Comics: Recently Read
"Enter the Gipper, a right wing fanatic with a Ronald Reagan mask bonded to his face. Guarded by a team of lobotomized street kids that he deploys as suicide bombers and his radical right wing street gang The GOP, he will set the world clock back and return it to virtuousness at any cost, even if it means sending us into a new dark age by flooding the streets with the monster creating drug, Gray Matter."
[ s o u r c e ]
I can't make that shit up. Doll and Creature (3 of 4).
Squadron Supreme (+1 graphic novel and multiple tie-ins): The characters making up Squadron Supreme made their first appearance in Marvel Comics way-back-when as members of the villainous Squadron Sinister, a thinly veiled copy of DC's JLA (Hyperion = Superman, Nighthawk = Batman, Power Princess = Wonder Woman, Dr. Spectrum = Green Lantern, etc.). The "good" Squadron Supreme then appeared a while later in the Avengers (late 60s and 70s) during an alternate universe story. They showed up again in the pages of the Dr. Strange led Defenders (early 80s), until, finally, receiving their own 12-issue series by Mark Gruenwald (1985-86). Thematically it prefigures and parallels Watchmen and Kingdom Come (as well as the much later Authority) insofar as superheroes take it upon themselves to avert national/world catastrophe and/or implement a utopia by taking over the country/world, but find their ideals increasingly compromised, etc. Yet it differs most importantly in that while the material has dark undertones and calls into question the proto-fascist tendencies of such superhero comics, Gruenwald's script reads like a throwback to an earlier time, earnest yet obliviously silly at the same time.
This earlier Squadron Supreme is primarily an historical curiosity, not a lost classic. It is worth mentioning that there are also a few interesting parallels to DC's more recent Identity Crisis storyline to be found here. There is a 2nd graphic novel, as well as appearances in Quasar and similar comics during their "exile" that I have not yet read.
Supreme Power (+3 mini-series and beginning of new Squadron Supreme): In 2003 J.M. Straczynski "rebooted" the Squadron Supreme characters in the Marvel MAX (= "adult") series Supreme Power, which ran for 18 issues, as well as 3 mini-series about three major characters (Dr. Spectrum, Hyperion, and Nighthawk), before starting a new continuing series, Squadron Supreme in 2006.
Supreme Power has a tangled relationship to the "original" Squadron Supreme. Since the Squadron Supreme and its members were Marvel's version of the JLA, the origin stories in Straczynski's series are less the origin of the original or reimagined Squadron Supreme, and rather a retelling and reimagining of the JLA. As is to be expected these days, the story-telling is decompressed to an extent, the characters and plot are darker, and the dialogue and situations are more realistic.
Hyperion is the "first" super-human on this version of Earth, an alien who crashes as an infant into a field and who is rescued by a married couple (classic Superman origin, then subverted). More importantly, the appearance of almost all other meta-humans is tied to Hyperion's arrival (Zarda [the Wonder Woman clone] claims to be of his alien race; Dr. Spectrum's power crystal came from Hyperion's space pod; and many other meta-humans were created by being 'contaminated' by a bacterial/viral element from the space pod). There is no "Squadron" during the 18 issue series; that comes only later with the new Squadron Supreme relaunch.
Y - The Last Man (1-45): I have been enjoying Brian K. Vaughan's Runaways for a while now. I haven't yet gotten to his run on Ultimate X-Men. Y - The Last Man was as good as all the rumors suggested. The setup is simple enough: for some reason, all at once across the world all mammals with a Y-chromosome with the exception of Yorick and his pet monkey drop dead. Yorick's quest to find his girlfriend, the question of what caused all the men to die, and an exploration of a post-male world provide for a variety of narrative opportunities. While it's clearly a sci-fi B-movie concept ("all the men DIE!"), the writing and character development are both strong, the art fits, and being published by Vertigo allows for the proper flexibility in dealing with content and themes. The issue/story structure is rather formulaic, but Vaughan does the formula well, and the constant cliff-hangers are enjoyable. After finishing the first 45 issues of Y I began reading Ex Machina—also a "so far, so good" situation.
Books: Recently Purchased
Robert F. Young:
When Jesus Was A Woman
"The Dandelion Girl"
Böhme, Hartmut, Fetischismus und Kultur. Eine andere Theorie der Moderne. Rowohlt, 2006. My temporary-advisor's new book. One of his brother's texts is relevant to my work, but a 30% discount for buying it in his secretary's office was an incentive to pick it up. The first chapter of the first major section reminds me of Husi: "Der Bartleby-Effekt."
Kostovo, Elizabeth, The Historian. Little, Brown & Co., 2005 [Back Bay, 2006]. This is one of those "last summer" books that I had planned on reading a while ago. I hadn't realized that it is 800+ pages (paperback) ... just what I need, since I still haven't finished S. Clarke's 1000 page monstrosity.
McCall Smith, Alexander, 2 1/2 Pillars of Wisdom. Abacus, 2004. An omnibus edition of the "von Igelfeld" novels, including Portuguese Irregular Verbs, which was recommended to me back at our September orientation meeting in Göttingen by one of my female colleagues. I read a few chapters last week in a coffee shop—it's light and pleasant entertainment.
Murakami, Haruki, Kafka on the Shore. Vintage, 2005. Yet another year-later purchase, though I admit that I didn't pay much attention to it until it hit several best-of-the-year lists in December and such. I'm just amused by the cover: a stylized and loose "Kafka" to imitate handwriting amidst a bunch of sans-serif letters, all above a green-eyed, black-haired cat. That latter element reminds me more of Bulgakov.
Life: Currently Living
Thursday is seminar day:
Act and Object: Baroque Realism and the Visible Invisible.
Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Michel Foucault both found painting to be of philosophical significance, in terms different from those traditionally associated with aesthetic theory. For Merleau-Ponty, writing on Cezanne, and Foucault, on Velazquez, it was not simply a case of using painting to illustrate a thesis; painters were, they felt, participants in the same history they sought to elucidate in their own terms. Painters enacted that which became the subject of the philosophers' reflections. Both philosophers reflected on embodiment, although they did so in mutually-contrasting, if perhaps complementary, terms. For both, if in different ways, the intellectual culture of the seventeenth century was of particular significance. Discussing paintings by Caravaggio and Velazquez, I try to show how the philosophers' concepts of the embodied subject and the body subject to power bear on these seventeenth-century practices; how the painters, on the tacit basis of practice, anticipate the themes of the philosophers.
Brendan Prendeville ist Leiter des Departments Visual Cultures am Goldsmiths College in London.
I am not sure how enthusiastic I am about the talk/presentation. It's all part of the Kulturwissenschaftliches Seminar, and I'm more of a straight literature scholar with interests in philosophy and linguistics, at least in terms of my professional work.
I should just focus on my own work so I can finish the whole writing process. Bah.
A colleague of mine from Madison, Corina, spent the last year in Bucharest doing her work. Then she return to Madison to defend, and is now in Berlin for a month working out of another institute. She got into town Monday, so we got together Tuesday afternoon for coffee, a walk around my part of town, and dinner, before she headed back toward Grunewald. Wednesday evening Laura and I headed out there for a lecture by Dr. Ileana Pintilie-Teleaga on "The Private and Social Body: Romanian Artists Before and After 1989." There is Russendisko this Saturday at Kaffee Burger.
Dinner last night was at mittendrin (part of the CVJM [YMCA]); I decided on it because their menu contains a wonderful text about the history of the neighborhood. It's great for visitors, and fits well with a walk through the Hackesche Höfe. Afterward we walked through the Sophie-Gips Höfe, which dumped us next to the Altes Europa and my meeting with Anne and her friend, Liz. Corina walked back to the S-Bahn, and the rest of us walk to Krausnickstr. for a drink at a pub I've been meaning to visit. Much discussion of ScavHunt at UC ensued.
My brother got promoted, I might have financial support in the fall, and Corina has a one-year appointment. That all sounds positive, though it means that Corina has to go on the market again, and my fall position is not yet set in stone. I, too, will be on the market in the fall, and hoping that there are good tenure-track jobs available. I really should have applied for a bunch of one-year lecturer positions that have been advertised recently. The one in Florida didn't really interest me (I don't want to go to Florida), and the Southern Illinois one was, similarly, in a place I don't really care for, but the one at Whitman (Walla Walla) would have been nice. Alas, I was too lazy to apply, though I did rationalize it a bit (difficulty of getting letters of recommendation together, likelihood of colleagues applying, and needing to get my transcripts and such organized), though the need to talk with my advisor, update him on my (lack of) progress, etc., was a psychological factor in not applying. As it was, I should have gone on the market last fall (which would have spurred me on when it came to actually finishing), since there were a few nice jobs out there, including one at my alma mater.
Aside: 2:30 am and a drunk guy down the street is singing opera arias ... or at least attempting to.
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