Higher Education, Inequality and the Public Good

My brother, Stuart, has an article in the upcoming Dissent Magazine, titled, as you can see above, “Higher Education, Inequality and the Public Good”. Knowing how well my brother writes, if you’re even remotely interested in the subject, I highly recommend you check out the issue!

update: It has belatedly come to my attention that my brother’s article is not actually online at this point. However, it should be appearing any time now.

Daredevil: The Murdock Papers

Cover of Daredevil #81I haven’t written much (if anything) about the comics I read on this site, but one of my “resolutions” of 2005 was to include more about comics here. If only because I spend so much money on them, the least I could do is try to get someone else hooked on my drugs :). So the inaugural post will be about the “The Murdock Papers” storyline in Daredevil. This is the final story arc for the creative team of Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev, whose run on this comic I believe will be known as one of the best creatives on any comic, ever. The canon is that the Frank Miller run on Daredevil was both one of his best, and the best run on Daredevil. But I firmly believe that Bendis’ run (and in particular the long partnership with artist Alex Maleev) surpasses even that.

Which, I realize, is quite the statement. So why do I think this? Simple: Daredevil has always been a “noir” superhero. He lives in Hell’s Kitchen, and for the most part, his concerns are the small, daily toils and troubles that make a great noir story. And Bendis is a great crime, and more specifically, noir writer (see, if you doubt me, all of his pre-marvel graphic novels such as “Jinx”, “Goldfish”, and particularly “Torso”). These two (Bendis & Maleev) first teamed up on Todd MacFarlane’s Sam & Twitch, and they kept most of the atmosphere from that crime series when they joined forces on Daredevil. Bendis is a master of dialogue, and he’s also very good at letting the art do the exposition. This, I think, both stretches the artist’s skills and leaves him room to tell very engaging stories. Rarely do you hear a Bendis character explain what they are, or are about to do. Alex Maleev’s art is highly stylized, and takes some getting used to. I used to find it quite static, but as I’ve read more and more work featuring his art, I’ve come to see the nuances in how he depicts action. Most importantly, I think, is that Maleev uses quite a minimal and subtle palette, which is important to keep the noir feel. He has a variety of techniques to help distinguish levels of shadow or sunlight, etc. The other selling feature for me is that his people are always very real – no impossible-figured women or overly muscular men are found in Maleev’s world. Sure, they’re clearly super-heroes (or -villans, or -powers) where appropriate, but he recognizes that not every single woman in the world has a 22″ waist and 38DD chest. Which is refreshing.

But on to the story-arc. There’s been a long and twisted story leading up to this point, including such things as the imprisonment of The Kingpin (crimelord, arch-nemesis of Daredevil), Murdock nearly being outed as Daredevil to the press (officially – his secret identity is one of the worst-kept secrets in comic-dom, I think), his mental breakdown, subsequent marriage & separation, etc. It’s been a whirlwind of troubles for Daredevil under Bendi’s watch – another plus – Daredevil has become a somtimes intensely personal look at one man’s descent and his struggles to rebuild after losing everything. The story arc opens with the Kingpin wanting to cut a deal with FBI – he’ll provide them with proof that Matt Murdock is Daredevil (for various reasons the feds want to lock Matt Murdock/Daredevil up), in exchange for exile. The story is then one of the Feds pressing the Kingpin for information, while Daredevil and friends search for the papers themselves, to prevent them falling into the hands of the police or the press. (WARNING: SPOILER AHEAD!) What makes this story so great, and such a fitting end to the run, is that Daredevil fails in this. He’s instead shot, seriously wounded by a police sniper. The very last panel shows him, half in uniform, his identity revealed, sitting in a police car, handcuffed. The FBI has him. The story guest stars all of the major surviving players in the Daredevil mythos, and has a number of twists and turns (including the somewhat predictable final twist that there are in fact, no such papers, it was just a ploy to bring Daredevil into the open) that mark the best noir writing.

I’m quite worried about what will happen to Daredevil under a new creative team. I’m worried that they’ll pick up the “Let’s make big shit happen to Daredevil” theme of the Bendis run without the very, very important “Let’s stop and examine the personal effects of this big shit” minutae that made the now-ending run so fantastic. So many Marvel comics subject their characters to events that should be highly traumatic. But apparently, they all have such superior psyches that it just bounces off them. I’d hate to see the psyhological angle lost from this comic, as there’s so few that actually venture down this path (and you’d think it would be more popular, given the whole “Secret Identity” aspect of super-heroes).

Consider the Lobster

So let’s say that you wanted to buy me a present. I don’t know why you’d want to (excepting the obvious fact that I’m clearly gift-worthy), but if you did, if you did want to buy me a present, a particularly fantastic present to buy me might be the new essay collection by David Foster Wallace, entitled “Consider the Lobster“. Because, if you know me, you know I love the DFW. And I love the reading. And, I just got rid of a whole slew of books. So, if you will, consider the lobster. That’s all.

Hooray for shameless begging!

A l’ami qui ne m’a pas sauve la vie

In honour of today being World AIDS Day, I’d like to recommend the book A l’ami qui ne m’a pas sauve la vie, by Hervé Guibert. It’s a fantastic, terrifying story of the early days of AIDS, including all the false hopes and promises of quick cures that were showing up. If you can read French, you owe it to yourself to read this book.

Do you have my book?

So while I was going through my boxed books, I was hoping I’d come across my copy of Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell. But I didn’t find it. So with that in mind, I’m hearby putting out a request:

If you my copy of Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell, please let me know. My copy is the black-covered paperback version. I’d really like it back. Leah hasn’t read it yet.

(I should really start keeping a record of who I lend books to. That, and write my name inside the books, or something)

There are books to be had

I own, it must be said, a fair number of books. I’ve owned a fair number of books for a very long time. However, for the past 3 years, the vast majority of those books have been sitting in boxes, gathering dust, feeling unloved. The reason is that despite having a lot of books, I have very little shelf-space. Mostly, this is due to the fact that apartments don’t have nearly enough wallspace to accomodate a lot of shelves. In my previous apartment, this was countered by the availability of a large storage space, so I didn’t have to think about it at all. However, in my current abode, which, given that I’ve now got Liam, is likely to be my abode for some time to come, I don’t have any storage. Well, I have one closet at the top of the stairs, but that’s really about it. And as a result, I have boxes of books stashed pretty much everywhere – in the storage closet, in the linen closet, in Liam’s closet and under our bed.

So, without further ado, I’m going to get rid of my books. Any of my fair readers who wish to come and take first pick, please let me know. I think I’m going to inventory them this weekend, so that I know what I’m getting rid of (and to save any that I just can’t bear to part with), and, if I digitize them, will post them here. Also, I’m looking for suggestions on where to give the books to. We’ll give some to the library at Children’s Hospital, where Leah volunteers, but if you have any other good suggestions, please let me know. The books run the gamut, from textbooks, to classics, to sci-fi, to reference books, and probably the odd magazine.

Neil Gaiman

Last night, I went to see Neil Gaiman reading from his new book, Anansi Boys, along with Lauren and Patty.

I’ve been to a number of readings over the years, probably a half-dozen or so, and this one will definitely rate as one of, if not the best I’ve been to. Neil Gaiman is such a fantastic storyteller, and really knows how to do these things. We all go to readings to hear the writer’s voice, to watch him tell us stories. And he really delivered. From his opening introduction of “what the plan is, and there is a plan”, all the way through to explaining why he would not pose for photos, he was expansive, wry and engaging.

I suspect that he was funnier this time than he may have been other times because the book he’s promoting is a funny book. Rockstar/consumate professional that he is, I suspect his readings would always match the tone of what he was promoting. Although, despite it all, he will always look the same – shaggy hair, black, slightly-too-tight jeans, a black t-shirt (this one a CBGB’s shirt), and leather jacket. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a photo of him, at any time over the last 10-odd years, where he was wearing, or looking at all different. But we don’t like our writers for their style of dress.

The audience was far more interesting. It was a demographic made up of special and unique snowflakes. All these kids, growing up slightly on the outside, loving Sandman, are now, of course, all in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s. And still don’t want to quite fit it. But put together 200 (I’m guessing) people who all don’t want to quite fit in with mainstream, and you arrive at a strange new normal – a bucket of snowflakes if you will, whever everyone’s difference blends together in the end.

Like all readings, there was a book-signing at the end. Neil was very organized in how he did this, and had an assistant come around before we got to him to get the name, spell it correctly and stick it on a yellow sticky note for him to transcribe. For his new book, he would only sign on one particular page, which might well be the writer’s equivalent of a rider (only red M&M’s! and I’ll only sign the 3rd page after the dedication!) (is that a rider? Or am I confusing terms? I feel I may well be confusing terms here). I was torn, at the signing part, whether or not to buy his new book. But, in what is probably a precedent-setting ruling, I instead bought The Wolves in the Walls, a children’s book by himself and Dave McKean, and had him sign it for Liam.

I was equivocating before the reading about whether or not I really wanted to go, but I am so glad that I decided in the end to do so.

The System of the World

I (sadly) finished the last book in Neal Stephenson‘s Baroque Cycle, The System of the World late last week.

If you don’t know, SotW is the third book in this monstrous trilogy, spanning nearly 3000 pages in total, and covering a little under 100 years, during the 17th & 18th century. I’m still hopeful for further works that will make clearer, or even further obsfucate the ties between The Baroque Cycle and the book that preceded them, Cryptonomicon, or the at-one-time-rumored trilogy set in the future.

For my thoughts on this volume, please read on…

Continue reading “The System of the World”

Neal Stephenson @ Writers Fest

Neal Stephenson is speaking at the Vancouver International Writers Festival next Thursday. I’m going to go along with Day. If you’re a Stephenson fan, this may be an excellent opportunity for you, too.

Now a question of etiquette: It is ok to bring a book to get signed (given that it’s not a reading)? If so, is it ok to bring more than one? Or, if only one, should you only bring his latest? What if, say, I’d rather get Quicksilver signed? Oh, the questions I have….

A small shout-out

So I’d like everyone to congratulate a friend of mine, Brian Morgan, who was recently appointed Senior Designer at Walrus Magazine. Not only that, but the cover of the current issue (October 2004) is also a Brian Morgan creation.

I feel like I know a celebrity! But please, buy the magazine, and should you care to, let Brian know how great he is.