Friday, August 10, 2012

Happy Birthday, Ronnie Spector!

Sorry for the last minute post, but we just noticed it's Ronnie Spector's birthday!

Happy birthday to an amazing vocalist.

Ronnie is/ was, of course, the centerpiece of the Wall of Sound project, The Ronettes.

And, of course, the ex-wife of producer/ zvengali and convicted murderer, Phil Spector.

We read more Parker: "The Seventh" and the graphic novel of "The Score"

The Seventh

The Seventh is, probably not-coincidentally, the seventh book in the Richard Stark (pen name of Donald Westlake) series of books about Parker, the tough guy master criminal who first appeared in The Hunter.

In this volume, following a particularly well-planned and executed heist that should have landed him a nice chunk of change (something sorely needed after the disastrous conclusion of The Jugger), Parker is hiding out and playing it cool when he comes back from a quick trip out for cigarettes and beer to find the girl he's been shacking up with stone cold dead in an apartment that's still locked and shows no signs of forced entry. And, of course, not just Parker's take (his seventh) is gone, but the whole take from the heist.

Stark never explains Parker, never spends time on much other than notes about characterization, and there's never a why.  All we see is Parker on the job, and it's not some writerly oversight.  Nobody gets insight into what makes Parker tic - be it his partners, the people he goes up against, or the reader.  We know he doesn't like small talk not just because the limited omniscience narrator tells us, but because Parker tells people rattling on at him to shut up, and he seems to appreciate the slain girl not just for her bedroom acrobatics, but for her agreement that they can sit in silence for hours if they've nothing to say.  But we never see a young Parker becoming Parker (at least by this seventh book).  Heck, we never even know his first name.

This book follows what happens not when a heist goes wrong, or a run in with the Outfit, but the unexpected occurring, and throwing Parker off his game.  We always get to see little pieces of Parker, and this book gives us an opportunity to see Parker wrestling a bit with making the smart move versus doing what he wants to do from a gut level once he's been shown up.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

As you may have heard, Jamie's mother is in the hospital

Rather than answer questions via email or text (thanks everyone for asking.  Jamie and I very much appreciate it), I thought I'd try a one-to-many approach to the communication loop.

Wednesday I was in Atlanta and got a message from Jamie that her mother was in the hospital.  I'd just finished presenting, and so as soon as the next presenter was done, I was up and moving, made my apologies and split.*

Judy is Jamie's mother.  About five years ago she had an issue with bleeding around her brain.  It came and went, and she hasn't had any issues in the interim.

Apparently sometime Tuesday evening  Judy developed a serious headache, bad enough that my father-in-law, Dick, took her to the ER in San Marcos.  The San Marcos ER transferred Judy to St. David's hospital here in Austin (about 30-odd minutes away if you're not a local).  She began losing the ability to speak, but her motor abilities all seemed largely unimpared.

The scans indicate that Judy had a patch of blood that had formed around the speech center of her brain.  It was also clearly making Judy terribly uncomfortable.  Fortunately, St. David's has some top-notch facilities, doctors and staff.  She was extremely well cared for Wednesday and Wednesday night, and in the morning on Thursday, she received one more scan that suggested it was time to operate.

This afternoon Judy had surgery.  The surgeon believes they've found the source of the bleeding, which was a clot, and that there are no immediate signs of a tumor, which was a possibility.

We still don't know everything, and obviously even a top-notch neurosurgeon has to be careful with what they choose to do, so we expect a long stay in the hospital with a lot of testing and observation ahead of us.  And, after that, I expect a significant amount of evaluation and recovery.

As many of you know, Jamie has a long history of health-related issues, and (for good or ill), it's basically made our extended families pretty good at dealing with hospitals, doctors, etc...   It's almost always been Jamie in the hospital bed, so it's been a change of pace for her to be on the care and maintenance portion of the equation, but she's moved into action-mode with the rest of us.  Those of you who've dealt with hospitals know what I mean, I think, by the "okay, what has to happen, and what's the best way to get this all done with the resources I've got" thinking take takes over in an emergency.

Doug, Jamie's brother, flew in this afternoon from Berkeley, and my office has been great about working with me on all this.  Co-Worker Kristi took over for me on a few details without skipping a beat, which is always appreciated.

So, anyway.  When I left Doug with Judy this evening, she was resting under sedation, and very stable.  She's under terrific care, and (so far) I feel very confident in her doctors.

I don't plan to turn the site into the Judy Medical Journal, but if you want to follow along, you can check for Twitter updates at:  @judyupdates

By the way, we do appreciate the outpouring of support we've received.  You guys are the best.

If you're local, please text me or Jamie before you try to swing by to visit.  Judy is in the ICU, and it's not exactly set up for receiving visitors  Nor do I know if Judy would want a parade of folks to come by right now.  But maybe in a few days.

We're still finding our footing with all this, so please understand if we can't immediately think of a way you can help.

Let me tell you what a world of difference it is today receiving messages from folks who want to help or come by from the very bleak time in Arizona where Jamie and I were terribly separated from folks who genuinely did want to help, but simply couldn't, due to distance and other factors.  I think I prefer living back in a city where I spend all afternoon and evening responding to texts, tweets, calls and emails from concerned friends offering beds nearby the hospital, food, support and seeing if they can just come by and entertain.

Friends and family, local and distant, you are the best.  Thank you.

*Delta Airlines gets a gold star.  Not only had they pulled me out of line on my outgoing flight to re-assign me to an exit row (I'm 6'5" if you've never met me, and airline travel is not my favorite thing due to leg space), but when I was moving my flight home, I wound up in a seat in first class.  And I'd been worried I'd have to sit in the middle.

Then, checking in, the guy at the counter and I had a conversation about worrying about your parents and in-laws.  It was an odd and entirely human moment that took me by complete surprise - given the usual experience I have at the airport.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Happy 25th Anniversary in Comics, Mr. Waid

Mark Waid has been one of my favorite creators in comics for a while now, but I was a little slow on the uptake.  I still haven't read his run on Flash excepts for partial excerpts.  I haven't picked up all of his terrific volume of work.

I was alerted by the headline at Comics Alliance that we're celebrating 25 years of Mark Waid working in comics.

Let The Signal Watch not be remiss in saluting this tremendously talented and influential voice in the comics medium.

Last summer Mr. Waid came to Austin on the dime of Austin Books and Comics to host a screening of Marvel's Captain America: The First Avenger.  He was terrifically gracious with us stuttering fanboys and the few sentences that he shared both at the movie - and the next day when he signed some of my favorite Waid-penned books - were sort of my own equivalent of meeting a rock star and it actually living up to what you'd hope.

Of late, like other terrific friendly-rock-star-story creator Chris Roberson and MonkeyBrain Comics, Waid's been exploring digital comics with his Thrillbent digital imprint and the terrific Insufferable.

But, as much as that, Waid is doing the thing the best writers seem to do as he gets older...  he just keeps getting better.  It's absolutely stunning to check out his work and see how well he handles different genres, characters, etc...  and how each resonates.

Anyway, look up Waid's work.

A few recommendations:

  • Irredeemable
  • Incorruptible
  • Insufferable
  • Potter's Field
  • Kingdom Come
  • 52
  • Superman: Birthright
  • Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty
  • Here Comes Daredevil
  • Empire
  • Fantastic Four
  • Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes

Fiddle Dee Dee. I am off to Atlanta.

I know nothing about Atlanta other than that I will be there by 8:00 Tuesday night and flying back by lunchtime on Thursday.

No idea what my blogging future holds.

let's hope it goes better than this

We'll see how it goes.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Vertigo is now the ruler, and Citizen Kane is for losers

I've now lived long enough to see a new generation of critics come upon the scene, question their predecessors, and seize control of the ship of citable certifiables when it comes to tweedy theoretical film discussion.  Sight & Sound released a list of "The Best Movies" as voted upon by people who watch a lot of movies, I'd guess.  So, bully for them.

It's interesting to watch the next generation come up and see them carving out their own opinions and angrily making statements of defiance against the assumptions and dogma of their forefathers.  In comics, with the target age now around 20 years old for a reader for the Big 2, we've been seeing the kids kicking back against the assumptions folks around my age take for granted.  No longer do the old rules I understood apply such as  "Dark Knight Returns is a good comic" or "Watchmen isn't boring stupid people standing around talking".  "I am not impressed" say the kids.  "This is nothing compared to <insert title of recent comic by current creator>."  Also "Stop making me think as well as read words."

It's Terrific?  Well, it says so right there.  CASE CLOSED.

This move is a bit different.  This isn't young kids wanting to believe that NOW is the most important time and NOW, WHEN I CARE is making the the best comics.  This is a gang of film fans with a different idea of what made the films good or great.

In Film 101, you, of course, watch Citizen Kane.  You sort of nod your way through, and it's a fantastic movie, no doubt.  The lights come up and the PhD candidate teaching your class says "Why is this movie considered the best film ever?"  And at age 19 I was mostly walking around in a haze of confusion at all times.  So, yeah.  Tell me: Why?  Because all I know is that I've seen a movie I liked, and it doesn't jive with other movies I've seen from that era.

Ah, ha!  Now you're onto it.

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

Let's get this party started!

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

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

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

You guys, we live in the future.

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

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