Thursday, September 27, 2007

The League OOO

The League will be out of office/ town as of tomorrow morning. We'll be back on Sunday evening.

We're headed to Jamie's cousin's wedding. Steve and his lady friend are making it legal somewhere in the wilds of Wisconsin, and so, off I go to Wisconsin.

Its kinda weird, because I don't get out of town too often and somehow I keep winding up in Wisconsin. Go figure.

Anyhow, if I don't reply to your comments, phone calls, e-mail or smoke signals, its not because I don't care.

Bionic Lady Person


Well, the pilot had Katie Starbuck, or whatever her name is. Which is weird. I guess she's looking at jumping on another series before BSG wraps up and that gravy train rolls to a halt. Anyhoo, she's the evil Ladytron. I doubt she'll be in every episode, but there you have it. Jason should be happy.

The San Francisco of the show is very clearly Canada. So I kinda wish they'd quit telling us it is San Francisco when it COULD be somewhere in the Pacific Northwest with a few establishing shots. Or Canada. Because, really, why not? Remember when every place Scully and Mulder visited across the US just happened to look like Canada?

The Bionic Lady Person is TV attractive and, one would guess, not too bad of an actor. But, like many pilots, this one was so full of exposition, that, well... Who knows? The writers for this episode were big on telling rather than showing, which didn't give the BLP much room showing her chops. In fact, our Jamie Summers does a lot of looking like some lost, shell-shocked Deschanel sister even before she's hit by an 18 wheeler. Most of her dialog is complaining about being given a superhuman body (?) and/ or giving mini-exposition.

Thanks to her upgrades, we're to believe that BLP feels like a freak, but there's no indication as to why. She looks, after all, completely normal and seems to feel mostly normal, but its in vogue for super powers to be a burden (thank you, Marvel Comics), hence a lot of moping. Of greater consequence is the weighty question posed by the budgetless biomed/military research team as to whether they should hang onto the Bionic Lady Person and/ or kill her rather than letting her go after her surgery. Unfortunately, they kinda play that card early. As a viewer, it doesn't feel like much of a threat to our hero as neither Bionic Dead Person, nor Bionic Prisoner sounds terribly appealing for a prime time spot.

We're told by the BLP's boyfriend (a walking plot point) that the BLP is somehow different and special, and while nothing necessarily contradicts this point, there's also nothing to suggest she is, in fact, special. She's a 24 year old bartender and a college drop out. Aside from the fact that she owns a really, really huge place in San Francisco on a bartender's salary, she's pretty darn ordinary, which is great. I like "everymen". However, the show shouldn't tell us our cyborg is so amazing that this professor/ neurosurgeon/ mad scientist boyfriend never met anyone like her (Because, Doc, I can walk into any Bennigan's in the US and find someone just as "special").

What the show does have going for it are two things: 1) Good special FX 2) a glowering Miguel Ferrer. I'm always going to cheer for my man Ferrer. He's an aces actor, and while I've only ever seen a small part of his output, I know what I'm getting with Ferrer. In BLP, he manages to out-presence everyone else in every scene he's in without really trying. But what can he do? He's Miguel Ferrer, and that's why you hire the man.

The number one strike BLP has going against it is that, like so many other shows, this program has decided it will have a built in mythology from episode #1. Unfortunately, rather than slowly revealing aspects from BLP's point of view, the producers chose to drop us in the middle of things, somewhere several years into the Shadowy Government Bionic People Making Project. I understand that's more or less how TV shows now work, but... sigh. Give me time to get used to the show. Try some literary devices like foreshadowing or something (and no, dropping in scenes of characters not tied to the main action speaking in cryptic, disjointed dialog is not foreshadowing. See what works for the show before you eliminate any wiggle room. Especially when you might as well have a blink tag on the character which reads: Bad Guy.)

There's something sort of perfunctory about the whole pilot, as if the producers didn't trust the story to unfold on its own. This could have easily been a two hour movie, but instead, the Spider-Man-like discovery of powers is crammed in there in two or three scenes, none of which give BLP an opportunity to REACT to her powers other than that googy-eyed scared expression.

Making the whole thing kinda by-the-numbers, the supporting characters are barely defined, yet plugged with enough TV friendly cues that you sorta get the idea (ex: the rebellious sister who just needs to be loved, but, hey... she's also a computer whiz! It all seemed so extraneous at the time...).

Add in the perfunctory super karate face off with Katie Starbuck (in high heels, no less), and the unconvincing face off between BLP and Miguel Ferrer (who pwns her), and you got your show in motion. In most ways that count, Katie Starbuck's storyline is a lot more interesting than that of BLP.

I dunno. I was sort of excited by the possibilities for this series, but now?

I'm giving them another episode or two to see how it all shakes out.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Mike Kunkel of Shazam!

Newsarama had a story on this last week, and it looks like it's going to be a huge amount of fun. I really enjoyed Jeff Smith's Shazam book, but I don't feel guilty at all about looking forward to seeing what Kunkel does.

Kunkel, you may know, is the creator of Herobear and the Kid, which is a really fun comic.

My understanding is that this comic will be truly all-ages, and will be spearheading DC's new push to creating a line of kid-friendly comics. I know, crazy that they need to back up and review their original audience, but I'm really glad. And I think Kunkel (or Smith) are great guys to lead the charge.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Ahmadinejad in NYC

Hey, so Ahmadinejad hit NYC today, and I know you're thinking "Hey, League... You're somewhat literate and watch TV sometimes. I don't know what to think of this Iranian President coming to town and chatting up co-eds. Lambast me with your poorly constructed worldview and mediocre analysis."

I love me some America, Leaguers. Iran, I can give or take, and, let's face it, we've got a rocky history with those folks.

Did you know, according to Batman comics, the Ayatollah Khomeini once made The Joker a UN Ambassador? Amazing and TRUE.

Leading up to Ahmadinejad's appearance today at Columbia University, there was a lot of debate regarding whether or not he should be given such an opportunity, or, with his tendency to make claims many Americans find outrageous (and which the rest find mostly offensively preposterous), Iran's President should be allowed to speak. This is after someone wouldn't let the guy make an appearance at the site of the World Trade Center.

Ahmadinejad isn't crazy. He's a head of state, responsible for millions of lives. And whether he espouses beliefs Americans believe to be bizarre or profane, he's also not the mad dog lunatic that our own resident propaganda artists have tried to spin him. Instead, he's a thinking person, and a seemingly intelligent person, and a caricature of evil doesn't reflect what Americans are getting from this guy. He's not a ludicrous figure in the mode of King Jung Il, or the bizarre Papa of Death that Saddam Hussein appeared to be with his bushy mustache and tendency to fire off rifles during parades.

My fundamental belief, and you can quote me on this, is that if we aren't willing to let everyone speak, no matter how crooked or vile they are, then our belief in freedom of speech isn't worth the hemp the Constitution is written on. We live in a groovy country where we don't need to worry about being jailed or fined for making fun of our leaders or criticizing them, and that's something you can't even really say about most of the rest of the world (there was even a recent case in Spain of a cartoonist getting in legal trouble for making fun of some lazy Prince. A Prince, for love of Mike!).

Iran has a, shall we say, slightly stricter idea of what it means to talk smack to those in charge, from Mullah to President.

As Jim D once wisely pointed out to me, one of the interesting things about freedom of speech isn't just that you get to say whatever you want, it's that people get to say whatever they want right back at you. And here's where things come together about why I think bringing a dictator with a, shall we say, spotty reputation into an Ivy league institution is a groovy idea. Did Ahmadinejad think he was going to walk onto a stage in a room full of America's elite, students and professional intellectuals, and not get a few tough questions?

Honestly, the Newt Gingrich's of the world who were so horrified at bringing this guy to the US to speak were missing the big picture. I don't know if they thought Ahmadinejad was going to be able to persuade a roomful of Columbia's best and brightest that he was a great guy or what, but what I think they were missing was the opportunity which New York and Columbia seemed to take advantage of in pretty good force.

The President of Iran is going to be able to build his cult of personality at home whether he's at Columbia or not. Bring him to Columbia University, and for one day, he was out of his element and speaking to an audience that had no reason to be polite, was not going to worry about having their jobs and homes taken from them (or worse), and who have not had government controlled media managing the message since the 70's (I'm speaking in broad terms here, so let's not go crazy talking about corporate owned media franchises, shall we?).

Ahmadinejad got to see his route lined with protesters he can dismiss, but perhaps he can also note not just that we're a country where you can assemble and go home without fear of arrest, but that our streets can fill with people willing to voice their opposition to the government he's assembled. People who drew attention to some of his quirkier antics.

Whatever moment of personal triumph Ahmadinejad may have thought he was building by walking into Columbia, from what I've read, things worked out pretty well in the way of American republic-style democracy versus Holocaust-denying dickery. For folks who questioned the President of Columbia of University for bringing in Ahmadinejad, check this out:

"When you come to a place like this it makes you simply ridiculous," Bollinger said. "The truth is that the Holocaust is the most documented event in human history."

Bollinger made this comment in his opening remarks, and reminded us that we live in a place where the President, any President, can be called into question when they face the public, and that person should require only the courage takes to look another person in the eye to call that President out.

And that's not all bad.

Lastly, the role of the University is a place for learning, and part of that concept is the open and free exchange of ideas. That's why I blanch when I hear someone trying to get a professor fired for espousing kooky beliefs. Universities, state funded or not, aren't just there to be job training facilities for high schoolers who are too chicken to try a stint in the armed services. There was a reason the university you went to kept inviting all these people to talk on campus, even when you were skipping them to watch "Friends". Part and parcel of that is that they advertise all of these people, so you get to go and tell them they're a big jerk.

No, its true! If, say, Captain Kangaroo showed up and you wanted to give the Captain a piece of your mind, you get to do so. Unless you're that one guy, and you get tased for being a jack-ass. But you have to really push it before they tase you, bro.

Anyhow, I was glad to see most commentators understand the situation, and was glad to see it shook out pretty well.

UPDATE: Or, as pictures always speak better than words: Click here

Thanks, anonymous

Sunday, September 23, 2007

weekend round-up

Well, the weekend was okay, if brief. I worked on Saturday, which was interesting as I was testing a simulation for one of our clients. Sometimes I really dig what we do at my company, and Saturday was one of those days.

Next weekend we are boarding a plane to attend Jamie's cousin's wedding in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, which should be fun, if a bit of a whirlwind trip.

But this weekend I had my ass handed to me by allergies.

I did not have allergies growing up, and after college, I misdiagnosed my allergies I'd developed for years, believing I was picking up a series of colds. But it seems that the allergies I had before we left Texas in '02 have come back to slug me in the head.

My poor mother called me last night all the way from Michigan, where she's currently visiting friends, and I was no kind of conversationalist. She was all chipper and wanting to talk football, and I was grouchy and disappointing.

Yesterday was also "catch up on errands" day, as we've had stuff going on for literally weeks, and will be gone next weekend. Unfortunately, this meant a trip to the mall, a place which has lost all luster and allure for me as a consumer. So much junk to buy, and maybe 1% of 1% is something I would ponder buying, and most of those items are in the power tool section at Sears.

Even the Build-A-Bear Workshop is only mildly amusing until you realize you're imitating the work of a Peruvian sweatshop worker, sorta like when they used to have the questionable chain of "make your own steak!" restaurants scattered around. (I know I can make my own steak. It's called staying home and firing up the grill. Advantage to restaurant: No dishes to wash). However, rather than be paid $2.00 per day for my bear-making wages, I would be paying Build-A-Bear $20 for the privilege of performing manual labor.

All of these complaints are minimized, of course, if there's a Superman Bear. In that case, its money and time well spent.

UT had its annual lambasting of the Rice Owls. 58-14. One TD never should have happened, and the other one took place when the scrubs were in for the fourth quarter. We abandoned the game to go see "3:10 to Yuma".

As little as I ever wanted to actually visit Yuma while I was in Arizona, this move makes the trek even less appealing. Or at least the trek to the train station to catch a train to Yuma. The stark Southwestern landscape did nothing to make me yearn for the deserts of Arizona.

Christian Bale continues to cement his position in my mind as one of the finest actors of his generation, making interesting choices for his character and managing to make the hero, a dully virtuous character, into an interesting, three-dimensional person. Russell Crowe also handles his character well, and mostly refrains from going standard Hollywood over the top in his portrayal.

The movie itself reminds me of some of the later Westerns, such as "High Noon", which used the environs of the expanding frontier as a petri dish for people free of enforceable law, and relying upon their own sense of right and wrong, damn the consequences, often in the face of desperation and profitable lawlessness. Other movies such as "Winchester '73", "Sons of Katie Elder" and others play with the same territory. The Spaghetti Western galvanized the concept, and movies like "The Wild Bunch" and "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" often crossed over to seeing things even a bit more from the traditional antagonist's point of view. Which is part of why I find it interesting that the Western genre, much like superheroes, is often tagged with what is considered to be an adolescent belief in black and white morality.

Speaking of Cowboys, the Pokes won another one, stomping last year's Division Champs into the ground with a 34-10 victory over the Bears on NBC's Sunday Night Football. It's a good year once again to be a Cowboys fan.