Saturday, December 31, 2011
Happy New Year's Eve from Me and Cyd Charisse
Here, Ms. Charisse dances her way into New Years.
May your New Years Eve be Cyd-worthy.
New Years High Definition Resolution
|Ann Miller wants for us to have a Happy New Year! (from 1946)|
My wrist is still pretty messed up. It seems I pulled the tendon. I'm in a brace, and the first medicine I tried did not agree with my tum at all. I sort of sweated my way through UT's victory over UCLA in the Holiday Bowl (and kudos to Baylor for their stunning Alamo Bowl win over Wash last night. That was one kooky game.).
Thursday I watched the better part of That's Entertainment and all of That's Entertainment III. I finally have committed to memory the name "Ann Miller", which I have never been able to remember before, but who I've always found very spunky in the movie below (Easter Parade) and On The Town.
Jamie will be required to learn this dance routine in 2012.
Speaking of 2012, it may seem fruitless to try to better oneself, what with Mayan Astrological Apocalypse upon us, but on the off-chance a civilization that didn't have the wheel may have been wrong about stuff like The End of Days, I am making plans.
So here's the rundown for How in 2012 I Shall Become Physically, Mentally and Morally Superior
1) I shall strive to lose an additional 20 pounds
Because, hey, why not? I can certainly afford to lose some more weight. I've plateaued as of Halloween, and I've been trying to maintain through the Holidays. I can say in 2011 I lost weight while also building muscle mass, so more of that, I think.
It is a pain to buy new pants all over again, but I'd like to live a life as Hoveround-free as possible.
I have a pretty specific vision for how I want to go out of this world, and it is not going to involve getting hooked up to a lot of devices in my golden years. Really, one must be in shape if they think they can take on a den full of mountain lions and put up any kind of fight.
2) Less Twitter and Facebook.
I like you people. I really do. I don't know that hanging out online at night with twitter open while the TV runs is really "building" or "participating in a community", though. You know where to find me, and I didn't say "NO twitter or facebook".
3) Stop with the knee-jerk, acerbic posturing
Frankly, I think that less Twitter and Facebook may resolve this issue to an extent on its own. One of my goals with Signal Watch as a blog has been to try to remain a bit more upbeat, and I need to extend that to other places online and in, I am thinking, my face-to-face communication.
I don't think it hurts to be realistic or to share your views, but I can tone it down quite a bit and likely have a friendly conversation which I'm just shutting down at the start at the moment.
4) Get through 12 books in 12 months
Seriously, I'm so poorly read anymore, I feel like an idiot. I'll continue with a mix of "books I should have read", non-fiction and the occasional throw-away, fun book. I also need to start reading more for work, which I am not including in the 12-books list.
5) Finish 6 chapters of my own thing
It takes me a long time to put a chapter down. Not of the adventures of Kaya, which usually takes about 30 minutes to pound out (and his made me really wonder why I'm fighting writing this sort of thing, as it seems to flow like a fire hydrant), but the Great American Novel I work on sometimes when I'm not working here.
I'd like to finish all the way through before I'm 40.
I did write several chapters last year, which is a change of pace. I'd like to continue on that trend, as I write The Least Impressive Thing, Ever.
Friday, December 30, 2011
Signal Watch Watches: The Artist
Ye Compleate Santor o' Yon 2011
Yon foretelling o' his'n arrival
The message of preparedethness
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
I have no idea which chimp died
Obviously I have no idea, so I'll just go with whatever. Here's HuffPo on the topic.
One need only watch Antiques Roadshow or History Detectives to see how family lore about items around the house can be incorrect or a skewed version of a half-remembered story. Sounds like this may be true of Cheetah the chimp.
Goodnight, Mr. Chimp, wherever you are.
a hiatus for a few days - I seem to have injured myself
|apparently this is the danger of push-ups|
Gah, this is annoying. Blogging shall be limited for a few days.
I seem to have injured a tendon in my left wrist, and I'm not really sure how. Maybe exercising. Its not clear.
That big, honkin' brace is making it hard to type, so... you know, less blogging.
We'll be back up and running as soon as we get this sorted.
Cheetah the Chimp Merges with the Infinite
|I will never be in a picture even 1/4 this awesome|
The chimps you see in TV and movies not played by Andy Serkis or Roddy McDowell are usually very young chimpanzees, usually younger than 5 or 6. After that, its a highly intelligent and willful animal with hands that can tear your arms out of the sockets. So, getting them to hit their marks can be a bit of a challenge. I think casting juveniles in movies also gives people funny ideas about how big chimps actually get.
So, in his way, Cheetah was a child actor when starring in Tarzan movies between 1932-34. He has just passed at the age of 80. That's pretty old for a chimp, most of which don't make it to 40.
Godspeed, Cheetah. You were one awesome primate.
Like many retirees, Cheetah had lived in Florida in recent years.
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Santor's Work Ends for another year...
Santor hath finished his merry work for another Christmas!
Do not worry, children. Santor is with us all the year through, so long as you keep him in your hearts and your dreams and think of him when you hear a noise in the house when you believed yourself all alone... (it might just be Santor checking up on you!)
Santor will return next holiday, and the holiday after that, always with us, always watching you.
Watchmen 2? Blergh.
We placed an empty cardboard box on our stairwell this morning, intending for it to go up when one of us had reason to walk upstairs. The box was about two feet deep. The stairs, not two feet deep. And so it was that I sat, watching Jeff the Cat as he approached the box. From his perspective, this was a box. They all do the same thing. You hop in them, and you have a fort and it is all pretty awesome. Boxes, by their nature, mostly stay put when you jump in them.
However, if the box is just sitting there, perched on the edge of the stair, likely eleven pounds of cat at the end of the box not supported by the stair is going to cause quite the calamity. He's done it before, this leaping into the box on the stairs. And even if it starts well, it ends poorly, with him suddenly at the bottom of the stairs, a box tumped over, him looking around wondering who is to blame for what happened. For when he has jumped in boxes on other surfaces, this just never happens.
And so it is, so often, watching DC Comics of late.
Once Dan Didio and his seemingly-in-need-of-ritalin-yes-man Jim Lee took over at DC Comics as publishers, its become increasingly clear that neither of them really cares all that much about the characters and properties of DC Comics.
I mean, it kind of makes sense. Lee rode off his success on X-Men and other work to jump ship from the big 2 and create what became the Wildstorm Universe, which was an answer to how boring and wimpy he must have found traditional superhero comics. Lots of shouting and bullets and whatnot seemed to be the formula, and I know the Wildstorm U has its relatively small dedicated defenders and supporters (but not large enough to sustain series any longer). I, myself, enjoyed the first few volumes of The Authority before the sameness of the premise, a sort of Boris the Bear-ish approach that saw the angrier Justice League stand-ins straight up killing analogs from other properties.
Monday, December 26, 2011
Signal Watch watches: Tintin
We're talking about the movie here for a number of reasons. 1) It is based upon the comics by Belgian comics-smith Hergé. 2) It is a high-flying adventure movie. 3) Its the creation of a wide-range of geek friendly folks from Steven Spielberg to Steven Moffat.
At the Alamo Drafthouse here in Austin, the pre-show rightfully showed clips of adventure serials, Indiana Jones homages, etc... before the movie. The comic strips in which Tintin appears actually pre-date Indiana Jones by about fifty years, so I want to make this clear to the legions of Americans who believe that action stars come in either Sylvester Stallone or Jason Statham models and find the idea of a Belgian action hero hilarious:
A) Van Damme B) this is the most pure adventure movie to hit the screens in the US in a decade. And that sort of worries me about American movie-making.
Nothing is scary when you understand it: American Horror Story Wraps It Up
If you're not familiar with Numbers Stations, you may remember the first season of ABC's Lost, where our heroes were picking up a seemingly random sequence of numbers coming over their radio. It was spooky stuff, because you're hearing a human voice, and they seem to think they're making sense, but there's something else clearly going on, something organized, and not knowing what is happening puts you at a disadvantage.
These things are very real, and they make no sense. Hearing someone repeating "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" over and over, or a series of chimes, or a series of numbers appearing mysteriously over shortwave (where the broadcasts got their name) sets you back a pace. Disembodied voices, garbled by the inconsistencies of the aether, making no sense... its utterly discomfiting.
No, it does not steady the nerves to think: oh, its spies broadcasting via shortwave from behind enemy lines. But it is an explanation. But what if its not spies...? What if we don't know...?
We know that people will generally come up with some sort of animistic explanation for the world around them when they don't have facts. Its the source for stories of goblins, faeries, leprechauns, and, of course, ghosts.
American Horror Story was a ghost story. A 13-episode ghost story, which breaks from the usual mold of ghost-story movies, which give you 90-120 minutes to get a deep immersion, get spooked, and get out. It doesn't give you an opportunity over several months to let you question too much about the situation, or, indeed, become familiar with the ghost or learn the "rules" of the ghosts or show.
What made my two favorite ghost-story movies, The Shining and The Haunting, work so well was the slow boil to meltdown. We may have seen pieces of what was happening, and most certainly the creators of both films (Kubrick and Wise, respectively), knew not to just create a separate magical world with traffic laws and a tax code, if they wanted to keep their movies frightening.
You can ride American Horror Story as a ghost story right through the Halloween 2-parter, but after that, the show was trying to explain too much. In fact, 13 episodes may have been too much. I can't help but think that we never needed more than 8 episodes.
There are still plenty of avenues to explore in American Horror Story, but much like the undoing of Lost (a show that it seems we all agreed to quit talking about simultaneously), it seems that explaining things will only reduce the show in the end, make it a shadow of the early promise, where nothing is ever scary because we now understand what's happening, and when we understand, how scary can something really be?* Even ghosts. The show's ghosts, after all, seem to be on a continual character growth curve, which is sort of the opposite of what I'd always found frightening about the concept of ghosts, that they were caught in a loop of a moment of despair, an idea the show plays with, but seems to apply with terrible inconsistency.
Nonetheless, I think from a "fantasy TV show" aspect, American Horror Story still came out fairly well. And I'll be very curious to see how they handle it if they're given another season.
*obviously there are exceptions to this rule, but when your show is based on the ethereal, I think that's a whole other set of challenges. I think its more often in real life, when we uncover the truth about the past, that things become distressing, but that's different from "scary", as in "fight or flight"
Sunday, December 25, 2011
Santor hath finished his Merry Duties
and so a very, Merry Santor-mas to you and yours!
Saturday, December 24, 2011
Superman (and I) wish you a Merry Christmas Eve!
Merry Christmas, Signal Corps!
I can think of no finer sentiment to share on this Christmas Eve than the words of the Man of Steel.
Tonight, let's be grateful for those with whom we spend the holiday, loved ones or otherwise. And I hope you were able to help out your neighbors and fellow humans here on Planet Earth.
Here at Signal Watch, we're raising a glass to you! May your Christmas Day be merry and bright!
If you're out and about, come home safely. Tell your family I said "howdy", and let's look forward to 2012 as the year where we figure it all out.
MERRY CHRISTMAS! God bless us, every one.
SW Advent Calendar Day 24
I hope you've had a chance to get out and enjoy the sights and sounds of the Holidays, however you celebrate them and however they look in your town.
Like Superman, here, I get to spend Christmas Eve with the lady for whom I'd make the world spin backward. That's all I need for Christmas this year.
Have a lovely silent night.
Friday, December 23, 2011
SW Advent Calendar: December 23
Sometimes Christmas is all about having it out with the extended family.
I have very warm memories of watching this movie as a child. Donald's coat is still one of my favorite visuals in cartoons or live action comedy. This may inform much of what I find funny.
For Christmas, I look like a villain
Before heading out to the gym today, I decided to do some shaving. If I don't shave, and I sweat, my face can really start to break out.
I use an electric razor. Something about real razors that close to my jugular has always freaked me out, so I spend money every couple of years on a Norelco or Braun electric razor. Of late, I've used a foil razor. It sort of does the trick. But with a foil razor, if you wait too long between shaves, it can actually hurt a bit as you scrape your face. But, of course aside from redness which immediately goes away, no big deal.
Today while I was shaving, I noticed the usual slight discomfort was a bit amplified and of a different, sharper character. I looked at the razor and noticed nothing out of the ordinary, so I went back to shaving, and it seemed to get worse. And then I noticed I was actually bleeding a little.
This is what I did to myself:
|the red in my eye if just from an overabundance of Yuletide Spirit|
The scratches should be part of a cautionary tale, like: oh, you can tell he fought a bear. But in my case, it looks like I lost a fight to a cat. Which isn't as cool.
Apparently Jamie noticed my razor fell over and put it back. What neither or us noticed was that the foil was damaged. Because my razor was sitting where it always sits, I couldn't figure out what changed between Wednesday morning and today, and just assumed I was a bigger wimp today than in every other preceding day. Until the blood.
See, this is how I know I'm going to die in a completely preventable manner. "Oh, you mean you shouldn't just wake up with your pillow soaked in your own blood every morning? I just thought that was part of getting older."
I am an idiot.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
Blog Spotlight - Down and Out: An Austin Love Story
That lovely young woman was LT. She's fairly new to town, a world traveler, highly educated, and now unemployed and trying to make a go of it here in Waterloo. Turns out she can also turn a phrase, so I encourage you to check out her blog Down and Out: An Austin Love Story.
I think you'll find it an interesting read. I know I do. I'm personally totally rooting for LT, and it wasn't so long ago I was also unemployed in this town under very different circumstances. So if you have a chance, give it a read.
SW Advent Calendar December 22
Some good reads: Memorial #1 and Daredevil #7
written by Chris Roberson, art by Rick Ellis and colors by Grace Allison
I have a feeling that if issue #2 continues on from where issue #1 started, and this thing expands the way I think it could, we're going to be looking at one of the "next big things" for comics fans.
In TV and comics, there are ways to lay groundwork while laying out tantalizing bits of "what's really happening" or setting up a mythology, and its difficult to pinpoint how a series on TV like Lost can do this so well, and then the reboot of V comes along, and it has all the fun of solving a big book of word problems.
It has to do, of course, with clearly defined (and new but readily understood) characters, buy-able circumstances for characters that set an internal logic from the beginning, what was presented as hints about what's happening without being unnecessarily oblique.
If this were a TV series, I think we just saw the first half-hour of the 90 minute pilot, and it was very promising. We get a lovely tabula rasa set up for our start, that we know we'll populate with backstory, despotic fairytale queens, and plenty of hints about who our villains are, and the circumstances that led them to villainy. Its a compelling soup of familiar and unfamiliar, and I am very curious to see where it heads.
Mostly, unlike so many #1's I've read in the DCU relaunch, this didn't have me wanting to know more to guess how they would do this, or fix it, or how this compared to my expectations. This was starting fresh, and it felt fresh and absolutely necessary against the backdrop of the state of the industry.
Give it a shot. You can find Memorial #1 from IDW out as of Wednesday, Dec. 21 at your local shop, and online at comixology.
Recommended for fans of Sandman, Fables, Unwritten and Books of Magic.
by Mark Waid, Paulo Rivera and Joe Rivera with colorist Javier Rodriguez
The constant push to write for the trade and the industry's devotion to the 6 issue storyline has meant that we've all but lost a vestige of the 80's on most of superherodom in comics. When writers like Claremont were on books like X-Men, as powerful as a multi-issue story-arc could be (and how that was handled differently them plotting out over years sometimes), often it was the stand-alone story between stories that worked as a short story, and revealed character in the way day-in-the-life or short-form stories can.
Waid has always been talented, but of late, the man has been firing on all cylinders on all of his projects. On Daredevil, he's rescued the character from a whirlpool of negativity that started in the 1980's with Miller's work, was used to excellent effect in some of Bendis's run on the character, built upon by Brubaker, but essentially left Matt Murdock with nowhere to go.
Waid continues to play off this problem in this issue, as the mission of this run has been to make Matt Murdock a character whose stories people might want to read for enjoyment, not endure out of duty. Matt Murdock, the character, has reclaimed life, and as readers, we get to enjoy that, too.
This issue follows Murdock in a set of unfortunate circumstances leading kids to safety through a snowstorm. the subject material shouldn't feel like an 80's throwback, but I simply can't point to enough periods in the past 20 years when a writer was offered the opportunity to tell this kind of revealing story in a mainstream book, or saw the potential in such "ordinary" circumstances.
Its a straight up amazing read, and shows not just why Daredevil works as a character, but why Waid's understanding of character and what real drama can look like in a comic about men in tights, keeps the whole thing engaging and reminds readers how this medium and this genre can work on a very good day.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
SW Advent Calendar December 21
Which, of course, was really this:
Which, of course, is trumped by this:
Signal Watch Trailer Park: DKR, Hobbit, etc...
I have a rough idea of what elements they're playing off one another from back in the Broken Bat era of Batman comics, and I know a bit about Selina Kyle (hey, how about that Anne Hathaway, huh?), and I know Talia al Ghul is slated to appear in the movie played by the lovely Marion Cotillard, so that's always fun.
In general, this looks about five times as intense as The Dark Knight, and that's kind of hard to wrap my head around, as after seeing that movie the first time, I deeply wanted a nap. But that's also what makes for a good Batman tale, I think. Things just keep getting ratcheted up.
And hopefully Joel Schumacher will have a moment of clarity in regards to how Bane could have been useful in a Batman movie.
Last night the trailer for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey hit, and the internet sort of blew up.
Truthfully, I only remember bits of this book. The first half left a much smaller impression on me than Lord of the Rings. But that doesn't mean this trailer doesn't look extremely promising, even if it includes bits and pieces that seem to have been created just for the movie.
I am thrilled to see Cate Blanchett back as Galadriel, even if I don't think she was in The Hobbit as a book (correct me, folks, I just don't remember). And, of course, seeing artifacts that come into play in the LOTR trilogy show up onscreen is hugely welcome.
I don't pretend to be a Tolkein scholar, and I'm sure you guys know way more about the movies and books than me, but this all looks terribly promising.
And, of course, for some reason Bryan Singer made a high-budget version of Jack and the Beanstalk.
No, I have no idea why.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
SW Advent Calendar December 20
|Merry Christmas from (left to right) McSteans, Santa and The League|
Santa is taking one for the team, indeed.
Also - the beard and mustache were totally real. I like to think we met the real Santa. He's at The Galleria in Houston.
If you've never been there and are seeking answers to questions you dare not utter, there are years and years worth of postings.
May God have mercy on your soul.
|the ghosts of 2005 say "hi"|
Monday, December 19, 2011
Comics I read and Chris Roberson's "Memorial" comes out on Wednesday
If'n you haven't read any of Chris' work, this is a great opportunity to jump on and see why I keep talking about this guy.
Some other stuff:
Tintin - Secret of the Unicorn: I'm the guy who keeps going "oooooooooh...!" at the trailer for the new Tintin movie, and so I read the book Secret of the Unicorn this week. Its a very manageable volume, but also, apparently, part 1 of the story. So, while I was a bit thrown by the fact that the story didn't actually end, I also just emailed Austin Books to see if they had a copy of the subsequent volumes.
As you know, I'm a Scrooge and Donald Duck fan, and this is in roughly the same sort of vein of high adventure, but with a lot of goofy stuff happening around the characters and our heroes being a bit off-kilter themselves. Its also amazing how much of a master of the form Hergé was as far back as these stories first appeared. Today's action strip artists could most certainly learn quite a bit about pacing and scene management from Tintin.
Incorruptible Volume 4: I've been a fan of Mark Waid's "superhero" work at Boom! with the pairing of Irredeemable and Incorruptible. I did fall a bit behind on my reading of these series, and I'm now trying to catch up, but I hadn't forgotten how much I like how Waid's exploring the central thesis in each book of the hero turned mad/ WMD, and the villain who, in a world gone crazy sees the only sensible thing to do is fight on the side of the angels, even if he has no idea how that works and the people around him are all terribly, humanly uneven in their own approaches to life.
Just a great series for the superhero fan who can't deal with another reboot, civil war, etc... Its some dark stuff, but its smartly done and is genuinely building a coherent storyline. Someting I'm not sure you can say about most of the New 52.
SW Advent Calendar December 19
Santor is Back with a Merry Christmas Tune
That old sweetheart. He's a sentimental fool.
It is remarkably hard to write a non-trite Christmas story
Of course, the short story format is an enormous challenge to begin with, but add in the complication of the sentiment and sentimentality of Christmas, you can either go sweet and twee, or you can go dark and maybe just end up wallowing in an obvious bit of cynicism or horror that really doesn't get anyone anywhere.
One of the challenges that Hollywood faces, that I've become acutely aware of, is that the message of Christmas is a generic "believe" or "fill yourself with the spirit of Christmas", but what one is to believe, or how one defines the spirit of Christmas (or what that spirit should then encourage one to do), is never really explored.
Sunday, December 18, 2011
SW Advent Calendar December 18
To me, fashion is a mistur-ee
This picture is the worst thing I have ever seen.
Call me kooky, but this outfit is a mishmash of clothes randomly pulled off the shelf from a box store and put on a really dumb person suffering from malnutrition. I am led to believe that this poor, sick girl has gotten lost on a tour of the house where James K. Polk spent his post-presidency golden years. She cannot see to the end of the room.
I do not understand fashion.
San Fran in Jan(uary)
So, in January I'm headed for San Francisco.
I arrive on the 19th. I had originally planned to run around the city and whatnot the first night, but it turns out that its the first night of the San Francisco SketchFest. As part of the Sketchfest, the crew from RiffTrax is performing on night 1 of the SketchFest. So, while this means I may have a problem with the Alpha Plan of @#$%in' &%#@ up in San Francisco on the 19th, it does mean I get to go to SketchFest see the guys from RiffTrax do a bunch of shorts. And that is awesome! (and, no doubt, means extra time hangin' with The Dug and a more likely scenario of seeing MikeF and others)
Oddly, the event is at the Castro, where I will also be the following few days.
The schedule and tickets are now available for Noir City X, the tenth installment of the Eddie Muller-helmed Film Noir Fest.
I'm in and out of town fairly quickly as a man can only afford to stay in one place too long, and the fact that every time I leave work for a few days, some disaster is awaiting me on the other side.
I'm pretty darned excited. The line-up for both before and after I'm there features some great films I've seen and a long list of films I haven't seen. If you live in the area, take advantage.
I am a bit down that I'll miss Naked Alibi on Thursday, which features both Sterling Hayden and Gloria Grahame (and I've been trying to track it down for a while), and it seems this year they've moved the party to the second weekend, so I'm missing that. But they did add Angie Dickinson to talk Point Blank, which is a great movie, so I'll get to see her in person.
But I also will be looking to fill days while I'm around, so if you have helpful touristy hints for me that don't involve wandering The Tenderloin in a Batman costume, I'd like to hear them.
Happy Birthday, JimD
we don't do birthdays around here much anymore. But it's Jim D's B-Day, and I remembered.
Saturday, December 17, 2011
SW Advent Calendar December 17
You know, I just don't see this happening in a current issue of Batman or Detective Comics. But its nice to know that Batman and Robin, once upon a time, totally got into the Christmas spirit.
Kickstarter Project - Folk Documentary
Hilary and Stuart are The Flyin' A's (who I went to go see just last night). I've known a lot of musicians at this point, and some have been successful, some less so, but I haven't seen anyone who has worked as hard at keeping their music going as these two. And they're actually very good, too.*
A while back Stuart and Hilary were noticed by a documentary crew and were approached to take part in the film. You can see Hil (not really the shyest of daffodils) gets a lot of coverage.
1. You can see a trailer for their documentary here.
2. You can help fund the documentary by contributing to the Kickstarter at this link.
They only have a couple of weeks left, so if you can kick in a few bucks, it would get the documentary a really long way and get Hilary and Stuart in front of more eyes and ears than a summer's worth of touring.
*I think we've all known that band or musician we really didn't want to encourage
Friday, December 16, 2011
SW Advent Calendar December 16
Provided by our own AmyD.
This was my response to her email:
I doubt you guys listen to much Magic 95.5 for their magical month of Christmas, but I think they play this song every hour on the hour. Its insane.
Sometimes... this is the song that gets stuck in my head, and even a power drill and a tire iron cannot get it out.
And now I share with you. Merry Christmas.
Marvel finally starts working on Disney comics
I thought Boom! did a phenomenal job handling the Disney properties. Maybe TOO phenomenal as I spent a lot of money on Disney comics for a spot there as Boom! flooded the kids' section with Pixar and Disney properties, both new and licensed from the European and classic American Disney comics.
They also wisely repacked their comics in inexpensive, kid friendly collections.
Really, it was a lot of fun. And so when Disney purchased Marvel, I knew that a wrench would get thrown in the works.
Now, this is one comic of a four-issue limited series of one property. I am still not able to buy new issues of Mickey, Scrooge or Donald. But I will be watching Marvel in 2012 to see what they try. And, hopefully, it won't mess with the great work Fantagraphics is doing collecting the really old school Disney strips and comics.
Thursday, December 15, 2011
End of the Year List?
So, instead, here's sort of a list of stuff I liked this year.
Friday Night Lights - final season. The show nobody watched while it was on, but everyone seems to be finding now. The show wound up on a great note, bringing together years of storylines.
Louis - Louis CK's odd non-sitcom. Its on FX, its critically acclaimed and lightly watched, but its maybe the closest to a singular vision you're going to find on TV.
Game of Thrones - I wasn't expecting much, and instead I got totally wrapped up in the show. And started rationalizing reasons why it was okay to like the really pretty bad bad-guys. Peter Dinklage was terrific.
American Horror Story - gets a mention because so many people didn't give it a chance, and until the penultimate episode, it was one seriously messed up show that was way more entertaining than I was guessing (your mileage will vary). Also, its show #2 on the list featuring Connie Britton.
The League - I don't even think this show is terribly good, but it is funny in a misanthropic, semi-nihilistic sort of way.
Park and Rec - This show has always been pretty solid, but this year it hit a particular stride, even with the tragic loss of Lil' Sebastian (RIP).
Adventure Time - I would try to explain this show, but the only way you're going to find out about it is if your kids tune in. You'll enjoy it/ get it more than they will.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold - Probably my favorite show on TV this year, and it went out with a bang.
There were a lot of good shows. I didn't talk about my perennial favorite Mythbusters, for example. What else can you say in season 8 or whatever they're on?
Movies (first run at the theater)
Drive - This one hit so many of my personal buttons for a movie, they might as well have asked me what I thought I'd like to see in a crime flick.
Hugo - Likely the best bit of direction I've seen in a couple of years, and a true piece of art talking about art. And, of course, its flopping.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes - APES.
Attack the Block - this one was such a pleasant surprise, I likely overhyped it. But it was a nice contrast to the nostalgic Super 8.
Captain America - My favorite superhero movie in a while
Movies (on my TV or elsewhere)
The Glass Key - just a kick-ass bit of crime cinema
The Hustler - I am kicking myself for waiting so long to see this movie. Absolutely brilliant.
Gun Crazy - Those crazy kids. They almost made it work. Except for all the gunplay and murder.
Night of the Hunter - Hey! Its also sort of a Christmas movie!
Oh, I don't know. They've all been fine.
Ha ha ha. No.
SW Advent Calendar December 15
Every year, right around Christmas, Ms. Darlene Love appears on the Late Show with David Letterman to perform "Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)", not just the best modern era Christmas song (in my opinion), but one of Phil Spector's best, no matter what Holiday or day we're talking about.
So the internet might be dead by the end of the day today
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Signal Watch Reads: Batman - The Black Mirror
Unlike a surprisingly vocal group on the comics internets, I wasn't pulling for Dick Grayson to remain Batman forever. For many, many reasons, Grayson is Nightwing, and the longer he stayed in the cape and cowl, the more likely we'd end up in some new "Kyle Rayner is my Green Lantern!" conversation a bit down the road as we dealt with that small section of the populace that came to Batman during the window of Grayson as Batman.
But I like the stories that came out of the era, at least those by Morrison, and I'm pleased to say I quite enjoyed Scott Snyder's The Black Mirror collection as well (and, hey, what are the chances he's an Arcade Fire fan? Pretty high, I'd guess).
Black Mirror started as a series of back-ups in Detective and dovetailed into the mainline story, which must have been quite thrilling to watch unfold over the course of the year. I missed all of this as during the post Return of Bruce Wayne era, I have relegated all new Batman reading to trades.
Snyder's Batman is as close (closer than Morrison's) to how I've been interpreting Gotham and Batman's place in the city as anything else I've read. I'm not sure its exactly Alan Grant-riffic, but it is back to Batman as the line of defense against a city under siege by human monsters (which, actually, is more or less how I read Arkham Asylum by Morrison some years back. It was the pen for all the monsters/ the inside of a madman's mind).
The story throws red herrings, plays off paranoia developed after living so close to the Gotham's violent undercurrent and explores the lives of characters that were present in the assumed past of Batman comics, but whose lives were moving steadily forward in parallel to those of Batman and Robin, but off frame. Sure, its a bit odd to come in so late in the game with this entirely new backstory, but it fits for the Gordon family, and fills in gaps and works with ellipses Miller left at the end of Year One that no other writer has ever picked up.
It does, however, raise some questions even while it cements issues around "so how old is Batman, exactly?"
But the real success here isn't just in playing well as a continuity cop. Snyder manages to tell a compelling page turner of a tale that I thought worked great as a collection, even while enjoying the episodic nature of the book. The various alleys taken, from the Etienne story to Tiger Shark to our final conclusion all manage to fold together nicely, and while its not so much a mystery at some point, its still manages to work as character study for some of our primaries and for Gotham, itself (something Snyder is exploring in current issues of Batman.
I'd be remiss not to mention the impressive collaboration of artists Jock and Francesco Francavilla, who managed to blend their two distinctive styles of Klaus Janson-esque scratchy line art and illustrative exactness a la Mazzuchelli. Its a nice blend as they handle separate assignments within the same book. And that's not to mention the exemplary coloring.
Its an odd contrast to the sort of stuff I felt Tony Daniel was doing over in Batman last year and that it seems he's doing in Detective now that just feels so much like watered-down retreads of other stuff you've seen before. Snyder seems to have found a way to tell a fresh story using familiar parts of the Batman mythos without the need to overhaul everything we've known, and that's not small thing.
Anyhoo... its a little pricey as a hardback, but if you can find it on sale, its a nice, solid Bat-read.
SW Advent Calendar December 14
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
SW Advent Calendar December 13
I've not read this issue of Flash by Mark Waid, and I've got to find a way to correct that before Christmas.
We're not crazy about the SOPA Bill
I've censored the following, in protest of a bill that gives any corporation and the US government the power to censor the internet--a bill that could pass THIS WEEK. To see the uncensored text, and to stop internet censorship, visit: http://americancensorship.org/posts/6377/uncensor
I don't ████████████ ████ it in for the ████ or the ████. ████ █████ █████ ████████. But ████ I do ████ a ███████ ████ is the ████ █████ ██████ ████████ ████ █████ ████ █████ 95% of the ████████ on the ████████ a █████ █████.
No, you ███████'t be █████████ ███████████ ██████ or ██████, you █████. But ████'s █████████ now is ████ a ████ has ████ ███████ ████ █████ an ████████ ██████ of ███████ ██████ ██████ ████████████ █████, █████████ ████████ █████████. If you ████, ███████████, a ██████████ ██████████ ████████, go █████ and ███████ ████.
I ██████ █████████ ████ ███████.
Monday, December 12, 2011
Signal Watch Reads: Action Comics #4
Superman and the Men of Steel
writer - Grant Morrison
penciller - Rags Morales
inkers - Rick Bryant & Sean Parsons
colorist - Brad Anderson
letterer - Patrick Brosseau
One of the funniest things about this issue wasn't what was on the page so much as a few comments I read online. Man, a lot of superhero comics fans really, really do not know their Superman. Even after the recent terrific Brainiac storyline in Action Comics by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, culminating in the crazier and better bits of the conclusion of the massive New Krypton storyline.
SW Advent Calendar December 12
Dames to Watch Out For: Today is Jennifer Connelly's Birthday
|along with some dude's 'stache|
Unlike a lot of her contemporaries, Connelly never really became part of a Brat Pack or became known in the sort of faddish way many actresses get used up and spit out, only to wind up on absolutely terrible Lifetime and Hallmark Channel holiday movies. Which I've been watching again, and they are awesome.
Connelly was a child actress, showing up in Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in America as the 12-year-old Deborah, but I remember her as the girl from Labyrinth that I was crushing on and who was pursued by David Bowie and Muppets. Of course later she wound up as Bettie Page stand-in Jenny in The Rocketeer, which is worth watching just for Connelly in a cocktail dress.
She's gone on to all sorts of work, and has carved out an interesting career for herself while not melting down in public, but managing to mostly appear in movies I just never see. I think the last of her movies I saw was the iffy remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still.
Still, my hat is off to Connelly, because, dang, yo. You keep being you, Ms. Connelly.
|ah, heck. here's Ms. Connelly in that cocktail dress.|
a wee bit more on Superman Family kids' comic
It sounds exactly like the sort of thing I was hoping DC might do this year. Well, 2012 is close to this year, so I'll take what I can get.
From the article:
This May, the Eisner Award-winning creative team of the NEW YORK TIMES bestselling TINY TITANS, Art Baltazar and Franco, will continue bringing their wonderful and unique humor to DC Comics with the new ongoing monthly series, SUPERMAN FAMILY ADVENTURES. The series will be starring (you guessed it!) the whole Superman gang – Superman, Supergirl, Superboy, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Lex Luthor, Bizarro, General Zod and … Fuzzy the Krypto Mouse!As near as I can tell, Fuzzy the Krypto Mouse is all-new, but its been a while since anyone was added to the Legion of Super-Pets, so I welcome Fuzzy with open super-arms. (But "Krypto Mouse"? Could he be Streaky's nemesis?)
This is, of course, in tandem with the line of kids' Super Pets books which will soon have volumes featuring Super Turtle, Comet and more Krypto and Streaky.
I did notice on the bigger image DC provided of the FCBD comic that Superman is in his new suit. I'll be curious how Jim Lee's design translates.
|the kids love a high collar!|
But, yup, that's Superman. I am pretty excited about this!
Sunday, December 11, 2011
Signal Watch Watches: Hugo
Of his contemporaries, Scorsese never went off the rails as much as Coppola and Lucas seemed to after their initial decade or two of success. He's been consistent, usually sticking to fairly mature material even when handling a costume drama like The Age of Innocence. Thus it may have been, I raised an eyebrow when I saw he was doing a family movie for release at Christmas with 3D, storybook sets, a bright-eyed little boy a lead and dogs. I still wanted to see what he'd cooked up, but more or less planned to write it off as Scorsese's holiday-film lark.
Firstly, Hugo is not at all the movie I believed it would be from the trailer. Nor the poster. And, I'd argue, its barely a kids' movie. Or, if it is for kids, its not going to slow down for your dopey kids as it goes about telling very exactly the story it has in mind.
SW Advent Calendar December 11
Thanks to Nicole for this video.
Actually, this video might actually be of Nicole.
Saturday, December 10, 2011
SW Advent Calendar December 10
This evening we host our annual Holiday Party.* Were we only so lucky as to have Enemy Ace come flying in out of the snow to party crash as he did in the story "Silent Night" from Christmas with the Superheroes #2.
*you're invited. Come on by!
Friday, December 9, 2011
SW Advent Calendar December 9
...why is Santa so HUGE? And shouldn't Wonder Woman put on some pants if she's going to sit down in the snow?
So, so many questions...
Superman Family Kids' Comic Coming?
Free Comics Book Day is announcing their upcoming titles for this spring/ summer, and included in the "Silver" book announcements, I read the following:
Let me pull out the relevant/ exciting part.
Plus, get a sneak-peek at the brand-new Superman Family Adventures monthly series from the Tiny Titans creative team!What?! That could be AWESOME!
So maybe this summer we're getting a kid's version of The Superman Family? Well, count me in.
You can see Superman in the little bullet there towards the bottom of the cover.
It's a nice little surprise in my day.
Garth Ennis's "Battlefields"
Ennis is famous for Preacher, Hitman, Punisher: Welcome Back Frank, The Boys, Adventures in the Rifle Brigade and other over-the-top comics adventure stories aimed squarely at the 17-and-up crowd. Yes, he knows how to a work a good de-nosing, be-facing, entrail gouge and other such entertaining topics into his work. And, I admit, when I'm in the mood, I absolutely love that stuff.
But a number of years back now, Ennis did a two-issue, prestige format Enemy Ace story that more or less set up my current fascination with the character (especially after learning Pratt's work on War Idyll and the original Kanigher and Kubert work was so astoundingly good), and I'd highly recommend it as a good "here's a comic without superheroes" comic.
He went on to write some great stuff in his War Stories comics at DC, and, again, I'd recommend.
But a couple years back he started a new banner at Dynamite where he could tell short, 3 issue stories, called Battlefields.
Truthfully, I'm not sure if I've discussed his work on Battlefields here before or not. But it bears discussion.
Unlike most of comic-dom that plays with facts, refuses to do so much as a Google search on even the historical figures or events they're talking about, or grossly misrepresents facts in order to "tell the story", Ennis clearly does his research. He clearly knows his topics, from New Zealand army bombers to British tank commands during WWII. And on top of that, he tells brilliant, human stories in the grinder that is war. Sometimes sentimental, sometimes less so, but never with the varnish of a John Wayne war movie, nor the melodramatic flair of Platoon, Ennis actually carves out a pretty straightforward way of relating his stories, and that makes the tragedy surrounding the characters all the more grim.
If you get a chance, at least pick up that first collection. Its of 9 issues, 3 separate stories on 3 separate fronts, and all chillingly well told. I'm pretty sure it'll mean you go ahead and pick up Volume 2.
While Ennis most definitely gets a nod of respect, there's so much more internet ink spilled (and I suspect sales are much higher on) his books like The Boys. And that's great, but its missing what a tremendously talented and versatile (and damned smart) writer Ennis really can be.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
SW Advent Calendar December 8
Jerry Robinson Merges with The Infinite
There are fact-filled eulogies and appreciations drifting in from all over the internet, so I'd rather link to better-written and better-researched articles and eulogies.
Jerry lived to the age of 89, but in his youth was part of the comics explosion, working side by side with the pioneers and greats of industry. He was also a comics historian, and advocate for creator's rights.
With the production of The Dark Knight as a major film (and featuring The Joker), Robinson was given emeritus status at DC Comics, and has enjoyed a close relationship with the company the last few years.
Another of the great ones has passed.
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
So, someone has made an all new Three Stooges movie
Yes, the Three Stooges were characters portrayed by actors. I do not labor under any illusions that the three Stooges really went about poking one another in the eye, slap-sticking each other and pulling one another's nose, no matter how totally awesome that illusion might be. But its also, for this human, impossible to separate the characters from the actors. Hell, the Stooges didn't just hire some new guy to play Curly. They replaced him with Shemp.
Which opens the door to the whole "Fake Shemp" discussion, which is sort of morbidly fascinating.
Now, according to my intensive Stooges research, the Stooges struggled for years with their third stooge, and it could be said that somehow that makes them all fungible. Hell, after Curly and Larry died, Moe did continue on with Shemp, then Joe, then Curly Joe. Then a replacement Larry. Then, when Moe died, an "all new Stooges" formed from the replacements, but who the hell remembers those guys?
|the classic formula|
The point is - Moe, Larry and Curly are so tightly bound between actors and characters, bringing them back in 2012 with new faces and actors trying to emulate the original formula seems ill-conceived.
In all honestly, I originally thought when I heard there was a movie about the Three Stooges, it would be a biopic about the men behind the eye-poking. It wasn't until I watched the new trailer that I learned otherwise.
I don't think you'd see a new Little Tramp movie. Or a new Marx Bros. movie. Laurel & Hardy. Abbott & Costello. A new Lucy TV show, etc... And while, yeah, we'd all like to see some new Stooges movies*, if none suddenly surface, I think its okay to just live with the many, many shorts and features they released.
Also - these guys, all talented, just aren't the Stooges. They're guys approximating what the Stooges refined every day of their lives for 30 years. The timing looks off, and it looks like half-realized impersonations of well known characters more than, well, I guess just BEING Moe Howard
I guess its a kids' movie, but given current trends in parenting, I'm hard-pressed to believe that the eye-poking, face-slapping antics I enjoyed as a youth will go over well today.
All this said - I'm not a huge Stooges fan. I don't dislike the Three Stooges, but it isn't something I watched all that often as a kid, and they just didn't air much anymore by the time I was an adult. I appreciate that they have a cult following (you know who you are), and I am certain someone is thrilled to license the image of their dead relatives to get this movie made, but I'm not sure how this is going to work.
Prove me wrong, new Stooges movie directed by the ever-increasingly-dull Farrelly Brothers.
*your mileage will vary on that sentiment
SW Advent Calendar December 7
For Randy, who (as discussed) is like my personal Shatner.
Happy Birthday to The Dug
Today is the birthday of The Dug, brother of League-wife, Jamie.
|I'm sure today is important for other reasons, too|
Happy B-Day, Dug. May it be contain the fun of 40 Nukies.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
The Mass Delusion of The Muppets
The wife of the President of the United States of America turned, greeted Kermit, and off they went reading the story together. Because, you know, talking frogs make total sense.
|Mrs. Obama does not know Kermit is a member of the Green Party.|
Its like if I were presenting at a conference and looked over and Rowlf were on my panel, I'd know exactly how to deal with it. Just say "oh, hi Rowlf!" like its no big deal, join in his banter, and then follow his cue if he bursts into song.
I know that's not how it works, but that's the illusion we've agreed makes complete sense to us all. The Muppets can just show up, we're on a first name basis, and we're going to have a little conversation in front of all these people.
|see, I would be prepared for this eventuality|
But I do think its pretty awesome, in general, that we're all in on this Muppets thing.
*and some GREAT commie propaganda!
SW Advent Calendar: December 6
The Disney Comics gang has a very weird way of decorating their tree. And that just looks terribly poke-y if you ask me. Also, where are Donald's nephews? On the back side of the tree, unloved and unwanted, I suppose.
Monday, December 5, 2011
The New 52 and Creeping Ambivalence
I'm still excited by a few books. Animal Man. Swamp Thing. Batwoman. Action Comics. But as time wears on, the approach DC has taken in the relaunch, of hiring the same old hands and just sort of re-jiggering the DCU with no rhyme or reason to it... the sheer half-baked approach to the effort on so many titles, is just beginning to wear on me as an adult reader and a long-time DC fan.
But the bottom line is that while some of these comics are sort of bad, most of them are just plain not very good. They aren't special or worth the time or money associated with them. They're the filler material of C-list comics that, for some reason, always seem to just exist the same way shows like NBC's The Sing Off manage to show on television for no real reason other than that they generate modestly more money than the budget and are less embarrassing than going to a test signal and admitting you ran out of stuff worth showing.
SW Advent Calendar December 5: It's Krampus Day!!!
Forget Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Your Holiday season can officially begin with Krampus Day! Yes, that merry old emobdiment of terror is here for your children, just in time to remind them that being "naughty" may have grave consequences beyond making your parents buy you the XBox Santa refuses to deliver.
It's Krampus! Keepin' Christmas REAL.
Sunday, December 4, 2011
Signal Watch Reads: Superboy #3
Free at Last, Free at Last
writer - Scott Lobdell
penciller - RB Silva
inker - Rob Lean
colorists - Richard & Tanya Horie
letterer - Carlos Mangual
editor - Chris Conroy
If I may... I hate the title of this issue. I know its a famous phrase, but it does have weight. Using Dr. King's words to title a Superboy issue that is entirely about made-up science fiction stuff... it just seems to unintentionally diminish the meaning of the "I Have a Dream" speech, which I am certain was not the intention of DC, but that's why Lobdell and DC's editors just need to be smarter.
SW Advent Calendar December 4: We wish you a Turtle Christmas
May God have mercy on your souls.
The Weekend - The Admiral is Saluted
As I mentioned about a month ago, The Admiral has retired from his jobby-job at the Corporation Place where he's worked for the last couple decades. Saturday night his colleagues threw him a shindig at Houston's Morton's Steakhouse down near the Galleria. It was lovely.
So, Friday Jamie and I drove into Houston.
On Friday evening, we visited with very longtime pals Shannon & Josh and their kid, Owen at Texas Tex-Mex fixture Ninfa's. Its been years since we'd seen any of the Houston contingent, and we had never met young Owen. Saturday we headed to the Galleria (a fairly tony shopping complex for those of you wondering) for lunch with Erica & Scott and their two kids, Isaac and Mara.
We've definitely headed into the phase where our pals from days of yore have had kids, and we have not, and that puts us in that Childfree American minority. We are now those weird people you remember from your own childhood who didn't match your understanding of the world in which the function of adults was to have kids so somebody would feed people e exitinglike you. They'd show up at the Holidays for meals, maybe, and have no concept of soccer practices, school programs, homework, etc... Also, those people just sort of stared at your kid-ness, did they not?
Yup. That's us. We are most definitely the weird kid-less people now.
Saturday, December 3, 2011
SW Advent Calendar December 3
Yes, they come from a planet of living machines, but their artificial hearts are no less warmed by the joy of the season.
Friday, December 2, 2011
Signal Watch Reads: It's Superman!
Truthfully, I didn't really understand the point of the book. Who was Tom De Haven? With television, comics, movies, cartoons, etc... all spinning their own take, why go to the media where Superman hasn't had as much success as elsewhere? Why start over?
After listening to the novel as an audiobook from Blackstone (delivered via audible), I'm still not exactly sure. Yes, the novel provides angles and insights movies and comics might not. It follows inner monologues, switches points of view with tremendous regularity, but it also seems to lack a certain insight into Superman, the sort of insight that I think has been understood by others in recent media, from Mark Waid's Birthright to Paul Dini and Alex Ross's Peace on Earth to Morrison's All Star Superman to bits and snippets of Superman Returns. And, again, I think I'm seeing it in Grant Morrison's Action Comics.
Between buying the book of It's Superman! and listening to the audiobook (thank goodness for long car rides), I read De Haven's follow up to this one. The follow up, however, wasn't another novel. Instead, it was a meditation on Superman entitled Our Hero: Superman on Earth. It was a nuanced read but it also informs some of what I think De Haven struggled with in writing It's Superman! and where he and I might part ways in our opinions of what's going on with the character.
SW Advent Calendar December 2
Christmas is the great gifts at this year's office Christmas party and wondering what you have in common with your work colleagues other than work. Also, wishing for Don Draper's hair.
Holiday Helping Hand
It's the time of year when movies and TV tell us we learn important life lessons about the real meaning of Christmas.
This can mean family, giving, whatever TV and movies seem to say, I suppose. In the case of Die Hard, it means blowing up Alan Rickman in a spectacular fashion.
Things are rough out there, of course. Nobody is saying it isn't. But it can also be a time to step back from buying that one more $15 present and putting that money toward something that will help somebody who actually needs the money more than you need one more package under the tree to make things symmetrical.
If you give to any charity this year in the spirit of the Holidays, why not send me a message so I know what you've been up to, and I'll post a Signal Watch Holiday Honor Roll. You don't have to say how much you gave, but we'd love your name, who you gave to, and if you feel like saying so, why you gave to that organization.
|Superman helps out with more than a donation|
You can also mention any groups that you regularly give to, especially if you have someone you give to monthly.
I'll give an example:
I give monthly to Capital Area Food Bank, which provides food to local families in need.If you have an organization you give to (that I won't find creepy), just send it our way via our email or click the contact tag on this website.