Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Water is Rising

I'm afraid I'm lacking the usual levity today...

This has been weighing on my conscience for some time. It's the things on Facebook I see, images, posts, shares that all say the same thing: “You just shut up now, we don't want to hear it.” It's bothered me, really, deep down inside. For the most part I've complied, keep my references fairly personal, letting things out in controlled fashions. I've still felt that nagging inside.

Last night, a dream came to me. I was in a town near a river. I was given a clear task to do. I was told that a flash flood would soon arrive, and that I was to go out to those near the river and let them know it was coming. There were many residents out on the river that day. In my dream some were in boats, other on the river side. It all seemed carefree, but I had to continue with my message. Throughout this dream, that was tantamount. I passed a large trestle-like structure. I called out to a couple amongst the rocks, and some young men below. I told them the flash flood was coming and they should leave the area right away. The couple ignored me. The young men laughed and told me nothing was wrong with the river.

I turned to walk back, doubting my own message. Could it be wrong? Even as I felt the doubts stir, I looked down. The river's edge was higher now, and I could clearly see it climbing. I turned back to the people on the rocks. The couple still ignored me. The young men turned concerned. They could see what I was seeing. Before I woke, I called out to them again, urging them to climb the trestle structure to get to high ground as soon as possible.

The dream stuck with me as I awoke. It brought to my mind the passage of Ezekiel 33:1-9, where God appoints Ezekiel as watchman. Ezekiel is told God has a message for Ezekiel, and it is Ezekiel's task to declare this message. What the listeners do with this message is less Ezekiel's worry than the delivering of this message. If the watchman does not sound the alarm, then those that fall are on his head; if the watchman sounds the alarm, those that fail to take heed are responsible for themselves. Whatever happens to those who hear the message, whether they are saved or fall, that depends on themselves as long as the messenger does his task. What is this message? God goes on to deliver a message of grace, that the exiled Judeans can still return to Him. The apostle Paul takes this role to heart, and notes he has no regrets, as he has delivered that Message faithfully, even as he is sentenced to die.

What is the message? That we are separated from God, in darkness. That God came to us as His Son Jesus, to live amongst us, die for us, and to rise again that we might be reconciled with God and that we might know He has defeated death. That Christ is alive, risen by His great power, and that we can have a relationship with God because of Him. Praise Him!

I can't keep silent about this. I have an obligation, a command, and a desire to let this be known. This is bursting out, I can't keep it down just because it is undesired. We have little time to act. In the span of the universe, our various lifetimes are terribly brief, and our lives are over in a blink of an eye. Should I blink and find an opportunity lost? Should I blink and remain silent? We may not want to hear the Message, but it is there. I need to speak out. I need to act as a messenger. Whether any will listen or not, I can't say. I can't and won't force any to do anything. But I can choose whether to speak or remain silent.

The water is rising.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

An Actual Travel Entry!

So here I am, minding my own business at my desk, enjoying a delicious Rob Roy (one and a half parts scotch, one part sweet vermouth, dash of bitters, garnish with cherry), when my editor drops in for another one of his useless “social visits”

Editor: So, the Travel Slob, once again there's a lull in your activity.
The Travel Slob: Hey, I write all the time, stop complaining so much.
Editor: Your last two articles were about comic books.
The Travel Slob: Well, I drove to the comic book store to get them.
Editor: That's not travel.
The Travel Slob: Sure it is. Just not very far.
Editor: I can't believe I'm paying for this.
The Travel Slob: Quality service! That's what I offer.
Editor: Well, I'm not paying for this. Make a real Travelogue or you're fired.
The Travel Slob: So will I get a travel expense account?
Editor: Use that money I can't believe I'm paying you.

Lucky for me, I had a great reason to travel already, as lately I've been seeing a wonderful woman by the name of Amanda, who is not in the same state as me, so I made arrangements to visit and it was off to Salt Lake City Utah and its surroundings! Amanda has joined my regular readers, bringing my latest reader count all the way up to five!

To maximize travel time and minimize travel costs (thanks to cheapskate Editors who don't give their traveloguers expense accounts), I left very early in the morning to leave from Oakland Airport. Since I don't go to the airport often, I had to call upon my nemesis, Delores, my GPS. Yes, once again I called on her for directions. Once again mid-trip she decided I was off course and decided to recalculate right as I approached an important fork fast. Much her dismay I picked the correct fork and made it to the airport with time to spare. Her days are numbered.

Getting up at 3am to drive to Oakland and take an airplane at 6am to get to Utah seemed a great idea, but I spent a good portion of the day sleeping. Though I was excited to see my lovely lady, I was very very tired. So much so that I required the first stop to be a coffee shop. I ordered a large. It was a 24oz cup. 24 ounces! I'm serious! I'm used to stores that stop at 20 but not Utah! They go up to 24! It's the 11 of coffee shops! I like that state already.

Much was not done this day. I met her grandparents – a lovely couple by the way, with a lovely home they graciously opened to me after I swore on a stack of Bibles that I wasn't an ax murderer (I'm making that last part up.) We also elected to see “Prometheus”. It's a terrible movie to watch for story, but a great movie to take your girlfriend to as there's many parts she has to hide from. Oh yeah... I won't review that film. I'm not getting paid enough for these travelogues, so there's no way anyone will expect me to tack on a film review for free.

Lehi is a lovely little town south of Salt Lake City. Yes, for all my curious readers, Utah is Mormon. The rumors are true! Lehi is the most Mormon of part of Utah, with an LDS church as common as Starbucks are in Seattle but without the coffee. There's a certain pride in the common history of the state, of a like I haven't seen even in Oregon which loves to tout the Oregon trail but has few connections otherwise. The common thread ties many in the state together, it seems.

Thursday evening was ended with a walk along one of Amanda's favorite trails. On the way back, the sun was setting, and twilight (the time of day, not the book) hit in a cool evening. A large form flew by to our surprise, silent and quick. We looked about, and in a nearby field spotted four Barn Owls, hunting for mice in the nearby field. Occasionally one would pass by and gaze at us curiously. Sometimes we'd hear one cry in triumph as it would snag its prey. They flew and hunted in perfect silence in the stillness of the evening. One cannot easily capture such a moment in words, and could never plan such a one.

We are a cute couple, and we decided to be cute at Thanksgiving Point, which has many attractions. The ones that attracted us that day were the gardens and the Paleontology Museum. The former were quiet and serene, but the hot day wore us out quickly. After a quick lunch we moved on to the museum, which was so immensely cool. As an red-blooded American boy I thought dinosaurs were the coolest thing ever. In first grade I got a stick book of dinosaur stickers with explanations of the beasties. I was hooked ever since. They had a whole museum for those things! Utah is lousy with fossils!

24 oz coffee, fossil fields … Utah is awesome.

Saturday was trip to the zoo day, which seemed a great idea, save that it was Dori the elephant's birthday. The crowds in the zoo were overwhelming. Worse, nowadays it seems parents drive their children's strollers like snowplows, shoving through crowds to get to where they want to go, pushing people out of the way so their little angels can see the animals and then not move from the spot and then get insulted when the next snowplow tries to do the same. I've never seen a larger group of people so completely oblivious to the presence of other people. We didn't stay as long as we might have liked, but it was for the best, perhaps.

The evening ended with grilled buffalo steaks – a home cooked meal that was delicious as anything could be. A meal with a loved one is great, a meal made by or made for a loved one is even better.

Sunday my lady love and I traveled to Big Cottonwood Canyon for church – two small Protestant churches met in the amphitheater for a special outdoor service there. We spent the morning surrounded by nature. The afternoon we went just outside of Heber City to spend Father's Day with her family, eating steak. I actually cannot eat steak for while now. I have eaten it for several days in a row. I've found I have a steak capacity, and I met that capacity. We arrived at her Uncle's home just in time to miss seeing a moose and her calf. Nature eludes me again. Fortunately, family decided to be entertaining enough.

In all, this was a great trip, made better in that I spent it with someone for whom I love. We'll meet again, soon, and more times as well. The future indeed looks bright.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

More Non-Travel Related Stuff. Deal With It.

So rather than talk travel I'm going to review comic books again, because you demanded it! And by "you" I mean "no one". This week, I'm going over the various Super-person titles I've read. Yeah I know, Batman is much cooler, the X-Men are much X-ier, and the Avengers are getting an awesome movie this summer because SHUT UP IT CAN'T FAIL! Anyways, here are my assessments.

Superman -- There's a lot of Superman hate. This guy was one of the originals, and for a while he had so many superpowers (including weird things like super-basket-weaving) that it was a little insane. Or a lot insane. For some time in the eighties, the man (or Superman) could move planets if he needed. Seriously. Planets. There have been repeated attempts to tone that down, fortunately. Since DC hit the "Overcharge" -- er, I mean the "Reset" button on its titles, a few things have changed. Now Clark Kent's love for Lois is unrequited. In issue one she's with some other guy. Superman also has a new outfit, fulfilling the ancient comic tradition: If people get bored with your character, give him, or her, a new outfit. The kick off story, however, was a bit long, lacking, and somewhat confusing. Moreover, the resolution in issue six was based on information released in issue seven of Action comics. DC has been doing things like this more and more, revealing plot points that haven't happened yet. It's not even foreshadowing which is a valid literary device; it's just lazy use of inside baseball facts. Right now, Superman gets a 2 out of 5 whatevers from me.

Action Comics -- Conversely, Action Comics starring Superman takes off for me and doesn't stop. I attribute a lot of this to Grant Morrison, who remains one of my favorite comic book writers in this age. Even if he has a few misses, when he hits it's right on the money. Morrison even states that "Action" is the key word in this title and that's how the writing and art team is playing it. Well done, I say! In issue one; we're quickly introduced to all the important players in the Superman story -- Superman/Clark Kent, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and Lex Luthor. We even get a few secondary characters thrown. The portrayal of Luthor is one of the best I've seen since Hackman. Seriously, if future writers want to follow a model of how to write Superman comics, this current run of Action is a prime choice. 5 out of 5 whatevers. Booyah!

Superboy -- After the first Crisis in which DC comics pressed the History Eraser Button (and subsequently gave themselves permission to keep hitting that button), the original Superboy -- teenage Superman was scraped. Well done. Thank heavens. However, in the ill-conceived Death of Superman series and aftermath, Superboy was re-introduced. However this time Superboy was a clone. Well now that DC has hit the History Eraser Button again, they've kept that origin more or less, but have hinted at a little more complex origin than before. Also, Superman isn't dead. Or hasn't died. Or ... who knows. Someone get DC away from that stupid button. Superboy lacks compared to Morrison's Action Comics, but it still rises about the Superman title. His modified origin gives him a bit of complexity, and the progression of his origin story has made for an interesting thread. I'm willing to see more. 4 out of 5 whatevers.

Supergirl -- This was another victim of the History Eraser Button's abuse, and though she was established in the last universe's iteration, like Superboy she is returning to comic books as if she's just arrived. Unlike Superman, she did not arrive nor has not been raised on this world as if it were her own. Thus she's a fish out of water. She's unused to this world and what it makes her. She tries to find her old home only to find it gone. There's even consequences involved in her past that is being revealed. And yes, she kicks major super rear. She only lacks Superman's experience. Time will tell if this story keeps and plays on its strengths. 3 out of 5 whatevers.

The differentiation between the Super-persons has been interesting. Each has his or her own unique story and origin worth exploring. Superman's is probably the most well known and thus lacks some leeway, but the others are decent additions. Well, until DC hits the History Eraser Button again.

Justice League -- Technically this isn't a Super-title, but it has Superman in it. The first six issues are essentially an overextended origin story for the Justice League and for Cyborg who was formerly a Titan. Really I'm only reviewing this title because I have this to say: Geoff Johns is the Michael Bay of comic books. His stories lack, his characters are one or two dimensional. He covers all this up with explosions. He regularly blows up plotlines or plot points as well. And some points are just tossed aside because -- well I don't know. Yes, I enjoyed this title a little, but really it's just not all that great. 2 out of 5 whatevers.

Friday, February 24, 2012

In Which I Ignore Travel and Talk Comics

I am a big comic book guy, still, and have been reading them for way too long. About a half a year ago, DC rebooted their universe (again) and canceled all their titles and restarted 52 new titles in a rather shameless scheme to get people to buy comics because they were released 52 Number Ones! People love Number Ones! Well already they are canceling titles, to no big surprise. Here, I give a brief review of each. Looking for travel notes? Tough! I am altering our arrangement. Pray I do not alter them again.

OMAC -- This title had only moderate promise. Though the action has been reasonably paced, the story has not, and in some ways the storyline lurches forward in ways that seem to leave huge gaps. The art of this title has been reminiscent of the Jack Kirby New Gods storyline of DC. In all, however, the characters aren't interesting. The main character isn't all that interesting when he's not OMAC, and isn't all that interesting when he is if there's not enough face smashing going on. Brother Eye has its own motivations, but the computer is such a manipulative jerk I found I really could care less what they were, I just wanted him to leave the poor guy alone.
Personal Title Run: 4

Mister Terrific -- I didn't read this one, but honestly I followed some JSA a few years back and he never was an interesting character then. How they picked Mr. Terrific for his own title is beyond me. I'll be honest here, too: The cover art for this line has blown big chunks. The cover is what draws the buyer in to try the title, and the art just made me want to pass it over. Remember, I actually bought an issue of OMAC so my standards are low, here.
Personal Title Run: 0

Hawk and Dove -- How does Rob Leifeld still get work? There are people more talented than him in this industry. He's more talented than I am, sure, but I'm not applying for a job as a comic book artist. He did the art for this, and the story didn't help either. Hawk and Dove is to DC what Moon Knight is to Marvel. Every so often some editor green lights a few issues of these characters, and every time the title fails. There's no surprise that this one failed here. Let the characters go, already. Shame on me for actually buying an issue.
Personal Title Run: 1

Blackhawks -- So the original Blackhawks were a World War II title about this super elite team of fighter pilots. This worked great until, unexpectedly, peace were declared. Suddenly they had less to do. War titles overall haven't fared well outside their time. Attempts to do otherwise have proven faulty. This most recent attempt made them a multi-national force for some reason and put them up against some enemies that I'd never heard of before. Character relationships and personalities were horribly set up in that first issue. I couldn't even bother to read another.
Personal Title Run: 1

Static Shock -- I watched the TV show for a bit on this one, which was kinda goofy but hey, it was a superhero show and I wasn't going to complain (too much) despite some of the bad stereotypes you'd expect from Hollywood types. I never was interested in the character enough to pick up the title. In all honesty, I couldn't say one way or the other on its merits. Probably like Hawk and Dove, the character will stick around in other titles until someone convinces the editor to let him have another go at a title. Maybe that person will get it right that time.
Personal Title Run: 0

Men of War -- Here's a title I wish they'd done better, but am not surprised they didn't do well enough to keep it going. I doubt putting it under the $3.99 price tag with more pages helped its chances much either. It's one thing to pull that with Action Comics or Justice League; people know those titles well. It's another to pull off with an unknown. Moreover, they split the issue into two stories, every issue. This comic was essentially a revival of old combat comics under the same title from earlier days, as well as the return of Sgt. Rock. The Sgt. Rock story lines were being done halfway well -- the concept of American soldiers being pit against a rise of Super Powered beings. Unfortunately that had too much going against it.

The first flaw is that they split the comic into two stories. The Sgt. Rock was their strongest piece and they always led with that, but the later pieces were always weak. If Rock was stronger, maybe we'd forgive that, but once they split the comic in two, his story was weakened to allow for the weaker story. If Sgt. Rock had more paper, maybe he'd turn out better. However, I doubt it thanks to ...

The second flaw: which is America has been war weary, something even I can admit but reasons why are a completely different discussions altogether. In any case, I can imagine it's hard to take new or revamped soldier characters and excite an audience into embracing them when there's so many who just don't want to hear about it any more.

The third flaw is the flaw of the New 52 altogether: Here's all these superheroes that many of us readers have known since we were old enough to read comics and watch Superfriends. Re-introducing these characters and pretending the world is surprised by their rise takes the skillful hand waving analogous to that of a stage magician. We know what we're seeing isn't the case, but man we're enjoying it entirely. Instead, with the new 52, we're seeing all the wires and strings while the magician says, "Pretend you don't see this." The new 52's relaunch was clumsy and poorly done, and we're supposed to pretend it wasn't. And we aren't buying.
Personal Title Run: 6