Category: Stream of Consciousness

Keep Hydrated

Yeah, this is going to be one of those where I talk about living in the desert.

There's a lot I love about the desert. Oh, sure, it's a hostile environment, particularly to pigment-challenged individuals of Irish Honky descent such as myself, and sure, those same honkies who have the least resistance to the sun's rays have decided for some reason to fill this region with concrete and asphalt to make it that much more unbearable, but there are still some very pretty things to be seen.

I've spent a few hours over the past couple of weeks handing out flyers for our company. I hate to be one of those guys who waves his degree around, but that's really not what I got it to do. But we need business, and there are a hell of a lot of new businesses opening within a mile radius of here, and the boss thinks I should be the guy who hands flyers out, so that's part of what I've been doing.

The first day, I overdid it: I thought I had sunscreen, but it turned out I didn't. Must not have packed any when I moved in February (which, all things considered, makes sense). So I went out and handed out flyers for three hours and got good and sunburned and chafed. I spent Memorial Day Weekend unable to walk comfortably. I am amused by the mental image of the tableau of a very sunburned guy going up to the counter at Target with sunscreen, aloe gel, and talc in his basket -- no explanation necessary.

Since then, I've limited myself to 90 minutes of flyering a day, and of course it goes without saying that this 90 minutes must be complete before 10 AM because I'm not going out when there's an excessive heat warning in effect. But I haven't been out there the past few days because things have been so busy at the shop. Mixed blessing -- I'd rather not be out there handing out flyers, but at the same time if I don't find time for it soon the boss is going to yell at me again.

I don't like sunscreen. It's greasy, smelly, and invariably gets in your eyes, even if the label proclaims it's non-greasy, unscented, and sweat-proof. But it beats being baked alive.

Dad also leant me a hat which once belonged to a family friend who died of cancer. I think that's pretty cool.

And handing out flyers isn't all bad. I dig the desert landscaping surrounding most of the buildings. Often I will hear a rustling in the bushes and see a large lizard come out.

Meantime, I haven't had much time to relax when I've been home from work -- work on a computer all day, go home and work on a computer. See, my grandma's been rocking Windows 98 for the past 8 years, and since Microsoft has ended support for it, I decided I should probably upgrade her to XP.

Have you caught the mistake in my thinking?

That's right: the word upgrade.

Let me explain something. I have never had a Windows upgrade go well. 95 turned out to be incompatible with my processor, 98 hosed my filesystem (which is why there is no complete extant copy of KateStory IX), and XP hosed my partition table. ME...actually upgraded smoothly and gave me no trouble, but I think the fact that it installed Windows ME on my computer means it still did serious harm to my system.

So I should have known better. I shouldn't even have attempted the upgrade. I should have backed up her files to CD, wiped the drive, and done a clean install.

But I didn't. I attempted an upgrade. Which went fine until the reboot, at which point the installation hung. No error, just a hang at boot time.

So then I made my second mistake: I tried to use Recovery Console.

Specifically, I used fixboot. Which hosed my partition table. I wound up with what looked like a 10MB FAT12 partition with only one file on it. Knoppix showed more files, but they were all gibberish.

Daunted, I retreated to lick my wounds and study the problem before going back the next weekend to attempt a fix. I found a useful MBR tool on UBCD4Win, which got the filesystem looking good enough to run a chkdsk on. After that, the files were visible, but the damn thing still wouldn't boot no matter what I did or how many times I installed an OS on top of it. (And yes, the partition is set bootable.)

It was about this point where I hit the Eject button on the CD-ROM drive and it launched my CD across the room. It bears noting that this is not even a slot-loading drive, it's the kind with a tray. I have never seen anything like it in my entire life.

There comes a point in a project where you know you need to stop for the day. Seeing your Windows XP disc fly across the room is such a point.

So I brought the computer home to work on it here. (Grandma's is thirty miles from here, meaning I logged roughly 120 in my two round-trips this past weekend.) So far I've made little progress -- my flying WinXP disc does not look to be in very good shape; I made a copy of it last night but it took hours to do, so I'm betting there was some serious trouble reading the data on it. Hopefully it somehow made a good copy anyway. I haven't tried it today because I've been busy trying to revdep-rebuild my Gentoo install, because I can't upgrade KDE until I recompile a bunch of programs that used to have ungif support, which is now deprecated because the patent on the GIF algorithm finally expired. (You see what software patents do? Do you see?)

Also I bought Grandma a new CD burner. Now I'm trying to figure out how to get the mail-in rebate on it. It is possible that I did not pick up the appropriate form and will have to go back to Fry's to get it. The fun never ends.

All in all, it's been a stressful month. But on the plus side, I haven't been mugged by a hooker at knife-point, so I guess that means I know at least one guy who's had a worse month than I have. Hey, count your blessings.


Also, I don't intend to make a habit of mixing business with this blog, but I've been working on a website for a local musician named Devon Bridgewater at nuancemusic.org. Nuance Music (AKA Nuance Jazz Trio) is a local jazz group consisting of Devon, Dick Curtis, and Joel DiBartolo, director of jazz studies at my alma mater.

Anyway, I'm just throwing that link out because Devon's looking to drum up some publicity to his site, and unfortunately his Google page rank is pretty low right now, so he needs all the links he can get. So spread the word around, and, most importantly, link to his site. (I might add it to my links page if I ever drum up the courage to dust off the cobwebs and update the damn thing.)

Once again, that page is Nuance Music.

Hell, while I'm at it, Google hasn't even listed any of the other pages on the site, so here are links to them too: gigs, press, jazz, weddings, gallery, corporate clients, festivals, contact, Spanish.


Reading: A Scanner Darkly. Hoping the movie doesn't suck.

Playing: Suikoden 5. Basically at this point the series is openly hostile to newcomers -- this game took 7 hours to get interesting (still better than the 30 hours of 3 and the never of 4), and there's no way anybody would play that far without having a tremendous amount of goodwill left over from the first two games.

Presumably Silly and Useless "Rant"

All right, you know what? I'll tone down the cursing since a lot of my referrals are still coming from my BioWare interview, but the events of the past couple days necessitate a good strong rant.

First of all, it's been the longest week at work since I started this job. Which, overall, is a good thing; I think we're going to get some good business from my efforts. But things got a bit stressful on Tuesday, repetitive yesterday, and repetitive yesterday.

And then there's coming home to find that my epic-level POS of a DVR box -- the infamous Scientific Atlanta Explorer 8000 -- was dead. I've been paying Cox entirely too much money for this joke of a system because I can't afford TiVo; hopefully when I get my 90-day raise I'll be able to make the switch. I'll have to hold my nose a bit given my intense political dislike of TiVo, but it beats the hell out of this calamity of a cable box.

So of course that leaves me waiting for the cable guy for three hours on Sunday.

And this morning, my AC was leaking. Dangerously closely, I might add, to the shelves where I keep my entire 16-bit console game collection. So I moved the shelves, put down some towels and pots, kicked the AC up to 80 degrees, headed to work, and made a maintenance request. But I think I should probably run back home at lunch to empty those pots in case maintenance hasn't shown up yet.

And there's one more thing bugging me, but it's a subject I promised myself I would never, ever complain about on my blog, so, in the interest of keeping my dignity and self-respect, I will instead complain about that godawful "I am woman, hear me roar" parody in the new Burger King commercials, which keeps getting stuck in my head. Everyone involved in any aspect of creating that commercial is in serious need of a good cock-punch. I grant that this applies to damn near everybody in the advertising industry, but this commercial deserves its own special place in Hell.

Anyway. It's been a weird damn twenty-four hours.

But on the plus side, they've announced the Han shoots first editions of Star Wars on DVD.

No representation is made or warranty given as to their content, road conditions or route usability or expeditiousness.

Penny Arcade has already handily mocked online maps, but I'd just like to put in my two cents about how MapQuest fucking sucks.

What follows is an actual map I received when attempting to find a nearby Japanese restaurant.

Drive past your destination, go two and a half miles out of your way, and then come back.

Meanwhile, until recently, all my results on dexonline.com looked like the following:

Somewhere in Kansas

They seem to have fixed it now, but seeing as they're still using Mapquest, that just means an upgrade from pointing me to Kansas to telling me to drive a five-mile circle on the freeway for no reason.

While I'm on the subject, I hate sites with "online" in their names. Of course it's fucking online, it's a website. Why not just register dexdotcomwastaken.com and have done with it? I mean, maybe I'm not one to talk since my domain name has a hyphen in it, but seriously, what was wrong with qwestdex.com?

I also don't like sites with names that end in net.com. What the hell is that?

But I think we can all agree that the stupidest domain ever is news.com.com.

April Fool's Week

I have uncovered one of the greatest threats facing America: the extension of April Fool's Day.

The Internet is a stupid, stupid place where people make bad jokes and lie about things. On April Fool's Day, this idiocy is concentrated, and even encouraged.

Which, by itself, isn't so bad -- stay the hell off Slashdot on April Fool's Day and you'll be much happier. (Actually, I think you could probably make a pretty good argument for staying off Slashdot entirely yielding the same result.) But 2006 showed us a dangerous precedent: this holiday is no longer confined to a single day.

From Sonic Cult's "leak" of a bogus Sonic Xtreme torrent on March 31st to Joystiq's news story on Uwe Boll's upcoming Starcraft project the evening of April 3rd, it is clear the stupidity is spreading.

Just look what's happened to Christmas. Stores start putting up goddamn Christmas decorations on Halloween now. Imagine that happening with April Fool's Day. This is a slippery slope, my friends. April Fool's Day has escaped its bonds.

The Internet is already flooded with lame hoaxes and dumbasses who think they're funny. Encouraging an increase in this asinine behavior is okay for one day a year...but any more than that is flirting with disaster.

The More You Know

Why do people like gambling?

So this morning, I'm driving to work. (I prefer biking, but I was running way too late for that.) And I'm listening to NPR. And I hear the following:

"On March 15, two thousand and fifty years ago, Julius Caesar breathed his last. The news, coming up next!"

But that's not what I'm here to talk about today. I'm here to talk about gambling and wonder what exactly the hell the draw is.

I mean, okay, my coworkers get together a pool and buy a bunch of tickets when the lottery pot gets big enough. I don't participate, and refer to the lottery as "a tax on people who can't do math". They respond that somebody has to win, and you can't win if you don't play. (Which isn't strictly true. My department consists of two people, and if my supervisor wins the lottery, that means I'm the new head of the department.)

But mainly, what brought this sentiment on is my recent experience with Dragon Quest 8. Yesterday I finally got enough money together to get all the best items at the casino.

Which sounds good until you realize I'd been working at that since Sunday the goddamn 5th.

That's over a week where all I did in the game was fucking play the casino. To be fair, I probably average under two hours gaming per day, and played a bit of Sonic CD and Sonic 3 here and there when I got too annoyed with DQ8 to keep playing, but that's still hours and hours at the fucking casino. And it's like pulling teeth.

I guess it's not as bad as it was way back in 2 when the lottery game debuted (and obviously somebody must like these goddamn casino games, because they're still including them 17 years later), but it was a whole lot worse than 7 -- which was still pretty bad (and, unlike 8, had an item which you needed to get to complete the game; 8 just has generally sweet but not absolutely necessary equipment), but had more games and higher-yield slots.

And speaking of slots, that wound up being the game I went with in DQ8. I played a good deal of roulette on the supposition that you're more likely to win there, but it got to be too labor-intensive -- since you have to stack your chips at the beginning of each spin, and since I was stacking a total of 8000 chips all over the board (every single combination including 14, as that also covers every single square on the board except 0, meaning when I lose I usually pick up 1000 for the square I'm sitting on, so I only lose 7000 tokens instead of the full 8000), well, I basically had to sit there and play the game. Whereas slots you can just hit the up button over and over. Don't have to pay any attention whatever. So I could go do something else. Feed my fish, surf the net. Since I have a wireless controller, I could've even done it from another room. Point being, I'd prefer to be doing anything else but sit there and watch what I was doing.

So what's the draw of real casinos? I'm going to admit I've yet to take a trip to Vegas, but it sure seems like gambling isn't how I'd want to pass my time there anyway. I guess you get the excitement of losing real money over the crushing boredom of knowing you're inevitably going to win if you just keep playing because you can always just restore from your last save, but that doesn't seem like a huge advantage. I mean, if you're any good at math at all you have to realize the deck's stacked against you.

A lot of friends have told me the way to go is to play nickel slots and drink free cocktails. Which I guess I can get behind. But for a lot cheaper than a trip to Vegas, I can buy a six-pack and curse at the casino in Dragon Quest 8.

Or, better yet, finally fucking get back to playing Dragon Quest 8. That game's pretty cool when it's not making you play other games which aren't best played on a TV in the first damn place.

Not a Bubble-Gum Gang Leader Like Rest of Slovakia

The rain never quite hit us yesterday. But it sure smelled divine for about twenty minutes.

But none hit Sky Harbor Airport, which, as that's Phoenix's weather center, means we're technically still in our dry spell. This is day 142.

On another note, what's the deal with ICQ?

You remember ICQ. It's the redheaded stepchild of IM networks. It was big in the late '90's when it was the only game in town besides AIM, but has long since been displaced by MSN and Yahoo. Of course, the fact that AOL bought it out probably hasn't done it any favors either.

The weird thing about ICQ, as compared to the other networks, is the amount of random contact I've received.

A few years back, my ICQ account was inundated with porn spam. That's died down, but just the last couple weeks I've started getting weird random contacts from China and eastern Europe.

A sample:

(08:45:10) 264737669: hi
(08:46:46) 264737669: hey homie
(08:46:50) 264737669: write to me
(08:47:13) 264737669: i´m not a bubble gum gang leader like rest of slovakia

Now, my ICQ number's been relatively easy to find for the past...Jesus, has it been seven years already? Probably seven years. (Just for perspective, my ICQ number is seven digits, compared to the nine on my Slovakian friend's.) So my question is...why the hell have I just now started getting these messages? Where has my account number been recently posted to attract the attention of bubble-gum gang-leading Slovakians?

And on another topic, what genius decided Gaim should display ICQ numbers by default instead of nicknames? In the rare event that somebody I know drops me a message, I generally don't know who the hell it is, even if he's on my list under a nickname.

The world may never know. But at least somebody's asking the right questions.

Cables

I had no idea it would be so tricky to get a component cable for my GameCube.

I started my search at Fry's, where I found overpriced component cables for the PS2 and Xbox (fucking Monster) but didn't see any for the GameCube. On my return home, I went to Amazon to look for component cables. I found first-party Sony cables for $20. I also found a surprisingly low-priced set of GameCube Monster Cables for $25 -- and came dangerously close to paying for them before I realized that the reason they were so cheap was that they were composite cables. My search for component turned up not just component cables but, conveniently, composite cables too, and the words are similar enough that I almost didn't notice before checkout. Thanks Amazon.

So I went looking for some real component cables for my GameCube. Having been thwarted by both Fry's and Amazon, I began to wonder why the hell I couldn't find them, and went straight to the best place for obscure video game hardware, Lik-Sang...which didn't have them either. Finally I just Googled to try and figure out what happened, and discovered that Nintendo discontinued progressive-scan support back in May '04. Consoles manufactured since then don't even have a composite port on the back. Fortunately, I got mine in December '02 (right after the release of Metroid Prime, not coincidentally). Unfortunately, the damn cables now go for $50 on eBay. Less unfortunately, the Nintendo website had them for $35 (limit one per customer). Nearly double what Sony charges for theirs, and they don't even come with audio (which sure contributes to the nastiness of my jungle-o'-cables behind my TV, having to use my composite cable for audio), but I'm sure glad I ordered when I did because a week later, they're not there anymore. I may very well have gotten the last one. (So if you were looking forward to progressive-scan goodness for your GameCube for under $50, you know whose ass to kick.)

Don't even have the damn thing hooked up yet, either, though I hope to finally hook my consoles and Mac Mini this evening, as well as add HDMI and digital audio support to my cable box.

Furniture's built and apartment is starting to look really good (the living room, anyway -- the hall and bedroom are still disaster areas). Maybe this will give me a reason to finally finish Metroid Prime 2 -- although I'm a lot more keen on getting back to Dragon Quest 8 at this point.

Also I got a fish.

The Water Here Tastes Funny

As I near the close of my first week living in north Phoenix, I have made a few observations. The first is that the water here tastes funny.

Now, I must first note that I suspect Phoenix tap water is probably among the worst in the nation. Big, polluted city in the middle of the desert with water being piped in from Colorado and California with questionable clean water regulations. I'd probably be more comfortable drinking tap water in NYC (and I think I did at the drinking fountain in the Times Square Toys R Us), or pretty much any other major American city except LA.

As you might guess from the above presumably silly and useless "rant", I filter my water. But it still tastes funny. I expect I'll get used to it soon.

The other thing I've realized is that I hate going to Fry's. I hate driving there, I hate driving back, and I especially hate shopping there. In fact I think the only satisfying part of the whole experience is walking out the front door with my bag of purchases and taking it to my car.

What was particularly unpleasant about last night's trip to Fry's -- aside from the atrocious drivers I had to fight to get there and back -- was simply trying to find things. I recently got me an HDTV, and I'm trying to set it up with HD connections for my cable and my Mac Mini. My cable box has a DVI port rather than HDMI, so I picked up a DVI-to-HDMI adapter. Of course this only transfers video and not audio, so I needed to hook audio up separately. And apparently the HDMI connections on my TV only have digital coax inputs for separate audio.

There's a Radio Shack nextdoor to my apartment complex, so of course I poked my head in there on the off chance that they'd have a digital coax audio cable for under $30. No such luck, of course. Fucking Monster.

So I went to Fry's. Where they also primarily stock Monster, but at least seem to have a better selection than their Tempe counterpart. Not that I could tell at first, because I couldn't find the audio cable aisle, which is inexplicably in the section with a giant sign that says "VIDEO" above it, rather than the section with the "AUDIO" sign. It took me probably 10 or 15 minutes to determine this, as there were no available employees anywhere to be found and I wouldn't talk to them if there were. (I learned at the Tempe location only to speak with employees as an absolute last resort; it's possible that this location actually hires competent people but I'm not going to bet on it.)

Once I finally found the aisle with the audio cables, I was faced with the even greater difficulty of actually locating the cables I wanted. This was hard enough to do by sight, as composite video, composite audio, component video, and digital audio are only distinguished by the number of connectors, and sometimes not even that. (Color doesn't immediately help anymore, as apparently coloring the entire connector has gone out of style in favor of coloring each and every connector exactly the same but with a thin band of red, white, or whatever for color-coding. And if I'm looking closely enough to see what color the thin band is, I'm looking closely enough just to read the damn label on the packaging.) It took me a close inventory of the entire first wall to find a digital coax audio cable, and it was labeled as a subwoofer cable. I didn't know what the difference is between regular digital audio and subwoofer audio, if there even is one, and that upset me -- I'm not used to being in over my head when it comes to tech, and when I am, I can usually just punch up Google to find an answer. I was not thrilled at the prospect of buying the wrong cable and having to return it later -- Fry's is awesome for returning things, but I still don't like driving there and back.

Fortunately, I finally discovered some that were just labeled "digital audio coaxial cable" at the opposite corner of the aisle. The Monster ones were, obviously, too expensive, but there were some adequate-looking GE cables that were priced very reasonably (6' for $8, 15' for $15). The trouble was that all but one of them had been knocked off their hooks and were lying on the bottom shelf below the hooks at ground level. I almost didn't see them. I'm chalking this up to incompetence rather than malice, but it sure seems convenient that the inexpensive cables were so hard to find compared to the Monsters.

I picked up a copy of Sonic Gems while I was there because it was only $20 for a bunch of games that were released 10-15 years ago and should've been included on Sonic Mega Collection in the first place. It made me feel better about the whole nasty shopping experience, but the way I described it in the previous sentence makes it sound like it shouldn't. Oh well. I never actually had a Sega CD, so the only copy of Sonic CD I ever had was the awful Win95 port (featuring intro and ending movies that look like crap in 256 color but the game refuses to run at any higher color depth, and won't run on XP!), so it's nice to finally have a good working copy. And Sonic the Fighters won't run on MAME so it's nice to finally be able to play it. (I don't know if the game's actually any good, as again, I've never played it, but at least I finally get to check it out.)

Anyway. I'm almost done building furniture and unpacking stuff, so I should be able to turn my attention to getting all my various media devices hooked up any time now, and hopefully figure out how to get my wireless network card working under Gentoo so I don't have to stretch a network cable across the whole apartment.

That and getting used to the funny-tasting water will mean I'm finally home here.

But I still don't know if there's a difference between a digital coax woofer cable and a regular digital coax audio cable, and a quick Google search hasn't helped yet. If you know please feel free to enlighten me.

Moving

As previously noted, my New Year's resolutions were: get a real job, get a car, and move out of my grandparents' house. Well, I have a car and an apartment now, and my job seems realer every day (although if you want to help me get a job writing games in Canada, by all means, be my guest).

It was a fun weekend, and many thanks to Brad and Ben for helping haul and build furniture. The place is still a warren of cardboard boxes and plastic tubs, and this afternoon is looking like it will be another spent between building shelves and putting things on them, but the place is looking more and more like home every day. After a few calls to Cox I've finally got cable TV and Internet working, though I'm still trying to figure out how to get wireless running under Linux. In the meantime, it's a good thing I brought a long ethernet cable.

Apartment is nice, though the previous occupants had a cat who, as cats tend to do, made a mess of it. Got new carpeting, though, and I think everything's in pretty good shape, though you can still smell cat pee in the bathroom closet. This is one of the many reasons I'm a dog person.

(As I have recently been informed that I shouldn't be using my blog as a forum for presumably silly and useless "rants", I should probably note that cats have a right to pee all over everything if they want to and I have no right to complain unless I'm willing to breed a competing cat which does not stink up an apartment. ...Now, on the subject of that thread, I hate to be my own cheerleader, but honestly I think it's turned into a classic example of me helping a bad arguer make himself look stupid. What're the odds that when I poke my head back in Eric makes some potshot at me for not posting for a few days, and then immediately turns around and defends his refusal to respond to all my points by claiming to have better things to do? ...I really should finish my How to Argue Like a Complete Fuckwit guide, as this guy is a textbook example of the people I'm making fun of in it, but that's a presumably silly and useless "rant" for another day.)

Good to be on this side of town now, though; a 30-minute bike ride to work beats the hell out of a 45-minute drive. (One of the many nice things about riding my bike to work is it eliminates the need for a morning cup of coffee; I can get all the way to lunch before I need my caffeine fix. ...For those who didn't know, I gave up my precious Mountain Dew in favor of black coffee last summer. I miss the Dew, but I'm sure coffee's not nearly as bad for me.) Costco's right up the road for all my bulk-buying needs, and there's a Fry's Electronics not too far off in case I get hit in the head and decide I want to pay $100 for a DVI-to-HDMI cable. (Fucking Monster.) Also, as previously noted, this particular Fry's has an ass-ugly Aztec motif, complete with fake palm trees which seem to serve no other purpose but being in your fucking way when you're trying to walk past people.

I have also finally caved and gotten a cell phone, which has made me about as happy as I expected. Nothing like losing your signal twice while trying to talk to the cable guy. Also, I can't access my voice mail; I get a "number is unavailable" error every single time I try.

But aside from these minor annoyances, the new place is great. It's roomy, it has new carpet, and I can wander around without pants if I damn-well feel like it.

Why I Love The Walking Dead

Break time again. Figure I may as well balance that "why I hate" I'd been meaning to write with a "why I love" I've been meaning to write.

My new favorite comic of the past year is The Walking Dead.

Actually, issue #1 is free online. Go read it.

Did you read it? Okay. You probably have a pretty good idea why I like it. But let me elaborate: the real reason I like it is that, twenty-four issues later, it's still that good. Things keep happening. From a premise that generally fizzles by the end of an hour-and-a-half movie, we've got a series that's still interesting after over two years.

I think the appeal is that we're looking at a microcosm of life. In this tiny community of characters, we see characters become close and then drift apart, families torn asunder, and a hero forced to keep the group together who finally starts to buckle under the strain. And we see all this happen at breakneck speed -- what we're seeing is life in fast motion, spurred on by the characters' knowledge that they could die at any moment.

It's easily the best zombie story I've ever seen, but the zombies themselves are incidental -- this story could take place on a deserted island, in an Orwellian dystopia, on a hostile planet, in a post-apocalyptic wasteland (well, I guess that last one isn't so far off) -- in any setting where a tiny group tries to fight seemingly impossible odds just to survive one day to the next.

My uncle suggested that the draw of zombie stories is people's desire to see a story broken down into us-versus-them tribalism. I think that's a big part of it, but I think it's bigger than that: it's life distilled down to its component parts, people growing and changing and coming together and breaking apart, all sped up by the fear of imminent death.

And that's why The Walking Dead is my favorite comic right now. Some other comics I'm reading:

Transformers. I'm ambivalent about this one. On the one hand, it's nice seeing more G1; on the other, Jesus Christ how many times are we going to have to sit through the origin story?! By my count, there are already 5 different damn Transformers universes (G1 cartoon, Marvel comic, Dreamwave comic, Robots in Disguise, Armada/Energon/Cybertron) in the US -- I'm not even going to get into the various Japanese series that never made it over here -- and a sixth on the way in the upcoming (ugh) Michael Bay movie. Why do we need another one?

Don't get me wrong, the new comic's solid so far, but...why do it like this? Why start from scratch yet again? Why not do something that adds to the universe -- more War Within-era prequels, some stories set in-between G1 and Beast Wars, or even after Beast Machines? (Preferably some post-BM stories that are published by a company that has some sort of distribution besides ordering online and won't get its license revoked after four issues.)

Batman and the Monster-Men. Matt Wagner tells a good, solid year-two story (much better than, oh, say, Year Two), and examines a turning point in Batman's career: thinking he's finally got crime in Gotham on the run, he realizes he's instead created an arms race: he may have taken care of the petty thugs, but now he has mad scientists and supervillains to deal with. Add the fact that this is adapted from an original 1940 Kane/Finger story and you've got some serious fan service. Plus I just like Hugo Strange and don't think he gets enough play -- he is, after all, the original member of Batman's rogues' gallery, predating both Joker and Catwoman by a few months. That and I just dig Wagner's art.

Batman has always been one of my favorite characters, and always a book I simply can't stand to read. The character's been handled poorly for the past twenty years. But it seems that we're in a serious turnaround now, and with Morrison and Dini taking over his two books soon, I'm going to have to start picking them up.

Speaking of Morrison, good Lord that guy writes a lot of comics these days. Seven Soldiers has been fantastic, as has All-Star Superman.

Ellis has been putting out a hell of a lot of books too, and for somebody who hates superheroes, he doesn't seem to write much else these days. Iron Man: Extremis has been a great book, and I particularly liked the retelling of the origin in the most recent issue -- the original Iron Man armor is my favorite; it just looks like such a godawful burden to wear. And that was a vital part of the original character: Tony wore the suit to stay alive, not because he set out to be a hero. The reluctant hero theme in the early sixties was vital to ushering in the Marvel Age: Spider-Man was just trying to pay the rent, the Hulk and the Thing were desperate to cure their conditions, and Iron Man put the suit on because he had shrapnel lodged in his heart.

Tony's new nano-armor is a great arc-ending concept, but I'm not really looking forward to seeing it in-continuity. Hopefully it, like the Spider Armor, is done away with by the end of Civil War.

Dead Girl: I was a huge X-Statix fan from the get-go, and disappointed to see the book go (I blame the editors for not just letting the creatives run with the Princess Di story; I think any reader would agree that was the jump-the-shark point of the series). So it's great to see the team back again, and with the high-concept twist of exploring the very nature of comic book death. Dr. Strange is the perfect vehicle for this story, I'm wracking my brain trying to figure out who the Pitiful One could be, and the art is gorgeous -- I was worried when I heard Allred wouldn't be doing the pencils, but honestly with him doing the inks I can't tell the difference.

I've also been digging the comic adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, and it finally hit me last night that the protagonist is a dead ringer for Arthur Dent. As Gaiman is a well-known Adams fan (even wrote a book about him), there's no way this is coincidence.

Looking forward to work from Busiek (Superman, Aquaman, Marvels 2, and of course Astro City) and wondering what Priest is up to these days.

Oh, and Superman/Batman punked out: the guy in the Batman Beyond costume is Tim, not Terry. Booooo.

Seems like I must be forgetting something, but damned if I can think what it is right now. Well, I'm sure this won't be my last post on the subject of comics.