Showing posts with label mars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mars. Show all posts

Thursday, April 4, 2013

No Post Thursday - what I've been doing (class, books, end of the yearly cycle)

This evening I went to the gym, watched an episode of Mad Men Season 5, did some pre-ordering of comics, and got pretty far along with the first unit of the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) I've started through Canvas.

When I get through the first week, I'll post some personal and professional observations as someone who (a) has read comics for a long, long time - including a good chunk of the assigned reading, (b) who actually does care about gender representations in media - but maybe not in a particularly prescribed way, and (c) who worked in distance education for a decade before moving on to digital libraries.  As bonus featurea (d) I already went through five years of undergraduate education in narrative media studies, and (d) I sort of have my opinions regarding scholarly writing when it comes to social criticism, so...  it's turning out to be an interesting experience already.

It's going to be a long post, and only, likely, I will care about it, so...  look for THAT.

Speaking of gender in comics and pop-culture, yesterdays post on why it's okay for Power Girl to have a "boob window" got a fair number of hits.  By that, I mean, we were around 95 last I checked, which is, like, HUGE for this site.  I never know what's going to get traffic.  I fully expected upwards of 18 clicks.

I am making a commitment to just admit I am going to just read all the Richard Stark novels and nothing else that is not a comic until I finish the Parker and Grofield series.  And then I have, literally, ten books to get through.


  • I'm about a quarter way through the Larry Tye Superman book Nathan gave me, so that might get read while I work through the Stark novels.
  • Dark City Dames by Eddie Muller - a book with bios of a handful of noir sirens, including sections on Audrey Totter and Marie Windsor
  • Altered Carbon - as recommended by Steven
  • the next three Barsoom novels starting with Thuvia, Maid of Mars
  • Doc Savage, Man of Bronze - personally recommended by no less than Chris Roberson
  • The Big Screen  - a non-fiction book on the history of cinema
  • The Killer Inside Me and After Dark, My Sweet, that I've been putting off for, literally, almost twenty years
  • the new Glenn Wheldon Superman book  
  • a Dashiell Hammett collection


As I said on the Facebooks today, I need more time to read.

So, no recommendations for a bit.  My plate is full.

Jamie's birthday is passed, and mine is next Friday, so if you're around and want a cocktail, email me.  We may be doing something about drinks on the 13th.

We have a yearly cycle that starts at Halloween and ends with my birthday.  Really, from Halloween, it's something every few weeks, including Valentine's Day, then March - the months of birthdays, etc...  And, of course, Easter and Mother's Day take us into May.  At this point I'm used to it, but it does seem like it compresses time into the various observances.  Summer has become my holiday from holidays, except for July 4th, which includes explosions and hamburgers and is thus becoming one of my favorite holidays.

My folks are headed back to Kenya for missionary work/ putting eyeglasses on Kenyans.  Always proud of them in their volunteer efforts.

Mad Men Season 6 starts Sunday night, so, leave a brother alone while he does his thing.


Friday, January 4, 2013

Movies 2012 - The Final Commentary

As mentioned before, I watched and blogged movies 147 times, sort of.  Anyway, the point is, I watched John Carter 3 times, and never regretted it.  Process everything in the rest of this post* with that in mind.

So, the actual experience of deciding to blog every movie for a year was sort of in line with other "for a year I shall..." plans I've had.  Like the year I went vegetarian, just to be difficult. Yes, I did this.

Honestly, I think I was probably way down on number of movies viewed this past year.  I don't know how many movies people normally watch, but I know that for the first time in 5 years, my attendance at the Alamo and Paramount this summer was significantly lower than usual.

All that also took a financial toll in past years, and I've been cutting back on Alamo visits to try to better maintain our finances.  I'm guessing I still hit the movies more than the average bear, but it did feel like a down year for being at the theater, but maybe I made up for that in Cable viewership and watching home video.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Holiday Watch: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)

editor's note:  This review appears in a different format at the Texas Public Radio website.  We were provided a review copy of Kino Lorber's BluRay release of the film, for which we are tremendously grateful.  




While the Lifetime and Hallmark networks will duke it out for weeks ahead of Christmas, airing competing schmaltzy movies in which divorcees find love under the mistletoe, there has long been a tradition of quickly and cheaply produced Christmas movies intended for the kiddies. These movies usually assume that no adult will even attempt to watch the flick, and so all bets are off when it comes to bothering with appealing to anyone with more than two digits in their age.

To better understand the pleasantly cynical take on making some green during your White Christmas, it is not hard to imagine an entrepreneur sitting on his cot, looking up at the ceiling and trying to make two things kids like go together into one entirely new package. In our case, the space race is on, and, heck, who doesn’t like Santa?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Octoberama! War of the Worlds on the Radio!


On October 30th, 1938, the Mercury Theater performed a radio show adaptation of HG Wells' War of the Worlds.  I expect that most of you will have heard of this presentation.

On the eve of Halloween, 1938 - war brimming over in Europe, Asia in chaos, science and engineering on the march despite a decade of financial instability - Americans tuned into the radio for their after dinner relaxation.  Sure, everyone knew Halloween was coming, but like the first April Fool's joke sprung on you each year, it may not be the first thing on your mind.

The broadcast was the one that supposedly set the nation into a panic and had people driving around, shooting at water towers and running from imaginary space men.  It also ended in folks calling for the head of Orson Welles - well before he decided not to sell any wine before its time or voice the monster planet in the Transformers Movie.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Monday, August 6, 2012

Let the Science Begin! Olympics. Mars. Tomorrow! This Moment in History

Let's get this party started!


Man.  It wasn't enough that I got to watch Usain Bolt win the 100m again, but UT alum Sonya Richards-Ross won the Gold in the Women's 400m.


I also watched a man with prosthetic limbs race in an Olympic foot race.

But after watching the Twitter Feed for the Mars Curiosity Rover the past couple of months, Curiosity came down successfully on the surface of our sister planet, Mars.

You guys, we live in the future.

I haven't gotten teary during the Olympics.  I've done my fair share of yelling and cheering and chanting "go go go go go go go" while watching races.

But I admit I got a little choked up watching the JPL crew high-fiving after the news that Curiosity had landed and we received the first images back from the rover.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Signal Watch Re-Watches: John Carter (2012)

I will be brief.

But, I am documenting every time I watch a movie this year.  And it would seem unfair to not tell you.  Yeah, before it left the theater (I assume first run theaters will be dropping the movie from their screens this week), I wanted to see it again.

And, you know, I liked it just as much a second time, if not more after reading the first three Barsoom books.  Lots of little bits that are throw-aways from the book, or book-accurate bits like the hand-on-shoulder greeting among allies, radium shells from the Thark rifles, what a royal @#$%* Sarkoja can be...

Anyway, it would have been nice to see where they wanted to go with the sequels, especially as they took such an incredible number of liberties with the source material.  At least I would have been kept guessing.  At its core, the movie remains true to each character they represent, even if there's no appearance of Phaidor while we see Matai Shang, etc...  and so its not that hard for me to reconcile the differences.

I'll shut up about John Carter for a bit.

Signal Watch Reads: Warlord of Mars

Well, I have now completed the first three Barsoom novels, just finishing Warlord of Mars.

I will say, of the three, Warlord is, perhaps, the silliest of three fairly ridiculous novels.  Now, when I say the books are ridiculous, these novels are hyperbolic, escapist adventure fantasy.  Its the predecessor to Flash Gordon and Conan by several years, each, and helped launch both genres.  While interesting themes and ideas present themselves in the three books, you'd be hard pressed to say that Edgar Rice Burroughs was pushing an agenda beneath the layers of the Barsoom novels, or that he was seeking to impart a subversive message or pat himself on the back for writing a very important book.  But that doesn't mean they aren't pretty wild fun, and don't work surprisingly well in the context of the modern action enthusiast.

But it can get silly.  Warlord features at least two instance where our hero goes undercover in iffy disguises, knocks himself out more than once, and routinely has to explain that maybe he isn't much of a thinker as he apologizes to the reader for not having a particularly good reason why he has once again pitched himself into a fight that maybe didn't need to happen (while suggesting he thinks to think too hard about these things is sort of for jerks, anyway).  In some ways, John Carter is the Jack Burton of his time and place.  He's a reasonable man caught up in unreasonable circumstances.

Hail to the king, baby

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Signal Watch Reads: Gods of Mars

I've now re-read Princess of Mars and finished Gods of Mars.  I am now heading into Warlord of Mars.  Because, you know:  Mars.

I am also going to spoil the end of the book because its not a spoiler.  Its so that you know something I wish I'd known - the book ends on an amazing cliffhanger.  DO NOT EXPECT NARRATIVE CLOSURE.  The last forty pages of the book, I just kept thinking "wow, this is really not seeming like its wrapping up here.  The first book had that whole epilogue sort of ending.  Not this one."  Nope.  It ends with a very Two Towers sort of insistence that you will read/buy book 3, and you will like it.

And I will.  Well, I have a collection with the first three books in it, so...

its pretty much this for over 200 pages

Nobody is going to accuse Edgar Rice Burroughs of writing deep literature with the Barsoom novels.  His character, John Carter, is not here to give lit majors reasons to write papers.  Sure, you could spend a lot of time exploring ideas of religion, class, race, masculinity and femininity in his work, and it might not be wrong to do so as you grapple with 20th Century genre-fiction's long and shaky history with all of these issues.  But these are books for crazy, escapist high adventure and if you find something else in there, well, there you are.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

General Update: SXSW, Books, This week's Comics, Pop Art

Howdy!

While I'm still not firing on all cylinders, I'm so much better than this time last week.  Basically, I think I'll have a cough and sinus issues for a while, and I don't want to risk 30 minutes on the elliptical til this weekend, but I'm basically back up to firing speed.

SXSW

As we say in Austin, "South By" is on.  Tomorrow begins the musical portion, and I will not get to see Bruce Springsteen.

We missed Nathan this year as we were a sick house, and in no condition to get the house prepped, even had I not worried about hacking a lung all over him.  From watching him on Facebook, it looks like he had another great few days of coverage of the Film portion.

Some other friends from Seattle (if you knew me back in The Day, you might know them) showed up.  The My, Bryan M and their two bandmates.  We grabbed a meal with them and then they came to my office this week at work just to see me and see what I'm up to, which cracked me up.  Unfortunately I still haven't felt well enough to go out to any of their showcase shows.

Books

I just re-read A Princess of Mars and am starting Gods of Mars, the second John Carter book by Edgar Rice Burroughs.  I'd like to read at least the first three novels (especially as they came in a handy, single volume from Simon & Shuster for a really reasonable price).  Meanwhile, I decided to countermeasure that by giving 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke a listen as an audio book during my commute.

Yes, I've seen the movie a half-dozen times, but I'd always heard such good things about the book, and I wasn't ready to jump right into Rendevous with Rama.  If I like 2001, I will add that one to my bucket list.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Signal Watch Watches: John Carter (of Mars)

Disney won't call the movie by a decent title, so I will.  Let us call it John Carter of Mars, shall we?

As pointed out recently by The Alamo Drafthouse, the Summer of 1982 was an absolutely stunning summer for movies and culturally defining watershed for Gen X.  To celebrate this fact, Summer of 2012, they're having a Summer of 1982 celebration showing a movie per week from that year.

Not all of the movies were a smash at the time (see the final show of the summer, Blade Runner), but this was also the generation of the VCR and HBO.  I didn't see Blade Runner until 1988 or so, but I know when it was released (and you can bet I'll be fighting tooth and nail to be at the screening at the Alamo this summer).

So I'm going to start using Summer of 1982 as a sort of yardmarker for a movie I think could hold a certain distinction.

1.  The movie isn't being loved by critics who are failing to understand it at the time
2.  It likely won't be understood by the mainstream audience at the time
3.  The movie tries to be something grand, really swings for the fences
4.  The movie has the potential to endure in a way that surpasses just the nichey fans you can find anywhere on the internet, but becomes part of the sci-fi geek zeitgeist

Straight up, I @#$%ing loved John Carter (2012).  I believe that it is Summer of 1982 worthy.

You know, this is kind of a terrible poster

The movie is based not just upon the Edgar Rice Burroughs novel, A Princess of Mars (1917), but on what I'd guess are a few of the Barsoom/ John Carter novels sort of pulped into a single volume.  That the movie was not just the first book is all right.  The story works well enough and moves at a better pace for the kids that were packed in all around us in the audience at the Alamo.

The movie of John Carter follows Carter (played more than ably by Friday Night Lights alum Taylor Kitsch) as a Virginia gentleman who, more than a decade after the Civil War, makes a hasty call for his nephew, Edgar Rice Burroughs, to come to him.  By the time Burrows arrives, Carter is dead, sealed in a tomb which can only be opened... from the inside.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Reminder: "War of the Worlds" (1953) showing at Alamo South on Saturday

SimonUK reminded me today - the Alamo Kids Club is showing the 1953 version of War of the Worlds at Alamo South on Lamar on Saturday.

You can see info here.

The showtime is 11:45, but I'll be there a full hour early.  Why?  The show is free!  And that means lots of folks come early to ensure they get a seat.

If you've never seen the 1953 War of the Worlds, its an incredible movie.  I like it enough that my b-day present to myself this year was a scale model of one of the Martian ships.

they are here to chew bubble gum and heat blast earthlings.  And they're all outta bubblegum.

I confess, I find a bit weird to show this to small kids as I remember it spooking me a bit even when I saw it in 6th grade (I was not raised on horror movies and was a sensitive child, I guess).  But the effects are fan-freaking-tastic, and the aliens are not kidding around with their plans to heat-beam us all into smithereens.

I hope to see you there!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Berkeley Breathed art on "Mars Needs Moms"

I am a fan of cartoonist Berkeley Breathed. His strip, Bloom County, was a favorite when I was hitting an age when I was scanning the page for more than just Slylock Fox, and I still enjoy the occasional Bloom County collection.

A while back, I picked up Breathed's children's book Mars Needs Moms, and it was a fun read, if a bit off-beat for a story aimed at kids. And then I heard it was being adapted to a feature film by Robert "I Sucked the Soul Out of The Polar Express" Zemeckis.

The thing is - Breathed's character style and sentiment is distinctly Breathed's. And, somewhat shockingly, unlike Polar Express, Zemeckis didn't seem to feel any attachment to Breathed's artistic style.


Its hard to really explain that Breathed's character design is part of the story, and so abandoning that design for the movie's humanoid, motion-capture friendly designs....  missing the point.

Look, Breathed's story may be a little scary for kids: its about a kid who sees his mom getting kidnapped by aliens after he's decided his mom is mean during a typical kid/ parent spat.  But the point of the story is to teach kids about sacrifice and explain to them exactly how much their parents love them.  Frankly, its not a bad thing to share with kids, and nobody is going to walk away scarred from either a picture book or movie about the depths of a parent's love.  Its called putting a conflict into a story.

Breathed's Mars Needs Moms is a slim picturebook, light on text and full of imaginative imagery.  Simply covering that scaffolding in typical "family movie" hoo-hah is going to do little but distract from and muddle a pretty straightforward story, and the only time I've seen it truly work was with Where the Wild Things Are.    Unfortunately we all know studios have a certainly saccharine version of reality they deal with when putting together family films, and it may be that adding spunky teenage Martians or whatever the hell the movie chose to do from the Hollywood Plot-o-Tron merely diluted the film to a nonsensical mess.

I'd guess Zemeckis and Co.'s insistence on the motion-capture technology took precedence over the exaggerated and intentionally absurd visual style that's been Breathed's trademark since his days on The Academia Waltz.  Trying to make the characters move and look "lifelike" was never the intention of Breathed's style, and its hard to imagine exactly why a decision was made to stray from what would have been a pretty unique and fun adaptation of Breathed's work.

I'm hoping to read Breathed's reaction in The Hollywood Reporter, even if I have my doubts that we'd get the full story or what it feels like to watch your much-loved book turned into something completely different on the screen and then watch that movie flop.  Or... we might.

I guess if there's any point to this post, its that a massive flop of a movie shouldn't reflect poorly on the source material, especially if the source is more or less ignored in favor of whatever the heck the producers feel is more fun to play around with.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I Heart Marauding Martians: War of the Worlds

I was going to write a post about how much I like War of the Worlds, but then I realized:  I have been doing this a long, long time.  I bet I already wrote something on that.  

And then I thought:
League, you clever bastard!  You're good looking AND brilliant.  

Previous War of the Worlds posts:

War of the Worlds, 70 Years Ago
The League goes to see "War of the Worlds"

Lo and behold, there you go.  Two posts to refer to.  And I'm still a fan.  I was looking at my copy of the DVD and realized I hadn't watched it in... oh, two years or so.

Perhaps I respond to the movie because (a) the radio play freaked me out when I first heard it, knowing exactly what the story was with the broadcast, not to mention I was listening to it on cassette, and (b) because I recall watching the movie with The Admiral and being too old to be genuinely scared by movies, but realizing this was really one of the first films I'd seen where "we" lost.

All that aside, some of what's nifty is in the details. I still like that the martians in the 1953 movie are truly non-humanoid (unlike, say, Klaatu). 

They also don't come with a message to save us or demonstrate some sort of enlightenment. In fact, they basically show up with canisters of Humans-B-Gone.

I have only eye/s for you...
I haven't read enough criticism of the book, play or movies, but when I read the book and watch the movie, I can't help but think that the Martians more or less follow the pattern of colonization that humans have been fond of for our long duration, something Bradbury explored in the unrelated Martian Chronicles, which witnesses mankind slowly colonizing the Red Planet.  Wells' martians aren't as stupid and slow about their "colonization", arriving in gas-spewing, death beam projecting blitzkrieg, but the idea is the same.

Land:  they aren't making more of it. And on a gut level, we kind of understand the terror of clearing out the locals to make way for our strip malls and Tasty Freeze franchises (or whatever Martians ultimately planned to do) because that's what we're really good at. Just, you know, the audience reading the book hadn't been on the receiving end in quite a while.

And these sorts of fables stick with you, I suppose.

I'm also a huge fan of the design of the Martian vehicles as designed in the book (at least how its described, which is @#$%ing terrifying, and which Spielberg sort of got right), and while they couldn't animate the tripod legs for the 50's-era film and so made the vehicle a hovercraft, it's still totally rad. One day I shall own a model of the Martian invasion crafts.  Oh, yes, I will.

A surefire way to not get cut off on the freeway.
The opening scenes in Grover's Mill (in the radio broadcast and movie) are epically freaky as humans try to apply reason, goodwill, etc... and are met by (spoilers!) deathray.  From that point on, things just get worse, too.

There have been a few nifty cross-overs for fans like myself.

As you know, Superman appeared in 1938, the same year of the "War of the Worlds" Mercury Theater Broadcast.  Somebody ran some numbers and put this out a while back, which I thought was a nifty read.

Superman tries to prevent these nefarious illegal aliens from dropping anchor babies
And for those of you who've never read it, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 2 is basically the LOEG v. War of the Worlds.
Martian X-treme off-roading

This little post sort of suggested further exploration of War of the Worlds in comics, so I amy need to look into that.

For some serious weirdness,look up Jeff Wayne's prog-rock musical thing of War of the Worlds.