow couch, and I left groggily around six a.m.

Gad, I hate being the "safe" one.

So you'd think that I should be happy, with a fairly full social life, and (at the holidays at least) a wide variety of friends and acquaintances to hang out with. But when I get back here and sit down at the computer again like some nerdy lonely lump of Lonely Nerd, I get more depressed than ever. I really am searching for some kind of constant companionship.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Vocabulaire: glander

glander - to loaf around, idle
La fourmi a travaillé, mais la sauterelle paresseuse a glandé pendant tout l'été. (Du coup, en hiver elle était obligée de tuer la fourmi et de voler sa nourriture.)

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Filling the hours

Today was another blessed day off work. Got up tired with my throat sore; late night at the Hangout last night with the Brother and the Friar. I stopped by work to say goodbye to a kid I've known over two years who's leaving, and chatted with the Maddening Angel. Ate lunch with the Brother and his Brood, then we all leashed up Dog and went to the dog park and went for a walk among the trails around the lake. (Sigh. That reminded me how I've missed those weekend hikes with the MA back when we were thicker than theives. Did I fail to grab the golden ring there?)

Dinner with the whole dang blasted fambly, including aunt, cousin B and his smokin' girlfriend, then we all played charades till fairly late in the evening. Does anyone except this family play parlour games anymore? Brother and Brood leave tomorrow very early morning. At last I'll have my car back.

I miss late nights with MA.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Review of R.K. Narayan's Ramayana

I recently re-read R.K. Narayan's version of The Ramayana. This is a much condensed, retold prose adaptation, based not on the 4th century Sanskrit original by Valmiki, but a popular 11th century Tamil version by a poet known as Kamban.

The plot, in a nutshell, is this: Vishnu is reborn as a human prince, Rama, in order to destroy a demon (asura) called Ravana, who terrorizes the world with his awesome power. Unaware of Rama’s own power and destiny, the ten-headed Ravana is struck by the beauty of Rama's wife, Sita, and abducts her. Say, that’s a handy excuse to wipe him and his entire clan off the face of Brahma’s clean earth! The pre-emptive attacker is rarely cast as the hero (right, President Bush?).

Narayan, of course, is a skilled novelist, and he makes the epic very readable and entertaining; I certainly kept turning the pages. Still, I found Narayan's habit of intruding on his own narrative and commenting on Kamban’s writing technique (“here the poet describes the landscape...”), rather than following suit, to be a bit jarring. Perhaps this is done to help enhance the illusion of story-telling, a tradition inseperable from the poem, and about which Narayan says a few words at the end. This also, thankfully for the modern reader, cuts down on the purple prose. My chief complaint is the same as it was when I read this book ten years ago: Narayan cuts huge sections out — perforce, obviously, given the vast length of the original, but he does it often where it seems the most drama might be found (the climactic clash of armies runs only a few pages, and the fall of Ravana’s son to Rama’s brother merely one line). This is, however, more than made up for the knock-down, dragged-out fight between Rama and Ravana themselves, a fantastic battle featuring arrows, flying chariots, and asthras (conjured weapons, spells).

On the whole, Narayan does a superb job of condensing the epic into a fairly straightforward single narrative, from Rama’s birth to his coronation. Highly recommended for those with little or no knowledge of this ancient epic.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Vocabulaire: un potache

un potache - a schoolkid
D'habitude les potaches n'aiment pas manger des huitres ou des palourdes, même quand les huitres sont frites.

Everything's gonna be cool this Christmas

Had a pretty good Xmas at the Aunt's house, with Brother, Cousin and assorted hangers-on in attendance. I got a couple of books that look interesting, two CDs from my Amazon wishlist, a Jesus action figure with glow-in-the-dark hands, a DVD of a movie that's currently still in theaters (a bootleg from the streets of NYC), and perhaps coolest of all, a new printer that functions as a scanner. I hope to upload a few drawings once it's set up.

Went to an Xmas party at Anacreon's house. The Friar and his wife, Muffin and her husband, and few others I know from casual acquaintance were there. The Maddening Angel left a party of her own to drop by and say hi (though she had never met Anacreon), but left after only a brief stay to go back to her boyfriend's party. Resentment, jealousy, frustration, depression.

Brother and I left the party and went to the Hangout, which was a madhouse. A maaaadhouse! I have never seen it so crowded, and no one I knew was there, except the owner, who was too far away to talk to. Despite the noise and the non-favored service status, Brother and I stayed for a drink and had a nice chat, mostly about my unhealthy obsession with MA.

Merry Christmas to all, and may the peace of the season last for a year.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Vocabulaire: une vasque

une vasque - a basin, bowl
Il fait chaud, et les oiseaux voudraient boire de l'eau, mais il y a un chat méchant qui dort dans la vasque du bain.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Vocabulaire: tracasser

tracasser - to worry, trouble, bother
Quand quelque chose vous tracasse, la ligne de conduite préferée est de l'anéantir sans pitié.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

More useless trivia

Today's trifling trivial titbit is hardly likely to come up in bar contests, but here it is anyway: What's the national anthem of India?

It's --- get ready for it --- "Jana Gana Mana," which apparently means "Thou Art Ruler Of the Minds Of All People."

Wikipedia, bless its soul, gives us the lyrics in Hindi, Bengali and English, as well as a transliteration of the Hindi. And the sheet music! How did anyone ever learn anything before the Internet?

The lyrics were written by Rabindranath Tagore, Nobel laureate and arguably India's most famous poet. He is certainly the greatest Bengali poet and best-known modern poet of India.

Some Indians take exception to "Jana Gana Mana" as the anthem of an independent India (as opposed to a colony).

But for now, India's anthem remains "Jana Gana Mana." There's something to be said for tradition, and anyway, no country could ask for a more talented lyricist --- or a more fun name to say.

Edit: Taupe found snippets of two audio versions of the anthem online. As he says, "One is very enjoyable and kind of romantic, the other, played by a brass band, is bland and eminently forgettable." I don't know nothin' 'bout mp3s, so it didn't occur to me to get audio. Thanks to Taupe and his tech savvy.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Review of The Broken Tusk, by Uma Krishnaswami

I grew up immersed in the Greek myths. I read many versions of their stories again and again. I knew those Greek tales of gods and heroes like other, more normal, kids knew about sports statistics and athletes. Yes, I was a nerd, but looking back in the cold light of adulthood, isn't obsessing over the deeds of sports figures just as ridiculous and pointless as, say, cataloguing comic book heroes, or detailing the minutiae of Star Wars? (The answer is yes.) Yet one activity is considered healthy and mainstream, while the others are derided and marginalized. Go figure. But I digress.

This is the book that first captivated me, and that I read to a shambles --- it should be available to every child. Ingri and Edgar Parin D'Aulaire tell (and illustrate) the ancient stories in a forthright, easy manner, discreetly and appropriately passing over the more prurient bits without stripping the characters of their all-too-human side. They are not presented as daunting, alien beliefs far removed from modern man, or, worse, stuffy and important "classics." Children don't care about those things. They just want to hear about powerful gods and tricky heroes and fantastic battles. The D'Aulaires presented the Greek myths in just the right way, tempting children to learn more.

I recently came across a slim volume that accomplishes the same task for one of the Hindu pantheon: the divine half of this blog's name, Ganesh. In The Broken Tusk: Stories Of the Hindu God Ganesha (first published in 1996), Uma Krishnaswami retells for children seventeen of Ganesh's deeds. Maniam Selven provides simple, elegant line drawings for some stories, making Ganesh into a cute, chubby little figure.

And why not? Ganesh is revered all over India for his jolly, happy-go-lucky outlook. If there's one single Hindu god that Western children might find appealing at an early age, it's Ganesh, that wise and powerful but kindly and pleasure-loving god. (Well, it sure ain't Kali!) I mean, he's a rotund, elephant-headed god with a sweet tooth and whose divine steed is a mouse, for crying out loud! It's not like he's a bastion of dignity or anything.

Krishnaswami is a superb story-teller, and manages to extract from the often bewildering web of Hindu mythology (with its overlapping story arcs, contradictory details, and an overabundance of avatars) these easily digestible stand-alone morality tales. As in the book of Greek myths that I so loved as a child, the stories here are simple in their presentation, but they're never simplistic in their intention. Children, who know when they're being patronized, are attuned to this style.

I'm a reader of the Indian sagas, and I had not heard half of these tales. Krishnaswami not only retells events from the main epics, she also adapts tales of Ganesh from other lands and religions. All of the stories --- how baby Ganesh got his elephant head, how Ganesh took a sage's dictation and thus put the epic Mahabharata to paper, how Ganesh came to ride a mouse, how Parvati, Ganesh's mother, turned into a cat to teach him a lesson, and more --- are full of the magic and whimsy that children love about myths, but they also affirm ethical lessons applicable to our own lives. Every story is captivating, leaving the reader wanting to know more about this friendly god.

My one minor quibble is the order that the stories are presented. More than likely Krishanswami intends them to be independent tales, not necessarily read from first to last, but they are in the book in a certain order, and I don't understand the reasoning behind the order. The origin of Ganesha’s broken tusk appears after a story in which that tusk plays a central role in Ganesha’s quarrel with the moon. For another example, the origin of his mouse steed Mushika (as a demon Ganeshatamed) appears after Mushika is mentioned several times in other stories. With little effort, a bit of reordering might have made this book even more accessible. Still, that is a minor quibble. I would like to see this elegant, charming book of Indian myth on every child's bookshelf. In these supposedly multi-cultural days of high-tech instant communication with millions from all over the globe, it's never too early to start opening doors onto traditions different than our own. (The irony is that the more we look into different traditions, the more we realize that the same basic quests for an understanding of the forces that guide the universe and of some kind of ethical map are pretty universal.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Here's some more useless trivia

[NB: this folderol was originally posted in July of 2005.]

With sincere, deep respect and sympathy for the victims of the despicable terrorist attacks in London on July 7, 2005, this blog proceeds with its scheduled post. Because if non-news blogs start getting all martial and solemn, the violent fundamentalist Muslims win. And God knows we don't need that.

So, here's to the Raj. Deliberately turning aside from historical controversy, let's focus on the good side of the Empire. Yes, colonialism is a step up from slavery, but India did benefit just a little from British rule. Why, the British encouraged Indian education, cut down on feudal abuses, imposed a geographical unity to India, in general improved the plight of the lower castes, and built.... how many miles of railroads across India, where none existed before?

Between 23,000 and 30,000 is the usual estimate. Say 25,000.

God bless that voracious Victorian work ethic and God save the Queen!

P.S. Please do not comment that these rails were built to bring in cotton and transport troops, and thus served only to keep Indians cotton spinners poor and oppressed. I know that. Dammit, I'm feeling the love for old Albion right now! Stiff upper lip and all that!

Monday, December 19, 2005

An Indian Abecedary

An Indian Abecedary, being a Challenge to Myself.

A is for Asoka, that wise, just king
Who decreed Buddhist peace for everything

B is for Buddha’s famous Bodhi tree
Under it Siddhartha had his epiphany

C is for Caste, a system that’s brought grief
To those who’ve suffered under this belief

D is for Dharma, the way given to each life
Follow its principles and minimize strife

E is for Elephant, magnificent beast
Ridden and cared for by mahouts in the east

F is for Freedom — from rebirth, in heaven
Or from the British in Nineteen Forty-Seven

G is for Ganesh, kind in thought and deed
Jolly elephant god with a mouse for a steed

H is for Hanuman, Rama’s loyal flunky
A healer and warrior in shape of a monkey

I is for the Indus Valley Civilization
The efficient, well-planned Harrapan nation

J is for Jains, who eat no meat (let alone cows)
They strive toward peace via the five geat vows

K is for Kali, like a skull-bedecked demon
Her cult of Thuggee was stopped by William Sleeman

L is for languages; India has more than a few
Like Tamil, Hindi, Konkani, and Urdu

M is for Mangoes, India’s tree-grown treasure
The sweet fruit fills your belly with pleasure

N is for Nehru, India’s first head of state
He pushed legal reforms at a rapid rate

O is for Ohm, that mystic syllable
Which makes the chanter with truth fillable

P is for Pakistan, India’s rival
Over Rajasthan plain might they fight for survival?

Q is for Queen Victoria, who ruled the Raj
And had the rep of being a humourless codge

R is for Rama, god born to a king
In an epic whose praises all Indians sing

S is for Sikhs, fiece people once so feared
With knife, iron bracelet and imposing beard

T is for the Taj Majal, world’s loveliest tomb
With beautiful facade and spacious room

U is for Upanishads, texts for meditation
On Hindu precepts of self-realization

V is for the Vedas, four books of hymns
To the Hindu gods whose deeds they limn

W is for Wheel, the Buddhist chakra of fate
The spokes stand for truth and they number eight

X is for Xenophobic; some do charge
That India’s peoples are insular, by and large

Y is for Yama, who pulls souls from the dead
To judge them on the lives they led

Z is for Zoroastrians, of Parsi culture
Whose dead are hung out to be eaten by vultures

And there you have it. Sure, on the whole this is doggerel, and the selections’ relative merits as representations are debatable — G could just as easily have been for the Ganges or Gandhi, K could have been for Karma or the Kashmir, S for Shiva or Sanskrit, A for Akbar, etc., etc. — but obviously some things are going to be left out. I had fun writing it, anyway.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Vocabulaire: une saucée

une saucée - a downpour, sudden storm
Pendant la saucée, j'ai été sauf et sec sous l'abri d'une saule.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Useless trivia

Here’s a bit of trivia. What is the tallest mountain in India?

I think the (Western) man on the street would reply to this question "Mount Everest." But this would be an error, since Everest is not in India, as a quick click on the above link shows.

The answer is: Kanchenjunga, less than thousand feet lower than Everest and located at the Nepal border, is India's tallest peak. It's part of the Himalayas and is the third (some maintain the second) highest mountain in the world. The name's a bit more difficult for Western tongues to handle than "K2," but say it slowly a couple of times and it'll stick. Kan-chen-jun-ga. "The five treasures of the snow," in Tibetan.

So there you have it. Feel more informed yet? No, I don’t either.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Vocabulaire: niquer

niquer - to fuck
Bordel, j'ai manqué ma chance de niquer cette poupée mignonne !

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Review of Kim, by Rudyard Kipling

I finished reading the novel Kim, by Rudyard Kipling (published in 1901).

The titular Kim is the orphaned son of an Irish sergeant in the [British] Indian Army. (In British India, a soldier was either British Army or Indian Army. The latter was still, of course, part of the British Army. But there was in fact a gulf between the two military institutions. Anyway.)

Kim is brought up as an Indian street urchin, and is ignorant of his parentage. Fluent in Hindi and Pushtu (a.k.a. Pushto, Pashto, etc), he is quick-witted and street-wise. As mischievous a scamp as he is, he nevertheless falls under the spell of a naive but wise Tibetan lama searching for the River of Buddha's Arrow. Seeing that Kim is heading in the right direction, a vendor (who is actually a spy) gives Kim a package to deliver, and soon Kim is a full-fledged player in the Great Game — England’s espionage network that safeguards British India. Eventually, he learns of his ancestry, and is taken to a British school, but he does not forget India's traditions, or his lama.

This is a terrific novel: witty, suspenseful, rich in descriptions of forgotten or disappearing people and customs, and above all as complex and layered as India herself. As some critics have charged, there is a smack of the white man’s superior airs (Kipling's "white man's burden") in the novel — it is Kim's "white blood" that makes him immune to the suggestions of India's magic and his English education that allows him to resist hypnotism— but considering the author's life and epoch, there is nothing, in my mind, denigrating to India in the novel.

Kipling loves India, and Kim is India. Able to mimic a Sahib, a Hindi, a Muslim, a beggar, a chela and more, he represents all of India: its "good, gentle" people who revere the wise and the virtuous. The ending of the book is perfect: there is closure, but it leaves all of India, from its dusty plains to the bitter cold of the "Hills" (the Himalayas), open to Kim’s skills and knowledge.

I found this to be a truly great book, much more than an adventure story, road trip, or coming of age story. It is all these and more. It should be required reading in every world literature class.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Review of The Jungle Books, by Rudyard Kipling

I first read The Jungle Books (first published 1894) as a kid of about twelve or so, though perhaps "delved into" is a better verb; I certainly don't remember some of these stories, especially from the second book. I imagine that, like most people, I was, until I actually read the thing, much more familiar with the tales from the 1967 Disney film than the original source material. I was pleased to see that the film is more or less faithful to the spirit and some of the events of the book. (The movie is nothing to sneeze at --- funny and dramatic, it's probably my favorite Disney film, and it certainly has some of the best songs. "I Wan'na Be Like You," "Bear Necessities," "Elephants On Parade" --- so much better than the pablum AOR ballads Disney feels obligated to slap onto its films since the last decade.)

The Jungle Books isn't a novel, but a series of stories. It may come as a surprise to some that not all of these tales feature the most famous character: Mowgli, the baby carried off by a lame tiger and rescued by wolves, who grows to be master of the jungle. (In this, he predates Tarzan by a couple of decades.)

Between these covers are featured other stories of India as well, some well-known ("Rikki-Tikki-Tavi," of the cobra-killing mongoose, also made into an animated film) and some not so well known ("Servants Of the Queen," in which various army pack animals discuss their lot, and by extension, the lot of their masters, in life). For me, the ones that jarred the most were the stories that take place in the Arctic regions of all places ("The White Seal" and "Quiquern"). They seemed wildly incongrous mixed in between the better-known tales of the tropics. The one connecting thread of the tales, no matter what their locale, is that they all deal in some way with an animal's view of the world.

The Bombay-born Kipling was, of course, a child of colonialism, and his critics can't help but at least entertain charges that his works are an apology for "the white man's burden." As I've noted before, I'm an ardent admirer of Kipling, and making allowances for the epoch and mileu in which he lived, I can't buy that wholesale. I do see why some people argue that his works, including The Jungle Books, are an allegory for colonialism. "The White Seal" in particular appears to be a particularly blatant suggestion of the superiority of the white man. But it's also clear from reading Kipling that he loved India. He was born and worked there, and he wrote so extensively and in such detail of a wide variety of India's peoples and customs that it's hard to believe he did it all to push an agenda.

Even if it is an extended allegory (which I don't believe) The Jungle Books is a very poor one, since it's so rich and subtle. Anyone could pick it up and enjoy a tale of adventure, fantasy, heroism, familial love, triumph over tragedy, and sad farewells without ever dreaming there might be some hidding meaning, or considering what the various animals "represent." It's often considered a children's book, but I doubt it would be thought so if it appeared today; the language is complex, there's quite a lot of killing and threats of torture, and, least Disneyfied of all, the end is (as with another of Kipling's animal tales, Thy Servant a Dog) not at all the neatly-tied happy resolution that the majority of non-series children's stories seem to require today. That said, I think that a reasonable parent could easily find much in these pages to read to even a very young child --- what kid wouldn't want to hear about how Mowgli massacred the pack of wild dogs with the help of a python, some wolves, and about a million angry bees?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Vocabulaire: grouiller

grouiller - to swarm, mill about
Les abeilles grouillent autour de la ruche qu'ils ont bâti dans le crâne d'un lion.

Monday, December 12, 2005

On the Black Terror

Who wears a black shirt with a white skull and crossbones and shoots badguys with a machine gun? No, I'm not speaking of the Punisher, my friend. Look to the left. That Jap-massacring fellow riding a steamroller and sporting that fashionable skull and crossbones motif is none other than... The Black Terror!

Name: The Black Terror

Real name: Bob Benton

First appearance: Exciting Comics #9 (May, 1942)

Background: Ol' Bob, a pharmacist, experimented with his drugs and came up with "formic ethers," a gas which, when inhaled, gave him super strength and great resistance to harm. At least, bullets usually bounced off him, but sometimes he could be KOed by a blow to the head. Back then, writers didn't dream of giving a monent's concern to details like strength levels or in-story continuity or logic. Just the wham-bam-drama, please, and keep it coming! Wartime heroes were the best.

Later, Bob got him a sidekick, because that's so de rigeur, don't you know. Tim Roland was the young lad's name. Was he an orphan? I believe he also had super-strength. Did he also breathe Bob's gas invention to give him the power? If so, could Bob be charged with giving dangerous substances to a minor? If not, could Bob be charged with the reckless endangerment of a child? Why was the kid's street name Tim? Couldn't it have been at least Black Tim? Alas, I don't have the issues that would answer these questions. Someone needs to release all the Black Terror stories in an archive format. Pure comics gold.

Powers and abilities: As noted above, the ether conferred upon Bob the powers of super-strength (he could lift and throw cars, knock out dozens of people, etc.) and super-tough skin. How long did the effects last? Since these stories were told in 1942, when no one cared about fictional logistics, the answer is probably: it lasted as long as the story needed it to.

Weaponry: The Black Terror often used guns. As you can see from the picture on the top left, he wasn't above squishing his enemies with a steamroller, either, apparently.

Weaknesses: As you can see if you click on the story link below, the Black Terror could be thumped on the head with a gun butt and knocked out cold, even though bullets bounced off him.

Team-ups I'd like to see: Captain America and Bucky (these guys and Black Terror and Tim would make quite the patriotic, Jap-busting, slightly homoerotic foursome, though they might drift apart due to the Black Terror's pro-massacring stance); the Punisher (they might well get along).

Black Terrifying links:

A full online Black Terror story --- Even Scipio would agree that this is PACKED TO THE MARGINS WITH DRAMA. Giant magnets with razor blades that don't appear in the story! "They're throwing lead from a tommy gun!" "You dirty rat!" "Look! There they go --- in that AUTOGIRO!!" "A perilous plunge!" "Ach! Put opp the hands or I shoodt!" You just don't find snappy dialogue like that in today's gloom-'n'-doom superhero books. Exciting Comics, indeed.

Don Markstein's Toonpedia entry

International Hero entry

An exciting-looking cover

A rather disturbing-looking cover

The Black Terror was created by Richard E. Hughes and Don Gabrielson.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Review of Howard the Duck (2002)

[NB: this bit of buffoonery was originally published to my now-defunct blog in August of 2005.]

I recently read Steve Gerber's Howard the Duck (in graphic novel form, volume 2, issues 1-6, published by Marvels' MAX line, from 2002). Okay, so I'm behind the times. Also, yes, Mike Sterling has had Howard-related posts three days running, including today. But I swear, I've been planning this post since before I saw Mike's. I don't copy him on purpose. It's not my fault he's genetically engineered to think three steps ahead of all the other geeks.

Okay, anyway, the graphic novel. As with highly-hyped books like 100 Bullets, I liked it, but I didn't quite understand the Sheer Adulation. I'm not kidding. One Amazon reviewer titled his review "As good as or better than Shakespeare... I'm serious." Hi, serious, I'm speechless. I would venture to say that this reviewer has not actually read any Shakespeare. But, soft! methinks I do digress too much, as Lucius says in Titus Andronicus (Act V, scene iii).

That's not saying HTD Mark MAX is bad, at all. This book was witty and fun to read, all right, but not by any stretch one of the best comics I've ever read, or even one of the best parodies. As a kid, I read Gerber's original Howard work, and remember not thinking much of it one way or another. In fact, all I really remember is Howard meeting Man-Thing and sweating profusely as the latter slowly reaches out to touch the tip of Howard's bill, and Howard muttering, "No fear... not even a smidgen..." or something like that. It's been decades. Now that I'm all grown up, sort of, and have a broader understanding of the world, I think I can identify with Gerber's take on the modern world.

Some spoilers may follow. The book starts off with a bang, with a great and possibly original riff on boy bands, as Howard and his girl Bev meet up with their old enemy Dr. Bong. The boys are grown in vats, the songs and names prepackaged to appeal to gay men and teen girls --- but Gerber doesn't just scoff at the Backstreet Boys. That would be Mad Magazine material. Instead, he presents the vat-grown band members as victims, and suggests that their fans are, too. It's the promoters who are programming young consumers to lap up this kind of prefabricated pop so they will later lap up prefabricated politics --- an interesting take, you'll admit.

It's too bad, then, that Gerber drops that social criticism as Howard and Bev flee for their lives, only to encounter a parody of Witchblade (which I'm only vaguely familiar with) and end up at a flop house that is home to parodies of a raft of DC's Vertigo characters. Gerber's writing remains witty, but his point is missing. So what if Neil Gaiman's Endless show up with Seven Dwarf-type names, or if our heroes meet all but undisguised versions of DC's mature line (see if you can guess who they are by the hilarious names: Hellboozer, Anthrax Mystery Theater, Splatter Gomorrah --- oh, such cutting wit)? Now this really is Mad Magazine material. Oh yeah, and Howard is a mouse for most of it, for some reason. If there's a point to his new shape, I missed it. Gerber doesn't use the transformation to any effect, choosing instead to ignore it.

It's fortunate, then, that Gerber puts things back together at the end, with a parody of Oprah and Dr. Phil (with a guest shot by a Preacher parody) that is, once again, a rather more weighty commentary on how we live our lives. And the capper, in which Howard has a nice conversation with God about creation, sin, religion and responsibility, is as good a bit of philosophizing as I've seen in a comic book, outside of maybe Gaiman and Mike Carey. Oh, and check out the two-page splash panel immediately following the "Creator's Rights" title page, where Howard finds himself in Hell --- there in the background, two devil-Rastas are sodomizing a devil-cop (obviously a vengeful nod to the Abner Louima abuse case), but the stick has clearly been erased. I guess Gerber's too MAX for Marvel's MAX line. Has anyone else noticed this? Knowing me, everyone already has.

So, yes, I found this graphic novel a hit or miss affair --- witty writing with some interesting things to say about religion and politics --- but with some slow stretches that don't live up to the hype. A recommended read, I guess, but I'm glad I got it at a discount.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

On the Atom

Today's Spotlight is my favorite comic book Atom. Not Ray "Atom" Palmer, not Atomicus, not the Atomic Knight, not Atom Ant or Atomas or Atom Blake or Atomica or Solar (Man of the Atom) or Tetsuwan Atom or Up And Atom. None of those and certainly not that dreadful Captain Atom.

Just. Plain. Atom. ATOM!

Name: The Atom

Real name: Al Pratt

First appearance: All-American Comics #19 (October, 1940)

Background: Young Al Pratt was just another American college guy in the '30s. One thing set him apart: his small stature. Other, taller people ridiculed him, and worse, he found himself unable to help his best girl Mary when she was mugged. Stinging with the burning shame of the less than macho man, he befriended some old hobo and learned martial arts from him. No, really. You can't make this stuff up.

After a few years of practice, the little Pratt (har!) became a squat, muscular fellow, and donned an... interesting looking costume to fight crime as the Atom (small, but powerful --- it had been a taunt used against him, but he reclaimed the word, as so many oppressed group claim derogatory epithets for their own use). Although he had no special powers (at first, anyway), big gun the Spectre chose the Atom as a founding member of the first super-team (or at least, the first one that mattered) --- the Justice Society. After many years of adventures, he was aged and killed. Oh well. He had a good long run.

Powers and abilities: The Atom was an Olympic-level athlete, with the normal strength of a man who engaged in intensive regular exercise and combat.

A few years into his career, the Atom was exposed to Thorium, an element which sounds completely made up, but isn't. The Thorium's radiation granted him superhuman powers in the form of flowing blond hair, badly mangled Elizabethan-era speech, and the hammer Mjolnir. No, it didn't. I kid. He got super-strength in the form of an "atomic punch." Now, call me a grumpy old curmudgeon set in his ways, but I see that as painting the lily. I likes my Atom a plucky, bull-headed athlete, thankee! Al Pratt didn't need no souped up fists to crack Nazi and Jap heads in Dubya-Dubya-Two! No, it was good old regular-Joe American toughness all the way! Anyway, I see his atomic punch, as well-intentioned an idea as it may be, a blip that doesn't really reflect on what makes the character, much like Booster Gold's "armor by Liefeld" phase (shudder).

Weaknesses: Other than being dead? Well, he's kinda short, so he doesn't get the reach advantage while duking it out.

Team-ups I'd like to see: Puck (they're both short tough guys who talk with their fists); Union Jack (they're both WWII-era human-level heroes).

Links:

A brief summary

Another Who's Who type entry

Cute little Atom!!

Custom made Atom figures --- why is Ray's head so freakishly bulbous?

Another custom Al Pratt (ten pictures down --- very nice one, too)

A bio with list of appearances

A sweet left cross!

That is a fine looking cover --- teaming with Wildcat! Boxer duo go!

Toonopedia entry --- Don Markstein's site is a must

The Atom was created by Ben Flinton and Bill O'Connor, two men about whom I know nothing.

Friday, December 09, 2005

On Asterix

Name: Asterix

Real name: Asterix

First appearance: Asterix le Gaul (1961)

Background: Asterix is a Gaul --- that is, an indigenous tribesman from what is now France, living in the time of Caesar. His tiny village by the sea is surrounded by the Roman legions who have conquered all of Gaul. Well, not all --- his village remains free and proud. Why? Although Asterix and his fellow villagers are certainly brave and fierce enough, the lion's share of the credit must go to the village's druid, Panoramix (or Getafix, as it is rendered in English). This venerable, kindly old man knows many magical secrets, but easily the most important of these is the recipe for a potion that increases the imbiber's strength many times over. When the villagers drink this potion, they smash Romans at will. And they love to do that! The Gauls are doughty warriors, and fear nothing except the sky falling on their heads. With his best friend Obelix at his side, Asterix is more often than not the hero of the village, having saved its honor and its often dimwitted inhabitants time and again.

Powers and abilities: Asterix has the normal strength of a man his size (which is quite small) who engages in regular fisticuffs. He is highly intelligent, an excellent strategist, has excellent reflexes and speed, and has several levels in Hand To Hand Combat and Swordplay.

When he drinks Panoramix's magic potion, Asterix possesses superhuman strength and endurance. The extent of this strength has not been measured, but he is capable of uprooting trees, snapping chains, and felling several armored men with a single blow. The limits of the strength the potion grants may be inferred by the following episode: once, Asterix, Obelix and Panoramix were trapped in one of Egypt's great pyramids. Obelix, who is a large man and who fell into a cauldron of potion when he was a baby and thus has superhuman strength at all times, had to be given even more potion so that he could have the power to knock down a solid stone wall.

The potion does not confer invulnerability --- Asterix could be wounded with a sword or spear even while under the potion's effects --- and it runs out after an unspecified length of time (somewhere in the realm of a few hours).

Weaponry: Asterix always carries a short sword, so watch with the "titch" and "runt" cracks.

Weaknesses: Asterix is a sucker for thin blondes, but then, aren't so many males?

Team-ups I'd like to see: Wolverine (they're both short and fierce); Hourman (they're both dope fiends); Conan (they're both men of the blade).

More info via linkage (and yes, I did lift the idea for this from Mike Sterling, who often does something similar):

The main characters

Asterix: The Official Site

An extremely pedantic evaluation of Asterix books

Cartoons do not work as live action

Asterix Pez dispensers!

Asterix figures

An Asterix quiz

The Asterix annotations

Asterix was created by Rene Goscinny, a master of the genre, and Albert Uderzo, whose caricatures capture the goofy drama of the adventures perfectly. Uderzo went on to write Asterix after Goscinny's death --- these books are to be avoided like the plague.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Iridescent Tourney V: Witchy Woman

Welcome to day five of the Iridescent Tourney --- a series of COC fights suggested by that swell fellow H at the always entertaining Comic Treadmill.

When last we saw the Tourney, Green Lantern showed the Red Tornado he was full of hot air. (Gads, I'm clever --- or at least as clever as Rob Liefield!).

Kyle Rayner's opponent today is everyone's favorite mutant Avenger: Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch! Now, I'm talking about the fully assembled Scarlet Witch, the noble daughter of Magneto who uses her mystically-enhanced mutant ability for the forces of good. Not the Bendis-written "Witch Crazy!" who got all her friends blowed up for... uh, some reason. Oh yeah! To sell comics.

In case you're not familiar with the fairest Maximoff (although Quicksilver is, to be honest, a pretty attractive fellow), her power is to create probability disruption fields --- "hexes," as they're called. Within a certain area, the Scarlet Witch can use her power to, well, make things go wrong.

With that in mind, follow along with me as we see what transpires in the field of battle.

Kyle floats down toward Wanda. He's just taken out an array of colorful trash, from the Rainbow Raider to the Red Tornado, and he's in a pretty cocky mood. He gets in close.

Hex! Oh, snap! It's a major one! Kyle's ring sputters and blinks out. He falls ingloriously to the ground in a heap. "What the---?"

It is at this point that another, wiser, more battle-honed Green Lantern such as Alan Scott, Hal Jordan, Kilowogg --- hell, even Guy Garder --- pretty much everyone shy of G'Nort --- would help demonstrate that maturity and experience can turn the tide. Callow Kyle is a young man; he's a bit more than just a pretty face behind an oddly thick mask, but only a bit. He's a work in progress, let's say. He relies very heavily on the ring; when it malfuctions, he's more immediately at a loss than a more experienced GL, who's handled this sort of situation more than a few times, would be.

The Scarlet Witch is not formidable physically. She must continually get the drop on her opponent in order for her to maintain the upper hand. A practiced and mentally focused opponent, even one of only human-level ability, has a chance to withstand Wanda's probability disruption long enough to wade through the distractions and take her out.

Indeed, Kyle's ring (which is not truly "shut off," as it can't be; the power field was merely shorted for a split second in the Witch's hex zone) is now telling Kyle this very thing: "Kyle Rayner," the ring says in his mind, "You must focus all your willpower into this moment and harness the power again!"

"The ring's right," Kyle thinks, "gotta focus all the willpower... Man, this chick is smokin'! There's something about a red-head in a skin-tight bodysuit... And those elbow-length gloves! Sheee, that's--- Oh, wait, yeah, gotta re-harness the---"

CRASH! A nearby building falls on Rayner. The Scarlet Witch is unharmed.


The Champ. Posted by Hello

Next: Think Wanda's got what it takes?

[And that, folks, was the end. There was no "next," at least not in the usual form, as I found myself literally unable to write wry, tongue-in-cheek geekery about comics anymore. Real Life came riding down into Blogville, and Real Life took a big dump in the middle of the town square and burned down city hall.

Several months later, I came up with this lame finale, unable to muster up the levity for anything else:]

Well, it's been over a month since I meta-posted saying I was feeling ready to come back, and no more posts have materialized. It's thus become clearer to me that, despite what I said, I probably will not be doing this blog in its present form any more. It's the kind of thing that you really have to be in a certain mood to do, and these days I just don't find myself in that mood at all anymore. Yeah, I know, people everywhere have problems. I'm not sitting in a dark corner drinking and playing a tiny violin, but I don't think I'm going to be writing humorous superhero battles any time soon, either. You never know, though. I might (even if I do, certainly not as often as I was posting before, which wasn't very often), or... Maybe I'll do something else in this space. In any case, thanks to all for the kind words.

As for the Iridescent Tourney, I'd like to wrap that up now. Well, I had visualized that the Xavier School's resident Professor Of Porn Studies Professor Of Some Sort of Mental Stuff, Emma Frost, a.k.a. The White Queen would best Wanda pretty easily. Then we'd see, in no particular order, some more obscure characters such as the Gray Man and Chroma. Who else is up in their league? Oh yeah, the Silver Surfer. But anyone with any sort of Marvel comics knowledge knows who'd be final winner.

There's just no doubt.

He can't be stopped.

He's big. He's bad. He's Black.

He's positively inhuman!

He has an electrical prong on his helmet for some goddam reason!

Ladies and gentlemen... Mister Black Bolt.

[Holy crap! I just found out his real name is "Blackagar Boltagon!" That's hilarious! That's awesome! That's (as Hovy is fond of saying) totally porno! That would make an excellent band name!]

Ol' Blackagar faces his opponent and says: "Let's get it on!"

[Opponent disintegrates. Planetquakes. General levelling of all salient features of landscape.]

"Oops!"

See you around, kids.



The Champ.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Iridescent Tourney IV: Return of the son of tourney

Welcome to day four of the Iridescent Tourney --- a series of COC fights suggested by that swell fellow H at the always entertaining Comic Treadmill. An excellent idea it was too. If only an entertaining writer had been commissioned to execute it.

When last we saw the Tourney, the Purple Man was unable to get his mind-controlling power to penetrate Kyle Rayner's thick skull.

Day four sees a sharp reduction in the list of entrants waiting to tussle with Kyle. Here's the deal: all those without long-range powers and other no-hopers have been tossed out like week-old fish. I mean, it's all fun and games, but nobody wants to read about how Kyle Rayner pissed himself laughing while placing the Red Bee and his fearsome trained bees into a big green hive with bars on the windows. (Or do they?) So from here on out, only characters who have a fart's chance in hell of beating the guy with the ring are showing up.

So, herewith the challenger: Red Tornado! (No, not Ma Hunkel, but she was on the list too). Is he an elemental? An android? A JSA member? A guy in a really lame bald-head flesh mask? He is all these things and more. Inhabiting the robotic shell built by T.O. Morrow, the tornado-turned-hero has fought with the JSA, JLA and some other less famous group. He is master of winds from abroholos to zephyr, an anemometer-busting force of nature merged with a mechanical marvel.

But it'll take more than blowing a lot of air around to stop Green Lantern. Kyle's aura allows him to breathe and live in deep space; winds aren't really a problem. Giant funnels and fans can redirect the Tornado's winds and thick force fields can contain them. Also, don't forget, the ring's power is not limited to just making big green things (ah, the legacy of Hal Jordan). Kyle can disrupt electromagnetic fields, turn invisible, regenerate, turn intangible, fly at enormous speeds, etc. etc.

It's with a twinge of regret that Kyle would put the big red guy down --- the Tornado's a good guy, after all --- but he'd do it nonetheless.


This is not the Champ, but if you're like me, you were sick of looking at Rayner's face. Posted by Hello

Next: What's the probability that Kyle's going down?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Iridescent Tourney III: This time it's personal

Welcome to day three of the Iridescent Tourney --- a series of COC fights suggested by that swell fellow H at the always entertaining Comic Treadmill.

When last we saw the Tourney, Green Lantern swatted the poor mentally unstable Dr. Pym, who was pretending to be a superhero named Yellowjacket.

As Champ, Kyle Rayner takes on all comers. (I apologize if this seems to be turning into the Green Lantern show; I'm really not that big of a fan, but he just happened to be one of the first randomly chosen to fight. Next time I do a tournament-style series --- around the time when Hell freezes over --- I'll have a tiered elimination format, rather than this boxing-style "linear champ" thing. Well, live and learn.)

Speaking of living, can even the mighty Green Lantern of Earth withstand the challenge of his next opponent --- one Zebediah Killgrave, a.k.a. the Purple Man? (Don't everybody answer all at once.) Physically a less than formidable foe, Killgrave has negated the prowess of foes many times his superior through his own uncanny power. The very cells of his body act as some sort of will-sapping agent, so that nearly all who hear his voice find it irresistible to obey.

Nearly all? Yes, we'll get to that.

But first, I'd like to note, with a scintilla of approbration as a long-time reader of superhero stories, a facet of the Purple Man's character. It's about time we had a character with such a descriptive, yet wholly uninformative, name! What? No, wait, that wasn't it. It's this: unlike most other villains in comics, the Purple Man acted with a bit of rationality now and then. News flash: being a "super villain" is pretty dumb. Why the gaudy costume? Why the drawing attention to your crimes? How about leading a nice, quiet life of Mr. John Q. Public, and every now and again using the ol' powers to get a quick wad of cash? Beats working. And that's exactly what our friend Mr. Killgrave did. When you can make other people do what you say just by saying it, why rob banks? Take it easy. Avoid Daredevil. Live it up poolside with the ladies.

Hell, it's what I'd do.

Anyway, back to the "nearly all" qualifier above. It should be noted that Daredevil, the Kingpin and Dr. Doom were immune to Killgrave's powers due to their strong wills. Now, raise your hand if all of your considerable power --- the infinite spectrum of the imagination --- is based on willpower. Yes, you with the glowing ring? Very good, Mr. Rayner. Now, let battle commence!

PM: "Hey, you up there with the green glow. Leave me alone and go kill yourself."

GL: (blinks, unsure what to make of this) "Um."

PM: "Didn't you hear me? Kill yourself now!"

GL: "Usually there's an 'or else' attached somewhere in there."

He conjures a big green tuxedo-clad gorilla who knocks Killgrave unconscious.

GL: "I think that guy was crazy too."


The Champ. Posted by Hello

Next: Someone has got to take this guy off his high horse eventually, but don't hold your breath

Monday, December 05, 2005

Iridescent Tourney Part Deux: le retour

Welcome to day two of the Iridescent Tourney --- a series of COC fights suggested by that swell fellow H at the always entertaining Comic Treadmill. Of course, if this experiment turns out to be lame, I take full responsibility.

When last we saw the Tourney, two tinted titans had tussled on the field of glory, but only one emerged triumphant: Kyle Rayner, the (well, a) Green Lantern.

As current Champ, he takes on all comers.

And what determined, colorfully-garbed man now strides out to the arena of battle? Why, none other than Dr. Hank Pym, in his Yellowjacket persona! Now, this is a guy who has had his share of mental problems. He has always suffered from delusions of severe inadequacy, may have some kind of identity disorder, and at the nadir of his career, was ousted from the Avengers as a wife-beater. To me, an insectoid name might be the first sign that you're dealing with a guy with esteem issues. From the name alone, you can tell who has more confidence, Iron Man or Yellowjacket. He didn't even go with the far more fearsome-sounding Hornet: he had to put the color of cowardice in the name. "Ant-man" wasn't bad enough.

As long as we're on the subject, has this abjectest Avenger ever addressed in the comics the overpowering guilt he must feel at having created Ultron, a villain who has come close to defeating the Avengers many times, and has killed at least a few regular civilian people? To me, this would be a fairly justified guilt; shouldn't it be eating away at his psyche? All this, and slapping the Wasp around: what a swell "hero." Yet it's the Scarlet Witch who's crazy. Right.

So anyway, here comes Pym, his little mechanical wings humming furiously as he swoops at Kyle. His tricked-out gloves fill the air with streaks of sparks and crackle with energy as he shoots "sting" after "sting" at Kyle. Green Lantern, with far greater speed, jinks away at first, evading the bolts, but once he ascertains that the stings can't possibly penetrate his bodyshield, he stops and lets Pym wear himself out.

YJ: "I'm not going to fail again. I won't! I can't! This is for Jan, for Cap, for everyone who's every believed in me! Rest in peace, Clint! Your old pal Pym's really got it together now! I'm a hero at last! A hero! So help me, I'm going to beat this guy if it's the last thing I ever---"

Kyle conjures a large floating green can of Raid and envelops Pym in a nice big fluffly cloud of green sleeping gas. Pym's pathetic raving sputters into a low mumble, then a snore, as he slips quickly off into a deep and dreamless sleep. His mechanical wings keep fluttering, but as Pym is now quite unconscious, he spirals and sputters toward the ground. Before he can crash, Kyle breaks his fall with a handy green mattress. He places a nice thick green quilt over Pym's body as an afterthought.

GL: "Are all these people going to be mental cases?"


The Champ. Posted by Hello

Next: it continues on like this

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Iridescent Tourney, Day the Firste

[As I mentioned in an early November post, back before my big breakup, I maintained another, well-received humorous blog called the Contest Of Champions. That blog is now defunct. Instead of wallowing in the misery of my current life situation (see the previous posts) I will reproduce here COC's last gasp, an abruptly aborted series that was started in April of 2005. Enjoy!]

***

Welcome to day one of the Iridescent Tourney --- a series of COC fights suggested by that swell fellow H at the always entertaining Comic Treadmill.

Here's how this will work, at least in theory. I made a list of thirty heroes and villains with colors in their names. I tried to avoid characters too obscure. I won't reveal the list ahead of time, because I don't want to spoil any surprises. However, I will note that I could find no characters whatsoever from any company with the words "orange" or "brown" in their name. I know there must be at least one or two, but I'm unaware of them.

Today's battle will be between two chromatic characters picked at random, using the COC's Super Secret Random Hero Generator (for real this time). No, you still can't see it. In the next installment, today's victor will face off the next randomly-chosen entrant in another thrilling hue-themed theomachy.

Not all the characters on the list will enter the Tourney (think of them as bench-warmers). The Tourney will end when a clear winner is found, someone who could likely beat any potential entrant (and I'm pretty sure I already know who that will be, but who can say what surprises are in store).

Without futher ado, our first two colorful combatants, picked at random:

Green Lantern Vs. Rainbow Raider

In the green corner: Kyle Rayner, proud possessor of the most powerful weapon in the universe. (Given Hal Jordan's yellow weakness, against this guy you better believe the GL in question is Kyle ["Some Fear"] Rayner. Yeah, baby!)

In the... uh... gay corner? We see Roy Bivolo (I take it back about Rokk Krinn), one of the silliest villains in DC's extremely long history of extremely silly villains. His souped-up goggles have a variety of effects, including emotion manipulation, lasers, and the projection of big long floating rainbow sidewalks. (He whaa??)

I'm not going to try to rag on this guy --- the link I provided does a better job of that than I could --- but I will just say this. Don't these comic-book villains ever stop to think that the amazing whatsizzes they invent --- flying boots, laser rods, paste guns, mood-altering rays --- could make them extremely wealthy and respected, if they'd only put them on the market?? Or you know, they could sell them to the U.S. government. No pointless fights with holier-than-thou guys in tights, no jail time, nothing but fat envelopes stuffed with wads of unmarked bills appearing in their mailbox every month. Well, that 's what happens when you're selfish and short-sighted.

Anyway. Judging from this guy's previous track record, the fight would go something like this:

Rainbow Raider blasts GL with an orange-colored beam.

RR: "What?? Impossible! It has no effect! Well, then a yellow beam should--- What?? It can't be! Nothing happened!"

Kyle cocks his head and blinks once or twice, staring at the Raider as if to assure himself that this apparent lunatic, standing on a floating rainbow, is actually trying to harm him.

RR: "How about a nice, lethargy-inducing white ray??"

He blasts GL with the color-draining beam.

GL: "So tired... So very, very tired...." He yawns.

With a thought, Kyle has a couple of big green flying monkeys swoop over and (gingerly, because we don't want to hurt the poor deluded loon) pluck the goggles off of Bivolo's head.

The now-powerless Raider falls toward the ground as his rainbow platform vanishes under his feet in an eyeblink, but Kyle catches him in a nice soft green pillow. He places the Raider in a nice comfy green padded room, in a nice snug green straitjacket. Green reproductions of calming oil prints are on the walls. A green stereo plays calming music --- perhaps some of Brahms' more delicate pieces.

RR: "You can't---! Get me---"

Kyle puts a big green gag on the Raider's mouth.

GL: "Yup, pretty tired."


The Champ. Posted by Hello

Next: Tourney on!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Suicide is painless

This is the single bleakest period of my life. I'm in pain and the Maddening Angel refuses to help me. She claims to have problems of her own right now. I can't fathom it. The times that I drove over to that girl's house at 2:45 in the morning, that I picked her up drunk, that I comforted her... And now total abandonment.

I may literally die of depression.

Friday, December 02, 2005

D-I-V-O-R-C-E

I stayed home from work today. The Ex picked me up (in my car, which will soon be hers) and we went to the courthouse to file for divorce. It was an irritatingly bureaucratic process, and two months from now, we have to call up and set a court date, and then show up. What a drag it is. Sometimes you just gotta laugh. Or cry. or shoot yourself.

Afterwards, we went out to lunch together. It was rather bittersweet. We both got kind of teary-eyed at the end. But she's definitely happy where she is, while I'm fucking miserable.

***

I saw Rent again, this time with the Maddening Angel and her childhood friend. But then MA went off on a date or barhopping or to look for guys and I went home and the utter horrible sadness of my life hit me and...

I just feel empty and cold.

There's only this, there's only us

Had my first real date with Ram today, though we've "gone out" (dinner, talking together) a couple of times. We were supposed to have a date yesterday, but instead spent an hour in her car after class talking about the fact that I'm not comfortable with dating someone in an open relationship. Anyway, this time I drove to her place, met her roommate, and then we saw Rent at a dinner theater.

I had absolutely no idea what it would be like. (When the Maddening Angel and I saw Team America: World Police together a few weeks ago, there was a musical bit that apparently made fun of Rent --- "we all have AIDS!" --- and she pointed it out to me and was surprised when I had no idea what it was parodying, or what Rent was all about.) I liked the movie a lot. Although I'm no musical fan, I am a sucker for these "carpe diem" films. Yes, I'm an uptight bag of neurosis, but I admire that "there's only this, no regrets" type of approach to life. I loved the song "La Vie Boheme."

Ram and I held hands and cuddled a bit. I left pretty happy, although unfortunately Ram is not going to be a major player in my life, as she's attached: she has, after all, that open and long-distance relationship with some stupid fuckhead.