Monday, June 17, 2013

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Official Signal Watch TL; DR "Man of Steel" Discussion

I went to the midnight show of Man of Steel and returned home in the wee hours.  I left kind of a rambling initial reaction here.  I went to work, I came home.  I've seen the movie again (in 3D IMAX with Simon, Angela and Jamie), and I've had time to process the film much, much more.

And, since that first post, I've spent a lot of time thinking about how to approach commentary on the movie.  As this will be one of my final posts going into hiatus, we might as well talk about this movie as the intersection between the two major topics of this blog: film and Superman.



Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Tour of the Signal Watch Fortress of Solitude

I saw online some folks were doing tours of their Superman collections. Well, it seemed like a SUPER idea to participate.

My Fortress is in disarray at the moment as I'm currently consolidating my collection and removing large portions of it.  I'm going to humblebrag and note that what you see here is only part of what I had on display until recently.  I'm really winnowing it down to Superman and Wonder Woman these days.

I started collecting Superman stuff in college, and I don't have much in the way of vintage. So the collection takes you from the late 90's til now, I guess.


your entry from the hallway to the Fortress

Friday, June 14, 2013

"Superman: Unchained #1" Review

This comic was $5.  Five dollars.  Five hundred pennies.  Half of ten dollars.  It is worth roughly $2.25, on a very good day.

I'm realizing how spoiled I've gotten by reading $1 online comics from folks like MonkeyBrain.

Jim Lee likes to draw Superman sort of hunched over.  I don't really know why.  He also likes to draw his head sort of unusually small.  Also, as Co-Publisher of DC Comics he can apparently greenlight the single dumbest, least narratively driven, least impressive, most expensive fold out insert in a comic.  Ever.

I really needed a huge image of space debris to tell the story.  Thanks.

"Man of Steel" has now been witnessed

Well, yup.  It's 3:10ish in the AM and I am home.  Just saw Man of Steel with Kevin and Juan.



spoilers below


Thursday, June 13, 2013

On sharing the creative object you've been working on

When I was about 22 I started working on a novel.  I've mentioned it here from time to time with varying degrees of clarity about what I was up to, because even now, 16 years later, I still work on the thing, hoping to finish one day.

and I mourn the fact it will not have a cover by Robert Maguire


I mention the book for two reasons.

1.  I like to retain transparency, so I'll share that part of why I'm going on hiatus is to focus back on the book.  My personal life, work and a confluence of events have often kept me from spending my time just finishing the darn thing.  I like writing, and I like blogging, but as well as re-charging my batteries to talk pop-culture when I get back, I'd like to make time for this project.

2.  Wednesday evening pal JuanD was good enough to join me for dinner.  He'd read a good chunk of the book as it is to date.  I figure I've got at least 1/3rd to go.  He's still got some pages left to arrive at the point where I've written to, but he made a heroic effort.  He's read, I guess 2/5th's - 1/2 of where this is all headed.  And then, he was kind/ brave enough to sit across the table from me and tell me what he thought and ask questions.

He did some things I really appreciate.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

On expectations for "Man of Steel"

Man of Steel has mid-tier and lower reviews from a lot of sources and the aggregate score on Rottentomatoes ain't great.  But I think it boils down to a few things:

1.  Unlike Batman, who has been redone so many ways since 1966 in the public eye, and the Marvel heroes who, let's be honest, nobody had heard of before the movies, everybody's got an opinion on who they think Superman is.  And if the movie doesn't match that, it's going to cause problems.  Rex Reed (who is IN Superman: The Movie for 2 seconds) seems to not get who this Superman is and can't get past that.  And  declares "Mr. Nolan already ruined Batman" with a straight face.   I'm not sure "this isn't what I was expecting!" is a legitimate complaint, and seems to miss the pop-culture conversation on superheroes that's been going on since the mid-80's and around superhero movies since 2000 in favor of nostalgia.

I LOVE the nostalgia.  But I also know Superman leaps forward every once in a while.  Its been almost 40 years since Christopher Reeve put on the cape.  You kind of need to expect things will be different this go-round.



2.  It's Zack Snyder.  We always knew that meant this wasn't going to be the Superman movie of my dreams the minute he was put behind the camera/ CGI supercomputer/ fast-slow-fast machine, but I've had a long, long time to get used to that idea.  Usually when I say "I hope this doesn't suck" walking into a movie, I'm kind of being snarky.  With Snyder, I've seen 3.5 of his movies and have sort of suffered through all of them except for Sucker Punch, which I watched the second half of on HBO, and it's ridiculously, relentlessly not good.  The idea that this isn't going to totally suck is hard for me to imagine in a lot of ways.

Snyder has his issues and isn't a strong storyteller.  I can be open to the idea that maybe this just doesn't work as a tightly run piece of clockwork.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Noir Watch: The Maltese Falcon (1941)

I have no idea when the last time was that I watched this movie.  Likely 7 or 8 years ago when I got the DVD and again right after we moved back to Austin.

It's weird I don't watch it over and over, because there's a perfectly good reason The Maltese Falcon carries the reputation its got.  Smart, ruthless, and lean down to the bone, and with every actor in the film turning in terrific performances, its a great ride.  It carries the tone and at least the echo of Dashiell Hammett's spitfire dialog, and definitely retains the labyrinthine plotting that even Hammett's short stories are known for.

actually, those two guns belong to Elisha Cook Jr., but whatever


Monday, June 10, 2013

Supermarathon: All-Star Superman

Thanks to what's looking to be a busy week, this is the last installment of the Supermarathon as I'm booked pretty solid until Thursday night.  I hope I did us proud.

All-Star Superman adapts the 12 issue series that ran unevenly for years back when DC was playing havoc with schedules and you never really knew when a comic was coming out.  The art and story were worth it, and both were savaged at the time of the series' start, with the usual complaints about Morrison's writing drawing confusion and fans of the Jim Lee or Kubert school of illustration baffled by the stylized work of Frank Quitely.

You can view the film at Netflix Streaming.

No sooner than the series ended than word leaked that this comic was truly something unique, and - in what I've since come to simply expect when it comes to Superman - be it this comic or early reactions to Man of Steel, its fascinating to see the audience react to the core of the character and ask "why isn't the character usually like this?" or "where did this come from?" to ideas that were 40-50 years old at the time of the comic's publication.



That said, it took Morrison's storytelling and the voice he imbued in Superman and Luthor to make the series shine.  And, I'd argue, it took the clear, concise, character-driven storytelling of Dwayne McDuffie to take the comic and turn it into a movie that works despite the strange, episodic nature of the narrative.

For those who haven't read the comic, I won't bore you with what was cut to make the movie.  The DC Animation team managed to keep most of the story in place to keep the relevant bits intact and maintain the core of the story, even if its heart-breaking to know what might have been.  They also managed to keep much of the look of the comic, something I thought impossible, even if the 16x9 dimensions occasionally lose the impact of Quitely's page design.

Last Days of Krypton

Well, we haven't quite closed up shop yet.

When I came back to blogging after about 6 months of non-blogging, this site struggled a bit to find its footing, but eventually it found its place in the firmament.  Whereas I believe League of Melbotis was a much more personal journal, at The Signal Watch we've tended to stick to pop-culture review a bit more than just enthusiastic boosterism, and even at that, we stuck to a few topics more solidly than we'd done in the prior incarnation.  Superman.  DC.  Noir film.  Mainstream sci-fi franchises.  You tell me.  I don't know why you humans keep showing up.



I've appreciated that I do feel comfortable posting personal items here as well.  I think the ability to share some of my life here in Austin helped to contextualize where I'm coming from, and - sometimes I find the elliptical manner some web writers feel compelled to discuss their personal lives a gap in the reading.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

a spot of housekeeping - we're wrapping it up for a while here pretty soon

On Thursday evening at Midnight, and again on Saturday afternoon next week, I'm going to see Man of Steel.  For several months I've had it in mind that on the heels of the release of this movie, I'd go on an indefinite hiatus with this blog.

That's still the plan.  

Come next weekend, I'll do a post of two on thoughts about the movie, and maybe a quick adios and then we're out.  I think I'm keeping up with the social media aspect, but we'll see.

When we come back, I'm not exactly sure what form that'll take.  Same blog.  New blog.  I dunno.  It's going to be a while, so we'll worry about it then.

If you need anything covered between now and next weekend, speak now or forever hold your peace.




Saturday, June 8, 2013

Signal Watches (and spoils) - Star Trek: Into Darkness (the title that made no sense)

Y'all know I love my Captain Kirk, Uhura and McCoy.  I have and wear a shirt with the image of Leonard Nimoy that reads "Spock is my homeboy".  My clock at work bears the image of the Enterprise.  I was ridiculed in 4th grade Reading class for wanting to be on Enterprise away teams when I grew up.  By the teacher.

I understand that one must reboot and refresh a franchise from time to time.  For goodness sake, I'm a Superman fan.  The trademarked character is more about how he's been interpreted in various incarnations than he is about any particular story.

I just don't think JJ Abrams is much of a writer or director.  And its possible Chris Pine isn't much of an actor.



SPOILERS BELOW

What is true is that by the time Star Trek: Enterprise aired, the Star Trek franchise had become so insular and inward looking that it was basically extended fan service.  I don't even know if the show was good or not, as I found myself just... not caring that it was on as I saw it jumping back through the hoops I'd found all-too-familiar after multi-year runs of ST: TNG, DS9 and Voyager (a show I wanted to like, but found everyone but Janeway kind of perplexingly flat.  At least she got to make command decisions and wrestle with saving her crew).

Friday, June 7, 2013

Film Noir on Fridays in June on TCM

Noir maestro Eddie Muller is guest hosting every Friday in June on Turner Classic Movies.  The line-up is pretty nuts, and I highly recommend looking at the list and setting your DVR.

Here's a website up at TCM.

Check out the schedule starting this evening!

Tonight:
The Maltese Falcon
City Streets
After the Thin Man
The Glass Key (a must see)
Satan Met a Lady

well, we've all wanted to punch Peter Lorre at some point



Thursday, June 6, 2013

Supermarathon! Superman II - The Richard Donner Cut

For a long time a few things were known about the production of Superman II.  

1.  Originally the first film and the second were shot together and were more of a piece.  However, the movies were split up into two films and portions of the story from what became Superman II were used in Superman: The Movie.  
2.  Director Richard Donner was fired from Superman II and director Richard Lester was brought onboard. Lester reshot large parts of the movie to ensure his credit for the movie.  He had a different approach from Donner, and insisted on a wackier tone.  
3.  Gene Hackman basically didn't return for Superman II's reshoots, and Marlon Brando's portions were cut from the film.

While you likely didn't notice it much as a kid, and were able to give over a lot to superhero logic, Superman II may have the exciting supervillain fight, but it's tonally all over the place and the plot sometimes feels held together by bubble gum and tape.  

It's difficult to know exactly what Richard Donner originally intended and what he would have left in back in 1980 or so, as some scenes are deeply cut from the theatrical release, especially trimmed for hammy comedy which can sometimes feel a bit burdensome in the version that's more familiar.  But this version feels superior from a storytelling standpoint in so many ways that its hard not to want to see it as the "real" version, much as I consider the extended cut of Superman: The Movie as the official version and don't really bother with the original cut anymore.  

Firstly, you can tell everyone is still feeling all right in this movie, that the reshoots and time on the set hasn't taken its toll.  Reeve is buff, his hair in place and I don't think we get the pit stains.  Margot Kidder, especially, still seems on, is always well lit, her hair seemingly professionally done, etc...  And the cinematography seems better by leaps and bounds.  

While the "big city gal fads" of the theatrical release provide some color, watching Lois squeeze orange juice is kind of a half-gag, and it's not missed in this version.  

Also, the reveal of Clark Kent to Lois that he is Superman works terrifically better from a storytelling perspective than expecting that Superman would trip over a rug.  Despite the fact the footage used is from audition film, it feels terrifically stronger from a story telling standpoint.  I suspect that the scene would have only improved if Donner had managed to get it in front of the actual cameras.  

What really seals the deal is the continuation of the father/ son story between Jor-El and Superman, and what each continues to receive from the other as, even in death, Jor-El gives the last of what he is over to his son.  The cheesy appearance of Lara in the theatrical cut and the awkward transition from Superman to the white collared-shirted Clark doesn't occur and continuity feels much more intact.  

And the Phantom Zone villains feel genuinely more menacing under Donner's direction and oversight.  

In short, if you've never seen this cut, I highly recommend revisiting the movie through this version.

Esther Williams merges with The Infinite


We bid farewell to swimmer/ performer/ actress Esther Williams who was the star of a lot of splashy musicals back in the day.


Williams was a youth swimming champ, and - at least according to IMDB - was discovered by one of those talent scouts who was always plucking counter girls and girls at Schwab's enjoying a malted and turning them into movie stars.

Operation Overlord Anniversary

Nicole reminds me that today is the anniversary of the execution of Operation Overlord, ie: Normandy.


June the 6th, 1944.

Superman: The Happiest Fella?

Edit 4/5/2016:  For some reason today I started getting hits to this post today.  On the outside chance anyone is using this post to bolster their argument that the Superman depicted in Man of Steel or Batman v Superman was a-ok:  After I saw Man of Steel opening night at midnight and again about 36 hours later, all of the arguments below regarding why Snyder's Superman portrayal might not be a disaster were thrown out the window.  

Snyder's portrayal of Superman had, at best, a tenuous understanding of the character and his motivations, and the attempts to update the character did not achieve anything in the realm of reality.  Following the mentality of a teenager filtering reality through a PS2, Snyder abandoned the character's path of discovery and, instead, simply blessed him as a tactical weapon.  

While certainly some of what I say below dovetails with Snyder's own arguments for his movies, his execution is a failure.   I sincerely hope anyone who is out there saying this movie really "gets" Superman takes a moment to understand that anyone who has been a fan of Superman since before 2013 heartily disagrees with that assessment.  While there is certainly some of the core of Superman in Man of Steel, the movie, its creators and studio have failed to understand Superman's desire to inspire through deeds and actions, and that is its own reward.  Not the emotionally crippled man-child told by his parents to stay home and play videogames.

The original post begins below:

Just up here in space, smiling at nobody

There have been a lot of posts (hi, Max!) and articles by longtime Superman fans regarding the to-date seemingly somber tone of the new Superman film, Man of Steel.

Folks are worried about a "grim'n'gritty" Superman versus the cheerful fellow who takes delight in his powers that you've seen since Superman's first appearance in Action Comics #1.  That imagery has been a part of the "discovery" part of the story for Superman in one form or another in all sorts of representations, from Superboy comics, to the animated series, to Superman Returns and Superman: The Movie where we see a young Clark Kent running faster than a freight train and beating Brad and the gang back past the Kent homestead.  And, of course, the absolutely terrific "reveal" sequence when Superman saves Lois and then runs around Metropolis saving the day.

Probably the most joyful you're likely to see Superman is in Superman: The Movie after The Man of Steel first appears and then flies around Metropolis performing super good deeds.

In fact, I've gone on record as saying that the key to my understanding of Superman in many ways is the moment wherein he saves Lois, reminds her of the relative safety of air travel, and then turns around and lets loose with this huge grin before flying away:

"Man, I wish she'd fall out of a helicopter EVERY day!"

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

And then, in 2013, DC Comics discovered hypertext fiction

If there's any doubt that DC Comics has moved to a number crunching behemoth of creative despair, today form Randy I received a link pointing me to a story about DC's latest effort, Multiverse Comics.  Basically, digital choose your own adventure comics.

At this point in the tenure of Diane Nelson, any hope for a creative renaissance at the company should be replaced with more of a visual of someone selling t-shirts outside the Louvre with a picture of Mona Lisa in a bikini top with a knife gripped in her teeth.*

There's a lot of reasons to sort of want to put your head down on the table about this one.

In 1991 or so the first hypertext fiction appeared, which promised branching narratives and the ability to dig further into a narrative - all in standard prose.  If you were going to raves and enjoying smart drinks in 1994, it all sounded like a nifty part of our bright future of this series of tubes called "the interwebs".  Just get yourself a 1600 baud modem and go nuts.

"But, hey The League," you might say.  "It's 2013!  Where can I purchase some of this hypertext fiction that's clearly the wave of the future?"

Tragically, it went the way of the Dippin' Dots and may not have been the ice cream/ preferred narrative construct of the future.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Internet Archive and What I Do For a Living

Pal JuanD sent me this video. I'm sharing it because it's a really, really good glimpse into the problems I work on every day at work.  Sort of.  Half the time I think I'm just looking for receipts or figuring out how many stuffed mushrooms we can afford on our conference's cheap-o budget.

Man, I wish I could just focus on the technical problems.


Internet Archive from Deepspeed media on Vimeo.

Our office actually has two missions. We're providing tools to enable researchers to publish born-digital content in both traditional ways (but using new technologies for peer review journals, etc..) and providing options for new media options such as blogs or other modes of scholarly writing. And we're doing this whole preservation bit of both scanned materials and born-digital materials.

What we're doing that's somewhat different from the video is that we're attempting to capture all of the scholarly output from universities and bring it up and online - not scan kid's books that we think someone else will likely handle.

Of course, a lot of people I work with are cogs who don't necessarily get the bigger picture, or work for people who can't pull it all together to get the big picture and so a lot of mistakes are made. A lot of preservable items are lost. The common consensus is that in 200 years, this early digital era will be a dark ages in many ways as we still aren't smart about keeping anything digital. We still think of print copies as the final edition.

As we also commonly say, it's going to take a lot of people retiring or dying before we have a generation promoted to decision making positions who will work with the technology to make sure the digital copies aren't seen as something to rot on a 3.5" floppy in a drawer.

Anyway, great video.

Signal Watches "Brick" from 2005

Between his role as the adorable kid on 90's sitcome 3rd Rock from the Sun and his leap to leading man status in 2012, Joseph Gordon-Levitt made a peculiar film with Looper writer/ director Rian Johnson.

I cannot begin to imagine how my high school brain would have dealt with this movie, but I am fairly certain I would have believed it to be The Best Movie Ever.  Basically, it's a faux-Dashiell Hammett mystery set in a high school with a hard-boiled detective replaced by a hard-boiled high school senior, playing the angles and trying to get to the mystery that opens the film, of what happened to his ex-girlfriend who had reached out to him days before for help, seemingly wrapped up in some trouble with local drug peddlers.

The film is both curiously believable as a low-level crime story happening in the margins around high schoolers, just outside the periphery of parent or teacher supervision.  But because of the similarities to the stories of Hammett and Chandler that have so permeated western fiction, it's also an interesting point of view that the sorts of things we usually tie to the adult world we know are happening just out of view even in suburban sprawl at public high schools.

I do wish some of the writing were a bit tighter, but it's a signature move of Chandler or Hammett work to see the plot become so twisted it takes a chart to keep it all straight.  That sort of thing pays off well in repeated viewings, and while I did watch this movie years ago (probably in 2007) I'll probably not wait 6 years between viewings again so I don't feel like I'm just playing catch-up the whole time.

Joseph Gordon-Leviitt shows chops that so many child actors dream of having but never develop as they get older and have the usual post-child star tail spin.  If you want to see some of what materialized on the big screen in 2012 with this guy in an earlier stage, I think JGL was already pretty excellent here.  

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Sort of Going Through a Thing as I Downsize my Comic Stuff Collection

my office from some time ago, when I was doing some other renovation work in there


The past few weekends, (when I didn't have food poisoning, anyway) I spent my time preparing for the de-superheroing of my house and the paring down of my collection.  I am still working through what this probably looks like, and I am sure, if I asked people who know and love me what they think is going on, I'd get a lot of different answers.

For clarification - the front room of our house had been intended to be a sort of reading room and casual conversation room, and the bookshelves were full of statues from DC Direct and other places, and it was a real conversation starter.  But nobody ever wanted to actually sit in there.  And for some reason the dogs go crazy when I go in there to try and read.  Also, I have my office, which was where I'd put my action figures, toys, comics and a whole bunch of other stuff.  

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Amazing color footage of Superman Day at 1939 World's Fair!

This is really remarkable. All those kids in Superman shirts! It's hard to imagine, this was just about 1 year after Superman debuted in the comics and already the character was a hit with the masses.

You can see DC publisher Harry Donenfeld riding an elephant, Jack Liebowitz and MC Gaines, and Jerry Siegel. I half think the woman at the end might be Siegel's first wife, but I'm not sure.



I've read about so many of these people over the years, it's wild to see them in living color.

This is all before DC really settled on the looks of Superman "S" shiefd, as evidenced by the costume and the kids' shirts.

I'm always amazed to see footage like this, candid shots of folks on the street, to see what people actually looked like and how they dressed, rather than relying on the soft filter of the Hollywood lens.

Matty Turns 40

League Pal Matt - who you rarely see mentioned here, basically because he thinks genre stuff is dumb and will not play ball - has turned 40.

Here's Matt with Nicole last year on his birthday.  We may have had a few cocktails at the time this pic was snapped.

Ladypal Nicole with Matty, the birthday boy
Matt and Nicole are in Berkeley with the California squad.  We trust they will ensure Matt has a festive b-day.

Here he is by a rock somewhere near the ocean.  I don't know what the hell he's doing there.  Maybe trying to pick a spot for the cover of his album of sea shanties.

you can tell he's really enjoying himself

Happy 40th, man.  You don't look a day over 52.




Friday, May 31, 2013

Supermarathon! Superman Returns

I've already written plenty on this movie over the past 7 years.  I mean, a lot.  Leading up to the movie, I did a whole "Summer of Superman" theme, and it was sort of a thing.  I even got re-blogged by Pop Candy at USA Today thanks to our own JimD.

I won't deluge you with all the links where the movie got a mention, but here are a few.  I'm not proud of some of this.

The first blush comments

When the press (that had oddly really been pulling for this movie to fail) started reporting with glee that there would be no sequel and I got a little pissy

Watching the movie again about 5 months later

And then in November when I watched the movie during my "let's review everything in 2012" deal

I don't think my opinions or feelings have changed much since that viewing in November 2012.  Superman Returns is a strange movie.  Beautifully shot, amazing art and set design, and it really swung for the fences when it came to subtext and layering.  But given public opinion and some wonky bits, it's a mixed bag.




Thursday, May 30, 2013

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Why not? Let's talk about some music stuff

To the outrage of my techno-purist pals, I am sure, I'm quite a fan of the new Daft Punk album.  We recommend.  And it's the first time in a few albums where I like the whole album as a listen from beginning to end.

It's gonna be my summer jam.

The video below is clearly not an official video, but I kinda miss Soul Train.



I should probably email Marshall or JimD to get some intelligence on the band "Pickwick", because I've really dug this one song they keep playing on KUTX, "Lady Luck"



I think this is my summer of vaguely retro-y sounding songs or something.

Further evidence can be seen in that I've also embraced "Elephant" by Tame Impala.



Feel free to draw your own comparisons there.

And, I think on Steven's suggestion, I'm kind of checking out early-Siouxsie sound-alikes, Savages.



Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Gone to Big D For a Few Days

Tonight I went and saw Enter the Dragon at the Alamo Ritz with Juan, CousinSue, Amy and Jason.  if you're never seen this Bruce Lee vehicle...  I am not sure I can help you other than to recommend you check it out as soon as possible.

I'm not the world's biggest Bruce Lee fan, and maybe that's a mistake.  I dig what that guy is up to, and he is absolutely fascinating to watch.  I still don't think American film has seen his like since, and even in imports, I'm not sure the guys I used to watch in college quite captured the athleticism and intensity of Lee.  Well, maybe Jet Li.

Tomorrow I am headed off for Dallas for a few days for work.

this trip will be tragically short on Victoria Principal

Happy Birthday, Christopher Lee

Yesterday, May 27th was the birthday of actor and presence Christopher Lee.

the actual most interesting man alive

At the end of the day, Christopher Lee should be known for his voice.  Booming like you imagine a Roman Senator ought to, commanding like sort of guy who bosses around dark forces of the netherworld, eloquent like the trained actor and brilliant fellow I like to believe Lee is.

I first read Lee's name in monster movie books when I was a lad.  He was a main player for Hammer Films back in the day when Hammer was in full throttle putting out new movies of Frankenstein, Dracula, the Mummy, cultists, all kinds of good stuff (I prefer his Dracula in Curse of Dracula to his "Creature" in the Frankenstein films, but it's all good) and his picture and name came up over and over.

As a cult favorite actor, Lee has also appeared in everything from The Man with the Golden Gun to Captain America '77, a TV movie.  I've been thinking a lot lately about the difference between "fans" and folks who appreciate or follow film from the art appreciation angle, and there's always room for both.  And while you see indie darling directors and some actors, "fans" get excited by the gravitas of particular (and often peculiar) talents.  And when they come into their own as professionals, the fans cast the actors they love.

And so, at 91, Lee has two more Hobbit movies coming as Saruman, he's forever immortalized as Count Dooku - maybe one of the best parts of the Star Wars prequels, and he keeps popping up in various Tim Burton projects in cameos and small parts. And, he blew the doors off in Scorsese's Hugo.

And, he just released his second heavy metal album, this time partnering with Judas Priest.

He also does the occasional audiobook, and I highly recommend giving one a whirl.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Supermarathon! 50th Anniversary TV Special

A bonus feature in some of the various Superman DVD and BluRay box sets, the Superman 50th Anniversary Special is kind of must-see Superman TV from an era when adults were all kind of patronizing jerks about Superman.  Except for Hal Holbrook.

I recall Superman's 50th Anniversary mostly thanks to the terrific Time Magazine cover on a week during which nothing else must have been happening in the world.


What's most amazing about the special is the amazing array of talent that was known at the time, and the talent that shows up in supporting roles.

The show is presented as a sort of retrospective on the career of Superman as if he were real and Dana Carvey is your celebrity host for the walkthrough of Superman's life.  There are man-on-the-street interviews cut in, which seem as if they really asked people questions about Superman and used what they said.  It's pretty good stuff.  Others are clearly actors, and there are some sort of mini-skits thrown in for good measure, along with footage from cartoons, serials, The Adventures of Superman and the Superman movies.

Memorial Day, 2013



Supermarathon! Superman IV: The Quest for Peace

Ah.  Yes.

So, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.

I recall this movie coming out, hanging around local theater Showplace 6 for maybe a week or two and then disappearing.  I vaguely remember bad reviews, but as a kid who was used to every movie he loved receiving bad reviews, this wasn't anything to sweat.

One day in the Spring of 1995 I was doing laundry at my first apartment, and I remember watching the entire thing, with commercial breaks, on Austin's UHF affiliate as I ran down to the laundry room during commercial breaks to swap out loads.

Superman unilaterally threatens every nation on Earth

The thing about Superman IV is that it actually has a pretty solid premise going in, a premise that it jettisons partway through and replaces with a blow-dried Rocky Horror stand-in with shiny fingernails.

I like that the film attempts to take Superman through the question of responsibility of a Superman when it comes to the nuclear question, and that he starts at "that's not really my decision" - changes his mind - and then, through the course of the narrative, sees that mankind needs to make a decision on its own.  You can see the high-minded ideals Reeve brought to the screenwriters as a co-creator of the story.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Supermarathon: Some 60's Cartoons and "Panic in the Sky"

Back in the 1960's, Filmation had just been formed, and they had a contract to develop some cartoons based upon DC Comics characters.

The New Adventures of Superman rolled out as one of these cartoons, short cartoons long enough to get packaged with other DC characters, so you got a full cartoon between each commercial.  The animation is of the "limited" animation variety.  Lots of Superman's mouth moving and nothing else.  A static Superman in flying position as the background scrolls by behind him.  Lots of stuff re-used.  All to contain cost to deliver just a whole ton of these things at a reasonable cost.

By modern TV cartoon standards, the animations doesn't look so hot, the voice acting is stiff and awkwardly paced (Filmation would go on to do He-Man in the 1980's, a show which - even then - I thought had some very strange voices), and the stories are nigh non-existent.  Still, it's pretty clear these cartoons were aimed at little kids, and as straightforward Superman adventures, they do the trick.  And, as its more likely kids will come to Superman via cartoons than comics, it's not a bad first exposure.  If the kids can make heads or tails of 1960's technology and fashion.*

And, I like the theme song. It's jazzy!

Here's the pilot cartoon in its entirety.



I also watched a few episodes of Season 2 of The Adventures of Superman (live action, black & white, Noel Neill as Lois), including the famous episode Panic in the Sky.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

I finally watch: I, Robot (2004)

As a kid, I read some Isaac Asimov, but not a lot.  Robot Dreams, the Robot Novels (Caves of Steel, etc..).  About eight years ago I read one Foundation novel hopelessly out of synch with what I was supposed to be doing and read Prelude to Foundation, you know, before Foundation, which was apparently not correct as it came out much after the original books - but did include a favorite character of mine (spoiler).

But like things do when you're 13, the robot stories stuck with me.  I believed in the infallibility of the Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics.  I barely even remember the stories from I, Robot anymore, but I read it three times before I finished high school.  Still remember knocking a huge chunk of it out while sitting on my folks' front porch one sunny day.

But I knew Will Smith was nowhere to be found in any of the short stories that make up the anthology of I, Robot.



The movie of I, Robot was released in 2004, and marked a very conscious decision for me not to pay to see something that I knew I would find disappointing.  I didn't remember the book well even 9 years ago, but I was pretty sure none of the stories contained within starred The Fresh Prince.


  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
In some ways, the movie is a new story based in the world of Asimov's US Robotics and with robot psychologist Dr. Susan Calvin, a recurring character in the stories of I, Robot, who appears in multiple stories at different points in the character's fictional lifetime.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Supermarathon: Superman III

Watching Superman III is an exercise in trying to guess what everyone involved was thinking.



For the third installment, the Salkinds kept Richard Lester on board as director, and with the Newmans on as writers (who had drafted an earlier script of Superman I and II, but who had been re-written by Tom Mankiewicz).  The camp and and slapsticky nature that reared it's head in Superman II in the theatrical release is back in full force, right from the choreographed opening that feels perhaps inspired by old silent comedies and Rube Goldberg machinations.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Calling it now: Everyone will now suddenly like Superman

Firstly, I am totally OK with this.

One does not spend ten years extolling the virtues of Superman and then get pouty when public opinion changes (thanks to the movie.  I'm not taking credit).  I'm not going to decide I don't like Superman because comics fans and the public alike shake off the past couple of decades of proudly proclaiming Batman's a hero and Superman's a zero.  And if people find something to like about Superman: GREAT!

Believe me, having a movie that sells people on Superman is going to make whatever I've been up to the past several years a lot easier to understand, and when it comes to family, friends and co-workers, I can use whatever help I can get.  Hopefully someone will do a follow up with a great Barks/ Rosa Ducks movie and I won't have to explain anything about myself ever again.

This all hinges on Man of Steel being a watchable film, and the trailers are pretty promising.  I have a strong feeling that even if the movie is not my cup of tea, the groundwork is already there to get people thinking about Superman a lot differently.

what are they looking at?  Where are they?


So, I just ran across an opinion piece at Comic Book Resources in which the writer points to various comics released over the past decade and, in my opinion, has found "his Superman".  No doubt a discriminating reader of comics, what with having a column and at least one podcast about comics, this writer finally found a way to "get" Superman.  He's got his in.

And, in many, ways, that's sort of what it takes.  If you can't find a point of accessibility, why would you like the character?

Not only is Superman one of the longest running characters in fiction, he's appeared in so many media over the years, the character has become this wall of iconography that's criss-crossed generations, nations, etc...  The very constancy of the character's omnipresence in culture, his association with comics, his occasional guest appearances, etc... all can lead to a belief that you gave the character a shot but you were too smart for what Superman was selling.  I know!  I've been there.  See yesterday's post on my era as an X-reader.  Couldn't get me to touch a Superman comic back then.

Tickets Purchased - Man of Steel is GO for Midnight Screening

I have purchased 3 tickets for the midnight screening of Man of Steel for The Alamo Ritz.



If you are interested in joining us here in Austin, I'll be with JuanD and KevinW (and owing a lot of apologies to Jamie).

There is likely to be a secondary screening on Saturday, so if you want in on that, give me a holler.

If you're up for being a REAL Superman fan and making the midnight show, we'll be there!

To join us, get your tickets here.




Wolverine, X-Men and a long history with comics

Just to be clear, in the trailer for the new Wolverine movie, he gives up his mutant power of healing.  So, yeah, it's yet again a 2nd movie in a superhero installment where the hero gives up his powers or loses them or whatever, and must prove how they're a hero without their superpowers.

How long until people who don't obsess about this sort of thing pick up on this trend?  As lousy as the both Fantastic Four movies were, correct me if I'm wrong, but nobody lost their powers, right?  Because aside from that movie and maybe Ghost Rider 2, which I've yet to see, it seems like this is the go-to for all Hollywood superhero films.  Oh, right.  Iron Man waited til the 3rd installment for that to happen, and Hulk just rebooted between movies.

I probably won't go see Wolverine because... honestly, I don't care.  At least the last one was so bad I had a good laugh (this did not amuse my fellow movie goers, but, honestly...).

Like everyone else who reads comics, I was once a big Wolverine fan until the circa 1988 solo series, during which middle-school me decided he was more compelling as a team-player than running around Madripoor with an eyepatch.  I used to read and re-read that original, four issue mini-series by Claremont and a young Frank Miller.  That thing read like poetry, but, man, it also sort of had the final word on the transformation of Wolverine from "Canadian White Trash Stabby Guy" to "Samurai Warrior".  After that, I didn't really care about the various stories trying to take Wolverine apart and put him back together or whatever.


last time I found Wolverine an interesting character

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

WB wants to be clear with you, "Man of Steel" is an action movie

Apparently someone at WB was a little miffed that the prior trailers for Man of Steel were not action packed enough. Well, no worries, my attention depleted fellow citizens, WB is here to PUT ACTION IN YOUR EYEHOLES.



Anyway, looks action packed.

Monday, May 20, 2013

No Post Today

Sadly, I've no pearls of wisdom to bestow upon you.

Just...  nothing really going on.  Did some reading.  Watched more of the North America documentary.  Exercised.  And, of course, watched the news.

Let's all wish the best for those in the Oklahoma City area, particularly Moore.  I'm heartbroken to hear of the deaths reported from the scene.



Some weekend catch-up - movies, TV and comics

If you follow me on social media that is not this blog, you might have heard I had a touch of the food poisoning over the weekend.  A bad salad or pizza, I think.  Worst greek salad I've ever eaten, but it seemed fresh, so what do I know?

Well, I know what it feels like to get kicked in the stomach from my karate days, and this felt sort of like that, going on and on for quite a while.  So, I want to thank Jamie for the 2:30 AM run to Walgreen's to grab me some OTC meds and being a great help to me over the course of the weekend.  For a dialysis patient, it seems like the last year she's been taking care of me more than me of her.

I was sidelined from a planned viewing of Star Trek: Into Darkness, but I did catch a few movies over the weekend on cable and DVD.

Manhattan Melodrama with Myrna Loy, Clark Gable and William Powell was actually very, very good.  Thanks to Paul, who handed me that DVD on Friday.  Some 30's-era moral-minded civics lessons wrapped up with gangsterism and Myrna Loy in some great hats and dresses.  The title is dated, so don't expect organ music and fainting.  It's a bit more of a personal drama sort of movie.

The Campaign with Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis was probably released at the wrong time, when we were in the middle of election season and everyone was so deadly serious about politics.  It's a lightweight movie in the Semi-Pro or Step Brothers model.  But it's pretty funny stuff, if pretty blue.  Speaking of, though it's two GOP candidates, I think you could have done this with any two candidates, aside from a few points.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

It's Summer Film Series Time

It is true that in about a month we're going on hiatus from blogging.  But that doesn't mean we're heading into cryogenic storage for the summer (although, given the spiking temps here this week, that might be preferable).

Of course, there's one little picture coming out which might have us a bit distracted.

this movie also features bonus reasons for viewing


Paramount Summer Schedule

I spent the morning going over the Paramount Summer Film Series schedule, and it's really terrific.  I'm kind of bummed that I'm out of town for work for many good films, but that's the way the cookie crumbles.

If you're in Austin, we can't recommend enough the Paramount Summer Series as a great way to beat the heat.  Really, the Paramount, the Alamo Ritz and Barton Springs are the Holy Trifecta of avoiding boredom and sweat during the long summer months for me here in Austin.


If you're in Austin, and you want to join me for a movie, check out our calendar up there in the horizontal menu bar.  


Stanwyck is incognito in Double Indemnity


I'm very excited that the new programmer has included a series throughout the summer called Film Noir 101.  While it's mostly showing movies I've seen more than once, it's a start, and fills a gap that's been in the summer line-up the past few years.  

Oddly, there's no sci-fi line-up, and I expect there'll be a remedy to that next year when the stalwarts complain.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

20 years since Donna Martin Graduates

I really have nothing to post about.  So, here's a rarely seen picture me at work

TCB

My 20th high school reunion is in August, and I didn't want to go, but through a series of Rube Goldberg-like events, I am now attached to the facebook page for the reunion.  And, man, my classmates are kind of selfish dicks.

The committee has been working for months to put together the event and make it easy to attend and not too stuffy.  They announced the date this week officially I guess, and it was met with people complaining that "that's the night of my child's 'meet the teacher' night at school!" and "our family always goes to the cabin that week!".  Well, (a) how or why would the committee know that? and (b) shut up.  It's been twenty years.  Don't let the first thing we see from you in two decades wind up being some kind of whining that we didn't know it was the same night as Kaylie's ballet recital.

I'm still not convinced I'm going because I see no evidence in the invitation of an open bar, which is the only thing that would make the evening tolerable on some levels.  Well, that and maybe sitting in a corner with Marshall and getting his take.

But, yeah.  Mostly - 20 years.  More time than I was alive when I exited high school.

Keep Calm


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Supermarathon! Adventures of Superman: Superman on Earth! and The Haunted Lighthouse!

Few shows change tonally over a few seasons so much as The Adventures of Superman.  And I kind of love all the takes.  Really, I can't think of anything I don't like about The Adventures of Superman.  

in the old days, Superman didn't need a scaly outfit and proudly wore his pants really high

My Plan for America

As political discourse embraces its state as a shouting match between competing conspiracy theories and theorists, when faced with political chatter, linkbait headlines, paranoid articles, cable "news" shows and propaganda - I will now mentally replace all of them in my mind's narrative with The Dead Milkmen's "Stuart".




Tuesday, May 14, 2013

SuperMOOC Week 6 - wrapping it up with Gender Through Comics

Fortunately for me, my class extended it's timeline by a few days without adding any additional content, and so I was able to finish last night despite the fact that I'd basically missed a week thanks to work and other factors.

This is what I think about when I consider returning to grad school, by the way.  I travel for work.  Really, an online program would be ideal for me to get a masters at long last, as I can't match the attendance that comes with being a 23 year old with nothing else going on but growing facial hair and caring about what sort of beer I'm drinking.  I'm seriously considering the need for an MA, but, man, the idea of walking into a classroom again at age 38 or 39 sounds like a nightmare.

Yes, I agree that the education system and how we deal with college degrees in the US is broken, but the trend to want to turn colleges into trade schools also isn't really an option (they have something for that.  It's called Trade School).  MOOCs are seen as a possible way to share courses across universities, and it sounds good on paper.  But I was sitting through a presentation at my conference last week and one of the presenters pointed out that most parents paying for someone's degree really don't want to hear that their kid was in a class with 40,000 other students, only 10% of which completed the course.  It's really opening the door for private schools and any university to stroke parents on college tours to promise a generation of helicopter parents that their kids will get special attention by sitting in a class with just 50-100 kids.

But I digress.

Ouch. A Little DC Comics Schadenfreude for your evening.

Immature? Yes.
Unnecessary? Yes.
Hilarious? Absolutely.


Read more about DC's PR goofs at The Outhouse.

A functioning sign for keeping track of how often DC Comics has done something publicly very stupid.

All this as they cancel another slate of books, alienate another round of readers, and the publishing side erodes into a nu-metal album cover and licensing flails around, still making money but relying mostly on movie materials and pre-1986 images.

Thanks to CanadianSimon for the link.

Happy Birthday, David Byrne

Happy Birthday to David Byrne.  Writer, musician and artist.


Today, David Byrne is 61.

Byrne is best known for his tenure with The Talking Heads, the art-punk band that was part of the late-70's, early-80's scene out of CBGB's.  He has written a few books, from The Bicycle Diaries to Strange Ritual.  His lyrics are rarely about the usual topics of newfound love, love gone wrong or partying all night.  Even in his most recent collaboration with St. Vincent, he's still singing about his relationship with television and mass media.



Monday, May 13, 2013

Neverending Battle Fatigue

I recently attended a small Toy and Comic Expo here in Central Texas.  I say small, but it had major cast members of The Walking Dead in attendance* (I don't watch the show, and I still recognized them), the event filled a few ballrooms, and had a Batmobile (you saw the pictures.  No reason for me to show off further.).

But I also walked out without buying anything.

I've talked here before about how Cons are not my cup of tea, but at this Con, I felt like such an outside observer that I felt like I was at someone else's party.

how your comics blogger feels on the inside

I quit writing posts on how I was cutting back my DC Comics selections, and in short order, I will have stopped buying any new DC Comics.  I just can't buy the new Superman stuff (Scott Lobdell on both main titles, really?) just to bridge my collection, just as I avoid the 90's mullet-era Superman for the convoluted contortions the writers were going through as they wrestled with the Post-Crisis rules imposed on Superman.

I don't understand the enthusiasm for most of today's comics from DC and Marvel, but I do get my fix from other books - like the stuff coming from MonkeyBrain, some from Dynamite and IDW, but my pull list has shrunk to about 3-4 comics on a good week.  Last week I didn't pull anything, and I see about a week per month where that's true.  Looking at the solicits for an upcoming month tells me that stepping away means it would be work to even try to get back into any of these comics, and at the cost and high likelyhood of a comic at DC getting the axe, it's not really worth it.

Walking around the con, I could identify only a fraction of the costumes on the attendees, and then, mostly from commercials I'd seen for video games while watching shows aimed at a younger demographic, like Archer.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Canadian Astronaut aboard ISS covers Bowie's "Space Oddity"

Commander Chris Hadfield, Canadian Astronaut, is aboard the ISS and covered some Bowie - mixing it up a bit to reflect his experience. Really, after this cover, not sure there's any point in anyone else every trying their hand at this tune again.



We've all seen Earth from space a hundred times before, privileged as we are to live in an era when people travel into space. But, man...

Here's to Commander Hadfield and all aboard the ISS.

Thanks to Slicing Up Eyeballs for the link.

Let's hope Commander Hadfield gets to cover "Life on Mars".

Now I actually kind of want to see Gatsby...



Saturday, May 11, 2013

Finally saw Iron Man 3

In Robert Downey Jr.'s fourth turn as Ol' Shell Head, we see what Marvel is going to need to wrestle with as its franchises become as familiar as James Bond or Santa Claus.  What now?  What's next?  What superhero trope are we going to check out from the library and use for this movie?

Well, this was the "strip him of everything he has" story/ "what is the hero without his powers?" angle.  And it works better than you'd think.  Sure, you get limited armor action, but writer/ director Shane Black makes sure to resolve any deficits you might be feeling with a big, explosive conclusion that should make you forget that for 90% of the movie, Tony Stark is not in the suit.

Like the first Iron Man film, this one reflects back the headlines of the modern era, with a mix of politics, elusive terrorists, media management, and a few other bits that I don't want to get into for spoilery reasons.  The gang is back together, from Paltrow as Pepper Potts, to Don Cheadle as Rhodey.  Tony might not be doing so well in the wake of the Avengers' first team-up as he wrestles with PTSD, meanwhile continuing to explore the limits of the man-machine combination he's become and continues to explore as he seeks to build a better suit of armor.



I'm not telling you kids anything you don't already know.

Supermarathon: Superman II - Theatrical Cut

Common wisdom states that Superman II is the better of the first two Superman movies starring Christopher Reeve, and I'd posit that wisdom is based mostly upon half-remembered screenings by kids who last saw the movies sometime during the Reagan administration.  It's not that I don't like the movie, but I think from a storytelling and filmmaking perspective, the first of the two is vastly stronger.

Yes, Superman II is the Superman film where he fights Zod, Ursa and Non.  Yes, it is exciting, and a decent movie, but it back-pedals the Superman films into campy territory and gave the producers license to engage in the slow decline of the Superman franchise that would ultimately end in the half-assed Superboy TV show that was the capstone on the Salkind era of Superman filmed media.

I like Superman II, but knowing the history of the film explains so much about the uneven texture of the movie that watching the original theatrical cut - the post-Donner version - that you sort of want to cringe during many parts of the movie, and watching them in quick succession very much highlights the weaknesses in the sequel.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Your Humble Blogger and His Next Ride

P5041141 by thekgb2010

P5041141, a photo by thekgb2010 on Flickr.
from the Central Texas Toy and Comic Expo

Jason and I went to San Marcos on Saturday.  I don't collect much Batman stuff as there's so much stuff out there with the Bat logo on it.  But I have always been fascinated with the various iterations of the Batmobile, largely because of the Batman '66 version, the 1989 version and the various looks from Norm Breyfogle when I started reading comics.

You will never not get me to get excited over a well manufactured replica.


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Supermarathon! Superman: Unbound

I watched the new DC Animation feature release, Superman: Unbound - roughly based on the pretty good Superman comic run by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, Superman: Brainiac.



The movie is unbound* by post-Crisis continuity and can do as it likes with the story.  Truthfully, I couldn't really recall the comics too much as the original story folded in on itself into the New Krypton comics that kind of, frankly ruined the good vibe left by Brainiac, which I recall really liking.  Now, that series pulled the various post-Crisis versions of Brainiac into a single version in an elegant and narrative driven manner, merging the ideas into a worthy version of the 1950's version of Brainiac that suddenly became Superman's deadliest enemy.  It was pretty keen.

In fact, one of the few "action" statues I have from DC Direct is the one where Superman is pulling apart Brainiac robots.

Jamie decided this was too action-packed and made me put it in my office
The story brings to the surface Superman's desire to protect Lois and a newly arrived Supergirl, and tries to be a bit grown-up storytelling rather than just focusing on retelling a story from the comics or leaning completely on the intricacies of superheroing.  There's a full cast at the Daily Planet, with Steve Lombard, Cat Grant, Jimmy Olsen, Ron Troupe and Perry, and it makes me long for the days when it seemed like DC was on the cusp of reinstating the human element to Superman comics, pre-JMS catastrophe and Nu-52 relaunch.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Ray Harryhausen Merges with the Infinite

I think I only checked out five books from the library at UT for pleasure reading while I was a student and, two of them were on Ray Harryhausen.  In college, I had dreams of becoming an animator- and then computers happened.  But until then, I really wanted to know how Harryhausen became the master he undoubtedly was when it came to creating fantastic imagery for the silver screen.

I was sad to hear of Harryhausen's passing when a tweet or two mentioned it and I saw the headline when I got back to my hotel room.


If you don't know Ray Harryhausen, he's easy enough to investigate.  He was one of the greatest FX artists in the world, spawning a world in which we eventually had movies with AT-ATs and Terminators, and his understanding of motion foretold what the CGI era would bring to the big pictures.  But he did it with tangible artistry in stop motion effects.

Harryhausen brought us Greek Titans, dinosaurs, Venusian aliens, angry skeleton armies and an endless stream of characters that mingled with live action players and fired the imagination.

I've only seen a handful of his movies (and I'm not even sure which Sinbad movies I have and haven't seen... I'd have to watch them again), but Clash of the Titans came out in 1981, and all we knew was that it was amazing.

If you've never tried to film animation by hand, it's a frame-by-frame feat of utter concentration and requires determination and love for what one is doing on a scale there whipper-snappers and their computers and whatnot from today probably get, but they do it at a monitor, not hunched over a table with lights, moving the neck of the monsters a tiny, tiny increment for every exposure - and every frame could be the last if something happens between clicks.

It's obsessive work, and craftsmanship that's fading from mainstream American film - especially as the

So long, Mr. Harryhausen.



Sunday, May 5, 2013

Possibly Otherwise Occupied

It's May, and that means I'm once again helping to run the conference my organization throws every year.

Really, tomorrow is sort of a Board of Directors meeting prior to the conference, and then from Tuesday morning until Wednesday night, I'm going to be participating in all sorts of conference malarkey.  This year I don't present (by choice), and I'm mostly lurking, hoping to actually enjoy the show.

It's a libraries conference, and you KNOW these people are going to want to party.

they're gonna get crazy and talk @#$% about the Dewey Decimal System

The reason I post here is:  I'm going to be out of commission for a few days.

You guys are on your own.  Try not to leave the place too much of a mess.

Weeks 4 and 5 of MOOC: Gender Through Comics

Attrition rates for online courses are fairly high.  In the years I worked in distance education and eLearning, we always knew that external incentives were a huge reason anyone signed up for a masters program online and why they would complete the program.  We didn't keep in-house stats when I was working at UT or ASU, as many students blended their learning between on-campus and online, but I believe in our cohort of 15 students to begin a unique program we designed, we only lost 3 of the 15 or so who started.

Massive Open Online Courses have an estimated retention rate of about 10%.

Depending on who you talk to, this is either a problem or it is nothing to worry about.  What's interesting is hearing the various excuses and pointing of fingers I've seen lobbed in my personal experience over the years - from "it doesn't matter that the students leave in droves, they came in to get what they needed and left" to "if the faculty can't hold the students' attention, that's really saying something about the faculty".

What nobody is apparently willing to say is that maybe we already have ample evidence that this isn't working as originally intended.  Moving the posts in the first quarter of the game turns it into Arena Football, it doesn't improve the NFL.

Look, if you have a TV show and if by week 10, you've lost 80 - 90% of your audience, your show is getting canceled. It doesn't really matter how great of a debut you had.  If your whole network loses 80-90% of every program it runs, everyone is getting fired and you're shutting down.  If you had a play, and by the time you closed the final curtain your formerly sold out house was left with 10% of the attendees wanly applauding, you'd figure maybe the place was on fire and nobody had told the cast and crew.

I find the idea that students are dipping into classes, getting what they need, and then exiting a naive and groundless assumption and, frankly, the sort of useless hand-waving that folks in higher ed are good at.  I suspect they know better, but it's something to say until they put together some actual data on what's happening.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Supermarathon! Superman: The Movie (with Paul and Valerie)

Paul does not like any movies.

I've been to movies many, many times with Paul, and every time, the following happens:

The movie ends, the lights come up, we exit the theater, and stand around talking.  I ask "So, what'd you think?" and Paul sort of ponders for a second, then says "I don't think I liked it."

I can only recall Paul saying he liked one major release movie, but I wasn't there for it.

This evening he and Valerie (Paul's steady lady friend) came over and we all watched Superman: The Movie.

No, I have no idea how many times I've seen the movie, but I'd guess I've seen it a few dozen times.  I know I've seen it theatrically at least 3.3 times.

RHPT, Steanso, Lucy, Adriana, Peabo and Jamie in Beaumont - no longer watching Superman: The Movie, circa 2005
JimD once brought the film to Beaumont, Texas when he was working there, and I met RHPT, met up with Peabo and his wife (and his wife's sister) and went to see the flick.  And then the projector broke.  Well, these things happen.

Tonight, nothing broke.  I have no idea what Paul thought of the film, but he did tweet that he'd seen it, so he was at least willing to acknowledge the experience.