Wednesday, September 28, 2005 at 10:30 p.m. | 1 comments
It's a guilty new television pleasure and just happens to follow Lost. It's one of three shows featuring alien invaders, somehow connected to water. It's got Tyler Labine in it (the fat guy from Breaker High) and is kind of entertaining.

But I'll never admit it.

As for Lost, I'm definitely intrigued by what's going on and have way too many theories to be normal. I'm missing that 'wow' factor that the first season had early on and I'm anxious to get to the island surviving part of the show, if in fact it's ever really going to come into play.

Yes, I have a life. It's just partially dominated by television at the moment. I was thinking earlier how great summer is as the weather is nice enough, the TV is more or less useless, and there are great things to do. Fall/winter kind of kills ambition.

But at least I have a great job! (Insert sarcasm)
Posted by Parallel
Tuesday, September 27, 2005 at 11:28 p.m. | 0 comments
That I haven't updated this thing in like two weeks? Not very cool of me. I blame... well, something.

Quick updates on what I've been doing:

Wrote the official review for Serenity for publication in eye Weekly. It hits stands on Thursday, and I'll provide a link to the review through this site. I hope it's the first of many movie reviews, but I'll take what I can get.

Millarworld. Again, something I should have mentioned, but I write monthly articles for Mark Millar's online magazine called The.Magazine. So far I've published a Julie Benz interview I did, and am about to publish a Jhonen Vasquez article (Invader Zim creator) as well as concert reviews for U2 and The Rolling Stones, which Catherine and I saw last night.

I'm still waiting on X-Men Legends 2 and Ultimate Spider-Man to come in the mail. Both games are now at retail and I have no patience whatsoever. If I don't get 'em by Friday, I'll buy X-Men this weekend. Who's in for playing?

Serenity opens this week and I'm trying to sort out when/where I'll be seeing it. I'm aiming for Burlington if my dad can make it down, but I haven't gotten ahold of him yet, so it might be Toronto after all.

Marvel Comics. Eric Moreels, my friend and co-publisher from Comixfan has stepped out of the ether and offered to let me write several bios for characters that will appear in an upcoming publication. I think it may be web-based, but I'm not entirely sure. I'd rather print as my name looks much nicer that way.

Either way, it's PAID work from Marvel Comics. I'll be writing bios for Warpath, Evangeline Whedon, Whirlwind, X-23, Wolfsbane, and Wolverine. Not a bad gig at all (though not writing a comic book itself, which remains on my list of goals to accomplish before I shuffle off this mortal coil).

I'm going to bed now. Catherine and I have to continue our war efforts (*this is one of Catherine's odd ramblings from when I go to bed after she does... she doesn't always like to make sense).

Oh, and my assistant (Tribbles) was let go today. Not when I would have chosen to do it as I'm swamped with work, but I'm getting a new helper on Thursday. I feel bad that she's been let go, but I was very close to losing my mind.
Posted by Parallel
Sunday, September 18, 2005 at 11:45 a.m. | 2 comments

U2 Vertigo 2005: This is how close we were. There's bassist Adam Clayton posing for us. He smiled at Catherine which pleased her quite a bit.  Posted by Picasa
Posted by Parallel

U2 Vertigo 2005: Catherine and I were front row slightly to the left side in this pic. Edge-centric for those in the know. Posted by Picasa
Posted by Parallel
Well, the concert was Friday night and it couldn't have been more spectacular. Catherine and I wound up, for the second time in this life, in the front row of a U2 concert. That just blows my mind.

We both left work early (me at 2, her at 3) and stood patiently in line outside of the ACC with our general admission tickets. During the last tour it was more of a first-come, first-served kind of deal, but this time was quite different. As you descend the steps with your ticket in hand (ours were bought from a guy online and we panicked the whole time about their authenticity) one set of security scans them.

After that you proceed to get a GA wristband. Then your ticket is scanned a second time and a randomized computer decides whether or not you get entered into the elipse. You see, the stage (see above photo) has two sections. One inside with a ring around the arena for the band to walk on, then on the outside of that ring the rest of the people stand. For the rest of our amazing photos, head over to Catherine's Blog as she has all 33 of the photos we took posted there on the right hand side.

The two people ahead of me in line had their ticket scanned. "Proceed to floor."

I handed my ticket over and nothing happened. I was freaking out, thinking that the ticket was bogus after all. Catherine thought the same thing. All of the sudden the screen flashed and "Vertigo" was written on it, meaning we got to go inside.

I couldn't believe the luck, and when we made our way to the stage, there was practically no one in there. As our VERY close up photos suggest, we were once again in the front row.

The concert was amazing, the t-shirts expensive (I still bought one) and we had a fantastic time. By this time, however, we had been standing for more than 9 hours straight and couldn't walk very well. A couple of my leg muscles are still twitchy.

But damn, was it worth it. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Have you ever been in a dark stadium with thousands of cellphones turned on and their blue light screens illuminating it like stars? What a sight. I was truly blown away.

In other news, I got yet another free video game in the mail. Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction is a Grand Theft Auto-type game in which the Hulk can participate in an endless rampage of death and destruction. Anything and everything in the environment can be picked up and used as a weapon, sometimes ingeniously so. It has been a brutally guilty pleasure so far, and even enticed Jer in for an hour or so.

Next week I'm expecting X-Men Legends 2 and Ultimate Spider-Man games in the mail. It's good to be a comic book journalist sometimes.

Taking off now. My Dad, brother, and uncle are coming over. That's just a lot of Graydon's and Brian's, but hopefully it'll be a good time anyway.
Posted by Parallel
Wednesday, September 14, 2005 at 10:04 p.m. | 1 comments
Britney Spears has reproduced. This is more than enough to cause us all to jump ship.

In related news, Spears' new fragrance, Fantasy Britney Spears, is due to launch Thursday. She has described it as a "completely magical" blend of "enchanting scents and flavors" with "a hint of cupcakes."

What the fuck is wrong with people?
Posted by Parallel
Monday, September 12, 2005 at 11:33 a.m. | 0 comments
True Story: In the late 1990s, French authorities began cracking down on youth gangs that employed vicious dogs—rottweilers and pit bulls—to intimidate rival gangs. The crackdown was working...until gangs switched to vicious monkeys. “The apes are becoming the new weapon of choice. They’re ultrafashionable,” said a Paris police officer. “Removed from their natural habitat,” natural historian Marie-Claude Bomsel told the London Guardian, “they can become highly aggressive. They bite, and their favored method of attack is to hurl themselves at people’s heads.”
Posted by Parallel
Sunday, September 11, 2005 at 2:02 a.m. | 0 comments

It's hard to make out, but that's my quote (correctly attributed and all) on the back of Mark Millar's WANTED. Posted by Picasa
Posted by Parallel
Despite anything I may ever say to the contrary, as a writer I have a huge ego. I think it's an inherent part of being creative and most people I know who are a part of my field are all very much the same.

It hit me today though when I picked up a copy of Mark Millar's hardcover comic book, Wanted, and saw that a quote from one of my reviews that made the back of issue #1 was there, bright and bold, for everyone to see. Immortalized once again.

Except this time, someone else got the credit.

Yes, an error from editorial straight on down to print. A different person, a different publication, but my quote through and through. I wrote Mark and I'm waiting to get his take on it. I don't expect anything to change, but it's my work and I like being acknowledged for it at any rate.

I'll let you know what he says. Mark is a good man and a good friend with no power over this sort of thing whatsoever, so I don't really expect him to do anything, but since he's the only one I know at that company it just felt right to let someone know about the error.

The comic itself, however, is quite good and worth the read.
Posted by Parallel
Thursday, September 08, 2005 at 10:15 p.m. | 3 comments
I don't usually go in for posts like this, but a friend and colleague of mine from Comixfan lives (unbeknownst to me until a few moments ago) in the state hit by Katrina. He wrote a long email to everyone on his list and it affected me a great deal.

Keep in mind it is quite long so I understand if you don't have the patience to see it to the end, but the point is that real people, real communities, have been affected in ways most of us will hopefully never experience.

Here's the thing: we've all seen disasters happen before. We saw horrific images of the Asian tsunami, we viewed shocking video of the events in New York and Washington on September 11. We prayed for the victims, we wished them well, maybe we even sent a little money... and then we got on with our lives. It was terrible, but it was kind of unreal: after all, most of us weren't actually there in Asia when disaster struck. The number of people directly impacted by 9/11 wasn't so huge that most of us were actually at Ground Zero. We feel a disconnect from it all, because we haven't seen it with our own eyes: it's just pictures and sounds on a screen, just like what we see all the time in our prime time dramas and big-budget motion pictures... except in those motion pictures, we know the backstories of the main characters, so perhaps we have more reason to care than we do for people we'll never meet and don't know anything about.

And in the grand scheme of things... so what? So thousands of people died in Katrina, or the tsunami, or hundreds died in New York. Not to belittle that loss, but many more people than that lose their lives quite regularly in places like the war-torn Middle East, or places like Sudan in Africa. Most of us in what we laughably refer to as "the civilized world" never hear about this stuff, or if we do, we don't care that much. Not that we're terrible people (although, no doubt, some of us are): it's just that it's all a world away, we're not there, we don't see it, it's easy to convince ourselves that it doesn't exist.

Not so today for me. I live in southeast Louisiana. One week after what's being called the worst national disaster in the history of the country, tidings are still grim. I thank God that I'm luckier than most: all I've lost have been a couple of job opportunities, a really nice fence, and several days of my life to cleaning the dead branches and fallen trees from my property. I may not have a permanent job, and my lawn may still be an unholy mess, but I have a wife, savings, my possessions, a life. My family so far seems to be safe, although I still haven't managed to locate a few of them. Relatively speaking, I'm extremely lucky.

I guess I'm writing this to help people understand how very real and how very life-destroying this is. I live 30 miles from what was once the booming metropolis of New Orleans. I've driven throughout Louisiana since the storm and seen firsthand the damage here. I've visited shelters and relief distribution centers and spoken to people there. And worst of all, I've heard the spin being put out by the people in power about how much better things are, and I know enough to know how lying or clueless they truly are.

If there are any silver linings here (and I've looked desperately to find one), it's that the truly poor of New Orleans might eventually see more money than they ever have, and that more and more Louisianians are coming over to my long-held political viewpoint that both the Republicans and the Democrats of America are more interested in political infights than they are in helping their constituents.

As a technology consultant for the state government (a temporary job I was very lucky to find), I drove out to inspect storm damage today, and I saw scenes of destruction that will haunt me for a long time. I traveled to the small town of Bogalusa, in the northeast corner of souteast Louisiana (if that doesn't make any sense to you, go find it on a map and you'll see what I mean), a place many, many miles inland from where the storm struck, a beautiful little town where I used to go swimming as a boy.

On the way, I saw a huge, majestic forest of pine, each tree easily over 100 feet tall... and every single one of the hundreds of trees was standing precariously at about a 30 degree angle. It was like some twisted vision from a Tim Burton film.

I passed other forests with all kinds of trees, forests I'd loved as a kid, forests where literally every other tree, or more, lay on its side. Oaks, magnolias, you name it. It's difficult to imagine unless you see it first hand.

I saw oak trees, mighty oak trees, knocked down, crushing trees, homes, churches, and businesses. In many cases, the uprooted trees brought up with them huge sections of earth, clods of dirt and roots bigger than you, me, and every single book in my library combined. And I've got a lot of books.

I passed well-kept shacks, undoubtedly inhabited by some of the poorest elements of society (and there are a LOT of poor people in rural Louisiana, white, black, hispanic, you name it), with trees through their roofs, tearing gaping holes so big that I could clearly see into the interior of the house as I drove by. I passed middle-class homes, the kind of nice, modest place where you or I might live, torn to bits: homes with every single shingle on the roof missing, with trees through the walls, with shattered windows, with the entire roof blown off. I've never seen such devastation. I've never seen with my own eyes so many homes destroyed.

I even passed several mansions on huge, sprawling estates. With almost no exceptions, they fared extremely well and escaped almost all damage. Figures.

I was so amazed by the sheer number of leaning, broken, shattered, or just plain missing utility poles on my journey, that I tried counting the number of power lines lying on the road that my car ran over. Somewhere around 15 or 16, I lost count. I must have passed over sixty lines on the road, and many times that number of poles broken in some fashion. Small wonder that when I got to Bogalusa, they had no power, nor did they expect to for quite a long time to come.

And remember, this is all over a week AFTER the storm hit us, here in the United States of America, the richest and most technologically advanced country in the history of the world. And this is all in Bogalusa, far from the hardest-hit areas in Biloxi and New Orleans. This is the stuff they don't talk about on the national news, and there are many, many communities just like this one.

When I arrived in the city itself, I found a lot of excited people. Why? Because the Popeyes, now one of the only sources of fresh food in a 20-mile radius, had finally opened. And the lines were long. Everywhere there were signs of destruction: here, a business without a roof; there, a gas station where almost all of the fixtures, including light poles, pumps, and covered areas, lay on their side. Near the middle of town, I saw a huge shopping center with most of the roof gone. There was very little gas, and very little food. Debris littered... well, everything... everywhere you looked. A few isolated homes and businesses have power and food, but nobody has any communication with the outside world. All the cell phone towers are down, and even if you are one of the lucky ones that has phone service, you can't complete a call outside the Bogalusa area. And just like Baton Rouge and most of the rest of southeast Louisiana, it's a bit rare to find a business sign, like a grocery store sign or a Blockbuster video sign, that isn't lying on the ground instead of proclaiming its wares prominently in the sky.

The devastation in Bogalusa is terrible, but it's nowhere near as bad as New Orleans. The national news networks never cease to anger me these days with their rose-tainted glasses - the situation there is generally nowhere near as happy as some people describe. New Orleans, such a great cultural mecca for the world, is for all intents and purposes mostly destroyed. The vast majority of the city is still underwater... no... you can't really call it "water." It's a toxic sludge of all kinds of deadly chemicals - wading in the polluted water can be fatal. And thousands of homes are underneath this poisonous goo. This is so bad that not only will it all have to be bulldozed, but even the earth and soil itself is contaminated and will have to be completely removed.

And all that talk about the pumps removing thousands and thousands of cubic feet per second? Thanks to the sheer amount of water and sludge in the city, combined with the leaking levees, the water has barely receded. In areas where water was, for example, 16 feet deep, now it might be 15 feet deep. There's a long way to go.

Even in Baton Rouge, where damage was limited but still severe, life can be difficult. Helicopters constantly fly by overhead, and police, fire, and ambulance sirens now occur regularly, every few minutes. The intense traffic makes it impossible to go anywhere, roads are closed, basic supplies are sometimes in short supply, and everybody needs help. Even in my own yard, many miles from the storm's wrath, I discovered in my cleanup efforts many, many tree limbs that had been blown so hard by the storm winds that they were impaled firmly in the ground, standing straight up like twisted new growths.

As bad as the geographic devastation is, it can't compare to the human suffering. Don't believe the news bulletins about improving conditions for the New Orleans refugees - a lot of it is complete and total bull... spin, no doubt, launched by some government agency, as it focuses on a very lucky few and ignores thousands of others. As a resident, as someone who visited shelters and aid distribution centers today, as someone who listened to people calling into local radio stations begging for help all day, I can tell you that the picture is not very rosy. So many people in so very great need are not receiving help... at all. Our government has abandoned and failed us in Louisiana, Republican and Democrat alike.

Perhaps you heard about the $2,000 debit cards our dear friends at FEMA were supposed to be giving to the displaced residents today? Sure sounded like a nice start, and we were all very happy to hear about it. But then the details started to trickle out - there are only 2,000 of these cards (because, of course, the other 998,000 affected don't really need much). They're only being given away in Houston (because, of course, the federal goverment believes that the greatest need for relief after a Louisiana-Mississippi-Alabama disaster is in Texas). And even after they had these 2,000 evacuees line up to receive the cards, they changed their minds and decided not to hand them out at all, because they had neglected to figure out how they were going to track it. Now, today, they're saying that they'll hand out those cards "in a few days", and that all of the other evacuees will receive checks in the mail.

Checks. In the mail. For homeless evacuees. Think about that for a second.

Most of the government's efforts complete ignore the outlying communities and the thousands of people who were outside New Orleans who were hit just as hard, like the people in Bogalusa without power or food or gas. I visited relief stations near my constantly-mentioned and obsessively-beloved hometown of Loranger, and found piles and piles of people waiting... and waiting... and waiting... for anything. Local officials seem to be bravely trying to do their best with the (scant) resources they have. On the way to the relief station (after I'd parked my car quite a distance away and started walking, because it became obvious I wasn't going to get to park much closer), I had to duck under a very low hanging electric wire. A bit closer to the relief station, I walked by the shattered remains of another electric pole, on the ground, surrounded by some kind of waste that I was unable to identify. The smell was, to say the least, interesting.

For so many of those in need, FEMA is doing absolutely nothing, and the Red Cross struggles as well. Both organizations constantly brag about the toll-free numbers Louisiana residents can call to get quick and free help... but what they fail to mention is that calls to toll-free numbers rarely work in Louisiana anymore (in fact, most calls in Southeast Louisiana to ANYWHERE rarely go through these days), and even on the very rare occasion that the call actually does go through, the hold time is measured in hours, not minutes (or so I hear, I have to admit I haven't tried calling myself). They say you can visit their websites... fat chance for homeless residents, residents without electricity, without phone connections. Then, even if you do talk to FEMA, they promise lots of help... in about ten to fourteen days. That's not too helpful to people who are living with the clothes on their back, without a home and with one last twenty stuffed in their pocket to live on. Meanwhile, shelters and relief lines are packed and overcrowded, and human beings, American citizens, are going without the barest necessities of dignity.

I usually consider myself a proud American, so I hate to say that not only has our leadership failed us, but our leadership has killed us. Literally, without drama or exaggeration, I say to you that people have died... innocent people have DIED (think about that, think about how you would feel if it was your grandmother or your brother or your best friend)... because of political posturing, power maneuvering, and excessive red tape. From FEMA's utter incompetence and the president's hopeless and meaningless optimism to the state's refusal to let in federal forces to help in the opening days of the tragedy (for which the blame falls squarely on our governor) to the city's inexplicable refusal to prepare for the hurricane when they knew it was on the way, despite the ready availability of buses normally used to bus in voters on Election Day (among other resources), our feckless leadership has failed us. If I thought I had a monkey's shot in hell, I'd run for office somewhere, just to try to bring some common sense in somewhere. Too bad I have no political connections.

Our Democratic mayors and governor have been all over the news broadcasts crying, moaning, and exposing their lack of leadership, vision, or motivation. They have no idea what to do next, and their bawling on the airwaves doesn't exactly inspire confidence or provide strong leadership. Meanwhile, our Republican president smiles that oblivious smile, assures us that everything will be okay, and turns, with Congress, to issues far weightier than thousands of human lives and livelihoods, like whether dear Johnny should be Chief Justice or just an Associate Justice.

I'm writing this... why am I writing this? I guess I'm writing this as therapy. I'm going to e-mail it out to people as... well... I guess as a public service on behalf of the Gulf Coast residents who are in need. This tragedy is real. It's not getting much better. Thousands of innocent people, poor and middle-class (and maybe even a few rich folks), black and white (despite what the Reverend Jesse Jackson and other demagogues would like you to think), old and young, sick and healthy, are being destroyed by this event even as I type this right now. I don't think most people who haven't seen it firsthand understand how bad it is. Tell your friends and family about this stuff, I beg you. Forward this e-mail if it helps.

If there's any way you can help, please do. I can't recommend donating to FEMA, and the Red Cross isn't perfect either... but at least it's a whole heck of a lot better than FEMA. If you're the praying type, pray for all of the people affected down here. If you're not the praying type... well, heck, pray for us anyway; it can't hurt anything, can it? The people of the Gulf Coast are in desperate need, and the people we hoped we could count on have been failing us most every step of the way.

Meanwhile, I'm counting my blessings (and there are so very many), helping if I can, and hoping the tarp I attached to a friend's roof holds if it rains again. Take care.
Posted by Parallel
Wednesday, September 07, 2005 at 1:16 p.m. | 3 comments
I keep intending to update this blog on a daily basis, and even encounter everyday situations that I think would make for interesting reading.

In order to keep the dozen or so of you who read this interested (I'm likely flattering myself), here is a bullet-point list of items that I intend to eventually cover:

1. My new assistant. I've decided to call her Tribbles after the furry little creatures on Star Trek who squeak loudly, cause havoc, and gum up any and all machinery. She is trouble on an epic scale and I want to choke her.

But she's a NICE person.

2. My trip to the CNE (part 2). Part 1 (something not covered here) is largely uninteresting, though why I went back and the events of that trip are mildly entertaining. Parades, car accidents, and foreigners. FUN!

3. Smallville. I've been watching this show a lot, and though I frequently call out for the deaths of some characters, I am compelled to watch. I'm currently stuck in season 3.

4. Free video games. All Marvel related, all within a month, three great games to take me away from Catherine.

5. Whatever I've forgotten that was interesting a few minutes ago. I'm sick right now and as such can't remember beyond the past few minutes. The good news is that it makes the day go by quickly, the bad news is that I'm still at this job.

So, tuck yourselves in and get ready for a rant-o-rama. It seems to be all that I do lately. Several people have mentioned this, and I'd like to curb my complaints, but otherwise I think the world is out to get me.

So I'm watching you. Yes, YOU.
Posted by Parallel
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