Friday, May 27, 2005


Just about anybody who's reading comics these days knows Brian Michael Bendis is writing some incredible stuff. His pen has been all over Spider-man, the New Avengers and Daredevil. I highly recommend picking up the latter. I just got part three in his newest storyline: Decalogue. The superhero is rarely even drawn in a single panel. The story is about a group of citizens from Hell's Kitchen who are holding a meeting in a church conference room--almost like an AA meeting--to discuss how Daredevil has affected their lives. Thus, although Daredevil is "absent" from the books, he is the central figure throughout. One story is about a man who is the son of an imprisoned hit-man, a bomber for hire who once planted a bomb to try and kill Matt Murdock. The father passes on a mission to his son, a hit on Murdock's best friend, Foggy. I won't tell you what happens, but the story is about an ordinary guy who has to choose between salvaging a relationship with his father and doing the "right" thing. Each chapter has brought in some sort of conflict which is grounded in a more realistic style than we see in most books. That's not to say there aren't supernatural elements--there are--but the stories are told from the point of view of humans, not super-humans (similar to Alex Ross' Marvels).

Another book worth checking out is the Ultimates: Galactus Nightmare, the first in trio of books about the coming of Galactus. This is not the David and Goliath story of yore where a big guy in a purple suit gets appeased by Reed Richards. This is some bleak, scary stuff. Here's a glimpse: long, long ago the Russians found an alien guy who came to warn us of impending doom. Did they listen? Hell, no. InsteaD, they dissected him and stuck his parts on soldiers, turning them into superfreaks. Then they buried them in a bunker when funds for the program ran out--where they stayed (along with the alien, still alive even after all the salvaging of his parts). The alien (what's left of him) sends out a message, cuz evidently the time of Galactus' arrival is imminent. The Ultimates send a team to investigate. The X-men send a team to investigate. And they have to battle through a nightmarish dungeon of crazy-ass Russian mutants. Sam Wilson, aka the Falcon, is introduced and his character rocks. He is a techno-whiz (he creates his wings), and we get to see his first meeting with Captain America, Sgt Fury and teh Black Widow. The writing here was fun--and maybe even ground-breaking. I realized that this is the first time I've EVER seen a major comic book scene in which the black guy was clearly the smartest one on the team--and that detail was amplified by the way Captain America bows to Wilson's mental prowess. I'll say no more except that the alien turns out to be a major character from the old Avengers. It's a smart way to introduce him.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Death of a Colleague

Today a teacher at my school died. A couple of weeks from retirement--after 25 or 30 years of teaching--he had a mild heart attack. He was expected to recover. He passed away quietly sitting in his back yard.

He was not a good teacher. I would have to say, objectively, he was a bad teacher, one who did not teach his students the skills they needed to succeed at the next level of education.

Just this morning, our department was planning, half-heartedly, some "nice" things to do for him at the end-of-the-year faculty luncheon. Although he was not planning to return to school, he would return for the luncheon; he was the type of man who needed that sense of closure, or more to the point, to hear nice things said about him.

Today, people were talking about having a memorial for him on campus somewhere. I understand, I think. A comrade has fallen. It's true; no matter what you think of how he measured up as a teacher or what kind of man he was, the fact remains that he was one of us. And death quakes the living. Some need a way to fight back, I suppose, and so they reach for flowers and memorials and each other. A memorial would be fine--but honestly it would not be a testomonial to the man or the teacher. "He was a nice guy but a horrible teacher." I doubt anybody will profane the dead in this way. Thus, this monument will be for the living, a premptive strike against our own deaths. One teacher reacted to his death by saying, "We are going to fucking die here." Yes, we will. He was talking about this high school, but widen the scope and it's still true. We're all going to die here, there or wherever. And so we will build a memorial to the nice man who had a hard life and wasted the time of many of his students because we are all going to die and now one more of us is dead and what else is there to do?

I'll leave you (the two people reading this) with a poem by Stephen Dunn which seems appropriate.

On the Death of a Colleague

She taught theater, so we gathered 
in the theater.
We praised her voice, her knowledge,
how good she was
with Godot and just four months later
with Gigi.
She was fifty.  The problem in the liver.
Each of us recalled
an incident in which she'd been kind
or witty.
I told how she'd placed her hand
where the failure was,
taught me to speak from my diaphragm.
I was on stage
and heard myself wishing to be impressive.
Someone else spoke
of her cats and no one spoke
of her face
or the last few parties.
The fact was
I had avoided her for months.
It was a student's turn to speak, a sophomore,
one of her actors.
She was a drunk, he said, often came to class

Sometimes he couldn't look at her, the blotches,
the awful puffiness.
And yet she was a great teacher,
he loved her,
but thought someone should say
what everyone knew
because she didn't die by accident.

Everyone was crying.  Everyone was crying and it
was almost over now.
The remaining speaker, an historian, said he'd cut
his speech short.
And the Chairman stood up as if by habit,
said something about loss
and thanked us for coming.  None of us moved
except some students-
to the student who'd spoken, and then others
moved to him, across dividers,
down aisles, to his side of the stage.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

You will be assimilated

From my friend Jonathan's blog (, you too are turned to the creepy world of children as aliens:

Go here now:

Resistence is futile.

Monday, May 09, 2005


I find myself returning to perennial question: Is this IT?

Thirty six years old, a clever home, a family, a job teaching motivated children, a Rottweiler, a decent jump-shot, steady bowel movements and a nascent wine-collection. My wife doesn't like me playing video games so much; I'm addicted she says. And she's probably right. But I like them, and we fight about them (among other things). And I stop, mostly, until I un-stop. I like them because in the fantasy land of first person shooters, I am in control, I stop thinking about...well, everything. I disconnect.

When I return to the world, I'm a bit groggy, sometimes cranky and almost always completely unfulfilled. So, usually, I turn back for more. Which is when my wife gets REALLY angry. I can tell she's angry because her shoe is hitting me on the head, and her arm is attached to it (the shoe, that is) and her face is kind of red and squishy like she just bit down on a hot chile pepper.

I get depressed when my wife doesn't like me. But then I get more depressed when I realize, why should she like me? I mean, I don't really like me--otherwise I wouldn't spend so much time forgetting about myself. Or maybe it's my life I don't like--or is there a difference?

I shouldn't complain because I've got all those things I listed before, plus a step-son who can write better poetry than me and a new fan which has three speeds and a timer. And yet, I find myself sighing through much of the day. I worry about racism. I think most teachers at my school whine a lot. I don't have enough money to buy a hot tub with a lounge seat and adjustable jets. IS THIS ALL THERE IS?

I turn to Camus: "There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering this fundamanetal question of philosophy. All the rest--whether or not the world has three dimensions, whether the mind has nine to twelve categories--comes afterward." A little later: "I have never seen anyone die for the ontological argument." I'd have to agree with Albert here; having raised the toilet seat of my existence, I have not seen anything so unpleasant or disturbing which would drive me to give it all up.

Does that mean that all of my questioning, my existential angst and such, is just superfluous whining? I mean, I've made my decision, right? I got out of bed and decided NOT to kill myself. Not conscciously perhaps--and maybe that is an even better sign. I didn't even consider suicide an option this morning as I bit into my apple fritter and found it was stale. Or would the consideration of suicide, going through the decision-making process each morning make life BETTER? Is that my problem? Am I not suicide-worthy? Should I go into therapy and ressurect the depressing landscape of my childhood? THEN there'd be some reasons to stick my head in a stove!

It seems to me that having consciously or unconsciously decided to live means that I shouldn't get to be afraid or disturbed or worried about anything. I don't know a damn thing. I don't know what to do with my life, what would be fulfilling, whether there is a God or whether LOST will make it to a second season; I don't know whether I'm making a difference in people's lives or what I should do to have butt-loads of fun like I did when I was in college and lived off my parents' fortune with six other guys who punched holes in the ceiling. I don't know a thing, and yet I've decided to not kill myself. Ergo: even with all of this uncertainity, life is not horrifying or boring enough for me to end it. The rest is gravy--big vats of thick, steaming gravy with bacon in it. To complain about anything at this point seems absurd.

So really, shouldn't I just get to play all the video games I want?