Scoundrel Fantasy and eReaders

Dr. Z
I have been on a grit fantasy or scoundrel fantasy tear.  It started with Martin’s Games of Thrones.  But having gained momentum and found other engaging works–and it is a force unto itself–it has led me to Lawrence, Abercrombie, Sapkowski, and Scull.

The works, as a whole, are original and fresh.  Some of the plots do echo one another, but for the most part, the works focus on the struggles of morally ambiguous characters.  The approach, in some ways, regenerates the genre, breaking away from the traditional focus on an apocalyptic battle between good and evil.

The works are character studies.  And I have been devouring them on my iPad.  Which prompted a strange and uneasy revelation.

I read better on an electronic device–a Kindle, my iPad, this MacBook Air.   Perhaps it is eye strain.  Perhaps the devices are better suited to my attention span (that of a kitten).  Whatever it is, I am reading more and enjoying my reading more.

With all of that said, I am troubled.  I miss my hard copies. This Books not eReaderssounds vulgar, base.  But it is almost as if I have not read the work if I do not have a hard copy to show for it.  (I did not even recognize Martin’s works at a book shelf in Hastings.)

And with that in mind I have been scouring Half Priced, Bookmans,
and Amazon for tattered used copies of the works to fill my space, my home.

They are souvenirs of the journeys.

Bicycles and Innovation

Dr. Z
Bicycling today,  I thought about a lit class I am teaching this summer.  I had planned to build the class around a series of group presentations on various aspects of class readings: historical criticism, biographic criticism, new criticism, feminist criticism.  Different views. Different approaches.  But I had begun to back away from that idea.  And I wondered why.

Why was I unwilling to try something new?   If the new approach did not work, I could adapt, change, or simply endure.  My administration encourages innovation.  I enjoy a certain autonomy in my classes.  Nobody would question the changes.  So why was I?

pathAll the while, I was bicycling though the master planned community where I live.  The bubble is about forty years old.  The original developer worked to maintain the feel of the forest that was torn down to make way for the homes.  Paths wind away from roads across golf courses along streams and back to the roads.

When we first moved here from The Panhandle, I tried to bike in the same way I had in the north. There, I would head out on long, uninterrupted rides on country farm roads.  Wind, cold, even snow, added to the joy of the rides.  I would return home exhausted and triumphant.  The solitude invigorated me.

Here, though, lights, traffic, and developments seemed to hem me in curtailing my rides.  I could not get out of the city; Houston stretches up, swallowing everything from College Station to Galveston.

It took me ten years to learn how to enjoy riding here.  I had to give up the sexy Italian racing bike Fuji CyclocrossI had bought with the raise and replace it with a cross, a gravel bike of sorts.  The turning point came about a year ago when I finally bought a bell–something I would have never deigned to do in the open plains.  I had to let go.

Now, I enjoy wandering the trails, sidewalks, paths greenbelts–whatever they are.  I enjoy becoming lost and turning back on myself, seeing new neighborhoods, coming across a snapping turtle, or cruising down the fake riverwalk.

I have started riding again.  But to do so, I had to let go of some of my preconceptions, some of my  pretensions, and some of my assumptions.

I am going to go ahead with the group projects for the summer.

Yaks and Sherpas

Last week, I was in Miami picking up one of the offspring from college. A native Texan, I have trouble settling into the cool, frantic culture of south Florida.

Sitting on a deserted patio of the student union sipping an iced coffee, I finally relaxed. The quiet of the campus calmed me. I had time to slow and consider. The school has been good to my son and my family. I have seen him change and grow as he pursues his bliss (stealing Campbell’s turn of phrase).

Comforted, I opened Yik Yak to snoop.

For those unfamiliar with the program—and that includes most of us who are not undergrads—it is a social media app that limits open messaging to a location or, more recently, a home base. “A live feed of what everyone’s saying around you.” Continue reading Yaks and Sherpas

Penance, Adjuncts, and College Culture

A Seminary Story
Dr. Z
During my second year of the seminary, I went to Father Marcus for my Lenten confessions.  He was my friend and confidant: an easy mark.  He listened, guffawed, and then assigned a penance other than some set number of rosaries.  A penance that required me to address the issue and find a resolution. (I am not quite comfortable sharing the confession or the penance decades later.)  I left the confessional frustrated and bewildered.  Simply acknowledging the failure had always sufficed in the past.

In a recent article in The Chronicle of Education, an adjunct writes a troubling, painful description of her role in the classroom and evaluating students.  The article is entitled “Defending My Grades.” 

Almost all instructors have found themselves in a similar situation–having to reverse their stance on a grade or a practice.  (TAMU Galveston comes to mind.)  For adjuncts, though, the experience is radically different.

The article is not particularly original or breaking news.  It captures the experiences, thoughts, and feelings of many of the adjuncts I have known over the years.  And that is the point.  This is not an isolated event.  It is ubiquitous.

The article in The Chronicle serves as an old school Catholic confession-penance.  The academy has said the necessary Hail Marys, and now the issue can be ignored again until the guilt kicks in, prompting the publication of another similar article.

Strings, Ultron, and Professionalism

Dr. Z
Robert W and I had a debate about Age of Ultron a few weeks back (long before I had seen the movie).  I should know better than to enter into the ring with Robert on anything comics related, but I was taken with the use of the old Disney/Pinocchio song “I’ve Got No Strings.”

The use of the song is clever  It reflects one of the positives of massive corporate mergers–a willingness to share otherwise unavailable intellectual properties.  (Ten years ago, the notion of a Disney song promoting a Marvel production would have been as strange as–well it would have been strange.)

Spoilers ahead?  I’m not sure.  Read at your own peril. Continue reading Strings, Ultron, and Professionalism

Secret Wars

A sign that I’m getting old is that I recently referred to Marvel’s upcoming Secret Wars event comic as Crisis for the Marvel universe. However, the most recent reboot of DC was caused by Flashpoint and resulted in the nu52 universe.

From what I can tell, this will be a full reboot.

What  will they call the new Marvel Universe? Will it still be the 616 universe? Will it get a new number?

I’ve seen the setup coming for a while. There’s Daredevil revealing his identity to the world and being forced to move to California to practice law. The death of Wolverine. Superior Iron Man screwing around with Extremis and mainstreaming it into a designer lifestyle. The desire to completely remove the original Nick Fury from the universe and replace him with Sam Jackson retroactively.The death of Xavier and whatever is going on with the young original X-Men and Cyclops. Plus the Uncanny X-Men tampering with the time stream in recent issues.

All of these changes could be reset on a smaller scale but there’s still the “What do you do with the Ultimate Universe?” problem.

Marvel must have known for some time that this was coming. Why else would they allow all of these situations to get to a point where at the least a soft reboot would be required (a la Mephisto and Spider-Man telling the world that he’s Peter Parker).

Marvel, the House of Ideas that used to mock DC’s continuous stream of hard(ish) reboots every 10 years or so, has painted themselves into various corners where a hard reboot is required.

There was talk of some of the different groups, like the X-Men titles, having their own worlds after Secret Wars. Axel Alonso has said that isn’t the case for the X-Men but maybe it will be for some like the Fantastic Four.

Which Fantastic Four will be in the nuMarvel Universe? Who will be Spider-Man? Peter Parker? Miles Morales? These and many other questions are waiting for us on the other side.

Most importantly: Will they be able to erase the Milo Manara Spider-Woman cover from memory? Can they save Jeremy Renner from his Black Widow bashing self?

Robert W is a software consultant who has graciously set aside plans of world domination to focus on comic book multi-verses.  You can follow his thoughts at


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