Archive for the commentary Category

odds & ends

Posted in commentary with tags , , , , , on December 10, 2010 by Christopher Pearce

I just finished reading Larry McMurtry’s Rhino Ranch, the fifth and final book in the author’s series of novels focusing on the small town of Thalia, Texas. I’ve never read any of McMurtry’s other writings, but I am a huge fan of The Last Picture Show, both the book and the film, so I’ve stuck by these novels. They are decidedly weird. The first book is almost entirely about one character, Sonny Crawford and in the next four, the focus abruptly shifts to another character, Duane Moore, where it stays for the remainder of the books.

The tone in these books veers around wildly from somber (Picture Show) to manic (Texasville), ultimately resting on contemplative in Rhino Ranch. I have to confess, I was genuinely saddened by the inevitably end of Texas oilman Duane Moore. McMurtry has a way of fostering affection for even the most crass and annoying characters. I don’t know if this is a recommendation for Rhino Ranch, but I definitely recommend The Last Picture Show. If you garner enough affection for the characters through that book, it might carry you on through to Rhino Ranch.

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According to the ever-reliable TV Guide, Cartoon Network will be airing my favorite new Christmas special this Sunday, December 12th, at 3 PM. If you’ve never seen Olive the Other Reindeer, it’s a beautifully animated cartoon. Based on the children’s book of the same name, the cartoon takes great pains to lovingly adapt illustrator J. Otto Seibold’s paper cut-out pictures into CGI. It’s something that, when you first think about it (two dimensional paper cut-outs in THREE dimensions?) it shouldn’t work… but it does.

Produced by Matt “The Simpsons” Groening, the vocal talent has the same pedigree as the animation- Drew Barrymore voices Olive, the misguided reindeer, and there are vocal turns from Tim Meadows, Peter MacNichol, Ed Asner, Billy West, Michael Stipe, and “Simpsons” mainstay Dan Castellaneta as the villain of the piece.

The special is filled with funny visual gags for savvy viewers and comes highly recommended by me.

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I just discovered the wonder and glory of Axe Cop, only about a year after the rest of the world. As someone with a 3 year old with a propensity for making up stories, I love this.

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In the interest of equal time, Vincent over at The Robot’s Pajamas offers a dissenting viewpoint on the 1989 Batman novelization that I invite you to check out. As an English teacher, I’d ding him on his book report for not providing good supporting details to his opinions, but the gentleman has a fun website which you may want to check out!

christmas comics cavalcade: bone holiday special

Posted in christmas comics, commentary with tags , , , , , on December 4, 2010 by Christopher Pearce

Comic books and Christmas have a grand tradition, owing much to the time when comics were cheap stocking fodder. That is sadly no longer the case. While most comic companies continue to publish holiday specials, they often clock in at $5 bucks or more; certainly I’d think twice about impulse buying something that expensive.

Despite prices, the tradition continues- Archie regularly publishes their “Stocking Stuffer” digests, and DC and Marvel also routinely crank out yuletide collections. I’m going to take the next month to look at some of my favorites from years’ past. Today we’re looking at

Bone Holiday Special, published as a giveaway in 1993 by comic fan magazine Hero Illustrated.

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please support my classroom through borders this weekend!

Posted in commentary on December 3, 2010 by Christopher Pearce

As everyone knows by now from my occasional annoying e-mails, I’ve had a lot of success using DonorsChoose in the past two years to expand my classroom’s lending library. DonorsChoose allows poor teachers (me!) to propose projects which people can fund charitably.

DonorsChoose is very good about occasionally running promotional specials for teachers, and this weekend is a doozy.

On December 4th and 5th (in-store only), if you make any purchase at a Borders bookstore… a book, a magazine, even just a cup of coffee from their cafe… you get a $15 dollar DonorsChoose gift card to make a donation to a classroom on DonorsChoose.org. With the holidays fast approaching, I am sure folks’ll be shopping at Borders sometime before Christmas. If you should happen to decide to go this weekend and get that $15 dollar gift card, that would be awesome! I have several DC projects waiting to be filled, and you can find ‘em here:

My DonorsChoose page

Most of my projects are within $100 dollars of fulfillment.

I am not crazy about the reason for the Borders promotion (it’s in support of the pro-charter school documentary Waiting for Superman) but there’s such need at my school that I will take their money anyhow.My students and I sure do appreciate it if you have the opportunity to help.

 

my black friday finds

Posted in commentary with tags , , , , , , , on November 27, 2010 by Christopher Pearce

I mentioned yesterday that my one and only Black Friday destination is Half-Price Books. I’ve always loved used bookstores and living within a five-minute drive from one has been one of the perks of moving to Ohio. When I lived in New York, I frequented dozens of used bookstores a month, from destination stores like The Strand to tiny hole-in-the-wall establishments.

The problem with being a NYC book snob was that there are SO MANY that finding those diamonds in the rough was a most formidable challenge. A guy I used to know who turned scouring thrift stores and used bookstores into a sizable source of income once told me that there were New York City collectors who literally pay people to “cover” certain used bookstores, keeping their eyes out for certain books. I’ve never been sure whether to believe that or not, but the idea of it always tinged my enjoyment of digging through the shelves and stacks.

No such problem here in Southern Ohio, at least to my knowledge. Again, I’m not finding literary treasures beyond compare; usually they’re just comic book collections or used paperbacks I like.

Anyhow, I do a lot of “stocking” shopping at HPB on Black Friday, but I always make sure to pick up a book or three for myself. This is what I grabbed today. Keep in mind, I only spent around $10 bucks.

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odds and ends

Posted in commentary with tags , , , on November 26, 2010 by Christopher Pearce

Happy Black Friday, if you care about that sort of thing! In general, I don’t. One of the luxuries of being poor is that you don’t have to worry about camping out at 3 AM to spend money you don’t have on things you don’t need. I will admit that in recent years, I have ventured out on the day after Thanksgiving, but entirely motivated by having small children who wake up at the crack of dawn regardless of what day of the month it is.

Befitting my financial stature, Elliot and I usually go and wait outside Half Price Books on Black Friday. We have a HPB within five minutes of our house so getting there is no hardship. Elliot’s an early riser, so there’s no problem there. Half Price Books Black Friday sale isn’t a crazy doorbuster (20% off and a $5 dollar gift card to the first 100 shoppers) but you can shop secure in the comfort that people who wake up early to go to a used bookstore aren’t usually the type of folks who will trample you to death over a DVD player or riot over a GPS.

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Ellen and I have been enjoying AMC’s The Walking Dead in the past few weeks. If you know my wife, you know how remarkable that statement is. I’m a fan of a good zombie apocalypse, but they are not Ellen’s cuppa. When we started dating, I made her watch Dawn of the Dead (the Romero version, duh!), and she submitted to it with style and aplomb, despite her tastes running more toward Merchant Ivory productions. The Walking Dead has been fun for the both of us.

I’m a fan of the comic on which the show is based and have been reading it since 2003, I think. I have a copy of the first trade in my classroom’s lending library (on the restricted shelf, naturally) and it’s easily one of the most popular graphic novel collections I own. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: If someone can figure out how to write a YOUNG ADULT zombie book, they’d be millionaires. Kids love the inherent creepiness of the genre. I think the bloody trappings may preclude acceptance as a part of the YA ouevere, but I swear man… if you can run with it, it’s money on the table.

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Believe it or not, I may get to go to the movies this weekend! When you have two young children in your care, organizing a trip to the movies is something akin to planning a military operation… but it seems as if we have a babysitter lined up and the wife and I (and some other friends) will be going to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 sometime this weekend.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the HP movie series in the past few weeks. I’m a fan of the books and the movies and I’m looking forward to seeing the series out in grand style. For Potter-philes more hardcore than myself, they must be looking at these two movies as one of the last great gasps of Harry Potter fandom, in a global sense. No more waiting in lines at midnight to get some sort of Harry Potter fix, the story’s been told in print and on film.

Of course, there will be more Harry Potter. At some point, Hollywood is going to realize that there’s still gold in them thar hills and go about “remaking” and “reimagining” Hogwarts for new generations, no matter your opinion of how good these flicks are. I also have every faith that author J.K. Rowling will at some point return to her best-loved creations; she’s alluded to it enough times with reporters (and Oprah, a few months ago). For the time being however, Deathly Hallows closes the door on the whole world and I’m excited to get to see it on the big screen.

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For those of you who have been waiting, I’m going to post Part Four of my “It Gets Better” comic on Monday. Being a holiday weekend, I thought it was better to post the comic on a day when people are near their computers than over the weekend when most are either (a) passed out from overeating, (b)watching football, or (c) shopping. It’s coming though.

odds and ends

Posted in commentary with tags , , , on November 19, 2010 by Christopher Pearce

Not much going on here lately, to be frank. We’re beginning to gear up for the holidays in our house- for the first time, Ellen and I are hosting Thanksgiving here in Southern Ohio, rather than trekking to far-flung points across the country. We’re inviting some of our neighbors and Ellen’s childhood friend Kelly for dinner and LN and I are both anticipating a good time.

Content wise, last year at Thanksgiving, I went off the beaten track a little bit with an action sequence… and I have a different plan for this year. I’m not sure if it’s going to be any good- I’m worried that the comics I have planned are going to come off a little preachy and self-aggrandizing… but I’m happy about most of what I’m trying to say with them.

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Earlier this week I received a copy of The Complete Making of Indiana Jones from DonorsChoose request. All I can say after having flipped through the book several times is my students have to get in line behind me on this book. I’ve been reading it for the past two days and it is a thing of beauty for fans of the Indy Jones movies. Exhaustive barely even begins to cover how thorough author J.W. Rinzler has been, digging into the flicks.

Preference is rightly given to Raiders of the Lost Ark, with only a cursory glance taken at the last Indy movie, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull… a flick that absolutely everyone hates on as the least of the series. It is the least of the series, but at the risk of sounding uncool, I enjoyed a lot of Crystal Skull and felt it suffered quite a bit from almost 20 years of pent-up expectation.

Anyway, great book, would make an awesome gift for a movie buff.

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I read two mainstream superhero comic books right now- DC Comics’ Batman and Robin and Marvel Comics’ Thor: The Mighty Avenger.

After almost two years, I was prepared to give up Batman and Robin. My main reason for keeping up with the book, writer Grant Morrison, is moving on to other comic projects. I’ve been looking for places to trim my pull list, and this gave me a great excuse.

 

I was not at all prepared for the cancellation of Thor: The Mighty Avenger, a book I picked up on a whim a few months ago and instantly fell in love with. An all-ages retelling of the Thor superhero story, Thor: The Mighty Avenger was seemingly created to introduce new readers to the character in preparation for this summer’s upcoming movie. The book did it’s job well in being set away from the continuity-laden Marvel Universe and all the baggage that entails. A reader could pick this up knowing nothing about Thor and grasp what’s going on with relative ease..

The creative team for Thor: The Mighty Avenger is one of my favorite in comics right now. Writer Roger Langridge is responsible for BOOM Studios’ adaptation of The Muppet Show that I’ve talked up here before, and artist Chris Samnee is, in a word, incredible. You can check out Samnee’s blog here and see for yourself. I’m going to add it to the blogroll because some of the stuff Samnee does with the use of shadow has to be seen to be believed.

Anyhow, Samnee points out over there that there are three issues of Thor: The Mighty Avenger left to be published and although it’s pretty difficult to reverse a publisher decision like cancellation, if you like good comics I highly recommend picking ‘em up. It might be a case of “too little, too late” but the comics are so good you won’t regret your purchase.

thrift store finds: walt kelly’s santa claus adventures

Posted in christmas comics, comics, commentary, thrift store finds with tags , , , , , on November 6, 2010 by Christopher Pearce

(Thrift Store Finds is a mostly-weekly “column” of sorts where I discuss some of the cool books I’ve happened upon in my neighborhood St. Vincent DePaul store. Please don’t mistake me for an expert on any of the books I am writing about… I’m just a fan of a bargain.)

When I was in middle school, I was a great fan of Jeff Smith’s Bone comics.

I don’t want you to be mistaken, I still remain a great fan of Smith and all his work… but the tween-aged Chris was OBSESSED with Bone. He ordered comics from Cartoon Books directly. He drew the characters in the margins of all his tests. He collected the Bone trading cards, lucking out enough to find a SIGNED Smith sketch card.

He also followed any and all interviews with Jeff Smith. When Smith mentioned his influences in an old issue of the now defunct comic magazine Heroes Illustrated, Walt Kelly’s Pogo was mentioned.

Pogo is one of the most beloved newspaper comic strips of all time, an ongoing humor strip featuring the denziens of the Okefenokee Swamp and their interactions and frequent misunderstandings with one another. Kelly worked at Disney for a time and it shows in his wonderfully expressive characters who are often oblivious but always endearing. Kelly was a master of dialect and pioneered a lazy drawling, phonetical manner in which the characters talked that was hilarious and rewarded close reading.

My local library had exactly ONE Pogo book, Phi Beta Pogo. I probably checked that book out about three dozen times while I was in high school. I always loved the way that Kelly inked his comics… the small details and the bold use of blacks in the daily strips. They stood in stark contrast to the comics that litter newspapers today. I’m anxiously awaiting Fantagraphic Books’ The Complete Pogo series as I’ve had little luck finding the old Simon & Schuster paperbacks in my thrift store.

I did run across this old comic, however:

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