Saturday, October 03, 2009


Finally going to take that hiatus.

Friday, October 02, 2009

The League Sees: Whip It

If you've been following this blog, then you know I'm unlikely to be terribly objective in regards to the new Drew Barrymore directed movie, Whip It. League-Pal Shauna C. wrote the thing, and we're just terrifically happy for Shauna this evening.

I also have some unusual insight into the thing as I read the script a long time ago, and thought it pretty darn good.

On the screen and having been developed with a particular vision, I'm happy to say, I enjoyed the final product even more than I'd expected, based on what I'd read.

I won't dwell on the changes, largely because its irrelevant, but The League gives the movie, like, 7 thumbs up.

Roller derby as a sport is a bit confusing at first, but the movie's exposition seems to cover the necessary bases so the play of the sport isn't baffling. And that's a good thing, as I know the first time Jamie and I attended a bout, there was a lot of confusion. But the storytelling of the film more or less makes it easy to follow, at any rate.

Roller Derby players will probably be able to spot irregularities and "whatever" moments, but by and large, the movie seems to capture the toughness, athleticism and fun inherent in what I've seen when I've gone.

But the movie, like all good sports movies, uses the sport as a framework for the characters and their arcs. And in this case, its a story about a girl coming into adulthood and coming into her own in a way that her parents hadn't planned on, and really aren't going to understand.

The cast is very good.

I'm going to admit something here: I didn't like "Juno", so I had no opinion in regards to whether Ellen Page would be good in the role of Bliss, the high school aged protagonist. But, indeed, Page is quite good, and has the rare quality of appearing to actually be the age of the high school character she's portraying.

Juliet Lewis and the rest of the cast are excellent, but the real stand outs are going to be Daniel Stern and especially Marcia Gay Harden as Bliss's parents, who the movie does an excellent job of making nuanced, believable characters with believable motivations when they could have been far, far less. That said, I'll also be surprised if Kristin Wiig doesn't find herself landing a new range of roles thanks to her role in this movie as well.

Anyhow, Austin audiences will get a kick out of the odd intermingling of scenes shot in what is clearly NOT Texas (the film was shot 97% in Michigan), but seeing a few bits in Austin, including the very theater I was sitting in during the screening (which was met with great applause) was a lot of fun. It was interesting to see Austin portrayed as the destination point for getting out of the lives parents would have preferred for their kids, which is a bit glossy in this movie, but there's also a certain truth to it, even as the town expands and becomes ever more homogenized.* So while I sort of cringed after a while that they made damned sure we knew the characters were in hip, hip Austin, it is useful to tell the story of one of those kids in high school who was pretty sure they were dissatisfied with the way things were going and was looking for their outlet. And I'm glad Shauna was the person to tell that story.

Angry mother of a high schooler asking for an explanation when you walk in the door? Hoo boy. Does that bring back some memories.

I'm not going to suggest that "Whip It" is experimental art-house cinema that's going to change the world of movie-making, but I do think if the audience is coming, expecting a movie aimed at tween-agers, they're going to be pleasantly surprised. As the vast majority of the characters are actually adults, the gap between adulthood and the expectations of the high schooler as they reach for adulthood, is part of the point. Unlike most media these days, the movie does not pretend the characters are already adults, as we've come to expect in the era of the ridiculous teens of "Gossip Girl", the all-new 90210, The Hills, 16 and Pregnant, and even the shiny kids of Glee (whom I love and will beat you up of you say anything bad about them, but high school is mostly just a backdrop to get these characters together).

It should be mentioned: not just for a first effort, but in general, Drew Barrymore's direction was impressive. There were a lot of ways this movie could have gone wrong, but rather than take a script which could have easily become a dull family comedy, she managed to respect and care for all of the characters. And, some of the camera decisions were downright inspired.

Anyhoo, we recommend. Go check it out.

*I had a co-worker in who lives and works elsewhere in the state this week, and it was a reminder that some people still find Austin a bit much

These are a few of my favorite things...

Thank you, anonymous YouTube poster with too much free time on your hands. You've made this chubby nerd very happy.

iPhone Nerd Challenge

The League does not have an iPhone, and won't (a) for about two years so he can get the most out of the Blackberry he just bought, and (b) if they have made the move to Verizon by that point.

But we are very interested in the reading experience on the iPhone.

At long-last, comics are moving to the iPhone, and hopefully soon they'll also move to the Sony Reader and other technologies.

Anyhow, I am willing to send a check to reimburse the costs of the first Leaguer who purchases the first two or three issues of Mark Waid's "Irredeemable" and writes a review of the experience for reprint here.

More on the "Irredeemable" comics for iPhone topic

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Offered without comment

Halloween List

It's October!

That means its time for one thing!

Wait, no...

Well, maybe. But that's not where I was headed with this.

RIGHT!!! Halloween.

The point is, it's almost Halloween, and our pal Caffeinated Joe (aka: Wings), has put together a more than complete list of Halloween STUFF.

I suggest you check it out. It's amazingly thorough.

Please do yourself a favor and click over.

But, you know, as long as we're already here, we may as well look around.

It IS the most magical time of the year!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Apologies to Nicole

and to a lesser extent, Matt. Who knows what he did, and deserves no apology.

Jamie informs me that my post bemoaning the aspect ratio issue with my TV was "a little mean" and "they're never going to house sit again, you jerk."

So. What was intended to be a little good-natured ribbing for Nicole and Matt didn't wind up that way, and for that, I am greatly sorry.

even this adorable puppy thinks I was sort of a @#$%

I am also to communicate how grateful we are for their assistance, etc...

Anyhow, I was in no way actually upset with either, and feel awful that the post suggested otherwise.

October Creepiness

hey, hey... the gang's all here!

In lieu of an actual post, I'm going to kick off October with something creepier than Michael Meyers in a tutu:

Vintage Halloween stuff

I don't know what it is that makes vintage Christmas classic and endearing but vintage Halloween stuff terrifying, but there you are.

I don't know.

yeah, there's a little kid in blackface in there. Classy.

All my life I've mostly lived in relatively new structures, but when I sleep in a place like, say, the Olema Inn and consider how old the place is, and how many generations have slept in that room, and you look at the vintage light fixture and molding and wonder how many people have stared at that... and then think about all the kids over all the years who trick'or'treated before you ever put on a Chewbacca mask... all those kids who are nowhere to be seen, and in masks that were seemingly made in Hell's Novelty Factory...


Broom. Bike. Whatever.

The League has very specific issues.

Maybe I get a little sad looking at all these pictures, thinking of all these people who lived and had Halloween and trick or treats, and now they're most likely gone, and does anyone know who these people are anymore?

Is it the outdated ideas of the costumes? That its not colorful princesses and ninjas and Buzz Lightyear?

I have no idea. But the sort of static faces of the masks, and a lifetime of horror movies certainly isn't helping.

dang, yo. even if a headless guy with a hatchet was standing at the foot of my bed (my recurring fear when I was in 3rd grade), it would not freak me out as much as if these kids were on my doorstep.

I'm going to go hide under a blanket with a flashlight now.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The League watches: Flash Forward


I'm not sure I'm ready to commit to a humorless series in which 9/10ths of the characters have already shown us the bleak future they're headed towards in the next 6 months.

I was also very not impressed by the seeming "check off the boxes" that seemed to fill the episode.

Roguish, drinking law-enforcement guy with a marriage on the rocks? check
Idyllic morning scene to establish the characters, complete with them rising for the day in a massive suburban LA home? check
Doomed sidekick? check (only, we already know that ain't gonna happen)
Creepy kids? check
Overblown disaster scene trying to top pilot of Lost (I expect this will be a new prime-time series standard)? check

There's the mystery of "what happened" which can't be much of a mystery for long as there's a novel out there upon which the series is based. That said: I presume the "why" will be changed, just as the protagonist is no longer a physicist, but an FBI agent.


Anyway, the show did have a good hook (everyone passed out for 2 minutes!), with a sort of awkwardly revealed twist (and saw their future. sort of!). But the producers saw to it that the characters started off as generic TV characters, and not particularly interesting ones at that. So knowing where they're headed doesn't actually add a whole lot of appeal.

And, while I'm sticking with ABC's Lost to the bitter end, Jason said it best when he rolled his eyes and began to complain about how common time-travel/ glimpses of the future/ etc... have become in TV these days. Which is interesting, considering what a pain time-travel is in any medium or genre, and how badly its usually executed.

I might also mention (and I'm a little ashamed I know this), but Smallville is basically doing the same thing this season by giving Lois a flashback/ flashforward for the season.

Blame Nicole.

If there's no post this evening, you can blame Matt and Nicole. Mostly Matt. Or Nicole.

As you may know, Matt and Nicole house sat for us this weekend, for which we are enormously grateful. And during that time, they watched some TV.

Over the past three days, and a while this evening, I spent some time trying to figure out what was wrong with my TV. I don't know what those two crazy kids were up to, but they wreaked havoc on the aspect ratio on my TV and seemingly were bouncing it out of its HD-ness.

The biggest problem was that we'd had that problem with the TV when we got it, and I knew I'd stumbled upon the solution a year ago while doing something completely unrelated.

Anyhow, I finally figured it out (the issue was not with the TV or a setting thereupon, but in an option on the cable box remote of all the darned things). And I'm documenting here, so that when it happens again, I can possibly remember what I did and not lose untold hours tearing apart my AV set-up.

(It's a display option in the "settings" on the cable remote, Future Ryan).

So, yes, the Samsung manual was probably better than I thought, and I should not codemn it to a firey, firey fate in manual hell.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Whip It Interview with Shauna C (and Juliette Lewis)

Hey Leaguers. "Whip It" opens Friday at a theater near you! If you're in Austin and want to see the movie this weekend, e-mail me or say something in the comments. We'll have to hit The Alamo downtown.

Anyhow, Shauna C. was interviewed while in Canada for the Toronto Film Festival. Thrill to Shauna smiling politely! Chill to the awkward questioning style of the interviewer! Be dazzled by an interviewer asking the interview subjects to fulfill his sort of odd obsession with Drew Barrymore!

Click here to see the interview.

The League Reads: A Princess of Mars

So on the plane to San Francisco I decided to read a book I'd picked up on a whim at Half Price Books, the first of the John Carter of Mars series, "A Princess of Mars".

I did not pick up the book just because there was a boob on the cover, but because the John Carter novels are occasionally discussed in the deep-dive-geek-circles, as a sort of watershed of fantasy and science fiction, or, more accurately, one of the early works from which all other sci-fi flows. There was also a glimpse of Carter in one of the "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" graphic novels and it looked neat, but I had no idea what was going on.

Written by Edgar Rice Burroughs, whom you probably think of as the creator of Tarzan, the first John Carter novel was released in a serialized format starting in 1912. What is genuinely shocking is how little the genre of sci-fi has changed in the ensuing 100 years, and how much of an effect the John Carter novels must have had on the readership, leading to everything from Superman (1938) to Flash Gordon (1934) to Buck Rogers (1929).

It should be mentioned, the first in the series that I read, "A Princes of Mars" would be better served categorized as a fantasy novel, as there's little in the way of "science" in the book. The how's and why's of technology do exist, but aren't the focus, as the Mars portrayed is a clannish, barbaric world more akin to a Robert E. Howard novel than Asimov. And, certainly, one can see the various races of the Moons of Mongo and the arrival of Flash Gordon, swashbuckling swordplay, and flirtations with the princess as a direct descendant of "A Princess of Mars".

Wikipedia is helpful in trying to figure out what may have spawned some of Burroughs' concepts, but its nothing I'm terribly familiar with. By today's standards (of which much of fantasy and sci-fi, I'd guess, is a 20th generation copy of a copy of copy of a...), the book can feel a bit dated and off, but its also like seeing a 1935 Duesenberg Phaeton and just marveling at how this sort of thing was put together in comparison to today's autos. There's some passion and artistry, even if they don't have the cup holders, iPhone drop and electric heating seats.

While it was often difficult to buy the astounding luck and superhuman genius of our hero, the book does a great job of defining the cultures of the various Martian people, and glimpses of their history. And, he provides an interesting mechanism for how, pre-Werner Von Braun, Burroughs conceived of how his character would appear upon the surface of a neighboring planet. A concept I suspect Adam Strange comics have lifted, most notably in the recent run in Wednesday Comics.

Carter is, by the way, a Virginian gentleman who has served a tour of duty in the Civil War. Who has something going on with possible immortality prior to even arriving on the Red Planet. Its interesting to see a sci-fi hero from a by-gone era, and its an interesting juxtaposition with the Barsoomians, and how Burroughs frames' Carters relations to them.

Readers should recognize the books is both well ahead of its time in many ways, even as it's oddly chaste in its depiction of romance, and only occasionally shows glimpses of alternate ideas to gender roles as the author may have felt most comfortable in 1912. And, of course, the earthly virtues of a gentleman of Virginia often win the day for our hero in the barbaric Mars.

There's also a scene in the book during which Carter lays a kiss on the titular princess, and I thought "well, man... I can totally, totally see this as a movie". Which, you know, in 1912, its entirely unlikely Burroughs was envisioning crazy CGI FX and a screaming Queen guitar solo.

Clocking in at around 160 pages, as a slow reader, I got through the book in two plane rides and maybe an hour in the hotel. So even if its making you miserable, the book is a quick read by normal human standards.

I have several other books to read, including a couple of Dune books (which I think was an interesting book for comparison), but I am interested in reading a few more of these John Carter books.

By the way, Pixar is supposedly working on a John Carter movie.

Anyone else read this book?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

We're back...

Well, we're back from sunny Olema, California where we spent the past few days getting Doug and K married.

Lovely ceremony. Met a lot of great folks. Ate entirely too much food.

We spent Thursday night in Berkeley, then drove up to Olema on Friday for a rehearsal, to meet some people, and get settled in. The wedding was at a lovely B&B that we more or less took over for a couple of days.

K is doing very well in spite of the surgery, and she made it through the wedding and attendant activities with flying colors. Doug, perhaps because of basic training with Jamie, handled the situation very well.

K's family (immediate and extended) was a lot of fun, and I really enjoyed meeting those of Doug and K's friends we hadn't met before, and seeing again those we had. And, of course, it was great to see Jamie's cousins who were able to attend, her Aunt and Uncle and others.

It was a fun weekend, and it was nice to just go along for the ride.

Had a bit of adventure getting out of Olema as we took a wrong turn and wound up going a way that worked, but took us on a route that was a lot more interesting than we'd intended, including a jaunt across the Golden Gate and a cruise through San Francisco.

Anyway, we're home. I'm tired. I think the dogs are now settled.

BTW: thanks to Nicole (and Matt, I guess, from the beer I found in the fridge) for taking care of the dogs this weekend. It certainly made things a lot easier.