Friday, April 8, 2016

Murder on the University of Texas Campus

Waller Creek runs alongside and through the University of Texas campus.  At all points, it's been left alone, one of the few places where a narrow strip of "what was" winds and trickles between buildings and along roads, a narrow grove of trees surrounding it on both sides for the entire run.  It's not just a ditch or arroyo.  It's a deep cleft in the earth, ten feet down or more in most spaces.

When I was a student living in Jester Dorm, we all took a shortcut from the parking lot a fair distance from the dorm, where we'd have to descend into the wooded creekbed, hop across the rocks poking out of the water in our Doc Martens and Adidas, and then mount the steep rise to pop back out of the treeline and onto the athletic field backed up to the monstrosity that was my home for a year.  There, the creek ran wide and shallow.  Twenty-odd years later, a bridge spans that area.

Further toward MLK, the creek runs even more deep and wide, and I've seen exotic fisher birds standing at the water's edge, odd and out of place with five lanes of traffic on the bridge running by them 20 yards away and 13 story dorms looming in the background, but a reminder that this creek is part of the world, that the campus came long afterward, and may well be here long after the buildings are torn down and the people all gone.  

A couple hundred feet from my freshman-year short-cut, Waller Creek also runs behind The Alumni Center, a facility conveniently located across a wide street from Darrell K. Royal - Texas Memorial Stadium.  The Alumni Center is a low-slung facility, lodge-like, great for banquets and housing the loyal donors on gameday, windows facing the trees reaching up out of the creekbed.  This intersection also includes a classroom building for the Fine Arts as well as the Performing Arts building.

On Monday morning, the UT Austin Police, alerted by a roommate to the fact a freshman was missing, began searching for the missing student.  Around 10:30AM Tuesday, police found the student in Waller Creek behind the Alumni Center.  

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

We say Good-Bye to Sam the Cat

Jamie and I are very sad to say good-bye to Sam the Cat.  Today poor little Sammy merged with The Infinite after about 15 years of being about as good-natured and sweet a cat as you were ever going to find.

Sam is not our cat.  He belonged to Jamie's Dad.  But, as Jamie's dad travels quite a bit, Sam became our "rent-a-cat".  After Jeff the Cat passed, we went from cat-sitting by shoving him in the guest room to letting him roam free.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Before Comics Were Cool - The Gen-X Recollection Project: David Rossi

I can't tell you how gratifying I'm finding this whole Gen-X Recollection project.  One of our first submissions was from a new friend from Denmark, and another from a person I'd only met once in the flesh, but that I spent plenty of time chatting with online (and Stuart is tops, people).  Then the flurry of submissions from friends from all across my lifespan.  I've been doing this blogging thing for a while, and this is one of the most fun things I've ever done here.

And now we have an entry from someone from the twitter-verse who I was kind of aware had a fascinating background, but hadn't put all the pieces together.

David Rossi is not someone I know in person, but he is a man who may have lived one of my lifelong dreams: working in a Star Trek Future.

Dave has had many roles when it comes to actually working on Star Trek.  But, I'll let him tell you about that himself, and how he got to that point.

Then, I'm going to ask him how many Captains chairs he's secretly sat in.

Editor's Note:  As a plaid-wearing Superman fan, I approve of Dave's whole aesthetic here

Dave Rossi
Los Angeles, CA via Buffalo NY
51 Years Old
Married, 2 kids.

I’ve worked at Paramount Pictures for 25 years, 14 of those on the Star Trek franchise, starting as a Production Assistant and ending as an Associate Producer. I also served as Supervisor of Star Trek Projects for Executive Producer Rick Berman, who created the position for me when he realized all the Trek knowledge in my head was actually valuable! I also co-produced the Star Trek Original Series Remastered project.

I’m still an avid Star Trek fan, Sci-Fi fan, Comic book collector, tabletop game player (It’s all about the Heroclix!). I am loving what Jason Aaron, Tom King, Geoff Johns, and Greg Pak are doing with their titles, and I think it’s a magical time to be a fan of these inspiring characters and their stories.

Before Comics Were Cool.

My father was a WWII veteran, and not much of a dreamer, unlike his youngest of 5 children, me. I had discovered Star Trek when I was in my 6’s, which profoundly changed my life. No one “got it.” None of my siblings, not my mom, certainly not my father. In fact our interactions on the subject went something like this: I’d be prone on the carper, head propped up on palms watching Star Trek with rapt attention. My father would walk in and say, in his deep voice, “Who’s winning?” to which I would reply, proudly, “Captain Kirk always wins.” My father would then say something pithy like “Now that you know that, turn the baseball game on.” It was a little game we would play I guess. Whenever it happened, I would use that tiny opportunity to try and imprint on him that what was happening on the TV was important, to me anyway. And I never thought he understood.

Bette Davis' 108th Birthday

Today would be the 108th birthday of Bette Davis.

Bette Davis passed in 1989, leaving behind a legacy of terrific film roles in a wide array of genres.  I'm quite fond of Davis, and when watching her, sometimes wonder if there would be a place for her in Hollywood of 2016.  I don't think she'd find much to do in movies - maybe she'd be an indie darling.  I do think she'd reign supreme over a critically beloved, poorly rated cable TV series that would run for 7 years or so.

Curious about Davis - she seemed to know she wasn't a Rita Hayworth or Ava Gardner, and unlike he Hollywood rival, Joan Crawford, seemed fine with status as a different kind of female star, someone whose appeal stemmed from, yes, the famous eyes, but also the spirit with which she infused her characters.  She always worked harder and fought harder, usually dictating her own terms behind the scenes.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Baseball Season Begins! For Some Reason I Now Care About This.

Monday (today) is the opening day of the 2016 season of Major League Baseball.  In many, many prior years, I have not noticed or cared.  But in the past few years, I have paid a lot more attention to baseball, and it hit a tipping point this year for some reason.  As I type this, it's the bottom of the 6th and the Cubs are up 5 to the Angels' 0.

I didn't grow up watching baseball.  It's still kind of new and novel to me, and I suspect it always will be.  My family was not a family that spent a lot of time watching sports on TV, and I don't think anyone in my house ever tuned into a baseball game.  We did go see the Houston Astros back in the 1980's, but I had no idea what I was looking at.  

I was, however, a college and pro basketball guy, and I have a huge amount of fondness for the pro basketball players of the 80's and 90's, including the Lakers, the Pistons, a couple of Hawks players, some random guys like Ewing, and the 90's Rockets, absolutely.  But at some point, I've lost interest in most of the NBA except for The Spurs (and as long as Pop is coach, I'll always like the Spurs).

I never cared about college football much until I was in my last two years at UT.  I liked watching bowl games, but giving up a Saturday for football wasn't my thing.  But I kind of liked yelling at the TV when the Oilers were playing during the Warren Moon era, so that kept me somewhat invested in the NFL when the 49'ers lost a bit of their sizzle.  Something about college football clicked for me in the mid-90's, and by the time I graduated, I really did care.  And still do, at least about the mighty Texas Longhorns, but I don't give up all day on Saturday to game-after-game the way I did a few years ago (and I don't stay up watching ESPN until 12:30 AM to catch all the highlights).  But, you know, never say never.  It could happen again.  But these days I'm having a harder time watching the NFL than ever.  It's the head injuries and ridiculous stories that keep circulating the whole league.

And, sorry my Northern friends:  I watch hockey when (1) I go to a live game which has been maybe twice, or (2) the Olympics.  It's Texas.  We don't have ice, so there's not much hockey down this way.

The Sensational Character Find of 1940

Most people don't know that, prior to selecting Dick Grayson as his sidekick, Batman briefly worked with Jamie.  Until he found out she just sort of uselessly windmills her arms in a fight and that she tires easily.

Deadpool Watch: Deadpool (2016)

This movie came out some time ago and everyone else has already seen it.  So, what to say?

I guess I really, really can't believe this movie got made at all.  It's kind of a shock to know Fox was willing to go this bananas not just with a superhero movie, but a feature film in general.  The past few years, really since Guardians of the Galaxy was a hit, I've been feeling pretty good about the uptick in exploring diversity of content under the Marvel and DC banners.  Part of why I've not bought the idea of "superhero fatigue" is, well, absolutely gigantic box office when most of these movies arrive, but because all of us longtime comics readers know that the comics themselves are no two alike, on a good day.  There's a reason DC and Marvel each own stables of thousands of characters and it's not just because the artists like drawing different suits.

We're now well past the point of me going to see "superhero" movies about characters I've never really read, and seeing pics of Bumbershoot Scratchnsniff dressed up as Dr. Strange online this weekend will get me right back to the theater to check out that dude.

To be honest, I've always thought of Deadpool from the comics as one of those things that people tell me is funny, but when I look at it, it felt like a collection of tired jokes Gen-X'ers told each other (Ha!  Bea Arthur!  HA!), and some lightweight racism (the word is "chimichanga"!  Ha ha ha!  Sigh.) increasingly mixed in with internet memes and pop culture references.  It was like a less surreal Ambush Bug.*  I got that some folks liked it, and that's great!  It's terrific to see a mix of comedy and action working that consistently.  And, I suspect, this sort of thing would have been hilarious to me as a 20-year-old dude.

So, I hadn't planned to see the movie, but about a week after it came out, The Admiral and I were pouring some wine (he's had a lot of practice at it at this point), and he says to me, "Have you seen this movie Deadpool?"
And I said, oh so cautiously, "Ah.  You know.  Not yet."
He looked around and then said "I took myself to see it on Wednesday.  That movie is hilarious."

So, if The Admiral liked it, how bad could it be?  I mean, the man won't let you drop the f-bomb in his actual presence, but up on the screen, everything's fair game, and he does have a ridiculously good sense of humor, so, we checked it out.

I dunno.  I found it really fun.  It was kind of what I needed this weekend.  It's a big, splatterfest R-Rated murder revenge picture, and it's not like I don't have a place in my heart for those sorts of movies from time to time.  And it is genuinely funny.  Someone finally wrote a movie that fits Ryan Reynolds' snappy delivery and jittery-kid antics, threw a CGI mask over his face, gave him Colossus as a straight man, and I basically had no complaints.

Well done, makers of Deadpool.  And god bless ya for hiring Gina Carano.  I don't know who she was supposed to be, but that was fun.

*Keith Giffen's 1980's wise-cracking, 4th-wall breaking character who was a thorn in the side of the DCU, but who never had, really, an ounce of popularity

Sunday, April 3, 2016

That Supergirl/ Flash Meet-Up on CBS's "Supergirl"

Pick a tone, DC Entertainment.

I was never a fan of the "two heroes meet, fight, realize it's all a mistake and then go off to fight a common threat" trope of comics.  So, yes, just seeing the title of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice literally told me everything I didn't need to see in the WB opus (now down over 70% in ticket sales from last weekend).  It literally makes no sense for a person dedicated to improving things for other people to start a conversation by throwing a punch at someone else's head.  Frankly, it always kind of diminishes whatever I'm reading when the writers get lazy and that's the path they follow.

Yeah, even "Superman meets Spider-Man".*

I've been a fan of The CW's The Flash since episode 1, and I continue to enjoy the heck out of that show.  From this DC nerd's perspective, this is how you update a character and make the concept work in another medium with different needs than the comic page or context of National Comics in the Jet Age.  If you're going to change up Barry's origin story a bit, this makes sense, and I like the family with which they're surrounded Barry, both the Wests and his "work family", made up of repurposed C and D listers.

The show is far from relentlessly cheerful - villains are a threat, and we've had two seasons with serious arcs casting a shadow over the events of everything else.   But the core characters don't wallow in self-imposed pity parties and comply with the notion that being a jerk is a prerequisite to intelligence or depth of character (it seems Arrow is continuing to struggle with how to dig themselves out of that hole).  Barry and Co.'s ability to keep on going and improve things for themselves and the world is at the heart of what I like about ongoing superhero comics.

I wrote more than one post regarding the rocky start to CBS's Supergirl, but at some point the show started getting a grip on what it is and could be.  Once it dropped some of the standard soapy TV tropes and got on with the business of superheroing, it's been on a gradual incline of watchability.  They dropped the lame "nice guy" storyline for Win, and, to my great satisfaction, the seemingly one-dimensional character of Cat Grant (played by Calista Flockhart) blossomed immediately into a mentor character for Supergirl and her alter ego.  And, of course, the long game of naming Hank Henshaw as leader of this DEO business pulled a switcheroo and turned out to be a huge highlight of the season as the character turned out not to be the ridiculous Cyborg Superman but Martian Manhunter.**

I never disliked the cast of Supergirl, but CBS applied a lot of old-hat tricks, believing they knew how to make the show work for the broadest audience, but it seemed outdated and a drag on the show's velocity.  And, while I'm not sure we're getting a second season (it hasn't been renewed so far as I know), a second season could get down to brass tacks and be quite fun.  Plus, they've said Lynda Carter could play the President next season, which this site heartily endorses.  It could be a lot of fun.

And there's that word.  Fun.

SLAM EVIL with us During a Live Tweet of "The Phantom"! (Friday, April 8th at 9:00 Central)

Honestly, it doesn't seem like I've watched this from beginning to end since that summer when I dragged my brother to the theater to catch this flick.  The staff kind of shook their heads mournfully at us as we first, purchased tickets, and then, even more sadly as we headed willingly into the theater.

Basically, what I remember from this movie is that Billy Zane is fun (and still has hair), there's both a dog and a horse in the African jungle, Treat Williams chewing scenery and Kristy Swanson works a pair of jodhpurs and riding boots.

And, really, what else did we need in 1995?

We're recruiting YOU into joining us next Friday, April 8th at 9:00 PM Central for a Live Tweet of the movie.  Hopefully that's not too late for East Coast, not too early for West Coast and, apparently, this is the time that is best for Stuart.*

If you've not seen The Phantom and/ or don't know anything about The Phantom - all the better.  He's a purple superhero.  That's what you need to know.

  • The Movie:  The Phantom (1995)
  • Day:  April 8th, 2016
  • Time:  9:00 PM Central Time
  • Available:  On Netflix in the U.S.  Everyone else is on their own.
  • Technology:  We'll be on Twitter
  • My handle:  @melbotis
  • Our Tag:  #slamevil
  • Recommended number of drinks before starting:  3 beers/ 2 glasses of wine/ or 2 shots of whatever you've got (our temperate readers will need to just gird their loins)

Let's prepare to SLAM EVIL!

*And who are YOU to question what is best for Stuart?