Yesterday was my first time at an NFL football game (Jets vs. Bucs). This also means that I've been to each of the three major sports (NBA, MLB, and NFL). (For my international readers, the NFL is the highest league for American-style football).
I must say, the experience is quite something. It's very different from either of the other big three sports in that there is a whole huge sub-culture in the football world. If you've never experienced it, there's nothing quite like it at all.
Sadly, I didn't have my camera with me, but driving into the parking lot of Giants Stadium I was just struck by how many people were there tailgating. It was incredible, it was like a little town sprung up there that morning, with people pitching tents, watching TV, eating BBQ, throwing footballs around. I mean, it felt like these people lived there. What caught my attention as well was that a lot of men would urinate right by the side of the road without hesitation (since the lines for the port-o-potties was ridiculous.
The stadium itself was tremendous. There's nothing quite like it in the enormity of it all; you get kinda queasy sitting in the third tier just looking down.
The game itself was great. Vinny Testaverde was playing in his first game in 9 months since retiring with the Cowboys after last season. I have to say, I can only hope that I'm that mobile and that fit when I'm 41, because damn, the guy can still move and throw the long ball. He had the crowd roaring during pregame warmups when he threw a 60-70 yard pass to Laverneus Coles. Wow. Vinny only threw one interception, which was unfortunate (it was short only by a little), but acceptable considering that just two weeks ago, he was hanging out on his sofa watching the Jets play 😀
Afterwards, listening to Vinny talk, I was reminded of The Incredibles. Vinny had some great years (the best of his career) with the Jets and here he was again, up to his old heroics after retiring from football. And like in The Incredibles, it took a team effort to overcome the opponent.
"Before you read on, bear in mind that I'm writing this review in comparison to the first "Ghost in the Shell". While Shirow does mention that this book is not a continuation of the first, there are some major differences in style.
Let's start with the artwork. As I've noticed with Shirow's work, all the ways from Appleseed, his style has matured with each work and is at a very advanced level, in my opinion, among top comic book artists in the world. He has a certain style of coloring that, to me, is really unique in how subtle, lifelike, and tactile he makes fabrics and skin. While only roughly 35-40% of the book is colored, it is done so fantastically.
In addition, Shirow has a supreme mastery of the female body form. It's simply stunning to see how beautifully he can render the female body, especially with the dynamic energy he brings to his characters. While he renders many of the panels with the female characters in the buff, he does not render "R" nudity, but rather "PG-13" nudity, except in one panel). (As a sidenote, parents of younger readers should perhaps consider this an "R" rated book. While none of the nudity is gratuitous, it can be a little too much for some).
As fans of Shirow have noticed, he has been experimenting with integrating 3D, rendered environments and objects with his 2D artwork. He shows his mastery of this technique in many of the panels, where it seems seemless; you feel as if the character is really a part of the scene. Then in others, it seems poorly done (for example, he renders pigs in a sequence of panels and the pigs just look weird). I'd also offer some criticism of his rendering of "virtual space", as it quickly becomes cluttered and very difficult to navigate, visually, especially in the low-res, black and white lineart panels.
As with all Shirow works, there is certainly enough cool technobabble and gadgets to get your geek juices flowing. From exoskeletons that envelope and "swallow" the pilot, to oddly constructed androids, to the techno-metaphysical discussions of reality, life, existence, and justice.
My main criticism with the work is the incontinuity *within* the plot itself (I fully understand and accept that this is not a continuation of the first). Without going deeply into the plot, there are some scenarios where he will start what seems like an arc, but then the arc disappears, without entering into the plot again. It seems like whole parts of the book were created just for the sake of showing artwork, and not progressing plot (to me, plot should always come first in a written work, which this is, despite the medium). It feels like the recent Star Wars movies in that they are really a showcase for Lucas's technique with fully rendered sets and have lost any semblence of a cohesive plot and the great acting (especially Harrison Ford) that made the first three the classics that they are. Yes, while I do appreciate the eye candy, this is still a graphic novel, and, as such, I expect a cohesive plot and not random interjections of this and that and whatever.
Some fans will also find the lack of action (compared to the first book) a bit disappointing. The first book was far grittier and more action packed than this book. It also had a richer cast of characters. "Man-Machine Interface" really only features one character (albeit in various bodies and forms) and thus loses some of the dynamic interactions between characters. Shirow never gets a chance to fully developer the chief of Poseidon police and his crew.
Overall, this book is excellent if you simply love Shirow's beautiful artwork, mastery of the female body form, and creative techno-gadgets. The plot, especially the ending, will leave you sorely disappointed. Whereas the first ended on a revelation of a metaphysical type, this book ends in a fizzle."
If you're a fan of Shirow, it's a no brainer, you gotta pick it up, but it's certainly not for everyone.
I'm also working my way through Fred Brooks' "The Mythical Man Month". I'm only 1/3 of the way through the book at the moment, but it's absolutely a great book that everyone in an IT organization (everyone!) has to read. I mean, even after all of these years, the same problems persist in software development (doesn't anyone learn from history?). If you're in the IT industry, whether you're a manager, a salesperson, or a developer, be sure to pick this one up. It's an easy read, too, since Brooks' style is very inviting and personable. He makes some excellent analogies. I think I'll do a mini book review after I'm done with the book 😀
That's it for now...been busy at work, so less time to post during the day >.<