Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Batman = Bush?

Does Liking The Dark Knight mean I like George W. Bush's Presidency?

From the Wall Street Journal op-ed page, "What Bush and Batman Have in Common" by Andrew Klavan:

There seems to me no question that the Batman film "The Dark Knight," currently breaking every box office record in history, is at some level a paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W. Bush in this time of terror and war. Like W, Batman is vilified and despised for confronting terrorists in the only terms they understand. Like W, Batman sometimes has to push the boundaries of civil rights to deal with an emergency, certain that he will re-establish those boundaries when the emergency is past.

And like W, Batman understands that there is no moral equivalence between a free society -- in which people sometimes make the wrong choices -- and a criminal sect bent on destruction. The former must be cherished even in its moments of folly; the latter must be hounded to the gates of Hell.

"The Dark Knight," then, is a conservative movie about the war on terror. And like another such film, last year's "300," "The Dark Knight" is making a fortune depicting the values and necessities that the Bush administration cannot seem to articulate for beans.

If Klavan is right, does enjoying The Dark Knight mean I approve of Bush's presidency?


Of course, what separates Batman and Bush is one is fiction; the other just believes his fiction is true.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Wolverine Trailer

Poor Quality X-Men Origins: Wolverine Trailer: Better Than Nothing

That music is cheesy, right?


Bolaño Fiction

In The New Yorker

Roberto Bolaño's "Clara" appears in this week's New Yorker.

Yes, it is worth noting.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Cooke's Latest

Darwyn Cooke Announces Parker Adaptation

The San Diego Comic Con International is this weekend, which means a ton a of comic book announcements. First one I noticed is Darwyn Cooke's upcoming adaptation:
Wednesday's preview night at Comic-Con International in San Diego saw the announcement that Darwyn Cooke will be adapting the "Parker" series crime novels by Donald Westlake (under the pen name Richard Stark) as a series of four full-length graphic novels for IDW Publishing. As previously reported on CBR in an interview with Special Projects Editor Scott Dunbier, a series of three cards with art by Cooke will be available from specific locations exclusively at Comic-Con. We spoke with Cooke about the "Parker" graphic novels, which will begin appearing in summer 2009.

While comics adaptations of prose fiction can take many forms, Cooke said that the "Parker" series of graphic novels would leave much of Westlake/Stark's source material untouched. "The concept here is to simply edit the existing novel to remove visually descriptive passages and any narrative that can be expressed through pictures," Cooke told CBR. "It is my hope to keep every word of Westlake/Stark's dialogue intact, making minor changes only when the adaptation process demands it.



Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Nolan Podcast

Co-Screenwriter Jonathan Nolan Talks The Dark Knight

Just finished listening to Jeff Goldsmith's podcast interview with screenwriter Jonathan Nolan, who wrote The Dark Knight with his brother, the director of the film, Christopher.

The podcast is, as they say, spoiler-heavy, so if you've not seen the movie, you should hold off listening. It's an enjoyable interview that forced me to question some of my conclusions about what happens in the film.

Listen here.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sandman Anniversary

Neil Gaiman's Sandman Turns Twenty

New York Magazine spoke to Neil Gaiman about the anniversary of Sandman:

Twenty years later, do you remember what you were doing immediately before you pitched DC on Sandman? How were you able to get almost complete control on a character without having done much comics work before?
I think the main reason that I did it was that nobody really had a clue what I was doing, and that was a very good place to be. I was writing as a journalist. I had just written the first one and a half episodes of my very first American comic, which was this prestige comic-series thing called Black Orchid. And then I got a phone call from [DC comics editor] Karen Berger, and Karen said, "Uh, look, we've had a meeting and we're getting a bit worried. We're looking at this title, and we've got a guy that nobody's ever heard of, doing a comic that nobody's ever heard of, about a female character, and female characters don't sell. We're going to give you a monthly comic, and the whole idea is to raise your profile a bit."

And you suggested Sandman?
I phoned her up a few days later, and I said "What about the Phantom Stranger?" And she said, "No, we don't think he's heroic enough." "What about…" and I listed off characters, and every one somebody owned. And she's saying, "No, no, no." And then she said, "What about that Sandman thing you were talking about? Last time we had dinner, you were talking about a Sandman graphic novel of some kind. So I wrote the outline, sent if off to Karen … they didn't like it. And it sat on her desk, and apparently a week later the forces above asked if they could see the outline and they did like it. And Karen said, "Well, I wasn't really happy with it, but they liked it upstairs, so we're going to go with it.



Sunday, July 20, 2008

Miller's Batman

Frank Miller's Next Batman Projected, Seemingly Forever Delayed

I have yet to read a better Batman than Frank Miller's work on the character (though Alan Moore's The Killing Joke comes close with Grant Morrison's Arkham Asylum).

So while Miller failed to convince me in the Times today that his new film, The Spirit, will be anything but some bizarre Sin City non-Sin City film, he did intrigue me about his next Batman project that he is expected to also illustrate:
"I have a bunch of drawing I want to do," he said. One project, which began as "Holy War, Batman!,” a series with a post-9/11 context, has shifted. "As I worked on it, it became something that was no longer Batman. It’s somewhere past that, and I decided it’s going to be part of a new series that I’m starting."
Expected publication date? Um, never? Miller's talked about this new Batman project since 2006.


Girl Talk

The Times Covers Girl Talk

In the Sunday Magazine's Consumed column, Rob Walker writes about the mash-up artist Girl Talk. This was the second album I bought in the model set by Radiohead. It's surprisingly good for something I normally would never listen to.

Listen and download here.


€100m Kaká

The Possibility Gets Me Jealous

Last month I ended my support of Chelsea FC in favour of Barcelona. Though I don't hate the team, I had a number of reasons (all uninteresting to write about here) to stop supporting Chelsea. Then yesterday, the London club was linked to a €100m transfer for perhaps the best footballer in the world, Kaká.

If the transfer were to go through, it would make me quite jealous. First, because Chelsea would have added a player that would make the club the favourite to win the Champions League next season. Second, because I'm quite fond of Kaká and his incredible talent. And third, because the most significant move my new club Barça has made this transfer term was shedding the ineffectual Ronaldinho.

Can't Barça come up with a shocking transfer, one to make me forget that it's more important to win games than add players that only might help?


Friday, July 18, 2008

Lethem's Next

Jonathan Lethem Talks About His New Novel

CBR has an interview with Jonathan Lethem discussing his enjoyable Omega Unknown comic book that concluded this past week. At the end of the interview, Lethem briefly spoke about his next novel:

It is coming together, and it should be published in the fall of 2009. It still doesn't have a title, but I can tell you, it's set on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, it's strongly influenced by Saul Bellow, Philip K. Dick, Charles Finney and Hitchcock's 'Vertigo' and it concerns a circle of friends including a faded child-star actor, a cultural critic, a hack ghost-writer of autobiographies, and a city official. And it's long and strange.

Sounds readable!


Radiohead Video

"House of Cards" on Google

Check it!


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Batman Preview

The Dark Knight Primer

The Dark Knight opens in theatres in a few hours. To remind myself about Christopher Nolan's Gotham City, I re-watched Batman Begins last weekend. But if you don't have the time, you can get (re)acquainted with Nolan's Gotham here. Enjoy!

(Via the tip from Victoria's comment.)


Watchmen Trailer

It's Live

I thought 300 was a horrendous waste of time, and Alan Moore, who never saw it, thinks so too. The director of 300 has another comic book adaptation to be released next year, Moore and Dave Gibbons's fantastic Watchmen. The trailer is now live here, though as of right now I've had some trouble playing the whole thing.



Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Joker Talk

NPR on the Joker

NPR has a good history of the Joker character along with an audio report. Good listening for those who are Batman-obsessed.


Spirit Trailer

Awful, Awful Shit

I'm in the minority of people who is enjoying Frank Miller's only comic book being published today, All Star Batman and Robin, but I'm not keen on his new movie The Spirit. The trailer below was just released and it looks like Miller has taken Will Eisner's creation and blended it with his Sin City work. The result looks like a spectacular failure.

Enjoy, I guess:


Batman Gear

Wired Looks at the Bat Gadgets

Being the Batman fan that I am, I won't hesitate to say I'm very excited for The Dark Knight opening this week. I'll write a bit more about Batman later but until then you should check Wired's Alt Text blog for a grading of Batman gear. An excerpt:


When I was a kid, a superhero having a car seemed completely natural, yet utterly cool. Sure, Superman could reverse time and lift mountain ranges, but Batman had a car! With fins! Nowadays, though, the Batmobile seems painfully unlikely. I can accept that the police force would cooperate with an anonymous, violent vigilante with a series of fragile teenage sidekicks. I can't, however, accept that the Gotham Department of Parking and Transportation would let him get away with an unregistered vehicle. I don't care how advanced Wayne technology is, that sucker's getting towed.
Grade: B-


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Obama Cover

Jon Swift: The Voice of Reason on the Obama Cover Controversy

To generalize, people are very sensitive to anything and everything these days. One example is the New Yorker's Barrack Obama cover from this week. Thankfully Jon Swift offers his insight on this latest controversy:

I loved the illustration, which I thought was a very powerful statement about how Barack Obama should not be elected President, and as Jonah Goldberg noted, it could have been a cover illustration for the National Review, which used to be called the Harvard Lampoon before it went national and changed its name. But I must say I also agree with many in the liberal blogosphere who believe that satire and most other kinds of humor should be avoided at all costs. I have long been opposed to satire, which just causes unhealthy confusion and, like fluoridated water, weakens our body politic. How can we fight an enemy that doesn't have any sense of humor at all if our media is distracting us with such esoteric and ill-advised attempts at comedy?



Saturday, July 12, 2008

Muskoka Accident

Toronto Star's Exclusive

The Star's coverage of the Muskoka accident has been poor, and yesterday the coverage dipped further. In an exclusive, the Star obtained an interview with the survivor of the accident, Nastasia Elzinga. The story was billed as a "special" to the paper and was written by Tracy Nesdoly.

Nesdoly had previously written for the Star; then she had been identified as a freelance writer and content manager for Workopolis, which works in partnership with the Toronto Star. Nesdoly's Workopolis profile provides further details about her: "Tracy was a reporter for 15 years before moving into the corporate world and has been a public relations and communications executive for a number of Canadian companies including Indigo Books & Music and Birks" (all emphasis added).

There are numerous problems with the story:

• No other person is interviewed, forcing the reader to take everything Elzinga says on her word.

• The reporter mixes her opinion into the story: "Seconds later, Nastasia Inez Elzinga, 19, known to her friends as Staz, would be choking on water and fighting for the surface, the lone survivor in a July 3 crash that took the lives of the driver of the car, her tall, gorgeous boyfriend, best friend, mentor and tormentor Tyler Mulcahy, 20, and his friends Cory Mintz, 20, and Kourosh Totonchian, 19."

• What Elzing may have been thinking at the time of the accident seems implausible: "'It was so great. I remember thinking this is the best, I love this song, I love these people, I love this place. If it had lasted it would have been the best weekend of the summer,' she says."

• Certain statements require a source that is never identified: "She swam for shore, scrambling up rocks to the road. Mulcahy's dad's Audi S4 had ripped through the guardrail on the curving road, flown off the road and over a sharp embankment into the Joseph River, where it landed on its roof, submerged."

• An instance where the reporter should have sought a corroborating interview was ignored: "A man said to me, `Did you see the accident,' and I said, `I was in the accident, there are three boys, get the three boys out.' I was hysterical and screaming to get them out." Who was the man and why wasn't he interviewed?

• At no point does the reporter seriously question Elzinga about the alleged drinking that may have happened prior to the accident, instead the reporter offers uncorroborated quotations including "The boy who loved to drive fast was a boy who always wore his seat belt and made everyone do the same. He would leave his car behind if he thought he'd been drinking too much, without hesitation, Elzinga says."

This is a weak story that the Star should be embarrassed to have published. It's insult to the staff reporters who do ask real questions. Was this a public relations exercise? It was written by someone who says she has experience in the field.

One more question: Why did a poorly written, one-sided story - a prime example of what journalism should not be - get the front page of the Toronto Star?


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Next One

My Morning Jacket Starts On Next Album

Even though their fifth album, Evil Urges, was released only last month, My Morning Jacket is already at work on a sixth collection of tunes. In an interview with the BBC, Jim James said that he was already in the process of writing songs for the album's follow-up:

"I'm already writing songs for the new record and stuff," he said. "The process is weird because whenever we make a record, the songs come from one or two years of life that you've lived. Then by the time you get to make that record you're in that zone but when it comes out, it's a year or two later. So, for me personally, I'm working on the next thing."

That's quick, but upcoming new MMJ music is good to hear about.



Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Using "Tragedy"

Some Explaining...

On the weekend I wrote a post making light of the Toronto Star's use of the word "tragedy" when the paper reported on the death of three people in a car accident in Muskoka. Included in the post was a joke about the accident getting more attention had there been a pet dog who died in the crash. After I posted, some anonymous coward left a comment that convinced me (much too easily) that keeping the post live wasn't worth my time. I deleted it.

Today the Star published another story reporting that the three people who died in the crash had disobeyed traffic laws in the past and the driver "was in danger of losing his license." Interesting that this was the Star's first story on the accident where the word "tragedy" was absent. Perhaps the reporters have finally decided to use some restraint when reporting; it's not their job to editorialize and use of the word "tragedy" is an expression of opinion.

For the families of the dead and the survivor, an accident like this is horrible but hardly a tragedy, which is something unforeseen. A pattern of broken traffic laws? Drinking before driving? Close to losing a license? This accident sounds more like an inevitability.

Before the Star slapped together the "Muskoka tragedy" headline, the last use I saw of the word "tragedy" in the paper referred to the Greek national team being eliminated from the Euro 2008 tournament. That headline also ran on the front page. How the death of three people can be equated with a soccer team being eliminated from a tournament I can't say: that's a question for the Star's loose editors.

I stand by my original assertion that the accident in Muskoka wasn't a tragedy. It's a horrible event, but bad decisions rarely end in a good consequences.


Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Replacing Sundin

Leafs Cement Line-Up, Looks Awful

With the re-signing of Matt Stajan yesterday, the Toronto Maple Leafs have set their line-up for the upcoming season. Unfortunately it appears to be of bottom-of-the-conference quality. The Star projected the lines:



Extras: Bell, J. Mitchell



Extras: McCabe, Kronwall, White, Frogren


Starter: Toskala. Backup: Joseph

Missing from there is Mats Sundin, though he may still join the club. According to the Star, the Leafs' offer to Sundin is worth $7 million, $13 million less than the Vancouver Canucks' insane offer. If Sundin comes to his senses and chooses to continue his career not for the Leafs, then the club will need to replace him as captain.

Based on that line-up, I think there is only a single choice that would make sense: Tomas Kaberle. Bryan McCabe isn't option as the Leafs want him gone. And the forwards are either too young or too hard to picture as a viable replacement for Sundin. Kaberle has been with the club long enough, has played well enough, and seems like he could carry on one thing the Leafs often do get right: picking a good captain.


Monday, July 07, 2008

Top 100

What the Internet is Good for: Another List

By chance I came across Nick Hornby's blog post today, where he writes about Entertainment Weekly's new list "The 100 best reads from 1983 to 2008." I've never read any of Hornby's novels, and I doubt I'll read #88 on the list, Hornby's High Fidelity.

The Internet is rife with lists, and I'm sure someone will eventually make a list aggregator (if there isn't already one impervious to my feeble search attempt), so we can skip having to look for 'em.

What's the top 10?

1. The Road , Cormac McCarthy (2006)
2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling (2000)
3. Beloved, Toni Morrison (1987)
4. The Liars' Club, Mary Karr (1995)
5. American Pastoral, Philip Roth (1997)
6. Mystic River, Dennis Lehane (2001)
7. Maus, Art Spiegelman (1986/1991)
8. Selected Stories, Alice Munro (1996)
9. Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier (1997)
10. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami (1997)

Of those, I've read half. Out of the 100, I've read 12. Quite a drop off no doubt. I guess that's what this list is about: Seeing what you've read, seeing what you should read, agreeing and disagreeing. And then writing about them in a post on a blog on the Internet.


Sunday, July 06, 2008

Coward Reputation

Why Football, er, Soccer Gets Ignored

On Canada Day I saw Toronto FC play the Vancouver Whitecaps in BMO Field. Toronto lost a frustrating match, 1-0.

After watching more than two weeks of Euro 2008 action, I was able to spot the difference between great football and North American 'soccer' almost instantly: tackles. In the European tournament, in European leagues and in many other parts of the world, players challenge their opponents with their feet. In the game at BMO I remember a single tackle. Maybe there was more than one but I doubt it.

World football is intense, physical and demanding; the North American variant looks weak, uncourageous and unskillful. There are 'goons' in world football; in soccer, you're more likely to come across a coward.

If North American players are unwilling to go for the ball with their feet, then I don't expect any person here to bother to watch those players sheepishly kick it around the pitch.


Friday, July 04, 2008

Superhero Fiction

Diaz and Comics

Glen Weldon writes about Junot Diaz and superheroes in literature:

Diaz is by no means the first contemporary writer to take funny books seriously; novelists Michael Chabon and Jonathan Lethem have famously trafficked in the uniquely American myth and metaphor of the comic book hero. And lately, writers of nonfiction have begun to explore the early history of comics, unearthing gritty tales of corruption straight out of the pulps. Meanwhile, a new generation of critics is busily deconstructing our enduring fondness for those who mete out swift justice in body-conscious, fashion-forward unitards.

Weldon goes on to list a number of prose books that deal with superheroes, none of which I've read, so I can't speak to their quality or lack of.


Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Club Loyalty

Does it Exist? Um, No

If you scroll down TSN's UFA signings tracker, you'll notice the ton of transactions that occurred yesterday.That pace will not be kept, but there is potential for other large moves; after all, Mats Sundin hasn't made a decision.

Conversely, the Leafs have made a few, signing unknown defenceman Jeff Finger, forward Nicholas Hagman, and goaltender Curtis Joseph. Money well spent? The season still has to be played but I'd expect Finger to be a horrific waste at $3.5 million/season, Hagman to be a disappointment at $3 million/season, and Cujo to do enough this season for everyone to forget he's being paid $700,000 to mostly sit on the bench. Damien Cox does a good job reviewing these likely horrible deals in his column today.

Looking at all of those transactions, I wonder if club loyalty still exists: of course it doesn't. Sundin has been offered $20 million to play two seasons in Vancouver. The Leafs also made an offer, probably nowhere near that figure (though they agreed to pay Jeff Finger $3.5 million/season, I remind you): will Sundin back his earlier talk of his desire to retire in Toronto? For his sake, I hope not.

Money - no real surprise - rules where a player plays. There are other reasons. Sometimes teams don't want a player to stick around. But if players are expected to move, why should fans stick to cheering for a single team their entire life? It's easy to call new fans to a club (especially after a championship season) a bandwagon jumper. I'm particularly disgusted when people begin to cheer for the last Canadian team in the playoffs for the sole reason that "their Canada's team." Who cares? There are many Canadians on other teams.

For my entire hockey-watching life I've cheered for the Leafs despite not having many reasons to; sure, they had good years but what have they done lately? Through all the horrible boardroom decisions, I've stuck by the Leafs and while players are not expected to show loyalty to a club, I can't imagine switching sides any time soon.

But that's hockey. Regarding football, er, soccer, I decided that my support for Chelsea was a bit misplaced having only come about because a favourite striker joined the club. The striker has faded, and the club and its boardroom antics pushed me away from them. I've chosen a different side to support, this time FC Barcelona. I guess it's easier to do this when you are thousands of kilometres away. Maybe if I left Southern Ontario I could consider caring about another hockey team.