Friday, January 25, 2008

Ways I could spend my government money

Unky George sees that we're falling on hard times. To help us through the hard times and the foreclosure on our homes, he and Aunt Nancy opened their purse and are sending us a check.

You and I could be getting $600 from the government.

How can I spend it?

Can I get a gun?

Three Petsafe Cat Verandas?

Six majestic eagle scuptlures?

An Adventurometer?

20 robots?

here's a list of items for $600

How should the League spend his $600? Assuming he doesn't just pay some bills...

Thursday, January 24, 2008

You Should Be Reading: BLUE BEETLE

I was as bummed as the next guy when DC killed off Ted Kord in the event comic "Countdown to Infinite Crisis". And I think, in some ways, DC knew they'd kind of made a mistake. They'd finally put the spotlight on a character who was almost universally loved, but who had a hard time making it as anything but a supporting character. But certainly, the fanbase liked the character and wanted the possibility of having Ted in more stories.

Ted Kord as Blue Beetle was just fun. He was Batman with none of the trauma, cool gadgets and a fun pal in Booster Gold. What wasn't to like?

I'm happy to report that, in spite of the end of a great character in Ted Kord, DC's replacement wasn't just some half-baked replacement so they could put out a new #1 and temporarily lift sales. DC introduced a whole new concept with the creation of Jaime Reyes, a 16 year old living in El Paso who has merged with the Blue Beetle Scarab once owned by the first Beetle, Dan Garrett, and the second, Ted Kord.

I was originally skeptical. Both Marvel and DC had been trying to catch lightning in a bottle again since Spider-Man hit the scene with a constant stream of teen-agers with varying degrees of tragic backgrounds and mopeyness. The formula had never really managed to coalesce again, but that didn't mean teen-book after teen-book hadn't hit the shelves.

Jaime doesn't always handle all of the threats he faces with the calm, cool nerve of an action hero.

Blue Beetle tried something a little different. Jaime wasn't an edgy kid, he was a good kid who lived with his parents and had a fairly standard relationship with his folks. He even told them about his Beetle-powers right off the bat. Further, he had supportive friends, also in on the secret identity, and stayed in El Paso, rather than immediately getting shipped off to some other town that the writers might know better.

Perhaps because Jaime isn't moody or depressing, its a bit easier to believe he's tossed himself headlong into the superhero business with his family's support and a bit of fun rather than because he's suffering from crushing guilt.

Moreover, John Rogers has managed to tell a fairly expansive story without undue decompression, and after providing several pieces along the way, the story of Blue Beetle is finally coming to a head.

Beetle keeps good company. This issue featured Beetle and Superman visiting Austin, for which the artist had no references.

Honestly, if DC is looking for a property they could easily bring to other media, the latest version of Blue Beetle is it. The generational aspect of the character might be fun to explore, but I think audiences would also really respond to not-just-eager-but-uncertain hero Jaime Reyes. Throw in one of the best supporting casts in comics since Clark Kent met Lois Lane, and there's a lot there.

I don't know if DC and writer Keith Giffen knew exactly what they wanted to do for the first few issues, but when the comic was handed over to John Rogers and the armor changed from so weird it was thought to be magic to a sci-fi angle with global consequences, it's been one of the comics I pick up first from my stack every time it comes out.

I should also add that there have been occasional guest-written issues, and those have been fun as well. I think that already the character and his environment are well-enough defined that guest writers can step in and keep up the spirit that Giffen and Rogers have worked to define.

Check it out. Blue Beetle is a good read.

Plus, really, the armor is totally cool.


With first Fred Thompson, and now Dennis Kucinich dropping out of the race for the White House, I am reminded of this Daily Show story.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Ability to Talk to Animals

I haven't been reading the news

I don't know when this happened, but I kind of quit keeping up with the news the way I used to. Certainly being unemployed and having basic cable, as was my lifestyle last winter, lends itself not just to reading the news a lot more, but you sort of think the news has more to do with you than it really does. Conversely, I think as busy as I usually feel these days, I see a headline and digest it in the time it takes me to read the headline, and never commit to actually reading the article.

Today I was checking the personal e-mail from G-Mail, and on my MyGoogle Page, I have a news ticker or three, and most of the headlines were about Obama and Clinton, or Heath Ledger, and then one said "5 Million Dead as Congo agrees peace deal". 5 million. I mean, I knew that... anyway. Upsetting, but that's not so much the point.

Add in the chaos in Gaza, and the twin stories of the economy slowing and Bush's steps to stimulate the economy, and there's a hell of a lot going on, and I don't really feel looped in. I hear about stuff like Heath Ledger, which is morbidly interesting, but I'm not taking enough advantage of the internets right now to keep up on the stuff that isn't showing up in my news tickers. I know that the tickers sort of funnel celebrity stuff to the top for click-throughs, anyway, but I'm not doing any real news browsing the way I used to, or I should. Most online news sources are free. I've got no excuse.

I'm not saying the dust up between the dem presidential candidates isn't news. It is. But it's also just the narrative of the week for the race for the White House. 5 million people. Mass exodus from Gaza. Just because its not effecting me and my drive to work doesn't mean I should retreat into funnybooks, my iPod and the latest episode of Ghost Hunters.

That's all. Need to read more. Read my subscriptions to Newsweek and Time.

Also, I need to go practice the bass.

Ya'll have a good one.

First Look at Cloverfield Monster

hey, if you're like me and saw Cloverfield, you probably wanted a better look at the Monster. This is, I think, official, and not a fan rendering. Anyway, no big surprises, but it's cool to see it in detail instead of through shaky-cam.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Nothing to post

Well, Heath Ledger died. That's something to post, but I'll be honest. I never saw the knight movie, or the cowboy movie, so... I'm honestly not sure I've ever seen anything the guy ever did. Mostly I keep wondering how much the media is going to ghoulishly dwell on his death during the release of The Dark Knight.

Fred Thompson dropped out of the presidential race. I had no plans to vote for Thompson, really. I wasn't against the guy, but he wasn't even really very high on my list of candidates to research. I recall his time in the Senate during the late-90s, as he was in the paper a lot, but I don't even remember why.

They made announcements of Oscar noms for last year. But I don't care. I do want to see "There Will be Blood". No idea if they'll have the Oscars on, and since I don't watch, anyway, doesn't really bug me. Makes room for more American Gladiators.

Watched the second two episodes of Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles last night. I am still hopeful, and I think the show is going to make it into my rotation. But... I am deeply afraid the show will become the adventures of a killer robot as she navigates the hallways of public high school. What's amazing is that I just typed that sentence and didn't get totally excited by the idea. That can't be good.

Apparently Clinton and Obama are dusting it up in the debates. Bleh.

Oh, and the economy is going to hell. Awesome. I am guessing we'll get a little closer to the Thunderdome lifestyle I've often aspired to.

I dunno. I got nothing tonight.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Cloverfield: Man in Suit

On Saturday Jamie, Jason, Julia and me (breaking the chain of alliteration) went to the Alamo-ized Village Cinema to catch "Cloverfield".


Cloverfield is pretty much exactly (EXACTLY) what you think it is from the previews. It takes the concept of the big-budget monster movie and tells it from the pitiable angle of the person on the street, rather than from the angle of the sexy scientists and military folk who usually fill Godzilla movies. In some ways, its very similar to a zombie movie in that we're getting the perspective of the folks simply trying to not get killed, not the folks trying to bring the crisis to an end, which, really, brings us all the way back to the original novel of "War of the Worlds".

But the buzz hasn't been so much about the shake up in narrative, its been about the first-person perspective of the movie. As you probably already know, the movie is supposed to be found footage of a handi-cam which captures the desperate set of circumstances of the seven or eight hours around the attack of the monster, which I just call "Cloverfield" as, very intentionally, the movie never names, nor does it try to explain the monster. From the perspective of the characters, this makes complete sense, and, really, that's the point of the movie. This is a film about "what if you or I were minding our own business and found ourselves the screaming pedestrian in the rampaging monster film?" What I did not want to see was the scene in which our everyman heroes stumble upon a scientist who explains the entire situation. In so many ways, the movie relies upon the confusion of the characters to tell the story.

And, no, I have no idea why the movie was called Cloverfield. The movie never actually says why that was supposed to be the name at any time I saw (even in the opening minute of the movie). I probably missed something, so fill me in if you know.

In a world in which we've all seen endless footage of the WTC falling and modern military strikes on cable, the cinematographer of Cloverfield is the real hero. The scenes are captured well enough for the viewer to see what is going on without being lost in the herky-jerky camera movements, and only occasionally did I stop to think "gee, he was lucky to frame that exactly that way while running away in terror". We now know what it looks like when a huge building collapses, we understand what it looks like when missiles are flying from an armored military vehicle. All of this is brought to the screen in a manner that suggests You Are There.

A lot of folks are going to not necessarily dig the camera work, and that's a matter of both taste and whether or not you got vertigo when you saw Blair Witch.

This, in the end, is what the movie brings that "20 Million Miles to Earth", "King Kong", or any other rampaging monster-in-a-populated-area movie didn't bring. There will be the inevitable comparisons to The Blair Witch Project, and that's okay. But I don't think its fair to assume that a single movie should get the monopoly on first person genre films, especially in an era of YouTube, video cameras on phones and the everyman as creator of media. To say "Blair Witch already did this" is, to me, oversimplifying things a bit.

Some Leaguers are beholden to the whims and needs of the babies they've made and will not be able to go out to the local cinema to take in the spectacle. And I'd say that watching this on your TV will probably still get you into the experience. After all, subconsciously video shooters are thinking TV, not 40' movie screens. While the movie certainly doesn't always stick to the rule, seeing the conventions of the home video play out on your TV rather than at the movies may make for a satisfying experience.

What viewers will probably believe less than a twenty-story monster rampaging through Manhattan is the premise of the plot of the film. This is not, I say again, a movie about folks actually defeating the beastie. I think I, at age 32 or at age 15 would have a hard time buying the premise which to our film's subjects wandering through the firefight. Or that someone would feel safe walking around with a camera in their face through a disaster of cataclysmic proportions.

The leads are fairly typical young Hollywood, what producers assume I want to see when I go to the cinema (but is really intended to appeal to males, 13-25). The movie begins more or less with the beginning of the "found" tape. The first footage occurs before the disaster, capturing two young folks who are trying to decide if they're in love. A camcordery-cut later, Flash forward to the awkwardly scripted good-bye party where one of the leads is off to Japan for work, and a very high-school-like lovers' quarrel. The technique works in the narrative in a way that would have seemed ridiculous as flashbacks in any other movie, and uses the device (both plot and actual handi-cam device with its known technical quirks) to show what would otherwise have to make up for some really inappropriately timed exposition.

In all honesty, I wasn't sure I was supposed to feel deep empathy for the characters, or if that was a product of the usual poor characterization when style takes place over substance. I really didn't care about the B-plot of the movie, and I certainly didn't buy that the characters would have been knuckle-headed enough to walk back towards the danger as they did. Like a lot of zombie movies, I suppose, I was expecting our protagonists to get picked off, and was simply much more invested in the unfolding of action than what was happening to who, and who loved who. I mean... really. There's a 50-ton monster eating people. Who cares about yuppies in love?

I might also mention that the movie has no score or musical cues. You won't miss them, but if you hang around through the credits, you'll find the music over the credits sort of jarring when it does pop up.

Like Blair Witch, its unclear if its a good movie or a novelty, but I'm leaning toward a novelty that will inform future, perhaps better, efforts. It's a good popcorn flick, and it shows promise that perhaps the rampaging monster in an urban setting isn't totally gone from the world of genre movies.

But, as the Alamo pre-show reminded me, I was pretty happy with a classic Man in Suit movie. I'm not sure I really need a $150 million thrown at me to have a good time.

Star Trek Trailer

I have to say I'm quite pleased to hear about the re-launch of the Star Trek franchise with a cast of new players in the roles of the original TV series (now 40 years old).

While nobody will capture my imagination the way Nichelle Nichols in a mini-skirt did when I was but a lad, I think its time to sweep away a lot of the clutter of the multitude of Trek shows and get back to the classic formula of Kirk in his Space Trans-Am, cruising the galaxy with his pals, kicking Klingon ass and picking up alien chicks. Also, exploring. But mostly shooting phasers. And that time Spock's brain was removed? Totally awesome. Plus the salt monster. And the Gorn. And the hippie aliens? And the white Gorilla. And remember when that flying blob of light was in love with Zephram Cochrane? That was weird. Also, I like Tribbles. When are we going to get a movie with Tribbles?

Check out this pic. This is totally the look my dad used to give me when I was a kid and I did something spastic.

Anyhow... its time to get back to brass tacks with Kirk and Co., and Paramount has unleashed JJ Abrams on the franchise, kicking Berman to the curb.

I have high hopes. Here's the first teaser for what shall be my film of choice for next Christmas.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Dog Park

Sunday we loaded up the team and went to the dog park. Lucy, by the way, now knows the dog park when we pull up and starts freaking out.

I also want to apologize for the wardrobe and hair. I, uhmmm... it was cold out, and I confess to neither taking a shower nor combing my hair on Sunday. Plus it was windy. And I'm chubby, so... there you have it.

Here's the pics by Jason