A good monologue, though it finishes up with a coda that is extremely on the nose. The piece has something of a mathematical feel, building to a very...moreA good monologue, though it finishes up with a coda that is extremely on the nose. The piece has something of a mathematical feel, building to a very precise definition of sentiments that seems a tad unnecessary in light of the reasoning already expressed. It's woven into the play's fabric well, but might be redundant.
The piece seethes with a palpable rage. Again, the ending seems to make things simple; it leaves the nameless upper-class New Yorker admitting the truth that his/her lifestyle is built on an artificial division between the rich and the poor, and that he/she could easily change his/her class alliance by giving up all of his/her surplus money. That's true, but overlooks all of the hooks placed on the wealthy as well as the poor, the difficulty of redistribution of income & much else. It reminds me in some ways of The Wire. Both indict systems, but HBO's seems to have a modicum of sympathy for a large number of the people constrained by the system. Shawn, in contrast, seems to be trying to boil that sympathy away.
So it's not an academic treatise that deeply probes the issues faced by society. But then again, it's not supposed to be. It captures a specific composition of sentiments of a certain character, one who is growing in consciousness about a kind of personal hypocrisy and helplessness. Indeed, given that the piece seems to draw a bit from Shawn's own growing understanding of himself (see the liner notes to the audio recording), I think that it's fair to say that more balanced thinking on the character's part would be less true to it.
I've waffled in my opinions about the fever, and for a while had pinned it at 3.5 stars because of its apparent lack of balance. But the piece has stayed with me, and stayed with me, and stayed with me. Even if I think that Shawn needs more balance in his thoughts, its ability to evoke such processing is worth noting.(less)
A decently written investigation of evangelicals who have read the Left Behind series and their thoughts on the books. Frykholm does a good job of mak...moreA decently written investigation of evangelicals who have read the Left Behind series and their thoughts on the books. Frykholm does a good job of making them out to not be a monolithic group, and captures the many ways that they use the texts. It's well written though not particularly poetic. (I breezed through the volume in a few days.) My main complaints would be that it's hard to track any specific big picture conclusions beyond that these particular evangelicals vary. It's also a bit difficult to keep track of who she interviewed - some subjects get discussed extensively, while others get only one or two sentences. This style of presentation makes it difficult to get a feel for the extent of her work.(less)
This book is all architectural head and no action heart. While it's sort of cool to read a Batman story that mildly criticizes 21st century architectu...moreThis book is all architectural head and no action heart. While it's sort of cool to read a Batman story that mildly criticizes 21st century architecture by the likes of Rem Koolhaas, Death By Design doesn't offer a compelling story to go along with its referencing.
The general frame is that Bruce Wayne wants to replace the old Gotham train station, commissioned by his father, with a new, modernist terminal. At the kickoff ceremony a crane collapses, almost crushing him. A new superhero, Exacto, appears on the scene. He's bent on criticizing both Bruce's chosen modernist architect as a fraud and the Gotham construction workers' union as corrupt. There's also a female art critic lobbying for the old terminal's reconstruction who serves as a damsel in distress. (She's presented as an intellectual damsel, but isn't given any substantial role in the proceedings beyond getting kidnapped.)
Maybe the authors just weren't allowed enough issues to tell their story, but the affair seems rushed . There's a stray thread about the mystery of where the original architect of the train station has disappeared and why. It gets tied up at the end but was never really allowed to breath. Exacto's abilities seem to have been made up on the fly; initially he just seems to be able to project himself places as a hologram using some fancy cameras. Then it turns out that he's a hologram that can weld doors shut. Then it turns out he can somehow project other people as holograms, even without his fancy camera rig. When he tangles with Batman at the end, Exacto blows the hero off him with a mysterious super-powered belt. He then complains about how he was made to waste valuable resources. Was he? He never uses the belt again, so it's hard to say how he expected to use it.
The art is also problematic. The entire book seems sketched out, pencil lines with minimal color. It's pretty, but terrible for action sequences. In the few close-combat set pieces there's no sense of movement or inertia. It works elsewhere, including scenes of Batman jumping or flying, but for combat it's a dud.
Death By Design tries to be big but ends up limp. It tries to be beautiful but includes material that the art can't beautify. It flatters what it likes, but doesn't do much more than that. It seems like it was more fun for the authors to make than for others to read.(less)
Think For Better Or Worse, but with a 90% lesbian, 5% gay, 5% straight cast, well-drawn and well-written. Bechdel has apparently called it a "half op-...moreThink For Better Or Worse, but with a 90% lesbian, 5% gay, 5% straight cast, well-drawn and well-written. Bechdel has apparently called it a "half op-ed column and half endless serialized Victorian novel", & that's pretty much right. It does, however, leave out the tourism aspect.
Speaking for me, part of the pleasure of DTWOF is that the strip's community lives inside the leftist gestalt of (what once was?) the gay mainstream. (In one sequence, Moe takes grave offense when Harriet calls her a "liberal". Moe's been to far too many protests to take that lying down...) It's literary tourism of a particular, vibrantly realized community, and the sort of tourism that might help people understand its real counterpart better. Indeed, while Bechdel's "op-ed" description might cover the politics that the characters talk, it probably has more to do with the way her depictions of the characters live. For instance: none of the players could even conceive of being fond of George W. Bush, and their mentions of him never come near to favorable. (DTWOF's most obviously political editorial strips are fourth-wall breaking ones built on particular Bush actions.) But Clarice's obsession with the man greatly damages her marriage to Toni, something that could be seen as Bechdel opining that, even in a country that she regards as having an ocean of problems, you've got to stay focused on the people who matter to you.
The one area where DTWOF does fail is with the character of Cynthia. The token conservative lesbian, Bechdel can't really find a place for her in the world of the strip. She proselytizes constantly for conservative attitudes to the other liberal characters, makes few friends, and is consistently unlucky in love. She does not come across as someone who, navigating the difficulties of being both homosexual and generally supportive of a political philosophy that has been tied to anti-gay attitudes, has developed a consistent logic. Rather, she is a broadly drawn conservative who simply ignores the presence of party inconsistencies. While her harsh lines get a bit softer as her character is fleshed out, she remains pretty flat.(less)