Saturday, March 2, 2013

Your Daily Dose of Good Cheer: Marie Windsor

Texas Independence Day!

On March 2nd, 1836 Texas declared it's independence from Mexico, but we were already begun in the Texas War for Independence.

one of the original Texas battle flags

Yes, there was such a thing as a War for Texas Independence, non-Texans.  That's what you're talking about when you discuss "The Alamo".  

Basically, Texas was largely unsettled by Anglos and the entire swath of Tejas y Cohauila was sort of Mexican no-man's land with a few remote outposts like San Antonio.  Circa 1821, a bunch of rowdies and reprobates made a deal with Mexico to settle in what's sort of Central Texas, but they had to become Mexican citizens and Catholic.

By 1835, the Mexican Government had changed and become more centrist.  The local militias were now frowned upon and those shifty Anglos in North Mexico weren't playing ball with Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana's desire to disarm regional militias lest they decide they wanted to rabble rouse.  If the past informs the present, you'd have to imagine if Obama suddenly said folks couldn't have guns, and people started acting kookie about how the government might take away their arms.

Wait a minute...

There were other issues, such as the forced Catholicism of the Mexican Government, that Texans really, really wanted to own slaves, and Mexico city just sort of sucked at paying attention to what was going on in Texas aside from the occasional decree that made no sense in context of living on a frontier.

President and General of Mexico, Santa Ana, had absolutely had it with the Texians (we used to have an "i" in our name) and marched an army up to, of all places, Gonzalez, where the Texians insisted on hanging onto a cannon.

Your Questions Answered: A Nice Piece of Meat

We're answering questions here at The Signal Watch.

 Our own Fantomenos asked:

You're a Texan so:

What's the best cut of meat for casual grilling?

Again, these are advanced level questions with no simple answer.

What's throwing me here is the use of the word "casual".  "Casual" can mean "I'm coming home from work, do you want me to grab some chicken on my way?"  It can mean having over 20 people, but we're all in shorts.  It can mean dinner with a few friends, or it can mean the assembly line at a summer camp.

So, let's ponder this a bit.

I'd break it down to:

  • steaks and chicken
  • BBQ
  • hotdogs and hamburgers on the Weber on the back porch

While barbecue is sometimes served at weddings, political events, etc...  and you can definitely find upscale barbecue in town (I recommend Lamberts), the barbecue that's considered most desirable is usually slow cooked and smoked to perfection.  That, obviously, is not a "casual" task, even if it's one's hobby and you're doing it at home.  Seriously, it's an all day affair.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Your Questions Answered: Original Comic Art Page

On February 27th, we challenged readers to send in any question they liked and promised to respond to all queries. We're giving it a go.

Stuart asked via Twitter, so before we lose the tweet...

Stuart asks:   If you could get any one original comic art page signed, which would it be and why?

Wow.  That's a really, really tough question.

There's so much to consider.  What characters?  Which artists were involved?  The design of the page itself. What's the context of the page, and who wrote it?  Was the story memorable?

For perfection on ALL of these counts, I guess I'd say: Any single page from any issue of Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen.  But that's a shortcut of an answer.

So what would I want?

I think I'd want superhero art, for the most part.  I'd make an exception for Carl Barks or Don Rosa work, and would love to have stuff by either of them.  Nothing in particular comes to mind as per specific pages, though.  The same with Curt Swan, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, George Perez, and many more.  They're all amazing artists, but this is a singular page we're talking here, a single page from a comic that so stuck with us...

There's a few ways to answer this.

Your Daily Dose of Good Cheer: Cyd Charisse

Thursday, February 28, 2013

King Kong Released March 2, 1933

I don't remember a time in my life where I didn't generally like the concept of King Kong.  One of the books I remember best from about the age of 4 or 5 was a story book of King Kong, based on the 1933 film with nice illustrations, that my folks read to me.  In the way things are when you're a kid, I just knew who King Kong was, already.  I knew he'd climbed buildings and wreaked havoc, but not much else.

if Kong can make it over there, he can make it anywhere...!

I saw the 1970's Jessica Lange/ Jeff Bridges/ Charles Grodin version on TV around 1st grade, right up until Kong was walking through New York and stepped on some people and, I still recall, me freaking out a little.

By the mid-80's, my folks dropped me and Jason and someone else (I think our own Matt A.) off at Showplace 6 to go see King Kong Lives.  If you've not see it, and I haven't since a brief cable run shortly after it was in the theater, it was amazing.  Oddly, it never really took off as a fan favorite.  It does star a young Linda Hamilton.

One evening when I was in high school AMC finally ran the original, and I taped it in glorious VHS and then watched it, like, three times.  If I liked King Kong as an idea before, I adored the original movie.

If you've never seen it, it's an amazing technical masterpiece for the time.  The stop-motion animation and miniatures are terrifically seamless with the practical sets and actors, the puppetry for Kong manages to create a true character, and the entire Empire State Building Sequence is just truly a remarkable feat.

Your Daily Dose of Good Cheer: Maureen O'Hara

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Ask Me Anything!

While I'm out, I welcome you all to help me generate content.

In the comment section of this post, ask any question you like.  I'll dedicate a post to each question, so make it good.

all questions will receive serious consideration

If you feel comfortable asking a question, knowing darn full well that my mother reads this site, I'll answer as best I can.

All topics, within reason, are open.

Hit me with your best shot.

In Aggieland

I'm in College Station, Texas until Friday night.  Before this gig, I had only been to College Station once before.  A family friend was a jeweler here, and this is where we got our wedding rings.  I'd driven through a lot during college while headed elsewhere, but with my UT sticker in the window of my car, I didn't want to linger too long in the gravity well of Texas A&M.

College Station is a Texas version of places like Happy Valley that exist mostly because there is a University there.  Otherwise they'd be small towns with a red light or two and maybe one cranky dog watching traffic go by like all the rest of the small towns you pass en route to College Station.

I'm here for a small, regional conference, and it seems like it should be fun.  This group doesn't do much socializing after hours, so it'll be back to hotel and work tomorrow night.  I'm always a fan of the post conference bar meet up, but I don't think that's in the cards if the last conference is any indication.

This hotel should be a nice place, an extended stay hotel with a small kitchen, about 50 square feet bigger than my efficiency in college, but without the charm I'd added to the place.  But, it's been noisy, and I can hear the upstairs folks walking around.  Not something I'm used to in a hotel, and it reminds me why I gave up on apartment living.

Anyway, I'm pretty busy, straight through the weekend, so I don't know what blogging I'll be up to.

I've been posting a lot, so, you know, go back and enjoy the previous posts you might have missed.

Your Daily Dose of Good Cheer: Lauren Bacall

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Corporate Synergy Fail - CN and IDW

The point of owning a comics company, one would assume, is to publish comics.  But that's not how it works.

Since the 1970's, DC Comics has been owner by Time-Warner.  After buying itself back in the 90's (it was owned by New World Entertainment, I believe, in the 1980's) and going public on the stock exchange when I was in college, Marvel is now part of the expanding Disney empire.

I would assume the reason Disney wanted Marvel had far more to do with the opportunity provided by The Avengers franchise as cash-generating IP for movies, toys, t-shirts, etc... than it was actually interested in the comics themselves.  And, of course, by owning Marvel, they have the opportunity to grab back lucrative properties like Spider-Man when the contract runs out with Fox.

DC's purchase by WB was almost more of a happy accident.  They were part of a mass of companies purchased by Time-Warner, but, certainly the opportunity to exploit Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman had to be seen as a welcome opportunity.  And, of course, their own Warner Bros. studios would have first-look deals on all movies.

But we're talking movies and not comics.  Comics have always been high risk/ low reward for everyone but the company that can spin the character off into a familiar object for licensing.  Frankly, until recent history, I don't know that Time-Warner or Warner Bros. studios knew or cared that they owned a whole comics company.  They cared that they owned Superman and Wonder Woman.

Your Daily Dose of Good Cheer: Pam Grier

Happy Birthday, Johnny Cash

Today would have been the 81st birthday of Johnny Cash.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Let Us Break Out the Ketel One and Christian Bros. Brandy and Ponder an "Achewood" TV Show

No lie, one of my favorite things of recent western history has been the web comic/ experience, Achewood.

Achewood is almost impossible to explain, fits a specific comedy and writing niche that is most certainly not for everyone, and is the most quotable text of the 21st Century.

Of late, Achewood has been halted, out of print, or whatever you want to call it when a web comic ceases publication.

It was clear something went down with strip owner and operator Chris Onstead, and that's his issue or issues to share or keep to himself.  But, suddenly, after months of silence, Onstead appeared today announcing that he's trying to sell an animated version of Achewood in LA this week.

Frankly, I don't know how a writer's room and the sort of collaborative environment mixed with the needs of  TV networks can possibly bring the strip to life and retain the creative singular vision of a comic about cats named "Roast Beef" and "Ray".  But you never know.  Axe Cop is headed for television, so anything can happen these days, I guess.

Here's Onstead's announcement.

And here's the video demo of what a televised Achewood might look like.

Achewood Television Trailer One "Hello, world" from therussians on Vimeo.

I know, I'm sort of sweating, too.

Animated Teodor, y'all. Animated Teodor could happen.

Anyway, it's an outside shot, but I would love to see this happen and the name "Ray Smuckles" become a household word.

Killing Robin. Again.

I think I'd been reading Batman comics for all of a year when DC had the famous dial-in vote where readers got to choose whether or not Jason Todd, the second Robin, would die.  I was a Jason Todd fan, and I was also a kid just getting into comics, so I didn't want to see the character get it, but I was buying comics at the grocery store and book store back then, so any comics were catch-as-catch can.  Finding issues of A Death in the Family, the storyline where all this took place, were incredibly scarce, and only one of my friends got a copy.

Long story short, I didn't get my hands on the comic with the phone number until months after the event when I sat on my pal's bed and read the comics of the storyline in one, long read while he and my brother listened to Van Halen albums.  I never got to cast my vote.  And as close as the vote was, I always wished I'd gotten my chance to save Jason Todd.*

Then, around 2004/2005, Stephanie Brown took Tim Drake's place as Robin just long enough to get fired for reasons and then get killed (only not really) by Black Mask.

And, of course, it never actually happened, but word on the street is that DC head honcho Dan Didio really wanted to kill off Nightwing at one point during Infinite Crisis.

A few years back Grant Morrison took over Batman and introduced Damian Wayne, the son of Bruce Wayne and Thalia al Ghul.  Right out of the box, Damian seemed fully realized as a character, and - unlike most modern new inventions of characters - was in no way an awkward teenager riddled with self-confidence issues nor a Mary Sue.  Pompous, brutal.  Desperately in need of approval from a father figure.  Everything you'd expect out of the grandson of Ra's al Ghul.

Morrison removed Bruce Wayne and put Dick Grayson in the cowl for over a year, during which time Damian put on the domino mask and the "R", and it was actually a great run on the Batbooks.  Bruce returned, as comic characters hurled through space/time/realities are want to do, and we've been able to enjoy Damian and Bruce as Robin and Batman for a while.

Your Daily Dose of Good Cheer: Audrey Totter

Sunday, February 24, 2013

An Open Letter to The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences: An Idea for 2014

I tuned into the Oscars Sunday night for a few minutes to catch Adele sing Skyfall (a song I quite like in its own right), and ,later, accidentally at one point to hear Seth MacFarlane bomb on a joke about Rex Reed that really just beat around the bush taking a poke at Adele for being on the curvier side.  At this point, I turned off the Oscars.  And, no, I have no plans to watch next year.

Literally billions of people watch the telecast, clearly not caring that it's just absolutely miserable television, and I don't think I remember anyone being satisfied with a host since Billy Crystal was in his hey-day.  I have to assume Seth MacFarlane's sense of humor was a weird fit, just as whatever happened that year when James Franco and, I think, Anne Hathaway (is that right?) hosted.

I have no idea.  The last Oscars telecast I watched I believe was hosted by David Letterman.

But, Academy, I think I have your solution.  I know how to set this right.

In 2014, hire The Admiral as your host and show producer.  He's retired and he needs a project.

This man is TV gold

Signal Watches: The Americans (that Commie Spy Show on FX)

This is how I know I'm getting older.  Time has marched on enough that the scary people of whom we lived in fear during my formative years are protagonists on a new TV show.

FX's new hour-long drama, The Americans, follows the adventures of two KGB sleeper agents in the US at the dawn of the Reagan administration.  The Commies are the protagonists and Ronald Reagan is the looming specter of a heightened state of intensity as (we used to say) the cold war heats up.  We also have a federal agent living across the street from our Commie-heroes, the clammy bureaucracy of the Kremlin, and the rich pageant of life left behind in Mother Russia to contend with.

Movies and TV have taken various stabs at turning the traditional antagonist into the protagonist since Little Cesar pondered how this is how he ended.  Once we dropped the Hayes Code and adopted a rating system that didn't require a moral lesson at the end (ie: the Bonnie & Clyde ending for our protagonist and a realization that crime ends in a premature death and misery), we've explored bad-guy-ness in the movies.  And, of course, Sopranos broke the mold for TV, giving a weekly view and building sympathy for a mob family.  These days, of course, Breaking Bad gives us the drug manufacturers' perspective.

Your Daily Dose of Good Cheer: Elsa Lanchester