Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Hey. Happy New Year.

So what does the future hold?
Lots of angry, angry robots.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


I have a 2.5 year old topic I need to print a retraction on and make a lot of apologies.

A long time ago I complained (bitterly)
that new Austinites pronounced the street I live near as "Man-chawk-ah" when it has previously been pronounced "Man-shack". It is spelled "Manchaca".

It IS true that the name of both street and the nearby community are pronounced, traditionally in Austin as "Man-shack". But, just as we pronounce Guadalupe as "Gwod-uh-loop", it's just how it is. But that's not what I got wrong. I'm sticking by the "Man-shack" pronunciation. But I now think it was NOT a name of Czech origin. I think that was a bad bit of info I got off the news around 2000.

So this week, for some reason, I tried looking up the work "Manchaca" as a Czech name or word, and I came up with nil. So I looked it up as a Spanish name and, lo and behold, there are innumerable entries of folks of Hispanic origin with the name "Manchaca. So, I have no idea what the people on the news were talking about, and I apologize for single sourcing my story.

Monday, December 29, 2008

I Heart Amanda Waller

Amanda Waller. Sounds like the name of someone who might have graduated with you from high school, maybe even rode your bus in middle school.

In DC Comics, the face of power is not that of a certain spit-curled Kryptonian, nor does the image of a cunning mind necessarily belong to a certain pointy-eared detective. Instead, for those of us who pay attention, we know that the toughest-minded, often most heroic person (and often the most stubbornly linear minded person) in the DCU doesn't wear tights, but skirted business suits.

I really have no idea where Amanda Waller first appeared in DC Comics (I think in Legends), but she came to prominence in the pages of Suicide Squad as the iron-willed bureaucrat who wasn't afraid to break a few eggs in order to get an omelette. Namely, she coerced villains of the DCU into doing Uncle Sam's dirty work as a black-ops super-hero team, Task Force X. Succeed in your missions, and get part of your life sentence commuted. Fail, and you'll most likely die somewhere in a foreign land with the US Government denying any knowledge of your existence.

Neither good guy nor bad guy, but always interesting.

Yeah, she's a tough cookie.

Waller has a "chat" with Bats

In addition to running Task Force X (aka: Suicide Squad), Waller pops up in other sort of sketchy Government-run superhero related programs, from UN peacekeeping force Checkmate to all-purpose "we're doing it for the good of the people, whether they like it or not" secret-ops G-Man.

Waller is an intriguing character not just because of her moral complexity, but because she seems 100% feasible. We've all known or met someone who is infinitely smarter, more determined and utterly un-selfconscious about making difficult decisions. In her own way, she's in the same league as Lex Luthor with both ther intellect, drive and concern about the balance of power regarding those caped wonders. Often, Waller plays the voice of a nervous government that would be reasonably concerned about the tight-wearing heroes zipping about the skyscrapers of the DCU. It's an odd bit of semi-realism for a world with Kings of Atlantis and men in red tights outrunning fighter jets.

To give you an idea of what one might expect of Waller, let us compare her to Marvel's Nick Fury if we want to talk G-Men.

1) Amanda Waller + paper work + budget meetings = utterly in character

2) Nick Fury + paper work + budget meetings = chomping a cigar, then complaining loudly about about how these suits don't "get it", and then maybe shooting someone just to meet the day's quota of super-spy action

Waller represents the extremely difficult situation people would find themselves in the DCU. She does not have Superman or Wonder Woman's awesome powers. She does not have Batman's lifelong martial and detective training (but probably his mind and a parallax version of his insight). She doesn't have the luxury of confining her battles to simply taking down the Joker, not when she's playing for keeps in an international arena. We now have series that look at what happens when Superman and Batman decide to play in the same area (Authority, etc...), but that's not the world of DC Comics. And whether or not I agree with Superman's moral code (I do), most others do not, will take advantage, and most people don't have Superman's luxury of bullet-proof skin and eyeballs.

And while she's often squarely in a morally gray area, smart writers like Greg Rucka have used her as an example of the arrogance of American power in international organizations when she was made, pretty clearly, a villain in the superlative Checkmate series as she attempted to maneuver Checkmate into her control/ American influence rather than as the multinational peacekeeping force it was intended to be. And she went down swinging.

But, anyway, when push comes to shove, Amanda Waller is the sort of person you want at your back in the DCU.

Waller gets animated

Waller was also featured in the JLU cartoon as head of Cadmus, a Government organization researching (and cloning) meta-humans. Her inclusion in the series was absolutely brilliant, as was her voicing by CCH Pounder. Originally positioning herself against the Justice League, they eventually teamed up to fight the unenviable foe of a merged Luthor and Brainiac.

Here's JLU plus Waller in action.

By the way, that episode just gets crazier from there...

And now Mattel has announced that they will be creating an Amanda Waller action figure to go with the line of JLU toys I sort of collect. It's a testament both to Waller's popularity and to Mattel's joy at tackling some of the DCU's less well known characters with the the still functioning and relatively inexpensive JLU line.

Finally, an action figure of a bureaucrat I respect and admire

Sunday, December 28, 2008

2008 More Year End Review

2008 is rapidly drawing to a close. We've already visited 2008 in excrutiating detail previously.

Don't forget: New Year's Eve Party at League HQ. You're invited.

Here's a link to Good Stuff in the comics world in 2008 over at Comic Fodder.

Jason did a "good stuff '08" list of his own that you should check out.

In the end, 2008 was a pretty decent year. If you'd asked me how it was going in September, I probably would have told you to stick it in your ear. Unemployment, an off kilter career and all of the related issues associated really had me down. But I think that's changed a great deal.

1) Employment!

I can't complain about the wonders of a job with benefits, a parking garage, and which puts me into a position where I feel like I'm helping out the world in some, small way. I am actually really enjoying work, so hopefully that will continue well into 2009 and beyond.

2) Re-arranging my comic buying

I've generally been a much happier comic buyer and consumer since I've made my weekly destination for comic purchasing Austin Books rather than the convenient but annoying shop I had been visiting. The crew at Austin Books is far more friendly and knowledgeable, and they understand my need for things like drinking glasses featuring the Justice League. The selection is terrific and they're much better at the whole "special events" thing than I am at participating (although I made it to the Christmas party/ sale).

I am trying to talk Jason into tailgating Free Comic Book Day with me.

3) Relatively Healthy

Jamie has been relatively healthy. We've had trips to the ER and hospital, but its all mostly been on the up and up. Our last trip to the ER was pretty much 90% unnecessary (I won't get into details), which in our world is a very good thing. May family, friends and good doctors continue to buoy Jamie's health and spirits.

4) Lucy behaves

She's not exactly ready to be the poster dog for perfect obedience, but Lucy grew up a lot this year. We no longer worry about her spazzing out any more. It's true, I guess, that labs really are puppies until they're three (or four).

Lucy turned four on Christmas Eve, by the way.

5) Mel in pretty good health

My buddy Mel is officially entering "old dog" status, and that's okay. He's always been one who seemed ready to be wearing slippers and a cardigan from day one. Despite our cancer concerns from earlier in the year, Mel has rebounded beautifully.

We are taking him in for dental work on Monday, but his bloodwork during his recent exam went very, very well.

Love you, pal.

6) Costa Rica Trip

Longtime readers of this blog will note that The League does not hit the road all that often except to see family, etc... So it was particularly fantastic that Jason and I were able to jump a jet and spend a few days kicking around Costa Rica. I can't say enough about how much fun I had (despite that panic attack in the hotel that night. Sorry about that, dude). But it was great to see a geological marvel, see some unfamiliar sights, swim in the ocean and see a coatamundi. All in all, an amazing week.

7) Catching Up With Folks Via Facebook

It's been a weird year as far as social networking technology goes. I've gotten back in touch with a few friends this year that it was probably unlikely I'd have run into again, one way or another, had Facebook not become the gold standard for social management.

I've gotten to see some of these folks, and hope to see the rest at some point. But it's great to catch up with anyone you've lost touch. Some are raising kids, some fighting fires, others are scientists. The trick now is not to lose touch.

8) Keeping up with Leaguers and other Pals

I can't say enough about how much 4 years kicking around Arizona led me to appreciate friends and family. The Steans clan has always been fairly casual about mixing the two, and the tradition continues on. And, honestly, that's the way I assume it always will be. We still enjoy having friends over (see the New Year's invitation), and I think sometimes I forget that all these folks don't know each other. And we still like dinners and nights out with our pals. And, occasionally, some of you will live with us for an extended period of time, and that's good, too.

Of course some Leaguers aren't in town, but that doesn't mean I don't want to know what you're up to or what's going on with you.

9) Writing

I'm still of the opinion that maintaining LoM is worthwhile, and I guess if you're checking in regularly, you feel the same way. It helps me feel like I am writing on a routine basis, even if its not going anywhere. And, of course, I'm still writing over at Comic Fodder, so I'm not just able to talk about comics, but occasionally I become part of the wider conversation going on about comics and comic culture.

I have three New Year's Resolutions, and one is to write even more (but probably not more here). So, yeah, there's that.

10) The Future is Now!

These lists aways seem like a much better idea when you start off, and then you run out of ideas somewhere around Item #7, and find yourself trying to get Jamie to give you some help, but she's tying her shoes and says "Did you talk about the election?" and while it IS really a big issue for you, you try to make a point of not talking politics too much on the blog, so...

I don't want it to pass without mention, but this isn't maybe that kind of list. And I really don't want to end the list on some divisive note, so... Let's stick with something awesome. Rockets and jet packs.

And I'm ready for mine...

Saturday, December 27, 2008

as if anyone cares...

Today was pretty nifty. We stepped outside to head for a breakfast at Curra's (Jamie, Kristen, Doug and me) and it was unseasonably warm. I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt.

Once on Ben White, we could literally see a clear edge to the front coming through, and by the time we were at Curra's we decided that it was too cold to sit outside. I had also been informed I was somewhat hi-jacked and we were headed either for a movie or the zoo (not that I didn't want to go, but nobody likes suddenly learning that they aren't headed out on the mission they thought they were on).

Anyhoo, since we were already eating, going to The Alamo to see a movie I didn't care to see held little appeal, and everyone else wanted to go to the zoo, too, so off we headed.

If you've never been to The Austin Zoo, I highly recommend it. It doesn't have the massive gazelle herds of, say, the San Antonio zoo. But what they've done with their space and resources is pretty spectacular. Not to mention that some of their key attractions are rescue animals.

You know how you read about people keeping lions or tigers in their yards? It seems that many of their big cats come from such situations, or from circuses that probably never should have taken on big cats as a side-show item in the first place. Anyhoo, the lions, tigers and leopards are given a pretty nice place to call home, lots of loving attention and fawning admirers. And you can get up fairly close to their enclosures, enough so that the big cats are used to it and don't mind that you're five feet away.

I would post pictures, but, again, I had no idea I was going to the zoo, so... no camera.

Also, many, many different kinds of monkeys and primates. And interesting birds, but not an overwhelming collection, I think.

This evening we headed back to San Marcos for dinner. Tomorrow Kristen heads back to Berkeley, so we most likely will not see her again for several months. Perhaps a Bay Area trip is in our future?

Friday, December 26, 2008

Society of the Advancement of Dave

Holy cow! Dave Campbell is back!

You might remember Dave from the site "Dave's Long Box", a comic, humor, whatever site.

Anyway, I used to check in Dave quite a bit, and I look forward to doing so once more in a non-work related capacity (Dave actually parlayed his blogging prowess into a job for the ABC network).

Anyway, welcome back Dave, and welcome "The Society for the Advancement of Dave" to the blog-o-shpere.

Eartha Kitt Merges with the Infinite

Eartha Kitt, actor, singer and part of the Bat-firmament as one of three talented women to play Catwoman in the classic Batman television program, has passed away.

Kitt is also known for her version of "Santa Baby" (if you're hearing it on the radio or at the mall, that's Kitt's voice). She had a long and prolific career, including, I recall, cabs in New York on the 1990's using a pre-recorded message from Kitt asking you to buckle up (I still recall turning to Jason in the cab and blurting out "That's Eartha Kitt!").

Kitt never seemed to lose her joie de vivre, and never minded talking about either "Santa, Baby" or Catwoman. She'll be missed but not forgotten.

Other Side of Christmas - 2008

Hey Leaguers!

I hope you had a holly, jolly Christmas (it's the best time of the year).

This year Jamie and I had Christmas with her folks, Doug and Kristen, with most of the Christmassy activity centered at Jamie's folks' house down in San Marcos. Luckily, it was very nice outside, so we were able to take Melbotis and Lucy down with us (Jeff stayed behind to watch the house).

The McBrides have their big Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day in order to maximize Christmas Day lounging. It was about as traditional meal as you'll find with turkey, dressing, potatoes, cranberry sauce, etc... Which Judy did almost entirely by herself. And, I might say, outdid herself this year. This was followed by Judy's Christmas morning quiche, the traditional cinnamon roll wreath, and more.

We did the annual present exchange (I did well, thank you), and I think everyone did okay this year in the loot department.

There's been no small amount of discussion of the "Twilight" series of books (and movies) which are about not-really-Vampires. Jamie and Judy have read all of them, and Kristen is making her way through. And yet not Doug, Dick nor myself have yet to feel any inkling of curiosity about the series.

I did talk to The Admiral, KareBear and Steanso on Christmas Day. It sounded like their Holiday was going swimmingly.

We've got some tired dogs on our hands today as Lucy and Mel spent two days out in the McBride's big backyard and with a fairly steady stream of folks stepping out to throw the ball for them. Mel was in a bit of a blue funk in the week or so headed into Christmas as it was cold and his old bones do not love the cold the way they once did, and it was tough to get him outside for any length of time on his own. He was much peppier with the sun (probably the best present he could have received).

I, myself, am way off schedule on sleep, caffeine intake, etc... So I am unsure if I've been appropriately peppy during all the festivities.

Anyhow, we're now on the other side of Christmas, and that's always a pretty good time. Hopefully we'll use the freetime a bit more wisely than usual before I return to work than I have in previous vacations. I am going to try to do some organizing of CD's and books, sort some comics, and get to the garage after New Year as part of the Christmas decoration breakdown.

I hope everyone's Christmas went well.

Monday, December 22, 2008

It's a Wonderful Life

"It's a Wonderful Life" is a movie a surprising number of people haven't actually seen all the way through. Given the homage, parodies, etc... and insertion of clips of the film into countless other Holiday movies, I think a lot of folks think they've made it all the way through, but when you really press them, they know the story but aren't all that familiar with the original movie.

There was a very interesting story in the New York Times recently that discussed the discrepancy between how many people (in my experience, usually those who've never actually watched the film) believe it to be schmaltzy and painting a sugar coating on the world, when those who know the film a bit better know... that isn't "It's a Wonderful Life" at all. At the same time, I found the article a bit confusing as it seemed to conflate the common misconceptions about the movie with the reality presented in the movie, and without much credit given in the way of historical context regarding what life might have actually been like during the film's release.

Ah, the Holidays...

And, he takes a dig at "Bells of St. Mary's", which was actually a hugely popular movie of the era, earning a couple of Academy Awards and a huge number of nominations.

I saw "It's a Wonderful Life" the first time on television in the late 80's, before a copyright dispute got it yanked from the airwaves where it had been a favorite of UHF channels for years (the sitcom Cheers had a gag about how, in December, their UHF affiliate became "It's a Wonderful Network" showing the movie over and over).

It's easy enough to latch onto the message at the end of the movie, which is probably why the movie gets props even from those who consider it a bit sugary. We'd all like to believe our lives are worth something, not just to us, but to the people we're around and who matter to us. And if we've lived well, perhaps our value goes well beyond that.

And certainly, the movie means something far different when you see it when you're young versus how you see it as an adult and you, also, perhaps never boarded that steam ship and maybe life isn't quite as full of adventure as you'd hoped... And I'm not sure that the article's author gives full props to the fact that George Bailey doesn't want to toss himself off a bridge because of his legal troubles, but because of how he feels he's spent his life in a manner he never intended, and now he may be going away for a long, long time thanks to the mistakes of one of the folks he's carried with him.

I think that unless you're living a pretty awesome life, then there are very few people out there who can't relate a little to George Bailey.

There's actually some pretty entertaining stuff about how cool Pottersville looks compared to Bedford Falls, and in an America where the ideal vacation is in Las Vegas where they serve you free drinks as long as you keep gambling, its hard to argue the point. Maybe a vice-ridden town didn't equate to prosperity in anyone's book in 1947ish, but, hey... all I'm saying is that apparently you could pick up dames like Gloria Grahame. That's sort of jolly.

Swingingest neighborhood in Capraland

"It's a Wonderful Life" delivers pretty well on trying to demonstrate the value of the life of the everyman, that we effect more than we believe and our lives do have value. It's an interesting message for this time of year, when the "should be's" of the Holiday season are so much more apparent and painful when we're at our lowest. And that's, really, who the movie is for.

It's also important to note that before George's financial situation resolves itself that he's already at peace with his life, and, in fact grateful for it. I won't say that the deus ex machina of the tidy ending dilutes the film's conclusion and moral denouement, because its meant to reinforce the message of how one man is always more valued than he realizes. But its interesting, too, that its all gravy as far as George Bailey is concerned.

I used to watch the movie every year, but I think I'm now pacing myself. It's a movie I don't just like, but I actually believe in. Sure, it's sentimental, but to try to say its saccharine when you consider the sort of DOA Holiday junk we've been getting since, I think, Scrooged. I'll take a movie that isn't "Christmas with the Kranks", "Jingle all the Way", "Deck the Halls" or "Four Christmases"... secular Christmas movies that focus incessantly on the annoyances of the holiday/ having a family who loves you.

I'm not going to try to convince you. But give the article a read. If you get a chance, watch the movie.

I forgot to post

I don't often forget to post, but... I did.

Anyway, here's The 11 Most Badass Last Words from the good people at Cracked.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Apparently not satisfied with merely forcing Santa down the chimney under duress, Superman then enters the Yuletide scene in an effort to swipe Kris Kringle's thunder.

Oh, Superman. You love Christmas too much.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

NORAD tracks Santa

Hey, Leaguers. Those of you with kids might want to share this item with them.

Every year, for the past few years, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) has turned it's considerable resources to tracking Santa over American and other air space. You kids might be curious to see Santa make his way around the planet before he reaches your house.

Here's a link to the NORAD Santa Tracking website.

OR, you can track Santa with Google Earth.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Austin Books X-Mas Sale

Austin area readers may be interested to know that Austin Books is holding a substantial sale on Saturday. But it's also a Christmas party.

From their e-mail:

* 25% off ALL trade paperbacks (including hardcovers!) and manga
* 50% off select trade paperbacks (several hundred titles)
* $20 Gift Certificate given away every hour
* Cookies and Cocoa!
* Free Marvel Holiday Special Comic (while supplies last)


Don't forget, it's a party! There's going to be delicious sugar cookies for everyone and hot cocoa. We're going to be spinning X-Mas tunes. At least one of us will be wearing some ridiculous X-Mas garb.

So join us and be merry, because our idea of surviving the holiday retail season is by sticking a party and major sale in the middle of it. Then we go home and have some Crazy Ol' Blitzen Brand Egg Nog. It's got kick.

Yes, I am forcing Jamie into taking me.

Drunk History

This series I found at "Funny or Die" brought back some painful, fuzzy memories from college. Leaguers may recall that one of side-effect of graduating from high school was that I sort of earned a History degree from the Univ. of Texas. Anyhow, what I liked about history (well, probably one of my favorite things in life) is real stories.

To some degree, I think that's why I prefer watching Discovery, History Channel, what have you to most hour-long dramas. Or even will listen to Nicole rattle on for hours at a time. But, there's so much real stuff out there that's kind of mind-blowing that I don't feel compelled to see Jack Bauer's latest water-boarding adventure.

Occasionally, back in school when I'd tied one or two on, I'd find some "in" in the conversation that would remind me of something from class, and I would feel compelled to share.

I imagine that when I relate most of my book-learnin', whether sober or otherwise, it sounds not unlike the work of...


Here's a link to more
. Beware the, uh... usual side effects of drinking a bottle of vodka, etc... There are swears, confusion, and some, uhmmm... purging.

Top 100 people

I seriously would not take it upon myself to compile a list of 100 People of 2008, but nobody is paying me to be a full time blogger. Even then I'd think it a lot of unnecessary work.

But USA Today's pop culture wunderkind, Whitney Matheson, has done exactly that. And Jim Parsons it at number 35.

And Kanye West is at 37?

Man, if I was even on the same list as Kanye West anywhere, even on someone's "To Kill in 2009" list, I would be flattered. But to be 2 spaces in front of Mr. West?

Suck it, Kanye! Sheldon's emotionally challenged physicist is the new cool.

And if we're looking to off-kilter geniuses, then its not surprising that David Byrne sits at #34. Maybe next year, Jim.

I was going to mention other highlights, such as Samantha Bee at #39 and Kristen Wiig at #25, but the whole list is made up of highlights. But is anyone more highlightier than Mad Men's Christina Hendricks at #31? I think not.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Office Party

Tonight was my office Christmas party. Lovely, catered affair at UT's new hotel/ conference center. Well, by office, I mean the entire library staff and their families showed up. It was a few hundred folks as far as I could tell.

I'm still new, so I stuck close to people I know, met some new people, drank some coffee, ate some food, ate a cookie. It was, all in all, very festive. And, it was interesting to see how so many people related to one another. A lot of them have been there for a career, and some were back after retiring.

I've never worked anywhere before that was somewhere I believed I'd be for more than a few years. Or where people took it for granted that their jobs would be there tomorrow, even when I worked at other university jobs. I'm not sure I believe I'm set for life, but it's an interesting dynamic. And a nice thought.

I don't know. I'm not ready to say I'm settled in quite yet.

Christmas Schedules

I'm actually in Austin straight through, but thanks to the unique schedule of the University, I'm actually off starting tomorrow at 5:00 until after Jan. 1 (but we miss basically every other federal, state or other holiday).

I'm looking forward to some downtime that doesn't include unemployment.

There's a lot of "chore" type stuff I want to knock out, but if you're around and about, give me a shout.

This also means light blogging will probably also continue throughout the break.

Christmas Poetry

I was asked pretty specifically not to repeat my Holiday Poetry experiment this year. So, alas, you poor suckers. No Holiday poem this year.

Not that anyone ever seemed to read the poems...

I Have No Idea What is Happening Here

...because it looks like Santa is an unwilling participant in this image

Happy Birthday, JimD

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The League's Musical Playlist, 2008

I'm running a bit dry for content ideas at the moment, which I attribute to the sudden shortage of links and wackiness Randy usually sends me, but which has abruptly dried up of late (what up RHPT?).

I've been doing some lists over at Comic Fodder for an end of the year wrap up. So far I've posted a sort of rambling pre-amble, and then a "disappointments of 2008" list. I'll be doing a "good stuff from 2008" list by the weekend or first of next week. So, click on those and enjoy them. Or not. You know, whatever.

But you're reading this far down thinking "Great! More comics nonsense. But what about THE MUSIC, man?"

Well, I'm going to be 100% honest here.

2008 was probably the year I paid the absolute least attention to music in my life. Aside from ACL Fest, I don't think I went to a single show*, which wasn't even true in Phoenix, I think. Or at least there I had tickets but didn't make it out. I confess that I was otherwise distracted and I'm getting old. I had a subscription to "Spin" I bought from some adorable little girl who was selling magazines door-to-door, and every time I opened that magazine, I felt like I had no idea what I was looking at. I have no perspective anymore to separate hype and that first blush interest in freshman bands from an actual romance with a band's music.

These days, I mostly listen to music in the car, at my desk at home, or not at all. I definitely no longer just sit and listen to an album while laying on my bed anymore.

Consequently, I think my tastes are as run of the mill as they've been since I bought "Invisible Touch" out of a record bin at "Skaggs Alphabeta" grocery when I was 12ish.

As I don't think I can say much about Best Albums of 2008, because, seriously, I haven't got a clue, I'm just going to go through my iPod's playlists entitled "2008 - 1" and "2008 - 2". I've made other playlists, but they're either thematic or generated by the Genius feature.

Some of these tracks became "skip" tracks. But I'll go ahead and be all-inclusive.

Begin your judging of my tastes in 3... 2... 1...

2008 - 1

1) Into the Open - Heartless Bastards
The sophomore effort wasn't as strong, but this track from this album is a favorite

2) Someone Great - LCD Soundsystem
An oddly sentimental tune from LCD Soundsystem.

3) Pretty in Pink - Dresden Dolls
Slightly different from the Psychedelic Furs' original, but I like it just as much

4) Just Like Honey - The Jesus & Mary Chain
An old favorite from, what...? Middle school?

5) Wake Up - Arcade Fire
I'm surprised this wasn't 30% Arcade Fire. But I think I listen to their albums so much that they don't show up on playlists. This song contains one of my favorite changes.

6) Bodysnatchers - Radiohead
One of my favorite songs of the year. I'm not altogether clear what it's about, but it rocks my socks off.

7) Orphan Girl - Gillian Welch
I actually really like Gillian Welch and was glad to see her at ACL Fest this year. Maybe my favorite set of the show.

8) Sleeping Lesson - The Shins
I'm not 100% on The Shins. They're a little wimpy for me, but I do like this tune.

9) Missing - Everything but the Girl
Straight up, Leaguers. This song is on, like, every playlist I have. I do not apologize.

10) Weapon of Choice - Fatboy Slim
I challenge you not to dig this song.

11) Shadowtime - Siouxsie & the Banshees
A highschool favorite

12) In Between Days - The Cure
I think I must have been going through some nostalgic kick when I built this part of the playlist. Also, I think I was learning the song on bass.

13) I Drove All Night - Cyndi Lauper
If you don't own it, I recommend Lauper's "12 Deadly Cyns"

14) Midnight Radio - Hedwig and the Angry Inch soundtrack
Have you seen this movie?

15) Fannin Street - Tom Waits
Yeah, its about THAT Fannin Street. Check it out, Houstonians.

16) Slippery People - Talking Heads
I'm a pretty big Talking Heads nut, and this song is a favorite among even all of their wide selection of great stuff. This tune also makes many, many playlist appearances

17) A-Punk - Vampire Weekend
Dude, I love this song, even if the lyrics make, literally no sense

18) Handle with Care - The Traveling Wilburys
I went on a Roy Orbison kick about a year before Orbison died (I guess in '89-ish). Anyway, this came out right before Orbison died and is still a favorite of mine.

19) I Know What I Know - Paul Simon

20) Penny on the Train Treck - Ben Kweller
I'm not totally sold on Kweller, but on a strong album, this is, by far, my favorite track. Nanostalgic, honest, and has some great lyrics.

21) Landslide - Fleetwood Mac
I think this song, despite the fact I've known it for years and years, but it seems a little more poignant these days

22) Sea of Tranquility - Siouxsie
Siouxsie comes back with a great tune that could easily have appeared on any of her mid-80's through the end of the Banshees.

2008 - 2

1) Walcott - Vampire Weekend
Was really intended to help me set the pace of the playlist. I don't know that worked out.

2) (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love and Understanding - Elvis Costello
A perennial favorite

3) If You're Into It - Flight of the Conchords
If I have to explain, I can't help you.

4) Sunshine Superman - Donovan
Dude! You have to love his tune.

5) Gold Dust Woman - Fleetwood Mac
One of my favorite Fleetwood Mac tunes

6) Along the Way - Devotchka

7) Karma Police - Radiohead
My favorite Radiohead tune, but mostly because I enjoyed the hell out of trying to play it with Jamie and Jason

8) All My Friends - LCD Soundsystem
This song summed up more about how I've felt about the past two years or so than I really want to discuss

9) Descondido Soy - David Byrne
Infectious, danceable great tune

10) Shine on Sweet Jesus - The Flaming Lips
Ah, high school. I got my first speeding ticket to this song.

11) Smoke Detector - Rilo Kiley
I think Randy pointed out this album was better than I initially gave it credit for, and then I noticed I really liked this track.

12) What's on Your Mind (Pure Energy) - Information Society
Because it samples Nimoy, that's why

13) Ceremony - New Order
I barely remember New Order, and I can't claim that I was a huge fan then or now. But even a broken clock is right twice a day, and this song is particularly a good one. One day I want to cover it while employing a Dracula voice.

14) More Than This - Roxy Music
Sigh. Okay... yeah. It's practically adult contemporary, but it's Bryan Ferry at his most romantic, loungiest, hoping for a movie finale ending... Its the song you want to play when they guy wins the girl in a wordless ending and the picture dissolves to white before the credits roll

15) Sweet Little One - Kelly Willis
I just like Kelly Willis

16) Paper Planes - M.I.A.
My song of choice for summer, 2008

17) Out of Control - Kenna
Okay, this, Paper Planes and The Crystal Cat were all played extensively during the Alamo Drafthouse pre-show and I totally dug all three. if you'e looking for a song to add to your workout mix, I'd recommend this tune

18) The Crystal Cat - Dan Deacon
The lyrics are nonsense, but Deacon fills the musical bandwidth to such a degree it flips all the right switches in my head.

*I later realized this was a not correct. We saw Radiohead in Houston with Steven and Lauren.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Recycling Robots from Outer Space

Back in August, I opined that I was not excited by the remake of the Robert Wise directed sci-fi classic "The Day the Earth Stood Still". Well, apparently audiences weren't too jazzed about a re-make, either, as it grossed a less-than-hoped-for $30 millionish in its first weekend.

I've heard that message of the movie is environmental, which, despite new effects and what seems to be a massive shift in the events of the original... Basically, Kneau comes from space to tell us all to recycle or he's going to sick his robot on us.

If you've seen the original, you know that Klaatu's concern isn't so much clean air and water, but the threat of nuclear annihilation (on Earth, as well as should humans set their eyes skyward). We kind of take this sort of story for granted as an artifact of the opening days of the Cold War, but as a message to humanity not just of anti-nuclear proliferation, but a condemnation of war on the heels of WWII and during the Korean War.

Sci-Fi's strength is often in its allegorical nature, or attempts to explore ethical and moral issues we haven't really faced yet. And I think its laudable to tuck the evergreen message of not trashing the planet into a movie where aliens and robots WILL KILL YOU IF YOU DO NOT SWITCH TO LOW FLOW TOILETS. But I think I'm a bit more fascinated with the idea of what mankind would do if faced down with the threat of annihilation if they didn't get their act together and quit killing one another.

Anyhow, I still kind of want to see the re-make out of some sense of morbid curiosity.

Big Bang Theory

I don't know if you saw this week's episode but... It's a bizarre pleasure to see characters on a TV show pondering the imponderables of Superman fandom. I know they're playing it for laughs, but I think us Superman fans have a good sense of humor about the conundrums of the rules and regulations they set up in Superman comics. And it all felt oddly... accurate.

Also, the ending was gold.


I gotta go to bed

Marshall's Top 10 Musical Selections of 2008

Leaguers, Marshall is an old, old pal of The League's. He's a bit of a rock and roller and also an attorney, and today he's here to share with us his favorite musical picks of 2008.

Here you go.

Feel free to debate the man.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Short hiatus!

I've been in a @#$% mood since yesterday, and I'm coming up short on this blogging business for you guys.

Keep sending in end of year lists, and/ or talk amongst yourselves.

When inspiration strikes, I shall be back.

In the meantime, I leave you in Wonder Woman's capable hands.

Simon's Year End Lists for 2008

It's not too late to send in Year End lists to LoM!

Simon sends his list from the far off land of Ontario. We are lucky to get any correspondence from our brothers in the British controlled territories of Canada. Let us cherish these words he's sent to us in the free land of America and wish them well in their struggle for freedom under the jackboot of the Queen.

One day you will taste the bacony flavor that is freedom, my friend.

With no further ado, here's Simon's take on 2008:

*Top 5 Books I've Read*

1. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon: I
was very late to the party on this one but it is an amazing story and
you can see how it won the Pulitzer Prize.
2. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow: subversive, entertaining and
educating fiction by my favorite of the new breed of SF writers.
3. Influence - The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B Cialdini: A
great book that can be used for good so that you can understand how
people can talk you into doing things you don't want to do and for
evil by using the tricks within to turn people into your mindless
minions. This book is probably on Lex Luthor's bookshelf.
4. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch: I'm a Dad now so I worry
about this type of stuff. It's Randy Pausch's advice to his kids that
he wrote after he was diagnosed with incurable cancer.
5. Playing for Keeps by Mur Lafferty: I "read" it as an audio book
which was a novelty for me. This is a hilarious novel about also ran
super-heroes who need to step up and save the world.

*Top 5 Comics I've Read*

1. All Star Superman by Grant Morrison: The absolute best Superman
story ever told bar none.
2. Planetary Vol. 1: All Over the World and Other Stories by Warren
I'm such a sucker for multi-layered stories with tons of
literary and pop culture references. See 5 for more evidence.
3. Welcome to Tranquility: Volume 1 by Gail Simone: What does
happen to retired super-heroes? Gail Simone answers this with her
customary humor and pathos.
4. Astro City Vol. 2: Confession by Kurt Busiek: My favourite of
all the Astro City volumes where he explores what it truly means to be
human using an analogy to Batman and Robin.
5. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier by Alan
While I did not like it as much as the first mini series this
book is filled with so much information that you literally need a
compendieum website to fill in the blanks

I wish I could give you a top 5 movies I've seen this year but I've only
really seen Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, The Dark Knight and Wall-E. I
was aiming for quality not quantity this year.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

$25 from Salvation Army Goal

Okay, you cheapskates.

We're having tremendous success here at The League of Melbotis in almost reaching our goal of $300. We're only $25 shy of my goal.

Give here.

What's interesting is that we've had the opposite effect I had assumed the Red Kettle was intended to have. Rather than a bunch of smaller donations, we've had a handful of generous contributions.

Why, the League's own JimD threw back the curtain yesterday morning after being visited by the miserable, un-giving spirit of Randy, called out to a street urchin as to what days it was, and gave himself over to the spirit of Christmas and giving which swelled in his heart. Yes, that Scroogiest of Scrooges, Jim D, made a generous contribution.

Other generous givers include:

The in-laws, Dick and Judy.
The KareBear
The Admiral
Jason (aka: Steanso)
Heather Wagner

Heather "I'm in grad school debt up to my eyeballs" Wagner gave. But you didn't...

Well. I think we all know who Santa will favor this year.

It's not too late to give. With a measley $25 deficit, obviously anything you can give will make a major difference. It's as easy as buying junk off Amazon, only rather than blowing $25 on an "hilarious" white elephant gift, why not toss a few bones to a worthy cause like The Salvation Army?

If you can swing it, The Salvation Army would greatly appreciate your contribution.

Hey Leaguers.

Hope your weekend was a quality weekend.

Saturday was supposed to be a two-party Saturday. We were to meet some friends in N. Austin for Letty's 30th birthday, and then head into town to hit another friend's party. Unfortunately, the first party was at a wine bar and Juan D. and I split a couple bottles of wine, and...

The wine bar itself was nice. I was a bit more confused by my first trip to Austin's "The Domain", a high end shopping center/ residence that's oddly like Main Street USA at Disneyland, right down to the music blasting over the PA as you're wandering around. I guess the major difference is that The Domain is for people looking to buy status symbols instead of overpriced Disney tsotchkes and lemon freezes.

I wouldn't be bugged by the place so much, but its a reminder of the ever growing change in Austin culture as people move here claiming to love Austin, but do everything they can to make it more like Dallas or the suburbs outside of Houston. Also, there was some odd real estate deal when they decided to put in the domain. Despite the fact its basically a mall for over-priced, chain stores selling needless luxury items, (there's a Tiffany's, for example) the developers brokered some major deal on what taxes they do and do not pay. It's kind of a big "screw you" to the rest of Austin, and especially local retailers of all stripes who pay those taxes without complaint while struggling to make it.

That's one of those things, though. I swore I'd never spend money at The Domain, but then your good pals announce that's where they're hosting their party, and I'm kind of past the point in my life where I would have skipped out on the party for some abstract principle or just been a jerk about it (and there was a period). But, honestly, the place was pretty nice and the service was very good.

Needless to say, the wine had taken its hold, and I felt either Jamie or myself driving would be an issue, so I decided not to try to make the second party.

Rather, folks started talking about going to grab a bite to eat. In order to wash the taste out, I talked everyone into going to Jim's, up off McNeil and 183. And if you want to find a place that's the antithesis of everything that The Domain stands for, it is the Jim's chain of family restaurants. This particular location is up near where I grew up in N. Austin, and I don't think they've changed, literally, anything, since the last time I was there, which would have been the spring of 1994.

And they make a surprisingly good cup of coffee and tortilla soup.

Had breakfast this morning with our good pal Heather W. Then I rearranged my office. Not a terribly exciting day, but it was great to see Heather for a bit (she lives in Lubbock at the moment for grad school).

Colt does not get the Heisman

College football is a fickle mistress.

I am not surprised that Colt McCoy did not win the Heisman trophy this year. The Longhorns were not in the Big 12 Championship game (although OU, who we beat, was), which means that he didn't have a shot at getting TV time as recently as Bradford, which means the attention-deficit-disordered voters of the BCS/ Harris Poll/ AP/ what-have-you... didn't recall McCoy's multi-record breaking season.

At the end of the day, UT wasn't in the championship, and that's that. I don't want to take away from OU's season because... seriously... the Big 12 South was a bear this year.

Do I think Colt is a better quarterback than Bradford? Uhhhmmmm. Yeah. Can he throw as far as accurately as often? No. But play for play, he is a better all-around player. Again, TV time means a lot for the BCS voters (the same voters who may have put OU in the championship just because they played Saturday instead of Thursday before votes came out Sunday), so what are you gonna do?

But I guess that's why there's always next year. Plus, of course, a face-off with Ohio State in Glendale, AZ at the Fiesta Bowl.

Colt is not, by the way, going pro as was rumored. So its not too early to start making insane predictions NOW.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Not much to report. Wrapped up another week at work. I am still really digging my job.

I don't want to sound like a whiner, and I feel like I learned valuable stuff at my last few jobs, but its nice to head into work without wondering what is going to explode in your face today... The current job isn't predictable or anything, but it's just less likely I will be putting out fires on any given day. For example, my duties are just different enough that there's a far smaller chance of something going horribly awry and there goes the weekend... (let me tell you about running a support team some day...)

People I don't know

Last night was very low key. Jamie and I stopped by "Cherry Creek Catfish" (whose motto is, literally, "Keep South Austin Fried") and I began chatting with an older couple while we waited for a table. I guess we all have our starting point with how we approach people. For example, I might not be sure if some people speak English and ask a few probing questions before assessing the depth of their language skills so I know how to proceed.

So I felt kind of stupid last night when I began chatting up this nice, older lady and her husband and couched what I do for a living in the same terms I save for, say, Jeff the Cat and found out the guy was a programmer for Austin Energy for years and built several databases that they still use today and this lady held two masters degrees and was some sort of city planner they city needed so much they called her back out of retirement. And, suddenly, you realize... this isn't nice old Grammy and Grampy, these people are just as with it as you, and certainly smarter than you...

Anyway, once past the initial embarrassment, then you want to start asking all sorts of questions, like "how the @#$% were you building relational databases in the 1960's and 70's...?" and, honestly, this lady's job with the city sounded pretty cool (she worked with an arm that provided "how to" services for people looking to start businesses in town). But, you know, we got whisked off to our own table, and I think it might have been awkward to ask perfect strangers to eat dinner with me so I could barrage them with questions.

But I think that's part of why I like reality shows about people at work (Dirty Jobs, those crab fishing shows...). I get all the details without having to ask. Finding out what people do for a living is always interesting, and when the people themselves are interesting (for example, the lady had moved here from Austria... who moves here from Austria...?), then you've got a whole story to dig through.

Bells of St. Mary's

Went home and watched "Bells of St. Mary's", which is a surprisingly engaging movie for a movie which is devoid of conflict. But it also has Ingrid Bergman and Bing Crosby in one movie, and that's tough to beat. I am unsure of why "Bells of St. Mary's" is shown at Christmas. Only one or two scenes take place during the Holidays. The rest is spread over a school year.

I need to compile a list of great platonic couples in movies and TV. Surely Father O'Malley and Sister Mary Benedict would be at the top of the list.

Anyhow, its a great movie, and I always get a little misty during the final scene.

Unrelated, here's the Phil Spector produced "Bells of St. Mary's" by Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans.

My eyes do not work

Got up today and went to the eye doctor. My eyes are the same as last year (ie: lousy). I am going ahead and spending money on new glasses as well as contacts although my prescription hasn't changed a lot and my insurance doesn't cover them. I just hate my current glasses as my right lens pops out regularly, and they always feel like they're slipping off my face. I'm going back to plastic frames, so I look forward to my family's ceaseless commentary upon my selection of frames once again.

Gotta go clean the house.

Ya'll have a good weekend.

Friday, December 12, 2008

RIP Bettie Page

Even if you didn't know her name, it's most likely you knew the face (etc...) of Bettie Page.

Ms. Page was a pin-up model of the 1950's, who occasionally posed not just for standard cheesecake faire, but also for some racier and edgier material that became a hot item among collectors. Page gained notoriety as she appeared in Playboy and eventually found herself subpoenaed to testify on the adult publication industry of the 1950's (congressmen were really into making a name for themselves in the 50's by calling hearings for all sorts of cultural/ moral issues which appealed to the easily outraged).

Much of Page's mystique springs from how the model basically quit the biz and disappeared off the cultural map for decades, leaving behind a look as iconic as Louise Brooks, or even her contemporaries such as Marilyn Monroe (or Harlow or Mansfield).

Oddly, there is a comics-bent to all this as Dave Stevens (who died in March), creator of the Rocketeer, was semi-obsessed with Page, using her as a model in his work. Jennifer Connolly would go on to play the role Stevens had modeled after Page in the Disney movie of The Rocketeer (which I love. You should rent it). Stevens eventually tracked down Page, who was apparently unaware of her cult status, and who chose not to be photographed so her fans would remember her as the smiling face they knew, forever young.

The 1990's and 00's saw a resurgence of Page collectibles, merchandise, and rock-a-billy chicks took on Page's look. Quite the cultural footprint for someone who was never a movie star, what-have-you.

Sadly, Ms. Page passed away this week at age 85. While her body and spirit have joined with the infinite, she has left an eternal legacy of people pausing longer than necessary when they stumble upon her photographs.

More on Page here.

We love you, Bettie. You'll be missed.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

no new pocket oracle for me (yet)

Our contract is pretty much up with Verizon, our current carrier. We've been with Verizon since 2002 and been very happy with our service. I've been very interested in upgrading from a cell phone to something a bit more feature-heavy. You know: something with a decent web browser, e-mail interface, camera, maybe some other features.

Despite what I recognize in the iPhone to be the epitome of such a device, I was so turned off by Apple's launch of the iPhone, and not interested in changing carriers, that I'd simply categorized the iPhone as something I would not have.

So... I was very interested in the new Blackberry Storm. Basically Blackberry and Verizon's answer to the iPhone, it also has a browser, GPS, what have you... I knew it wouldn't be as slick (this was Blackberry, after all), and so Jamie and I hopped in the car to check it out and maybe re-up our plan.

Basically, the thing never worked. The interface was relatively intuitive, and I liked that you literally clicked the screen to make selections. And my worries about fat-fingering the virtual keyboard were completely unfounded. That part of the technology was rock solid.

This was also true for the Samsung Omnia I looked at (Samsung's answer to the Storm, I guess). I actually liked the Omnia's interface better, but the screen seemed to have less real estate, and while I was able to look up a sample site (I looked up this site), I couldn't figure out how to click on a hyperlink from this page. And, honestly, it all just felt very, very cramped. Like... what's the point? It did use Windows, which was kind of cute.

I never could get a webpage to open on the Blackberry. It kept launching a Beyonce video whenever I clicked "Browser". The GPS didn't work on either device. Mail seemed iffy. I couldn't get a clear answer about web-mail versus signing up for some other mail... (I don't think the sales person was very educated on the devices and services) It just seemed like the foundational technology... the hardware... was fine. Everything else seemed like a mess.

Now, I know these devices have lots of people messing with them, and it was late, so who knows how many had pawed the devices before I touched them. But... their stuff didn't work. Not a strong sales pitch.

So... I don't know what we're going to do. Month-to-month with Verizon, but I think were going to go to an Apple store in January and look at the iPhone, check out the costs there (they are high, but so was the cost of the Storm and Omnia). But we may also just be in for phones. I dunno.

The whole thing was disappointing, to say the least. The iPhone has been out for a while, and the competitors just aren't keeping up. I predict another two years (at least) before they're at where iPhone is now, and who knows what Apple will have done by then...


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

It Frikkin' Snowed Here Last Night

Seriously. It was snowing. It didn't stick, but it was building up on the fence and on the cars.

Even if it does freeze in Austin, it's usually in January (but there was one Christmas around 1998 where Jamie and I thought we were getting frozen in and weren't going home). It was kind of pretty, watching the fluffy flakes come down, and Lucy seemed to like it.

I do hope we get one good freeze in January with ice. I always like those days. Nothing to do but hang out, stay warm, read and check the weather.

In the News

So how about this Governor of Illinois guy? Now THAT is a political scandal. In some ways, I'm kind of impressed. He seems like a villain right out of a schlocky movie.

What's disheartening is that Blagojevich is just the guy they caught.

At work, I said something about "Geez, and this is the big fish. What level of Government do you work at before the corruption stops? PTA?"
And then my co-worker told me about his kids' PTA president who stole $500 out of the treasury.


I don't even really know what to say, other than "Now this is a scandal!" It makes other folks' attempts to cook up a scandal with a call-girl, secret lover, what have you... seem like small potatoes. Now selling a Senate seat... Man...

End of Year Lists

This weekend I petitioned Leaguers to send in their very own "End of Year" lists. We've had a pretty good response thus far.

I invite you to go over to Jason's list of 10 Things They Wanted Us to Like in 2008 That Ended Up Being Lame. Plus, our irrational debate about a minor issue here in Austin's telecomm industry.

The League's own McSteans also piped up today with her very own Top 10 of 2008 list entitled "The Awesome of 2008". You should stop by.

Michael also chimed in, by the way.

Top Three Do-Dahs for Christmas

1: Kindle
An electronic book AND always connected to Wikepidea? Sign me the %@#^ up.

2: Itouch Apps
That much fun for .99cents a pop is seriously addictive. I'm asking for an itunes gift card for just that purpose.

3: The Wii and all its Wiiness.
Because it's so much fun it should be criminal. How could I still be playing Final Fantasty more than two decades after numero uno? Because Nintendo brings the thunder, that's why.

Year End List - Movies and TV

My Favorite Movies I Saw in 2008

1) Iron Man
I'm not sure it's all ages fun. I'll leave that to the parents to decide, but I don't think there's any denying how great Robert Downey Jr. was as Tony Stark, how great the armor and effects were, or the level of summer-fun that director John Favreau squeezed into the movie.

2) I liked "Incredible Hulk"
Maybe not the brightest movie ever made, but it brought the story of the Hulk to the big screen with a certain, imaginative panache. Ed Norton was a likable Bruce Banner, and the final effects on the Hulk were really pretty good.

3) Dark Knight
I've already talked at length about Dark Knight, but it set a new standard for action movies and comic adaptations. And for this DC Comics fan, it was particularly gratifying to see something that was so close to the spirit of the Batman comics after so many years of bad adaptations under WB's belt.

4) Step-Brothers
Dumb comedies never make these lists, but I laughed myself sick at this movie (as I tend to do at about 2/3rds of Will Ferrell's comedies). It's no masterpiece, but I liked it.

5) Wall-E
I tend to go for Pixar's work, and I found Wall-E to be a triumph even by Pixar standards. I'm not sure I loved it as much as I loved Ratatouille, but... just a deeply gratifying movie.

Movie that wasted my time: Wanted
This movie didn't just complete ignore the source material, it just wasn't a very good movie. Unlikeable characters engaged in a plot that seemed like it was cooked up by someone in a blindfold mixing up words from fridge magnet poetry... If I knew it wasn't going to get any better after the first 30 minutes, I probably would have walked out.


1) The Middleman
I think JimD, Jason, Jamie and I were the only folks who watched ABC Family's bizarre little show about a straight arrow fighter of bizarre threats to the world and his cynical sidekick. But for a low-budget show, it was big on ideas and very well written and cast. I will actually pick up the series/ season 1 on DVD.

2) It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Season 4 didn't have quite the same zing as Season 3, but this FX Network show still delivered. It's in no way an all ages show, and it may not fit your brand of humor (how badly didn't you want to see Danny Devito's posterior through a hospital gown?). But the characters are well drawn and the show is, if nothing else, not afraid to take risks. Plus: Kaitlin Olson is one of the funniest women on TV

3) 30 Rock
Speaking of hilarious women on TV, Tina Fey continues to be, maybe, the funniest person on television, rivaled only by the rest of her cast on 30 Rock (I have special love for Alec Baldwin on the show).

4) Mythbusters
It's not just the explosions that are fun. I really enjoy watching these guys, who you sorta wish were your friends, engage in problem solving for problems nobody else would bother to work out. Whether shooting arrows as a "ninja" (martial arts master) or blowing up pianos, it's always a good time.

5) Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
I'm not one who goes in for hour-long dramas, but I'm hooked on Terminator, and not just for the one-two punch of Summer Glau and Lena Headey. Robots, a gripping storyline, and tying into one of my favorite film franchises... I'm a fan.

6) Ghosthunters
I cannot explain why I love this show, but I do.

7) A Colbert Christmas
I always enjoy The Daily Show and Colbert Report, but I particularly enjoyed the hour-long special of A Colbert Christmas on Comedy Central. If you stumble across it on cable, I highly recommend it.

8) American Experience
More of a clearinghouse for documentaries on PBS than a particular show, the documentary program covers both grand and horrific moments in American history. It might not have the immediacy of "Independent Lens", but it does put history into context in a way that I'm not sure even the programming on the History Channel manages. Always beautifully produced, it's well wortha dding to your DVR.

9) John Adams
An HBO mini-series, this show followed the life of America's first Vice President and Second President from the earliest rumblings of revolution in the colonies to Adams's death on the 4th of July. Add in another great performance from Paul Giamatti as Adams and what may be Laura Linney's finest performance, and its a good renter.

10) History Detectives
This PBS show is the natural spin-off of Antiques Roadshow. People contact the show with heirlooms they know very little about, and a team of researchers uncovers whether the item is authentic, the true story behind the item if its not authentic, but most importantly relates the story of the part of history where the item might be from. This can be anything from old firearms to paintings, to photographs... It's a great show, and often oddly moving as the owners of the objects learn the history that's touching them through the items.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Re-Telling Superman's Origin

click the image for a full-sized version

This Spring DC comics will release a series retelling the origin of Superman. It is the 3rd effort in the past 23 years, but will establish a post Infinite Crisis baseline of the Man of Steel. I think you'll enjoy it.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Round-Up of Interesting Information and a Plea for Donations

New Jim Parsons Interview at USA Today

Check it out, Jim P. who plays Sheldon on "The Big Bang Theory" got a high profile interview at USA Today. There is no accompanying pie chart.

Hopefully Jim has not entered the twilight zone for actors where they have so convincingly embodied a character mostly unlike themselves that the audience is somewhat disappointed to learn that Jim is playing a character and not himself. (See: George Reeves as Superman, Michael Richards as Kramer, etc...) But, really, would anyone want to put up with Sheldon for more than 22 minutes per week?

Price of success, I guess. Hopefully Jim is enjoying the fruits of his labors. I'm still enjoying the show.

Give Some Dough to the Salvation Army and Help Out Your Fellow Humans

I am $5.00 from my personal goal set for raising money for Salvation Army. I am, however, $160 dollars from what I had hoped would be a team goal.

Tis the Season of Giving, Leaguers. Sure, I know times are tough, but that's all the more reason to share if you can.

The website is easy to use, the donation is probably tax deductible, and anything you give will genuinely help other people out in a time when so many people are in need. I know you gave $3.00 to the guy ringing the bell at the mall, and that's super. If you can afford to give more, we'd certainly appreciate it. We're going to be leaning on each other a lot more in the next few years.

So join League of Melbotis in giving. Click here, and then click "donate to my kettle". Anything from $0.25 to $250 would be welcome.

I've heard some people find the site a bit wonky. If you need help, let me know.

New Years Party

A gentle reminder that December 31st at 8:45ish, we're kicking off our annual Holiday Party as a New Year's party (Melbotis's 2008 New Year Hullabalunacy!).

Click here for details and to RSVP.

And to Keep You in the Yuletide Spirit


Only moderately safe for work

Sunday, December 07, 2008

DITMTLOD Special: Robot Ladies of Interest Part 2

So... looks like we got derailed with the whole Matrix discussion last week. That's all right. It's probably an important movie in a lot of ways, and the discussion it engenders is probably a sign of the movie being better than I give it credit for.

But we're not here to talk about the Matrix today. We're here to puzzle over that oddest of topics: The Robot Ladies of Interest

Alice Krig as the Borg Queen in Star Trek: First Contact

I'm sort of on the fence with this one. ST; First Contact isn't one of my favorite movies, and I think Krig's character was more interesting as a special effect than as an actual character. But if you were a fan of the Trek series, her character added a new dimension to both The Borg and Data.

Technically, Borg aren't really robots. They're organic beings being piloted by robotic intelligence in a hive mind. I figure there's enough intersection on the mental Venn-Diagram that it's okay to cover our friends, The Borg.

But, really, if we want to talk Borg, we want to talk Seven of Nine.

Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine on Star Trek, Voyager

ST: Voyager was struggling in the ratings on the fledgling UPN network (now defunct). The show was a bit dull, from some perspectives (mine), as its primary conceit was leaving behind the very rich environment of the Star Trek corner of the galaxy. This was problematic. Star Trek: The Next Generation was the best rated syndicated show in history, and UPN executives had expected their new show to carry their network until other shows caught on.

Producers seemed to have decided that the primary reason the show wasn't doing well was that the show was missing a certain element.

Three guesses what they thought the show was missing prior to Ryan's arrival.

I can't talk too much about Voyager, Ryan, Seven of Nine, etc... I didn't watch the show and saw the move to drop in a character in a shiny, skin tight suit as suspect at best (no, seriously). But Ryan's arrival on the show did, in fact, boost ratings. So say what you want about Sci-Fi audiences, I guess. They're an easy enough read.

Battlestar Galactica Reboot

In college I became nostalgic for a show I remember watching as a very young kid, Battlestar Galactica. For its time, and certainly for 1970's TV, it was a pretty awesome show. However, by 1997, when I watched it again... not so much.

After decades of attempted reboots, about five years ago someone finally re-did BSG and added what the original had been sorely lacking: really attractive Cylons.

Enter: Tricia Helfer as "Six". A robot seductress who tricks a top earth scientist into helping the Cylons wipe out the outerspace colonies.

an understandable error

Well, apparently that wasn't enough.

The show went on to introduce several models of humanoid Cylons, including Grace Park as Sharon, and Lucy Lawless as D'Anna.

If this is the doom that awaits me by steely, robot hearts... I am okay with that.

BSG is a surprisingly smart show, and unlike your average syndicated sci-fi program, there's a point to the Cylons' human appearance. I came in to the show too late to keep up, but what I have seen, I've really liked.

Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell

Yes, she's animated, but Motoko Kusanagi is a terrific character in a phenomenal movie. Just don't ask me what the hell's up with the ending.

It's a dark future in Japan (is there any other kind?) and the Japanese military/ police force has created a cyborg unit to keep up with the level of crime their having to deal with.

I saw this one on my own in the theater one night in college at The Dobie. It's a hell of a movie, visually, if the story is a bit muddy. I guess they've turned it into a whole franchise, but I haven't kept up.

The manga and anime of Ghost in the Shell would go on to be highly influential to the genre. It's tough to point to specific examples in American film where they've managed to evoke the same design, exploration of AI, etc... If anything, I'd say Blade Runner had a huge impact on the look, tone and issues of this movie.

Here's some music video that used Ghost in the Shell animation. Beware, non-sexual nudity is included.

Terminator 3 and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

I'm, like, legally obligated to mention Terminator 3, because it did star a woman as the base form for one of the shape-shifting sort of Terminators you saw in T2. But I really didn't like T3, so I don't want to talk about it (can you tell I was a little disappointed?).

I don't care

The lady Terminator was played by... you know what? It doesn't matter. She's gone on to be in a bunch of really goofy and forgettable stuff I hope you haven't seen. The producers felt T3 was so irrelevant that they used a neat narrative trick in the pilot of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles to render T3 completely irrelevant.

Speaking of T:tSCC, remember 90's band Garbage? No? Well, you guys missed out. They had some good tunes. Anyway, their singer, Shirley Manson, has hung up her mic and moved on to play Catherine Weaver, a cyborg who has taken the place of a millionaire industrialist in order to further the evil, robot agenda.

Only happy when it rains...

The Sarah Connor Chronicles demonstrates the richness of the Terminator franchise once its been divorced from the star wattage of Governor Arnie. Look, I love Arnie as much as the next child of the 80's, but if he was attached to the franchise, the promise of time travel + robots just wasn't going to be fully achieved.

And now, we have Shirley Manson creeping me out.

PLUS, we have Summer Glau as Cameron Phillips/ Baum, a Terminator unit reprogrammed by future John Connor to go back in time and protect modern-day John Connor. Glau might be recognized from her work in Whedon's Firefly series where she played "River Tam". She was also in a spectacularly bad Sci-Fi original movie "Mammoth".

Wouldn't be Terminator without a steely stare and a messed up face

The show is using the long format of a weekly series to look into the actual character of a Terminator as it continues to learn as it lives among humans. The cast is very good, even the younger players.

Plus, the show features lots of robot fights. Nigh weekly. And, also, Glau is foxy.

That's it for this post.

If you guys have any robots I might have missed, pipe up. We'll do a Leaguer special!