Thursday, April 12, 2012

My One Concern About The Avengers Trailer, Birthday Presents, Get Superman a Star

On the Avengers Trailers:

Captain America:  "Big man with a suit of armor.  Take that away, what are you?"
Iron Man:  "Genius, billionaire, playboy philanthropist..."
cut to:  (in trailer 1):  Thor laughing knowingly at the humiliated Cap
cut to:  (in new TV trailer):  shrug from the sexy girl agreeing with Iron Man
implied:  the sad trombone

Marvel may not know it, but it seems they're setting up their Cap to become the insta-square that DC accidentally made of Superman back in 1986 and which, 26 years later, they've never recovered from.   By setting up our pal Cap as The Bad Guy In the Dorky Outfit picking on The Guy We All Related To a Few Summers Back,  its more than possible they're sinking one of their own flagship guys, all before the movie is released.

Sure, the exchange is intended to sell us on the crazy dynamics of the characters that we'll see if we give our local cinema $10, but the whole exchange feels out of character for Cap, including the Cap from last summer's movie (the whole point of which was - he's generally better than that).  Yes, we need a "clashing team", but...  you're losing me a little here, Marvel/ Studio/ Joss.  That exchange is supposed to be the response the drunk on power/ charming Stark gives to the stuffed suit SHIELD Agent, not the guy who just got unthawed after saving the Free World.

I'm a Cap fan. Don't make me regret your movie.

Today I am 37.

"Home" by LCD Soundsystem

Take me home

Just do it right
Make it perfect and real
Because it's everything
No everything was never the deal

So grab your things and stumble into the night
So we can shut the door
Oh, shut the door on terrible times

Yeah, do it right
And head again into space
So you can carry on
And carry on, and fall all over the place

This is the trick, forget a terrible year
That we can break the laws
Until it gets weird

And this is what you waited for
But under lights, we're all unsure
So tell me
What would make you feel better?

As night has such a local ring
And love and rock are pick-up things
And you know it
Yeah, you know it
Yeah, you know


Forget your past
This is your last chance now
And we can break the rules
Like nothing will last

You might forget
Forget the sound of a voice
Still you should not forget
Yeah, don't forget
The things that we laughed about

And after rolling on the floor
And thankfully, a few make sure that you get home
And you stay home
And you better

'Cause you're afraid of what you need
Yeah, you're afraid of what you need
If you weren't, yeah you weren't
Then I don't know what we'd talk about

Yeah no one ever knows what you're talking about
So i guess you're already there
No one opens up when you scream and shout
But it's time to make a couple things clear

If you're afraid of what you need
If you're afraid of what you need
Look around you, you're surrounded
It won't get any better

Until the night

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Status, Reading, Grillmaster 2012, Writing


Returned from Dallas this evening.

I like the UT Southwestern Med Center campus.  As with so much in Dallas, its very Logan's Run.  Its also crawling with young soon-to-be-doctors in scrubs and white coats all looking very stressed.


A long, long time ago AmyD suggested I read Michael Chabon's Manhood for Amateurs, and I am now listening to the audiobook.

I am, obviously, not a father (at least not to anyone I'm telling Jamie about), but I'd recommend friends who have taken the bold step to bring human life onto this miserable rock (either male or female) to give it a whirl.  Mr. Chabon's essays and observations are not all exactly something I agree with, but they're interesting, and I think they do an excellent job of exploring the headspace of us products of a generation raised on TV but who did not have the interets, play-dates and Pixar movies its now common practice for middle-class folk to foist upon their children.

Chabon's geek-media-fueled POV is of particular interest to me, even if many of his choices don't reflect my own.  But anyone who writes a paean to Big Barda gets my respect.

I am also finally reading The Jugger by Richard Stark (aka: Donald Westlake).  Its more Parker.  And its very, very Parker.  Nice to get back to Stark's punchy, brisk style.

Grillmaster 2012

For my birthday/ in order to engage in better living, I have finally moved from the charcoal grill to propane, something the me of 7 years ago would have found horrifying.  But the me of both Sunday and Wednesday evenings found absolutely fantastic.

Cooking meat inside your home is for chumps.  As is doing anything to vegetables but grilling them.  Especially when Matt T. Mangum pushes you aside on the maiden voyage of said grill and insists this is his show, and on Wednesday when Jamie wants to do this herself, so maybe you don't get to use that grill you bought, but you do get to just sit in a porch chair, watch the sun lower in the west and then enjoy a lovely dinner.


I'm at a very strange point in working on the thing I'm working on.

1)  To some extent, I'm now playing connect-the-dots with plot points I've always known were there, so I feel like I'm straying from character development, world-building, development of themes, etc... in favor of "let's get this told", which is a huge departure from where I spent several chapters/ years hacking away.

2)  Some items that popped up in the news were scheduled to happen within three chapters of where I'm at. Its both disarming and useful to see what actually happens in real life so I can see how close I was, and what the parties involved actually do.

3)  Writers, can you be kind to your protagonists?  It seems counter productive to raising the stakes or maintaining a certain goal or theme.

4)  Tween Vampire Fiction is fun to write.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

No Post Tonight - Yo Soy En Dallas

I'm in Dallas for work related reasons, staying a bit down the road from Medieval Times.  I've not been to Medieval Times since the 1980's, and, because I like doing things that take a lot of explaining later to Jamie, I was going to take myself there for dinner tonight.  But its closed until Thursday.  Its also $70.  That seems a bit steep for a staged fight and a bad chicken dinner.

J.R. is a tremendous fan of The Red Knight
Alas, it was not meant to be.

I have a book to read and other stuff to do.  I'm taking the evening off.

Here is Ms. Louise Brooks, busily being iconic:


Mit Koala for some reason

Signal Reminder: Free Comic Book Day is May 5th

Hey, kids!  Comics!

May 5th is Free Comic Book Day 2012!

Not all shops participate in the event, and if they don't...  that's probably not much of a comic shop.  So call ahead in the coming weeks to see what your local comic shop is doing.  I know at Austin Books and Comics, its always a big to-do, and gets Brandon all crazy-eyed, but in a good way (it gets crazy-busy).

The comics this year look really good.  Atomic Robo, Donald Duck, Avengers and other recognizable names like Buffy and many, many all-ages options.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Signal Watch Reads: Green River Killer - A True Detective Story

The name Jeff Jensen didn't immediately ring any bells as a comics writer when I looked at who penned this book, but as a writer for Entertainment Weekly I know the name, indeed, thanks to the fact that I cannot remember a time when Jamie wasn't a subscriber to Entertainment Weekly.

Jensen's own father, Tom Jensen, was a detective in the King County Sheriff's Department who was on the Green River Task Force from the early 1980's until the unit was dissolved in 1990.  He continued work on the case right up through the Green River Killer's conviction around 2003.

Like a lot of morbid kids seeking a cheap thrill, back in high school I checked out books on serial killers from the local library.  In addition to names like Son of Sam and Zodiac, The Green River Killer was always named as one of the greatest hits of serial killers.  He was called out in part thanks to the sheer number of those he was suspected to have killed and in part because he'd never been caught.  Of course doing a little reading quickly dismisses the whole "brilliant mastermind" scenario of the Hannibal Lecter books.  The reality is that it's hard to catch people who kill mostly strangers and with motives that don't stem from personal grudges, and the stories of both victims and killers are often bleak and tragic.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Hope Your Easter is Going Well

every holiday is made better with the power of Elvira

Howdy, y'all!

I hope your Easter (or, if you're not celebrating Easter, your Sunday) is going well.

I doubt I'll get to post tonight, so I wanted to tag in and wish everyone a good end of the weekend, a lovely Monday, and all that jazz.

We met up with Jason and Amy at Amy's recently adopted church in Central Austin.  My folks came down, as did CousinSue and her daughter, Ciara.   Quite a nice church, Central Presbyterian.  I was impressed.

From there we headed north to my folks' place and met up with some longtime family friends as well as Matt & Nicole. The KareBear put out an enormous spread that could have fed a small army, but we did it justice, I think.  They've also installed a water feature in their backyard that I found kind of mind-blowing.  Basically, not having a small creek in the backyard was not going to suit The Admiral, and so, now he's got one.

All in all, a lovely day.

Yesterday I finally broke down and made the switch to propane.  I am now the proud owner of a Weber 210 Spirit.  My summer grilling is looking like it will not be the char-cooked mess of the last few years.

Anyhow, off to the store I go to get some meat to throw on the grill this evening.  Wish me luck on the Maiden Voyage of the Spirit 210!

Happy Easter, People

Happy Easter, Signal Corps!

His work done for the year, the Easter Bunny takes five
We celebrate Easter at our house. Well, to be more accurate, we celebrate Easter with my folks near every year, and this year we're doing no less, especially as the family has all moved to Austin.

I expect we'll have ham.  There always seems to be ham at Easter.

If Easter is something you do at your house, I hope that you have a good one.  If not, enjoy the quiet Sunday.

We'll be back on Monday-ish.  Here's Fred Astaire and Judy Garland in the finale to 1948's Easter Parade.  It is a silly movie, and it co-stars Ms. Ann Miller.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Avengers Assemble! The Incredible Hulk (2008)

We talked The Incredible Hulk during its initial release in 2008, and we sort of glossed over the movie at the time.

I like the two Hulk movies pretty well, I suppose.  I own them both for home viewing and I'll watch them both when they're on cable, too.  There's something about the "monster lurking inside" that's all emotion, be it rage or whatever that is The Hulk is thinking when he sees Betty Ross.  No wonder Ang Lee was so smitten with the idea.

Anyway, this was Take-2 for the Hulk character in the post Spider-Man era.  Folks had sort of complained about Lee's take on the character and it hadn't made the money Marvel had seen from Spidey or Spidey 2.

The Incredible Hulk (2008) isn't a terribly complicated movie, perhaps in direct response to the supposedly heady The Hulk (2003).  Its a fairly fun movie, and the complication between Thunderbolt Ross, Betsy Ross and poor 'ol Bruce Banner manages to carry some weight.

Despite the somewhat baffling/ brilliant casting of Tim Roth as villain Emil Blonsky, the storyline and eventual climax of the movie in a slugfest between Hulk and the Abomination just never feels much more than perfunctory.

Where Eric Bana had played Bruce Banner as a PTSD victim, I think I prefer Ed Norton's driven, desperate take.  And if you're going to replace Jennifer Connelly, I cannot complain about Liv Tyler tagging in, even if she mostly goes for dewy-eyed helplessness.

With The Avengers coming up, I'm curious to see how their Bruce Banner will fit into the mix, but I think it'll be fun, even with yet another actor coming in as Banner.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

So, as an exercise, in 2001 Garcia and I thought up a blockbuster we could sell

So, like, way back in 2001, I was working in a video studio on UT's campus.  Why and what we were doing isn't relevant (distance learning), but we hired bright-eyed RTF students to help us out.  In fact, that's how I started there, actually.

Anyhoo, a student worker and I were kicking back one day and were wondering how one cooks up a plot to a movie like, oh, say... Armageddon, thinking of it as blockbuster movie bingo rather than a compelling narrative. In that, Garcia and I cooked up SP666.

SP666 was a movie in which a wrongly convicted Bruce Willis was serving time in the near/ distant future on a penal colony built upon an asteroid.  Of course the asteroid would house only the worst scum of the solar system, watched over by a tough-minded bureaucrat Andre Braugher and his worn-thin security crew headed by the cruel and disposable Eric Roberts.

Willis would arrive at the colony and befriend Robert Duval, the old, wise crook who regretted his crime and the life he'd led here at SP666 (Space Prison 666 - cause, you know, its like being sent to hell).  He'd show Bruce Willis the ropes, keep him alive and steer him clear of the very bad but intelligent bad-guy, probably Jimmy Smits.

In the second act the prisoners would riot/ mutiny and Bruce Willis would be forced to hatch a plan to try to survive.  Further, the stabilizer jets would now be on (turned on by a weaselly but technically savvy character actor like Steve Buscemi who had glommed onto Jimmy Smits to survive here in SP666).  Smits would declare his intention to return the prisoners to earth or ram the planet with the prison, killing millions.   Andre Braugher would be beat up some, and Bruce Willis would protect his sexy daughter (it was agreed it didn't matter who we cast here as she'd be forgotten by Hollywood in a year).  And, of course, Smits would do something awful and gross to Eric Roberts that you can only do killing someone in space.

Of course, Bruce Willis has to stop Jimmy Smits.  So, you know... lots of protecting the sexy daughter, lots of fighting space criminals.  Some danger tied to vacuum and space conditions.  And, of course, Bruce Willis's old pal played by Ed Harris is watching all this from Space Comm, back on Earth.

In the third act twist, we learn that Robert Duvall is actually the mastermind behind Smits, and he has no intention of slowing SP666, because he's secretly CRAZY.  Earth is going to pay for making him spend 40 years on a godforsaken rock (its also too sick to live).  Smits, who doesn't want to die, tries to stop Duvall who kills Smits while monologuing in front of a concealed Willis.

Bruce Willis tries to stop the engines, and confronts a well-armed Duvall in the engine room.  Willis wins, but they must evacuate the prison which the President (a semi-respected 50's-ish actor, probably a minority, will play) is going to destroy with nukes.  Ed Harris tries to give Bruce Willis more time, he succeeds when Willis slows the asteroid/ prison.  Our heroes escape in the shuttle flown by the sexy daughter and...  EXPLOSION.

Over the credits, we hear a washed up, but generally still popular band playing a ballad.

I don't know if Lockout is better or worse than SP666.  I do think our casting was better.

Its kind of weird to see this movie actually happen, but it tells me a bit about the writing process for feature films.  And that I should be a millionaire at this point.

I still think the 90's killed the action movie as we know it, partially because the audience seemed to come to awareness of the interchangeability of the moving parts that went into making a big, blockbuster action film.  That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it has meant that the audience became somehow even harder to please, and you're now left selling action movies to an audience that doesn't care that their movies are that predictable or who are sort of amazed every time they magician knows which card was theirs.

I dunno.  I just laughed out loud when I saw the trailer for Lockout.