Friday, May 09, 2003

Friends, Romans, Countrymen...

I found out tonight that Calvin the Ferret died on Tuesday night. Calvin was my brother's ferret, and he'd been sick for the past six months. Not overly sick. I mean, he lost some fur, but his eyes were still bright, and he still did his best to tear things up.

But Calvin was a good guy, and he performed his ferrety duties with aplomb. He leaves behind Jason, Hobbes the Ferret, and quite a ferrety smell.

Calvin spent several years systematically destroying Jason's apartment. He mastered stealing keys and CD's. And this story is true: I caught Calvin stealing CD's in their cases and stacking them inside his kitty carrier. It was the damndest thing I've ever seen. Truly a remarkable weasal. Let him be remembered fondly. I know even as I write this, he's swiping the keys to the pearly gates and letting all the "fun" ferrets in thru the backdoor. He was that kind of guy, and he'll be missed.

Condolensces can be sent to:

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Ahhhhhhh... politics.

I always love how the mere mention of the name "Clinton" gets conservatives all red-faced and sweaty. It's not unlike how the name "Bush" gets liberals to start gnashing their teeth. Regrettably, presidential election season is coming, and all of the nonsense and bad commericals are about to start.

For the past ten years Conservatives have pretty much been playing Dr. Doom to Clinton's Reed Richards. Dr. Doom launches an attack which CANNOT FAIL THIS TIME, and Reed pretty much invents a new device for saving his ass once again. In the end, Reed heads back to the Baxter building and Doom lumbers back to Latveria, and everyone just waits around for it too start all over again.

Basically, like a Tom and Jerry Labor Day marathon, it's getting pretty tired. We all know Clinton diddled his secretary, and we all know that Conservatives have an amazing urge to STOP HILARY (although we don't really know why. We suspect she turned them down for senior prom). And so I have decided to start voting on who annoys me less. 3rd party candidates are annoying, but with a low profile, could garner my vote!

This is not to say I am voting for whomever is least evil, because I think evil is great, and I expect it. This time around I am NOT voting for someone who is for something. Nope, I plan to vote for whomever doesn't do anything. To gain my vote, don't do any of the really, really annoying things below:

bombard me with repetitive commercials during Seinfeld reruns
cite an opponent's voting record more than 7 years old
hire licensed scienticians to back them up with "scientological facts"
roll up their sleeves to act as if they're changing a tire
scare old people
suggest that their opponent has no family values (and thereby must eat babies, like a Canadian)
dance publicly with their spouse
scare mommies
try to cut Medicare
have John Kerry's hair
split the Democratic vote in Florida
scare billionaires
cover up death of mistress after driving off bridge
play Lee Greenwood songs over public address systems
scare me
believe in "trickle-down economics"
even suggest you're going to help education, because you won't, you evil bastards
wear a cowboy hat
appear on Oprah
scare the French
promise workers jobs. Unless they're jobs in the white house, where you can actually hire someone.
keep 3rd parties out of the debate process
quote Abraham Lincoln

I think that the person most likely to get my vote will be the person i never heard of. I'm not suggesting I will even go to the polls, because my polling place is creepy and full of old people, but you could get my vote if you're an utter stranger. I don't expect to enjoy this election.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Okay. It has been brought to my attention that not much has been said about Melbotis in the past several postings. Well, I'm always here to deliver to my audience what they want. Before ratings start slipping off and I have to introduce a baby or new, wise-cracking cousin into the blog, I will return it to it's roots. I promise much more Melbotis reporting.

So what's Mel been up to?

photo taken just prior to Halloween. Mel's nifty Halloween costume courtesy of Jamie.

Mel has recently been traumatized by the two trips we took, but he is recovering nicely. There's nothing like a little separation anxiety to make you feel that much more appreciated when you get home. He's about due for his spring trip to the Petsmart groomers in which he will be bathed, trimmed, dipped and generally manhandled. He never seems to mind these trips as he believes he's just getting additional attention from strangers.

Mel has two favorite toys of choice. The primary toy for years has been tennis balls, which he likes to carry around two at a time. He plays a pretty good game of fetch. Since we've moved here, I've gone through about twenty tennis balls. I don't know where they go. They simply disappear. I hate to think of what is lining his little stomach, but it can't be good. For Christmas, the in-laws decided to get cute and bought Mel a stuffed white bear that has a little box inside. When Mel bites into it, it plays back a short recorded message of my choosing.

Deciding to be clever, the first message we tried was "The Proletariat has the right to rise up against the bourgeoisie!" I now know why the communist revolution failed. Mel's been protesting for workers rights lately, and the second he actually does some work, I will make some concessions.

The chip was then programmed to say, "Goodboy, Mel! Goodboy!" THis immediately replaced my function in the household as far as Mel was concerned as all he needed to do to achieve positive reinforcement was to violently shake his white bear (which had somehow taken on the name of Boo-Boo).

These days the chip's battery is dead, and all the bear says is "Chhk... chrk chk". It's actually kind of creepy. Mel still loves Boo-Boo, though. Whenever you try to read on the floor, he places Boo-Boo on your book or head, which is a pretty gross proposition since Boo-Boo has accumulated 4 months worth of dog spit.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

best news in weeks:

Indiana Jones is coming to DVD
In response to yesterday's blog, Jim wrote:

Well, I think you miss the point, which is that a "comic book movie" has to cater to two audiences: the fans (like you and me) and the populace. If it is just to the fans, the film can't be made, as it will tank. If it is just for the populace, the fans will kill it with bad word of mouth. So how to do both?

Singer seems to get it . . .

I responded with:

I whole heartedly agree. I must have been unclear.

My point was not that movies should just follow the comics beat for beat, but that critics dismiss comic-based movies because the movie had a comic for a source. This is usually done loudly and unnecessarily before the reviewer ever gives the movie a chance. Critics are bringing in certain baggage, and as a result, end up repeating the same dumb 4 cliches in every review, every time a comic based movie is released. Sites like Aint It Cool have existed for so long because it's the one source from which you know the reviewer will most likely not be biased against a movie because it's a genre picture.

Clearly non-Superhero comic adaptations are free from this criticism, so it is not the panel to big screen translation which doesn't work. Ghost World, From Hell, Road to Perdition and Spirited Away escaped this kind redundant review, to name just a few.

Movies need to be directed as 90 minute stories, and there's nothing wrong with that. It's form equalling function. Reading a comic series is an investment of time and money and a different medium. A short trip to the movies is simply not the same investment. Yet, movies can finally deliver what super hero comics have promised us for so long, and bring that experience to millions more. I just hope they can keep the essence of what made the properties being adapted mean so much for so many years.

I hope to see X2 immediately, but it will probably wait until the weekend.

So Jim said:

Ah, but the opposite is true! Sites like that of Knowles are far more likely to slavishly worship and adore rather than use a critical eye. AICN is the fringe, as well, and probably a bad example anyway, since Knowles was bought long ago by the studios with ego-stroking, junkets and trinkets.

I think perhaps people just find the idea of superheros SILLY. Tights, powers, etc, truth, justice. They don't know superheros like the dark and brooding X-Men . . . . Their notions of superheros come not from claremont and miller but mostly from plastic man and the wonder twins, you know?

So I am inclined to say:

Well, at this point I don't know if Knowles counts as a critic at all anymore. You can glean what you need to from perusing his headlines. (I happened to see Harry this weekend entering Austin Books on Lamar. He was going in to get free comics for Free Comics Day.) But, yeah... I mean, the man liked Daredevil. He's lost all credibility. So I guess maybe he has the opposite of a knee-jerk anti-superhero reaction. BUT, folks looking for news about genre films can usually find that info there, if they know how to read around the insane ramblings of the site's proprietor.

I don't think there's any perhaps about folks finding Superheroes silly (or Knowles silly, either). That seems to be the common concensus. But lately, in the right hands, these characters are working on the big screen for the first time since Burton did Batman. For two hours, folks are able to suspend their disbelief and think it's okay for Spider-Man to be swinging around Manhattan. It's just fun to see these stories working on a mass level. I think that's the secret hope of every comic fan... mass appreciation for something we've enjoyed for years. We know that superheroes are thought of as silly, so when Spider-Man makes a Billion Dollars, and little kids will grow up thinking of Spider-Man as a great action hero, it doesn't matter if it's in comics or movies.

So if the typical critical reaction to superhero movies is pretty negative, I think i can live with that. You're not going to always appeal to everyone, and critics have a reputation to maintain. If they don't stay conservative, they could lose the easiest job in the world. Producers just need to take their material seriously, and generally the audience will follow their cue. The moment someone wants to talk about making something into a musical, or adding a wise-cracking sidekick, that director, writer, whatever... that person needs to be shown the door. Marvel's producers believe in their product, and find creatives who also believe in the product. They've managed to stay true to their subject mateiral, and they're making a lot of money doing it, masks, crazy-Wolverine-hair and all.

Yeah, superheroes are kind of silly, but so is watching an entire season of baseball, or voting Democrat in Texas, or wearing a cowboy hat, or reading this blog, for that matter.

With the Phoenix Suns now soundly out of contention and the Rockets nowhere in sight, my loyalties are no longer split.


If I've said it once, I've said it a million times... the Japanese just do things better.

And I guess it had to happen sooner or later. Unfortunately for me, it's just too hot in the summer here to wear a cape and mask. Maybe if I just fought crime indoors.

And, finally, in other caped news... Apparently somebody had the right idea. I just hope this same rule doesn't apply here when Jamie and I drop a litter.

Monday, May 05, 2003

worked on this last night and finally decided to publish...

X-Men 2.

No, I haven't seen it yet, but as a fan of the later Claremont-era (and if you know what that means, it's time to readjust the tape holding together your glasses), I will drop my $8 and go to the show.

My issue is not with the movie, but with how comic-book movies are reviewed. Every comic-book movie review now contains a couple of items:

1) this movie is NOT your typical comic book movie

There is no typical comic-book movie. One cannot say they are all low-budget, nor can one say that they draw only B-Level actors, or have substandard effects. From a plot perspective, comparing Spider-Man’s story to Batman’s works only as well as comparing X-Men to Donner’s Superman or Corman’s Fantastic Four or the upcoming Hulk and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (recently re-titled, The League). I’m not sure what golden era of comic-book film franchising that critics are referring to, but I think we’re in the middle of it.

2) the critic/ author has been shocked by the loyalty of their fanboy friends who come out of the closet with a "yay" or "nay" opinion

To draw an analogy that could explain the dismay the fanboys feel: Sex and the City is a widely enjoyed television program. Now, just imagine if a film were commissioned of Sex and the City, but the creators of the film refused to watch the television program or read a single script before actually releasing their own Sex and the City movie. Now imagine NOT wanting to compare and contrast the two.

There’s understandably precious little sympathy for fanboys, and I wouldn’t suggest that comic readers should get more respect than they deserve. What I would suggest is that most people who talk in generalities about comics are talking about a cover of a comic they saw on a spinner-rack at the Piggly Wiggly when they were in 5th grade. Sure, they know what a comic looks like, but they have no appreciation for the comic, anymore than the average layman can appreciate different performances of classical music, or the variations on a standard performed by various jazz musicians.

For about 20 years the sophistication of certain comics has been lauded in the mainstream press (invariably with the tagline that “comics aren’t for kids”. Sometimes the adult skewing readership stats are cited). Hell, at this point "V for Vendetta", one of the best comics of the 80's is pushing 20.
My basic understanding is this: most folks don’t realize how much comics changed in 1963 with Marvel’s first publications and base their ideas of comics on the Batman TV show. So, when someone in a cape and tights isn’t posturing for the police, it’s considered different.

The bottom line is that comics have been telling detailed stories for years, and film makers have treated the source material the same way they treat all source material (anyone remember the happy ending to Demi Moore's Scarlet Letter?). Sometimes the results work, and sometimes they do not. Punishing comics and comic readers because film makers routinely deal with the material irresponsibly is as silly as condemning anyone who ever fell into love because romantic comedies might be tepid and silly.

3) this movie is a metaphor for something or other

Science-Fiction has always been a reaction to the trends and fears of a particular time. I shouldn’t even have to address this, yet with every review, there it is... It’s insulting. Stories don’t need to just be tidy melodramas. Sometimes you have to disguise your political viewpoint in spandex and capes so you don’t get hauled in by the thought police.

Science-fiction makes a lot of people uncomfortable, perhaps because of the parallels. Perhaps they really do not want to bother to try to understand the fictional issues and explanations and internal logic of the implausible situation being discussed. And that’s fine. Or maybe they don't appreciate serious issues being played out by Mutant Masters of Magnetism because in their eyes that diminishes the real issue. Fine. I can accept that. But when you’re a fan of “Sex and the City,” you’ve already defaulted any ability to point to the stories you watch as “plausible”.

4) this time around, the character seem to have been given some emotional depth

Critics such as Entertainment Weekly’s Lisa Schwarzbaum rarely admit that they have enjoyed any film that contains anything resembling a fantasy element. Each time any iota of enjoyment begins to be derived, a feeling of guilt begins to creep in around the edges. (See how many times Schwarzbaum sites Harry Potter in the review whenever she gets close to praising it, extinguishing the fact that X-Men predates Potter by 30+ years, and the screen version debuted a full year earlier than the movie, while simultaneously re-establishing the idea that Harry Potter is for children, and so is this. Thus, if you enjoy this, you are, by default, childish. And childish wonder might result in.. well, we know it's probably bad. So we'll stick to lauding French films.).

Since Batman watched his parents get gunned down in an alleyway in 1939, the motives of comic characters have skewed toward the extreme. Perhaps critics are once again citing the 1960’s Batman TV show or some TV movies Marvel produced. It’s difficult to gauge exactly why characters whom have existed for 40+ years should be thought to have never developed any emotional depth. Still, since Christopher Reeve wore the cape in Superman The Motion Picture, the fact that these characters do more than stand around looking like a dentifrice commericial has been gawked at. Since then results have been admittedly mixed, but so what?

Comic fans, myself included, hyperventilate when comic-based movies are bad because we know it’s just one more nail in the coffin. During the recent Superman debacle, fans protested because we know that companies like Warner Bros. would rather not ever refer to the comics when exploiting a license like Superman and allow “creatives” to take license with characters they "own." The damage this can cause to the property in its original format can take years to get through, and we know it. We're the kids who have to deal with the divorce after mom and dad are off living their new lives.

So should movies be only a dreary parade which supposedly mirrors our own lives? Christ, i hope not. What fun are movies if you can’t go to see Spider-Man swing off the Empire State Building, anyway? Or the Hulk toss a tank? Or Batman hop in his Batmobile or Superman take to the sky? Where is this supposed to happen? Movies should be able to be fun for adults as well as children. Sometimes movies throw in a helpful bit of a message, too. (I am often able to apply how With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility). But fantasy should not be ridiculed for being fantasy. There can be far more truth hiding in those capes and cowls than in the usual Nora Ephron debacle.

I hope the trend continues and audiences can enjoy the comic-based movies, even if they do not look for the comics. The basic stories can be, and sometimes are, very good. And after a lifetime of enjoyment, we comic geeks can walk out of a theater and look at our shoes and smile and know that we were right when we said "if they'd just give the comic a chance..."

Sunday, May 04, 2003

Returned from Austin, TX today after my first weekend there in about 11 months. I feel like 5 miles of bad road, but it was good to be back in the Capital City.

Anyway, the city looks good, and I have mixed feelings about the trip.