Saturday, July 19, 2008

Well, I'm back. We're back. Jason and I flew out for my grandmother's funeral Thursday and came back tonight.

I hate flying, by the way. Even when everything goes as smoothly as possible, as it did during our travels, there's nothing pleasant about air travel.

I'm 6'5", and Jason is slightly taller. I wear something like a 52 long jacket thanks both to girth and shoulders that occasionally scrape when I walk through the right doorway, jumping into airplane seats is something I do with a terrific amount of caution. Likewise my brother. So the standard coach seating, which is designed for someone of lilliputian proportions, makes flying a literally painful experience. Jason referred to our seating as "CIA approved stress positions" at one point, and I can't argue.

Add in the the rumor that airlines want to weigh you and charge you for your seat by your weight (something I both can and cannot do anything about), and that some airlines, such as Southwest, want to charge you for two seats if you're a certain width (something i quite literally can do nothing about. Sorry. The bones are what the bones are), I'm beginning to think I've had it with the privilege of flying.

And, really, that's increasingly how the older carriers treat their service. $15 for a checked bag (we paid it). $4 for a bag of trail mix (we declined). Ever decreasing leg space to jam in more seats. Flight attendants who treat you as an inconvenience. Intentionally over booked flights. Overscheduled airports.

The folks who fly, and fly a lot... as well as folks with influence (ie: dough) might not notice all of this in First Class. I've sat in First Class, and it is a vey, very different experience. And you pay for that different experience. 2-4x what the plebes in coach are paying. Plus, your bathroom to passenger ratio is so, so much better up front.

And, mostly, I don't fly. But there are the times like a family funeral where two days on the road isn't really an option (plus the cost of gas at $4.00 per gallon). And that's when I'm going to have to get coach seats and cram my fat butt between the little aluminum rails that they have on the exit row (yeah, we landed exit row. We were really lucky). But, seriously, the flight was only 2.5 hours long from Tampa to Dallas, and 30+ minutes from Dallas to Austin, and I can feel it in my back and legs still, five hours later.

It seems like American Airlines, in particular, has issues with their seats. I'm not sure if its too many other airlines. It seems like Northwest had good seats. And maybe Southwest.

FYI: The family is doing pretty well, all things considered.

Anyhow, I'm tired.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I'm off

Tomorrow Jason and I are off to Florida for my grandmother's funeral. We'll be meeting up with my Dad's side of the family in central Florida. The funeral is Friday. Saturday we're back on an aeroplane and should be home before too late in the evening.

So, you know, expect blogging until Monday to be pretty light.

In the meantime, you can visit Jamie's blog. Or Lauren's blog. Or Steven's, for that matter. Or any of the blogs in my "League Links" section.

No pressure to update your blogs, guys.

I'll also not be seeing "The Dark Knight" until after all the rest of you. So, you know, no spoilers, please.

And I'm not going to be attending the Astros v. Cubs game in Houston. Nor will I get to catch up with any Houston friends, like we'd planned. Sorry, ya'll. And sorry to the Astros, who really could have used my support vs. The Cubs.

I hope the rest of your week goes well.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Comic Fodder

There's a new Comic Fodder post up. This one is based on a conversation I had with Meredith and appropriate Batman material for her kids, aged between 2 and 5.
The past few days have not been banner days at League HQ.

This made me feel a bit better. Radiohead covering New Order.

found at

Batman (1966)

As much as I consider myself a Superman nut, as much as I dig the Green Lantern Corps and Wonder Woman... my love of superheroes, and, in fact, my life is indelibly linked with Batman. In fact, it all started with the 1960's TV show featuring Adam West and Burt Ward.

As a very young kid, I was Bat-crazy. There are stories that suggest that "Batman" was my first word. Apparently, when I was very tiny, they re-ran the old Batman episodes on a local affiliate every day at the time my Mom would start on dinner. And for whatever reason, as a VERY tiny kid, putting me in front of Batman would keep me from freaking out and doing the things kids of that age can do to distract nice Moms who are making dinner.

Its also Steans family lore that as soon as I could put words together, I was tying my blanket around my neck and singing the Batman theme song. This was followed by collecting what must have been Mego Batman dolls, Batmobiles, etc... And, in all honesty, it never really stopped.

And I've never quit digging the old Batman show. Sure, when I was little, I had no idea it was being played for laughs. Adam West seemed not unlike my Dad in unflattering tights, and it seemed reasonable that The Admiral was off fighting crime in much the same way. Moreover, it seemed reasonable that crooks and criminals were brightly dressed weirdos with themed criminal plots, who really weren't going to hurt anyone.

Today Jamie and I went to see the 1966 movie of "Batman" at the Alamo, which was playing a free kid's matinee.

I was pleasantly surprised to see the theater was very full, and full of kids. Prior to the show, they played an episode of the most recent animated Batman series. Then, just before the lights went down, an Alamo employee addressed the audience from behind a convincing Batman mask, and informed the kids that only bad guys talk during movies. Heck, I was convinced.

The movie was released theatrically between the first and and second seasons of the TV show. I'd always thought it to be created prior to the series, so it goes to show you: You learn a new Bat-Fact every day. And, apparently, had its world premier here in sunny Austin because, it seems, the boat was manufactured in Austin. Possibly at the Paramount (I'm looking for photos to confirm)!

Jason and Reed: ready for a night on the town

The movie and series hold up pretty well, all things considered. There's something off-kilter about the show that I've always liked, as if every was hanging out and smoking a Kool about ten seconds before the cameras rolled, and then threw themselves headfirst into the insanity.

West's Batman has become iconic since the show first aired. Utterly serious, while delivering the awesomest dialog ever.

Batman: We've been given the plainest warning. They're working together to take over...
Chief O'Hara: Take over *what*, Batman? Gotham City?
Batman: Any *two* of them would try that!
Commissioner Gordon: The whole country?
Batman: If it were three of them, I would say yes, but *four*? Their minimum objective must be... the *entire* world.

Really, I hesitate to seriously ponder how much of my personality is imprinted from Mr. West.

Burt Ward's Boy Wonder is great, as is Alan Napier's Alfred. But what really sells the film is the cast of villains.

My favorite of the Bat-villains from the TV show was always Frank Gorshin as The Riddler. I particularly like Dini's take on Edward Nigma in recent issues of Detective, but its hard to beat Gorshin's sheer joy at befuddling the Caped Crusader. Plus, those costumes are iconic.

Villainy abounds!

Burgess Meredith and Caesar Romero are good as The Penguin and Joker are pretty good, too.

Topping the list, however, is Lee Meriwether as Catwoman/ Kitka. Apparently Julie Newmar had a prior commitment during filming, but I think Ms. Meriwether more than fills the catsuit. Yowza.


Apparently I'm not the only one who appreciates Ms. Meriwether as Catwoman. Mr. Romero is very "hands on" with Catwoman in several scenes, particularly in the Penguin submarine. Seriously. With that make-up, its a little creepy.

The movie also features one of my favorite aspects of Batman in all his incarnations: the vehicles! Batcopter. Batcycle. Batmobile. Awesome.

The Batman TV series left an amazingly deep impression upon the public's concept of the superhero. I still remember going to see Burton's "Batman" on opening weekend and the theater had decorated the lobby with all of these hand-made "Bam! Wap! Pow!" signs all over the place.

To say that the show wasn't a fairly accurate representation of the comics of the time is a bit of a stretch. The comic was very light kid's fair at the time, and was mostly Batman and his pal Robin in light scrapes. And while not exactly Tolstoy, it wasn't necessarily set up for laughs the way the TV series was.

It seems the post Spider-Man movie world has finally shaken off the Batman TV series impression of how superheroes should be viewed. And, in fact, it's sort of a game in the comics' blogosphere to highlight articles where the writer uses phrases like "Bam! Pow!", or comments that comics aren't as silly or childish as they'd assumed. (That's been a staple of mainstream journalism since Burton's Batman bowed in 1989, yet writers in search of a fluff article keep re-discovering this same topic.)

From anecdotal evidence, I think most parents today grew up with Burton's Batman, Donner's Superman and had the whole experience capped with Raimi's Spider-Man. So the legacy of the 60's Batman isn't the pervasive thing it was. And I think that's actually, as it should be.

The 1960's Batman is very good at what it does. The cast is terrific. Its a fun show (especially the movie). And I think there's room for all sorts of interpretations of Batman, from Bale's grim Dark Knight to West's philosophizing playboy on the town. And I think it's a fantastic part of the legacy of Batman.

Mostly, I was pleased with how the kids seemed to like it, if their silence throughout the film was any indication.

I did mention to Jamie, as we were leaving and I was processing the film in my mind "You know, about two-thirds of the way through, I felt like I had been taking crazy pills." The kaleidoscope colors, rapid pacing, nonsensical plot and, really, haphazard pacing of the thing just sort of adds up to a unique and strange whole. As pointed out by a kid leaving the theater...

Mom: Did you like it?
Kid: Yeah! (pause) It was weird...
Mom: Well, it was supposed to be.

That is one hip, hip mom.

DCU Online - Game Trailer

here's the official DCU Online trailer that will be shown at E3.

And, hey DCU online... that offer still stands. I already live in Austin, I have PM experience. Let me know what I can do for you.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Meredith comes to the blogosphere

hey, this keeps me from having to blog anything tonight! I've found something worth reading so you don't have to get your daily supplement of blogginess from The League today.

My old high school pal, Meredith, has started up a blog. Meredith is good people, so you should head over there and see what you can see.

And if you're a former Klein Oak Panther, make sure you pop over to her comments section and identify yourself to Mere. I know she's want to say "howdy".

Grandma Ross

In case you didn't see mention of this at Jason's blog, my grandmother passed away yesterday afternoon. I am still processing the emotion that comes along with losing family. Our family is small, and so while we rarely attend family funerals, each death is a reminder of just how few of us there are in my family and extended family.

The grandmother who passed was my father's mother, Katherine Ross (she had been remarried for a long, long time before I was born. Thus the different last name). The passing was of natural causes.

I hope you'll forgive me if I choose not to go into some lengthy post on the topic.

Also, I'll be leaving for Florida in a day or so to be gone for an as-yet-to-be-decided amount of time, so when the blog goes dark for a few days, bear with me.

If you have any grandparents still with you, do me a favor and let them know you care about them, okay?

Update on the Cone Kids

Nathan sent this along last week. Here we see Max and Sam, Nathan's lovely children, revelling in the success of their latest crime spree.

Note the intense expression on Max's face. What sort of plan is he masterminding even now?

Truly, a heart of darkness beats beneath that wagon on his bib.

Samantha, on the other hand, is the woman of action who should have her fists registered as lethal weapons.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Hellboy II? Why the hell not?

So the relatively small action flick, Hellboy, has spawned a sequel.

I enjoyed the first film, but felt like you could almost feel the edges of the film that couldn't be explored as it was written and designed with a certain budget in mind. Multi-million dollar movie, sure... but of an unknown, untested character with some pretty terrific weirdness behind it all.

But I really liked the three main protagonists, with Abe Sapien, Liz Sherman and Hellboy. The villains were bizarre and cool, and the threat appropriately apocalyptic for our hero to challenge.

Also, I believe Selma Blair to be sort of a fox.

Mostly, though, I think Ron Perlman is super great as Hellboy. I love the direct, uncomplicated guy who happens to be able to take on world-threatening baddies. All without a Will Smith "Ah, hell naw!" In a lot of ways, Hellboy is sort of a great stand-in for how I think many guys see themselves. Unpleasant, uncouth, and hoping their capable enough working with what they know to get the job done. But a totally different guy when it comes to dealing with their significant other.

The plot has an odd ring of familiarity as so many superhero films have been hitting the screen. A villain with a plan for ending the world, some personal problems, and a nick of time ending. In some ways, the plot of Hellboy II feels, in some ways, a little too much like the plot for Hellboy I, only streamlined. Instead, director Del Toro focuses on the dreamlike imagery you might remember from Pan's Labyrinth, presented on a grander scale.

This looks like the group shots of my prom pictures

And, really, no matter what else you might be skeptical about, Hellboy II is visually stunning. The dialog can be a bit clunky, and the action sequences a bit disorienting, but the creature scenes here are the best mass creature scenes since Luke Skywalker walked into a cantina.

I'm not guaranteeing its the best movie you're going to see, but its a good summer popcorn flick with surprisingly developed characters for a movie starring a red guy with an arm that came from Steelcase.

Del Toro might always have scripts that feel like they could be a bit more developed, but you have to salute him as a visionary. He's able to bring not just cool visuals (which movies like "Chronicles of Riddick do, and yet fail), but also a solid action film with a good deal of heart.