Friday, August 29, 2008

From the Cabela's Catalog



Simon will be confused by this post as these sorts of hats are, as I understand it, common headwear in Canada.

This item retails at Cabela's for $250, and in no way will make you look completely insane.

In case you're wondering: Yeah, that's a real, dead coyote. You can tell, because the only color they offer? COYOTE.

From the reviews:

"I have purchased a number of fur hats in my day but this is by far the warmest and most comfortable. Not only does it keep the back of my head warm but you can wrap the legs around your face to block the wind. The only reason this hat did not receive 5 stars is due to the fact that I was attacked by a bird thinking it was wounded prey while I was out for a walk. A rare but unfortunate occurrence when wearing an animal pelt on your head. Also great in the rain. Didn't smell at all after it was wet and it makes a great present. I'm getting one for my wife."

That lady is going to feel so @#$%ing lucky.

I just like how their model could be The League with a beard. It's like seeing a parallel Earth where The League has finally snapped.

Special thanks to Denby for the link

The Process

At the risk of career suicide, I'm posting this video which... well. I think its funny.

Papa Johns Fulfills Dream of Cowboys Fans Everywhere

I'm going all middle school on this one, but...

Skip to about 26 seconds in:



I like how someone taught the kid to really lean into it.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Agenda Advertising

Have you seen the Harry and Louise ads?



They're running now, and are sort of interesting. Watch the subtext of the ads, because while they're talking "affordable healthcare", they don't really define what they mean by "affordable healthcare", but they DO ask that that "everyone" be brought to the table. They also throw up several organizational logos, to suggest some sort of official capacity, I guess.

The website is even MORE vague. Which, as we all know in 2008, is usually a sign that something is up.

But the organizations who've thrown in with the ads at least SEEM invested in affordable healthcare. A quick perusal of the sites doesn't give much more than the typical "we are committed to quality, affordable healthcare, blah... blah... blah..."

I'm honestly not sure what that means.

Given the history of Harry and Louise in a series of ads that were a part of the defeat of the Clinton's attempt at universal health care circa 1993, could it be the same agencies are nervous about what the Dems are going to try to do if they win the election regarding healthcare?

I honestly have no idea at all where this will go... but its going to be interesting to watch to see how the campaign unfolds. What I will find deeply disappointing will be if it's the ol' bait-n-switch with Harry and Louise, and the big solution they're pitching is "things are great! why change the system?"

Agenda advertising is really hitting the airwaves from all kinds of NGO's. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. If you have an agenda you think can gain traction from getting your message in the mix (energy, healthcare, etc...), then why not?

I have my opinions on all this healthcare stuff, but that's for another day.


A completely different kind of agenda ad

Remember Nick and Norm?



Oh, where to start...?

I have this vision of a room full of middle-aged white guys who are so very sick of hearing their kids coming back from college and arguing with them over politics, etc... And wish these kids would just shut the hell up and listen to their old man. What sort of catharsis must these guys have felt when this ad ran, and the young man just caves to the unshakable argument of "It's a FACT."

So, why did the ad campaign fail? (The ads were, btw, apparently a horrible failure.)

A) Obviously Norm was a horrible jack-ass to Nick. And therefore the viewer. You don't sell anything, including an idea, by acting like a pedantic jerk. Even in the context of late 2001.
B) The ads never bothered to actually provide viewers with facts validating their claim. That would have been handy and not increased my cynicism regarding their claims. F-A-C-T. Fact.
C) In a round-about way, the Nick and Norm ads made a really good argument for legalizing drugs. If its legal, at least you can guess you're not buying your goofballs from terrorists and everybody wins. No more money to terrorists, no more money enforcing unworkable laws and the funding from the war on drugs can go to the war or terror. FACT. And Nick can still go buy his dope without the guilt that his goofballs are putting bullets in a rifle somewhere. FACT.

I can't tell you how appalling I found this ad campaign.

You can probably draw some parallel to the success of the ad campaign to how well folks in a free society like being talked to like a punk 13 year old kid getting disciplined by weekend-dad.

Sadly, the "listen to your father" approach, then backing it with half-truths and non-truths (we'll call them "lies") was a hallmark of the government of the era. I'll let you ponder the certainty of WMD's for a moment...

Honestly, I want a little of whatever these theantidrug.com ad guys were smoking if they thought this was going to convince the stoners of the world to put down their bongs for freedom.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The League Revisits: Pump Up the Volume (and DITMTLOD)

In 1990 the Steans Clan packed up our stuff and moved from Austin to Houston. The Admiral had transferred to what turned out to be a pretty good job. Like a lot of high schoolers, I was less than thrilled to change schools. I'd already put in the leg work with three years of middle school and a year of high school with the people I'd expected to endure until I escaped to college. Now I'd have to start all over again.

What would be odd, as per my living situation, was that we were leaving Jason behind in Austin. It was sort of like deciding the family dog was too old and wouldn't like the new arrangement, so you leave it with the neighbors. He was to finish out his Senior year rather than slog through a new school just in time to graduate.

Shortly after we arrived in Houston, the newest Christian Slater flick "Pump up the Volume" made its way to the Loew's theater a few miles from the house, right by the blimp hanger. It piqued my interest for two reasons (a) I was a big fan of "Heathers", and (b) it featured Pirate Radio.

Jason had spent some time in prior years trying to figure out how to set up a pirate radio broadcast out of his bedroom. Eventually, he abandoned the idea, I think due to legal concerns (not wanting to go to jail).

At the time, I loved the movie. It had teenagers talking about teen-agery type stuff. It had a pirate radio station. Christian Slater stuck it to The Man (ie: the crusty principal), and mostly, circa 1990 Samantha Mathis.


Oh, Samantha Mathis, your art-school girl chic made my heart pitter-patter

"Pump up the Volume" may or may not have been the original name for the movie. But it's a terrible title and suggests a late 80's break dancing movie. I have suspicions this was some MC Hammer-inspired tweaking when someone from marketing realized that they were marketing a movie to teens that didn't feature music that it was, at the time, perceived that teens listened to.

The soundtrack features Concrete Blonde, Leonard Cohen (I think), the Pixies and others of the late 80's, early 90's, pre-Nirvana music scene, and starts by establishing Slater's character's cred with his record collection. All on cassette. Because I think in 1990, I knew one person with an actual CD player.

The movie, really, hinges on technology and the Newsweek-covered hot button parental issues of the era. Today's teens would see a neolithic world before cell phones, internet lines, and when teenagers with their own computers were a pretty darn rare commodity. Only one character has a computer in their room during the course of the movie (and he dies!).

Re-made today, no doubt the idea would basically be a well-run website with illegally distributed MP3's, a chat room, some e-mail, and podcasts of Mr. HHH. At the time, the idea of just anybody taking to the airwaves was considered extremely difficult and illegal. (I should pause here to give a mad shout out to the 1993-1994 residents of Jester West, 12th floor. Patrick and Jeff put together a small radio broadcaster from scrap parts and their TV antenna. Jester briefly enjoyed the rockin' tunes of Jester Pirate Radio. Until, that is, we wanted to watch TV again. And, yeah, they let me on the air once or twice. And I was awesome.)

The hot button issues of the day were teen pregnancy and teen suicide. The suicide angle kind of also explains the entirety of "Heathers", and the tune from Heathers: Big Fun's "Teenage Suicide (Don't Do It)". Anyhoo, the switch to the real drama of the movie occurs when some kid kills himself because Slater didn't tell him not to. The witch-hunting overreaction by parents as part of the sequence is still actually pretty darn accurate.

As a 33 year old watching this movie, one winds up feeling less like Christian Slater is speaking for you (or anyone). It comes across more as a lot of teen angsting, talking about how the whole world is screwed up and needs change, but there aren't a lot of specifics regarding what needs changing. Slater eventually winds up spouting this really crazy diatribe about how the earth and trees need healing... and uncensored pirate radio, I guess.

None of it really makes a lot of sense, unless you consider Slater's character was just moved from NYC to what was a stand in for Paradise Valley, Arizona circa 1990. In which case, the dissatisfaction is all too rational.

In order to provide the audience with an actual antagonist that isn't just Slater V. Society-at-Large, there's a cockamamie scheme cooked up in which the Principal is magically expelling teenagers with lower SAT scores so she can keep up some sort of public funding for the school. It's a little convoluted, and really tangential to whatever is supposed to be going on with Slater's pirate radio show. And suggests that this is a school in which no parents are involved, and nobody fears a lawsuit.

Probably the two weirdest moments in the movie belong to Samantha Mathis, whose character suddenly goes topless in one scene (something I cheered during my first viewing as I believed the movie to be PG-13). And, as a plot point, we learn she's failing high school math. Which... is unintentionally hilarious.

Failing math = Not terribly attractive

The movie is oddly ham-handed in other ways.

-Hip-hop is used as a sign that the kids are getting too rebellious for the likes of the ever-crusty faculty.

-Slater's character drops a half-dozen clues that would immediately identify him as HHH. Mr. Magoo could unravel the mystery.

-And there's a lot of insinuations that (a) this is the least happy bunch of privileged kids EVER, and (b) something is very, very wrong at Harding High, but they manage to make it through the 102 minute runtime without ever saying WHAT is wrong.

In many ways, I'm left peppering the movie with the same "What?" that I usually reserve for movies like "D War Dragon Wars".

The ending is absolutely ludicrous, with Slater and Mathis hauled off in a paddywagon, sure to go to jail for some vague moral victory. I'd worry more about her future, but with that "F" in Math, I'm not sure that Mathis's character couldn't use the focused environment of prison in which to get her GED.

And, of course, a million kids supposedly take to the airwaves with their own pirate radio shows... The end

The Internet has, of course, taught us what teenagers and adults will do with a public forum. If this blog is any indication, it hasn't healed the rocks and trees, and its mostly given nutjobs like myself a bull pulpit from which we can espouse our half-baked sasquatch theories.



Still, it's got Samantha Mathis.


This look of loving concern at our hero's exploits is the opposite of what I was used to from the ladies of KOHS. Change this more to a look of disapproval.

A brief DITMLOD: Samantha Mathis as "Nora Diniro"

I'm not ashamed to admit that in middle and high school, I had my eye on the stripey sock girls. Give me a girl in an over-sized black sweater and clunky black shoes, and any young lady automatically got a second look (this predates all the Marilyn Manson co-option of the art-school girl stuff, which... doesn't work so much for me).

The look showed up in a few movies. Sort of sported by Winona Ryder in "Heathers". Absolutely seen by the female lead in cult classic "Three O'Clock High". But I still think Mathis does it best.

Despite 13 long years of loyalty, Jamie seems to get a little jealous whenever this previous fascination is brought up. I think Jason initially revealed my old achilles heal to Jamie, and every once in a while it becomes a point of contention that I did not fancy Jamie before I had, in fact, met Jamie.

Whatever. Jamie loves 1988 Greg Louganis.

Anyhoo, yes. As a teenager I thought Samantha Mathis was the bee's knees. She was cute, did the stripey sock thing very well, was occasionally topless, and, to a kid who'd just moved and went weeks in a new school without talking to anyone... the idea that such a girl was hiding under a rock somewhere at KOHS was deeply appealing.

That is not to say that KOHS was devoid of awesome ladies (you know who you are). But, you know, we were sadly lacking in Samantha Mathisii.

I should of just learned that the girls who smoked behind the school at lunch were more fun...

Anyway.

I salute thee, Samantha Mathis as "Nora Diniro". You left an indelible impression upon my youthful psyche.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Superman Genesis not all "Gee-Whiz"?

I appreciate the folks who sent me the article on the Siegel family which ran today.

To summarize, its an article about how its recently come to light that Superman creator Jerry Siegel's father died during a robbery at his shop prior to the creation of Superman. Armchair psychology suggests that perhaps this event was the catalyst for the creation of The Man of Steel.


Here's a link to that article.


I have no idea what Siegel and Shuster were thinking during the years when they were working on their cartoon ideas (of which there are many which survive). Most of what I know about the actual origins of Superman and Siegel and Shuster comes from the Gerard Jones book "Men of Tomorrow", which I've referenced here once or twice.

It seems that novelist AND comic writer Brad Meltzer is releasing a novel in which the events of Siegel's father's death play a central role. And as Meltzer tends to sell a heck of a lot of novels, USA today and others are picking up on the theme in his latest novel "The Book of Lies" (due next month).

I do think that making the equation of "untimely death of father + desire to see justice = birth of Superman" is a pretty gross oversimplification. But its also exactly the sort of story that the general populace would rather hear than the long held (and oft derided opinion) that Siegel and Shuster were high school losers who needed some form of escapism from their nerd-status, and so fantasized about an alter ego which would make the ladies swoon.

It's been the latter interpretation that's made the rounds in columns and lists of "dumbest superheroes" (Googling "Superman lame" brings up 1.3 million sites) that has dogged Superman in the post Dark Knight Returns era. The character was seen as a weak man's fantasy stand-in, and that somehow made character, creators and fans of the character seem dopey. How this applies to Superman, but not to any other character... I have no idea, but that's been the general consensus.


Superman deals with yet another citizen who let their tags expire

The somewhat abstract armageddon of Superman's origin hasn't held up as well as the gripping visceral and personal tragedy of Batman's origins, and for twenty years it's been fairly regularly that Superman takes a pounding for his lack of murder in his origin (always an odd one, to me. Especially with billions of dead Kryptonians, etc...). So it'll be interesting to see how or if the true tragedy of the character's creator and champion will carry any weight going forward.

Writers with a psych class or two under their belt may not be so quick to dismiss the character as a nerdy kid's fantasy for landing girls, but will now read into the character all sorts of new stuff with the information at hand. (insert tiny, unenthusiastic "hooray..." here)

All of that has always been a gross oversimplification of Superman's origin. He was the product of two kids (young men by the time Superman was finally published in its more-or-less current form) who did what most people do when creating something new: they begged, borrowed and stole from other popular science-fiction and fantasy of the day of which they'd been fans for years. Doc Savage, Amazing Stories Magazine, strong men such as Charles Atlas, and everything in between.

They were fanboys before the term was coined, trying to break into a medium that was not an atypical aspiration at the time, just as young people now all want to major in film.

What's forgotten is that Siegel also produced characters like The Spectre, who make Batman's exploits look like child's play. And, by the way, Dr. Occult, whom I once saw cited as "the first costumed hero". Siegel was also responsible for humor strips, and worked a lot of comedy into Superman from the first issue. And, he preceeded Superman with the recently revived tough-guy, Slam Bradley (derivative of Dick Tracy, etc...).

That all said:

I'm not sure Siegel created Superman out of tragedy. I'm not dismissing the idea, but I can't possibly know one way or another, and I'm not sure if its fair to believe that's the case just because it seems somewhat romantic and/ or works with our understand of psychology gleaned from seeing Dr. Phil.

I do know that Siegel never saw Superman as an avenging character from the first issue. Rather, Superman was there to stop harm from occurring, whereas Batman was the detective on the trail of clues, bringing murderers and thieves to justice after the mess was already made (but you'd have to ask Bill Finger and Bob Kane about all that).

Whatever anger might have been there was turned into a more hopeful wish fulfillment, possibly. That rather than asking someone like Batman to pick up the pieces afterward, the Man of Steel had been there to save the day.

And that's not necessarily a bad thing. Both kids and adults should know that heroes aren't just people who show up after the fact. Sometimes they're the guys who step in first to make sure the bad stuff either doesn't happen, or never gets too bad. Maybe Siegel's real life experience taught him that what people really want in the face of tragedy is for something to save the day. And that's something all superheroes do when they're at their best. And that's kind of the point...

Monday, August 25, 2008

Video Playlist

I don't really have anything to write about this evening, which usually means I wind up writing some overly long post that's pretty specific.
Not tonight, I don't think.

Editor's Update! I felt bad about not posting. So here's my video playlist

To get your day started the right way:
Dan Deacon - Crystal Cat (Alamo attendees will recognize the song)




Because I'm the guy who is buying the Dresden Dolls albums...
Dresden Dolls - Coin Operated Boy



over-produced, 80's-referencing music is a good idea
LCD Soundsystem - All My Friends



I'm supposed to find the bass tab for this song
Radiohead - Karma Police



Your morning needs more 90's
My Bloody Valentine - To Here Knows When

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Jamie Doing Pretty Well

Hey, ya'll...

Jamie was in the hospital for a procedure on Friday, as I mentioned. She'd not been feeling real well for a week or so before that.

But, it looks like the procedure did the trick (knock on wood). Jamie's back to her usual hard-drinkin', ass-whoopin' self, and is seemingly running on all cylinders again.

Thanks for the e-mails and whatnot over the weekend. It means a lot to us.

Plus, an extra special thanks to Jamie's folks for their role as support staff.

I can say that after 4 years of us doing this mostly on our own in Arizona, having family around for support, and family & friends offering up any help they can, and Nicole calling, literally, minutes after the procedure to check in... well, its just a lot easier for everyone concerned. So, again... thanks to all.

NBC's Coverage of the Olympics

Firstly, congrats to the US Women's basketball and 4x400 relay. Both won gold in their respective concluding matches.

Sanya Richards' final leg on that relay was one for the ages.



Also, Rogers and Dallhauser for that beach volleyball win the other night. I was concerned during that second set, but they went crazy in the third.

I usually run pretty critical here, but I want to take a moment for a tip of the hat to NBC/ Universal for their coverage of the Olympics. Especially in the last week.

I may not always love their commentators, but NBC has fully taken advantage of the 13 hour delay to really deliver on condensed coverage, especially of Track & Field. I want to see who wins high jump and long jump, but I don't want to watch all fifteen rounds. Highlights will work. So they've done a great job of taking, say, the last few rounds of high jump and inserting them into the middle of the 5000m race, etc... then cutting back to the 5000m for the conclusion.

Now, NBC needs to apply that "cutting down" tactic to Diving. Gymnastics, which is usually what makes me want to claw my eyes out by the second night (team, all-around, individual...? Its the same people doing the same crap three times..!), was cut into useful, bite-sized chunks. I never just walked away from the games due to too much gymnastics. But diving...

One huge programming suggestion for London?

Fact: Diving is boring.
It's repetitive, and occurs in, like, 1 second. Slowing it down doesn't make it better. And NBC showed a lot of it, took up hours of primetime broadcast, but showed nothing in the way of:
Javelin, discus, hammer-throw, and a lot of other sports.
Fact: Showing every round of diving does not make it more exciting.

Anyway...

Costas has administered his usual fair but enthusiastic hand to his role as the US host to the Olympics.

Add in multiple channels covering various sports, mostly cut for time and highlights, and its made for, honestly, TOO MUCH engaging TV. I've done nothing these last few weeks but watch sports. It's insanity.

Leaguers, thanks to my self-limiting exposure, I have watched everything from Synchronized Swimming to Rhythmic Gymnastics without a 100% dedication to snark. And let me tell you, Synchronized Swimming is one of the craziest things you're bound to see in this life or any other. My mind is blown.

NBC also managed to land uninterrupted coverage (no commercials) of a lot of the Gold Medal finals in sports like Beach Volleyball... so I tip my hat to NBC.

Way to go Costas and Co.

But...

With the buzz of excitement over the success of US athletes, it seems that we sometimes forget about anyone but the winners. Sure, we salute Usain Bolt when he wins his medals and breaks world records (and that's a lot of what the Olympics are about, after all), but NBC missed some of the other stories.

For example, this runner from Somalia, who came in dead last but received a standing ovation.

Surely this runner was not alone. I watched the opening ceremonies. There were dozens of countries with just a handful of athletes, few of whom had a chance of winning a medal, but who had somehow made it to Beijing. And, in no condescending way... that's a victory

Or athletes whose culture wasn't necessarily conducive to competing, but won their heat, anyway such asthe female sprinter from Bahrain, who ran in a hijab? (That lady is my new hero...)

Or that China has arrested multiple US Citizens for protesting for Human Rights (if only for ten days...)

Unpleasant though it might be, China's human rights record is far from good. And, yeah, Costas and NBC might have stood a chance of getting bounced out of Beijing, or even thrown in jail, for covering any protests... But isn't that sort of the point when you have a chance to cover this stuff? Wouldn't Costas in jail for mentioning the protests themselves give America a little bit of an idea as to how our favorite trade partner is running their ship?

But the focus is on winning. Not just winning a medal, but receiving a GOLD medal. Silver and Bronze medalists were still being asked if they felt disappointed. The victory inherent in just being able to participate is given lip service, but is very clearly not how interviewers and ESPECIALLY color commentators actually feel. They can't help but talk about how an athlete who makes a mistake is simply letting everyone down.

There's nothing wrong with celebrating victory, but, seriously, get a grip. Being the second or third best sprinter, pole vaulter, what-have-you in THE WORLD is no mean feat. Sometimes you can just say "Hey! Bronze medal! You've gotta like that!" And if they want to express their disappointment, goody.

If the Olympics are really about all the nations coming together in the spirit of friendly competition, then it seems like NBC could do a bit more to promote that international flair. And that story is not limited to winners. Or Americans. Or putting a polish on the very real world occurring all around the games. By ignoring the world, in many ways, its reducing the impact of what it means for athletes to come together in the most idealized version of the Olympic spirit.

The fact is, there's so, so much happening at the Olympics, and so many narrative arcs, that I don't know if NBC/ Universal touches on 1% of the narratives really going on. You follow the Decathalon, so you miss women's soccer. And you focus on a "sure thing" like Lolo Jones, and wind up with one of the most heartbreaking moments of the games. You focus on the amazing Phelps, but you wind up missing out on the story of the thousands of other athletes... That's the way it goes.

Ah, well. We'll see how we fair with the games in London. More Olympics reporting from League of Melbotis in 2012.