Wednesday, March 16, 2011

In which I recommend Schools Let Bigger Kids Beat Up Smaller Kids

A video meme is making the rounds in which a fairly big kid is seemingly just standing there and a smaller kid bounces up to him and within a few seconds goes from annoying twerp to slapping the bigger kid, taunting him while their peers look on.  From the look of the video, it seems the twerpy kid got his friend to record him as he decided to demonstrate his alpha maleness over a target he must have believed would not fight back.  The big kid is heavy-set with red hair, a sort of blank expression...

You can see the video here, although the video has become controversial and keeps getting pulled down.  (So, I apologize in advance for the racy ads on this site, but I was tired of looking for the video).  You can read commentary all over the internet.

The video, which lasts only a few seconds, takes an odd turn when the big kid moves in, picks up the smaller kid, and then slams him into the concrete.  The big kid then wanders out of frame while the smaller kid gets up and hobbles, seemingly shaken (if not injured), toward the camera.

If I don't sound particularly sympathetic to the smaller kid, its because from 5th-8th grade, I was the big kid on infrequent occasions.  And I was witness to many more incidents with other kids who were just trying to avoid trouble, and I can't tell you how many incidents almost exactly like the one in the video played out in hallways and locker rooms when adult supervision wasn't around.

Being a big kid (6'2" by 8th grade) who people think won't hit back leaves you in a weird spot.  Those little kids are counting on the fact that if you DO decide to hit back it will be seen by your peers and adults alike that you took a swing because "you can't take it" - and that's a character flaw.  And even if that kid is hitting, its going to be seen as being somehow unfair to that smaller kid when you do smack him back.  There's this odd balance of "oh, well, the little kid couldn't actually hurt him" that comes into play, and it becomes this unreal set of rules that an alarming number of adults seem more than willing to play along with that if you're big, its your responsibility to just take it.

For example, if you're wondering what happened in the aftermath?:  the big kid got suspended, and may possibly have legal action taken against him.  There's no reported recourse against the smaller kid.

I am certain that in today's atmosphere of litigation and child psychologists the "appropriate" response is to run off to tell a teacher or an adult whenever you're unhappy.  But kids aren't stupid.  They know that getting an adult involved has an effect 100x worse than just standing there and taking it.  That little twerp is just going to be back at school the next day making sure everybody knows the big kid ran to tell the teacher because he was too much of a wimp to defend himself.  Yes, he has terrible parents.

Its unorthodox, and its hard to draw the line, but its hard not to believe that two important lessons couldn't have been drawn from by these two kids had the video never made its way online and this thing had just ended in that breezeway.

1)  The Twerpy kid would have learned exactly what line he crossed and thought twice before shooting his own mouth off
2)  The Big kid would have learned that you can actually stand up for yourself in ugly situations, and that may be one of the most important things you can learn in this life

By punishing that kid for, frankly, not taking it, what does that boy learn?  He learns that (1) he is forbidden from solving his own problems and needs to just deal with the ensuing humiliation, and that (2) he should be paralyzed with fear when challenged - lest he make a move and the consequences become infinitely worse than getting punched in the face.  

Now, of course, you can't advocate student-on-student violence, so don't hang that on me.  But what you can say is that there's video evidence, and anyone who was ever in middle school should be able to understand what they're looking at.

Here's the thing:  I can tell you exactly what happened after the big kid walks out of frame.  He cried like a baby.

I got in my first fight when I was about 12, and it was terribly odd.  I was sitting on an electric box in front of my house and a kid I knew, one grade beneath me and with whom I'd eaten graham crackers and played soccer, showed up with an older kid at my house.  The older kid must have been watching movies because they quite literally informed us they wanted to "rumble".  We had just been sitting there, and not talked to those kids in a couple days.  After we'd had a good laugh at the word "rumble" (which, I assure you, did not help), the older kid goaded my buddy into starting things off by going after me.  

The rest was just a blur of two chubby kids in glasses slap-fighting.  I distinctly remember the fact that my buddy ran away and I was told I'd won, but I just went into the front door of my house and cried.  It was - as I figured out from watching A Christmas Story, wherein Ralphie finally loses it and beats up the bullying Scoot Farkis he had yellow eyes!) - a pretty common reaction to kids fighting, once the adrenaline wears off. 

I hit middle school shortly thereafter, and sure, I was big, but it wasn't like I was out telling other kids "I'm the fastest gun in the west, and ain't nobody going to knock me off this hill".  I was a goofy 12 year old who liked X-Men comics, Mr. Spock, Batman and robot novels.  I played the tuba, for God's sake. 

If you don't want to get into a fight, and you get drawn in, winning isn't any better than losing.  You have to already know that the minute you take a swing, you're going to be asked to pay for something that you did not start, but which, as they say...  you did finish.  Its bewildering, you've just broken promises to your parents, of codes of conduct for good kids, and seen your attempts to lay low resulted only in extending the inevitable.

The monkeysphere for most people is terribly small, and in middle school it usually consists exclusively of your immediate circle of friends and that one girl in your math class you can't figure out how to talk to.  Likely because I was such an enormous freak of a kid, I never felt like I needed to prove to anyone that I could intimidate somebody, and likely due more to nurture than nature (I had been told since toddler-hood that I could hurt other children my own age were I not careful) I spent more time making sure that swinging an arm to tell a story, or even falling over due to tripping over my own feet, would not mean injury to someone else nearby.*

Fights in middle school have consequences, and those kids who decided to bait me and looked for a fight didn't really get how much more trouble it would be for me at home if I got sent to the office for fighting.  ie - Kid, you may be annoying, but you have nothing on the creative punishment combos of interminable lecturing, grounding, and removing of comics that will last for weeks or months if I wind up in the office.

But, yeah, every once in a while a kid, and often a kid you knew pretty well and had been friendly with right up til that moment, would make this bizarro decision to earn his bones by taking on a much bigger kid.  Upon occasion, that could could sometimes be me.** 

I don't recall ever actually getting any of my classmates clear over my head, but I do remember holding one kid by the top of his head while his short little arms smacked me around the shoulder, and folding another kid in half against a bench in the locker room.  Usually, it just wound up with me pinning the other kid by the throat, which almost never got them to back down.  But, no matter what, it was always awful because it was so confusing.

But I did learn - when there isn't a coach or teacher around:
  • decide what your line is
  • let them know they're about to cross it, even if it sounds cheesy and they think its funny
  • be ready to commit (because if you never do anything, you're all talk, and that's bad, too)
  • or:  I found waiting until you're alone and then telling the kid "do it again, and we have a problem" was useful, although it often meant the kid would try to save face for a week by telling everyone you "lost it" and "couldn't take it", in which case a laughing, "oh, he practically wet himself" and alerting the crowd exactly what really happened usually got the final word in
And, frankly, that wound up working pretty well for me.

This all sort of ended before 9th grade, so I was a little surprised to read these kids were 16, an age by which most kids would have had enough trial and error.  By 16, I'd also moved, quit wearing Spock T-shirts (because...  girls) and people generally didn't know me at my school.  By my last two years of school when they did know me, I guess that stuff was all pretty much in the past.

So am I endorsing letting kids just duke it out?  I don't know.  But I also think "zero tolerance" policies are the shelter of cowardly and lazy administrators unwilling to make hard decisions and responsibility.  And as much as I also detest bullying, I'm not sure that the school administrators who decided to punish the bullied kid here aren't also bullying in their own way.

*I attempted physical bullying once, and it went poorly.  I was trying some BS Robert DeNiro stuff and slapped a kid lightly on the cheek, which sent his glasses sailing, and I remember watching in horror as his glasses shattered to bits.  I remember looking at the kid absolutely  horrified and making it worse yelling: "Jesus Christ!  You had GLASS in your glasses?"  My head was full of images of, had my finger caught the glasses going the wrong way, the poor kid with his eyes full of tiny glass shards .

Looking back, I can't believe what a goody-two-shoes I was.  I remember sitting down with the kid (who was just sobbing like crazy) and getting his home phone number so I could figure out how I was going to pay this kid back for his new glasses I figured I'd have to buy.  Well, apparently he was due for new glasses anyway or something and it all worked out.  And I still remember saying, before hanging up the phone, "Man, for god's sake, get plastic lenses.  You're going to lose an eye."

**it was also sometimes one of my pals, in which case I often just stepped between them and held the kids apart with firm reminders about detention

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Signal Watch Watches: Hell's Half Acre

I was a little unconvinced that Hawaii would make a good back drop for a noir film, and while its a little hard to feel terribly gritty around loud floral shirts and hukilaus, I think the particular neighborhood (Hell's Half Acre, natch) frames the action in an understanable way.  Even in paradise, there's always some hive of scum and villainy.  The movie is a bit even tempered for noir, and so its hard to say it has any gut emotional impact or leaves you with any particular impression, but the plot isn't all bad - ie - it's not exactly The Big Heat, but after Crack-Up, I felt like I was getting back in the Noir groove.

I learned about the movie flipping through a book on noir, and was particularly interested in this movie as it stars the lovely Evelyn Keyes and has two of my other favorite women on the silver screen, Marie "Narrow Margin" Windsor and Elsa "Bride of Frankenstein" Lanchester.  The male actors are okay, though lead Wendell Corey doesn't radiate grit so much as a sort of anxiousness, and was just overpowered on screen by Phillip Ahn.

Its an interesting movie not because the plot is all that fascinating, but because there's some stuff in the movie that, frankly, I was surprised slipped by the censors, including a near rape and what appeared to be the start of a conversation regarding Elsa Lanchester's character's homosexuality.

As per things that surprised me for the time:  The movie also makes no bones about both putting Asians into the film and making it clear that there's equal footing here in Hawaii (that said, the character of "Ippy" is incredibly complicated as I have no idea if that was offensive or not.  But it was goofy.).

You guys know I love Marie Windsor when she shows up in a movie, and she gets some pretty darn good lines and scenes, but she's not in the movie all that much (though her role is pivotal).

Its probably not required noir viewing, but its interesting to see the genre moved to a location of such distinct character and the film embrace some small part of the culture of the location in order to tell a story.

No Post Tuesday as well

Blame NathanC for a lack of posting.  He is staying at my house and he is more interesting than me typing.

Anyway, Randy and his wife welcomed their child, Evelyn, into the world on Monday, so make sure you congratulate Randolph and The Mysterious M on child #2.  Randy is excited as this baby shall raise a hefty sum from the gypsies just in time for the iPad 2.

Anyhow, that's it for now.  If you have a problem, you may bring it up with Ms. Brooks.

Monday, March 14, 2011

No Post Monday

Spent the weekend surprisingly busy.

  • Spent Friday watching CNN re: Japan
  • Saturday woke late
  • walked the dogs
  • read
  • got an iPhone
  • monkeyed with iPhone (continuous for remainder of weekend)
  • went to TXRD (Lonestar Rollerderby)
  • Didn't really understand the rage at Chip Kidd about him not liking the All-Star Superman cover.  (he's a man with an opinion and a designer.  I mean, he's not quite getting it, but is it a shock that anyone but hardcore Superman fans likes Superman or would get this?)
  • Got up Sunday
  • wept about the time change
  • went to Jason's to "help" with his new Ikea furniture
  • met up with old pals as Kevin is in for SXSW
  • came home, watched an episode of Symbionic Titan
  • NathanC showed up, as he's staying with us for SXSW

So, there you go

Please consider donating what you can to the Red Cross.  They are helping with relief efforts in Japan.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Our Thoughts are with Japan

As you have no doubt been alerted, Japan has suffered a major earthquake and tsunami.  I did not see the televised footage until about 10:00 AM today while waiting in line for a cup of coffee.  Like you, I was horrified at the sheer loss.

What can you say after seeing the footage except to express concern, wishes for the wellbeing of people you don't know, and to be one of many voices asking that you consider providing some financial assistance to the organizations that will be responding today and in the weeks to come.

CNN ongoing coverage is here.

The Red Cross alert website.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Noir: Crack-Up, Comics: Icon, The Stage: Spidey!

Let this cardboard box say what I cannot
I just have nothing to really say in any coherent fashion (this week).  Last week I was ready to go with a new post every 8 hours, and this week...  nothing.  The good news is that I am not feeling the old kick of negativity that would occasionally get me to begin making proclamations about ending a blog.  There's just not much here at the moment.  

That's how it is sometimes.

Noir Report

Last night I watched a movie entitled Crack-Up from 1946.  It was sort of a weirdly dull and unconvincing noir that relied upon the viewer to buy a pretty cockamamie scheme by a bad-guy to frame an otherwise perfectly rationale person as a lunatic, assumed the audience would be hostile to the work of Salvador Dali (this is '46, when Dali would have been already known, but not yet a fixture of dorm room poster art) and tried to sell the very dad-like Pat O'Brien (of Knute Rockne, All American fame) as our hero, when he feels like he's sort of phoning it in through good chunks of the movie.

That's not even a very good likeness of Ms. Trevor.  Even the poster artist isn't trying.
I stuck with it because I kept thinking something interesting was just about to happen, but...  it did not.  It was mostly middle-aged guys hand-wringing and framing each other for things that, honestly, its not clear anybody would really care about if the whole scam were exposed.


I've also been reading last month's Super-comics (I confess to really liking all this Legion stuff, which 23 year old me would slap me for), Dwayne McDuffie's Icon, and other assorted comics.  I do want to write a brief post on Icon at some point, as I think he'd be useful in the current DCU.

This cover only hints at the 90's-ness that one must adapt to in order to read this volume

I actually quite like what I've read so far, even if its in a sort of 90's-era comic style (bear in mind, I didn't like nor read much in the way of Superheroes from about 1991-1997). Its not really a Superman analog other than a cape and invulnerability of a sort, and its dealing with different issues.


Oh, yes. Also, in case you hadn't heard... Spider-Man, Please Turn off the Dark is closing for a few weeks, that director Julie Taymor has left/ quit/ was fired and when the show reopens, audiences will likely have a different show on their hands. It seems somebody pointed out that Taymor's ideas about Spider-Man were maybe not working.

My suspicion is that Taymor always had a certain level of disdain for the material as a "comic book" and "kid stuff" and missed the part where this is modern American mythology.  Her job was to steward the story, not to "improve" the story, tell her own story over the back-drop of Spider-Man and play to her usual audience.  And in that...  I doubt she was the right person for the job to begin with.  This was just never going to be her bag.  It happens, and it happens in comics, too (see:  Jodi Picoult on Wonder Woman).

Comics are still ghetto-ized, and even when I like to think "oh, if you spend time on it, you'll get it", I'd say that 95% of the population just gawks at you, shrugs, and says "oh, its just a comic book, get over it.  It doesn't matter if we completely do our own thing" (and usually that's exactly the moment where things go off the rails, btw).

Alas, most likely the play will now be a rambunctious, teen-audience friendly re-telling of the Spider-Man movie, which will play well to tourists , but it will be ultimately pretty forgettable, and we'll never have a permanent record of what I am certain must have been an amazing spectacle of hubris, disdain for source material and its audience, and risk-taking heretofore unseen on the Broadway stage.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

It's Ash Wednesday!

But here at the Signal Watch, every Wednesday is Ash Wednesday.

The greatest fictional man who ever lived

Let us sample some of Ash's wisdom...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Science! (we get no aliens - this time) and DC Comics' REBELS

Science! and aliens and not science

The other night I saw an article that led me to believe that SCIENCE had found evidence of extraterrestrial life.  I posted about it here, and then set about wondering why this wasn't front page news.

I thank Leaguers Fantomenos and Horus Kemwer for chiming in and helping out a bit in the comments section.

In the past 20 years, America has turned on its scientists as those lab-coated jerks keep (a) telling us things that are personally inconvenient to our butter-soaked, gasoline chugging lifestyles (b) refuse to just say "because of magic" and (c) keep finding new and amazing ways to kill us.  But I'd guess the number one reason we hate science is that it doesn't work in the way we were led to believe by the Professor on Gilligan's Island and cold remedy commercials.

While The News would lead you to believe that all scientists are equal, and that if they can find two scientists to disagree on front of cameras that it must mean that we just don't know, that's not really true either.  It means that they managed to find a scientist who disagreed, but that may be one scientist in a field of thousands.  Which is why SCIENCE relies upon peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings, which basically give a few experts in the field a chance to review conclusions of a study before a scientist has a chance to make a jerk of himself and confuse the public.

This isn't to say that everyone who ignores the usual scientific channels is wrong, but its worth looking long and hard at the credentials of both the author and published journal before saying "these are facts".

Now, as Joe Public, I generally guess that when the usual news outlets report on "studies" in "research journals", they mean that they're looking at journals with a reputable peer-review and an actual research institute backing the journal.  I do not assume that the news is just looking at some dude's website and declaring "Science!".  However, that appears to be exactly what happened with the "hey, aliens!" story from the weekend.

It does occur to me that if we DID know of alien life, it might also be true that shadowy forces would try to cover up our knowledge of aliens.

they're making another one of these dumb movies, btw
So its not entirely outside the scope of possibility that President Obama spent Saturday afternoon being debriefed about some Omega Protocol being put into play to discredit the "alien bacteria" story.  But, until someone produces an actual alien, I'm going to go with the fact that the journal carrying the alien bacteria story looks about as professional as the average Office Admin's first attempts with DreamWeaver (download Open Journal System, Cosmology) and has an agenda to prove the existence of aliens.  So, there you go.


I only read the trade collections, and the series just got canceled, but you know what book I loved from DC Comics?  REBELS.

I think in this issue are heroes are more "running away" than "saving the day"
The basic premise of the series is that Vril Dox is a clone of Superman mainstay-baddy Brainiac, and using the intellectual might at his disposal, Dox set up an interplanetary PAX-for-hire.  Unfortunately, his use of robot drones as enforcers means that his forces are co-opted and used to subjugate the very planets they were intended to protect.  On top of this, the droids are used to keep the population docile while an interplanetary parasite known as Starro invades whole sectors of the galaxy.

Our man Vril joins with a ragtag band of pirates and thugs (and Vril is no Dudley Do-right himself) in order to take back the galaxy and get back to making gobs of money.

Its a really well written and well-paced story, even to the point that a two-issue diversion tied in with Blackest Night fits neatly into the plot.  It also manages to explore DC's oft-neglected outerspace cultures and characters in a away that feels natural, even if the interplanetary jumping feels a bit like people moving from town to town inside of a single state.

And as far as amoral anti-heroes go (who might still have some tiny, on-life-support bit of conscience left), Vril Dox makes for a pretty great central figure.  The writers have to remain two or three steps ahead of the readership and the other characters.  And, in fact, they manage to pull off pretty definite characterization for most characters, which is no small feat with a sprawling cast like you see in REBELS.

No matter who he's dealing with, Vril is always one step a-head
Sadly, REBELS did not feature any DC staple characters, and no comic company seems to be able to deal with the mass conversion of its readership to trades and illegal scans.  Just last week, the series was canceled.

I have to say - I think DC would do well to get on the same printing schedule as Boom! and others, printing the trade collections of an arc within weeks of the release of the most recent issue (ex:  issues 1-6 finish in March, the trade arrives in April).  Frankly, they seemed to be on that schedule but recently backed off for reasons I can't begin to fathom.

The REBELS books read very well as trades, and the first three trades will actually bring you through a very satisfying story arc.  I'm on the 4th trade right now, and I'm a little sad that I can only expect a couple more collections before we call it a day.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Signal Watch watches: "The Losers".

This movie was kind of like "we have only the vaguest notion we're unintentionally remaking The A-Team".  Well, maybe not exactly the A-Team, but it certainly isn't not the the A-Team or every wacky action series you've previously seen. 

Someone got rich making an adaptation of DC Comics/ Vertigo's beloved series The Losers. That person was not me, and it wasn't you, but somebody was able to buy dinner and a car off the fact that this movie got made, and, its hard to believe that if this is all it takes, why am I (or you) not able to make a whole lot of money selling retreads of A-Team episodes to Hollywood and calling it a day?

Full explanation and disclosure

1)  The Losers is based upon a comic, or we wouldn't be talking about it here, of course were nit not based on a comic, it likely would not exist at all.  Of course Hollywood is in convulsions at the moment as it realizes "hey, not all comics are guaranteed blockbusters".  Also - way to @#$%-up Jonah Hex.  Thanks.

2)  This version of The Losers isn't actually the classic version, which was a group of US Soldiers constantly trying to avoid trouble, which usually lands them in even greater trouble than what they started with.  I've only read the Kirby penned issues, but the original series is much beloved by war-book aficionados.  Given how most war comics appeared, I also have always assumed that this idea was lifted from a TV show or movie I've never seen. 

If you are me, Wikipedia will only mildly surprise you when they inform you that the concept was originally Kanigher's.

3)  The version of The Losers adapated to the big screen retained the title, and that's about it. Although they did take the name of the dog, Pooch, and apply it to the chauffeur of the team. 

4)  I actually read the first issue of this version of The Losers, and didn't like it all that much and never read a second issue. 

Its shooting fish in a barrel to point out that when American comics decide to do stories usually reserved for the big screen, they tend not to come from any place of experience or research, but from the writers and artists having had seen a whole bunch of movies not unlike what they've decided to turn into a comic.  That's okay, most movies and TV shows long ago spun off into just referencing the rules set up in prior movies and TV series (which is why I look forward to all vampires in future vampire movies sparkling like a glitter-clad Gloria Gaynor).

The writers, director, producer and actors are clearly having fun making The Losers, but its hard to have fun actually watching the flick.  Its set up to be the fun sort of action movie where rules of physics don't apply except when they do, and our heroes trade witty remarks under heavy fire, etc...  And I don't think there's inherently anything wrong with that kind of movie.  I am, after all, a huge fan of movies like Big Trouble in Little China

The problem that The Losers runs into is that someone made the mistake of thinking that if the movie is funny and fun, it doesn't need to make sense or be very well written, directed or thought out.

The set-up:  our heroes are set up to take out an all-purpose Central American Badguy Superboss, but realize someone is pulling the strings when they can't call off an airstrike after a literal busload of kids is delivered to the Evil Compound (was this meant to be hilarious?, because it kind of was), and our heroes must dash in to rescue the kids.  They succeed, the Evil badguy gets blown up, and they make it to their extraction point.  Their extraction helicopter, then loaded with kids (which means they can't get aboard), is blown up as a devious Rogue Government Agent with His Own Agenda/ puppetmaster tries to cover his tracks.

At this point, the plot becomes nothing but holes and miscalculations.

We're to understand that this (ie - The Losers) is a top-flight CIA team of some sort.  And they don't have a secondary contact they can call to say "hey, this operation went a little jenky and we were co-opted"?  The only course of action these guys think to take is to hide out for the remainders of their lives?

And, seriously, Zoe Saldana has the charisma of a grocery store lobster in this movie.  I know she's Hollywood's current golden girl, but...  man.  (Not that any of the actors blew me away).

Our leader meets a mysterious (and, of course, sexy) woman who basically tries to kill him, but when the fights is over and she says "meet me in this open field and bring your whole team" - they all show up (including the sniper).  They just...  hang out in a graveyard, with no idea who this person is.  And even after she offers to help, its never clear who she's supposedly working for, etc...  and our heroes willingly allow themselves to be trapped in coffins? Its just a total mess.

The movie just sort of ambles along this way, hoping that the quick edits and the supposed rapier wit of Chris Evans will distract the audience.  But the rest of the team is never given an opportunity to define itself or have personalities other than a sort of cheerful, "I love it when a plan comes together" sort of vibe.

Jason Patric plays the sort of gleefully/ cartoonishly homicidal bad guy who tends to pick off his own minions at whim (a la The Joker) but outside the hyperbolic world where people dress as bats, you're just left wondering why someone would ever go work for this guy, and at what point would you quietly kill him (after all, you're a merc) or sell him out, just to increase your own likelihood of survival?

And, of course, our villain has bought a "green doomsday weapon" with which he plans to make a better America through some Rube Goldberg train of logic.  I think we were supposed to laugh about the scene where the weapon is demonstrated and explained, but I wasn't honestly sure.

Its a movie where villains ask for a billion dollars in cash AND a Ducati as payment for delivery of their doomsday weapons (because once you have a billion dollars, why not, right?), and the guys selling the weapons and collecting $1 billion in cash don't stop to think about providing their own small army to make sure all goes smoothly.  I also want to know where one gets $1 billion in cash, but it made for a nice visual.

I feel like I should start keeping track of fights in movies where a person 1/3rd the size of their sparring partner goes toe-to-toe because of the movie rules surrounding "karate" in movies. The "wow!" factor of seeing a 95 pound woman fight a guy 3 times their size wore off decades ago.*  I guess its the standard issue "oh, they hate each other so they're going to sleep together!" staple of TV and movies, but it just feels incredibly tired.


When one of our merry band of adventurers turns traitor, its almost the only logical bit of the movie.  His superiors have failed him, AND seemingly sold him out for some hanky-panky with the one woman in the movie with speaking lines who any of these guys would have had absolutely all the reason in the world to put in a shallow grave from the minute she shows up...  You absolutely can't blame the guy for thinking that jumping in with the badguys looked like a much better deal, because by this point none of our leads has been shown to be able to illicit a whiff of sympathy.

Also, a sequel?  Seriously?  You thought this thing as written warranted more parts?  Good lord.


The most frustrating part of The Losers was not that its critical and commercial tailspin helped kick non-superhero comics in the teeth both at the movies and on the spinner rack.  Its that there were some genuinely clever bits in the movie (for example, I like a bit that ties in with children's soccer matches), but the people working on the movie just phoned it in and seem perfectly aware that they're spending millions on a movie but don't care if it makes any sense and had absolutely no yardstick to use to decide "is the movie we're making any good"?

Admittedly, I never read the comic, so its possible this movie is simply a reflection of a trainwreck of a book.  I am not a fan of comic writer Andy Diggle, and don't seek out his work.**  Basically, every time I read his work it just feels like a collection of cliches and stuff you've seen elsewhere done better, but with the sort of "look, I'm extreme!" vibe that permeates writers trying to work in more adult genres.  (I may not love Azzarello's work, either, but he generally at least seems to find new angles).

Director Sylvain White was helming his first Hollywood flick, and its possible the $25 million budget handicapped much of what they had planned.  I have no idea what happened, but it doesn't even feel like a missed opportunity.  It just feels like a big, dumb action retread on a budget.

*This will sound cruel, but these days it would be a total shocker to see that fight go down with something resembling physics involved (although the word "empowering" would likely not appear, nor would it be very pretty for either side), and at least something would feel like it was at stake.

** I felt like he just totally fumbled Green Arrow: Year One.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Spring, Birthdays, Rodeo, Aquarium, Dogs and Home

This weekend we went to Spring, TX, the place I lived from grades 1-3 and then 10-12 (I lived in Austin for grades 4-9). 

In many ways, the Spring area has changed since my days of cruising the streets in a red 83' Honda Accord with a mildly embarrassing array of music available from the tapes scattered on the floor of my car.  It was the edge of Houston at the time, with cow pastures in several directions from my house.  Where people in movies fear urban toughs, I was always much more concerned about getting cross-ways with someone in "Rocky Mountain" jeans and a hideously ugly cowboy shirt with a shotgun rack in his pickup. 

Now, I lived in a fairly standard-issue suburban home in a fairly standard neighborhood, and while it would have been cool to have been raised under more exotic circumstances, I don't begrudge it.  Heck, I grew up in a school that competed with the same school and same neighborhoods that inspired Win Butler and Arcade Fire's Grammy Winning album, The Suburbs (I hear ya, Win).

Those cowfields have long ago been sold to developers and turned into tract homes, been replaced with odd corrugated metal buildings housing everything from antique shops to a wide variety of churches to a place I watched an ex-flame get married. 

We were in Spring to celebrate the KareBear's special birthday, and so I was delighted just to be along for the ride.  For the first time since I was six years old, I attended a rodeo (along with my folks, their pals, Jamie, Jason and Amy), and despite my reservations, I confess its an interesting sport and I have to admit that those cowboys have guts that I do not.  Also saw singer Billy Currington play a set. 

your author reacts to figuring out how they get the bulls to jump around like that
Somewhat like any trip I've made to Cabela's sporting goods just south of Austin, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is a bit of a reminder that people come in all different stripes, including the un-ironic Rodeo and Country & Western enthusiast. Out there are many folks who know all the words to Country's version of Top 40, have a wardrobe full of western wear, and who spent their youth in the FFA.

I was also impressed that the rodeo focused on kids and academic scholarships.  While my school didn't have much of an agriculture department, our colleagues down the road at Texas A&M are a global power in all-things ag related, as are the good folks at Texas Tech University northward in Lubbock.  So, there was no small amount of Red Raider and A&M Aggie pride on display, as well as a sort of calf-herding competition for scholarships (which is a heck of a way to get a scholarship, but I am not here to judge).

Almost two-decades since the grand old days of yesteryear, now those same folks that used to make me a little twitchy in Spring just seems like folks in hats and different musical preferences, and I like to think that means I'm less of a judgey jerk than I was circa 1993.

Afterward, we had a lovely dinner at Houston's novelty restaurant The Aquarium.  I know the place isn't exactly a foodie's paradise, but if sea life is interesting to you on both the plate and in a tank, then its worth visiting at least once. 

Jamie is the Jacques Cousteau of touristy dining
The place houses fish as large as Grouper and contains sharks in this enormous aquarium right in the middle of the dining room.

All in all, it was a good time.

Dogs stayed at the Austin Pet Ranch, an absolutely great pet resort on 1826 on the way out to Driftwood.  They have been retrieved, but after two days of running around in the big pens they have at the ranch, Scout and Lucy are now both crashed out on the sofas, where I hope they will remain until tomorrow morning.

Let us all wish a happy birthday to The KareBear, and we'll do something similar next year. 

Happy B-day, Ma!