Thursday, August 18, 2011

The League's Guide for Incoming Freshmen

This week students are arriving on campus at the university where I work.  I work in a building (a library) where I studied as an undergraduate.  This building is across the street from the building I lived in with 2,999 of my fellow students, and where I now eat lunch about 2-3 times per week.  

When I left high school and entered the wide-world of higher education, it was quite a change for your humble blogger.  I was leaving a world in which I'd achieved academic success mostly by following the rules and bullshitting when I did not, but doing it with humility and a pleasing smile that seemed to keep me from getting my head lopped off on the many, many occasions that should have done me in.

College provided me with a new set of circumstances, new people with new perspectives, teachers no longer working from a regionally approved curricula nor with fear that saying things displeasing to the local moral majority would cost them their job.  But, I also left the comfy nest of a home provided me by KareBear and The Admiral, a place where meals were provided, laundry magically happened, and as long as I did my homework, promised to go to college, occasionally did the lawn and didn't get anybody pregnant, I was able to enjoy the benevolence of those who might smite me.  But it wasn't exactly training for college.

I attended the University of Texas, my incoming class becoming part of what was a roughly 48,000 person student body, which would jump to 51,000 before I'd departed with 5 years and 2 degrees under my belt and the perspective and philosophy that comes with time spent in a city-state dedicated to creating the educated individuals of tomorrow.  I never didn't love the institution.  Instead, despite the rough first two years I spent at the bottom of the GPA pool, I figured out how, at last, to get out of the school what it was offering.

And so, I offer up some helpful tips I wish somebody had told me when arriving upon the steps of the Ivory Tower of Education, some things that may help out the young The Leagues showing up at their own colleges and universities, all across the world this Fall.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Signal Watch Reads: Terry Moore's "Echo"

This week the single volume edition of Terry Moore's Echo hit the shelves at your favorite comic shop (if it didn't, change comic shops.  They should carry this kind of stuff, too.).

I followed Moore's Strangers in Paradise off and on, and it was one of the books that got Jamie into reading comics back in the day.   Moore's artwork is easy to spot, and while he could go off and become a penciler for DC or Marvel, I'm glad he's always stuck to his guns and indulged his writing as well as his pen and ink.

If I kept leaving and coming back to SiP, it was because I couldn't tell what Moore was doing with the series.  It went from a sort of suburban melodrama/comedy to having secret organizations and martial artists and god knows-what-else.  It was his series, and he could develop it however he pleased, but coming out in single issues, it was a bit hard to swallow over the span of years.

Of course, Moore DID wrap up SiP with what I considered a satisfying conclusion.  With a few years between the end of the series and now, I've been thinking of filling in the gaps I have in the series (I read it as a mix of trades and floppies and stopped and started during the duration).  Moore has since released an affordable 6 volume set, and its tempting to try re-reading it from beginning to end, because I think Moore knows what he's doing more than I gave him credit for.

I didn't know Echo would be a limited run story when I first picked up an issue, but I found the first two issues interesting enough that I decided I'd pick up the trades.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Looking with squinty, skeptical eyes at the November solicits for DC's New 52 (Month 3)

In truth, a while back I quit reading "Previews" or looking at anything more than titles of books coming out.  (A) The solicitation information was always one of four or five boiler-plate bits (B) The information was usually hyperbolic and misleading, anyway. And (C) I quite like looking at comics on the rack at my local comic shop and pondering those crazy covers to make a buying decision.*

As exciting as talking about "The New 52" from DC was in the first weeks of the announcement, in the back of my head I was always aware that we'd have a couple of months' worth of solicitations available before the first issue of the New 52 hit the stands (and we'd be spinning our wheels all summer as DC geared up for the effort).  With the New 52, I've felt obligated to get an idea of what I might (and might NOT) spend my money on.

Monday afternoon, the solicitations hit for November's releases, the third month of DC's New 52. DCNu effort.  And maybe I'm tired or in a bad mood, but...  If there was any doubt that New DC is the Old DC, somehow rebooting the line with the same heads and talent in place, curiously, did not seem to shake things up a whole lot, and we're already back to simple tricks and nonsense.

That said, a few things still have me absolutely excited.  And this is where my personal taste comes into play.

Here's my favorite copy of the November solicits:

Frankenstein and The Creature Commandos crash-land on the invading alien planetoid and all-out mayhem ensues, but nothing can prepare them for the coming of The Titans of Monster Planet! And just when they thought things couldn't get worse, Father Time receives a troubling message from his past.
I don't know what any of that means, but its exciting!

Its also telling that I actually like this cover:

I am not sure this is what Mary Shelley had in mind, but I'm gonna run with it
But I was less excited by what I saw elsewhere.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

No Post Monday

I have to go to Waco in the morning, and I didn't have time to finish the post I was working on.  I am sure you all understand.

Had a lovely weekend, and am sure this week will be swell.

Here's the cover of Captain America #1, featuring work by Jack Kirby and story by Joe Simon.  We (The US, that is) weren't actually yet at war with Germany when this comic hit the stands.  But Cap was already in action.  He's just that cool.

Go, get 'em, Cap!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Signal Watch Reads: Brubaker and Phillip's "Last of the Innocent" - pure noir on the rocks

Holy smokes.  This week saw the release of another issue of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phllips' creator-owned but published by Marvel title Criminal.  Criminal is an ongoing series, but Brubaker tells different stories every few issues with new characters, etc...  in short, its not an ongoing series following a single character.

I picked up the first issue or two and about that time i was changing comic shops, etc... and lost track of the title.  With issue 1 of the recent story, Last of the Innocent, I decided to pick up the comic again.  And I'm absolutely pleased I did so.

As someone who enjoys his crime fiction as much as his heroic fiction, Last of the Innocent hits all of the noir criteria, following stand-ins for the Riverdale High gang of Archie comics in familiar faces such as Archie, Jughead, Veronica, Betty, Moose, Reggie and others.  But to see Jughead's gluttony explained as part of an addictive personality, Veronica's rich-girl self-centeredness taken to the logical extreme, etc... by the character's 30's sets up the perfect noir scenario.

I'm making this sound like something it isn't, which is an unoriginal, cutesy exploitation of the original Archie material.  Instead, the story reads much more like straight noir with flashbacks and reflections of Riley Richard's past remembered through rose colored glasses.

The series has a few more issues to go (this week saw issue 3 hit the stands), but each chapter does what a good noir does with each twist, and ratchets up the tension around Riley and the supporting characters.

The artwork, flipping between Phillips' now trademark rough-and-tumble style and a cartoony, kids'-book feel for flashbacks, is a huge pleasure.

Highly recommended.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

My Chat Transcript with Pearl at Time Warner re: The Longhorn Network

Today I learned that Time Warner Cable has not yet reached a deal in which I will receive the Longhorn Network, ESPN's first regional-specific network dedicated to satisfying the sports needs of Longhorn fans.  I am not kidding.

Kickoff for the first game of the 2011 season for UT is the traditional UT/ Rice game is 6:00 PM on September 3rd. As of today, TWC, which has a stranglehold on cable subscribers in Austin, has not yet negotiated a contract with ESPN, the mother-ship network for the LN.  And, as you guess, only the Longhorn Network is carrying the game.  This, people, is utter bull-hockey.

Because the market solves all, I turned to my benefactors at Time Warner, knowing my pleas would not fall on deaf ears.

I suspect "Pearl" may not be the actual identity of my liaison.

Pearl Smith:    Thank you for contacting Time Warner Cable. At the end of our chat you will be given the option of taking a brief survey. My name is Pearl. Please give me a moment while I access your account.

Ryan_:    hello.
Pearl Smith:    I understand you need information on Longhorn Network, am I correct?
Ryan_:    yes!
Ryan_:    I am hoping that TW will find an agreement with the Longhorn Network prior to August 26th.

Pearl Smith:    Although we do not currently have an agreement to carry Longhorn Network, we do want to make the Longhorn Network available as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the Longhorn Network refused our offer to bring the Longhorn Network to TWC customers.
Ryan_:    why?
Pearl Smith:    There is some issue with the broadcasting rates.
Pearl Smith:    The deal does not get finalized.
Ryan_:    I am sure TWC cares more about me seeing UT football than something as silly as money.
Pearl Smith:    I apologize for any inconvenience this has caused you.

Ryan_:    Pearl, nobody is blaming you.
Pearl Smith:    Time Warner Cable regularly examines its programming line up with an eye towards providing the highest quality and widest choices available at reasonable and competitive prices. Although we do not currently provide the programming that you requested, we do keep track of the number of requests received and utilize this information to influence programming changes. Time Warner Cable is always concerned with the programming interests of our subscribers. This programming request will be shared with our Programming Department. It is this type of feedback that is vital as we strive to deliver the best variety of programming available to our customers.
Ryan_:    But this is a nuisance.  Please tell Mr. Warner and Mr. Time that I will take a network showing Longhorn football over 1000 channels showing me shows about baking cakes and/ or cupcakes.
Ryan_:    I expect for the outrageous sums outlayed to the Time Warner Corporation, they can scrape together a few shekels and see to it that I get my football programming.

Ryan_:    Even if it does mean that's one less private island for the super fortress they're obviously building for their secret private army.
Pearl Smith:    I can transfer you to our sales team for more information on this.
Pearl Smith:    They would be able to inform you the time of its launch.
Ryan_:    That won't be necessary.  I appreciate your patience and I look forward to having the Longhorn Network on my cable dial by August 25th.
Pearl Smith:    Thank you.

Pearl Smith:    Is there anything else I can assist you with today?
Ryan_:    You can explain to me what vertical integration means.
Pearl Smith:    I am sorry, I am unaware of this word.
Ryan_:    that's okay, Pearl.  I appreciate your time.  Have a great night!

Signal Watch Watches: The never-aired Wonder Woman Pilot

The thing that struck me over the head by far the most about the ill-fated Wonder Woman pilot is that it looked exactly like something that should have aired on Fox in the late 1990's.  Yes, it was from the production shop of David E. Kelley, he of Ally McBeal fame, who also gave us many more shows that were quirky or something, none of which I've watched.  And its hard to put a finger on exactly what's so 1990's about the show except that in design, scripting and pacing its maybe a hair in storytelling more mature than soaps from the 1980's, and the 1990's shows carried many of the same themes over from the prior decade.

the show is less decisive about pants vs. shorts than Didio himself
I won't say I don't watch a lot of TV shows, but when I think sudsy shows with classy, glammy looking women in absolutely enormous and over-stylized corporate offices having middle-school arguments and smirking at one another depending on who thinks they have the upper-hand, my mind is thrown back to shows like Melrose Place and latter-era 90210, LA Law, McBeal, etc...  And Wonder Woman full on has exactly one of these scenes.

So, yes, if you thought "well, it sounds like David E. Kelley", that's exactly what you get.  An hour-long sudser that, sigh, breaks for action when it isn't letting gorgeous, beautifully tressed women  in kind-of-bad outfits go all Dynasty on each other.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Anonymous Commenting

The New York Times ran an article on anonymous commenting and how its starting to wear a bit thin for news organizations

Maybe in 2005 the comment section made some sense.  Maybe.  Frankly, I get nothing out of finishing an article on the local kid's bike race and seeing the latest comment posted was about how Obama is a secret Muslim, that we can blame everything on Big Business, or that things were better back in the past when we all lived in black and white TV shows (apparently).

Really, Estate 4.1 has turned the entire enterprise of reading these comments into an art form

There's no doubt that news sites were hoping to build a web 2.0 world where communities thrived on their websites, but its been sort of like putting a bird feeder out to maybe watch some Blue Jays and realizing in a month that the thing is completely full of really stupid but furious hornets, and if you try to spray them, that's just going to make them mad.

Back in March I opined that I thought DC Comics was wise to remove comments from their blog. I've seen a few people call them out on this as recently as Comic-Con, but I have to think those people never actually read the comment section and saw the bubbling cauldron of fear and loathing that the comments had become.

I also have no idea why DC bothers to host its own message board which is an even viler hive of scum and villainy.

Every once in a while, I ponder anonymous comments here at this site. I've been very, very lucky that so few people comment here without leaving a sig on their anonymous comment (thanks, NTT!). And because I don't want anyone to have to post through a service they don't want to use, I keep anonymous comments available. But I don't like it.

Its very hard to have a conversation with someone if you don't know who you're addressing. And, I also know some of you post anonymously when you're being a bit pissy,* and that's just... well, its weird and not something I want to police.  But day in and day out?  Its not a big deal.

For news sites? I think the experiment if over. Letters to the Editor worked fine for a good, long while, and if you're likely to write a letter worth publishing, then its likely you've got something worth saying and you've been a bit thoughtful about what you'd say and hopefully worked out the type-o's.

I'm not even sure why news sites are dragging their feet or finding half-measures to seemingly slowly back away from the comment sections.  And I REALLY don't know why CNN thought a great idea was to have anchors read viewer feedback.  That's not balanced coverage, that's reading two or three anonymous jerks' opinions.**

*yes, I know exactly who that is.
**clearly, the right way to consume an anonymous jerk's opinion is through reading his blog.  amiright?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Some Media Consumed the Last Week or So

  • Captain America: Rebirth - trade paperback of 90's-era Mark Waid Captain America comics.  Good stuff, but in the vein of 90's "all action in every panel", which I now usually associate with a Geoff Johns book.  And co-stars Bill Clinton when showing the President in a comic didn't lead to frothing rage (just low-boil rage).  Also, this is apparently when Ron Garney was still adding detail to his work.
  • Captain America:  The Trial of Captain America - I'm half-way through this book.  Pretty good thus far.  But all of Brubaker's Cap has been worth reading.
  • Echo Vol. 5:  Black Hole - trade paperback of Terry Moore's very good, recently completed series, Echo.  5th of 6.

  • Sgt. Rock:  The Prophecy and Sgt. Rock: Between Hell and a Hard Place - The older I get, the more I love Joe Kubert and the more I appreciate the DC war comics. Especially now that Kubert is writing and drawing for adults and feels free to put in plenty of his own point of view.  I'm not a huge Azzarello fanatic, but he works seemlessly with Kubert on BH&HP
  • Moon Girl #3:  from Red 5, this comic is visually stunning and a bit hallucinatory in its approach.  Not everyone's cup of tea, but if you're going to pick up these old properties, might as well do something interesting with it.
  • Punisher #1:  written by Greg Rucka.  There's a whole, long post I want to do some day about how you lose the point of superhero-ish comics when all of your characters are in on the superhero factor (there's a reason Superman's supporting cast is supposed to be a bunch of journalists, not Kryptonians).  Pulling back to show the Punisher's world from a new perspective (not Frank Castle's) is a great hook.
  • Mad Men Season 4, episodes 1-4:  Our 3 year old Blu-Ray player isn't doing a great job, and occasionally just wouldn't play some discs.  The failure of my player to let me play Mad Men got me up and to Target where I obtained a new Blu-Ray player.  As clever as the first 3 seasons are of this show, the 4th it shows a new maturity rather than becoming cutesy with its characters as most successful shows opt to do.  
if you were watching Season 4 when it broadcast, you will appreciate this.
  • RoboCop 3, 2 and RoboCop:  My love of RoboCop isn't just nostalgia for a simpler time when shooting people in movies meant lots and lots of blood splatters and nobody thought about stuff like email or wi-fi when considering the future.  These movies were a satire of the absurd endgame of amoralism in business culture.  In 2011, aside from our ability to have cyborg cops, pretty much everything else in these movies came to pass.  Yeah, the Alamo showed the movies in reverse order to make everyone watch RoboCop 3.  Frankly, it was a lot better than I remember, but what I remember was a taser to the eyeball.  Also, its like a C-lister of Hollywood All-Star cast.  And Jill Hennessy in some serious Mom Jeans.
  • Attack the Block:  I already talked about this, but its worth mentioning again.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Hiatus? we'll see

I just remembered I had this as a poster on my wall for a year or two in high school.
Tonight I am at the Robocop Reverse Marathon at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz, and on Tuesday I drive to South Texas for work for a few days.

I hate to go on hiatus again so soon, but it seems life and the needs of university research libraries of the Rio Grande Valley greater area are conspiring against us.

That said, I'll be in hotels plenty, and I don't see me not getting bored.

Many good things happen in the Rio Grande Valley.  Texas Red Grapefruit is just particularly tasty.