Monday, November 29, 2004

Last night's Desperate Housewives had an interesting subplot centering on the stay-at-home mom character - the one with the hyper twins and an infant, and possibly a fourth kid? - and how she ends up having a nervous breakdown from the stress of it all. There's a moment towards the end, when she's talking to the other two moms about how she feels like a terrible mother because she can't handle the stress when it seems like every other mother can, that was particularly poignant. They comfort her with their own war stories and she's like, "how come no one tells you these things?"

And it's so true, for the most part.

Most people are seemingly reluctant to say anything negative about raising children - well, those with children, at least; those without tend to be full of bassackward opinions and complaints! - to the point that a new parent can feel like there's something wrong with them when the stress inevitably becomes too much to handle. That feeling of isolation, of inferiority, of failure, can be crippling to the parent experiencing it, as well as to the child[ren] and/or spouse, depending on how they deal with it. Knowing that it's not all rainbows and butterflies all the time can be the difference between simply needing the occasional night off and putting a bullet in your brain. Or worse...

I remember when Salomé was pregnant with Isaac, one of the things that was most helpful to me from the beginning was The Expectant Father, the only pregnancy book for fathers I found that treated us like more than guilty bystanders. It went into detail about all of the the ups and downs, the joys and frustrations that were to come, month-by-month until the baby is born. It acknowledged the feelings of insecurity that arise, the feelings of jealousy that sneak up on you, the subtle but unmistakable change in a relationship that happens in the transition from husband and wife to father and mother.

And it did it all, honestly and respectfully, from a father's perspective.

Nowadays, when someone asks me what it's like to be a parent, I tend to skip over the basics. Yes, it's a great moment in your life. Yes, it's exciting and scary at the same time. Yes, it changes everything in your life. Those things should go without saying in all but the most superficial of conversations.

The most important thing I always point out, is sleep deprivation. Not just that it will happen, but how crappy it will make you feel. How, contrary to popular belief, it lasts way beyond the first year. How it will cloud your judgement and make mountains out of molehills. How it can result in misdirected anger or resentment. Most importantly, though, is how all of that is perfectly normal and doesn't make you a bad parent.

There's an old saying, something along the lines of "you can't control your emotions, but you can control how you let them influence your actions."

I also focus on the little things that most people are usually reluctant to point out, like the dark side of the transition from crawling to walking, the horrors of potty training, the patience-sapping move to solid foods, the incessant talking. Not to be negative, mind you, because I fully believe that being a father is the most important thing I'll ever do - but to be realistic.

Raising kids is quite possibly the most challenging thing the average person will ever do in their lifetime, and yet millions of people do it everyday, many without a single clue about what's right, wrong or ultimately unimportant. Most act on instinct, for better or worse, meaning street sweepers are more aware of what they're doing, and the potential consequences of what they're doing, than the average parent!

People are rarely surprised that the suicide rate amongst air traffic controllers is so high - they're under so much pressure! - and yet people are in shock when they hear about a parent doing the same thing. "Cowards! How could they do that to their family?" Not saying that suicide isn't a copout, of course, simply that it's a not surprising symptom to an ill our society would rather ignore. An ill that can often be treated with the simple acknowledgement that parenting isn't easy, that it is in fact one of the most difficult challenges a person will ever face, and, as in the case of the character on Desperate Housewives, doing it alone (practically, in her case) is a Herculean task that will ultimately defeat even the strongest person.

Support our parents! Give a parent you know a hug and a thank you the next time you see them. Let them know you appreciate their sacrifice. Tell them, "Air traffic controllers don't have anything on you!"
Damn ABC and their addictive Sunday night lineup! How am I supposed to ease into the beginning of a new week, following an exciting afternoon of football, when I can't get away from the TV from 7-11pm?

Scoff if you like, but America's Funniest Home Videos is funny as hell. Tom Bergeron is no Bob Saget, thank god, and who couldn't benefit from a little mindless slapstick humor while being forced to admit the weekend is over and start preparing for a return to the old grind? Then Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, the most emotionally-manipulative tearjerker on TV, interferes with the kids' bath and get-ready-for-bed time, forcing us into a graceless ballet in between commercials. The first 10 minutes and the final 20 are the must-see portions of the show, though, no distractions allowed, which means their usual bedtime gets extended by a half-hour.

At 9pm - kids in bed but still awake, the apartment littered with toys and other married-with-children hazards like a sink full of dishes, piles of unopened mail, shredded magazines and random clothing spead here and there - it's time for Desperate Housewives. If we blink during the closing credits of EM:HE, we end up stuck to the couch for the first 10 minutes as ABC has perfected the "don't change the channel" transition between shows that reels the unsuspecting viewer in like bad poets to an open mic. Housewives is without question the best guilty pleasure on TV since...well, since the A-Team if I'm being honest!

Finally, at 10pm, Boston Legal, featuring the most tantalizing duo on TV in Shatner and Spader, is usually easier to resist thanks to its relatively late hour - remember: Sunday night, married, with children - but when the opening scene has Spader in a staff meeting in a Santa outfit along with a little person, who may or not be his ex-girlfriend, dressed as an elf, how can you turn it off? Cap it off with a cross-dressing Santa, Al Sharpton and a well-played murder mystery and it's 11pm before you know it!

Let's not even talk about the enhanced dangers of the ABC Sunday night lineup coming at the end of a four-day weekend that included the rediscovery of a totally immersive Xbox game like, say, Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, and how said rediscovery of such a game might lead to obsessive multiple-hour sessions of gameplay and a 1:30am bedtime...

No, instead, let's move on and focus on tonight's UPPERCASE reading at Bar 13 featuring one of my favorite poets, and one of the few that can get me out for a Monday night reading these days, Nina Parrilla. And before that, dinner with another of my favorite poets, Bassey.

Hard to believe there's only thirty-two and a half days left in 2004.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Pumpkin Seeds: 14 11 Shots to the Dome Edition

1. The Incredibles, in a word was, what the hell, INCREDIBLE! Seriously; like "the Oscar goes to...," Best Picture kind of incredible. "The Oscar goes to...," Best Director kind of incredible. "The Oscar goes to...," Best Original Screenplay kind of incredible. It had more emotional depth than most live-action movies, and absolutely blows the doors off previous Pixar and Dreamworks efforts. To not be acknowledged as such would be an even bigger crime than the 1999 Best Picture award.

2. The preview of Pixar's next effort, Cars, struck me as both an odd direction and incredibly boring. As it is quite possibly their last movie in conjunction with Disney, I wonder if they purposely went with a lesser concept to complete their contract, anticipating a new partner and saving their best stuff for the future? Because, really, unlike any of their previous films' previews, Cars just looks dumb.

3. For the most part, I consider myself a pretty tolerant and non-prejudicial person. Politically incorrect jokes aside, I don't typically judge anyone by whatever subgroup society has created for them, understanding that people are individuals and should be judged accordingly. That said, this morning, for the second time in the three years since 9/11, I got off of a train before my stop because there was a guy that was giving me the "looks like a terrorist" heebie-jeebies. He looked like a middle eastern Spike Lee, complete with facial hair and dorky glasses, wearing a baseball cap, jeans and a sweatshirt and carrying only a rectangular leather CD case. No CD player, mind you, just the case. And he was holding it close to his lap, tapping away nervously. And he was sitting right next to me. If he looked like anything but someone from the middle east, I would have probably found him merely annoying. If he'd looked the way he looked, but had a CD player to go with the case, I probably wouldn't have paid him the slightest bit of attention. But he didn't, and all the things that led so many otherwise sensible Americans to vote for George Bush three weeks ago flared up in my mind and I was convinced this guy was going to blow the train somewhere between the City Hall and Wall Street stations. So I got off the train at 14th Street, caught the next one, and braced myself at each stop, each delay, each announcement, not sure whether I was hoping more that I was wrong, or right. Because being right would have been traumatic, but being wrong meant I'd completely given in to the fear.

4. The other time I got off a train for similar reasons, it was in the middle of the afternoon in midtown sometime early last year, and the guy appeared to be a Hasidic Jew, carrying a large leather briefcase that he kept stepping away from.

5. It's a horrible situation, yes, but am I the only one to see the irony in this statement: "When you're hunting, you don't expect somebody to try to shoot you and murder you," hunter Bill Wagner said. "You have no idea who is coming up to you."

6. I don't blame Ron Artest one bit for charging the stands and whooping some fan's ass during the game in Detroit last Friday. Fans verbally cross the line way too often as it is, knowing a player can't/won't do anything to retaliate, but throwing cups of beer onto the playing field removes all barriers in my mind. Do we really buy into a teams' "ownership" of players to the degree that they should be dehumanized and not expected to react to things that would push most people over the edge? While I think his actions warrant a suspension, missing the entire season - without pay - is way too harsh a penalty. Especially if the fans involved merely receive a slap on the wrist. As for the fans that actually came down on the court and got waxed, they deserved it.

7. The NaNoWriMo train completely derailed last week after picking up a cockiness-inducing head of steam, and I'm now Donald Trump-deep in the Word Debt hole: Babe in the Woods, NaNoWriMo Word Count, Day 21: 15,609 (-19,398)

8. Speaking of The Donald, I missed last week's double termination on The Apprentice, but I did catch the Maxim spread, and was impressed by the airbrushing job on Pam that managed to make her look...feminine. Not nearly enough to get her the cover, though, so she loses yet again! In the end, I still wonder how any of these dimwits were ever considered as a potential Apprentice, or if they were simply the prerequisite eye candy mixed in with the more legitimate contenders.

9. The fact that LL Cool J's latest effort, The DEFinition, is as good as it is, is amazing considering how long he's been rapping. I mean, where's his former nemesis Kool Moe Dee these days? Ice-T? MC Hammer? Hooking up with Timbaland was a smart move and, if he's lost a bit of his "Hard as Hell" edge from the good old days, he shows that he can still go toe-to-toe with the young bucks - anyone heard from Canibus recently? - and keep heads nodding. Headsprung, in particular, is as infectious a track as he's had in years.

10. Am I the only that's completely over Destiny's Child? Without the video as proof, would anyone even know their new song wasn't just another Beyoncé solo effort? And am I the only one the that likes Kelly Rowland more than Beyoncé?

11. I finally received the 125 manuscripts I'll be judging for the Bronx Writers' Center's Chapter One competition, along with a late-January deadline to get through them. 125 twenty-page opening chapters of novels from writers throughout the City. Did my random test, pulling one entry from the middle of the stack, and was pleased to find myself still reading it four pages in. I suspect this will be a more pleasant experience than the year I judged poetry for the BRIO award. In general, fiction writers tend to be more realistic than poets about the quality of their work and more reluctant to submit it to contests half-assed. We'll see...

Friday, November 19, 2004

To: Paul Tagliabue
re: The Monday Night Football Affair
cc: NFL Owners, ABC, ESPN, sports journalists

Remember how much you guys derided the XFL when it debuted? Hypocrites.

In other news, as I don't like to post here too often about comic book stuff, and the one site I've been hanging out in doesn't have a whole lot of traffic (I've been open mic'ing it in their forums recently, aiming for a feature spot down the line), I've done what I usually do, and started my own thing: Comic Book Commentary. I plan to post reviews and commentary - and hopefully, at some point, interviews - on a semi-regular basis and have asked a few friends to chip in, too.

If you didn't get an invite to contribute, it's because I wasn't sure that you actively read comics these days. (Oscar, I'm looking at you, in particular.) If you're interested, drop me a line and I'll hook you up.
Happy Birthday, Salomé!

If our friends Danny and Xia are like a CBS sitcom, as he suggests, then I'm thinking Salomé and I are like the Jeffersons.

Louise Jefferson is a warm-hearted person. Her personality is completely opposite from that of her husband George, who is quick-tempered and opinionated. She is levelheaded where George is pig-headed, which helps to keep him in his place.
Word to my Weezie! :-)

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Pumpkin Seeds: Kitchen Sink Edition

1. David Twohy, director of The Chronicles of Riddick, told Now Playing Magazine that further installments of the proposed Riddick trilogy of films will depend in part on the performance of the upcoming Riddick director's-cut DVD, which hits stores next week. The first Chronicles of Riddick film didn't fare well at the box office in its premiere this year. Sequels are "still a possibility, but many eyes are watching this DVD release very closely," Twohy told the new magazine. (SciFWire)

2. Support a worthy cause. Buy The Chronicles of Riddick today!

3. Ralph Nader has successfully called for a recount in New Hampshire, making it a "test case for the accuracy of optical scan vote-counting machines" which, depending on the results could require other states that used the technology to do recounts as well. Meanwhile, in Ohio, the Green party has successfully raised the $113,600 necessary to call for a statewide recount, which will happen as soon as the vote is officially certified in the next day or so. The fat lady has apparently sat back down.

4. Even if John Kerry is somehow maneuvering in the background, playing the unification game while awaiting the outcomes of these two efforts, he still comes off as a quitter who capitulated way too soon and, should a miracle happen and the election is somehow overturned, he'd be an even more ineffectual leader than Bush was pre-9/11.

5. K-Mart and Sears are merging and I'm kicking myself over not figuring out a way to follow my own advice to buy some K-Mart stock back in 2002 when they were on the verge of being delisted.

6. In related news, the announcement of the proposed merger boosted Martha Stewart's namesake company's stock, despite the fact that it posted a higher than expected 4th quarter loss thanks to a decrease in advertising revenue, and that Stewart has actually suggested that the company should pay her $3.7 million legal bill! If you ignored me earlier in the year and bought in when the stock had dropped to $10, I'd suggest you bag your profit now and jump ship.

7. Any financial-related opinions expressed here are my own and shouldn't be mistaken for specific advice. Speak with a licensed professional, preferably fee-based over commissions, for advice specific to your financial situation and overall goals.

8. Tonight is the about-to-be-former boss' farewell happy hour. I can count on one hand the co-workers I wouldn't mind having more than one obligatory drink with, and only one of them is likely to come out tonight. Fun stuff!

9. Babe in the Woods, NaNoWriMo Word Count, Day 16: 15,609 (-11,063)

10. Today's moment of zen.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Babe in the Woods, NaNoWriMo Word Count, Day 15: 13,297 (-11,708)

For the second time in three days, I managed to crank out more than the 1,667 words/day minimum, resulting in a 121-word dent in my overall Word Debt. If not for the whole working and sleeping thing, I'd have made even more progress as the cracks in the belated Week 2 Wall were beginning to show.

In other news, The Swan managed to reach a new low last night, pitting a pair of sisters against each other as they receive the most unnecessary, and undeserved, makeovers yet. It's bad enough the show regularly substitutes plastic surgery and pop psychology in place of intensive, long-term psychotherapy, or in some cases, a good swift kick in the ass - but to have these two young girls, both in their 20s, both childless, both out-of-shape from simple laziness, was preposterous. But to then have them "competing" against each other for a spot in the sad pageant that separates The Swan from the other makeover shows was truly reprehensible. How do these people, especially the plastic surgeon, not lose their licenses?

Monday, November 15, 2004

Apropos of Nothing, Monday at 3:45pm

i want to smack you
so hard, your ears pop

i want to smack you
so hard, your clothes come back in style
and your thinking goes out of fashion

i want to smack you
so hard, you fast-forward to the middle of next week
past your next three mistakes
inevitable as the waning moon

i want to smack you
so hard, right in the mouth
that your momma feels it in the dark parts of her brain
like the guilt she bears
for bringing you into this world
Like so many things with me, once I get past the hump of actually getting started on something, I tend to jump into it completely and, as much as possible, make the most of the moment.

Like spring cleaning, of the sort we did yesterday after continually putting it off for the past few weeks. It ended up being the equivalent of a good meditation session, clearing away the cobwebs that had built up in the corners of my mind and enabling me to take a closer look at some of the little things that tend to get missed in the crush. Like how great our apartment is; how nearly every single toy I picked up from the floor I could picture the kids playing with at some point; how a messy house makes for a messy mood, and a clean one exposes the silver lining.

Babe in the Woods, NaNoWriMo Word Count, Day 14: 11,509 (-11,829)

Squeezed out another 635 words last night before bed, officially bringing the first act to a close. I am now almost exactly one full week behind my word count which means I officially arrive at the Week 2 Wall - aka, where the hell is this story going? - today! Going to have to pull double-duty this week, with lunch sessions and a few late nights just to keep the gap from growing any larger, never mind reaching 35,007 words - the Week 3 goal - by Sunday.

In another sign of my finally sloughing off the poetry cloak I've wrapped myself in so tightly over the past seven years, I've removed myself from the last two poetry-related listserves I was involved in and have plans for attending only two readings before the end of the year: Nina's UPPERCASE at the end of the month, and Cristin's URBANA send-off at the end of next month. I might squeeze in an Acentos and a trip to Brooklyn for Ada Limon's Pete's Big Salmon series, but other than that, my poetry calendar will remain blissfully light.

Had an interesting discussion a week or so ago about friendships, and how the majority of my current ones are via my involvement in the poetry scene and, as such, not nearly as entrenched as those pre-dating adulthood. Partly as a result of moving around so often as a kid - several times not attending the school in my own neighborhood, resulting in completely separate groups of really close acquaintances - friendships have always been a rather fluid thing for me. Intensely loyal in the present tense, only a handful ever survive my transition from their place of origin.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Babe in the Woods, NaNoWriMo Word Count, Day 13: 10,874 (-10,797)

Roughly 50 double-spaced pages so far, surpassing the length of my old screenplay's first draft, many moons ago! (Though that was cranked out over three days, so perhaps it's not so impressive.) Still deep in the Word Debt hole, though, but the past couple of sessions were extremely productive as the plot is finally starting to come together in my head. I think I'm at the end of the first act, having introduced the main cast of characters, given most of them at least some background, and covered the basics of what happened in the immediate aftermath of the elections in 2004.

Open elections were suspended indefinitely and martial law was enforced.

In both territories, pockets of resistance existed, some larger than others, and it wasn’t until the terrorist attack on the state of Maryland, highlighted by the detonation of a dirty bomb in downtown Baltimore by Christian fundamentalists that it became clear the moral divide had become a gangrenous wound too large to ignore.

In February of 2009, the President signed off on the Population Redistribution Act, declaring an official end to the bitter Civil War and mandating the relocation of 65 million minorities, non-Christians, white liberals and registered homosexuals – those that hadn’t already deserted to Canada or Old Europe after the 2004 election, at least – to what the Republicans would come to refer to as Gomorrah, giving them the right to self-rule as long as they continued to pay their taxes and allowed a limited military presence outside of key cities. Islam and Jehovah’s Witnesses were banned and their followers deported.
I was stuck on Thursday night, not sure where the story was going, but Sou MacMillan's random request to be a zombie actually handed me a pivotal character on a silver platter and helped a couple of gears to fall into place.

Still have no idea where it'll all end up, but I at least know what happens next!

In other news, R.I.P. Big Baby Jesus!

Saturday, November 13, 2004

For all those who scoff at anything that even remotely suggests so-called "conspiracy theories," believing they're all far-fetched fictions made up by paranoid whack-jobs, here's a little something to chew on: right-wingers looking to inflitrate comic books!

At Bill Jemas' zenith as President of Marvel Comics he commissioned "4/11," also known as The White Album, an anthology series telling stories about world war, politics and terrorism with a slant towards fixing problems, finding new solutions and making the world a better place. Mark Millar and Frank Quitely's short story about Irish sectarianism was a highlight, but the project faltered after one invited writer had her work rejected and went AWOL, and the third issue and subsequent collection were both cancelled - seen as an initial sign that Jemas was on the skids. And he skidded out of the door to be replaced by a safer pair of hands.

We wonder what he's make of Marvel's upcoming "Combat Zone: True Tales from GI's in Iraq." Not only has this book been waiting for publication at Marvel for a while, but a number of artists have been approached, started on the book and then left when it's true nature was revealed.

While a number of Marvel's previous titles involving war and terrorism have tried to explore issues from different perspectives, reports I've had are that this is not the case here. America is the One True Hope, all who oppose her or disagree with her current thinking are evil scum, and the world would be better off without them. And thank the Lord we have these plucky brave soldiers to do her bidding.

And certainly the resume of "Combat Zone's" writer Karl Zinsmeister, credited as the "embedded correspondent," makes for interesting reading.

He's editor-in-chief of the American Enterprise Magazine, the in-house magazine of "The American Enterprise Institute" (AEI). The AEI is a neo-conservative think tank, with strong ties to the oil industry and the White House, and one of the most important architects of President Bush's current foreign policy. Famous members include Richard Perle, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, ExxonMobile's CEO Lee Raymond and the Vice-President's wife Lynne Cheney...
The complete article is here, including links to more information on Zinsmeister, the AEI and its connection to the Project for a New American Century, the conservative think-tank widely believed to be the architects of the War On in Iraq.

Like many of the military's grossly-misleading recruitment campaigns over the past decade, and it's insidious involvement in the video game industry, this is just another example of the attempt to brainwash those most likely to die on the front lines of this country's ill-advised wars. Good to see many artists - ultimately, the real marketing draw for a project like this - are not simply taking the paycheck and actually taking a principled stand against it.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Pumpkin Seeds: The Week that Was Edition

1. No matter your individual schedule, NaNoWriMo marches on, with or without you. Despite Comic Book Wednesday stealing a night of writing from me, I'm still in the mix. In a deep hole, yes, but in the mix. Yesterday's unexpected day off as the kids' day care decided to celebrate Veteran's Day at the last minute, helped as I pounded out 1,355 words for the zombies' first appearance while the kids napped!

2. NaNoWriMo Word Count, Day 11: 7,881 (-10,456)

3. The new boss announced on Tuesday that, as of next Friday, she'll be the old boss, heading back to the consumer side of the publishing business. Me so jealous! And getting a little tired of the merry-go-round. I'm really looking forward to working for someone that doesn't wait until they're leaving to acknowledge I've been overlooked and vowing to fight for me on their way out the door. I mean really!

4. If I were Donald Trump, I'd be a little concerned about this year's batch of Apprentices (Apprentici?) vying for his favor. The majority are total losers that I wouldn't want taking my order at White Castle, much less being responsible for a multi-million dollar company. Raj, one of the better candidates, fell victim to hubris and a couple of clutch errors, while dingbats like Ivana are somehow still in the game. At the end of last night's episode, I would have expected him to fire all three of the losers if not for NBC's lack of overhyped promotion of the moment. YOU'VE. NEVER. SEEN. THIS. BEFORE.

5. In related news, Stacie J. - this season's unfairly maligned black girl - was apparently greeted with a 5am call from the police, informing her that her Subway franchise in Harlem had been burglarized. I'm thinking Ivana was involved.

5a. NOTE: Omarosa was the fairly, though not nearly enough, maligned black girl from last season. Stacie J. never had a chance.

6. Identity Crisis #6: HOT! Brad Meltzer is weaving quite the mystery here, dropping red herrings galore and even daring to mess with the big man himself, Batman. If he manages to wrap things up in the final issue without resorting to any cop-outs or leaving any major loose ends - I'm looking at you, Mr. Bendis - I may have to check out one of his novels. If you haven't been following along monthly, grab the inevitable trade paperback when it's released.

7. Puppet sex aside, TEAM AMERICA: World Police, wasn't nearly as fun as I thought it would be. More clever than laugh-out-loud funny, more pitch-perfect action movie spoof than political satire, it suffered a bit in comparison to the South Park movie. There were a handful of snort-out-loud moments, though, including a distress signal that still pops up in my head and brings me to tears. What they were able to achieve with the puppets themselves, though, was very impressive. "America! Fuck, yeah!"

8. I will not talk about the election anymore. I will not talk about the election anymore. I will not talk about the election anymore.

9. Seriously, fuck John Kerry! If Massachusetts has a legitimate third party, they need to be grooming someone to challenge him for his Senate seat starting yesterday.

10. Terror-threat levels reduced at the financial institutions that were allegedly being targeted over the summer due to improved protection measures. US pushes into Falluja in high-stakes urban warfare reminiscent of Somalia. John Ashcroft steps down, to be replaced by anti-abortion Texas crony, and racial window-dressing, Alberto Gonzales. Dubya II: Shit Gets Worse is going to be the typical sequel featuring a higher body count, more gratitious [homo]sex[ual boogeymen], and an amibiguous ending that leaves room for another sequel featuring some of the supporting cast. Thank you Iowa!

11. Okay, one last thing about the election. Democrats allowed the 30th and 41st largest states in the country, and two of the least diverse - Iowa and New Hampshire - to effectively pick its candidate for President. Where is the uproar about reforming the primary process? 'Cause that shit is broke.

12. Dungeons & Dragons tonight. Prefaced by some NaNoWriMo action. Don't hate me because I'm beautiful.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

My Top 5 Comic Book Titles
(ongoing series only)

1. Gotham Central - I'm a big fan of strong characterization and tight plotting, and this Batman-themed take on the classic police procedural, a la Hill Street Blues and Homicide: Life on the Street, features some of the strongest writing in comics. Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka are terrific, and Michael Lark's gritty artwork matches them note for note. He'll be sorely missed but I'm hopeful that DC will tap a replacement with similar sensibilities.

2. Teen Titans - I fully expected this series to take an immediate downhill turn for the worse after the thrill-ride of its first 11 issues, but Johns has continued to up the ante every month, even making the seemingly throwaway Beast Boy story (#14-15) work with his intricate juggling of multiple subplots that makes every issue count. The "Titans of Tomorrow" arc promises to establish an excellent foundation to build on as everything that happens afterwards will carry the subtext of "is this what sends them in the wrong direction?"

3. Conan - One of the hardest things to do in comics is taking on a well-known character loaded with history and making him seem fresh and exciting without "updating" or "ultimizing" him. Even moreso when the character isn't at least somewhat based in the world we live in. Kudos to Busiek for pulling it off masterfully. Plus, Cary Nord was born to draw Conan and Dave Stewart's coloring complements him perfectly, making this one of the best looking comics around, too.

4. Ex Machina - Though only 5 issues old, Brian K. Vaughn has crafted a parallel New York City that feels absolutely real and populated it with 3-dimensional human beings that go far beyond comic book stereotypes - a legitimate spiritual descendant of Alan Moore's Watchmen. At this point, summarizing the plot would be selling it short, because there are multiple layers at work - superheroing, politics, the human condition - and Vaughn's barely scratched the surface. If there was ever a comic book that could seamlessly transition to traditional fiction, this is it. Unfortunately, that would mean missing out on Tony Harris' eye-popping artwork. As a native-New Yorker, I look forward every month to visiting this much more interesting version.

5. The Losers - This is "Hollywood Blockbuster" done right. The A-Team with a Three Kings edge, Andy Diggle writes intelligent action entertainment better than anyone, and his cynical take on world affairs gives this book a realistic, sharp edge that's missing from most other stories in this genre. The characters may a bit generic, but like a B-movie with A-list actors, Diggle's scripting lifts each of them above their stereoypical cores. And Jock? His jagged, bombastic artwork evokes the hyperactivity of a Jerry Bruckheimer movie. This is my high-octane, not-feeling-the-least-bit-guilty pleasure every month.

Honorable Mentions: Powers, Ultimate Fantastic Four, Spectacular Spider-Man, Batgirl, Amazing Fantasy.

Tuesday, November 9, 2004

One 37-cent stamp, and five minutes of your time, and you might make a difference.

The Honorable David M. Walker
Comptroller General of the United States
U.S. General Accountability Office
441 G Street, NW
Washington, DC 20548

Dear Mr. Walker:

I am writing as a registered voter and a taxpaying citizen of the United States, to request that you launch a public and fully-transparent investigation into the increasing allegations of massive and wide-spread election fraud perpetrated against the American voting public on Tuesday, November 2nd.

The right to vote, and the right to have that vote properly counted, is perhaps the single most basic and hard-fought right Americans have. The citizens of our country, Democrat, Republican and Independent alike, watched in horror as the evidence of systematic voter disenfranchisement in Florida during the 2000 election came to light. We now learn of severe discrepancies all across the country on November 2nd, but most startlingly in Ohio and Florida, the two states that both sides considered pivotal to their candidates’ victory before the election.

We are at present trying to convince the people of Iraq that democracy is better than the repressive system they had. If we can offer no credibility for our own democratic process, how can we expect democracy to take root there, or anywhere else?

For the sake of every American, and for the sake of our democracy, please do the right thing and begin this investigation immediately.

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez
Bronx, NY
For more information, check out MSNBC's Keith Olbermann's report on the growing controversy over Ohio's election results. Do it not because you think John Kerry won the election, but because you believe every vote should count, no matter who it's cast for.
Old man winter has arrived on a mission, kicking in the door and pistol-whipping me into submission. Was it really 70 degrees here on Sunday!?!

Yesterday was the start of Week 2 of NaNoWriMo and while I have officially surpassed my output from last year's prolonged 2.5 month attempt, I'm also 7,663 words in the hole as of Day 8! I am right on schedule with what's referred to as the Week 2 Wall, though - that time where a little thing called "PLOT" is supposed to kick in. Figure I can introduce two more characters, and develop some more of the overall backstory, before I have to figure out where it's all going.

Howard Dean as head of the DNC? Like his primary campaign, on the surface it sounds like a much-needed change. Until you remember that he's a craven opportunist, a little bit more outspoken than most Democrats but at his core, not fundamentally different.

Meanwhile, John Kerry seems to think he has some political capital of his own to spend and is fired up to get back in the Senate and get his hands dirty: "Sometimes God tests you," Kerry told the crowd at H20, a restaurant on the Potomac waterfront, according to an aide. "I'm a fighter, and I've come back before." Um, John, dude, God didn't test you, he punk'd you! And a good portion of the 55 million that voted for you, mainly voted against Bush. Another significant portion will be jumping on the Hilary bandwagon shortly. Ask Al and Joe. You're done.

Does anyone really believe that blanket insults directed towards Middle America are the most effective way to make them see the error of their ways? That there really are 56 million complete idiots across this country, that had no idea what they were voting for? Like a good portion of Kerry's supporters didn't do some similar weighing of their values and choose to compromise for their perception of the lesser of two evils?

For those wondering how the Working Families Party fared in the election (you did pull Row E, didn't you?), the answer is quite well:

Labor-Backed Third Party Emerges as Statewide Force
Published: November 7, 2004

With all the attention focused on the re-election of President Bush and the record voting for New York State's senior United States senator, Charles E. Schumer, the hidden winner of last Tuesday's election may well have been the Working Families Party, which established itself as an emerging political force statewide by getting a little-known candidate elected district attorney in Albany County.

The small grass-roots party, which has strong ties to labor, had already helped defeat an incumbent in the Assembly, elected a member of the New York City Council and pressed the State Legislature to pass an increase in the minimum wage. But before Tuesday, it had never flexed its political muscle so far outside the downstate region.

Suddenly, what seemed to be a city-centered political phenomenon became a potential statewide force. Although the Nassau County executive, Thomas R. Suozzi, has talked about beating incumbents in his Fix Albany campaign, his results have been limited. But the Working Families Party has, more often than not, succeeded by backing candidates who go on to do well at the polls.

In so doing, the party has rekindled a New York tradition of strong third parties, one that has faded with the collapse of the Liberal Party, an identity crisis within the Conservative Party and the lack of a popular leader for the Independence Party.
Thanks, Xia, for passing the article along.

Maybe this should have been a Pumpkin Seeds entry?

Monday, November 8, 2004

Pumpkin Seeds: Final Notes on the Election Edition

1. Bush won 51% of the popular vote, the first majority victory in a presidential election since his father beat Dukakis in 1988.

2. Bush won 31 states to Kerry's 19.

3. Bush won 11 states with more than 60% of the vote, and another 4 with more than 59% of the vote.

4. Kerry won only one state (Massachussetts) with more than 60% of the vote, and another 2 with more than 59% of the vote. [NOTE: He also won Washington, DC with 89.5% of the vote.]

5. Democrats that are busy debating whether or not Bush can claim a mandate are once again missing the point and allowing the Republicans to dictate the playing field.

6. Go here for an enlightening county-by-county map of the election results to see where you live in relation to the so-called cultural divide. (Scroll down to the second map.) Depending on your individual perspective, it may be time to move. Or not.
With this entry, or my last NaNoWriMo update, I will have written over 200,000 words in this and my couple of other Blogger journals. That's roughly the equivalent of a 700-page book!

It took 22 months of writing a little bit every day about a myriad of topics to get there, and yet I somehow think that I can generate 25% of that, on one topic, in 30 days?

NaNoWriMo Word Count, Day 7: 5,709 (-5,960)

My new favorite line, particularly when you get the subtext: "I swear that's been our team's problem all along," Damon shook his head. "We get the narcissists, they get the zombies."


On that note, I should probably throw out a disclaimer for the novel: Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is most likely entirely purposeful. It's a friggin' satire, dumbass!

In more serious news, I wholeheartedly encourage everyone to go read David Grenier's essay, Don't Mourn, Organize, the absolute best post-election manifesto I've come across so far. If Anecdotal Evidence were already launched, this would be its feature article. As a matter of fact, if I can work it out with David, it will be.

A Change Is Gonna Come
Sam Cooke

Then I go to my brother
I say brother help me please
But he winds up knocking me
Back down on my knees

There's been times that I thought
I wouldn't last for long
But now I think I'm able to carry on
It's been a long, long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come
Oh, yes it will

Saturday, November 6, 2004

Pumpkins Seeds: Note From the Editor Editon

1. Anyone that reads this journal and thinks I'm talking specifically to them, or in a more general sense, to anyone in particular, needs to take what they read here with a huge grain of salt. Perhaps a whole tablespoon. This journal is, and always has been, primarily for my own self-interests. It's my way, an admittedly public and exhibitionistic way, of getting things out of my head and into a form that I can more properly analyze, critique and digest. As I have one of the worst memories of anyone I know, tending towards impressions and emotions over details, I probably read through these archives more than anyone. Don't be offended, don't take it personally, and certainly don't attempt to judge me solely based on whatever I write here.

2. Excepting public figures, there's perhaps five people that can ignore the previous point. In those cases, it's been very personal and they damn well know it.

3. Slept in til 1pm today, completely disrupting my writing plans but allowing me to catch up on some much needed sleep. Banged out another 751 words, though. When stuck, inserting yourself into the story, and taking a couple of self-deprecating pokes at yourself in the process, always helps get the juices flowing again!

4. NaNoWriMo Word Count, Day 6: 4,271 (-5,731)

Friday, November 5, 2004

Six out of seven nights of getting to bed post-midnight took its toll last night, muddling through another 1,052 words as my brain locked up and I half-assed two short "chapters" that severely tested my ability to keep my Inner Editor at bay.

NaNoWriMo Word Count, Day 4: 3,512 (-3,156)

The only good thing is that, including the 384 words I wrote during lunch, it was the closest I've come to hitting the daily goal of 1,667 so far. I'm in serious trouble, though, if I have to count on my lunch hour to keep me close.

In other news, thanks to Bill MacMillan for the quote of the day, if not the next four years:

You may think your actions are meaningless and that they won't help, but that is no excuse, you must still act.
-- Mohandas K. Gandhi
You never know who's watching, who's listening, who's reading along. In the absence of any evidence that your efforts are making a difference, don't be discouraged. Take solace in the fact that by acting - not just talking, but DOING - you are at least making sure that you're not part of the problem. And for every person that's actively not part of the problem, that's one step closer to being a part of the solution.

And a final thought from Michael Moore who, polarizing as he can be, cuts to the chase with a clear, inarguable point:

There are nearly 300 million Americans -- 200 million of them of voting age. We only lost by three and a half million! That's not a landslide -- it means we're almost there. Imagine losing by 20 million. If you had 58 yards to go before you reached the goal line and then you barreled down 55 of those yards, would you stop on the three yard line, pick up the ball and go home crying -- especially when you get to start the next down on the three yard line? Of course not! Buck up! Have hope!
Indeed. Have hope. If not for yourself, than for your kids. Or mine.

Thursday, November 4, 2004

I've renamed my NaNoWriMo novel: BABE IN THE WOODS.

As in...

"The Babe was the original Clark Kent," he said.

He was also the equivalent of Patient Zero, as he soon realized that some of his human suppers would return to "life" as zombies three days later if they weren’t properly interred. Or decapitated.

So the Babe decided to start a family in the woods of Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park.

He wanted revenge.
Maybe I'm just loopy from the election but I crack myself up sometimes!
Pumpkin Seeds: Mental Reboot Edition

1. NaNoWriMo Word Count, Day 3: 2,076 (-2,925)

2. Damn election!

3. The novel is happily percolating in my brain, flowing easily whenever I've found the time to write, but it's been 48 hours since I've found such time, so I'll need to spend my lunch hour on it before the well runs dry. And a late night tonight, I suspect.

4. Post-election America; a reanimated Babe Ruth and his zombie army; teenage sex! Diane's random-ass plot idea has been extremely liberating and my inner-editor has remained relatively quiet, letting the words flow freely. Lacking an outline, pre-determined cast, or any idea about where it's going, I'm having the most fun writing it that I've ever had.

5. Damn election!

6. Last night's intimate gig at Hostos with Jessica went well. Wanda Ortiz' installation evoked some extremely faded memories of Puerto Rico, along with fantasies about relocating that Jess squashed with the realities of Walgreen's and McDonalds, et al.

7. 3.95 million Puerto Ricans on the island and not a single one had the opportunity to vote for their President on Tuesday. I wonder what they'd say to those here that simply didn't bother?

8. First Wednesday's @ the Blue Ox, with Regie Cabico featuring, was the perfect tonic for my post-election blues. Regie was in rare form, as was the Blue Ox owner, Rony, revelling in Bush's victory and cruising for a busted jaw with his moronic heckling. Holmes McHenry shocked me with a memorized recital of a poem of mine, THE LONG WALK HOME, that even I've never memorized! He's apparently using it as a monologue for auditions. Simultaneously flattering and bizarre to hear your words coming out of someone else's mouth.

9. Giovanni's afterwards, with several of the Acentos mafia, made for a pleasant nightcap as it's been weeks since I've seen any of them.

10. Damn election!

11. How sad are things when the silver lining of this week's election is that the courts didn't have to get involved? Have our expectations of the process really sunk so low that that's an impressive thing?

12. Willie Randolph is the new manager of the NY Mets. As long as he lays off referring to "the Yankee tradition," I'm happy with the choice. You need to bring some credibility and star power to the job here in NY, even more important than a winning track record, I think. Consider me cautiously optimistic about 2005.

13. Appearing on his Sirius sattelite radio show, Eminem reportedly declined to make fun of Ashley Simpson because his daughter and niece are fans of hers. I'm guessing that means they're not into Michael Jackson.

14. The Jets are 6-1, tied for first place, and playing the Bills on Sunday afternoon. I swear I can taste Hooters' buffalo wings right this second!

15. A rare weekend off looms as the kids are going to Grandma's!

16. Tomorrow evening, I will be receiving a box filled with 130 or so manuscripts from the BCA's First Chapter contest for which I am a judge. Yikes!

17. "The future will be better tomorrow." --Dan Quayle

Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Kerry concedes, delivering a bad Oscar speech, and once again calls for compromise from Democrats: "America is in need of unity, and longing for a larger measure of compassion."

Instead of rallying the troops and capitalizing on the momentum of an invigorated, if demoralized, left he wants us to play the lamb to the lion and hope this time we don't get mauled.


Not this time.

We tried that route in 2000 and took it square on the chin as a result, and got saddled with another compromised loser instead of taking a stand for real change and nominating a candidate that we could at least be proud to have voted for in defeat. The "Red States" have declared a cultural war and a war is what they should get.

Mark my words: 2004 will go down as the Democratic Party's last gasp before beginning a slow fade into irrelevance.

The future starts today, locally, with letters to your city council members and state senators, expressing your displeasure with the results and the direction of the country, and letting them know you're watching and will be holding them accountable from day one. Don't give them any time to compromise.

The Democrats are done. Barack Obama doesn't have the experience to mount a credible run in 2008, and Hilary will lose to McCain or Giuliani - or, god forbid, the potentially unstoppable combination of the two.

The Left - a lowly 21% according to exit polls - needs to split from the Democratic Party, kick it while it's down, and start from scratch. There's no reason to compromise anymore. Develop a platform now for 2006, make some inroads there, and then hit 2008 with a Schwarzenegger-type to represent them.

It's time to make a stand.

PS: Blogger was apparently swamped this morning so my earlier thoughts went to my LiveJournal.
The only thing worse than Bush's first term?

His second term, where he doesn't have to worry about being re-elected and his VP has no interest in running in 2008. Add to that the likelihood that the Republicans control the House and the Senate and...

I shudder to think.

Hell, I'm reluctant to go to sleep for fear of the world I'm going to wake up to.

Tuesday, November 2, 2004

It's not looking good right now and I'm running out of beer. :-(

85% of the vote is in and it's looking like Bush is going to win Florida cleanly this time. Which means Kerry's hopes lie in Ohio, where lines were reportedly three hours long in some areas, and Pennsylvania where there's been some reports of shenanigans in Philly.

And there's still the remote possibilty of a 269:269 electoral split.

At 8:15am, I was the 24th person in my district to cast a vote, pulling the lever of compromise for the Kerry/Edwards ticket and Charles Schumer in Row E, the Working Families Party. A couple of other Democrats in local races got my vote, while several others running unopposed (or on both the Democrat and Republican lines) didn't.

As of tomorrow, my party affiliation will officially transfer from "None" to the WFP.

Once the dust settles and we know who the President will be, the real work begins on a gameplan for the next four years. I intend to get more involved on the local level, starting with figuring out where the hell Isaac is going to school next year and hooking up with its parent association before the end of the winter.

NaNoWriMo word count, Day 1: 1209 (-458)

Monday, November 1, 2004

All you fearful voters out there, especially the ones leaning towards Bush because you think Osama Bin Laden favors Kerry...remember, as it relates to foreign policy, specifically w/r/t to the Middle East, there is no significant difference between Bush and Kerry.

If that's your main concern, then you should just vote for Nader.

Al-Qaeda doesn't need to attack the US again to influence the elections because they've already succeeded in doing that. The fact that it's as close as it is the day before the election is proof that Americans have been sufficiently terrorized into not thinking clearly. The fact that we're [realistically] limited to choosing between Bush and Kerry, instead of Bush and Dean, or Bush and Kucinich, or even Nader as a legitimate 3rd option, is proof that the terrorists are winning.

If Bush wins tomorrow by any other means than outright theft, we've effectively surrendered, damning ourselves to four more years of fear and loathing. Kerry may be a lateral step in many ways, but Bush is without question two steps further back.

Voting for Bush is like volunteering to be a suicide bomber, only without the instantaneous death. Or the payoff for your family.