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.


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.


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


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.

My Office's Holiday Greeting

Behold and be terrified!


Leaguers, it's December. Which means I can now insist that you be in the Christmas spirit. To that end, here are a few videos to get your Holiday juices flowing.

From the under-rated "Invader Zim"

J'onn has a Christmas in Smallville

Christmas with Flash and Ultra-Humanite

Sunday, December 02, 2007

May the League Recommend...

No Country for Old Men

It's been a while since I thought the Coens were making a movie that I wanted to see.

I did not enjoy "The Man Who Wasn't There". I skipped the Tom Hanks heist movie and the George Clooney/ Catherine Zeta Jones flick.

But I did manage to make it out for No Country for Old Men.

Honestly, I don't even really want to talk about it, but the movie will defy many movie-goers' expectations, and that's either going to work for you, or it isn't. It worked for The League.

Also, performances were uniformly sharp, and the setting of West Texas makes sense not just in the context of the story, but is the perfect backdrop for the grander themes of the story.

I have not read any Cormac McCarthy book, but I know his fans were probably a bit nervous about the translation to screen. I've no idea how close it might have been to the book, but Jason, who had read the book, seemed fairly pleased.

We the movie at the new Alamo DraftHouse, which is where the Ritz once stood on Sixth Street. Technically, its still the Ritz, complete with sign, but the interior is unrecognizable. A very small part of my twenties has been compromised.

Parking isn't so much an issue as it is expensive if you don't want to walk several blocks back to your car. On top of ticket price and food, its an expensive night out.

Fortunately, the movie was good enough that expense didn't play into the equation. However, had the movie been a dud...