Thursday, November 29, 2007

Nome is a metaphor for the ends of the earth, according to ESPN

I went to to check out stuff on tonight's Packers-Cowboys game. I have no idea who will win and I need to choose for the pool I'm in. I'm 12 behind the leader so I can't afford to miss any, if I can avoid it.

I love it when Nome is used as the end of the world:

The Cowboys already had their crack at the Patriots. Couldn't ask for anything more: Had them at home, had them on national television (another thing about Super Bowl XLI¾ -- only a fraction of fans will see it because it's on the NFL Network, which apparently is available only in certain parts of Nome) and even led New England in the second half.

No, we didn't have the NFL Network in Nome, unless it has been added in the last six months, which I doubt. Just funny to read about Nome being at the ends of the earth.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Children of the Grave

Reviewed by Matt Butcher / Writer for Independent Propaganda

As I sat down to read a new graphic novel, I was a bit pessimistic. I have only liked the genre called horror in cinema, where the director controls every frame. Every moment is plannedfor maximum efficiency. I have never thought that comic panels sufficiently portrayed the suspense necessary for shock and terror. Children of the Grave silences that notion and recounts a horror tale worthy of the genre.

Children of the Grave is a tradepaperback written by Tom Waltz and drawn in black and white by Casey Maloney. The team up is wonderful. It seems that Waltz writes knowing how Maloney is going to develop the panel. Maloney’s shadows accurately set the mood and draw the reader into the lives of three soldiers on a mission in a fictional Middle Eastern country. Black and white is used wonderfully here, as nothing could better fit the story or Maloney’s art.

The three soldiers come across a site of a mass grave. The only trouble is that thegraves have opened and the contents removed. The contents were the product of a terrorist madman out for genocide: the children of his enemies have been slaughtered. The soldiers radio for new orders and receive the suicide mission of assassinating the madman fanatic.

The situation gets creepier when the lieutenant in charge sees visions of children. Help us find the way, Michael, the little girl says. These ghost images seem to cry out for justice. The madman himself has dreams of children murdering him horribly.

The best part of this story is that the horror does not take over the characters. The characters seem to be a lot more real than most horror stories I have ever read or seen. The three soldiers are wonderfully developed, with motives and background, with desires and inner demons. Even our bad guy has a back story that seems to make us understand a bit more about his motives. The horror is simply the catalyst that moves these characters along towards their inevitable collision with their own destinies.

The horror comes in when these images present themselves at new unforeseen turns. The clues they leave are sufficient enough to leave the reader pulling along with every page. Some of the horror is man made, as we graphically watch the dreadfulness of war and some of the atrocities that man can place upon man.

I must say that once I reached the final chapter, I was a bit wary as to where the ending was going. An element was introduced that I was worried would negatively impact the overall structure. However, its use in all situations available actually worked and tied itself in to all of the characters. This book wraps itself together well, never forgetting the little elements that have brought the reader to the end. The reader should be satisfied and not left hanging.

Amazingly, this is, according to the end notes in the TPB, a first project for this team of Waltz and Maloney who work so well together. Children of the Gravewas apparently a series first for Shooting Star Comics and then this trade paperback from IDW Publishing became available. Waltz says on the thank you page that all he really wants is this book to make it part of your collection. In the end, that satisfaction and gratitude that he portrays is simply his best reward. Our reward is a well-crafted book that we can show off to friends and feel good about having, especially when this becomes a movie!

(Originally posted at on June 14, 2006.)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Ultimate Day

Today is...


It is a four day weekend. It is only Wednesday. Today is the Wednesday that acts like a Friday. It is Friwednesday.

I think this could be a new holiday. It only happens this once a year. It only happens because of our great American holiday of Thanksgiving.

I was saying to the students today, "Happy Thanksgiving...and I can say that because it is a non-religious, American holiday!"

Monday, November 19, 2007

I got put on YouTube

I didn't even know the kids were taking this...

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Land of Lincoln

It's possible that I've gotten more boring since moving back to Illinois. Somehow, there's no sense of the exotic that has been my life since movingout to Seattle and then to Nome, Alaska. However, that isn't the case. Maybe I am just normal living here in Normal, Illinois.

So this weekend, Amy looked at the Pantagraph online site for stuff to do this weekend. She found a small town craft fair about an hour away down south of us. We stuffed the kids in the car and drove down to Mt. Pulaski and Lincoln.

We had the privilege of touring the Mt. Pulaski courthouse. This is where Abraham Lincoln himself started practing law. Up here, we walked on the same floorboards that our sixteenth President walked on. The nice lady that talked to us about the site, as well as let me go up behind the bench, talked about how Lincoln worked in this room.

Now if that isn't a sense of being special, of being exotic, I don't know what is.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Books found at Goodwill

Talk about a find. The other week we went into Goodwill in Normal off Veteran's Parkway and I found all these cool old paperbacks for 50 cents apiece. You have to love good, cheap paperbacks. Plus, some of these are the cool old sci-fi ones that you can't find anymore. Also, this is the best way to get Star Trek and Star Wars novels. I hate paying $7.99 for 'em, but 50 cents is the perfect price.

Monday, November 12, 2007

NIGHT by Elie Wiesel and TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee

This year, I am doing a much better job teaching the concepts and themes in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird than I had the one time before. I feel I am actually connecting with the equality emphasis, especially the theme about it being a "sin to kill a mockingbird." Today we re-enacted the trial to the best of our ability. I know I am doing well when I have students coming up to me saying that they are getting mad at the book. "Good, you're supposed to get mad," I say. It's going really well.

With the seniors, I read for the first time Night by Elie Wiesel, a memoir about the author's experience through Auschwitz and the camps. This one is even tougher because of the real horror expressed, not just implied. One discussion, there was a bit of laughter and one of the students admitted, "You have to laugh a little otherwise it'll make you sick if you keep thinking about it."

That's true. It's a world where we still have to learn these lessons, but hopefully, these kids will never have to experience any of this.

This is one of the "found poems" created today by one of the seniors from the book Night:

You shut your trap,
You filthy little swine,
Or I'll squash you right now.
You'd have done better
To hang yourself where you were,
Than come here.
Didn't you know what was
In store for you at Auschwitz,
Haven't you heard about it,
In 1944.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Heroes strike

Now that Hollywood writers are officially on strike, "Heroes" is shooting an
alternate ending to its December 3rd episode. The episode was suppose to wrap up
the current "Generations" story arc, but the new ending could serve instead as a
season finale in case the strike cancels the remainder of the season.

(above courtesy of Atomic Comics newsletter)

Doesn't this just piss you off? I keep thinking to myself: then what good is it to even bother if this isn't what was originally intended? To fans, it will always be known as the episode that was supposed to do something else.

From my English studies background, I wonder what this does to criticism about a piece. How do you rate something that was intended to be one way but went another way because of a writer's strike?

For instance, if The Prisoner went through this, those particular episodes would be almost discarded by fans as they were not what was originally intended by Patrick McGoohan. There area already some fans who only perceive the original core seven episodes as the ones true to McGoohan's vision. They think the compromise with the network, who originally wanted 26 episodes and they compromised on 17, stretced some of The Prisoner too thin, sort of like people thinking Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager may have been too many trips to the well.