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Comics Review: Mostly Garth Ennis edition
18 Days #1- written by Grant Morrison (Graphic India)- Around 2010 or so, Morrison brought 18 Days as a Graphic Novel via Dynamite Comics with backing from Deepak Chopra. He returns to 18 Days again, telling the Sanskrit epic poem the Mahabharata. Morrison promises epic story telling along the lines of Lord of the Rings or Star Wars.

18 Days is epic, and I can't help but think a bit of Game of Thrones along with Lord of the Rings. The artwork is epic, bright and sharp. There seems to be a push in the last few years to bring the Indian mythologies and stories to comics (Hey, it worked for the Norse, right?)

18 Days is a dollar ($10 for the exclusive limited edition covers). It is worth a shot, though the first issue seems to do little more than set the stage. The artwork is beautiful, but in some ways distracting. The story complex, though Morrison does a pretty good job of explaining. This is probably one I would skip, but I tend to pick up all of Grant's stuff, and it's a story I don't know, but maybe I should.
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All Star Section Eight #1(DC) by Garth Ennis The Ennis and McCrea gang are back with this comeback from the characters from Hitman. There's Six Pack surrounded by a umm. nontraditonal bunch of heroes like The Bator.. who umm.. shots white liquid balls that dry up and well... so there's that.

Ennis and McCrea have been a lot of fun over the years. This comic is probably hardly necessarily. Still, it's Ennis making the usual jokes. So if you like your comic on the profane side, and jokes about the Batmobile getting a parking ticket. Well, I love that stuff, and this is actually pretty good. Still, on the heels of the second issue of Robinson's Airboy, it seems pretty lightweight. Airboy gives you a blow job from a transvestite in a public bathroom, but also makes you think indepth about comic writers and their current role in their industry, and really artistic endeavors in general. Still, Batman jokes are good too.

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We Stand On Guard #1 (Image) by Brian K Vaughn- I am a big fan of Vaughn and this book just really blew me away. The plot centers around a Canadian invasion of America (or vice versa), and that has been done, and there's a lot here that has been done (I am reminded of Image's The Red Star comic which is a good 15 years old now and I am also reminded of the TV series of Revolution, but really, any kind of similar story like Red Dawn or any 'wilderness survival' story)

But WSOG feels really fresh. It's all been done before, but rarely does it get done this well. The comic might not be as successful without a great artist, and in this case it's Steve Skroce, whomade his name by being storyboard guy for the Wachowskis (of Matrix fame).

It's the sharp art that helps, but I trust Vaughn who gives us a strong first issue. I like the Universe's setup and i like the characterization. This is supposed to be a 6 issue miniseries, though it feels like it has longterm potential.

Image has a lot of great and very good titles right now, so I am afraid this might end up lost in the shuffle, but for someone looking for something new, or have a wild hair to pick up a comic and haven't done so in awhile, this would be a good one.

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Where Monsters Dwell (Marvel) by Garth Ennis- Not only does Ennis have a DC title on the racks now, but also a Marvel one. I was sort of afraid of this one, but it was actually a pretty enjoyable story. It's a bit of a WW2 story which Ennis has made a living writing, but it seems to be less 'gritty war' and more Steve Canyon. There is also an aspect of Dinosaur Island. So, the result is a bit of a pulp ride, with some of the Ennis's trademark humor (there's a character named No Balls, for example).

I actually enjoyed this diversion quite a bit and am glad to see Marvel take a chance on a comic like this. It does kind of fit Marvel canon (it is tied in with Secret Wars, and the title harkens back to a similar titled book in the vein of Vault of Horror), and it's Ennis writing, so that's probably the only reason it got the green light. It is similar to some of Ennis's other work, but does seem to draw an unique path. I am not sure what the readership of this be, but I do like he has this platform. Though, I sometimes don't always get excited about his WW2 titles, this has a fun pulp edge which makes it worth a read.

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2016 Election Starts Now: Hog Wild
The 2016 Presidential Race is on, and at least on the Republican side, anyone you thought might run has decided to run. Sure, Romney bowed out, and we haven't heard anything out of Palin, but yeah, otherwise, they're in.

I haven't spent a lot of time on election '16, somewhat because of time constraints but also because of lack of real news or motion.

I do feel incumbent to mention Joni Ernst's Roast and Ride.

I have spent a lot of time here talking about Ernst, who comes off as an adrenaline version of Palin, taking the guns and leather jacket meme to logical and illogical extremes. It's the kind of' Merica F--k Yeah meme, that say you were head of a White Supremacist group that Dylann Roof would want to be part of, you might want to give her thousands of dollars to run her campaign. (Ernst and Steve King have since distanced themselves from Mr Sasse)

There have been plenty of fundraisers and will be many more, but Ernst's Roast and Ride is going to be one of the Top 5. It did occur before the landscape got crowded with the addition of Jeb, Donald, and Christie, but they aren't the types of candidates that would be appreciated at a place like this anyway.

A landmark fundraiser in Iowa had always been Harkin's Steak Fry- a key moment to fundraise as presented by longtime Democrat Senator Tom Harkin (and sadly, not a steak fry, but a catered meal).

Whereas Ernst promised the candidates would ride 38 miles on their bike and then roast a pig.

Some big names came and here is what you need to know (I was hoping to get some of this info out before the Ride, but know that it's happened, my sources will include pre- and post- coverage)

-Marco Rubio doesn't ride bikes. "I need a sidecar", he joked.

-Rick Perry does ride, and he did with Navy Seals in tow. So, here's the payoff you were waiting for

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-Ernst gave each candidate 8 minutes to speak and a 10x10 tent

-Oh, and it should probably be mentioned, no candidate has spent more time in Iowa than Perry, and he is ranked 8th in popularity on a good day.  Oh well, those Perry on a bike photos are totally worth it.

-Besides Perry and Rubio, guests were Lindsey Graham, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, and Scott Walker

-Huckabee and Carson also rode 'hogs', though they preferred blazers to Perry's all-black biker gear.  Fiorina made her arrival on a John Deere

-The event was enough of a success, it will probably be back, but things look bad for the Ames Straw Poll (last won by Michele Bachmann if that tells you anything) with Huckabee and Graham dismissing it vocally.

-Walker is the front runner and this was the first event where that has been the case.  Walker might have otherwise skipped an event like this, but he can't afford to.  At this point, it sounds like everything is civil, but at some point, everyone is going to come gunning at him

-If you are looking for a storyline thus far (and there have been a handful of these 'big' moments already) it seems to be Fiorina.   She got good buzz at the Iowan GOP's Lincoln Dinner.  I see a lot of social media buzz on Carson, and I suspect Trump may try to go for similar minds who are looking for either a "Washington Outsider" or a "Established Corporate Leader".  Still, it sounds like Fiorina might win converts with her oratory.  All I have read sounds like she is targeting Hillary, but don't count out conventional wisdom.  If Fiorina is indeed dazzling audiences, at some point that should translate to the polls.

-No big news, I suppose (Those Perry biker photos tho) but pointless controversy.  The two major colleges in Iowa sent their mascots.  Iowa's Herky the Hawk showed up, which led to "We didn't know this was a partisian fundraiser.  We thought this was just a thing" apologies.

Herky, the school wants everyone to know is non-partisian.  Cy the (Iowa State) Cardinal similarly was popular (the event took place near the Ames school) and did not appear to engage in any untoward behavior.

I can't say I have a problem with it, and the media spent attention on the outrage that probably did not exist in the first place.  It's hard to argue that an event where more than 1500 people attended and made national event, that some could be a bad thing.

On the Shelf 146: Calexico

I don't know that I remember an album in recent history where I have seen more contrasting reviews than Edge of the Sun. Some (most probably) sing its praises, while others have called it the band sleepwalking through material). Some call it a departure, while others call it a return to form.

I will put myself in the camp who think it's among the bands better works. I discovered the band through their 2000 album Hot Rail. 2003s Feast of Wire album generally stands as the band's high point.

Their journey since that album is merely the problem of being prolific. The band has never really sat still, and always have ambition for their music which blends Tex-Mex, noir, and variety of cultural styles from Greek to Saharan.

As I said Edge of the Sun seems to be warmly recieved by most, and I fall into that category. While I never took my eye off the band, this feels like a record of note.

Certainly, most will say it is the variety of guest stars who make the album, and it probably is the assembly of voices that are a point in its favor- Iron & Wine's Sam Beam, Neko Case, and of Horses' Ben Bridwell, Guatemalan blues singer Gaby Moreno, and Manu Chao-collaborator Amparo Sanchez.

Meanwhile, the songs seem to fill an array of space that it probably could be called a departure and a return to form. Funnily and truthfully, before reading Uncut's review which mentions same, I thought of two very 'pop' touchpoints- Neil Finn & Crowded House, and the later REM albums like Around the Sun.

The pop songs work well regardless of context, and the songs that you 'expect' similarly are enjoyable. Fans should check it out, as well as those who are fans but have lost track.

Comic Reviews- Inside Jokes edition
Airboy (Image)- by James Robinson - Airboy may be genius

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I have to admit that I picked this up partially because it looks like a great indie comics like Minimum Wage.  Indeed, this is the most sex and drugs I have seen in a mainstreamish comic since Minimum Wage.  It also may be genius.

Image asks Robinson to take a long forgotten comic now in Public Domain called Airboy and turn it into a million selling book.  If this kind of sounds like the thing DC and others have been trying to pull, that's probably not a coincidence.

There's plenty of jokes at DCs and other's expense.

So Robinson and artist Greg Hinkle look for inspiration, and when Robinson doesn't find it, he goes on a sex and drugs spree.

What makes it extra special is that I haven't really seen Robinson do anything like this. His reputation is that he is the guy DC calls to work on Golden Age characters like Starman and JSA.  So he is the guy you precisely would call in to make hit out of Airboy.

There's a lot of great inside jokes.  Still, it's a riotous read without that, and everyone should appreciate the satire.  It reads like a great indie comic from the days of Bagge, Clowes and Fingerman.

It's also the most obscene and profane book I have read in a while.  Still, it's an act of artistic genius.  Mark Millar, Garth Ennis and others have done shocking, but this is a bit of a different take than all of that, and brings up some issues of artistry that probably would not be expected in a comic, let alone a comic with a menage a trois.

Insufferable (IDW) by Mark Waid-  This is a superhero type of book of the kind Waid seems to excel at lately, in which he has a big DC/Golden Age-ish Superhero story to tell, but tells it in a way that would appeal to non-comic fans.  In short, less flash and confusing backstory and more intimate storytelling.

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In this case, he is taking on a superhero duo, which will likely bring certain comic duos to mind.  The lets-face-it Batmanish mentor is run down relying on painkillers to make it through the day, whilst it is the Robin-ish youngster who is what one would expect in 2015- a gloryhound, trumpeting his achievements on social media, living the good life. 

Waid really nails a good dynamic between the two and Peter Krause is an appropriate choice to illustrate the story.  It wasn't that long ago that they collaborated on Irredeemable, and told a similarly themed story- bringing typical Superhero stories but telling them with a modern feel.  Yet one thing Waid does well, is that he keeps a superhero integrity, telling a different type of story than say Mark Millar would do with the same characters.

It's a great take and knowing Waid it will be a rewarding journey.  Of course, said this after reading it, before I discovered this Bombshell.  in which case, the genesis of this idea of cranky old mentor and ungrateful protege is based on the 90s' relationship of Grant Morrison and Mark Millar.  I suspect comic fans will at least be generally familiar with the fact that Morrison was becoming well established when he helped Mark Millar break into comics.  This mainly happened at DC on titles like Aztek, the Flash and JLA where they co-wrote with Morrison being the recognizable name and Millar finally making a name for himself with Superman:Red Son,

So there's that.

But either way, it's a pretty solid superhero story.

2015 Hoosier Daddy Tour: Big Time
I had travelled between Effingham, IL and Terre Haute, IN many times about ten years ago, and it really is a barren stretch of interstate.

Until, now.

In Casey, Illinois, there was a sign for the World's Biggest Windchime and the World's Biggest Golf Tee.

Wait, what?

Well, we had to stop.

Surely, only one is necessary.  You don't need both. Though perhaps, you have windchimes fans who wouldn't stop for a Golf Tee and vice versa.

When we got there, there was also the World's largest Sewing Needle, and an announcement that coming soon was The World's Largest Rocking Chair.

Well, you can't just collect the World's Largest crap, can you?

It also mstarts to make the question of legitmacy.

If they just told me that the World's Biggest Golf Tee was there, I would be fine, but I now started to question whether they really are getting theese things verified.

Indeed, though it was probably a 150 foot walk, I didn't go in to see the World's Biggest Sewing Needle.  It's an embarassment of riches.

I am not sure if this will accomplish what Casey wants.  There's not a lot of stops between St Louis and the Indiana border, and sure, if you are going to stop at a McDonalds, you might as well stop at this one and see the World's Biggest Crap.

Still, I don't know how else this translates to money.  The windchime is next to a cafe, and you walk through a Golf pro shop to see the tee, and surely, you will be guilted to buy a $1 soda.  Then again, we didn't spend a dime.

Still, I am talking about it, so we will say Mission Accomplished, Casey.

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World's biggest windchime

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On the Shelf 145: Jello Biafra and the Raunch & Soul Superstars
A recent AVClub segment had to do with art that you had to come back to at a later date to appreciate and for me, the Dead Kennedys are a prime example.

Jello Biafra has become more musically active in the last few years. He has released three albums with his band called the Guantanamo School of Medicine. While none of it is quite DK's-grade, it is pretty good.

This year, he has released a live album called "Walking on Jindal's Splinters".

This album actually is from a 2011 concert. Biafra's musician friends convinced him to come to New Orleans and perform during the New Orleans Jazz Festival. Pepper Keenan from Down and Corrosion of Conformity is on guitar, and Biafra is backed by members of Cowboy Mouth and Mojon Nixon's band.

You probably thought it couldn't get any weirder than Dylan singing Sinatra, but Biafra singing Golden Oldies is certainly up there.

What does Jello sound like when he lets loose on 60s frat rock and NOLA inspired songs?

You are probably guessing "Rock Lobster".

The best approximation is probably Prairie Home Invasion, his Mojo Nixon collaboration.

Biafra does seem to enjoy himself, and it is probably safe to assume that he knows his pop licks well, and that's what made the DKs so memorable.

So there's "Judy in Disguise (With Glasses)", "Mother in Law" "House of the Rising Son". There's a Dr John cover and the Zydeco crossover "Don't mess with my Toot-toot", and a 50's nugget called "Fannie Mae", which Biafra appropriates.

It's weird and it's wonderful. Biafra baits the audience, but he also seems to enjoy the work.

So apparently, this has probably been on YouTube for awhile, but now we all know it's there, and you should check it out.

2015 Hoosier Daddy Tour: Kurt Vonnegut Library
I made a trip back to Southern Illinois and snuck in a mini- vacation on the side to see a long-time friend in Indianapolis.

I knew from def_fr0g_42 that I needed to stop by the Kurt Vonnegut Library while I was there. He has already blogged it, probably under the same title.

Still, I had to go, and although there is not much there, it is still something I was glad to see and want to support.

Vonnegut mentions Indiana and Indianapolis many times in his books and it is his homeplace so it seems appropriate.

I am a huge fan, but even discounting that, it is a legacy that looms large over the late 21st Century, which is a time where movies and music took a level of artistic importance over books (Slaughterhouse 5 is younger (1969) than Sgt Peppers (1967)).

The library seems small insomuch that they have much content online, including all the books, rejection letters, drawings, etc, and as far as I can tell you can't get that on the official website alone. As well as the online database, there was a multimedia presentation with Morley Safer and others.

There is an actual Vonnegut typewriter, a pack of his Pall Malls, a rejection letter, acceptance letters, first editions of everything, and a gift shop, as well as some of Vonnegut's drawings. Plus some assorted memorabilia like the Dandy Warhols' Welcome to the Monkey House.

It was a good place to go if nothing else to celebrate Vonnegut with a physical location tied to him, and a knowledgeable staff person.

He talked about how when S5 was banned in a Missouri school, the Library offered to send a copy to anyone in the school who wanted one. Additionally, for teachers, they offer a curriculum from Kindergarten on up to teach Vonnegut at every level for kids.

Because you have to support the place, I bought a t-shirt and a book of his letters, though i could have bought the whole shelf. My friend in indy says the Library is very active in the Community, so really hope it continues to grow.

There were a lot of neat places in downtown Indianapolis in that area. We didn't do much else but walked around, and the USS Indianapolis memorial was right there. It was torpedoed by the Japanese during World War 2.

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On the Shelf 144: Everclear

In 1995, a trio from Portland called Everclear released an album for Capitol Records called “Sparkle and Fade”. My world was rocked, and college radio was abuzz. Everclear took a tried and true formula (angsty post-rock coupled with pop hooks) and made it sound fresh. This was the first time most people had heard of them, but for those who were so moved, we found they had released a debut a couple of years earlier, which only made their potential grow. Minds buzzed with what was ahead for this band. I figured that they might be a great indie band- a 90s version of Husker Du (or The Replacements or the Pixies or whoever). However, something unexpected happened. Everclear became huge. They were as big as they got in 90s artists.

Two years later, they were on the top of the world and released “So much for the Afterglow”. It was a solid follow-up, though it maybe started to some limitations (Everclear were not going to be the 90s version of Husker Du, genre-changers; Much too big to be a cult artist, though)

Everclear went into Y2K still ruling the airwaves. They released two albums (Songs from an American Movie), which probably seemed like a good idea at the time, but is the kind of ambition that does bands in. Vol 1 was a hit (top 10), but Vol 2 which promised the darker side, stiffed (only reaching 66). Looking back now, I left the band here, and I am not sure why. I loved all the previous stuff, but I did not continue on. Not sure what was going on in 2000, but there you go. Was it that the single “AM Radio” may have been a huge hit, but was a silly “Shiny Happy People” moment and I figured I would pass? (Likely).

I wasn’t the only one. Everyone seemed to give up after that, and I am only vaguely aware of them since then (Art Alexakis at this point, being the only original member), so there were new albums in 2003, 2006 and (if you knew, I don’t think I did) 2012.

Everclear always seemed head and shoulders over their peers, but sure enough here they were on the nostalgia circuit. In 2011, they did one of those things irrelevant bands do, they released an album for Cleopatra that featured re-recorded versions of their hits and covers.

It is easy to say they were no longer on my radar, but I started to hear that they had a new album and it was actually quite good. I remember how excited I had been back in the 90s, and I had to check out “Black is the New black”.

The good news is this does not sound like an irrelevant band. It actually sounds like the same band who released ‘Sparkle and Fade’ (and if you don’t know, the bands singles were usually the album’s weakest tracks. Maybe I should have realized that before I passed on Songs from an American Movie Vol 1 15 years ago). It would be incorrect to say this album is better or even on par with those first few albums. It probably shouldn’t of course(nearly all bands are tapped out by album #9) That said, this was probably what I would have guessed on that first listen, that these guys would be going strong. It is without a doubt Everclear (which means it won’t win any new fans. If you didn’t like them in the first place…) but it is good to get a new crop of tunes that still have plenty of fire and heart.

If you were an Everclear fan back in the day (as they say), it is worth checking out Black is the New Black. Way much better than you should expect from a band that has been playing 90s nostalgia shows for the last decade.

If it is on the internet, it must be true
I figured at some point, I would get around to something on Jade Helm 15, but figured some one would get to it first and in better detail, and Rachel Maddow has

Jade Helm 15 is a military training exercise that has generated a lot of conspiracy theories, although as Jon Stewart pointed out that in Texas under Gov. Rick Perry, these exercises occurred all the time.

Still, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and others like Ted Cruz (with non-denial denials) just flame the fires started by Alex Jones. But if you can't trust Alex Jones (he of the faked moon landings and '9/11 was organized by the government' theories), who can you trust.

My Social Media pages are getting a Jade Helm 15 link about every day.

The most popular theory was for a time that this was an exercise in which it would get people to get used to seeing a military presence around town, and that the military could easily take over without being noticed.

That was eclipsed by a new story on several Southwestern Wal-Mart stores closing, which obviously would be used to house Chinese soldiers or work as prisons in this diabolical plot. (The fact that other big-box department stores like Target have also closed stores and claiming decreased sales, must show deep this plot goes)

Every day, there is something new. Today, it is Blue Bell Ice Cream trucks being used for Jade Helm. Texas ice cream maker Blue Bell had recalled of their ice cream. But, why, then are Blue Bell trucks still on the road if they aren't serving ice cream?!?!?

It's to the point where Blue Bell has to release a press statement

Maddow makes a point that the plot involves two red state favorites- the Military and Wal Mart- which surely puts some people in a conundrum.

Personally, I don't think there is anything to it, but then again, i would say that if i was in on it, too.

Coming around the curve...

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Pre-race Pit area

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The view out from above

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The Weinermobile was there

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Confetti mess at Winners Circle. I have another pic that is nothing but confetti.

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I was close to the action

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The winner got a cool trophy

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