Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Conventions and problematic people

While I have been peripherally involved in conventions and convention planning for years, I am NOT a convention organizer and could not ever handle the pressure of such events. That's been brought home to me again by a couple of recent incidents in fandom.

Let's start with the big one. A writer known for harassing people online said he was going to attend Worldcon and, among other potential acts, violate the rules by wearing a bodycam into a private suite. The Worldcon committee, after hearing about his threats, determined the threats were both believable and violated their rules and banned him from attending the convention.

He's now suing Worldcon.

I think he hasn't got a chance in the case, but I don't know California law, and I don't know what sort of lawyer he's got (although a couple people implied his lawyer is as pathetic as he is). I do know that the Worldcon committee has to deal with this nonsense as the convention is getting closer, and it's definitely a nuisance and planned to disrupt the convention as much as possible. In short, he's bullying the convention to cause a disruption after threatening to cause a disruption at the con. These are the actions of a sociopath, and not a person any fan should be comfortable associating with.

I don't see how suing the convention furthers any reasonable goal he might have. There is now no chance that any reasonable convention committee will ever invite him as a guest, as he's proven he's willing to file nuisance lawsuits against conventions. So if he's invited as a guest and doesn't like something about the convention? Potential lawsuit. No way any sane person will invite him again. And it also torpedoes his odds of being allowed to attend other conventions, because who wants a toxic, convention-suing guy at their con? No one.

Nothing good can come of this.

Let's move on to another incident. That of John Ringo and his momentary guestness at ConCarolina. It was announced a couple of days ago that Ringo would be a guest at ConCarolina, and a number of folks immediately objected and withdrew their own attendance because of things Ringo has said and some themes of his writing.

I admit, I own a number of Ringo's books in digital format from when I purchased many of Baen's ebooks. I know I've read at least one, but I honestly cannot remember any titles or plotlines of any of them. I think his writing didn't appeal to me, or I considered it filler to read while waiting for something good. I don't know. But his works clearly lacked impact and didn't connect with me. At the time I purchased them, I wasn't aware of his ... opinions on women. If I had been, I would not have purchased anything by him.

That said, ConCarolina has now disinvited Ringo, which isn't going to make the problem go away for the convention. In fact, it's a very bad sign after a similar incident hurt Odyssey Con last year, and several invited guests withdrew. As a person involved in conventions, these stories break my heart. It's so hard to get a convention going, so hard to figure out costs and then who to invite. And if you invite someone who is problematic, even if you are unaware of the problems, you might sink your entire effort.

It's enough to make a person swear off conventions. Certainly enough to make being on a concom a dangerous and scary job. I admit I admire those members of fandom who volunteer their time for such a thankless task even more after learning about these various problems.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Newbery Winners: Shen of the Sea

The fifth book to win the Newbery Medal, which it did in 1926, is Shen of the Sea by Arthur Bowie Chrisman, a collection of short stories set in China. The tales are not at all connected. I suspect this would be a hard book to get published today, as some aspects of Chinese culture that it depicts have not aged well. But it's also not horrible, either, and holds up a lot better than many other books of the time, I'm sure. (And let's face it, just about anything written for children nearly a century ago is going to feel quaint and dated anyway.) Although I gather these stories were originally created by Chrisman, they read like old folk tales. Some are just little slice-of-life stories, but others delve into the origins of aspects of Chinese culture (printing, chopsticks, pottery, kites, tea, gunpowder), and others show people thinking outside the box, or tricking demons, or just being clever. It's a fun, light read, and I enjoyed this one a lot.

Computer Issues.... again.

I have fiddled with my laptop to the point where, with a generous helping of electrical tape and the occasional tap on the screen, I'm able to usually not have monitor problems, huzzah. I ended up having to take off the screen itself, which I was loathe to do. I managed, but it was annoying and I broke a few more little pieces of plastic and basically I just need a new computer.

Which isn't going to happen soon.

Still, my computer was working and the monitor is now mostly behaving. Then yesterday morning, after a three-hour power outage in the middle of the night, I noticed that the computer wasn't charging. I got the message "Plugged in, not charging" when I looked at the battery icon. Um. Ok.

I generally use the computer plugged in, although I frequently take it downstairs unplugged... so it's not a thing that would completely break the computer for me. But it's worrying. What if the battery has gone bad, or I somehow damaged it during my efforts to fix the screen? A visit to Google and I learned that Windows 10 laptops have this problem A LOT. Not just a little, but so frequently that there is a lot of information and misinformation out there about it.

I found the solution that finally worked for me on HP's website, after trying a number of different things and having every one of them fail. I had been using the HP diagnostic tools to see if the battery itself was failing, but got lots of green lights as far as it was concerned. It even started charging for a brief moment during the testing! To fix it "completely" (as far as I can tell), I ended up following these directions:

Perform the following steps to isolate the issue and arrive at a fix:
  • Power off the laptop.
  • Disconnect AC adapter from the laptop.
  • Press and hold the power button for 15 seconds.
  • Plug the AC adapter back in.
  • Power on the laptop.

    Uninstall the battery drivers and then reinstall them:
  • Open the device manager.
  • Expand "Batteries". Right click on the ACPI drivers and select uninstall.
  • Close the device manager.
  • Restart the laptop. While restarting, Windows will reinstall the battery drivers.
  • Thank goodness, removing the ACPI drivers fixed it. I have no idea what ACPI drivers are or any interest in learning, but they apparently have something to do with battery charging. I was ready to do the next step, a BIOS flash, but was not looking forward to it since there are so many things that can go wrong when you get down to the firmware level.

    As I was working through these steps, hubby-Eric told me about a lovely video promo for a Supernatural/Scooby-Doo crossover, so I of course had to watch it... and there was no sound. In fact, every single attempt I made to turn up the volume, it reset itself down to "2" and didn't move. Guess who had to reinstall sound drivers right after reinstalling battery drivers?

    Doing all this with a nasty cold and barely any brain power was difficult as well. I suppose I thrive on it, though. I love troubleshooting. I just wish I didn't have to do it quite so often. And I wish I could run more things on my computer (like Fallout 4, which I could eventually get through Steam via Swagbucks). I want to buy myself a Dell gaming laptop, but the cheapest ones that will run what I want are $800 or more. First-world problems, I know. At least with my repairs I'm still able to play DC Universe Online, which I now have ALL the downloadable content from, thanks to Swagbucks, and enough left over to buy the Aquaman DLC when it comes out later this month.

    Sunday, March 04, 2018

    A Sunday Comic Books Review

    DCBS
    Here are reviews of the DCBS comic books that I've gotten around to reading and reviewing, sorted by the original shipping date:
    • Jan 3rd
    • Justice League #36 - This is confusing. First off, I can't figure out where in Aquaman's timeline this is supposed to have taken place. Second off, Batman killing someone wouldn't just be front page news - everyone who knows any superhero would be asking about it. This seems like we're getting an extremely limited view of what's going on. As a result, it feels like the story is leaving too much out. I guess I'm used to decompressed stories after all, because this one is moving too quickly but in all the wrong ways.
    • Green Lanterns #38 - Well, that's not good. So she admitted her crime and Simon immediately told on her. That's good. Then she's allowed along on the fight against the stronghold of the people she claims she was led astray by. Fine. But then the standard twist happens and we get a somewhat disturbing cliffhanger. Yikes. Not a perfect story, but still engaging.
    • Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #3 - So the cliffhanger from last week, when two boys used one of the new street weaons accidentally to blow out a wall of their home, is resolved painfully and sadly in this issue. If nothing else, this comic is delivering the feeling of hopelessness and rage that people who are being unfairly picked on by police feel. It can be difficult to read. That's probably a good thing.
    • Bombshells United #9 - Ah, so that's what Cheetah was up to. And just for kicks, we also get the origin of Bombshell's Black Adam, who became so nasty his girl killed herself. Lovely. As always, interesting stuff, but I can only wonder where it's leading. One strange bit, the rules of this Lazarus Pit seem a bit different than the rules of such things in the regular DCU.
    • Jan 10th
    • Titans #19 - How can this story possibly be a thing with the current storyline in the Justice League? I mean, seriously. The Justice League, particularly Batman, are under investigation and in this book they are putting the Titans under the microscope? No, this doesn't fit. The two storylines clash badly. That said, Garth is living up to his old tradition of being a bit of a hothead, and I like it.
    • Scooby Apocalypse #21 - Well, it seems the answer to my question after what we learned last time (there's no cure) is that they'll wander around for a couple of months then get a bright idea to settle down and create a base in a mall. I personally would pick a building that has fewer access points, but whatever. I guess Velma is intent on the potential supplies in such a place, but that's not going to help much if the place is overrun by monsters. We'll just have to see in the next issue.
    • Spongebob Comics #76 - Only a small Mermaid Man reference while SpongeBob is procrastinating. The main story is part one of a longer story - all the water is gone from Bikini Bottom and Pearl is missing. Who will save the day? And who screwed up the day in the first place?
    • Saucer State #6 - Ok, I really liked that character and I'm not happy with this issue. That said, I was clearly pulled deeply into the issue since I had such an extreme reaction to it. I find it very interesting how the relationship with the Russians is going, as well. This is mind-bending stuff.
    I've finally mostly caught up. Yes, there's a small stack of comics still to be reviewed next to my desk, but it's small, and only covers a few weeks, instead of knee-high and covering nearly a year. I'll continue to do multiple weeks until I'm actually caught up, then I'll just focus on the previous month, since we get our books shipped to us monthly. Unless we move back to civilization or suddenly get rich enough to pay for weekly shipping, I'll never be posting as the books arrive in stores each week. I suppose I could go all digital, but I really don't like reading comics on my computer or tablet, I guess I'm old-school...

    Sunday, February 25, 2018

    A Sunday Comic Books Review

    DCBS
    Here are reviews of the DCBS comic books that I've gotten around to reading and reviewing, sorted by the original shipping date:
    • Dec 6th
    • Justice League #34 - Huh. This is basically a Batman story, with the Justice League serving as back-up to his break-down. It seems Bruce has been burning the candle at both ends too long and isn't doing too hot, leading to him screwing up. And when Batman screws up, people die. While I get Superman saying it was a good day, Bruce had Aquaman driving a frickin' bus instead of dealing with a natural disaster at a seaside town. That's not like him. But hey, Aquaman looks GREAT as a bus driver.
    • Green Lanterns #36 - Oh, the trial set-up. This wasn't as great a story as I was hoping for - the bluffing bad guy did his bad thing and we got a little insight into Jessica's continuing fight against her fears - but it didn't feel quite complete to me. I guess that's due to the set-up of the villain. She was truly frightening and not really something those two could have beaten, I think. If it had gone down to them having to fight Singularity Jain for any length of time, she would have won. I just hope the rest of the Corps recognizes the danger so if Singularity Jain shows up again they have a plan.
    • Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #2 - A little bit of confusion in my head between this version and the television show, but not so much it hurts. I wish I'd read more of the original Black Lightning, then I might have a much better idea of the supporting cast, and possibly would enjoy it more. Even with that lack of certainty, it's still a very good book with a plot that is more than promising and a cliffhanger that is heartbreaking.
    • DC Holiday Special 2017 - Oh joy, another anthology, this one with eleven stories. Let's see... Batman in a revenge story, Green Arrow as Santa, a Sgt. Rock tale of the light of life lasting eight nights against the odds, The Flash helping out stranded travelers, Deathstroke and his family being Deathstroke-y, the Atomic Knights handle sentient plants, Teen Titans face a literal ghost of Christmas Past, the Swamp Thing brings hope to the desperate, and Wonder Woman and Batman celebrate the Solstice together. The whole thing is tied together by a framing story starring Clark Kent, Bibbo, and Constantine. And there's a bonus classic Neal Adams story featuring Batman singing Christmas Carols while his spirit moves through the city. None of the stories struck me as great, but none were particularly bad, either.
    • Bombshells United #7 - Black Adam replacing Franco in Spain? That's really disturbing on a whole lotta levels. And now he's searching for some secret arcane power that is somewhere under the ground. Batgirl really has her work cut out for her. It almost seems unfair to put her up against Black Adam, but I suspect Black Adam is the one who isn't going to like the end result of this one.
    • Doctor Strange #382 - Stephen Strange just can't help using the people around him, can he? And thanks to that horrible tendency, he's not only put Zelma in trouble, but apparently everyone in the world. Good job, Doctor Strange. Your ego continues to cause harm.
    • Usagi Yojimbo #164 - Another good issue, and it links several other Inspector Ishida stories from the past, setting up a much bigger story that also worked in each individual chunk. I love the moment that Ishida is attempting arrests and everyone vanishes. I'm also with Usagi that I'm liking the Robin Hood character quite a bit. Not a killer, but definitely a character.
    • Dec 13th
    • Titans #18 - Well, that was an abrupt ending. I kind of expected this story to continue for another five issues and include some sort of crossover. In fact, when Kid Flash raced off, I was sure that was a signal that a crossover was in the works. But then... it's over. A surprise, how quickly Donna took care of business once it occurred to her that she was equal in power.
    • Scooby Apocalypse #20 - Well, that's it for the story, then, right? Velma says there isn't a cure so that's the end of the world. Daphne admits that she might have been wrong and that if she dares to believe she was wrong she will be wracked by guilt. And it's Christmas. Wow. I really have to wonder where the series will go from here, since the hunt for a cure was the big force driving the group forward.
    • Spongebob Comics #75 - Hey, there's a tiny Mermaid Man appearance! Yay. The first story is a long-form Kochalka story, which means this issue feels surreal from the start. Kochalka even wrote the Mermaid Man short (half a page) but the art was by Jerry Ordway. I think my brain is broken by all of it. In a good way.
    • Dec 20th
    • Aquaman #31 - So Corum Rath has a final solution in mind, with the goal of getting rid of all the people in Atlantis who have been "sea changed", which frankly is a lovely way to introduce the idea of that type of mutation. In fact, this whole storyline has been dealing with a really problematic part of the nature of DC's Atlantis introduced thoughtlessly some time ago. In a society as xenophobic as this one, how could creatures that were not quite "human" live in Atlantis? The answer is that they sort of didn't - they were living below and outside the main city and they were mutated, probably by the same magics that created the mer-people of the other main Atlantean city. We know it's easy for racists to ignore people they hate - that seems to be what happened to Atlantis right up until Rath took over and decided to fence all of them in, and kill the ones he doesn't like. It works. I still have many questions, but it works as a story.
    • Justice League #35 - I loved the Spanish bit with Jessica. I loved even more that I understood most of it. I need to snag some comics in Spanish, I think. It would give me more of a motive to read and try to understand. I wonder if Aquaman has been translated to Spanish? *ahem* The story was a little strange, but not bad. The underlying horror of Wonder Woman's sword having been used to kill a nun was clearly still a theme of this issue, but finding and getting rid of the bug was a fun plot. A decent issue.
    • Green Lanterns #37 - Acting as a strong leader, the Podfather of the Molites not only shielded the Ungaran teenagers after they murdered the children of his people, he also took the blame for the crime that started it all. I just wonder how Baz is going to react now that he knows what started it and who is responsible. I also wonder if she changed after facing the hate of the crowd, or if she's going to try to convince Baz to join her.
    • Bombshells United #8 - A Lazarus Pit. Is that what Black Adam is looking for? And who would Cheetah have brought back to life? I'm also more than a little curious about Batgirl's injury. Why did her eyes glow?
    • Teen Titans Go #25 - This is definitely the Holiday special, with a truly bizarre Chanukah story that really made no sense whatsoever, unless Colossal Boy was just teasing the Teen Titans and they were stupid enough to fall for it. The Christmas story makes MUCH more sense, and even has a reference to the Neal Adams story in the anthology. Fun, but as always I know I'm not the target audience for this book.
    • Wonder Woman/Conan #4 - Ah. So Yanna was stabbed, and Conan's desire to look at Wonder Woman's breast is to see if the scar is there. Got it. Lots of history in this book, mostly focusing on Conan. The mirror trick for Wonder Woman was a bit disturbing, but perhaps the crow was telling the truth about the lasso. If so, it would certainly give Diana the answers she needs.
    • Doctor Strange #383 - So we finally find out why Loki is Sorceror Supreme. I'm not sure I buy it, but then there are horrible huge threats hovering over all the various universes in comics. Justice League has been hearing about a new threat for ages, and the Vishanti apparently decided that Loki would be a better solution to some major threat to the Marvel U. I was surprised to see Stephen go to the World Tree and make sure a perfect (and sad) offering. I wonder if this new power will be enough for what he wants to do?
    • Dec 27th
    • Teen Titans #15 - Oh, great. It's the third part of a crossover. I started to read and realized I had no idea what was happening. Annoying, DC. There isn't even a "previously" text box to give me some idea of who this new character is and why he's there. So, as far as I can figure, some version of Tim Drake wandered in from another universe and is trying to kill Jon Kent/Superboy. The Titans are divided on whether or not to help Drake find Superboy and Damian. But Aqualad knows exactly where they are thanks to his powers. And... that's it. If there's more story, we're not going to see it in this book. Which makes it really annoying. I buy titles to get complete stories, not a tiny portion of a larger story which to read I'd have to buy three or four other issues of books I don't read because I'm not interested in them. I hate crossovers. They basically mean I wasted my money on an incomplete story. I always feel cheated when publishers pull this crap.
    • Batman Beyond #15 - It looks like Matt has some plans for his future. What is the appeal of being a superhero in Gotham? I'd want to move away, personally. And Stalker has a very good reason to make a deal, but if he'd just looked for Batman *first* he probably would have gotten and even better deal - like assistance in making the fields produce food again to make his home self-sufficient.
    • Scooby Doo Team Up #33 - I've never been a big fan of the Legion of Super-heroes, but it's pretty funny to see them bringing in the "expert" help of the Scooby-Doo team to solve a haunting in their headquarters. Brainiac is as obnoxious as ever, and the team does a nice job of solving the problem through elimination and logic. And a few screams and run-aways by Shaggy and Scooby.
    • Usagi Yojimbo #165 - I have a sneaking suspicion I know exactly who the Master is, as he's been properly introduced as a jerk... and has ordered Inspector Ishida to stop inspecting the crime that would involve him. It will be fun to see how this plays out.
    • Back To The Future: Tales from the Time Train #1 - A nice introductory story with some fun side trips, introducing readers to the idea that Doc Brown and his family are going to be time tourists for a bit. A solid start with some action and some familiar moments.
    • The Tick 2017 #2 - Wow, we're learning all kinds of things about the Tick in this. He has a whole history before he lived in the city, and the proof is in the people who recognize him (no one could forget him, right?). And he can play the piano? And apparently has a very close female friend? Wow. This is a side of the character we've never seen before. I'm really enjoying this book.

    Sunday, February 18, 2018

    A Sunday Comic Books Review

    DCBS
    Here are reviews of the DCBS comic books that I've gotten around to reading and reviewing, sorted by the original shipping date:
    • Nov 1st
    • Justice League #32 - More of the Bat-crossover, Metal. Aquaman is up against AquaBatWoman, and apparently a massively mutated and massive Mera. Other than that? A lot of set up for an impossible situation to be continued in another book that I no longer read. Bleh. I hate these kind of crossovers that all too often infect superhero comics.
    • Green Lanterns #34 - On the one hand, people who believe strongly in religions don't often switch so quickly... on the other hand, they were witnessing their world falling apart. So I guess even though Jessica's speech was cheesy, it was something to cling to. Lots of setup for future issues in this one, as well.
    • Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #1 - Hubby and I are watching the television show, but this is the first version of the comic I've read. I've known about Black Lightning for many years. I was disgusted to learn why the Super Friends version was renamed, and I'm happy Tony Isabella is finally getting his due for this character. It's kind of hard for me to simply judge this comic out of the context of how I learned about the history of the character... which is why I've included all that information. With all that said, I really enjoyed this. It isn't completely perfect, but it's a strong set up and it makes me want to read more, so that's all good. I believe this is a mini-series, but I would like to see this character with an ongoing some time.
    • Bombshells United #5 - So, in the end, in the Bombshells universe the internment of the Japanese did not happen because a handful of people stood against it, then convinced more to stand, and using magic convinced even more. It's a nice dream, but as Dawnstar notes, it's not the history of every universe.
    • Usagi Yojimbo #163 - Foul murder and the frame up of a Robin Hood ninja. The usual mess of gang intrigue and no honor among thugs is combined with some possibly bigger problems. As usual, this is a great story with fun new characters and two solid favorites. I quite like Nezumi. He seems to be a sensible thief, all things considered. Another solid issue of the most dependable comic book on the market.
    • Nov 8th
    • Titans #17 - Wowsa. A lot of history packed in there. Donna, I'm sure, has no problem with "wasting" that amount of time. But I have to wonder what else happened to Troia beyond simply outliving her friends that turned her into that sort of monster. Fate is cruel, but Donna isn't that person. Wowsa. Lots to think about here. Could simply watching everyone you've ever known and loved die off while you persist turn you into a killer? Ok, so there's her nature already, not human, but still!
    • Scooby Apocalypse #19 - Oh, now this is one that really hurts. Adults being what they are, they didn't listen when Cliffy told them the truth. And Daphne is a little too trigger-happy for my tastes. Cliffy is going to be a really interesting character should he survive much longer. No, this isn't my childhood Scooby-Doo, but I'm really loving this book.
    • Spongebob Comics #74 - No Mermaid Man, and the Pirates really seem to have vacated the place. This issue was all about friendship - and took the usual SpongeBob approach to the subject. I'm not entirely sure how Squidward survived, to be honest. All-in-all, a fun little issue.
    • Nov 15th
    • Aquaman #30 - A nicely balanced issue, with just enough movement on all the storylines. The consequences of Mera's damaged necklace, the guilt of Tempest, the continued mish-mash of Atlantis' underworld, and of course the main story of the battle between Aquaman and Rath. My one quibble is that King Shark really seems to prefer surface life to living underwater, and I wasn't aware before that he got caught in the city. But if he happened to be in town when it all went down, it's reasonable that he would become an underworld leader. Up next appears to be the annual. Good stuff, and I'm looking forward to reading the next installment.
    • Justice League #33 - More of the Metal crossover, which means I don't understand everything that's going on because I didn't purchase the crossover or the many tie-ins. From this sample, I don't regret my decision. There's an evil Joker/Batman thing, and the league were captured but Cyborg busts them loose. Sort of. Aquaman is there but doesn't do a lot. So I'm fairly meh about the whole thing.
    • Green Lanterns #35 - Blustering idiot doesn't know how to contact Green Lanterns except by annoying them with threats and damage. Lovely. An ok issue, but I'm not sure Jessica is likely to still have a job after that incident.
    • Bombshells United #6 - I'm not really sure what this one was all about. It seems to be mostly a lot of set-up for future stories, and the introduction of new characters to this universe. At least there was a one-panel appearance of Mera and Arthur.
    • Wonder Woman/Conan #3 - Not good at following orders? Who would've thunk it. The crows are getting more excitement than they bargained for, which really ought to please them in the end. I mean, they're bored and just want something exciting, right?
    • Doctor Strange #381 - Loki? Really? I mean, I'm not exactly a hater on Loki, but I was hoping for some stories about, you know, Doctor Strange. Hopefully this will be a short storyline.
    • Nov 22nd
    • Teen Titans #14 - Titans to the rescue! There to save Damian's worthless butt. I like Emiko, but man, somebody needs to smack Damian around a bit, mentally. I'm kind of hoping that final revelation is going to be the act of smacking.
    • Batman Beyond #14 - Well, the Royal Flush Gang is back in action and as annoying as ever (in that good, goofy way). It's also nice to see Terry getting his life back in gear now that Dana is aware of why he's a lying liar. As an aside, I wonder if one of the reasons I like Aquaman is because he never really had a secret identity and thus never had to lie to everyone?
    • Astro City #49 - Oh man, that's one of those intense little stories about family and superpowers that I wasn't expecting to hit quite as hard as it did. Once she realized there was no possibility of him being alive, I wanted to cry along with her. And still, he was there at every protest. Another sort of eternal life. Intense. I love this book.
    • Scooby Doo Team Up #32 - Holy carp-on-a-stick! It wasn't until I was reading this that I remembered watching the show a lot as a child. I hadn't really recognized him on the cover. But the comic captured the character perfectly and I was sent back into childhood. Fun stuff.
    • Saucer State #5 - Guh? There was some serious Fortean Philosophy in this one, and as much as I liked it, it was difficult to wrap my noggin around. At least we seem to be getting closer to a conclusion in this case.
    • Nov 29th
    • Aquaman Annual: Crownspire #1 - Black Mercy. That's an oddly appealing way to die. Tula said there were many bodies down there... the probability is that they died peacefully, thinking they were in their ideal world. Unless the plant/creature/alien/magic works differently than I think it does. I always tend to enjoy Black Mercy stories, since they are basically Elseworlds tales with a framing sequence. This one introduces us to yet another child of Mera and Arthur - so just in the last month of comics we've got a daughter and a son. At some point I need to gather up all the various children of Aquaman and figure out just how many different versions there have been. I kind of would like to see them have all of them - just a huge Aqua-family with lots of kids and grandkids running around. *ahem* I thought, wrongly, that this annual would actually be part of the ongoing storyline. Now that I know it isn't, I'm even more eager to get to December's books and start reading.

    Monday, February 12, 2018

    Dark Shadows

    When I heard that Dark Shadows was available on Amazon Prime, I was intrigued. I hardly need a new show to watch, but I've always been slightly curious about Dark Shadows... it's said to have paranormal elements (well, duh) and even time travel. So I looked, thinking I'd start from the very beginning. Unfortunately, I looked for "Dark Shadows" and the very beginning is called "Dark Shadows: The Beginning" and didn't show up on my search for some reason (Amazon.com has some weird search quirks).

    The result is that I actually started watching the series with episode 210, the first appearance (however brief) of Barnabas Collins, aired on the 17th of April, 1967.

    I'm now on episode 296, having just seen the first color episode (#295) and gone through some significant plotlines of the series.

    What do I think?

    I love it.


    I didn't think I would be all that interested. I mean, I've never really enjoyed vampire stories OR soap operas, so I figured I would be indifferent to this one. It's a daily show, each episode about 20 minutes long. And it's got all the silly drama of bitter romance and family disfunction.

    But it's also really quirky, with the matron of the house having a terrible secret, the nature of which I didn't learn until well into the show. The daughter is a typical blonde with an attitude. The uncle is an upper-class twit. The governess is normal, only she's apparently got a mystery, too AND she introduces the episodes in prose so purple it's royal. The conniving conmen preying on the family get their come-uppance, and new characters are introduced as needed.

    Best of all, this is practically live television from the 1960s, so you can get a definite sense of the conditions the cast were shooting in. Lines are constantly being flubbed as if it were live, and everyone carries on. The sets wobble more than the worst of Doctor Who. Doors stick, characters trip, boom mics make brief appearances and I swear I saw a guy walking across the back of a set once who really ought not to have been there. In one segment, someone was slamming doors in the distance and someone was coughing - but despite it being a secret meeting between two characters, they carried on like there were no background sounds.

    I've been thoroughly entertained by both the silly plots and the silly production values. I've also done a bit of "spot the actor" with a few characters. The sheriff from these seasons later became MacGyver's boss. Sam Evans, father of a kidnapped girl, is best known for playing John Hancock in 1776. The kidnapped girl herself also appeared in tons of other shows.

    In short, I'm really enjoying watching it while I do other things online. At 20 minutes a pop, the episodes are like snacks. None of them are so long I get bored. I'm not sure everyone would like this show, but I'm really happy I delved into it.

    Sunday, February 11, 2018

    A Sunday Comic Books Review

    DCBS
    Here are reviews of the DCBS comic books that I've gotten around to reading and reviewing, sorted by the original shipping date:
    • Oct 4th
    • Justice League #30 - Well, now. I was expecting Wonder Woman - as were the children apparently. Regardless of how this story turns out, the timeline the children are from has been destroyed. What is going to happen to them? Time travel is so finicky and dangerous. The curse on Aquaman was intense. No wonder he's so cranky. There was a Golden Age story in which Aquaman became allergic to water, but this sounds hundreds of times worse.
    • Green Lanterns #32 - Pancakes? Well, eventually. I'm not sure why Simon would go to a diner with Jessica if he knew there was a party going on right then that he wanted to attend. Nor does it make sense for him to drag someone with severe social anxiety into that sort of situation. She didn't complain much, but that's just not right.
    • Usagi Yojimbo #162 - The key witness manages to get the key information to Usagi, who acts on it, as is typical for him. The result is justice - but the question remains of who the killer was and why he took the actions he did.
    • The Tick 2017 #1 - It seems like forever since I've read any new Tick. I know there's been some, but they were lackluster, in my opinion. This? Worthy of the name. I mean, murder clowns and ninjas and the Tick speaking in French for no apparent reason? Lovely. And the possibility of seeing an origin story for the Tick? Even better.

    • Oct 11th
    • Bombshells United #3 - Um. Did Diana sacrifice herself by getting eaten by Clayface? That's... that's disgusting. And oddly symmetrical, as she notes.
    • Scooby Apocalypse #18 - Hrm. Apparently in this universe, Montana and Washington state share a border. I wonder what happened to Idaho? Aside from that little oddness, the story moves along nicely in this issue, with Scrappy maybe dying and maybe not to save the others. The Secret Squirrel back-ups are pretty awful, and I stopped reading during the second one.
    • Back To The Future #23 - Marty has so thoroughly messed up the past I'm not entirely sure this is something that can be fixed. I just wonder if the fact that Joey is still going to jail will salvage any of the chaos. And what the heck happened to the DeLorean?
    • Spongebob Comics #73 - Definitely the Halloween issue. It starts with a ghost story and pranks, continues with the silly scares, and ends with a haunted penny of all things. Again, fun stuff, but no Mermaid Man. Although Mama Krabs's Knitting Room of Nightmares made me giggle.

    • Oct 18th
    • Aquaman #29 - Well, now. More progress is being made in this story. I loved the shade's response to Vulko, though it seems odd that he can talk with no face. Vulko fits in with those protectors... he ought to go down and chat with them more often. As for Dolphin and Arthur - interesting chat they had about the difference between a hero and a king. Then there's the Tempest story, which was hinted at in Titans. I noticed him ripping the necklace away during the fight, and wondered if that was because it would give him more power or something. Little did I guess its true purpose. And lastly... Murk. That was oddly satisfying. Yup, still want to read the next issue badly. This series has made me happier than I've been with the book in years, and the last few writers weren't bad at all.
    • Batman: The Drowned #1 - Um. Ok. I'm not really all that sure what just happened there, but I'm also not sure I need to know. It's a crossover that involves a bunch of bats, and this particular bat happened to fight Aquawoman of Earth-11 and turned herself into an Aquabat, which is so utterly ridiculous I'm not even laughing. Since I didn't buy other parts of the crossover, I'll just read the reviews to see what happens next - if I ever feel any curiosity about it.
    • Justice League #31 - Ok, I really don't get time travel. However, my assumption is that when they return to "their" future, the threat will be gone completely, since it followed them into the past. Therefore, they will be able to rebuild in their alternate universe. So it'll be another piece of the multiverse. As for the rest, lovely and heartbreaking on so many levels. A nice conclusion to the story.
    • Titans #16 - A death, a psychic backlash, a memory dump (literally) and now - please tell me we aren't going back to the days of a billion different versions of Donna Troy. This issue was one big fight, and so it's a little underwhelming, even with the pathos and all.
    • Green Lanterns #33 - Jobs. Employment. This one hits me hard. Jessica is healing from her anxiety. Anyway, how do you save people who don't want to be rescued? And what's going to happen now that disaster has struck the support rescue ship? Nicely set up so I want to read the next issue.
    • Teen Titans Go #24 - Well, at least Aqualad appeared in both stories. I was reminded again that I'm not the target audience for this book. Sometimes I really like them, most of the time I'm just a bit underwhelmed. This time I was underwhelmed.
    • Bombshells United #4 - So Clayface is converted into... something else. But what did they do to the people in Los Angeles? What sort of magic is being used to force people to confront reality? I still feel like this bit of the storyline is a bit clumsy. Perhaps the fight with a legion of Clayfaces will make it better.
    • Astro City #48 - Sometimes reading can be traumatic. This story manages to fit into that category, while at the same time being comforting. I was not expecting the ending, but I saw the demise of Hank coming since the end of last issue. It was done beautifully and I particularly liked the way the Pet Patrol comforted Andy after. As usual, a really good issue of a really good comic book.
    • Wonder Woman/Conan #2 - So, Yanna seems to be from an Amazonian-like tribe, but I'm not sure Diana is Yanna. I think we're supposed to be wondering exactly how Wonder Woman is in Conan's reality. I'm just gonna sit back and continue to enjoy the story.
    • Doctor Strange #26 - This issue is another solid story about Doctor Strange's world. It resonates with both magic and the history of the character and works both as a fun comic book adventure and a continuation of the ongoing story. In other words, now that stupid crossover is gone, we're back to some excellent stories.

    • Oct 25th
    • Teen Titans #13 - Oooo, the Bainbridge Island ferry during rush hour! I've been there! I guess I'll always give the side-eye to any moving trucks on the ferry from now on. Red Arrow has her head on straight, and I really enjoyed seeing her burn that little twit, Damian. She has a very nice point - he was alone. And what's this nonsense about him creating the team? It was around long before he was and even had a different leader just before he joined. He's an egotistical moron. A character I just wish would go away forever.
    • Batman Beyond #13 - Another standalone issue, this one set soon after Terry returns while the city is still just starting to recover from the disaster. Enemies become allies for a short jaunt as Batman tries to help reset the city's tech in places where most folks cannot reach. It's an ok story, not much to write home about, though.
    • DC House of Horror #1 - Eight very short stories, with about half of them bat-stories (ug). None of them have any characters I'm thrilled to see, but that's actually fine, because none of the stories were all that good. Perhaps the most interesting concept was of a girl possessed by the spirit of the Amazons after playing with a Ouija Board (don't tempt the spirits). The Superman story was suitably horrific. The rest barely merit mention. Definitely not the best anthology DC has produced.
    • Scooby Doo Team Up #31 - Ah, the Atom. This is a good one for Atom fans, I guess. I'm not big on the shrinking into kingdoms that are inside an atom thing, so it's just a little disturbing to me. I do have a suspicion of what the end is leading up to, and I'm not entirely sure I'm looking forward to that, either. Oh well, it's still fun, and it was nice to see some actual detective work.
    • Back To The Future #24 - Ha, I thought the story would end once our goofy time travelers got back to the future, but no, Biff and Joey are practically waiting for them there. I'm curious to see what Doc Brown has to say about all of it, since there is a lot more going on there in the past and present. And while a treasure map fits Doc Brown's sense of humor, I'm not sure it's actually his exact style.

    • Doctor Who Comics
    • Doctor Who 10th #3.8 - I admit I wanted to cry at the Sarah Jane appearances. She's just so *right*. I can hear her voice saying those lines and making them her own. I can hear the comfort she gives. As for the rest - yeah, peril and stuff. But oh, I miss Sarah Jane.
    • Doctor Who 10th #3.10 - Echoes of the future strike the past, and of course the Doctor is able to fight off the inevitable with the help of both the future and the past. And the wisdom of Sarah Jane, I'm sure. I need to stop having trouble with time travel stories if I'm going to remain a Doctor Who fan - except Doctor Who usually doesn't bring the time travel element into the main story - time travel is just the method to get to the setting of the tale. Which I enjoy more than twisted time consequences smacking us around. Sorry, wandering off-topic. I loved Sarah Jane in this one, with her references to the past. And I thought the whole paradox was nicely explained. So, I enjoyed it.
    • NOTE: Issue #3.9 is part of a crossover that I do not have all the issues of yet due to shipping and distribution problems. However, it is NOT part of the ongoing storyline, thank goodness, so I can just continue these regular reviews.
    • Doctor Who 11th #3.8 - Ah, memories. Being stolen from people. We've already experienced a bit of that in the show, and in the comics as well. Indeed, I keep forgetting that the Sapling stole memories from the Doctor and Alice to become a whole being. In fact, there's an awful lot about memories in the last couple of issues of this run of the comic.
    • Doctor Who 11th #3.9 - A new plotline starts, as the TARDIS crew heads to a planet the Doctor visited in the past and find it has gone through rapid industrial progress that polluted the air. I'm still not sure what triggered the Doctor's attack and clued him into the nature of the progress. Again, this issue talks about memory in that the Sapling can remember the Doctor's previous visit, but he cannot.
    • Doctor Who 11th #3.11 - Ah... so not a Time Lady. Something much worse instead. I wondered. The Time War has a lot to answer for. This issue finished up the current little story while continuing the overall storyarc, which has me curious. Not as great as some recent issues of DW comics, but still fun and strange.
    • NOTE: Issue #3.10 is part of the missing crossover, but not part of the regular storyline.
    • Doctor Who 12th #3.6 - Why is Twelve getting all the cool callbacks to previous episodes with awesome bad guys? I mean, the Waters of Mars reference was already enough to make me happy, but now we're seeing references to Fenric? Man, this series is starting to tickle my fangirl senses in a very happy way.
    • Doctor Who 12th #3.7 - And a solid conclusion to what was a pretty cool story, as the Doctor manages to outplay Fenric at this part of the game. Yet it's not a happy victory for the Doctor, because he knows what will happen in the future, and there's just enough of that to keep the story from becoming too much of a fanfest. Very neat stuff.

    Sunday, February 04, 2018

    A Sunday Comic Books Review

    DCBS
    Here are reviews of the DCBS comic books that I've gotten around to reading and reviewing, sorted by the original shipping date:
    • Aug 16th
    • Aquaman #27 - So, even in Atlantis it's the year of the woman? I'm a little surprised that the Widowhood would be pushing for this, but then... no, I guess I'm not. They are powerful, secretive and a very nice addition to the mythos of Atlantis. I like having them as a counterpoint to Vulko's scholarly lore. As for Mera and Garth - well, he just used his powers in front of the Titans, so I expect he'll eventually give in on this as well. In the old continuity, Garth was pulled out of time and studied magic with Atlan himself. This version is a little less keen on it, I see. Oh, there's so much good in this.
    • Justice League #27 - Uh oh. The children are hiding something from their parents. Probably the identity of Sovereign, who is being painted as Wonder Woman at the moment. Simon's future looks somewhat bleak, even if he seems pleased with the idea of killing Sinestro. He's a healer, not a fear-monger. And Arthur successfully sneaking up on Batman? That's something.
    • Astro City #46 - And the whole thing comes together, but still is slightly lost. I think if he ever figures it out (with the help of the audience, right?) then he'll be much happier. What is the musical hero that lives in Astro City, and when will his time come to shine? I don't know, but I'm looking forward to it.
    • Green Lanterns #29 - Training is great and all, but clearly this was a case of seeing-is-believing. Once the brand new Green Lanterns saw what they were up against, they had no more quibbles that the mission was important. Now I wonder exactly how this is going to play out. We have hints and bits from future events, but there are a lot of unanswered questions. It's good to be excited about a Green Lantern book again.
    • DC Comics Bombshells #33 - And that was that. I think this is the final issue of the series. The newly launched Bombshells United will be up next, and I hope to see Mera and maybe Arthur in that as well. For the moment, though, we have a nice conclusion with Kara making the right choice. Interesting that the Wall claims this is just the first act, though.
    • Teen Titans Go #23 - Yeah, I wouldn't much want to babysit Superman after he's been affected by Kryptonite, either. What's really funny to me, though, is Aqualad's resigned look when the baby shows up on their door at the end of the story. The other story, of the Teen Titans being broke and needing to sell their skills to pay the bills, was just annoying.
    • Aug 23rd
    • Teen Titans #11 - Well, Damian had a good moment of encouragement in this issue. Nice of him to help Jackson trigger his powers. Even funnier that Damian appears to have suffered a broken arm. Maybe Starfire will take over for a bit longer and straighten out the team.
    • Batman Beyond #11 - And more Damian... love of a pet is a powerful thing. Unfortunately, I just don't buy that Damian would turn around so completely so quickly just because his father was being killed. The ending to this one seemed a bit abrupt.
    • Scooby Doo Team Up #29 - Nice. I wasn't expecting the formula to get turned upside-down like this. I'm a little surprised at how quickly the real estate developers folded, though. They are usually made of sterner stuff. I guess getting sprayed with water and knocked into the air by Shaggy and Scooby was enough to make the appearance of the ghost a final straw.
    • Doctor Strange #24 - This appears to be the final issue of the annoying crossover. One can only hope.
    • Saucer State #3 - Fairy cakes and presidential aides. I was hoping to see some reaction on her part - some opening of her understanding, or at least an indication that she'd taken something unusual. Heh. And the quest... ha. I wasn't at all surprised, but I was amused. I really hope I understand this whole thing once it finishes. Paul Cornell's writing can be fiendish, but always rewarding at the end if you can put the pieces together.
    • Sep 6th
    • Justice League #28 - Ayup. It certainly looks more likely now that Wonder Woman is the threat of the future. I can't quite imagine how she's going to react to that, but we know what the children think they have to do. I like seeing Mera as a mother, and I wonder if she's going to be important in handling future Aquaman? Definitely a strange storyline.
    • Green Lanterns #30 - Those rings still need some work before they are ready for prime-time if four of them pick Simon all at once. Speaking of, why didn't Jan-Al's ring find Simon earlier? Was it the moment when he overcame great fear that attracted them all? In any case, Volthoom isn't going to enjoy what comes next, I'm guessing.
    • Bombshells United #1 - Ah. WWII wasn't all good vs evil, despite what our history books say. Executive Order 9066 is definitely one of those evils that the "good" guys did. And it's very bold of this series to tackle that problematic period of history.
    • Astro City #47 - Who's a good dog? Well, Hank is clearly a very good dog and a very good influence on Andy. Whether or not G-Dog is itself a good dog... well, the actions are good, but as Andy himself reflects, his origins are problematic. And, as the cliffhanger points out so heart-breakingly, his future is also a bit problematic. Oh, I love this book.
    • Usagi Yojimbo #161 - Yay, another Inspector Ishida book! And a murder mystery! And Kitsune as a prime witness! And... wait, who called the police? Oooh, this book is so great. I consistently enjoy it.
    • Sep 13th
    • Titans #15 - Huh. Nightwing's explanation actually makes sense, especially followed up with a plea for help. But here's the thing - I know a lot about Raven and her danger to the world, but I don't know a flipping thing about Omen. I just haven't delved deep enough into Titans lore to understand how she is a threat to anything. And my main source of Titans history is no longer with us. So I don't know what the feathers indicate, and I'm not sure what is happening. I did very much enjoy Garth's "admission" and everyone saying "We know." But this book has some mysteries yet for me.
    • Teen Titans #12 - A crossover. As I haven't got much of the Metal books, since it's a Bat-thing, I don't really care for the story. Especially since it's also Damian-based. Pass.
    • Scooby Apocalypse #17 - You have no idea how disappointed I am that Scrappy not only survived, but came back in the next issue. Ug. Minus that bad news, however, this is a decent issue. I was particularly tickled by Shaggy falling asleep the way he did and the result of that unfortunate nap.
    • Spongebob Comics #72 - Who knew blowing bubbles could be so dangerous? Pretty standard issue of this comic, although it's missing the usual fourth-wall cast of pirate characters.
    • Sep 20th
    • Aquaman #28 - Three solid story threads, with a couple more just for spice, each one focusing on main characters: Arthur with Dolphin, Mera and Tempest and Vulko (squee!) who is almost back to his normal scholarly self as he waltzes through ghosts with nary a worry. Oh man, I am beginning to really love this book. If this quality is maintained, I'll be a happy fish for quite some time.
    • Justice League #29 - Just a note, I'm both amused an annoyed at how Mera is portrayed on the covers of Justice League - mostly in Arthur's colors to indicate that an Aqua-character is part of the cast. Ahem. I was waiting for the reunion between Mera and the future Arthur, and it was as distressing as I expected it to be - as well as the cliffhanger! I definitely accept that Aquaman could take out the rest of the league given those enhancements and all of Batman's knowledge (and his toolbox). That said, I still need to see what made him turn into Curry and become a horror to the future children.
    • Green Lanterns #31 - Sacrifice and death and multiple rings... but it was Jessica who stopped the madness just long enough for the end to happen. I think she's turning out to be a different and much better Lantern than anyone, especially herself, could expect. But then, she also experienced the Volthoom of Power Ring, so she has a completely unique perspective on what it means to wield a light power. Baz, now... I expected the fact that parts of his ring were imbedded in his arm to have a major significance. I'm still kind of hoping they will. I wasn't expecting to see him get one of the first rings at the end of the story.
    • Wonder Woman/Conan #1 - Yanna, huh? Not Di-Yanna? Ahem. This starts out very much like a typical Conan story, but the appearance of Wonder Woman throws a spanner in the works. I'm not sure how she got there or why she bears a resemblance to a childhood sweetheart of Conan, but it'll be an interesting trip to find out.
    • Wonder Woman '77 and Bionic Woman #6 - I watched both shows religiously as a child, but I don't know enough about the villains to understand the conclusion to their story beyond the surface aspects. That said, I enjoyed this series for the most part, although it got very slow and wordy in the middle.
    • Doctor Strange #25 - I really do enjoy these mixed styles stories - where one story is not only set in the past but also is done in an older art style. In this one, Strange remembers a past adventure which somehow triggers powers in somebody else. The story is nicely creepy as Strange remembers more and more and finally admits that he made a mistake. Interesting storytelling, and a nice return to the book after an annoying crossover.
    • Simpsons' Treehouse of Horror #23 - Three fun little stories that break all the rules, starting with a retelling of IT featuring young Homer and Marge as the children in the first part. Amusing, but I'm sure I would enjoy it even more if I was more familiar with IT. The second story was about an alien invasion that took a strangely familiar form, and had some oddly resonant pathos at the end. The final story featured the Comic Book Guy getting an (almost) perfect curse. Pity he didn't become a polydactyl. It was an amusing tale (tail?).
    • Sep 27th
    • Batman Beyond #12 - Another "year of the woman" issue. Max teams up with a new Bat in the slums to save Barbara Gordon. I quite liked the tricks of this one, how Max uses her strengths to fight and how a new team seems to be getting it together while the boys are off fighting each other to death.
    • Bombshells United #2 - Clayface is a tough one to fight when there are a number of people running around in a dark and rainy forest. I wonder which forest they're in? This issue is a little bit preachy. Admittedly, the subject lends itself to preachiness, but it's not as strong as it could be.
    • Scooby Doo Team Up #30 - Basically there are dozens of adventuring teams in the DC Universe running around saving the world. That's what I get from this issue of this book. It's hilarious, and the inclusion of Rip Hunter along with all the others is amazing. The Sea Devils, Cave Carson, the Challengers... it's a bit much. Amusing, but a bit much.
    • Saucer State #4 - I'm really wondering how this is all going to play out. It seems like the president is in an impossible spot, trying to hide what happened while dealing with what amounts to a full-scale paradigm change for the entire world. And her ex! For some reason seeing the driver turn into an animal made me crack up in ways I probably shouldn't have... especially since that scene is on the cover! I'm just along for the ride and hoping it will make sense when I read the final issue.
    • Rough Riders: On The Storm #6 - And Edison takes care of the threat? But that final revelation makes me cringe. And why did Annie walk away from Edison without getting the answers she needed? Another series is promised, and I'm sure we'll be getting it. This has been a lot of fun in very strange ways.

    • NOTE: I'm removing the Doctor Who comics from the weekly lists because of irregular shipping issues. I'll be trying to review them as I reach them in the weekly piles, but I'll put those reviews at the end of my updates as I'm able.
    And with this, I'm up to October's books... just as February is underway. Well, I hope I can keep up the pace and get a few more comics read and capsuled. Maybe I'll even catch up.

    Friday, February 02, 2018

    DC Universe Online is going Aquatic...

    First there was the announcement that Mera has been added to the Valentine's Day event...


    Now DCUO has announced that the next DLC/episode will be called "Deluge" and will be based on the Aquaman storyline featuring the terrorist organization of that name. The new episode will launch next month some time, and will feature Aquaman, Mera, Black Manta, Corum Rath, and Starro! In fact, the Starro event from last year will be folded into this episode.

    Aquaman content already in DCUO includes a low-level mission in which you fight off an Atlantean invasion in Metropolis then rescue Aquaman and Mera from Circe, the summer event featuring an Atlantean civil war between Ocean Master and Aquaman's forces fought in the waters near Metropolis, and the aforementioned Starro event which included an Atlantean outpost taken over by Starro after the scientists there made mistakes while studying Starro.

    This new episode will be available for a couple of months to everyone, including free-to-play gamers. Right now, the Earth-3 episode is available to all. The development team has set up a system where each new episode has an "event" side that's available to all players of the game until the next episode comes out. Once the next episode is released, anyone who hasn't bought the episode (or a membership to the game) loses access to it.


    DCUO has three levels of players. The free-to-play gamers are able to access the main game and the most current "event" episode. The Premium players are people who have spent at least $5 one time on the game, and have a few small perks... and access to any episodes they've bought along with the main game. Players with a membership (legendary players) have access to all episodes for a monthly fee. I'm a premium player.

    For me, this means I need to earn enough money through Swagbucks or something to buy the DLC when it comes out (probably about $10), since we can't spare any real cash on it. I haven't used Swagbucks in awhile, because it's really a spammy thing, but I recently got back to it. Through it, I can get Steam gift cards. With the Steam gift cards, I can buy stuff, including the DLCs from the DCUO game. I considered asking for Steam gift cards for Christmas and my birthday, but I felt guilty about it so I didn't.

    The good thing about Swagbucks is that I can set it to show a bunch of videos while I'm writing, and I'll earn a few pennies every hour that way. The bad thing is when I get distracted from my writing by the videos and actually start to pay attention to them. At least one of the ads captivated me so much I actually sat and watched the whole thing and forgot what I was writing about. Not good.

    Wednesday, January 31, 2018

    Free Digital Copies

    Both DC and Marvel offer free digital copies of some of their books if you buy the physical copy. Indeed, I'm happy to say that Aquaman recently joined the list of titles I can get a digital copy of when I buy it.

    For a long time, I ignored the option, but recently I went through every copy of every book I'd read and put in the codes to get the free online versions. In doing so, I noticed a big difference between the way DC does it and the way Marvel does it.

    For a time, Marvel didn't actually give you the book you held in your hand. Instead, the free code was for other comics that they hoped the reader would get addicted to. That's all fine and dandy, but they eventually started to provide the book the code came from AND a promotional book. This is a great idea, in my opinion, because it will introduce some readers to other books. Getting the book you have online also means you are more likely to lend it out - which increases potential audiences.

    DC, on the other hand, only gives you a digital copy of the book you own. And while that's lovely, I think Marvel's method is more likely to bear fruit in the future.

    Another difference is that Marvel gives people who redeem a code "points" toward free stuff. For people as old as me, that's not so interesting. But for younger audiences, game-ifying the process makes the more likely to redeem the codes and read the promotional books. This, in turn, makes it more likely for them to read more books and get interested in more titles and ... well, there's a decent chance that this experiment will bear fruit in the long term.

    I'm not a marketing person, but I know which version of the "free digital copies" appeals to me more - and it's not my favorite publisher's version.

    Tuesday, January 30, 2018

    Conundrum...

    I have liked comic book characters since I was a child watching Super Friends. I started buying comic books in college, and one of my first titles was a Marvel book (Spider-Man 2099). But Aquaman is my hero, and I'm mostly a DC gal. That's the background for you.

    I have no interest in Black Panther.

    And it bothers me.

    Oh, the movie looks exciting, and I'll probably see it once it's out on home video. Hubby-Eric and I have watched many of the Marvel Universe movies, and will watch many more before were through. Heck, I haven't seen Justice League yet because we can't afford to see it right now (I should probably go put it on my Amazon Wish List) and I only HOPE we'll have enough cash to see Aquaman when it's out.

    But here's the issue... I read up on Black Panther, and he seems like the kind of character who ought to appeal to me. He's from a technologically advanced nation which he rules as king, that's basically hidden from/disregarded by the outside world. He's a superhero and ruler and has to balance between different goals and accomplishments while still staying true to himself. I mean, that description could easily apply to Aquaman. Just make him breathe underwater, and you've got my guy.

    So why am I not interested in him? My fear is that it's my innate racism kicking in. I want to say it isn't, but I'm not sure. Just because I love Cal Durham in the DCU Aquaman-family doesn't mean I don't have some bias against other black characters. Is it my lack of interest in Marvel Comics? Or do I have something against a fantasy country set in Africa? I like Storm. I like Vixen. I adore Black Lightning and Static. But I cannot rule out a hidden flaw in my character, hidden even from me.

    Racism is something that every living soul in our country has thanks to being raised in a racist society. Whether we acknowledge it or not, all of us are racist in some ways. Some of those are overt, many are subtle and some never show at all. My goal is to be a good person, and that means understanding when I am being racist, acknowledging the flaw and trying my best to correct it. I have done this over and over and will have to continue to do it my entire life. You don't simply stop being racist because you don't want to be - it's a process instead of a one-and-done thing. I have failed. Many times. I sometimes curse my mind for thinking racist thoughts without my permission, and I sweep those thoughts off the stage of my brain whenever I can. But they still exist and I will never stop fighting them.

    I'm really not sure if my disinterest in Black Panther is racism or not. I've been struggling with it, because if it is a symptom of something bigger and bitter in my heart, I want to figure it out and work through it. But perhaps I just don't have any interest. Perhaps I've never given the character enough time or effort. Perhaps the little bit of comic art I've seen and read just didn't hook me. I just don't know, and for the moment I'm stymied on how to figure it out.

    My best option, I think, is to read as much Black Panther as I can find to see what it does to me. Sadly, with finances what they are, that will have to wait. If anyone can recommend a jumping on point, I'll put it on my list of to-reads and someday get to it.

    In the meantime, the worry will unsettle my mind. I hope the movie is fantastic and does well at the box office. And I hope I can see it soon. Maybe I'll fall in love with this character too.

    Monday, January 29, 2018

    Hugo Noms Opening Soon

    The Hugo Award Nominations are opening in the next few days. If you do not have a membership, but have something you want me to consider nominating, please let me know in the comments here or on Facebook. Preferably quickly, so I have a chance to check it out for myself before the nominations are due (I won't be nominating anything I don't like).

    Sunday, January 28, 2018

    A Sunday Comic Books Review

    DCBS
    Here are reviews of the DCBS comic books that I've gotten around to reading and reviewing, sorted by the original shipping date:
    • Jul 19th
    • Aquaman #26 - So... intrigue in Atlantis as opposition to Rath grows, while Aquaman joins with Dolphin and meets more of the bottom-dwellers in his kingdom. Meanwhile, Mera pounds on the shield around the nation-state of Atlantis with her powers... I assume this is happening before the Justice League stories involving her? Lots of fun in this, lots of potential.
    • Justice League #25 - Speaking of Mera, it's really strange to see her as a full member of the Justice League - or at least presented that way. But there she is, using her powers and being part of the group. I like it. Too bad it probably won't last long.
    • Green Lanterns #27 - And more becomes clear, as the pair of Lanterns travels and the various first Lanterns are gathered to the place they traveled to. Fun. Time travel... I suspect it will last awhile, because there are a number of plot threads that have to be gathered and the set-up for this was long enough to imply quite a tale. It's wait and see time for this book.
    • DC Comics Bombshells #31 - This far in, and we're still getting origin stories. This time it's both Killer Frost AND Supergirl, sort of. Still, an interesting way to draw out the Leningrad fight a bit longer... I'm not sure what to think of Strange's octopi, except that Mera would not approve.
    • Batman '66 Meets The Legion of Super-Heroes #1 - Nice little done-in-one issue. I'm amused by Egghead and his descendent. I'm also amused that Batman is so observant he noticed both odd shadows and lack of proper eye dilation. Batman as a detective: refreshing.
    • Doctor Strange #23 - How much longer is this crossover going to go on? Three issues of it so far, and I'm still just not interested.
    • Spider-Man 2099 #25 - That was an abrupt ending to the series. I knew it was ending soon, but I expected a couple more issues and a view of the future and all that... not a gut-punch and good-bye. Oh well. I enjoyed it while it lasted. Spider-Man 2099 has a special place in my heart as one of the first comics I bought from the first issue of his existence.
    • Back To The Future #21 - More messing about, and more chances for things to turn out nasty and uncomfortable for everyone. I'm particularly amused by the cliffhanger, since Biff is never far enough away.
    • Forever War #6 - I had completely forgotten the ending to the book, and as I read the final page, I felt a happy twinge of joy. Yeah, it seems a bit odd, but the eternal war ended once the two sides could actually talk to one another. And the final bit, where Mandella gets peace and a real life... that's almost enough to make me cry. This is a decent adaptation, although now I'm going to have to read the book again.
    • Jul 26th
    • Teen Titans #10 - All of the origin comes out and now we know who Jackson's mother is, and why he has his power. I like. I really enjoyed this issue, although I still want to smack Damian upside the head. That final panel was very nice. I suspect Manta will just run, though, and not try to help his son. If he does anything different, I'll be surprised.
    • Batman Beyond #10 - Damian is annoying, and I intentionally don't buy most bat-books because I'm not that interested in the bat family. But I can't get away from Damian. Ug.
    • Scooby-Doo Team-Up #28 - Well, if you are going to explore those characters in a team-up book, that's definitely one way to do it. I quite liked Carrie in this. Lots of fun, even if I don't much care for DC's Western heroes.
    • Back To The Future: Biff to the Future #6 - The final issue, as Biff totally gets what he deserves and the people take their lives back after a traumatic time. Overall, it was an ok series. I didn't like reading about Biff "winning" so much, but his ending almost made up for it.
    • TMNT/Usagi Yojimbo - I loved seeing the Turtles team up with Usagi again, even if they didn't recognize him. The story was extremely straightforward, almost to the point of being slightly dull, and Jei wasn't nearly as menacing as he usually is. It was good, but not the best Usagi I've read.
    • Doctor Who 9th #14 - It's a trap! It was all a complicated trap, and the cliffhanger makes up for a lot of weirdness. It also has a callback to events from the past, so this issue definitely doesn't stand alone. I enjoyed it, but it's a wee bit confusing.
    • Doctor Who 10th #3.7 - The Doctor goes swanning off to investigate a problem, leaving his companions in various places where they are bound to get in trouble. Every piece of this book, every storyline, was compelling to me. I loved the guest appearance and can hardly wait to read more. I feel like zipping through the comics to get to the next issue now.
    • Doctor Who 11th #3.7 - A fairly satisfying ending to a fairly normal story. I liked the very short and cute back-up tale - especially the way the defense protocols were condensed. A good read.
    • Rough Riders: On The Storm #5 - Oh Edison, so brilliant and yet so obnoxious. I gather he was like that in real life, although probably not on this scale. Annie is pretty cool in this, especially how she persuades her teammates to tell her what's going on. But that last panel... um, what?
    • Aug 2nd
    • Green Lanterns #28 - Those first rings weren't all that safe, were they? I'm wondering how Jessica, who's barely a full Lantern herself, is going to train this group of misfits. She really doesn't have that much time, either.
    • Justice League #26 - Yikes. A dark future and time travel. I'm not sure what to make of "Curry", but I like his daughter. I'm curious about Tempest, as she mentions him but not in a good way. And who is Sovereign? This is going to be a nice plotline for me, I can tell. Plenty of Aqua-Action.
    • DC Comics Bombshells #32 - Raven is a bit like the Hulk in this - you wouldn't like her when she's angry. I did enjoy the bit about how children disappoint their parents and each generation is foreign to the previous and the next. It's a sad way of looking at the universe, except that each generation has the possibility of getting better and being more. I certainly hope the next generations here in our world will learn from the mistakes of the past.
    • Aug 9th
    • Titans #14 - Garth has a trio of magical Atlantean lunatics who are in love with him? I'm grinning so hard it hurts. This was a touching and powerful issue, with secrets being shown and people getting hurt - I'm particularly amused that Wally and Roy were fighting - and more possibilities set up. As for the person who betrays the Titans... I kind of had already guessed.
    • Scooby Apocalypse #16 - Interesting sacrifice. I really wasn't expecting it. As much as I hate that character - like just about everyone else - I certainly didn't believe he was capable of such an act. Now, I wonder if he survived, and if he did, will he come back less annoying or more?
    • Back To The Future #22 - The story doesn't really move very much in this issue... we get to see a suspicious Doc Brown, a Biff who is still angry at Calvin Klein and hippies. Ok, maybe that was enough movement after all.
    • Doctor Who 9Th #15 - Memories, cyberwar, and somebody staying behind to help clean up. That's a satisfying ending, I think.
    • Spongebob Comics #71 - An issue that uses silence as a tool. Probably wouldn't work very well on TV, since the kids watching want and love that frenetic sound, but it's fun for the comic book. No Mermaid Man.

    Sunday, January 21, 2018

    A Sunday Comic Books Review

    DCBS
    Here are reviews of the DCBS comic books that I've gotten around to reading and reviewing, sorted by the original shipping date:
    • Jun 21st
    • Aquaman #25 - I've been lukewarm on this series so far, but this issue... it seemed to click. I like the idea of Arthur following Bruce's lead and becoming a vigilante in his own city. I love the idea of him working to become a legend. And I have always wanted Vulko to be the hero he really ought to be, instead of a traitor. So this one hit all the right notes for me. Particularly Tula and Mera at the lighthouse. Mera trying to work through her grief while Tula fights to keep her in the world - yeah, I can feel that. The introduction of Dolphin was nicely sudden, and different from previous versions (I'm assuming that's Dolphin). Good stuff, I think. More motive for me to work on catching up with my reading and reviews... I'm only seven months behind...
    • Justice League #23 - The alternate cover of this issue has nothing to do with the story - and features Aquaman prominently. The story itself? Not a sign of Aquaman. This is a Jessica Cruz story featuring Batman and Wonder Woman with an appearance by Cyborg. It's not a bad story, but I'm not sure it really ought to be a Justice League story.
    • Green Lanterns #25 - I admit I'm a little confused by the middle section there, and how Rami and Volthoom got to where they were. Otherwise it was an ok issue. I do like linking Jessica and Volthoom again - that works.
    • DC Comics Bombshells #29 - And suddenly there's a Superman in the Bombshells' universe - and better yet, he's a clone. I love it. This one is mostly interesting because it examines how Supergirl is still dealing with the loss of her sister, but turning that grief into action. Good stuff, even if there's no Mera.
    • Teen Titans Go #22 - More of the usual, starting with an ode to the various singing competition shows and followed up by an artificial prom put on by Starfire. It was ok, but then, I'm not in the target audience.
    • Doctor Strange #22 - More crossover. More boring.
    • Spider-Man 2099 #24 - Time travel is so dangerous, and Miguel is trying so hard to fix the future that he's kind of ignoring the future he ought to have. This is going to end soon, I know, but I'm really enjoying this book.
    • Doctor Who 10th #3.6 - Tying up old storylines and getting set up for new ones. That's ok for an issue of a comic, but then you throw in a completely unexpected cameo of someone who ought not to be there, and suddenly it becomes a lot more interesting. Mild sort of cliffhanger, but that's fine. Gonna have to think about this one.
    • Doctor Who 12th #3.4 - A happy story with a happy ending, as Hattie's music helps an alien ship get free and Hattie's bravery rescues the Doctor when he's knocked senseless. I almost wish Hattie would stay on as a regular, since she's one of the more level-headed companions of all time.
    • Forever War #5 - This issue does an interesting job emphasizing the changes in society that have happened during Mandella's time in the war. Alone, a relic from the past, doing a job he doesn't feel qualified for and doesn't want. Yeah, this is not a happy story by any means, though it has moments of amusement.
    • Spongebob Comics Annual #5 - This one is jam-packed with oddness, including a D&D type adventure, a riff on Alice in Wonderland, a Mermaid Man story that will make anyone cringe, and a choose-your-own-adventure story. Amusing, and at the level of the cartoon. As always, if you enjoy the cartoon, you'll probably enjoy the comic. I buy the comic for the Mermaid Man appearances, personally.
    • Jun 28th
    • Teen Titans #9 - If someone had set out to write an issue of this comic for me, the result wouldn't have been half as good as this actually was. I criticized Justice League last week for being too focused on one character, and this issue is definitely Jackson's story - but it's also a solid book about the entire group and how he fits in. This just works, from top to bottom. And there was an actual revelation I didn't have spoiled for me about Jackson's mother, so that was even better. A nicely strong issue that moves the plot along and has a lovely cliffhanger, too. More like this, DC!
    • Batman Beyond #9 - Damian. I don't like him in Teen Titans, and I don't like him here. But then, he's not meant to be a sympathetic character for most people. This issue feels more traditional than recent issues of this book, and I'm not sure if that's a good thing. I'll just have to wait and see how it plays out in the end.
    • Batman '66 Meets Wonder Woman '77 #6 - That ending is quite the tease. I liked how this series moved through Batman's life, with Wonder Woman being herself the entire time while first Bruce and then Dick grew up. A fun book, and a fun story. And maybe someday that tease will result in something else? One can always hope.
    • Wonder Woman '77 and Bionic Woman #5 - The inclusion of too many villains made this book tedious for awhile, but this issue gets us back to form with plenty of action and a clear plotline to follow. I never thought that endless scenes of battle would be better than character development, but this book seems to be intent on turning everything on its head.
    • Astro City #45 - Wow. This storyline has been a long time in developing and moving, but it certainly feels like it's finally coming to a climax soon. I love the concept of a superhero who is the personification of counter-culture, and I'm a little sad at the apparent memory loss associated with it. This is going to be one incredible read once the whole thing is out and done. I'm going to have to gather my issues for a reread.
    • Scooby-Doo Team-Up #27 - Plastic Man joins the gang for a bit of fun. Woozy is a nice character for comic relief, which meant he fit right in with Scooby and Shaggy. Plas himself is often amusing, but with all the comic relief, he mostly played it straight - and that worked for the story. Fun as always!
    • Saucer State #2 - Lots of choices for the president now, and lots of ways this could possibly go. I still feel like we're going to have the rug pulled out from under us at some point, since that's what the last series did. I'm just not sure where I'm standing or where the rug is.
    • Rough Riders: On The Storm #4 - Well, I didn't see two of those plot threads coming at all. I mean, Annie is tough, but nobody is that tough. And as for the leader of the Anarchists (isn't that a contradiction in terms?), that was a shocker too. This book is still gobs of fun with its historical veneer.
    • Jul 5th
    • Justice League #24 - Ok, yeah, I'm delighted to see an issue devoted to Mera, of all people... but should this really have been a Justice League issue? I felt like Teen Titans managed to balance the concept of a team book with a focus on one character, but the last two issues of Justice League haven't. Am I just being overly picky? As for the story itself, I really liked it. Mera geniunely doesn't know how powerful she is, and taking down the entire league after trying for days to get into Atlantis and being exhausted? Yeah, that's Mera. Rath is gonna regret making her angry.
    • Green Lanterns #26 - The first ring, the first ringbearer, and the results of having a ring that powerful - a good story to tell, and probably the appropriate spot in the ongoing story to put it. Most of the general flow of the story was already hinted at in earlier issues, it was just the details the the dumb story about the guitar that were missing. Now we know. So, what happens next?
    • DC Comics Bombshells #30 - It seems that several storylines converged in Leningrad, and now that Supergirl's is mostly done, it's time for Raven to step up and find her father. In the meantime, her friends are also on their way and we get another hero - Swamp Thing! As much as I want to see Mera and Arthur again, this is pretty fun.
    • Doctor Who 12th #3.5 - OooOOoh, are we finally going to get an explanation for the Waters of Mars in relation to the Ice Warriors? I'm intrigued. And I like Vikings, too, so this is a good start for me.
    • Doctor Who Ghost Stories #4 - Ah, a nice conclusion to a story that was based on a television story that was only just ok. I'm glad it's done, and I think Grant works much better in this context than on TV. Good stuff.
    • Doctor Who: Free Comic Book Day 2017 - A nicely done story that concerns a single race of beings on a single planet - through four incarnations of the Doctor. In each incarnation, the Doctor helps a little and perhaps harms a little - but only at the request of the people. A fun story in which we get to see lots of different characters.
    • Jul 12th
    • Titans #13 - Wait, Omen? Ok, I'm still trying to get used to the idea that she and Garth are an item, but for this to happen... my head is spinning a little. I enjoyed this issue, although it was mostly a fight. I wonder about Wally and whatever is happening to him. Clearly the book has got me to care about the characters, so that's a good thing.
    • Scooby Apocalypse #15 - I'm still surprised at how much I'm enjoying this comic, considering how completely off the rocker it is for Scooby-Doo. But I'm even liking how Scrappy is portrayed in this issue, which probably means I'm feverish again.
    • Planet of the Apes/Green Lanterns #6 - Oh, that ending wasn't ominous at all... and the rest was a bit scary. The DC Universe that this book takes place in definitely has been changed by these events. This was a fun series, but will there be a follow-up?
    • Dirk Gently: Salmon of Doubt #9 - The Kitten-Shark was my favorite bit of that first tv series (we haven't watched the second one yet), so I was amused at the implications of one Dirk's cat being the inspiration for the other Dirk's kitten. And that final shot of Bernice swimming away from Dirk and Sally was cute as well. I also liked the bear and the kitten-shark face-off.
    • Spongebob Comics #70 - It's the last issue of an epic that features the writer/artist of the SpongeBob Comic being hunted down by two pirates, and it's got a bit of a Silver Age feel to it with the goofy monster. I do like that the garbage patch is explained both in the comic and in another page. Maybe it will teach someone somewhere to use less plastic and recycle? We can hope. No Mermaid Man, but an ok issue.

    Saturday, January 13, 2018

    Computer repair?

    I have been using my laptop quite a lot the past couple of years, and some time ago it developed an annoying glitch. The screen would flicker, get slightly pixelated, and then change colors to an almost negative.

    This was annoying, to put it mildly.

    What was even more annoying was that any movement could trigger it. I could be typing furiously and suddenly the screen would flicker. I found that I could tap the side or top of the screen to "fix" it, but found I was hitting my poor computer more and more. In fact, recently, it would take five minutes of adjusting the angle the screen was at and tapping the side until it snapped into a clear resolution. Then, after a few minutes of computing, it would start flickering again. It was driving me crazy.

    I used to build my own computers, but since I switched pretty much exclusively to laptops, I haven't opened a computer. I knew laptops are crammed together more tightly and thus considerably more difficult to put back together, so I didn't mess with them. Until now, I haven't had a good reason to try. But we're broke - more than broke - and so a new computer or a proper repair by a qualified tech are not really options.

    So this afternoon I prepared myself for possible utter failure, watched several YouTube videos, and cracked open my laptop. Thanks to the videos, I knew there are more than a dozen screws on the bottom of this machine, holding the keyboard to the rest of the computer. However, this computer is really easy to open once those screws are removed. So I got to work, carefully pulling each one out. But I got to two of them that just would not cooperate. They seemed to be stripped already. The machine is refurbished, so I suspected I may have gotten it that way.

    With all but two of the screws out, and those two absolutely refusing to be removed, I decided to remove the keyboard and hope for the best. To my astonishment, it wasn't really hard at all. The only bit that didn't want to pull up is the area that my left hand rests on when I play my game. I guess being pushed down ALL the time made it more difficult to remove.

    As I suspected, the two screws were stripped and would never have come out. I debated briefly on whether or not I wanted to remove them, and finally left them in. They aren't in the way. The keyboard itself had only three connectors to the motherboard - the keyboard, the touchpad and the keyboard lights. Easy to remove. I carefully noted where each one went, and removed the keyboard completely.

    Whoa, everything is really packed tight in a laptop. However, there was a little bit of wasted space, and little baby dust bunnies had formed in some of that space. A blast from canned air removed the offenders.

    I then spent the next few minutes attempting to figure out what was loose that was causing the flickering. I couldn't find anything. So I turned the computer on, crossing my fingers that I wouldn't damage it by doing so, and then messed with the cables, trying to duplicate the flickering. But it all seemed completely stable, so I finally shut the computer down, reattached the keyboard and sealed it back up.

    Then I went upstairs to write a bit. And about five minutes into writing... the screen started to flicker again. Angry now, I took the thing apart again. Again, no obvious issues. All the cables are secure. All the connections are clean. Instead of sealing it this time, I snapped the keyboard back into place and decided to use it for awhile without all the screws in place. I'm hoping that if the problem occurs again, I can simply snap the keyboard out and troubleshoot.

    Still, for the moment I've got a working machine, and I know what to do to temporarily fix it. I wonder if the cable itself is bad? And how do I determine which cable is the problem and how to fix it? *sigh*

    Wednesday, January 03, 2018

    Jury Duty!

    I have been called for jury duty several times. In this state, there's a lovely call-in program. You are given a phone number to call to find out if you have to report in person. When I got the call this time, my call-in dates were 12-26-2017 to 1-05-2018, so I was fairly sure I wouldn't be called to the courthouse the first week, and relatively sure I'd be safe the second week.

    Well, I was wrong. Last night I was ordered to report to the courthouse.

    I wasn't the only one. In fact, a friend who teaches at the high school got called, and she offered me a lift to the courthouse. Not thinking it through, I accepted and we carpooled this morning. A number of other people from town got called as well, including the teacher that Eric subbed for today and a parapro at the same school. We also had a few other folks we knew from town show up in the courtroom.

    I've been to the courthouse before, as a reporter, and I have sat in a LOT of different courtrooms as a reporter. That part of the process, getting scanned and up into a courtroom, was not at all nerve-wracking for me. After checking in at the door to courtroom #6, my friend and I ended up sitting in the comfy jury seats instead of on the benches because the benches were already full. After waiting for stragglers, the woman who checked us in set up a video on jury service and said they were seating for two cases.

    The half-hour video was mostly interesting for the bad direction and sometimes poor acting, but it provided a good overview of jury service. When it was over, we sat around for quite awhile before the bailiff came in to give us our jury numbers. My friend was given #10, and I got #38. The bailiff made us sit in number order, and because a few people had been sent to another courtroom due to overflow, we had to leave gaps for people from the other room. I thought I was on the end of a row, but it turned out juror #39 was supposed to sit next to me, so we had to squeeze up for him. He smelled like cigarette smoke.

    Juror #37, on my other side, thought both cases we were called for were murder cases. I didn't know what to think, especially when they gave out 70 numbers and dismissed the remaining 19 people. I later learned (via hearsay) that there was a murder case, and it was one of the two cases, but it was settled literally minutes before the jury selection was to start. So there was only one case that was being seated. Good thing, too, because the murder case was expected to last 8 weeks.

    Once the bailiff got everyone numbered and in order, he marched us - in order - to another courtroom. It felt like elementary school. In that courtroom we were introduced to the judge, the prosecutor and the defense attorney, as well as the defendant. The judge read the charges to us: robbery, attempted robbery and a felon in possession of a firearm. The last charge was of interest because the judge basically said "this guy has been convicted of a crime before" - which I generally thought we aren't supposed to know.

    After reading the charges, the judge said the case would probably take five days, and asked if anyone had any reason they couldn't serve for five days. There were plenty of people. My friend (and ride home) said she has a trip next week starting on Thursday, and the judge said he couldn't guarantee the trial would only last five days and dismissed her.

    About 20 people were dismissed in the first round. The rest of us were asked to give our bios by answering questions from a sheet of paper they'd given us. The questions included what town we are from, occupation, spouse's occupation, hobbies and whether or not we've every been involved in a court case before. I am not sure how I answered because I was embarrassed and blanked it out a bit, but I mentioned I was a former reporter. A juror just a few down from me was also a former reporter.

    After everyone gave their bios, the prosecutor started asking people about their previous jury experiences and whether or not they watched crime dramas on TV. One lady loudly announced, "I watch Judge Judy" and got a laugh from almost everyone in the courtroom. The prosecutor only had about 15 minutes before noon hit and we were dismissed for lunch.

    As we left the courtroom, I asked the teacher Eric subbed for today if he could give me a lift back to Sunnyside so we could let my other friend go home. As she's a mutual friend, he agreed and so I ended up going home in a different car than I came - but my friend who gave me a ride out didn't have to wait another 4 hours to go home. If I'd been thinking in the first place, I would have realized that one of us might get seated and the other not, and would have driven myself out.

    We had an hour and a half for lunch, and I went with my ride home and the parapro to Jimmy John's for lunch. I've never had a sub sandwich shaped quite as rudely as that one was, but I don't think it was deliberate. We chatted about substitute teaching and the concept of jury duty. We got back to the "holding" courtroom in plenty of time.

    Again we waited for quite awhile until it was time to head back into the courtroom for final jury selection. The prosecuting attorney had 15 more minutes to work with, and he started with juror #7, who said he was an engineer, asking him if he believed DNA evidence was always right. The juror said he understood that DNA evidence wasn't always a sure thing and said he would rely on expert advice if asked to judge it.

    I was the next juror called to answer questions, and he asked me essentially the same thing, and I gave essentially the same answer. Then he asked about me being a reporter, and I confirmed that I had been, but was not currently, a reporter. He gave me a very knowing look and asked if I could judge a case by only the information presented in court. I affirmed that I could. I have covered court cases where I, as the reporter, knew that evidence was being withheld. Also, I suspect the nature of reporters - to pry and find out as much as we can - might have been working against me there.

    Next he called up the other former reporter and asked pretty much the same questions. That juror gave pretty much the same answers as I did.

    Then the prosecutor asked all jurors if they understood that DNA evidence is not always perfect. There were some confused looks, including myself, and so he had me stand up again and asked me if I understood what he'd asked. "I think so," I said. He asked me to restate it in my own words. I said something along the lines of: "Do we understand that DNA is not a magic pill that will automatically do the job for us and make the decision in the case easy, and are we ok with that."

    He said, "What she said!" to laughter, and gestured jokingly for me to take his place up front - at which point I shook my head and handed the microphone back to the bailiff before sitting quickly.

    He asked quite a few more questions, and then the defense got his turn. The defense attorney started by focusing in on people who had said they had been victims of a crime before and asking them if they felt their prior experiences would make it harder for them to be impartial. The defense attorney also asked people if they had any sort of relationship with police and if they would give more credence to an officer's testimony than to a lay person. During that portion of questioning I stood up and noted that I had worked closely with police as a reporter and probably would give their testimony a little more credence.

    I'm not entirely sure that's true, after some serious pondering on it. But it was too late to call back my words.

    Finally, the attorneys and judge went into a flurry of activity to eliminate jurors and the bailiff got a new set of numbers out - the actual seated jury numbers. When the judge called for order again, he read off the numbers of the people who had been selected, and they were seated in the nice comfy jury chairs. They started with potential juror #1, who became actual juror #1, and went up through the numbers, skipping the rejected people.

    I know I was rejected because the last juror seated was #39 - the one right after me who smelled like cigarette smoke.

    The rest of us were released then, but informed we still have to call in tonight for potential seating tomorrow and tomorrow night for potential jury seating on Friday. The judge said he didn't think they would be seating any more juries this week, but to call anyway (I just called, no jury duty tomorrow).

    It was an intriguing experience, and I will probably be checking the newspaper to find out what happens in the trial. There was a lot of waiting around with enough noise and distractions that I didn't even try to read before lunch. My efforts to read after lunch were derailed because I started to wither from lack of energy and couldn't concentrate. I was never bored, but there were times I wished the process would move along more quickly. Pretty much all of the action took place in courtrooms in the uncomfortable audience seating. We were basically in rows and usually next to complete strangers. It was not conducive to reading or relaxing. After sitting on the benches for a few hours, I was really sore and wanted to go home. I found, to my surprise, that I really did want to serve on the jury and was both relieved and disappointed that I wasn't picked.

    I would gladly go in again, though I might hope for a stadium cushion to make the sitting easier.