Monday, June 30, 2008
What can I say? I saw it this weekend with Karen and Rachel and some friends, and I loved it. The storytelling was smart and smooth, the character designs and animation were, as always, first class. Wall*E and Eva were as well developed as two non-speaking characters can be, and while I never quite choked up, the way I have at some other Pixar films ("Toy Story 2," all right?), I did feel a pang or two when things looked bleak for Wall*E near the end. All of which is to say, I had a good time.
Karen and Rachel, not so much.
Both of them thought it was just okay.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Anti-Paparazzi Sunglasses - video powered by Metacafe
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Admittedly, my tastes run more to trash than to tragedy -- I'd rather curl up with a Victorian middle-class angst potboiler by Anthony Trollope than a modern middle-class angst potboiler by John Updike -- but for the most part, I feel no guilt for enjoying a fast-paced thrill ride by James Rollins or a wry, formulaic piece of pulp by John D. MacDonald.
But, lately, I have been feeling just a tad guilty for the pleasure I've derived from reading a class of fiction that makes almost no attempt at achieving literary merit. It's the modern-day equivalent of mid-century pulp: fiction based on games and comic books, such as the Dragonlance novels of Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman; the "legend of Drizzit" series by R.A. Salvatore; and the books based on comic book series, like The Ultimates and Justice League novels by various authors. Oh, yeah, I also enjoy the "Rogue Angel" series published by Gold Eagle, and, of course, the Mack Bolan and Executioner novels.
I make no apologies for enjoying this stuff -- though like I said, I feel a tad guilty -- because for the most part, these books are written professionally, by writers who clearly enjoy what they're doing, and who take it seriously enough to do the best job they can. As someone who made a living writing characters created by other writers (along with a number I created myself, of course), I can appreciate the love these folks have for the characters and worlds over which they've taken temporary custodianship. Quite a few of these authors began their careers writing these shared-world novels, and have gone on to make their mark with wholly original works of their own; yet most of them return, again and again, to the shared worlds that gave them their start. That tells me they write what they write not just to earn a living, but because they have a passion for the material.
What they turn out may not be great literature, but it's entertaining pulp, and sometimes that's just what I'm in the mood for.
If you're interested in checking out some of the best of the bunch, try some of these:
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Bush To Filipino President: "I Am Reminded Of The Great Talent Of The -- Of Our Philippine-Americans When I Eat Dinner At The White House" - Politics on The Huffington Post
Monday, June 23, 2008
Friday, June 13, 2008
... with a secret (till we get to the airport) trip to NY to see "Legally Blonde The Musical" with a friend of hers.
The things we do for our children.
I've been listening to Rachel play and replay the DVR'ed video of the
"Legally Blonde" Broadway musical for the better part of six months
now. It sets my teeth on edge and blurs my vision with a red haze.
My hands involuntarily clench into fists and with effort I stifle a
But I love my daughter and she loves this show, so with the help of
her friend's dad (who will be joining us, and whose idea this was), I
will take her to New York today, and we will see the show tomorrow,
and I will try not to pull out an Uzi and mow everyone down.
I am a good good father.
Happy Father's Day to me.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Monday, June 09, 2008
Thursday, June 05, 2008
When did this become such a big deal?
I mean, it's a big deal to me, of course -- my baby's getting older! But in a larger sociological sense, graduating from elementary school? That was big back when my granddad was a kid; an elementary school education was the highest level of education most folks got, if they got that much. For my father's generation, graduating from high school -- that was a big deal. For my generation, it was college (and to an extent, it still is). For my older daughter, a full education barely stops with a master degree. It seems with each generation the bar gets raised higher.
And at the same time, we celebrate smaller victories.
Maybe it's because of the stress we go through, those of us who send our kids to private school (and in California, I'm sad to say, if you want a decent education for your kid, private school is probably your best option). We worry about getting them into the best school, we bite our nails through the application process, we wait anxiously for the acceptance letters, we shudder at the size of the tuition bill. Sending a kid to private school is like sending them to college. It's expensive, it's stressful, but it's something you're glad you're able to do -- I feel a sense of pride that my daughter has done well at a school that isn't required to accept her and promote her and praise her, because that's the PC thing to do. Whatever honors Rachel has earned, she's earned, in competition with an amazing array of other well-qualified, hard-working young boys and girls.
Please understand, I'm not saying she's better than the kids who go to public schools. By no means. But the school she's attended for the last six years is better than the public school she would have attended otherwise.
We did try the public school system for Rachel's kindergarten, and it was a huge disappointment. A charter school, too, with heavy parental involvement, in a neighborhood where the parents could afford to devote a lot of time and energy to the PTA. Didn't make a damn bit of difference. The school sucked, and the teachers and administration knew it, and they didn't seem to care.
So maybe there is something to celebrate.
I'm proud of my little girl, and saddened too.
It's been an amazing six years. Can't wait to see what's next.
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
Much of the fun in playing World of Warcraft comes from interaction with other players -- especially interaction with other players in a guild (assuming you join one). But finding the right guild (and recognizing that it's the right guild for you) is tricky. At least, it's been tricky for me.
The first guild I joined, "Dark Guard" on the Lothar server, is no more, but through it, I met the nicest people I know in WoW. We became friends outside of WoW; our families met in the real world last summer at Blizzcon in Anaheim ( that's a picture of my daughter Rachel at the convention) and we're planning to meet up for a weekend with them this summer in Santa Cruz.
realm split last year, I went along. When that guild broke into two guilds, and one of them moved back to the Lothar server, I followed my friends in the new/old guild. When that guild collapsed and my friends joined a new guild, I joined too. But somewhere along the line... I just didn't feel part of the group anymore.
Hard to say why the new guild's not working for me -- even though it's made up of many folks from the older guilds, but my guess is, to use a cliche, "we've grown apart." The first guild I joined was loose and fun, small and friendly. The guild we merged with was larger and more focused on grouping for raids -- building larger teams to run the endgame content of pre-Burning Crusade instances like Molten Core. With the coming of Burning Crusade, and the split of the guild between two realms, the latest version of the guild seems even more focused on grouping for raids in the new zones of Outland. And even though I've tried to work up enthusiasm for it, the truth is, raiding just isn't my thing.
I'm not opposed to raiding -- I'd like to do some -- but I can't commit to a regular, multiple-nights-a-week raiding schedule. I'm just not that hardcore. I have a family, and we spend too little time doing things together as it is. So this latest incarnation of the guild I've belonged to since my main WoW toon was a level 20 Night Elf Hunter just isn't the guild for me anymore. And it's painful to admit it and leave, because I'll be leaving my friends. (Not in the real world, of course; just in the game.)
Like I said, finding the right guild is tricky. Sometimes, the guild that was right for you when you started playing isn't right for you after you've been playing for a while. Recognizing this can be difficult, especially when you've made friends with others in the group. But failing to recognize it can make playing the game far less fun; in fact, it can make playing the game feel like a chore and an obligation.
Which kinda defeats the purpose.
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
The book was a young adult science-fiction novel by Paul Capon, "The End of the Tunnel." It's about four young kids who go on a caving trip together in England, get trapped in a cave by a landslide, and follow the cave deep under ground, encountering a forgotten civilization, before finally finding their way back to the surface -- through the Paris catacombs.
It was, as the kids say these days, a thorough mindf***.
I read this book once, when I was seven or eight years old, and it made such an impression I've retained scenes, characters, and images, for almost fifty years. For example: as the kids head out for their exploration, they pass a hole in the ground, where, for good luck, they drop a penny and listen to hear how long it takes to hit the bottom. It takes a looooong time. Later, once they're trapped under ground, they eventually come across the bottom of that hole -- and find a pile of coins lying under it, with the coins on the bottom of the pile dating back hundreds of years.
How cool is that?
I could go on, but all I really want to say is how much I loved that book, and how happy I was when I tracked down a copy of the original printing. It wasn't inexpensive, because the book has been out of print for five decades, and is something of a collector's item, but looking at a recent listing for it on Abebooks.com, I think I got off pretty cheap.
Any favorite books you remember vividly from childhood? Any you spent a lifetime tracking down?
Let me know.
Monday, June 02, 2008
A friend of mine from the comic book business dropped me an email this morning, asking for my input -- he and his family had noticed that one of this summer's big blockbuster comic book movies used several elements from stories he'd written a number of years ago. One of his family members suggested he hire a lawyer to see if he could get some recompense, and my friend wanted to know if I had any experience that might be useful, given that a character I'd created for Marvel Comics had been adapted for two movies. He was talking about The Punisher, but those of you who read my comics in the Seventies know that stories of mine were adapted for the first two Spider-Man films, so I guess my response should probably include my experience regarding those movies too.
Some people like to ease the band aid off the wound slowly and with care to avoid pulling out any hairs. Me, I've always been a rip-that-sucker-off-fast kind of guy. So, to put it bluntly, I got nothing for either Punisher film, and nothing for my stories being adapted for the Spider-Man movies. I didn't even get credit for creating the Punisher, or for the use of my story material in Spider-Man.
Honestly, I didn't expect that I would.
I'm not happy about the fact, but I'm resigned to it. I accept the reality of how the business operated when I wrote those stories, and I'm truthful enough with myself to admit I knew full well that I was giving over all my rights to the material at the time. There hasn't been a comic book professional since the 1940s who hasn't been fully aware of the exact nature of the deal we were making with the publishers: what happened to Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster was common knowledge and an established part of comic book lore. So it would be disingenuous of me now to claim I was misled, or mistreated, or that I didn't realize what I was doing, or that somehow Marvel reneged on some imaginary implied promise that I'd share in whatever bounty might come their way from exploiting characters and stories I created. Nobody promised me anything. The deal was clear -- I wrote the stories, I created the characters, and in return I accepted a page rate payment for the work I performed.
Sure, there was some question about the legality of the practice prevalent at the time of putting the assignment of rights contract on the back of the check paying you for the work. But that's a question of legality -- and it was resolved with later contracts that clearly established the nature of the work for hire arrangement -- and it has nothing to do with what I believe is really a moral and ethical issue. Morally and ethically, for me to claim that I was "cheated" somehow would be a lie. Nobody forced me to write comics. Nobody forced me to accept the terms of the deal as it stood.
I knew what I was doing, and I did it anyway.
Does it hurt when I see a movie made from a character I co-created, without receiving credit or recompense? Sure it hurts. I don't think it's particularly nice of Marvel Comics to pretend that the Punisher sprang full-blown onto the scene without parents. It's pretty cheesy, mean-spirited behavior. What would it cost them to credit Ross Andru, John Romita, and me, for writing and drawing the story that brought the Punisher into being? If they were worried we might use that credit to press a claim -- why not ask us to sign a release? Knowing they were under no legal obligation to give us credit, but they felt it was the human, decent thing to do, I would've been happy to sign a release; I was happy to give an interview for the DVD. But nobody asked. I doubt anyone even thought about it. And that's what hurts, really. I don't expect money, I don't expect a piece of the action, but I sure would have appreciated a little acknowledgment when those credits flashed by.
But to repeat: I knew what I was doing, and I did it anyway.
On a happier note, I get lotsa bucks from the use of characters I created for DC Comics in the late 70s and 80s. Firestorm, Power Girl, King Croc, Steel, and lately, Vixen, have all spun off toys and statues and games and videos and other cool stuff, and thanks to the forward-thinking contracts DC started offering creators in the late 70s, I and my artist collaborators get a piece of all that revenue. And that makes me happy.
So in a way, it balances out.
But I'm one of the lucky ones -- as are all of the creators who came into the business after the mid-Seventies. We get a piece (albeit a small piece) of the cash our characters generate. The people who came before us, though, aren't so lucky. A lot of those writers and artists end their careers with not much to show for the work they've done but the money they earned along the way. Some of them are in pretty dire straits financially.
If you'd like to do something about that, check out the Hero Initiative -- a non-profit fund organized by fans and professionals to help creators who've fallen on hard times. Give back a little of what they've given you.
You're under no legal, moral or ethical obligation to do so.
But it's the nice thing to do.
It's the right thing to do.