miko2: Ranma disguised as a schoolgirl to fool Ryoga (Default)
I haven't posted to Livejournal in nearly a year. Really, I haven't been very motivated to post what's going on in my life because back when I did that sort of thing, it was to keep up on friends. Most of my friends keep in touch on Facebook and Twitter these days and rarely used Livejournal (if at all). I've vowed to never have a Facebook account, I'm not going to change my mind on that one, but I have a twitter account @mintrainbow1 I use that to keep up with friends a bit, it's not really good for much else. I have an iPad now though, Twitter makes more sense if you access it via iPad or iPod or iPhone/other handheld device.

I miss having a forum to say things longer than three sentences though. I've been addicted to the game City of Heroes for so long, it's interfered with my writing, but the game closed down at the end of November. When the announcement came in September I wanted to write a journal about my last three months in the game, and I wanted to keep it somewhere offsite from the official forums which also disappeared Nov 30th, and I realized that I had a blogspot blog because of my Google account.

So my gaming journal can be found at http://postalvalhalla.blogspot.com/ I have a few things left to post there, but with the game ended the purpose of the journal is drawing to a close.

But Google/Blogspot allows you to create multiple blogs, which is pretty neat. I like the setup better than Livejournal or Dreamwidth. It's more like a real blog -- it doesn't have the social/community angle thawt Livejournal does, but if I just want to write something and post it, it's perfect, and I get a unique url for what each blog. The one above uses my old website address, postalvalhalla and so today I created a second blog using my even older website address, maisonbellchan.

New blog, which will be about my writing, is at: http://maisonbellchan.blogspot.com/ My first post is a recount of what I managed during November's NaNoWriMo. Right now I'm focused on a series of stories about a hero called Grandpa Anarchy, but I plan to eventually get back to work on my Ranma 1/2 story Girls School, and work on some Tai-Pan stories. If I can keep from getting addicted to any new MMOs.
miko2: Ranma disguised as a schoolgirl to fool Ryoga (Default)
Well, I don't have power at home but I made it into work today, not an easy feat when you live on a hill and the weather's bad.

You can stand outside my apartments today and hear trees cracking and breaking. Occasionally branches come down, or whole trees. We've had two trees fall over onto parked cars that I know of, I saw one as it happened. I don't imagine I'll have power for a while.
miko2: Ranma disguised as a schoolgirl to fool Ryoga (Default)
So a few months ago I had Mike look at my computer after the video card began to act weird. But after blowing out the dust and taking up for Mike to look at, there weren't any problems, other than a little noise from the fan. Mike said it might be starting to fail anyway, and gave me a spare in case it did suddenly die... but everything's been fine since then.

Until last night. I logged into City of Heroes, and suddenly noticed that there wasn't any sound. Hmm. Well, I hadn't rebooted the computer in quite a while, and sometimes things just wig out until you reboot again. So I had the computer restart.

And... nothing. I mean, I got sound, but no video feed at all. Several reboots, blowing out dust, fiddling with the video plug -- still nothing.

So I pulled out that other video card that had been sitting on my bookshelf and plugged it in. Then I went through several rounds of installing things that weren't actually the video driver, then got the video driver installed, and everything looked great. So I fired up City of Heroes again -- and everything froze up.

Meh. Reboot again. Fire up City of Heroes again. Play is very choppy -- this is a good video card, but not quite as good as the one that died. I figure I may just have to live with it, and I'm worried that things will freeze up at any moment.

Then I join a team and forget about all of that. Right after I wind up with a bunch of friends speed running the Imperious Task Force, which is this week's "Weekly Task Force" with extra rewards. We finish in 38 minutes, decide to run again, and finish in 28 minutes. We run it again in only 22 minutes, and then a fourth time which takes 27 minutes. That was my evening.

I didn't really think about it until after, but the ITF is notorious for causing lag, and despite the earlier "choppiness" that I'd experienced, I noticed nothing at all during all those ITF runs. So the new video card seems to be working just fine.

Didn't really get anything else accomplished last night, aside from watching at least 3 more episodes of the Venture Bros. I'm just a few espisodes away from having watched everything. :/
miko2: Ranma disguised as a schoolgirl to fool Ryoga (Default)
My ex-roommate Tom got me into this series back in Oct-Nov by lending me the first two seasons. I was surprised that none of my friends actually watch it, though most had heard of it (I realized after watching it that I'd seen clips from it on Youtube and the like before too).

I put this on my Christmas list, but later realized that my parents wouldn't likely be able to find it, so I'd only delayed my own purchase of the series. Which was okay, I don't need to spend money on myself around Christmas anyway. And my sister actually bought me a Venture Bros. shirt that is pretty cool, so that worked out, in a way.

Last week I ordered seasons 2 and 3 from Amazon, but they didn't arrive until yesterday. In the meantime I got together with Tom on New Year's Eve (we saw The Three Musketeers in the theaters -- which was... well, a very Hollywood version, in a Pirates of the Carribean/Sherlock Holmes sort of way. Lots of explosions, flying ships, martial arts sword battles, lack of any intelligent plot. Throw in some Mission Impossible, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, and DaVinci Code and you've got... well, kind of a silly, entertaining, but mindless mess.)

Tom lent me seasons 3 and 4 of Venture Bros. I'm already halfway through season 4. This series is just about the funniest, most brilliant thing I've seen in years and years. It's been around since 2002, so it's not new, I'm not sure how I missed it for so long. What makes it so brilliant? Well, let's start with the series creator, Christopher McCulloch, who previously was one of the main writers for the animated series The Tick. Ben Edlund, creator of the Tick, has written or cowritten severa Venture Bros episodes. Patrick Warburton, who played the Tick in the live action TV version, voices Brock Sampson, one of the main characters in the Venture Bros.

What you have in The Venture Bros. is a modern-day Johnny Quest with the ridiculousness of The Tick and the harsh, biting humor of Futurama or South Park. I'm pretty much convinced it's better than any of them, though. It manages to be as weird and unhinged as any of these shows but at the same time, remains more tightly plotted than any of them. It's definitely one series that you need to watch starting with episode 1, or you may wind up lost.

I still need to pick up seasons 1 and 4, and then watch the whole thing again from the beginning. Then I need to force my friends to watch it. ^_^
miko2: Ranma disguised as a schoolgirl to fool Ryoga (Default)
Yesterday was payday. It was also a fairly busy day at work. I tried to revise a CIS for Zesh during the slow periods in the afternoon, but there really were no slow periods, so I stayed a few minutes after work to finish it up. Then I went up to my credit union, and then over to Costco to get two flats of the Crystal Spring water that I like. I tried to look at Snapple too, but they're in Christmas mode, so all of the aisles where they normally sell pop/tea/juice were filled with other things like detergent and dog food. You could tell it was temporary because the pallets three and four rows up were still pop/tea/juice. Anyway I never did find out if they were actually selling pop anywhere, it wasn't that important anyway.

I got home about 5 PM. The present that I ordered on the 14th, that was supposed to be for our company gift exchange on the 21st, still hasn't arrived. :p In the gift exchange I opened up a lava lamp, which someone stole, then I think I opened up something else that someone stole, and I decided to steal an "executive charging station" which is a large wood structure built to place your iPod, IPhone, other phone, whatever in. There's 3 docking stations, and a 3 plug extension plugin, and it's kinda nice and cool but I don't know that I really need it. But at a gift exchange you take nice and cool over weird and useless.

My plan was to go up to Target and renew my subscription for one of the drugs I'm on. I take one every evening and last night I had one left. It was cold and foggy out and I was already tired after driving through holiday traffic, and it was already 5 PM, so I decided that I wasn't going to do it, I could wait until Friday evening. Then I gave in and went, because I knew it was a beetter idea. They might not have it in stock, and I had to give them new insurance information -- the last time, I gave them the wrong card, because I only had a card for my dental and vision and didn't realize it. I'd since requested a new card for my medical, so I knew I had the right card now, but there might be complications. And... there were. The card wouldn't work, they said they'd need to call my insurance so I'd have to wait until the next morning, and they also did not have enough of the drug in stock which meant wait until next morning. So it was a good thing I went last night.

In the meantime while wandering around the store waiting for them to figure all of this out, I came across the new DVD of the 6th season of Futurama, which I promptly bought as a present for myself. I already made the mistake of asking my parents for the Venture Brothers on DVD, which they probably can't find but which has prevented me from picking it up on sale at Fry's when I saw it there -- but there's virtually no chance of anyone having bought Futurama vol 6 for me, I didn't even know it was coming out myself. I picked up some Ivar's and went home and watched a couple of episodes.

I have to work today, but it's expected to be very dead. I was almost late to work because the route I normally take was completely blocked by some sort of accident, apparently (all I saw was a cop car blocking both lanes at the intersection, and no traffic coming from the other way either).

If I'm lucky I might get something written today once my work is done. Something besides this entry, I mean.
miko2: Ranma disguised as a schoolgirl to fool Ryoga (Default)
Last week I listened to Christmas music on my iPod at work. One of the songs I have is 'Zat you Santa Claus? by Louis Armstrong. I really like that song. ^_^ And it suddenly made me want to put together a list of "big band" and classic pop songs from the 30's/40's/50's.

I jotted down a few of my favorite songs from the era; Anything Goes, It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing), I Wanna Be Like You, What A Wonderful World, Gloomy Sunday, Love With A Capital You, Bei Mir Bist Du Schön, Bye Bye Blackbird. I wanted to include some of the modern singers that kind of fit that genre such as The Pupinni Sisters and Portland's Pink Martini. In fact, most of the artists that I already have from that era are female singers, but I titled my new playlist "crooners" because it was that era I was shooting for.

Then I took my list home and tossed it onto the counter and promptly forgot about it. I do that a lot actually. I like to come up with playlists around a given theme, but I don't usually follow through by actually making the playlist in iTunes.

One week later I'm listening to NPR on my iPod and they do an interview with Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. You may not have heard of him -- I hadn't. He was the 2011 winner of America's Got Talent, and his initial audition is nearly as surprising as that of Susan Boyle for Britain's Got Talent a few years ago. You should watch it, it's impressive. ^_^ And when you think of all the white singers who've been mining soul and Motown for their careers recently (Adele, Duffy, Amy Winehouse), why not a black singer mining Sinatra and the Rat Pack?

So I had to dig up my "Crooner" list and finish it, so I can listen to it tomorrow. ^_^
miko2: Ranma disguised as a schoolgirl to fool Ryoga (Default)
Today I got a new computer at work. The old one I'd had for maybe 8 years or more, it was very old, but they aren't going to get rid of it. It will probably become a login computer at one of the terminals.

But the new one required a migration of my e-mail from Win XP to Win 7, which confused us because I'd never done it and my boss wasn't familiar with Thunderbird. Only a couple of us use it at work, but the advantage is my e-mail doesn't suddenly lock up when there are too many messages. That's happened to at least three of my coworkers who use Outlook.

Anyway, what with playing with my computer to get it working right, I skipped my lunch. But that was a good thing in the end because the day before I'd bought a lot of veggies and some meat with the idea of doing a hot pot again, so I had a good dinner. It's cold, the perfect time of the year for that sort of thing. As before, I used my electric heating pad and my bowl (I forget what the name for those are) and waaaay too many sauces: jack daniels mustard, hot Chinese mustard, horseradish wasabi, buffalo tabasco sauce, garlic jalapeno hot sauce, worchestershire, soy, sirracha (rooster) hot sauce, and one or two others. Also some ranch dressing for the veggies that I didn't actually cook. Veggies were: carrots, celery, brocolli, cauliflower, green beans, snow peas, a small red potato, ginger, a couple of mushrooms... I think that was it.

I watched X-Men (the first movie) while I ate. Before that I watched the final episode of Genshiken vol 2, which I've been watching off an on recently. It made me depressed because they really botched the second series, producing extended sequences that weren't in the manga and thereby failing to actually complete the storyline as it plays out in the manga. You never find out why Oguie has such a visceral love/hate relationship with otaku, or how she and Sasahara eventually get together, or how he critiques her manga story and helps her rewrite it and get it accepted by a publisher... or how Ohno's American friends return... all of that gets ignored because they end too soon, which the wouldn't have had to do if they hadn't wasted episodes doing stuff that really wasn't in the manga.

But anyway! I've been in a mood to buy Captain America or Thor, neitherof which I've seen yet, but it's Christmas so I don't want to spend the money so I just watched X-Men instead. It's been a long time since I saw that, and it's so very well done. Well, Charles Xavier and Magneto are awesome, and most of the rest of the movie is good. But that just puts me in the mood to go buy X-Men First Class and watch that again. Ugh. Well, I have X-Men II and III to watch later... I've still never seen III. And I think there's a Wolverine movie too, I don't even have that one.

And then I guess I could watch Iron Man again. I'm in a superhero movie mood.

The treadmill at the exercise center is still broken. They won't replace it until January at least, but there's an elliptical and a stationary bike. Bleah, I don't like those as much.

I finished Usagi Yojimbo over the weekend, all 25+ volumes. That made me sad, I want to read more. But I remembered that I hadn't reread Space Usagi, so I read that too. Very fun stuff! I wish he could do more of that as well. There are some obvious riffs on Star Wars, which is after all just samurai in a space opera, and in the second half there are some obvious riffs on Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, with a world of giant bugs and Usagi with a personal flyer similar to Nausicaa's. I can't complain about mixing Usagi with Star Wars and Nausicaa, those are three things I love.

Speaking of which... I should probably read Nausicaa again.
miko2: Ranma disguised as a schoolgirl to fool Ryoga (Default)
For the last month I've been in a classical mood in general and a Bruckner mood in particular. Anton Bruckner wrote very long symphonies, usually clocking in at over an hour each. I've always liked listening to them, but in the last month they've seemed particularly suited to listening to on one of my walks -- if I can listen to most of a symphony then I know I've walked at least 50 minutes to an hour. ^_^

With Bruckner you're normally talking about his symphonies, and usually numbers 3 through 9. The most popular ones are number 4, number 7, number 9 and number 8. The largest and most breathtaking are probably number 5, number 8, and number 9, which is only 3 movements but if it had been completed would undoubtably be the largest and most grand of all of them.

I have a lot of versions of various Bruckner symphonies, and especially a lot of good versions of the 4th, 8th, and 9th. Good versions of those three are easy to come by. Generally my favorite conductor has been Eugen Jochum, but I have versions by other acclaimed Bruckner conductors, including Furtwangler, some Karajan, Otto Klemperer, George Tinter, and Bruno Walter. But, in going back through my collection, I found that I didn't have really good versions of the 3rd, 5th, the 6th, or the 7th. (I have the full cycle by Jochum, but unfortunately not the DGC cycle. He did two, and the DGC is the really good one. I have copies of the 4th, 8th, and 9th from that cycle, but not the whole cycle of symphonies.)

Bruckner is one of those composers whose music only sounds really good with a really, really good conductor. It's easy to make Bruckner sound like crap, hard to make it sound like it's supposed to sound -- sublime, transcendent. I really liked the 5th, so I wanted to find a good version of that -- and I used to have one, conducted by Jascha Horenstein. This is one of the cds that was stolen from my car many many years ago. So I went to Amazon and ordered a new copy, and it was as good as I remembered.

I also ordered a copy of the 6th symphony conducted by Wolfgang Sawallisch. This was reputed to be one of the best versions of that symphony, and it really is. I'm learning to like this symphony quite a lot now. I'm not sure why it's usually considered one of the "lesser" Bruckner symphonies.

I still don't have a copy of the 7th that I really like. I have Klemperer's version, but it just doesn't grab me much. I've yet to figure out why the 7th is considered such a popular Bruckner symphony.

I've also picked up digital versions of two other conductors that I'd heard about before but knew little about. Takashi Asahina was a Japanese conductor who'd met Wilhelm Furtwangler and was a big fan of the Bruckner symphonies -- he recorded the complete cycle four times, more than anyone else. But all of his recordings are only sold in Japan, so he's not well known in the West. I find him a very good Bruckner conductor -- maybe not the best, but well worth listening to. And through the miracle of the internet, I finally can!

The other is Sergiu Celibidache. All I knew about him was that he conducted very slowly, and there wasn't a lot of information about him. I assumed this was because he wasn't considered a great conductor. In fact, it's because he was adamantly opposed to the recording process, and it wasn't until his death in 1996 that cds of his concerts began to be sold. Celibidache was a zen Buddist who believed a concert should be a transcendent experience (which a recording couldn't provide, in his opinion), and with Bruckner's music -- already designed to be transcendent -- he did things that no other conductor has done. His Brucker is often slowed down to a great degree, but you can hear every instrument and every note clearly.

Critic Jim Svedja wrote that "If you've never heard Furtwangler conduct Bruckner, then you've never experienced Bruckner at all." (He wrote that back while Celibidache was still alive). I'd add that if you haven't heard Celibidache conduct Bruckner, it's likely you still haven't experienced Bruckner. It's a completely different experience, and not to everyone's liking, but absolutely astounding for those who get it.

(And, quite frankly, Furtwangler could be a bit sloppy -- he botches the finale of the 8th in one recording of that symphony. It sounds like he's late for an appointment and just wants to get it all over with and get out of the concert hall.)

Anyway it's pretty cool that I was able to download an Asahina 8th and a Celibidache 5th and listen to them immediately. Technology is a wonderful thing. ^_^
miko2: Ranma disguised as a schoolgirl to fool Ryoga (Default)
For Keith
To the tune of I'm On Fire by Bruce Springsteen

Hey little girl, have you seen the wabbit?
If I see that wascal I'm going to nab it
I'll shoot with my gun
Ooooh Elmer Fudd

Tell me now has he been through here?
I fired down his hole, shot my own rear
But now, I have him on the run
Ooooh Elmer Fudd

I dream of wielding a spear and a magic helm
And killing the wabbit in some far-off mystic realm

At dawn I wake with my gun in hand
Gonna track that wabbit all across the land
Through rain, snow, and mud
Ooooh, Elmer Fudd
miko2: Ranma disguised as a schoolgirl to fool Ryoga (Default)
It's blackberry season. They grow wild everywhere. I like to pick them, they're free food after all, but I failed to pick any last year, and maybe not the year before that. I kept thinking I should do it, but I was too busy I guess.

Tuesday I went for a walk during my break along the tracks that run behind our company, and there's tons of blackberries there and it inspired me, so I went back on my lunch and afternoon breaks with containers to pick blackberries. I downloaded a couple of recipes and went home and attempted to make pie. The recipe was simple -- whole wheat flour, butter, salt and water for the crust, sugar (splenda) and arrowroot powder (or flour) for the berries. I bought some arrowroot powder and a very nice ceramic pie mold at Top Foods and went home to cook.

The recipe called for mixing the dough with a pastry mixer. I wasn't actually sure what that was (and I didn't have one) so I mixed the dough by hand. This turns out to be the wrong thing to do. I also didn't refrigerate the dough for very long since I was in a hurry, so the dough was very crumbly and didn't hold together well. Also the recipe I'd picked did not call for a top to the pie and didn't include enough dough to make one, and in any case with the dough falling apart I would have had a hard time making a top.

I also didn't have as many berries as I probably would have liked.

Anyway the results tasted fine but weren't going to win any awards in the looks department. I wanted to try again.

Yesterday I brought five plastic containers to work. I picked blackberries on each of my breaks. After work I went for an hour's walk, and when I got back I filled the last two containers and then I also washed out the container that I'd had a salad in for lunch and filled that -- so I had six containers of blackberries, more than enough for two pies (I hoped).

I used a different recipe for the dough this time, that called for 1 cup whole wheat and 1/2 cup white flour, and used milk instead of water. But basically the same idea, flour, butter, some salt, and sugar (I used splenda again). This time however I bought a pastry mixer (I recognized what it was when I saw one, my mom had one of course but I'd never known what it was called or used for). I also made sure to let the dough sit in the fridge for an hour and let the berries sit for about the same time.

Anyway I managed to make two pies. I was much more successful! One came out looking great, while the second had too many berries and not quite enough dough, so thata the top was thin and not anchored well around the edges and it leaked juice. I'll need to clean the oven out tonight. :p I used the last bit of dough and leftover berries (there were far too many berries) to make a lopsided smooshed-up sort of tart, which nevertheless tasted fine. ^_^
miko2: Ranma disguised as a schoolgirl to fool Ryoga (Default)






Tom needs this CD for Christmas. ^_^
miko2: Ranma disguised as a schoolgirl to fool Ryoga (Default)
So... I've been rereading Elfquest recently.

As all of my friends know, I used to be a huge fan. Elfquest got me into comics, Elfquest got me into fandom, Elfquest is how I met many of my long-time friends and how I started attending conventions and how I became a fan ficiton writer.

The first four volumes are still as good as I remember them. The storytelling is excellent, the images are in many place purely cinematic, almost iconic. You can really tell that they worked hard on the original story over multiple years, and got it just right. I have the original Donning Starblaze editions, which are lovingly colored and very beautiful (more on that in a moment).

Like any good story, it leaves you wanting more.

And then, of course, they gave us more... the next two collected volumes are books 5 and 6, Siege at Blue Mountain and the Secret of Two-Edge. I like these stories quite a lot, but I've always felt there was something about them that was off -- parts of the story, anyway. To me it seemed obvious that they hadn't spent nearly as much time working out this second story.

In particular, I think it bothered me that they killed off all of the denizens of Blue Mountain except those few who they'd actually bothered to flesh out. And this is something about EQ that always kind of bothered me a bit. Every member of the Wolfriders was fleshed out and distinct, and you knew that from the artwork even before you'd learned their names and personalities. Then we came to the Sun Villagers, and most of them were background characters with no personality or distinguishing features. They kind of hand-waved this away with the notion that the Wolfriders lived life on the edge, were much more alive, and therefore stood out compared to many of the Sun Villagers. But really, they had such a large cast already that they never bothered to give most of the Sun Villagers names or distinct faces, and you could tell.

This continued with the Blue Mountain elves, and the the Go-Backs. The elves of the Blue Mountain were bored and jaded and not very interesting, the Go-Backs had been breeding for years without recognition "and it shows" as Rayek said, but all of this was pretty much an excuse for not giving names or faces to all of these extra elves. And I want to dwell on this just a bit, because, to point to a creative team that never takes this approach, Matt Groenig's series The Simpsons and Futurama always seem to have names and personalities attached to every character that appears on screen for more than two seconds, and often you learn more about these characters in subsequent episodes, and they never forget what's already been established about those characters. I'm pretty sure they've got a giant Bible of characters for each show that explains everything known about each character.

Why is that important? Because it brings the world to life. It's what made those early EQ stories so compelling, because every Wolfrider had a name and history that you could sense the first time you encountered them. Conversely, you never got that sense with the majority of the other elf tribes. And as I said, they were already juggling a very large cast of characters and didn't have time to includes even more people int their stories... but you never had the sense that the authors themselves had any clue who all of these background Go-Backs and Blue Mountain elves and Sun Villagers even were. There were about a dozen Sun Villagers at most that you knew anything about, and the rest were background wallpaper.

Anyway, to get back to my point -- that's one of the things that really bothered me about books 5 and 6. We return to Blue Mountain, but the story feels rushed, and then we kill off virtually every Blue Mountain elf that doesn't already have a name. Apparently, because it was too much bother to keep them around or develop them into characters with personality. At least, that's how it felt to me.

The good part was learning more about some of the Sun Villagers and Go-Backs that hadn't really been developed before, and seeing the growth of all the characters overall.

Next comes book 7 and 8, The Cry From Beyond and Kings of the Broken Wheel. These two volumes feel a lot like 5 and 6 to me -- mostly they're clearly Elfquest stories, continuing the adventures of the characters we've grown to love, written and drawn by Richard and Wendy Pini. But overall it again feels rushed and slightly off, compared to the original story. You have Rayek teleporting the castle about and then jumping into the future before you can even catch your breath. There's no time for the kind of character-driven interaction that was one of the hallmarks of the first four books.

And here's where my interest in the entire series wanes. I actually have two more collected volumes -- The Hidden Years, and Rogue's Challenge. I don't remember a single thing about them. By this point, Wendy was no longer drawing EQ. They had a collection of guest authors and artists writing various series. Everything becomes watered down -- the stories are less interesting, the artwork less dynamic (or in many cases, just not all that great at all), and the characters are less recognizable, less in-character. I lost interest in the entire series, and I don't even know which stories actually continue the tale of the characters I knew from before, and which actually contain any significant plot details about them. It's not that all of the new series were bad per se, but they had little to nothing to do with the original series I loved.

Eventually they stopped writing these stories too, but I don't even remember when or where. The series just kind of faded into a jumbled mess.

And it's no wonder that it's a confusing mess. For one thing, it's hard to even find a listing of "Elfquest stories by Wendy and Richard Pini only". All of the other stuff gets listed with the original stuff as official Elfquest stories, both the stuff by the original authors and the stuff that came after. And they've reprinted things so many times, in different formats and with different names, that it's very hard to know what you might be missing.

For example: There's Elfquest volumes 1, 2, 3, and 4, published by Donning / Starblaze. These are the volumes I have. But then WaRP Graphics/Fathertree Press reprinted these with new titles: "Fire and Flight", "The Forbidden Grove", "Captives of Blue Mountain" and "Quest's End". Worse, they had to recolor them for the new printing, and the colorization is not nearly as good as the originals. But then, later, they did black and white "Reader's Collections" published by Wolfrider Books, this time with the same names but with the "Reader's Collection" tag added at the beginning. Here's where you'll find the bulk of the other stuff they did -- the color Fathertree Press editions only got 4 volumes beyond the original 8, publishing Hidden Year's, Rogue's Challenge, New Blood, and Bedtime Stories. But the Reader's Choice versions of these change names or fail to reprint these stories entirely -- it's very confusing; they apparently skip from Kings of the Broken Wheel to "Dreamtime" which is something different than Hidden Years or Rogue's Challenge. If that weren't enough, the recolored the first four volumes again and had them published by DC in 2003 through 2007, and then republished most of the series through DC in black and white manga format with a brand new naming scheme, where the first twelve manga volumes comprise the original 8 graphic novels, now rechristened "The Grand Quest" volumes 1 through 12. There's also a volume 13 (which seems to match RC volume 8a, "Dreamtime") and a volume 14 containing "Rites of Passage" and "Rogue's Challenge".

And the manga volumes end there. But basically... it's impossible to assemble a complete collection of Elfquest stories all in one format. And let's not even get into the fact that the original series of Wave Dancers was never collected, but instead after a dispute they rewrote the series with a different writer/artist team, and that is what you can buy in the black and white Reader's Choice series.

And then Wendy finally returned to do an EQ story -- Elfquest: Discovery, where the Wolfriders meet the Wavedancers. This came out in 2006 in color from DC comics. From what I've read, not a lot happens in it.

Bleah. No wonder I stopped collecting it... it not only stopped being interesting, but became too complicated to collect.

By the way, you can read virtually all of this online at their website which is pretty cool except that I prefer reading the books. Also, they don't have the Starblaze colors but one of the recolored versions of the original stories, and the old Wavedancer stories aren't displayed here either.

Something else I ran across: Phil Foglio's series Buck Godot, Zap Gun For Hire is is also on the web for you to read. It was also published by Donning / Starblaze at one point, and is one of my favorite things Foglio did, before he and he wife began Girl Genius anyway. ^_^ Well worth checking out.
miko2: Ranma disguised as a schoolgirl to fool Ryoga (Default)
I've been downloading and listening to the LibriVox recordings of Frank Baum's Oz books. These are all in the public domain (as is everything at LibriVox) and are read by volunteers. Thus, the quality varies. I listened to The Lost Princess of Oz first, and it was not bad -- everything was read by one man who did an acceptable job. Next I listened to Glinda of Oz, and here there were different readers for different chapters, with wildly varying levels of success. The first several chapters were read by a young boy who I suppose did well for his age, but his delivery was not exactly captivating and it was hard to follow along. Some of the other readers had thick accents, some were good readers and some not actually very good. It was a little jarring to get a completely different voice for nearly every chapter, but after all, it's free and they were all donating their time to the project.

One thing that interests me about this project is that we've talked for several years about doing recordings of some of our Tai-Pan stories to put on the web somewhere, and I suspect it would work much like there LibriVox recordings do.

Currently I'm listening to a dramatic reading of Ozma of Oz, with different voices for each of the characters when they speak. This is the best presentation of all -- the people involved have done a very good job of giving each of the characters a distinctive voice -- even if the Hungry Lion sounds like a cross between Dirty Harry and Tom Waits. I'd recommend this recording to anyone. ^_^
miko2: Ranma disguised as a schoolgirl to fool Ryoga (Default)


I downloaded the song Samson by Regina Spektor a few weeks ago. I've been addicted to it since. It reminds me a lot of the kind of stuff Tori Amos did on Little Earthquakes.

The song plays with the Biblical story of Samson and Delila, but actually doesn't seem to be about them at all, just about a woman in love with a man named Samson (an apparently balding man).

I was lucky to pick up the cd at Half Price Books this weekend. ^_^

I'm not a big Lady Gaga fan -- in fact I barely know any of her songs, I've mostly heard about her than heard her sing -- but I listened to some stuff Friday and decided I like this song:



It's just an electronic pop song, nothing fancy, but it plays with Biblical and Catholic imagery (the video especially). It's not really about Judas of the Bible, it's about being in love with a bad boy, who may or may not be named Judas. But it has, of course, made a lot of Catholics angry.

But it struck me that it shares some things in common with Regina Spektor's Samson in that respect. ^_^ Although Sampson is a beautiful, well-written song, and not exactly blasphemous per se... and Gaga's song is, you know, basically Madanna done 30 years later, and done to shock and make money.

I decided they should be on some sort of playlist together. Maybe with the following songs:

Madonna: Like A Prayer

Depeche Mode: Your Own Personal Jesus

After those songs I'm less certain what else I'd want to add. But possibly:

Sisters of Mercy: This Corrosion

Shriekback: Nemesis

Lords of the New Church: Dance With Me

Although none of those songs are as directly blasphemous or as directly linked to Christian imagery, so I dunno...
miko2: Ranma disguised as a schoolgirl to fool Ryoga (Default)
Saturday Tom called and wanted to head up to a Steampunk Swap Meet in Seattle. I wanted to check out the Half Price Books warehouse sale, which I'd seen advertised in various Half Price Book Stores over the last month. I picked up Tom about 1 PM and we headed to Seattle.

We stopped first at the Half Price Books on Capitol first because I wasn't sure exactly where the warehouse sale was (Greenwood Ave not far from where we used to live, as it turned out). While there I found a whole bunch of CDs that I wanted to buy -- I spent money. :( I also finally found the trade paperback copy of Oz #4 Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz to match the rest of the set (which I bought from Half Price years ago for about $2.00 a book). But they wanted $15.00 for it! So I decided I could live without it, at that price. (It was also a bit used and worn.)

CDs bought included a double cd set from Rasputina (including 1816 the Year Without a Summer, my favorite song of theirs), Begin to Hope from Regina Spektor (I downloaded the song Samson several weeks ago and I'm addicted to it), a Visqueen cd and three Mates of State cds. Most of these were for $4 or $5 which is one of the reasons I bought so many. :p

The Steampunk sale was also on Capitol hill at a church. This was a small room that took me less than 15 minutes to wander around in, but it took Tom over an hour because everyone was a friend of his that he had to have a long conversation with. Ultimately I bought two mouse pads from Diana Vick that had fox women dressed in Victorian outfits -- one of them was for me, one of them was a potential gift.

We drove up to the Half Price warehouse sale where I bought a couple of manga, several videos, and several cds. CDs included the 2nd cd from Velvet Revolver and Them Crooked Vultures, both good blues/rock bands. Movies that I bought included Hedwig and the most recent Bond film. I also got a slow cooker cookbook; I didn't need it, but it has lots of nice color pictures in it. ^_^

Tom found a lot of movies but nothing he wanted to spend $3.00 on. (The CDs and manga were $1.00 each but the movies and hardcover books were $3.00). But they told us that on Sunday everything would be $1.00. We were there when they closed at 6 PM, and they opened again on Sunday at 9 AM. I wanted to come back because they had a lot of Ah! My Goddess manga, and I knew I was missing several volumes.

After that we hit my comic shop and then drove up to Chef At Wok, the Chinese restaurant that we used to eat at all the time. I got home at almost 9 PM.

Sunday I got up very early and drove up to pick up Tom again. We made it back up to the warehouse sale just after 9 AM when they opened. There were already a lot of people there. I found that if you were even slightly interested in buying something you needed to pick it up immediately. You could always put it back down later. ^_^

They had an even better deal if you were there after 2 PM -- you could fill an entire tote bag for $20.00. That would have saved Tom a lot of money -- but we didn't want to hang out for three more hours. Anyway, Tom bought all of the movies he'd looked at the day before, and a bunch of others besides, and I bought more movies than I really had a reason to but after all, they were only $1.00 each. I was only able to buy one of the three Ah! My Goddess manga that I had missing, but I found a few more cds for $1.00 each. The movies I bought included Wallace & Grommet, Stuart Little 2, Like Water For Chocolate, Lost in Translation, Spanglish, a concert video for Sarah McLaughlin, another Bond film, and a second copy of A Mighty Wind which I'm sure I can find a good home for. ^_^

After that we had a late breakfast at the Blue Star Cafe and Pub over on Stone Way and 45th, which I'd never been to but it is a fantastic place to eat! I had a verde sauce egg scramble with peppers, corn chips and mozarella cheese; Tom had bacon waffles. But they had a full page of just omelets and egg scrambles and served breakfast until 2:45 PM, and the service was fantastic -- the kind of place where you never saw the bottom of your drink because they'd take it away and bring a new one first.

I hung out with Tom until evening when we went and saw Rango at the cheap theater in Renton. We were surprised it was still showing, but Tom was right, it's a good film. But all of that meant that I got home at 9 PM again... so I pretty much did nothing but hang out with my ex roommate all weekend. :p
miko2: Ranma disguised as a schoolgirl to fool Ryoga (Default)
I took Tuesday off so that I could stay in Longview Monday night and see the fireworks. The weather, for once, has been really nice for the 4th, and the fireworks were fun.

I brought two books down with me: Paradox in Oz and The Living House of Oz, both by Edward Einhorn. Frequently when I'm on vacation i bring one or several books and dont take the time to read anything. This time, I finished both books off and wish I'd brought something else along to read.

I liked The Living House of Oz. It's not, in my opinion, quite as good as Paradox in Oz, but both are excellent Oz books. (And to be honest, many of Baum's Oz books are less than stellar -- some lack any villain or what you might call a plot). Anyway, it occurred to me that Einhorn has pulled off a pretty neat trick: he does Maguire without doing Maguire. By which I mean he presents the Wicked Witch of the West in a sympathetic light, while writing a "cannon" Oz story rather than a revisionist Oz story. How does he do this? It's an alternate dimension Wicked Witch, of course, from a version of Oz where many of the good people are evil, and many of the evil people are good. He set that world up in Paradox, but he has a lot of fun with the idea of a wicked witch who isn't in The Living House.

I like Einhorn's two Oz books, and I hope he's writing another. The first came out in 1999 and the second in 2005, so he's not fast, but now would be about the right time for a third to appear if he's got one planned. I really like modern Oz books that borrow from Baum's Oz while trying to write a more coherent and exciting story than some of what Baum wrote.

This is what Jack Snow started, and many writers after him have taken his lead. Ruth Plumly Thompson was the second Oz Historian, and she ignored many of Baum's characters and rules and wrote Oz her own way. Artist John R. Neill followed her and he very much wrote yet another kind of Oz, one where everything talked, even houses, and logic kind of flew out the window. When Jack Snow got his turn to write Oz books, he ignored pretty much everything Thompson and Neill did. He went back to the Baum books and worked from there. Writers after him followed suit. This was greatly encouraged by Thompson, who was protective of her own work and did not want other writers messing with it.

Since then, of course, all of Baum's books have entered public domain, as well as Jack Snow's two books, but only some of Thompson's books and none of Neill's. So the "ignore most of what Thompson and Neill wrote" is enforced not only by author's choice but also by copyright constraints. Which is just fine with me. ^_^
miko2: Ranma disguised as a schoolgirl to fool Ryoga (Default)
"Aha! This confirms Thippersby's Principle of Foggy Time," cried King Oz. "It says that whenever there are too many time anomalies in the same space, a mist forms."

"Where does the mist come from?" asked Ozma.

"According to Thippersby, it comes from the cracks in the Ozziverse."

"I see," said Ozma doubtfully.

"I don't know how you can," remarked her Parrot-Ox. "I can't see a thing, myself."

It was true. the fog had become even thicker than it had been underneath Absurd City.

"Why is it so thick this time?" asked Ozma.

"According to Thippersby--" King Oz began again.

"Then there actually is a Thippersby?" asked Ozma.

"Not that I know of," said King Oz. "It's possible, I suppose."

"Then how can you know what he believes?"

"I don't. I just know what his Principle states," explained King Oz.

"But what makes you think Thippersby has a Principle? You're not even sure he exists," Ozma objected.

"And Thippersby, most probably, isn't sure that I exist," King Oz responded.

"But he isn't calling his theories King Oz's Principle," said Ozma.

"How do you know?" asked King Oz. "Have you met him?"

"Of course not," said Ozma.

"Then who's claiming to know what Thippersby does now?"

"The point is--" Ozma paused. She had forgotten the point. Talking to King Oz was becoming more confusing than talking with Tempus.

"Ozma's Point Regarding Foggy Time," interjected her Tempus, "is that most of the time anomalies originate from you, King Oz. Therefore, having both you and the hourglass that you were transformed into in the same room must be creating twice as much mist."

"That wasn't exactlyh my point," said Ozma, "though it answers my question, I guess."

"No, it was my point," explained Tempus. "I just called it your point."




"That was amazing," cried King Oz, "I have never seen a time event like that, and I can assure you I've seen a lot of time events. I have developed a new theory as a result. I call it Thirkleby's Explanation of Ozziversal Time-Related Phenomena."

"and what is the explanation?" asked Ozma.

"Get a lot of time stuff together in one place, and --kaboom!" King Oz told her.

~ Paradox in Oz, by Edward Einhorn
miko2: Ranma disguised as a schoolgirl to fool Ryoga (Default)
"A paradox? What's that?"

"Not a paradox, a Parrot-Ox. Born in Oz of a parrot and an ox, and capable of doing nothing at all, unless it is impossible."

"But how could one of his parents be a parrot? There are no parrots in Oz, and there never have been."

"Exactly," said Glinda. "Now you're beginning to understand the nature of a Parrot-Ox"




"Where did that giant thing come from?" the Sawhorse asked in dismay.

"That's an interesting question," replied the Parrot-Ox in its big, squawking voice. "I first arrived in Oz a thousand years from now, and I left just one second later. But I've been making good use of that one second. Or was it one second before?"

"You arrived in Oz?" asked Ozma. "I thought you were born in Oz."

"That's funny," said the Parrot-Ox, "that's just what my parents said to me when I arrived. I think we'll call him Polly, the said, which is how I got my name."

"Polly?"

"No, Tempus."

"Well, it's good to meet you, Mr. Tempus. I am Ozma of Oz."

"Good to meet you again."

"Again?"

"I'm speaking in anticipation of our next meeting, which, if I heard Glinda right, will be earlier in time. So we doubtlessly met years ago. I must say, it was rude of you not to have recognized me."

"I'm sorry."

"Don't mention it. You look just as I remember you."

"Do you remember me?"

"Not one bit. But don't take it amiss. I will remember you at some point, I'm sure."

The Sawhorse had been regarding Tempus with a critical eye during this conversation.

"Didn't you say that he could do nothing unless it was impossible?" the Sawhorse asked Glinda.

"I did," Glinda told him.

"Well, he seems to be doing quite a lot of talking. As I don't see anything particularly impossible about talking, I think he should stop doing it."

"Very clever friend Sawhorse," said Tempus. "You are quite right. It is quite possible for any creature to speak in Oz, and it is impossible for me to do anything that's possible. Fortunately, that makes it impossible for me to speak, which allows me to do so."




"Why don't ou just have Tempus go forward in time and ask Ozma what happened?" asked the Sawhorse. "That way, you would learn what the enchantment was without having to go through this whole adventure."

"Could you do that?" Ozma asked him.

"Certainly, but you'd still have to have the adventure anyway, in order to learn what the enchantment was."

"But I would know what the enchantment was."

"Which would make the whole thing a lot less enjoyable, in my opinion," said Tempus.

"But..." Ozma stopped, at a loss. "I suppose there's no way around it," she decided.

"As far as you know," agreed Tempus.

-- Paradox in Oz, Edward Einhorn
miko2: Ranma disguised as a schoolgirl to fool Ryoga (Default)
So the plan yesterday was to hit a few Half Price Book Stores in search of some Oz books to fill in my collection.

All of my 14 Baum Oz books are trade paperbacks published by Mundus that I bought from Half Price Books a few years ago cheap. Except that I'm apparently missing book 4, Dorothy & the Wizard of Oz. So my plan was to find one of those to match the rest of my set, and to find Trouble Under Oz by Sherwood Smith since that's a recent Oz book with a relatively wide publication, and to find any other Oz books that I don't already have.

At Half Price at the Crossroads Mall I found Trouble Under Oz, so that was good. I found one of the 14 Baum books in the Mundus trade paperback edition, but not the one I needed. That was all I found there. I ate lunch at the mall and watched a chess match between two older gentlemen using their large floor chess set (which is pretty cool, I have to admit). Then I headed to Redmond.

At Half Price in Redmond I didn't find any more Oz books but I did pick up two Baum fantasy books that I didn't have -- The Sea Fairies and Queen Zixi of Ix. Both books contain characters who he later places in Oz (albeit mostly in a vain attempt to get children to read his non-Oz books -- while he kind of invented the fantasy series, it wasn't because he actually wanted to keep writing more Oz books).

They had more of the Mundus trade paperback Oz books, but not Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz. But I found a different publication of that book that I decided would do. Also, I picked up a large hardcover volume of the Wizard of Oz because it had very nice color illustrations in it (by Greg Hildebrant in fact) and because it was only $5.00.

After that I took a walk over to the British Pantry, bought some tea, and stopped at Whole Foods on the way back home. ^_^ I was planning to hit more than two Half Price bookstores, but I decided I'd mostly been successful in my hunt.
miko2: Ranma disguised as a schoolgirl to fool Ryoga (Default)
(Reposting here from my LJ post of 2 days ago.)

I've been on kind of an Oz kick this week.

Actually, I've been on a bit of a children's story kick all around the last few months. This started with me rereading all of Bone, and then Rod Espinoza's The Courageous Princess, and the Eric Shanower Oz comic books. For the Bone books I have mostly paperback collections but a couple of them are hardcover... for the Courageous Princess, I have the deluxe hardcover edition that is now rare and expensive to buy. I did some research and found the Rod Espinoza still intends to finish this story -- someday. For the Oz comics by Shanower, I have the original paperback editions published by First Comics. More recently he recollected these into a couple of volumes, and also into one large volume, and there was a deluxe hardcover edition of that, but I didn't realize it until I looked it up last month, and like my Courageous Princess volume it is also rare and expensive these days. Sigh. I probably should pick up the newer paperback collection though, it'd be nicer than what I have.

(I also reread all of my Adam Warren Dirty Pair books, and bought the one volume that I didn't have, which is out of print and cost a bit of money for a fairly dog-eared and starting to fall apart edition. Bleah. And I'm currently re-reading my Elfquest comics, and I discovered that the color editions are no longer in print and also somewhat valuable. They don't have any current plans to print in color again. although black and white versions are easily purchased.)

Anyway -- back to Oz. I went through my Oz books and organized them and decided I should fill in the last missing pieces. In particular, Of the 40 "cannon" books (those published by the original publisher Reilly & Britton) I have all 14 of the Baum books and all 19 of the Ruth Plumly Thompson books, plus The Wonder City of Oz by John R Neill and The Shaggy Man of Oz by Jack Snow. The ones I'm missing are the two other Neill books (probably not worth getting), the first of Jack Snow's two novels The Magical Mimics of Oz (well worth getting), The Hidden Valley of Oz by Rachel Cosgrove (probably worth getting), and The Merry Go Round of Oz by Eloise Jarvis McGraw and Lauren Lynn McGraw. (very much worth getting).

There are six other books written by the above "Royal Historian" authors that might be worth picking up: Yankee in Oz and The Enchanted Island of Oz by Ruth Plumly Thompson (but I probably wont' get hers), Who's Who In Oz by Jack Snow (own it already), The Wicked Witch of Oz by Rachel Cosgrove (own it already), The Rundlestone of Oz by Eloise Jarvis McGraw (own it already), The Forbidden Fountain of Oz by Eloise Jarvis McGraw and Lauren Lynn McGraw, and The Runaway in Oz by John R. Neill. The last was going to be Neill's fourth book, but it was unillustrated when he died and so Reilly & Britton never published it. The version published a few years ago was edited and illustrated by Eric Shanower, and by all accounts is the best of the four Neill books so I've just ordered a copy.

I'm also collecting other Oz books (Apocryphal books), especially those that adhere closely to the originals. Some -- well, a lot -- of these "apocryphal" books veer widely from the original stories, and I'm not even talking about Philip Jose Farmer or Gregory MacGuire and their reinterpretations. I have a few of these "wide of the mark" Oz books -- The Mysterious Chronicles of Oz by Onyx Madden, The Glass Cat of Oz by David Hulan, Queen Ann in Oz by Karyl Carlsong & Eric Gjovaag, Masquerade in Oz by Bill Campbell and Irwin Terry, Visitors from Oz by Martin Gardner, and Dorothy of Oz by Roger S. Baum (just because you're related to L. Frank Baum does not give you a free pass on misrepresenting the land and characters of Oz).

I also have some apocryphal Oz books that are frankly much closer to Baum's original work than many of the so-called cannon books. Ruth Plumly Thompson did not exactly follow the rules that Baum set down, however haphazardly, and Neill was a much better illustrator of Oz books than he was an author. So in this camp I'd probably place: The Giant Garden of Oz and The Salt Sorcerer of Oz by Eric Shanower (who for my money understands Oz better than anyone living, and perhaps better than anyone save Baum or Jack Snow), Paradox in Oz by Edward Einhorn (and I just ordered the sequel, The Living House of Oz), The Seven Blue Mountains of Oz trilogy by Melody Grandy (I need to track down the third book) and, I'm not sure, but I recently picked up The Emerald Wand of Oz by Sherwood Smith, which has the advantage of being officially liscensed by the L Frank Baum Family Trust. That may or may not have any bearing on how well it's written and how true it holds to the original works -- in any case I got it at Half Price Books on Tuesday. Smith wrote a sequel, Trouble Under Oz, but apparently it ends on something of a cliffhanger, and he never got to write the third book of his expected trilogy. Eh.

So Tuesday I picked up an Oz book at Half Price Books, and also one of the Bone collections that contains the entire series, and also a biography of L. Frank Baum, which I spent much of that evening reading.

In the last 24 hours I enjoyed myself immensely while reading all of the Mari Ness's reviews of all 40 Oz books, plus a few of the others. Her reviews are funny and quite enlightening. In particular, I learned how little Ruth Plumly Thompson understood or appreciated the core of what Baum's Oz books were about. First and foremost, the Oz books were about people being accepted for who they were, and about girls who were adventurous and spoke their mind and were generally great role models. Baum also infused Oz with an almost Communistic society, free of money, free of greed, and where everyone was welcome and nobody had to work too hard. He included several working-class characters, starting first and foremost with Dorothy and her Aunt and Uncle. In contrast, Thompson's books almost always have a prince and a princess who are destined to get married; the books are invariably about royalty and working-class characters like Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, the Shaggy Man, and Captain Bill never appear in any of her stories. But beyond that, she introduces money, hunger, poverty, slavery, racism, cruelty, veiled arguments against Roosevelt's politics (she was a staunch conservative), war, and expansion by conquest. She was a noted writer of children's books before becoming the Oz historian, and many of her books are well written, but she remakes Oz into the place she'd prefer it to be rather than the place that Baum had originally designed it to be.

(And really, the racism in her books -- mostly in two later books that I haven't read yet, but Mari Hess's reviews are pretty in-depth -- is just ugly, ugly, ugly. It makes me sad that she wrote Oz books for so long and failed to understand the messages inherent in Baum's works.)

Based on what Mari Ness wrote, Jack Snow understood the heart of Oz. He was not as prolific or accomplished an author as Thompson, but he knew Oz inside and out. Likewise, Eloise Jarvis McGraw was a highly accomplished children's author (perhaps even moreso than Thompson -- she was awarded the Newberry Honor three different times, in different decades, and won other awards as well), and also clearly understood Baum's work more fully than Thompson. The Magical Mimics of Oz and Merry-Go-Round in Oz are apparently the two most Baum-like of the canon books written after his death.

Another thing I came across was LibriVox, a place that has audio versions of public domain books, which all of the original Baum Oz books are (and even many of the Thompson books). I'm working on downloading as many of them as I can. ^_^

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