Saturday, December 05, 2009

Revisiting The First Posts

League of Melbotis soft-launched in March of 2003.

You can see that first week's worth of posts by clicking here.

Its worth noting that I actually pulled down the League after its first week, then put it back up. I might have saved myself and all of you a lot of time and trouble if I'd just shut it down back then, but then who would have been around to give you lengthy reviews of "Santa Buddies"?

My very first post at this blog?

March 30th, 2003:

Greetings, mortals. This is my very, very first post to this blog. Jim Dedman is a weenie.
posted by Ryan at 10:29 AM

Two years into the Bush presidency and a year and a half out from 9/11, America was in an interesting place. We'd rolled into Iraq in a war that made little sense to me at the time. I did not understand how, if Iraq indeed had the WMD's we said they did, they hadn't lobbed them at our military as they spent a month gearing up on Iraq's borders. I also couldn't begin to guess what the gameplan was for occupying such a large and hostile country in the wake of an invasion.

Well, a funny thing happened...

Those early posts are fascinating to read in the here and now. At the time, I was in a very different place in my life. I had no real reason to believe my parents would find the site, nor anyone else that I not pointed to the site. Blogs were only semi-known as a publishing medium, and I couldn't fathom anyone Googling my name (and once it became clear that was an issue, I began referring to myself in 3rd person as "The League").

Jim and I were passing emails on various political topics back and forth, and looking at some of my opinions now, I don't necessarily think I was wrong, but would certainly address the issues in a different way.

Its also clear the contempt with which I held The Valley of the Sun. Neither Jamie nor myself were very happy when we arrived in Phoenix, and after four years, at best I'd say our opinion didn't improve. With three years behind us back in Austin, the majority of the four years is a blur of long work hours, hospital visits, odd social situations, boredom, and the endless planning necessary for scheduling visits to Austin, Houston and Lawton.

Last night Jamie, Jason and I were watching a Canadian documentary entitled "Cat Ladies" (recommended, btw), which reveals how managing, caring for, rescuing, etc... of cats has become a crutch and coping mechanism for the women in the film (a cop interviewed from the Toronto animal detail states that 99% of the animal hording cases are women).

Its not a huge leap to say that some of my obsession with comics, etc... and, indeed, getting into the habit of blogging stemmed from my own dissatisfaction. At one point, I considered winding up this blog when we returned to Austin because I was aware that the person who was writing this site in Chandler, Arizona would be a bit different from the one who was writing it in Austin. However, in the end, documenting the return and re-engagement with a life we'd left behind (and, of course, the aspects of "you can never go home again" which followed) was all part of it.

By April 2 of 2003, I was already ranting about Superman. Superman, comics and pop culture would immediately begin to overwhelm the conversation at LoM. I've never been particularly comfortable arguing politics, and find it odd that I thought a public website discussing politics was a good idea. But we can talk Superman, or Spidey or the latest movies without faces changing color or people feeling like they absolutely must have the last word.

By April 03, 2009, I was getting into details of the latest releases in comics.

At one point, blogging was still fairly new, and I wondered if LoM wouldn't accidentally find itself a wider audience of comic fans. There were little flirtations as I was linked to from bigger sites such as The Beat once or twice (Heidi is still my gold standard for industry coverage), the old Blog@ Newsarama, etc... Always enough to spike interest for a day or two, but I wasn't able to get any real traction.

Luckily, I had no expectations, just wishful thinking. And I do think that my comic work at Comic Fodder made a dent or two in fandom and saw quadruple digits on a couple of posts.

As I didn't believe my folks or anyone else was reading LoM, the language in those early posts is a bit salty. I don't apologize for that. It was what it was, and once I knew Judy and the KareBear were reading, I cleaned things up a bit, and also learned that "@#$%" is infinitely more satisfying than actual profanity, anyway.

And every time I type it, I think of Sgt. Snorkel from the Beetle Bailey comic strips I read obsessively as a kid, and who I recall first employing the tried-and-true technique.

My first pic of Melbotis appears here.

Leaguers may recall that early on, I didn't have titles on my posts, didn't have a comment section, etc... For years, we used HaloScan, and it was a tough decision to abandon the comment section that was sort of the comments of record. We've used the embedded commenting tool for a few years with great success, but I've since lost the comment the time musician "Meco" showed up in the comments to outline how George Lucas had screwed him on the Star Wars Christmas album, and when I'd complained about a McDonald's commercial and the actor's aunt wrote in to tell me I was a @#$%.

Here's a pic I posted on our 3rd wedding anniversary.

kind of sums it up

We'll be married 10 years in April. Go figure.

Here's my first link to Randy.

Its been a long, strange trip.

It is true that, in part, I am looking to close the blog to close a chapter in my life. Many of the reasons why League of Melbotis sprung into existence have wound down or come to a natural conclusion. We're in a different place in how we're dealing with everything from politics to career to comics. And, of course, we're going to have to dig deep when we return to a few outstanding projects that we promised ourselves we'd do touch on again some day.

Still, I'm glad to have such a long period of my life (6.75 years of the past 34.75. That ain't bad.).

And who knows? We could be back.

This could be cool

I don't know too much about this except what I saw in this video, but there's a show coming on called "Slingers" that looks sci-fi interesting.

io9 had this to say.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Giving Opportunity #2: Heifer International

Here's attempt #2 to find a charitable organization which we can support in the season of giving.

Team Melbotis at Heifer International

Here's a blurb describing Heifer International's general approach to things:

Heifer has learned over the years that a holistic approach is necessary in order to build sustainable communities. So we’ve developed a set of global initiatives – areas of emphasis that must be addressed if we’re to meet our mission of ending world hunger and poverty and caring for the earth.

Here are some areas Heifer is working in:

Animal Well-Being
Gender Equity
Urban Agriculture
Young People's Initiative

Again, this isn't about the size of a donation. If you can afford $5, that's plenty. I want to see what we can do together. Last year we did quite well with the Red Kettle, and I think we can do even better this year.

-Give here and get your name shown.
-Give here sort of anonymously.

So let's put our money where our mouth is when it comes to this time of year. Let's see what we can do with our hard earned dollars to help out some folks elsewhere who are less fortunate.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Go Ducks!

Go Ducks!

I know who I'm cheering for in the Rose Bowl.

Easy Holiday Donation! Red Kettle

really? Not one donation yet? I'm going to assume you've all been very, very busy.

It's RED KETTLE TIME, people! This isn't for me, this is The League trying to get you folks to show a little charity and generosity in this time of giving.

Its fast. Its easy. You don't have to give a lot, just a little. All together, we have the power to do something good!

This guy is helping The League drum up support for the Salvation Army

Click here to give!

And the sooner people start giving, the sooner I shut up about this thing.

Checking In

I doubt much will come of it, but it's supposed to snow in Austin tomorrow. El Nino is making the end of 2009 a bit interesting, giving us this surprising cold snap and making a dent in our multi-year rain deficit.

We don't deal well with freezing weather in this twon, so I expect tomorrow to be a bit of a mess, coming and going from work.

I apologize for missing a day of posting as we wind down to the end here. Again, if you have any particular post you'd like to see, let me know. We've got a few in our pocket, but we better start working on them now, or its unlikely they'll see the light of day.

Yesterday Jamie and I made a late run to Target to do a spot of Christmas shopping. I much, much prefer doing shopping with Jamie than without, and weekends get crammed full of plans and plots this close to Christmas. Anyhow, by the time we finally really got home and wound down last night, I had neither time nor inclination to chat on much.

This evening I left work early for an eye appointment. I'm a big fan of my eye doctor, as she's very frank, and seems like she's really trying to make sure she's got my situation right, not getting me out the door so the next person can move through.

But as I'd left work early, this evening I was doing some work while Jamie watched TV.

Working to get about 25 of these videos up and online:

It's funny, because everything technical I learned in film school has been rendered moot by the ensuing ten years of technological achievement, not to mention the period between 09/2006 and now since I was responsible for video as part of my job and kept up with this stuff.

In many ways, I regret that I didn't pursue a career in video editing. Its a job I enjoy, and back in the day, I was fairly good and fast. Alas, Austin's jobs offered in the field circa 1998 were few and far between.

Currently, I am watching the Oregon/ Oregon State game, and cheering for the Ducks. Just a great game, which I'd like to finish watching.

Anyhow, here's to hoping the weather tomorrow isn't too rotten.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

It's a Wonderful Blog

I'll be writing a few posts as we head toward the December 20th ending point of this site which will be, alas, actually about the twists and turns of writing LoM over the years.

JimD suggested I write about people I might not have met and experiences that could not have occurred without League of Melbotis. And so I shall.


To understand this web of people, its also important to understand that JimD is at the center of it all. I met Jim in a screen writing class in the Fall of 1997, and took my second screen writing class with him in the Spring of 1998, just before we both graduated. I had no immediate plans following graduation, and he was headed for law school.

We kept up via email, writng back and forth multiple times per week on pop culture, politics, etc..., and Jim maintained a blog (one of many over the years). Eventually he persuaded me to start this site in the Spring of 2003.

Randy and Emily

Many Leaguers would be surprised to learn that I have only met Randy twice in person, and our acquaintanceship stems directly from this site. Randy knows JimD from many years back, and I guess Jim sent him a link to the blog circa Summer of 2003.

Since that time, Randy and I now email at least once per day. I still recall when he emailed me that he was thinking of getting engaged, and years later, he's now a husband and father. Kind of kooky.

Randy moved to Tennessee during the tenure of this blog to make a life with Emily, who I finally met this year, and immediately liked. Randy is a lucky guy.

Steven and Lauren

My understanding is that Steven wrote for UT's student paper "The Daily Texan" while JimD was editor of the paper. I don't recall exactly when Steven and I began chatting back and forth, but it was a good year or so prior to 2006, when he and Lauren packed it up and moved from the Bay Area to Austin.

Steven's decision to do so was part of the catalyst that launched us back to Waterloo. It became somewhat apparent that such a move was possible if we really wished it (and we did).

We'd been back about 3 - 4 weeks and missed one another a few times when we finally met for coffee at Magnolia Cafe. For whatever reason we hit it off, and Steven and Lauren have been terrific friends. Sadly (and I think I'm spilling some beans here), Team Harms-Roth is picking up and returning to The Bay Area this winter. My feelings are mixed as, selfishly, I hate to lose such great friends to geography. But I also know that career opportunity, lifestyle, etc... are a huge draw.

My gameplan is to visit Dug and K in Berkeley frequently, anyway, so I suspect we'll be seeing them on some sort of routine basis.


I have no idea when Simon began visiting the blog, and I pray he never finds the jokes I used to make about Canadians eating babies in some earlier posts when the League was still feeling its way.

A fellow comics nut, Simon and I chat via email regularly, have exchanged comics through mail, and I have visions of meeting up at a Convention one of these days. He's been a co-writer at Comic Fodder, maintains his own blog which I read when he posts semi-weekly, and has been an all around good guy to have around.


Perhaps the most mysterious of all Leaguers, I know little about Fantomenos other than that he lives in Oregon, is a football and genre fiction nut, and wrestles with dog issues as well. He's my equal number living somewhere in the North Pacific.

I think 99% of our communication has occurred via the comments section of the blog, but he's such a regular, I really look forward to when he shows up to chime in.

I am, of course, very sad that the end of this blog will mean the end of the mysterious Fantomenos in my day.

Paul T.

I don't think I'd heard Paul's name before my trip to Vegas. I was checking my messages on my phone and an old high school chum, JenIn, emailed me that she was going to hook me up with this guy, Paul, assuring me we'd be best buddies.

Paul and I have been chatting back and forth ever since, and I actually owe him an invitation to coffee.

It turns out Paul is from the same part of Austin whenre I attended school in 4th - 9th grade, and also attended UT Film school, just a few years behind me.

Paul maintains a blog
, and has started a nifty web project called "Sunday Screenings" that I really need to get motor-vated to take part in.

I guess JenIn saw enough parallels that she hit the nail on the head. Anyway, check out Paul's work.

Some Other folks:

Check out that "Fan" list. 77 Facebook fans. Not bad.

I see I forgot to mention the always amazing Alfredo, Anne Francis and about a dozen or so more of you. Wow. Truly a George Bailey moment.

Reconnections Via the Blog
some folks I used to know, who found me thanks to LoM

Michael Corley
Carla Beth
Madi (she floated around here circa 2004 or so)
and many more!

That doesn't include all the folks I never lost touch with, but with whom I've been able to maintain contact, like JAL and Nathan C.

Its been a wild ride, Leaguers.

If I missed any of you, pipe up, and we'll do a post numbero dos.

But I gotta go to bed.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The League Watches: Santa Buddies

There are a few types of movies which are produced with the Yuletide Season in mind. There are true, heartfelt holiday pictures which have become classics, such as "A Christmas Story" or those with a moral underpinning, such as "It's a Wonderful Life". There are broad comedies which use the annual festivities as a backdrop to explore the foibles of the average person, with varying degrees of success ("Jingle All the Way", "Christmas with the Cranks"). Some employ high-end CGI, namebrand actors and the Santa-related Christmas mythology to bring alive the "wonder" of Christmas ("Fred Claus", "Elf"). There are even the oddly sentimental and saccharine made-for-TV Holiday movies in which 30 and 40-somethings find romance, which hit CBS each December as regularly as fruitcake arrives by mail.

And then there are the endless stream of cheerless, mirthless, low-fi, relying-on-the-tropes-of-the-holiday, pushed through the Hollywood sausage mill, "magic of Christmas" films, almost all of which feature a long-out-of-work former-star as Santa.

"Santa Buddies" is Disney's ninth installment in the lucrative "Air Bud" franchise, which was once a simple tale of a dog who could shoot free-throws (and the boy who loved him). In this day and age, an adorable thoroughbred dog with an amazing talent is as useful to your Nintendo-DS-addled hottentots as a Smith-Corona ribbon. Lest the Hollywood studios lose a dime from haggard mothers looking for fifteen minutes of peace while their rugrats glue themselves to the screen in the back of the Caravan, Disney has gleefully kept the franchise up to date. Having jettisoned the sports-playing Bud of the first five movies, "Santa Buddies" represents the fourth installment to feature several deeply CGI-ed puppies who comment and wise-crack their way through the film and have Disney-approved stereotypes assigned to each of them, with the requisite attitude-imbued slang appropriate for each "character".

In this movie (in which, clearly, nobody is even @#$%ing trying), there's "Buddha", the openly hostile take on non-Judeo-Christian concepts of spirituality. "MudBud" is... dirty. And possibly a redneck. "Budderball" is the one who is into sports, so he's also kind of slow and really into food. "RoseBud" is the only female, and thus complexly coded as being interested in fashion and who likely believes math is hard. And, the nails-on-a-chalkboard "B-Dawg", whom you can expect your kids to parrot until Easter. Voiced by peppy child-actor Skyler Gisondo, "B-Dawg" is the hip-hop-slang toting, diamond-encrusted-medallion-wearing, embodiment of America's issues with race, culture and identity. But you shall truly feel your heart soar when B-Dawg's nose glows red and he proclaims "my nose is shining! Like my bling!".

Oh, B-Dawg!

Let it be noted: the Buddies are mostly a backdrop to a the goings-on at The North Pole where the massive frozen phallus by which Santa Claus* and Santa Paws take the measure of the level of Christmas Spirit is twinkling/ melting away. Viewers may be shocked to learn that for the purposes of our story, and reasons Santa and Santa don't get into, the world's Christmas Spirit just isn't what it used to be.

Santa Paws is, of course, Dog Santa, who delivers presents to good puppies**, and rides shotgun in Santa's sleigh. Somehow, the heir of Santa Paws, Puppy Paws (yes. Puppy Paws. It's a sort of six-degrees-of-separation thing you're better off not pondering too hard) just wants to be a "normal" puppy, and can give a toss for elves, magic, and the awkward glee that is veteran Little Person actor Danny Woodburn (of Seinfeld fame) looking like he cannot believe he's been roped into the part of Eli, the Only Competent Elf.

Anyone in this image could have had a potty accident

From a technical stand-point, the North Pole, the eight reindeer, and the Fortress of Solitude-like cave hosting the ice-phallus are all the finest CGI that could be rendered on a MacBook Pro in late 2001. Its likely writer/ director/ producer Robert Vince told himself that the unforgiveably awful graphics created a "storybook" look-and-feel, in order that he could sleep at night and still call himself a "filmmaker". Consumers buying this DVD should feel comforted that its just as likely that the intended audience of kids who think you disappear when you play "peek-a-boo" and hide behind your hands, will not notice the poor CGI. But one might (vainly) hope that a company built on animation such as Disney would have maybe tried a bit harder.

If writer/ director/ producer Vince*** does deserve a tip of the hat, its that the Buddies and Puppy Paws, all real-deal and seemingly not-dead-and-taxidermized puppies, actually sit still long enough for the necessary coverage to complete scenes. Forget all else about this movie, but watch in earnest amazement as Vince's leads do not just randomly tumble past the camera and give in to chasing their own tail.

Among the group with whom this reviewer watched the film there were, of course, theories floated, including the exclusive use of extremely tired pups, drugged pups, pups glued to some sort of mat, etc... But as this is Vince's 13th or 14th film featuring animals, one has to assume the man knows exactly what he can get out of any animal in Hollywood. And that Lassie must be sending him boudoir photos trying to get work with the man.

To get our plot shaking, for reasons that make no real sense, Puppy Paws identifies "Budderball" from Santa Paws' "Naughty List" as what a "normal" pup must be like (despite his omnipresent sports jersey and eye-black). Thus, he stows away to bum a ride in a surprisingly racist magical mail truck to the Buddies' fictional hometown of Fernfield, Washington, where he plans to join forces with "Budderball" and become "normal" as well.

The plot is fairly boiler-plate kiddie-faire, and should keep your wee-ones entertained, provided their standard for an hour's worth of amusement begins and ends with bright colors and shiny objects.

There's a non-menacing Christopher Lloyd, phoning in his performance as the curmudgeonly dog catcher just trying to make a profit. There's a semi-frightening/ cute puppy who delivers the film's chance to hit fast-forward with an original Christmas tune, and a kid who just wants a puppy, but Dad can't afford Christopher Lloyd's sky-high prices (which makes one wonder what happens when the dog needs to go to the vet, but lets not pick nits).

The movie delivers no shortage of lessons for our younger viewers, such as: run away from the new kid if he doesn't immediately fit in, people in far off lands all celebrate Christmas and live in easily stereo-typed ethnic homes, and that it isn't worth it to try to make friends with someone unless they have magical powers.

This reviewer found it somewhat striking that he became genuinely lost during a crucial point in the film in which Puppy Paws has supposedly learned a lesson about what Christmas really means. Perhaps because the lesson was delivered in a shrilly delivered song, I missed something, but it seemed unclear how "Santa Buddies" decided to define the meaning of Christmas, as no character dared to utter the lesson aloud again.

Part of the interesting mix of "Santa Buddies" is that, like most Christmas movies, the film was based almost entirely in a secular and magical world of elves, talking dogs, flying sleighs, etc... But the film also makes awkward attempts to appeal to the large audience "keeping Christ in Christmas", including scenes of characters praying, etc... This would seemingly raise the stakes for defining "the spirit of Christmas" as more than a warm fuzzy and colored lights, and there is some hint regarding charity, but its somewhat fuzzy and seemingly tied to how much you like being licked by puppies.

These puppies are stupid and I hate them

Its perhaps expecting too much for a movie about Santa's canine parallel's prodigal-son to say much about the human/ canine condition, or to ask that any message about the meaning of the Holiday be put into concrete terms, but there seemed no real transition from Puppy Paws' abandonment of his destiny and giving up and going home (ie: finding the spirit of Christmas). However, if Hollywood is intent on making Christmas film after Christmas film which insists that "people have lost the true meaning of Christmas", it would be nice to have a movie which didn't resolve the problem with fictional intangibles like "if Puppy Paws can just come back, we can deliver the presents/ save Christmas!", and perhaps do a bit more in the vein of "A Christmas Carol" or "It's a Wonderful Life" to recognize charity and giving.

This is by no means the worst Christmas movie you may see this year. That's what ABC Family and the Hallmark Channel are here to provide. Nor is it the worst Christmas movie ever made. That distinction is currently held by the 1996 feature, "Santa with Muscles". Kids may enjoy the puppies and their non-stop stream of mistaking saying-things-that-other-people-say for humor or something anybody actually wants to hear.

Its tough to imagine a world in which an adult might watch this movie and derive non-ironic joy from the viewing, but people are into all sorts of things, I suppose. Let us just say that I have lived a life the way a man is supposed to, and never believed it possible to hate an adorable puppy.

But God help me, I hate B-Dawg.

Fo' shizzle.

This reviewer would suggest that, perhaps, when seeking out holiday entertainment you may wish to look elsewhere for a video which may not be the filmic equivalent of feeding your kids nothing but creme-filled doughnuts for a week.

Luckily, Robert Vince is no man to rest on his laurels. IMDB promises that a second installment in the now ever-expanding world of Air Bud/ the Buddies/ Puppy Paws will be arriving next year under the name "The Search for Santa Paws".

*It should be noted that "Cheers" alum George Wendt, who played Santa in last year's "A Colbert Christmas", in 2007's "Larry the Cable Guy's Christmas Spectacular" and in a TV movie entitled "Santa Baby" in 2006, reprises his role as Santa Claus. He, however, looks a bit pale and ghastly throughout, and several times I wondered if Mr. Claus were not fighting off a flu or suffering low blood sugar. While comforting to know Mr. Wendt and his agent have locked up "Santa" as a role for the next few years and found a role Wendt can take well into retirement, it has created an odd alternate world of entertainment where the Buddies, Stephen Colbert, and Larry the Cable Guy all share the same Santa, who is Jenny McCarthy's dad.

**I assume all cats are either Jewish or Shintoist and do not participate in the Holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus.

***A long, slow clap, then, for the career of Mr. Robert Vince. For without his talents, its' not just that we would never have had the films "Most Valuable Primate", but also "Most Vertical Primate" and the unforgettable "Most Xtreme Primate".

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Post Holiday and into the Holidays

Howdy, Leaguers!

What a holiday! I am not at all ready to head back into work tomorrow, but head back in, I shall.

Wednesday evening Doug and Kristen arrived from Berkeley, and we met up for a small family dinner of Tex-Mex.

Thursday was the big day. You've seen photos, and I briefly posted on the Texas A&M/ Univ. of Texas game. Holy smokes. An amazing roller-coaster of a game. TAMU fans have a lot to look forward to next year, especially as UT goes through a re-building year with the loss of McCoy, Shipley, Houston, et al.

Friday we went to the Alamo South to watch "The Fantastic Mr. Fox", which was even better than I had heard. It's difficult to point to exactly why the movie hit a chord with me, but a smart script, great animation, well-defined characters, etc... and Wes Anderson's always great use of music (Wilson's "Heroes and Villains" appears early on), made for a very satisfactory movie-going experience.

Afterwards, we hit "The Highball", which is Austin's new bowling alley/ bar/ restaurant from the creators of the The Alamo. It was actually a lot of fun. Jamie and Doug rocked at skee-ball. I enjoyed the heck out of my "Dr. Pepper Ribs". Not sure Jamie felt the same (we shared).

We followed all this with a viewing of "Santa Buddies", Disney's 9th installment in the largely straight-to-home-video "Air Bud"/ "Buddies" series of films. This was done somewhat on a dare when Leaguer Nathan C., a station manager at San Antonio's Texas Public Radio sent me a screener-copy of the movie. I now owe Nathan and the city of San Antonio an honest review of "Santa Buddies".

The next day we hit Mary's Taco X-Press (which was amazingly un-crowded), visited South Congress (and "Hey Cupcake"), then went for dinner at Jamie's folks' place in San Marcos.

This was followed by a screening of "D War: Dragon Wars", which you may recall we discussed at some point in 2008. The movie is no better, but was significantly assisted by RiffTrax. But I felt that if Doug was going to watch the movie, he should really do so with someone who had been there mentally and emotionally.

This morning we had fake-McBride-Christmas as Doug and K will not be in Austin for the Holidays. Some gifts were exchanged, we had a wonderful Christmas-morning breakfast (including Holiday tunes), and we made merry.

One gift which had been bestowed was a copy of the new Super Mario Bros for the Wii, which I am thoroughly enjoying (even if I'm awful at it). We also received a popcorn popper and a pair of DVD's.

Also watched the Tennessee Vince Youngs play the Arizona Leinarts, complete with a last-second VY pass into the endzone for the victory.

A good weekend.

This afternoon and evening, Jamie and I put up our interior decorations for Christmas, so we are quasi-ready for the Holidays. With Scout having her first Christmas here, and with her needing space for her crate, we opted for no tree this year. A bit sad, perhaps, but I'd rather not risk Scout deciding to eat a fake tree, grab glass ornaments, etc...

I hope your Holiday was a good one.

Now, on to Christma-Hannakwanzaa.

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.