Saturday, July 04, 2009

Neil Diamond knows what it means to be American

Dang, yo! Neil has the late 80's-era elementary school teacher fanbase locked up!

By the way, I totally love this song, and it will be pistols at dawn with anyone who says it is anything less than awesome.

Place your bets here...

So Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, famous for accidentally removing credibility from the McCain campaign (sorry, Palin fans, its true) has resigned her post as Governor.

My guess is that Palin received an opportunity for a lucrative television contract. Something along the lines of a talk show (isn't the modern dream to be Oprah Winfrey?) or something on Fox.

But, I also have no doubt that its all part of her plans for 2012. If that's the case, this voter is really looking forward to the primaries.

Any other theories?

Perhaps this recent Vanity Fair article could shed some light...

thanks to Randy for starting this whole conversation

Friday, July 03, 2009

Jeff Wilson (aka: Crackbass)

I am reminded that its now been three years since the passing of Jeff Wilson. Jeff, Sigmund and Kim were struck on July 3rd, and Jeff passed several days later.

Let's keep Mandy and Jeff's family (by blood and otherwise) in our thoughts this holiday weekend. And keep Jeff in mind, too.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

It was a dark and stormy night...

If you've never heard of the Bulwer-Lytton contest, its a competition wherein folks submit a single sentence. The sentence is intended to be the start of a novel. A particularly bad novel that does not exist (yet).

I only remember this contest every few years, but I suggest perusing .


If the contest does not give an aspiring writer a moment of pause when they look upon their own prose, they either lack the self-awareness and insight into their own work enough to be a writer or they have an unhealthy level of self-confidence.

Two of my favorites:

Darnell knew he was getting hung out to dry when the D.A. made him come clean by airing other people's dirty laundry; the plea deal was a new wrinkle and there were still issues to iron out, but he hoped it would all come out in the wash - otherwise he had folded like a cheap suit for nothing.

Lynn Lamousin
Baton Rouge, LA

No man is an island, so they say, although the small crustaceans and the bird which sat impassively on Dirk Manhope's chest as he floated lazily in the pool would probably disagree.

Glen Robins
Brighton, East Sussex, U.K.

That second one sounds terribly likely in modern fiction.

Tip o' the hat to Unloveable.

Happy B-Day, USA

Not sure what the weekend holds for posting, so I want to take a minute to salute the U.S. of A.

Whenever I might get a little down about the way our nation is headed, I get a little reminder, such as our friends in Iran, who are now in a struggle to see justice done, to be able to believe their voices and themselves and their ideals are known by their leaders and government. The past few weeks should be a reminder to us Americans and to our government that the government should never be too far from being us, that it should exist and operate with our consent. And when we challenge that government's will or authority, we are so, so astoundingly lucky to live in a nation where our government does not take to the air suggesting that voices raised in defiance should be permanently silenced.

But we're far from perfect. We receive daily and weekly reminders of the failures of government. I'm still keeping my eye on the events in Ft. Worth, which fell on the anniversary of Stonewall. Its not even surprising any more when governments cease-up as our politicians who run on their moral convictions disappear for long weekends over-seas with their mistresses. Our states go bankrupt (well done, California). That's this week's news.

At the end of the day, though, we are not our government. While I celebrate the ideals embodied in the constitution, even that document wasn't ratified until well after July 4th, 1776 (but that time for honest discussion did lead to the Bill of Rights, of course). If we're going to celebrate the day, I celebrate what, despite our differences, we do when we do it together. It doesn't matter if it's watching fireworks while the local symphony puts on its annual performance of the 1812 Overture, or whether its voices raised together as we mumble our way through the National Anthem. Or showing up at the food pantry, or to walk together to raise money for a cause. We're all of that, too.

It's foolish to buy the lines thrown around during elections when one politician suggests the other doesn't love his country because someone said the nation has a past of which it ought not necessarily be entirely proud. Its in seeing the flaws, the broken dreams and lost lives as counter-measure to what good the country has done that you can see the promise of what we'd like to offer every person within these borders and beyond. It tells us what we can do better. And when we live through a time in which we feel the government has steered wrong, we can imagine that the winds of change will blow and the ship will find its course.

I need to see more of the country. I'd very much like to see its capitols and landmarks. Its parks, and its beaches. See what my fellow Americans are like in places like Boston and Los Angeles. I don't get out enough.

But... Happy B-Day, America. Hopefully we won't accidentally set you on fire with a bottle rocket.

like everything else iconic in history, this didn't really happen, either

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

It's Christmas (Talk) in July! aka: The League Holiday Special

So, of course, part of the problem is that my idea for a Holiday Special was pretty much what Colbert did in 2008. Talented and amazing The League may be, but we strongly suspect that we're not going to outdo Colbert on this thing.

I'm thinking a 10 minute video (anything longer suggests effort), but we'll see. Could be longer or shorter. Might not get around to it at all.

But here's the thing: It's going to be a lot more fun if I can get you guys to participate.

I know that July 1st might seem a spot early to bring this up, but we'll probably start producing this thing as early as October. So that's, really, like 3 or four months away.

...our benchmark for quality

Some rules...

A) This is a family show, Leaguers. I don't mind a few swears, but The KareBear and Judy are going to watch this thing. So, you know...
B) Anything sent in needs to be fairly decent quality. By that I mean, if the camera is laying on its side, or we can't actually hear you, then I'm probably not going to be able to use it. Don't worry, we're going to have issues here, too.
C) It HAS to be about the Holidays in some way. It can be about Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, etc... We're working with a theme here, Leaguers.

Bowie and Crosby got nothing on my Leaguers

Here's what we're looking for:

1) Volunteers for guest appearances. If you'd like to actually appear in a portion of the video, lemme know. That would require a few hours on some weekend. We may require you to sing and dance. No, seriously.

2) Send in your video. This isn't a call for random people to send me a video. You pretty much MUST QUALIFY AS A LEAGUER (you know who you are. Exceptions granted for Lynda Carter, Christina Hendricks, Shatner or other non-Leaguers of note. In fact, those three are welcome to come over any time.).
I'm not placing any restrictions on what you send in. If you make a jerk of yourself, you make a jerk of yourself.
However... Keep it short. No longer than 1 minute. Unless you're sending in the best video of all time. Then we can negotiate.

3) Original Songs. If you want to send in a song for The League to sing, we're up for that. Or you can sing it yourself. But... it should be about 90 seconds.

4) Poems, stories, etc... I don't really know what I mean by this, but send your stuff in, and we'll see if we can't figure out how to squeeze it in.

So if you're wondering: No. I don't have a script yet. I kind of want to see what we get, to an extent. But I'm starting to get some ideas together, thinking about how to put a song or two together, that sort of thing. And, of course, planning to decorate for Christmas early this year, if need be.

Anyhow, I hope you guys want to participate in some way.

So, let's make it a Jolly Holiday.

The League is looking out for your Holiday Season

Tell 'Em That it's Human Nature

somewhere I have a vinyl record of Michael Jackson reading the story of E.T. This image was included in the packaging.

I really wanted to put this image on our wedding invitation. Did not happen.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Maxx

The Maxx that I cared about in the 1990's was not the soda shop frequented by the "Saved By The Bell" kids.

I had not read Sam Keith's comic when The Maxx debuted on MTV circa 1994. It was part of the Image onslaught of comics that my wallet couldn't handle, and too many of which focused on art over story or substance in an era when Neil Gaiman was writing Sandman, Grant Morrison was writing The Invisibles, Garth Ennis was starting to make some noise in the US, and ideas like "Kid Eternity" were a viable part of the comic landscape (and, I should mention, Marvel had just done the Clone Wars deal and was close to filing for bankruptcy).

And then, between Beastie Boys videos, I saw the ads for The Maxx.

As it happens once in a while, I was a fan of the cartoon before I was a fan of the comic. I enjoy the Hulk movies, but never get too far with the comics. Same for Iron Man. I suppose one could say I was a fan of the Superman movies and cartoons prior to my interest in the comics, so I guess it applies here, to an extent.

It would be fairly far into the episodes of The Maxx that it would become clear to me that The Maxx was never really intended to be about dimension-hopping superheroics and, instead, was much more about somebody's (I'd suggest Sam Keith's) issues with women. If Superman was the man the Clark Kents of the world wished they could be to impress their Lois, then The Maxx was somebody working out their feelings both about who they wished they could be (still oddly grotesque and sort of slow), mixed in equal parts with who they strongly suspected they appeared to be to the world (a badly dressed hobo in a box with violent tendencies).

The series didn't make it as a cartoon on MTV (and I mourn the loss of an MTV that was trying new things all the time, from The Maxx to Aeon Flux). It did run as a fairly successful creator-owned series at Image for about 35 issues, plus spin-off's and tie-ins'.

The Maxx does not care to debate what the definition of what "Isz" is.

I'm not sure a literal reading of The Maxx, no matter how surreal the material and art, is what Keith had in mind. But its also difficult at times to discern exactly what he was trying to do, exactly, other than create an access point to approach certain characters and stories he wanted to work through. Were the "Isz" the ugly truth trying to drag down The Maxx? If the Outback wasn't real, and the "real world" wasn't real, then...

Anyway, it was a beautiful use of the medium as storytelling device, and the art and layout astoundingly handled, with no choice made arbitrarily.

At one point I had a fairly complete Maxx collection, but I believe it disappeared during a purge a while back. It's a fun read, but I decided to just hang on to the trade apperback collections released a few years ago and available at quality comic shops (and online) from DC.

Its been a long, long time since I read much in the way of The Maxx, but MTV has recently brought the entire cartoon series online. The cartoons are exact panels from the comics, with what I'd consider to be good voice acting. It's a bit of a trippy cartoon. But in the 1990's, when I was surprised if a comic character's costume was even the right color, seeing a comic so literally translated out of the comic format was an absolute revelation.

Click here to see the series online.

The series does touch on subject matter that has become a bit verboten in the ensuing years, at least in part because some of Julie's origin specifics became overused in less than well-handled fashion. But it was also an interesting mix of people behaving like people and a cracked out world of superheroes, wild psychic landscapes and flying whales. All fitting within a specific vision.

Keith would go on to do other series, like Zero Girl, Four Women and others, including a Batman comic series or two. I still feel, when I read his independent work, that he's working his way through something.

Years and years ago, a Maxx Christmas ornament was my first eBay purchase (and visitors to League HQ during the Holiday season can find it on the tree). And a Maxx action figure (with Isz) resides on my desk.

It may be about time I re-watched the cartoon and/ or re-read the series.

Monday, June 29, 2009

A few quick items

Editor's note: We're giving over tonight's full column to Leaguer Nathan C. So here's a few tidbits. I invite you to read Nathan's column in its entirety.

Achewood and Jacko

Ray Smuckles on the death of Michael Jackson. This is the column I wish I had written.

also here.

Jon & Kate: Cultural Implications

On Friday, I saw two women, both in their 40's, who had the same haircut as Kate Gosselin of Jon & Kate Plus Eight. It was bound to happen, I suppose. We may become adults, but we still find ourselves imitating the people we look up to. I've been wearing a pant suit since Hillary announced her nomination.

One offender was on campus, most likely retrieving her child from a camp or from Freshman Orientation. The other was at Texadelphia with her husband, whom I wanted to take aside and instruct that, yes... when your wife begins to idolize a TLC star, its okay to run for your life.

I ponder the army of Kate-haired fans at a Barnes & Noble, all lined up for a signing of "Eight Little Faces", and I tremble.

Wagner's Back in Town!

Heather Wagner has finally completed her three year sojourn in Lubbock where she was completing her masters in Speech Therapy. She's now back in Austin and on the job hunt (so if you've got some speech issues and need some help...).

To make matters interesting, Wagner is living with a friend, also named Heather. Other Heather seems like a swell dame.

GI Joe

I may be rethinking this GI Joe movie. Yes, indeed.

Thank you, Hollywood, for knowing I don't care if I'm pandered to.

But I'm still not seeing your movie.

Guest Column: Nathan C has "A Few Words About the Gloved One"

Editor's Note: As I mentioned, Nathan was the first to alert me to Jackson's death. Nathan Cone has, since I met him, unapologetically and (I believe) unironically adored the work of Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5. And, in fact, for no particular reason I can recall, I associate The Jackson 5's "ABC" with Nathan. I assume we grooved to it together sometime in the mid-90's.

He's been so gracious as to share a few words eulogizing The King of Pop, and a few personal memories.

by Nathan Cone

Incidentally, that was always my favorite nickname for Michael Jackson, “The Gloved One.”

The League knows that I have a special place in my heart and in my record collection for great R&B. Michael Jackson, and his brothers in the Jackson 5, provided a slice of heaven to this listener every time I dropped the needle on one of their records. From “I Want You Back” to “Smooth Criminal,” few could match the grooves of MJ.

A lot of folks in the media went on and on about his music, and of course his problems, but I’ve noticed very few commented on his dancing skills (NPR was an exception). I’ve been re-watching a lot of video clips this weekend, and he was an astonishing talent. He was graceful, like Fred Astaire. He was so much more than the Moonwalk and the crotch grab, and I think a lot of people forget that.

Thriller. Amidst the impressive statistic that it’s the best-selling album of all time, I think even more incredible is the fact that seven of the nine songs on the album were hit singles! Wow.

I was as shocked as anyone to hear of Michael Jackson’s passing last Thursday, but not really conflicted about it. I had already gone through the mourning process years ago, right around the time of the Lisa Marie Presley marriage and on-stage kiss, I believe. MJ addressed his weirdness with a self-knowing humor in the video and song “Leave Me Alone,” but by the 1990s, he was just pissed off, and backed away from the public eye. So despite a few musical salvos from the Gloved One, we’ve really been without the Michael we know for 15+ years. He had long since moved from being on top of the world to being a punch line, and that’s no place to be.

I always wished Michael Jackson would call up Quincy Jones. Clearly their collaborations had a kind of magic to them, like Miles Davis & Gil Evans. I can only imagine what would have happened had they decided to work together again.

Finally, although the League, Mrs. League, Bug, and the rest of the Trinity crew can attest that my imitation of the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” dance routine was inspired but weak, I was a badass at the “Moonwalker” video game.

Three memories:
1. When “Thriller” premiered on MTV, I remember sitting in front of the TV with my brother Marcus, eating Oreos and watching the video. (And even at 10 years of age, I thought that disclaimer about the occult on the front end was odd.)

2. My friend David Hardisty had one of the “Beat It” red knock-off jackets. I tried it on, knew I looked like a complete dork wearing it, and promptly removed it.

3. While home in Spring during college, David Wilcox and I went to Sound Warehouse one night, and I bought “Off The Wall” on cassette. I think David felt that in the early 1990s, it was a very kitschy, post-grunge thing to do, to drive up and down F.M. 1960 blasting “Rock With You.” But I think secretly he loved the music as much as me.

So long, Gloved One.

Bonus Memory: One of my earliest Jackson memories involves the totally over-the-top video for the Jacksons’ “Can You Feel It.” Dick Clark introduced it on American Bandstand one afternoon, remarking about the incredible visuals. Years later, it’s kind of cheesy, and amazing that the sound effects overpower the music throughout most of the song, but this is a cool video. Dig the way the Jacksons portray themselves as demi-gods. Ha ha!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The League Obtains: A Cousin

So, Cousin Sue has adopted a fresh faced kid.

After 34 years, The League is no longer the youngest on that side of the family (second cousins Michael and Kathy are younger than me on the Steans-side).

I have to check with Sue before I start naming names and invade privacy of a tween-ager, so bear with me. The kid is not an infant or toddler, and so the rules are a bit different. I need to be careful so that her classmates don't track her down via this blog and all that, so... I need to come up with some sort of pseudonym. And remember a camera next time, but...

I really liked this kid. Sharp and she was happy to chat. She's going to make a fine addition to the clan.

We met up for lunch and then went to Star Trek. Showing remarkable taste, she seemed to like it quite a bit. We're going to get along just fine.

Billy Mays: The Great Beyond's Newest Pitchman

What a strange, strange week.

Television pitchman Billy Mays joins McMahon, Fawcett and Jackson as the fourth celebrity death in a week. Mays was a smaller blip on the cultural radar than any of other three, but was a television fixture for several years.

He was the gentleman with the unmistakable voice and beard who I first recall seeing pitching "Oxi-Clean".

Leaguers, I know this sounds a little weird, but I actually did wind up buying Oxi-Clean, and that stuff works wonders on the many potential stains my pets leave around the house. So if you don't trust Billy Mays, there's your unpaid endorsement from a trusted source.

Mays might have been yet another bizarre fixture of bad-timeslots on TV, but had recently been a part of a show called "Pitchmen" on the Discovery Channel. I've seen an episode or two, and it was interesting to see how the whole process works. And, of course, you got to see Mays as more than just a gadfly intensely hawking products.

At last check, no details had been forthcoming around May's death, except that he had been on a flight that had a rough landing. Mays was quoted an mentioning that he'd hit his head.

Folks might dislike Mays as they associate him with the annoyance that is the infomercial, but as the Oxi-Clean thing worked out for me, and I liked his how on Discovery, I thought he was okay.

So long, Billy. You went too soon.

The League Talks Comics - Batwoman, GL and Superman

Editor's Note: Leaguers, I'm going to go back to occasionally talking comics around here. Feel free to ignore these posts, friends and family who don't care!

I'm also going to mostly focus on suggestions for stuff I liked. It'll save us all a lot of time.

Detective Comics #854
Written by Greg Rucka; Art by JH Williams and Cully Hamner; Cover by JH Williams : Variant Cover by JG Jones

We're on issue #854 of Detective Comics, where Batman made his first appearance in 1939ish in issue #29. So, this is the first issue in quite sometime given over to someone other than Batman, or people standing around talking about/ thinking about Batman.

Instead, after 3 years of getting our chain yanked by DC with its sporadic appearances of the "all new" Batwoman (That's Batwoman, not Batgirl), DC finally committed to the character and gave her a chance to make it on her own. Apparently DC is also trying to make amends with novelist/ comic scribe Greg Rucka, with whom it seems things got crosswise during the "52" event of 06' - 07', by giving him "Detective" and then, just to be extra nice, assigning artist JH Williams III (of Batman and Promethea fame) to the storyline.

With karate she'll kick your ass, from here, to right over there...

Longtime readers will know I'm a fan of Rucka's work on Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, OMAC, and I spent a lot of time in Costa Rica reading his "Queen & Country" comics. Rucka does fetishize a certain type of female character, as evidenced by his similar treatment of Renee Montoya from Gotham Central/ The Question, Queen and Country and now Batwoman. Highly competent, jaded, and a personal life in shambles. And maybe he needs to shake that off a bit, which he's forced to do when he's handling characters he didn't manage from scratch (and which he handles quite well).

There's nothing wrong with the narrative here, and, in fact, Rucka does an amazing job of setting the stage for who Kathy Kane is and where we're headed. But Detective Comics just jumped page count and increased its price by 25% with a Question back-up feature by Rucka, that will probably remind readers a bit too much of how similar the two characters actually are.

I'm counting on the back-up feature intersecting with the main feature at some point. We'll see. But both characters have been tied up with Rucka's ongoing "Religion of Crime" storylines at different times.

I'd be remiss in discussing the new Batwoman as character if I didn't point out, like everyone else has, that she is part of DC's efforts at representing the world "as is", in that Kathy Kane has been established as a lesbian. It's not an overarching part of the plot, but its not hard to see that DC was trying to spread its wings a bit with the character intended to be part of its mainstream offerings. Which, I just realized, means that Detective Comics #854 features not one, but two gay heroes.

The art: Is phenomenal. I really don't know what else to say about JH Williams, other than that the man is one of the most wickedly talented people working in the comics business. His style is vastly different from, say, Frank Quitely, but I feel he's in the same category, and it'd be nice if he were a bit better recognized/ had greater influence on the comic art community. I suggest going here and then clicking "view preview" to see his stuff.

Green Lantern #42
Written by Geoff Johns: Art and Cover by Philip Tan and Jonathan Glapion; Variant Cover by Rodolfo Migliari

This is more an endorsement of Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi's work on Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps, two books I enjoy immensely. Johns and Tomasi have both been using the serial and ongoing nature of the books to lead to an event in "Blackest Night", which is hitting at the end of the summer. (And if you're reading GL but not GLC, you are crazy. Seriously.)

Johns and Tomasi have managed to greatly expand the conceits of the GL books of decades past, and have introduced a spectrum of colors and their varying allegiances, roles, etc... And its been a fascinating read.

The last few issues of GL have focused upon the Guardians' attempts to negotiate with Larfleeze, a being who seized the Orange Lantern (think Gollum, but with the power of a thousand GL's) millions of years ago.

As a single issue, it would be incredibly difficult to walk into GL #42, so The League recommends picking up with the Sinestro Corps stuff in trade paperback.

Every once in a while when you're reading a comic, it just clicks, and it becomes abundantly clear that the comic you're reading is going to be remembered and become essential reading for decades. It may eventually spawn movies, etc... And, most certainly, that's the case right now with Green Lantern, provided the whole ending for Blackest Night doesn't crater.

Superman #689

Written by James Robinson; Art by Renato Guedes and José Wilson Magalhães; Cover by Andrew Robinson

Like Batman disappearing from the pages of Detective, Superman hasn't actually appeared in "Superman" for the past few months as the "World of Krypton" mega-story has taken over the Superman wing of the DCU. Clark Kent/ Kal-El is off planet at the moment (a move I confess to thinking was nuts when I first heard it), and has left Metropolis in the hands of a fellow alien, Mon-El. Meanwhile, Action Comics is now featuring an all-new Flamebird and Nightwing, a Kandorian super-team hunting down Phantom Zone criminals.

Mon-El has appeared in the Superman-related comics since the early 1960's, first in Superboy, and then in the Legion of Super-Heroes. From the planet Daxam (and actually named Lar Gand, but given a Kryptonian name by a young Superboy) Mon-El has similar abilities to a Kryptonian. However, unlike Kryptonians, Daxamites are affected by the simple element of lead the way Superman might be affected by Kryptonite. In today's continuity, he was found by a young Clark Kent who was forced to place him into the Phantom Zone to save his life.

Freed from the Zone and given a temporary cure, he's taken Superman's place in protecting not just Metropolis, but, as this issue explores, Earth. Its a great story, showing how this very human alien relates to the planet and is trying to make the most of his time.

I'm not as enamored by Robinson's writing as some, and some scenes, such as The Guardian's defense of Mon-El to Morgan Edge feel simply rushed. Like Robinson had an item he felt he wanted to check off his list of narrative moments, but didn't quite know how to frame it, and so a fairly simple speech cleared up an entire storyline. It seemed almost quaint in this era of televised punditry. It also felt oddly like a call back to Superman's defense of Krypto circa issue 680.

But the issue is an overall enjoyable read, and a great beat in this ever-expanding storyline of World of Krypton, as it runs through the Superman titles.

Sure, its odd that DC has decided that Clark Kent himself isn't the star of his self-titled comic at the moment, but I'm enjoying the feeling of a broad, epic vision for the Superman comics at this moment. Superman's displacement doesn't feel artificial as it did in "Superman: Exile", and I feel that Robinson's stewardship on the title is sound.

Plus, I like the artwork.

That's it for the moment. I doubt this will be a weekly thing, but doing some comic-related writing felt like a good idea today.

Farrah Fawcett - Now chatting it up with Charlie in a better place

The passing of Farrah Fawcett would have been the big headline had the sudden death of Michael Jackson not occurred within hours.

I didn't follow Fawcett's career, in particular. I was quite young during the Charlie's Angel's era, and when "The Burning Bed" aired, I was at an age where that probably wasn't going to be something I was watching.

When I think of Fawcett, literally every time, this is the image that comes to mind:

I don't know what the current status is, but at one point, this was (by far) the best selling poster, ever.

Even many Central Texans don't know that Fawcett is a Longhorn. She's actually from Corpus Cristi, and attended UT circa 1968. The crazy bit is that, according to Wikipedia, she lived in Jester. Who knew?

She was in a large number of film and television projects, and somehow managed to be married to Lee Majors at one point, which is awesome (and had such an impact, I heard one eulogy incorrectly identify her as Farrah Fawcett-Majors).

Of course Fawcett had most recently been in the public eye with her fight against cancer.

Interestingly, Fawcett's 1970's style had become re-adopted by today's youth, whether they knew the source of the look or not. But a quick Google Image search is kind of interesting.

In this image, Fawcett has just run out her door in time to see the ice cream truck is now too far down the street to catch

So long, Farrah. You'll be missed.