Saturday, March 9, 2013

Your Daily Dose of Good Cheer: Liz

Your Questions Answered: The Full-Text and less pithy response to Question #4

Jim D asked:

4. Can we trust those youths who have no meaningful memories of the 1990's?

My original answer was:

I tend to think not. I drive past a high school every day on my way to work, and the kids are starting to dress like they're in a Young MC video or maybe big Madonna fans. I don't think they know that's what they're emulating. The undergrads I see are basically okay, but they're easily distracted and swayed by anything from donuts to sparkley lights. Basically, I don't trust anyone who still has dreams or aspirations.

I work on a college campus.  Almost every day I am surrounded by bright young people who were born between 1990 and 1995.  Many are lovely people, and if I didn't believe that, I wouldn't work there.  But I also know that this is the first time they've stepped away from the helicopter-parenting, special-snowflake environs in which they were raised.  One bubble into another.

I don't know if I'd anchor my answer necessarily to the 1990's, other than that the 1990's were the era in which I passed from teenager to college graduate, and the cultural and historical events of the era no doubt had a huge hand in how I think of things today.

Do I trust a 19 year old telling me about hip new bands?  No, I do not.  I've had almost twenty years to outgrow the bands I liked, understand their influences later on - and stop believing that they sprung from the earth fully formed as geniuses, the like of which the world had never seen before.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

We Finally Watch: On the Waterfront (1954)

Somehow, and I don't really have a good explanation for this considering I have seen Manos: The Hands of Fate at least four times in its entirety (including once in the theater), I had never seen the 1954 Marlon Brando starring classic On the Waterfront.

This is young, virile Brando, who was full of ideas about acting that would change the artform forever and who made the ladies swoon.  As much as I like old, weird Brando, you need context, and between this movie and A Streetcar Named Desire,  it's not hard to see why the name still gets tossed around.

And, before we begin, was Karl Malden just born aged 42?  Because, seriously, Karl Malden.

Your Daily Dose of Good Cheer: Louise Brooks

Whatever Happened to The Girl in the Stop Sign Shorts?

On Wednesday night I posted a comment to facebook about how we don't spend enough time celebrating the dancer in the trademark "Stop Sign" shorts from the Young MC video for "Bust a Move".  I was about 14 when this song was big, and I knew enough then to know that the bassist in the video was Flea from the California-based Red Hot Chili Peppers (who might be a thing one day).

The video is below. You can find the dancer in question around the 1:05 mark.

Well, in 1989-ish, you couldn't not hear this song, and from 1989 until the end of time, you couldn't not like the song.  It's a staple of Gen X music consumption that was sort of universally beloved, kind of like the work of Tone Loc (also written by Young MC) and "The Humpty Dance" by Digital Underground.

It was a different time.

Lets just say that the performer left an impression, enough so that in 2013, if you say "Stop Sign Shorts", I know exactly what you're talking about.

But who was the woman behind the shorts?  (so to speak)

Turns out her name is Cindyana Santangelo.  This is some minor league Google search wizardry, and you can thank me later.

What I didn't know is that she's also the voice from the beginning of the 1990 Jane's Addiction album, Ritual de lo Habitual.  And if you were a sulky kid in 1990, chances are, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

Just watch the first part of the video and it'll come back to you here 23 years on.

Well, I assure you that video seemed relevant at the time.

LA must have been a bit smaller of a town than I realized back then, what with all the Jane's Addiction/ Chili Peppers/ Young MC cross-pollination going on.  Oddly, I feel less awkward watching a Young MC video today than I do remembering being really, really into Jane's Addiction from about 1989-1993.

I'm shocked to learn that the two were so close together as, in my mind, they seem incredibly separated, but I'd moved and made the passage to being a bit older and more sullen by the time I was anticipating new Jane's Addiction albums, I guess.  But, dang, we all still loved Young MC!  Everyone find a way to send Young MC a dollar on paypal.

Anyway, point is:  After imprinting herself heavily upon my malleable 14 year old psyche, I now know who this person is (Cindyana Santangelo!) and a wee bit about her. Because she's got a website.  She's an actress!

Look here.

She's apparently been on CSI and appeared on a reality show as a client on Million Dollar Listing and was on a show that didn't get picked up about Housewives of Malibu.

She also appears to run something called "Mermaid Cove Sober Living" in Malibu.

So, wherever you are Cindyana, we salute you.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Your Questions Answered: A Peppering of Questions

My wife asks:

Gorilla vs. Robot. Who wins? (your choice as to how literally you'd like to interpret this question)

bonus question: Lucy vs. Scout. Who wins?

Question # 1:  We do.
Question # 2:  Nobody.

JimD asks:

1. Supes v. Alistair? Who wins?
2. Ten years ago, The League began this blogging thing. If we could transport 2003 League to 2013, what would he say about the world he surveys here?
3. Compare the child reader of comic books in 1986 (who could go to 711 and purchase a new issue) with his 2013 counterpart. What changed, and why?
4. Can we trust those youths who have no meaningful memories of the 1990's?
5. What does it all mean?

Your Daily Dose of Good Cheer: Ann Miller

Your Questions Answered: What if I Had Creative Control of Superman?

Jake asks:

Since this is Superman heavy blog, if you were the publisher or editor in chief over at DC, or even just a writer on a Superman title, what would you do, creatively, with Superman? Assuming you could flush the whole reboot, what would you do (or not do) with the character? Just focus on good, solid storytelling? Make Superman more socially/politically conscious? Introduce him to a wider audience, i.e. kids, women, etc.?

Believe it or not, this isn't something I think about all that much, and maybe that's wrong-headed, but I'm never comfortable with reviews of something that start with "what they should have done was..." or "what they should really do".  It seems like an endgame with little satisfaction.

Usually the question I find myself asking is: why didn't that work?

But rather than dodge the question, let me give it a whirl.

1. Re-Establish a Supporting Cast of Humans

If you've been picking up Superman comics for a while, or, in fact, most superhero comics of the last decade, one of the primary problems I detect is that there is no status quo.  There's no "home base" for the characters to point to and have in mind as they go about their adventures.  Spider-Man lost his with the dissolution of the Mary Jane marriage, Batman is almost never seen as billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne with his youthful ward, and the only writer who seemed to want to put Clark Kent in the Daily Planet for more than two panels every six issues was Geoff Johns, who left the book before his creative imprint could really take hold.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

I am in the awkward position of admitting I liked the 2012 film "Battleship"

So, Jamie's dad had more than once recommended me the 2012 film, Battleship, which he'd seen in the theater.  I had heard some atrocious things online, but Dick was the only person I knew who had actually seen the movie.

A good, brainless movie can really pass the time on the elliptical, so I threw on Battleship, directed by the notable director and producer Peter Berg of Friday Night Lights fame, and starring Taylor Kitsch of FNL fame as well.

If you have high hopes for a groundbreaking film based on a board game, which throws up a title screen that this is a Hasbro movie, and which stunt casts Rihanna, well, you may come away disappointed.

I am not averse to, and am actually a fan of, what my brother calls "hardware porn".  Movies that feature lots of military vehicles, space ships, cannons, what have you...  and in this vein, I am quite excited for Pacific Rim.  It's worth noting that Battleship is probably intended for middle school boys, from the chaste romantic story to the color-by-numbers scrappy-rebel-learns-honor-in-the-military plot.  And, also, the complete fetishization of naval combat against alien aggressors.

Your Daily Dose of Good Cheer: Rita Hayworth

Remembering Patsy Cline on the 50th Anniversary of her Passing

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the passing of Ms. Patsy Cline.

New Series coming: Superman Unchained! (nice title, DC...)


I wonder if DC even realizes that they're also publishing a comic of Django Unchained at the moment.  And that comic's title has a meaning to it that's a lot less steeped in DC's insecurities about their flagship character.

This, from an article at Newsarama:
"We're all fans and we've all known this character for a long time," Jim Lee tells USA Today. "You have to fight your natural tendency to do what you know or what you've always thought the character to be.

"We've been pushing the creators to not be beholden to the past conceits and understandings of Superman. So we will speak to a new generation of readers."

You can more or less read that as "we're really uncomfortable with Superman as a character who isn't as straightforward as Batman, and as guys who grew up thinking Batman rules and Superman drools, we're not sure what a Superman comic looks like, and we really aren't going to do any research to find out.  But we have a corporate imperative to make Superman work in the comics, so we're doing what everyone else has said they're doing since Mike Carlin left the editor's post."

I'm not sure the comic will be bad, necessarily, but the one drumbeat DC has had around Superman for at least 13 years has been "we think we know Superman, but we're going to try something new for a new group of readers".

At this point, the only thing left new to try is to actually go back to whatever that model was that they think Superman has been living by until the new writer (who has never read Superman before) took the paycheck. Only, the character hasn't had an opportunity for 13 years of comics to even have a status quo.  He's been rebooted five times in the past 8 years or so, and I think only writer Geoff Johns managed to get Clark Kent in a Daily Planet newsroom with Perry in more than one issue of his run.

Frankly, I'm tired of DC's shame of their own very lucrative bit of IP.  Nobody buying those t-shirts or stickers for their cars (all of which bring in way, way more than this comic ever will) are looking for a new, edgy Superman.  Dumping 75 years of the character doesn't automatically equate to speaking to ANYONE.  In fact, I'd argue that a lot of people would like to pick up a Superman comic and see what they're expecting as per Superman's status quo, not whatever the writer of the week and Jim Lee (no master storyteller, he) have as a way of reimagining the character.

DC, you are the disappointing sibling who we all think has the tools to get his life together, but who keeps somehow making bad decisions that he can only see as strokes of bad luck.  We're getting tired of bailing you out so you can keep the electricity on in the apartment you can't afford.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Your Questions Answered: Why do you hate Rutherford B. Hayes?

Anonymous asks:

Why do you hate Rutherford B. Hayes?

I actually tried to find a reason to hate Rutherford B. Hayes, but reading his bio, it's kind of hard to find much fault with the guy.  He inherited a tough spot in the wake of the panic of 1873 and managed to forge a new path for currency, worked to amicably end Reconstruction and restore full independence to the South, did good deeds in Latin America, took no BS from Mexican bandits and handled the railroad worker's strike with more humility than Reagan and the mess with the air traffic controllers.

The 1870's are a somewhat unsexy period in American history, so I had to look up quite a bit on Hayes, but in my estimation, aside from the extremely dicey way in which he took office, he seems all right.


In fact, I find quite a bit to admire in his biography.

I'm not sure I'm ready to get on the Rutherford B. Hayes bandwagon, like you people, but as a man of his time, he seems pretty remarkable.  Unfortunately, he falls between Lincoln and Roosevelt, in that era of American history that just doesn't get much press.  I think that's all on me to better understand, and maybe that's worth doing sometime.

Your Questions Answered: 3D Printing

Marshall asks:

What do you think of 3-D printers? Are you excited? Do you have plans? Or do you think, "Oh, man I don't even...that's for kids of kids to enjoy but I ain't got time to worry about it."

What a fantastic and unexpected question.

In 1999 I was working in a multimedia/ video production office and we were helping produce a video for a faculty going for an NSF grant.  He was helping to develop a process that, at the time, was called "Solid Freeform Fabrication", I believe.  I stood there and watched the process happen (well, watched it on the monitor), and couldn't understand how this was happening, how it was possible.

It was an amazing technology, watching parts within parts rise from a sea of dust on the power of lasers and engineering.  It was like a special FX sequence but it was happening in front of me, just one of many terrific sci-fi as life moments that I experienced working in the College of Engineering (nuclear reactors, robots, super computers...  it was always something new and bizarre).  But I didn't really understand the implications until recent times when it seems that this technology will move out of corporate environments and could soon be consumer-grade stuff.

Like the distribution of media via electronic means or the coming change in education, I'm watching with bated breath.  Self-produced manufactured goods is the next game changer.  In fifteen years, kids will draw their ideas for toys into an app and print their own action figures.  We won't go to the store to buy certain or, perhaps, many items... we'll just buy the design online based on ratings and print up that thing at home.  We'll have access to things imagined by weird people who never wanted to be mechanical engineers, but they've had an idea and refined it and now it's just out there in the sea of ideas.  Maybe you'll buy a portable battery device to make it work.  It's the @#$%ing Diamond Age.

It's going to have us ready to similarly work with and feel comfortable with other technologies that enable us to generate and design technologies at home.  3D printing today, matter converters tomorrow.  Making iPhone Apps is going to seem like rubbing two sticks together for a spark.

I was extremely ecstatic until someone mentioned that guy who was putting designs online for making guns, and suddenly I got a lot less excited.  If you can print up a gun, what else are you going to print up?  A drone to fly that gun into my living room?

None of this means I think we need to control 3D printers or have some sort of government oversight on printing, but it dissolves the supply chain that could be interrupted to keep some items out of the hands of folks who wouldn't normally be licensed to have military assault weapons.  Between you and me, I don't want 13 year-olds printing up M-16s before their parents come home from work.

Let's them them print up nunchucks and shuriken, though, because every kid should have those.

So, yeah, stuff is going to get real complicated with this amazing new power we're giving ourselves.

For me...  well, I lack imagination.  I don't know what I'd print out immediately.  A lifesize bust of our own Randy?  A Theodore Roosevelt action/ adventure playset?  I don't know.

But as these things become accessible and better, I look forward to how it will create opportunity for artists, for inventors, engineers, scientists, kids... all of us, I guess.

Your Daily Dose of Good Cheer: Lynda Carter

Happy Birthday, KareBear

Today is my mother's birthday.

In her honor, here is Neil Diamond singing "America".  I welcome you to clap along slightly off beat with the song, knowing that, wherever she is, The KareBear will be doing the same.

and, because, it's her b-day, let us all enjoy the 1973 Hawaii performance of "Suspicious Minds" by King Elvis.

Dang, yo. There is nobody else like The King, is there?

Happy birthday, Ma!  We love you.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

For Pope Benedict as he departs office

Apparently, in 2005, I welcomed Pope Benedict XVI to the job with this post...

So, so much has changed since 2005.

We lost Jackson, YouTube became a thing you could embed....

As Pope Ben leaves office, let's hear it one more time...

That's right, I've been blogging longer than a Pope's tenure in office.

Your Daily Dose of Good Cheer: Veronica Lake

Your Questions Answered: What's Up With All the Blogging?

Anonymous asks:

Why do you keep blogging after all these years? What keeps you going? Do you like the attention?

Wow, tough questions from the crowd.

At the end of this month, I will mark my ten year anniversary of my first blog post.  In internet time, that's an eon.

What started me then is not why I'm doing it now, if I can even recall why I did it then.  Truthfully, the original League of Melbotis blog was more or less about having a one-to-many communication tool for myself when I'd moved to a place where I was far from people I knew, and had nobody to talk to (aside from Jamie), and pestering people with email had gone about as far as it could go.

Back then, blogging hadn't really taken the shape it has now of routine columns on single topics.  It was closer to journaling, in my opinion, but the public forum-ness of blogging meant a push and pull of having an audience that just writing for and to yourself won't ever have.

But why am I still doing it?

There are a lot of reasons.

I do believe writing continually has improved my ability to think critically.

I think.


Blogging routinely does mean I apply some thought to media and how that media is produced when I act as a consumer.  If reading that pondering is useful for others (ie: you), well...  I'm happy for you guys!  But I did figure out years and years ago that this works best if I do this for myself first, and if its of benefit to other people, that's a very nice thing, but it can't be my primary concern.

I write with myself as my primary audience, assuming there are other The League's out there.

And, it turns out, there are other people out there who have found a reason to return, even if their own voices are very different.  I do feel some responsibility to the great folks I've met or not met, who show up online and stick with me.  That's an honor.

Your Questions Answered: Which Super Power?

CanadianSimon asks:

I know you've spent a lot of time thinking about this, all comic fans have, if you could have one super power what would it be? How would it be useful in the real world and what would the detriments be. Finally, do you think this absolute power would corrupt you?

For a long, long time I thought the power I'd want, and which I'd still want in a way, is: invulnerability

It sort of started with the idea, when I was living in a 14 story dorm, of getting tired of waiting for the elevator and thinking "man, if I could just pitch myself out the window and get up and walk away, I could save myself a lot of time."  Yes, it would be alarming to everyone on the ground, but those elevators took forever.

Then I began extrapolating all the other stuff I could do even without other standard super powers, like flight or super strength.

Flight would be very cool, but its got limited application.  It's basically a way of getting around that avoids traffic.  Strength is great, but without invulnerability, it seems like you'd be in constant danger putting that strength into practice.  What if you drop the bus on yourself?

But I think with invulnerability, you could actually be fairly useful.  If human frailty were removed, the opportunities seem limitless for ways in which it could be applied, from deep sea explorer to space walker to fireman.  And, if you don't need to worry about getting dinged up, you can also get a rocket pack or whatever, and flight can be an option.

The trick, of course, is that you'd lose empathy for other people who did bleed, and who had to worry about the basics of an existence where harm would end you.  I don't know what it might mean for longevity if your physical shell was impervious to damage, so the problems of remaining healthy and whole while time marches on for everyone else could really take a mental toll.  And, of course, using the power for means that served a benefit to the most people and not just as a party trick to get on TV, nor to be asked to use it for harm.  And, I wouldn't want to wind up assigned permanently to standing next to the President on the off-hand someone starts lobbing bullets at him.