Thursday, May 22, 2008

Over here

-Heidi MacDonald asks "where is everyone?", which I guess probably applies to me, since I've been averaging about one post a week for a while now. It's been pretty busy around here, more than usual. My in-laws were in town last week, and we were responsible for entertaining them for a few days. So we extracted every last bit of fun within driving distance, and I feel like we can now leave Wisconsin knowing that the most noteworthy thing/place we've neglected is the Dells. And I don't really want to go to a Midwestern Myrtle Beach, so I'm okay with that.

I was happy to visit House on the Rock one last time before moving on. I love House on the Rock; one of the reasons I enjoyed Bioshock so much was that it was kind of like Silent Hill set in the House on the Rock.* If that's not a ringing endorsement, I don't know what is. I kind of feel stupid endorsing it so strongly, given that it's only a few miles away from Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin, which I've never visited. But it's a whopping $50 to take the tour that actually goes inside Taliesin, more if you want a more exhaustive experience. The complete House on the Rock package is half that, plus you can now choose to visit only only a segment of the house, which is a good option for those (like me) less interested in the dollhouses and more interested in the rooms full of sort-of-automated instruments or the enormous whale sculpture. It's true that there's something lost by not taking the complete tour, but it's a good option for those who have seen the house before, and/or are traveling with people who are skeptical of the whole House on the Rock phenomenon.

We've also been busy with Craigslist rental ads, veterinary appointments, estimates for moving costs, cleaning out our basement, donating massive quantities of old clothes and appliances to the thrift store, returning equally massive quantities of books to the library, packing, and a bunch of other stuff related to moving. So there's probably a whole summer ahead of me not updating this blog regularly. Sorry about that; things should be back to normal by the end of the summer.

*The Bioshock aesthetic is much more urban, with lots of neon and marble, but there's a deeper similarity. The artificial neighborhoods in Rapture remind me of the indoor street in the House on the Rock, and each share an aesthetic of decadent, decaying nostalgia. It's hard to describe if you haven't experienced both.

-I was planning on saying something or another about Tom Spurgeon's post about the expense of pamphlet-style comics (which would have apparently made me about the hundredth person to do so, but I don't recall reading any reactions other than those of Dirk Deppey and Greg Burgas). I kind of have a hard time getting myself all worked up about it, though. At this point, I probably only buy about five comics one can reasonably expect to be out on a monthly basis: Matt Fraction's new Iron Man title, Shooter's LSH (and I'm waaaay behind on reading it), and Brubaker's Captain America, Criminal, and Daredevil. I had been reading Iron Fist (will drop it once Fraction and Brubaker leave), The Order (canceled), Brave and the Bold (waaay behind, missed an issue, just gave up), Batman (missed an issue, starting to think I don't care anymore), and Casanova (on hiatus, which is fine with me because I was at least a couple of issues behind). There are a couple of incomplete miniseries I'm still picking up, most notably Speak of the Devil and All-Star Superman. I'm also buying Castle Waiting, but I missed an issue somewhere along the way and haven't been keeping up. I'll definitely buy any future issues of Tales Designed to Thrizzle. And I'll keep reading Kick-Ass for the foreseeable future, I guess, so long as John Romita Jr.'s art continues to overshadow all other aspects of the book.

That adds up to probably about eight traditionally-formatted comic purchases a month, and it's more likely that this number will decrease before it increases. There really just isn't much three-staple material on the horizon that especially intrigues me. As noted here previously, I will grudgingly attempt to read Final Crisis whenever it appears (is it just me, or does it seem like it should be half over already, even though we've never seen an issue?). I'll probably also read Grant Morrison's Seaguy sequel. Beyond that, though, I just don't see myself following my favorite writers on to whatever they're doing.* I guess Mark Waid is busy being the editor-in-chief or publisher of some company whose output I've never even considered reading, plus maybe he's writing Amazing Spider-Man now. Along with, what, seven other people? Meanwhile, Brubaker and Fraction seem to be following up their collaboration on Iron Fist with dueling story arcs on Uncanny X-Men. I didn't much care for Brubaker's previous work on that title. Maybe I'll check out a couple of Fraction issues whenever that happens, assuming it's not already happening or that I don't forget between now and whenever it does happen.

Ed Brubaker mentioned yesterday how much he likes some new Captain Britain series by somebody who apparently writes for Dr. Who. I've never seen an episode of Dr. Who in my life, but I don't feel strongly enough about the subject to let that keep me from trying it out (assuming, once again, that I remember--or that I don't have too much other stuff I'd rather buy next week in the store, and bear in mind here that The Bottomless Belly Button didn't show up at my local shop this week, and that I do want to buy it when it finally does, and that its cover price is slightly above what I usually spend on comics in any given week). Other than that, I can't recall hearing anything lately which would sway me to flip through a pamphlet-style comic on the shelf, let alone buy it or try to download it from somewhere. But then again, I've stopped reading DC/Marvel solicitations. Maybe one of those companies have a seldom-discussed, forthcoming book which would be right up my alley. That seems pretty likely, right?

This is more than just a statement on the quality of current comics offerings, at least for me. When I finally move, I (probably) won't be living in a city with a shop that I can rely on to order a wide selection of material that interests me, meaning that I'll have much less incentive to visit a store every week. I suppose I could preorder, but if I'm going to pay full retail, I want the luxury of picking up a book and flipping through it before choosing to buy it. Otherwise, why not just buy from Amazon at a discount? I buy from my current local shop because I want to support a store which carries things like Mome without my having to specially order it. If that's not going to be the case going forward, I'll probably choose savings over supporting a local business which doesn't stock much of interest to me. I would greatly prefer to patronize a store which carries the kind of comics/graphic novels I want to buy, but those kind of stores are tragically uncommon.

So anyway, going into the future, it's possible that I won't be going into a local shop every week, making it far less likely that I'll be buying superhero and ground-level comics in pamphlet form. I still enjoy reading Captain America in monthly chunks, but I don't especially want to set up a pull list for only a handful of titles. This isn't exactly a dilemma which is keeping me up at night--in fact, this is the first time I've really given it much thought. Maybe I should set up a pull list after all. I guess it all depends on just how much I can tolerate the store in the city I'm moving to.

*I don't have too many favorite active Marvel/DC artists, which is probably partly why I don't read too many Marvel/DC comics.

-UFC 84 picks~! I had said earlier this year that I was going to try to make predictions, but I keep forgetting to do that. Which is kind of a good thing, since I've been way, way off most of the year. But I'm excited about Saturday's card: top to bottom, it's the strongest I've seen in quite some time. I'm at least somewhat interested in nearly every fight on the card. My predictions:

BJ Penn vs. Sean Sherk
One would have to think Penn is getting under Sherk's skin, given what he said at their press conference. It's probably true that Sherk is getting short shrift here (possibly because people enjoy the alliteration); the guy would probably be a top five welterweight if he still competed at 170. On the other hand, Penn is a former champion in that weight class. I think Penn will stop this by the third round, possibly sooner.

Wanderlei Silva vs. Keith Jardine
A lot of people are pulling for Silva for sentimental reasons. I never liked Silva much; he's a great fighter, but I never cared for his in-ring demeanor. Plus he's like Quinton Jackson's arch-rival. How could I pull for him? I guess that means I should pull for Jardine, but I'm not really a fan of his either. I mean, he's alright as a fighter, but then there's that stupid goatee. Having said all that, I think this is a tremendously important fight for the future of the LHW division, as well as the future of Silva in that weight class. Despite lacking any strong rooting interest, I'm very much looking forward to this fight, which I think Jardine will win by decision.

Wilson Gouveia vs. Goran Reljic
Probably the least compelling fight on the card, at least for me. Gouveia has looked like a gatekeeper-level talent, and Reljic has exclusively competed on the soft European circuit (primarily Croatia). Gouveia has strung together four victories, including one over the rather underrated Jason Lambert, which might signal a major leap forward as a fighter. On the other hand, he's nearly 30 years old, at which age this kinds of significant improvement is less likely for normal human beings (ie, dudes who aren't Randy Couture). Still gotta go with Gouveia, who has the far more impressive resume.

Tito Ortiz Vs. Lyoto Machida
Why is UFC listing this fourth on their website? I'm totally sick of Ortiz. It would certainly make financial sense for both Zuffa and Ortiz to stay together, but I'd be much happier if they were apart and Ortiz was fighting dudes like Kimbo Slice and Alistair Overeem on EXC cards, where one really would appreciate his WWE-style fight-hyping. He's never going to be a contender in UFC again, especially with a stacked LHW division.

As for the fight, Machida's certainly the hotter, younger (but not by much!) fighter, but he's never fought a big wrestler like Ortiz. It would be a mistake to bet the farm on either guy, but I think age and wear and tear will probably give Machida the edge here. Oh, and by decision, assuming that even needs to be said re: Machida.

Thiago Silva vs. Antonio Mendes
Silva is one of the most exciting young fighters in the world, and I have to think he'll make short work of Mendes (another European circuit veteran). I'm mostly bummed that the fight between Silva and Rashad Evans got scrapped so Evans could step in for UFC 85 in place of an injured Shogun Rua to fight Chuck Liddell, who subsequently pulled out after tearing his hamstring. Evans was then scheduled to fight James Irvin, who also dropped out due to injury. So now Evans won't be fighting on UFC 85 at all. Maybe Zuffa will pit him against Shogun; that would be a good fight for both those dudes. As for Thiago Silva, I hope they figure out someone decent to put him up against soon. Maybe Jardine (if he loses) or Sokoudjou (if he wins).

Ivan Salaverry vs. Rousimar Palhares
Palhares is the latest product of what's left of Brazilian Top Team, a once-great camp beset by a number of departures (including the Nogueira brothers and Paulo Filho). I guess BTT is still in better shape than their old rivals at Chute Boxe, who are basically down to Luiz Azeredo, Cyborg, and a bunch of dudes you've never heard of. Oh, and Fabricio Werdum I guess, though I expect he'll be on his way elsewhere before too long. Salaverry's career is probably winding down at this point, but he's wily enough to beat the young Palhares. I don't think he will, but I think he'll push the fight to a decision.

Rameau Sokoudjou Vs. Kazuhiro Nakamura
This should totally be on the main card in place of Gouveia-Reljic; one almost would think this is a snub of Pride (or the memory of Pride) by Zuffa--and I'm not exactly a Pride apologist. Admittedly, neither of these guys have won a fight in Zuffa, and the average fan has no attachment to either one. So I guess I should just accept reality: the average UFC fan cares more about Wilson Gouveia than either of these dudes. I've never been impressed by Nakamura, who tends to do just enough to win or else drags superior fighters to dull decisions. I think Sokoudjou should be able to KO him here.

Rich Clementi vs. Terry Etim
Ahh, geez, another one I don't much care about. Clementi, I guess. He has to be the least interesting gatekeeper in UFC.

Jon Koppenhaver vs. Yoshiyuki Yoshida
Yoshida is a very talented Japanese welterweight, which is to say that he probably should be fighting at lightweight. He should be good enough to get past this War Machine dude, but we'll have to see how he does against stiffer competition. In the meantime, I hope we'll get the chance to see this fight.

Jason Tan vs. Dong Hyun Kim
Similar to the Yoshida-Koppenhaver fight, in that I'm pulling for the veteran of the mid-level Japanese circuit to beat a fighter he should beat, yet am concerned that he might not be big enough to make it at welterweight.

Christian Wellisch vs. Shane Carwin
Possibly the dark match with the most riding on it. Carwin is part three of Zuffa's let's-replace-all-the-heavyweights-with-relatively-untested-yet-promising-youngsters strategy. I'd find this plan much more annoying if it were being implemented in any division other than heavyweight, which generally sucks. Of the three prospects UFC is banking on, Carwin is probably the least interesting/promising. Brock Lesnar has the pro wrestling intrigue and the amazing athleticism; Cain Velasquez is young, comes from the top-notch camp, and has the most buzz from those in the know. Carwin is a protoge of Ron "H2O" Waterman, which isn't exactly a reassuring thought. On the other hand, he's a decorated wrestler and a big, big dude. I expect that he's going to be too much for Wellisch to handle, but Wellisch is the best submission artist he'll have fought. I'll go with Carwin by first round (T)KO, but I wouldn't be surprised to see an upset here.


Tom Spurgeon said...

Thanks for the commentary on the pricing post. I swear I wasn't complaining that comics cost too much as much as I was trying to point out that they're designed to foster an experience -- multiple sampling -- that costs too much. I find some value in that experience, so I'd rather have the price reduced so that experience makes sense. But if they can't be cheaper I'd rather have them better conceptualized for the price point. I recognize this may be possible because the model is so firmly in place with this price point that different price points are seen as a betrayal rather than an opportunity. It's all very weird.

Dick Hyacinth said...

I had a whole thing thought out, actually, which was more engaged with your post. Specifically, I was going to mention how I see a lot of people arguing for Shonen Jump as a model for cheaper comics (partly due to lower prices for cheaper page stock). I was going to mention how my conversations with Stuart Moore here lead me to understand that anthologies are incompatible with the current market because (a) cheaper page stock doesn't save much money, and (b) page rates are too high. Thus, a Shonen Jump model would only work if creators were paid far less than the current going rates. I was then going to link that train of thought to the post you made about Gene Colan and the potentially looming crisis for aging creators.

But when I sat down to write this, it just didn't seem right somehow--like it was too tenuous a connection, or punditry for punditry's sake. It probably would have been fairer to your piece had I gone through with it, though. Didn't mean to imply that it wasn't an issue worth discussing.

One thing I wanted to ask you, though: you mention other price points as being viewed as "betrayals." I assume you're talking about Image's Fell/Casanova format. Who has characterized it that way, and where have they done so? I'm curious to see how that argument goes.

Tom Spurgeon said...

The Shonen Jump model argument has been around since at least 1998. I was still at the Journal and people were arguing that. The magic wand solutions almost never work for practical reasons like the one you mention, although I'm all for people trying new initiatives. People always want to transform existing markets in a very superheroic way, when that just seems insane to me. Comic books can be a great market -- heck, I bought comic books when I was a grad student and had basically no money at all. I like comics more now and have more money now. The experience is less appealing.

I don't have time to go chasing the links, but there were plenty of retailers saying in plenty of places that the Image books in question should have been priced like regular books because they would have sold just as many or nearly as many at that price point and made them more money. They'd almost certainly object to my language that this was a betrayal, and it's a strong way to state it, but that's how I read what they were saying.

Sandy said...

You like the House on the Rock? Really? Maybe it would work as a setting for a creepy horror movie/game, but as the top tourist attraction in Wisconsin, I don't think that's what they're going for.

I found it ... revolting. The dank smell, the dust on all of the "collections," the feeling like this had once been somebody's precious baby and was now being left to slowly wither, and most importantly, the fact that (when I visited) once you went in, if felt like YOU COULD NEVER LEAVE; all of that made me feel like I was going crazy by the time it was mercifully over.

There was only one way in, and one way out, and it took hours to get through those winding, claustrophobic corridors, filled with eerie displays of staring dolls and empty-but-still-rotating carousels. By the end of the "tour," my wife and I were literally running down the hallways, desperate for some daylight and fresh air.

I hated it.

But good luck with your move - check out the "unclutterer" blog for some good ideas and motivation. I think the now-deceased creator of the House on the Rock would have benefitted from too.

Jim said...

Pretty good effort with the UFC picks. It was a good night for the Brazilians: Palhares looked like a star in the making, Machida remains undefeated despite claiming afterward that he was "horribly ill" and gassed in the 2nd round, and both Silvas made short work of their opponents. You were also right on about Tito; he needs to reboot what's left of his career with one of the smaller promotions.

Matthew J. Brady said...

I've never been to the House on the Rock, but I would like to check it out sometime, ever since I read Neil Gaiman's American Gods. That definitely made it seem like a fascinating place. One of these days (maybe in a few years when my daughter is old enough to enjoy it) I'll convince my wife to make the drive up and check it out.

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