Saturday, September 1, 2012

UT Football Begins

Normally I spend a lot of time after July reading up on UT football and watching and reading local sports news to get caught up in order to be ready for the season.  Not this year.  Work and other factors came into play, and I just didn't think about football too much until now, as we roll into the first week of NCAA football.

I am reminded of Keith Moon, drummer for The Who, who did not play the drums unless he was on tour or recording, and reportedly had to remember how to play every time The Who decided it was time to go back to work.  Also, he put explosives in his drums on The Smothers Brothers.  Hilarious.

Anyway, while I am not putting explosives anywhere (that you know about) I am also in need of my annual "oh, yeah.  Football." relearning of everything I usually know by week two or three of the previous year.  This year I didn't even get a chance to pick up my usual Dave Campbell's Texas Football magazine and do some reading as we head toward hot dog roasting and a lot of excuse making for our running game.

Coach Brown sacrifices a freshman to appease the football gods in hopes of a winning season

I was talking to Jake, who is a huuuuuge Oregon Ducks fan, and realized...  man, I have no idea what's going on just at UT, but anywhere.  I really need to catch up.  BTW, I have high hopes for Jake's Ducks again this year, if USC isn't too much of a problem.

And, of course, everyone in the SEC (but TAMU) looks pretty spooky once again.

All that to say, I am thrilled it's once again time for College Football, and especially UT Football.

Tonight my mighty Longhorns go up against the Cowboys of Wyoming.  It's a bit rougher than a match-up against Rice or other teams we've played in the past, but it'll also tell us where we're at a whole lot earlier this year than in past seasons.

Looking at the UT depth chart puts a smile on my face as familiar names populate the starting line-up, and we have a chance to see what all three of our quarterbacks can do this year.  Jeffcoat and Okafor are back on defense, so that's always a good thing.

I can read.  I can try to catch up!  I CAN KNOW THINGS.

This year its pretty clear my team went to go see the Chris Nolan Batman flick, as our slogan this year is "Rise".

Also, I need a video this inspirational to watch about showing up for work at the library. It would certainly make it seems like pushing papers and making presentations was a lot more important.

Anyway, Longhorns...  get your horns up!  It's going to be a great year.

Now let's get out there and eat too many hotdogs.

Signal Watch Reads: The Handle (a Parker novel)

The eighth in the line of Parker novels, The Handle places master thief Parker in several odd positions.  Most of the prior stories occurred above the Mason-Dixon line and detailed Parker working with a team of professionals.  This one has Parker working, for reasons of his own, alongside The Outfit, the bloated, corporatized mob from the first three or so Parker books.  The score settled between the two and pragmatism the word of the day, and The Outfit has hired Parker to crack a nut they can't solve.

Off the coast of Galveston, by forty miles, a casino has been built by a man with no affiliations with The Outfit.  Of course, that's bad business to have vice occurring so close to Outfit territory but with them getting nothing, so they'd like to see if Parker can rob the place blind and then shut it down.

Friday, August 31, 2012

A few things. I'm going to bed.

Into the long weekend.  Here we go.

1.  The mother-in-law, Judy, has returned home!  This is big news.  She'll be receiving rehabilitation at home for a while, and then, I guess, maybe at a clinic.  But watching her progress over the last 20 days or so has been absolutely stunning.  And, if I can step back a pace, it's also been completely fascinating.

Judy had damage in her speech center, and so in the days immediately following her surgery, she couldn't say much.  And then more words came, and she could sometimes communicate what she wanted, but not very often.  It's this slow build up.  You can tell all the words are on the hard drive, and her thoughts are complete, but she's having trouble accessing a lot of her vocabulary.  So while she isn't slurring not is there any loss of that fashion, she might not remember a word like "California".  Even after you say "California".

The really interesting bit is what is there.  A lot of phrases are there completely intact, and if you want her to sing a song she knows, she can do it from beginning to end.  I sat with her last week and a commercial came on which used "Blue Skies", and when it ended, she sang the whole song.  She does this with great regularity.  Apparently, songs and phrases are in an easy-to-reach part of the memory bank.

Anyway, Jamie went down today and worked with her and hung out.  I think I'm going down Sunday.  But it's great to have Judy home and I am sure my father-in-law, Dick, is pretty pleased to not be sitting on the couch or chair in the hospital.  Kudos to him for all the hard work.

2.  The RNC is on but I haven't watched a minute, just as I haven't watched a convention since high school, so no news there.  I'm not really following the election except via, and, people... it's not pretty coming from either side. Let's just say I think we had a good run with this "democracy" idea, but we may need to move onto the Philosopher-King model.

I would also pitch the notion that we just let a council of scientists who would judge you via videoconference rule us.  The one flaw in this plan would be if they ignored crucial, planet-saving scientific evidence.  Which would never happen.

3.  The annual sale is on at Austin Books and Comics, so if you're in town and want half-off on back issues or to go raid the back-issue store, they're open all weekend.  

I had dinner with PalKevin who does not read comics, but he wanted to go with me to ABC afterward, and it was fun walking around with him.  I found out he's read all the John Carter books (we agreed to disagree on the movie), but I had a harder time actually selling him on any comics.

As a man who already owns a lot of comics, I do have a strategy.  I basically knew of a bunch of back issues I wanted that I didn't want to pay full-price for, and I just waited until this week, and then I bought them.  I didn't really look for anything new, and yet, somehow, I was able to spend money.  I was a bit more impulsive at the Sidekick Store, but not too much.  I realize I am getting picky about the conditions of my Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane issues, and I'm not ready to start with reader copies unless its a book I've just not seen out before.

Came home with a lot of Joe Kubert drawn comics, including Tor, Our Army at War and others.  And I picked up the DC Christmas Special with the John Byrne drawn Enemy Ace story which I've had in reprints, but, you know.  Enemy Ace.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

TL; DR: The New 52 - This Reader's One Year Later

In September of last year, DC Comics relaunched their line of comics for the first time since Crisis on Infinite Earths back in 1986.  In general, comics fans my age grew up considering Crisis to be a necessary step in the evolution of superhero comics and enable them to reach a wider and more adult audience.

The relaunch of 1986 gave DC Comics a chance to give their intellectual property a fresh start where they felt necessary (ie: Superman and Wonder Woman), and continue telling the stories about their characters that didn't seem to need a rejiggering (Batman).

What nobody ever really talks about is that:  DC spent more than the next two decades trying to fix all the messes they'd created in their half-baked relaunch effort.  The gaps in planning and execution led to numerous attempts at editorial clean-up and we were treated to numerous in-narrative attempts to "fix" the problem, from Zero Hour to Infinite Crisis and, finally, to Flashpoint with dozens of other hiccups along the way.  In short, after 20-odd years of fixing the problems created by the reboot, DC had more or less reset their universe to very much reflect the DCU that existed prior to the "necessary" change.

My initial response last June on seeing the information that DC planned another relaunch - which I read on my phone in the back of a crowded ballroom at a conference I was supposed to be managing - was absolute surprise.

In 2007, I was reading over two dozen different DC Comics titles, and, of course, other titles, too... but DC was my bread and butter.  I firmly believed that Infinite Crisis - leading into 52 and One Year Later (DC's linewide narrative jump forward a year) were going to be well executed, well realized attempts to finally merge the old, Pre-Crisis DC with the current DC, and we had a chance to enter into a new golden age at DC.  For a long, long time I had believed that DC was working on a mega-narrative intended to pull together a DCU that kept the history of the company intact in its entirety, merging Pre and Post Crisis continuities and celebrating the 75 years of publication history.

I have no idea if DC ever rolled out the promised additional characters in the sidebars.  I do know Wonder Woman is no longer in leggings.

Nope.  They were sort-of scrapping the work and works of the past 7.5 decades in order to draw in an audience that had been daunted by DC's history and the internet chatter about how confusing DC had become (that was, at best, half true), and a lot of misconceptions about DC's stable of characters.

I don't know exactly how soon it hit me, but the realization slowly sunk in that, at age 36, I had just passed out of the 18-34 demographic in a final and unceremonious fashion.  DC Comics was happy to have had my money (a LOT of my money) the past few years - but they were going to do something else now.

Over the years I've had email chatter with a few older and former readers of comics, and I watch folks at the comic shop.  I was aware that there is some point many, many comics readers hit where they hang up their guns and declare themselves done with the characters and worlds they loved - at least in trying to keep up in the Wednesday shopper fashion that the Big 2 cater to.  I'd see these older guys on comment threads, sighing and saying "it's been ten years since I picked up a new comic, and this is why I don't miss it", and sometime about four or five years ago I went from writing them off as old, grumpy men to know that this was an inevitability of the hobby.  Something made all of these people move on.

Happy Birthday to Jack "King" Kirby

Today would have been the 95th Birthday of Jack Kirby, the greatest comics creator of the 20th Century.

Kirby's family is supporting The Hero Initiative, a non-profit that helps support veteran comics creators facing tough financial times (there isn't much of a retirement or healthcare plan for freelancers).

We recommend checking out The Hero Initiative website and maybe donating a bit to the fund.  Make Jack proud.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Wonder Woman/ Superman Kiss

Apparently even the ladies on The View have weighed in on Wonder Woman and Superman having passionate smoochy-time in the pages of Justice League coming on Wednesday.

Sigh.  I suppose that means that, as a blog that likes to talk about both of these characters, I should also put in my two cents.

credit to Diane Nelson for remembering her company owns half of telecommunications and getting this stunt some publicity

The problem is that I gave up on the Geoff Johns/ Jim Lee Justice League comic 6 issues ago, so I have no idea what led to the smoochies on the actual page - so I won't comment on that.

Here's what I will comment upon:

Trek Watch: s1e3 - Where No Man Has Gone Before

There's really endless commentary out there on Star Trek, but I really do want to watch the whole original series in order, so you may see some comments from time to time.

Technically, "Where No Man Has Gone Before" is episode 3 of Season 1.  It features a young and terribly fetching Sally Kellerman as Dr. Elizabeth Dehner.  Rumor has it this is the episode that the filmmakers may be basing part of the plot on for the next film.  I have no idea if that's true, but the episode is a pretty great Trek story, even if Sulu isn't on the bridge, Scotty is a bit part, and there's no Dr. McCoy to be seen.  And absolutely no Uhura, which is ALWAYS a mistake.

In fact, this episode was intended to be the pilot, but as so often happens - the episodes were aired out of order making this Episode 3.

confession:  I'm still envious of Shatner's haircut from Trek.  That and "The Draper".  Man, I could never really pull either off.

Some Trek nerd actually knows how this game is played

The Enterprise enters a strange field at the edge of the galaxy that imbues Kirk's pal, Lt. Commander Gary Mitchell, with awesome mental powers.  And we face the age old dilemma of a man losing his humanity as he gains super powers.  

I'm shocked at how strong the show was coming right out of the gate as fairly potent sci-fi, even if they have to resort to fisticuffs to solve the problem.  

Also, they were still figuring out the uniforms.  Command is in gold, science is in blue, but they have funky collars and Spock is in command gold.  Do not approve.


The formula isn't there quite yet, but the solid foundation for the Enterprise is taking shape quite nicely.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Noir Watch: Killer Joe (2011)

So.  No one will be seated during the amazing chicken leg sequence!

I can't recommend KiIller Joe (2011) for a general audience, so let's get that out of the way first.  The movie made the hard choice to (a) get made and (b) not water itself down, and that meant an NC-17 rating. I can't even remember the last time I saw a movie with this rating, but even R-rated movies generally have a few swears these days and its mostly intended to keep people from bringing their kids with them to the 9:00 show of the latest Scorsese picture.  Basically, nobody really has the guts to do a Hard R movie these days (except the Hangover guys, I guess) and so an NC-17 should be box office death.

The movie is based upon a play by Tracy Letts which ran off-broadway some 14 years ago.  Its been adapted here to the big screen by Letts and directed by William Friedkin, director of The Exorcist, The French Connection and a host of other films, but the last movie of his I saw was Blue Chips (which I actually quite enjoyed).

It's a deep-fried southern noir in the darkest corners of white trash America, and reads somewhat like one of those news stories you can both believe occurred - predicated on the notion that all of the players were unsympathetic, near-illiterate dopes whose grasp was further than their reach when it came to planning - and still find the fact that someone ever started this plan to begin with stupefying.

But, like I say, it feels a hell of a lot like a true-crime story, in its way.

Signal Watch Watches: Man or Gun (1958)

It's hard to describe what this movie is about without making it sound like a movie full of crazy people, but maybe that's the remarkable thing about this flick...  the movie actually makes the idea work.

Man or Gun (1958) finds a drifter coming to a rowdy frontier town - one who won't say who he is - who seems to have a seemingly supernatural power with a gun, leaving the townsfolk to ask "is it the man or the gun?"  And, of course, a whole lot of people get shot in that bloodless manner of a 1950's western.

The drifter no sooner arrives than stumbles upon (of course) a powerful family that rules and harasses the townfolk, making the tiny berg unsafe for women and children.  Powerful enough that one of them is wanted for $2000 and is still living publicly in the town - until he crosses paths with the drifter, that is.  The drifter won't give up his name, and comes to first be called "'Maybe' Smith", and falls under the watchful eye of Audrey Totter as Fran Dare (that, people, is a hell of a name).  Fran sees a chance to use the man or gun to push back against the dastardly Corleys.

I actually quite liked the movie for a small western that I'd not heard much about.  It's a story about superstition versus reality versus what you see with your own eyes.  And, in no small way, its about whether guns are any way to answer a dispute in a civilized world, even when you're trying to make a better world against others waving guns in your face.

Macdonald Smith does a good, straighfaced hero - even is he feels a bit long in the tooth for the role, and Audrey Totter is in top form as the woman running the local saloon who has a lot invested in the stranger.  Unlike FBI Girl, it felt like the director knew what he had in Totter and let her show her range a great bit more.

Anyway, not groundbreaking, but one of those movies you're a bit surprised how enjoyable it was when you really haven't heard anything about it before.