Saturday, December 23, 2006

Arrived!

We are in Lawton.

My parents called me two days ago and were pleading with me not to venture forth on Friday for our Holiday travels. They were under the impression that the weather in Colodaro would hit us.
"It's going to be horrible! The rain! The sleet! The ice!"
"The forecast says 50+ degrees and sunny."
"NO! It shall be horrid! You cannot travel!"
"But... we're looking at weather.com right now. It says 50+ degrees and sunny."
"The Houston weatherman says it's going to be awful. You can't drive!"

Anyway, it was a lovely, sunny, literally cloudless drive, averaging 55 degrees.

Doug flew in Wednesday night. Thursday we zipped about Austin taking care of some last minute purchases. Thursday night we met up with Jason at Macaroni Grill for a lovely dinner. Friday we rose, tossed our stuff in the car (including Melbotis) and drove to Lawton.

Matt "No, I Will Not Read Your Blog" Mangum is house/ pet-sitting at League HQ. So Lucy will have some company on Christmas/ her birthday. Lucy will be two on December 24th. I can scarce believe it.

We're very grateful to Matt and we left him a little something under the tree.

I'm now deeply embedded in the McBride Family Christmas. There's billiards, watching of local news and keeping a watchful eye on the cats as they keep an eye on Mel (who is mostly sleeping).

Jamie has already opened her present, so no surprises there, I guess. I feel a little bad. There's just not going to be all that much from me when she goes to open her packages.

This morning she's at dialysis, so this afternoon will be sleepy time for Jamie.

I, myself, was exhausted for some reason last night. I slept like a log for almost ten hours. Today, however, I feel back up to snuff. And, dare I say? Christmassy? JimD would be so disappointed, declaring the whole thing a humbug.

Hope everyone's Holiday is going well.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Eragon: the Best Bad Movie of 2006

Wow.
Simply, Wow.

As folks who've followed League of Melbotis for any amount of time might know, I tend to skew towards genre in my movies. I'm usually up for action, monkeys, robots and space ships. And I can often be tempted to see a movie simply because it features a dinosaur or the promise of some web-slinging.

One of the things even long-time followers of this blog might not know is that it has always been a trade-mark of The Brothers Steans to wind up at the grisliest of mistakes coming out of Hollywood. I think our poor movie selection speaks to two things: (a) our eternal optimisim that we might stumble into something of interest, and (b) when together, we'd rather share the misery than try to drag someone else into a mistake we figure we're going to make, anyway.

So Jason is working from home/on vacation this week from putting people in the slammer, and I'm unemployed. So mid-day, after we'd gone to a pet store and played with a little pig (I now totally want a pig), we headed to the Regal Cinema at WestGate to see the new fantasy feature, Eragon.

I don't know much about the Eragon books. I think they're some sort of 15th generation fantasy novels based in a Tolkein-light universe. I'd also heard that the author was in his mid-teens when he wrote the first novel.


"I suffer without my stone. Do not prolong my suffering!"

Eragon is, essentially, the tale of a young farmer who lucks into a dragon egg/ R2-unit. There's an evil king, a former dragon rider, a total fox of a princess, and absolutely no new ideas.

At it's heart, Eragon is the sign to anyone over 20 that they are no longer of the younger generation. As Lucas cannibalized the films of his youth, so Eragon literally cannibalizes whole scenes from Star Wars: A New Hope and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, offering nothing new in return.

Literally, we are given analogs of Luke, Han, Leia, Obi Wan, Vader and either Grand Moff Tarkin or the Emperor, depending on how you want to read it. There's a sort of Death Star to invade, storm troopers/ orcs to fight, and a battle for Yavin IV. There's even a recreation of the scenes in which Luke realizes Uncle Own and Aunt Beru might be in trouble, right down to Luke leaving the now destroyed farm. (Although Storm Troopers aren't responsible. This time it's LOTR's Dark Riders. No, seriously. Only they have Wolverine's claws AND his off-screen trampoline to leap from. This flick has no shame in it's desire to lift from successful franchise movies).

Things to know about this movie:

1) It is a foregone conclusion that this is the first of a series of movies. There are multiple books, I hear. So it plays a bit like a Saturday matinee serial with multiple dangling threads and an arch-villain who isn't even really inconvenienced in any way by the actions of the film.

2) I cannot think of a single reason this was not a Sci-Fi Channel original movie.

Thirty minutes into the movie, Jamie started inserting lines from Star Wars between the lines of dialogue. Soon we were all jumping in on the gag, no doubt really upsetting the wide-eyed 'tween-age fantasy fans who were there for the showing with their moms.

Jeremy Irons plays the Obi-Wan analog, and throughout the movie I continually pondered how he must have said the wrong thing to the wrong person in Hollywood, or else Dead Ringers really caved his career a lot more than I thought... but it's so sad to see a perfectly good actor slumming with dialogue which, for a reason, feels as if it were written by a fifteen year old. John Malkovich plays The Emperor/ Tarkin, and, unlike Irons, you have to sort of admire his business decision. Malkovich never leaves the staircase of what is clearly a minimally dressed soundstage. He has about six lines in the whole film (one of which sent me into a giggling fit, thus I've listed above). It's the Brando-Superman business decision that, no doubt, got him the Italian marble tub Malkovich had always dreamed of owning, and surely his piece took no more than about an hour to shoot.

Still, he gets top billing and his face on the poster. Well done, Malkovich.

The titular character of Eragon is, as Jason said, "man pretty." He looks sort of like a cross-eyed version of the dude from Blue Lagoon, or a less goofy version of Peter McNichol's character from DragonSlayer (a dragon movie in which dragons were f-ing AWESOME, I might add).

As per the action of the movie, I don't know what this means, exactly, but I leaned over to Jamie about 45 minutes into the movie and said "Is it just me, or are things 'just happening'?" She agreed immediately with a roll of the eyes.

I think what I meant was this: Not only does every single character in the film seem to lack a motivation of any sort, but motivations they SHOULD have seem cast aside so the paces of Star Wars can play out in full. Most odd is that it feels as if huge portions of the movie were scrapped at some point... characters meet and instantly refer to each other's recent history without any possible discussion time shown, nor even hinted at. There were odd bits like Obi-Wan telling Luke "Look, you're a Dragon Rider. This means you must join the resistance you've never heard of." "Quite right!" Luke replies. "That will really advance our paper-thin plot! People will completely expect that beat since the narrator talked about those guys in the prologue! But they WILL be surprised when I run off mid-movie, hollering about a vision (this movie's "You're our only hope..." hologram), so that we can have our "infiltrating the Death Star" sequence, complete with a slain Obi-Wan (who has the fastest horse. Ever.)."

Another sequence in which time and reason sort of collapses centers around the dragon, who magically grows from a puppy-like rat-catcher weighing about fifty pounds to a 2-ton flying behemoth in a magical burst of... I guess Super Dragon Puberty. She suddenly has a name, vast knowledge of the world, dragon history, biology and a pretty good bead on our cross-eyed hero. I kept waiting to find out that dragons reincarnate into other dragons to explain all of this... but, no...

Oh, and before I forget... look, Rachel Weisz is foxy. But she doesn't have a particularly memorable voice. Perhaps because she is also a mid-level actress who is happy to take fantasy roles, somebody offered her the part of the dragon's telepathic voice. I kept thinking back to the "sending" from Elfquest comics I read in fourth grade, but mostly it just felt really awkward as the dragon would sort of blurt out master-of-the-obvious dialogue.

The Dragon is also fairly meek and mild for a 2-ton killing machine. I don't really understand why they went this route (ie: making Valcor look like a raging bad-ass compared to Eragon's dragon), but it certainly doesn't lend much to the film. There are also logistical problems, such as the dragon complaining about carrying 300 pounds of extra weight in one scene, and then suiting up in 800 pounds of steel armor about 3 scenes later.

Other oddities in the film included a few "non-surprises" which, I guess, were supposed to be a surprise. Obi-Wan is revealed to be a former Dragon-Rider a full hour into the movie. This is after training our young Jedi, telling tales of the Knights of the Republic (aka: Dragon Riders) and doing everything but using sky-writing to inform him of his background. As an audience member, we know EXACTLY what Obi-Wan is in the first 8 frames in which he appears, so, unfortunately, the only effect this has is to make Eragon appear exceedingly dim.

When Princess Leia (oh, yes, she's a princess) finally joins the action, she manages to know a heck of a lot about our hero, or at least is exceedingly comfortable with him. And then she goes through a bit of Frodo's Dark Rider poisoning problem.

And this is just an oddity, but the guy who plays Luke is something like 19, so probably 18 when they filmed the movie. Princess Leia just looks too old for him, if they are going to lead to a romantic interest. So, I looked her up, and sure enough, she's 31. There's some really bad dialogue about Luke's missing mom, so I hope to GOD that this princess is not supposed to be his mom. Because right now that'd be skewing pretty far into the red zone on the Oedipal scale.

I don't have any real reason to think that the girl is supposed to be his mom other than that they went way out of their way to make sure the two never touch and mostly just smile at each other. But I also thought Famke Janssen looked ten years older than James Marsden in X-Men. And, lo and behold, she was. That doesn't mean that Princess Leia can't just be an urban cougar, but the whole thing was just so chaste... And she really, really doesn't look old enough to be his mom, either.

I'm sort of spent. The list of bad goes on an on. The scenery-chewing by the guys playing villains is, at times, priceless. The list of "name" actors who are in the film is a bit surprising, leading me to think that this film's budget was greater than it should have been 9or spent in the wrong places). The villainous army looks like a rejected LOTR concept, completely emulating the Uruk-Hai, but without the make-up budget. D&D/ LOTR fantasy folk such as dwarves and elves are mentioned, but never seen. A lame "chosen one" plot thread is used to bypass any actual training period (one sure fire way of determining this was a 15-year old's fantasy in our world of immediate gratification for kids...)

And, last, but not least... during the Attack on Yavin IV/ Battle at Helmsdeep conclusion to the movie, our heroes have somehow, idiotically, pinned themselves and the entire resistance into an unescapable valley. Then the invading army enters the fray through a single entry point. This would be the exact opposite of laying siege to a castle. This would pretty much allow the dudes you were attacking to just shoot every one of your soldiers as they walked in the door.

So what's good?

There are two very good looking actresses in the film, but one only appears in two scenes. And the other spends a good deal of the movie trussed up in the Detention Block being poked at by the floating sphere robot.

The dragon CG is not too bad. Unfortunately, the dragon does a lot of posing and posturing, and doing seemingly odd things that would scare people, but which make for a well composed shot. (beating wings, roaring, etc...)

And...

I'm sort of at a loss. Even the cinematography was about sci-fi channel original level.

And for some reason Joss Stone is in the movie for, like, 30 seconds.

Eragon could make for a great drinking game, I think. Watch, insert Star Wars dialogue to appropriate scene, or name analog scene or character... rewarded with a drink.

To me, the oddest thing about the movie is that it appears to be aimed at the folks who would like Star Wars and LOTR. But, as I mentioned above, you'd have to be under the age of twelve or an idiot not to note how they've completely lifted every element of this movie from some pretty popular sources. Eventually those kids WILL see LOTR or Star Wars. So any shelf-life this movie might have had to launch a series is going to be relatively short-lived.

The movie genuinely FEELS like maybe it was written by a fairly mature kid. There's no patience for pacing, only jumping to the next set-up. Characters seem only partially evolved and obvious. Character names seem like copies of Tolkeinish names. Elvish words (used for jedi-tricks) seem EXTREMELY Tolkeinish. There is world building going on, but it's a reproduction of a reproduction of a reproduction. One day this kid might come up with a really fresh concept to match his motivation and passion, but for now... it's like getting the grocery-store knock-off of the action figure you really wanted (aka: Spader-Man).


Anyway, Eragon. You are amazing.
I missed Jim D's birthday. I am sorry.

Jim D is now 487. Or less. I forget. JimD does not celebrate his brithday. Nor get excited about Christmas. Or shuttle launches.

Also, Happy Hannukah to all Loyal Leaguers.
Rick the Reindeer
the unnecessary 2006 Holiday Poem


last year the Admiral called to compliment me upon my Christmas poem. "Next year," he said, "You will need to write one about Rick the Reindeer. Ho ho ho."

Well, Admiral, The League has a long memory.

editor's note: to better understand this Holiday poem (one in a series), please first read The Tale of Santor, and then Chad the Elf. Or don't. I don't care.

So, without further ado:


Rick the Reindeer
by Charles Dickens

Now gather 'round, Leaguers. It's the month of December!
And that means it's time for my poem, you'll remember.
In years past I've worked hard to make the poems hard to ignore,
with the merry tales of of Elf Chad and good 'ol Santor.

I know you've been eagerly awaiting another tale of the season
And the League of Melbotis is here for your yuletide poem pleasin'.
So hang on to your hats, keep on your shorts and be of good cheer
This year I relate the tale of your favorite reindeer.

Our man Rick was VP of Finance of a large corporation
Counting beans for the bank and to account for inflation.
Each day he counted beans, accounting for each as it passed,
"I'll count each bean twice," he said "But I must count them up fast."

"It's almost Christmas," cried Rick as he straightened his tie.
"They've all taken vacation, I'm the lone bean-counting guy!"
He counted the beans fast, for he had a house full of guests.
And was half-way done when entered Uncle Sam's IRS.

Rick panicked a moment as he thought back to the night before last,
When he had spoken to his wife about some Christmasses past.
"The family's all here," she had said, "and it'd be swell
"If you could take a day off and take on my Chrismassy hell."

He'd thought of his employees, scattered to north, south and west,
And how he'd signed for their vacation and wished them his best.
Still, beans needed counting, and he'd thought it terrifically bright
to spend a few days in the office to account for each bean in sight.

"There's no one but me," he sighed, "They've all taken to wing
"But the beans all need counting, the year-end report is the thing."
"You'd best get home early," she said when he'd detailed his fix.
"Or you'll spend Christmas alone in a grim Motel 6."

The IRS agents were ladies, one agent plain, the other quite foxy.
"We're here to check your books for the Feds. Agents Sarbane and Oxley."
Rick pulled up a spreadsheet, his books organized and in fantastic order
But to his surprise the tally made no sense, thus his heart beat in horror.

"I can't explain it, for we always count more than once.
"I've been doing this for years, and I can say I'm no dunce!"
What Rick didn't know would surely rattle his brain.
His boss had made off with loot, and then fled, with his ill-gotten gains.

"We're gonna be late," said the agent," so call the wife to hold dinner,
"There's a ton of cash missing from here, and we'll find the sinner."
Rick thought of his family awaiting him, and his heart took a sharp dive.
And thought of Christmas at Motel 6, if he weren't home by five.

"Please excuse me," said Rick, "I've got somewhere awful important to be."
He ran out the room lightning fast as he started to flee.
He had a stray thought on the nature of his journey.
"I must seem quite guilty, I should have called an attorney."

He thought it best to call home and, in detail, explain
How this Christmas Eve he might be returning quite late again.
"Hon, I won't lie, you might want to call me a lawyer
"The feds think I've embezzled from my now-former employer."

"Don't bother coming back to the house if you'll get sent to the can,
"You're a man on the run," said his wife "You're now on the lam.
"Lay low while these G-Men look here and yon
"They'll get bored of their search, and they just might move on."

To leave early, he'd not eaten and was reaching starvation
When he saw an ad in a window, with a fix to his situation
"We're in search of a reindeer, to pull Santor's Windstar-cum-sleigh
"It's just for one night, and in cold cash we'll pay."

He called the number and was met with a strange voice on the line
"You're the first to call us for the ad," said the voice, "We think you'll be fine.
"Come down to the corner of Main and Fifth where a Windstar will idle
"You'll do your own work, but we've got your antlers and bridle."

Rick thought it sounded odd, but he needed money to make it this night
And so at the corner he saw the mini-van in question, a wonderful sight.
Painted like a sleigh, in fading red and green hues it did twinkle
And by the side of the Windstar a man in tights let fly with a tinkle.

"I'm Chad," said the elf, "I'm Santor's most specialist helperest friend
"And tonight we deliver the crap no one wants to boys, girls and men."
"Fix him with antlers," a drunken-sot's voice called from the van.
"Staple them, if we must. He must be our reindeer, and not just a man!"

Saint Nick was quite different, with none of Santa's Christmassy cheer.
The elf was quite stinky, and the sleigh smelled of old beer.
The cargo zone was filled with presents as high as could be,
Upon inspection, they were things like Garfield DVD's.

"It's a g-d ol' Christmas," spat the drunk, "and we try to ruin it.
"Christmas just blows, and it stinks of old prune @#$%.
"If we can make gift giving stupid, and sort of a drag
"Then we make each child miserable, that's our Holiday bag."

"I'll need my money up front," asked Rick, "It seems I'm all out."
"His nose!" cried old Santor. "It's too human for a reindeery snout!
"Attach him a lightbulb! Red as the baboon's behind!
"Then give it some juice to make all hundred watts shine!"

Rick chewed on a candy cane as they glued twigs to his noggin'
And wondered what he was supposed to do in front of the 2-ton toboggan
"Just cling to the hood," was Santor's slurred-sloppy reply.
"Hang on at the corners, lest you may learn how to fly."

"This deal sounds quite bad," Rick said, as one who might know
As the lightbulb on the end of his nose gleamed the merriest of glows.
Then the ignition turned over and Rick grabbed hold of the car,
And the sleigh roared to life (our Santor's Windstar).

Santor cried out "It's got a v-12, not factory installed
"So you're going to want to watch it, lest you tumble and fall.
"We'll be stopping and starting about each fifty feet
"And I should caution 'bout the hail, rain and the sleet"

Rick pondered his bad luck as Santor pressed down hard on the gas
And felt the cold night's air as it blew 'round his ass.
"Hold on, Rick Reindeer! It seems we've lost the headlight!
"Rick, I'm asking, Won't you guide my sleigh tonight?"

Then off through the streets in bad weather they flew in the sleigh
Where Rick remains in Santor's questionable employ to this day
You see, Rick wasn't a bean counter deep down inside
And he couldn't swing Christmas no matter how hard he tried.

So a life on the hood, standing, blinking-nose to the wind
Had seemed like the optimal lifestyle (if you had asked him).
Sure, the elf was disgustingly grimy and sore needed a bath
And, sure, Rick was creeped out by Santor's weird laugh

But no beans would need counting, just crap presents annually
Delivered by Santor and his elf (who smelled like old pee).
So with antlers attached to his head and a bulb on his face
Rick the Reindeer comes each Christmas to invade your own space

He's leading the Windstar as Santor jaunts on his annual 'rounds
Tied on with some bungees, to the hood Rick the Reindeer is found.
He may look like an accountant whose been shot by bad hunters
All bound as he is just across the front bumper.

But he's loving Christmas in a way you can't imagine this year
As you deal once more with the family, and with loathing and fear
So give it up for Rick Reindeer as I wrap up this mess
And don't run away, even on Christmas, from our own IRS


MERRY CHRISTMAS, LEAGUERS!!!!

Monday, December 18, 2006

RANDY: FREE FROM THE PHANTOM ZONE AND LOVIN' LIFE




Merry Christmas, RHPT
New Blogs, Short Christmas and the Phantom Zone

In the past week, two blogs, new to our eyes, have crossed the desk of League of Melbotis.

Jill HW is blogging at the recently founded Potato Leek Soup. Sure, the name is going to draw all kinds of hits from misdirected cooking fans, but I think it's got a certain zing to it.

Jill was in my creative writing class in 12th grade and English class in 11th grade. I can't vouch for her writing since the early 90's (except for a lot of e-mails), but Jilly has a PhD, which you don't get by dangling your participles, Leaguers.

All this reminds me: The League may one day sponsor a contest in which we will grant $500 to someone who can correctly diagram every sentence in a lengthy LoM post. But in order to do this, we will also need an English PhD to verify the findings. I literally failed the "diagraming sentences" unit in 7th grade Language Arts.

So, welcome to the cut-throat world of blogging, JHW. Your prose are always welcome.


Blog #2 comes from a source I was surprised I had not heard from before: one Laurenn R., of the rolling hills of West-Central Austin. She's doing great work over at Ab Absurdo, and has been for quite a while.

Well, the secret's out and I'm sharing the pages of Ab Absurdo with you. Go check 'em out.

My advice to these two bloggers as someone who's been at this a while:
Don't ever mention the words "nude" and "Supergirl" on your blog, because the combination draws all kinds of unwanted traffic.


The KareBear is here. We've had a lovely day. I finally bought Cousin Sue a Christmas present and a sort of lame birthday present. I almost bought her a whoop-ass candle, but I couldn't see her using it. I shall buy it for Jason for his birthday instead. Or at least show it to him sometime.

We had dinner with KareBear, Jason and Mandy at Maudie's on Brodie. The fajitas were much, much better than those at Casa G's.

Then we opened Christmas presents for Short Christmas, and Mom really outdid herself this year. Well done, KareBear.


RHPT in the Phantom Zone

And finally, on Randy: Once trusted by this Council, charged with maintaining the defenses of the planet Krypton itself -the chief architect of this intended revolution, the author of this insidious plot to establish a new order among us - with himself as absolute ruler.

That's why we totally condemned him to the Phantom Zone.


RHPT isolated in the Phantom Zone, an eternal living death

In a fit of Short Christmas cheer, I am conceding to the wishes of the highly suspicious results of this month's poll. Tomorrow I shall release RHPT from the Phantom Zone. Sure, he's a treasonous criminal, but he's OUR treasonous criminal.

Have a good Christmas free from the PZ, Randy. I'll set you free as time permits.
It is December and it's hot out. No, seriously. It was 80 degrees here today, and kind of muggy. I want for one of these monkeys who keeps telling me there's no such thing as global warming to come and sit in my front yard, wear a parka all day and then get back to me on that opinion.

You'd think after 4 years in the desert I'd be pretty used to warm Decembers, but I'm not. It probably wouldn't be as bad, but it WAS cold. We were running the heat and wearing sweaters a week and a half ago. Now we're wearing shorts and I'm watering the lawn for good measure. It's tough to sing "White Christmas" when you're opening the windows, enjoying the first gusts of Spring.

I'm sort of busy in a general way. The Karebear is headed into town tomorrow (no Admiral, as far as I know), and will be having Short Christmas with us. This is the KareBear's new thing. Last year, we were unable to travel, and so KareBear and The Admiral came out for a weekend prior to Christmas (they had guests coming, and they couldn't tell them not to come). This year, KareBear's coming in, guns blazing, for something like 18 hours of Christmas, then she's back to Houston.

I bet she totally got me a Speak'n'Spell.

Anyhow, I'm looking forward to the brief festivities. Then, Wednesday, Douglas flies in. We're hanging here for a short time after that, and then headed for Lawton, Oklahoma for the actual Yuletide.

Lawton IS America. It's a military town, and I have as of yet to meet a single jerk in that 'berg. It's too big to be small town, but too small town to be a city. Lawton is also kind of fun at Christmas as we go wandering through Jamie's childhood memories, stare gape-mouthed at The Boulevard of Lights, taunt buffaloes at the reserve and check out what the fill-in crew on Lawton's local network affiliate does when their usual anchors are on vacation. I assure you, it's pretty awesome.

I have not yet figured out what to get Cousin Sue for Christmas/ Birthday. Susan's birthday falls on Christmas Eve, and so, while I always remember her birthday, she definitely gets shortchanged on the gift thing by EVERYONE. This year, Susan turns 29 again, so it's a big birthday for her. Anyway, Susan is the only remaining family member on my list (provided Jamie took care of her side of the list), so hopefully KareBear will come with a bushel of ideas for Cousin Sue. Honestly, I think I'd have a better idea of what to get her Corgi, Pierre.

Not much to report out for the weekend.

Hope you had a good one. I'll be posting for the foreseeable future and will alert Loyal Leaguers to any likely multi-day hiatus.