Hooray for updates

Did I mention that last Tuesday was my Public Speaking midterm? Or that we got our grades on Thursday and I got the only A in the class? And that I didn't even study? Weird, huh?

Today's Public Speaking class was cancelled. I sat outside the classroom, waiting for the class before mine to finish and reading, for a couple of minutes before I noticed the sign on the door. My "History of Comics" speech is in two days. I think I've prepared fairly well. I mean, I know this subject like the back of my hand (say, where'd that spot come from?) and I could easily stand up and talk about it for a half hour without breaking a sweat. The trick is condensing all my vast knowledge into a few short minutes. I need to finish up my outline tonight, practice with the PowerPoint presentation tomorrow and I'll be all set.

I turned anonymous comments back on, but all comments not posted with a Blogger name will now go to my email so I can review 'em before they show up on the blog. Just sign your name and it'll be all good.

I'm currently reading The Atrocity Archives, by Charles Stross. It's quite good. Very funny. It's about Bob, who works for a secret British organization called the Laundry, which is sort of like the CIA, but for the occult.

Stross has rapidly become one of my top five favorite writers.

Thursday is the Media Writing midterm. Sounds like it's going to be fairly not difficult. Just have to know the various types of news values, article formats, etc. I should make some time to study for this one tomorrow. Can't imagine I'll be able to get through two midterms without studying, though stranger things have happened.

Nearly done with the first eight seasons of Stargate: SG-1. Just have the last disc of season 8 to go. Then I have season 1 of Stargate: Atlantis to sit through. That might have to wait until spring break, though...


Later that evening...

I didn't think this necessarily needed a brand new post of its own, so I figured I'd just tack it on the end here: I got A's in my two Metro classes. Probably means the Dean's List again, which I still feel is a rather dubious honor, Metro's Dean's List, but hey, it means I didn't drop out of school again, so that's a plus.

Next Metro class begins a week from tomorrow: Intro to Comparative Religion.

(For those who know me and my views on religion, feel free to find this eminently amusing.)



I finished reading Richard Morgan's Broken Angels yesterday morning. It was good, heavy on the sci-fi, light on the noir, unlike his first book, Altered Carbon, which had pretty heavy emphasis on both, which is why I think I like it a little more than its sequel. Still, Angels is a very good read, and probably shouldn't have taken me as long as it has to read it, but I feel like I've been pretty swamped with schoolwork the past couple of weeks, so I haven't had much opportunity to read for leisure.

With my two Metro classes done, I should have a bit more spare time. I only have one class there next quarter, which begins...the second week of March, I believe.

I do have a lot to do this weekend, however. I have to work on my second speech for Public Speaking, "A History of Comics," which I'm giving next Thursday. I'm currently looking for covers of comics to use in a PowerPoint presentation to illustrate how the industry has changed over the past 70 years.

Also, I need to write two articles for Media Writing. Well, actually, I need to write one story two different ways. That should be...interesting.

Tomorrow night is the Film Streams presentation of To Kill A Mockingbird at Joslyn. 7:00 PM. $10. Hangin' out with Jennie and Company afterwards. Dunno where yet.

Incidentally, Jennie's in town for some last-minute wedding planning, though the event is a good three months away. Always nice to chill with the Jew.

I think I might go to a College Democrats meeting at UNO Monday night, see if they do anything I'd like to get involved with.

I finally got to see Mirrormask, Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean's wicked-cool, Jim Henson-esque, faerie tale flick. It's a bit like Alice in Wonderland if Alice had an evil twin who took her place in the "real world" and was trying to destroy Wonderland.

Yes, the story is a bit, well, cliched, but it's cliched with Neil Gaiman sensibilities, so that makes it okay. And this movie further impressed upon me the thought that Dave McKean is nothing less than an absolute genius. Simply put, the movie looks gorgeous. Even if you don't care a whit about the story and characters, just put the movie on mute and watch the images flicker across the screen. You'll be entranced.

Okay. Back to looking for comic book covers. I figured out what the key is to giving speeches: choose a topic you like. It's much easier to research something you're genuinely interested in.



Not-quite-as-funny books

Jeph Loeb has had a great career in both Hollywood and comic books. He wrote such 80s classics as Commando and Teen Wolf and, more recently, became a producer/writer on TV's Smallville.

He has written some of the best, most iconic stories about heroes from both Marvel and DC, including Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man, giving each character a deft, human touch which most writers simply gloss over, and he does it with a style, an old-fashioned fondness, rarely seen anywhere in the written word today.

In June 2005, Jeph lost his 17-year-old son, Sam, to a foe unbeatable even by the stoutest, strongest, most pure-hearted superhero: cancer.

Sam, who was, according to those who knew and loved him, nothing but a joy to be around, was on his way to becoming quite the talented writer himself, having penned a story for Joss Whedon's Dark Horse-published Tales of the Vampires anthology series. As Whedon put it, Sam was "not without the Funny."

Shortly thereafter, the Superman group editor at DC, Eddie Berganza, asked Sam to write an issue of Superman/Batman, a title conceived and created by his father.

Sam died before he was able to write the script.

Fortunately, he had fleshed out a plot well-enough that, with the help of a few talented folks, 26 of the best and brightest of the comic book industry to be exact, his story will be published this April, in Superman/Batman #26.

In addition to this star-studded story, Jeph wrote, and his longtime collaborator, Tim Sale, illustrated, Sam's Story, a short, six-page tribute to Sam Loeb, which will appear as a back-up story in Superman/Batman #26.

Available online (scroll down toward the bottom), it's a story about Clark Kent and the impact a young Smallville High classmate had on him during their all-too-brief friendship.

Give it a read. It's good stuff. Almost hard to believe it was written by the same man who once burdened us with Whoopi Goldberg's Burglar.


Some members of "the 26" share their thoughts and memories about Sam Loeb.


Funny books

I got three comics today, each vastly different in content and style from the others, each written by a different guy named Brian, all of whom are, shall we say, follicly-challenged.

Just thought that was a bit strange, hence the sharing.


Odds 'n Ends

So I got an A on my Comic-Con speech. Technically an A-, but whatever. I know what I need to do for the next one. I just need to figure out the topic for the next one. Still leaning towards Will Eisner, but I'm not 100% certain.

Classes at Metro are nearly done. Less than two weeks to go, I believe. Fairly sure I'm doing well in both, but I haven't seen a grade in either class for a few weeks.

Midterms are upcoming at UNO. Suppose I should study this weekend.

Season 7 of Stargate SG-1 is much better than Season 6. Welcome back, Dr. Jackson.

I need new music. I haven't been able to buy any because what little extra cash I get I spend on comics or books, because those are more important, but I'd still like some new tunes every once in a while. Any suggestions?

I did find this, however, and it's pretty sweet. This DJ mixed together the Beatles and the Beastie Boys. There's about two albums worth of tracks. Very cool.

Also, I found out the truth about Valentine's Day. When you're snugglin' with your sweetie, keep it in mind.

Pitchers and catchers report starting tomorrow. A lot of players have to get into camp early to get ready for the new World Baseball Classic, which starts next month.

I have a good feeling about the upcoming season, as long as the Cardinals new outfielders and second baseman produce, Scott Rolen is healthy all year and the new bullpen gels quickly. So no worries there.

And I think that's about all she wrote. I got nothin' else. Later...


So how 'bout those Olympics?

I had forgotten how good Notorious was, so I'm glad they were screening it Friday night. Everyone always thinks of Hitchcock as this scary, spooky, tension-filled, suspense movie kind of guy, but what's not often discussed is how funny his films are, too. Great dialogue, great performances.

I believe the next movie Film Streams is showing is To Kill A Mockingbird, in a couple weeks. Been a long time since I've seen that one, too.

Next Sunday, up at the Jewish Community Center, journalist David Kotok will be discussing his time in Iraq, embedded with, I believe, a Nebraska National Guard unit. Should be a pretty interesting couple of hours.

As I mentioned earlier, I think I'll give my next speech on Will Eisner, and his contributions to the comic book industry. Following that, I need some topics for a persuasive speech, which I'm having a difficult time coming up with.

Part of me wants to do a speech on why I believe President Bush should be impeached, or perhaps a satirical one about if people want Intelligent Design taught in schools, then they must teach other religion's creation stories as well, like that of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, but those are topics which, generally, are best left alone in a roomful of people you don't really know, I think.

I have no problem with letting my views be known, whether people agree with them or not. If I did, I don't think I'd be doing the blog. However, I think either of those topics would cause more headaches than they're worth. It's just an undergrad Public Speaking class. It's not worth it.

So I'm thinking of sticking with the unintentional theme I've got going on so far and do the speech on why I believe comic books are not simply for children anymore, and why they should be considered just as valid an artform as films and novels and music. This is still a topic I'm passionate about, though one slightly less controversial than politics or religion.

Knowing me, though, I'll probably change my mind and do the "Impeach Bush" speech, because part of me loves the idea of ruffling someone's feathers with the Truth.

So, yeah, I dunno. I'll keep y'all posted. I still need to get my grade back from the first speech.

Broken Angels is pretty good so far. I love Morgan's writing, though I wasn't expecting this particular storyline. I thought it'd be something more in line with his first novel, Altered Carbon, this noirish, techno-detective story, but it's something much different, which is fine. Good writing is good writing, regardless of the plot.

Halfway done rereading 1984, too. I'm basically working my way through it while I'm at school, waiting for classes to begin. It's eerie how similar the real world has become to something written over 50 years ago, and while I would like that sentiment to be an exaggeration, sadly, I don't believe it is.



Nothin' major happened this week. Don't expect anything major to happen next week either. Who knew that going back to school would be so stress-free?

Not that anyone will care about this, but I felt I should at least put out a disclaimer: if someone's blog isn't updated in over a month, I'm takin' you off my sidebar. It's nothing personal. Just want to try and keep things relatively neat and tidy. If one should come back from the dead, as it were, feel free to contact me and I'll put your blog back on the list.

Tonight at Joslyn Art Museum, Film Streams is presenting Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious, starring Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains.

$10/ticket. Starts at 7. I'm goin'. Anyone interested?



T-minus 7 hours to kickoff

The two weeks between the AFC and NFC championship games and the Super Bowl are, without a doubt, the most worthless in all of sports. All they do is wax idiotic about the Super Bowl, the most consistently over-hyped event on the sports calander. All. Day. Every. Day. It's positively nauseating.

Thank god the game is finally upon us. After today, we can all get back to what's really important: Pitchers and Catchers Report in a week and a half.

Yesterday, I finished reading The Prestige, by Christopher Priest. Took me a little while to read it, through no fault of its own. I was mainly reading it at night, before bed, so I'd only get about thirty pages read before my eyes would decide to stop focusing.

The book's about two rival magicians at the end of the 19th Century (and their descendants), each one constantly trying to one-up the other on-stage. It was really good, very well-written. I got a great sense of the London of that time period, and of how early magicians plied their trade.

The book went to some very unexpected places, too. I wasn't exactly sure what it was about when I first started reading, aside from two rival magicians in England, and I was definitely surprised by the end. I can't wait to see what Chris (Memento, Insomnia, Batman Begins) Nolan does with it as a film.

Next up is Broken Angels, by Richard Morgan, his second novel. I really enjoyed his first and third (which is unrelated to the first two), so I think I'll be able to get through this one fairly quickly as long as, you know, school doesn't interfere too much.

With that, I have some labs and a take-home quiz to work on before the game. Gee, I hope I have enough time.

Let's go, Black & Gold. You guys have earned this.
Steelers by 10.


Thank god that's over

So I gave my first speech yesterday, for Public Speaking. It was titled "Survival Amongst the Nerds," a how-to guide to surviving a weekend at the San Diego Comic-Con. Very geeky, I know, but I don't care, y'know? I mean, I am who I am, I like what I like, and other people's opinions don't really matter all that much to me anymore, if they ever did.

I had a pretty decent PowerPoint presentation, with pictures from various conventions, the size of the crowds, people dressed up like idiots (not that I'm judging - whatever makes 'em happy) in their various costumes, and those got some pretty good laughs, which is what I was going for, of course. If one cannot poke fun at oneself and one's hobbies, well, then one takes oneself way too seriously and needs to lighten the hell up.

I needed a bit more practice, I think. Clicking the mouse to switch the slides while speaking is not something I've had a lot of practice with, so that threw me off a little. I'll work on that for my next speech, which I think I'm going to do on comic industry legend Will Eisner, father of the modern day graphic novel. His contributions to the world of comics are insanely numerous.

Anyway, yeah, not sure I did all that great on my speech. I repeated myself a couple of times, lost my place in my thoughts once or twice...I mean, I got the general idea across, but I could have done a better job of presenting it.

Didn't too so hot on my science test from last week, either, though I still have a 92% in the class, so I'm not worried. Just need to study a bit more for the next test. I have some labs and a take-home quiz to work on this weekend, due Monday, which should be easy enough, and I have plenty of time. I mean, I gotta do something during the 8-hour Super Bowl pregame crap.

Media Writing is, without a doubt, my favorite class right now. In fact, I don't remember the last time I ever enjoyed a class this much. It's so much fun to take apart how the news is covered, why certain stories are covered more than others, how they could be covered better. I love the news. I love politics. I love debate. This class just feeds into all that. It's fantastic.

Super Bowl Sunday is fast-approaching. I feel strangely calm about the whole thing. I haven't watched much of the hype these past couple of weeks. I hate all the talking heads yapping back and forth. I just want the game to be played. I'm confident in the Steelers. I know the Seahawks are a good team, otherwise they wouldn't be here, but there's something about this Pittsburgh team, a swagger, that's very comforting. This year feels nothing like ten years ago, when the Steelers were going against Dallas in Super Bowl 30. I remember much angst that year. This year, not so much.

It will be a good game.

Fourteen Defining Characteristics Of Fascism

Dr. Lawrence Britt, a political scientist, has examined the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and several Latin American regimes.

Britt found 14 defining characteristics common to each:

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism - Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights - Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of "need." The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

Bush could bypass new torture ban

WASHINGTON -- When President Bush last week signed the bill outlawing the torture of detainees, he quietly reserved the right to bypass the law under his powers as commander in chief.

After approving the bill last Friday, Bush issued a ''signing statement" -- an official document in which a president lays out his interpretation of a new law -- declaring that he will view the interrogation limits in the context of his broader powers to protect national security. This means Bush believes he can waive the restrictions, the White House and legal specialists said.

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause - The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

4. Supremacy of the Military - Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

Bush to offer $440 billion defense budget

WASHINGTON - President Bush next week will request a $439.3 billion Defense Department budget for 2007, a nearly 5 percent increase over this year, according to senior Pentagon officials and documents obtained Thursday by The Associated Press.

The spending plan would include $84.2 billion for weapons programs, a nearly 8 percent increase, including billions of dollars for fighter jets, Navy ships, helicopters and unmanned aircraft. The total includes a substantial increase in weapons spending for the Army, which will get $16.8 billion in the 2007 budget, compared with $11 billion this year.

5. Rampant Sexism - The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.

Say, didn't Bush want a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage? Doesn't he give more money to public schools if they teach only his abstinence programs?

6. Controlled Mass Media - Sometimes to media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

*cough* Fox News *cough*

7. Obsession with National Security - Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

How many terror alerts did we have in the months leading up to the 2004 election again?

8. Religion and Government are Intertwined - Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government's policies or actions.

Don't even get me started.

9. Corporate Power is Protected - The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

Bush quietly signs corporate tax-cut bill

WASHINGTON - With no fanfare, President Bush Friday signed the most sweeping rewrite of corporate tax law in nearly two decades, showering $136 billion in new tax breaks on businesses, farmers and other groups.

Abramoff Pleads Guilty to 3 Counts

Jack Abramoff, the once-powerful lobbyist at the center of a wide-ranging public corruption investigation, pleaded guilty yesterday to fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials in a deal that requires him to provide evidence about members of Congress.

The plea deal could have enormous legal and political consequences for the lawmakers on whom Abramoff lavished luxury trips, skybox fundraisers, campaign contributions, jobs for their spouses, and meals at Signatures, the lobbyist's upscale restaurant.

10. Labor Power is Suppressed - Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts - Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.

The President's endorsement of Intelligent Design, anyone? His complete ignorance of climate change and global warming? Or how about the constant attacks against "liberal" Hollywood?

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment - Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

So...how's that illegal warrantless wiretapping of American citizens going?

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption - Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

"Brownie, you're doin' a heckuva job."

14. Fraudulent Elections - Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

Powerful Government Accountability Office report confirms key 2004 stolen election findings

Nearly a year ago, senior Judiciary Committee Democrat John Conyers (D-MI) asked the GAO to investigate electronic voting machines as they were used during the November 2, 2004 presidential election. The request came amidst widespread complaints in Ohio and elsewhere that often shocking irregularities defined their performance.

According to CNN, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee received "more than 57,000 complaints" following Bush's alleged re-election. Many such concerns were memorialized under oath in a series of sworn statements and affidavits in public hearings and investigations conducted in Ohio by the Free Press and other election protection organizations.

The non-partisan GAO report has now found that, "some of [the] concerns about electronic voting machines have been realized and have caused problems with recent elections, resulting in the loss and miscount of votes."

Now, I'm not saying we live in a fascist country (yet), but the similarities are quite striking, are they not? Or perhaps they're simply coincidental?