Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 Wrap-Up Part Two

Comics

Last year I think I swamped you guys with a lot of unfortunate year-end reflecting regarding comics. Well, this year I have a job, and am no longer reviewing comics. Also, I honestly had a lot less time to spend thinking about comics.

MARVEL

Civil War, Death of Captain America, World War Hulk, One More Day... and I'm sure there's tons of stuff going on in the X-Books, but I haven't read those very much in the past several years.

Mainstream Marvel saw a year of chaos, and, generally the storylines were intriguing. Recognizing that an adult audience is looking for character development and plot development (often if they do not realize it or will admit it), Marvel took the liberty this year of actually changing the status quo in the Marvel Universe.

Masks and capes are now either federally regulated or outlaws, Captain America was taken down by a sniper's bullet and the Hulk took mainstays of the Marvel U to task for their perceived crimes, and there was nothing cute about it. One More Day is turning out to be Marvel's big goof of the year, and I foresee the results being reversed within a calendar year or two. Daredevil continues to be the most interesting "super hero" comic on the stands, but I recommend picking it up in collected formats. Strictly for adults, and the only title I can think of that seems to have a fully dysfunctional but believable super hero in the lead... Anyway, Daredevil continues to be a hell of a comic.

Add in Annihilation, and my faith in the Marvel U is once again piqued. (Especially since one of the post-Annihilation books featured Rocket Raccoon.)

I believe Quesada and Buckley are doing their best to make sure that when you buy a Marvel comic, you get something beyond "fight, chase, fight", and I'm not sure either DC or smaller publishers are painting their universes with such a diverse set of brushes right now.

DC COMICS

After a few good years, this was the year DC seriously shook my faith. The "One Year Later" event of 2006 collapsed back into a status quo by early 2007 in virtually every title. "52" had a satisfactory ending with a world of promise for the DCU as a whole, which editorial seemed to take in exactly the wrong direction. "Countdown" was simply unreadable from Week 46 to Week 26, and still, week 18, shows almost no signs of actually going anywhere. (I'm still not sure what I;m supposed to be getting out of the Piper/ Trickster storyline.)

Didio pretty clearly had a slate of writers who were willing to follow his mandates and hand in multiple scripts per month. The unfortunate part is that many of them (Bedard, Gray, Palmiotti) can't tell an intertesting story to save their lives, even with an outline in hand. Further, Didio's friends Bilson, Matteo and Green handed in stories that had a tremendous impact and were simultaneously DOA. The horrendous reboot of Flash ended with issue #13 this year and the pointless aging and death of Bart Allen (from Kid Flash to Flash in 13 easy issues). Meanwhile, Green decided he could outdo "The Killing Joke" and wrote an awkward and somewhat pedestrian re-imagining of the origin of The Joker.

Several key DC titles were running behind at the beginning of the year, including Action Comics, Batman, Wonder Woman and others. It does seem DC managed to get these titles back on track for the foreseeable future, and with the exception of the "Return of Ra's Al Ghul" storyline, they're some of the first books I read out of the stack.

Kudos this year go out to Geoff Johns (and Tomasi) for his work on the spectacular "Sinestro Corps War" in Green Lantern and the always engaging Justice Society of America.

The oddest bit of 2007 was that DC seemed to realize Things Are Not Working, and they semi-publicly seem to be taking steps to clear that up. Tony Bedard is no longer writing half of the DCU books, Countdown suddenly seems to be going somewhere, books are coming out monthly (even if storylines are wrapping up in annuals), and all titles are no longer beholden to Countdown. Furthermore, Didio saw a genuine success with the Sinestro Corps War, and I expect more events like that will be the status quo rather than Universe Wide events.

Oh, and while Supergirl still isn't very good, it's a hell of a lot better now that Berganza is no longer editing the books.

In 2008 I will be clearing a lot of titles off of my pull list. More announcements about that later.

In the meantime, go read Blue Beetle. He's the teen-age protector of El Paso! It's a darn fun comic.

Superman

2008 will be the 70th anniversary of Superman's publication, and so we may see some small events in publishing, etc... I'd expect 2013 will be the big year, with 75 years of Superman. And I'll be 38. Christ.

Anyway, 2007 saw Geoff Johns' work on Action Comics with the not-quite finished "Lat Son" storyline, the Bizarro Worls three-issue run with Eric Powell (a fun read. Highly recommended.) and the Legion story currently taking place in Action. Johns' work is fantastic, and while some of the folks who came to Superman in the Byrne age might be put off by the Bronze-Age flair the comics have, I'm really enjoying them.

Kurt Busiek has been writing his own mini-events in the oft-overlooked "Superman" title. What's intriguing to me about Kurt's run is that he's making a conscious effort to establish the elements of Superman's life and tell stories in a manner which went out of fashion about ten to fifteen years ago. In short, while he's writing self-contained stories, there's a general backdrop that doesn't seem linked only to six-issue stories aimed at a trade collection. He's in it for the long-haul, and its helping out the mainstream Superman books immeasurably to have that context.

Mr. Busiek is telling engaging stories with a greater thematic vision than "Superman meet bad guy, Superman fight bad guy" and taking a look at Superman's place within his universe in a way that other writers have tried to do (including Azzarello) and haven't necessarily succeeded. I did feel the "Fall of Camelot" storyline had a satisfactory ending, but felt it had been cut a bit short.

Looking forward to upcoming issues.

That said, Kurt... more Subjekt 17.

"All Star Superman" is a critical darling for a reason, and if I were to recommend picking up one Superman comic, this would be it. From Quitely's refreshingly metitative art work to Morrison's larger-than-life scripts, it's a comic that seems to have a bit of something for anyone. It does feel a bit like the Superman comic you always wanted to pick up and read, but just never existed until now.

I don't foresee All Star Superman making it past issue 13 or so as Morrison moves on, but I imagine it will live on in collected formats for some time.

Superman also starred in the straight-to-DVD movie "Superman Doomsday", which has little to nothing to do with the original Death of Superman comics from the early 90's. As DC's first PG-13 animated feature, it was a lot of fun to see Superman cut loose on the screen the way he occasionally does in the comics. Unfortunately, I'm not sure the second half of the movie lives up to the promise of the first half.

That said, it also doesn't seem to go off in the "all-action, no logic" direction of the original "Return of Superman" comics.

DIGITAL COMICS

Two big stories wrapped up the year in digital comics.

Firstly, Marvel launched Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited. Their service, for $60 a year, would give readers access to a partial library of Marvel comics. The project has been widely criticized for the lack of completeness, as runs of series currently available as collections are not available as part of the site. In short, Marvel seems to be asking readers to pay for a marketing tool.

At $60 a year, I'm not sure this is a bad deal or worth complaining about. After all, the cover price on most Marvel comics is $3, and trades run about $18 for around siz issues worth of comics. But as I have as of yet to pay $60 myself for the service, I can't say whether it's worth the money.

DC is watching Marvel closely, but they seem content to continue to publish printed collections of older material. I suspect DC's marketing research has told them that their audience is older and seems willing to pay for printed collections. As DC spent 2006 and 2007 ramping up their trade collections department, they've done a great job of bringing collections to their audience, and that audience has been happy to pay the fairly low prices associated with the collections.

One day, perhaps, DC will have a stronger online effort. I've heard in 2008 the Archives Editions may disappear in favor of another model. I'll be keeping an eye open for what they'll do next. But I suspect it won't be online.

The other big story was that DC and Marvel jointly began asking the sites which were illegally carrying scanned copies of comics to knock it off. Honestly, I have no idea what the sites were thinking. Their activity was pretty clearly illegal, and they were getting a lot of hits.

There is an argument in the comic community that the free comics online were nothing but great marketing for the print collections. From an informal poll I took at work (and we have lots of guys and girls at work who read comics), this is sort of true, but not really. The truth seems to be that the $3 cover price for comics is simply too steep for what they're willing to pay for comics they'll read once. And I'm increasingly in agreement. What they do not do very often is actually purchase any comics whatsoever.

What I personally found ludicrous were the voices online who were outraged that the free comics sites had been shut down. For people who read comics every day about de facto law enforcement, the understanding of legal v. illegal and what is stealing and what is not is a little shakey. If you're going to illegally download comics, at least know what you're doing.

2007 saw the rise of popular web strips such as Achewood and Perry Bible Fellowship, which give me a lot more hope for comic strips (in print OR online) than, say, Fred Basset. And I continue to enjoy the hell out of Daniel Fu's action comic "The Retriever" (bookmark it and check weekly for updates).



That's it

No list of my favorite comics. This went on way longer than I expected. Hope you kids enjoy. More comics in 2008!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

2007 Wrap-Up Part One

I'm not going to monkey with top 10 lists. Inspired by Jamie's random Top 10 list, I'm just going to highlight several things I found to be of import in 2007.


Movies:

I didn't see 95% of what came out this year. I'm moving into a period in my life where trailers tell me nothing about why I should drop my hard-won clams on a movie, movies aren't aimed at my demographic, or I feel like I've already seen the movie before.

My favorite movie of 2007: No Country for Old Men

It's probably Cormac McCarthy who deserves the real praise here, as from what I hear, the movie's greatest achievement was sticking close to the book. But for once, a movie managed to surprise me, have uniformly excellent performances, stark but fantastic cinematography and told a story with no fear. Still, adaptations are difficult at best, and to truly do the source material justice may actually be more difficult than creating a movie from the ground up where the audience has no foreknowledge and/ or no expectations.

Moreover, it's no secret that the Coens were a huge part of why I was enamored enough with film when I started college and remained a tremendous influence throughout much of my teens and 20's. Unfortunately, of late, I had felt they were no longer making movies I really cared about. This movie proved me wrong.

The movie took a plot that could have been a standard "package" movie, and, instead managed to make a coherent statement upon the nature of evil in the world and what becomes of good men who spend their lives fighting something they can't ever really understand.

Anyhow, it did lead to me buying a three-novel collection of McCarthy's work I'm going to crack here before the New Year.


Least Favorite Movie of 2007: So many to choose from!

Probably the most cynical and bankrupt of the movies I watched this year was "High School Musical 2", which I watched half of one night with Wagner. Calculated and intentionally stupid, but bright and shiny as a 52" Plasma Screen's demo disc, this movie was intended to give elementary and middle school kids who think high school is going to be AWESOME something to aspire to. Made Saved by the Bell look nuanced. Heck, it reallyw asn't any different than "From Justin to Kelly", except that this movie was somehow even more chaste. But, then again, it is for little kids.

Also, "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" was... it was just a failure on so many levels, I don't have the time. Pair it with the nuttily bad "Ghost Rider", and Marvel had a rough year at the movies. Both will have sequels, I am sure.

As I mentioned, we really didn't see a lot of movies this year, and while many of them didn't do much for me, I can't say it was that the movies were bad, per se. They just weren't that great. But I think that's pretty typical.

True standouts:

Had we not had tickets to see Robosaurus after Transformers at the Alamo, I would have walked out. It was that bad. Oh, yes it was. The entire center thirty minutes of the film was embarrassing and nigh-unwatchable. If you weren't bored and squirming in your seats during the "Transformers sneak around Spike's backyard" sequence, I cannot help you.

But above all stands Tarantino's "Death Proof", the second half of the Grindhouse double feature. Yes. I do, in fact, get it. I am not against paying homage o exploitation movies, bad movies, etc... I think it can be nifty. But I do think that believing that whatever dialog you put in the character's mouths is interesting and needs no editing is a fallacious assumption. Tarantino's post "Pulp Fiction" career seems to be a test to see exactly how much he actually does need Roger Avary as the years go by.

Whatever Tarantino once added to the movies he made by recycling old bits from cheap movies and polishing them up has drained away. Now we're left with endless, pointless dialog and modestly directed action sequences. The movie was not (a) exciting, (b) funny. And it was easily thirty minutes too long.

Bleh.



Television

My favorite TV show of 2007: 30 Rock

For probably snooty reasons, TV reviewers (who have absolutely no ground to stand on being snooty) thought Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip was going to be the winner in the contest between the shows about a comedy sketch show. After all, Studio 60 was moody and joyless and featured alcoholics and other staples of the TV landscape of adult programming. But a show where absolutely nobody is funny or even cracks a smile about a sketch comedy show?

30 Rock stepped up to the plate and gave a writer's-eye view of working on a sketch comedy show owned by a mega-corporation and the goofiness the disconnect between the two worlds creates. Like all good jesters, Tina Fey is able to comment by making a joke, on everything from politics to star theatrics to the very suits who have made her career possible. The show may not be for all tastes, but with every episode a bit different, and without getting bogged down in any pointless "will they or won't they?" romantic plotlines, it's been a standout show that seems to get better all the time.

Also, due in large part to Alec Baldwin, it's possibly the most quotable show on TV any given week. Thanks to JAL and a certain sketch featuring "Paul Schwetty", I was quite glad to see Baldwin take on the role of Jack Donaghy, and they show has found it's voice in the schizm between the idealistic Liz Lemon and corporate shark Donaghy.

Add in Tracy Morgan, Jane Krakowski and Jack McBayer (as well as any of the rest of the show's multitude of characters) and it's a lot of fun.


Honorable Mention: It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

The premise of the show: people are awful, especially when they're looking for an advantage.

There's no real story here other than a bar run by family and friends and their various misadventures from starting a band to trying out for the Eagles. In the current trend set by HBO programming, basic cable is waking up to the fact that shows with characters who are more morally ambiguous are inherently more interesting. And, in this case, a lot funnier.

This is the show that made me like Danny DeVito for the first time in more than a decade, made me want to join a band, and gave us Kaitlin Olson as Sweet Dee (a tie for my favorite female character in TV, right there with Liz Lemon).


Least Favorite Show of 2007: Any show that asked me to get invested (while providing nothing in return)


Dear TV,

I have only so many hours in my week. I know most people now seem to love getting wrapped up in the complicated mythologies of hour long dramas. I am not one of them.

There was a time when TV shows were good first, and then lasted long enough to build up a backbone and larger plots. These days, you take a fairly benign concept like "The Bionic Woman" and load it down with fifteen tons of dead-weight in the first two episodes with massive conspiracies, fractured families, precocious teenage sisters with criminal records, huge San Francisco apartments owned by bartenders and overly complicated backgrounds for Harvard-bound future bionic women.

Thanks to shows like X-Files (which eventually built a mythology), and the break-away success of shows like "Lost", every show has to have a built in mythology. This ignores the fact that probably, at some point, a better idea could come along but the show will be locked into whatever angle they put in the pilot. And trying to write around whatever was in the pilot will just make things even more awkward.

I dunno.

I wonder if I am not a bit jaded regarding the "instant mythology" bit from seeing too many comics that believe they need to cram potentially interesting ideas down your throat in the first issue or two, but when you get down to it, there's nothing there beyond the mythology. The characters don't behave from an area of honesty, they become walking plot devices or behave in ways that serve plot while providing no real motivation of their own that I can buy.

In the deepest, darkest places in my heart, I am secretly hoping that the writer's strike and lack of programming for a year or so will mean that in 2008 I will no longer see the look of shock on people's faces when I admit I am not interested in Show X, or that I have no plans to watch Show Y, no matter how good it is. Especially if I have 40 episodes to watch in order to catch up.

Where do you people find the time?


Sophomore Slump 2007: Friday Night Lights


Formerly a show about the pressure cooker of kids growing up in the spotlight of high-school football, as well as the strain on a coach in a town where football is king... this year Friday Night lights became a show about inappropriate relationships between those above and under the demarcation of high school graduation.

This is not what I signed up for.

Last year, even when the show had a bad week or flimsy plotline, it would be wrapped up quickly. This year, it seemed as if they brought in the writers from Felicity and set them loose upon formerly interesting characters.

Once the plotlines were used up from the Peter Berg movie (and the book? I've not read it.), the writers knew too little about their own subject to know what to do. Even the potentially interesting "finding Jesus" storyline started for one of the characters was dropped without comment, while the implausible "murder" storyline took up an inordinate amount of screentime when the ending was really never in doubt. And while Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler both deliver great performances each week, the TMU coaching storyline was awkward and somewhat unbelievable. Probably too believable was Julie's storyline about a high school girl acting out and feeling misunderstood. It just wasn't interesting.

It'll be curious to see what happens when/ if the show returns.



Music

I really didn't buy many albums this year. I think the real story for 2007 was that fissures in the music industry became visible cracks as Radiohead tried it's own distribution experiment and pretty much proved that whatever labels once offered (especially for established artists) is no longer relevant. The interwebs have compltely repainted the picture as of two or three years ago, and effects are now becoming obvious.

Musical Celebrity of the Year

Suck it, Steve Jobs. I know you wanted this, but it ain't happening.

I choose Amy Winehouse. It's not often we get a musician who is such a public trainwreck as part of the package BEFORE they've really taken a toe-hold on the American music scene. But Winehouse was already a celebrity in the UK, and came to our shores pre-packaged as a bee-hived chanteuse who was so deep in the sauce, she might just pass out at any time.

We didn't even need to watch the inevitable rise and crash of a starlet. Winehouse came to us in "Britney, Career Year 6" mode, so there was no suffering through the peppy teen-years, awful movies or ghost-written books.

Nope, we went right for the "I have to cancel my ACL Fest appearance because I'm drying out" phase shortly after I'd downloaded Rehab to iTunes.

Plus, her album isn't half bad, IMHO.



ACL Fest

Surprisingly lived up to the hype. It was a perfect way to watch music for those of us with attention deficit problems, and I saw a lot of good shows. And walked away from a lot of shows I just wasn't interested in.

I will definitely be attending again in 2008.



What the @#%$??? goes to the Hannah Montana phenomenon and all of the psychotic parents raising a generation of entitled sociopaths by dropping thousands of dollars on tickets to watch a modestly talented little girl lip-synch.

Just imagine if those parents, instead, wrote checks to Doctors without Borders, Habitat for Humanity, the Red Cross or some other worthy organization and told their children what they were doing with the money, and then bought their kid a Season 1 DVD set of the TV show.

Yes, I am judging. It's what I do.




I also liked the LCD Soundsystem album



That's it for this post.
Next time we'll get into some other items of import. Maybe the news, politics, comics and space travel. Who knows?

Congrats to Denise and Ryan (Kudva)

Hey, you might be interested to know Denise and her husband, Ryan, are now proud parents of not one, but TWO new Kudvas.

Please welcome young Grace and Dylan Kudva to planet Earth. They were born, I believe, on December 20th. Denise is a tough lady, but, geez... twins. You are a superwoman, Denise.

Anyhow, Denise and Ryan will do a great job. And I have no doubt they will have a couple of molecular biologists or something equally sciency on their hands in a couple of decades.

For more info and pictures of the cute little nippers, go to the Bambino Blog.

Jamie's Top 10 of 2007

Hi, Leaguers! I've asked Jamie to come up with a list of her Top 10 of 2007. Here it is. Enjoy!


Totally Random Top Ten 2007 List


1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

2. Superbad

3. Holiday Heckstravaganza '07

4. Swimming at Gus Fruh

5. Robosaurus

6. LOST season finale

7. In Rainbows

8. My new CR-V

9. Starting dance classes again

10. My awesome game at Peter Pan Golf

**Extra special bonus item: Mom's medical scare was a false alarm. We love you, Mom!!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Rockin' Out 2007

As I mentioned, I received a bass for Christmas. It is shiny. It is blue. I have no idea how to play it. I do know that no matter how long I sit down and play the thing, Jamie says "You didn't play your bass very long." I'm not sure she really wants me cranking away on it for hours when I know exactly one bass line (U2's "With or Without You").

The main problem is that I did not want a bass guitar for Christmas. I wanted a delicious bass. Oh well. Some things get lost in the translation.

Jason and I played some tonight, and he showed me some other bass lines. It seems Adam Clayton may not be the genius I have often given him credit for if I can already play two U2 songs.

Anyhow, its fun. I may not get a chance to pick up chicks playing bass (unless Jamie starts throwing the house keys at me while I'm playing), but it is fun. Sooner or later, we will need more than just me and Jason, but for right now, it's kind of cool to be able to play with him and try something he's into after all the trips to Austin books he's suffered through to amuse me.

So look forward to more future rockin' announcements in these pages.

Friday, December 28, 2007

More LA Crime



It seems that JAL has uncovered a lost collection of Chandler's famous "Melbotis Mysteries", dealing with a similar theme to the current traffic ticket crisis we're experiencing at League HQ.

Never Been to Los Angeles (and now I never will)

It's becoming increasingly likely that if I ever return to the State of California or ever actually make it to Los Angeles, that I will be arrested.

I think as far back as October, I received a notice of a parking citation with the City of Los Angeles. An oddity as I have never actually been to Los Angeles, and certainly not in my own car. I once went to Anaheim, but there I took cabs and never left the Disneyland Resort area.

It seems that when I traded in the Forester, the car made its way out to Los Angeles either as part of a fleet deal, or as a rental. I'm not sure. At any rate, at some point in September, someone driving my former ride received a parking violation. And as the City of LA doesn't maintain updated State of Texas tax records or whatever, they've sent me the violation.

Not wanting to pay someone else's $70 ticket, I sent the City of LA a letter saying "I didn't own this car at this time. Thanks for playing." This, of course, did nothing. And so Jamie sent in a copy of the trade agreement. Here's where things get wacky and where bureaucracy falls apart.

About two weeks ago I called to follow up after receiving a letter that essentially said "Oh yes, you do too own that car." I talked to a person named Lupe on the phone who said "Oh, yes. We do have the right documentation. Call back n 3 to 5 days and we'll get this straightened out."

I called back in seven working days to give them time (hey, I'm busy... they're busy...). Apparently the state of California looks for some document called a "Transfer of Liability" which we don't have in Texas. Because I didn't submit this document, the city of LA doesn't seem to know what to do. In addition, because the transfer of title wasn't from California, Lupe (who I happened upon again) said she couldn't read the document, but from what she described, she was looking at the right document. At the time, I agreed to send in a copy of some other documentation, but upon returning home figured out that I HAD sent in the right documents.

I called back today to check on things and tell them what I had sent them, and today Jessica said "Sir, you said you'd send in the documentation..."
"Yeah, that was before I realized you had my paperwork. You have all the paperwork I have. That's all we have in Texas."
"But you said-"
"I know what I said. Now I'm telling you, you HAVE the paperwork you asked for before. I was calling from work and wasn't sure."
"You said you'd send a FAX-" (I actually never said that)
"It doesn't MATTER what I said before. You have my documentation."
"All I have from you is a letter and two pieces of blank paper".
"Why would I send in two pieces of blank paper?"
"Sir, I don't know."
"I can't help it if your scanner doesn't work, but you guys had this documentation before."
"I don't see it, sir."
So I am kind of wondering what the @#$% is going on at the City of Los Angeles Parking Violations Bureau.
I do know its run by nitwits, and that in order to speak to a supervisor, I will have to wait 72 hours. 72 HOURS.
But here's the kicker. I could hear people discussing my situation in the background during the call. I kept hearing "Austin" and "Texas". Pretty clearly whatever system they have going isn't working. And has already passed some deadline which means I will have, at best, an arrest warrant out for my name in LA. At worst, they could put this against my credit score.

What I am trying not to do is spend a huge amount of time on this problem, but I am increasingly frustrated with my inability to prove I did not own a car the City of LA's least impressive public servants claim I owned.

If an attorneys want to start sending letters on letterhead, I can send you the address.

Holiday Bowl

Not many people get to watch their two former employers duke it out on the gridiron, but last night I watched UT play ASU in the Holiday Bowl. I was a bit nervous about the game going in as UT's performance toward the end of teh regular season hadn't been anything to write home about, while ASU had their best season in recent memory. Add in the disdain most folks in Arizona have for Texas in general, plus the bad taste in their mouth about Ut beating USC a few years back in the Rose Bowl, and I wasn't sure what to expect.

Well, I needn't of worried. UT came out strong and scored on their first drive. The UT defense, which had looked less than intimidating all season, came out of the gate pummeling ASU's quarterback Rudy Carpenter, and more or less had him on the ropes through the first half. There was an odd play that should have buried ASU and ended the game early on when Carpenter fumbled and the ball came loose. UT picked up the ball near the sideline after some crazy bobbling, and got the turn over with great field position. However...

A mysterious figure on the sideline for UT decided to get involved and, according to the refs, touched the ball. This wound up giving the ball back to ASU in a 4th and goal situation, which, sadly, led to ASU's first touch down.

It looked like momentum might swing back to ASU, and had it done so, the name Chris Jessie would have been mud in Austin for the next ten years. However, on review, its hard to say that Mr. Jessie actually touched the ball. It certainly didn't make the ball dead, and it never seemed to, in any way, effect the momentum or trajectory of the ball. But, nonetheless, Mr. Jessie would have been responsible for one of the most unfortunate plays in UT history.


Here's highlights, the play, etc...

And poor Chris Jessie








Fortunately, UT pulled it out with a solid win against ASU, 52-34.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Wrap-Up

Hey, Leaguers

Well, we had a small hiccup in our plans and Jamie's dialysis unit sort of had a problem with the dialysis she was supposed to have in Houston/ Spring. So, we returned this afternoon/ evening.

I am a weird sort of tired.

Mel came with us on our trip, and he is sacked out now, taking up the whole couch. Poor little Lucy spent Christmas away from the family at doggy resort Austin Pet Ranch, and Jeff stayed home to keep guard over our valuables. Luckily, Cassidy was also able to make the trip, so we had her eager little face following us around during our stay in Spring.

We arrived in Spring on Sunday afternoon, the last folks to show up at my parent's house. Jason had taken point and gone in on Friday, and my grandparents got into Houston an hour or so before Jamie and I arrived. My grandparents live in Florida, and as we don't travel much, and as we didn't make it it home for Christmas the last few times my grandparents were in Houston, it had been a few years since we'd seen each other. Luckily, ain't none of us change too much, so it wasn't too tough to pick up where we left off.

Christmas Eve day the Bridenstines came over as Wayne and Jane were in town, and it was my first chance to see Cousin John and Julie's baby, Brandy. She is cute and babyish, but still very tiny and not yet up to much other than looking at you with big eyes and occasionally sticking her tongue out. Christmas Eve was lovely, with a dinner we ran out and grabbed from Rudy's BBQ. We hit one of the 5 Christmas Eve services at my folk's church, then came back and had some egg nog and played Cranium. Yes, Team Steans Bros. won.

Christmas morning we enjoyed Jamie's famous roll-wreath, and then the gifting of loot began.

Here's the big news, I suppose: I received a bass guitar and amp for Christmas from my folks and Jason. So, really, the clock is ticking on me quitting my job and Jamie getting used to being the wife of a musician, what with me touring and rocking all the time. It's a lovely, shiny blue Yamaha, and I plan to be rockin' out on the thing under Jason's tutelage. Really, I'm very excited. It's something totally new for me that I've always wanted to try. So if anyone wants in NOW on joining the Ryan Steans Bass-heavy Experience, let me know.

From Jamie came the big surprise present. I got a copy of Superman #199, the first race between Superman and The Flash (before Randy asks: they tie). This is one of maybe five comics that I've always wanted a copy of, and I had no idea it was coming. Well done, Jamie.

Jason had to leave to be back at work for today (your tax dollars at work, Travis County tax-payer), and so he left after watching me down about two pounds of ham at Christmas dinner. Not much else happened.

Anyhoo, this morning we had a trip to IHOP with the family, loaded ourselves into the car and were home by evening. Jamie had dialysis tonight, and aside from that, we laid low. I also just saw I missed a call from JAL, and we WERE supposed to meet up tonight. Sorry, man. My phone turned off and I didn't notice. It's been doing that. Hope you and Gene had fun.

So... that was Christmas. I could also talk about how I worked with the Admiral to hook-up the wireless router in their office, or the walk I took with Mel, but, you know... who cares?

I did not make it to Bedrock City, but I am headed down to Austin Books on Saturday, if anyone wants to go. I'm going to limit myself strictly to cheap Superman back-issues, so we'll see what happens.

Oh, and when we got home, a present was waiting in the mail for me from Jamie's brother, Doug. Somewhere, somehow, he'd found a lunchbox with images "Superman: The Movie" on it. It still had the thermos and none of that weird lunch box smell you sometimes find in vintage lunchboxes. So, yes... I now have a lunchbox with an image of Marlon Brando on it. Where's your Streetcar Named Desire luncbox? Hmmmmmm?

Hope you had a good few days off, and, if you celebrated the day, I hope you had a good Christmas. Also, Merry Christmas to Judy and Dick, who are currently in Portugal. Live it up, in-laws. Next year we're in San Marcos.

I'm sort of off for a few days, so I'm hoping to have time to read comics and maybe crack this Cormac McCarthy book I picked up.

We are back

and I am tired. A full report of the Holidays perhaps a bit later.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas from League of Melbotis



Merry Christmas from all of us at League of Melbotis to all of you and yours.

-Ryan, Jamie, Melbotis, Lucy and Jeff the Cat (Jason, Cassidy, KareBear and The Admiral)

Hope yours is a Merry Christmas

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas: Gettin' out of town

Hey Leaguers,

We head out a little later today for Spring, Texas, which is sure to be a winter wonderland.

We planned on being back on Thursday evening, but something got screwed up with Jamie's dialysis schedule, and so we're having to come back a day early, right after Christmas. The biggest impact is that now we'll not get to see any friends while in Houston, so my apologies to Randy and Family, as well as Shannon and Josh.

Yesterday we wrapped presents and packed, as well as did some last minute shopping with Heather Wagner for her family. And, yeah, the stores were crazy. Which made my trip to go pick something up for Cousin John's new kid something I knew I'd have to brace myself for. I also bought myself a pair of pants for goin' to Church, and even the fat-guy store was busy. Mostly full of fat guys buying pants for church, I think.

This is probably my last post for a few days. So Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to one and all! We wish you and yours the best this season. May the days be merry and bright. Be safe. We'll see you on the other side of Christmas.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Green Lantern

The stuff that has been going on in Green Lantern since "Rebirth" is some of the best thought-out and most engaging comics coming out of DC. I highly recommend picking up both the Johns-penned GL comics as well as the Gibbons and Tomasi-penned GL Corps.

Not only did Johns take us from kick-starting a formerly dead Hal Jordan and returning him as a major force in the DCU, he made a Corps that made sense and has expanded the scope of the Corps and their universe by several degrees. He also set up the need for four Lanterns and embraced all of them as equals, a scenario which works well for the GL fans who usually prefer to bicker over which Lantern should get the spotlight. And all since 2004. Well done.

But I also really wish DC would put the GL Corps stuff from around issue 200 - end of series back in print. I may have to start picking up back issues.



If you've ever read a GL comic, the panel above is absolutely huge. And is why I plan on reading GL Corps until 2010. The conclusion of the Sinestro Corps War went ahead and told us in 2009 we'll see the beginning of an event called "Blackest Night", and we'll begin to see the other Corps begin to form in the coming year.

Weird, wild stuff.

Reading List:

Rebirth
No Fear
Revenge of the Green Lanterns
Wanted: Hal Jordan
GL Corps: Recharge
GL Corps: To Be a Lantern
GL Corps: The Dark Side of Green
Sinestro Corps War Volume 1

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Christmas 2008

I know you're already done buying and sending me presents for Christmas 2007, but if you're looking to get a jump on next year:

Hal Jordan/ Sinestro bookends. Only $300.

A Holiday Poem, 2007: Mrs. Santor

dedicated, with all my love, to The Admiral


It’s that time of year for a League Christmas Rhyme
So if the kids are in the room, its beddy-bye time.
So Mom don’t read this, you’ve been forewarned
“Cause the smut herein is made from the worst sort of porn
I have tried to warn you, but I know you’ll read to the end
But, for chrissake, please don’t share with your friends.



On to the poem…


His sleigh had traveled far, and it had traveled quite wide
And while he’d delivered his gifts, our dear Santor sighed
“I think Santor could do better than just to pleasure himself.
And while Rick’s a good pal, and so is Chad my good elf,
It’s time Santor quit depending on cheap magazines
Let’s find a Ms. Santor to keep my pipes clean.”

"Each year I give gifts, and don't expect thanks in return
But I admit there's a pang in my loins and it burns.
I know I put up the front of a merry old cynic
But the burn ain't the kind which they fix at the clinic.
I need a companion who can tolerate this lot,
And who is ready to take all the lovin' I got."

So Elf Chad and Rick leapt to work in their inquisition
To find a lady who would fit Santor’s particular predilection.
“She must be just right,” Chad said, “And ample of bosom
And, she’ll need to be comfortable with all of our boozin’.
She’ll have to be patient to meet Santor’s wishes,
And it would help if she were quite sick of Christmas.”

“We’ll have to look hard,” Rick said. “There’s no Ms. Santor store.”
“Oh, but there is,” cried Elf Chad, “We can get him a whore!”
“I’m not so sure,” Rick disagreed as he checked their cash flow.
“Where there’s cash,” argued Chad, “We can sure find a ho.
Maybe not the best, these ladies of quite easy virtue
For the fifteen bucks we’ve got, we can afford two.”

They drove past the tracks on their hookery mission
And on down to Ho Town to find a Santory vision.
Alone on a corner stood a single lone hooker,
Who was showing her wares, though not much of a looker.
“What are you boys up to tonight in this Holiday Season?
Do you need a date for your Holiday pleasin’?”

The transaction was quick, and Rick found it strange
That when the money was shared, that they got back change.
“You look sort of rough,” said Rick to their guest.
“I’ve got the withdrawals,” their new friend confessed.
“You’d think on Christmas I’d find charity,
“But, according to Guido, that shit is not free.”

They arrived at the house and Chad said as they lingered:
“You steal anything, bitch, and I’ll break your fingers.”
“Now go into Santor, and make sure you’re cool
“Or they’ll pick up your parts with a gardening tool.”
But when Santor’s eyes saw her, he gave out with a sigh.
His beard gave a shiver and a light sparked in his eye.

Before Santor stood a figure in red velvet and white fur.
She was broad of shoulder, and her voice low of timbre.
Her hair was a mass beneath a white puff-ball tipped hat
And it would be ungenerous to describe her as fat.
She smelled kind of icky, like a hobo's rank stink.
But so Santor was smelly from the sweat and the drink.

“My friends, I confess I like your great attitude,
But what you’ve brought Santor here is clearly a dude.
Lo, it’s many a year since I’ve spent time with a floozy
And maybe in my old age I’m simply less choosy.
But rather than throw this Ms. Santor out on her fanny,
Santor is glad to say he likes the looks of this tranny.”

“You’re not what I planned for my Christmas list
But there’s simply no reason that I can’t work with this.
Santor knows love comes in all shapes and all sizes,
But among this old crew, you won’t find no prizes.
I can’t say if you’re truly hot, or if it’s the booze.
But you only go ‘round once, and I’ve got nothing to lose.”

Spoke the she-male, “I admit I’m enamored. You’re quite a man.
And I plan to be the very best Ms. Santor I can.
I’d had it with Christmas and those johns who tip low.
I’d had it with my job, which was full of bad blows.
The smack habit is grueling, 'tho my freakouts are grand,
But I think I’ll work out well in your Christmassy band.”

This Christmas as you open each gift 'neath the tree
and you find the gift from ol' Santor and he/she,
know that behind every recycled gift you receive
Is a pair made for lovin', like you wouldn't believe.
Whether a Big Billy Bass, or a singing tree toy
Know that the Santors are just sharing their Christmassy joy.

And so love was found during this year’s Yuletide
With a Santor who’d found him a Santory bride
Their first smooch was such, it could thaw any freeze
While Santor ignored how the tranny shook from DT’s.
So Merry Christmas to all, that’s my Holiday plea.
And this poem ensures Dad will be disappointed in me.





For more Holiday magic... and The Admiral's personal shame...

The original Santor poem

Chad the Elf

Rick the Reindeer

Monday, December 17, 2007

Dark Knight Trailer is now up

You can see a trailer for Dark Knight here.

Personally, I'm looking forward to the movie. It's interesting to see the "toyetic" parts of the Batman franchise coming to a crossroads with the post-Crisis/ first appearance of Joker interpretation of the Clown Prince of Crime. That's more or less what I want my Batman to be on the screen. Now, if they could just work in a Norm Breyfogle designed Batmobile.

If only they had taken a page from Morrison's book and done the Joker a bit more like the chap in "Arkham Asylum".

Anything is better than the Joker now appearing in Salvation Run. It's like Willingham wasn't even really trying.

I could totally take out an entire Kindergarten class

25

Looking for payday loan?



Thanks to Randy

More Northcross Mall Coverage

Jason also waxes nostalgic regarding our trip to the mall. He discusses it a bit more throughly than myself and makes some comment as to the why's and wherefore's of how the place may have begun to spiral.

Plus, he liked Golden Compass better than me, so give his comments a quick review.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

I've Got a Golden Compass...

Well, the big news is that I think my folks have signed paperwork and will be building a house in North Austin. Super huge news as far as Jamie, Jason and myself are concerned. I will now be surrounded by parents on all sides. No getting out of town in the dark of night now.

We're very happy to have the folks coming to town for a multitude of reasons, just as we were quite pleased when Jamie's folks announced their intention to relocate to San Marcos. I tell you this much Leaguers, its going to make traveling during the holidays a heck of a lot easier.

Yesterday high school and college pal Erica Foster and her husband, Scott, happened to be in town, and so they swung by. It's really been a while since we've seen Erica, unless you count her wedding. Which I sorta do, but, you know, she didn't really get much of a chance to chit-chat, and we only met Scott briefly. It's always nice to see your friends married a good guy, and Scott is that. So... Well done, Bug. Jamie and I were quite impressed.

Hope to see you over Christmas.

Speaking of KOHS folks, former high school lab chum Jeff Wilser popped up in the old e-mailbox on Friday. Sounds like Wilser is doing very well. He's landed an editorial job for a NYC-based entertainment and nightlife review website. Not a bad gig, and its kinda cool to hear the guy you used to play lacrosse with and dissect the occasional pig fetus has done pretty darn well for himself.

We met up with my parents at Houston's Restaurant on Anderson Ln., but had an hour or so to kill before we were to see The Golden Compass at the Village Alamo. And so, we headed over to Northcross Mall to see if any of the shops were still open.

I wouldn't say Northcross was the busiest mall in Austin, but it's located in the middle of a good neighborhood, there should be a lot of traffic around it, and, hey... it had an ice rink.

I recall seeing "The Muppets Take Manhattan" at its movie theater in 1984 or so, and continued seeing movies there through the first year or two of college. I bought my copy of Cure's Disintegration at the Sam Goody there, and, I believe, Beastie Boys' License to Ill. It wasn't a huge mall, being Austin's first mall, but there wasn't anything really wrong with it.

But now, aside from a fairly dumpy video game shop, that almost seemed to be begging people to steal from it, a Sports Authority where Oshman's had once built a huge sports-plex/ store, and a still functional ice rink, there really isn't anything there. Well, oddly, there's still one of those places where you can go in and record a song in a booth.

There also seems to have once been a church congregating in a part of the mall, but they're gone. The food court and a whole wing of the mall are covered in drywall, so you can't really go there. The wing where the movie theater once stood may or may not be used for conferences now. I couldn't tell if that operationw as still functional.

But as we had time to kill before the movie, I really didn't know what to do but hang out there and sort of soak in the vibe. They're supposedly going to plow the whole place under next year and put in a gigantic Wal-Mart, despite the protests of the areas' residents. No doubt the Wal-Mart would do better than the tomb of a building that remains (I walked through the middle of the dried out fountain), but it seems like its wrong for such an old neighborhood to play host to a Wal-Mart that would be serving people not actually from that neighborhood.

I dunno. Maybe a Thunderdome?

The whole thing had a weird feel of saying good-bye to a place, if not a thing. I don't have a lot of memories tied up in a mall. But I do recall the puppies at the PetLand. And I remember Jason admitting to me (he being 17 and me 15) that he really hated Christmas shopping at the mall, a sentiment that I remember finding odd. I hadn't really thought about it until then. It was just something you had to do, like going to the dentist. But as he now had his own wheels (a swanky Camaro), I think he had a little more time to ponder what sort of shopping horror he would face down in the weeks leading to Christmas.

We watched some adult players knock a puck around the ice for a while (I don't think they were heating the building), and finally crossed the street to go see the Golden Compass.

The Golden Compass isn't bad, per se. It is very, very heavy on exposition for the first half of the movie, and you certainly get the feeling stuff is happening because that's how it happened in the book, not because the director and editor were able to get the momentum of the book culled from the footage. It's an odd disconnect, because the movie is really pretty, the performances are great, and the animal CG performers are terrific and seamless.

In part, the movie suffers because it feels the need to explain everything to the viewer like a manual rather than letting the characters discover anything, or else by letting us know what the deal is with their fairly complicated world by dialog and having a bit of faith in the audience. In setting up the world, the plot itself gets somewhat lost, and, honestly, I can't really piece together much, but it seems the Golden Compass should have just been called Deus Ex Machina for a goodly portion of the film.

Oh, also, the film is a big, poorly disguised allegory that I don't see a lot of America embracing.

I'm not sure how balloon-driving cowboys fit into the allegory exactly. Or Polar bears.

The girls sitting next to me certainly liked the movie. They cheered every time an animal appeared on the screen. Which is pretty much every other shot. They also found Daniel Craig dreamy. I did have to ask them to please keep it down, but they mostly were just really into the movie in a way in which I was not.

I guess if you're on the fence, the polar bears are pretty cool.

Friday, December 14, 2007

A History of the S

A fun history of the ever changing nature of Superman's "S".

Here.

Science: Finally Doing Something Useful

It seems science has now given us glow-in-the-dark cats.

here

Honestly, as often as I trip over Jeff at night on my way to bed, which is, like, twice a week... I think this is exactly the sort of things science needs to be working on.

Thanks to Jamie for the link

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Another Sign I'm Getting Older

In Arizona there was a bar called Four Peaks that also served food. It was a very popular hangout, but I'd only been there once or twice. Anyhow, I was mistaken when a new place opened up in the now defunct seafood place off I-35 and Stassney.

The place was called Twin Peaks, but, you know, it'd been a while and I got the places mixed up. So we headed there, just to check it out to see if it was the same chain.

It was not.

The first thing I noticed when we walked in was that the hostess was in a trampy Mrs. Claus outfit. And then I heard Jamie mention, as we were getting seated "I'm the only woman in this place..."

And, aside from the waitresses, also dressed in trampy Mrs. Claus outfits, she was the only female I saw in a very packed restaurant.

The interior hadn't changed at all since it was the defunct seafood place, so you kind of had to wonder how much the new owner was even trying. And the menu wasn't terribly impressive, either.

Honestly, the place wasn't goofy and sort of intentionally low-brow as Hooters (which, yes, I have been to). Instead, it was just... weird. And kind of gross.

I looked at all the lower-back tattoos on all the waitresses, and all the kind of guys there having a drink with their pals, and for some reason tonight, I just couldn't put up with it. Plus, the menu was kind of lame.

I really couldn't see asking Jamie to stay, although she sort of shrugged the whole thing off. But I couldn't do it. The whole thing was so... dumb. And I knew maybe six years ago I would have giggled my way through the whole meal, but instead I just kind of found the whole operation depressing.

We looked at the menu, and I looked around for a few minutes, and then I realized, I just couldn't keep sitting there. I had to go. I just wasn't going to have patience for the whole thing tonight. So, Jamie and Jason being good sports, we left and went across the street.

I feel so old.

Wonder Woman article

There's a brief article in the NY Sun that more or less cuts through the hype and is surprisingly accurate regarding Wonder Woman's struggles with keeping up with her two peers at DC, Superman and Batman.

I agree with almost everything in this article, especially the words shared by Greg Rucka. And, like the author of the article, I think Gail Simone has a genuine chance to turn things around.

Read the article here.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Jason C. at earthx.org has an excellent post on digital comics. Looks to be the first of a series.

Link for a new movie called Machine Girl. Looks completely awesome, but has some incredibly violent stuff in the trailer. Wacky violent, but... anyway. Mom, don't click.

When I see a trailer that is truly awful and shameless in its pandering, for some odd reason, it brings a smile to my face. And that's how I feel about Alvin and the Chipmunks. I am tempted to actually go see this one, much in the same way I was tempted to see Underdog. That said, I never actually saw Underdog. Draw your own conclusions.

Dear Jason Lee,

I only wish I could have a tiny scraping of the big pile of money you get for doing completely stupid @#$%.

Sincerely,

The League




But today, thanks to THIS, I feel some hope.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Man to Ape

In the wee hours of Saturday's festivities, I made a passing remark that my high school hadn't done much to teach evolution and that my knowledge of the process came from college. What was intended to be a remark upon the value of higher education was, unfortunately, taken as an indictment of public education, especially an education from a school with local political considerations which may have played more than a small part in the discussion.


a school where I might have actually paid attention. Or paid for it with my life.

It's worth noting that I had only a passing interest in the sciences until my senior year of high school. It may be worth noting that I had mostly only a passing interest in high school. I was far more interested in skating through courses like biology than killing myself for an A+. I was too busy reading comics, worrying about art class and English, playing basketball, trying out for plays, trying to start a lacrosse team and trying to go to shows to care much one way or another about what sort of education I was getting in high school biology. At the time, I assumed most public high schools taught basically the same things, and didn't really know what I didn't know... so it didn't seem at all like a big deal.

A fairly normal track at Westwood, the first high-school I'd attended, was to take a basic intro to science course as a Freshman, biology as a sophomore, chemistry as a junior and physics as a senior. Tucked in there were other science offerings such as anatomy, bio 2 (which KOHS also offered), and a few other options.

So it was that when I moved from Austin to Spring between my Freshman and Sophomore years I was lumped into the honors science track and took biology with a herd of freshmen. That year Jeff Wilser and I dissected worms, frogs, squid, a fetal pig and I spent most of the year wondering how what I learned from The Swamp Thing and X-Men applied to what I was learning in class. And I frequently asked questions about the Swamp Thing and the likelihood of humanity ever shooting beams from their eyes.


Apparently, not going to happen.

I received few answers which I found satisfactory as to how a plant could take on the consciousness of a biologist as he lay dying in a swamp, but my instructor was patient and I felt like I had a pretty good feeling as to the difference between the innards of a pig and a worm by the end of the year. That, really, had been our focus, after all. Anatomy, eco-systems, and how far we could push our teacher without getting bounced out of class seemed to be more than enough to fill a year.

We had, in the spring, covered Mendel Squares and there had been mention of evolution as a part of our year. I believe terms like "natural selection" had been bandied about, and looking at if you could curl your tongue or which direction a hair swirl would go as an inherited trait. But, really, that was about it as far as I can recall.

I had a subscription to National Geographic, read comics about mutants (which had about the exact grasp on science as one would expect of a comic where a man can cover himself in ice and not die of hypothermia), owned a set of Encyclopedias, watched Nova on occasion and National Geographic Explorer, so I knew of Darwin. I had heard of the Beagle, knew that mutations occurred between generations, and that was the basic mechanism for the present state of the world's biodiversity, in the snap-shot view of the modern human (with an historical record).



What was not covered, as I can recall, was much about Darwin himself, nor was Darwinism heavily emphasized in our lessons. The focus, in retrospect, was more upon genetic traits and inheritance than on the advantage of a larger beak to eat a different sort of nut. Whether Darwinism was deemed beyond the scope of a basic biology class, I don't know. Or whether a political decision had been made by our creaky school board and Superintendent (who was, I think, 147 at the time), I have no clue.

But I have my suspicions.

In college I was more interested in geology than I was biology, but as these things tend to do, some of my courses began to intersect. Age of the Dinosaurs was, for some odd reason, placed under geology. I was hoping for a course that would teach me about gigantic pre-historic eating machines, and that was absolutely part of the curriculum. These teachers were no fools. But it was also about the progression of life and the minute changes of anatomy that work as an advantage in a dino-eat-dino world. Further, with a fairly clear way to read the fossil record through radioactive decay and soil layering, the picture was logical and clear.



I also took UT's Bio-for-Dummies, or biology for those of us not planning a career in a lab coat or herding lab rats. Here, the angle of biology was inverted from the broad-based/ Marlin Perkins world of Biology I'd poured over in high school. It was DNA and RNA sequences, bio-diversity on a microcosmic scale, spreading outward through non-random splitting and re-splitting, and the cause of mutation becoming abundantly, pointedly clear. Moreover, our instructor was a retired UT prof who had grown bored and returned as an adjunct. He was passionate about the topics he taught in a way I think must have come out of having that year or two of retirement to live in his own head, with no pressing publishing dates to worry about, and deciding that he'd spend the years that were supposed to be for him making sure 18-22 year olds knew how the hell a cell replicated itself and what that meant for each and every one of us.

Also, he intoned, beware of pseudo-science. Beware of the folks coming at you with an agenda that goes beyond mitochondria and gene sequencing. Heed the tenets of the scientific method, and understand the difference between hypothesis, theory and fact.

For a student, who wasn't much of a student, but who was looking for tools with which to observe and understand the world around him, the course had a tremendous impact.

In my final semesters at UT, I was able to take Physical Anthroplogy, and, again, as these courses tend to do when you've landed in your fifth year of undergraduate education, just as one sees patterns in history course after history course, and learns to make those connections that come with a more detailed approach to education than the "drink from the firehose" of the first year or so, there it was again. My own body was being detailed in its change from large-mandibled anthromorphs to protein hungry tool users. DNA and RNA sequences slowly, gradually changing.



And the knowledge that it wasn't so much that one species was some high-evolutionary (after all, leave you alone with a hungry puma and see who wins in that scenario), but that its been an advantage to be able to build wheels and spears. And the slow, gradual change over millenia was a beautiful thing, in its way.

I don't take what I learned in college for granted. Or I try not to. I was not a great student, and I doubt most of my instructors would remember me (while I suspect my high school biology instructor would probably remember me for reasons other than my raw genius).

Like a lot of folks, I don't see evolution as a matter of belief, unless you want to reduce trust in academia to some form of faith. Instead, it is a matter of observation and understanding. Part of that understanding is that, while the data is massive, should reliable data begin to move science in another direction, understanding why and how observations have produced a new hypothesis or theory.

Biologists, anatomists and scientists do not have answers to every question or unexplained phenomena in the pattern of evolution, nor do they claim to. When new and contrary evidence shows up, it's not a challenge to destroy the whole image, but an opportunity to re-evaluate what the scientific community believes it knows.

For me, while I've never been a lab-coat kind of guy, it's been a method I understand and can appreciate. It's given way to understanding how science can move forward, and in its simplicity, its something us non-scientists can embrace as a method for our own observations.



I'm not sure what the point was to this post, other than a nostalgic trip down academic memory lane. I've often regretted my own lack of more rigid academic pursuits in the sciences, though I suspect my near inability to deal with any math beyond trigonometry would have probably been a bit of an issue.

The world is a lovely place, and viewing it through the lens of what few scraps of information I was able to pick up in school only makes it all the more of an amazing universe in which we dwell.

Why we do this only once per year

4:20 am - blogged
4:30 am - went to bed
9:00 am - alarm goes off by accident. Go feed dogs.
9:15 am - return to bed
12:30 pm - wake up. Tidy a bit.
1:15 pm - go get food at Casa Garcia's
2:30 pm - return home. Watch part of Cowboys' game. Talk to Mom.
3:00 pm - Matt wakes up and comes downstairs
4:00 pm - clean up a bit.
4:15 pm - hangover decides to become more than mild acheyness and head-ache. Moves into pounding headache.
5:00 pm - go back to bed.
7:00 pm - wake up.
7:40 pm - Papa Johns guy shows up, mercifully delivers Canadian bacon and pineapple to my door
8:30 pm - The League decides to blog

Ugh. I feel 100x better right now than I did when I went to go lay down again at 5:00. Too much Holiday Cheer, I suppose.

Jamie and I never take photos. Which is weird, since they now put cameras into every device known to man.

But, anyway, we were lucky enough that Jason took a few photos. You can see me in all my Holiday Splendor here.

The picture of me with Andy and the bear is... uhm.... One of the things we've done at the Holiday Heckstravaganza is that we have a drawing to win Amazing Door Prizes. Andy won the Grand Prize. Which was a bear wearing a t-shirt bearing the image of yours truly.

Which now YOU TOO can own.

Party is now over

Well... that went longer than expected. It's now 4:22 am.

I am going to bed.

Thanks to all who could make it.

Until next year!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Party Prep

Well, Leaguers. Tonight is the 2007 Holiday Heckstravaganza.

I am mostly prepared. I need to run the vacuum, shower and probably help out with a few tasks Jamie knows of, but not I. Oh, and I need to go get ice and maybe some logs for the fire pit, although it hit 82 degrees here today.

Just getting in and out of shopping centers was a bit challenging today as the Holiday Rush begins. Which reminds me, I am also not even close to having finished my Christmas shopping.

But for tonight, we're not focusing on the hustle, nor the bustle. We are, instead, focusing on friends, family, food and drinks. I know many a-Leaguer is too far away, is otherwise engaged, etc... to make it to the party. We certainly wish you could be here with us this evening.

So, when you get a chance, raise a glass this evening. We're raising one for you.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Everyone is Stupid (but me)

I woke up in an absolutely awful mood today. I kind of think I know why, and it's totally irrational, but that's the way it is.

Anyhow, its just been downhill since I rolled out of bed. I had to clean up cat barf, and then it was raining outside and its supposed to be 85 degrees today and tomorrow, and something like 89% humidity. Which makes me irritated with all the "global warming is a hippie fraud" people. And even more irritated with people who live up north who try to extol the virtues of global warming.


Anyhow, I'm having an ego-filled day, feeling as if everyone else is stupid but me. Including cats, dogs, radio DJs, journalists (does she really not see what an unpleasant and self-absorbed person this article makes her out to be? Yikes), other drivers, the people who made the Monster Cable I use to attach my iPod to my car, and, lastly, parking lots that slope.

Today I am in a bad mood.

And, oddly, what's driven me there is food. I don't want to discuss the conversation, because were I in a better mood, I would not care. But here's the deal:

I don't care if people are gourmands, but I do not understand when a particular taste in food is used as a moral judgment on those who don't share their income, lifestyle or palette. If you call yourself a "foodie", super. Seriously. I can understand the love of food as art form and sensory experience. But what bugs the heck out of me is when one assumes that others who do not share their passion for foods are somehow intellectually inferior or unable to embrace the true nectar of life in the way only the gourmand can.

I know I think about food in much the same way as any other sense-based activity. Can you appreciate music if you are unable to afford a trip to the opera or symphony? Or if you prefer the music of Hank Williams to Puccini? Or if the art on your wall is a framed poster of Starry Night versus owning your own Magritte? Is a grilled fajita taco really inferior to Authentic Interior Mexican? Is such a distinction elitist, if not bordering on some sort of insinuated perception of Mexican Americans as second class versus people who happen to live further south?

Moreover, food is ephemeral. Paying $30 - 100 for a single meal is not something which scales terribly well across the average person's budget once paying the bills enters the picture. When you need to put a coat on your kid, or you need to get them a pair of soccer shoes, delicately buttered asparagus, sprinkled with goat cheese may not be where you get to spend your money. Paying for a singular sensory experience may not be where the family budget needs to go.

I have a particular issue with those so spoiled on the food around them that they've turned a blind eye to the opportunities. Places like Austin are not known for their food in the same manner as New Orleans, San Francisco or New York. But neither is Austin without fairly decent places if one is willing to look outside their neighborhood and can spend a dollar.

Historically, the idea of one's status as a gourmand was something only the Rich Uncle Pennybags' of the world could even think of aspiring to, while the rest of the population was boiling potatoes and cabbage, with meat considered a luxury. The food that people could get their hands on was grown locally and seasonally, and generally took a hell of a lot of effort. It's only been within the lifetime of Gen X'ers that one could expect to eat cherries year round in any grocery in America, or head down to the grocer's for oranges, shipped in off-season from Australia. Only in this generation could the upper-middle class even consider experiencing the wealth of opportunity available to them as new waves of immigrants brought new kinds of food to the US and eating at restaurants was no longer mostly a luxury.

With the Frugal Gourmet and Julia Child entering into our living rooms, and an influx of upscale cuisine from around the world (with both a market for the food, and those who would actually know how to make it present), it's an opportunity to move beyond the food our parents and their parents had available, let alone were aware of. In many ways, is looking down upon those who do not share your obsession a form of chronological snobbery, or just plain old class or regional snobbery?

This is not to suggest I think food as art is any less important, nor should one NOT have discriminating taste or enjoy as many types of food as the world can cook up. Or that I believe all food to be equal. As subjective as taste is, and as subjective as each diner's experience, I'd certainly never make that argument. But I do take exception to the idea that those who cannot afford fine or exotic dining, or who do not have a wide variety of options open to them are fools for enjoying the foods available to them and are, by insinuation, some sort of culinary second class citizen.

It is one thing to appreciate the subtleties of new and exciting foods, or to cook them yourself. Just, you know... keep it in perspective for the love of Mike.

I happened upon this quote, and I wonder if it applies:

"It is better to be a good ordinary bourgeois than a bad ordinary bohemian." [Aldous Huxley, 1930]

Speed Racer

Because you guys were so excited about the link to the Speed Racer photos I posted earlier, here's a link to a trailer for Speed Racer.

Looks like silly summertime entertainment to me. But it also seems to be the second movie (Beowulf being the first) that is a blend of animation and live actors that's the legacy of the latest slate of Star Wars movies. Movies certainly are no longer constrained by sets, lights and in-camera effects. It was just a matter of time before filmmakers started using/ abusing the palette of CGI to create environments which reflected outlandish worlds into which to drop their stories.

(edit: I have ignored the rich legacy of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings adaptations. Please forgive.)

I want to be clear: This doesn't look terrifically intellectually stimulating, but it does look like a bizarre literal translation of the 6 frames per second animation we all grew up with. A great idea? I dunno. I confess to being a bit curious to see the thing just to see how it works.

56 Flavors of Geek

There's a poster coming out of the 56 varieties of geek.

And there I am at #1.

Hooray.

Speed Racer

In case you were wondering...

The new Speed Racer movie will feature ChimChim after all. HUZZAH sez The League.

Click to see:

the Mach 5
Racer X
Christina Ricci in a Louise Brooks bob
ChimChim and Spritle

Thanks to Randy for the link.

oh, it's also directed by the guys who did The Matrix flicks. Go figure.

Why So Serious?



Thanks to Randy for forwarding the first poster for the upcoming movie "The Dark Knight".

Cesar Romero this is not.

I have nothing to write about

Hey, Leaguers!

I have ABSOLUTELY nothing to report. Last night I ate catfish for dinner, some slaw and baked beans. Then I read comics while Jamie did crosswords.

Whoopdie-doo!

Hope you Leaguers had an exciting evening.

I think, if anything, I was a bit confused by the ending to JLA #15, which seemed like it should have been just Superman opening a can of Super Whoop-Ass on the In-Justice League. Instead, McDuffie and Benes let the rest of the JLA do all the lifting.

Also, I KNOW that back in the day the evil equivalent of the Justice League was called the In-Justice League. But even the writers of SuperFriends, a show meant for 3-8 year olds, knew that name was too hokey and re-named them The Legion of Doom.

Luthor is supposed to be one of the smartest guys on Earth. I think he could cook up something a little better and perhaps more menacing.

I dunno. I'm sort on the fence about the whole thing. After all, I do like the legacy aspect to DC Comics publishing and iterations of various ideas. And it does add a certain zest of fun to the JLA title when your villains are just jerks enough to declare themselves your evil opposites.

Next we'll see the resurgence of the Superman Revenge Squad. Or the Anti-Superman Gang. All great ideas for their time and audience, but...

Anyhow, once Firestorm was back (and I am so glad to see McDuffie handling the new Firestorm once again), I sort of thought Superman + heat vision + fast than speeding bullet + more powerful than a locomotive might have been able to clean that mess up. But that would have denied me the enjoyment of a good chunk of the rest of the issue.

Sounds like Firestorm is now on the team, and that's a good thing. They need some newer characters.

And as an aside... The Rebirth of Ra's Al Ghul storyline in the Batbooks? Not so good. Good idea. Questionable execution.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Cookies/ Tin-Man/ Santa's Intolerant Voice

Here's an interview with Jim Parsons, who I knew once upon a time, and who is experiencing some much deserved success on the sitcom "Big Bang Theory".

A quick reminder, The League of Melbotis Holiday Heckstravaganza 2007 is scheduled for Saturday the 8th at 8:00 PM.

As global warming officially ruins the Holiday Season, it's going to be around 80 degrees on that day, so be prepared for a balmy Holiday party. Thanks, evil scientists.

To prepare for the party, we spent our Tuesday evening frosting cookies which Jamie had made from scratch. The frosting was also from scratch, so, seriously... these cookies are a whole bag of effort. If you do eat one, you'd best LOVE these frikkin' cookies. Like, bringing tears to your eyes love them. I counted this morning, and I frosted 22 cookies, each displaying less detail and attempt at cuteness than the one before it.

We also tried to watch the first part of Sci-Fi Channel's 6 hour Wizard of Oz re-mix called "Tin Man", and didn't make it past the first half-hour. One would assume that hiring Alan Cumming and a Deschanel sister would mean that the director would take some time to come up with a decent script that doesn't FORCE Kathleen Robertson into some awkward scenery chewing.

The weirdest thing about the movie was that the writer and directors sort of jumped right in and refused to find a point of view. Rather than gradually discovering the world through the eyes of DG (this is a re-mix. Dorothy Gale is replaced with "DG"), they just toss in scenes of events in The O.Z. (no longer Oz in our re-mix, it's The Outer Zone!) before Dorothy ever makes her way to the woods of Endor. Further, the writers spent no time getting the audience familiar with DG's world and why she's want to escape (other than that she lives on a farm and is artsy, which must be obvious to these writers that such circumstances necessarily make one unhappy).

The thing was pretty bad, with clunky dialog and what was beginning to look like a "chosen one" plot to explain DG's arrival in The OZ (as well as why her "parents" were hiding her in Kansas. So we turned it off. I really couldn't foresee spending another 5+ hours with the show.

I don't really get what went wrong, other than that the writers weren't terribly good and the director was more caught up in dreaming up creepier analogs to the familiar Oz characters and plot points than he was in pacing his story. One doesn't generally expect quality TV from Sci-Fi, but every minute of the show just felt like a missed opportunity. There was much to be learned from the BSG mini-series, and it seems that none of those lessons for creating an engaging series were applied. Build up your characters, build up the scenario. Give a clear point of view (even if its through several characters' eyes), and pace the thing. You've got six hours to fill. It's a marathon, not a sprint.

We wound up watching new Holiday perennial "Elf", which still has its good moments and a Deschanel sister, but has an ending steeped more in 3rd generation Hollywood interpretations of Christmas than in anything actually having to do with Christmas.

And then, because I do not own a copy of Miracle on 34th Street, we watched Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas, a 70's era Henson production with music by none other than 70's TV music staple, Paul Williams.

And, of course, we watched part of Rudolph on CBS. I believe I've opined before upon the deeply unsettling undertones of the Rudolph special regarding the North Pole's insistence on conformity and intolerance. And I realized, all year round Jamie and I imitate Santa's voice when we're making fun of people we find to be jerks, both on TV and in life. There's a certain broadness and obviousness to Santa's intonation when he's condemning characters for having red-noses or being "a dentist", that you can apply to pretty much anything.

I need to bust out a copy of Miracle on 34th Street to get my Holiday Movie Mojo going again.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Shauna 911

Old pal of The League, Shauna C. is a screen writer in LA. She's got one picture being produced right now and is working on a few other projects. Or, she should be.

Anyhoo... she's on strike. It seems one benefit of the strike is the opportunity to meet folks you might not otherwise meet. Here, Shauna meets Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon of Reno 911! fame who, curiously, are picketing in costume. Shauna is not in costume. or is she?



We at The League support the WGA in their efforts, even if it leads to really crappy TV until the strike is over and cameras are once again rolling.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Sensational Spider-Man #41

IF YOU ARE AVOIDING SPIDER-MAN COMICS SPOILERS, DO NOT READ THIS POST

Probably the worst kept secret/ most telegraphed play in comics of late has been Marvel's long pondered method of ending Peter Parker's 20-year marriage to Mary Jane Watson.

How does one end a marriage and manage to keep everyone smelling like roses? How does one split up two characters incredibly popular across all of comic fandom? Especially after all the craziness Peter Parker and Mary Jane have supposedly endured together and always come up totally pleased as punch with one another?

Fortunately, superhero universes, especially SHARED superhero universes, tend to be littered with all-powerful mystical whatzits and whatnots. And while Spider-Man is mostly famous for containing his adventures to the sky-scraper canyons of the Big Apple, fighting a string of animal-themed cretins, he does live in the same fictional vision of NYC that contains the Fantastic Four, Dr. Strange and the Avengers.

It's probably worth noting: at the conclusion of Civil War (like, a year ago...), dear old Aunt May took a bullet meant for Peter. She was just standing in the wrong place at the wrong time. In order to save Aunt May's life, Peter and MJ have been given an opportunity for a possible deal, literally with the devil. In order to save May's life, Mephisto wants... (wait for it...) THEIR MARRIAGE.

Because Peter and MJ are supposed to be all-around good folk, we know that they'll make the deal and Joe Quesada will have his swingin' bachelor Peter Parker he's been wanting since taking over as EIC a few years back. We know that neither Peter nor MJ would allow May to die. I'm not disputing this point as some bloggers have done. I'll accept it as a believable character decision.

Supposedly the Devil Mephisto gets something out of the knowledge that Peter was happy, and now he will be less-so. EXCEPT that Peter won't remember that he was ever married, so its some teeny-tiny part of his brain that can remember, but, really... no. Neither Peter nor MJ will remember. So... Really, Mephisto seems much more interested in confusing 20+ years of comics continuity.

Here's what's bugging me, Leaguers: Rather than writing a story that reflects the grim realities that a tense time can put on a marriage and end it in the ugly, not-terribly-fun way that marriages actually end, they've created a Magical Divorce Machine.

To this reader, the method of dissolving the marriage is editorial cowardice.

Comics readers are big boys and girls, and as much as we don't like it when Mommy and Daddy fight, having the devil steal Spider-Man's marriage makes no sense. This sort of plot doesn't seem true to forty years of comics. It isn't in keeping with the street-level tone Spider-man has maintained for the vast, vast duration of its run. It's not true to the Spider-Man we've seen lift up a 100 ton undersea machine. It's not Spider-Man. It's a deus ex machina plot point and a fairly lazy one at that.

If he was any sort of devil, wouldn't Mephisto ask Peter to kill a random person and remember it? Or do something else hopelessly heinous? Maybe turn the past twenty years of Parker's life into one in which Spider-Man is a horrible criminal? Not that forgetting your marriage is a bad thing, but if neither of you remember it... I dunno.

I guess I'm just casting aspersions on Mephisto's ability to be actually evil and not just a nuisance.

It's interesting to note that Marvel has apparently come to an executive decision that, despite fans responses of "don't do it!" and "meh" when asked about a bachelor Peter Parker... they've resorted to a plot contrivance like Mephisto in order to make it work. This path, I guess, keeps Parker's nose clean as a face to put on lunchpails, etc... and I can appreciate the business necessity of such a decision. After all, some editors have tried to find a path to divorce Superman and Lois, but nobody could come up with anything not involving a Crisis Wave. Plus, really, the Magical Divorce Machine is going to give editorial a "get out of Jail" card if the fans do revolt. After all, writers can turn to that greatest of Spider Wish Granters, Dr. Strange, and make it all go away.

It is interesting that comics will show, in detail, all sorts of physical hurts and injuries that most readers will never experience. What they will not show, however, are the fairly mundane aspects of everyday life. And that's just weird. I know, I know... escapism. Whatever.

Perhaps the readership can't actually handle their Spider-Hero getting a divorce, but can handle grim destruction and violence as the idea of a building coming down around one's ears. Unlike divorce, the Scorpion coming at you with his deadly tail is so foreign an idea, its nothing but an abstraction. Perhaps the image of Mommy and Daddy agreeing that they'd be happier apart than together hits a little too close to home. But it's certainly not the sign of mature storytelling to avoid such a common topic as divorce and believe only the devil can make two good people go their separate ways.

As I said. Editorial cowardice.

I'm not sure if I'll actually drop Spider-Man. I'm not outraged. And I've seen plenty worse. I'm mostly just disappointed that Marvel couldn't continue down the organic path of the story of Peter Parker and, if they felt the need to dissolve the marriage, simply do so in a way that would make sense in context of the past forty years of comics.

The next and final issue of "One More Day" is coming out soon, and we'll find out if Petey and MJ give up a life of wedded bliss for a nice old lady to have a few more years. So far the decision isn't made. Marvel has a chance to actually do something interesting here. And, in the hands of the right writers and editors, anything could happen.

RIP Knievel

Jesus. They killed Evel.

When I was a kid Evel Knievel was past his heyday of jumping the Snake River Canyon, breaking hundreds of bones and generally making an American Hero out of himself.

It wasn't so much that I remember actually watching Knievel on TV. I don't think I ever did. But I was familiar with the jumpsuit (and occasional cape), and I was familiar with the man's deeds. Including the fact that the mad would occasionally do time. Tate, the kid down the street, had a Knievel motorcycle toy we relentlessly drove into his wall.

Later, I heard the jail time was for hitting his wife, which may or may not be true. I don't know. Facts about this kind of stuff were impossible to come by in 1981 or so. It was the same way we all thought Mikey from Life cereal had died from a spider bite or Pop Rocks or something.

But if one performed a stunt of any kind, be it jumping off the dresser or hopping your big wheel off a curb, at my house you were labeled Evel Knievel.

Knievel would do time and later more or less disappear from the public eye as he had no bones left to break. Robby Knievel would take his spot as a motorcycle jumping daredevil, and I hear most of Knievel Sr.'s records have been broken in the past thirty years. But Evel Knievel will be the one they remember.

I dunno.

He was sort of one of those mythological figures you build up in your head as a kid. Someone with steely determination and grit you wish you had. It's kind of sad when you begin to tie the notion that he lived his life recklessly to the fact that he was also living it selfishly.

Also, The Admiral's tendency to refer to folks like Knievel as "that idiot". The Admiral knows keeping your bones intact and not being in jail is where its at.

But even then you hold some grudging admiration for the man, maybe the same way you admire the boozy old singers who made up the Flatlanders. Clearly nobody was telling Knievel what to do, just like you couldn't tell those old cowboys. Not a surgeon, health insurance company nor gravity could convince Knievel not to jump over a GD canyon in a rocket cycle if that's what he was going to do. And, dammit, people would pay to see that, so there was something to it.

There's only so many lands left uncharted and unexplored, I suppose, and then they're all mapped. Then you find yourself figuring out what a man can do with high octane gas and some good shock absorbers.

To be clear, nobody killed Knievel. Perhaps Knievel's own lifestyle killed him, but he managed to squeeze a lot of living into those years.

He's been out of the public eye so long, its questionable if anyone will really miss him.

Surely that is not how Knievel saw himself going out, though. How many times did he sit on a ramp, wondering if he was going to wake up in a hotel room somewhere tomorrow, or maybe in a hospital room, or just not be around at all.