Saturday, December 06, 2008

Call for End of the Year Lists

I actually do like End of the Year Lists.

Part of why I like end of the year lists is that it gives the writer time to really realize what stuck with them. It's not just the immediate enjoyment or dislike of whatever's in the list, its been a few months, and maybe the writer has had an opportunity to put things into perspective, or realize "hey, maybe that was a good idea at first blush, but now... I dunno."

Take a song you hear and like when you're out, or you hear it in a movie or on TV, and you decide "that song is awesome!" and maybe that song is good, but maybe it just really, really worked in a particular movie.

Anyhow, the point is, it isn't marketing hype or initial reviews that determine what's going to endure. It's time. And I sort of think the year end reviews and lists are the first step toward figuring out what might stand a chance at being remembered.

I often use End of Year lists for non-DC or Marvel comics as a bit of a shopping list. By then, we're past the buzz and people are maybe pushing something they believe in rather than something they happened to like.

So, I'm going to go ahead and throw this out there:

Send me your End of the Year Lists

I will publish them as they come in.

Here are the rules.

1) Keep it clean. Sure, I'd love to work blue here at The League, but my mother-in-law reads this blog and I have to continue to make a good impression.

2) Try to use a good number, like The Top 5 or 10 movies of the year.

3) It's not enough just to send a list. We need a sentence or three on why.

4) Send as many lists as you like!

5) It can be on pretty much any topic. Media is usually a pretty popular topic, but whatever...

That's it. Send 'em in.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

We'll get back to that Robot Thing On Monday

I noticed that Carla and Simon both hit my post from Pre-Turkey Day about Robots and Robot Toys. Carla pointed out that Fisher-Price, maker of beloved children's toys, has introduced "Spike" into the mix of robotic toys. Apparently a large robotic dinosaur with some sort of remote control. What struck me as really odd about Spike wasn't just his size for kids, but that he's part of the Imaginext playline of toys. Each of those toys is about 2 - 3 inches high. Which makes me wonder if Spike is supposed to be in scale with those, in which case, I have a whole new respect for Spike at 10x the height of helpless and delicious characters of the Imaginext line. All I'm saying is that Spike + Imaginext toys = awesome dino-laden destruction.

Simon, on the other hand, accused me (in good fun) of cribbing from The Matrix.

Others often find this surprising, but I'm not a fan of the Matrix movies. I saw the first one and didn't like it, so I didn't bother seeing parts 2 and 3. Even on cable, all I've seen is a car chase from one of them that seemed to go on a really long time and which reminded me that I felt the Wachowski's might be all flash and no substance.

What's amazing to me is how many people who hear I didn't like part 1, so I didn't go see part 2 or 3 address the issue this way (a) well, you should really see them, (b) no, they're not as good as the first one, and (c) they get kind of dopey.

It's never been a strong sales pitch.

I've also never seen most movies people think I should see, but most people won't watch "This Gun For Hire" or "The Killing" with me, so they can stick it in their ear.

I'm going to go read my new "Superman vs. Brainiac" collection. You're on your own.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

No Robot Post Again

hey all.

Sorry about the lack of a robot post again this evening. I left work late, and then met Jamie, Jason and Nicole at Havana down on S. Congress.

I'm a little tired and after staying up late last night to work on a post for Comic Fodder, I'm not going to stay up tonight making sure we're all agreed on the topic of Robot Ladies of Interest.

Speaking of the Comic Fodder post... We got a link from Newsarama over the weekend based on a post I did on Batman comics. We saw a massive spike in hits, which was pretty cool. I had an idea for a post (actually, suggested by Randy, which I forgot to mention, so RHPT, I apologize) that I wanted to capitalize on while people might be coming by from that Blog@Newsarama link. Looks like that post is also getting a lot of hits. Anyway, that post was on Superman comics.

I don't know if I'm all that fascinating, if I'm hitting buttons with people, or what... but I've also seen a little bump in comments and e-mail sent directly to me, by-passing the comments section. Including from a gentleman who is pretty high up at who somehow stumbled across my Superman post.

Sure, its a cardinal sin of blogging to talk about blogging, but when you're writing stuff all the time, its nice to see when you get even a smidge of buzz going.

Anyway, I also gotta go write a Christmas Card letter, so if anyone out there can remember what the @#$% I've been up to this year that doesn't sound kinda moronic, let me know.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

and you accused Jake Lloyd of making Star Wars cheesy...

Donnie + Marie + Dilution of Brand = Awesome

Just FYI: The first video's audio track is really, really far off from the picture. I don't even know what would cause this and I used to work with video equipment for years.

I also want to say: Redd Foxx on Donnie & Marie as Obi Wan has filled a special place in my heart I didn't even know was empty. Thanks, internet!

really, the thought of Redd Foxx as any kind of mentor to Donnie Osmond sort of blows the mind...

Tip o' the hat to Journalista

Monday, December 01, 2008

A DITMTLOD Special: Robot Ladies of Interest (Part 1)

I'm going to go ahead and put a disclaimer on this one:

1. I find this whole enterprise kind of embarrassing for reasons I cannot begin to articulate.

2. Ladies, if you value your own sanity, it might be best if you sat this one out. You're not going to like this post one bit. Any reading you do below, you do at your own risk.

3. This whole thing is pretty spoiler-laden. I wind up accidentally giving away a lot of plot on all movies/ characters discussed.

On to the pain.

Historically, the first robot lady of interest that we can probably trace back to in Western Culture is probably Galatea, the woman brought to life by Pygmalion from a statue. There are all sorts of contexts in which the story is reviewed, some more flattering than others, and most certainly influenced by both the intention of the teller of the tale's vision (romantic tale, tale of hubris, etc...), and certainly the popular view of gender relations in which a tale is told. In today's society, it may seem difficult for readers to get past the easy reads of Pygmalion's misogyny that the story hinges on.

But more to our point: Sexy Lady Robots.

The first of which I can probably think of in film would be Fake-Robot-Maria from Fritz Lang's "Metropolis".

Basically, it's the future and all the rich folks live in palaces miles above the Earth, while everybody else toils below. Maria is a community organizer of sorts who is giving the worker bees hope (and a rich dude falls for her). An evil scientist guy has built a robot to take the place of his lost love, but disguises the robot as Maria, who he's kidnapped.

Anyway, instead of whining about the poor, Robot Maria ruins Human Maria's credibility as she ascends to the towers of the rich and parties it up. Actress Brigette Helm plays both roles (evil and good Maria) exceedingly well, and sets up Evil Robot Maria as a Robot Lady of Interest (RLI) as early as 1927.

I don't know how hard you have to party before you wind up in this situation, but that robot is programmed to get her crunk on.

Keep in mind, the term "robot" came into the parlance as late as 1921 thanks to Czeck playwright Karel Capek's play "Rossum's Universal Robots". It's generally thought to be the first appearance of the word "Robot", although "automaton" had appeared previously.

Depending on your definition, one could also include Elsa Lanchester as "The Bride" in 1935's "Bride of Frankenstein". I'm mostly including her because, due to the hair-don't the Bride sports, Lanchester is often overlooked.

Made for each other?

I'm not as familiar with pulp science-fiction as I should be, so I'm going to leave a big old gap here that could certainly be filled with all kinds of paperbacks and magazine stories about robot love.

1973's "Westworld" featured life-like robots which would join in all sorts of adult shenanigans with the tourists. Yeah, I found that a little yicky, even as a kid when I first saw the movie. But if you make it through that portion, the movie gets really awesome really fast.

The 1975 film "The Stepford Wives" is a bit of weirdness we can all enjoy (I've not seen the remake). A movie that's a refelction of its time, the Stepford Wives big reveal is that the reason the wives seem so perfect in the Stepford enclave? When the wives become problematic, the husbands replace them with robots.

So, basically, yeah, it was a horror movie for NOW-era feminists, with a less abstract threat to represent the specter of the lives many felt would be foisted upon them if the push for women's lib wasn't successful. Just, you know, in a cheesy way, with robots. But there's a reason the term "Stepford Wives" is ingrained in our vocabulary. Worth checking out.

The 1980 film Galaxina seems to include a robot who is intended to be eye-candy in what seems to be a comedy. The titular character was played by the lovely, but doomed actress/ model Dorothy Stratten. I've never seen the film, so I don't have much to say about it.

I haven't seen the movie, but here's a pretty strong pitch for checking it out.

We've already covered Sean Young as Rachael in Blade Runner.

As I write this, I realize Blade Runner should really get it's own post, but what are you going to do?

Blade Runner features several androids, including Rachael, Pris and Zhora. If you don't know the plot, (a) I pity you. Get a DVD player. (b) It's about a detective who must track down several renegade "replicants", basically flesh and blood robots with pre-programmed minds and a four-year lifespan. One of my favorites of all time.

Pris was played by Darryl Hannah, who... well, who did all kinds of crazy film work in the 1980's, but whose profile dropped a bit in the 1990's. I'm not sure why she isn't used more. She's lovely enough without a mermaid tail, and I always liked her. But what do I know? (answer: nuthin')

We don't know why it works. It just does.

Joanna Cassidy played Zhora, some sort of former soldier-droid, I believe.

Your mileage on naked robots covered in glitter and draped with snakes may vary

Zhora doesn't get much screen time, and viewers may note that she looks particularly weird during her death scene. Well, that's some stunt-person in a fright wig and plainly not Joanna Cassidy. According to sources I've read, documentaries, etc... nobody was happy with how that turned out. But when you're watching the scene, she looks so weird during her death, its kind of disquieting.

Before that sequence when she's talking to Deckard... maybe less disquieting.

Kelly LeBrock as Lisa in "Weird Science".

I'm not sure if she's a robot, but she is some sort of computerized artificial construct, right? Anyway, kudos to John Hughes for one of the weirdest and oddly non-skeeviest teen comedies (that, from its premise, should have been in there with "Hamburger: The Motion Picture").

"Lisa" (probably named for Apple's early-era personal computer) was the result of two nerds' hacking back in the 1980's when computers were about as accessible as atom smashers. Thank God for icon-based interfaces, says I. Back then, it seemed entirely reasonable that two motivated teenagers might accidentally create Kelly LeBrock on their computer while their parents were out of town.

What couldn't you do with a 2400 baud modem?

If you've never seen "Weird Science", it's a teen-classic. We'll revisit this movie some other time, because, darn it, I love "Weird Science". And Kelly LeBrock. Who unfortunately was married to Steven Seagal for a while. What must that household have been like?

Nevermind. I don't want to know.

That's it for this installment. More later this week. We'll get to BSG, Terminator and more.

But from the 1980's and earlier, what did I miss? Help a brother out...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

On UT's BCS ranking

What are you gonna do?

If UT played Saturday and OU played Thursday, we might have been ranked below Alabama instead of our rivals to the north. Or if one coach had voted one way, and other a different way... you never know.

But it is a lot messed up that its not purely about competition, and requires votes, etc... We need a better system so we don't have this kind of mess to begin with.

Ah, well. It was a great season and the Longhorns have everything in the world to be proud of.

I tend to side with Simon's opinion that play-offs might be the solution.

Thanksgiving Follow Up

Well, it's Sunday. Sunday night.

It's been a pretty long four days, and, in saying that, I'm kind of surprised its only been four days. But that's what happens when you have family coming and going, football on the brain, and the transition from the the Fall season into the Holiday Season.

I had a glimpse of life to come, and holidays to come, this weekend. My parents stayed at their new pad in N. Austin, Jason at his house, Cousin Sue at her place and we at ours. It seems the days of Too Many People in One House have drawn to a close. Which, really, has been most of my life, so I'm not really sure what to make of it. In the past, I was always amazed and confused by friends whose families lived in town and sort of didn't bat an eyelash that the Holidays were coming. If you weren't going to spend three or four nights kicked out of your bed and camped out in some corner of the house not your own, while wondering who kept turning up the thermostat (so you'd start sweating), it just wasn't the Holidays.

Anyhow, sadly, the Steans Family And Affiliated Family is now smaller in number. And we've somehow consolidated in Texas, with the locus in Austin. This is going to make things easier in some ways. And just plain odd in others.

No more sitting up with The Admiral and discussing the news until the wee hours. No more Jason abruptly standing up at some late hour and declaring "I'm tired as @#$%." Then going to bed.

No more shuffling into the kitchen and sorting out what sort of coffee was put in the pot (the parents like to poison me with 50% caffeinated), or coming downstairs at the folks' house to find some of their friends were not just up before me, they're over and visiting when I wander in with my hair standing straight up and peering out from behind my coke-bottle lenses.

Or, at Jamie's folks' house... no more realizing everyone has put off eating while you were sleeping. Or wandering out into the kitchen first thing, walking right past everyone and staring out the window into the backyard until your brain decides to actually wake up.

All that said, I'm happy to trade that for popping in to Jamie's folks' or my folks' house with a 30 minute drive instead of 3 hours.

Its just going to change things, and that's okay. Time marches on.

Jill mentioned on her blog that returning to Spring didn't feel like coming home. I think to a certain extent, I get that feeling. I love my parents, and I love their house, but (a) I've lived in Austin for 18, maybe 19 years, instead of the 3 I lived in that house in Spring, and (b) Jamie and I have worked hard to build lives in Austin. We're also heading quickly into our (gasp!) mid-thirties. While our lives are vastly different from those of our parents, we're not still moving from apartment to apartment like people right out of college. Hell, this spring we'll have been married for nine years. NINE.

And I think my folks are ready for the change.

Jamie's parents are in San Marcos now, so this is going to make the Christmas Holidays interesting. Doug and Kristen are coming into town, and will be hopping back and forth between here and the in-laws.

We're kinda/ sorta decorated for Christmas. I'd managed to get the inside about 80% decorated on Friday while Jamie rested after dialysis (we needed to put ornaments on the tree). Around 12:00ish today, we were just starting to pull exterior decorations down from shelves in the garage when Jamie noticed her fistula was bleeding through her sweatshirt.

Add in about three and hours in the ER (of which, about seven minutes was actual medical attention. The rest was waiting, giving information, and watching "Big" on basic cable), and we were home again by 3:15 and I was trying to get lights strung before the front would go dark by 5:30.

I checked three of our strings of lights before putting up four of them, and, curiously, once up they only half worked. Every single string of lights lit about half-way and then... nada. I tried swapping bulks, etc... but nada. I have no idea what was going on.

Anyway, I decided I just was going to quit and start again next Saturday morning.

The neighborhood will have to wait a little longer for The League's Onslaught of Cheer, '08.

Jamie is totally fine, by the way. What happened requires some a priori knowledge, but really simply: She had a scab on her fistula that fell off. The fistula is a very powerful vein, Jamie's also on blood thinners. Add the two together and you get a mix of Old Faithful and the elevator doors from "The Shining".

We did decorate the tree, and its lovely. We moved it this year, so its no longer out of view from the living room. I'm quite pleased with the change.

I'll get around to the Robot Ladies of Interest column later this week.

Keep it real.

Hey, Ya!