I had some sun, which was fine, but it was still dropping into the mid-40s at night. And then we had a windstorm. And a surprising amount of rain. It wasn't like normal Seattle rain, which is really just a perpetual drizzle. It was more of the buckets pouring down variety.
It killed my first batch of basil. It killed some of my bush beans. And it made the other plants pretty miserable. And I was certain it killed my cilantro.
I had grown cilantro from seed and had some seedlings that were 6" tall and starting to put on quite a few leaves.
The wind tore them off. It severed the stem on one. And they did nothing for a while. I was so sure they were dead, I started another batch. I figured it just wasn't hardy enough for a Spring like this.
Then I went on a couple trips. When I checked on the pots, it had come back to life. It sprouted more leaves. I went inside for some water, and in the time I was gone it grew 8".
All my dead cilantro plants sprang back to life and began their hunt for brains. They did not grow legs however, so I'm not too worried. I do wear a hat around them just to be safe.
While much of my garden is doing okay despite my lousy scheduling, the cilantro has just exploded. I'm now seeing stalks .75" thick and trimming it down to minimize bolting.
If you're looking for something easy to grow in Seattle, try cilantro.
I have no idea how I'm going to use all of it. I wonder if i could make it into a pillow...
It's helpful for removing viruses, resetting a machine after a coworker changes things, or fixing things that I screw up while experimenting with applications, drivers, and settings.
Periodically, the tool takes a "snapshot" of critical Windows system files, like the registry. It stores a certain number of these snapshots (depending on how much disk space you allow) and lets you reset Windows to an earlier point in time when you need to. It takes these snapshots on a time schedule, or when Windows updates, and some sometimes when new applications are added.
The user can also tell the system to create a snapshot whenever they like. This is a good thing to do before making system changes.
When someone tells me their system suddenly started acting weird, one of the first things I'll do (after other basic troubleshooting steps) is run a System Restore to get the machine back into the condition it was a week or a month earlier. This usually fixes the problem.
Unlike reinstalling Windows, System Restore affects only Windows files. It will not make changes to or damage your data.
After you run System Restore, you may need to reinstall applications you had installed after the machine took the snapshot you just restored to. But it's possible those applications were causing problems anyway.
In Windows XP, you can get to the tool by going to Start | Programs | Accessories | System Tools | System Restore.
In Vista or Windows 7, just hit the Start button, and then type "System Restore" in the search box.
Familiarize yourself with the tool if it's new to you. You may find it quite useful one day.
Last summer I ditched my personal phone line and went mobile only. My phone is a Samsung A900, and I've been using it for nearly 3 years. I think this is the longest I've gone with the same phone (well, except for that land line phone I got in 1983). The thing still gets great reception and decent battery life. Texting is challenge but doable. And I may be the only person in America who is actually happy with Sprint's service.
And yet, I can't help but wonder if it's time to change.
I like the idea of the Android phone, featuring an OS developed by Google. Google just gave away 4,000 of them at a conference to promote it. The idea of an open platform appeals to me.
But I keep hearing that the hardware is terrible and the batterly life lasts only about 5 minutes. The panelists on Twit.TV routinely critiscize the hardware. Perhaps the next iteration will be a usable platform.
Then of course there's the iPhone. And while it's pretty neat, I don't think I'm an iPhone kind of guy.
The biggest problem I have with the iPhone is the small hard drive. The flash drive may help stretch the battery life a little (apparently not enough). But if I were to get an iPhone, it would be to replace both my regular phone and my iPod. And as it is my 60 GB iPod is too small.
I know I don't have to have everything on there, but I want to.
So once there's a longer battery life on a 100 GB iPhone, I might be interested.
I considered the Blackberry Storm, but the reviews and commentary I've heard all indicate it was a disaster. And besides, there just seems to be something wrong about buying a Blackberry for personal use.
I am looking forward to next month. The Palm Pre comes out on the Sprint network. Early buzz is positive. During the mid- to late-nineties I was a Palm PDA user so in some respects it would be like going home. I will have play with one and to give it some serious thought. By August we should know if the Pre lives up to its hype.
Or perhaps this is all just silly, and I should actaully just stick with my A900. After all, it still works. It's just not a shiny, new toy.
However, it seems the court in CA did the right thing.
First, let me say that I do favor equal marriage/civil union rights for same sex and opposite sex couples (actually, I favor civil unions for both, and getting the state out of the marriage business, but that's another post altogether).
Of course, I am not a lawyer, so there may be something escaping me here, but this was not a ruling on gay marriage. This ruling answered the question, "Can a state constitutional amendment be unconstitutional under the state constitution?" And the answer is no.
The role of the state supreme court is essentially to decide whether or not a law or amendment is allowed by the constitution. When you change the constitution, you end up with a new set of rules to apply. And that's what happened with Proposition 8.
Essentially, if you follow the proper procedure to change the state constitution, that new amendment is by virtue of its nature constitutional.
The problem here is that it was too easy to change the state constitution.
A constitution is such an important document that changes to it should require an extremely high burden, to help insulate it from political fads. When a state governs by Citizens' Initiative as California does, you are going to have all sort of problems.
The US Constitution is much harder to amend, and that's important. It takes the approval of 3/4 of the states, among other requirements, to make changes. California didn't require approval of 3/4 of its counties; it required just a popular vote of 50% + 1 vote. And that's the problem.
Some have argued, "Does that mean the state can amend the constitution to ban Mormons or ban interracial marriage?"
The answer is yes. The state can do that -- in theory.
The difference here is that those changes would conflict with the US Constitution. And the US Constitution would trump the changes to the CA state constitution.
At this point, the US Constitution is silent on the matter of gay marriage. And that's why the people of CA can legally enshrine this discriminatory policy in the highest law of the state of CA.
Some people are making arguments that the equal protection clause of the US Constitution may be used to over turn CA Proposition 8. It will be interesting to see how that argument develops.
In the mean time, it seems the best avenue available to advocates of marriage equality in CA is to get another amendment on the ballot to overturn the Proposition 8 amendment. And then someone, please, fix this amendment/initiative process.
And when you're done fixing the initiative process in CA, how about helping us fix it in WA, too?
In that episode, a fire destroys Rachael and Phoebe's apartment and Rachael moves in with Joey. During dinner, she drops a forkful of spaghetti on the carpet. She starts to panic about the stain, but Joey says, "Relax, you're at Joey's" and then he proceeds to drop some on the floor as well.
I turned to the GF and said, "That reminds me -- I have to get some cheese off the carpet on my stairs."
She nearly choked on her pork.
Now I remember why she prefers her apartment.
And why I'm supposed to use a napkin.
I vaguely remember the ad. What really sticks in my head from the early 80s is the jingle -- "Have you played Atari today?"
I was an avid reader of the Atari Age magazine back in the day, on those sporadic occasions when they actually published it. One month they wrote ad article about how the company was originally going to be call Syzygy, but fortunately they opted for Atari instead. The pointed out that "Have you played Syzygy today?" didn't have quite the same ring to it.
It's probably also fortunate because of the planetary alignment -- syzygy -- in 1982. I seem to recall the crack pots of the day predicting the destruction of the world due to out of control tidal movements resulting from the crazy gravity.
Ah, well. I'm off to find my Buckner and Garcia tape.
After several months of searching, I found a new template for my blog. It's a Three Column verison of the Rounders Template. I got it from Compender.Com
I started my search because I wanted a third column for advertising and related widgets. My old template was nice, but stuff was getting shoved further and further down the side bar.
With the new layout, my favorite links, RSS feeds, Flickr tool, Twitter updates, etc., are on the left. Entrecard, CMF Ads, Adgitize, Powell's, and Blog Catalog are on the right. Generally, the Right column is for advertising, while the left column is for supplementary content.
I'm fairly new to CMF Ads and I'm brand new to Adgitize. I'm still wrapping my head around how the systems work, and the best way to learn and understand them, is to use them.
I don't plan to generate significant revenue here, but it would be nice to figure out how to, in case I ever need to.
I'm reasonably happy with the new template and layout. It's not perfect, though. I think it looks a little crowded right now. And I had trouble with link colors. For some reason, I couldn't set the link color in the lower sidebar to be a different color than the link color in the main text. The orange I'm using is the most readable link color for both the light yellow background in this box and the blue back ground in the side bar. I may need to mess with that a bit more. I'm afraid I might actually have to learn some code.
But for now, it works. If I waited for it to be perfect, it would never be done. And I'd rather have it in the wild where I can study and tweak it, than keep it in the garage getting dusty with revisions.
So...what do you think?
And we get three hours, instead of 60 seconds.
The awesome, canceled ABC show "Pushing Daisies" is coming back for three final episodes. According to Pazsaz Entertainment, we get to spend a little more time with Ned, Chuck, Olive, and Emerson on:
2009-05-30: Water and Power
2009-06-06: Window Dressed to Kill
The official Pushing Daisies website confirms that we have three more episodes to look forward to.
Hopefully they will wrap up the show nicely. It was too good go out with no dignity.
It's the last time anyone bought a copy of it.
After that day, the Seattle PI became the first major newspaper in the country to go online only.
While the Seattle Times sill prints a daily edition, papers around the country -- from Boston to Denver to San Francisco -- are facing financial catastrophes. More papers will close in the coming years.
Neighborhood blogs are popping up in Seattle and doing some great work. My new favorite source for local news is the Capitol Hill Blog. The news stories are more relevant to my everyday life than most of the stories in the Seattle Times. They cover what's going on with my neighbors, and what's happening just down the street. It's a great source for information, and one of the few RSS feeds I read throughout the day.
Other neighborhood blogs have also popped up. Alki Point denizens have the West Seattle Blog at their finger tips, whereas residents of the Central District can surf over to the Central District News.
These bloggers don't just blather on like I do. They are doing real journalism. These neighborhood blogs fill an important niche and do a better job in the niche than the print PI ever could.
This allows an interesting model for the metropolitan newspaper website. With the proliferation of neighborhood blogs, the metro paper can take on the role of news agregator and mainly link to stories produced by the neighborhood blogs. With a limited reporting staff, that may be their only viable option. The SeattlePI.com is already moving in that direction.
And that wouldn't be too much of a change from the way many papers are already run. It seems the percentage of AP stories versus orignal content in local papers has already increased significantly over the past decade. They've already outsourced their national coverage, why not out source their hyper-local coverage?
There's a gap, though.
While the neigborhood blogs cover the neighborhood, and national media and wire services covers the national issues, what happens to coverage at the state and municipal level? The neighborhood blogs don't have the resources to do deep investigative work. Can we count on local TV news for that? The short format discourages indepth journalism.
As newspapers decline, I'm worried about coverage of the mid-size government and corporate entities.
But in the meantime, I'm glad to have found the Capitol Hill Blog. You can also follow them on Twitter @jseattle
How are the neighborhood blogs in your area?
I really did not need to know about the 4 foot worms.
What lies beneath the surface of New York Harbor? For starters, a 350-foot steamship, 1,600 bars of silver, a freight train, and four-foot-long cement-eating worms.
The steady transformation of New York’s waterfront from wasteland to playground means more of us are spending time along the city’s edge. That can lead a person to wonder: What, exactly, is down there? Until recently, we had patchy knowledge of what lies beneath the surface of one of the world’s busiest harbors.
Join us for the 5th Annual Seattle Cheese Festival, May 16-17th 2009. As artisanal cheese production grows, so does the festival! Come taste more than 200 cheeses from local and international producers along the cobblestone street of Pike Place Market. The Seattle Cheese Festival is the first of its kind on the West Coast with artisanal cheese at center stage.When we got down there, with our coffee cups in hand, we saw the info desk right away on our left. We turned right to delve into the depths of the street fair, taste some cheese, and get lost in the wine garden.
Thousands of people in two blocks. The entire population of Montana attended the event at the same time we were there. That flight over must have been awful. I'm sure they ran out of room in the for carry on bags, and started gate checking garment bags. And ranch dressing. Because if there's one thing I learned in Montana it's that people will put ranch on everything.
"Can I have some hot fudge on my Sundae?"
"No, sir, I'm sorry. We don't have any hot fudge. Would you
like some whipped cream and ranch dressing on it instead?"
It was like looking out the Enterprise view screen in "The Mark of Gideon."
(Which, BTW is the creepiest TOS ever. I think it game me nightmares. It's almost as creepy and scary as "Hush," one of best Buffy episodes.)
It was a beautiful day and everyone came out for the Cheese Festival. All the Seattleites filled the streets and lines and booths, shedding their long sleeves to celebrate the new sun and blinding each with with the sickly, pale whiteness of there skin. No, it wasn't just white people there. After a Seattle winter it seems everyone, regardless of ethnic background, shares the same sickly pale skin.
So we trudged into the crowd. It was like trying to swan dive through a memory foam matters. Sure, it's soft and squishy, but you aren't going to make much progress with that plan.
We gave up on the cheese and were sad for a brief moment. Then I remembered -- PIROSHKYS!
Pike Place Market is filled with awesome places to eat, and Piroshky! Piroshky! is one of my favorites. The entire restaurant is about the size of a Smart Car with ovens, and the line stretches out the door. But it moves fast and you can quickly get your warm, flavored beef, onion, and puff pastry snack. Or you can get the ones with potatoes. Or cheese.
These things are perfect on a blustery day. Stick them in your pockets and you'll have happy pockets. Or you could just eat them.
On a Spring day you just have to settle for them being mighty tasty.
We picked up our piroskys and wanded into the inner courtyards of the market, found a seat and enjoyed a lovely lunch of piroshky and coffee. And since everyone was outside groping desperately for a sliver of cheese, the courtyard was pleasantly uncrowded.
So it was a good day.
You can still catch day 2 of the Cheese festival on Sunday if you want to brave the masses. Obviously, many people have no problem doing just that.
But the next time your in the Market, do yourself a favor and grab some piroskys.
Really, CNN? Weisure?
This might be the worst new word ever. Weisure? It's the kind of word that when used in a public setting is likely to incite violence.
And it marks the user as a idiot.
And yet for some reason, CNN, the premiere place for news on the Internet, thinks it's a good idea to inflict Weisure on the world.
The question is this: did they create this new word just to annoy me?
Or did they have some other reason?
This screams "FILLER!!!"
Maybe I shouldn't judge the content just because some idiot made up a stupid word. Perhaps there is some real wisdom hidden in the article behind this typographical monstrosity.
It turns out, there isn't.
Weisure is the combination of work and leisure.
Many who haven't already abandoned the 9-to-5 workday for the 24-7 life of weisure probably will do so soon, according to New York University sociologist Dalton Conley, who coined the word. It's the next step in the evolving work-life culture.
"Increasingly, it's not clear what constitutes work and what constitutes fun," be it "in an office or at home or out in the street," Conley said. Activities and social spaces are becoming work-play ambiguous, he says, as "all of these worlds that were once very distinct are now blurring together."
People work out of the office these days. Sometimes they work from home or take calls on their cell phone. Sometimes they surf the internet from the office.
Thanks for that, CNN. I had no idea. Truly breaking news there.
However, the increased mixing of work and play doesn't mean bankers will be refinancing houses during their kids' piñata parties.
It doesn't mean tax attorneys will be getting makeovers during their tax-law seminars. But they may be chatting with Facebook friends while participating in a conference call.
Really? CNN is giving us makeovers in tax seminars?
Maybe we shouldn't call it Weisure. How about calling it Hoffice instead. I can tell you all about my Hoffice life style.
So why is this happening?
Well, first, there's more work and less play, according to Conley's book "Elsewhere, U.S.A."
Weisure has been fueled by social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, where "friends" may actually be business partners or work colleagues.
"Social networking as an activity is one of those ambiguous activities," Conley said. "It's part fun and part instrumental in our knowledge economy."
These networking sites offer participants in the weisure life lots of ways to do business -- and to have fun.
Let me translate. People are busy. People like their co-workers.
I'm still waiting for the news in here. Isn't that what one of those CNN "Ns" stands for? So far, the only thing I've learned is that someone thought creating the word Weisure would be a good idea.
Someone also though Love Canal was a good idea.
So will their be a backlash against the new Weisure class?
If you're thinking that a backlash may be around the corner for the weisure concept, you're right. In fact, Conley says, the backlash has begun.
"You can see that in the populist anger against the bankers" who've been blamed in part for the current economic downturn, Conley says. The backlash is evident in the rise of alternative social movements involving people "who live in a more frugal and environmentally conscious way," he says.
But, short of a nuclear winter or some cataclysm sending us back to the stone age, there's no turning back the clock on the spread of weisure, he says. The weisure lifestyle will engrain itself permanently in the American culture.
Seriously? The backlash against people who combine work and leisure is evident because people are angry at banks over the mortgage crises? And the only way to stop Weisure is a nuclear war? That's what they've got? The real backlash against Weisure will be evident in the number of times proponents of the word Weisure get punched in the face for using it.
Honestly, I think I'm dumber for reading that article.
I'm using it on a 6 year old laptop, running on a Pentium M processor (pre-Centrino days) and I'm getting fine performance from it. It's quicker than the XP image I had on this notebook and handles multiple applications well.
I'm not sure I'd trust this hardware to Vista.
Now don't get me wrong. I liked Vista. On the right hardware it was great. But older hardware is always more of a challenge -- and it's a challenge Windows 7 appears to meet.
There were a few issues. The OS didn't automatically install my SD card reader or my USB webcam. I had to seek out drivers for those. It took a Windows Update visit to get my WiFi to work. And, while my touchpad works as a mouse, it doesn't have any of the advanced features that were available under XP.
It handles 50 Firefox tabs at once, and gives decent performance under IE 8.
My favorite Vista feature (like the searh bar in the Start menu and check boxes for selecting files) are still here. The desktop and task bar are cleaner.
The only weird interface thing I haven't figured out yet is getting new items to appear in my Start menu. They're on the system. I can launch them from the search box on the star menu. But I can't figure out how to scroll to them. I probably just screwed something up.
If you'd like to try it, MSFT is offering it as a free download. It will run as normal until March of next year, at which time you will need to purchase and install the final version of Window 7.
This is still a Beta product, which means it is still considered to be in testing, so there is some risk there. Make sure you backup your data.
When you install it, it's best to do it on a blank hard drive. Back up all the data you want to keep before you install it.
But if you have any older machine laying around and want to play with the next version of Windows, give it shot.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we have leveled out at 9,000 feet...
Huh? What?! Was I napping? Did the pilot just say, "leveled out at 9,000 feet?" Who levels out at 9,000 feet? You pass through 10,000 feet (Where it is now safe to use approved portable electronics...)
You level out between 30,000 and 41,000 feet.
We will be returning to Seattle...
Why would we want to do that? We just left there and climbed to 9,000 feet.
As you can probably hear, we have a high pitched whine coming from the cockpit [And it's not our flight attendants] and we're not sure what's causing it. Don't worry, it's safe. The engines are both working...
Well, that's reassuring, I guess.
...But to be safe, and because it makes it very difficult for us to hear one another, we're going to return to SEA.
Flight attendants, please prepare the cabin for arrival...
Aw, come on. Do you really need to hear one another? Can't you just use the radio? Do we really have to delay several hours, just because some random piece of hardware in the cockpit is making a mystery noise you haven't heard before and can't fix? Stick in some ear plugs, and call it good. It's like when I fixed the brake warning light on my dashboard by covering it with electrical tape.
Come to think of it, that wasn't the best idea either. Okay. SEA here we come. Ooooh pretty view of Elliott Bay....
A reboot of the franchise? I had my doubts. Why not just field a new ship in the universe we love?
Sylar as Spock? I had my doubts. Zachery Quinto's big break came playing a character driven entirely by id.
A Star Trek designed to appeal to everyone? I had my doubts. Can you really do a wide appeal movie without alienating the Trekkers?
I needn't have doubted.
The Star Trek movie is awesome.
The movie opens with the best 5 minutes I've seen in cinema in years. The opening sequence tell a story itself and sets a tone that lasts throughout the movie while exemplifying the best of the Federation.
The use of music, audio effects, and silence is spot on.
This movie is filled with great moments that call to mind lines, feelings, and relationships long time fans will appreciate without alienating new fans (they may just wonder what people are chuckling about).
Because it is filled with surprises, I don't want to go into much detail. I will just say that every major character has an important role to play in this movie -- they all contribute to the eventual resolution.
The plot is good, though it does take a little work to wrap your head around it. They do a good job of explaining the reboot. The movie is well paced.
The role of the Enterprise is also different than in much of the show and other movies. Often the ship becomes a person. That doesn't quite happen here. Instead, the Enterrpise is a tool that is effectively used and manipulated by the crew. And it shoots.
Much of the time in the rest of the Star Trek editions, the Enterprise fires a few torpedoes or phasers, but it's pretty static. The ship itself may be a valued part of the crew, as a vessel, it's rarely more than a very cool, glorified bus. Here, it is definitely a warship with awesome fly-bys, great tactical maneuvers, and a full spread of weaponry, worthy of being a the Flagship of the fleet.
In Star Trek: The Motions Picture (the terrible first movie) they had a lengthy 5+ Minute sequence where they are flew around the Enterprise while they introduced it to the audience. The dramtic unveil turned into a tedious strecth of film. In the DVD, they added even more footage to that sequence, I guess to help you sleep through the rest of the film.
In this new movie, they also do a cruise around the Enterprise to introduce it. But it takes maybe 30 seconds. In that half minute, though, they highlight the grandeur of the ship. It looks cool. It looks powerful. It looks impressive. And it looks like the vessel we all want to serve on. It's an important element of the film, whereas in the first movie it was a drag.
Watch this movie. It's worth it.
And Sulu gets to use a sword.
It's a fresh start after nearly 7 years without any Star Trek in the theater. Why has it taken so long? And why don't we hear about any more Next Generation movies?
Because the last movie killed the franchise. Star Trek: Nemesis ensured most of us never wanted to see another movie with that crew. Nemesis almost drove the entire franchise into the ground. Nemesis was responsible for the invasion of Iraq and the worst excesses of the Bush administration.
It was a bad movie.
In the latest Play Cole Podcast, the crew takes a look at what went wrong with this movie. We watch the movie while director Stuart Baird tries to explain in his audio commentary just what he was thinking as he foisted this tripe on the theater goers and defiled Gene Rodenberry's grave.
The movie appears to be cobbled together by a committee of college interns sitting around a whiteboard and trying to explore the concept of duality by pairing and contrasting as many character and concepts as possible with their own doppelgangers.
Beyond that, the movie is also a great example of how not to handle exposition in a movie.
But don't worry about being bored. The podcast is much more entertaining than the movie.
Stream it from here or download it from here.
Some content may be NSFW.
For the full Play Cole experience, listen to the podcast while you watch the movie and listen to the director's commentary.
Bachelors have been doing this for decades. Who knew there was money to be made on something so simple? Or is this a case of patents gone crazy?
This is a Canon 1200mm f5.6 lens that B&H sells for $120,000. You can also use it with a teleconverter to reach a 2400mm focal length.
The story the tell about it is pretty interesting:
The predecessor to the Canon EF 1200mm f/5.6 L USM Lens was the Canon FD 1200mm f/5.6 L manual focus lens. The FD 1200 was first seen at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, CA, USA. Chuck Westfall of Canon USA was there and remembers that "5 copies of the original FD 1200mm f/5.6 L lens were brought to L.A. and used for newspaper, magazine and wire service coverage of the Olympic Games."
Mr. Westfall indicated that "All of the FD mount 1200mm f/5.6L lenses were eventually shipped back to Japan, and at some point in the late 1980s, they were converted to EF mount" resulting in the lens model I am reviewing here - the Canon EF 1200mm f/5.6 L USM Lens. The new EF 1200 was then marketed by Canon in July, 1993 with an annual production volume of around 2 (that's right - "two") lenses. The EF 1200 L was available by special order with lead times running about 18 months.
Why such a long lead time? For one reason, it takes nearly a year to grow fluorite crystals large enough to be ground and polished for use in this lens. In addition, the lens is "virtually hand-made".
According to Mr. Westfall, "Canon has not released specific production quantities, but according to my understanding, less than 100 of these lenses were made." Rumors put this number closer to 20, but ... no one who knows is releasing the actual figure.
There are more picture of it and taken from it in the article on the B&H site. There's also a short video about it.
I don't think it would work with my Pentax, but this is the kind of lens you buy a camera for -- not the other way around. I'd probably need a different case for it too. And a new tripod.
Ah well. Not worth the hassle I guess.
It looks like it's on track now, though. By the time the plane starts shipping in quantity, the recession should be over, meaning it will be good timing for Boeing. By then we'll be well on the road to recovery. (Actually, that last sentence is just because I wanted to mix more metaphors.)
But for now, as these pictures from the Seattle PI show, it looks like it really will be a beautiful aircraft.
See the whole set here.
I can't wait to ride in one.
"Laurie, I'm 65. Every day the future looks a little bit darker. But the past, even the grimy parts of it…well, it just keeps on getting brighter all the time."
-- Absent Friends
***Note: spoilers in comments following the post***
The Watchmen, written by Alan Moore and drawn by Dave Gibbons, is the best selling graphic novel that gave us the recent blockbuster movie and defined an entire genre of adult superhero books.
To begin with, this is a great book. But despite the comic book format, it is not for kids. It's filled with violence, sex, and NSFW language. This is a dark book. By way of example, there is a subplot where one of the characters builds a raft out of the corpses of his friends and co-workers.
Pixar's, "The Incredibles" draws one of its main plotlines from the Watchmen. They both take place in a world where the government regulates superheroes. They are not allowed to practice their vocation and most of the them have retired to different lives.
The story takes place in and alternative history in 1985. Nixon is still president. Dr. Manhattan has brought a wealth of new technology and energy independence to the US, and made the US the world's premiere superpower. The story moves along as old heroes start dying or disappearing and the Soviets invade Afghanistan. The rest of the story unfolds against this background.
Had I read this when I was in High School or College, I might have been most caught up in story of the dark nature of the world. Or perhaps the equally prominent story about the importance of being true to your own nature.
"I've heard all the psychologists' theories, and I've heard all the jokes and the rumors and the innuendo, but what it comes down to for me is that I dressed up like an owl and fought crime because it was fun and because it needed doing and because I goddam felt like it."
-- Under the Hood Section II
Reading it before my recent birthday, however, it struck me more as a story about aging. The characters spend as mush time looking back as they do looking forward. It's about the choices they made in their youth, why they made them, and how they got to where they are today. Most the individual characters' stories began years before the book begins. The text references those old stories and draws is gravity from them, but rarely tells us more than they bare essentials of what happened years ago. The theme of loss, aging, and irrelevance is strong in the book. The characters wrestle with the world changing around them, and with their own life choices.
For many of the characters, the story in the Watchmen is a story of their own regret.
And that's one of the great things about this book. In addition to the solid plot and interesting characters, its themes work on several different levels. Readers at different points in their lives can get different things from it.
The characters are larger than life exaggerations, and lack the realism of characters in a traditional novel. It works in this format however. At times, though, the characters become parodies of comic book heroes. I think that's intentional, but it sometimes takes me out of the story.
The story moves along at a deliberate pace. It never feels rushed, and rarely feels like it's lagging. The ending ties things together nicely, but I found it unsatisfying. It's not out of line with the tone of the book though, so I suppose I shouldn't criticize that.
In addition to the main story, they intersperse additional tales in the main text. Plus, between each "issue" or chapter of the book, they inlucde additional pieces. Those pieces tell us more about the individual characters. One is an interview with a retired hero. One is psyche evaluation of a character. Another is an academic paper written by the one of the characters. These extras flesh out the characters and add another element to the book. But I don't want to deconstruct this book too much. As Nightowl says in his paper:
"I believe that in approaching our subjects with the sensibilities of statisticians and dissectionists, we distance ourselves from the marvelous and spell-binding planet of imagination whose gravity drew us to our studies in the first place.
"That is not to say that we should cease to establish facts and to verify our information, but merely suggest that unless those facts can be imbued with the flash of poetic insight then they remain dull gems; semi-precious stones scarcely worth collecting."
-- Blood from the Shoulder of Pallas
The Watchmen is a nice, compelling read. Even if the payoff isn't quite there at the end, it is still time well spent. While I don't have share the fanaticism of some readers, I can definitely recommend it to someone who wants to explore the dark side of superheroes, flesh out their geek cred, or see what graphic novels are about. Despite the mixed reviews the movie has gotten I look forward to seeing that, too.
The Watchmen is not for everybody, but if anything I've said here appeals to you, pick up a copy and spend some time with and important and interesting text.
You can find more of my book reviews here.
There aren't any Hilton properties out on the coast so that meant no free stays. So I searched out a unique place.
The problem with most of the neat places out there is that they are bed and breakfast type places. Which is nice, except you have to get up early if you want breakfast. And you usually end up dining with other guests. That means you have to talk to them and be all nice and friendly, and who wants to do that?
The Judith Ann Inn isn't a bed and breakfast. While we were there, we didn't have to talk to anyone. And there was not big breakfast we were expected to join. Instead we had our own full kitchen.
We took the car down to the access road and drove right on to the beach.
Unlike many states, in Washington the beach is actually a state highway. You can take the car right out onto the sand. That was a lot of fun for my Subaru. It's doesn't get to play much in the city streets or the airport parking lot, but letting it run around in the sand really brought it to life.
The trick with driving on the beach is to obey the warnings that say you should stay on the firmer sand, and not drive close to the water, especially when the tide is coming in. These folks help demonstrate why.
A few people had picnics going out on the beach, and it looked like a couple people were planning on sunbathing, which is not really a good idea. WA beach wear is less about the bikinis and more about the fleece. It's cold and windy and refreshing.
And it is an awesome place to go.