Wednesday, December 28, 2011

a hiatus for a few days - I seem to have injured myself

apparently this is the danger of push-ups

Gah, this is annoying.  Blogging shall be limited for a few days.

I seem to have injured a tendon in my left wrist, and I'm not really sure how.  Maybe exercising.  Its not clear.

That big, honkin' brace is making it hard to type, so...  you know, less blogging.

We'll be back up and running as soon as we get this sorted.

Cheetah the Chimp Merges with the Infinite

I haven't watched any Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movies in  30 years, but as a kid, I knew exactly who Cheetah the Chimp was.  He was Tarzan's wacky little buddy.

I will never be in a picture even 1/4 this awesome

The chimps you see in TV and movies not played by Andy Serkis or Roddy McDowell are usually very young chimpanzees, usually younger than 5 or 6.  After that, its a highly intelligent and willful animal with hands that can tear your arms out of the sockets.  So, getting them to hit their marks can be a bit of a challenge.  I think casting juveniles in movies also gives people funny ideas about how big chimps actually get.

So, in his way, Cheetah was a child actor when starring in Tarzan movies between 1932-34.  He has just passed at the age of 80.  That's pretty old for a chimp, most of which don't make it to 40.

Godspeed, Cheetah.  You were one awesome primate.

Like many retirees, Cheetah had lived in Florida in recent years.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Santor's Work Ends for another year...

Santor must say good-bye for another year...

Santor hath finished his merry work for another Christmas!

Do not worry, children. Santor is with us all the year through, so long as you keep him in your hearts and your dreams and think of him when you hear a noise in the house when you believed yourself all alone... (it might just be Santor checking up on you!)

Santor will return next holiday, and the holiday after that, always with us, always watching you.

Watchmen 2? Blergh.

We placed an empty cardboard box on our stairwell this morning, intending for it to go up when one of us had reason to walk upstairs.  The box was about two feet deep.  The stairs, not two feet deep.  And so it was that I sat, watching Jeff the Cat as he approached the box.  From his perspective, this was a box.  They all do the same thing.  You hop in them, and you have a fort and it is all pretty awesome.  Boxes, by their nature, mostly stay put when you jump in them.

However, if the box is just sitting there, perched on the edge of the stair, likely eleven pounds of cat at the end of the box not supported by the stair is going to cause quite the calamity.  He's done it before, this leaping into the box on the stairs.  And even if it starts well, it ends poorly, with him suddenly at the bottom of the stairs, a box tumped over, him looking around wondering who is to blame for what happened.  For when he has jumped in boxes on other surfaces, this just never happens.

And so it is, so often, watching DC Comics of late.

Once Dan Didio and his seemingly-in-need-of-ritalin-yes-man Jim Lee took over at DC Comics as publishers, its become increasingly clear that neither of them really cares all that much about the characters and properties of DC Comics.

I mean, it kind of makes sense.  Lee rode off his success on X-Men and other work to jump ship from the big 2 and create what became the Wildstorm Universe, which was an answer to how boring and wimpy he must have found traditional superhero comics.  Lots of shouting and bullets and whatnot seemed to be the formula, and I know the Wildstorm U has its relatively small dedicated defenders and supporters (but not large enough to sustain series any longer).  I, myself, enjoyed the first few volumes of The Authority before the sameness of the premise, a sort of Boris the Bear-ish approach that saw the angrier Justice League stand-ins straight up killing analogs from other properties.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Signal Watch watches: Tintin

As I understand it, Tintin is a global phenomena that somehow never exploded in the US the way the character has entertained generations across good chunks of the rest of the globe.  Its telling that the release of The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn came to the US months later than the rest of the world.  Because it is not "ours", this has meant low-flying expectations for the boy reporter here in the states and a welcome not unlike how we treat foreign exchange students when they arrive at our high schools in clothes not bought at Foley's.

We're talking about the movie here for a number of reasons.  1)  It is based upon the comics by Belgian comics-smith Hergé.  2)  It is a high-flying adventure movie.  3)  Its the creation of a wide-range of geek friendly folks from Steven Spielberg to Steven Moffat.

At the Alamo Drafthouse here in Austin, the pre-show rightfully showed clips of adventure serials, Indiana Jones homages, etc...  before the movie.  The comic strips in which Tintin appears actually pre-date Indiana Jones by about fifty years, so I want to make this clear to the legions of Americans who believe that action stars come in either Sylvester Stallone or Jason Statham models and find the idea of a Belgian action hero hilarious:
A)  Van Damme  B) this is the most pure adventure movie to hit the screens in the US in a decade.  And that sort of worries me about American movie-making.

Nothing is scary when you understand it: American Horror Story Wraps It Up

I am a bit fascinated by the concept of Numbers Stations.  Not enough to buy a copy of The Conet Project, but I have lost full evenings online listening to clips.

If you're not familiar with Numbers Stations, you may remember the first season of ABC's Lost, where our heroes were picking up a seemingly random sequence of numbers coming over their radio.  It was spooky stuff, because you're hearing a human voice, and they seem to think they're making sense, but there's something else clearly going on, something organized, and not knowing what is happening puts you at a disadvantage.

These things are very real, and they make no sense.  Hearing someone repeating "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" over and over, or a series of chimes, or a series of numbers  appearing mysteriously over shortwave (where the broadcasts got their name) sets you back a pace.  Disembodied voices, garbled by the inconsistencies of the aether, making no sense...  its utterly discomfiting.

No, it does not steady the nerves to think: oh, its spies broadcasting via shortwave from behind enemy lines. But it is an explanation.  But what if its not spies...?  What if we don't know...?

We know that people will generally come up with some sort of animistic explanation for the world around them when they don't have facts.  Its the source for stories of goblins, faeries, leprechauns, and, of course, ghosts.

American Horror Story was a ghost story.  A 13-episode ghost story, which breaks from the usual mold of ghost-story movies, which give you 90-120 minutes to get a deep immersion, get spooked, and get out.  It doesn't give you an opportunity over several months to let you question too much about the situation, or, indeed, become familiar with the ghost or learn the "rules" of the ghosts or show.

What made my two favorite ghost-story movies, The Shining and The Haunting, work so well was the slow boil to meltdown.  We may have seen pieces of what was happening, and most certainly the creators of both films (Kubrick and Wise, respectively), knew not to just create a separate magical world with traffic laws and a tax code, if they wanted to keep their movies frightening.

You can ride American Horror Story as a ghost story right through the Halloween 2-parter, but after that, the show was trying to explain too much.  In fact, 13 episodes may have been too much.  I can't help but think that we never needed more than 8 episodes.

There are still plenty of avenues to explore in American Horror Story, but much like the undoing of Lost (a show that it seems we all agreed to quit talking about simultaneously), it seems that explaining things will only reduce the show in the end, make it a shadow of the early promise, where nothing is ever scary because we now understand what's happening, and when we understand, how scary can something really be?*  Even ghosts.  The show's ghosts, after all, seem to be on a continual character growth curve, which is sort of the opposite of what I'd always found frightening about the concept of ghosts, that they were caught in a loop of a moment of despair, an idea the show plays with, but seems to apply with terrible inconsistency.

Nonetheless, I think from a "fantasy TV show" aspect, American Horror Story still came out fairly well.  And I'll be very curious to see how they handle it if they're given another season.

*obviously there are exceptions to this rule, but when your show is based on the ethereal, I think that's a whole other set of challenges.  I think its more often in real life, when we uncover the truth about the past, that things become distressing, but that's different from "scary", as in "fight or flight"

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Superman (and I) wish you a Merry Christmas Eve!

Merry Christmas, Signal Corps!

I can think of no finer sentiment to share on this Christmas Eve than the words of the Man of Steel.

Tonight, let's be grateful for those with whom we spend the holiday, loved ones or otherwise.  And I hope you were able to help out your neighbors and fellow humans here on Planet Earth.

Here at Signal Watch, we're raising a glass to you!  May your  Christmas Day be merry and bright!

If you're out and about, come home safely.  Tell your family I said "howdy", and let's look forward to 2012 as the year where we figure it all out.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!  God bless us, every one.

SW Advent Calendar Day 24

Merry Christmas Eve, Signal Corps!

I hope you've had a chance to get out and enjoy the sights and sounds of the Holidays, however you celebrate them and however they look in your town.

Like Superman, here, I get to spend Christmas Eve with the lady for whom I'd make the world spin backward.  That's all I need for Christmas this year.

Have a lovely silent night.