Friday, May 14, 2004

I have a question regarding our situation in Iraq... and it's not politically charged... I just want to know:

Where are the Iraqis getting all of those guns?

Seriously.

In all of these pictures, the Iraqis are armed, and not just with little hunting rifles and pistols. These guys have RPG's and shoulder mounted rocket launchers and other things you can't even find in Texas. And if these guys always had these weapons, why didn't they use them before to shoot at Saddam?

What's the story?

If anyone has any answers, please fill me in.

I now know nobody reads this blog. Or at least the folks who read it can't do math any better than people who write it.

600/12 = 50. Not 5.

So caught up in proving Van Helsing was a stupid movie was I, that my math was off by a factor of 10. Yes, I have two college degrees. Shut up.

At any rate:
1 victim per month
12 months in a year
12 victims per year
5 years
60 victims in 5 years

or, as they said, 1 or 2 people
1.5 victims per month
12 months per year
18 victims per year
5 years
90 victims in 5 years

that's still a hell of a lot of people, especially if my actual estimate of the number of residents (150) is closer than the number I suggested it might be. Enough to make me begin considering listing my house with Century 21.

"Selling the house, are you, Ivan?"
"Yeah, me and Dolores put her up yesterday."
"Gettin' a wee bit scared of the vampires?"
"No... no... just part of the charm of your cold, frigid valley with no visible means of support."
"You like the castles?"
"Well, yes, but only that incredibly good looking girl in the tight trousers lives there, and nobody else ever gets to go in."
"Ah, well, we'll miss you digging for turnips with us."
"Best of luck."
"Yeah, well, plant some garlic, too, for God's sake."
"Oh, right... good idea."

At any rate, those aren't good numbers either way. Especially when you figure it's 19th century Eastern-Europe where life expectancy was probably around 40 or so.

Maybe the Transylvanians just breed like rabbits.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

I forgot the biggest dumb thing about Van Helsing.

I was going to say it's a spoiler, but it's not.

Van Helsing is more or less there to save a village of people from being plagued by Dracula. Okay, maybe not exactly (you can judge for yourself for a mere $5.50 at matinee), but if he kills Dracula, that's it, right? The people can be happy again...

Except these incredibly stupid people live in a narrow valley tucked between mountains which is prone to attacks by Vampires. Flying vampires.

So, okay... you don't want to leave your homeland even after 400+ years of vampire attacks (I think I could learn to be flexible and go somewhere with just, say, El Chubacabra). Even in Transylvania, you can still move to a more advantageous position, like, up on a hill. Or underground. Or build, say, a roof over the town. I'm not positive, but I am betting that you would start dreaming up anti-vampire defenses pretty quickly.

Keep in mind, not a clove of garlic or a crucifix is ever really seen in this town.

And the population of the town appeared to be maybe 600 people on the outside. And I think I'm being nice here, because, really, it looked liek the village had maybe 150 extras in it... tops. The villagers state that Dracula and his ladies pluck off 1 or 2 people a month, and that's acceptable. People, I know I'm no PhD in math, but those are NOT good numbers. Your village would be wiped out in 5 years with 600 people at one a month.

And who the hell wants to be the last dude standing around as the target?

Anyway, not necessarily a plot point, but it kind of was... and it made the movie all the dumber.
Yesterday, not so much after work as much as when i was done working, another guy from my office and I went to see Van Helsing. THis was not even done so much in spite of Jim D's review of the movie, but because of it. All Steans men share a common gene regarding movies. We like bad movies. It's true. And when we hear someone pronounce a movie as awful, it isn't enough to take their word for it: We have to see that stinking pile of poo for ourselves. And it didn't hurt that I had nothing better to do at work yesterday and there's a theater literally less than a block from my office I'd never been to before.

Was Van Helsing as bad as people say? Sure, I guess. Like most big budget, bloated, ridiculous summer movies, the very premise of the story made not a lick of sense. None. Not a bit. If I were in college mode and drunk and watching this movie I would have assumed the booze went to my brain and had erased crucial bits which the byzantine plot most likely tossed at me, but MGD had washed away. Not so here.

SPOILER WARNING:

Just to get it out of the way: Why the hell hadn't Dracula dedicated his endless undead life to killing all werewolves if that was the only thing can defeat him? We know he can turn them into people again, so why is he bothering with making vampire babies until he knows he's utterly undefeatable? And another thing... If the only way to go to Castle Dracula was through that stupid map, why wasn't the place a ghost-town? THey say something about wings or something... but was the castle a physical place? Where was the castle? How were the oompa-loompas flying around to get to this castle? How did the heroes get back at the end when the story made it clear the door locked up tight behind them? Why wasn't that chick's body totally rotting by the time they found the ocean? Why did the end look like a greeting card?

END SPOILERS

The sets, the costuming, etc... were all very lavishly and expensively done. In fact, the completely useless "ball room scene" was enough to make the set-designers for Cirque de Soleil green with envy.

The CG was mostly well done, and I would guess we'll never know how much stuff in the movie we'll take for granted that was actually a hard-won victory for some 3D modeller out there... but in a lot of places where it counts, the CG just wasn't very good.

And I've read a lot of bitching about the guy who played Dracula... look... I've seen Dracula with Lugosi. He's about as subtle as a Sherman tank. I think i know where this guy was coming from in his portrayal, and while it wasn't super-duper... please show me a guy who DIDN'T play a hokey version of Dracula.

One of my biggest complaints (and I'd been forewarned) was, why so much swinging? I swear there was more swinging in this than in Spider-Man. People were continually hurling around on ropes and cables to a tremendous effect which usually accomplished next to nothing.

The script was awful, and Van Helsing looked somewhat ridiculous in that hat. And the three Dracula brides were... awful. Yes, awful is the word I was looking for. But I TOTALLY dug Dracula's oompa-loompas. I'm going to make all my student workers dress like those dudes in the future.

But this was a super hero movie, hands down. Sure, it used the monsters from a few decent Universal monster movies, but it was pretty much a movie about a superhero going up against a mad scientist with a nefarious plot. And if you had any doubt, the gymnastics and wire-tricks should be enough to convince you of the true purpose.

Coppola tried to revive the Monster/ Horror movie genre (dead since the 50's, really) in the 90's. Dracula was, I hear, somewhat close to the book. Frankenstein was an odd mix of the book, movie and whatever the hell Branagh was up to. Both were fairly emotionless studies of getting through the paces of the stories and to get A list actors into monster movies. I think the end results of both movies are questionable. I've seen stage plays of both subjects that rocked the pants off of these movies.

I'm not sure the 1930's Universal monster movies of Dracula or Frankenstein were ever REALLY scary. I've read Ray Bradbury's account of seeing Frankenstein as a kid, and how he hid behind his seat. Maybe it's possible. But there's a purity of unsullied story-telling that goes along with those movies. They take a world with things that Van helsing is sorely lacking in (like, say, gravity), and add a feature into it our world that is utterly unnerving. The monsters worked (if they ever worked) because they remind us how frail and fragile we really are.

Van Helsing takes the world, removes all rules (including those of gravity and how much damage the human frame can really take), and then adds bizarre feature after bizarre feature until the canvas, as a whole, has lost any sense of meaning. How can you be afraid of the werewolf when your hero might, say, hop over the top of the werewolf while eating a hoagie at any given moment?

On an infinte number of levels, Van Helsing is a faiulre. It's not enough that it pays homage to the original source material. That's a nice effort, but... The creators seem to have utterly failed to grasp why the source material worked the first time while whoring it out to earn some sort of Monster Movie street cred (yes, Mr. Sommers... we all saw the burning windmill. Good for you.).

I'll probably watch this movie again at some point, because I'll always watch Batman and Robin over and over, even though I don't like it. It's a bit like watching an incredibly slow car crash, or maybe a train derailment over 2 hours or so.

In the meantime, I await the arrival of my movie monster box set.
So what's going on at The League?

Jamie's company is based in Oletha, Kansas (a suburb of Kansas City), and every year the folks in Kansas have a fun activity, such as going to the Kansas equivalent of Six Flags or going to a Royals game. But since Jamie's satellite office is out here in Arizona, they just don't do anything most of the time. To try and make up for this lack of fun, the Kansas office ordered the Tempe office to find something and go do it.

So Saturday we went to the Out of Africa Wildlife Park. Not much to say about it except that it was actually more interesting than the Phoenix Zoo in a lot of ways, although a much more humble affair. It's also interesting to be in a place where all that stands between you and a 600 pound tiger is a chain link fence. The key is not to piss off the tigers.

Sunday we went to see Urinetown which was being performed on campus as part of the traveling Broadway series. I thoroughly enjoyed the show, and I think other folks would like it (how can you not like a musical with songs like "Freedom, Runaway!" celebrating the need to run away when confronted by your oppressors). Not everybody liked it. We went to a matinee of the play and, as Arizona is crawling with retirees, we were surrounded by the elderly. At intermission the dudes in the men's room were vocal about their confusion. Apparently post-modernism has not yet hit the Matlock crowd, but, hey... That's okay.

The truth is, unfortunately, I will not remember the show as much for the script or the songs as much as the crowd. On Jamie's right sat a blind woman who was getting an Al Michaels play-by-play of the proceedings, and to my left sat an elderly couple who had rented headsets to better hear the show as they were both deaf. Consequently, I heard the entire show as an echo through the old people's headsets. To add to the fun, the headsets were making one of their hearing aids whistle out of control, which, apparently, neither of them seemed to notice for the entire 2.5 hour duration of the show. I don't know if you've ever heard a hearing-aid whistle from feedback or from running low on batteries, but it's absolutely horrible and intended to get the wearer to immediately remove the device.

But I'm a nice guy and so I just decided "hey, they're old. This show can't be cheap for them, either... I can live through it." But, then, of course, they started talking to each other, too. Loudly of course, because not only were they deaf, they had on those headsets and squealing hearing aids.

Finally another old guy, who had no need to have respect for old people, turned around and said "WILL YOU TWO BE QUIET?!!!!" I now love that anonymous old man in front of me and two seats down.

Before the final note of the final song, my darlings stood up and bolted for the exit, eager to beat other folks out of the parking lot and to the Early Bird Special at Denny's, I'd guess. Consequently, they missed the end of the show, more or less.

The moral of the lesson: No more matinee shows in Retirementville, USA.


Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Molly Writes:

Dear Melbotis,

Are we alone in the universe?

Molly

p.s. Why don't you have comments?


Dear Molly,

Me have waited until now to answer Molly question since Molly went off to see Elephunts in land where it often rainy. And Mel not mean Houston.

Mel have deep belief that every living creature is made of same cosmic dust which resulted from big bang, and that all nature and creation nothing more than embodiment of energy resulting from whatever came before big bang. Some energy stay put and be like, say, sofa. Other energy become moving thing, like, say... cat. But in end, we are all made of protons and neutrons and quarks. But because we are all made of solid matter, we (sofa or cat) are all cosmically connected having come from result of big bang.

Mel think this mean you might want to avoid anti-matter so that universe does not collapse in on itself.

But then Mel see thing like stupid neighbor dog hanging over fence going barkbarkbark, and Mel know he can share cosmic connection and neighbor dog still is jerk.

Mel also know that in morning, people jangle keys and put on silly clothes and look for cell phone and go to work. And then Mel fall into pit of despair as people leave Mel all alone. But you know what? People always come home again, and then Mel know the universe is not black pit of meaningless despair. If people not come home, then Mel poop on carpet.

Sometime people ask Mel, "Hey, Mel... why no comments on page?" Mel only response is that League of Melbotis is no democracy. If you want thought published to site, send letter to Mel, and Mel is happy to remove four-letter names assigned to Ryan and then post letter.

Have good day, Molly. Hope you liked India.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Fast times at Hero High.

Check it out!
My friends Jeff is off to Mexico to get married tomorrow.

I am now deeply regretting my decision to not attend the ceremonies. Ah, well. C'est la vie.

Superman Update

Much ado about Superman today.

An article appeared in Time's online version basically stating that Superman needs to be updated. They fail to mention how that could be successfully accomplished, and, instead, name the shotgun approach DC is currently taking. In other words, throw as many versions at the wall as possible and see what sticks.

Bad idea.

Either a property resonates or doesn't resonate, but making Superman all things to all people essentially makes him nothing but a corporate schill. And as a trademarked symbol, he's going to have to play that role. BUT... my problem with the article is that they spend a lot of time hashing out why Superman isn't cool (and a lot of their assumptions left me wondering), but never point out why he is cool. Or ever was cool. It's an unwinnable debate which has been tossed around since the mid-80's, and the article's author seems to be highly frazzled by having to write the article at all.

I kind of wonder what brought it on. It sounds as if the AOL/Time Warner/ DC Comics corporate uber-minds decided Superman needed some attention, but the editors didn't care what spin they got... as long as they got some sort of coverage.

As far as Superman's Team-Based exploits, Justice League's Series Finale will air May 29th. Set your TiVo now. The series will re-launch in the Fall under the name Justice League Unlimited and guest-star a bevy of DC heroes. (I like the "Unlimited" name. It's more accurate than JL America, which seems silly since J'onn J'onzz is Martian, Aquaman is King of Atlantis, Wonder Woman is Princess of Themyscira, etc... etc...).

And according to the Superman Homepage:

Seinfeld and Superman to Air on NBC
With Friends now history, NBC is looking to another Must-See legend to re-energize its Thursday night lineup. According to Variety, on May 20th - the final Thursday of May sweeps - the network will air The Adventures of Seinfeld & Superman, a special based on Jerry Seinfeld's current American Express Web series.

They changed blogger

It's chaois here at the League. They changed blogger... it looks great.