Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Review: Jerusalem

Jerusalem Jerusalem by Alan Moore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Moore is more commonly known as a writer of graphic novels such as V for Vendetta and Watchmen. This novel is almost 1500 pages long, which makes it a bit of commitment to read. In fact, according to Wikipedia, Jerusalem is one of the top 20 longest books ever written. The entire story takes place in the UK town of Northampton, specifically the neighborhood called The Boroughs. This is Moore’s hometown, and as such, he fills it with a lot of local color. One could argue that The Boroughs is the true protagonist of the novel, since all other characters wander in and out of the story sporadically over the course of centuries, though most of the story takes place in the 20th Century, so our characters meet and interact now and then. The book is divided into three parts, the first introduces pretty much all of the characters via slice of life chapters. These vignettes show us their lives in their particular time and place in The Boroughs. Some of the characters are mad and some are ghosts. Some are wistful in their reminisces and others are just trying to get by. There is a focus on how things change throughout the neighborhood, yet through their myriad stories we see how much has remained the same, such as street names and Doddridge Church with its curious door halfway up on side of the building. (Many characters wonder at this, but none offer an answer.) The second section, Mansoul, is a little more linear, detailing the events Michael Warren experiences when he was dead. (As a 3 year old, he choked on a cough drop, and was revived at hospital a few minutes later. It was a very long few minutes.) Here he meets a group of ghost children who call themselves the Dead Dead Gang. Like little grubby Virgils, they give Michael a tour of the afterlife. It’s important that he see all that he can because as an adult he will suffer a head injury that will cause him to remember bits of this excursion through Mansoul and he’ll relate it to his artist sister Alma who will create a huge exhibition based on his visions. In the final section of the book, we return to the slice of life model only they seem to all connect to the exhibition, mostly taking place the day before the show.

I feel like I’ll never fully understand the book even if I read it a dozen times. It’s so epic in scope and proportion and contains so much information that it’s a bit overwhelming. This isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy it, because I did. There were characters absolutely loved, like Freddy Allen and Black Charley. I enjoyed how Moore played with language, writing one chapter in verse and another in play format. It held my interest, certainly, though I took several breaks to read other things (gotta keep up with the book club, after all). I fully understand if the length of the book is a deterrent, but I still think it’s a good read. If you’re a fan of Alan Moore, this is worth checking out. If you’re interested in Northampton history, give it a shot.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Review: Love Is Love: a comic book anthology to benefit the survivors of the Orlando Pulse shooting

Love Is Love: a comic book anthology to benefit the survivors of the Orlando Pulse shooting Love Is Love: a comic book anthology to benefit the survivors of the Orlando Pulse shooting by Marc Andreyko
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After the shooting at Pulse, an LGBTQIA night club in Orlando, comics creators came together to create this anthology that responds to the attack and celebrates love in its various forms. Each creative team got a page (or occasionally two) for their comic. Some chose to use the space for a more traditional comic layout, others opted for a full-page print. The shooting was in June of 2016 and I didn't have a chance to read this book until just now in March 2017, three months after its publication. As a result, the event that sparked the book was no longer in the forefront of my mind (soooooo much has happened in the world since then), so the comics that were a direct response to the attack didn't have the emotional impact for me that they would have had I read them closer to June. That's on me, of course (and perhaps the world in general for being so crazy these last several months). The comics I liked best were personal stories, not the ones featuring superheroes. Batman musing while walking through the crime scene felt weird to me, rather than reverent. On the other hand, the comics that featured canonically queer characters like Poison Ivy and Batwoman were pretty good. I especially liked an image of Batwoman holding an American flag that is also a LGBTQIA Pride flag, drawn by Rafael Albuquerque. A purchase of this book sends funds directly to survivors and their families via Equality Florida, so it's obviously for a good cause, but more than that it's a testament to the power of comics to make a positive difference in the world.

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Monday, August 17, 2015

Oregon Trail Days 6-8

I arrived in Oregon over two weeks ago, but it took awhile to get the entries written for my roadtrip. I'll be posting one each day or so.

I got in late to my cousin's place in Los Angeles. She lives near Alhambra.

The view from her house:

It was really great catching up with R, since we haven't seen each other in, ohhh, about 9 years. She has a dog named Artie who's a total sweetheart. I wanted to steal him, but he wouldn't have fit in my car. ;)

Here he is, giving me serious side-eye:

I rested there for a day before continuing north toward Oregon. Fun fact: California is a really big state. I only got as far as Weed before I needed to stop for the night on Friday. I was on a bit of a schedule since I had an interview on the Oregon coast on Saturday. Unfortunately, the people in the room above me at the hotel in Weed were elephants. Seriously, the ceiling shuddered from their movements. I wasn't able to sleep until after they went to bed. At midnight. And I had to wake up at 5 AM. Ugh.

Finally, I arrived in Oregon!

It took several more hours to get to my coastal interview, and then another hour back toward Portland to my hotel, but the trip was done. Finally.

I spent about a week simultaneously job hunting and apartment hunting. I ended up with an apartment in Vancouver, WA (just across the river from Portland) and a job in an eastern suburb of Portland. The commute is annoying, but the job itself is good. So yay! All settled. All done. All good. Goodnight. <3

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Oregon Trail Day 5

I arrived in Oregon over two weeks ago, but it took awhile to get the entries written for my roadtrip. I'll be posting one each day or so.

Grand Canyon Day!!!

The parking attendant was so amused by T-Rex, who has been sitting beside me this entire trip, that she accidentally marked my car as having two occupants. Then she said goodbye to him as we drove away and into the park.

I was on the south side of the canyon and walked along one of the trails on the rim.

I stopped to sit for a moment and found a lizard.

Obligatory Grand Canyon selfie:

I'm so friggin' pale, I garner concern from perfect strangers:

Dude: I hope you have sunblock.
Me: Oh yeah!
Dude: 'Cause I need sunglasses just to look at you.
Me: I'll probably be burnt anyway.

Spoiler: I totally got burnt anyway.

On into California, I spotted my first palm tree in Needles, CA. I also noticed a distinct lack of billboards on this part of the highway. That changed as I got closer to civilization, but it was really weird to go from billboards, billboards everywhere to nada.

The mountains here look more like big sand dunes than mountiains:

This picture is blurry but the hills here look like Morla from The Never-Ending Story.

Next stop: Oregon!

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Oregon Trail Day 4

I arrived in Oregon over two weeks ago, but it took awhile to get the entries written for my roadtrip. I'll be posting one each day or so.

Unlike Bugs Bunny who fails to take a left turn and ends up in a bullfighting ring...

...I took a right turn on my way out of Albuquerque and went to the Petroglyph National Monument at Boca Negra Canyon.

It seemed someone decided to add their own glyph to one of the rocks. (Note the unhappy face.)

The view from the canyon was amazing.

(You can see my car in the above picture.)

I stopped at a truck stop which had a lookout point for the Great Continental Divide

I entered Arizona at about noon that day.

I had intended to drive to the Grand Canyon that day, but when I saw a sign for the Petrified Forest National Park, well, I had to make a detour. On the north side of the highway is the Painted Desert; on the south side is the Petrified Forest.

The Painted Desert

An attempted murder at a lookout point:

Petrified Forest

I made some friends at the park museum:

Near the end of my drive that day, I saw another sign for a meteor crater site. Naturally, I had to stop there too. As I walked toward the front door, a family was leaving and the father stated that it was biggest waste of money. I got a little worried at that point and found out what he meant at the counter: Tickets were $18.00. I was already at the counter and it would have been really awkward to turn around and walk out at that point, so I ponied up and went out to the crater.

At least I got some good pictures:

Mount Elden in the distance as I drove into Flagstaff:

Next stop: Los Angeles

For more pictures, click here. Password: dysentery

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Oregon Trail Day 3

I've already arrived in Oregon, but it took awhile to get the entries written for my roadtrip. I'll be posting one each day or so.

I was about to Washita County in Oklahoma when I noticed that the dirt was red, rather than brown. As an Illinoisan this struck me as really cool and my first real sign that I was in the Southwest.

I honestly expected the “Welcome to Texas” sign to be more ostentatious, being Texas and all. So you can image my disappointment at just this:

I drove through Texas (from Nashville, TN to California, actually) on I-40 and it’s right on the border of Gray and Donley counties. The road itself weaves in and out of the two counties, such that while I didn’t notices the curves in the road very much, I certainly noticed that I entered Gray county after leaving Donley county after leaving Gray county after leaving Donley county. I was super confused until I looked at a map just now.

At the 110 exit for Groom, Tx, there’s a huge cross. I’m familiar with the one in Effingham, IL which was built after this one. I wonder if Groom’s cross is lit up at night like Effingham’s.

Now, on my road trip, I religiously drove about 5 miles an hour over the speed limit. I refused to go any faster because I really really really didn’t want to get pulled over, especially with all my stuff in my car and with an out-of-state license plate. So there’s this White SUV in front of me but in the left lane going the speed limit and since that’s slower than me, I’m going to end up passing the SUV on the right. When I got up closer, I realised the SUV was a sherriff’s car and was like, “I’llllllll just slow down a bit then, shall I? Good. Yes. Driving the speed limit isn’t so hard after all, now is it? Noooooo.” Thankfully the Sherriff SUV exited a mile or so later.

There is a county in Texas called Deaf Smith.

Shortly after that, I entered New Mexico, Land of Enchantment (A far more exciting sign than Texas’.)

I pulled over in Tucumcari to take pictures of Tucumcari Mountain. It’s actually a butte, but they call it a mountain, because why not.

I stopped to go to the Mesalands Dinosaur Museum in Tucumcari, NM but it was closed on Mondays. So sad.

Throughout New Mexico I noticed signs stating, “Scheduled Improvement. Cost : $$$$$$ estimate of Completion: Fall 2014” It’s Summer 2015….. I didn’t get a picture of any of the the signs and couldn’t find any online either, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

There was a roadside stop that had several billboards promoting it for miles before getting anywhere near it. Once approaching the exit, the billboards went on overdrive:

That night I stayed at Nativo Lodge in Albuquerque. It was a 3-star hotel I booked through Priceline using the Name Your Own Price function. I highly recommend it. The view from my room:

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Next Stop: Flagstaff