Archive for January 2013

Trollgod in the Desert   3 comments

Ha!  Just to show you how tough the Trollgod is, here’s a picture of him leaning on a saguaro cactus.  There’s an idea for a new Tunnels and Trolls monster–cactus trolls.  Big, green, and covered with thorns . . .

Trollgod leans on a cactus.

Trollgod leans on a cactus.

Sunday was a beautiful day in Arizona.  I got together with my brother Brian (5 years younger than me and in much better shape), and we went out to the White Tanks Mountains about 30 miles west of downtown Phoenix.  They are really just hills, running up to perhaps 2000 feet above sea level and 1000 to 1500 feet above the valley floor, but they are a great place to hike with well-maintained trails and a very scenic desert.  We had about a 2.5 hour hike, did between 4 and 5 miles overland, up and down.  My feet were sore and I was getting a little tired by the time I got back to the car.  You’d be pleasantly tired too, if you went on this hike with me.

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Here I am at the beginning of the hike.  Actually we had already done a mile through the desert before we reached this signpost where two trails converged.  It was a steady climb to that point, but it got steeper from here.  Temperature still in the low 50s, so the jacket is still on and zipped up.  I’m wearing a belt with a water bottle in it.  Always take water when you go out into the desert, even in the winter when it’s cool.  It’s good to wear head protection too.  You can see I have my battered old Trollgod’s hat.  I’m studying a rock in this picture.  These White Tanks Mountains seem to be almost all granite

IMG_2033This is Brian at the signpost.  He has better hiking equipment than I do–always wears cutoffs, has a heartbeat monitor, better shoes.  He has been acting as a trainer for me, sets a pace that gives me a good workout without killing me.  He also makes it possible for me to get the occasional picture of me out in the desert.  You know, it is great to have family or friends to do things like this with.

The rest of the pix are just scenery.  We didn’t see much wildlife–some hawks closer to the city while we were driving out to the mountain park, one little lizard sunning itself on a rock, and a couple of birds.  I think it was too late in the morning for them–already around 10 a.m. when we took these photos.

Rough terrain.  White rock (mostly granite which is largely made of feldspar and quartz) that gives these hills their name.

Rough terrain. White rock (mostly granite which is largely made of feldspar and quartz) that gives these hills their name.

The true beginning of the trail . . .The true beginning of the trail, before us and small parking lot behind.  You can see how clear and blue the Arizona sky is out here in the wilderness.  Further down the page I will show you a shot looking back at the city of Phoenix, and you can see what a million cars do to the atmosphere.  There was a sign at the park entrance telling us to watch out for mountain lions.  We would have really liked to see one, but no such luck.

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My eyes are always drawn to the skyline when I’m hiking.  This is the highest peak in the neighborhood, and the top of it is covered with microwave and radio transmission towers.  You see these repeater stations all over the southwest.  The fact that there are towers on top of the mountain means there must be a road leading up there, but it doesn’t come from anywhere on this side of the hills.

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That white needle of rock near the center of the photo became my goal for the hike.  It’s kind of strange compared to the rest of the landscape.

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Here I am looking back toward the city.  See how hazy and dirty the air is over the populated area.  Still, it’s not bad–there would be a lot of dust in the air of a desert like this even if we didn’t have 3 million people living here.

Saguaro country--these desert giants are the most impressive of all cacti, imho!

Saguaro country–these desert giants are the most impressive of all cacti, imho!

Brian and I both brought cameras on the trip.  He is the better photographer and has the better camera, and he took more pix.  You can find his whole set on Facebook.  I don’t usually upload my stuff there.  I’ll be putting a few of his shots in with mine to help chronicle the trip.

natural resting spot

Nature is friendly out here, and offers the hiker a natural place to sit down and rest a bit.  It would be a good climbing rock, also. Next time I come out here, perhaps I will get a picture of me standing on top of it.

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Big rock.  There are some truly huge boulders out here, and they are making their way downhill.  It might take them a million years to reach the bottom, but a million years isn’t so long in the lifespan of a mountain or a big rock.

Sky line . . .

Sky line . . .

Heh, a little planning can work wonders.  Here I am, halfway through the blog, and I notice that the picture size is set to medium.  By increasing it to full size I can give you all a better view of the desert.  I’ll do that for the rest of this photo essay.  but I’m not going to go back and change everything–just the important shots.

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That gully/trench goes almost straight up the mountain.  If I were looking for wildlife, I’d concentrate on such places.  There is more water and shelter there.

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This is as close as we got to my goal.  The climb has become pretty steep, and we’ve been walking for 90 minutes–time to head back.

Black and blue. Brothers in action together.

Black and blue. Brothers in action together.

Brian can set his camera to take a delayed shot, and so he got this one of both of us at our stopping point.

tai chi in the desert

tai chi in the desert

While I was resting at the top of the climb, I took the opportunity to do a little Tai Chi.  This is the Cloud Hands (wave hands like clouds in the sky) posture from the beginning of the Tiger Mountain exercise.  That’s a good one for doing on a mountain as one doesn’t have to move one’s feet when switching from posture to posture.

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We are actually up pretty high. Here is another shot looking back towards the city.  Compare it to the earlier one, and you can see how much higher we are.  We’re still only about halfway to the summit, but we don’t have enough time or personal endurance to go all the way today.

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This is almost the end of the trail.  There is still a quarter of a mile to walk back to the car, but we have reached the paved road.  The walking stick in my hand is my Longest Night present from Brian, and is one of the best things he has ever given me.  Desert terrain is uncertain at best.  It really helps to have a good walking stick to steady oneself when a rock turns underfoot or you catch your toe or heel on some projection and start to stumble.

Putting the desert behind us, we returned to civilization, had lunch, and watched the San Francisco 49ers defeat the Atlanta Falsons in the NFC championship game.  San Francisco 28, Atlanta 24.  A balanced effort from San Francisco with 2 touchdowns in each half of the game, but a collapse from Atlanta who started strong with all 24 points in the first half, and no score in the second.

All told, it was a very pleasant Sunday for me on January 20, 2013.  I hope you had a good day, too.

–end

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Superior Spider-Man #1   1 comment

Gotta say, the covers for the last 2 Spider-Man comics don't really do much for me.

Gotta say, the covers for the last 2 Spider-Man comics don’t really do much for me.

I should have known that Marvel wouldn’t really kill off Peter Parker.   After a lifetime of reading comics; after seeing the “death” of countless heroes and villains, and seeing them come back in one form or another, I should have known that Marvel wouldn’t really kill the one true Spider-Man.  If there’s one thing that comic companies love to do, it’s “kill” their heroes or their villains, and then bring them back.  I guess the whole idea of returning from the dead has been the big story on Earth since the time of the ancient Greeks–Persephone  gets carried off to the underworld, and then her mother gets her back.  Hercules had to go to Hades and bring back Cerberus.  Just getting in and out of the Underworld is a job for a superhero.  Jesus Christ died for our sins and came back to life.  And on and on and on!  If there’s one lesson we all should have learned by now, it’s that Death is not the End–it’s just another phase that people go through.  Especially in comic books!!!

So, Ock-Spidey shows tendencies to be his old ruthless self, including showboating for women and killing his enemies, but he is prevented from murdering anyone by a remnant of Parker’s conscience inside his brain.  Just about the last panel shows Parker in ghostly form saying “I am still in the game.”  That’s an interesting statement.  This implies that it is not just a remnant of Parker’s personality preserved in his brain cells, but the true Parker personna. We saw Ock’s body die in Amazing Spider-Man 700 with Parker’s consciousness still trapped inside.  How can he be alive?

I have a theory, and I believe it will take Marvel quite a long time to prove or disprove it one way or another.  Marvel has had Dr. Strange run around in his astral form for decades.  We all have astral forms, but most of us never consciously experience the state of going astral.  The astral form is tethered to the physical body by a “silver cord” that is infinitely stretchable, and that cord is usually only sundered by the death of the body.  Ock, being a scientist, wouldn’t know anything about astral forms, but even though he managed to evict Parker’s self from his own brain and body, he wouldn’t have severed the “silver cord”.  That can only be broken by the death of the body.  Parker’s body survives; ergo the cord survives, ergo Parker is still in the game.  Who knows?  (Dan Slott and his cronies at Marvel know.) Parker and Strange were friends–they’ve adventured together many times in the past.  Strange may even be helping Parker maintain his connection to his old body.

Drawn by curiosity, I put Superior Spider-Man on my comics pull list.  I’ll probably let it stay there for 3 issues, and then cancel.  No, I don’t really want to buy every issue of Ock-Spider-Man, but I am curious enough to follow for a couple more issues.

If you have any thoughts about how long Doc Ock will be in charge of the Spider-Man being, why not leave a comment?f  Or a prediction? You think this will last a year or longer in the real world?

–end

The Amazing Spider-Man number 700   8 comments

I don't think I understand this cover.

I don’t think I understand this cover.

A hero died last week.  The villain won, and in a big way.  Doctor Octopus, Otto Octavius, managed to switch his consciousness into Peter Parker’s healthy  young body and put Peter into his own dying, cancer-ridden carcass.  That happened in Amazing Spider-Man #698.  In #699 Peter comes up with a desperate plan to save himself.  In #700, he gives it a hell of a try, but he fails.

Ok, it’s a comic book.  Not real.  In the real world, hundreds, perhaps thousands of real heroes die every week.  Cops, firemen, doctors, soldiers, professionals of all sorts who help real people, die, and no one except friends and family of those real life heroes ever knows or cares.  Every one of those deaths is a tragedy for someone.

But there is a sense in which the imaginary death of the imaginary Peter Parker is more real than that of the real death of real heroes. Spider-Man has been on the world scene since 1963–that’s 50 years.  He lived in that timeless comics world where he aged about 10 years while the rest of us got old.  I remember the first issue of Spider-Man.  I owned it at one time, and foolishly sold it when I thinned my comics collection in 1973 when I got married.  Peter was known to and admired by tens of millions of people.  The heroes of the real world are lucky to reach a hundred or a thousand people.

They are clever bastards at Marvel.  Peter’s body lives on.  His memories remain in his physical brain.  All that has really happened is that he has had a personality change.  He’s no longer Amazing.  From now on he will be the Superior Spider-Man.  I think that may come back to bite them.  How long before the new Spider-Man gets to be known as the Inferior Spider-Man?

Some people are saying that no one ever stays dead in comics, and that is pretty much true.  Peter Parker could return from the dead–writers have infinite power in imaginary worlds.  I have already thought of a way to do it, and I’ve read about at least two other methods that could be used. Bringing people back from the dead is easily accomplished.  D.C. Comics is perhaps the worst offender.  Superman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Hawkman, and Green Arrow–just to name the big guys have all really died, and really come back to life in the last decade or so.  A little over a year ago, D.C. killed off (discontinued–it’s pretty much the same thing) the entire universe, and rebooted it.

None of those deaths affected me emotionally the way the recent death of Peter Parker has affected me.  I haven’t bought Spider-Man comics for decades, but I made a point of buying this issue.  This tragedy will be the comic book event of 2013.  I’m wondering about buying The Superior Spider-Man #1 which comes out next week.  These two issues will certainly be highly collectible in 10 or 20 years if the world and comics last that long.

I’ve been a comics fan all my life.  I’ve seen dozens of comic book deaths.  They all saddened me, but none has made me feel as bad as this one.  And that is because all of those deaths had one thing in common–the hero died heroically.  They may have been killed, but they weren’t defeated.  Their deaths accomplished something.

Dan Slott, the writer who killed Peter Parker, might say the same thing for his story, but it’s a lie.  Peter’s final action is to make Otto understand that with great power comes great responsibility.  Otto vows that he will continue the Spider-Man legacy of heroism, and will be a better Spider-Man than the original.  He will be THE SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN!

Does anybody see the same arrogant selfish pride that characterized Doc Ock for the last 50 years?  Ock is callous and scheming.  He treats people like objects–he calls Mary Jane “woman”, and bosses her around like a hired hand.  Despite his promise to the dying Peter, I don’t think Otto Octavius has been redeemed at all.  I think the bad guy won.

Marvel has always been slightly more “realistic” in its depiction of the world and the people in it than DC has.  This death of Peter Parker follows that trend.  In the real world bad guys often win, at least as often as good guys do.  In the real world it isn’t often easy to say who is good and who is bad–none of us are perfect.  Villains have won before in comics, but never on this scale–never with quite this emotional impact.

I am not so much saddened or enraged by the death of Peter Parker as I am betrayed.  I feel that Marvel comics has betrayed their public by letting Parker die this way.  I feel betrayed in a way that the death of Superman or Batman did not make me feel.  I really feel that Evil has triumphed.  Good has been perverted and crushed, just the same as the dying body of Doc Ock was crushed.  Every time I think of it, I feel sick.

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There are some other issues that the “death” of Peter Parker raises for me that I haven’t seen addressed anywhere else.  (They may have been.  I haven’t really searched the web to see what other bloggers are saying about this event.)  This gimmick of mind switching calls up the Question of Identity.  What is identity?  What makes you or me who we are?  Is it our memories?  Octavius mind in Parker body has Parker’s physical brain and all of Parker’s memories.  Parker in Octavius body had Ock’s brain and memories.  When they made the mind switch, they also carried all their personal memories across the gap.  In essence they became the same person, but with different mind-sets/personalities.  The Parker personality died, but everything else that was Peter Parker lived on.

Or is it soul that determines identity?  There is a short sequence in 700 when Parker is “dead” for 3 minutes, and goes to “heaven” where he is re-united with all the important people that have died in his life:  his parents, Uncle Ben, Gwen Stacy, Silver Sable (wait a minute!  Sable is dead? Awwwww!  She was such a fox.  When did that happen?)  This is portrayed as a happy ending for him.  Death is not a tragedy.  Death is the final victory.  If you believe in souls, you could see things that way.  I call bullshit on that.  We will all die.  Some will die horribly; some will die well; most of us will probably expire quietly in a hospital some time.  I happen to think it matters how we die.  Slott gave Parker the most horrible death he could imagine–cut off from all his living friends and family, in agonizing pain, in another man’s wrecked and ruined body, cursed and reviled wrongly by everyone in the world that he had spent his life helping and saving.  Talk about your martyr’s death!  We have all been empathizing and identifying with Parker for a long time.  In a sense Slott gave us all that same hideous death–it is not a death any of us would have wanted, nor would many of us even wish it on our worst enemies.  I feel sick.

The people who run Marvel Comics are probably laughing all the way to the bank about how much money the “Death of the Amazing Spider-Man” has brought them.  Slott has said that even though fandom feels betrayed and sickened right now, the fans will get over it.  New readers will come to the title, and Parker will mean nothing to those newcomers.  Spider-Man will continue.  Spider-Man is a title, not a person.  Whoever wears the suit, whoever swings on the webs, that’s Spider-Man.  That is one way of looking at it, and it is a true way of looking at the situation.  Spider-Man is the institution.  It doesn’t really matter who is behind the mask.  It could even be a total creep like Otto Octavius, so long as he fights the fight and carries the colors.  I don’t believe it.  I feel sick.

otto-octavius-spider-man

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If you were at all affected by the “death of Peter Parker” why not leave a comment?