Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What Were They Thinking?
    — Shoes?  Or “Eeewwwws”?

“What Were They Thinking?” highlights products and presentations which just don’t make sense.

This ad for Gravity Defyer shoes showed up in the latest National Geographic.

Everyone I showed it to asked a version of “Why is there a sperm on the shoe?”  (And in the company logo?)

Also worth asking is “Why are they pouring energy drink on the shoe?  Are they implying that it is waterproof, or that the shoe adds ‘energy’ to your feet?”  (Would that the ad text had anything that tied into that imagery.)

Not worth asking is “Who would drink an energy drink with a sperm logo on it?”  Also not worth asking: “How does Monster feel about you using their can but with your logo on it?” (The ingredients text around the top gives away the brand, if you compare images.)

(A different version of the ad — without the energy drink — showed in another magazine the same month.  AAA’s Journey, I think.  Still just as “ewww” inducing.)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Are All Downtown Bicyclists Assholes?

You’re a bicyclist in downtown Seattle, riding amidst automobile traffic, and the light you are coming up to changes.  Do you:
  1. Slow down with the rest of the traffic and maintain your position
  2. Lane split past the slowing/stopping cars to come to the “bicycle box” right by the crosswalk, giving you a jump forward when the light changes
  3. Pedal like crazy and lane split, then zoom out into the intersection after the light changes to red and make a big sweeping left turn just as traffic going in your new direction starts to roll

You’re a bicyclist in downtown Seattle, riding amidst automobile traffic behind a pickup truck, and traffic is stopped at a light.  When the light changes, the pickup truck starts to roll forward and make a right turn, but then stops partway through the turn due to a pedestrian in the crosswalk.  Do you:
  1. Stop and wait for the truck to be able to continue his turn
  2. Edge around his back bumper, maybe even a little into the next lane, so you can squeak past
  3. Edge around his back bumper, maybe even a little into the next lane, so you can squeak past, and then bang your fist on his rear fender and yell at him for blocking traffic

If you said “a”, you are a tame bicyclist.  (I’m sure you would call yourself “defensive” or something else that makes you sound better.)  You’re not in a hurry to get somewhere, and you figure you’re better off (safer) by staying right where you are.

If you said “b”, you are an aggressive bicyclist.  You are willing to push the envelope of what is technically allowed in order to get where you are going in a timely manner, and you know that you can get away with it.  But you still totally respect that there are other vehicles on the road with you, and that they are way bigger than you.

If you said “c”, you may have been one of the two bicyclists I saw within the space of a minute at the intersection of Pine and 5th last Friday.  You’re totally an asshole and an idiot.  Someday, you’re going to get hit or counter-attacked by a pissed off driver and you’ll likely have deserved it.

Updated on January 18, 2011
This behavior is apparently called APD (Aggressive Pursuit of Destination), per this listing in Schott’ Vocab Blog.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What Were They Thinking?
    — Sales Resistance is Futile

“What Were They Thinking?” highlights products and presentations which just don’t make sense.

Here is one of the ad blocks from the Apple Store, pushing for Black Friday sales.

Is it just me, or does that thing made of lots of smaller pieces of tech all mashed together look less like a present and more like a Borg cube?

“Resistance is futile.  You will be a-sale-imated.”

Does This Shirt Make Me Look Non-Fat?

About a month ago, at our Friday dance night, I had no less than three people ask me if I had lost or was losing weight.  In one case, it was “Looks like the diet is working.”  Another theorized that all the dancing I had done (must have done) at Sundance Stompede the previous weekend must have had an effect.

These comments kind of threw me, because while I have been gradually losing weight for almost three years now — close to 30 pounds to date, but only maybe 5 pounds of that in the past year — I haven’t tried to lose the weight, I just have.  No particular heavy diet involved.  But there are some things I can target here.

Relationship Weight Gain

Three years ago this month is when Rusty and I broke up.  At the time, I weighed about 220 (maybe even 225), weight which had crept up over the previous 7 years living in Seattle.  Some (but only some) of it was attributable directly to being in a relationship — you’ve probably seen it many times, where people connect up, settle down, and expand to fill the couch space available.  When the need to be svelte to attract a partner goes away and the diet either doesn’t change or even increases in bad ways due to more stay-at-home activities, weight goes up.  (I’ve seen guys add on as much as 50 pounds in a year or two this way.)

In no way am I blaming Rusty on this front; he gained some at the same time I did.  But after we separated, I was no longer buying and cooking for two (three when his daughter had lived with us), and I also stopped eating out as much.  By the end of the next summer, I was down to around 205 pounds.

While I was dating Cliff, it was a different situation.  We didn’t live together, my activity level had already gone up (see below), and with his thinner build, he was more aware of (more paranoid about?) the potential for getting a gut.  So during that relationship, my weight actually continued to go down a bit at a time.  18 months along (spring of this year), I was a bit above 195 lbs.

Activity Level Increase

I made two notable lifestyle changes over the past three years which may have had an effect.

First, I bought a scooter in April 2008 and turned it into my primary form of transportation.  (Over 13,000 miles in 2.5 years now, more than double what I’ve put on the car.)  This has added some upper body strength, perhaps, from manipulating the scooter on and off its stand.  It has definitely improved my core muscle strength and improved my posture, by not having a seat to slump against for support.  And being in the fresh air (and wind) more has perhaps helped my breathing and I think it has improved my resistance to colds and my recurring bronchitis problem, and that all could have some small effect on the weight.

Second, a couple years ago, we shifted Rain Country’s twice-monthly Wednesday dance nights to be all line dance.  Line dances — especially when you dance almost every one — provide really good exercize and increased heart rate and such.  A year ago, when the dance team went on hiatus from Wednesday practices, we expanded the line dance nights by an additional hour, giving me that much more activity.  (I lost some exercize from the dance team hiatus, but it is made up for by more line dancing.)  Further, I have been pursuing line dance competition — even travelled to Copenhagen to compete in the OutGames — which has probably helped even more by giving me increased focus on posture, core muscles, and so forth.

I’ve also significantly increased my sexual activity level as well, especially some practices which focus on muscle tone and muscle relaxation.  A couple hours of getting sweaty and getting your endorphins up is good exercize, and when you get that 2 or 3, sometimes more times a week… it’s got to be a boost for weight loss.  (Yeah, I’m bragging a bit.  But it’s true: I’m getting more sex these days than I ever did in my 20s or 30s.  To co-opt a phrase, “It gets better.”)

Diet and Portion Control

As I said earlier, I haven’t actively sought to lose weight, at least not in the “go on a diet” sense.  (Nor in the “do physical activity that doesn’t appeal to you” sense.  It’s much easier to up your activity level if it’s something you like to do, something that you don’t start doing because you “have” to.  Gym workouts failed for me in the past; if I have to make time for it and force myself to do it, I’m going to find ways to avoid it.  And I always did.)

I did make three small changes in my eating habits, though:
  1. I eat out less often for dinner and rarely for weekend brunch.  Many restaurant meals are larger than you would make for yourself, but you finish them because, by God, you’re paying for them, and thus you eat more than you would at home.  (And often not better for you in terms of fat, calories, carbs, etc.)  I do still eat out for lunch most days at work — mostly because I have a hard time getting myself to make and take a decent lunch, but also by eating a later lunch (12:45 or later), the food carries over toward dinner and thus also reduces late afternoon food intake desires.
  2. I put some Splenda in my coffee when it’s available.  I don’t go all the way to “no sugar” (there’s a mild bitter/chemical aftertaste to Splenda that I’ve gotten used to but still don’t like), but with the coffee service at our previous building (and when I go to a coffee shop), I do half sugar and half Splenda, effectively cutting the sugar intake in half.  That’s a small thing, but multiplied by 2 or 3 cups a day, 4 or 5 days a week, it does become a significant amount of calories dropped out of the diet.
  3. I exercize mild portion control.  Have you ever noticed that the first couple bites of ice cream are fantastic, the next few are pretty good, and then you stop really tasting the peach or salted caramel or whatever, but you finish the amount you dished up anyway?  Same thing with chips: the first couple handfuls are yummy, the rest you just eat because they are there without the same level of enjoyment.  So now instead of a bowl of ice cream, I have a teacup full; half the quantity, same amount of pleasure.  Instead of pulling from the bag of chips until I’m full, I have a moderate bowl, or I have a small bowl of salsa and I eat until it’s gone.  I keep a box of sugar cubes at my desk and I sweeten my coffee that way, rather than the guesstimate method of pouring sugar into the cup.  (Now if they just made Splenda cubes!)
Except for the sugar/Splenda switch, I haven’t swapped out ostensibly high calorie items for “lite” ones, however.  I use real half & half in my coffee.  I eat bacon and eggs.  I use real maple syrup.  I use butter.  I cook with butter and with bacon grease.  (Date a southern boy and you’ll learn this!)  While losing some weight is a good thing, there is a trade-off: how much suffering are you willing to endure?  How much joy (and flavor!) are you willing to suck out of your life?  And what comes along with switching out real food for chemically engineered replacements?

If you need to lose large amounts of weight in a short period of time, those trade-offs may be worth it.  But for me, I am happier with a slow loss of weight combined with a minimal loss of joy.

Current State and Goals

Right now, my weight is down in the low 190s, depending on time of day, recent meals, and so forth.  What is especially cool about that is that this is lower than I have been since before I moved to Seattle, ten years ago this weekend.  That thrills me: it’s rare to be in better shape than you were a decade ago.

I’m able to now fit into medium t-shirts again.  (Well, some of them.  Some are not just smaller, they are shorter, and I can’t wear them tucked in.)  I’m buying 34-inch waist jeans again; I have one pair still at 36, which I’ll wear until they wear out.  (Thinking back, pants were one of the reasons I did make the small changes that I did.  I noticed that my jeans, which I had always worn tight, were no longer conforming to my body.  Instead, they were feeling like loose bags belted to my waist; they covered rather than clung, and I didn’t like it.)

I’m able to wear my original pair of leather chaps again, although they are still damn tight such that I can only wear them without pants on underneath.  (They are tighter in the thighs than in the waist, actually.)  Give that I bought them 19 years ago, when I had a 28-inch waist and had barely started country dancing (which is what expanded my thigh measurements), being able to get into them at all is cool!

It’s good to have goals, even if they are small.  I would like to get back down to 32-inch 501s, and down to about 185 pounds, which would be about where I was in 1995.  I think I can manage that in the next year or two.

Why It Threw Me

When I “grew up gay” (that period of about the first 5 years after you come out), I lived in the Bay Area.  It was the early 1990s.  AIDS (and fear of same) was abundant.  AZT was the only AIDS drug around.  If someone in gay circles lost a noticeable amount of weight and they hadn’t been chatting about diets and major exercize changes — or gastric bypass surgery — then you knew what was up.

Of course, no one then would ever approach someone and ask if they had tested positive or even if they were just generically “sick”.  The best you could do was verbally observe the symptom and then let them respond about their health status if they wanted to.

I had little idea that that stage of my life still had such heavy coloring for me, but I realize that I was shocked by having several people observe that I looked thinner because of the inferred subtext that they were fishing to really ask if I was all right or if I was sick.  (I don’t think they were asking that, I just subsconsciously interpretted it that way.)

Why I Actually Got the Comments

As it turns out, the main culprit in why I got several comments that night has less to do with whether I’ve lost weight recently and more with what I was wearing.  A couple summers ago, after winning a line dance competition in Tampa, I bought a nice Western shirt as my personal “prize” — cream colored fabric with a massive amount of copper brown embroidery across the chest/shoulders/back.  It is an XL shirt, but that was the only size they had and I really love it.

That was 20 to 25 pounds ago.

Now that I’m down to the low end of Large again, that shirt practically hangs on me and makes me look skinnier than I am.  (I remember a girl in high school who did that, wearing big baggy shirts to make herself look thinner.)

I guess I should be happy that people do notice these things.  But I’ve absolutely got to get that shirt tailored to better fit me now.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

…And RealPlayer Loses a User

I got a notification about an update to RealPlayer today, so I accepted it and waited for the install to occur.

And 10 minutes later, I uninstalled the application and started this blog post.
  • In order to install, it insisted I quit my browser.  That’s so 2005, that I have to quit one app to install another.
  • After installing, it asked for my password.  No idea why it didn’t have my previous one saved, but this happens.  Maybe a wipe of saved browser passwords at some point wiped this, too.  (Most likely, when they mirrored my content over from the previous laptop, info like that wasn't preserved, and I just haven't used RealPlayer since then.)
  • This is a work system, so my password has to change every few months.  After trying a couple that I could remember, I gave up and used the “Forgot your password?” link.  The page that came up asked for my email address… twice.  Twice on the same page.  These double-ask fields are done during sign-up scenarios to ensure that people have entered the right email address (no typos) or have typed their password (in blind text) correctly.  That use case doesn’t apply here.
  • After getting the email to reset the password and clicking on the stupidly long URL, the resulting web page asked for the last four digits of my credit card.  I don’t recall having a credit card attached to that account — why would I have, since I’m not going to buy anything through them? — and why would you need me to click a link, enter an email address twice, check my email, click on another link, and then provide even more info?  Seems like overkill, when other applications can do the reset in fewer steps.
  • But okay, which credit card?  I’ve used several over the nearly five years this account has been around, and I have since closed most of those accounts.  I tried the one I think I recall from my checking account; that’s the one I have on file at various retailers and such.  But no, that’s not the one they were looking for, and there was no means for entering other info, etc.  (Actually, that was the one from a checking account I recently had to close due to a fraud claim, but I’ve been using it for a few years.  Although as I think of it, I got that one after the RealPlayer account was created, so it would have likely been wrong regardless.)
(Note the big sin they have committed here: credit card usage changes over time.  The card I prefer to use now may not be the same one I used last year, and that account may be closed and the info not accessible to me any more.  Values which change over time should never be used as a security measure because they are neither memorizable nor retrievable.)

So I need to sign in to complete the install, but I can’t remember my password, and they won’t reset my password without me entering digits from a credit card for an account I no longer have?  Plonk!

Control Panels > Add & Remove Programs > Uninstall

[Note: I used to work for RealNetworks.  Does that make me more forgiving of them or more critical?  I’m not sure.]


The streets in downtown Seattle (north of Yesler) are Jefferson, James, Cherry, Columbia, Marion, Madison, Spring, Seneca, University, Union, Pike, and Pine.  Note the duplication there:
When I moved to Seattle ten years ago, I was given a handy mnemonic for remembering the order:
Jesus Christ Made Seattle Under Protest

This mnemonic even shows up in Wikipedia, and my mention of it got on the New York Times website’s Schott’s Vocab blog.

It doesn’t help for “Which ‘S’ street is next?”, but it’s great for figuring out roughly how many blocks you have to go.  But I was thinking this week that maybe this mnemonic would be offensive to non-Christians and maybe even to Christians who consider it to be taking the Lord’s name in vain.  So here are some alternate options:

We voted several years ago to make marijuana usage the police department’s lowest enforcement priority:
Just ’Cause Many Seattlites Use Pot

Why you should either go commando or wear a Utilikilt:
Jeans Can Make Some Underwear Pucker

Or maybe a recipe for consuming our most notable beverage:
Joe: Coffee, Milk, Stir, Uncover, Pour

(Geez, the things I come up with riding to work on my scooter on a soggy day.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Lemon Meringue Pie

Haven’t made one in a couple years.  Crust didn’t roll out very well, so no pretty fluting on the edges, but who cares so long as it tastes yummy!

And it does.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Stuff I Read: “Bleeding Cool”

For years, UK-based Rich Johnston’s “Lying in the Gutters&rdquos; column was the place to go to for advance news and rumors about the comic book industry.  He had an incredible hit rate for getting stuff right — which probably implies that lots of people were willing to feed stuff to him, that they trusted him.

About a year ago, “Lying in the Gutters” was transformed from a weekly column into the comics and comics-related film news (and rumor) site Bleeding Cool.

While other comics fan sites run lots of previews of soon-to-be-on-sale comics, interviews with creators, press release lightly rewritten as news stories, and fan musings on various subjects, Bleeding Cool remains the go-to place for all the latest stuff.  As an example, the current front page has bits on:
  • Sponge Bob comics
  • A new Transformer named "Spastic"
  • Ads for The Walking Dead
  • A Roy Lichtenstein painting auction
  • J. Michael Straczinski
  • A new Winnie the Pooh movie
  • Torchwood and Dr. Who
  • The Little Fockers movie
  • Casting for the new Spider-Man movie
  • Ghost Rider 2
  • …and a lot more
Lots of rumors.  Lots of barely-there, bleeding-edge news.  Lots of trailers and such that don’t show up on other comics sites.

Not just cool.  Bleeding Cool.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Rocky Horror G(l)eek

I’m such a Rocky Horror geek.  I both loved and disliked the recent Glee episode.  (More on that later.)

During the 80s and early 90s, I saw The Rocky Horror Picture Show roughly 50 times.  (Only twice in the last decade, though, and probably only a half dozen times after mid-1990, when I moved to California.  I guess I decided drinking and getting laid was a better use of my post-midnight time.)  I’ve been in several theater casts and even in an actual stage production.  Here are some memories…

Seattle / In College (1987–1988)
  • My second time seeing it was at the Neptune Theatre in Seattle, on what turned out to be their 10th anniversary showing, during my junior year of college (1987, I guess).  Lots of people in costume, and the “opening act” was the Bugs Bunny cartoon “Rhapsody Rabbit”.  While we were waiting in line to get in, some Jesus Freaks were across the street with signs and a megaphone, telling us we were going to Hell for seeing the movie.  (Really.  For seeing a movie.)
  • Our crew made a few more trips from Tacoma to the Neptune over the next year or so.  One time, one of the kids we approached to come with us said “You don’t want to see that movie!  That’s where they rip up the chairs in the theater and throw them at each other!”  (Makes Sue Sylvester’s interpretation of throwing toast seem benign, huh?)  Another time, my father came with us (drove us up); a youth pastor, he knew of the movie but had never seen it and afterward, he said he was glad he had seen it (in that “I didn’t really enjoy it, but now at least I know what it is” sense).
  • The Neptune cast used to “sacrifice” (Rocky Horror) virgins before the show.  One time, we took a college friend up name Carol.  Carol Carroll, actually.  They had fun with that.  (“Ask her her name!  Ask her her last name!”  “No, what’s your last name?  No, your last name!”)
  • My first theater cast part was at the Neptune, where they put me in a wedding dress and I played Betty Monroe.  My Ralph was wearing a Nixon mask.
Eugene and Portland / In Grad School (1988–1990)
  • During grad school in Eugene, the local art theater started doing Rocky Horror, and after several of us showed up in costume, they asked us to create a theater cast.  We did that every Friday and Saturday for about a year.
  • At one point, they even played it as a Saturday afternoon matinee.  (Lasted about 3 weeks, I think.)  There’s something truly wrong about exiting a showing of Rocky Horror into bright sunlight.
  • Actors Cabaret of Eugene put on a live version of The Rocky Horror Show (note that the stage show name differs from the movie), and I was cast as one of the Tranyslvanian chorus.  (I had nothing prepared for my audition piece, so I sang “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”.)  To this day, I struggle to sing the melody (rather than the harmony) for “The Time Warp”, and I still recall bits of the show choreography.  The show only ran for three performances, but it was lots of fun.
  • A few times, several of us drove to Portland for their showing (must have been after the Eugene theater stopped showing it), and once we drove to somewhere near Seattle and provided a cast for a theater there.  Ah, the long drives in my old Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme.  The Portland theater had a live band at the time which would play before the show; a cover of “Tainted Love” was their best/most memorable piece.
  • At some point, a few of us from the Eugene cast were interviewed for a master’s thesis someone was doing on Rocky Horror and similar mass participation movie viewings (of which there were very few at the time).  I think I’ve got a copy of the thesis somewhere (God knows where).
  • Over the years, I’ve played several roles in theater casts: Betty Monroe, Columbia, Dr. Frank N. Furter, Riff Raff, Magenta, Dr. Scott, Brad Majors, and Rocky.  I still have most of my costume bits (except the wheelchair), including the gold lame booties for Rocky and the laboriously hand-sequinned blue tap shoes for Columbia.  (Mmm, need pics!)
California and Seattle / The Last 20 Years (1990–2010)
  • After moving to California, I went to showings in Palo Alto a few times.  In about November 1990 (I think), they had a costume contest.  At the time, I had let my hair grow long, aiming for a ponytail but my hair has so much body that it was more of a puffball.  For Halloween that year, I had done a French Maid drag costume (you can see where this is going), and I re-used that as Magenta.  With my own hair teased out big, and with a beard.  I won the costume contest and got a copy of the Rocky Horror Picture Show Book.
  • One of the women in the square dance club was a big Barbie collector, and for Halloween that year, she dressed up as Janet from the Floor Show sequence, and brought a Barbie dressed to match.
  • Since moving to Seattle in 2000, I’ve only seen Rocky Horror twice: I took my then-boyfriend Aaron to see it at a theater in West Seattle, and later then-boyfriend Rusty to the Cuff Complex for their annual showing.  In both cases, the guys were a bit scared of me for how well I knew the film and how much I threw myself into the songs, dances, and antics.

Which brings us back to the Glee episode.

While I was pleased that they did a Rocky Horror episode (and I’m glad that they didn’t echo back to the piece of Fame involving the movie), I still found this to be one of the weaker episodes thus far.

The Good
  • I was tickled from the very start by the realization that Quinn in the show would play Magenta, the role played in the movie by… Patricia Quinn.  (In-joke or coincidence?)  Fox has stated that the lips in the intro are Santana’s (which means they are still Magenta’s lips, since Santana did some of the Magenta stuff, especially during "Touch-a Touch-a Touch Me"), but the voice sounds like Quinn to me; if they were mirroring the movie, then it should be one person’s lips and another’s voice, so it could be Quinn mashed-up with Santana (although technically, it should be Kurt’s voice over Santana’s lips).  (The comments thread in that article say that a producer tweet and that the soundtrack album indicates that it was indeed Santana’s voice as well as her lips.)
  • The actress playing Mercedes was superb as Dr. Frank N. Furter (as she always is, of course!).
  • The lyric changes in the songs to make them teen-appropriate (or really “TV appropriate”, I guess) caused me to snicker at times. (Although I give them props for changing “transsexual” to “sensational”; that one worked fairly well.)  Ultimately, the word switches didn’t really bother me, since they were addressed in the story as part of rewrites to make the show acceptable for a high school musical.
  • “Whatever Happened to Saturday Night?” has now been added to my country DJ set (East Coast Swing, 162 bpm).  I also have “Physical” from Season One in there, as a West Coast Swing.
  • I completely missed that the TV network guys were Barry Bostwick and Meatloaf.
The Bad
  • Since when are Mr. Schuester and the Glee Club responsible for the school musical?  That came out of left field and wasn’t fleshed out very much.
  • The episode didn’t serve to really move any of the subplots forward.  At best, it nodded to Sam and Quinn’s relationship and Sue’s TV career.
  • The episode didn’t have as strong a “structure of a musical” structure.  “Will uses the show to get close to Emma” as the emotional crux didn’t really carry the right weight.  “Touch-a Touch-a Touch Me“ as an Eleven O’Clock Number?
  • The whole thing about casting Carl as Eddie and Will as Rocky seemed totally left field (it’s a high school musical!) and gave a really major “Eeewww” factor to things.)
  • There has apparently been some outcry reaction to Kurt’s use of “tranny” in the episode.  I noticed it at the time but was more intrigued by the issue the character raised — it’s hard enough being out and gay without everyone thinking you want to be a drag queen or get a sex change as well — than I was at the potential perjorative.  But I’m not trans, either.
The Future
  • Seeing a leather-clad motorcycle riding dentist made me wonder about whether there’s a Little Shop of Horrors episode in the works for next year.  (Similarly, Kurt’s references to the Sing-a-Long Sound of Music — an event which stems directly from the Rocky Horror phenomenon, as does the “Rocky Horror Lion King” from furry circles — needs a payoff at some point.  These kids are 16 going on 17, after all.)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Stuff I Read: A Distant Soil, by Colleen Doran

A Distant Soil is a long-running sci-fi/fantasy comic book by Colleen Doran.

Started when she was a teenager back in the 1980s and restarted from the beginning a couple times since then, A Distant Soil features a pair of teenage kids — Jason and Liana — who have been drugged up and locked in an asylum/test lab/government facility for several years due to their psychic powers.  During one flare-up, Liana’s powers contact an alien race called the Ovanon, causing a race between various political factions of their upper class (the Hierarchy) to catch and control (or maybe kill) the kids.

One of those factions is connected to an underground rebellion which seeks to overthrow the power structure of the Hierarchy and depose the ruling Avatar.  Their representative gathers Liana — who turns out to be the child of an Ovanon exile — and a crew of other humans (and some non-humans, including another Ovanon exile and the time-displaced Arthurian knight Galahad!), intending to use them to bolster the rebellion.  What neither the rebellion nor the humans realize is that the rebellion’s representative is… but that would be telling.

What makes A Distant Soil so compelling beyond the story and the layered characterizations (and those would be enough!), though, is Doran’s art.  Steeped in both the best richness of classic Japanese manga (take note: I don’t mean the “speed lines and huge weepy eyes” stuff people tend to associate with the term “manga”) and flowy fashion-heavy illustration along the lines of Erté and Aubrey Beardsley, Doran’s art in this comic is fine lined, expressive, detailed, deep, and heck, the word for it is “beautiful”.

A number of comic books featuring grand themes, vast world building, and novelistic scope premiered in the 1980s and 1990s — A Distant Soil, Elfquest, Bone, Strangers in Paradise, and others.  While forced by the nature of the comics industry to release their stories in roughly 20-page increments — and those are sometimes released months apart due to what underfunded small press/self-publishing companies can manage — these stories have tended to read best in large chunks, in the trade paperback collected forms, where you can sit down to 150 to 300 pages at once and read it not unlike a text novel.  In that form, the themes and foreshadowing and repeated elements come through as they were intended.  As you can imagine, that intent gets muddy and lost when you read only 20 pages, only twice a year.

Today in the world of the web, Doran is presenting the comic again, usually a page every couple days.  This is almost as good a way of consuming the comic as in book form, where even if you are all caught up and reading the pages just one at a time as they are released, the recent pieces of the story are still fresh in your mind.  (But I still heartily recommend them in book form, too: more permanent and the best possible reading experience.)

I think Doran is just about caught up to the last printed issue (I’m still a few months behind in reading, a few pages at a shot, a couple times a week), and there are supposed to only be a few issues to go before the story is done.  Not that the rich universe she has built couldn’t provide her with a hundred new stories to tell.  I hope she tackles some of them!

What Were They Thinking?
    — One State, Two State, Red State, Blue State

“What Were They Thinking?” highlights products and presentations which just don’t make sense.

This showed up on the front page of the Sunday edition of Wisconsin State Journal, just a couple days before election day.

Curious color selections, since it’s usually blue associated with Democrats (donkeys) and red with Republicans (elephants).  I can’t find the original image at iStockPhoto, but I expect that the newspaper added the animal images and didn’t think through the implications.

Updated on November 4, 2010
This article at Language Log has interesting details on red state/blue state, and links to this more in-depth one.

Basically, the television networks alternated which party had red or blue between 1976 and 1996, which lead to the Republicans being assigned blue five times out of six.  The current color-to-party linking (and the “red state/blue state” terms) only dates to 2000.

You’d swear it was older than that, wouldn’t you?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

See No Gay, Hear No Gay, Kick Out No Gay

A couple years ago, I was listening to talk radio and heard the most bizarre statement from one caller:
Gays should be able to serve in the military.  “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is a bad policy because it hurts people and gets rid of people with skills the military needs.  But we shouldn’t repeal it, because the policy is working.
That’s a paraphrase of what she said, but the gist is intact.

This was conservative talk radio, I think, and/or it was at the very end of the show, so the caller’s viewpoint was not challenged.  But you have to wonder what this woman’s definition of “working” is, how she can mesh those contradictory ideas.

(Sure, the rocks in the bottom of my dishwasher break all the glasses and chip the plates, but I’m not going to remove them, because by God, the stuff comes out clean!)