Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Paris - Sonic Jihad
David Bazan - Fewer Moving Parts
Todd Steed and the Suns of Phere - Heartbreak and Duct Tape
Starflyer 59 - Leave Here a Stranger
Mustard - Eureka Grande
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Location: Illinois, United States

The peaches, apples, plums and pears are guarded by ferocious bears.

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - J.K. Rowling
My Secret - Frank Warren
Persepolis - Marjane Satrapi

29 May 2005

Saturday Sunday Comics Blogging

27 May 2005

First Line's the Charm

So here's another fun little bandwagon to jump upon. Kristen has been posting favourite first lines from books again. And Zalm has been playing along. Naturally that means I have to as well:

Looking back, I didn’t see all that many dead bodies when I was a kid growing up down south, but the ones I saw stuck in my mind.
Stuck Rubber Baby - Howard Cruse

The summer my father bought the bear, none of us was born—we weren’t even conceived: not Frank, the oldest; not Franny, the loudest; not me, the next; and not the youngest of us, Lilly and Egg.
The Hotel New Hampshire - John Irving

"I have come to die for your sins," Jesus told a stooped figure passing him on the road.
Jesus Christs - A.J. Langguth

A-hind of hill, ways off to sun-set-down, is sky come like as fire, and walk I up in way of this, all hard of breath, where is grass colding on I’s feet and wetting they.
Voice of the Fire - Alan Moore

Sam Holladay was sixty-three years old when he jabbed a snub-nosed .38 revolver into Simon Bell’s chest and pulled the trigger, knocking him flat, like he’d been shoved, and dead, the bullet passing through his heart and exiting at his left shoulder, trailing blood and tissue like the tail of a comet.
Divining Rod - Michael Knight

I am riding the bicycle and I am on Route 31 in Monument, Massachusetts, on my way to Rutterburg, Vermont, and I’m pedaling furiously because this is an old-fashioned bike, no speeds, no fenders, only the warped tires and the brakes that don’t always work and the handlebars with cracked rubber grips to steer with.
I Am the Cheese - Robert Cormier

High, high above the North Pole, on the first day of 1969, two professors of English Literature approached each other at a combined velocity of 1200 miles per hour.
Changing Places - David Lodge

There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader - C.S. Lewis

I wish either my father or my mother, or indeed both of them, as they were in duty both equally bound to it, had minded what they were about when they begot me; had they duly consider'd how much depended upon what they were then doing; -- that not only the production of a rational Being was concern'd in it, but that possibly the happy formation and temperature of his body, perhaps his genius and the very cast of his mind ; -- and, for aught they knew to the contrary, even the fortunes of his whole house might take their turn from the humours and dispositions which were then uppermost : ---- Had they duly weighed and considered all this, and proceeded accordingly, ---- I am verily persuaded I should have made a quite different figure in the world, from that, in which the reader is likely to see me.
The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman - Laurence Sterne

24 May 2005


As usual, BBC reporter Greg Palast nails current events as only a real journalist can. I have nothing to add, really, other than that if anyone happens to have a spare spine lying around, please send it to:

c/o Mark Whitaker
251 W 57th St
New York, NY 10019

Or give them a call at (212) 445-4000 and let them know that your high school newspaper had more integrity than they do.

"It's appalling that this story got out there," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on her way back from Iraq.

What's NOT appalling to Condi is that the US is holding prisoners at Guantanamo under conditions termed "torture" by the Red Cross. What's not appalling to Condi is that prisoners of the Afghan war are held in violation of international law after that conflict has supposedly ended. What is NOT appalling to Condi is that prisoner witnesses have reported several instances of the Koran's desecration.

What is appalling to her is that these things were REPORTED. So to Condi goes to the Joseph Goebbels Ministry of Propaganda Iron Cross.

But I don't want to leave out our President. His aides report that George Bush is "angry" about the report -- not the desecration of the Koran, but the REPORTING of it.

And so long as George is angry and Condi appalled, Newsweek knows what to do: swiftly grab its corporate ankles and ask the White House for mercy.

But there was no mercy. Donald Rumsfeld pointed the finger at Newsweek and said, "People lost their lives. People are dead." Maybe Rumsfeld was upset that Newsweek was taking away his job. After all, it's hard to beat Rummy when it comes to making people dead.

And just for the record: Newsweek, unlike Rumsfeld, did not kill anyone -- nor did its report cause killings. Afghans protested when they heard the Koran desecration story (as Christians have protested crucifix desecrations). The Muslim demonstrators were gunned down by the Afghan military police -- who operate under Rumsfeld's command.

Our Secretary of Defense, in his darkest Big Brother voice, added a warning for journalists and citizens alike, "People need to be very careful about what they say."

And Newsweek has now promised to be very, very good, and very, very careful not to offend Rumsfeld, appall Condi or anger George.

For their good behavior, I'm giving Newsweek and its owner, the Washington Post, this week's Yellow Streak Award for Craven Cowardice in Journalism.
Unfortunately, I don't have an extra spine handy. But I do have this editorial. So I'm going to mail a copy to Newsweek editor Mark Whitaker. I suggest you do the same.

22 May 2005

A Confession

Kristen of McCarty Musings fame tells us what kind of reader she is and asks us to confess as well. Fair enough.

When I read, my entire awareness of reality shuts down. In my life, I have probably witnessed epic alien battles and homeless men being devoured alive by rats. Yet, because I was reading at the time, I was sadly unaware.

I have been living in Chicagoland for nearly two years and have yet to find a used bookstore as good as McKay's Used Books and CDs in Knoxville, Tennessee. Powell's Bookstore is close, but it isn't the same. This makes me very sad for Chicago, but very happy that I will return to East Tennessee one day.

I know my library card number by heart.

I recently abandoned my wife for Powell's Bookstore while in Hyde Park. I have been forgiven, but I suspect the damage is permanent.

My eyes are bigger than my eyes. I purchase books long before I can ever hope to read them. Yet even though I know this, I continue to do so. Likewise, I check out far too many books from the library at a time, more than I can possibly read in a single month.

My wife reads faster than I do, but I look much cuter bald.

My greatest finds for 50 cents or less:

A perfect condition hardback edition of Art Spiegelman's Pulitzer Prize winning Holocaust memoir Maus:
Retail - $35.00
From the library - 50 cents

Prolific underground horror scribe Jack Ketchum's
She Wakes: 25 cents

Philip Jenkins' The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity: 50 cents

I am one of those bizarre people who think that graphic novels are real literature. Once you have read the work of Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Adrian Tomine, Chris Ware or Daniel Clowes, you will feel the same way.

From time to time I write book reviews. Consequently, I receive free books and am paid to review them. Yes, I am bragging.

What kind of reader are you?

Saturday Sunday Comics Blogging

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19 May 2005

Rollin' With Saget

Remember Bob Saget, the horribly unfunny former host of America's Funniest Home Videos? Yes, that's him, the man for whom the mute button was invented. Well, now he's a badass. California Hip-hop act The Stone Movement has recorded a song featuring Saget, in which the washed up comic disses both 50 Cent and DMX. It's actually a pretty good song. Give it a spin here. Go on. Any song with the line "the baddest motherfucker in a cardigan sweater" is worth three minutes of your day.


OK, so in less than three weeks the wife and I are headed to Europe for nearly a month. We’re super excited, as you can imagine. But one thing still eludes my grasp.

I grew up in Tennessee. Tennessee is part of the Bible belt, a peculiar geographical region in which it is a sin to drink alcohol. There are few other places on the planet where this is the case. Apparently God has different rules depending on where you live.

Anyways, so I didn’t start drinking alcohol until I went to college and became a pagan. Consequently, I’ve tasted only one kind of beer. It was apple. And it was putrid.

Mixed drinks are my thing. Wine coolers are OK. Wine is hit and miss. Apparently I favour white wines over red ones and am not particularly fond of dry ones.

Nonetheless, I’m heading to Europe. I’ll be in Italy and Germany. I’ve got three weeks to learn to appreciate warm beer and wine. Somebody help.

18 May 2005

Six Christian Books That Sound Suspiciously Like Porn

She Calls Me Daddy
I Love Being a Woman
Men of the Saddle Series
Grow, Grow, Grow
The Rising
Sticky Situations

Of Billionaire Moguls and Their Prostitute Publishing Companies

So I learned a few things today that really piss me off. Given, the information is public knowledge, and I probably shouldn’t be surprised at all. But I am. I guess I’m not as cynical as I thought I was. But in a few years I’ll be hopeless.

Anyways, apparently Rupert Murdoch owns Zondervan. For those not in the know, Zondervan is one of the largest publishers of Bibles and "Christian books" around. Zondervan, for instance, publishes the New International Bible, still perhaps the most popular contemporary translation in print.

Let that sink in for a moment. The same man who owns Fox News, dozens of newspapers and television stations, the National Rugby League, and the Los Angeles Lakers (9.8 % option) owns what is probably one of the three biggest Christian book publishing houses on the planet. And given Murdoch’s politics, that ought to scare you shitless.

For some reason, I’ve also never really thought about the fact that modern translations of the Bible are copyrighted. Again, it’s obvious that they would be. But this never crossed my mind for some reason. The NIV version, for instance, is copyrighted by the International Bible Society. And Zondervan is its publisher. (Other publishers do apparently publish the NIV, too. Tyndale, for instance, publishes The Daily Walk Bible, which is an NIV translation. But Zondervan seems to put out 99.9% of NIVs).

So every time you buy a Zondervan NIV Bible, Rupert Murdoch’s coffers gets deeper. And those funds go directly back into spinning the world uncomfortably towards the Right.

Sigh. The next time Jesus goes to church, he won’t be turning over tables. He’ll have a fucking rocket launcher.

16 May 2005

Neither a Borrower Nor a Lender Be

Yesterday my wife was practising* her semi-usual Sunday morning wake up routine, which consists of watching false prophets deceive the masses on television (don't worry, she doesn't buy it either). They stoned those sorts of people in the Old Testament. In today's world, we give them book deals and write them up in Christianity Today.

Anyway, Sunday’s sermon was by James Kennedy, the patron saint of bullshit. Kennedy was extolling that fruit of the spirit known as Capitalism. He proffered many pearls of wisdom, including the ludicrous assumption that countries which practise Socialism have a higher suicide rate. How he arrived at that one, I honestly can't remember. It probably had something to do with the most deadly tool in Satan’s tool box: universal health care.

At any rate, this got me thinking about one of my usual beefs with certain sects of Christians, which is that they hold to a very selective literal reading of the Bible.

Yes, it's easy to believe in a literal creation or a universal flood. It’s easy to believe that Bloodthirsty Jesus will one day ride on a white horse, whupping pagan ass wherever he goes (and it helps when you have a handy get out of jail free card like the rapture to which to cling).

Likewise, it's easy to continually harp on RepubliChristianity’s two favourite sins (and it's really sad that you know what they are without my having to tell you). But what about those sins which the Bible condemns over and over, the ones about which the church is eerily silent?

Take usury, for instance (i.e. charging interest on a loan). The Bible forbids it. More than a dozen times. In fact, it's even called an abomination, just as homosexuality is. Yet the same groups that kick homosexuals out of churches have no problem with it.

Well, maybe they do. But you'll never hear them say so publicly. And you'll never see them kick a banker out of a church. Unless he's gay.

*From now on I use British spellings. You can deal.

15 May 2005

Surprise Surprise

It appears to be almost certain now that controversial Bush U.N. ambassador nominee John Bolton will be confirmed for the position in question. Thursday afternoon the Senate Foreign Relations Committee sent Bolton’s nomination to the floor, virtually guaranteeing he will receive an appointment, given 55-45 Republican margin on the Senate floor. This isn’t surprising. That someone from either dominant United States political party would act like a grownup, instead of a child engaging in playground politics, is understandably laughable.

Neither is it surprising that the mainstream media have ignored allegations concerning Bolton’s sexual conduct with his first wife.

Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt recently released a press release detailing these allegations, the content of which can be found at Raw Story:

Corroborated allegations that Mr. Bolton’s first wife, Christina Bolton, was forced to engage in group sex have not been refuted by the State Department despite inquires posed by Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt concerning the allegations. Mr. Flynt has obtained information from numerous sources that Mr. Bolton participated in paid visits to Plato’s Retreat, the popular swingers club that operated in New York City in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
This isn’t the first time Flynt has made rather stunning allegations of this kind. Flynt also made the claim that George W. Bush paid for a girlfriend to have an abortion back in the 70s. Not that you saw that in the U.S. media either.

Here’s Flynt in his own words from a radio interview on the Bernie Ward talk show on KGO Radio, San Francisco:

Well, we've been doing an investigation for a little over eight months to the effect that an abortion took place in 1970 in Houston, Texas. (Bush) was working for his father's campaign when he was running for the senate against Lloyd Bentsen, and a fellow by the name of Robert Chandler was the campaign manager. He got a girl pregnant during this period of time, and she had an abortion. We've been able to locate the doctor who performed the procedure (unintelligible) hospital in Houston. Not only that but we have the affidavits from four of her friends stating that they knew about the affair, the pregnancy and the subsequent abortion. The only thing we could not have which we needed to break the story was the girl to come out, and she would not come out. Whether she was afraid or whether she was paid off, I don't really want to speculate, because I don't know what the actual reason was. But when I started taking this to the mainstream media, I said you don't have to break the story, just ask the question, you know. You asked the cocaine question, so just ask if he's ever facilitated an abortion or paid for an abortion or if he was the father of a child. Just give him the chance to admit or deny it. No one would touch it.
I can hear you now. Yes, we should consider the source. Yes, Flynt exploits women for profit. And yes, he probably has an agenda. That said, Flynt has been remarkably accurate in outing hypocritical Republicans for the very sins they condemn. Back in the Clinton impeachment hearings, Flynt made equally damning allegations about the extramarital affairs of Republican Congressmen Bob Livingston and Bob Barr. And it turned out that Flynt was right on the money.

So it wouldn’t surprise me if Bush did pay for an old girlfriend to have an abortion. And it wouldn’t surprise me if Bolton forced his wife to have group sex. What would surprise me would be for the "liberal media" to do its job.

Saturday Sunday Comics Blogging

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08 May 2005

Saturday Sunday Comics Blogging

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Happy Mother's Day

So if you've ever wanted to see Mr. T paying tribute to motherhood in a laughable 80s song, you should really click this link. Go on. You know you want to.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

So the trailer for The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is up. For the most part I'm really, really excited about seeing this. Aslan looks a little cartoonish, which has me slightly worried. Beyond that, I feel like a little kid waiting for Christmas. View the trailer here and judge for yourself.

06 May 2005

The Smoking Gun

For quite some time, many of us in the United States have proclaimed that George Bush lied through his teeth in justifying the war in Iraq. And now there’s proof. As BBC reporter Greg Palast noted in an op-ed yesterday, a top-level government memo has been leaked which shows that this administration fixed the evidence for war.

Writes Palast of the memo:

The top-level government memo marked "SECRET AND STRICTLY PERSONAL," dated eight months before Bush sent us into Iraq, following a closed meeting with the President, reads, "Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam through military action justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."
This is the smoking gun. George W. Bush is, under federal law, guilty of racketeering. He has committed both a felony and an impeachable offense. He deserves to both lose his presidency and to rot in a federal prison cell. But what will happen to our president? Not a damn thing.

Nor will you see America’s so-called liberal media reporting about this. Oh, the New York Times reported on the evidence. But it was buried in a story about this week’s British elections. In the UK, this leaked memo was front page news.

Writes Palast:

Apparently, our President's fraud isn't "news fit to print."

My colleagues in the UK press have skewered Blair, digging out more incriminating memos, challenging the official government factoids and fibs. But in the US press nada, bubkes, zilch. Bush fixed the facts and somehow that's a story for "over there."

The Republicans impeached Bill Clinton over his cigar and Monica's affections. And the US media could print nothing else.

Now, we have the stone, cold evidence of bending intelligence to sell us on death by the thousands, and neither a Republican Congress nor what is laughably called US journalism thought it worth a second look.

My friend Daniel Ellsberg once said that what's good about the American people is that you have to lie to them. What's bad about Americans is that it's so easy to do.

01 May 2005

This and That Part 2

More goodies:

• Recently I've discovered a new animation technique called machinima. The short version is that machinima is basically using "footage" from video games to create your own films. Perhaps the most famous people doing this are the folks at Rooster Teeth Productions. They produce Red vs. Blue, which uses material from Halo 2 to create its stories. But I'm far more excited by The Strangerhood, a satire/soap opera using characters from The Sims 2. It's good stuff, and it's entertainment not owned by a big corporation, so check it out.

• For more cool Web entertainment, visit nsknight's Sim's webpage. Nsknight makes Web comics using photo albums from The Sims. I haven't read them yet, but it's a pretty good idea.

• Tonight Family Guy finally returns to TV with new episodes. Family Guy is Seth MacFarlane's hilariously edgy cartoon that was cancelled, until it broke DVD sales records and went on to beat Leno and Letterman in ratings when Cartoon Network picked up the show's reruns. It's also (along with MacFarlane's American Dad) one of the few reasons why you should watch television. In celebration, here's a video archive with some bits too controversial for TV, as well as a few other goodies, like interviews, and MacFarlane's student animation film.

• My favorite songwriter is a guy named David Bazan. Bazan is the frontman for Pedro the Lion. Bazan is also in a new band called Headphones, alongside TW Walsh and Frank Lenz (Starflyer 59). Headphones' debut comes out on May 10 on Suicide Squeeze Records, but I received a review copy in the mail Friday. Headphones play lyric-driven music that travels through thematically dark territory. And it's a lot more musically interesting than Pedro the Lion, in that the sound is built entirely from drums and synthesizers. Yep, no guitars. This is some good stuff. Here's a sample lyric:

Natural Disaster
Here I thought the drinks were free
but all the time they were grooming me
to be the egg that laid the golden goose.
Now I know we disagree
but soon enough we'll all be free;
that is to worship any way I choose.
But you would wait on the rapture
or a natural disaster to come around.
Or maybe a couple of airplanes
could crash into buildings
and put the fear of God in you.
Cause now we're taking over
and no one is the wiser,
with mexican and negro cabinet advisors.
I cut down the cherry tree
and when my mother confronted me
I told her I could never tell a lie.
Cause I have integrity
if you had been there then you'd agree
that no one wants to hear the truth.
What do you want from me?
Can't you see that I'm a talking puppet?
And when someone pulls my strings
I mouth the words, and I suggest you follow suit.
But you would wait on the rapture
or a natural disaster to come around.
Well maybe a couple of airplanes
could crash into buildings
and put the fear of God in you.

This and That

I've been incredibly unmotivated about this whole blogging thing lately. It's not from lack of ideas so much as it is want of free time. The next few weeks will be super busy, too, what with my wife graduating, visits from family, work craziness, and preparations for a three-week trip to Europe. Nonetheless, I've been coming across a lot of cool stuff lately, so here's some random notes, mostly relating to movies, music, etc. Enjoy:

• Via Looking Closer Journal we learn that Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser's wonderful exposé of the fast food industry, is soon coming to film. But not as a documentary. Instead, it will be a thriller based on Schlosser's book. Interesting. Read more here.

• The website for The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe film is live. This thing looks amazing. Please somebody leak the trailer. Soon.

• There's a new trailer for the new Batman film up here. I'm still harboring resentment that the Frank Miller/Darren Aronofsky version of the film didn't happen. But I'll still take this one.

• I've been drooling with anticipation over Donnie Darko writer/director Richard Kelly's new film, Southland Tales. Things are getting even more interesting. Apparently Kelly has cast The Rock in the film. There are only five to ten directors alive who could do that without the film automatically sucking. Kelly is one of them. Southland Tales will also feature a hugely elaborate website. And six separate 100 page graphic novels, each written by Kelly, will serve as a prequel to the film. This guy has guts. But, as I said, he's one of a few who can pull all this off. Read more here.

• You may not be familiar with Steve Taylor. Taylor is a musician and aspiring film director. He's probably best known for a career as a musical satirist who worked on the outskirts of the CCM genre back in the 80s. His solo music is decent, but anyone with the guts to write a song called I Blew Up the Clinic Real Good deserves props. Taylor should be remembered, though, for his work in the band Chagall Guevara. The five-piece put out one amazing album back in 1989 and then folded. It's long out of print, but you should be able to find it easily on eBay. If not, I'll burn you a copy. It's that good. Really. Taylor also founded the record label Squint back in the 90s, which released Sixpence None the Richer's self-titled album (the one with Kiss Me>, and Chevelle's first album, Point #1. Taylor also planned to put out kick-ass LA rap outfit L.A. Symphony's masterpiece Call It What You Want (it's since been released but is no longer for sale; also worth hunting for on eBay). Anyways, I say all that to tell you that Taylor has a new film coming out, The Second Chance, about two very different pastors, one a white mega church pastor, the other a black pastor of an inner city church. It looks interesting, is critical of the church (almost always a plus), and should spark a lot of good discussion. I'm excited to see it when it comes out this fall. Oh, and the mega church pastor? He's played by Michael W. Smith. And apparently he's not as shitty an actor as he is a musician. There's an interview with Taylor up here.

Saturday Sunday Comics Blogging

An oldie but a goodie.

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