Friday, November 27, 2009

TIME TO GIVE BACK: Salvation Army 2009

Hey, Leaguers!

The Holidays are upon us, and its time for me to virtually stand in front of your virtual shopping center ringing my virtual bell.

We know things are tough for many people across the world this year, but we feel fortunate to have a home, food, a job, and so much. But many, many people haven't had the year we've had, and so we're looking to raise funds for a great organization.

Click here to lend a hand.

We've got 77 Facebook Fans, 24 "followers" on Facebook, and we've set the bar fairly low. I expect we'll be pumping up our donation goals before too long.

If all you can give is $5, that's cool. But let's see what happens when we all pull together to see how much we can raise!

Turkey Day 2009

Judy and Dick knocked themselves out on Turkey Day this year. A fantastic spread with a delicious turkey at the center, potatoes, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, home-made rolls, cranberries, a fantastic addition of stewed tomatoes via K's family (like, dessert good), pumpkin and chocolate pies...

Anyway, we Americans (and many in the west) are lucky to have so much, and that's something I think was on many minds. KareBear just returned from Kenya where she was be-spectacling folks in need of eye glasses, and its good to have that kind of touchstone to know that we live differently, and not to forget that there's a reason to be grateful and give thanks.

This was Dug and K's first Thanksgiving with us as a married couple, and also our first Turkey Day with Ciera as part of the family. She's a firecracker, and smart. Its fun to spend time with her.

Here's a photo Jason took of the partially assembled family as we make our plates.

from left: Cousin Sue, KareBear, Judy, Jamie, me smashing a plate on Dug's head, Dug, The Admiral getting into the turkey.

Prior to the dinner, some met up at Jason's to carpool south to Dick and Judy's. Ciera has been taking guitar lessons. Here she plays some tunes on Jason's guitar.

After dinner, I tossed around a football and frisbee with Ciera, Jamie and Kristen, then watched the Cowboys game. It was very All-American, which is kind of how we roll on Thanksgiving.

Then Northward where many of us met up to watch the UT game, gnash teeth, and finally collapse in relief when TAMU missed that final field goal. Every darn year that game is unpredictable, and no matter how TAMU has played all season, UT fans know that the rivalry may be friendly, but when its at Kyle Field, the Aggies are not kidding about this 12th Man business.

Poor Scout is afraid of the noise the people make during the games. She was alternately seeking attention and hiding all evening.

Hope you guys had a great Turkey Day. I'm thankful for having such an amazing family, and am really looking forward to the rest of the weekend.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

UT/ TAMU Football Game 2009

Well, @#$%. That was interesting, wasn't it?

I watched with the Steans-half of the family, all of whom were variously shouting in shock, dismay, anger, despair, etc...

UT's much-hyped defense were given a real run for their money by the Texas A&M offense who seemed to have their number, and whose tape Nebraska will be watching closely come the Big 12 Championship.

Colt had a terrific game which was overshadowed by the collapse of UT's defense and A&M's seeming ability to move the ball at will. Colt was responsible for 5 touchdowns and a total of 470 yards or so. That's... really good.

Anyway, this was a good game for UT fans and maybe for the UT players to be reminded that a powderpuff schedule isn't going to prepare you for a national title game, and that mayhaps your ranking isn't going to be so solid come Sunday.

TAMU didn't get the win this year, but come 2010... man. It's gonna be ugly.

The Origins of the Horns Hand Sign

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

V - Episode 4. We watched.

This episode was a real turning point for "V". It marked the moment when you realized that the writers and producers did, in fact, have an idea of what they were doing, but that idea is just sort of dumb.

Once again in the 4th episode, character development remains non-existent except for the "shocking revelation" that Padre Blando is a former soldier (which means a plot line about guilt, overcoming guilt, and explaining how he'll henceforth be a bad-ass - ie: American Sayid.). Villains continued to stare out of windows. Erica's parenting skills put her more in the class of passive roommate than "Mom". And the fate of the entire known galaxy of sentients depends on a kid with a brain the size of a walnut.

On the plus side: Apparently there IS a reason that the V's do not wander around their ships looking like lizards, and it has something to do with trauma that occurs if they don't wear their people-suits. Which... yeah. It makes a convenient plot device, but makes the people-suits no less ridiculous.

In this episode, the show writers once again ham-handedly tried to reflect the "ripped from the headlines" approach, by continuing to exploit our superstitious beliefs about modern medicine by revealing that the flu vaccine is actually an alien plot against us (that's what we need. More people deciding not to get the flu shot. Slow clap, ABC.).

As revealed last week, we have aliens acting as if a dweebish 17-year old* is some sort of lynchpin for their ability to conquer Earth (and that teen's mom just happens to be one of a few people that know tha V's are up to no good. What a koinky-dink.).

If I may:

Look, aliens. If you're going to conquer earth, and your plan relies upon seducing a 17 year old with a willing blond (easy) and counting upon a slow witted 17 year old in any way (not so easy), I hope there's a "Plan B". I recommend lasers.

At this point, I'm almost curious to see what happens in March when the show returns, because I want to see how this Rube Goldberg plot to take over the Earth unfolds, and how it couldn't just be done better with nukes or germ warfare or a million other options.

The episode also leaned upon the "oh, my God! How did that happen? Flashback to 14 hours earlier" in media res plot device to absolutely no positive effect. That device is supposed to be there for when something indicated in the scene (a) actually happens, or (b) matters.

At some point I made a comment that a hapless and easily dispatched security guard became a focus for the show, and... in the final scenes of the episode, he actually did reappear as a plot point. It was kind of exciting that I called that one out. But, you know, you have a seemingly pointless lingering shot of a guy...

Had the US not had major security changes in the past 10 years, some of "V" would be a bit easier to buy. It is significantly harder to believe that the world would be happily letting aliens treat our ill and integrate into our society within weeks of their arrival. I was laughing so hard I had to pause the DVR when our Arch Villainess casually announces she's got a miracle shot which, apparently, had FDA approval and was being released immediately. We've got cures for the common cold we haven't managed to squeeze through the approval process.

One of the reasons "Alien Nation" never worked for me was that the producers were never creative enough to ponder how different an alien culture might be from our own. District 9 is one of the few movies that, though borrowing heavily from refugeeism as seen in South Africa, bothered to make the aliens significantly different from the culture they approached, not just in looks, but in culture, etc... Honestly, if an alien with no accent of any sort, who looked a bit like Swiss Miss told me she heard a place had "amazing pizza", or that it even knew what pizza was, you should be terrified. How long had these aliens been watching? And what were they doing now?

The concept of the alien technology is also all straight from the Ikea catalog, the designs are uninspired and insipid, and I think last night they tried to pass off a dental lamp for super-science. If we're to believe alien technology looks like a Fujitsu tablet PC, that the interiors of their ships look like the causeway at a convention center, and that they all dress in leftovers from the STNG wardrobe department, why bother with appearing to be aliens at all?

The tragedy of V is that it didn't need to be hackneyed and trite. What COULD have been an interesting series, looking at how this sort of thing was handled on local, federal and an international level, instead (much like Flash Forward) became much more about an FBI in pursuit of badguys. The opportunity to see a White House dealing with the arrival of seemingly benevolent aliens seems infinitely more interesting than Erica Evans doing database searches, which is what the show effectively turned into last episode (also, shouldn't she be at work? At least a little?). How Earth handles seemingly benevolent gifts of science and industry over even a few months might have at least given us something to hang the plot on.

Instead, the show focuses entirely on only five or six people, turning intergalactic warfare into a parlor mystery. To that end, when our sleeper-agent V's human girlfriend** happened to be the shrink to Rodney the Rebellious Teen (the same teen who the leader of an alien race believes is going to be their "in" to humanity), any sense of scale the show carried was poured down the drain. These characters simply don't need to be connected so tightly.

I don't want to be rude, but this is a show that counts on its audience to have formed a concept of how government, the FDA, the military, police, religion, etc... function entirely by watching other TV shows. To just go along with a scenario in which THIS is how the world would react to aliens seems... bizarre. It also counts on an audience to get excited by retread plot points, hackey villainous behavior, and to give no critical examination of the actual events of the story and just coast along with whatever the show shovels out. Getting excited that the actors from Firefly are getting work again isn't a pass.

Honestly, the show just sort of makes me mad. Elizabeth Mitchell is a talented and foxy actress, and she's stuck in a lead role with all the depth of a kiddy pool. It's bad enough that the producers lifted an old concept, but the stunning lack of vision for how this would be an improvement is disappointing.

I'm told that the show will have new producers when it returns, and so part of me wants to give the show another shot. After all, there IS opportunity to retool the show and possibly save it from itself.

Also, Elizabeth Mitchell.

*I have heard a lot of people's messages on the phone. Only on TV do I hear the ever-present "This is (fill-in-blank). You know what to do." as an instruction for leaving a message. I don't know if that's a standard LA-thing, or what... But, I doubt anybody ever actually used "you know what to do" as an outgoing message with such a terrific lack of irony.

Seriously, stop it. It makes your heroes sound douche-y.

**Also, must everyone who mentions they're feeling a bit off on TV either (a) be diagnosed with an incurable and fatal disease, or (b) be pregnant? And didn't we already do the whole "V-Baby" thing pretty ineffectively in the original series? You couldn't hold out a little longer or telegraph that one a little more?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Macy's Parade

Somehow I had totally forgotten that Thursday isn't just Thanksgiving, its the Macy's Parade. The League LOVES the parade no less now than when we were 7 years old. And now, we have a much greater appreciation of The Rockettes. Always the highlight of the parade for this avid viewer.

I skip the local parades every year as I know they can't hold a candle to 50 foot Snoopy, Disney-approved child-talent lip-synching in the cold and marching bands from across the US.

An extra thrill this year: they've had to change the route, and a lot of people are predicting that the balloons can't make the turn at one point. It is going to be AWESOME.

Also, Rockettes!

The parade also is the catalyst for holiday staple "Miracle on 34th Street", which is a favorite here at League HQ. It features Santa on trial for his sanity and the always foxy Maureen O'Hara. What's not to like?

Santa, you can give me a linebacker's shoulder pads and make me terribly attractive. Oh, wait. I have those things.

So I'll be up and tuning in. And shouting profanities at Meredith Viera, who just dumbs the whole thing up when she hosts.

Turkey Day approaches

Oh, evolution. You are the cruelest @#$%& of them all.

Short post as I assume many have taken the day and nobody should be ruining their holiday reading this blog, anyway.

Dug and K are coming into town tomorrow. Our first Turkey Day with them as a married couple. But this is also going to be the first Holiday with what's going to be the configuration for our family for quite a while.

As you may know, Jamie's folks are living in San Marcos, and my own folks have a home in N. Austin, where they plan to retire. Jason is living here, of course, and Cousin Sue and Ciera live in N. Austin. So we're all going to be able to see each other with a minimum of traveling (aside from poor Dug and K., because I don't see this whole operation heading to Berkeley for a couple of years, so eastward they'll come).

So Thursday should be food, Dallas Cowboys and the UT/ TAMU game.

I am thankful for a lot of stuff this year, not the least is that Scout is home and safe, and relatively unharmed.

Here's a list of things The League is thankful for:

1. League-Pals and Leaguers. You know who you are, and we salute you.
2. A not-insane family. Seriously. Thank you for not being crazy.
3. Dogs and cats.
4. A job that I am amazed I am still happy to walk into each and every day (and where you never know what the day will bring)
5. Size 14 socks.
6. Jamie.
7. A super-lifestyle.
8. Not ever winding up on "Cheaters".
9. No zombies.
10. Twilight romance weird, but not as weird as Godzilla star-crossed lovers story.

We'll be back soon and will most likely post intermittently.

Fallon does Neil Young covering Fresh Prince

thx to Keenan

Monday, November 23, 2009

Turtles Forever

I actually am watching the "Turtles Forever" movie from CW Kids. And its a really weird take-off on DC "Crisis on Multiple Earths" storylines/ "Crisis on Infinite Earths" in almost any way which counts.

Its also oddly meta for a kid's Saturday morning cartoon. I mean, they just arrived in "Turtle Earth Prime", which is the first issue of the classic Eastman and Laird run on TMNT from the mid-80's.

Eastman and Laird's TMNT was part of why I got into comics as a kid, and its part of why I started wanting to draw. I'm not a huge TMNT nut, but...

I'm kind of freaking out a little bit, because it looks exactly like the comics. And that is real, yo.

Classic TMNT from the 1980's (first issue)

Also, at commercial breaks, the networks keeps advertising "Christmas Buddies", which...

the part of me which loves horrible movies and the part of me that likes cute golden retriever puppies are sort of conspiring to make me watch this thing at some point.

Scout's Amazing Misadventure

Around 2:45, Jamie called me at my desk.

"Scout got out. She found a hole in the fence and pushed her way out. She's running around the neighborhood."

A month ago or so I took Scout to the park and was astounded when she was off her leash. "If she ever runs, we are never going to catch her," I said. And, sure enough, given the opportunity, she ran.

Jamie did a great job trying to track her down, but no dice. A few people had seen her, but we have a creek which runs the length of our subdivision and the adjoining subdivision, and many people who back up to it do not have fences. Which means, really, Scout could be anywhere in about a mile radius in about twenty minutes.

I got home about 3:20 or so, and began looking at the park. I looked high and low, tromping around the weeds, to no avail.

Jamie was circling, and kept coming back to the house to see if any messages were left. Her folks also zipped up to Austin and helped look around the neighborhood.

Jamie came home to find some strangers who had found poor Scout. Unfortunately, she'd been clipped by a car out on Manchaca.

Don't worry, Scout is okay, we think.

I can't really thank enough the complete strangers who corralled her and brought her home. That people would pull over and help out like that? Anyway, it gives me a moment of pause and a little something to be grateful for this week. Thanks, South Austin people. You're the best.

I was still wandering around a creek when Jamie gave me a call, and I sent her on ahead to the vet. As I realized the one spot where I'd crossed the creek, I couldn't recross, and spent about ten minutes trying to figure out how to get back across.

The good folks at Century Animal Clinic gave Scout a thorough looking over, and we're feeling pretty good about how Scout is doing. She's resting, tired, and she had a big day. I'm keeping an eye on her to make sure we didn't miss anything. But at least she's home.

I can say: Scout did have a collar with a tag stating our address and home number. We're going to need to replace that with our cell number as it would have been a lot easier to reach us while we were searching for Scout. We also have Scout chipped, which I guess a lot of the Black Helicopter folks think is just one step away from chipping all us humans (too late for me, I got my flu shot). But as stressed as I was, I knew that between tags and chipping, we'd find Scout sooner or later. I just would have preferred to find her before she got hit by a car.

She's home and sleeping, and we're very happy to have her here.

V Update

So, last night I finally got around to watching the most recent episode (week 3) of "V" (featuring Elizabeth Mitchell).

At the end of the episode, I proclaimed "I think that's my last episode of 'V'".

Jamie informed me that there's only one more filmed episode of the show, or something. She sort of tends to know these things thanks to her handy subscription of Entertainment Weekly.

So for anyone who believed it is a mini-series, you were dealing with better info than what I had. But if it is a 4-episode series, its got one of the least impressive trajectories of any mini I've had the pleasure of seeing.

I will review episode 4, just to round it out. Also, Elizabeth Mitchell.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Twilight/ New Moon/ Sparkle Vampires

The work of Stephenie Meyer is a hot button issue at League HQ. I am not supposed to tell you that Jamie has read the entire series.

Or that she owns the Blu-Ray of the first movie. Or that she will see New Moon in the theater at least once, if not twice.

Anyway, as you can imagine, the Sparkle Vampire franchise is a pretty small sliver of Jamie's media intake in comparison with how I've said "I ain't reading anything but stuff about people in tights fighting colorfully-dressed, albeit ineffective criminals. Often on the moon.", which Jamie is very good about not nitpicking to death.


It's my official stance that Twilight is sort of stupefying in how it embraces and endorses behavior that seems abusive.

Look, I get that teen-age girls (and adults, in many cases) get all excited about broody, mysterious guys. But when they take you into the woods and talk about how they've killed people and how they can't help themselves when it comes to violent acts, saying "that's okay, we're in it together" is how women end up in half-way homes five years on.

That's not to say that Superman comics weren't (from about 1950-1977) almost entirely about Superman being an emotionally manipulative jack-ass to Lois. Those Silver Age and early Bronze Age comics are often a bit iffy (including the assumption that if Lois and Clark ever did marry, she'd quit working immediately. WTF? Earning potential, people.).

Now, I should qualify my statements around Twilight. I've only seen the movie, never read any of the books, and the version of the movie I saw was RiffTrax. And I may have had a few glasses of wine. I do not know Edward and Bella the way many of you will. I do not have the Barbie dolls of Edward and Bella that I saw at Target today, for example.

I just sort of wonder how something like Twilight doesn't just slip through the cracks, but that nobody really talks about the messages of the franchise to its target audience of young women when its become such a massive phenomenon. Reviewers like Lisa Schwartzbaum of, who normally take movies to task for stepping anywhere off the line from an ERA-era take on gender politics, seem to shrug off the ick-factor of a 108 year old dude getting hot and bothered by a 17 year old girl (who, I might add, has the personality of a mopey house cat), and who alternately threatens and baits her.

My theory is as follows: The Sparkle Vampire phenomenon taps into some of being a teen-age girl that The League so completely does not get that its loosely the equivalent of why guys don't blink at the absurdity of beer commercials (ie: If you drink Natty Light, you will meet women), at which women tend to roll their eyes.

Anyway, with the release of New Moon (which I mentioned on our Facebook account that I'd go see under certain conditions), I can't help but ponder the phenomenon afresh.

It's probably also worth pondering the emasculation of vampires in the post-Anne Rice era.

The physiology and habits of vampires as described in Stoker's "Dracula" are obviously far different. Its worth noting: in the book, Dracula did not burst into flames when exposed to sunlight. I now have no idea where that came from. Instead, he simply loses his powers and is often seen sleeping. He does not sparkle. Nor is he seen as being of particular romantic interest (and it seems that the appeal of Dracula's brides hits a bit differently than Edward's appeal).

But since Anne Rice took the romantic cues of the Frank Langella-starring Dracula and spun them out to historical fiction, and authors started pondering the "what-ifs" of vampirehood, removing the limitations and peculiarities of vampires seems to be a method of humanizing the characters while simultaneously doing exactly what's happened on shows like True Blood, and that's turn the very nature of the beast on its head.

As discussed after reading "Dracula", becoming one of the Un-Dead means a dissolution of the victim's personality. The nature of vampirism is seen through a very different filter if the taking of life becomes a choice (one that we know Dracula's victims are denied). Even Dracula himself has an expression of peace after our heroes drive a stake through his heart, and so there's the tortured nobility of the Twilight vampires if they have the option to just, basically, be super-anemic. But it certainly removes the whole "eternally damned" aspect of vampirism, and just makes it an inconvenience with nifty benefits.

Its an inadvertent side-effect that the lust for blood in Edward which is read as just plain lust can be read as a lust to do violence and winnow away the personality of Bella Swan as she gives up on friends and family to be with her man.

I don't think the movies or franchise are "dangerous", per se. But it is a reminder that for all the messages we get in health class about violent, co-dependent relationships, and what we can agree are things we wouldn't normally say were okay to see in a movie as an overt message, we're happy to put aside those stances when it comes to the right story. Buried under sparkly, handsome Edward, any suggestion of abuse or violence becomes coded or muddled, and its not hard to dismiss possible readings to that point as "not getting it". After all, nothing is more powerful than the lunch-table conversations with our peers who egg us on or who feel wrong when they suggest we're making a romantic mistake, and who is the better lunch-table buddy than Bella? Heck, the first movie tells us she's the dream lunch-table pal.

Anyhow, its an interesting phenomenon. Meyer is becoming as wealthy as Rowling as the sort of pop-culture juggernaut that seems self-perpetuating builds around her. The kids who grew up with Harry Potter can add sex to the mix, and a dozen or so imitators can pop up in books, one CW TV show, and a grittier take on the concept on "True Blood" (I've never seen either show).

Why vampires and why now? Man, I have no idea. Certainly it helps fulfill that angle that pop-culture critics kept insisting we needed out of the modern superhero any time a superhero wasn't "conflicted" enough. By jettisoning the concept of vampire as monster, and reinstating them into the equation as nothing but a tortured paramour, Dracula goes from hellspawn to unique-fixer-upper opportunity. Its not enough that with power comes responsibility, but the powerful pay for their "abilities" in obvious and direct ways, sort of how Singer's X-Men seemed to in the first outing (and which was melodramatically forgotten by the time Wolverine rolled around).

WKRP Thanksgiving

In middle school, around 5:00 every day WGN showed re-runs of "WKRP in Cincinatti". I think I wound up watching it as a default rather than local news or Wheel of Fortune, and probably because Loni Anderson seemed like a living cartoon (but a young League found Jan Smithers as Bailey Quarters had her own, and just as interesting thing, going on.).

But the show has not just one of my favorite Holiday scenes, but my favorite scenes in television. Ever.

The WKRP Thanksgiving Promotion.

Happy Thanksgiving - WKRP Turkey Drop - kewego Happy Thanksgiving from! This is a blast from the past, WKRP in Cincinnati Famous Turkey Drop. Sharkhost does not own any copyright to this material. Web host, web design, marketing and promotion.

Senior Day at UT Football

after yelling so much at the game, I am a little hoarse.

Well, I was expecting UT to spank Kansas. And had they not given up a ridiculous kick return, UT would have had an even better game.

Anyhow, hopefully we'll still be voted in the top 3 or four this week, given the decisive 50-21 win.

Jamie, Jason, The Admiral and I attended this evening's contest on the University of Texas campus. I yelled. A lot. Its what I do.

It was Senior Day, which meant the final home game for players like McCoy, Shipley, Muckleroy and Houston. No doubt 2010 will be another building year as QB Gilbert figures out if he can fill the shoes of his predecessors (speaking of, James Brown was at the game! That's some mid-90's UT flashback material.).

But it was also Senior Day for dozens of members of the UT marching band, sideline crew, cheerleaders, dance squad, and limitless drunk kids in the stands. Colt and his crew were gracious, and a huge number of fans remained in the stands to salute the seniors and give them one last Texas cheer.

Anyway, a lot of fun.

It was also the first game Jamie and I have attended together, which seems odd, given that we've been together since '95. But there you have it. I think she had a good time, even if she disappeared for 30 minutes in pursuit of a hot cocoa. I'm chivalrous, but not "30 minutes standing in line for cocoa during the 3rd and 4th quarter" chivalrous.

We cheer a lot together at home, but its more fun to cheer with 103,000 of your closest friends.

And, hey, Fantomenos, saw that Oregon score and highlights. Holy smokes.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Spill Movie Reviews: New Moon

Back around the time I graduated from UT, there was a local public access movie review show called "The Reel Deal" featuring a handful of 20-something guys who were actually pretty good. The show was funny, as well produced as anything you were likely to see on Access, and the reviews were usually very fair, especially as you had between 3 and 5 people giving their opinion.

Interestingly, one of the guys worked with Jamie at former Austin dotcom cautionary tale, Human Code. Jamie and Korey became chummy, and so I got to know him a bit a while back.

It seems that Martin and Korey have moved on to The Spill, an online animated movie review site. Its pretty darn good.

Here's their review of "New Moon", both before and after they'd seen the movie. And it is hilarious (but PG-13, and other reviews stray into R-rated territory).

Friday, November 20, 2009

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Enemy Ace thinks there are already too many cooks in the kitchen

Enemy Ace doesn't think you should read this series, either.

I'm going to some Leadership whatzit in the morning. Gotta get up early.

Get your own post.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Anniversary of Aggie Bonfire Tragedy

The 18th marks the 10th anniversary of the collapse of the Aggie Bonfire. Leaguers will remember the bonfire as one of the great traditions not just in sports, but a great Texas tradition.

It was always mind-boggling to hear about the bonfire, a massive, multi-story structure that was built by students, and whose eventual torching was the social event of each year at Texas A&M for many students and alumni. The fire, of course, was Texas A&M's good-natured effigy of UT, and the fire was equal parts man-made wonder and joke. Unfortunately, unforeseen construction issues occurred with the fire being built for the 1999 UT/ TAMU match-up, and the tower fell, killing 12 students.

I was working on campus at UT at the time, and what I remember was the shock on campus, and the line that went around the mall in front of the tower as students queued to give blood, unsure of what else to do. Neither students nor staff could imagine what must have been going on at the Texas A&M campus.

Anyway, the ensuing years have certainly not meant that people have forgotten. Texas A&M has erected a very nice memorial to the students, and memories of the bonfire are still a favorite topic of conversation among Aggies and friends who were able to ever see the fire.

I am not sure what Aggies do these days prior to the game. But Aggie spirit is something to behold (and fear a bit, if you're a Longhorn on gameday), and hasn't flagged a bit in the years since the tragedy.

Some Items I Love About Vegas

1) Shooting machine guns is no problem (for a fee)

2) Drivers.

I love cab drivers no matter where I am, but in Vegas, those dudes have seen everything and will talk about anything.

We had a great conversation with a cabbie who explained how, after what sounded like he'd married a string of elderly women for their money, was now retiring from a life of being a kept man and becoming a plain-old gigolo. Retired is a strong word. His last wife had died of natural causes, which led me to believe she had at least twenty five years on him.

But he was pretty pumped about this new chapter in his life. In fact, he showed us the books he was reading on becoming a gigolo.

Also chatted with a driver who was amazed by the nuclear test sites near Vegas, and theorized it was that which made people who lived there too long begin to transform into "the people from 'The Hills Have Eyes'". Apparently a lifetime of cigarette smoke, drinking, desert sun and recycled air is no problem, though.

We also chatted on the fact that Vegas doesn't recycle, which, we agreed was insane. It was decided he should seek seed money and start a tire and paper recycling plant a few miles outside the city (to keep the fumes from getting the tourists).

3) Moms next to hookers.

Visitors to Vegas don't just put up with stuff they'd never have in their own backyard, they embrace the malarkey. You really can't get anywhere too far on the famed "Strip" without someone trying to get you to call a "lady of the night" by handing you a glossy card with a picture of what is surely not the actual hooker who will show up at your room (another bit of unsolicited information the drivers wanted to make sure I had in my pocket).

Its just interesting to me to see all these people who look exactly like my parent's friends having a club soda and sitting at the slots, I guess just tuning out what has to be a thriving industry in Nevada.

Most of me suspects that, when you get down to it, like most other things people pretend to be outraged by, Las Vegas is testament to the fact that the vast majority just doesn't really care all that much about what we label societal ills when they crop up in our backyard. But, you know, put them in the glitter ball that is Vegas, give some free drinks at the slots, and it's all good.

4) Celebrities you totally forgot about (some of whom are dead) have a lucrative career going on

When was the last time you thought about Bette Midler? I'll tell you: that episode of Seinfeld more than ten years ago. But in Vegas, Midler has a stunningly successful show at Caesar's Palace. So does Cher. Barry Manilow is rocking the Hilton, I believe.

Yeah, there's all the Cirque du Soleil shows, etc... but Wayne Brady has a show, and all kinds of other comedians, singers, etc... And there's even some celebrities who are there in spirit via long-running drag shows with the stars impersonating all sorts of celebrities.

And even being dead is no barrier. The mostly-dead Beatles have a successful show of people singing karaoke of their stuff, and the Rat Pack is refused the right to rest in peace as impersonator after impersonator puts on hammy versions of Dino, Frank, Sammy, etc... And certainly there's no shortage of Elvii, and I actually bore witness to a street performer getting into his Michael Jackson getup in the bathroom at a Cali-Mex place. And, heck, I passed a Liberace museum on my way to shoot guns.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Brooksie Would Have Been 106

I have my favorites of the silver screen, and in college discovered silent-era star and bon-vivant, Louise Brooks (aka: Lulu, aka: Brooksie).

You may not know her name, but you know the look she institutionalized.

ArtMan 2112 posted an original drawing
of Louise Brooks at his site for her birthday, which was Saturday. And this got me thinking: I should probably mention Louise Brooks as a Dame in the Media The League Once Dug.

The Louise Brooks Society maintains a website and a blog as complete as I think you're going to find on any starlet of the silent film era.

I've only seen a few Brooks movies, but there's no doubt that she manages to steal the show in the films in which she appears (a bit like whenever Veronica Lake would bother to just show up in a frame of film).

There's also a fascinating documentary about Brooks called "Looking for Lulu", that's equal parts an amazing life story and fodder for a great movie that's never been made, following the tragic trajectory and surprising turn in Brooks' final years. Someone out there should be turning the story into the next great BioPic. But, holy cow, did it sound like Brooks was a handful, both as a starlet and still her declining years.

Brooks seems to have been the definitive Jazz Age Baby, and was the shadow opposite of Mary Pickford's curls and vestigial Victorian-era faux-virginal innocence (which ultimately ended her career in a completely different manner). Brooks was eclipsed by her contemporaries such as Clara Bow, who, you know, is her own thing and we do not complain.

Most famous for her roles in "Pandora's Box" (recommended), which gave her the nickname of her character, Lulu, and Prix de Beaute, Brooks had gone to Europe to act for Pabst, etc... Her attempted return to Hollywood didn't go particularly well.

I'm not exactly sure about the reasons, but if I had to guess:

breakfast is the most important meal of the day

Brooks would disappear after appearing in a few b-movies. I am not sure if a post-code Hollywood couldn't handle her, or if she had simply burned too many bridges. As near as I feel like relating what happened (rather than suggesting you check out the documentary), she more or less became a kept-woman, and I think the doc was politely suggesting she took up the world's oldest profession. It sounds like Brooksie may have been suffering from some emotional/ mental issues if diagnosed today.

Later, she would find some grace as she was accidentally discovered by a film enthusiast who referred her to the Kodak company in the 70's.

Brooks has been imitated to such a degree (its unclear if she invented bangs on women rather than girls, but she seems to have been the one to popularize the look), that she now exists more as archetype than person. Which is odd.

But I do find that small bit of redemption for Brooks at the end of her life (when it sounds like she was still a cutting pain-in-the-ass) to be an oddly romantic story. And, honestly, she was very good in what she did. Its unfortunate she never made the leap to talkies, but many, many did not.

So a belated birthday salute to Louise Brooks.

Coincidentally, if you find "Beggars of Life" on DVD (a legal copy), let me know. While the studios are doing a surprisingly good job of bringing stuff from the 40's and 50's to DVD, the silent era has been more or less ignored, as near as I can tell. Right now, the only way I can find to see a lot of these movies is on VHS, which... there's not even a deck in my house, so I'm out of luck, anyway.

I suspect as the catalogs of the studios become available on-demand, this sort of thing will be easier to obtain.