Saturday, March 17, 2012

One More on St. Patrick's Day, before we go


Happy St. Patty's Day from me, Jamie, The KareBear and The Admiral.

After all these years, I finally had a green beer on St. Patrick's Day.  It tasted like beer.

This picture was actually taken to tell Jason the family was really enjoying celebrating his B-Day without him.  Because that's how we roll in the Steans Clan.

Wow, you can really see the Nike logo on my shoe down there.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

It's not just Jason's B-Day, its also St. Patrick's Day!

Let's put on some green, shall we?

And why not Batman and Superman?

Try not to throw up all the Guinness, corned beef and cabbage, and we'll talk to you next week.

Happy B-Day to My Brother

Today is Jason's 39th Birthday.  Holy cow, we are getting old.  It seems like just yesterday 13-year-old Jason was beating the crap out of me for eating his Easter candy.

Time marches on.  We resolve our differences these days with far less pummeling, carefully laid traps, and mutually assured destruction.

This year Jason is spending his B-Day with AmyD, seeing some touristy stuff and catching up with some old pals in Houston.  I think his 39th year will likely be one of the best yet.

And, yes, I did get Jason a couple of presents and bought him a lovely dinner, so there.
our birthday boy

The boy has been cursed with a Leprechaun Day birthday, so his actual B-Day is often quite compromised, as it ALSO always falls during SXSW.

But that doesn't mean you shouldn't go out and enjoy some St. Patrick's Day fun.  You know, if you can find a Bennigan's that's open or whatever.

Signal Watch Watches: Transcendent Man (2009)

I really wish I had seen this movie when it came out, but it was just recommended to me by Co-Worker Ladd this morning.

As much as I like a good, Thunderdomish Dystopian look at the future, from a technology and academic standpoint, I fall much more in the camp of pointing at the shinier spacecraft and rocket pack visions of the future.  Prepping for a time of Robot Shock Troopers tends to make you start stocking ammunition and buying property in Queen Creek, Arizona, and I'm just not ready to cut the sleeves off all my camo jackets yet, and I look terrible in a crazy-man beard.

In fact, I like my job partially because its all about the future where we get flying cars and can download dissertations directly into our noggins.  Digital libraries!  Hoorary!

It seems that technologist and futurist Ray Kurzweil showed up as SXSWi 2012, and Co-Worker Ladd (yes, his name is Ladd) managed to see him speak.  Kurzweil is one of those names I've heard on and off for two decades, not quite the way you hear of Tim Berners-Lee, but he pops up on BoingBoing and is a name that technology hipsters tend to throw around.

Frankly, I should pay a lot more attention to these sorts of figures, because Kurzweil's personal innovations are incredible, even if that's not really the topic of the documentary, Transcendent Man (2009).  Instead, the doc follows Kurzweil as he moves around the planet as a bit of a Conference Personality, but as he also meets with figures from Colin Powell to William Shatner to an arena full of Church of Christ Conference attendees discussing the concept of The Singularity.*

As we all know, technology is advancing from all angles in ways predicted clumsily by Moore's Law.  What Kurzweil is looking at and discussing is that its not just processing power, but other technologies, falling into three areas of interest:  Genetics (bioinformatics), Nantotechnology and Robotics (or AI).  The Singularity is a point at which those things hit a point on the graph where the nature of humanity will be forced to change by the technologies so profoundly that it will rewrite our definitions of everything from technology to humanity to consciousness.

Basically, we're in a mad race to see if we create a race of super artificial intelligences, if we can rewrite our DNA to beat disease and aging while recreating the human body, or if nanotechnology will be merging us into machines while it has the ability to connect us to the super robot brains while rewriting our bodies into all looking like Fabio in 1994.  Or will we upload our consciousness to Facebook?

Here's the thing:  I think I know just enough about technology and SCIENCE to know I don't know anything, but I also tend to think that Kurzweil, while maybe jumping the gun on the timing, is probably right.

I intended to watch part of the show this evening and then return to it, but instead I watched the entire thing, slack jawed and in awe.  The movie manages to find genius after genius, players at the tops of their fields who all have different reasons to agree or disagree with Kurzweil in whole or in part, and its an absolutely gripping 80 minutes or so.  Especially as the director humanizes and builds a portrait of Kurzweil (a seemingly approachable gentleman, certainly) and digs into the basis for his quest and to see what drives him.

There are a tremendous number of questions occurring in the film, the sorts of things that have the longterm effects of global change, all without the pressure cooker or drive of a Manhattan Project.  Its happening now, and the minds pushing toward the future seem aware of the pitfalls and risks of the world they're creating, and seem to be sure that somebody else is going to deny the dinosaurs their Lysine.  Its absolutely riveting stuff.  And, again, this is a documentary.

The crowd that drifts into this blog is pretty smart and tech savvy, and I'd love to see what you guys have to say, if you've seen it or you get a chance to stream it from Netflix.

Highly, highly recommended.

*see my hilariously uninformed argument with my brother about the concept at his blog post from about a year ago.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

What's So Funny About Truth, Justice and the American Way?

DC released the trailer today for Superman Vs. The Elite, a feature length film based upon the famous-among-Superman-fans Action Comics #775.  The name of the story in the issue was "What's So Funny About Truth, Justice and the American Way?"

Get More: MTV Shows

It's an interesting time for DC Entertainment to be releasing the film.

The story pitted Superman against a rough analog for The Authority, a team book from DC's acquired Wildstorm line.  The Authority had become popular circa 1999 thanks to what some at the time called a "realistic" approach to superheroes - as in that fact that in the Wildstorm U, protagonists didn't catch bad buys and take them to jail or Arkham Asylum, they tended to deal with them with a tremendous bit of finality that became the hallmark of the line.

I read the first couple of trades of The Authority, and toward mid-2001, I recall losing my taste for the series.  The fascistic undertones of the book had always sat sort of oddly with me as a reader, but I assumed the writers were trying to make a point about power in a world where power was out of control.  However, after it became clear that... no...  the writers are just writing the most over-the-top stories they can think of, and are going to treat death tolls in the 10's of thousands casually, I simply lost interest.

2001 was, I might add, five years after Kingdom Come, the miniseries that, like Dark Knight Returns, seemed to have a serious impact on the DCU as a whole.  Waid and Ross's Kingdom Come was a brilliant collaboration, summing up the state of the superhero comics industry at the time, but also working as a larger commentary upon the endgame of extremism, that in the end you're left with madness, and sooner or later something will come along that nobody wants to see happen in an attempt to quell the day-to-day madness.

I still think Warren Ellis was trying to make a point with The Authority about how very human we are and that power doesn't change necessarily change that, even as we try to make decisions or use what we have to do good by others.  And on a planetary scale, the effects can be devastating.  I'm not sure the audience went along for that that particular ride, but they certainly seemed to like that "Apollo and The Midnighter" (a Superman and Batman analog) kicked ass!*

Signal Watch Post No. 1000

Can you believe it?  1000 posts.

I am sure all five of you readers out there cannot believe it, either.  Heck, some of you may have read upwards of 6-7% of what I've written here.

While he doesn't comment, I've come to learn that my most avid reader may actually be The Admiral (my dad).  Go figure.  The man doesn't care about comics, Superman, John Carter, Myrna Loy, or most of the rest of my content (well, maybe Cyd Charisse), but he still checks in every day to see what The Boy is doing.

Thanks, Pop!

As of 3/13/2012 at 11:30 PM:
  • 998 posts (I'm pre-writing this to publish in a couple of days)
  • 9538 tweets
  • lord knows how many Facebook messages and comments (you're welcome, Zuckerberg, you and your $%#@ing IPO)
  • 136,363 total hits
  • My number one post -  "I'm Headed for Waco, also Some Lawyers are Pigs"  has over 4200 hits.  Between getting hits because of the cute pig pictures, and as people find Austin's "anti-some-lawyers I've-dressed-as-a-pig guy" interesting, the post continues to get emailed around a bit
  • The second most favored post - "The Giant Eyes of Dr. TJ Eckleburg", I assume high school students keep Googling the phrase when reading their Spark Notes (4000 hits and climbing)
  • My top five topics are:  
    • Movies (207)
    • Comics (185)
    • Superman (147)
    • DCU (141)
    • Reviews (115)
  • My "About" page has received 483 views
  • By far the most popular thing I've placed on Tumblr. has been the Batman themed "sound advice" post with 1387 notes after 4 weeks
  • Since starting this blog I have thought about the following dames this many times
    • Gloria Grahame:  3428
    • Cyd Charisse:  3267
    • Nichelle Nichols: 5299 
    • Myrna Loy:  4823
    • Lynda Carter:  3212
    • Flo from the Progressive commercials - ubiquitous.  She's in an ad somewhere right now, you cannot avoid her.
    • Christina Hendricks: 34,943
    • Jamie Steans: 3,789,221,071
    • Apollonia: 3
  • I have made this much money from doing this:  $0

It seems like just yesterday that I was relaunching this foolish blogging enterprise after 4 months on ice.  At the time, I was excited about watching production on a Green Lantern feature film and the direction of DC Comics.  Oh, how young and foolish we all were.

That was less than two years ago.

As these things go, at some point it will be interesting to go back and read the subtext and be able to chart what was going on outside of reading comics, watching movies, etc... at the time.  At this blog I talk far less about my day-to-day than I did at League of Melbotis, Volume 1, but I'll likely still know.

If you'd told me two years ago that I'd see the wholesale rebooting of the DCU and a gradual but certain reduction in my interest in understanding and reading ALL the comics, I'd have burned you for a witch.  But here we are.  The truth is, I don't really feel that most of what's out there is for me anymore.  It was bound to happen sooner or later, I suppose.

We plan to keep doing this at least until December 31, 2012, so we hope the both of you will stick with us.

Happy 1000 posts to me here at League of Melbotis, Volume 2:  The Signal Watch

I appreciate all of you who read the site, follow the tumblr., follow the tweets, follow facebook...  however you participate, vocal or silent...  you guys make this fun.  A 1000 thank-you's on the day of our 1000th post!

Now let's see who feels like celebrating.

that'll work

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


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


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

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

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


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

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

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Signal Watch Watches: The Thin Man Goes Home (1945)

Released in January of 1945, The Thin Man Goes Home was a wartime-era film, and I think that informs a little bit about the small town, homey nature of the movie.  Rather than the usual big city, boozy shenanigans, the movie takes Nick and Nora back to Nick's hometown for a friendly family visit when, of course, a body turns up.

The idyllic small town with white, picket fences and charming downtown streets makes a strange backdrop after the four prior films (the last one released in November 1941), and seems a significant hop from the New York and San Francisco backdrops you may associate with the characters. The comedy is a bit softer and a bit less edgy than prior installments, and they find a work around to keep the Charles' from openly boozing and living it up, what with the war on. But that doesn't mean that from the get-go it doesn't feel like Nick and Nora or that Asta has gone AWOL.

Frankly, its counting on a lot of familiar business from the prior installments, and the comfort food tone to the film was probably welcome in January 1945, with VE Day still 5 months off.  And, of course, the war does play into the film a bit, from the overcrowding of the trains at the beginning of the movie to some major plot details.

And, of course, Myrna Loy.

Fossil (the watch company) has amazing customer service

Once in a while a company does right, and I think rather than just whine online about when things go poorly, sometimes we should mention the folks who do right, too.

I have worn Fossil watches since the late 90's, partially because until recently they had a license to make Superman watches.  One day I'll show you my collection.

About five years ago for Christmas my mother (The KareBear) gifted me a Superman watch that I absolutely loved.  I wore it every day.  I only replaced the battery two times.  It kept great time, and it was a trusted little piece of machinery.  Looked great, too.

While I was in San Francisco, I was standing and applauding Ms. Angie Dickinson when suddenly my watch just fell off my arm.  Weird.  I think my sweat had just rusted a part after five years of wear, plus the constant abuse something on your wrist takes after a while, meaning that some part of the watch, where the band met the watch proper, had failed and was not something I could repair myself.  

I brought it to a jeweler, who was unable to help, and he told me to send it to Fossil.

So send it in I did with a written note about what had gone wrong.

That was only about two weeks ago.

Yes, some of us still wear watches.  It is not just a fashion piece (although if you're going to wear a watch every day, you should get one you like a lot.  Like glasses.).  Nor do I wear a watch as a status symbol.  Its how I get through my day.  Yes, smart guys, I know I have a phone, but I don't want to pull it out of my pocket for the 487 times per day I check the time.*  Apparently I fall into some Meyers-Briggs grouping that thinks a wrist watch is a must.**

Tonight my trusty Superman watch showed up in a package with a pile of paperwork, still broken.  At first I was crestfallen.  However, the final piece of paper said "we are very sorry we could not fix your watch.  Here's a gift code worth the original value of your watch, plus $10 because we feel badly".


So, in a few days, I will be getting a new watch in the mail.  Plus a wallet, because the watch I picked out didn't equal the total value of the watch.  Its a nice wallet, too.

Yes, my watch was under some vague warranty, and I HOPE that companies will respect a warranty, but, you know how it usually works.  You know how most companies dodge their own warranties or make it impossible to redeem them.  Not these guys.

Fossil did the right thing out of the gate, and I will wind up with a very nice new watch out of the bargain.


*I have three clocks in my one 10'x10' office at work, two in my living room and three in my bedroom.  But you know what?  I'm also rarely late.
**At my last job they pointed out that every single person working as a project manager wore a wristwatch when nobody else in the company wore one anymore.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Noir Watch - Nightfall (1957)

A pretty good little movie with a plot that works and a lead I found... curious.

Nightfall (1957) begins in medias res, finding our lead, James Vanning (played by Aldo Ray), followed by a stranger in the streets of LA.  The stranger asks for a light, asks a few questions and moves on.  Later we learn he's an insurance investigator, Fraser (James Gregory who would go on to play Ursus in Beneath the Planet of the Apes) who has tracked Vanning to LA.  Vanning enters a bar where he meets a young (and terribly attractive) Anne Bancroft who has managed to forget her wallet.  The two strike up a conversation, and when leaving the bar together, Vanning gets picked up by a pair of heavies (Brian Keith - who I am really liking in this era - and Rudy Bond).

Mad Men returns March 25th

Just a reminder.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Signal Watch Watches: John Carter (of Mars)

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

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

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

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

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

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

You know, this is kind of a terrible poster

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

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