Saturday, October 13, 2007

Catching Up

Hey Leaguers,

The past few days have been kind of busy.

Wednesday my company (well, the company I work for) had an Oktoberfest. Yes, I too think it odd to schedule Oktoberfest on a Wednesday if you want functional employees on a Thursday. Jamie, Jason and Matt joined me at the Zilker Clubhouse and met several of my co-workers.

On Thursday I met up with my former employee/ co-worker, T-Tine. T-Tine is doing very well and is close to getting his PhD in human/ computer interaction. It's amazing to see this skinny kid who wandered into my office years ago about to become a serious researcher. Well, he's a serious researcher now, but he's not got the PhD behind his name quite yet.

Friday after work I grabbed a beer with Julia from my office, then met up with David, CB, Hilary and Stuart at CB's house. It was no holds-barred Uno (plus wine). CB will soon be launching a web project I, personally, think sounds like its going to be really fun. I don't think I should unveil the name here, as it will reveal quite a bit, but when she launches it, I'll be sure to make a big deal of it.

And, lest I forget, CB and David made some killer pot-stickers and Pad Thai. There are benefits to having friends who are excellent cooks.

Hilary and Stuart are talking about a website re-design for their band. They're very talented musicians, and on a good trajectory with the number of shows they're playing and the kind of shows. You can check out their site prior to the site redesign here.

CB, David and I also gave them the hard sell on an PowerMac, so we'll see what decision they make as they upgrade (get the PowerMac, Hil).

By the way, they're playing between 12 and 3 on Sunday at the Salt Lick if anyone feels like going. And, next Friday evening if you can't make that.

Today I signed up to get a security system. I, too, find the idea that someone might break in and find nothing but comics to steal totally awesome. But...

As much as I would like to have faith in other people not to rob us, I'm enough of a skeptic that I'd just as soon give a burglar reason to move on to another house.

Unless Texas goes Mad Max post-Apocalyptic, it's unlikely I will ever own a gun. I do not trust myself to properly maintain a gun or to use it wisely. And, hell, if it came to that, they could just have the damn comics, anyway. I'm not shooting anybody. So I go with deterrents.

Anyone whose been here knows the dogs are no help once people are actually in the house (I assume they'd just hide in the tub if frightened), and while I think Jeff the Cat could take on two or three burglars (no, really), four or more would have him outnumbered.

So, we will soon have a security system.

The code is: 1-2-3-4-5

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Steans Nation and Dallas Cowboys

Unlike MySpace, Facebook seems fairly flexible and offers a lot of opportunity to use the various third party features authorized by Facebook. In addition, the "Groups" feature is fairly easy to manage.

In a fit of "Well, let's see what happens", I searched Facebook for my surname, Steans. It came up with 80 or so responses, some of which were variations on Steans, but many of which were, like myself, named Steans, with little in the way of a flourish.

Growing up, we knew virtually nothing of the Steans name. Pre-Internet, there was an assumption that Steans was an Ellis Island butchering of some German name, and we were somewhat certain we had a name which was mostly unreplicable because it was a nonsense word. We pretty much resigned ourselves to being misidentified as "Stearns", until the end of days.

Then, when I was in high school, The Admiral got a phone call from a woman in New Zealand who was doing some genealogical (sp?) work. It turns out the name is from England, and as near as I can tell, it means "Stone" or "stone wall" or something. or Stone Jug. Really, no idea. More perplexing was that we were unaware any of the family hailed from England.

In college, a fellow student shared my name, looked me up in the Ut directory and called. Her name was Shoni, and we've chatted via e-mail once in a blue moon. She's married now, but she kept the name going by hyphenating. Had I not already thrown in with Jamie at that point, I would have endlessly pursued Shoni so when we eventually did get married, she'd have no paperwork to fill out.

So, anyway, I'm now trying to include all folks with the surname Steans in my Facebook as friends, as well as building a Group called "My Surname is Steans".

There are lots and lots of people from the UK with the last name Steans. Also, for reasons I am unclear on, everyone in the US with the last name Steans seems to be African American. Go figure. There could be some ugly historical context there as per what sort of jerks my forebears could have been, but the Steans family seems to have been mostly East Coast, and arrived in the latter portion of the 19th Century from Europe, so... I dunno. Either that, or I'm black and have no idea.

Anyhow, I'm trying to collect Steanses. Soon our numbers will be legion.

Also, I totally missed the last half of the Cowboys game the other night after giving up on them in the second half. Had I watched the second half, I would have seen one of the craziest Monday Night finales in recent memory. But, no... I was watching DVR'd episodes of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia".

Part of why I watch sports is the freak nature of the thing. Sometimes a team is down by more than a touch down, has thrown four interceptions in the first half, and can come back and win it in under a minute.

And here's the good, the bad and the ugly.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Monkey's Inhumanity to Monkey

Every once in a while, you come across a bit of media that so accurately reflects your view of the world, it's a bit startling. The media resonates so much that it seems as if you, yourself, were responsible for the media, were you more energized to write lengthy blog posts NOT praising Superman.

Thanks to Randy, I've come across just that sort of thing. And, of course, the media I refer to is an article in the online version of the semi-defunct humor magazine, "Cracked". Such is my fate.

The article is based upon research published in the 90's surrounding "Dunbar's Number", and, I guess, the research is pretty well assimilated into primate anthropology (which means that research into good 'ol human anthropology is applied).

The story in "Cracked" describes how our brains are really only capable of caring about 150 people or so at any given time. Through some evolutionary survival instinct, or perhaps because of the limited capacity of our noodle, we seem to be hard wired to find emotional connection to only a limited number of people. This wiring, coupled with how homo sapien has set up societies across the globe is probably responsible for many of our ills as a species.

Fairly serious stuff for Cracked, I'd say, but, of course, its written in the current, abso-ludicrous Cracked fashion, and so it's a highly digestible read.

Anyway, check out the article. It's worth a read.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Fall is here in spirit, if not in weather

Hey, Leaguers!

The mighty Texas Longhorns fell at the hands of the loathsome OU Sooners. It was a somewhat sorry showing. Sorry, JimD, if I didn't text you back. I was too busy mourning.

We'd headed over to CBG's place and watched the game with CBG, David, Xander and CBG's mom, Bettye. I hadn't seen Bettye in what seems to be years, so it was great to catch up a bit. Also Max was in attendance, Bettye's corgi. He was super friendly, as long as I didn't stand up. Which I can appreciate. I like me sitting, too.

Poor Xander was alarmed by what little cheering we mustered during the game. Fortunately for Xander, we will have very little to cheer about for the remainder of the '07 season.

Xander is almost in motion. He's working on walking, and he's figured out how to say "good", mostly in relation to cheddar crackers.

I'm not sure what happened with the game itself. UT seemed to get outplayed from the first quarter. The secondary appeared baffled by the OU pass offense, and the offensive line didn't seem able to contain the OU blitz. Add in Colt's inability to keep his head on a swivel and/ or run away when the line is breached, and it was a formula for a long drive home from Dallas for the UT fans.

At half-time we watched a DVR'd episode of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia", a show I once gave an opportunity of about five minutes, and then wandered off. CBG had suggested I give it a shot, so I watched some new episodes this week, and it's ending up in the DVR rotation. To try to explain the show is not to do it justice, so I shall not bother.

After the game, Jason popped over and we wound up watching the new version of "Dawn of the Dead" as we got into the Halloween spirit. I think I like zombie movies more now than I used to, and this one was okay. I did feel the ending was a bit lame, but there you have it. I am coming to terms with the super-bleak ending to zombie movies as part and parcel of the formula, but I've never gotten over bits of the walking-dead formula as the laws of thermo dynamics are thrown out the window. For example, somehow in Dawn of the Dead, the zombies are still wandering around without any food after what seems to be more than a week. Still fairly peppy, too. I understand they're dead, but if they're driven by an insatiable hunger... Anyway, I still think 28 Days Later handled this the best of any zombie movie I've seen.

I also watched "Rocky Horror Picture Show" for the annual October viewing. Perhaps I shall do a Halloween DITMTLOD in appreciation of Columbia.

Today Jamie and I got the spider web up, plus our ghost, Jim Dead-Man. I also planted a spooooooky light post I picked up at Target, and added some spider lights to the giant spider web. All in all, very festive, but our house is TERRIFYING (We really need to vacuum). ***Update: You can see a pic of the house here. Thanks, Jason.***

I have reason to believe one of our neighbors is going to way out-Halloween us. He's been working on a whole cemetery worth of stuff that I think is intended for his house, but I'm crossing my fingers that he intends it for a haunted house elsewhere and our house will remain the rulingist Halloween house on in the block. Because, honestly, his stuff looked really cool, which means our stuff will look quite lame in comparison.

I guess I'll enjoy it while I can.

Oh, "Friday Night Lights" is back on NBC. Get your DVR's set.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

What's Up at League HQ

The answer is: Not much.

But, Matt's girlfriend, Nicole, has recently moved into League HQ.

We want to be a house where the doors are open to friends and family (and maybe the occasional foe, but they'll get a bill). Nicole's brother is currently undergoing treatment for leukemia up in Dallas, and that's made her living situation a bit oddball, so... anyhoo, we've got a person living in our guest room.

If Matt and Nicole break up during all of this, so help me...

Nicole is small and fun, and this should all work out nicely.

Anyway, work has been okay lately. I saw two interesting projects coming down the pipe at the office, so I will probably get the third one... But, whatever. It beats digging ditches and people really seem to like the fake aquarium I recently bought at CVS for $10. Here's a picture of a similar one I found online. I am also letting co-workers name fish after themselves, and its amazing how long they take to select a fish they feel represents them somehow.

I'm productive at work, i swear to God.

I also found my Frenchman on Facebook. Long ago I worked at UT, and an international student came into my office, lost and looking for a job interview elsewhere. I, of course, hired him on the spot and put him to work that afternoon. No, really. I ran a tight ship in those days.

T-Tine (not his real name) was a good guy, and the first Frenchman I'd ever spent so much time with. T-Tine was also really, really smart. He was at UT to study satellite technology at the time, and is now getting his PhD in human computer interaction stuff.

Anyway, for some reason T-Tine and I hit it off. Mostly because he would let me intorduce him as "My Frenchman", but he also did confirm my suspicions regarding the French and their love of bagettes. He was absolutely hilarious, and I assume he still is, so I'm thrilled to have found him.

Oh... and the Cubs have been a soul crushing disappointment. Ah, well. Not really. They're the Cubs. If I had my hopes up, I could be considered legally insane.

Adam West: Dark Knight

If your copy of Dark Knight Returns is as mangled and mutilated from dozens of readings as mine is, then you will understand the following. Otherwise... not so much.

Here for more.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Big Bang Theory (sitcom) and Superman

To be clear: The show is not about comics, Superman, or comic geekdom. However...

Last week, due to a DVR catastrophe/ meltdown, we missed the opening episode of the new CBS sitcom "The Big Bang Theory", a title which suggests either something either more in the realm of Nova or skewing into the adult film spectrum than the show actually delivers.

I wouldn't normally be up on the latest of CBS's sitcom offerings, but The Big Bang Theory stars Jim Parsons, a guy I know from high school and whose mom is still very pally with The Karebear. This week we got ourselves situated and watched the show rather than just letting it record (Jamie had also missed Heroes last week, and was quite despondent).

I am delighted to say that Jim is great as Sheldon, one of two geeky physicists living in an apartment across the hall from "Penny", an attractive Cheesecake Factory waitress. Of course, Penny is pretty, so the geeks across the hall (Sheldon excepted) awkwardly try to pitch woo while becoming distracted with geeky pursuits. Sheldon is the one decidedly not infatuated with the girl, and is, perhaps, mildly annoyed by his friend's infatuation. The program is a sort of "clash of cultures" comedy that pits stereotypes of socially awkward, but brilliant, minds against the stereotypes of pretty, anti-intellectualism without ever really taking sides.

What's interesting is that Sheldon is supposed to be a DC Comics fan, as hinted at through wardrobe choices and the opening segment of this week's episode in which the geeks were prepping for a Superman movie marathon.

It is odd to know exactly where you stand when you hear characters uttering actual conversations you've had as a point of amusement. Especially when the conversation is accurate, according to The Science of Superman (although Wolverton doesn't foresee Lois being cut into pieces as much as being smushed when Superman saves her).

Alas, I suppose I know I'm a geek. The 20-somethings at work have remarked as much, as have most girls in middle-school and high school. My wife. My parents. Jason, as often as possible.

What I do find curious is that the show looks at these sorts of things as tics rather than merely deriding comic fandom as a clean intersection with loserdom on the geek Venn Diagram (although most of the audience will surely read it that way, bringing their own opinions into the mix). The show has to ask you to respect Leonard and Sheldon to some extent, or else the premise of the multi-camera sit-com won't work (single camera sit-coms do not ask that you actually like the stars of the show. See: The Office, US and UK, and Arrested Development). So, just as Dustin Hoffman once bought his underwear at Sears when he wasn't counting matchsticks, our intrepid heroes ponder the might of the Green Lantern Corps when not discussing Newtonian Physics.

Further, its a sign that the 80's (and perhaps the 90's) have ended that the premise of the show is NOT the transformation of the leads "from geek to chic", but in letting Penny, and therefore the audience, discover the men behind the Superman t-shirts.

Now, from experience, I assure you, comic fandom may come part and parcel with a PhD in Physics (though I doubt it), but comic fandom absolutely does not equal genius in the sciences or much of anything else. It is nice, however, that the stereotype of my early comic reading days, that comics were for the dimwitted, apparently no longer applies (I was asked a question along these lines during an e-mail exchange with a journalist when I wrote for Comic Fodder. I was asked if I found readers to be kind of slow, or wasn't it a sign that the readers had no imagination of their own. No, she had no idea she was being sort of insulting.).

I withhold any opinion on The Big Bang Theory until more episodes air. I'm not sure how they intend to make the premise work over multiple seasons, but the producers do seem keenly aware that the trick to a show is a simple premise at first, then to build around the characters.

Anyhow, tune in and watch Jim.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Wisconsin and back again

Friday we left for Wisconsin for the wedding of Jamie's cousin, Steve. I have seen Steve four times now, and three of those times have been at weddings, one of which included my own wedding, during which most of Jamie's side of the family sort of blurred together. I've sorted things out now with the Clan McBride/ Hendrick/ Swalley side of the family. But, anyhoo, that was why we headed to lovely Lake Geneva.

We mostly traveled on Friday, checked into our hotel where the clerk insisted we wanted five rooms, but, no... we wanted three and would not pay for five no matter what their reservation sheet said. I think I know where the miscommunication happened, but... anyway.

Saturday we woke up and there happened to be a classic car show in the small town of Lake Geneva, so we wandered down to the show. They had a nifty sorta banana colored Nash Rambler, I think a '55, which was what Lois Lane drove in "The Adventures of Superman". Well, apparently the driver of teh car knew this as their license plate read "LOIS LN", which i saw only after geeking out and identifying the car.

I am a nerd.

They also had a lot of mid-50s Chevy's, which I've loved since middle school, especially in that goofy aqua color they used back then. I'm no car guy, but I do like the occasional car show. It does, however, make one feel totally lame for owning a Honda SUV.

We wound up having lunch with Steve (the groom), Jeff (his brother), Jack (Jeff's kid), Nancy (Steve and Jeff's mom) and Joe (Nancy's husband and a fun guy) at a surprisingly good restaurant. I then fell asleep for a while, read some Superman on the balcony of our hotel room while soaking in 70 degree temperatures, then watched OU disintegrate in the second half.

The wedding was in a horticultural garden, and was actually a good ceremony. Nothing cheesy. The bride was lovely and the groom sharp.

We set sail for the reception aboard a boat. Most importantly, a boat with an open bar.

Unfortunately, there wasn't much in the way of dancing, so that'll have to happen at the next wedding so Jamie can feel she's gotten her groove on properly.

Sunday we rose, ate a nice brunch with the rest of the wedding guests, then hopped back on a plane. We got home around 9:30 after getting the dogs from jason, etc...

Today Jamie wasn't feeling well, so we ran to the doctor. She's okay now, and all is well. But, you know... I wanted a day off when we came back, but not really this way.

I'm off to bed.

Hope all is well.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Weekends are better at Jason's

While we were off in Wisconsin for a wedding, Melbotis and Lucy stayed with Jason.

The other dog is Cassidy. Rrruuuooooouuurrrrr!!!!!!!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The League OOO

The League will be out of office/ town as of tomorrow morning. We'll be back on Sunday evening.

We're headed to Jamie's cousin's wedding. Steve and his lady friend are making it legal somewhere in the wilds of Wisconsin, and so, off I go to Wisconsin.

Its kinda weird, because I don't get out of town too often and somehow I keep winding up in Wisconsin. Go figure.

Anyhow, if I don't reply to your comments, phone calls, e-mail or smoke signals, its not because I don't care.

Bionic Lady Person


Well, the pilot had Katie Starbuck, or whatever her name is. Which is weird. I guess she's looking at jumping on another series before BSG wraps up and that gravy train rolls to a halt. Anyhoo, she's the evil Ladytron. I doubt she'll be in every episode, but there you have it. Jason should be happy.

The San Francisco of the show is very clearly Canada. So I kinda wish they'd quit telling us it is San Francisco when it COULD be somewhere in the Pacific Northwest with a few establishing shots. Or Canada. Because, really, why not? Remember when every place Scully and Mulder visited across the US just happened to look like Canada?

The Bionic Lady Person is TV attractive and, one would guess, not too bad of an actor. But, like many pilots, this one was so full of exposition, that, well... Who knows? The writers for this episode were big on telling rather than showing, which didn't give the BLP much room showing her chops. In fact, our Jamie Summers does a lot of looking like some lost, shell-shocked Deschanel sister even before she's hit by an 18 wheeler. Most of her dialog is complaining about being given a superhuman body (?) and/ or giving mini-exposition.

Thanks to her upgrades, we're to believe that BLP feels like a freak, but there's no indication as to why. She looks, after all, completely normal and seems to feel mostly normal, but its in vogue for super powers to be a burden (thank you, Marvel Comics), hence a lot of moping. Of greater consequence is the weighty question posed by the budgetless biomed/military research team as to whether they should hang onto the Bionic Lady Person and/ or kill her rather than letting her go after her surgery. Unfortunately, they kinda play that card early. As a viewer, it doesn't feel like much of a threat to our hero as neither Bionic Dead Person, nor Bionic Prisoner sounds terribly appealing for a prime time spot.

We're told by the BLP's boyfriend (a walking plot point) that the BLP is somehow different and special, and while nothing necessarily contradicts this point, there's also nothing to suggest she is, in fact, special. She's a 24 year old bartender and a college drop out. Aside from the fact that she owns a really, really huge place in San Francisco on a bartender's salary, she's pretty darn ordinary, which is great. I like "everymen". However, the show shouldn't tell us our cyborg is so amazing that this professor/ neurosurgeon/ mad scientist boyfriend never met anyone like her (Because, Doc, I can walk into any Bennigan's in the US and find someone just as "special").

What the show does have going for it are two things: 1) Good special FX 2) a glowering Miguel Ferrer. I'm always going to cheer for my man Ferrer. He's an aces actor, and while I've only ever seen a small part of his output, I know what I'm getting with Ferrer. In BLP, he manages to out-presence everyone else in every scene he's in without really trying. But what can he do? He's Miguel Ferrer, and that's why you hire the man.

The number one strike BLP has going against it is that, like so many other shows, this program has decided it will have a built in mythology from episode #1. Unfortunately, rather than slowly revealing aspects from BLP's point of view, the producers chose to drop us in the middle of things, somewhere several years into the Shadowy Government Bionic People Making Project. I understand that's more or less how TV shows now work, but... sigh. Give me time to get used to the show. Try some literary devices like foreshadowing or something (and no, dropping in scenes of characters not tied to the main action speaking in cryptic, disjointed dialog is not foreshadowing. See what works for the show before you eliminate any wiggle room. Especially when you might as well have a blink tag on the character which reads: Bad Guy.)

There's something sort of perfunctory about the whole pilot, as if the producers didn't trust the story to unfold on its own. This could have easily been a two hour movie, but instead, the Spider-Man-like discovery of powers is crammed in there in two or three scenes, none of which give BLP an opportunity to REACT to her powers other than that googy-eyed scared expression.

Making the whole thing kinda by-the-numbers, the supporting characters are barely defined, yet plugged with enough TV friendly cues that you sorta get the idea (ex: the rebellious sister who just needs to be loved, but, hey... she's also a computer whiz! It all seemed so extraneous at the time...).

Add in the perfunctory super karate face off with Katie Starbuck (in high heels, no less), and the unconvincing face off between BLP and Miguel Ferrer (who pwns her), and you got your show in motion. In most ways that count, Katie Starbuck's storyline is a lot more interesting than that of BLP.

I dunno. I was sort of excited by the possibilities for this series, but now?

I'm giving them another episode or two to see how it all shakes out.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Mike Kunkel of Shazam!

Newsarama had a story on this last week, and it looks like it's going to be a huge amount of fun. I really enjoyed Jeff Smith's Shazam book, but I don't feel guilty at all about looking forward to seeing what Kunkel does.

Kunkel, you may know, is the creator of Herobear and the Kid, which is a really fun comic.

My understanding is that this comic will be truly all-ages, and will be spearheading DC's new push to creating a line of kid-friendly comics. I know, crazy that they need to back up and review their original audience, but I'm really glad. And I think Kunkel (or Smith) are great guys to lead the charge.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Ahmadinejad in NYC

Hey, so Ahmadinejad hit NYC today, and I know you're thinking "Hey, League... You're somewhat literate and watch TV sometimes. I don't know what to think of this Iranian President coming to town and chatting up co-eds. Lambast me with your poorly constructed worldview and mediocre analysis."

I love me some America, Leaguers. Iran, I can give or take, and, let's face it, we've got a rocky history with those folks.

Did you know, according to Batman comics, the Ayatollah Khomeini once made The Joker a UN Ambassador? Amazing and TRUE.

Leading up to Ahmadinejad's appearance today at Columbia University, there was a lot of debate regarding whether or not he should be given such an opportunity, or, with his tendency to make claims many Americans find outrageous (and which the rest find mostly offensively preposterous), Iran's President should be allowed to speak. This is after someone wouldn't let the guy make an appearance at the site of the World Trade Center.

Ahmadinejad isn't crazy. He's a head of state, responsible for millions of lives. And whether he espouses beliefs Americans believe to be bizarre or profane, he's also not the mad dog lunatic that our own resident propaganda artists have tried to spin him. Instead, he's a thinking person, and a seemingly intelligent person, and a caricature of evil doesn't reflect what Americans are getting from this guy. He's not a ludicrous figure in the mode of King Jung Il, or the bizarre Papa of Death that Saddam Hussein appeared to be with his bushy mustache and tendency to fire off rifles during parades.

My fundamental belief, and you can quote me on this, is that if we aren't willing to let everyone speak, no matter how crooked or vile they are, then our belief in freedom of speech isn't worth the hemp the Constitution is written on. We live in a groovy country where we don't need to worry about being jailed or fined for making fun of our leaders or criticizing them, and that's something you can't even really say about most of the rest of the world (there was even a recent case in Spain of a cartoonist getting in legal trouble for making fun of some lazy Prince. A Prince, for love of Mike!).

Iran has a, shall we say, slightly stricter idea of what it means to talk smack to those in charge, from Mullah to President.

As Jim D once wisely pointed out to me, one of the interesting things about freedom of speech isn't just that you get to say whatever you want, it's that people get to say whatever they want right back at you. And here's where things come together about why I think bringing a dictator with a, shall we say, spotty reputation into an Ivy league institution is a groovy idea. Did Ahmadinejad think he was going to walk onto a stage in a room full of America's elite, students and professional intellectuals, and not get a few tough questions?

Honestly, the Newt Gingrich's of the world who were so horrified at bringing this guy to the US to speak were missing the big picture. I don't know if they thought Ahmadinejad was going to be able to persuade a roomful of Columbia's best and brightest that he was a great guy or what, but what I think they were missing was the opportunity which New York and Columbia seemed to take advantage of in pretty good force.

The President of Iran is going to be able to build his cult of personality at home whether he's at Columbia or not. Bring him to Columbia University, and for one day, he was out of his element and speaking to an audience that had no reason to be polite, was not going to worry about having their jobs and homes taken from them (or worse), and who have not had government controlled media managing the message since the 70's (I'm speaking in broad terms here, so let's not go crazy talking about corporate owned media franchises, shall we?).

Ahmadinejad got to see his route lined with protesters he can dismiss, but perhaps he can also note not just that we're a country where you can assemble and go home without fear of arrest, but that our streets can fill with people willing to voice their opposition to the government he's assembled. People who drew attention to some of his quirkier antics.

Whatever moment of personal triumph Ahmadinejad may have thought he was building by walking into Columbia, from what I've read, things worked out pretty well in the way of American republic-style democracy versus Holocaust-denying dickery. For folks who questioned the President of Columbia of University for bringing in Ahmadinejad, check this out:

"When you come to a place like this it makes you simply ridiculous," Bollinger said. "The truth is that the Holocaust is the most documented event in human history."

Bollinger made this comment in his opening remarks, and reminded us that we live in a place where the President, any President, can be called into question when they face the public, and that person should require only the courage takes to look another person in the eye to call that President out.

And that's not all bad.

Lastly, the role of the University is a place for learning, and part of that concept is the open and free exchange of ideas. That's why I blanch when I hear someone trying to get a professor fired for espousing kooky beliefs. Universities, state funded or not, aren't just there to be job training facilities for high schoolers who are too chicken to try a stint in the armed services. There was a reason the university you went to kept inviting all these people to talk on campus, even when you were skipping them to watch "Friends". Part and parcel of that is that they advertise all of these people, so you get to go and tell them they're a big jerk.

No, its true! If, say, Captain Kangaroo showed up and you wanted to give the Captain a piece of your mind, you get to do so. Unless you're that one guy, and you get tased for being a jack-ass. But you have to really push it before they tase you, bro.

Anyhow, I was glad to see most commentators understand the situation, and was glad to see it shook out pretty well.

UPDATE: Or, as pictures always speak better than words: Click here

Thanks, anonymous

Sunday, September 23, 2007

weekend round-up

Well, the weekend was okay, if brief. I worked on Saturday, which was interesting as I was testing a simulation for one of our clients. Sometimes I really dig what we do at my company, and Saturday was one of those days.

Next weekend we are boarding a plane to attend Jamie's cousin's wedding in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, which should be fun, if a bit of a whirlwind trip.

But this weekend I had my ass handed to me by allergies.

I did not have allergies growing up, and after college, I misdiagnosed my allergies I'd developed for years, believing I was picking up a series of colds. But it seems that the allergies I had before we left Texas in '02 have come back to slug me in the head.

My poor mother called me last night all the way from Michigan, where she's currently visiting friends, and I was no kind of conversationalist. She was all chipper and wanting to talk football, and I was grouchy and disappointing.

Yesterday was also "catch up on errands" day, as we've had stuff going on for literally weeks, and will be gone next weekend. Unfortunately, this meant a trip to the mall, a place which has lost all luster and allure for me as a consumer. So much junk to buy, and maybe 1% of 1% is something I would ponder buying, and most of those items are in the power tool section at Sears.

Even the Build-A-Bear Workshop is only mildly amusing until you realize you're imitating the work of a Peruvian sweatshop worker, sorta like when they used to have the questionable chain of "make your own steak!" restaurants scattered around. (I know I can make my own steak. It's called staying home and firing up the grill. Advantage to restaurant: No dishes to wash). However, rather than be paid $2.00 per day for my bear-making wages, I would be paying Build-A-Bear $20 for the privilege of performing manual labor.

All of these complaints are minimized, of course, if there's a Superman Bear. In that case, its money and time well spent.

UT had its annual lambasting of the Rice Owls. 58-14. One TD never should have happened, and the other one took place when the scrubs were in for the fourth quarter. We abandoned the game to go see "3:10 to Yuma".

As little as I ever wanted to actually visit Yuma while I was in Arizona, this move makes the trek even less appealing. Or at least the trek to the train station to catch a train to Yuma. The stark Southwestern landscape did nothing to make me yearn for the deserts of Arizona.

Christian Bale continues to cement his position in my mind as one of the finest actors of his generation, making interesting choices for his character and managing to make the hero, a dully virtuous character, into an interesting, three-dimensional person. Russell Crowe also handles his character well, and mostly refrains from going standard Hollywood over the top in his portrayal.

The movie itself reminds me of some of the later Westerns, such as "High Noon", which used the environs of the expanding frontier as a petri dish for people free of enforceable law, and relying upon their own sense of right and wrong, damn the consequences, often in the face of desperation and profitable lawlessness. Other movies such as "Winchester '73", "Sons of Katie Elder" and others play with the same territory. The Spaghetti Western galvanized the concept, and movies like "The Wild Bunch" and "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" often crossed over to seeing things even a bit more from the traditional antagonist's point of view. Which is part of why I find it interesting that the Western genre, much like superheroes, is often tagged with what is considered to be an adolescent belief in black and white morality.

Speaking of Cowboys, the Pokes won another one, stomping last year's Division Champs into the ground with a 34-10 victory over the Bears on NBC's Sunday Night Football. It's a good year once again to be a Cowboys fan.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Superman in Romania?

Apparently there's a guy in a blue suit flying around Romania.

Go figure...

Here's the story.

And a pic on the Superman Homepage and links to other stories.

Superman: Doomsday on DVD

Hey, Leaguers!

I just got done watching the new Superman: Doomsday, and... Man, it was pretty cool.

Folks who've asked me about this most famous of Superman stories have often received a sort of negative response. The original comics were written during a time when Superman comics were being handled in a very different manner, not unlike a long-running weekly TV show. At the time, one editor teamed with four writers and four artists (actually three... I think Jurgens was drawing his own book), and they would each handle separate 22 page segments, one each week in each of the then four on-going Superman titles.

What this meant was that there wasn't necessarily inconsistency from week to week, but oftentimes the Death of Superman, World without a Superman and Return of Superman stuff all feels like there's a lot of filler. A lot of filler that isn't going to make sense without either just letting quite a bit slide or deciding to get into a fairly immersive Superman course prior to reading the series of graphic novels.

The movie boils the story down to the bare elements, makes changes to make it accessible to a wider audience, and tells a somewhat new story, depending on how you want to look at it.

Literally dozens of elements of the comics are removed, including the four familiar characters from Reign of the Supermen (Superboy, Eradicator, Steel and Cyborg Superman). Instead, the story takes a new angle which kinda/ sorta blends elements of other aspects of the World Without a Superman story. While I absolutely missed Steel (and Jon Bogdanove's art), I think the choice made by the filmmakers works.

The voice talent is also great, even if I missed Clancy Brown as Luthor. There are some tough moments, and Anne Heche (an actress I know nothing about save tabloid whatnot) is a great Lois. Even if, really, Lois already has three very iconic voices in my head (Kidder, Neil and certainly Dana Delaney).

So why did I like this movie so much?

Man, the action scenes in this movie rock.

Yes, yes... the plot is really well played and the movie is written for an adult-skewing audience rather than for kids, but...

Holy COW, they really went crazy to make sure that a Superman fight in the middle of Metropolis looks like a Superman fight in the middle of Metropolis SHOULD. Doomsday is just as vile a villain here as he was in the original comics, even if he's just as 2D here as he was in the comics... BUT, he's big and scary and makes a great foil for Superman as they go toe-to-toe. Not to mention the level of, urhmm... violence and mayhem that the PG-13 rating allows. For once you sorta feel like Superman is facing a real threat.

Some folks are going to think "Hey, this is kinda straightforward and the battle between Supes and Doomsday is pretty long". Leaguers, that is NOTHING compared to the original comics.

Anyhoo... I dug it.

The movie is NOT for tiny kids, but certainly slightly older kids can handle it. The PG-13 rating means that a lot of what viewers might have guessed about Superman and Lois's relationship is spelled out for the audience. And Perry White says "ass" once or twice. And people kinda died. On camera.

But it also reflects a bit more of what you see in the adult-skewing comics.

The movie is fairly short, but I think this gives me a pretty good deal of excitement for the next few DCU direct to DVD movies, especially the New Frontier movie which is high-lighted on the special features.

I might say that, like the comics, there's quite a bit which follows the Doomsday battle, and I don't think that any of it disappoints. It veers far enough from the comics that you don't necessarily know what's going on and how it wraps up. You can put together the analogs from the comics, but...

Anyhow, good, fun flick. 73 minutes Throw it into your Netflix queue.

The DVD also includes a great 40 minute doc about the original Death of Superman comics.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Minesweeper: The Movie

This is incredibly silly, but if you've ever owned a PC and gotten bored...

Over explaining this will just kill it.

I present to you

Minesweeper: The Movie

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Kid Nation = Summercamp

Whoever the critics were who thought Kid Nation was some sort of brutal attack on kids by CBS... Well, a big part of me now believes those stories being circulated were a weird campaign to drum up interest in a show that had to be in the can before they could even market it...

The conceit of Kid Nation is that its some sort of Lord of the Flies scenario with kids living like savages in a ghost town. Only, not so much. When one ponders the camera, sound, PA's, producers and directors who had to have been omnipresent on the set, these kids were probably under the greatest supervision of their young lives. This isn't to mention the extra bodies and kid wranglers who were mostly likely around at the bidding of the insurance companies and lawyers (I mean, "Kid Dead on CBS Game Show" doesn't look real good as a headline).

Because the show is also given an artificial structure of kids being assigned different roles, earning money, and being surprisingly organized instead of just screwing around and throwing rocks at snakes or something, you don't get the feeling that the kids are necessarily out of their element. In a way, I found this hugely disappointing, but it also explained how CBS ever got the show approved.

The kids play a bit to the camera, but only in the sort of awkward way that any kid tries to act grown up when they're interviewed on the news, etc... and some events seemed edited for dramatic effect.

Will we ever see a show where kids are actually dumped in the desert and fend for themselves? No. Because kids are kind of dumb and they'd all be dead in a week. I mean, the kids are given a choice between TV and porta-potties, and its an honest debate among them, and you cheer for the kids when they choose not to walk around in their own filth. Good choice kids!

Wait... why was that a question? Who was the miserable troll who thought TV was more important than sanitary disposal of his poop?

What one cannot do when watching the show is nod in self-assured certainty that YOU would have made a better choice or performed better, because, honestly, when we were 10, we were all kind of stupid and incompetent. So, really, these kids (coached by adults or not) come off like geniuses in comparison when I think how I probably would have fallen down a mine shaft or something in the first two days.

Because its kids, nobody is kicked off the island. Instead, kids can volunteer to throw in the towel. Amazingly, only one kid walks: An 8 year old who declares he's leaving on day one, and does just that.

The reaction of the other kids is crazy support group positive for Quitty McQuitterson. Nobody tells him he washed out. Nobody grumbles. Instead, they all applaud the kid and then go about their business. Which seriously makes me wonder what these kids were coached to do before the cameras began rolling.

Now... how does one incentivize kids to work and do chores?

Its revealed that a council of 4 will annoint one kid per "Town Meeting" with a Gold Star worth $20K and a phone call to their folks. A surprisingly mature 14 year old girl (the line where one is still a kid is a bit odd on the show, mixing 8 year olds with kids up to 15), who brought up issues like "we need to wash the dishes" is given the gold star.

Anyhoo... now with gold stars in their eyes, the rest of the kids will be less likely to throw in the towel. Especially if they are in the designated "labor" class, which is an unrewarding class to be in, indeed.

Yes, they broke up the kids into "Labor", "Kitchen", "Merchant" (the town has stores that sell stuff like root beer), and "Upper Class" (ie: you can hang about like a bump).

I suspect that each week they will give kids a Survivorish type challenge to determine who is in what class.

Anyhow, its NOT the Lord of the Flies show I've been waiting for since Survivor first appeared. It's also sort of twee and syrupy. I'm also curious how/ why two kids reportedly drank bleach while on the show as reported online a few weeks back, but the show is far more conatined than I'd expected.

Seriously. Peabo and I did a week at "Ranch Camp" in middle school. These little ingrates have it pretty good.


There was a column in Time about Kid Nation which is a quick read.

I guess I'm a bit stunned to hear people addressing kids having to cook for themselves and act somewhat responsible for themselves as "abuse". It's inaccurate, and generally diminishes the actual meaning of child abuse (asking a kid to use a porta-potty is not the same as hitting them). Even on their worst day of having to make corn bread from mix, these kids have it far, far better than kids in most of the rest of the world. Not only are the conditions better, but these kids are given an option to leave.

Exploiting kids is nothing new to TV. Hell, shows as far back as "Dennis the Menace" knew how to ruin some kid's life (poor Jay North).

But I guess I'm suprised that rather than seeing actual challenges placed before kids that don't involve extra-curricular activities and teach basic responsibility and survival skills (like how to cook pasta) some critics, this columnist included, seemed to recoil in some horror. I don't want to pass judgment on the "helicopter" parents that the columnist describes and admits to being, as I have no children.

But, man... take some pride in your kid's ability to fend for themselves and live in a world without your arbitration of every challenge. Sheesh.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Dropping Comics vs. Busiek on Superman


One of the niceties of ending my period of comic blogging is that I can now drop comics that are bugging me without worrying about failing my own mission statement for Comic Fodder.

Focused on how much ass and whose ass is getting kicked, comic reviews usually offer very little insight into the narrative successes and failures of a single issue, let alone the how the single 22 page comic fits into the grand scheme of a larger shared universe. What this basically translates to reviewers who try to comment upon action and events in stories which they aren't following, and too often assume they're up to speed on through impressions and generalizations.

While reviewing for Comic Fodder, when an event would occur such as the ill-conceived "Amazons Attack" in the pages of Wonder Woman, Teen Titans, Supergirl and the titular limited series, the scope of the event was as such that I felt that I had to read every issue of the series and the cross-overs to assure myself and my readership that I had a good understanding of DC's editorial direction. Of course, nobody was paying for all the comics which I was buying and not really enjoying.

So, now that I'm no longer comic blogging, I'm looking to unburden myself with a lot of the chaff of the current output of the DCU. And, yes, DCU puts out stuff I am not necessarily going to defend. Occasionally, those books even guest star Superman, so the excess is especially vexing. With the mega-event of Countdown to Final Crisis on the playing field, DC has tried to milk me dry with tertiary one-shots and seemingly meaningless mini-series (did I really need a Lord Havok miniseries? And if it is important... can I not just wait for the trade?).

Drop: Wonder Girl Limited Series

But the series which I am planning to drop immediately aren't the Countdown spin-offs, which I hope to just not pick up again. The first issue of the Wonder Girl mini-series continues on the trajectory of insisting that Wonder Girl must be more annoying than the recent incarnation of Supergirl. Wonder Girl has always been ill-defined, but has come to represent the acme of what boys, by the age of 17, come to call a "headcase".

By the age of 18, most guys realize that a headcase is best ignored and avoided. So, why DC would decide to turn two of their most potentially lucrative teen properties into such grating characters for an audience mostly comprised of males, 20 and older, is sort of mystifying. Only, not really... DC keeps trying to find ways to reach teen girls who read Manga, and one might think that with the cartoony art-style, they're trying for some cross-over appeal. Unfortunately, they've tied their cross-over hopes to a miserably unlikable event and counted upon readers having followed Cassandra Sandsmark since Infinite Crisis.

I've lost count of how many times Supergirl and Wonder Girl have flown away in a huff or in a teary huff after a badly written seen in which they seemed to insult other, better established characters. Why the writers believe readers are looking for comics about teenage pity-parties is a mystery perhaps only Dan Didio can solve. Or maybe Jann Jones. But, man...

Anyhow, one issue was enough. I'm done with it. And am growing closer to being done with Teen Titans lest someone figures out how to re-jigger the title into something readable.

Drop: Batman Confidential

The other title I am disappointed to be dropping is the current "Batman Confidential" storyline. I'm not sure if this was originally intended as someone's screenplay for a Batman film, or what the story is, but writer Michael Green tells his version of the origin of The Joker, while blending in other elements, such as a pre-Scarecrow Jonathan Crane being responsible for the development of Arkham. Not too surprising he can't leave things well enough without feeling he can improve them as he's a TV writer/ producer (yes, he works on "Heroes").

Particularly depressing as the art is by Denys Cowan.

I'm all for various versions from different ages of comics as to how things came to be, but... honestly, does DC think that this Green guy is writing a better story than either Moore and Bolland's The Killing Joke (or its red-headed step child sequel, The Man Who Laughs, or the follow up to that story in Gotham Knights: Pushback?), or Morrison's amazing early 90's take on the origins of Arkham Asylum in "Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth"?

Perhaps Didio and the editors of Batman Confidential are a bit more on the concrete side of the fence when it comes to thinking. Surely they didn't lighten up on the why's and wherefore's as this new take on the Joker's origin is more bloody, in its way. Perhaps less traumatic a read, but... it takes the murder spree of the pre-Jokerized "Jack" as casually as the hitman himself.

And, honestly, the failed, tragic comedian of The Killing Joke was a far more chilling origin than a bored sociopath, anyway.

At any rate, these are two books I'm dropping. Along with Criminal, but that's just because I think it will read and collect better as trades.

I'll also be picking and choosing my Countdown tie-ins a bit more carefully moving forward.

Busiek on Superman: Worth Reading

On a different note: If you aren't reading Kurt Busiek's "Superman", you should be. I haven't focused on the title nearly enough either here or when I was reviewing at Comic Fodder. I re-read the most recent issue yesterday during my vacation day, and happened to read a jumbled review of the comic at the Superman Homepage.

Anyhow, one thing led to another and I e-mailed writer Busiek directly to confirm that he's got a fan out there who is really digging his work on Superman. Gracious guy that he is, Mr. Busiek wrote back.

Pretty shortly the whole "Camelot Falls" storyline will be collected in two volumes. When it is, I highly recommend you pick them up. Also, pick up "Back in Action", which was a storyline over in "Action Comics". Of course, you should also read "Up, Up and Away" which was a great Superman v. Lex storyline. For something just terrific, I recommend Superman: Secret Identity, which is just a great stand alone story.

Other Busiek books I'd suggest:
Arrowsmith: So Smart in their Fine Uniforms
Astro City
JLA/ Avengers

Of course, Kurt has been in the game for a few years, and this is just stuff published at DC. If you guys do a quick Google search, there's a lot more out there.

Color Quiz?

Found this at Lauren's Site.

I leave it to third parties who know me better than myself to tell me if the results of the Quiz are true. I don't know why picking colors is supposed to tell me anything, and, certainly, I am baffled by the results. Perhaps someone else can shed some light onto the assessment?

ColorQuiz.comRyan took the free personality test!

"Longs for tenderness and for a sensitivity of feel..."

Click here to read the rest of the results.