Thursday, June 14, 2012

I will not buy Superman products featuring a Superman with a Preposterously Large Head

If you ask Jamie, she'll tell you that I will buy just any old thing with an "S" Shield on it.  Cups.  Underwear.  Towels.  Dog bowls.  And there's some truth to that.  But something I've always steered away from are Superman items that depict Superman, but with a weird-shaped head or a disproportionate head.

Take the upcoming Superman USB drive from Mimobot for example.

NOPE.  Not gonna do it.

I suppose that part of it is that Superman really is just a guy with blue eyes and dark hair.  Any time you mess with that look, now you're just distending some dude's head, and not in a particularly funny or fun way.

if I have to explain why this is right and the USB drive Superman is wrong, we may need to start over from scratch  with this whole blogging enterprise

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Signal Watch Reads: The Jugger by Richard Stark

I've never been a book series guy before, but I guess between the John Carter books and now finishing my sixth Parker novel, I'm a book series guy.

I'm totally in the bag for the Parker books by Richard Stark (aka:  Donald Westlake).

The Jugger (1965) picks up finding Parker in small town Nebraska to check on his contact and the closest thing to a friend he's got (not that he's sentimental about it), Joe Sheer.  Only to to find that the panicky letters he'd been getting from Sherer were on the money, and by the time he's arrived, Sheer has died rather suddenly.

But since his arrival, local law has been keeping an eye on Parker, and now a twerp from the criminal underground has shown up insisting Parker must be there for some reason other than to say adios to Joe Sheer.  And he's just smalltime and dumb enough to think he can play ball with Parker.

So far in Quincy...

It's been a fine trip. I flew through JFK yesterday en route to Boston Logan, arrived, ate some food, read, internetted and then went to bed and slept in a bit.

Today the conference started and I presented in the mid-afternoon session. We had lower attendance than I would have liked, but I thought the conversation which occurred was tremendous. Then, at the meet'n'greet cocktail hour had some great conversations.

My biggest problem is that I've been doing this so long and attended so many conferences, I can't always remember where I know people from. That caught me twice tonight.

After the happy hour I met up with Kevin of One Wall Cinema.

the aforementioned Kevin
Kevin took me to a favorite haunt of his, and it was a really nice night out away from ETDs and library talk.  I had a great time, and am a bit bummed that Boston is so far from Austin.  Kevin is a good man with whom one can chat.  I recommend you try it.

Kevin took me on a quick drive around Quincy, and I saw City Hall, the former home of John Quincy Adams, and the graveyard where John AND John Quincy Adams are buried.  I nerded a bit.

I suppose I knew Sam Adams (the beer) was from Boston, but as its one of my favorite beers in Texas, I don't think of it as local to Boston.  It is, so I should shut up about that.  But I bypassed Sam Adams this evening and tried local favorite Wachusett Blueberry.

It is AWESOME.  And they put blueberries in it.  I'm not a huge beer drinker, but this was right up my alley.

Now you can begin your day with Boo-Berry and end it with Blueberry
I am confident I rid my body of many oxidants by consuming a glass of this beer.

In general, I've been having a lovely time, as far as this conference business is concerned.  And I am quite fond of the Boston accents of various stripes I've heard around me.  Partially because nobody has yelled at me, which will ruin it.  On the plus side, nobody has, as of yet, asked how I like them apples or, indeed, any apples at all.

Kevin also convinced me to eat "Buffalo Chicken Nachos".  Texans, we cannot control what they do with our local cuisine once it leaves the state, but there are worse ways to see a pile of nachos wind up.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Mad Men Season 5 Ends

Season 5 of Mad Men ended Sunday night.  That means only two more seasons to go, which is good.  TV shows need to know where they're headed or you run into the X-Files Syndrome.

People talk about smart TV, and then they mention something like Lost that was sort of dumb TV in smart-TV drag.  The creators got so caught up in creating loop-de-loops of logic and plotting, they managed to do a lot of hand waving about some sort of spiritual meaning to the proceedings, but by the mid-point of the final season, it was pretty clear that what they meant by spiritual was a non-threatening atmosphere CD from Target.

Mad Men, somehow, is a show you can most certainly watch as a soap opera with people falling in and out of love, having illicit sex, making bad decisions, etc...  But it's increasingly a show that's built on its longevity to build a lexicon and a readability that until 15 years ago, was reserved for film and books.

This week, I visit Quincy

Apparently, Quincy wasn't looking for company.
I'm jumping on a jetplane and headed for Quincy, Massachusetts for a conference.  One I am not running, which is a relief.  It turns out Massachusetts is very far away from Texas, so basically all I am doing tomorrow is sitting on airplanes (my second favorite activity) and sitting at the airport (my FIRST favorite activity).

I can only pray someone in my row has a baby with colic or I get sat with the a guy really, really hitting on a girl as occurred during my flight back from Lubbock a while back (awwwkward).

Don't give me suggestions for the Boston area.  I'm just going to the conference and then coming home.  I'm not renting a car, and I'm not going to explore Quincy while I'm there.  Apparently the cab ride alone is setting the tax payers of Texas back more than I can believe, so I'm already more than a little out of sorts about this whole trip.

The Q thinks I need to just stay cool.

I'm sure it will be fine, I'm just ready to not be partaking in any events at the moment.  But the change of scenery will be nice, one supposes.  And I bet they still wear those fancy tri-corner hats in the Boston metro-area.

The deal lasts through Friday, so we'll be back on schedule as of Friday night or Saturday.  I dunno.

I wish I was just going to Boston like I thought when I signed up for this garfunkling conference.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Dan Didio, you mad, beautiful genius

Not that I'm paying much attention at the moment, but DC cancelled another handful of titles with plans to replace them with, in a Direct Market populated solely by comics readers from whom their is no alternative audience, ideas just about as promising as the books that they're cutting.

On the chopping block:
Captain Atom - a conspicuously Dr. Manhattanish take on Captain Atom, the character Alan Moore was riffing on when he created Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen.
Resurrection Man - a book that was never that popular back in the 90's, so why 2011 was the time to relaunch, what with nobody asking for it...
Voodoo - I forget the exact provenance of this book, but it was never DC and part of some other line at some point and was about a stripper alien?  Maybe?  I wasn't clear, but...  they fired the character's creator off the book and put on someone who actually understood the character or something... Nobody read this.  It's all moot now, I guess.
Justice League International - a book that was intended to build off the good will garnered over 5 years of great Justice League stories that don't exist...  Here's your whole problem with the "5 year leap" thing DC was trying to do with the New 52.  Dan Didio couldn't clap enough to make everyone believe that we weren't totally rebooting the DCU.

but now you can get:
Talon - well, I can't argue that a major event should generate a new character.  I haven't read one issue of Court of Owls, so this is lost on me.
Phantom Stranger - some characters just work better in the background as mysterious figures or in mini series.  Phantom Stranger and The Spectre are at the top of this list.
Sword of Sorcery - I predict a very small, very vocal group of fans who will complain about the right treatment of Amethyst, which is an hilarious thing to do.  This book will never see 2014.
Team Seven - it seems impossible to have cooked up a more generic idea, even in light of the failure of Blackhawks.  But somehow... a book featuring too many characters that nobody cares about wearing post John Byrne armor in gray and carrying silly looking weapons seems like the ur-New 52 book, so I think this may take off.

But that's not what made me slap my forehead.

Signal Watch Watches: Prometheus (2012)

Look, this thing is full of spoilers, so don't bother unless you've seen the movie.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Re-Watch: Trollhunter (2010)

Last night Jamie was out of town, so a few pals came by and our gameplan was to eat lousy Greek food, make a drink and then watch Crank 2.  Tragically, this was not to be.

I opened the NetFlix sleeve, popped in the disk and was ready to roll when we received an error message from the player.  The disk was for some PS3 game, and most certainly NOT for Crank 2.  So some poor 19 year old out there is wondering where his copy of Battlefield went.*

Plan B was to watch Troll 2, but that was deemed "@#$%ing unwatchable" by some in attendance, so Matt said "if we're going to watch something with trolls in it**, let's watch Trollhunter".

So we did.

Here's what I said about the movie when I caught it in the theater almost exactly a year ago.

I'm not sure I really sold the movie back then as well as I could have, but its a really fun flick, and not scary at all, if that's your concern.  Its just a fun time, and, as Matt said "definitely one of the best of these 'found film' movies."

I loved the discussion of the physiology of trolls, the shadowy Troll Security Service, etc...  all good stuff.

Anyway, its on Netflix Streaming, so check it out.

*I've got it!
**I'm not sure "trolls" was our only criteria, but it made sense at the time.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Signal Watch Watches: Stardust Memories (1980)


So, as some found horrifying, I didn't take to Allen's 1979 film Manhattan.  I've generally basically liked the Woody Allen movies I'd seen, so I gave Allen's follow-up, Stardust Memories (1980), a whirl and hopefully my positive reaction will get me back in your good graces as a watcher of cinemaaaah.

Basically, Stardust Memories solves the problems I had with Manhattan in many ways, or The Problem I had with Manhattan, which was that I finished the movie thinking "and so what?".  It seemed as if in Manhattan Allen had found he had a particular patter down from Annie Hall, found he could play himself in his own context, and it didn't really matter if the story went anywhere or was basically upperclass urbanites mistaking their high school-ish romantic tangles as interesting enough for the rest of us (yes, I got the thing that Allen's character could only connect with a high schooler.  All well and good til you consider his real life marital woes, which...), and the clumsy, flailing quest for something "deep" by self-medicating and spending too much on therapy that went nowhere as a pursuit unto itself.

Stardust Memories acknowledges all the questions, perhaps a bit too on the nose from time to time, but it at least tries to move beyond Allen in one of his stand-in roles, but challenges the character, adding on the layer of the frustrated artist at a crosspoint in his life of the guy who has made it, and all the expectation and responsibility inherent.  The trials of the filmmaker, piled on top of the usual hand wringing Allenisms over the allure and complications of women drive the character conflict, and create enough of an arc to give the movie the weight that Manhattan sought for but never achieved.

I guess if you're going to have a "character driven story", this is a pretty darn good example of what that can look like, even if its hard not to guess how close the "character" is, as pre-usual, just Allen casting himself against good looking women.

Watching the movie, I still grapple a bit with some of the line delivery and Allen-patter, and 70's-era signposts for intellectualism that had become a parody of themselves by the time I came of age, but I won't hold it against the film, especially as it pushes the narrative boundaries a bit, and effectively at that.  Further, while Manhattan is always the movie that gets the credit for the visual love letter to New York, I'll take the work in this movie.  Even without the dialog and banter, it seems to use the frame less to show and more to tell the story.

Anyway, fear not Woody Allen fans.  I have not sworn off the man's work.

Signal Watch Watches: Best Worst Movie (2009)

After a steady diet of terrible flicks over the past two decades, something I had somehow come to enjoy in my teen years, seeking out bad movies is something I'm now limiting in my intake as I realized a man can only watch R.O.T.O.R. so many times, and there's actually stuff you can enjoy because its actually worth watching.  But for a long, long time I felt like I was fairly well in tune with what we all considered the worst of the worst.

And yet, somehow, I'd missed the phenomenon of Troll 2.

Of course, I was also living in Phoenix when The Alamo figured out how to turn genre-film and midnight screening material into part of their bread and butter, getting people excited about movies that they had never seen, or getting them to pay good money to see movies they'd seen for a far more modest cost on late-night HBO a decade before.

The first time I ever heard the words "Troll 2" was, curiously, at an improv show performance where one of the actresses mistakenly believed that repeatedly making callbacks to a movie few people have not seen nor remember was comedic gold.  I swear she dropped the movie's name four times, hoping for a laugh.  She was greeted with stony silence, but the fact that she kept going back to the well made me realize "oh, this is one of those things today's hipster kids are into.  I get it.  But, seriously, naming something funny when you aren't doesn't draw a laugh.  STOP IT NOW.".

Best Worst Movie (2009) tracks the circa 2006 fad (I'll go ahead and call it that) of being really into Troll 2 from the perspective of the folks who participated in the creation of the movie, including the stars, writer, director, extras and, of course, some of the folks making midnight screenings happen.

The film's former wanna-be child star, Michael Stephenson, actually does an amazing job directing the documentary, collecting all the folks from the film together, getting them to talk honestly both about the film, where they are now, and how they related to the film then and now.  A lot of the questions I had left over at the end of Rock-afire Explosion are nowhere to be found in this film.  I mean, sure, you can still have some questions, but those might be of a nature that you can sort out for yourself.  Basically, the film doesn't raise more questions than it answers, and its pretty honest about what's going on.