Friday, May 28, 2010

Comics I've Read in 2010

Graphic Novel section [17 total]
[EDIT- added Angel: After the Fall and Invincible Iron Man: The Five Nightmares]
  • Angel: After the Fall by Joss Whedon, Brian Lynch, and Franco Urru. [Whedon was the co-plotter here, but the writing is mainly Lynch, as I understand it. For fans of the Angel TV series, which itself was a spin-off of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, this comic series continues the storyline, which ended with the beginning of a huge battle between all the demonic forces of Wolfram and Hart and Angel and his surviving buddies. I found it kind of disappointing, to be honest. It continues the trend seen in the Buffy comics of throwing in effects and scale at a level beyond what the TV budget would allow for, which is fine as far as it goes, but everything here is a bit too chaotic. They've made big changes to several of the main characters, completely altered the setting by dropping the city of Los Angeles into a Hell Dimension, and they start in media res and take a long time to explain just what's going on. Every chapter (representing an issue) seems to end on a different, shocking cliffhanger/revelation, and by the end of the graphic novel, which also ends in that fashion, I was a bit jaded. There's some snappy dialogue, but I felt as though a lot of stuff got changed just for the sake of changing it. To be honest, this was a problem with the television series as well in its last two seasons, where they made a LOT of weak character decisions and dubious transformations. So if you're a completist, pick this up, but be prepared to need the other volumes almost immediately to make any sense of what's happening.]
  • The Boys, Vol. 1: The Name of the Game by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson [I'm not linking to any of these books as I wouldn't want to encourage anybody to read them. :-)]
  • The Boys, Vol. 2: Get Some
  • The Boys, Vol. 3: Good for the Soul
  • The Boys, Vol. 4: We Gotta Go Now [I checked out all four of these volumes at once at the recommendation of a librarian who I talk to sometimes who has suggested some good reads in the past. These weren't among them. Short story: self-indulgent grossness for the sake of grossness, paper-thin commentary on celebrity, laughable pretense at serving the public, nothing worthwhile that hasn't been done better in other series with vastly more taste. I have a hard time believing that this series continues or that these have actually been popular enough to reissue in hardcover. Longer review here. Now I just have to figure out what to say to the librarian if he asks me what I thought of these, because he is a nice guy.]
  • Brit by Robert Kirkman [meh, a lot of action, a couple unusual characters but everything feels really rushed, didn't excite me.]
  • Checkmate/Outsiders: Checkout by Greg Rucka and Judd Winick. [Got this crossover for my birthday. A fun read, but a bit confusing because while I've read all the Checkmate titles that sandwiched around this story, I haven't seen the Outsiders stories that immediately preceded it, just the early Outsiders stuff, and the makeup and dynamic of the team had clearly changed a bit in the interim.]
  • Crisis on Infinite Earths by Wolfman and Perez [Not good, the writing feels very, very dated and melodramatic, but the art by George Perez is great and I had fun reading this with Will.]
  • Gotham Central Volume 1: In the Line of Duty, written by Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker, art by Michael Lark. [Really good stories about the police in Gotham who have to deal with cases related directly and obliquely to all the costumed criminals, as well as not knowing what the Batman is up to.]
  • Gotham Central Volume 2: Half a Life. [The story in this graphic novel won an Eisner, I believe. It tells the story of detective Renee Montoya, her public outing as a lesbian, and her dealing with false charges of murder.]
  • Gotham Central Volume 3: Unresolved Targets. [A great and chilling story involving the Joker terrorizing Gotham that I have to think influenced the plot of The Dark Knight movie, followed by a good story involving the Mad Hatter and disgraced cop Harvey Bullock.]
  • Gotham Central Volume 4: The Quick and the Dead. [I liked the opening story about a corrupt forensic specialist selling supervillain related crime scene paraphenalia online a little better than the following story involving little used villain Dr. Alchemy, but the very Hannibal Lector-esque take on Alchemy was fun to read if not entirely original.]
  • Gotham Central Volume 5: Dead Robin [The final collection of the series. The title story, which comes first, is very interesting and plays off an interesting fact--when dead teenagers dressed up as Robin start appearing, no one on the police force has any way of knowing if any of them are the real Robin. They don't even know if there are multiple Robins. The wrap-up story carries the character arc of detective Renee Montoya through to its sad but seemingly inevitable conclusion, and features a death that made me sad, as I'd come to like the lost character. The end to a good series.]
  • Invincible Iron Man: The Five Nightmares, by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larocca. [Wow. I was very impressed by this collection of the first six issues of the recent Iron series. The writing is sharp, the high-tech future intriguing, and the character of Tony Stark presented in a very interesting fashion. The storyline deals with the things that Stark fears most happening in the world, with the most significant being that a supertech terrorist has figured out how to modify his Iron Man technology and improve it in some ways. I don't quite buy the idea that young Ezekiel Stane is able to generate the power that he does just by converting his body's energy more efficiently, even as he's chugging thousands of calories. I could see him having extraordinary reflexes, getting smarter, and so forth, but powering energy bolts that can hurt Iron Man seems extreme given the rationale. But it's a sci-fi superhero, right? Salvador Larocca's art is fantastic, Fraction's pacing is wonderful, and he finds interesting new ways to torment one of comicdom's most tormented icons. Good stuff that had me searching my library for the next volume. Which, alas, they don't have!] 
  • Low Moon by Jason. [A collection of brightly colored, largely silent cartoon panels that display odd twists on familiar themes and a very quirky sense of humor. Did not surprise me to find out that the creator is Norweigian. There's a very Scandanavian sense of melancholy and dry humor running throughout these stories. Very interesting and worth a look if only to see how much story and characterization can be packed into such a minimalist presentation.]
  • Sleeper Vol. 1: Out in the Cold by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips.
  • Sleeper Vol. 2: All False Moves
  • Sleeper Vol. 3: A Crooked Line
  • Sleeper Vol. 4: The Long Way Home [These somewhat disturbing graphic novels are the best combinations of noir, crime, and superhero storytelling out there. Double agent Holden Carver, whose unwanted superpower serves to alienate him from his own body and the world around him, gets stranded in a criminal organization when his handler is shot and left in a coma. These aren't your standard supervillains, though their leader, Tao, is a classic evil mastermind in many ways. Carver is constantly pushed into situations where he has to choose between duty, friendship, and survival, and every choice he makes seems to push him deeper into trouble. He has no good choices concerning who to trust. By the end, it's less a matter of wondering if he can get free and more a matter of wondering what the collateral damage to Carver and those around him is going to be. Riveting stuff, well illustrated by Phillips. There's some sex and violence that goes beyond what I typically consider tasteful or necessary, but it doesn't feel gratuitous in Brubaker's hands--there are moral and personal consequences for actions, and material that feels dark is presented as such. So superior to the Ennis crap above that the comparison between the two on one of the book covers made me want to puke. The books have been collected into two volumes, Sleeper Season 1 and Sleeper Season 2, which are the affordable ways to pick them up.]
  • Squadron Supreme by Mark Gruenwald [A classic that still holds up, filled with many plot twists and turns and a ton of difficult decisions for the characters that one didn't see in comics at the time.]

Books I've Read in 2010


  • The Yard Dog by Sheldon Russell. [A good book. Review here.]
  • The Trade of Queens by Charles Stross. [Not as good as the first few books in the Merchant Princes series, and feels a bit like it rushes to the ending. Longer review here. ]
  • The Kingdom of Ohio by Matthew Flaming. [A very unusual story centered on an equally odd romance between a mechanic from Idaho who is helping to build the brand new New York subway system and a princess/mathematical prodigy from the Kingdom of Toledo, which may or may not have ever existed. Edison, Tesla, and J.P. Morgan all make appearances. The novel blends a bit of urban history with colonial history mixed liberally with totally made up history from a closely parallel world, complete with sections replete with thorough footnotes to sources that might or might not exist. There's also a very vaguely described deus ex machina involving instantaneous travel through time, space, alternate universes, or possibly all of the preceding. It's a strange, confidently written novel that kept me turning the pages. As literary fiction with a touch of the fantastic cloaked as weird science, it works. As literary science fiction, it fails, mainly because it's incoherent as to the causes and effects of its central plot devices. So your level of enjoyment will probably be colored by what you're expecting to read. I was in the mood for something odd yet mainstream, so I enjoyed it. I think the faux history sections helped with that; they break up the momentum of the narration a bit, but are very cleverly done.]
  • Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay [Another poetic, epic, and deeply engaging Kay novel, this one set in a fantastic version of the Tang Dynasty in China. It begins with the middle son of a decorated general in the midst of carrying out the task he has chosen to mourn his father's passing: burying the thousands of dead soldiers (from both sides of the conflict) left untouched for many years at an isolated mountain battlefield at the very edge of the Empire. This unusual act draws attention to him, that, combined with less dramatic events in his past and the ties of his family to the Imperial Court, changes his life, and the course of the Empire itself, irrevocably. Highly recommended.]
  • The Last Guardian of Everness by John C. Williams. [An epic fantasy that mixes the modern-day with an everything and the kitchen sink compilation of mythologies, folklores, and legends. The world is about to be overwhelmed by the Dark Lord of the Dreaming. The last guardians of the old order are the only ones who can stop it, but to do so they're supposed to bring about the end of the world. As you might guess, this leads to some hesitation. Can be a little confusing at times, but has lot of interesting imagery. The way in which so many different mythological elements are blended together is intriguing. And the sense of how the passage of time and the simple human capacity to forget can erode the power of those who were once legendary.  Ends on a total cliffhanger, with the fate of the world literally in the balance. A really powerful imagination at work here.]


  • The War in 2020 by Ralph Peters. This book is now nearly 20 years old, so its predictions of future conflict involving a still solvent Soviet Union, a white-controlled South Africa, and a militaristic Japanese economic powerhouse all seem quite dated in some respects. In others, such as its depiction of the threat posed by the warmongering tendencies of various ethnic, nationalist, and fundamentalist Islamic factions in Central Asia, the collapse of order in Mexico, the tension between needing high-tech solutions to battlefield problems and the need for trained and dedicated soldiers to implement them, and social disruption at home, it seems eerily prescient. Not a book that glorifies combat or warfare, but one that does laud the honor and sacrifice of those who fight for their country. More nuanced and better written than much military fiction, though the female characters fall pretty flat. 
  • The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, by N.K. Jemisin. [Intriguing and engaging first novel, a fantasy about gods, power, and family politics. The world is ruled by a single family due to the fact that they were the chosen of the Sky God, who won a terrible war with the two other founding deities of his pantheon, killing one and enslaving the other and all his children. So this family holds its power through the simple fact that it has bound gods and demi-gods into its service. At the same time, one must be very careful how to unleash their power. A young woman whose mother, once the heir apparent, was exiled from the family for marrying beneath her station, receives a sudden summons to the Court after her mother's death and is named one of three potential heirs. The rest of the novel is her struggle to understand the true history of the god war, to survive her encounters with her relatives and the enslaved gods, and to understand her true place in the world. An understatement to say that the final transformations involved are quite dramatic.]
  •  Young adult books on the Maya, Aztec, and Inca.
  • Yellow Smoke, a book on how technology and changing geopolitics have impacted the status and goals of the modern American Army. Perhaps a bit too sanguine in its assessment of how technology will supplant the fighting and killing role of ground forces, who will be transformed from primary fighters to recon units who target enemy forces for destruction by a wide array of weapons platforms operated remotely or fired from a great distance. But a lot of interesting insights into how the U.S. military system works and how it could be improved over time.

  • A Gentleman's Game by Greg Rucka. [A well-paced, engrossing espionage novel based on the characters and situations from Rucka's black-and-white Queen and Country comic series. This tale is about an MI-6 Special Ops agent named Tara Chace who is given the assignment to assassinate a prominent imam with suspected ties to a terrorist attack on London. Does a good job of showing how complicated and dangerous the job can be when almost everything goes right according to the plan, because of the politics that emerge when the U.S., British, Israeli, and Saudi Arabian governments are all involved.]
  • Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. [A Young Adult novel that deals with the very serious themes of how civil rights, technology, and national security can intersect with frightening results in the age of terrorism. I read nearly the entire book in one day on my iPod Touch. Some pretentious British jackass who teaches literature poo-pooed this book's Hugo nomination as an example of dumbed-down pap dominating the awards. But this book was very engaging.]
February [6 completed]

  • Counting Heads by David Marusek. [See my lengthy review of this interesting but flawed science fiction novel.]
  • Mainspring by Jay Lake. [An enjoyable steampunk fantasy about a young man on a quest to repair the mainspring that turns the brass clockworks of an Earth in a literal clockwork universe. I liked the first half of the novel better than the second, and the ending was a bit mystical for my tastes, but overall it was a fun read.]
  • Trading in Danger by Elizabeth Moon. [Not a dazzling novel, but a well-crafted and well-written story that doesn't play games with the reader or try to impress us with metaphysics. I enjoyed it and have already checked out the sequel. Longer review here.]

  • Maps and Legends by Michael Chabon [Another great collection of essays about writing and fiction that filled with me wonder and envy. My reading habits and experiences with writing courses in college seem to have paralleled Chabon's very closely, but his drive and talent created light years of distance in the final result.]
  • Supercapitalism by Robert Reich [A decent look at how the growth of corporations has undermined the democratic process. Essential argument is that corporations in the global marketplace maximize benefits to consumers and investors but ignore the needs of citizens, all the while growing more involved in the political arena to the detriment of our good as a society and a democracy. Does a nice job in showing how we got to this point since World War I. Falls flat in prescriptions for change: limit corporate spending on politics (a goal nullified by the recent, obnoxious Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission) and stop the legal fiction of treating corporations as individuals.]
  • Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein [This slim volume attempts to illustrate some of the essential concepts of various philosophical thinkers through the use of jokes whose humor is based on those concepts. It's funnier than my description makes it sound. Not sure that I have a deeper grasp of philosophy, but I did laugh at a fair number of the jokes.]
January [2 completed]
  • Lamentation by Ken Scholes [Impressive novel blending sci-fi and fantasy.]
  • Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon [Great collection of essays about being a son, father, and brother.]

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Blame Game

The previous post was triggered in part by an annoying exchange that I had with some friend of a former coworker, who decided to jump into the midst of a conversation about Texas governor Rick Perry throwing around the word "secession" like a drunken Confederate at a states' rights rally and mock the intellectual merits of a sarcastic comment I had made. In the process he made repeated references to "The State," apparently hoping that such initial capitalization would impress upon the rest of us how threatening and neo-fascist/communist/totalitarian the Obama administration is.

I asked the guy where his outrage against the impositions of The State had been while the Bush administration was busy declaring two wars, wiping out a budget surplus, running up deficits, trying to legislate personal behavior, castrating regulatory functions, expanding executive power (with no checks), and pushing for legislation to curtail civil liberties. Because he only seemed to be concerned about the current administration and all the terrible things it has done, with the last eight years an apparent wisp of imagination.

I also asked if it had been The State that caused the financial crisis that kicked off the recession.

He ignored the first set of questions, but to my surprise, he answered the second with a lengthy (by Facebook standards) explanation that Clinton had caused the financial crisis by making it too easy for banks to make bad loans, nay, pressuring them into making bad loans by promising them TARP bailouts.


This is the point where I ended my participation in the discussion by congratulating the guy on his upcoming post as Minister of Propaganda should the revolution ever come.

But I did want to take up his point, because I believe that the initial facts he stated are, more or less, true: Clinton did approve of an easing on regulations and reassured banks that the federal government would bail them out.  Its his entire interpretation of this as somehow meaning that liberal big government is to blame for the financial crisis that is ludicrous.

First and foremost, note how he easily absolves the private financial sector of all blame for making all the absurdly risky subprime loans in the first place. Not only are they to blame for incompetence, they are morally culpable for their actions. The heads of these companies made a huge amount of money up front from accepting commissions on huge deals involving financial instruments that were crap.

At places like Goldman Sachs, people were shorting the same investments (ie, betting that they would fail) they were telling other investors were safe and low risk. These people are still rich and still around, even if their companies are not. The government had nothing to do with the choices these business leaders made to game the markets by creating suspect financial instruments specifically designed to elude existing regulatory statutes, all to satisfy their own greed.

(And this is supposed to increase my faith in the free market and my trust that business can regulate itself? Really?)

Secondly, note how he implies that Clinton, and thus Democrats, and thus liberals, crafted and implemented this plan in a vacuum, bearing sole responsibility. So nobody in the financial markets was lobbying to get the government to make things easier on them? The Republican Congress played no role in trying to ensure that certain instruments, like derivatives and credit swaps, were not regulated? And Bush didn't push for further deregulation during his administration? The impetus for all of this came directly from one party in government, such that The State is to blame for everything?

Does that make any sense based on even a rudimentary understanding of how lobbying, PACs, and conservative pro-business politicians in this country operate?

You can go here to learn more about how the Office of Thrift Supervision, the federal agency in charge of regulating failed financial giant AIG, went shopping for AIG and other big clients in 2003 by pledging to slash regulations and oversight and let business do business.

That happened in 2003.

Clinton did sign the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 into law before George W. Bush took office, and that act did basically create a bunch of loopholes for the financial markets to operate in. I'll just note that (a) the Republicans controlled both the House and Senate in the 106th Congress that passed the bill and (b) again, these things don't just appear out of a vacuum. A bunch of legislators didn't get together and craft a complex plan to cater to select corporate interests without being asked to do so and having mock legislation drafted on their behalf by those corporate interests.

I don't think that the federal government is flawless. Far from it. But it pisses me off to have conservative jackasses like this Facebook fellow barge in spouting facts and figures while pretending that big government and the bailout of corporate America are solely representative of liberal, Democratic administrations. Because that's crap. Bush was not only in favor of a bailout, he signed it into law

And beyond the political posturing involved in closing one eye and holding your nose so that you can attempt to blame everything on a single party, how about this "it's all the government's fault" reasoning?

First off, how the hell does anybody with half a functioning brain look at the events that precipitated the financial crisis and presume that the government caused it to happen and that big business doesn't share the bulk of the blame for its own actions? I thought conservatives were big into accountability?

And secondly, if the federal government was to blame for contributing to the bailout, their greatest failure was not in "pressuring" banks to make stupid and reckless loans and investments, but in failing to regulate the financial markets. How does that become an argument for a government with less authority?

Anyway, Facebook is a terrible medium to try to hold a cogent exchange on such a topic, and the cherrypicking of facts and questions that this guy indulged in, much less his interpretations, made it pretty clear to me that I didn't give a shit what he thought. But that doesn't mean I didn't think about why I thought he was wrong, and when I do that, sometimes it just helps to write it down and purge the system.

Facebook Not So Hot

I have to say, I'm less interested in Facebook every day. I'm generally pretty bored by what I see posted there and I rarely think of anything particularly interesting that I'd like to share. (And even when I do, I rarely get any responses from people.)

The character count limits, while not as onerous as those on Twitter (where I opened an account and then immediately lost interest), tend to make it difficult to establish a point or provide a reference.

The whole collecting "friends" aspect so dilutes the meaning of the concept of friendship that it's almost offensive to me. Acquaintances? It feels neither very social nor like a network. I've gotten more connection through the random process of discovering someone's email and sending them a message than anything else. It might be useful for establishing initial contact with people, but it sustains nothing.

In fact, the most irritating moments I've had on Facebook are when I comment on the post of someone I know and one of their "friends" who is a complete stranger to me replies to my words with something asinine or snarky. It's very jarring, as though someone interrupted a conversation at a dinner party with a rude comment. I've had this happen on forums before, but the truncated format of Facebook seems to make the intrusions more likely to be off-point or misinterpreted.

And frankly, on forums people tend to ignore what I post anyway. But I've gotten asshole know-it-all conservatives, teabagger apologists, and even an alternative music snob passing judgment on comments I made in passing. At the least the music snob was just expressing a snotty opinion; the teabaggers and their ilk are simply completely full of shit, repeating their talking points and trying to sound rational or empirical while pretending they can't hear all the rabid screaming from the right that expresses the true sentiments of the movement they're defending.

Even if there was a way to have a rational conversation on certain political subjects with these people, and these days it seems that there isn't much chance of that, Facebook is a godawful medium to try to have a meaningful discussion, with its parameters limiting input to the comfortable confines of regurgitated sound bites. Plus, these people are apparently friends of other people I know, which eliminates the fall-back option of telling them to fuck off if they get too strident. I don't know, maybe I'm too picky, or I'm isolated or I avoid confrontation or I'm more like my family than most people, but over the years I've just blown off the people who are so far on the other side of the ideological fence from me that we can barely hear each other unless we shout. It kind of amazes me who pops up as friends of friends.

I think the lesson here is that I tend to be happier when I spend limited time online in general and less involved in social networking. So I'm going to start thinking about setting some time limits. Perhaps composing some of these blog entries or my web site updates while offline would be smart.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Purgatory Lost

I had a dream the other night after watching the series finale of Lost, in which, in complete contradiction of the advertising campaign, all my questions were not, in fact, answered. Not even close.

Which came neither as a surprise nor as a letdown, really, because by the sixth season of the show the writers had introduced and then abandoned so many dangling plot lines that there was no hope that they would ever resolve anything.

Lost was interesting as a kind of hybrid between an actual dramatic television show with a discernable story arc and a crowd-sourced meta-media program that had the bulk of its presumed depth bestowed upon it by the feverish imaginings of its fandom rather than by the conscious efforts of its creators.

Whereas most writers try to communicate the content of the plot, by the second season the crew of Lost seems to have focused their efforts on obfuscation. The establishing of mysteries became vastly more significant than their resolution, with new mysteries being introduced whenever the current ideas simply ran out of gas, with no tangible effort at providing clear, consistent, or meaningful answers. 

As time passed, this lack of coherence was labeled by many as sophistication. And in some ways, I think it was. After all, real life offers few concrete answers to its greatest enigmas.

The ideas of examining the paths not taken or of reexaming familiar events from multiple perspectives are interesting literary and philosophical devices that Lost returned to again and again. However, for the most part the show dealt with these concepts in the most shallow and inconsistent of ways. Changes were introduced for the sake of shock or some basic inability to ever complete anything. Let's go back in time! Let's have a parallel universe! Let's suddenly tack on an incoherent and rather flabby, lifeless mythology in the final season!

It's as if the show's creators were absolutely terrified of making any narrative choices.

At the same time, Lost had many wonderful characters and characterizations. It was by far the strongest element of the show. The writers seemed to have recognized this, to the extent that they began introducing new characters the way they introduced new mysteries, hoping that by adding and adding to the already brimming pot they would somehow end up with stone soup.

In the end, Lost ended up being an odd hybrid for me of very poor plotting mixed with generally interesting characterization, of storytelling that could trigger emotional reactions without satisfying me intellectualy at all. I watched all six seasons of the show, though by the last three years I wasn't really hooked. Would I recommend it to anybody who hadn't seen an episode before? Probably not.

Back to that dream.

In my dream, the original plane crash survivors found themselves on an eerie island. They interacted with inhabitants who didn't seem to be quite human and who formed different groups. One of these groups was very Taoist, another very scientific, another religiously dogmatic. We got repeated flashbacks into the pasts of individual characters as they tried to understand their environment and survive encounters with the strangeness around them. They even encountered a small group of people living on the beach, with whom they had confused interactions. None of these extras became major characters on the lines of Linus or Juliet. It was a dream, and none of these interactions were all that coherent.

Eventually, after certain encounters with the things on the island, we started getting different flashbacks, in which key characters relived events we'd already seen, but making different choices and experiencing different outcomes. Some of the beings from the island appeared in these new flashbacks. No time travel to the 1970s. No flash-forwards. Sometimes it seemed that the island contained passageways to other places in the world. There was a fair amount of suffering, but nobody ever seemed to die--those that did would reappear later.

In the end, it was revealed that all the main characters on the show were dead and that the island was a kind of spiritual purgatory where their souls were tested; they had to confront their greatest hopes and fears, to relive key moments of their lives and examine their choices. Some of the beings on the island were souls unable to move on, while others were caretakers and cryptic guides of a sort.

The show ended when rescue came for the Others on the beach, who were the actual survivors of the crash and who interacted with the main characters in dreams or by seeing them as ghosts. By the time this revelation came, some of the characters were willing to move on, leaving this world behind, while others were unprepared and remained behind, and a few chose to become caretakers to help the next group of souls.

Would this version of the show have been as popular as the one with the Dharma Initiative, the numbers, Jacob and the Smoke-Monster, the Others, time-travel, the parallel universe, and so forth? Or even the original show in which the supernatural elements were actually downplayed?

Almost certainly not. But for me, at least, it would have been more coherent and I would have better understood people's involvement.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

We Are Related to Neanderthals? Intriguing.

At least, those of us of European or Southeast Asian descent are, according to recent DNA evidence acquired by sequencing Neanderthal DNA.

There's also a brief discussion of the implications of this discovery on this Caveman podcast from To the Best of Our Knowledge*.

As a very small number of you may know, I've been playing around with the idea of Neanderthals and other ancient hominids assuming the roles traditionally played by mythical humanoid species in epic fantasy. I've explored the idea of interbreeding as a part of that, so this evidence interests me.

*(Following that discussion on the podcast, there's a discussion with archaeologist Brian Fagan about his recent book on Cro-Magnons that I found myself snorting out loud at, due to the utter confidence with which Fagan offered as factual statements a series of completely unqualified assessments as to how the art of the Cro-Magnons revealed the depth of their supernatural belief system and the showmanship of their rituals, in spite of the fact that he HAS to be INTERPRETING and investing with psychological and emotional signifance a limited set of ancient visual and physical evidence that is, by the way, completely lacking in either written records or any kind of explanatory oral history or myths that might actually reveal feelings that are otherwise lost to time. His ideas are interesting, and he may be correct, but what he's stating as facts are conjectures that can't be proven. As someone with an extensive scientific background, his abuse of this distinction between hypothesis and empirical fact was a bit startling to me. Hopefully the book is more nuanced.)