Saturday, June 14, 2008

The League gets linked

Well, I'll be...

Apparently interweb support for Final Crisis must be pretty slim, as somehow The League has been cited as voice of support for the mini-series at Newsarama.

Go here.

They took a pretty nice chunk for their article, too.

Always nice to get a nod, even if it usually means almost zero click-throughs.

But even if they come for the click-throughs, will they stay for the anecdotes and pictures of dogs?

HULK SMASH! - The League sees a movie

It will surprise exactly nobody that I went to see "The Incredible Hulk".

While I might not have loved the movie, but I liked it pretty well. That said, I only had a few criteria heading into the flick:

A) Hulk would smash a lot of military hardware
B) There would be impressive explosions
C) The fights would be increasingly cooler and bigger throughout the movie

I am happy to say that the movie delivered on all fronts.

I think if you go in looking for a popcorn movie with a solid storyline, strong actors delivering mostly believable dialog, and buy into the pseudo-science... sure. You'll have fun.

I've never really picked up much in the way of Hulk comics. I picked up "Planet Hulk" and "World War Hulk", but aside from that, and a single Bruce Jones Hulk trade, I'm not much of a reader (I do own the issue of Hulk where Rocket Raccoon gets his first appearance). I'm not married to any particular vision of the Hulk, including the TV program. But the cartoon that was on when I was pretty little probably went pretty far to shape how I think of Hulk.

I understand that Ang Lee's "Hulk" was a bit much for most folks, and there were bits of characterization I missed from Ang Lee's Hulk versus the new version (I just really felt they were able to tap into the source of the Hulk's rage a bit more understandably in Lee's version). But, hell... this version is pretty darn good.

As you've heard, they've reset the franchise, leaning 70% on the comics and 30% on the Bill Bixby/ Lou Ferrigno TV show. It has the best Stan Lee cameo to date, too.

I think the effects were really impressive in comparison to the last go-round with the Hulk, right down to texturing on Hulk's skin, but also in how the team was able to come up with some more imaginative ways in which to demonstrate the Hulk's... Hulkiness.

Anyhow, with as downright bad as many of the Marvel movies have been (FF, FF2, Ghost Rider, etc...), this one is a lot of fun. And.... explosions. And smashing. Oh, yes... The smashing.

And, you know, Liv Tyler, if you're into that (and I think I am).

Oh, Ed Norton is a really good Bruce Banner, by the way. His natural-built-in desperate look serves him well here.

Jamie's (micro) review: RRAAAARRRRGHH!!!

If you want to get an idea of what the movie is like:

RIP Tim Russert

Tim Russert, host of NBC's "Meet the Press" died today while at work. It was completely unexpected. And, I'd say, a huge loss for modern journalism.

Guys like Russert aren't supposed to die early. They're supposed to be there every Sunday for decades, just like they were the week before. You expect to see them take a dignified retirement, only to pop up again as guest commentators during particularly monumental events when the journalist in their blood refuses to NOT be there to help cover the story. It was certainly what I expected for Tim Russert.

I really like Russert. I might not always have thought he was chasing the right path (like the Clintons after the impeachment. Man, he was nuts for that story), but not only did he get great guests (I mean, seriously... it was like people were afraid NOT to show up for Meet the Press), but Russert had crazy enthusiasm for his job. You could feel it every week, as well as whenever he showed up on another show. One got the feeling he didn't just love being a witness to the mix like so many political journalists, but Tim Russert was always happy to be the one to mix things up with anyone who showed up to talk with him.

I cannot imagine what NBC will do at this point. And, if I may, it seems unfair that a guy like Russert dies at 58 when he seemed to be moving at cruising speed.

We'll miss you at The League, Russert. We may have been spotty in how often we made a point of catching Meet the Press, but it seems inconceivable we'll be finishing the 2008 election without you. Let alone, entering into a new presidency without the staff having to come by your table to explain themselves and pay their dues.

Washington Post 1
Washington Post 2
Buffalo News

So long, Mr. Russert.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Unemployment Chronicles: Team League (plus Lauren) get some culture

Today Jamie and I met up with Lauren at the interminably-just-about-to-close Las Manitas on S. Congress for some lunch. Apparently, as we were circling to park and I was discussing parking options on the phone with Lauren, a hobo was making idle threats upon Lauren's person.

We did not know this, and so when we jumped out of the car, Jamie gave the hobo a few quarters. So, you know, if you want to make some easy money by Jamie, just threaten Lauren a bit.

After a delightful lunch, we headed to the Bob Bullock Museum (aka: The Story of Texas) to try to squish a bit more Texas pride into Lauren, who did not have the good fortune to be raised in The Friendship State. I should also comment how different the Bob Bullock Museum is from the Jim J. Bullock Museum, which doesn't exist (yet), but which I would endorse.

I think it was a bit of a challenge for Lauren getting past the subtle delivery of the Bullock Museum to try to understand how Texans might feel about their state. Its a well-concealed message, but I think we were able to come away with a sense of the humble dignity Texans carry in their hearts.

We enjoyed the Spirit of Texas Theater, which is a multi-sensory entertainment experience, in which they spritz water on your face for rain, put a low rumble under the floor for a stampede, and shoot off a piston to represent a snake surprise (a piston, which, in 2000 or so, when I went to see the same show and slouched, got to know me a bot more intamtely than I would have liked). They also really spin Texas history like crazy, sweep racism and institutionalized bigotry under the rug, and suggest that all those crazy Indians should have done was put on a tie, and everything would have been cool to begin with.

We also went to the 3D IMAX, which was about an hour of new-age music, images of whales and dolphins swimming around, and Darryl Hannah's soothing voice DARING me not to fall asleep.

For the first time ever, Lauren is able to see things in 3D. Normally she sees objects in 4 dimensions.

I like me some 3D IMAX action. But someone needs to tell children "hey, kids... these are not solid objects. You don't need to wave your arms and squeal everytime new objects appear on screen."

The displays at the Bullock Museum are pretty good, but you sort of wonder if they mean much to the folks who weren't raised in Texas with the sort of basic level of understanding to really put the pieces together. For example: There are pieces of French and Spanish weaponry from the 17th Century, but there's no real context around those items. What were those guys doing? Did they succeed?

The Bullock museum paints everyone as a good guy (expect the Mexican military of 1836), and that's somewhat problematic in explaining what was going on.

There was also a mostly dismantled T6-Texan on the 3rd floor of the museum, which had the nose taken off so you could see the radial engine. Which led me to Wiki-search Radial Engine, and hey... now I understand how they work. I also confirmed the vast difference between a radial and rotary engine. Thanks, internet!

We also toured the exhibit on the TV show, Dallas. Which, for legitimate reasons, Lauren believed to be a huge, permanent fixture. Which would be awesome, if true.

Anyhoo, I hope Lauren got something out of this mess.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

You used to be beautiful, man!

It occurred to me, as it does every once in a while, that despite my considerable blogroll, there isn't much in the way of actual cross-pollination of the blogs. We don't talk at or to one another's blogs the way we once did.

Occasionally, I think you'll see me link over to Steanso's site, but the era of meme's, interviews, etc... seems to have evaporated. Perhaps that's because many of the blogs which would partake have evaporated. Or, those blogs have found their own content and voice, and no longer are seeking to fill the content beast.

I dunno.

I sort of miss it.

I also don't link like crazy like I once did, except to news sites, so that's got to be part of it as well. And just this evening I realized I'd never added Simon's blog to my blogroll, and so I shall.

Any dream I might have ever had of finding The League as any sort of voice in the comic blogging community, I gave up a while back. As challenging as it was drumming up readership when I was writing at, the massive proliferation of comics blogs in the past two years hasn't led to more people linking to one another, but rather to more insularity in the comic blogging world. As, really, who has the time?

I know that since I've been unemployed, I've blogged an obscene amount on actual comics rather than sticking to "look how cool" posts about superheroes or comics. And I sort of apologize for that. A lot of the time when I write those posts, I know a lot of the League's audience just clicks away and waits to come back the next day when, hopefully, I'm not discussing continuity problems and the minutia of Blue Beetle.

Anyway, I guess the point of all this is... Despite some lengthy articles, I sometimes become dispirited that the articles don't get linked back. But I don't link back, so... There you have it.

But I always liked to think of The League of Melbotis as more than just me on a tear. I hope lots of people feel involved. And part of that is e-mail, comments, and linking back and forth.

So I think I have to do a bit more of that, myself.

The League sees "The Foot Fist Way"

Tonight I took League-Pal Matt M. out for his birthday to see "The Foot Fist Way" (it's a movie. Here's the site.)

I really liked the movie, but...

The League doesn't mention it much, but once upon a time when we were younger, thinner, full of much more youth and vigor, we were in TaeKwonDo long enough to earn a 1st degree black belt. Here's a link to the school I attended.

It was fun. And the experience is something that's very hard to relate to folks who haven't ever been involved. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to continue for a lot of reasons.

Despite being full of kids, the movie is NOT for kids. It's actually probably pretty funny if you've never taken a martial arts class before, but its really funny if you've ever been deep in the culture of martial arts schools and ever saw the slippery slope of the machismo and discipline for what it could turn into. It's really not too hard to live in some world of delusion when you have a small army of kids paying you fifty bucks a month, and a bunch of adults who literally jump when you say jump.

Anyhoo... Watching "The Foot Fist Way" was exactly like looking into a warped mirror of life at TKD. The martial arts portions of the movie are pretty much dead on to what I recall from the ITA, aside from the fact that my instructors weren't as... ah... anyway, my instructors happened to be terrifically educated and smart. But... that doesn't mean I didn't see folks just like the movie's protagonist, or many, many of the other characters in the movie (including the 13 year old kid who was tasked with running the school).

Truth to be told, it really made me miss TKD. I'd probably never been in better shape in my life, and I can't tell you what it does for your self-confidence to be able to punch through a few pieces of wood (eventually you start believing you can kick through anything... it's just a matter of the right kick).

And that sort of potentially misplaced self-confidence is exactly what the movie is about.

The movie fully embraces TKD and the stuff some folks might find a little cheesy. I don't think it plays those elements for laughs as much as it uses things like the tenets of TaeKnowDO as a counterpoint to Fred's struggles. And, again, if you've never been in TKD, then its kind of hard to understand why you'd take stuff like that seriously. But, you do.

I'll be honest... the movie was made on the cheap, and I don't know what it will lose if you see it on DVD. Especially if they include some of the commercials for the TKD school/ promo bits that were done for marketing the movie. But I liked it.

Not all of the acting is Oscar worthy, and the arc of the script probably needed some work, but its a fun movie. And, I expect, if I had a chance to watch it again it would be to memorize some of the better lines for use later.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Will Elder, RIP

Apparently I missed whatever press this got, but cartoonist Will Elder passed away in May.

Will Elder was one of the original EC comics artists who helped launch MAD. He was also responsible for Playboy cartoon strip "Little Annie Fanny".

For a quick recap, we turn to Wikipedia.

But here's an actual obit that might do him a bit more justice.

I think its safe to say that without Elder, there would be no MAD Magazine. And without MAD, The League's youth would have been a lot less... well... The League's youth.

Thanks, Will.

Vote Harvey Dent

I don't know if you live in Gotham City or not, but with the election cycle heating up, its hard to miss the campaign to make Harvey Dent Gotham's newest District Attorney. I've found the ground swell of support for a man with whom I feel I share so many values to be particularly gratifying.

But... despite the campaign and us fellow Dent supporters partaking in a door-to-door grassroots effort, I still feel like I'd better cover my bases.

If you're thinking of voting (and you should!), you can register to vote online, or register to vote. RIGHT NOW.

Here's the link.

It'd be great if you'd vote for Harvey, but what really matters is that you share your voice in this historic election.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Final Crisis - Morrison speaks

In a Newsarama interview posted on Monday, Grant Morrison informs readers, basically, that they were better off ignoring "Countdown" and "Death of the New Gods".

For those of you keeping score, the conclusion of "Death of the New Gods" and "Countdown" not jiving with each other at all should have given you a serious moment of pause. Throw into the mix the beginning of "Final Crisis", and you have a potentially cataclysmic problem at DC Editorial.

It should come as no small surprise that Didio's pet writing team on Countdown fell down on the job. The insult, then, being the 52 issues of a series some of us picked up, and which wound up as a colossal disappointment. This is to say nothing of the embarassing outing that was "Death of the New Gods" (in which Jim Starlin proved that he had almost no ability to channel Kirby's vision for the New Gods, and/ or was just cashing a check). And, it should be mentioned, Salvation Run will now also be largely pointless and forgotten.

The long and the short of it seems to read something like this:

Unless a DC book is written by Morrison, Johns, Rucka and possibly Gail Simone, its best to just consider it ancillary and out of continuity. And that, Leaguers, is kind of messed up. Even if its sort of the sneaking suspicion DC fans should have come to by the end of 52 and the OYL year-long implosion.

In general, I think I give DC a lot of leeway. Some of that is in reaction to the Marvel Fan game of trying to blow every minor mistake DC makes into some sort of catastrophe and point to conflated issues as evidence that DC is a fraud. Much of the time, those mistakes are either inconsequential or, occasionally, not a mistake at all.

But how DC can push a series like Final Crisis, with all the hype and supporting series attached by big name writers and make the error of not including someone like Morrison in the planning process for the "countdown" to his story is, frankly, unforgiveable from an editorial standpoint.

Its sad that DC saw the fervor caused by the discrepancies between "Final Crisis", "Countdown" and "Death of the New Gods" and had to ask Morrison to answer for DC's editorial incompetence in order to try to find a way to salvage "Final Crisis" before the fire got much bigger.

I believe in continuity, but there's a lot of work that has to go into making these events work. And something as big as "the final battle between Dakseid and Orion" seems big enough (in the DCU, anyway), that it seems imperative that a company wide decree on how this was going to work should have been issued. Let alone, asking Morrison what events were going to work or NOT work with Final Crisis, if Final Crisis was intended to be the last word in big event comics from DC for a while.

I was concerned that Morrison's comments would somehow distort my vigorous defense of Final Crisis #1from last week, but that doesn't seem to be the case. I'm not so sure I can be as kind to my "accessibility and comics" rant.

Incongruent continuity, flatly, makes comics hard to follow. It makes the stories around them tough to read, and conflicting portrayals of events are a show stopper for both long-time fans and, especially, for those new to the concepts. When you've seen the same character die 3 times in three weeks in three different ways, it leads to some serious cognitive dissonance that is going to pull you out of the story.

DC, get your mess together.

Didio not only owes his customers an apology, he owes us a solemn promise that he has seen his editorial goof for the colossal mistake that it was and that such a mistake will NOT happen again lest he will fall on his own sword. Not ask Grant Morrison to go smooth things over for him.

But, honestly, if I were Levitz, I'd be calling him on the carpet.

For the first time in a long time, I feel screwed by DC as a reader. This wasn't a case of me disagreeing with the direction of a comic. This was about a serious mistake in editorial. A clerical error that should have been spotted. And mostly it looks like Didio and whomever is closest to him is whispering to him their ideas for how they can ride on Morrison's coattails and make everyone a WINNAH!. But, by not working with the goose, their trampling all over the golden eggs on the way to the market.

For all of that, they asked readers to pu their faith in a comic that was going to supposedly effect the entire DCU (it didn't), and lead into a highly anticipated event (it didn't).

So what was "Countdown"? A cynical cash grab? A failed follow up to "52" once the success of the series became obvious? An honest attempt to build a "spine" to the DCU? An experiment that went up like the Hindenburg?

What were all those awful Countdown spin-offs?
The promise of storylines that never really happened (Why did Jimmy Olsen have to die again? And what did that have to do with the Joker?)
Countdown Arena?
the go-nowhere plot with the Monarch?
Was that really the plan with Ray Palmer from the beginning?
What was the point of Salvation Run?
Likewise, Death of the New Gods?

So, so many questions...

I'm tired of being an apologist for Didio and his cadre of incompetent creative teams. There's too much else going on at DC that works.

Robin is even okay with Dixon back
All Star Superman
Green Lantern
GL Corps
Legion (now that Shooter's taken over. Go figure.)
Blue Beetle
Justice Society America is rock solid
Justice League America is okay when they aren't desperately tying into events
Booster Gold

All really good, solid titles. Even Simone's Wonder Woman is showing promise. Heck, even Supergirl has been on a major upswing.

I'm still highly recommending Final Crisis. I don't think its that complicated (and if you have a question, feel free to ask, and maybe I can help). But I am seriously questioning how many more DC titles I would add in the future as Morrison, Johns, Rucka, etc... leave. My days of giving titles the benefit of the doubt is coming to an end. Especially for books not written and drawn by teams I already trust.

NBC's "Fear Itself"

I watched the new NBC horror anthology TV show "Fear Itself" on Friday (courtesy, DVR).

Here's the NBC promo:

It had fairly high production values, and might appeal to fans of "Tales from the Crypt", low-budget horror, possibly "The Twilight Zone", etc... This is going to sound odd, but it was a bit predictable in its attempt to remain unpredictable. Partially because of the audience's knowledge that this is a horror anthology, so there are really only so many ways this is going to go.

But, being an anthology show, its not serialized television, so next week will be all new actors, directors and story. And I find that pretty appealing.

Once upon a time I was pretty into shows like "Twilight Zone" and "Amazing Stories". I appreciate the short-story as television idea, and I think the confinement of Standards and Practices for network TV forces creators into corners where they need to be creative to build suspense rather than depending on splatter-fests, a la most of today's horror.

As I get older, I'm definitely handling horror better than when I was a kid. Back then, a 50's-era B-movie about a disembodied, floating brain could send me running away from the TV in terror. But its also funny how the rules of Horror don't really change. Especially in the short-story format. It always ends with a twist ending, a la Twilight Zone or Tales from the Crypt. Evil is rarely actually defeated. It's almost like the short story form gives the viewer the opportunity to see the futility of a struggle against the grotesque, one way or another.

I think movies and novels tend to want to give you a bit more pay-off for time invested. After all, I don't want to read a 500 page book and then have a conclusion that feels neither final nor is unsatisfying in any way.

That said, I've avoided the "Saw" movies, "Hostel," etc... like they'd give me the clap. What little I understand about those movies doesn't seem very much up my "the best horror movie ever is 'The Haunting'" take on horror. Perhaps they've begun employing a bit more of the scorched earth policy of short horror fiction.

Of course, a little of all that can go a long way. After all, audiences sort of gave up on M. Night Shyamalan in the 3rd reel of "The Village". But when you don't know...

It should be noted that "Fear Itself" was a bit on the graphic side. Or, at least, they can get away with movie level stuff on TV these days. So don't expect a Vincent Price movie, with just a trickle of blood.

3 things I didn't like:

a) I'm not really comfortable with the co-option of the phrase "Fear Itself" for the title of the show. But, kids... what do they care about history?

b) The opening was oddly reminiscent of the opening of the Fox's late-90's show "Millenium". But not really.


Fear Itself (and its really not good theme song. actually, that theme song is ridiculous. I guess that's four things I don't like.)

(SPOILER: Also, there's a scene where a guy is alive and they sew his mouth shut. Also in the pilot for Millenium. I'm just saying...)

Also, Jason pointed out that opening sequences in horror have all had a certain sameness since "Seven".

c) And this is REALLY nitpicky, but all of the female leads in the episode "Sacrifice" are supposed to be 3 amish sisters (ie: no hair dye), but all of them have very obviously dyed blonde hair in a sort of Heather Graham-ish style. I just thought it was sort of unnecessary, and it took me out of the movie a few times.

But, you know, by and large, I thought it was good B-horror, without getting schlocky. For that, I turn you to the Sci-Fi Channel and their insistence on a new movie each week, no matter how awful (see: Never Cry Werewolf. Or, rather, don't.).

Texas Governor's Mansion Burns

Every once in a while, Jamie will wake me up in the morning with a non-sequitur, then leaves the bedroom. This has the effect that I often am unsure if I just dreamed whatever Jamie told me, or if it actually happened. Yesterday was such an occasion.

"The Governor's Mansion burned down."
"The Governor's Mansion caught on fire and burned down. Rick Perry wasn't there."
"So nobody got hurt."
"That's good."
And then she wanders off.

At this point, usually, Lucy jumps on the bed to get attention and Jeff the Cat starts meowing at me. Every morning is a party when I wake up.

Anyhow, I sat there blinking for a minute, trying to determine if I'd just dreamed the information about the Governor's Mansion, but I hadn't. Why it seemed so impossible for the Governor's Mansion to burn down, I don't know... The building was 150 years old. The fact that it hasn't burned down before is sort of a miracle.

Here's an AP story on the blaze.

Here's the official website.

When I heard that the cause might be arson, that sort of made more sense than a random fire. There's always drunk people and crazy hobos running around downtown. Add in the tinfoil helmet crowd, or even some overzealous activist, and it could be anybody, really.

Of course, there's also a considerable fence and wall around the Mansion... and I would have guessed better security than what must have been present. But... anyway, i don't think criticizing security in this case is particularly useful as I don't know the facts.

As you've no doubt heard, fortunately the Mansion was undergoing renovations, which meant that the antiques and artifacts of the Mansion had all been moved off-site and were not lost. And, Governor Perry had been living elsewhere during the renovation, so the fire did not claim his Wii or extensive Hummel figurine collection.

I am, of course, now kicking myself for never getting off my duff and going for a tour of the mansion at any point in the past, oh, 24 years when I've lived (on and off) in Austin.

People who live in New York don't go to see the Statue of Liberty or the UN building. I doubt Parisians hang out at the Eiffel Tower on the weekends. And I don't often take advantage of the historical artifacts, museums, etc.. that Austin has to offer. Certainly losing one of the buildings sort of puts things in perspective, and is a reminder that those places shouldn't be merely taken for granted.