Saturday, October 23, 2010

Monstering it Up

We've received quite a few Monster posts, and I hope we get a few more! (The Admiral is even threatening to participate).

A short while ago someone suggested I try eating Franken Berry Cereal while watching a Frankenstein movie.

We do requests!

Mission accomplished

We're going to call this a rebuilding year

Wow.  So, I admit that as a University of Texas fan and alum, its been a while since I've seen my team play like a bunch of mediocre chowderheads.  But today, play like a bunch of mediocre chowderheads they did. 

I had guessed UT would win by 14 points, even though the line was 20, last I checked.  We were at home, we'd just beat Nebraska and we were playing an unranked Iowa State, a team we have ALWAYS been able to beat. 

But from the start of Iowa State's second possession, we looked like a team that was just not ready to play football.  I don't know if the morning's iffy weather had confused our players, if they had practiced against a local middle-school all week, or what...  I suspect that the team had the same lazy attitude that they had approaching UCLA. 

I confess I almost found myself dropping the "we" from my discussion about UT, distancing myself from the team in a way that I don't do when UT is winning.  But, you know, I'm a Texas fan.  I'm going to do my best to continue saying "we".  Good times and bad and all that stuff.

Anyhow, I was actually at the game in the rain today, so my patience with this whole debacle was not terrific.  I did get a little more perspective seeing how plays seemed to unfold and how the team looked in general in a way that TV sometimes can't show as they cut to commercials, replays, etc...  and they just looked oddly...  slow.  Like they just didn't have their act together.

As a fan, I want to see us use the talent and skill we've got that seems to be squandered.  I will disagree from some of the TV commentators after what I saw today: I am beginning to wonder about Gilbert.  Seeing him live, he just didn't seem to know where to throw the ball far too often if the play didn't fall out exactly as he expected, and when he did release, it was kind of near the receivers, but not quite to the receivers. 

Am I one of those guys who blames Greg Davis, our offensive coordinator? Oh, absolutely.

I have no idea what to expect out of the Longhorns anymore this season, but by gum I am not giving up. There's too much well recruited talent, and I think we can make adjustments. But this team is going to have to do better, and the coaches are flat out going to have to quit going to back to the same playbook everyone has already seen for the last 10 years at UT.

Here's a quick report on the game.

Friday, October 22, 2010

UT plays Iowa State Tomorrow: And I will be there!

On Saturday the mighty Longhorns of the University of Texas will take on the Cyclones of Iowa State. 

The game is at 11:00 Central, so its the morning game here in Texas (I assume Fantomenos will be asleep at kick-off).  I'm slated to attend with The Admiral, Matt and Nicole. 

I like UT's chances.  At home.  Coming off a win and returning to a ranked status.  Playing Iowa State.

And tomorrow is supposed to be a high of something like 83F. 

Hopefully he same defense that played last week against Nebraska will show up, and the same Garrett Gilbert that added some wheels and tried this innovation called "The Forward Pass" will make an appearance.

Go Horns!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Apparently, I am genetically selected to take the bullet when and if it comes to that

In the wake of the September 28th near-miss with a gunman at the very large library where I'm officed (at a very large university), the campus police have been seriously reviewing the reaction of students, staff, faculty, themselves, Austin PD, etc...  And they are making definite improvements.

So, today the Campus PD offered up a training session in my building to discuss the "Active Shooter" situation.  Basically it boils down to three options:

Figure out if you can get away
  1. if you can, do so
  2. if you can't, hide, try to secure the door and spread out
  3. if the gunman finds you, arm yourself with whatever is handy
I know this sounds pretty wacky, but here's the thing:  I think we all watch a lot of movies and we hope that we see the heroes get out of the scenario alive.  Everyone else who didn't?  A sad case, but... as we're the heroes in our own minds, we figure we'll pull through one way or another.

People asked a lot of questions, and you sort of were able to gather from the discussion who you did and did not want around you should an emergency situation arise again. 

The bottom line is that the cops don't know any tricks other than "use common sense", and they'll tell you that.*  There's no magic movie-hero secret to pulling through this thing.  The cops themselves have changed their tactics after Columbine (they don't set up perimeters anymore, they go in), and 9/11 taught all of us that we may be responsible for ourselves and others, thus #3 above.  And what they were really asking was that we think of a few plans, which...  may have been a bit much for a few in the room.

At some point we got down to the whole "you're trapped, now what?" scenario, and the officer was frank about assigning roles and finding heavy and solid items to throw at a gunman to at least slow them down.  I am a fairly large guy.  6'5" and fairly broad of shoulder.  And despite the fact I was kind of hiding in the back of the room of 50 people, the PD pointed me out and basically said "and you're going to want to assign this guy here...  he's going to have to go after the shooter if he enters the room."

Apparently being the largest and slowest moving target in the room just got me put on human shield duty for the library.  Sweet.

I don't know what this guy thought when he looked at me, but guns just really, really change the playing field.  When I get shot, I assume I will still totally bleed all over the place.  I am in no rush to ruin any of my t-shirts or jeans.  I also will die remarkably similarly to smaller people but require a 3XLT coffin.

I get it, I get it.  When we all go caveman, Largest Man must fight Fang Tiger when it comes to stalk the tribe.  And I'm also going to be able to hold the door closed a lot more convincingly than some of the dainty people in cataloging.  But don't expect me to get all enthused.  There will be no boons bestowed upon Largest Man for jumping Scary Man with Boom Stick. 

Straight up, I'm a pacifist because I can afford to be one.  I'm a 21st Century American who considers a physical threat to be a needle when they draw blood.  I'm a soft, pink desk-jockey who depends on geography, technology and economy to keep me from worrying about bandits, hooligans or roving bands of Mad Max bad guys.  I am not sure I'm ready to have a room full of terrified librarians hiding under desks somewhere down the road looking at me and saying "the cop said you had to fight the guy with the gun.  Go, Big Man."**

Good golly, how this "active shooter" business is messy.  But the messiest part is that the PD basically acknowledged that they know most people are going to make bad choices.  And given what I know of students, its kind of scary to consider what could go wrong (let's just say they don't take fire drills super seriously).

Anyhow, none of us want to think life or death situation when we think about our office. I'd like to think my efforts could save the day, but...  anyway. 

* however, "common sense" is not something you can teach in a 2 hour seminar
** they always call you Big Man, when people are delivering bad news

When the Price is Right, I Will Own a Copy of "Legends of the Super Heroes"

I am not sure I have a whole $20 plus S&H to get my hands on the bizarre 1970's attempt by DC Comics to keep their superheroes on television screens.  If you haven't seen Legends of the Super Heroes, you're probably going to still get through life okay, but your life will be a bit poorer for it.  Like a lot of comic dorks, I've seen a bootleg copy of a beta-max tape transferred to VHS and all the quality one would expect of that VHS tape after it sitting on the shelf for 10 years at Vulcan Video.

The show is a live action program starring Adam West and Burt Ward as Batman & Robin.  It also features Captain Marvel, Green Lantern, Black Canary and, I think, Hawkman, as well as other DC properties.  And their villains.  Younger readers will not remember the heyday of 70's era Hollywood where Burt Reynolds defined cool, but if you remember Burt Reynolds drunkenly cackling his way through a segment on Johnny Carson, then you'll understand the tone of Legends of the Super Heroes.  

Folks under the age of 25 will be surprised to learn that there was a time and place where superheroes were considered a goofy kids' past time, and there's definitely a vibe on the show that these actors are barely containing their laughter the same way you do when you show up for a costume party and see your friends dressed as gorillas or when you see your friends in pilgrim costumes for the first time in the dress rehearsals for a high school production of The Crucible.*

Only two episodes were produced, but fans older than myself have terrific memories of watching the show (I was two young, I guess). 

It may not be as bad as The Star Wars Holiday Special (which is like spending two hours with your head in a chicken cage with three angry chickens), but the world was not ready for-live action Dr. Sivana and Mordru when this show was produced.

Warner Bros. apparently noticed people were paying money for this thing at cons in pirated copies and/ or the hit count on YouTube must have achieved the right number of hits and figured people would pay good dollars for a decent copy.  Warner Bros. has started an interesting service wherein they print DVDs on-demand.  While you wind up paying more, its meant WB has been able to open their vaults and quit worrying about selling X numbers of copies in order to make a print-run worth doing.

I am not sure $20 plus S&H is the amount I am willing to pay for self-inflicted pain.  Maybe...  $8.99. 

Fortunately, WB periodically runs deals on their archive DVDs, so sooner or later the thing will be more easily available.  But if they wanted to send me a review copy, I wouldn't say "no".  I'm just saying, WB.

For more on the video:

Progressive Ruin

*well, I thought it was funny

Don't forget to send in your Favorite/ Least Favorite Monster

"Tiger Beat" for the undead

The official deadline for submitting your Monsters is October 22nd. Unofficially, we're pretty flexible and encourage you to send it in right up until October 28th or so.

We've gotten some great entries!  Be a part of the fun and send in your entry!

Every entrant will receive a Signal Watch Fun Pack!

For info on what to submit, click here!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Moment of Pause: Modern Musical at the White House

A little insight into the Amazing World of The Signal Watch...

I was working out and in my bedroom (yes, I do workout.  Shut up.) and on our local PBS affiliate I was watching "A Tribute to Broadway at the White House" or some such.  Anyway, the President and First Lady (and First Kids) were sitting in a ballroom at the White House watching Broadway performers like Nathan Lane, Idina Menzel and Audra McDonald perform. 

My Signal Corps, The League is not afraid to admit he likes a good show tune, even out of context.  And the final song was part youth chorus/ part from-the-traveling-production-of Hairspray the Musical, "You Can't Stop the Beat".  And I stopped and pondered for a minute.

We live in a land where a guy like John Waters (a guy who was such an outsider to American culture that he made a career out of celebrating that fact) can, within twenty five years of the release of the original Hairspray, see a story he created transmorgified into a musical and performed in a ballroom of the White House.  This is the guy who made Divine a nationally known figure and made the best use of Debby Harry in a movie ever and gave us the best tribute to Don Knotts ever seen in a movie... 

That, people, is the America I celebrate.

Watch while the Superman Movie rumor mill churns and churns

I find myself stating repeatedly not to believe Superman movie rumors until you see the first production stills. 

Apparently a lot of people were looking at Armie Hammer in The Social Network and thought he'd make a swell Superman in the upcoming film.  The problem as I see it:  that was Hammer's head superimposed on someone else's body.  No kidding. 

From Cinemalogue:

The Social Network jumps back and forth between the origins of the now ubiquitous Facebook and two lawsuits brought against the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg—one by Cameron (Armie Hammer) and Tyler Winklevoss (Josh Pence’s body with Armie Hammer’s head) the Harvard Row Crew champions who allegedly seeded Zuckerberg with the idea of a social network, and Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), an Economics major who later became Facebook’s former Chief Financial Officer.
Why this was necessary when Hammer reportedly stands 6'5" is a bit baffling, but that's what they did for the movie.  I guess he's too lean?

Anyway, within the past week we've also had reports that director Zack Snyder is saying he's doing an origin story, but then I read that they're looking to cast 35-40 for Superman.  Huh.  I don't see Superman waiting until he's in his mid-30's to suddenly get the brain drizzle that tells him to put on the cape.

I...  have no idea what is going on, but its not worth getting excited about at this point.

So long, June Cleaver... we're going to miss you

I failed to note this weekend's passing of Ms. Barbara Billingsley, most famous for her portrayal of June Cleaver in TV's Leave it to Beaver and later in The New Leave it to Beaver.  All in all, Billingsley played the iconic TV mom for more than ten years.

You may also remember her as the "jive translator" from Airplane! (one of the finest moments in cinema, if you ask me, thanks), and the voice of "Nanny" on Muppet Babies.

This fake family sure is swell

Sure, you can have an ironic appreciation for Leave it to Beaver, and June Cleaver has become both punching bag and icon in American culture as we've seen women's roles change over the years, but the reason we used June Cleaver as a touchstone was because if you had a TV growing up from the 50's to the 90's, its likely you found yourself watching Leave it to Beaver upon occasion.  Straight up, before there were 200 channels on the dial, who didn't watch this show, at least out of boredom?

Growing up I preferred Leave it to Beaver over Brady Bunch and found June Cleaver far less creepy (and less lazy) than Carol Brady.  Plus, you know, as a chubby kid constantly baffled by the world who had an older brother who liked to dispense suspect advice and a dad who also could be found reading the paper in the living room and who was prone to give a little lecture when you fudged up, it wasn't a stretch to see the connection.  Was the KareBear like June Cleaver?  Not so much.  She was angling for a "Maria from The Sound of Music" thing.  But she got stuck with two sons who were not playing ball.

Sure, I think reruns of this show have given a good chunk of America a pretty false idea of "an America we need to get back to".  The 50's were actually a pretty rough time for a lot of Americans.  But it does hold up an ideal of a fairly functional American family, even if the structure is outdated in a post-Betty Friedan era.

But you can't fault Barbara Billingsley for being one of the best TV moms out there.  Especially as she wasn't afraid to throw Ward in front of the bus when it came to the tasks of lecturing and setting The Beaver straight when he's once again killed a neighborhood hobo.  I assume June was downstairs having a cocktail and listening to jazz.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tom Bosley Merges with the Infinite

Tom "Howard Cunningham" Bosley, he of the long running series Happy Days, has passed at the age of 83. 

You can read more about it here.

Godspeed, Mr. C

Iconic Covers for DC Comics

I don't pick up all that many monthly 32 page comics these days.  Well, more than YOU most certainly, but less than I had been.

DC still very much wants to sell monthly comics, but its made the act of doing so somewhat frustrating of an experience, and a fairly expensive one, too.  Add in the fact that, frankly, I'm not crazy about some of the talent DC has put on some of the books (and the directions either the talent or DC have decided are a good idea).

So some books I haven't read and won't read for some time.  And others I likely won't read.

As I say, DC wants for me to read the monthly books because that's more or less their core business.  Its much easier and cheaper to put out a monthly comic than commit upfront to a trade paperback or graphic novel approach, and forget about getting stats off digital at this point.

In the just-released January previews, DC seems to have gone for this "iconic" approach to its covers and characters, and I quite like it.

I invite you to check out the covers here, at Newsarama.

Superboy!  and KRYPTO!!!
Not only has the artist rendered Superboy as a teenager, but the iconic image with Krypto right there next to him may not tell the story of the issue, but it does tell you "this is a comic about a Superboy and his super dog."  And, hey, I'm going to buy that comic.

No, I do not expect a comic about a Superboy and a Super Dog to be particularly "edgy", but I do expect it shall be awesome.

Blue Beetle on the cover of Justice League: Generation Lost
I am an unabashed fan of the latest iteration of Blue Beetle and am thrilled that DC has decided to continue on with the character.  Jamie's sci-fi powers are very cool in a Green Lantern-y sort of way (only with hardware instead of energy constructs).  But I'm trade-waiting on this actual series, and so far I only know the basic premise.

But, man, that cover gives BB a chance to look pretty rad.

And, yeah, I do miss Ted, too.  But I think he's the new Barry Allen.

I have a deep, dark secret about Steel.  Three years ago I found the entire run of the original series of Steel for sale for a fraction of the cover price, and I bought it.  But I've never read it.

Anyway, Steel here looks heroic and you get an idea of his shtick.   He's an armored guy who teams up with Superman and hits things with a hammer.  There you go.

John Henry Irons is the DCU's Iron Man, only without the ego issues and alcoholism.  He's not had a huge chance to develop in recent years, but when he was in Superman: Man of Steel and JLA, I thought he was a GREAT supporting character for the Superman titles.  He was like Superman's pal who could actually keep up with Kal-El without constantly asserting himself like a kid with low self-esteem, ala Batman.

This is the cover for a Steel one-shot, likely to test the waters for a Steel mini-series or series.  Personally, I think he could be built up in the pages of Action or Superman or a hypothetical and non-existent rebirth of the old Superman Family comic, but nobody asks me these things.

yurgh.  this is what DC is selling as JLA these days.

So this is one of those places DC just lost me.  I have a complete run of the last volume of JLA that started under Grant Morrison.  I will argue you into the ground that Brad Meltzer's take on the JLA was very, very correct when this volume started. I will even forgive Dwayne McDuffie for struggling with what was obvious and unfair editorial management of the team and comic.  But after Robinson's less-than-stellar run on Superman,  I wasn't excited at all about Robinson coming onto JLA.

There's just nothing that says JLA to me about this line-up, with Robinson on words and Bagley on pencils or not.  Maybe Morrison or Waid or Johns could pull off this line-up, but the point is almost moot.  While a Batman appears on the cover, the flagship title of DC Comics should not feature supporting the players from DC's flagship books.  I may even LIKE these characters (and in most cases, I do), but DC needs to work on branding.  Flat out, Justice League needs to always have at least 2 of the original 7 in the line-up (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman and Martian Manhunter).  This line-up feels like "JLB" or "JLC".

If you're going for Iconic Covers, this just tells me this book will need a new direction before I'm likely to read JLA again.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Green Lantern's lantern revealed

The guy who spent no small amount of change on a replica of the lantern so he could say he had the same lantern as John Stewart and Hal Jordan is a little befuddled by the redesign on the Lantern for the new Green lantern movie, but the movie fan in me thinks this will look really cool on the movie screen.

It looks like it tastes like sour apple.  Mmmm... sour apple.
More here.

After seeing "Identity Discs" from Tron that light up and make noise available in the toy aisle at Target this weekend, it just occurred to me that I'll likely be able to buy an official GL Lantern for, like, $39.99.  And so will little kids on my street.  That is so rad.  Anyway, I was sort of wondering how "toyetic" Green Lantern would be, and I mostly assume they're counting on kids collecting figures of various GL's. Now I can kind of see how this will play out.

So much cooler than the frisbees we chucked at one another in the early 80's
It seems that the movie's designers gave a little more thought to "other wordliness" than John Broome and Gil Kane did in designing the Silver Age Green Lantern and his world and gear.

Would I have preferred they keep it all very classic?  Sure.  But I can't complain when that is clearly green and a lantern, even if it lacks the usual "Coleman Lantern" look I'm used to.

It's Green.  It's a Lantern.  So they took it a bit literally.
Anyway, part of why I got back into this gig was to track the production of the various DC movies as they came to fruition. Its fun to see this stuff as they decide what to do translating it to a medium that doesn't require simplification as artists render and re-render the same objects.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Send in Your Favorite Monster, Get a Nifty Prize

Well, I think I buried my last reminder too far down in a previous post, but we're still looking for entries to the "My Favorite/ Least Favorite Monster" Signal Corp Interactivity. As of today, we've only had one entrant. The deadline is October 22nd, but we'll post responses if they come in afterward.

I assure you, its easy and fun to play.

I've seen this movie.  Its...  well, it's a movie.
Just send in some info on your favorite monster or your least favorite monster with a little blurb as to why you dig that monster (and a JPEG if you've got one).

Yup, this counts as a monster, too
I know many of you don't stay up until 2:30 AM watching The Brain that Wouldn't Die* immediately after watching Ghost of Frankenstein.  That's just not everybody's bag.  But sooner or later, everybody watches a movie, and many, many of these movies feature monsters.  From Star Wars (which...  Giant Worm?  Sarlac Pit?  Rancor?  Carrie Fischer's coke habit?) to Clayface in the Batman cartoons, to the ants of Them! to the sharks of Deep Blue Sea...  you don't need to stick to just Halloween monsters. 

And don't forget, its not just monsters you like, its also the ones who just leave you cold and/ or angry.

I think I went out with this dame my freshman year
Every entry will receive a nifty Signal Corps Fun Pack!  So there's your incentive, as if getting your name up in lights isn't enough.

So let's hear from you guys!  Click on over to the original post for the official, very loose rules. 

*This was Elvira's selection of the week, and one of the more watchable entrants, I am afraid.

Ghost of Frankenstein: Not Very Good

Oh, dear.

So, this evening I watched the fourth in the series of Frankenstein movies from Universal Studios.  Perhaps its fitting that this fourth and uninspired edition falls into the same category as many un-asked for fourth installments, like, say...  The Phantom Menace, Indiana Jones and the Crystal Whatzit, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, and on and on.

By this installment, Karloff had bailed on the role and Universal had brought in Lon Chaney, Jr., the guy who played the Wolfman in the original, uh... The Wolfman and son of much more talented actor, Lon Chaney.  Much as how you really were surprised how much better Peter Weller was as Robocop than Robert Burke as the cyborg cop, so Karloff is to Chaney.  Chaney seems to believe just standing there or walking around stiffly is all that's required.

Lugosi and Chaney, Jr. are going to find a way to raise this child together
The plot...  well, the villagers in the village of, uhm, Frankenstein, decide to tear down the castle, and it turns out Lugosi/ Ygor is still living in the castle despite having been shot point blank in the chest in the previous movie.  The Monster sort of falls out of the wreckage of the castle (don't ask), and gets hit by lightning, and then they take him to see this brother of the son of Franken...

You know what?

This movie more or less marks the sure breaking point for the franchise into unintentional self-parody.  From here on out, it seems the Universal Pictures are mostly monster meet ups and team ups, and the sort of stuff that more or less slowly squeezed the life out of the characters and turned them from big screen draw to kid's matinee material.

In short, it wasn't very good.  Despite a plot that involved brain transplants and a weird subtext to the Karloff/ Lugosi rivalry when Lugosi's Ygor gets his brain put into the monster (thereby more or less killing Karloff's version of the monster), something just doesn't click.  Anyway, you can't fault it for either jumping through plot hoops to make sense and tie into the previous films or a shortage of wacky ideas.  Its just...  I dunno.

And, yeah, there's a ghost of Henry Frankenstein for, like, three seconds and...  it just doesn't really make any sense.  But he is still very definitely into SCIENCE.

This sort of creepier than anything in the actual movie