Wednesday, September 29, 2004

A lot of interesting Space news today.

The big story is that Spaceship One just barely got in the first of two qualifying flights for winning the X-Prize. I've got to hand it to Mike Melvill for pulling out of a generally creepy roll in the ascent. The Right Stuff indeed.

Another story that is getting a lot of coverage here in Canada is whether or not we want to sign on to the US missile Defense Sheild Project. Personally, I'm against it for the following reasons:

1) There are more viable ways to spend taxpayer money on defense than a systems that has not been shown to work effectively.
2) Missiles from current or future "rogue states" aren't the problem; it is terrorists who would smuggle WMDs into a North America via cargo transport
3) I find the science of the system to be nebulous, and that's not a good sign.
4) Very few countries can afford a ballistic missile program, and it's very resource intensive, requiring a lot of men, materials, and time. These things can be found more easily on the ground then trying to shoot them once in the air. The means of using WMDs mentioned in 2) above is a lot more likely, and far more scary.

Just my thoughts,


Monday, September 27, 2004

Well, this sucks....

Looks like Burt Rutan has all but sewn up the X-Prize (Go here for all the info). While I'm not that surprised, I'm a little sad. For a short while, it really looked like the Canadian team had a real shot at beating Rutan in a David Vs. Goliath manner. I mean, the DaVinci Project was an underfunded team, even when they got the big sponsorship from Golden Palace. I mean, Rutan has one of the MicroSoft founders as his patron for this. Despite how this might sound, I'm not complaining. Anything that gets people into space again, and can be proven to do so cheaply, is ultimately of benefit to the rest of us, no matter the country. And if you have to get beat, it might as well be to a guy like Rutan.

Still, it would have been nice to put Canada on the Aerospace History map again....


Saturday, September 18, 2004

Better Late than Never

Something from the Comicbookgalaxy Blog that I just caught right now. A Challenge for bloggers to name their favorite "Brilliant but Cancelled" comic series. I'm going to do him one better; not only will I name my "brilliant but Cancelled" Series, I will also include "Brilliant but will be cancelled soon" series, and "Absolutely horrible and should be cancelled now" series (For the sake of not having this section go on too long, I'm sticking with series that which have not exceeded 12 issues at this time).

Let's begin


The Establishment - OK, I know next to nothing about all the English pop-culture references scattered throughout this series, but even I know an astonishingly good comic when I see one.

Mr. Majestic - This one already got covered here, but I want to add on to what was said here. It is important to note that before Alan Moore got his hands on him (and later, Joe Casey), this character was an incredibly vain ripoff of Superman with no interesting features whatsover (Kind of like the current superman, only more so). While Moore started to bring some depth, it was Casey who decided to go to the distance (along with Ed McGuiness) and make some comics that you could look at today and see how much damage the concepts of "widescreen" and "decompressed storytelling" have done to take the joy out of superhero comics.

The "MC2" line - More good fun here to be had, courtesy of Tom DeFalco. First, let me say that I find it very weird to defend this guy, because of the fact that I HATED his run on Fantastic Four during the 90s. However, I can forgive him for churning out a whole lot of really readable comics that while a corny, would sell very well in trade. ANEXT in particular, is a fantastic take on a second-generation group of Avengers that clearly shows a love of the Roy Thomas and Roger Stern Eras of the title. You can find these issues real cheap if you take the time to look, and I highly recommend that you do.

Stormwatch: Team Achilles - Despite what you may think of Micah Wright (I know the controversy has caused some division, and I understand and can sympathise, especially with those who blindly defended Micah) his work here was very impressive for a first time comic writer. Had this been marketed correctly, it would have been called "G.I. Joe for grown ups" and might have sold very well indeed. Say what you will about his politics or his regretful lapse in judgement, the comics were good, and should be respected as such.

Alan Moore's Supreme (Honourable Mention) - while not technically "cancelled" (on infinite postponement, until Alan Moore dies and Rob Liefeld decides to capitalize on it by 'releasing these lost works', if I were to guess), it is certainly unfinished. If the current superman books were anywere near as interesting as this comic or Mr. Majestic, well, they'd be selling again, wouldn't they? Moore took (yet another) lackluster Superman riff and showed us what a 21st century superhero comic should look like. Very good reading, and I recommend you either get the issues on Ebay or try and get the recently-released trades from Checker Book Publishing.


Captain America and the Falcon - it is becoming clear to me that Christopher Priest must have angered all the wrong gods. He comes out with a vital and complex look at this 60 year old comic character that is unbelievably entertaining, but is then handicapped by his artist for the first storyline. To make matters worse, the "Main" Captain America title is about to be relaunched and will be getting a much bigger marketing push due to the fact that Ed Brubaker is at the helm. This one's doomed folks. But then, it's a Priest title, so you should have already known that already.

Runaways - Oh, I know there is supposed to be a new "Season" coming out soon. Excuse my pessimism here. Of all the titles on this list, this is the one I want to be wrong about the most. However, when you consider that Marvel isn't making the best push for this book while Vaughn is simultaneously being courted to take over a lot of the "big name" projects, you can see why I might think that it doesn't have a chance.

Fallen Angel - Peter David has pimped for this book like no comic he has ever done, which is saying quite a bit for a man with a 20-plus year career in this field. However, the fact is David's track record when he pushes this hard speaks for itself. This title will probably last the longest of the ones on this list, but I don't expect it to crack issue 30.

Birds of Prey - Gail Simone has gone out of her way to make this an accessible, fun, and entertaining read (This is currently just about the ONLY main DC title I pay any attention to, so that it is saying something). Again, DC won't push it, and it'll likely die out too damn soon. Shame for that.


Invaders - Scroll down to see my review of the first issue, and why I think it qualifies as one of the worst comics of 2004. The premise and nature of this comic are so dead set against gaining new readership that if it makes it to 12 issues, it would be nothing short of a miracle.

Amazing Fantasy - Serves no conceivable purpose save to try and destroy the Spider-Girl comic, and by all industry reports, is failing to do even that.

Superman/Batman - Souless dreck that tries to appeal to your sense of nostalgia while beating you to death with sheer senselessness.

X-Force - Cannot possibly be worth the money you spend on it, and if you are buying it, then lord help you when you look back on yourself in about 5 years.

Michael C. Paciocco

Friday, September 17, 2004


I'm sick of it. Really.

Looking at the big events (and I mean looking, I don't buy event comics, but I check out the Newsrama previews and check in at a lot of fan forums to get all the spoilers) at Marvel (Avengers Disassembled) and DC (Identity Crisis and the Jim Lee drawn Superman) I have to admit, that well, who the hell wants to read this?

At the risk of sounding like an old man here, the comics I read as a kid involved superheroes (I won't say they were brightly coloured; I was a child of the late 80s/early 90s, when pretty damn near all superheroes wore black) actually, you know DOING THINGS about the various disasters happening all around them. Now, I look at these two examples which are being held up to the media and what do I see? A bunch of grown men (in tights and out) seeing disasters happening all around them and bitching about how helpless and ineffective they are. Who the hell wants to read comics like that? Actually, I take that back. I can see where there could be a dramatic need to tell that type of story, but this is way too much, and it's over the top.

Now, the prevailing logic is that the reason these stories are as somber as they are is because they reflect the feeling of powerlessness the world felt on that day which need not be mentioned (I'm sorry, but in an election year, politicians of all stripes have used and abused that day so much that it is begining to lose meaning, so I choose not to mention it by name). Well, you know what? That's entirely ass-backwards. On that day, and the many days since, we have seen many feats of heroism of a very human nature, and in some ways, a superhuman nature. Whether it was at the site of disaster, or a soldier on a battlefield (while I'm against some of the wars currently being waged, it is because I doubt the sincerity and reasoning of the leaders who lead to war, not the soldiers), or any decent act of charity (and that oh so brief feeling of global unity), THAT IS HEROISM. THAT DESERVES TO BE CELEBRATED.

I don't want to look back at the comics made in the first decade of the 21st century and say it was the age of "Shock and Cynicism". We deserve better. All of us. Demand it.

Michael Paciocco

Friday, September 10, 2004

Toronto, Turbines, and Tomato Sauce

Got back from my week long trip in Toronto, in summary:

-Thank you John and Meagan for having me to your place and being so generous. God Bless.

-Thanks go out to my uncles and aunts and cousins who were so generous with their time and transportation, especially Uncle Nick

-Checked out the local Chapters, The Sci-Fi Superstore (the comic selection was a little on the light side, but still a decent place overall) and Planet X comic shop.

The bulk of my time was spent with my grandparents and great uncles and aunts preparing the Tomatoes to be made into pasta sauce. I honestly think my generation is woefully unprepared for the amount of WORK that will need to be done preserve their traditions into the next century when they finally leave us. Having spent a goodly number of hours with them, I am continuely amazed by my grandparent's energy entering their 80s that would astound those in their 40s.

Of course, the main reason for my excursion was to talk to professors at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS, see the link). Overall, I think it was a positive experience, as it really opened a lot of possibilities I had not considered. Going in, I would have told you that I wanted to do Computational fluid modelling for aerodynamic design, but looking at the research that these guys are doing, I find there is a lot more out there that I could do. Here's what happened:

DAY 1: The first professor I met told me that he wouldn't likely have funding for me until next year, but he deluged me with research papers and a lot of other info and suggestions. Good guy, despite the fact that as I skimmed those papers I realize that what he's doing isn't really for me. The second guy is doing some fascinating research that would take advantage of my ergonomics and systems modelling training, but again, no likely openings until september. Professor #3, however, is a different story. He entices me with every hook (Lots of industry interest in his research, that he's had experience with Systems Design grads and thinks the world of them, possiblity of a job waiting for me after I get my Masters, etc), but what really struck me was that his research had applications beyond those of aerospace, including a lot of fields that could use a broad based systems person like myself. What can I say, he buttered me up. I left there feeling really good....

DAY 2: ...until I met #4. #4 did something I never thought I would see a professor do: He basically spent 30 minutes telling me how little anyone thinks of his research, how no one cares, and how he is basically riding it out until he retires. NOT A GREAT SALES PITCH. #5 and I hit it off fairly well, not just on the research, but on the fact that we have the same general interests, and that we are both huge followers of the X-Prize and the new private space race. We are both believers in space flight...and that's when I realized something....

I am a bit of a living stereotype. I'm the small town boy influenced by his father's science fiction (one of my earliest memories is at 3 years old watching "The Doomsday Machine" episode of Star Trek the original series) and inspired by the hometown hero astronaut whom the hometown threw a tickertape parade and named streets and buildings after (This being of course, Dr. Roberta Bondar). Sadly, we both realized that with today's culture, I might truly be the last of my breed. I hope not, and I will spend my life fighting against that sadness to prevent that prediction.

So there you have it. Now, here's the sticky part: Do I choose the prof with the better research or the one that I like better as a person?

Michael Paciocco