Friday, August 25, 2017

ISIS Suicide Bomb Vehicles on Display

In Mosul, Iraq the police displayed some of the homemade armored vehicles used by ISIS as suicide card bombs. If militant religious fanatics crossed with Mad Max in an urban setting doesn't give you the creeps, you are a more solid person than me. Doubly so since this comes from the real world and not the entertainment industries.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Bookworming: Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 01

Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 01, John Wagner et. al., **

It was ironically a Sat. afternoon re-watching of the amusingly terrible Stallone Judge Dredd movie (not to be confused with the excellent Karl Urban fronted, presumably The Raid influenced, Dredd) that drove me to pick up this collection of 70s British comics. It is worth noting that pretty much every "how to get into Judge Dredd" article I perused recommended not starting with Vol. 1. I did anyway. These early comics are well into parody territory with a very cartoonish tone. There is quite a lot of carnage, and the eponymous Judge's brutal adherence to the letter of the law is on display. Unfortunately, that is the full extent of the character development. The stories are mostly juvenile and  are short even by comic standards, with many being a mere six pages. I quite enjoyed some of the artwork, with particular interest in the hyper dense line work of the Megacity 1 vistas, byways, and automation.

I really can not recommend this one unless you are interested in the character's beginnings, and even then, you don't get much. But I must admit to finding it amusing, in a dark sort of way. And if you take our current issues of environmental change, accelerating automation, and increased urbanization and turn them up way past eleven, you might start to see shades of relevance in Megacity 1. Might, if there was any depth to be found. Which there isn't, at least here.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Bookworming: Eon

Eon, Greg Bear, **
Starts off as a Big Dumb Object hard sci-fi with cold war sensibilities and becomes a science fantasy leaning a little too much on politics of a society which is barely introduced. For my tastes, the hard sci-fi mystery and cold war political tension started it off well, but the subsequent plot turns and shift of focus leaves it a bit flat. I haven't read this since I was a teenager, and either it hasn't aged well or my tastes have shifted. A lot of sci-fi tropes are on display, from the BDO to the cold war stereotypes, to awkward sex scenes. The world building in the artifact itself is excellent, but beyond things get considerably less focused. Back in the day, I liked it enough to buy the sequel, today it rates a 'meh'.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Bookworming: The Foxfire Book

The Foxfire Book, Eliot Wigginton, ***
This is a collection of magazine articles about Appalachian living around three to five generations ago, depending on the reader's age. It is a mix of how-to articles of questionable quality, stories, and tall tales. The depth isn't really enough to provide instruction on its own, so better to consider it as preserving slices of life from a time increasingly distant. Best for folks with some connection to the area, or interested in the subject matter.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Bookworming: Various Comic Trades

All of these titles are available to read free at the time of this writing if you have Amazon Prime. Naturally, they are all volume ones because the first one is... you know.

Ms. Marvel Vol. 1 No Normal, G. Wilson, Adrian Alphona, Sara Pichelli, ***
Classic feels-out-of-place-in-society origin story made contemporary by having a Muslim hero.

Star Wars Vol. 1 Skywalker Strikes, Jason Aaron, John Cassady, ***
For the Star Wars fans that want to fill in the gap between Star Wars and Empire.

Star Wars Darth Vader Vol. 1 Vader, Kieron Gillen, Salvador Larroca, Adi Granov, ****
Surprisingly good, self-contained but with places to go, it is still for the Star Wars fans, but if you are one, this is one worth a look.

Thor Vol. 1, J. Michael Straczynski, Coipel Olivier, ***
Largely setup, not really much here to hook me into continuing. Definitely fits into the "good if you like that sort of thing" category.

Jessica Jones: Alias Vol. 1, ****
Surprisingly good hard-boiled PI story set in the Marvel universe.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Watching the Watchers: Those Who Do Not Learn From History

A well known TV personality, oft accused of shady business dealings, makes a run at being President. Written off by the media as a colorful distraction. A platform centered around anti-immigration, tax reform, and American values. Someone seeking to position themselves as a Republican, but who's assertions are met with skepticism both in and out of the party. Affable in public, said to be quick tempered and intolerant of mistakes in private. A rather, let's say old school, attitude toward women. Known to make accusations of misconduct against opponents without proof. Who is this man, you ask? Well, it's Pat Robertson circa 1988.

For those who say "things are different now" or "it has never been like this before", you are being mislead. It doesn't matter which side you are on, you are being mislead by a media in the midst of a disruption that started with 24 hour cable news and turned to 11 with the advent of the Internet. Right wing media, left wing media, it doesn't matter, all they care about is your attention. And nothing grabs your attention like scaring you. Nothing generates loyalty like tribalism, and nothing triggers tribalism like invoking "The Other". Right wing media has turned "liberal" into a cuss word. Left wing media has turned "conservative" into a synonym for racism. Neither of those are right. Politics is supposed to be a debate, not a war.

And if you are reading this and saying to yourself, it's the fault of the other side, then my friend you are part of the problem. I get that you're frustrated with and angry at the politicians, and you hate the media for not looking at your facts and calling them Truth. I get it because that is how literally every other person in America who has ever paid the slightest bit of attention to politics ever feels.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Quote of the Moment

"Beatniks and politics, nothing is new. A yardstick for lunatics, one point of view. Who cares what games we choose? Little to win but nothing to lose." –Strawberry Alarm Clock “Incense and Peppermints”, 1976

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Bookworming: Childhood's End

Childhood's End, Arthur C. Clarke, **
A classic of the science fiction genre, and the book that confirmed I'm not really a fan of Clarke's fiction. The story is set at the end of the U.S/U.S.S.R. space race, an end that is imposed by the sudden appearance of overwhelmingly powerful aliens. Beyond that, I can't say much more because it revolves entirely around two twists. This was my second reading of it, so naturally I knew the twists going in. This really hurt the engagement with the novel. To be fair, I didn't find it terribly interesting the first time around either. Because of the heavy reliance on the twists, and the minimally sketched characters there isn't anything else to hang your interest on save the philosophical musings on utopia that motivate the sub-plots. I would generally say it is worth a read for sci-fi fans, but it won't turn you into a sci-fi fan if you aren't there already.