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.