Saturday, December 31, 2005

My Favorite Things:

I hesitate to write a "my favorite things" post for the Postive Liberty blog, given that some of my personal interests are to some folks a little odd and "an acquired taste." But here goes anyway.

1) For books, It will have to be the Infinite Crisis series that is currently going on in the DC Universe. Infinite Crisis is the sequel to the 80s classic "Crisis on Infinite Earths."

Here is the pithy "cut to the chase." DC felt it originally needed Crisis because of "comic book time." Even though these heroes made their debuts in the 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s, they don't age. They sort of magically bring about 10 years of history behind them and always exist in the present day. But some of the heroes' backgrounds were "tied" to historical events like World War II. If Superman, Batman, et al. operated in WWII, they'd be in their 80s now. This was even as issue 30 some years ago in the "Silver Age," so DC split the Universe into two Earths. Earth 2 would have Superman, Batman, etc. as they originally existed and tied to historical events like WWII, and Earth 1 would be the heroes as we currently read them in the books, with about ten years of history (since Superman made his debut) traveling behind them. But eventually the "multiverses" got out so out of hand with so many different earths that DC decided to get rid of them and merge all the Earths into one (including the Earths with the Shazam/Marvel Family and Charlton Heroes). Plus they used such an event to give their heroes much needed revamps. That was the Crisis on Infinite Earths in the 80s.

But Crisis left some interesting issues, many of which never were satisfactorily resolved. For instance, the "Justice Society of America" -- the hero league of WWII -- does exist in comic book continuity, but without the Golden Age Superman, Batman, and Wonderwoman, who have now been written out of existence (because the original Flash and Green Latern had different identities than their Silver Age counterparts, they didn't get written out). And in the meantime, the multiverses have returned to DC continuity.

Infinite Crisis reveals that some of those "pre-Crisis" characters didn't get erased from reality, but went off to a "paradise dimension." Most notably, the original Golden Age Superman was one of such characters. Since the original Crisis, comic books, not just specialty comics, but the "regular ones" too, have explored more "adult themes" and have become darker and more sophisticated. The Superman of Earth 2 has taken notice of this; he notes how originally this new "post-Crisis" Earth had potential, but eventually something went drastically wrong. So he wants to write that Earth out of existence and bring back his "Golden Age" Earth 2 as the "default" Earth. And he's going to challenge DC heroes (see this cover).

The series is supposed to significantly impact DC Universe continuity like Crisis did in the 80s.

For me this is special because 1) George Perez, who originally drew Crisis, is my favorite artist. He has a limited role in the art of Infinite Crisis (doing covers and some other things). 2) Phil Jiminez, my second favorite artist, whose work bears a striking resemblance to Perez's is the chief artist of the Infinite Crisis series.

2) For music, I am enjoying the G3 Live in Tokyo DVD. G3 are Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, and some other 3rd virtuoso guitarist. In the past, they've had Adrian Legg, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Robert Fripp, Michael Schenker, Uli Jon Roth, Yngwie Malmsteen, and Eric Johnson to fill the "3rd" slot. I've not yet seen a G3 live show, but eventually will. Speaking of Johnson, I just bought his DVD, Live From Austin, Texas, which I can't wait to watch.

Speaking of shred guitar, let me give an honorable mention to the Transiberian Orchestra. Not quite my cup of tea but I thank them for helping to bring the genres of heavy-metal shred guitar and progressive rock to the masses, or at least to the yuppie crowd who otherwise have conservative musical tastes.

And speaking of progressive rock, I found this gem with links to unreleased Kansas music on Christmas night. I won't defend the progressive rock genre; you either love it or loathe it. I will however, defend the assertion that Kansas are the most underrated progressive rock group and that, at their best, could go toe to toe with Genesis (Gabriel era of course), Yes, ELP, and Rush.

Vocalist/keyboardist Steve Walsh left the band when writer/guitarist/keyboardist Kerry Livgren became a born-again Christian and starting writing songs that Steve couldn't put his heart into. They instead hired, also born-again Christian John Elefante as a singer and produced two good (but not great) Christian Rock albums. Walsh has since rejoined the band. Sadly, his voice has lost some of its tone and range; but he's still a better singer than most of what's out there.

I hadn't realized that Kansas had recorded much of their Vinyl Confessions (their first with Elefante) album with Steve Walsh. And that demo recordings exist. For instance, even though the quality is not great, hearing Steve Walsh sing "Borderline" one wonders whether, if released with his vocals, it could have been their next "AOR" hit. In any event, I don't see how anyone could listen to him sing and not conclude as did Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett that Steve Walsh has "the perfect white rock voice."

For a representation of their progressive side, check out this bootleg version of Song For America. (Is anyone seriously annoyed yet?)

3) Food! One of the remarkable things about soon to be Justice Alito is his similar background (some argue also his jurisprudence) with Justice Scalia (hence "Scalito"). They are both Italian American Catholic conservatives who grew up in the Trenton area. Well that's right across the Delaware River from where I live in Yardley, PA. I teach at Mercer County Community College, and many of my students attended Alito's high school. I also found out, watching CSPAN that both Scalia and Alito (and me!) grew up eating at DeLorenzo's on Hudson Street, in Trenton. They serve the best "old school" Tomato-Pie kind of Pizza in the area, perhaps the nation (perhaps the world). But, they don't have a public bathroom. So remember to pee before you get there.

4. For a bookstore, sorry to be boring but the Borders in Langhorne, PA. (Oh yeah, there is Wade's Comic Madness in Levittown, PA.)

5. A blog: Well two. Dark Bilious Vapors and Juxtaposition Virus. I don't plug them enough. They are always good reads (plus, they have nice things to say about me).


David Swindle said...

Thanks for the plug, Jon! You'll notice, though, that we haven't had an update in a month. We've been having some technical problems and our technological goddess hasn't been able to resolve them yet. (The blogging software that we were using, pLog, is a bit buggy.)

But a month without blogging has been driving me nuts, so I intend to launch a new site very soon. (Hopefully within the next week before the next semester starts.)

Karen said...

Ah, can I not enjoy my FAV *Brilliant Legal Thinker* on such important and pertinent issues as our Constitution and Civil Rights (in all their forms) plus the other FUN musings found here.


Looking forward to 2006 and yet more things to discuss.

Len said...

Dunno exactly what to say about Crisis on Infinite Earths and its spawn. While I'm sure that the housecleaning seemed like a good idea at the time, it seems that DC keeps going back and tweaking their continuity every time I turn around and take a look at what they're up to (Crisis, then Zero Hour, and I'm left with the impression that there's been some other tinkering that's flown under my radar... And now Infinite Crisis).

And they had to go and snuff Ted Kord. I'm not sure I can abide that (then again, we all know how permanent comic book "death" really is...).

Jonathan said...

Yeah Ted Kord's death is depressing. But if they can bring back Ollie Queen and Hal Jordan, they can bring back him back as well.

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