Monday, February 11, 2013

Signal Rewatch: It turns out "Avengers" is a pretty good movie

I didn't hate Avengers the first time I saw it, but I also wasn't a huge fan of the movie.  I liked it well enough, but something about it didn't click with me as much as I was hoping for.  Look, straight up, I'm a Captain America fan, and I kind of though the movie gave Cap short shrift.  I think I had expectations vis-a-vis Cap's assumed leadership role in Avengers, and that just didn't happen, exactly.

But as a fun roller coaster ride?  Yeah, it's pretty phenomenal.

I still don't quite get how people even followed the movie who hadn't paid to see the other Avengers movies in the lead up to this one, especially if you missed Thor (and, really, why would you miss Thor?  My MOM liked that movie).

On a second viewing, a bit more calibrated for what one could expect from Avengers, I didn't just watch it to enjoy a few choice scenes, I really quite liked the whole package much, much better - even if the ending is kind of ridiculous.  And, man, yeah, no wonder they can't keep Avengers toys on the shelf.

Watching the big, exciting fight scene at the end, I'm now in total awe of the package Joss Whedon put together.  I mean, it's about as perfect a super-hero-y playscape, threat, etc.. as you're going to find, and then the camera work and FX just really carry you through that whole terrific, chaotic cityscape.

I know I'm telling you guys something you already know, but by that point the last time I saw the movie, I was sort of ready for the conclusion, and everything between me and our villain stowed safely away felt a bit like a semi-welcome delay before we could all file out.  Not sulking about Cap's second-tier status kind of set my mind at ease, as did enjoying a lot of what Mark Ruffalo was up to in every shot where he appeared as either Banner or Hulk.  And, yeah, as much as a Planet Hulk movie sounds boss as hell, I'd like a Ruffalo-as-Hulk movie first.

Anyway, that's this evening's geek-out.

I'm pretty jazzed about Iron Man 3, and the in-production Cap and Thor flicks.  And word is that fricking Rocket Raccoon is coming to the big screen in a Guardians of the Galaxy movie.  Rocket Raccoon is getting a movie before The Flash, Shazam, Wonder Woman, Aquaman...

Go to hell, DC.

Now, if I can get a Black Panther movie, I might relax a little.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Signal Watches: Punisher - War Zone

So, yeah.

I'm, at best, a casual reader of The Punisher comics from Marvel.  Back in the 80's, when Punisher was sort of relevant in the wake of a few Deathwish movies (clearly the idea behind the character came from Bronson), and Bernhard Goetz had opened fire on a NYC Subway, I recall names like Mike Zeck, Klaus Janson and a young Jim Lee working on Punisher stuff.

I've tried various Punisher comics over the years, but it's a book that, when I'm not reading it, I don't really miss.  Watching someone stone cold execute people because they're "mobsters" or "criminals" - gets kind of stale after a while.  Yes, I started reading Ennis's run, and enjoyed it.  I intended to read it as trades, and just never got around to it.  I am reading Rucka's stuff, and it's good, solid, Rucka - if a bit spot on the nose "oh, of course he has a broken female protagonist" Rucka, but that doesn't mean its not worth checking out.

Signal Reads: The Green Eagle Score (a Parker Novel)

This is what I like about a Parker novel.  On Saturday I had a rainy day, and while I'd started the book at the doctor's office on Tuesday (I'm fine.  Just getting the annual inspection.), I read all but those first 23 pages today.

Like other Parker novels, it's difficult to imagine the heist pulled off in the modern era of paranoid security, electric systems everywhere, etc...  But people don't really change all that much, and so the stories still work very, very well.

Since The Jugger - but really, starting with The Score, Stark wisely began fanning out his narrative attention a bit more on the other characters in the books.  Probably the closest I'd point to in something you'd be immediately familiar is some of the feel of the "let's check in with our villain" of the Ocean's 11 franchise.  The characters don't have to be right next to Parker throughout the novel - the narrative eye wanders and gives us some background on some of these characters, some of whom then proceed to die just a few pages later and without much attention paid to their fate.

It's an interesting narrative trick as you definitely get a complete picture of the story, but you also know that Stark's narrative in invested in the story and isn't going to get sentimental about  a character just because we spent two or three pages with that person, learning their inner thoughts.

The Green Eagle Score is about the payroll heist of an Air Force base in upstate New York.  Parker leaves Claire, whom he picked up in the last book, The Rare Coin Score, in Puerto Rico, to chase down a haul put in front of him by an old comrade whose ex-wife is shacked up with a clerk in the finance office on the base.

The book takes a telegraphed but no-less fascinating left turn into the usual complications of a Parker heist, but it's so wildly different from the complications of The Seventh or even The Handle, that it doesn't feel like old hat, even in the 10th Parker novel.

Good, fun read.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Here's a Random Thing I Did: Glenn Miller Orchestra in Austin

Lately a coffeehouse not so far from my house expanded into the next retail space over and opened the Strange Brew Lounge.  Jason pointed out the new venue to me, and a few weeks back I was driving to work and noticed they claimed they had the Glenn Miller Orchestra coming.

You might find yourself saying: "But, The League, Glenn Miller died in 1944!"
Indeed he did.

and thus, I payed to see an empty stage

But the orchestra played on!

The Glenn Miller Orchestra still plays around the country, with an all new line-up that probably refreshes quite frequently as they're on the road 48 weeks per year.

My pal Julia said she was interested, so we got us a pair of tickets, and we attended the 6:00 PM show.  (Seriously, they started promptly at 6:00.  It was crazy town.).

The venue is pretty great.  It's really intended for the singer/ songwriter scene Austin cultivates, but apparently the uncle of the owners of Strange Brew was once did arrangements for the Glenn Miller Orchestra, and so they decided to take a risk and book the band.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

New Adventures of Superman Series: Did DC win back the rights to Superman's Red Underpants?

I sort of don't know what to make of the (I'm calling it unsubstantiated) news that DC is launching a new web comic called The Adventures of Superman that will eventually be collected.  Somehow.  Whatever.

The things I care about are as follows:

1.  There's a lot here to suggest that most of the changes made to Superman in the New 52 were due to the Siegel/ Shuster heir lawsuit.  Things were looking pretty bad for DC for a while, which would have meant anything from Action Comics #1 that was ownable would now be the property of the creators.  That included red trunks on Superman and a girl reporter as a love interest.*

A short while ago, DC seems to have won the lawsuit (the heirs should still be receiving royalties, which is, I suppose, something...), which would mean DC can continue to exploit their trademark.  I mean, make great Superman comics in the popular tradition.

Kirby Day - Let's Talk Too Much about Mister Miracle

I guess today is the 19th Anniversary of Jack Kirby's passing.

I've attached an image of a cover to an issue of Mister Miracle, a comic I've alluded to over the years, and which I hold close to my heart.  If you've never read the Kirby Fourth World material, I can only tell you: man, you are missing out on one wild ride.

Of course, mostly, we talk about the Man of Steel around here, but as a concept, ideal and character, the themes of Superman's mythology differ greatly from those of anything else in the Fourth World books, and especially Mister Miracle, an interesting conundrum when Kirby originated so much of the Fourth World while including Superman and using metropolis as a backdrop.  If the underlying theme of Superman, as a character and mythology, exemplifies using the gifts bestowed upon you for the betterment of the world, Mister Miracle is the hope for escape from the seemingly inescapable and an avatar for the promise of freedom - especially by one's own hand.  Whether it's the X-Pit or a runaway rocketsled, Scott Free always, always lands on his feet with the manacles unlocked and the trap in splinters.

No Post Wednesday - Mad Men S. 6

I was going to write a post for today, but I decided I didn't really care about the topic when I was pretty far along.  So, you get a fake post.

So, here's a cast shot for Mad Men Season 6 - coming April 7th - and a reminder that you will never be at  this party.

If you want a close second, we have a pretty good holiday party at my place every year.

More cast shots.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Things of Which I Am Now or was Once Afraid

Things I am afraid of with a 1 - 5 ranking system.  1 indicates "low anxiety", 5 indicates "high anxiety".  Failure of an item on this list does not mean I am fearless when it comes to that topic, it simply indicates that it is not something I worry about.  Example: lightning.  Yes, I know lightning strikes are harmful, but they just don't cause me much worry.  And my house got hit twice by lightning last year.

Heights - 3  
As a kid, I wasn't afraid of heights, then one day Jason yelled at me for playing too close to a ledge.  Ever since then, I sort of hyper-ventilate and get what I assume to be vertigo when I can see straight down more than 15 feet.

Eating bad shellfish - 2
I love shellfish.  I also have heard so many stories of what happens when you eat a bad clam that every new bite is filled with anxiety.  Still, clams and mussels are so delicious that I sweat my way through it and hope for the best.

Happy Birthday, Rosa Parks

Today marks the 100th birthday of Ms. Rosa Parks.

All of us Americans are forever in her debt.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Saying Good-Bye to Judy

In the early hours of January 1st, Jamie and Doug's mother passed here in Austin.  She'd had a stroke-like experience in August, and before Christmas, she suffered several more episodes.  We were lucky to have Doug and Kristen here in Austin with us, and we were together with Jamie's dad, Dick, throughout the very long days there at the end of the year.

This weekend we held the memorial for Judy in San Marcos, where she and Dick have lived since about October of 2008.  Prior to their move to Texas, Judy and Dick had lived for decades in Lawton, Oklahoma, where the McBrides still have a multitude of connections.

Of course the ceremony was extremely difficult, but as a reminder and celebration of Judy's life, and the many, many lives she touched - it was lovely to attend.  

I met Judy within a week or two of the start of my relationship with Jamie.  We were only twenty, and parental contact with the girl you're seeing at that age is something you don't necessarily want to dive into headfirst.  However, actually quite liking this girl and understanding already how close she was to her family meant that I figured I'd best not duck out when I had a chance to make a good first impression on the girlfriend's mother.