A little ranting, some books, comics, and even a little TV
The IT Sweatshop Revisited!
When I had lunch with Dan a week or two ago (depending on when this rant sees the light of day), I brought up the horrible open-office sweatshop seating that I've been subjected to for the past few years. I've mentioned this abomination to office seating a couple of times here in the past, but I guess Dan wasn't paying attention, so...
The only advantage I have over my other three cellmates is the wall I have to display the emblems of my nerdiness. The guy on the opposite end gets a window, which would also be nice - the two in the middle get the shaft. The current comic book selection on my wall is the Dark Horse Star Wars, Dark Empire series, issues one through six and the preview issue - all with Dave Dorman's amazing covers. Nerdgasm!! The previous comics were a couple of Dark Horse's Indiana Jones titles.
What's most funny about my use of this wall for displaying all this stuff is that not one other person I work with has taken advantage of this big area of space to be personalized. Alex MonkeyDonkey (may he rest in peace at Amazon) did use his space for Evil (a Superman shrine), but he's the only other person who has done anything remotely interesting. I keep expecting to be berated by management for having so much personal stuff cluttering up the office. This place eats away at my soul daily.
And speaking of the horror that is my office...
For about a week and a half, I was subjected to some of the most heinous BO I've ever experienced. It was truly horrific. I was no closer than eight or ten feet from the carrier of this stinkbonic plague so I can't imagine how bad it must be for my co-workers who were subjected to this stench from no more than a couple of feet. The noxious cloud that surrounds the carrier takes several minutes to dissipate after he has moved on. This is yet another reason this open office nonsense blows. If I at least had cubicle wall, it would block some of the stench's progress.
A pox on all pointy-haired managers!!
How to Talk to Girls at Parties
Many years ago, I read a short story in Neil's collection Fragile Things called How to Talk to Girls at Parties*. I had seen mention (online, of course) of an illustrated version of this story which had been published, but the only comic book store near me didn't stock it. I also have never seen it in Barnes and Noble (the only book store that seems to have survived - for now - the war with Amazon) or Mysterious Galaxy (honestly, I haven't been to Mysterious Galaxy since they relocated, so I don't know if they stocked it or not).
A few weeks ago I dropped into a comic book shop in Mission Valley, Rising Sun Comics, to kill some time and came across a shelf of Neil Gaiman comics and books. One of these was...drumroll...How to Talk to Girls at Parties! So I bought the skinny hardcover and read it when I returned home. My wife gave me funny looks when I showed her the book, thinking this was a "how to pick up girls" book (as seen in Better Off Dead) so I had to explain the barely-remembered story's premise to calm her down**.
The illustrations of the book are bright, colorful, and evocative, but the male characters of the story look way older than the mid-teens they are supposed to be. But maybe the differences were intentional and Neil is doing a Lev Grossman (the author of The Magicians) thing with his characters - aging them to make the ensuing activities less offensive to sensitive readers. Or a Douglas Adams thing (wherein every version of Hitchhiker's is slightly different than all the others).
Regardless, it's an interesting story and, despite the aging of the characters, is well illustrated. Thumbs up.
Oh, and one last How to Talk to Girls... thing, they're making a movie out of this short story starring Nicole Kidman and Elle Fanning. Juding from the trailers, it goes well beyond the bounds of the short story and bears little resemblance to the source material, but good for Neil. I'm glad he's making lots of dough off his creations.
Thoughts on the American Gods and The Magicians TV serieses(what's the plural of "series"?)
I finally caught up on The Magicians TV series (just finished the last episode of season two) and I also finished watching season one of the American Gods TV series. I'm not loving either series as much as I'd hoped to, but they're good, quality television programming for anyone not comparing them to their source material.
I could be wrong because I haven't managed to re-read The Magicians again recently, but the TV series is straying further and further from the original story. They've taken the same characters, aged them, made all the characters look the same (specifically the female characters), completely changed some of the characters (Penny should be a white redhead and an even bigger outcast than TV Penny), and stirred up the original story (possibly bringing action from the sequels in small part already) to make it more episodic for TV. If you haven't read the novels and you like the TV show, you really should.
The casting of American Gods continues to surprise me. In addition to the gorgeous Emily Browning, Crispin Glover plays a villain (as usual), Corbin Bernsen a cranky old God, and Kristen Chenoweth is an eternally-young old god.
If you're wondering, neither series is suitable viewing for younger viewers. The Magicians is full of bleeped out F-bombs and all kinds of other profanity, rape-talk, and consensual sex (with no real nudity). American Gods has everything The Magicianshas (minus the rape-talk), plus skin (helloooo Emily Browning). And there's way too much dong.
Speaking of American Gods adaptations, the American Gods comic book is up to issue #5. In many ways it's the same as the TV adaptation, but the TV adaptation is taking the long road, developing characters, and really doing a better job of telling the story (Laura Moon barely gets any time in the comic but is a really big part of the TV adaptation). By the fifth issue of the comic, Shadow and Wednesday are already meeting with the other gods in the House on the Rock - contrasted with the TV series, where only one old god has even made it near the House on the Rock by the eighth episode. Wednesday's fellow Gods are also getting a lot of screen time in the TV series (straying a little from the original source material), but many of them don't even get a brief mention in the comic.
Each issue of the American Gods comic has a variant and a normal cover, but the normal covers are so cool I haven't been getting the variants (other than #2, because I though the representation of Mad Sweeney was all wrong). Here are the covers I've picked up and a few of the interior pages, just to show you the level of effort being put into the comic book art.
Continuing my Star Wars streak, I've just finished reading Rogue One. I've consistently preferred the novelizations of just about every TV series/movie I've read (whether it came before or after the film of the same name) just because - if done well - the novelization will explain the many things that I just didn't catch in the film as events sped by at a breakneck pace.
Rogue One is one of the good ones. The characters are much more developed, as expected, than their film counterparts. We get to know Jyn and Cassian, the sad and quirky little Bodhi, Chirrut and Baze. They are all much more three-dimensional than they are in the film. The differences between a Guardian of the Whills and a Jedi are made much more clear (I don't even know that I ever realized Chirrut wasn't a Jedi in the film). Cassian is never really especially likeable (and much more unlikable than I remember him being in the movie), but is more human by the end of the book.
Interestingly, there are apparently also a bunch of Young Adult books about several of these characters going into even more detail with their backstories. Man, Disney really cashes in when they see blood in the water.
I was looking online for something related to Rogue One (the movie) and ventured into some Rogue One movie reviews. I was surprised to see - judging from these reviews - that people really didn't like this movie. At all. I don't remember disliking it, but I do remember being bummed out that - Spoiler Alert! - all the main characters die. But, since none of the characters exist in the future installments of the series (this was Episode 3.5, if you're struggling with the timeline), there's a quick and easy way to explain why we never heard from any of them again: kill them all. And though I hated for the gorgeous Jyn Erso, played by Felicty Jones, to be reduced to atomic particles, I understand why she had to go. I did see another theory posited online that Jyn Erso is actually the mother of Daisy Ridley's character, Rey. The argument was weak and seemed to center around the fact that they bear a slight resemblance to one another...but you never know. It would be difficult to explain since she was blown up at the end of the story without having ever been pregnant - unless she was pregnant with Rey in one of her prior off-screen adventures...
This was a nice wrap-up at the book's conclusion, from Mon Mothma, who we gets a surprising amount of time in the story and a little more character development than I expected.
SUPPLEMENTAL DATA: IN MEMORIAM
[Document #MS8619 ("Unpublished Reflections on Jyn Erso"), from the personal files of Mon Mothma (via the Hextrophon Collection).]
I regret to say I only met Jyn twice. To claim I knew her well would be an insult to the young woman whose fervor captivated so many. Conversely, to speak only of her effect on our movement - to recount yet again the rallying of the Rebellion and our transformation from a wary coalition into a unified nation - would be both redundant and insulting.
So put no stock in my words. I can tell you of those two meetings and what I saw in her - or what, looking back, I remember seeing in her, which may be far removed from the truth. You may find more of a weary ex-senator than Jyn Erso in all this.
Jyn was in chains when we met before Operation Fracture. I'd seen her file and chosen her for the mission for reasons I wish I could be proud of. I expected to meet a troubled girl who had been failed by the Alliance in a hundred different ways: failed by Saw, failed by those of us who knew Saw, failed when she went out on her own, and failed by our inability to save her father or mother. I expected she could be persuaded (by which I suppose I meant manipulated into helping us, and that in doing so we might help her, too.
But the woman I met at Base One could not be manipulated. There are a very few people whose will and ferocity are so great that they pull other people in their wake. I've known some who cultivated that talent as politicians and generals, for good or ill. Jyn, I think, never knew the effect she had on others - never realized the intensity of her own humanity or the presence she brought to a room. She was, as expected, troubled and quarrelsome; she was also impossible to ignore or forget.
In her short life, she had seen relentless hardship and become hard herself. But her fire shone bright.
If our first meeting was brief, our second was even briefer. We exchanged a handful of private words when she briefed Alliance High Command on the threat of the Death Star, and the woman I met then was far different from the one we'd chained. Was she at peace? I don't believe so. But she held herself with a newfound certainty.
It's become fashionable in some quarters to claim Jyn Erso went to Scarif intending to die a martyr - that she realized she had lost everything and chose her path by its inevitable end. I will dispute this claim until my own dying days. I think Jyn fully recognized who she was and sought a way to channel her best and worst impulses, her darkest moments and her brightest, toward a cause worthy of her true incandescence.
In a kinder universe, she would have walked away from Scarif. I cannot imagine who she would have become, but I think she would have been extraordinary.
I am grateful I knew her, no matter how short the time.
I probably need to watch Rogue One again before I can really compare the movie to the book. It seems like there were a million things in the book that weren't in the movie, but I can't be sure. I was mildly confused throughout most of the movie about who the characters were and why they were doing whatever they were doing. But the movie's events may have just not lodged as securely in my tiny brain. Who knows - maybe it will all make sense now that I've read the book, and I'll love this more than any of the other Star Wars films.
And most importantly, I've been waiting for weeks to share this Mad Magazine spoof of Rogue One. Enjoy
I finished Camino Island a few days ago. I read it in just a couple of days, as I have almost every John Grisham book I've read. Also, as with all the other John Grisham novels I've read, I found it to be very enjoyable and well-written. As I think I've mentioned before, Johnny G and I don't share the same political views, but the guy can tell a story that grabs you and doesn't let you go. Thankfully, there was almost no hint of a political agenda in this one. Several of the characters had clear political affiliations, but their politics didn't drive the story. To be honest, even the politically-driven Grisham novels are well-written and hard to put down, so his politics are probably a moot point, but that's my only complaint with any of the Grisham books. There are a few novels I've never read because his stories were getting excessively liberal and I was wasn't enjoying them as much as I had before...so maybe it's not exactly moot, but it is an argument with holes. Regardless, let's talk about Camino Island...
A lot of Camino Island is a self-congratulatory exploration of writers in general. There's is no character who, in any way that I'm aware of, resembles John Grisham in the story, but the story's real protagonist is a fledgling author, most of the other characters are writers or those whose vocations revolve around books.
There's a lot of talk about writing-related topics. Here's a passage where our pretty, young protagonist is reading a book by one of the island's other writers, and tearing it apart.
Ms. Trane's novel dealt with a young, unmarried woman who woke up pregnant one day and wasn't sure who the father was. She had been drinking too much during the past year, had been rather promiscuous, and her memory was not that sharp. With a calendar, she tried to retrace her steps, and finally made a list of the three likeliest suspects. She vowed to secretly investigate each one with the plan to one day, after her child arrived, spring a paternity suit on the real daddy and collect support. It was a nice setup, but the writing was so convoluted and pretentious that any reader would have difficulty plowing through. No scene was clear, so that the reader was never certain what was going on. Ms. Trane obviously had a pen in one hand and a thesaurus in the other because Mercer saw long Words for the first time. And, just as frustrating, the dialogue was not identified with quotation marks, and often it was not clear who said what.
After twenty minutes of hard work, she was exhausted and fell into a nap.
There is a surprising dearth of lawyers in the book. And the story didn't suffer for it in the least. There are FBI and other above-the-law type scumbags a-plenty, though.
* I was shocked to discover that I've only peripherally mentioned Fragile Things a couple of times in posts on this site. I've never even listed the stories, quoted any part of it or said much of anything about it (the hardcover I have was published, purchased and read over 10 years ago). I should be ashamed.
** I read Fragile Things over ten years ago and my mangled brain barely works - give me a break.