Saturday, June 20, 2009

Friday, June 19, 2009

Happy Father's Day to The Admiral

The Admiral did not find me in a rocket and raise me. Nor did he launch me into space (though I strongly suspect the thought crossed his mind from time to time).

But like Jonathan Kent, The Admiral (with no small assist from the KareBear) did his best to instill in a young League some sort of moral compass. While I think he would have frowned upon my adoption of a cape and sky-blue tights an an outfit of choice, like Pa Kent from the movies and books, The Admiral's role as a father was a bit more involved than occasionally peering over the top of his newspaper or teaching us how to throw a baseball (which he did as well, with mixed results). We were lucky to have parents who saw our challenges as teaching opportunities, and who asked us to reach our own conclusions as we forged ahead.

I don't want to go on too long and get sappy and boring, and some of this is deeply personal. But I consider myself fortunate every day to have had the balance of parents that I could not have been luckier to have had, had I been flung across space to touch down in a field and be picked up by Glen Ford.

The Old Man is a good guy, and I can only hope to do him proud. So on Father's day, I salute thee, Admiral.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Re-Directs/ Sunny/ Jon&Kate

Comic Oddity

So, Funny Papers was a comic shop that was in Dobie Mall, on the South West edge of campus. It had been there since I was in high school, and changed hands at least four times I knew of. Thanks to its approximation to several places I worked, I had been a customer for years, but as it was, bottom line, not as good a shop as Austin Books, I quit shopping at Funny Papers and switched to the less-convenient-from-work-or-home Austin Books.

I noticed about a month ago that the doors had been locked on Funny Papers buy the property management company. Last I checked, the stock for the store was still in there. As Austin has always struggled to have shops that could last (except for Capstone and Austin Books), and at least three other shops had closed since I moved here in '06, I was sad to see it go.

But... I checked the URL for their old website (which was pretty awful) to see if they'd made note of what was going on, or alerting their customers to some sort of gameplan. Instead, the re-directs directly to

That's an interesting re-direct.

Shouldn't "Sunny" Be Back on Soon?

Leaguers may know I'm a fan of the FX Network program, "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia". And it seems like a good, long while since Season 4 ended (with a performance of a musical of "Day Man/ Night Man"). And while I already have a foul-mouthed, skinny blond at home, it is time for another round of Sweet Dee.

I wouldn't Tivo the show for your kids, but its good stuff.

The internet tells me that it'll be coming back in September.

Not for the kiddies:

I know you see three shirtless dudes here, but do not let that fool you.

Jon minus Kate Plus Joint Custody

Shocking nobody, Jon and Kate of reality TV show "Jon and Kate Plus Eight" sound like they're heading for divorce in a much more than speculative way. Here.

While indeed morbidly fascinating to watch, its not fun to write about. But if you've seen the show of late (which has taken to inserting special celebrity guest stars to distract from the fact that Jon and Kate have no interest in communicating), this should be no surprise.

May Jon find his stripper and head for Tahiti, and Kate get... whatever. Mostly, I will be curious to see the follow up in "People" in 2020, updating us on whatever happened to these people.

I think they have contracts with TLC that go for another two seasons. I have no doubt TLC will be holding everyone to those contracts as its sort of untapped territory for television.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Aunt Joann

I did not grow up knowing my aunt Joann terribly well. My paternal grandmother's sister, she lived in Mesa, Arizona, which was pretty far away when I was a kid. However, she came to visit when I was in college, and Jamie and I were thrilled that she was able to join us in Austin when when we got married.

And, of course, when we moved to Arizona, she lived only about 30 minutes away. We spent a few holidays with her, would go visit on weekend, stuff like that.

Unfortunately, Joann developed Alzheimer's while we lived there. I assisted my Uncle Kirk (Joann's son) in getting her squared away in a retirement complex, set up her care, etc... I have to give Joann props. She probably had signs of Alzheimer's for a while, but she was incredibly sharp, and most likely was covering for quite a while to keep folks from realizing she was forgetting things, etc...

My aunt Joann passed this week. I found out today while at the conference. While I was only able to know her for a short while before she began having trouble with her memory, and as much as I enjoyed spending time with her even after she began having problems, I'll miss her.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I'm at a conference/ Tank Girl/ Twitter

I should mention, I was at a conference here in Austin today, will be so tomorrow until quite late, and then again on Thursday. My usual blogging and comment section maintenance is going to be less than perfect.

Also wanted to say: Tank Girl is a deeply flawed movie. I'm trying to watch it on cable, but it's pretty bad. Comic folk and Hollywood could learn some lessons regarding what not to do with Tank Girl. So much potential, and it sort of sputters around like they had no idea what they really wanted out of the movie while they were making it. Add in a layer of early-90's sheen, and TV-style directing, and it feels not entirely unlike one of its contemporaries in the Pauly Shore wacky-movie genre.

I find it odd that I often hear folks defending the movie. It may be that I felt Lori Petty's reading of the titular character mistook blaring every line in the same cadence for sassiness. Plus, the kangaroo dudes just don't work. I don't care what was in the comic.

Oh God, Malcolm McDowell... did you ever have any shame?

On Twitter

A week ago The League posted one word in a post about things that drive you nuts on the internet. I dropped one word: Twitter

Its unlikely I'll do so again. Friends and Leaguers know that I don't use the application for my personal use, preferring Facebook as my personal poison. Also, blogs, e-mail, etc...

I think we basically hit a point at which the folks who are enthusiastic about Twitter and those of us who are less so were just sort of squawking uselessly at one another. We clearly use, used or would use the technology in different ways, and do not share the same perspective on how we engage in the communication cycle. Different technologies are going to expose these things in different ways.

The bottom line is that we are in a world where instant communication is possible on a massive scale, and in the hands of anyone with an e-mail account, a username and password. As NTT would point out, that's an incredibly important thing in events like the Iranian election or a natural or other disaster.

I confess that it is deeply hypocritical to walk away from Twitter for the reasons I did when I maintain a personal weblog. And I honestly feel that, if Facebook Twitterfeeds are any indication, that we've passed through the goofier stages of people figuring out what to do with Twitter and not just informing you of every time they have a meal, hit the head, what-have-you...

For all the good it can provide, Twitter has a ways to go, and people will need to be very careful in how they use it once it becomes part of expected types of communication. We all need phone lines, and they're also good for passing emergency information, etc... but if the phone rings off the hook from telemarketers, we taken them off the hook. Heck, I confess that even if the phone rang all evening from friends and family, I'd keep it off the hook.

And that's where I am with Twitter right now.

I don't expect this will come remotely close to closing the book on Twitter in the comments section or at this blog or elsewhere. But I'm shelving the topic for a while.

We are, of course, all over Facebook. We're in the middle of working on incorporating Twitter into our professional life, and, in fact watched part of a panel of archivists discussing how the Tweets from Iran would be preserved for future generations (using the near complete loss of record of how Tiananmen Square played out.

I think it also raises some questions regarding expectations of one another not just in ownership of devices that can handle and manage these modes of communication from a financial standpoint, but the fact that we're now so attached to our devices that instant messaging at all times from any direction doesn't seem unreasonable to many. That may be overstating it a bit, but I'm not sure its by much, whether you're spending time managing your communication or not (and it is, in my personal and professional experience, a tough thing to explain that most people prefer their tools do this for them. They do not wish to spend their time monkeying with and tweaking their tools).

So that's that.

I gotta go to bed.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Donald Duck, Captain America and Superman gets Syndicated

Captain America

There's been a load of speculation about the 600th issue of Captain America that was released today (two days earlier than the normal comics' delivery day each week). Looks like that speculation can come to an end.

A couple of years back, Cap was shot on the steps of a court house in NYC, and keeled over dead. Since that time, former protege Bucky Barnes, his WWII-era sidekick turned lethal assassin, had put on the cowel, picked up the shield and done his best to fill Cap's boots. What should have been some serious comic-book hackery has, instead, been some of the best storytelling in the Marvel U that I'm aware of (in my humble opinion). Its just been great comics.

Marvel has been happy to try to play up any minor event in their comics in the major news outlets, and did so again today to coincide with the release of today's comic.

I can say no more, but there's a major spoiler after the jump.

Superman Back in the Newspaper Biz

Simon reminded me, so its in the post tonight!, that the upcoming Wednesday Comics from DC is not going to just be appearing in comic shops. DC is taking the format, which I've actually criticized as a throwback, and moving forward to the future for comics. The weekly comic is in an old (very, very old) format of the newspaper broadsheet, with something like a page or two of the story being released each week. Sort of like the old Little Nemo comics or a Flash Gordon comic.

And, yeah, its only a 12-week thing, but I think that's just their test period for both print and online. Oh, and here's some preview art for Wednesday Comics.

BUT... DC is going back to the future. They're also syndicating to USA Today online. What this means is that DC is finally, finally getting online.


I think this is a cool opportunity for DC to dip their toe in the internet waters with their major characters. Sure, I think they should be moving their entire library online, but... babysteps. AND, you guys will, I assume, be able to read at least the Superman comics, and maybe a whole lot more!

Anyhoo, here's the story from USA Today. And here's the DCU Blog article.

Here's some Superman art. Pretty nice!

click for a bigger image. See Supes and Bats in all their glory!

Donald Duck

Apparently last week was Donald Duck's 75th birthday.

Like most kids born after 1935 or so, Donald Duck was an ever present force in my formative years. The pantsless sailor duck was a welcome face on our TV screen and during the occasional 16mm film at school.

Happy 75th, Buddy!

I don't want to take anything away from Donald, but I do remember being maybe a little freaked out by his rage attacks as a kid, and was probably 5 or 6 or so before I found them funny and realized they were intended to be wacky and not vaguely threatening. I think I thought of Donald as an adult, and when adults flipped out when I was very little, I sort of flipped out a little on my own.

needs therapy

It was the Chip'n'Dale/ Donald stuff that I think won me over.

And here's a favorite:

Dude! There's a ton of Disney stuff on YouTube!

Anyway, who doesn't love Donald Duck? I sure do. And just to make matters better, the Duck comics from Disney are something I read from time to time as an adult, so Donald is still with me today, in a slightly less animated form.* Like many, having grown up with Disney characters as such a big part of our entertainment, I may not have a sense of ownership of the characters, but Disney's attempts to make me think of Donald, Mickey and much of the rest of Disney characters as pals has completely worked. When we went to Disneyworld in 2000, I got weirdly excited about having my photo taken with characters, and had a repeat in 2002 or 03 when I attended a conference at Disneyland.

Happy Birthday, Donald! Perhaps this 3/4's of a century, someone at Disney will buy you some pants, pal.

*I think Boom! just landed the Disney contract, so expect more Disney comics soon, if true. At a reasonable price, too!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

No Monday Post

So, in the meantime, ponder the majesty of Electra Woman and Dyna Girl

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The League Sees: The Hangover

In many ways, I am glad that "The Hangover" was not released prior to my own wedding, and therefore, bachelor party. I fell in a sweet spot between the Tom Hanks starring "The Bachelor Party" and 9 years before "The Hangover". My own bachelor party was a small and timid affair, to be honest, but it still was not something I was about to discuss with the in-laws, for example.

"The Hangover" is a genuinely funny movie, and a well conceived, well-directed one, too. Writer/ Director Todd Phillips is also a producer on the movie, and so the movie had an opportunity to be made without the usual watering down of ideas that would result in a fairly by-the-numbers comedy that didn't live up to much more than the trailer.

The movie remembers that the downfall of a good comedy can be when the plot takes precedence over why people showed up for your movie and the third act can easily get bogged down in wrapping up various plot threads instead of comedy. Its an odd thing to defy expectations of the audience by keeping it simple in order to focus on characters when that's where the humor starts. What could have been a riff on "Dude, Where's My Car" (yes, I've seen it), is most likely going to find its way into many a DVD collection and certainly become a staple of bachelor parties for years to come.

There's certainly the fantasy aspect of modern America, regarding both the bachelor party AND the with what seems like the limitless possibilities of an adult playground like Vegas. And, of course, the amping up of the common experience of waking up and attempting to piece an evening back together. And if that's not your cup of tea (finding tigers in bathrooms = funny), then I cannot help you.

Anyhow, I think to linger too long on a successful comedy is to do it a disservice. But I can say that all of the talent in the movie knocked themselves out (and, for once, I wasn't cringing at Heather Graham). We've come to know Ed Helms from The Daily Show and The Office. Bradley Cooper is good as the guy trying to stay cool, but I think the audience will be happy to take notice of comedian Zack Galifiniakis, who some may know from Comedians of Comedy. And, after "Knocked Up" and "Role Models", it was great to see Ken Jeong create another memorable character.

I enjoyed it. Depending on your tolerance for this sort of stuff and whether you think bachelor parties are despicable behavior or not, I give it a salute.

If I say I'm glad it didn't come out prior to my own nuptials, its that in some way, we expect (or maybe have an unspoken hope) that our bachelor parties will be a surreal experience, but, you know, not so surreal that we have to call off the wedding. In taking the bachelor party to absurd extremes, the movie opens the door for the "well, you wouldn't want that, right?" question from their very special lady, that anyone with a bachelor party would dread.

Of course not, baby, we say. I'm just going to have some drinks with the pals. And if we find a tiger in the bathroom, at least we'll have some good stories.

Also, I kept thinking that this whole movie could happen to Randy.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Superman Weekend Post

Superman Celebration in Starting in Metropolis, Illinois. And being reported by WGBS!

For Leaguers not in the know, in the 1970's and early 1980's comics, the Daily Planet was purchased by a media conglomerate owned by shady character Morgan Edge. Edge moved Clark Kent from the offices of the Daily Planet to the WGBS studios as a news anchor and reporter.

Anyhow, that's your background on Lois and Clark reporting for fictional network WGBS.

It's worth it just to see the mayor struggle with this whole Superman thing. That dude is old skool.

I will go to Metropolis as soon as possible, but am now thinking the first celebration I will attend will most likely be for the 75th anniversary in 2013 or so.

Superman: Secret Origin coming in September!

DC has already released the preview copy and images for Superman comics for September. I have to comment upon how much I've been enjoying the Superman line of comics. Really, since the 2006 re-launch, its been a great ride, but if I may, things are as good as they've been since the original Byrne re-launch.

Next week I'll probably put together a list of suggested readings, but we'll save that for later.

Of particular interest in the September previews is the release of issue #1 of Superman: Secret Origin. Written by Geoff Johns and with art by Gary Frank, its a great comic for just checking out Superman and get a snapshot of the character's history. It shouldn't require any special foreknowledge of the character.

Noel Neill Statue

Economic times are tough, and apparently the fair city of Metropolis is having a hard time scrounging the resources necessary to raise their statue of Lois Lane. The statue will be in the image of Noel Neill, who played Lois Lane in both the the original theatrical serials and for five seasons on TV's "The Adventures of Superman".

Metropolis has a very special relationship with Ms. Neill, where she is known as "The First Lady", and attends the Superman Celebration every year as the most honored guest (seriously, its like a whole town throws a party of the lady. Its terribly sweet.)

If you guys want to see the statue become a reality (and, yes, even Superman would feel it was maybe not the most necessary thing in these tough economic times) then you should visit the website and buy a brick.

Jamie has forbidden my purchase of a brick to date, but perhaps if you all tell her to buy a brick, we'll be that much closer to making Ms. Neill's statue a reality. And she seems like such a nice lady. She could really use a statue. (Tell Jamie its a good idea)

a mock-up of the statue

Ms. Neill and Mr. Reeves

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Leaguer Interactivity Day: Paths toward madness

We live in a world that's far too complicated for our little monkey brains to handle. I recall reading a story by Ray Bradbury when I was a kid where people's brains essentially started filling up from too much input, and their minds would lock up and sort of start the little Mac Wheel spinning. It became problematic if they were speaking when this happened, as they would keep repeating the last few words they'd said.

I honestly believed this, and everything else Ray Bradbury talked about (and I read Farenheit 451 over and over) were all going to happen.

But thanks to one thing Bradbury totally didn't foresee, the internet, I kind of think its going to not be one thing that drives us all mad. It's going to be a million little pinpricks as we're all able to put ourselves out there and we can't avoid the endless chatter.

So what sort of stuff am I talking about? Let us ponder The Calvin & Hobbes Comment Section.

I make jokes about comment sections on comic websites, mostly because I think they really, really deserve it. But that's just a heavy mix of partisanship in comics and a lot of nerd grandstanding.

But in that vein... Like many, I enjoy the Bill Watterson strip "Calvin and Hobbes". As I enjoy a little diversion in my day, I've also book marked the strip online. Yes, the page design is ridiculous, messy and ad-filled, but that's not the issue.

I cannot NOT read the comment section. Which feels as if its written by the lobotomized and insane.

Every day its like that. Every. Single. Day. There's some weird internet hobo community that seems to live on the comment section of the Calvin & Hobbes comic strip, just making nonsense noise at one another. And I cannot look away.

Here is a small, small sample:
Ivy0730Lcsq said, about 20 hours ago

Sussie’s so sick of Clavin’s creepy lunch and stuff…lol

Rakkav said,

Calvin and Hobbes’ club G.R.O.S.S. (Get Rid Of Slimy girlS) would be countered by Susie’s club G.L.O.B.S. (Get Lost Onery BoyS).


grazer said, about 20 hours ago

Don’t be such a spoil sport, Susie—a squished toad can’t hurt anybody.

phfear said, about 19 hours ago

every time i read this strip, i always wonder what was in his hands, well that can be the 7th wonder of the world, or the 8th, whichever comes next

jelzap said, about 15 hours ago

no one in their right mind would guess…..but i guess i would…. c’mon susie whyy you ruining Calvins discovery

I have no idea why this drives me mad. It simply does.

Other Examples of That Which Will Surely Drive us Mad Include:

YouTube comment sections

This blog (some guy I never met sent this to me. It is his.)

MySpace pages with elaborate background themes

People who actually blog on MySpace


poorly thought out articles about how articles about how "universities are doomed in the internet age"*

comic nerds going ballistic over a single, context-free image
from a superhero movie and declaring the movie a failure

So what is going to eventually drive you insane from the internet?

*post topic for this weekend

Noah arrives

So, a very important announcement to Leaguers near and far...

Yesterday, Letty and Juan Garcia welcomed their first child to the world. After Sloane reigned supreme for less than a week, Noah is now our littlest Leaguer.

We at The League salute you, Noah. And Letty and Juan, too. You landed yourself some awesome parents. I look forward to your dad Twittering your every move and your mom trying out all her recipes on you (and hopefully us).

Best of luck, kid.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

There's a Reason we aren't showing up for "Grown-Up" movies, and it isn't the freakin' economy

Entertainment Weekly ran an article recently entitled How Movies for Grown-Ups Became Movies Endangered Species.

Not surprisingly for a standard EW article, the article isn't even really able to articulate the problem except by taking digs at movies that actually are financially successful, such as 2007's Iron Man, and pointing out that people didn't show up to see this Spring's offering of "State of Play".

Utterly shocked, the reporter releases these bombshells:

Even projects that might once have been considered Oscar bait have fallen prey to executives' squeamishness. Paramount turned down director Bill Condon's planned biopic about Richard Pryor, with Eddie Murphy attached to star. Universal axed a drama starring Naomi Watts about a global activist.

Well, actually... good call, Hollywood. I am an adult (no comments from the Peanut Gallery), I actually have a film degree, and I tend to think about this stuff as much as anyone would when their wife has had an Entertainment Weekly subscription since 1993. And I can't really imagine myself paying to see either of those movies.

Naomi Watts? You want to be seen as serious actress, and something that Meryl Streep would have acted the hell out of in 1986 probably sounds like your road to real Hollywood respectability. Your pal Nicole Kidman Cold Mountain respectability, but... surely some eagle eyed accountant pointed out that lately when actors get made up to look all grubby in some 3rd world country, and do something "important", nobody really shows up to see Naomi Watts or whomever pretending to be a global activist.

And, look, I like Richard Pryor's work (I even embrace his Gus Gorman in Superman III), and I understand he led a colorful, messed up life. But... I saw "Man in the Moon" and a dozen other bio-pics of entertainers. I AM an adult, which means that, like other people, I grew up on a steady diet of movies about all kinds of folks, from Johnny Cash to Charlie Chaplin, all of which sort of follow a familiar pattern of rise to fame, trouble, flagging career, some sort of ambiguous redemption as the entertainer's life really turns out not to fit too neatly in a 2 hour, 3-act structure. And our star is portraying someone so familiar, it really only sorta works...

How many of these do I need to see?

The article sites "State of Play" as an amazing adult thriller. I saw State of Play. It's a pretty standard airplane-novel story of intrigue with a standard issue hard-living journalist character with the only memorable scenes coming from a very hammy Jason Bateman. I certainly wouldn't recommend it to anyone as anything other than "it's exactly what you'd think it is."

I see three major problems with what the author champions as "grown-up" movies.

1) As I mentioned, we've seen these movies. Another biopic about someone who led a fairly standard rise-to-fame, imbibed too much and cratered might be the bedtime story you tell little starlets at night in Hollywood to warn them of their potential future, but... I'm not really sure what I'm supposed to get out of the biopic that i didn't get out of 80% of the biopics that Hollywood churns out.

"Milk" is an interesting exception as it was actually about something different, but still about a real person. Sure, it felt all a little too pat as a movie, but I didn't necessarily feel I'd seen it before a dozen times.

So many of these movies, even ones that would have been considered cutting edge have just been done to death. The similarity to other pictures that Hollywood uses to suggest that if X made money, then X+1 should also make money sort of doesn't hold up after the tenth iteration.

2) Television is actually sort of interesting now. And I have 400 channels.

Subsection 2a) reality TV isn't all dumb

If I want a meditation on the effects of alcoholism, I need not wait for Oscar season and an actor trying to get a serious role which will lead to an Oscar. I wait for Intervention to run on cable. Likewise any of the topics, including global and political issues.

Thanks to the power of voyeurism and the bizarre habits of people to want to be on TV, no matter their issue, there's often little I feel I can learn about on a topic from a multimillion dollar production than I feel I can't learn from scrolling through my cable channels.

In some cases, it actually works against the film, even while promoting it. I actually skipped Bryan Singer's "Valkyrie" not just because Tom Cruise is a boob, but because the History Channel ran a documentary on the topic in support of the movie while it was in theaters. After spending two hours watching a doc with historians interviewed, etc... It seemed sort of a waste to go see the movie.

Certainly I appreciate the attempts made by filmmakers to remain authentic, but in comparison to well-crafted documentary, its a tough sell to this viewer to really want to see an actor fake "important" topics. Even something as simple as divorce in a movie is nowhere near as bizarre, painful or compelling to watch as the slow dissolution you can get once a week on "Jon and Kate Plus 8".*

Subsection 2b) Narrative TV has improved

An odd side effect of having a blog that focuses on media and pop culture is that I am often suggested TV shows to check out. Everything from Deadwood to Whale Wars. There actually are some fairly engaging programs on premium cable, basic cable and broadcast TV. Stuff I can enjoy just as well, and with just as well written content. Hell, I may not love the show, but how much did Sex in the City make as a feature, coming from HBO subscriptions and syndicated re-runs?

3) Your definition of "Grown-Up" is useless

Sure, kids show up to see Iron Man, but its sort of useless to suggest that adults should be going to see movies like "State of Play" BEFORE they shell out their bucks to go see a dude in armor like a Camaro with missiles strapped to the hood fly around and give terrorists a hard time.

Sure, Iron Man isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea, but for the high dollar entry fee of going to see a movie these days, I'd point you to points 1 and 2 above, and what people seem to be willing to pay for, or at least what's compelling enough to convince them that it will be novel or different. Even if the plot of the Marvel origin story movies is always essentially the same (and it is), there's at least the promise of something visually interesting.

I'd also argue, that Hollywood's inner workings are now so well covered and reported, in conjunction with most folks' basic familiarity with how a movie is going to play out, that the insistence of sincerity in the making of a film and marketing of a film and obvious attempt for certain kinds of roles which are so familiar they're dubbed "Oscar Bait" (think of all the actors playing the mentally challenged, deranged, or putting on one long impression of a popular entertainer, etc... that get nominated each year), that we're sort of immune to "grown-up movies". When the process behind them seems canned and silly, and somewhat childish, how seriously can we take the final product?

I don't particularly care for "Tropic Thunder", but it did have the benefit of acknowledging to a wide audience outside of Hollywood what they already suspected about "grown-up" movies. It's a half-assed attempt to be kids playing grown-ups in situations that nobody involved with the production actually has any experience.

And point 2a, and the ready availability of documentary and reality programming may have devalued the currency of the institution of the "grown-up" movie.

So in conclusion...

I don't want to suggest that movies should only be superhero movies, or that we should be dancing on the grave of the American cinema experience in favor of the X-Boxification of the recent wave of hits.

What I would say is that (a) genre does not always equate to "kid's movie", and (b) Hollywood needs to quit playing it safe with their "grown up" films if they want to get people to show up for them. And, of course, realize when the audience is no longer onboard with your commonly held belief (you may want to believe Julia Roberts is box office gold, but that well ran dry for the average movie goer about 10 years ago). Know when you're just making more of the same (stop making celebrity biopics). Know when your mall-theater audience isn't likely to take your mega-star seriously in a role (Tom Cruise in anything. Naomi Watts as the White Savior of the earth). Don't assume Star Power is enough to get me to the box office. I didn't see "Michael Clayton" because I had no idea what it was about thanks to the plotless trailer (George Clooney threatening Tilda Swinton does not equal my $9).

Quit playing it safe and bring something new to the table, and we can talk.

*seriously. That show is just messed up.

Old Home Week and Facebook Fans

Facebook Fans

Hey, Facebook Fans (and RSS fans, and the rare few of you who seem to actually click on the URL these days). At last count, we were up to 38 fans. And that's good stuff!

I was asked today why I'd set up League of Melbotis to feed into Facebook. Well, I sort of senselessly resisted setting up an RSS feed a while back, and now realize that wasn't just an exercise in futility, it just wasn't very forward thinking. And, of course, I know we're living in Twitter and Facebook these days, and I figured I would make it easier on LoM readers who were already checking Facebook (and you have the option to either read or not, and that's the way it should be).

Also, Facebook's very nature makes it a little easier to reach out than the conventional means. The very integrated nature of Facebook, such as those "Ryan is a Fan of League of Melbotis" things you see on the sidebar, mean its a bit easier for folks to stumble upon our doings here at The League.

And while I don't mind writing this for just NTT and Randy's amusement, it'd be nice to have a few more folks chiming in. I am, of course, concerned about managing comments both at the site proper and at Facebook, but we'll see how it goes.

Laura and Robb in Austin

So, this week has had an unusual bit of fun. As I mentioned, League-Pal Robb and his wife Neda drifted into Austin. We wound up having dinner with Robb, Neda, Jeff and Keora last night. This evening we caught up with League-Pals Laura "Cowgirl Funk" M-S and her husband, Eric and their cute-as-a-button kid, Sophie.

Laura I've known since high school. She was a few years behind me at good ol' Klein Oak, but thanks to the power of Klein Oak Drama and me having a driver's license, I got to know her a bit both hanging about backstage during productions and then heading back to our neighborhood. She was a swell dame then, and we caught up online here several years ago. She attended UT as a drama major, and somewhere along the line, met up with Eric, who happened to go to the same high school I went to my Freshman year, before moving to Spring. He's a couple years older, so we didn't happen to know each other.

They've recently returned from New York/ Brooklyn to our fair city. If moving back from Phoenix after 4 years was an adjustment for us, their return to Austin after 10 years (and Austin's seismic changes in that time) must be a massive change. And, of course, they've got 2.2 year old Sophie in tow, who wasn't around when they departed.

The internet has made it so easy to keep up, I sort of hope I don't ever take it for granted. But its great to reconnect and not have horrible, awkward silences, as we've been chatting on and off for much of the duration of League of Melbotis.

So, if you Austin-Area Leaguers start seeing Laura and Eric around, that's who they are. Be nice.

Robb I met when I drifted into the men's room in my dorm late on a Saturday night my Freshman year. He was down visiting Jeff and Patrick, who I'd gotten to know well at that point, but all I knew was that there was a guy I'd never seen before at the next urinal. I formally met him minutes later in Jeff and Pat's room. Mostly what I remember was that he played us the most recent Black Dog album.

The next year Robb transferred to UT, and was a part of the usual herd of folks who circled around one another. He was a musician and drummer, audio engineer, and always seemed to have a few other projects going on. Also, he was the person who sat me down and got me to watch "Stalker" and innumerable other movies in college, so my hats off to the guy.

In 2000, a good chunk of our crew packed their bags and moved up to Seattle for reasons which were never abundantly clear to me. Robb lived there, went to Berlin and other locations in Europe for a while, and then back to the US. While in Serbia, he met Neda, and it seems they were quite fond of one another as they are now hitched.

Anyway, its always a blast when these guys come back to town. I don't ever get up to Seattle (where they're all still at), and they only occasionally come back. So, yeah, its a little sad, too. I miss those guys.

Robb came into town in his usual style, alerting folks he was coming less than 24 hours in advance, and departing by Amtrak. I salute Neda for jumping into Robb's nomadic lifestyle. They're a good fit.

But that's the way it is with Leaguers. You come, you go, you come back again either to visit or to raise a darn cute kid. And, heck, as I write this, Letty is bringing a new Leaguer into the world. And Steven and Lauren are planning to make good their escape from the Capital City. Just know the door is always open here at League HQ.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Fritz Lang's Metropolis and Golden Hornet Project

When I was 15, Jason talked me into renting Fritz Lang's 1927 science fiction opus, "Metropolis". I was, of course, immediately disappointed to learn that Madonna's "Express Yourself" video was not a concept baked entirely new for The Material Girl. Instead, the creative team had told a sort of parallel (and sexier) story to the happenings of "Metropolis", in the same landscape.

Madonna's "Express Yourself"*

At any rate, I doubt I'd ever watched an entire feature silent film prior to that cut, but as I recall, it had some pop songs on it, and, of course, even on VHS the movie was brilliantly stunning and the story moving.

I don't really want to get into a whole conversation here on German Expressionist film of the pre-Nazi era, and how one of the seldom-mentioned casualties of Hitler's regime was the crippling of an entire media and art form. But there you have it. While I do enjoy some American and British silent film (like all good former film students, I appreciate me some good Buster Keaton and Chaplin), I'd argue that anyone watching Metropolis will be awed at how far ahead of Hollywood and London that the German's were in using the medium.


It's also impossible to separate Germany's post-WW1 conditions with the output of their cinema, and not wonder a bit about what Lang saw in his countrymen in the years prior to the rise of Hitler. Or his refusal to allow the film's resolution to make a solid case completely on the side of beleaguered labor (what with the Reds running around Mother Russia).

The dimensions of the movie are huge, even by today's standards. And while sets are necessarily re-used for the story, they're unbelievable in scale and practical effects, number of sets, etc... The models of exteriors are phenomenal, some scenes that I assume are matte prints continue to astonish, and the cast is enormous. It's tough to believe such efforts used to go into moviemaking, but clearly Lang wasn't cutting corners.

Sort of makes "New Detroit" in Robocop seem kind of silly, 1980's Dallas.

The imagery has, of course, become iconic and endlessly emulated in sci-fi films, in comics and elsewhere. Lang's Metropolis would come to define the massive super cities seen in everything from "The Fifth Element" to "Blade Runner", acknowledging that these cities will grow on the backs of a labor class who will most likely always have the short end of the stick. The glories of the towers and the miseries of the folks below would become a perennial theme in science fiction, and, one can see how the first quarter of the 20th Century would be enough to tell you where this was headed. The predictions for technology aren't as important to the film as the homily shared using the backdrop and extremes of the future presented in the film.

The effects are mostly practical and hold up because Lang's grasp didn't overextend his reach. The Man-Machine's metal body looks exactly like what its meant to look like, the flying machines and cars don't take bizarre shapes.

why is evil always more fun and noticeably hotter?

But what's just as striking are the hallucinatory visions experienced by Freder, including the approach of "death". These scenes are a fairly straightforward moment when Lang's involvement with Expressionism crosses over into the Metropolis.

And, curiously, its funny how different the same actress is as Brigitte Helm as "good" Maria and "evil" Maria.** While acting styles have definitely changed for film in teh ensuing 80 years, the actors are still committed and engrossing.

We lost a few things when they added sound to film, but nothing so much as the possibilities for a film to easily cross borders, simply applying new title cards.

My hat is off to the Golden Hornet Project. A friend at dinner asked if they're an offshoot of Austin's "Golden Arm Trio", and I really don't. But the band/ orchestra/ whatever was made up of about 8 musicians, featuring keyboards, two percussionists (phenomenal percussionists), and several strings and guitar players. I am actually very interested in seeing their other work in town this summer.

seriously, when was the last time you got this excited about one of your ideas?

The score was terrific, going above and beyond the call of duty to execute upon their task: helping to tell the story without getting in the way. Its unfair to try to categorize the work, so I won't try too hard here to do so. But what would you be if you didn't try? I kinda/ sorta would compare it in spirit to... oh, David Byrne's score for "The Forest". Only totally different.

Anyway, the movie is a favorite. It was a huge treat not just to see it on the big screen, but with such a huge amount of love put into the music.

I like to point out that for all the snooty, looking down the nose critics like to do with sci-fi, this 80 year old movie had three sold out shows and inspired musicians, who could be doing plenty of other things with their time, to create new works of art just to support it. And not just here. Nathan mentioned a similar effort in San Antonio, and when I described the screening to League-Pal Robb at dinner, he told me about a screening at Seattle's Gasworks Park about a decade back that attracted thousands. THOUSANDS.

Its not the genre that attracted the audiences, but there's something to the mix of story, homily and visuals that sci-fi makes possible. And while few have done it anywhere near as well as Metropolis in those years, I don't see "Wings" (best picture, 1928, and a really good movie in its own right) drawing three sold out nights and a new score.

For the record, there's no known direct connection between this movie and the naming of Superman's adopted hometown. Nor does there seem to be any direct connection between the film, its themes, its portrayal in the comic, etc... and the movie. I think teen-age comic developers, Siegel and Shuster, picked it out of the zeitgeist in the years after the movie appeared in the US. Superman would appear roughly 10 years after Metropolis, by the way. So, yeah, the Germans were ahead of us on this crazy sci-fi thing.

*Dang, yo, Circa 1990 Madonna... you are a bad, bad girl.

**Or "boring" Maria and "hot" Maria, as I declared when we left the theater.

New Lil' Leaguer (Sloane Shaw!)

I would be remiss if I did not mention the birth of Sloane Julianne Shaw. Sloane arrived June 7th at 8:33am to happy parents Reed and Jennifer Shaw.

No pictures yet, so...

here's a puppy with a blanet to tide you over.*

*We understand that Sloane is neither a puppy or blanket, but adding an image always makes for a better post.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

chillaxing y facebook

Sadly, not much to report on. We've had a very low key weekend. Friday we didn't get up to too much. I suspect that my new Ghost Hunters substitute will be "Whale Wars".

Saturday I ran some errands and we attended the annual MeatFest at the Shoemaker's. This year, we had the very special treat of not just the appearance of League pal Robb Kunz (fresh in from Seattle), but he brought his wife. And we didn't even know Robb HAD a wife. Yeah, it'd been a while since we'd talked to Robb.

Today we really didn't do anything, which is how I like my Sundays. Spent a couple of hours at Barton Springs and then grabbed lunch at Shady Grove.

I guess I can tell its summer because they're running the movies I fid myself watching annually. Today was "Trading Places", the 1980's movie with Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy, Jamie Lee Curtis, Denholm Elliot, Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche. I've seen it more times than I can count, and I'm still not sure I understand the transaction that takes place at the end of the movie that puts our heroes on top and gives the bad-guys their comeuppance.

But I can say with 100% certainty, I am not interested in the Taco Bell "volcano taco" that's been advertised every commercial break.

Lucy got on the couch with me and we both fell asleep for the entire middle of the movie. And to me, that's a good Sunday.

Tonight, I'm off to see that screening of Metropolis.

Facebook Help

I have started a page on Facebook for League of Melbotis. I'm not really sure how or if I can really use it. I'm going to try to push an RSS feed of some sort out through the thing, but Facebook's "Help" section hasn't been anything remotely like helpful. Anyway, if you're on Facebook, look up "League of Melbotis" and become a fan.

Also, if you know of HOW I can do this, let me know.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Metropolis Sunday at Alamo South

I am going to the Alamo on South Lamar on Sunday evening for a special presentation of Fritz Lang's "Metropolis". The show is at 7:15.

There's a new score by the Golden Hornet Project. Should be fun!

For more info, look here.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

some other quick links

From Johnny Cash's biography:

“I’ve had a lot of loves over the years: Gospel, country, rockabilly. But my greatest passion is and always has been Donkey Kong.”


From Jason: More stuff on The Reals (real life superheroes). CNN tries to tie it to the economy somehow. Not sure that follows, but I am fascinated by the phenomenon.

Finally got my hands on Mark Waid's new series "Irredeemable" from Boom Studios. Its been sold out TWICE. Really liked the first issue. Here's a preview. (not for kids)

I assume someone will compare it to Miracleman at some point, but I've never had an opportunity to read that series.

A great reason to tune into TLC on Mondays.

New Buck Rogers comic from Dynamite! Enstertainment.

I'm reading a LOT of Boom! and Dynamite these days.

Oddly, reading almost no Marvel but Cap, Daredevil and the new Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers series.

Still recommending Superman titles, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and the Dini and Morrison Bat-books. Booster Gold is good, but am looking forward to Blue Beetle being added in as a back-up feature.

Here's a video promoting that DCU Massive Multiplayer Game. When the @#$% is this game coming out?

Batman and Robin #1

Believe it or not, there has not previously been a comic entitled "Batman and Robin". Batman, Detective, Batman Confidential, Legends of the Dark Knight, Brave and the Bold, Robin.... sure. All of those. But on Wednesday, DC Comics released the first issue of "Batman and Robin".

the all-new dynamic duo!

Generally, for established talent, I prefer commenting on a storyline as it wraps rather than issue by issue, especially at the beginning. There's simply too much unknown in the early issues of a comic. Its not that you can't form an opinion (and a valid one at that), but in many ways its sort of like reviewing an album based on one or two songs, or running out of a movie after the first fifteen minutes and writing a review.

Grant Morrison took over the title "Batman" in late 2006 and proceeded to take two years to spin out what became clear was just part of a multi-year effort. He wrapped his run into DC's mega-event "Final Crisis" (in itself a 7-issue series with multiple tie-ins), culminating in the disappearance/ seeming death of Bruce Wayne.

Morrison then took a break to make room for what I'd consider to be some serious filler material in the way of the "Battle for the Cowl" storyline. Hey, at least I enjoyed Neil Gaiman's two-part stand in with "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?".

Morrison is also the author of such highly recommended works as "Invisibles", "We3", "Vinamarama", "New X-Men", "JLA", "Animal Man" and the most defining work on the character in a generation, "All Star Superman".

Art is penciled by the amazing Frank Quitely, whose work with Morrison elevates both talents. He's probably now most famous for "All Star Superman", but his "New X-Men" run is pretty stellar. My personal favorite of his work is still "We3", but he made his real mark with "Flex Mentallo" with Morrison. The work has never been collected due to a law suit from the Charles Atlas company.

The first issue begins with the new status quo of former Robin, Dick Grayson, in the Batsuit. Those unfamiliar to recent events in the comics will be surprised to learn that Batman's bastard son (both literal and figurative), Damian, takes on the mantle of Robin. There's enough exposition to catch up a casual reader or possibly explain to someone utterly unfamiliar with Batman as to what's going on.

Dick and Damian go for a ride!

Morrison does what he so often does, and injects a relaxed cool to the high octane proceedings (these superheroes don't flinch over something like an explosion). Dick and Damian have put together the first flying Batmobile, and are in hot pursuit of a Mr. Toad (who both physically resembles a toad and who is on a wild ride).

There's much in the way of exposition to catch us up, but which also fills in gaps for the reader who may wonder how we got from the end of "Battle for the Cowl" to this point.

But nasty things are afoot in Gotham City as the issue wraps, unveiling the first glimmer of bizarre goings on with the newest additions to Batman's rogues gallery.

All in all, its a great start to the series, and should give those who were left scratching their heads at the end of Batman RIP and Final Crisis a huge jolt of faith in Morrison. One also realizes how much Morrison's work is enhanced or detracted from by the art talent with whom he's joined. One saving grace for Final Crisis was that I felt he was lucky to land two great artists (I really dig Doug Mahnke's stuff), and I'm not sure Tony Daniel really did much to carry his part of the load in Batman RIP.

For myself... I was not at all a fan of the continuity-lite six issue runs that came out of the early 2000's. I was raised on Claremont X-Men and Alan Grant and Co. dominating the Bat-titles. So I very much appreciate DC's decision to let Morrison spin his web across the Bat-titles (just as Johns, Robinson and Rucka are building a phenomenal, multi-year arc on the Superman titles).

This is going to sound odd, but something about the issue vaguely gave me the same charge as those old Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle issues of Batman and Detective used to give me. I think because there was so little distraction. No Dan Didio harping about "Batman RIP" for a year in advance. Just a story, great art and characters. There's not too, too much else in common, but it reminded me of the relentless insistence on the "event" that's been going on in Bat-books for a long time.

The book ain't necessarily for kids. Just felt I'd remind our eager-beavers in the interwebs to be careful what they put in the kiddos' hands.

Morrison said something about trying to mix the psychedelia of the Adam West Batman with some creepier aspects. Whatever he said, fine. The first issue was downright fun. It really is a gorgeous comic to look at, and I'm excited its out there and look forward to the next issue.

David Carradine Merges with the Infinite

David Carradine, star of dozens upon dozens of movies and most famous for his roles in "Kung-Fu" and "Kill Bill" has passed.

The League of Melbotis wishes you Godspeed, sir.

The death was very much unexpected, and news is still breaking. From CNN.