Saturday, September 29, 2007

Watching The Watchmen

This likely won't mean anything to you non-geeks out there, but the latest super-hero comic book to be slated for production as a movie is DC's "The Watchmen", which has my nerd-ometer all a-twitter.

The original 12-issue mini-series was later collected as a graphic novel, and won Science Fiction's highest honor, the Hugo Award. It was also named by Time Magazine as one of the “100 Best English Language Novels from 1923 to the Present.”

I have to admit I'm a little skeptical that this can be turned into a good movie. The original is so dense, you have to read it four or five times before you really catch everything that's going on. It's a complex, multi-layered work of art, with a crazy number of different plot points, complicated characters, and varied levels of meaning. I don't know how well you can translate all of that into one movie.

Plus, there's just something fundamentally ... well, silly about people dressing up in costumes and fighting crime. The novel addresses this directly and uses it as a major background theme, and it works as told in a comics format. Dave Gibbons' artwork was the perfect blend of realistic and fantastic. But in a movie, you can't get away from the fact that these are real human beings running around up there in tights.

With a franchise like Spider-Man or Superman, it works because they're basically adventure stories. But "The Watchmen" isn't like that. Dare I say it, it's basically a psychological, political thriller. It just happens to feature people in costumes.

It's going to be a real challenge to pull off. It certainly has the potential to be a great production, but only if it's done right, with deliberation and insight. The fact that it's being directed by the guy who did "300" doesn't fill me with confidence -- that was about as two dimensional a script as you can get.

I'll be watching the movie site with interest as production rolls along. I really, really hope it turns out well. Along with "The Dark Knight", "The Watchmen" was largely responsible for launching the more serious, higher-quality, adult-oriented revival of the comic book industry in the 80's. I'd like to see it do the same for comic-book movies.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Maybe Cingular Should Start With the Goat Sacrificing

Remember all those times the flight attendant came on and told you to turn off all electronic devices because they might endanger your flight? Apparently they're full of crap:

Air traffic controllers were forced to use their personal cell phones to reroute hundreds of flights Tuesday after the Federal Aviation Administration's Memphis Center lost radar and telephone service for more than two hours, snarling air traffic in the middle of the nation.

That's right, your Razor might crash that Southwest Airlines junket to Vegas, but it's ok for air traffic controllers in Memphis to coordinate all the flights at the entire airport via Cingular Wireless for two hours with no problems.

You know, there was a story a while back about Nepal Airlines sacrificing a goat to ensure their one plane made the next flight successfully, and everyone laughed at them. At least, everyone not in Nepal -- you don't want to mock the guys who might be dropping unused goat parts on your head as they fly overhead.

But I think our own good-old-fashioned American flight system is no less full of hooey and woo. No electronic devices during takeoff and landing. No liquids allowed on board. Confiscating corkscrews, for goodness' sake. The fact that none of this does any good at all makes no difference.

I think next time I fly I'm going to use a cooler full of cabrito as one of my carry-on items. It ought to do about as much good as most of the other "safety measures" we're subjected to, and unlike cell phones, it makes for a great taco.


Friday, September 21, 2007

Ride the Slut!

The Seattle neighborhood of South Lake Union has a new trolley, which means it's the South Lake Union Trolley. Or "SLUT" for short. An enterprising store in the area already has shirts for sale reading "Ride the SLUT!" which are selling like mad. No word yet on whether they'll also be staging a production of "A Streetcar Named Desire".

I might have to plan a trip to Seattle. It's been far too long since I experienced the high-speed thrill of riding a slut.

P.S. I'll be out of town till Sunday at my nephew's wedding in Houston. How to differentiate this interval from my normal glacial posting place is an exercise left to the reader.


Monday, September 17, 2007

The Wheel of Time Stops Turning

Fantasy novelist James Oliver Rigney Jr. (aka Robert Jordan), author of the massively popular "Wheel of Time" series, died today in Charleston, South Carolina, of complications from primary amyloidosis with cardiomyopathy, according to

Having read most of his fantasy series and a number of personal posts Mr. Jordan has made available online, he seemed to be a good man and certainly his writing brought joy to millions around the world. I think it's fair to say that he was a major figure in the genre and that his death will have a serious impact on the sci-fi/fantasy publishing industry.

My feelings about the books themselves are more mixed. I enjoyed the series at first, but after the first three books it seemed to grow heavy under the burden of its own seriousness. Events that could have taken place in a chapter were stretched out over several thousand pages. Too many characters plagued the plot, without seeming to advance the story at all. The same plot points kept coming up over and over to the same characters, and for a while there it seemed like literally nothing had happened over the course of three books.

Ultimately, I'd have to say the series was a victim of its own success. When an author (or musician or athlete or director or what have you) gets too big, everyone starts being afraid to tell them "no". They're given license to do whatever they like and no one has the courage to actually edit them, to say "Gosh, Bob, this sucks."

And I think that's too bad. Because clearly these guys have some talent, or they wouldn't have been successful in the first place.

In a way, we betray people like Mr. Jordan when we become too intimidated to express our opinions honestly, when no one will tell them what's good and what's bad become overshadowed by expectation and hubris.

I do feel saddened by the loss of Robert Jordan, even if my opinion of "The Wheel of Time" have become negative over the years. He worked hard, he treated the genre with respect, and he inspired thousands of people with his words. That's an impressive legacy for anyone to claim.


Saturday, September 15, 2007

Better Iron Man Trailer

I posted a bad, user-shot Iron Man trailer a while back. The official version of it is now available, though, so go check it out! This actually looks like a pretty good movie, I'll definitely be going to see it.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Good Advice

Both of the two best pieces of advice I've ever gotten came from my brother Joey. To wit:

The opinions of worthless people are worthless.


Marriage isn't fifty-fifty. It's one hundred-one hundred.

When my father and mother split up and Dad moved to Lake Charles for a while (before they got back together then split up again and got back together again and ... ), Joey was pretty much the man of the house. He took great care of us all. I remember that time as one of the few stretches where the house felt at peace, where I wasn't always walking on eggshells and waiting for the next explosion.

That didn't last, of course, but the simple and profound lessons my brother taught us did. Take care of your family. Shed the worthless opinions of those unworthy of judging you. Give it everything you've got.

It's the basic stuff that endures. I know it wasn't easy for him to take up the burden of responsibility at his age, but he did it and did it well.

So I want to say thank you to Joey, and to all those like him who carry the rest of us forward. You give it a hundred percent and inspire us to do the same. I hope we don't fail you.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007


I am 38 years old and am currently wearing Spider-Man underwear.

It's a good thing I'm already married, because there's no way I'm date-able material.


Friday, September 07, 2007


I haven't been posting lately because I'm looking into some health issues (both physical and mental) and haven't been in the right frame of mind to interact with anyone, much less write anything. I hope that the cycle will swing back into a better place in the next few days, and I'll be settled enough to open up again.

I find it annoying how much we are at the mercy of our biology. Isn't it time we invented robots into which we can upload our personalities and minds already? Someone needs to get on the ball.

I say, until we have immortal, indestructible, incorruptible robot surrogate bodies and FLYING CARS ALREADY!!, we just give the finger to the entire technological complex.


Sunday, September 02, 2007

Carnival of the Godless Redirect

Between the time I volunteered to host "The Carnival of the Godless #74" and now, I had decided to move the atheist content of Nerd Country to my other (new) site, "Atheist FAQs". So those of you coming here for the latest edition of The Carnival of the Godless, it can be found right now, hot off the Internet presses, at!

Anyone else who doesn't know what a "Carnival of the Godless" is, or who wants to know why it's not actually at this address today as advertised, read more below. Otherwise, get thee to the Carnival, post-haste!

First off, I should warn you that I chose to assemble and present the Carnival as if it were from a 1930's era "Doc Savage" type of supernatural pulp adventure novel. I hope you don't find it too distracting, and that the links are still easy enough to navigate. It was a hoot putting it together like that.

For my two regular readers, a Blog Carnival is a "Best of the Week" type of collection that gathers good blog posts from around the Internet on a particular theme, putting them all in one place so those interested in that topic have a good set of links to visit. This particular Carnival is about issues of interest to atheists, hence the name "Carnival of the Godless". There are lots of other Carnivals out there, like the Carnival of Cinema, The Catholic Carnival, or The Skeptics' Circle just to name a few.

You should be warned that some of the blog entries featured in the Carnival of the Godless (CotG) are pretty hostile to religion and religious adherents. Such is the nature of the world; I prefer to be more non-confrontational, but I don't think it's a bad thing sometimes for people to get in each others' faces, either. I have a different style, but the other way can work, and work very well, also. To each their own.

All that's by way of saying that if you're a theist, there are a few posts in the CotG this time around that might piss you off. So be warned.

One more time, Carnival of the Godless #74 is now available on