Thursday, August 31, 2017
Original Leaguer JimD challenged me to post something related to the 30th Anniversary of something to do with the band White Snake. I don't know what it was. I suppose probably the arrival of their big album, the name of which I cannot recall (I looked it up. It's "Whitesnake". Those clever bastards.).
But I owned the tape.
What the kids who think they know about the 1980's misunderstand is that in 1987, the music scene was not all Depeche Mode and LL Cool J. It was lots and lots and lots of "hair bands", Phil Collins, Whitney Houston and Gloria Estefan. But, wow, were there a lot of hair bands. Like, all @#$%ing day long on the MTV, it was a bunch of guys with terrible, teased hair.
I was never much one for Motley Crue or whatever, and I really wasn't into: White Lion, Great White, or even White Snake.
But in that Year of Our Lord, 1987, what White Snake had that nobody else had: Tawny Kitaen
Tuesday, August 29, 2017
I do not expect most people to understand Houston. I don't get it, and I go there pretty often and have friends there. Lived north of there myself back in the 1990's. It's easy to write-off as a city in dumb 'ol Texas that's probably getting what it deserves. Look, Houston, like any place on Earth, has its issues. But it's not some backwater redneck town. At least it hasn't been since the 1980's.
Houston is not just a well-populated metroplex - fourth largest in the country - it's a multi-ethnic, international mix of people with a vibe all its own, a place of genuine opportunity, and full of fine, hard-working people of all stripes.
It is geographically huge. Because so much looks the same in the shots they're using in the news footage, that's difficult to get, but what considers itself "Houston" covers roughly fifty to seventy miles across in any direction. These days I don't know when you quit saying you're out of "Houston" when you go up I-45, but it's all one corridor til you leave Conroe, so that's more or less an hour and a half on the road that's all one town. And it does the same going East/ West.
And all of it's in trouble. Since my last post on Houston, I've seen footage of the area where I went to high school under varying levels of water. For some reason the thing that broke me was seeing St. Ignatius Loyola, the Catholic Church I only stepped in once, submerged under 3 feet of water, at least. St. Ignatius was the church of many of my friends, it's a positive force in the community, and I don't recall them ever receiving flooding before.
I've heard stories of a colleague who was canoed out of her home with her two children and husband, another colleague's parents who were also rescued. Another friend's mom (who just lost her husband a year ago) is staying with a friend as her house is flooded. It's everywhere. I don't know how we can expect a city of millions to recover.
And as a double-hit, I know a lot of Katrina refugees wound up in Houston.
So, as too few of us own boats or helicopters, I'm suggesting we do a little something to give.
I guess it's people being people, but already we're seeing articles complaining about various charitable organizations trying to help out Houston. We're going to ignore that and provide a menu of folks who can provide a direct line of help:
- The American Red Cross
- The Houston Food Bank
- YouCare fund established by JJ Watt of the Houston Texans
Houston is nothing if not stubborn and resilient. As much as I believe in the spirit of Austin, I recognize and appreciate the heart that is Houston. Good people live there. There's a kindness to the city that's genuine.
Just as Houston is a city of people who can fight their way back.
Sunday, August 27, 2017
You're going to see the names Jack Kirby and Jacob Kurtzberg a lot today. Jack Kirby is the pen-name of the greatest comic artist and creator to grace this orb we call planet Earth.
Here, on the centennial of his birth (August 28th, 1917), it's possible to suggest that Jack Kirby may be one of the most important artistic and literary figures of the past 100 years. The recognition came late, decades after his passing, and, still, his name is hardly a household word. But the creations he unleashed upon popular culture from the 1940's to the 1990's would either be taken up directly by the public (at long last), becoming part of the parlance, or influence generations who could never produce that same spark of imagination, but built either directly or indirectly upon what he had done before.
There are Kirby bio sketches out there a-plenty (but no definitive monograph that I'm aware of), a magazine dedicated to the study and fan-splosion around his work, and Mark Evanier - who apprenticed under him - has become the living memory of his professional life while his grandchildren have taken up the cause of preserving the memory of the man. Now there's a virtual museum (which deserves a physical location), and a charity it's worth considering giving to sometime. And a slew of collections and books celebrating Kirby's influence and work.
Kirby was not first in when comics became a way for kids from the rougher neighborhoods of New York picked up a pencil or ink brush to start bringing in bread, but he was there really early. He was a workman who put everything he had into the work, comic by comic, year by year, becoming better and better. As they tell you in art-school, master the rules before you start breaking them - and that's what he did, finding his own unique style, his own way of creating action and drama, and eventually shattering what it meant to create a comics page.
Taking from mythology, from science-fiction, from films, from his colleagues and the bottomless well within, Kirby created whole universes, pockets within those universes, and held the lens to each character, bringing the internal life of gods, men and monsters to life.
|Houston, from KHOU's website|
I know the weather is probably lovely wherever you are. Here in Texas, we're getting devastated by Hurricane Harvey.
I've lived in Texas most of my life, and Austin for most of that. Every time a hurricane has made its way toward the coast, I genuinely worry for our coastal cities but roll my eyes at the dire warnings for Austin. We're a good 3.5 - 4 hours to Galveston Island or Corpus Christi, driving wise. A Straight line to the coast is still something like 150 miles away as the crow flies.
As news channels tried to get the story localized, I've filled bathtubs and whatnot in the past, and - of course - nothing happened. So I wasn't expecting much out of Harvey.
But, look... that is not what happened. Hurricane Harvey is set to drop record levels of water and do record levels of damage to the Texas Coast and Houston.
For those of you from out-of-state, Houston is built in a mix of forested swamp land and marsh/ bayous on the very flat Texas coastal plain. Arguably, it's not the best place for human habitation, but there's some history there for why the city exists, and a lot of it has to do with the utter destruction of Galveston, a prime shipping port in the 19th Century, and Houston picking up the baton in the 20th Century. Galveston was leveled by, you guessed it, a nightmarish hurricane (the death toll was over 6000), and never recovered.
The storm changed to a Category 4 Hurricane just before landfall on Friday. Since that time, the hurricane has parked itself on the coast, reducing in speed but not energy, harvesting moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and dumping it as far inland as where I live. It's been raining since right after midnight early Saturday morning. And not just a drizzle. It's been pouring.
Rockport, Texas - a coastal town where a lot of Texans take their holiday - has been ravaged, Corpus has been heavily hit, and Houston is dealing with wind, rain and now massive flooding.
Between graduating from high school north of Houston (Go, Klein Oak HS Panthers!), a career that involved me with universities across Texas and general intra-state migration, I've got pals scattered across this state, and a good number of people in Houston and in outlying areas. And friends' parents. Heck, our own RHPT has a lot of people in Houston.
This is a full blown natural disaster, and if I am cheered, it's that - so far - the death count is very low. If I am concerned, it's that so many cities, towns and suburbs are being damaged and destroyed, and right now those people I care about are huddled and riding this thing out. You can read up on what's happening all over the web, but this will all get worse before it gets better, and could go through Thursday.
Here in Austin, I'm hiding out on my sofa, watching The Weather Channel and listening to the rain and wind bang around outside my own house. I keep checking the ceilings to see if we've got any leaks. So far, so good. The dogs are bored and ready to get outside (that isn't happening). I'm beginning to anticipate we won't have work tomorrow as UT tries not to bring anyone in during inclement weather events as they employ thousands and have 50,000 students who would descend upon the city. So, we'll see.
So far, we've had several between 7.5 and 8.25 inches of rain in 36 hours or so. Austin is technically kind of desert-y, so, that's a lot. Our creeks will begin flooding here shortly, but it's not like it can be when we see flash flooding during spring downpours that can't be absorbed by the ground and cause a tremendous amount of damage (that's usually just a few inches, but in, like, an hour).
Anyway, keep the Texas Coast in your thoughts. Give to Red Cross. Don't spend time thinking about how Houston somehow brought this on themselves. A lot of people are going to need a lot of help once the clouds break.
Friday, August 25, 2017
Saturday the 26th of August marks the 99th birthday of Katherine Johnson, "The Human Calculator" who was key to the early success of NASA.
I'd spend time telling you about Johnson, but suffice it to say she overcame the gender and racial discrimination of her time to become a key player in America's space race. A physicist and mathematician, her natural ability to rapidly and accurately calculate complex equations necessary for figuring trajectories, etc... in the days when we were still doing this by hand instead of super-computer, made her an invaluable asset.
It would be only in recent years that her contributions, and those of other calculators, were made part of the bigger story of NASA. But today, she has a really terrific movie roughly telling the story of her role in the Apollo missions in Hidden Figures starring the terrific Taraji P. Henson as Mr. Johnson. There's building named after her at NASA. And this happened:
Monday, August 21, 2017
|this was during the Holidays, 2016. Raylan is considerably bigger and chattier now.|
These days The Admiral has a more important title, that of "Papa" (which, to my ear, always sounds more like "Pop-Pop" when Raylan says it). Raylan's my nephew, so I'm not around all that often for their interactions the way Jason is, but when I do listen to my dad and Raylan, holy smokes, do I have flashbacks to how we wrangled me and Jason when we were little.
Where my mom was all about a two-pronged approach of (a) getting us out of the house and educated by osmosis via experiences and (b) reading*, my dad was the one who couldn't leave well enough alone when we were performing mundane tasks and turned it into a lesson.
"You know how a telephone works?" you might suddenly hear. Well, no, Dad, but I bet by the end of this conversation I will, you'd say to yourself. This is not a complaint, by the way. I was the only kid in my 4th Grade class who understood the principles of lift, thrust and wingshape or how radio waves work. In middle school it was how companies and combustion engines work. In college it was rotary engines. I don't think we've completed the list of random stuff my dad seems to know how it works, because you never know. Even now he's figuring out something with an artificial waterfall and pumping mechanism that I've got about a 1/3rd of the story on.
Now he's got another round of well-refined "How Does It Work?" to share with my brother's kid. Just last week I saw him explaining gears to a 2 1/2 year old on YouTube. Next week it'll probably be how fishtank filters work or something.
Anyway, Happy Birthday, Dad, and thanks for all the impromptu lessons that made me unbearable to my classmates but also occasionally surprisingly handy.
*so, so much reading.
Friday, August 18, 2017
I don't know what to tell you.
Normally we use this space to talk about movies and comics, maybe a book we read. But, at the moment, we're way past normal. Or, at least, the past year has stripped away the veneer of how we thought things worked and we're now dealing with what we always kind of knew was out there, but just didn't show it's face.
That's wrong, too. It did. It's all over twitter and has been boiling over in the comments on legitimate news sites and in our facebook feed from people we used to know in high school.
It's always there, from our complacence in the face of the social inequities we see (and tell ourselves nice creation myths rather than grappling with multi-generational issues), to legislation intended to discriminate, to how we think about perpetually skewed law-enforcement records to how we whisper certain words. I'm as white a cracker as you're going to find. I might as well have "privilege" stamped across my forehead, and I see this stuff everywhere, and I've seen it defended and warped and refracted through appropriated slogans and an unending sea of false equivalencies that don't hold up to the slightest examination. And, because I'm coming from a place of privilege, I have to accept that I'm only seeing a fraction of it.
Thursday, August 10, 2017
It has been a long, long time since I've talked much about Mister Miracle by Jack Kirby, but when I came across a black and white collection back in late 90's, one of that series one of New Gods, the comics hit my psyche like a runaway freight train.
I'll talk more about Kirby's Mister Miracle and New Gods soon (I'll be doing my own salute to King Kirby before his 100th), but today I want to suggest you guys get onboard with the new Mister Miracle series by Tom King and Mitch Gerads, which hit shelves on Wednesday.
I admit, I've not read the duo's other work to date, though I've been meaning to pick up their Vision series for at least a year. But...
As comics keep relaunching with new #1's, I'd suggest that both publishers and creators take note: this is how one starts a series.
Wednesday, August 9, 2017
I had two failed attempts to see Shin Godzilla (2016) when it was released in October 2016 and then had a quick return to the screen around New Years 2017. The first time something at work came up and I had to cancel. The second time I went to see the movie with PaulT and Jamie and something was wrong with the film. It started and a 1K tone was laid over the soundtrack to the movie. Which was both awful and hilarious. Anyway, they stopped the movie about three minutes in, we had this weirdly informal conversation with the manager about what we should do, and I got a couple passes to come back, but couldn't attend the next screening as it was my first day back to work after the holiday break.
And the more stuff I saw about the movie, the more goggle-eyed I became. I really wanted to see this flick.
In case you don't know what Shin Godzilla is, essentially Toho Studios rebooted the Godzilla franchise from square one (it was also marketed in the US as Godzilla: Resurgence). And if you've never seen Gojira, the 1954 Godzilla that is the Japanese version and lacks Raymond Burr (a) shaaaaaaame on you, and (b) fix that immediately. It's a terrific film. And aside from Godzilla 1985, Gojira is one of the only movies that's just about Godzilla (aka: Gojira) attacking Tokyo by himself and for mysterious reasons and is not fighting, say, Anguirus*. Here, in a re-booted universe that's never heard of Godzilla, our scaly pal returns again for the first time to wreak just horrible, unthinkable havoc upon an unsuspecting Tokyo.
And it is really, really good.
Monday, August 7, 2017
Harou Nakajima, the original Man-in-Suit, has passed.
Watching Godzilla movies will tell you that our gigantic, atomic-fire-breathing-pal had a definite personality. And I think you can chalk a good chunk of that up to Mr. Harou Nakajima.
To get a better idea of what I mean, give those first few Godzilla movies a spin and watch as the big fella becomes more himself. A sort of cranky giant who definitely has opinions.
I recently saw this video interviewing the actor. It is absolutely inspiring and a testament to a certain mindset we could all stand to try on.