Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year's Eve from Me and Cyd Charisse

60 years ago, Cyd Charisse helped bring in the New Year!

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.

That's it.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Signal Watch Watches: The Artist

Yes, The Artist is a silent movie.  Shot in black and white.  A period piece (it takes place during and immediately following Hollywood's silent era).  You will not recognize the two leads.

It comes to Austin on the heels of Hugo, an excellent handshake of a film to The Artist, the two acting as a sort of before-and-after look at the silent era of film, one looking at the earliest days of small film producers and this movie examining life for the stars within the studios as the transition to sound became a reality.

The territory will feel at least a bit familiar to the millions of us who love Singin' in the Rain,  and, indeed, our lead reminds me a bit of a love child of Gene Kelley and Douglas Fairbanks.  To catch you up: while sound revolutionized film, it also meant the end of many careers for working actors and actresses.  In Singin' in the Rain, Jean Hagen's Lina Lamont has a terribly annoying voice that doesn't match her aristocratic screen persona.

Ye Compleate Santor o' Yon 2011

A final Christmas gift from us to you this year. Collected here are the many videos Santor left us all behind. Watch in amazement as Santor warms each heart with the true meaning of Christmas.

Yon foretelling o' his'n arrival

The message of preparedethness

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I have no idea which chimp died

Randy has alerted me that the earlier reports of Cheetah the Chimp's death may be inaccurate.  It seems a number of parties and news sources are claiming that the chimp was not Cheetah.

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 haven't watched any Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movies in  30 years, but as a kid, I knew exactly who Cheetah the Chimp was.  He was Tarzan's wacky little buddy.

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 must say good-bye 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

As I understand it, Tintin is a global phenomena that somehow never exploded in the US the way the character has entertained generations across good chunks of the rest of the globe.  Its telling that the release of The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn came to the US months later than the rest of the world.  Because it is not "ours", this has meant low-flying expectations for the boy reporter here in the states and a welcome not unlike how we treat foreign exchange students when they arrive at our high schools in clothes not bought at Foley's.

We're talking about the movie here for a number of reasons.  1)  It is based upon the comics by Belgian comics-smith HergĂ©.  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

I am a bit fascinated by the concept of Numbers Stations.  Not enough to buy a copy of The Conet Project, but I have lost full evenings online listening to clips.

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"