Really? Because the second story arc is coming out in trade paperback in July and is completely awesome. In fact, now that color reprints of both the first and second series are out, and the third series starting in September, you really don't have an excuse to NOT be reading it.
May 2011 Archives
I picked up Ganges #1 a month or so ago on a whim. Mostly, I liked the way it was printed and coming from Coconino press I felt some obligation to at least investigate the title. But having no expectations about this comic isn't really all that important, because it's a real gem.
The first issue of Ganges tells a hand full of loosely connected stories centered on the titular Glenn Ganges. Glenn's just a guy that hangs around the house, making trips to the local library, thinking too much, or being kind of a jerk to his girlfriend while arguing about the Beatles. There's a deep mundane-ness that made me check multiple times to be certain that Glenn Ganges didn't author these books himself (it's Kevin Huizenga, actually).
These characters feel shockingly real. They talk, worry, and wonder. They're faceted and present many faces at once -- both good and bad. And as impressive as that is, Huizenga's real trick is how he takes these living breathing characters and tells little stories with them that seem desperately important. In the first issue, Glenn rushes to get to the library and suddenly finds himself lost in questions about time and existence (all told with some of the most brilliant application of Scott McCloud's treaties on the power of panels in Understanding Comics). In another, Glenn simply can't get to sleep and spends a while puttering around the house. This is poetry made out of the everyday, but it's always natural and never contrived.
The second issue felt like a departure from the looser first issue. Issue 2 tells the story of Glenn's time working with a ficticious web company and the late night video game sessions that tied the employees together. Instead of many stories, it follows one narrative throughout the book and explains Glenn's backstory somewhat.
This book went up and down for me. At first, I was blown away by the beautiful and bizarre opening pages which depicts an absurd and artful video game. But the shift into a discussion of a first person shooter that Glenn was fond of years ago didn't resonate with me at first. Huizenga tries hard to make wonder at the nature of these games, how they can be so beautfiul and so depressing in their perfect eternal stasis. And while that's well and good, it's clear that he tells the stories of people much better. When we get into the story of this company, and the people inside it, I'm right there and loving every minute.
Another odd change to issue 2 is that Glenn's girlfriend (fiance?), the only other real character in the first issue, hardly appears and is always drawn from behind. Even on the back of issue two, where on issue we'd seen her face looming comically over houses, is just a teasing head of hair. She's always away -- either withdrawn, or perhaps ignored by Glenn who is very much centered on himself in these stories. This one puzzling artistic choice helps reinforce this sense of vague dread that settles over the entire issue.
I have worked hard to try and stop overusing superlatives, and so I hesitate when I say it, but Ganges is probably one of the smartest works in comics right now. It's down to earth without being trite or tedious, and its introspective without being boring or contrived. Not only that, it's superbly drawn and a real tour-de-force of what can be done with the comics medium.
It's more-or-less an all ages story, though there might be some course language and I think anyone under the age of 18 or 19 wouldn't be as interested in the stories of adults walking to the library. If you happen to see issue one, be sure and snatch it up and take a peek.
Fifty years ago, NASA found the best use for a ballistic missile and put Alan Shepard into space. He was the first American to go up in a rocket, and would become the first man to play golf on the moon.
I'm a bit of a space nut, and I get to write about it at work -- which is great. In doing so I ran across this puzzling essay by Neal Stephenson. In it, he describes the creation and reliance of rockets as examples of "path dependence" and "lock-in." That's all well and good (I guess), but this is the bit that always stuck with me.
It is illuminating here, though utterly conjectural, to imagine a dialog, set in the offices of a large telecommunications firm during the 1960s, between a business development executive and an engineer.
Biz Dev Guy: We could make a preposterous amount of money from communications satellites.
Engineer: It will be expensive to build those, but even so, nothing compared to the cost of building the machines needed to launch them into orbit.
Biz Dev Guy: Funny you should mention that. It so happens that our government has already put $4 trillion into building the rockets and supporting technology we need. There's only one catch.
Engineer: OK, I'll bite. What is the catch?
Biz Dev Guy: Your communications satellite has to be the size, shape, and weight of a hydrogen bomb.
This last line was particular haunting. At first I was struck by the hideous, evil spectre hanging over the entire space program: that it was built from the most terrifying weapons ever conceived. I think Stephenson intends this unsettling sensation. I have, however, come to a new conclusion.
Instead of spending all our time and money in a completely paranoid spiral plotting the hideous demise of the enemies and shrewdly calculating the scale of human loss sustainable in the even of a nuclear holocaust, two nations put people into space. Instead of a shooting war, we had the space race, which is one of the few times in human history when our aspirations matched our willingness. Not since the pyramids have people been so motivated to achieve a great a goal that wasn't essential to their immediate safety and survival.
This has two sides, I suppose. It's depressing that it took the threat of nuclear war and national xenophobia to realize space exploration. But I prefer to look at the space race, and Shepard's first flight as a forgiving experience. In the wake of most horrific of wars, we turned fighter pilots into explorers and weapons into the vehicles that took us beyond the Earth.
Image credit NASA.
I'm what I think can be called a "lapsed Conan fan." I haven't really been keeping up with his new show since moving to TBS, despite following the entire fallout of The Tonight Show with bated breath and traveling to Colorado to see his live show. That's not because I don't like him, or his humor; he's great, some of the best talent around. I'm just not great at keeping up on TV.
Anyway, I simply had to take a look at the so-called Beardpocalypse event that went down last night. The background is that Will Ferrell has been threatening to shave Conan's beard for weeks. The beard in question began about the time the Tonight Show ended, and has been somewhat symbolic of this new chapter in Conan's career.
That said, it has started to make him look like Wolf Blitzer. Time for it to go
While this clip has some great comedy by Conan and Ferrell, what I really like about it is how it's almost like a critique on the whole late-night talk show formula. They even suggest that this is the case when Ferrell shirks the traditional handshake, and goes straight for the chair. Ferrell, as the guest, then runs the show with Conan in the passenger seat.
The two play off each other brilliantly, with Ferrell paying lip service to the guest's role. "Sure, let's plug my movie," he says. "Would you like to hear a funny story about my children?" This last one is especially biting, since Conan's next guest does exactly that.
Finally, instead of a "dressing down" by the host, Ferrell corners Conan and forcibly shaves him. This kind of self-deprecating humor is what sets Conan apart from his contemporaries, and it's a style that he's had since his earliest days on The Late Show. He's not perfect and untouchable behind his desk. He doesn't call the shots, and he freely acknowledges that his gags sometimes fall short (see: opening monologue, which he always manages to somehow make work, simply by being silly about it). It's a humble approach to comedy that is very funny, while being utterly charming.
A last point before you enjoy this lovely clip: it has taken me my entire life to start enjoying will Ferrell. He's a funny guy.