Saturday, November 07, 2009

The League Sings

photo courtesy Mr. Harms

Yes, We Are Still Shutting Down/ Future Plans

I am flattered that Leaguers are asking about whether or not we're still shutting down, whether we'll continue on, if there aren't possibilities for other outlets, etc...

Its always been a shock to me that so few have written in asking me to please, please just stop it seemed nice enough. Knowing that anyone gives a darn enough to ask that we should continue is a bit overwhelming.

To cut to the chase, here's the game plan.

1) December 20th, in the PM, I will have up the final post. It's done already.
2) We will continue to maintain a presence on Facebook at A lot of the smaller items you'd find here are what you'll find there. We're also on Twitter, but that's a repost of Facebook, so there you go.
3) April 21st, 2010, I will make a statement on Facebook in regards to any future plans for more blogging activity.

I need to give myself hard deadlines on this stuff as it will force decisions one way or another. I was a PM for a while.

Anyway, it's been suggested I talk about favorite posts.

Rather than do that (because I've got 3,300+ posts) I welcome you guys to guest-post on any particular League-related topic, post, etc... that caught your fancy. You can contact me via e-mail. We'll run those right up until that last week.

I will, I believe, have some sort of series of "before we go" posts to wrap things up. So, if you have any requests, send them in. We live to serve, and I'll be looking for ideas for generating content. And, no, I have no idea what I mean by "if you have any requests".

The League Reads/ Listens to: Dracula

On Thursday morning I finished a 12-hour audio book of the original novel of "Dracula".

If you've grown up in the US, you're familiar with Dracula via Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, Gary Oldman or any of the other innumerable TV or film versions of the character. And, most likely, you've seen one of those History Channel specials on "The Real Dracula" about the Romanian count who is rumored to have killed tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people on the end of a pike.

I've seen the Browning directed, Lugosi starring "Dracula" at least five times, seen the Coppola directed, Oldman-starring "Dracula" two or three times, seen a few other versions, at least two plays of Dracula (one of which was a musical), odd sequels to Dracula from "Dracula 2000" to "Monster Squad" (which gave us the phrase "The Wolfman has Nards!", for which I am eternally grateful).

But I'd never read the book.

Drac didn't get to tidy up before you popped by.

For today's reader who picks up the book for the first time, unfortunately, "Dracula" has two things going against it.

1) It definitely works in that "paid by the word" mode of its contemporaries, where characters are likely to have long, unimportant asides and speeches that go nowhere. By today's standards of narrative economy, its hard-going at times.
2) It more or less defined a tradition and formula, based upon folklore and tradition, that has become so completely ingrained in the popular psyche that you already know what is coming through 99% of the book. Especially if you were familiar with the book from other sources.

That said...

Its not a bad listen or read. Even scenes which we've all witnessed on screen becoming far more chilling as described in the course of the book and with Stoker's ability to deliver this information as fresh and revelatory.

What struck me most is that, while Stoker does make a 4th quarter play to recognize that his Count was also once a human and therefore should get some measure of pity, this is not the "oh, I'm really just a stand in for those broody guys from high school" Dracula which we've come to know over the years. My guess is that the Lugosi (who, apparently, the ladies quite liked), and the lack of gore and general ickiness described in the book, makes becoming a vampire seem not all that bad. You stay good-looking, you never die or get sick, you get your way all the time, and have an array of super powers that would make Martian Manhunter jealous.

got... got a little something... right there. on your chin. there. you're gonna want a napkin.

But Stoker's Dracula and vampires are drawn from the tradition of demons and monsters, not GQ models. Dracula himself is horrible to behold before Harker even figures out there's anything amiss. Drawing blood isn't an exaggerated hicky, but something Drac and his lady-friends do by stealing peasant children in sacks and then going family-style on them. Turning into a vampire isn't waking up with superpowers, as if one were accidentally bathed in cosmic rays, but a weeks-long process of slow death with the knowledge that one is becoming a hellspawn, but cannot even tell anyone else to kill them, because that will just turn you into the hellspawn directly.

It's a bad scene, and when pop culture critics look with crooked eye at the post-Anne Rice foppish-emo take on vampires, there's a reason for it. The horror of being one of the undead is not an inconvenience, which is more or less how Rice and the post-Rice followers portrayed their vampires. There is no choice to live well by raiding blood supplies or hunting deer or whatever modern creators have decided is an acceptable substitute, because becoming a vampire means loss of self, and what replaces you (whether you or a demon substitute) is not particularly interested in the ethics of the living.

Being a vampire is not all that different from modern images of zombie-ism, in that the zombies (and in many cases, werewolves) obviously have no choice about their motivations. Oddly, one of the more popular visions which seemed to match up was how vampires were portrayed in the first season or two of Buffy (which I didn't watch after season two or so. Sue me.).

Dracula enjoys the great taste of Keanu.

I tip my hat to Stoker's depiction of Mina, a character who is portrayed often as a damsel in distress, and unconvincingly as a character at all by Winona Ryder. Stoker celebrates "the modern woman" who was still 30 years off from the vote, but who men were surprised to learn could type, understand science and math, etc... And which Madam Mina seems to exemplify (and is far, far more interesting a character than the character of Lucy, who mostly swoons and feels pretty, then sick).

The belief in science and reason by the heroes is never questioned, superstition is puzzled out, and even the supernatural is more or less suggested to be just one more mystery of science. This current is occasionally explicitly addressed, but is certainly evident in how Stoker's characters grapple with the dilemma's surrounding them and give way from from what they know as gentlemen, to what they eventually open their minds to via observation and experience (which, honestly, takes up a huge portion of the book, and often seems to be the exact point of the book).

I confess to a particular affection for the character of Quincey Morris, who is often eliminated from the stage and screen versions, as his role is mostly to be The Manly Texan who is there to wield a Bowie knife and be happy to tackle some vampires while the Englishmen are grieving, swooning, etc...

And, of course, its easy to see why so many versions (particularly Coppola's film) become enamored with the wily genius of Van Helsing (whose name but nothing else is lifted for the Hugh Jackman movie of a few years back then seemed hellbent on ruining Universal's Monster Movie franchise). He's an interesting character, a man of science who openly recognizes that perhaps the age of reason and scientific investigation have led to people not looking at the sources of folklore and myth.

Some of the "scientific" discussion doesn't make a load of sense (I never got the "child-brain vs. man-brain" thing), but Van Helsing really sells it.

Dracula himself becomes somewhat lost as a character after the first quarter of the book. Only Harker has direct conversations with Dracula, while still in Transylvania. The polite foreigner who has moved into town of stage and screen is an invention intended to keep Drac on stage. But you kind of have to love how darned eeee-vil Dracula is when dealing with Harker, and what a clear picture is drawn of who the guys is, and that he is, in fact, struggling to get the hell out of the sticks and be a man of the world/ have a much bigger hunting ground.

If I've a complaint, its that Dracula's death is oddly ant-climatic both because (a) you know its coming, and (b) by today's standards, its not exactly a "Big Boss Fight". I found myself sort of rooting for the guy by the end, which I would guess is not an uncommon position.

Batman makes everything awesomer.

Regarding sex and the vampire:

There's absolutely no question where Stoker was going with his succubi-like "Brides of Dracula" (a term which doesn't actually appear in the book, if memory serves). Harker discusses what a big turn-on the women are, and when Van Helsing happens upon them, he's no less enchanted.

However, having had heard repeatedly how "sexy" we're to find the character od Dracula, and given the tone of the Frank Langella, Lugosi and Lee films, the eroticism of Dracula himself is a bit non-existent. The source I figured I was counting on for the lustiness of Dracula was Coppola's presentation, which he were told was a faithful adaptation, but that's fairly iffy. Given that the book is written in the form of various journals and diaries, it's possible, one supposes, that Mina and Lucy simply do not discuss the sexual aspects of vampirism, but the scenes I recall from the Coppolla film in which Mina is wooed just aren't there.

I'm of a mind that Stoker intended for Dracula himself to be deriving some sort of pleasure from taking his female victims (which is very different from how one assumes Dracula dealt with the all-male crew of the ship which brought him to England, who seem to have been roughly dispatched), as he returns to them night after night, and the book does suggest that Vampirism may spread by lovers willingly being turned to spend eternity with their partners.

But as for a suave gentlemen who maybe nibbles a little to hard on the neck? That seems to be derived from plays and movies, as neither Mina or Lucy ever really actually meet Dracula outside of when he comes to them at night.

On the whole, yes, the book could be a bit of a struggle to get through if you're not one for the flowery and often purple prose of the time period. But as vampires have become such a hot topic of books, TV and film of late, its worth going back to the original material and trying to understand how we got to the point where vampires are hanging out in the deep south and ordering blood at bars, and it's probably worth considering why we try, quite literally, to defang them.

The book, be forewarned, was unusual for its day. Vampires were not dominating the sales charts, and every school kid probably didn't know how two or three ways in which you could bump off the undead. So the book spends no small amount of time basically explaining what the heck is going on and setting up the various rules and roles of vampires which our vampire media of today still at least acknowledges.

I did enjoy the book, and if you were of a mind to get at the origin of vampire in the popular imagination, I'd say its an invaluable read. I do not believe I'll seek out Dracula's predecessors in literature and penny dreadfuls (I think I've actually seen a filmic adaptation of Carmilla back in college, but beer was involved, so...).

Friday, November 06, 2009

If this Existed, I Would Read It (update: It is real, I will read it)

fun with Photoshop at

Editor's Note: Dorian (author at Postmodernbarney) has written in to inform me that this is an actual book, not Photoshop at all! I am... amazed. And now will be seeking my very own copy. A trip to Half-Price before I buy from Amazon.

Half Mast

Killeen and Ft. Hood are not all that far from Austin.

My evening ran long, and so I wasn't going to post at all this evening, but before turning in, I wanted to join in with so many others who are shocked and stunned by the events at Ft. Hood today.

Details are sketchy as they always are in the first 24 hours of any such incident. I've not been watching much but the local news, trying to avoid what will surely be knee-jerk and uninformed reactions to the situation, which does the victims no honor.

I am positive that the soldiers of Ft. Hood and all military installations will take this day with the same resolution with which they face challenges abroad.

If you read this site, you will know I'm no jingoist, but like most people who love their country, I salute the women and men of the armed forces, and find it all the greater tragedy that any of them would be attacked by one of their own, and one they should have felt theyc ould trust over all.

May the US military pick up the pieces, learn what you can from an act of senseless violence, and continue on.

From the AP wire and Austin American Statesman.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Wish I Had Taken a Picture

An organization on campus had put together a Date Auction in order to raise funds. The theme, as near as I could tell, was "Jack the Ripper".

1) I find it interesting when people decide to raise funds by becoming "escorts" for an evening. That's really the first thing to come to mind? Really?

2) Jack the Ripper ranks up there, shortly behind Jeffrey Dahmer, as the worst "date" ever. He, too, paid for an evening's entertainment. I'm just saying.

Anyway, let us thank Jebus for student organizations and their odd, odd ways of trying to raise funds (I paid someone $3 today for a cupcake to raise money for what I believed to be their Diwali festival. Yes, I was hoping for an invitation. No, I did not receive one).

Penny for the Guy?

Once again, I almost missed it. Thanks to Calvin for jogging my memory.

Inspiration for "V for Vendetta" and all around conspirator, Guy Fawkes was found out on November 5th, 1605 after trying to blow up Parliament (I like how you can say "Parliament" as an American, and nobody bats an eye and everybody knows what you mean. Thanks, cultural legacy!).

Let us just say that Guy had a rough time of it in the days that followed.

What you're going to want to know is summed up here.

Remember, remember the fifth of November,
The gunpowder treason and plot,
I know of no reason
Why the gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.

So let us all give a penny for the guy, and a salute to the majesty of the Crown.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Enemy Ace is a Poor Choice of Pet-Sitter

I have a not-great story about how occasionally I low-bid on items on eBay. I've been doing this for years without winning. It's fun. See a car online? Bid $100. See Action Comics #1 online? Bid $25, with the full knowledge that people are using sniping software to win their auctions and that you have no chance of winning before you've finished entering your bid.

About a week ago, on a whim, I did this again, bidding on an Enemy Ace GI Joe collectible doll. And... won. And while I bid a fraction of what I'd seen the item available for on auctions with a "buy it now" price..., I didn't particularly intend to win.

However, I'm now the proud owner of an Enemy Ace GI Joe doll. GI Joe and/ or doll collecting is a whole side of collecting I'm aware of, but do not participate in.

At least I got a really good deal on this thing, I guess?

Lesson learned. No more bidding "just to see what happens". Well, maybe for this. And this.

By the way, the story depicted on the cover above doesn't end particularly well for anybody. You can read up on it here.

Curiously, "killing puppies" was my example of choice for how one could cynically manipulate an audience when we talked over such things in film school. Some things just provoke a reaction, and its either a cheat or its crutch. But its also something I'd never actually seen done until Schatzi (a name, which, had we adopted a boy dog, I was going to try to slip in there to see if I couldn't get Jamie to bite before revealing the origin).

And while I don't feel Kanigher's story and the point of "the tragedy of innocents of all stripes in war" aren't effectively conveyed... ferchrissake, they doom a puppy.

Or do they?

You can see Sleestak's appreciation of Schatzi here.

New Required Wear for My Employees

I have two people reporting to me. And I now know what they are getting for Christmas.

happiness hat from Lauren McCarthy on Vimeo.

more here

Found on Facebook thanks to Molly B.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The League Watches "V" (the 80's TV remake, not the comic movie)

Well, they jumped right into that, didn't they?

Apparently aware that everyone was going to already know the big plot twist from the original 80's-era TV mini-series of the same name, the new V bypasses what could have been convincing plot and character development to jump right into the Rag-Tag Band of Misfit Rebels portion, which marked the original incarnation's climax and eventual decline.

There are significant issues to investigate were we met by a highly advanced alien race, and rather than unfold these issues, the producers insisted on blasting right past all that. It just seems like such a bad choice to never give the audience the opportunity to fall for the aliens the way the public does in the original movie (back when it was an analogy for the Nazis making friends of their European neighbors).

It wasn't entirely awful, and didn't feel quite as hollow as the pilot for ABC's "Flashforward", although it was certainly trying.

I dunno. It has Elizabeth Mitchell. I'll give it another two or three episodes.

Elizabeth Mitchell is commandeering my TV until I'm positive I can't watch anymore

Oh. My. God.

Randy sends this.

You don't see many ads for dog-related items that promise celestial well-being and include shots of Dingoes.

But here you go.

Green Lantern & Superman Recent Issues

Last night I read the last two weeks worth of Green Lantern and Superman titles, and...

I am enjoying the heck out of all of these books right now. Which is absolutely awful for my pocketbook, but makes being a DC fan a lot of fun at the moment.

Some of the Batman books are enjoyable, such as Morrison's "Batman & Robin" and Rucka and JH WIlliams III's stunning "Detective", but the line isn't holding in the same way here as it has been for me for the extended "New Krypton" storyline in Superman, and certainly not the way I have been grabbing every darn comic with a "Blackest Night" tie-in on the cover (I was "meh" on the Batman Blackest Night, but actually sort of enjoyed the Titans tie-in).

If you read the internets (and I do), then as a comic fan, you're not supposed to like anything that smacks of a tie-in/ cross-over/ event. The funny thing is, this sort of thing is more or less what's keeping the Big 2 alive right now. Fans have consolidated around a few core concepts, and they seem to be more than happy to keep pace with events either to know what's going on (and hate every minute of it), or because readers enjoy this kind of storytelling in numbers greater than what it takes to sustain individual titles.

My guess (and you know I've got one) is that it's nice to know that the story you're reading isn't filler or won't be ignored completely and has seemingly built out of something as part of the greater architecture of the shared universes that can sustain these sorts of events.


I'm not really supposed to say "I'm enjoying Blackest Night", but I am. It feels like its got gravity, there's a massive threat that seems undefeatable, its wrapping in characters I enjoy, and seems to be setting itself up as a watershed event that will affect things for years. Not just because its a big event, those get swept under the rug all the time, but because its not an arbitrary idea thrown into the middle of other ongoing stories, and which builds on what's been happening in the DCU for a while.

I might also point to the way the Superman books are handling the current storyline to create an environment in which events are building upon one another and each issue is a chapter in a larger story (and has been since 06 or so). Its practically unheard of in monthlies at the Big 2, and is usually only seen in book at Vertigo, etc...

Weezer + Snuggie

I am most likely late to the party on this, but:

Monday, November 02, 2009

Nicole Discovers She is Invulnerable (we hope)

So, walking to the garage with my co-workers this evening, Bill mentioned that on his way in, he'd seen a girl get hit by a car at one of the intersections. "She didn't cross at the wrong time," he said. "I have no idea what happened."

We talked a bit about how dodgy the intersections were, and I related a tale from when I'd seen a girl hit on campus, who sailed a dozen feet or so when co-eds were first pairing cell phones and SUVs.

Anyhow, I walked in the door about twenty-five minutes later to find Jamie on the phone.

"Nicole got hit by a car!"
"That was her?"
"How do you know?"

Anyway, sounds like Nicole, who is slightly larger than a breadbox, took on a car and lost, but is doing well. She's been to the hospital, and all her parts are where they're supposed to be. I don't have all the details yet, but she's home and chillaxing. So let's all be grateful that Nicole seems invulnerable to moving steel.

Halloween is Done for Another Year

The great thing about everyone showing up as Green Lanterns? Until there's 7300 of you or so, there really aren't too many. That's Reed and Your Friendly Neighborhood League.

I want to thank so many of our friends for coming by on Halloween night! I know there are infinite options on such a night (and its one night that if you stayed in and watched horror movies rather than show up for a party, I might believe you weren't just blowing me off), so thanks to all for getting dressed up and joining us at League HQ.

We had a lot of trick-or-treaters, who started around 6:30 and wrapped it up around 9:00. Our first guest showed up to watch the game around 7:15, and so we were sort of dividing attention for a bit there. Happily, almost everyone wound up in a costume of one sort or another.

In the end we had:

Supergirl: Jamie
Green Lantern: Ryan
Zombie thing: Jason (Jason also helped hand out candy and gave the kids a spooky experience)
Green Lantern: Reed
Tippi Hedren from The Birds: Nicole
Rod Taylor from The Birds: Matt
Tippi Hedren from The Birds: Tania
a cat burglar: Justin
Cop: Bill
Crook: Lynn
Project Runway contestant: Jonathan
Project Runway model: Billi Jo
MadMen Don Draper: Steven
MadMen Joan Holloway: Lauren
Super Pat: Pat
Knight from The Holy Grail: Juan G
Punky Brewster: Letty
Star Fleet Officer: Julia

Here are pictures by Julia that I swiped from Facebook

Julia actually worked out her Starfleet rank. She's a Chief Engineer.

Super Pat! His power? Cheering on the Horns, anytime, anywhere.

Green Lantern and Supergirl wish you a mighty Halloween.

Don Draper (Mr. Harms) and Joan Holloway (Ms. Roth) enjoy the festivities

Garcia forgot his Holy Hand Grenade

Look, I'll be honest. Jason's costume totally freaked me out.

Matt and Nicole deal with a Hitchcockian dilemma

Billie and Jonathan rock the Project Runway thing

I know in the current age that parents have decided that they can't let their kids trick-or-treat, but our street is always swarming with kids, whose parents, I guess, aren't afraid of the urban legends about poisoned candies.

That's kind of nice.

Its also the only time we talk to our neighbors, people all seem to be in a good mood, and the kids aren't creeped out when you talk to them.

All in all, a happy Halloween!

Dune Book Club

In the spirit of both Jamie and I finishing "Dune", and now watching the Sci-Fi Channel's devoted but slightly goofy 2000-era mini-series, I wanted to point to a new web project by comic creators and fans which is devoted to Dune.


And, geez... will someone just fund Paul Pope so he can create a whole Dune graphic novel instead of doing single pages for his own benefit?


Sunday, November 01, 2009

The Countdown is On

Heck yeah.

I know this is a spot early, but you have to be prepared. It's November 1, which means we have to start thinking about being ready.

Best Food of the Year

UT/ TAMU Football

Hanging with Friends

Being Thankful and Stuff

Getting the Fam Together

Sexy Puritans