Sunday, May 27, 2012

Like A Doll's Eyes - Quint's Monologue

As we head toward Memorial Day, a day of remembering our fallen soldiers here in the US, and as we cross the threshold into summer (at least here below the the Mason-Dixon Line), I am already pondering not if, but when, I will watch Jaws this summer.

I can't remember the last time I saw a movie with a monologue, a real monologue, included.  I don't suppose the kids these days would sit for a full two or three minutes of somebody just, you know, talking, without pulling out their cell phones and texting away.  But this is from an era of filmmaking that wasn't entirely about avoiding risk, perhaps the only serious era where this occurred at the studios.

No matter how many time I watch it, Robert Shaw's speech about the sinking of the Indianapolis still hits me.  Its a terrific bit of film writing and an amazing performance to match, all carried by the extremely young Steven Spielberg behind the camera.

The sinking of the Indianapolis as described by Shaw's character Quint was all too real, the details of which had only been released to the public in the few years previous to when Jaws hit theaters, and not many had heard the story.

Clearly the speech sets the motivation for Quint, that its far more than about the $10,000 plus expenses, and it gives the film's primordial man vs. nature premise a bent that supersedes Brody's duty and Hooper's scientific curiosity.  And, in many ways, despite tying the film to World War II, it also manages to decouple the film from a 70's creature movie, placing it alongside Melville as a seafaring journey, a sort of tale of revenge against the very sea that gives the character meaning.

Memorial Day isn't just about car sales or a day off.

1100 men went in the water, 316 men come out.  The sharks took the rest.  June the 29th, 1945.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Signal Watch reads: Mark Waid's "Insufferable"

You guys know I'm in the bag for everything Mark Waid has done for the last...  I dunno.  Ever?

Somehow I completely misunderstood that his new online comic, Insufferable, was completely free online.

No, I have no idea what model Mark Waid is using to turn a profit on this, or if there is a profit to be turned.  But at the moment that's not my issue, nor should it be yours, because more great Mark Waid comics are online, and they're free at his new site, Thrillbent.

Waid has re-teamed with Irredeemable artist Peter Krause to tell the story in Insufferable, his second work in his new format, one that uses the native landscape (16x9ish) format we've become familiar with as computer users, and the fact that he can set pacing to some extent with a mouseclick to manage the storytelling.  Its far less intrusive than the limited animation of prior webbish comics experiments I've seen, and manages to use the page pretty well,  I think.

But I'd rather talk up the actual comic than the experiment, because at the end of the day, its about the content.

Waid turns to the urban vigilante brand of superhero after sort of blowing up the heat-vision-bearing version of superheroes in Irredeemable and Incorruptible, and in just four week's worth of the online book, he's done an astounding job of bringing a story to life that works right out of the gate.

Its a broken up version of Batman and Robin with their own issues that surpass those of Bruce and Dick (or Jason or Tim or Stephanie or Damian or Carrie), and its the kind of thing that I think sort of sucks you in from that last panel of the first installment and makes you click "Next".

And, of course, Krause's illustrative-style of art works terrifically well with the world he and Waid are creating, giving a believable view to the character-driven story and capturing the beats and expressions exceedingly well.

Anyhow, give it a shot and be there as it unfolds!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Signal Watch Reads - Further: Beyond the Threshold


I don't read a tremendous number of science-fiction novels, and I never have.  I know what that looks like, and I appreciate the fandom, but its never been me.  Sure, I went through my Bradbury phase and I glanced off the Robot Novels of Asimov, but even in middle-school I'd pick up paperbacks, read the product description on the back, and only rarely walk out the door with one I felt was worth the while.

I also don't read book series.  Its not that I haven't read, say, books by William Kennedy that share a set of characters and circumstances, but its not episodic in quite the same nature.  When I think about a series of books that numbers more than four, I can't get my head around it.

As you may have heard, I've been enjoying the writing stylings of Chris Roberson for a bit now, so when I heard he had a book coming out, I pulled some strings (asked politely) and got a copy.*

I just finished Further: Beyond the Threshold, a book I assume is intended to start a new series.

This is no-@#$%ing-around science fiction, and I quite enjoyed it.

Captain RJ Stone awakens from hypersleep which he entered aboard a star-faring vessel in the 23rd Century.  He finds himself alive and deeply aged 12,000 years later in a world which has changed over the millenia.  The era of seeking new planets has been conquered and mankind has spread itself out far over the cosmos.  With so much time passed, some of those civilizations have been lost, and the challenges of passing from one world to the next have been solved by way of instantaneous transportation via "thresholds".

Happy Birthday, Star Wars

Apparently today is the 35th Anniversary of the release of Star Wars.  We do not care to dwell upon the meaning of this day too much.

So, you know, thanks for the first three movies and a happy childhood and whatnot.

And, of course, Princess Leia.


And, of course...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The buttons were the white hot commodity of the conference, thank you

I only have one more day of this garfunkling conference.

If you had any doubt, the buttons were the white hot commodity of TCDL2012.

I am lord of the button-press
I think people are just desperate for anything fun during these conferences, and so why not the pink button that has nothing to do with anything?

And it totally worked, by the way.  I handed out my last button at 5:00 PM on the dot.

Also, if you want to find yourself in a waking dream, I recommend looking out upon the crowd as you're starting your presentation to see your parents ambling into the back of the auditorium.

Oh, hell yes.  The Admiral and KareBear took me up on my suggestion to come down and see me.  So, I think I'd just said "Hi, I'm Ryan Steans" when I gazed out across the half-empty room, and there they were, like a slow-moving apparition in need of a seat.  I quickly introduced them, they received one of the most earnest rounds of applause of the day, and I went on with my presentation.  Totally crazy.

Afterward, they got to meet my boss and some of my friends and co-workers, and off they went, disappearing into the mid-day sun as quickly as they had arrived.

They were the second most talked about thing after the buttons.

I'm hitting the sack.  I've been going since 6:00 AM.

But I'm having a lot of fun, even if its work.  And I suspect that's sort of where you want to wind up.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I'm outta here for a few days

So, I have one of those jobs where when people ask what I do, the answer doesn't always make sense.  Some days I'm standing up training folks how to use software, some days I'm presenting in front of a room full of library directors, some days I am learning how to make a button (like the kind you wear pinned to your shirt), some days I wander around looking for ink cartridges because nobody on 3rd ordered them when we asked a month ago, some days I am writing plans for domination of digital libraries, and some days I organize and run conferences at which I am a presenter.

Starting Wednesday, I'm running a conference.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A few scattered things...

Parks and Recreation:  Another season of the show has come and gone.  I am a fan, and I look forward to the show's return.

solid advice
As a state employee and public servant, I appreciate that someone on TV occasionally suggests that folks working in public sector jobs might choose to work these because they love their work and what it does for the community and public.  I know its an unpopular sentiment to express aloud, but that's been my experience with myself and my co-workers.

Curiously, I've found a bit of a hero in Ron Swanson, played by Nick Offerman.  And not just because he's married to Megan Mullally in real life.  Maybe its his eating habits.  Maybe its the exhausted look he wears when dealing with his co-workers, or the Ron Swanson Pyramid of Greatness.

I can't say, but he is my current rolemodel.

Avengers:  Despite what some of you believe, I quite liked The Avengers.  And like many of you, for reasons I can't put my finger on, I am a big fan of Agent Coulson.   If you have seen the movie and are also A Fan of Phil, I recommend you start following #coulsonlives or @coulsonlives on Twitter.  Also, actor Clark Gregg.

Irredeemable:  I believe Mark Waid's amazing series, Irredeemable, will release its 37th and final issue on Wednesday.  While I am sad it is over, I am glad it existed.  And, frankly, I like the idea that it has a conclusion, like every good story in history.

It doesn't mean Waid can't revisit the setting or characters, but for now...  the curtain draws shut and we get our denouement.

Midnight Cowboy:   No, not the film.  For many years, those of us who looked up above the first story of the buildings on Austin's famed Sixth Street noticed that somehow a "masssage parlor" was operating just right there under the name "Midnight Cowboy".    I'm not clear on how these things work, but as far as I know it was open from the time the name "Midnight Cowboy" had immediate cultural cache until what must have been the last couple of years.

Well, the cocktail maestro for The Alamo Drafthouse (Bill Norris) has taken the space over, bleached it, added tables, and it is now a reservations-only cocktail bar on Dirty Sixth.  But they kept the signs and the name "Midnight Cowboy Modeling".  I'll report out in early June as to how it went.  A quick write up here.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Great American Songbook Through the Lens of the 1970's.

Today I received two emails that I think told me that you people are finally beginning to understand me.

The first was from our own Horus Kemwer, who sent me an image of an album cover for Swing Disco.

It really raises more questions than it answers, but who wouldn't want to hear "In the Mood" set to a disco beat?

Unfortunately, I can't seem to find a copy of the songs online, but Horus also provided a track list.

But just look at that couple?  You just know there's a fondu pot bubbling somewhere and a couple of glasses of chilled Riunite waiting for them.  Maybe a shag carpet in front of that new gigantic fireplace, and a Camaro in the driveway.

And then this evening, I received a link to a video from our own JuanD.  A video that absolutely blew my mind.

Not only is it also of the late 1970's.  Not only is it also trying to hep up a popular song from a bygone era (I'm a big fan of Cole Porter's "Night and Day").  But somehow this video has managed to find a surprisingly large area on the Venn Diagram of a mind map or a checklist of my personal likes.  It's almost eerie.

I don't know who Raffaella Carra is, but I'm already a fan.  I guess an Italian 1970's music star?

And, seriously, if you were to say "Hey, The League.  We're going to make a music video just for you.  Your budget is totally unlimited.  What do you want?"  This is pretty much exactly what I would have ordered up.  Just astonishing.

So, special thanks to Horus and JuanD.  You guys made my day.

Signal Watch Watches: What to Expect When You're Expecting (2012)

Let's get some facts on the table.
  • Jamie and I have no children.  Without getting too personal, there are medical reasons this is (at least partially) true.  But it is also true that the biological tripwire that is native to most successful living organisms which tells them its time to procreate has never gone off within my own system. 
  • I am longtime pals with the screenwriter for this movie.  She more or less informed me that the movie was not in my demographic, and that no feelings would be hurt if I gave it a pass.  But, dammit, if any one of you knuckle-heads writes a movie that plays near my house, its likely I'll go.  And so I did head out to see this film on a sunny Sunday afternoon.  Because I am supportive.  

In general, this is not the sort of thing I'd normally consume as comedy (I DVR Eagleheart on Cartoon Network and still will watch things like Warrior of the Wasteland for a laugh), but I also generally don't rush to the theater for comedies, anyway.

Now, the crowd at this movie was particularly interesting as (a) I don't know what the make-up is of the new Slaughter Lane Alamo Drafthouse, but this was not the usual young genre freaks, and (b) oh my god, the number of pregnant women in the theater.

As someone without children, it was also interesting to hear the things the mass of the audience found hilarious (I assume in a "we've all been there") sort of way, and the things I found funny (small children "discovering" a dead animal in the woods and presenting it to Dad) which didn't get as much of a laugh.

This is absolutely the big, star-studded ensemble comedy it appears to be, following a half-dozen storylines with different bits of misadventure, tragedy and other ways of examining the same human experience from multiple angles.  I do think with so many stories in the movie, there's a little something for everybody.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Today is Jimmy Stewart's 104th Birthday

In college I took a class called "acting for non-acting majors".  Everyone in the room had to state who their favorite male and female actors were.  The folks who weren't film buffs tended to drop the names of popular actors of the day, many of which left me rolling my eyes so hard I'm surprised my orbs weren't creaking with rust by the time they got to me.  The folks who wanted to be seen as having discriminating taste all said "Al Pacino", and this was well after Scent of a Woman.  It was amazing.

Well, in the Spring of 1997, when asked, my answer was:  Jimmy Stewart

And if you asked me again today, I'm not sure my answer would change, other than to say that I see no point in asking the question.  Today, I would also say:  Jimmy Stewart

And today is Stewart's 104th Birthday.