Friday, July 31, 2009

Profiles in Geekery

This was one of a handful of comic books that I kept when I liquidated my collection a few years ago. "Green Lantern/Green Arrow" #107 is nothing particularly spectacular -- a fairly forgettable story -- but it (or rather, another copy of the same issue) was the first superhero comic that I ever read. So without this, I might have saved a lot of money over the years and developed moderate social skills before my twenties.

The cover date is August 1978; I'm not sure what the lag time was between real dates and comic cover dates at that point, but I must have got this shortly after the family moved back from Europe. I have a vague memory that I got it in Savannah, Georgia, but I'm notoriously unreliable on stuff like that.

The plot... well, you may need a little primer in Green Lanternism for this particular issue. GL originally got his ring from another Green Lantern, who died here on Earth. And it doesn't work on yellow, which meant that writers had to work in a yellow threat and force their guy to get creative.

In this issue, he's gallivanting around the heavens, and he sees a deadly (yellow) comet about to plow into a planet. He realizes that the planet is the one his predecessor is from, and since he can't stop the (yellow) comet, he heads on down to tell everyone to get out.

Sadly, upon getting down there, he realizes: no one told the people that his predecessor was dead. GL had been published for 15+ years at this point so you'd think he might have stopped by with flowers, but no. The people of the planet freak out seeing him in the costume, freak out further when he says "yeah, I'm wearing it because the other guy kicked off," don't believe him about the comet for reasons too ridiculous to go into, then beat the crap out of him even though he has this super-powerful ring. They don't even use yellow baseball bats, they just clock him on the head.

Then they see the comet and really quickly decide that maybe this guy's not so bad, if he might save them from the threat. This leads to this classic sequence:

I'm pretty sure this is a bad idea

He ... bounces the moon around until it knocks the comet away. I'm no astrophysicist, but that strikes me as something that might have some unintended consequences down the line. If someone more science-minded would care to tell me what happens when you knock a moon out of its orbit -- I'm betting something bad -- I'm all ears. And that doesn't even get into whether you can actually knock a comet around like this. Seriously, Green Lantern, you've probably just screwed up all over the place.

(When I was five years old, I probably thought this was great.)

He seems to have forgotten about that super-powerful ring again, hasn't he?

By story's end, all's well, except the inhabitants of Ungara are probably all dead because of whatever that moon business did to their planet. Green Lantern (who, at this point, was a long-haul trucker in his Hal Jordan identity) is only concerned about vegetables that he could presumably transport in a matter of minutes using the ring thing.

Thanks in part to getting my start with this issue, Green Lantern became my favorite character early on -- I remember subsequent issues featuring him facing off against a Spanish ghost and then a guy with a giant eyeball-laser on his mask. Green Arrow was booted from the title within about two years after this issue, which made the stories more cosmic in orientation and made me lose a bit of interest. I liked it more when Hal had a few people to hang around, people to tell about his moon-relocating adventures.

In later decades, GL was turned into a recovered alcoholic, turned evil, then killed and turned into a ghost. Now since I quit reading comics, he's been resurrected and reformed. Quite a career for anyone.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

We've Got A Bigger Problem Now

Overheard last night: a woman talking about a friend of hers, who apparently didn't understand that to get maximum efficiency out of birth control pills, you need to be taking them regularly before you get pregnant. America's in trouble.

* * *

#52 -- "The Solitaire Mystery" by Jostein Gaardner

#53 -- "The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick" by Peter Handke

I picked up "The Solitaire Mystery" to see if I wanted to keep it around -- I read it in 1998 or so -- and intending to just skim a few pages, I ended up halfway through the book before I looked up. It's not so much engrossing as just easy and rather pleasant. It's more aimed at young adults, but what the hell, I like the mix of fantasy, reality, and beat-you-over-the-head metaphors. It's a fun read.

One quibble: way back when I read horror novels, I couldn't stand Dean R. Koontz books in part because of his insistence on including an overly precocious/wise-beyond-his-years child in every one (except for one that had an overly precocious/wise-beyond-his-years dog). The kid in this book would fit in to a Koontz novel pretty easily.

"Goalie" was recommended to me by the much-missed Vak Fan, and geez it's grim. If Camus wrote a soccer goalie into "The Stranger," you'd more or less have this. It's an impressive achievement in its unflinching look at everything that's crappy about humans, but I can't say I exactly enjoyed the experience. I kinda needed a hug after this one.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Dream, 7/17/2009

Back of sushi restaurant, Boulder

Today's the last day of vacation. I've been back in Atlanta for a few days, with not much notable to report, other than a few really weird, vivid dreams. A couple are very specifically work-related and thus not worth mentioning here, but one was kinda interesting.

I had moved to Durango, Colorado (home of a few real-life friends), with my sights set on trying out for the high school football team. (I remained 36 years old in the dream.) I made the team, but on the day we were all supposed to turn out, I ditched the team and remained at the cabin where I was living. I was sitting on the front porch, with a rather steep drop-off to my right -- I was looking down at a vast abyss, with clouds and sky beneath me. (It was more or less the same sight you get looking out the right-side passenger window of an airplane -- the very seat I had on Wednesday.) From somewhere beneath my cabin, planes were emerging into the sky below me.

Far off, I could hear cheers and explosions as the football team was introduced to the public. The football coach got in touch with me and chewed me out for ditching the team -- I remained silent. Then, someone asked me if I'd be willing to smuggle marijuana back to Atlanta.

Go figure.

* * *

I never did review the last two books I read, and I've read a few more since then, and I'm running short on review-energy -- so just a brief wrap-up.

#48 -- "Final Salute" by Jim Sheeler

#49 -- "Death in Venice" by Thomas Mann

#50 -- "Heart of a Dog" by Mikhail Bulgakov

#51 -- "Bitter Fruit" by Stephen Schlesinger and Stephen Kinzer

Quickly: "Final Salute" won Jim the Pulitzer, and it's fantastic, of course. Absolutely heart-wrenching. "Death in Venice" hasn't held up well over the years -- it's turgid and plotting and I couldn't get into it at all. 66 pages and it felt like four times that. "Heart of a Dog," much better. It's been years since I read "Master and Margarita," which I liked a lot, and this one goes on the approved list too. And "Bitter Fruit," the tale of the American-sponsored coup in 1950s Guatemala, is well-researched and gripping but could have stood a bit more expansion on how the coup played out in the decades to come -- it was interesting stuff but gone over really quickly.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Watch the Skies

It wouldn't be a trip back to Colorado without sky shots.

What a great state. Seeya next time, Colorado.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Few Of My Favorite Things (Boulder Style)

Depart tomorrow, to my chagrin. It's been a fantastic trip.

Just a few of my favorite things about Boulder:

La Estrellita Chili

As I've mentioned before, I love green chili, but suck at making it. As I apparently haven't mentioned before, finding good green chili in Atlanta is more-or-less impossible. I've yet to find any, store-bought or restaurant. So I cast my net homeward.

La Estrellita used to be my favorite Boulder restaurant, before closing its location out here, which dimmed my enthusiasm. The old location's been cursed since -- it was a nightclub, then a library-themed pub, and now it's this:

(A ghost sign on the side is visible back here, sixth pic down.) Thankfully, while it's not running in Boulder, La Estrellita still has locations elsewhere and its chili is still available in King Soopers grocery stores. A couple jars of this and cooking at home improves a lot.

On the chili front, I also must praise the Village Coffee Shop, which has been around Boulder forever but I've been to about twice. Dad and I went this morning for their breakfast burrito and I hereby pronounce it legendary. Sadly, their green chili isn't for sale in jars, so that's one more reason to move back.

The Walnut Brewery

Previously wrote about it here; I've been in a rut for a few years now where I only drink the St. James Red, but the others are (as I recall) fantastic. Pretty good food too.

The Boulder Book Store

My all-time favorite bookstore, I'm always relieved to come back and see it still going strong. It fended off a Borders that went in a bit down Pearl (the Borders later moved), and no matter how many times I tell myself "no more books" I end up dropping $40 at the BBS each time I visit. Added bonus: a cool coffee shop attached to it. If you ever are at the Boulder Book Store and there isn't an old hippie playing acoustic guitar right outside, you get an elusive square in Boulder Bingo. As seen above, I didn't get it.

Juanita's Bumper Stickers

The Book Worm

The Boulder Book Store is my favorite new bookstore, the Book Worm my favorite used place. It's in an unassuming little building off 28th and has one of the best contemporary fiction sections I've seen in a used bookstore. I guess Boulder readers have better taste. Or perhaps worse, since they're getting rid of the stuff I like.

Boulder Public Library

As is probably easy to imagine, I hung out at the library a lot as a kid. Back then, the main library was a large atrium, with the second story above packed with every book known to man. Well, not quite, but I was impressed. Now, it's radically reorganized from my childhood, but I still love it. It's a peaceful place. I realized on this trip that when I read about libraries -- in "Gold Bug Variations," say -- I picture Boulder's. It's appeared in dreams, too.

Not certain, but perhaps I'm not the only person who feels that way. I seem to recall that Stephen King based the description of a library in "It" on the Boulder Public Library building. But I can't find any backing for that on the internet, and I haven't read "It" in 20 years, so perhaps I imagined it.

A couple library memories: spending 12 hours gorging myself on peanuts and apples at a fifth grade sleepover, then going straight to the library with my mother after she picked me up. With my stomach not feeling too great, I made a beeline for the library bathroom, but the lone stall was occupied -- so I threw up copiously in a urinal. As I went at it, a homeless guy strolled out of that stall, and confronted with the image of me with face in urinal, started laughing uproariously.

Also, I checked out a Thomas Boswell baseball book in 1989, and then had it slip into my stuff as we moved to Arizona. When I moved back in 1996, I sheepishly dropped it into the book return. I still feel kinda guilty about that.

* * *

Went to my first Colorado Rapids game while I was out here, and really enjoyed the experience. Perhaps it was the perfect weather, but Dick's Sporting Goods Park, aside from the nightmare of a name, is a good setting. Low-slung stadium with no other large buildings around, so the sky (that sky again) is all you see beyond the stadium. It was a pretty great game, and Rapids defender Kosuke Kimura established himself as a favorite for both me and my sister with insane hustle and the lone goal. The fan base is both laid-back and knowledgeable and the tickets are cheap. If/when I come back, I'll be a regular.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Post-Pessimist Association and the Mystery of Lost Lake

"Lost Lake" -- sounds like there should have been a Hardy Boys mystery set there. There's no real mystery to it, though, and it's not exactly lost. I mean, I made it there and I'm not Magellan.

Very nice hike, though, particularly after I packed in yesterday's hike up Mount Sanitas on account of pounding heart. This one was a little less straight up and a bit more shaded.

Photos? Why, yes:

The hike's in the Indian Peaks area, near the ghost town of Hessie (really ghostly: I think there's nothing left, other than a sign sayingsomething to the effect of "Hessie was around here once"). The above is the road into (and out of) Hessie. You can see why it didn't really make it as a town.

Ended up wrestling three of 'em.

I thought these trees looked really cool, until I found out that they've been destroyed by pine beetles and are now just husks waiting for a timely lightning strike to send the whole area up in flames. Great.

And flowers! My budding career as a nature photographer is now in effect.

Sure is a pretty state. At this point, attempts at witty commentary end and it's pics only.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Joe It Goes

So vacation, and for once I have stuff to write about, but also a lack of inclination/desire/time. Oh well. A couple hockey things:

I'm glad I was back in Colorado to watch Joe Sakic's retirement ceremony yesterday. The realistic part of me knows it's for the best. The fan in me wanted him to go on forever.

I'm not much for hagiography but it was a pleasure to watch the guy play over the years. At my job (bear with me) there's a couple guys that I've known over the years that simply improve things by their presence; they're calming influences even when they aren't involved. The Elk calls them "visual valium." Sakic was like that -- seeing him on the ice, everything seemed okay.

* * *

Other hockey notes: I was concerned about the lack of news on Tomáš Klouček, but apparently he's signed with Barys Astana for another year, so that's all right. And not sure how this slipped by me, but while HC Kometa Brno failed to earn promotion to the Extraliga this past season, I guess they've been promoted anyhow. They're going in through the back door -- apparently HC Znojmo ran into financial trouble or didn't pay their dues or something like that, so they get bounced down and Kometa moves up, and gets a lot of the good Znojmo players in the process (among them Jiri Dopita, a bust in the NHL but a badass over in the Czech Rep). So perhaps not the preferred method, but hey, Kometa's in the top league! The PPA gets results!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Emotional Archaeology

Two storefronts that had a great impact on me once upon a time, now being used for other purposes:

Back in the '80s, this was Time Warp Comics, site of my first "job" (I was paid in comics -- at age 13 that was all I needed) and most of my adolescent energies. My friend Andy and I were allowed to come in and make sure everything was kept stocked. It may have just been that we were already around all the time on weekends, so why not?

The store held legendary auctions, which were the highlights for me: twelve-hour days, a packed store, really hard-to-find items (pre-internet) up for sale. I got the old Keith Giffen Legion of Super-Heroes poster at one of those. Probably one of the best moments of my early teenage years.

Time Warp moved shortly after I did; after a few subsequent moves, it's apparently still around in north Boulder (and here it is). The Beat Book Shop is now in the space at 1717 Pearl. I'm pretty sure it's been there since Time Warp vacated. I'm not a Kerouac fan but the Beat is one of those places that I'm happy to see living on in Boulder, particularly on Pearl's East End, which is unrecognizable from the late '90s, much less my childhood.

This is the former office of the Boulder Planet, a space that has gone through several changes since the Planet departed this planet: a drum store, a medieval clothing store, and a general store. Since bongos and Renaissance Faires are two of my least favorite things, I'm glad to see it's now something considerably more appropriate: a bar. It wasn't open yet when I walked by yesterday, so I just peeked through the windows. It's all still recognizable -- hey, that's where I sat. That's where so-and-so was. I remember the desk there. Etc. It might be a bit weird to go in and drink in there. Lots of memories and emotions still tied to the place. But I'm glad to see it's being put to more noble purposes. If you're in town, it's George's, so go by and tell them that you read some thing by a guy who worked in the office there once. I'm sure they'll be ecstatic.

* * *

I do read on vacation...

#46 -- "Garden, Ashes" by Danilo Kis

#47 -- "The Year of Living Biblically" by A.J. Jacobs

...and I'll write more about them later.

Monday, July 06, 2009

The Green Hills of Boulder

That's the scene from my parents' back porch, and it's not a normal one in Colorado in July. Over the last decade plus, it's generally been pretty dry here, but this year it's rain, rain, rain and as a result the place is lousy with hues of emerald more frequently associated with Dublin than with Denver.

I've done absolutely nothing other than hang out with the family, read, and drink beer over the past couple days and that's how I like it. Weather's great, wish you were here, and I've got more than a week to go in town. The stress has just melted away.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Summer Doldrums

There was a time, not that long ago, when NHL free agency day was in the top ten days on my yearly calendar. I remember 2001, when I went to bed wondering if Sakic, Forsberg, and Blake would be elsewhere in the morning -- I woke up to find them all re-signed, and figured the Colorado Avalanche had locked up the next four Stanley Cups. Har de har. Even in recent years, I've been rapt. There was 2007, when Smyth and Hannan meant happy times ahead -- again, didn't quite work out as I planned. 2008, the wheels started to come off with the Tucker/Raycroft haul, two players I didn't want to see in a Colorado uniform.

After last year's hockey disaster, I didn't pay too much attention today. I've got a job, y'know. But at least so far, I'm pretty happy -- Craig Anderson is a safe, decent pick that at least won't screw them long-term, and David Koci may be an enforcer, but he's a Czech enforcer so that's plus-one in Gregland. Add in the Thrashers getting Kubina (plus two) and I'm ok with this. Neither team's set to really rock the world next year but at least they aren't making dumb moves.

No word yet on any deal for Tomáš Klouček.

* * *

Head back to Colorado at the end of the week, and thank goodness. It's been six or seven months since I've been, first time off work since returning from surgery, and since it's pretty consistently flirting with 100 degrees here, any chance to get out of Georgia should be seized upon.

#44 -- "Tree of Smoke" by Denis Johnson

#45 -- "Their Heads Are Green and Their Hands Are Blue" by Paul Bowles

Noah lent me a copy of Johnson's "Angels" 15 or so years ago, and I don't remember much about it other than an overwhelming spareness and feeling of desperation and sadness. This is certainly desperate and sad, but very full and rich as well -- "The Quiet American" stretched over the whole of the Vietnam War. A big cast of characters, each one coming to life, and I was engrossed. It rockets up to one of the best reads so far this year.

The Bowles book is a collection of essays about the "non-Christian world" (from the subtitle), primarily North Africa. A bit more light-hearted than "The Sheltering Sky" and there's some very good pieces here, and it made me nostalgic for a world that is largely changed or gone since Bowles traveled it decades back.