What I bought, read, or otherwise consumed – August 2018

Society had tamed the erratic fellow by co-opting him into the mainstream. For its largest threats, society reserves success. (Richard Powers, from Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance)

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carré. 379 pgs, Simon & Schuster, 1974.

The second Le Carré book I read (after last month’s The Spy Who Came In From The Cold) is this one, another of his highly regarded books. This one is meatier and better written than TSWCIFTC, but it’s also not as lean, which makes it not as gripping as that earlier book. It’s still quite good, as Le Carré writes about his favorite character, George Smiley, and his quest to find a mole inside British Intelligence. Smiley goes about this in the most deliberate way possible, which is why the novel moves so slowly, as Smiley digs and digs, making connections, finding people to interview, and uncovering hidden gems which become important only much later. He writes deliberately obliquely, introducing characters such as Jim Prideaux in odd contexts, only for things to be revealed much later. The novel doesn’t unfold chronologically, either, and all of the action takes place off-page or in the reminiscences of the characters, which is why it’s such a thicket to get through, because we’re never sure exactly how Smiley will connect all the dots. It’s not surprising that it’s acclaimed as a great spy novel, because the way it’s written feels like the way spycraft works – things come up, but the spy is never quite sure if they’re important because they lack the necessary context for it all. Le Carré also does a decent job showing how, as the decades passed, the British declined while the Americans took the lead in the Cold War, along with the jealousy that engendered in British Intelligence, and he manages to give the mole a sympathetic speech about why he did it. It’s not a perfect book – the sections about Prideaux and what he’s doing seem to be leading somewhere but don’t, really – but it’s pretty compelling. It’s interesting comparing it to the 2011 movie, as some things work better on screen and some things more better on the page. Peter Guillam’s theft of sensitive documents is much more gripping in the book than in the movie, for instance. That’s kind of strange. Overall, this is a good spy novel, despite Le Carré trying as hard as he can to drain all the action from spy novels. It’s intense, but not filled with action, which is kind of hard to pull off!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Punks Not Dead #1-6 by David Barnett (writer), Martin Simmonds (artist), Dee Cunniffe (colorist), Aditya Bidikar (letterer), Chase Marotz (assistant editor), and Shelly Bond (editor). $23.94, 130 pgs, FC, IDW.

Punks Not Dead (the lack of an apostrophe is very deliberate) is a pretty keen story that annoys me for one reason: this arc is almost all prologue. Now, we do have to get an explanation how a teenager starts getting haunted by a ghost who calls himself Sid and looks very much like a 1970s punk (Barnett, weirdly, gives something away about Sid in the back matter of issue #1, even though a character doesn’t explain it until much later), and we get interesting introductions to the main characters, and our hero, Fergie, has to discover some things about himself, but it’s still just set-up. It’s drawn beautifully by Simmonds, and the colors are terrific, and the story is fairly funny when it has to be and dramatic when it has to be, and I’d recommend checking out the trade, but I just wanted to warn you: it ends where we feel it should begin. It’s kind of like the first season of Westworld in that regard: we know the robots are going to go sentient and start killing people, so do we need all those episodes leading up to it? (I actually like the first season of Westworld, so it’s not much of a complaint on my part, but come on, that’s why we tuned in – to see robots killing people!) There’s something strange about Fergie, there’s something strange about Sid, and they need to find out what it is and a lady from the government might be their ally or their enemy, depending, I suppose, on what they do. It is, however, quite intriguing. I just hope that Barnett and Simmonds can continue it – I have no idea if these comics are selling well enough or not! Barnett sounds the call for buying single issues, which is fine because they do drive sales, but as always, I point out that if comics companies want to sell single issues and not force people to wait for trades, they need to lower prices on those single issues because trades are usually far more cost-effective. I wanted to buy these in single issues because I like the idea of the “Black Crown” line-up, but I imagine the trade will be, if not cheaper, than the same amount and far easier to keep on a shelf. This is the age-old argument, and I’m not surprised that Barnett wants people to buy single issues, but I have a feeling he’s on the losing side of the battle. Check out the trade of this, because it’s pretty keen.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

Calexit volume 1 by Matteo Pizzolo (writer), Amancay Nahuelpan (artist), Tyler Boss (colorist), Dee Cunniffe (color flatter), Jim Campbell (letterer), and Sebastian Girner (consulting editor). $14.99, 133 pgs, FC, Black Mask Studios.

Naheulpan continues to do amazing work for Black Mask, and I’m wondering how he manages to crank out such good work in such a short time, as the last few years has seen an astonishing output from him. Are some of these things older works that Black Mask is just publishing now? I don’t know, but I know that Nahuelpan is an excellent artist, and he gives Calexit a raw, immediate power that it needs, as it’s supposed to be a contemporary examination of the country right now even though it’s set a few years in the future. It’s pretty clear that it’s about Trump and the immigration problem he believes is destroying the country, so Nahuelpan can’t be too outrageous or it would lose its power, and he nails it. He gives us a rough world where the sides have calcified to a point where reconciliation is probably impossible, but he doesn’t forget that even in war zones, there are enclaves where people are isolated from the horrors of the world. It’s a minor but crucial point. He portrays the main villain of the book as a monster, but shows that he actually does have a home life, and in one panel, he breaks down because he just wants to protect his family, and Nahuelpan does such a nice job with it we can’t be sure if he’s showing true emotion or if he’s just shamming for his wife so she doesn’t realize how horrible he is. The violence is gory and tragic, as the characters often get up close to kill, as if the fact that this is a civil war makes them even more angry at their enemies. Nahuelpan is a very talented artist, and I wonder if bigger companies are going to twig to that sooner rather than later.

Pizzolo makes a good point when it comes to a “Calexit” – California seceding from the union because of Trumpian-style politics: the fact that not all of California is as liberal as Fox News says it is, and the people who control the water and agriculture in the central part of the state are actually very conservative. It’s the fallacy that everyone in the media makes – no state is “blue” or “red,” because liberals and conservatives live everywhere and beside each other every day. (When I lived in Portland, this was very clear, as Oregon generally voted liberal even though only a small section of the state – the Willamette Valley, parts of the coast, and a bit along the Columbia – are heavily populated by liberals. The rest of the state was very conservative but they didn’t have the population numbers to resist the Portlanders and their ilk. So the political structure of Oregon was a nice microcosm of the country.) So if California were to secede, there would quickly be a civil war, and Pizzolo makes a story out of this. He wisely focuses on a few characters – Zora the freedom fighter/terrorist, Jamil the apolitical drug dealer, and “Father” Rossie, the monstrous government agent who’s trying to find Zora. Pizzolo is obviously not on the government’s side, but he cleverly shows that Zora might not be the paragon of virtue, either. Jamil, of course, has to choose a side eventually – in stories like this, the neutral party always has to choose a side – and Pizzolo sets up the conflict nicely. Unfortunately, this is mostly set-up, even though it’s well done and very tense set-up. I’m not sure when the second part of the story is coming out, but it definitely needs a second part. We shall see.

If you haven’t seen Nahuelpan’s art yet, you should really grab one of his comics. It makes this a better book, but the story is pretty gripping so far. I’m curious to see where Pizzolo goes with it!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War by Nicholas Lemann. 257 pgs, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006.

I have to stop reading books on American history, because every one of them just pisses me off even more and makes me wonder exactly when America was “great,” as our Orange-Faced Baboon Overlord keeps insisting we’re getting back to. This book will anger you unless you have a cold, black heart, as Lemann decides to check out the cheery situation in Mississippi in the early 1870s. Good times! During Reconstruction, the racist losers of the Civil War, who were Democrats, hated the draconian measures placed on them by the victors, who were Republicans (for the most part). Draconian measures like letting black people vote, which was just a bridge too far, sir! I mean, next thing you know those Negroes will want to be educated like they’re people! So the racist Democrats decided to create terror groups that were just slightly more subtle than the Ku Klux Klan (and by subtle, I mean they didn’t dress white sheets when they killed black people, so they were a bit harder to find), and while the official Democratic Party never endorsed them, it was much more of a Claude Rains-in-Casablanca situation than anything else. Lemann focuses the book on Adelbert Ames, a carpetbagger who decided to settle in Mississippi not because he believed in equality for blacks, but because he wanted to make sure that the South was able to rejoin the Union in a peaceful manner. Ames became governor of the state thanks to a vast Republican voter bloc (almost all black, of course), and while in office he actually evolved so he became a fierce protector of the newly-won rights of the black population. Even his Democratic opponents respected him, but that didn’t stop the racist Mississippians from terrorizing the black population in 1874-1876, when they were able to wrest control of the state back from the Republicans. Ames appealed to Ulysses Grant, but by that time Grant was embroiled in his own scandals and his attorney general was a Democrat who argued against sending federal troops, which would have been the only way to guarantee free elections. And the mood of the country was running in the opposite direction of Ames, as Northerners were getting tired of Reconstruction and, being fairly racist themselves, they weren’t too put out by the fact that hundreds of thousands of free Americans were being killed or terrorized into submission. Ames lost the race for re-election, Mississippi and other Southern states figured out that the North wasn’t interested, and we got 70 years or so of Jim Crow laws. And then, in 2018, I wanted to throw this book across the room for making me so angry.

Lemann does a good job telling the story, it’s just that the story is so enraging I can barely interact with it on anything other than a visceral, emotional level. If you think we fought the Civil War to preserve the Union, the North won. Yay, U.S.A.! But if we fought the Civil War to free the slaves, the North failed miserably, and Lemann goes over it in excruciatingly precise detail, from the obfuscation of facts by the racists on the ground and their Democratic allies in Washington; from the ranting of the racists about the great Negro uprising that would destroy them and take their women and for which there was and never has been any evidence; from the reluctance of Grant to do anything to alleviate the situation; and to the bald-faced lying about what was happening that foreshadowed all the megalomaniacs of the future, from that failed painter in Germany to our own Raving Combover King, who know that if you lie loudly enough and often enough, eventually that becomes the truth. Jeebus, it’s like the Tangerine Tyrant is using the Democratic playbook from 1875. I wouldn’t be surprised.

Anyway, Fuck Mississippi. Fuck the South. Fuck the U.S., too, why not? We’re never going to get past this unless we have an honest national conversation about our racist past, but white people get too butthurt about that for it to ever work. So we’ll just keep living with the consequences of racist Mississippians, racist Northerners, and weak-willed presidents. Stupid motherfuckers.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Thicker Than Blood by Simon Reed (writer), Mike Ploog (artist), and Simon Bisley (painter). $9.95, 69 pgs (nice), FC, FPG Universe.

This short (but cheap) trade collects a three-issue mini-series that came out a decade ago, and it’s pretty fun. It’s the story of brothers in Victorian England, one of whom, as you can probably tell from the cover, is a werewolf. His brother is searching for a cure, but to fund that research, he’s also looking for a cure for opium addiction (it’s a humorous touch; several rich English lords are giving him money because they’re all addicted to opium). He drinks a sample that he thinks will help and becomes a Mr. Hyde-like creature. So we have a werewolf and Hyde running around causing a lot of damage. The werewolf left behind a wife and son, so of course she’s searching for him (because he doesn’t want to be around them in case he hurts them), and then there’s the butler. There’s always a butler!

Reed doesn’t re-invent any wheels, but he tells the story with brio, and while there really are no surprises, there’s nothing wrong with a well-told monster story. The big attraction is Ploog’s art, which is fantastic, and Bisley’s colors, which are stunning. Ploog was in his mid-60s when he drew this, and he’s as good as ever, with his cartoony style fitting perfectly with the exaggerated monsters he gives us, and his attention to detail putting us in a dark Victorian world where we can believe more readily in monsters. His “normal” figures are exaggerated, too, but in a way that works well within the framework of the story, as Ploog does what artists often do – show some of the inner darkness of characters through physical oddities. The violence is bloody but never too explicit, and Ploog does his characteristic nice work with facial expressions, showing the terror of those who come across the beasts and the anguish the monsters feel when they realize what they’ve done. Bisley paints the entire thing wonderfully, as he uses vibrant colors throughout to throw the dark shadows into even starker relief. A less confident colorist would have muddied everything, but Bisley knows that the contrast is what works, and the paint work, along with Ploog’s pencils, make this a gorgeous comic. It’s priced to move, and while Reed doesn’t shock us, he writes a solid monster story that allows his artists to shine. So that’s nice.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Vinegar Teeth by Troy Nixey (writer/artist/letterer), Damon Gentry (writer), Guy Major (colorist), Michelle Madsen (colorist), Brett Israel (assistant editor), and Daniel Chabon (editor). $14.99, 93 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

Vinegar Teeth is what happens when Troy Nixey takes a gag (which is reprinted in this book) from several years ago and expands it into a mini-series. The premise is brilliant, honestly: what happens when you team up an alcoholic, grizzled, unpleasant cop with, well, a Lovecraftian monster? Vinegar Teeth (the cop gives the monster this name because that’s what he says it smells like) arrives on Earth in the first few pages, completes what it came here to do, but then we find out that it’s sentient and kind of fun, as it kind-of accidentally thwarts a crime. The police chief teams it up with Artie Buckle, the most annoying cop in the world and also the only cop who doesn’t like the monster. Nixey doesn’t do anything too shocking with this story, as Buckle’s l’il ol’ heart grows three sizes toward the end, when the shit is hitting the fan and Vinegar Teeth is trying to help, but it’s still a fun comic. Crime is slowly increasing throughout the city, people are going crazy, and Buckle and his new partner have to figure out what’s what. Again, Nixey and Gentry don’t really hide what’s happening from us – I won’t give it away, but it’s easy enough to figure out – but they do tell the story confidently and with a wry tone, which makes it comical and fun even as hideous things are happening. Nixey’s art contributes quite a lot to that, as he’s a wonderful artist with a very warped view of the world, which helps make his comics unique and fascinating. I mentioned a few years ago that we don’t see enough of his art, but he’s apparently trying to rectify that a little, and I couldn’t be happier. He draws excellent horrible monsters, but he’s good enough that even though Vinegar Teeth is disgusting, his body language shows that he’s just trying to please Buckle and others and that he’s also more innocent than we might think. It’s an impressive feat, and Nixey does it well. Meanwhile, he creates a place – Brick City – full of odd buildings and machines that look like they were built a century ago but the city has no money to upgrade, which is probably true in that world. It lends a weird, real-but-bizarre quality to the scenery, which only helps the weird narrative move along. Nixey also does some of the more esoteric stuff in the book quite well, with a good gag about the eventual bad guy that works perfectly (and which he explains well, too, in a brief column in the back).

This is just a fun, good-looking comic. It’s not out to change the world, just entertain, and it does that well. It’s good to get more Nixey art in the world!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Death of Love by Justin Jordan (writer), Donal Delay (artist), Omar Estévez (colorist), Felipe Sobreiro (additional colorist), and Rachel Deering (letterer). $16.99, 119 pgs, FC, Image.

Justin Jordan likes writing things with a shit-ton of blood and violence and mayhem, and he does so here, as Philo Harris (clever first name for this book) discovers that he can see Cupidae, the baby angels that go around shooting people with love arrows. They can see him, too, which makes them angry, and so he needs to defend himself, and a lot of Cupids end up butchered. The back of the book blurb and the solicits made this sound like Philo goes around looking for trouble, but he doesn’t really – he really does want to get away from the Cupidae, but they won’t leave him alone. Yes, according to him, “love sucks” (this is from the back of the book), but what makes this comic interesting is why love sucks for Philo. It’s his own damned fault.

Jordan, surprisingly, does a nice takedown of the entire “nice guy” ethos without getting too bogged down in it. Philo is friends with Zoe, but of course he has a massive crush on her. He helps her out and doesn’t push it, but he whines that he’s a nice guy and she’s not giving him the time of day. His best friend, Bob, points out why he’s not really a “nice guy” in a fairly cogent way, but Philo doesn’t really listen. To be fair, Zoe is a bit of an idiot, even telling Philo that she wishes she could find a guy like him, but the point is – Philo expects to be a nice guy and she’ll fall all over him, but he never takes the initiative. He does some not-nice things later in the book (one of which is totally defensible even though it’s underhanded), but Jordan does a good job showing that even if a dude is actually nice, he doesn’t necessarily deserve something for it. You should be nice because you want to be nice, not because you expect a reward. Philo doesn’t see this, so he goes to one of those seminars with the misogynist dude who claims he can make you an alpha male (think Frank T.J. Mackey), but when Philo turns out to be really, really bad at being an alpha male, he takes a pill from a stranger (Jordan makes an odd joke about no man being able to hear the stranger’s name correctly, but if you know any Greek myths, you’ll know who it is fairly easily) and suddenly can see Cupids. One of them is not happy about this, and Philo ends up killing him. The rest of the Cupids know this somehow, and they come looking for Philo. Cue the mayhem!

It’s a clever comic with just enough depth to it that it feels like Philo (and Zoe and Bob, once they can see the Cupidae) are fighting for something real. Jordan makes some nice points about masculinity and what it means, and Delay draws it with frenzied aplomb. It’s a beautiful book – Delay’s style is cartoony, which works well for a book like this, but he can also be very detailed, so the massacres, for instance, are very graphic. A character who shows up late is beautifully drawn and written by Delay and Jordan, taking the book up another notch. Delay also adds goofy sounds effects throughout, which make the book more fun. I haven’t seen Delay’s art before, but it’s very nice.

This is a fun comic with just enough on its mind that it rises above a simple brawl book. Jordan can be quite a good writer, and he does a good job with this. Give it a look!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles by Mark Russell (writer), Mike Feehan (penciller), Howard Porter (artist), Mark Morales (inker), Sean Parsons (inker), José Marzán Jr. (inker), Paul Mounts (colorist), Steve Buccellato (colorist), Dave Sharpe (letterer), and Erika Rothberg (collected edition editor). $16.99, 140 pgs, FC, DC.

Russell wrote a sharp satire with The Flintstones, so I was curious what he could do by, essentially, turning Snagglepuss into Tennessee Williams. I was sure this wouldn’t be quite as satirical as The Flintstones, because the House Un-American Committee was depressing, but I didn’t expect this book to be so by-the-numbers. Russell can write a good story, but he takes no chances with this at all. Snagglepuss is married but the fact that he’s gay is an open secret; he frequents a gay bar that the cops ignore because they’re paid off; he welcomes his old friend Huckleberry Hound to New York when Huckleberry can’t live in the South as a straight man anymore; he shows artists leaving the States when they can’t deal with being pariahs anymore; Marilyn Monroe shows up, as does Arthur Miller and Joe DiMaggio; the woman leading the attack against the artistic community is, naturally, a closeted lesbian; the cop that Huckleberry falls in love with (guess who it could be!) betrays him and chooses living in the closet – in other words, very standard stuff. I mean, I suppose it’s inevitable because of what happened in the 1950s, but we didn’t need another straight retelling of it. One thing writers never consider when they write about the “Red Scare” is that Americans really were scared, and so they reacted poorly but they didn’t simply wake up one morning and decide to persecute artists. The only “regular” people in this book (not the politicians or celebrities, in other words), are two people at the very beginning who have tickets to a very strange “show,” and I’m not sure what the point of it was except to show that non-artistic Americans in the 1950s were ghouls. Most people are sympathetic toward the artists, and they certainly should be, but it’s not like the fear of Communists came out of nowhere. Plus, Russell stacks the deck a bit. Snagglepuss’s boyfriend leaves him to fight Batista, and that’s great, but the last time we see him is when he’s riding a tank as Castro comes to power. Nowhere to we find out if he himself became as bad as Castro, because the idea of the people rebelling becoming as bad as those they replace (which happens depressingly often in world history) wouldn’t make us sympathetic to him. Huckleberry is presented kindly, and yes, he’s having troubles with coming out and trying to be true to himself, but he still abandons a wife and son, and in the story’s epilogue, the son is perfectly fine with it. Was he always perfectly fine with it, or did it take a long time for him to accept what his father did? The Marilyn Monroe interlude makes no sense because it doesn’t really fit the greater narrative, but Russell does bring it up, and the few panels where Monroe is sitting in front of men who think she just got cast because she’s attractive are devastating, but that’s all we get (Monroe was an underrated actor, but of course that’s not what people in the 1950s thought, and that idea has taken root in our culture). The book traffics in too many stereotypes, unfortunately, so while it’s never a bad thing to remind people that this is something that actually happened in American history (I imagine Russell only wrote this because of who occupies the White House these days), it’s done in a fairly rote, clichéd way. It’s too bad.

Feehan’s art is nice, though. He gets the historical figures down pretty well and somehow manages to make the animals dignified even though they don’t wear pants. So that’s something.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Dead Man’s Run by Greg Pak (writer), Tony Parker (artist), Wes Hartman (colorist), David Curiel (colorist), Peter Steigerwald (colorist), Josh Reed (letterer), Mark Roslan (editor), and Frank Mastromauro (editor). $14.99, 132 pgs, FC, Aspen Comics.

This is a relatively old series, having come out six years ago but only getting collected now. I’m not sure why; Pak isn’t quite as hot as he was in 2012, and Parker, while he’s gotten some higher profile work, isn’t really a big name yet (Parker is a terrific dude, though – he used to live in Phoenix and I’d see him at cons and signings every once in a while, and if you have time at a con he’s attending, you should say hello, as he loves talking about comics). When this first came out I thought that I’d wait for the trade, but I didn’t expect I’d wait this long!

Pak’s story is pretty clever – what if Hell were a maximum security prison located in the U.S. (some might say the entire country has been that way for years) and you could go in and (potentially) escape? That what happens to Sam Tinker, a “cartographer” (it’s never clear if he designed the prison, but why else would he be “the” cartographer and why would the dude in the beginning want him on site so badly?), who gets caught up in a big scheme in Hell. A greedy prison official tried to steal gold from Hell and was killed, so he arranges for Sam and his sister, Juniper (who looks absolutely nothing like Sam) to get killed and sent to Hell. He uses the hope of rescuing Juniper to get Sam to work for him, and they have to navigate through Hell with some others that Sam recruits so he can save his sister, who’s an “innocent” in Hell and therefore extremely valuable. Meanwhile, the greedy dude and his allies are rebelling against the warden (otherwise known as Satan), who eventually throws in with Sam because of the whole enemy of my enemy thing. So there’s lots of violence, double-crossing, escaping, and general wackiness. Mayhem, as they say, ensues.

It’s a pretty good adventure if you ignore some weird points. How does the dead greedy dude manage to kill Sam and his sister, for instance. They have a car accident, but it’s clear that it was (serious cop voice) “not an accident” and that the greedy dead dude arranged it somehow. And why is Juniper so innocent? She appears to be a grown-ass woman, after all, and it’s never clear why she’s innocent as opposed to Sam. Sam meets a lot of horrible people in Hell, and it’s never clear how you get sent there. Does everyone? Some people are there because they were horrible, but the kids are there because they think they deserve it. So what’s the sentencing like? They find a lot of “innocents” locked up – why aren’t those people in Heaven? And again, how are they innocent? But otherwise, it’s a pretty neat comic. Pak knows what he’s doing, and while the twist at the end is kind of annoying (setting up a sequel that never came and raising even more questions about how Hell functions), it’s enjoyable to read.

Parker is quite good, too. He’s gotten better over the past few years, but he was plenty good in 2012, and he gets to draw some neat things, like giant angel skeletons, Satan’s wings (trust me), and some very cool creepy monsters menacing the children on one level (that part is really brilliant). There are a few places where the lack of backgrounds is weird, as it makes the characters appear to be in a void, but there are also places where the scenery is quite well done, so I’m not sure what the deal is with that. Parker’s faces are occasionally a bit too blank, but in other areas, he’s quite good at expressions, and I wonder if this was drawn during a time when he was evolving into a more confident artist and so some of the faces were a bit less realized but then he got stronger at it. Anyway, Parker is a fine artist, and he brings the prison to hellish life, making Sam’s journey even more harrowing and dangerous.

This is a good, solid comic, and I’m glad it’s in trade. Pak gives us an intriguing story, and Parker draws it well. That’s always nice.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆


I don’t have much else to say about things right now – football season has started, which is always a good thing, but I’ll probably write a sports wrap-up in a day or two, depending on how much I get done on the Previews post (which is not going to be too late this month!). Arizona had their primaries last week and the expected people won for the Senate seat that’s up for grabs in 2018 (it’s not John McCain’s seat, by the way – Arizona has a rare moment where both their senate seats are in play, as McCain died – and probably should have quit anyway due to his health problems – and Jeff Flake claims he’s disgusted by Trump and quit instead of, you know, actually voting against Trump occasionally). The Democratic candidate, Kyrsten Sinema, is almost a DINO (Democrat in Name Only), as she’s fairly conservative and votes with Trump quite a lot (in Arizona, being only “fairly conservative” and not voting with Trump all the time gets you labeled a crazy radical leftist socialist), but she’s better than her opponent, Martha McSally, who might as well be made of felt and have Trump’s hand stuck up her butt. So that will be fun. Meanwhile, our senator died. Perhaps you heard of him? I know only one anecdote about McCain, and it’s a good one, so I have no doubt he was a decent dude, but he was also a warmonger, and when the first thing you do in the Senate is get embroiled in a corruption scandal, maybe we should hold off on the hosannas a bit. I’m not surprised that so many people think McCain was a maverick because he carefully cultivated that image even though he did almost nothing to earn it, plus he helped bring about the “politics of idiocy” we’re currently in the middle of with his vice-presidential pick in 2008. He seemed to make friends of all political stripes easily, which is why people loved him so much. I don’t begrudge Obama or other Democrats going to his funeral, but the sanctification of him seemed a bit much. Now our governor, instead of going the smart route and appointing his wife to his seat for two years until a special election in 2020, will probably appoint the most troglodytic Trump supporter he can find. Our governor is a putz, in case you don’t know.

Anyway, let’s check out the Ten Most Recent Songs On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle):

1. “When Midnight Sighs” – P.M. Dawn (1993). “Pay no attention to the scars”
2. “On and On and On” – ABBA (1980). “So I took advantage of the fact that I’m a star, shook my hair and took a casual stroll up to the bar”
3. “I Don’t Believe in You” – Godfathers (1989). “Are you listening to me baby? or am I talking to myself?”
4. “Behind the Lines” – Genesis (1980). “Whatever happened to you, it’s too late to change now”
5. “The Look” – Roxette1 (1988). “Loving is the ocean, kissing is the wet sand”
6. “The Uninvited Guest” – Marillion (1989). “I was there when you said insincere ‘I love you’s to a woman who wasn’t your wife”
7. “Arlandria” – Foo Fighters (2011). “You used to say I couldn’t save you enough”
8. “Winter of Our Youth” – Bastille (2016). “And when we pick over the past we glorify it”
9. “Superhero” – Faith No More (2015). “The S on your chest – you’re feeling like a god”
10. “How Long Has the Evening Train Been Gone” – Supremes (1968). “His room was empty and his closet’s bare, and not a single shirt was hangin’ there”

1 Yep, Roxette. Come at me, bro.

So that’s it for another month. I hope everyone is having a good time – it seems like it’s apocalyptic, weather-wise, in much of the U.S., so I hope all the ‘Muricans reading are doing well. We’ve been having a cold snap – it’s only gotten to about 104 most days! – and in the morning, you can actually believe the heat will end some day (although, given what we know about Arizona, it won’t be until late November, but still!). So have a nice day, and thanks for reading! And if you feel like buying anything from this post or even something else, use the link below!


  1. Edo Bosnar

    Thanks for the tip on Thicker Than Blood – I’d never even heard of it, but now I’ll keep an eye out for it.

    Thanks also for sharing your thoughts on Snagglepuss. I’d read Russell’s Flintstones, which I thought was friggin’ brilliant, so it’s a bit disappointing to learn that he apparently played it safe, or predictable, with this.
    However, your observation about the art, specifically, that Feehan “…somehow manages to make the animals dignified even though they don’t wear pants” gave me pause. I’ve seen scanned pages of the art at other sites with reviews of the individual issues, and I found that it looked kind of, I don’t know, not-in-a-good-way weird. Especially since there’s also normal human beings in that world and not just anthropomorphic animals. Personally, I think the art should have been done in a style that approximates the look of the Hanna Barbera cartoons. Given the weighty subject, I think that would have had a weird-in-a-good-way effect.

    Your thoughts on McCain and all of the public eulogizing pretty much echo my own, especially on that whole ‘maverick’ bit.

    1. Greg Burgas

      Edo: That’s not a bad point about Feehan’s art – I don’t necessarily agree, but it’s not a bad point. I just think it might have been too at odds with the story had he gone that route, but I could be wrong. We’ll never know!!!! 🙁

  2. Eric van Schaik

    Quit a diverse bunch of comics and books. Thanks for pointing out the Lemann book. If I can find it in Holland I’ll check it out.
    I know that I have a strange musical taste. Sometimes there’s stuff that some followers of this site like too but you sir have no taste at all. Roxette is even a low for you man 😉

    We see a lot of Trump craziness on Dutch television but we have our shady past
    (slavetraders anyone?) and idiot politicians too. Wilders who organized a cartoon competition about with cartoons about Mohammed. Rutte who wants to abolish dividend tax for multinationals and gueaa who have to pay for it?. Blok who thinks that Suriname (an old Dutch colony) is a failed state.
    At least we don’t burn our Nike shoes because of a new campaign starring Kaepernick. Any thoughts about that?

    1. Greg Burgas

      Eric: I’m eclectic! 🙂

      The thing about most countries is that they have shady politicians. Usually (not always, but usually), they’re on the fringe, though. With Trump, he’s made it okay to be horrible in public, and the horrible people are coming out of the woodwork. It’s very frustrating. Maybe it will pass before something truly awful happens, but who knows.

      I don’t care about the Nike campaign. Nike wants to make money, and they obviously thought this would make them more money than had they gone a different way. I imagine they wanted Trump to respond, and he has, so I’m sure they’re all happy up there in the cult. Seriously, Nike’s a weird place. The corporate campus in Beaverton is like a city, and everything feels like it was built as a set for The Prisoner or some other dystopian future. It’s bizarre. But anyway, Kaepernick is making money, Nike is making money, and yet another cause gets commodified. It’s the American Way!

  3. Peter

    Tinker, Tailor… was my first exposure to Le Carré and also my last exposure to Le Carré. It was a good book, but a slow burn (the movie really slowed down the plot even more, in my opinion). One of these days I’ll have to pick up at least the rest of the Smiley novels.

    As for the rest of your reading material, I can’t offer any informed comment, but Redemption seems depressingly interesting and relevant while that Ploog book looks awesome. I do want to know – did Penn State’s opener give you a heart attack? That may have been the most unexpectedly exciting game I’ve seen on the Big Ten Network.

    1. Greg Burgas

      Peter: Weirdly enough, the game upset me, but I didn’t freak out too much. When they went down late, I just remembered that McSorley had plenty of time, and then they got the nice kickoff return, so I just assumed they would score. I was upset at the very end when App State got close enough to try the field goal, but again, it was a long one, so I didn’t think he’d make it. I just kept assuming that Penn State’s talent would win out as long as they didn’t make giant mistakes like turning the ball over, and they didn’t, and they won. Maybe I’m getting older, but while I was fretting about it, I wasn’t apoplectic, either. I did think it would be a tougher game than the oddsmakers, because App State isn’t a bad team. They might go 10-2 this year, and this win will look a lot better. Of course, Penn State needs to fix some things before this weekend, because they’re on the road. But yes, it was a bit too exciting for me. I just hope it will pay dividends down the road because they had to fight hard instead of coasting over a real cupcake.

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