Rumors of My Demise

Well, to get the obvious Monty Python reference out of the way, I’m not quite dead yet.

Two days of shooting video outside in the July heat was brutal. Spending those two days standing was less that salubrious, bum leg wise, and two days later I’m still using my cane.

I was at the Fort Bend Museum in Richmond, the county seat, covering their Summer hands-on history classes. School-age kids learning how things were done in the pre-Civil War days, when the white man started moving into Texas. The disjoint was often amusing, as when on the “Chore Day” section of the workshop, kids were washing clothes with scrub boards and a hand-driven wringer, then hanging the laundry on a clothesline. One stated simply that he would “hire a girl” to do this.

The lesson from the prior day Frontier Survival, hadn’t sunk in, ie, there is no girl to hire. You are miles away from anyone else, and it is on you to do this, and do it right. Carrying water from the well didn’t go over well, either. Half of it was spilled, necessitating more trips. Starting a fire with flint and steel was equally mystifying.  “Why don’t you just use matches? My father would use lighter fluid.”

Well, hopefully the kids learned something that can be put to good use, later in life. Like when the dryer breaks down, or something. Or to keep an eye on the kid who kept asking during Chore Day when they were going to slaughter an animal.

Me, I learned to schedule inside stories in the Summer.

Speaking of history: I had heard an interview with Daniel Okent on NPR about his book, Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, and immediately put a request for it into my local library. Picked it up Wednesday (part of an epic 10 books my library had processed for me- damn, my library rocks) and am thoroughly enjoying it. This is the kind of history book I love, examining the inter-connectedness of events that at first glance would seen unconnected, but which give rise to unexpected developments and consequences.  James Burke’s appropriately-named Connections first turned me on to this view of history, and it changed the way I looked at events forever. Here, have a taste:

The series seems to have a strong presence on YouTube, and definitely deserves to be checked out. (well, actually no it doesn’t, and appears to be scrubbed out completely)

No show for me this weekend; the loss of revenue hurts, but my body will appreciate the chance to heal. Have a good one, folks.

Here’s Where I Am. Where are you?

Sick Day

I’ve managed to catch whatever stomach bug was messing up my wife’s life this last weekend – marriages are about sharing after all – and faced with the horror of two days outside shooting video while sick, I’ve elected to stay home today to… uh… get it out of my system. As it were.

Any hours this last weekend not spent fighting down nausea or doing the show while fighting down nausea were spent either playing with my new Tumblr toy or reading. While fighting down nausea.

It was my intent to sleep in this morning, but of course the sounds of Cat Rugby in hall at 6:30am scotched that. Got up, fed the horrid little creatures, and eventually went back to bed. After an hour, as usual, I had a dream that the doorbell rang. My subconscious is a jerk.

Well, on the weekend I did finally got around to Wonder Woman #600 and waaaah and boo hoo for the departure of writer Gail Simone.  She left on a note that was both suitably bombastic and sentimental. Odd that the fan resentment that met the pin-up pages in Batman 700 is seemingly non-existent for the art pages here. Probably because these are loads better, and they’re the last we’re going to see of the one-piece bathing suit costume for a while.

Yeah, the reboot starts in this issue, too. It’s not hateable. I’m willing to see what’s going to happen, but it definitely has temporary written all over it.

Enough. I’m hungry. I hope that’s a good sign. Rest of you have a good Monday.

Yep, I Got Nothing

And now for some clippings from a fuzzy mind desperately trying to come up with a blog post, because he swore to himself that he would:

I find myself this morning not In The Groove, but In The Middle Of The Road. I suppose I could have gotten more sleep, but I got a fair amount. Turned off the alarm clock at one minute to buzzing, had my coffee, had my breakfast. Showered, went to work. Looks like finals are over,a nd the college is now between summer sessions, as I got a peach of parking place.

Everything’s good, but not great.  Pretty much pain-free, except for the usual aches and pains of age overtaking an injured body. “Love Plus One” by Haircut 100 on Slacker kind of points this up. Nice, but not exceptional.

Yeah, you knew this day was coming. So did I. Nothing to talk about, nothing to really complain about.

Well, I did finally break down get a Tumblr site. Yeah, yippee, sez you. It’s kinda fun, and I appreciate the fact that the Tumblr dashboard has a timeline of the Tumblr blogs I follow. One of them, Comic Book Cheesecake, is celebrating their birthday by posting all their favorite comic girl art and cosplay photos, so I am either going to have a heart attack or get fired for the borderline NSFW pics. That’s about as exciting as this day will likely get.

And there is a very large part of me that considers this a good thing.

X is playing on Slacker now. That’s another good thing. But it’s followed by Yello’s Oh Yeah, which is a pity. I love Yello, and that “Oh Yeah” is the only song to ever get airplay is, to me, a great tragedy. Is it Ferris Bueller I blame for this? I believe so. And it segues into Nena’s “99 Red Balloons”, which goes to show you that no matter how bad it gets, the 80s will always find a way to  make it worse.

I should tell you now: I’ve got a two-day shoot coming up next week, and I will very likely go silent over those days. Lucky, lucky you. Julian Cope, kindly sing us out with “World Shut Your Mouth”…

My Summer Reading is a Bit Beat Up

As I mentioned on the Twitter earlier this week, thanks to my local library, I am finally getting to handle one of those expensive Absolute DC editions, in this case Batman: The Long Halloween, and this thing in drop-dead gorgeous. Huge, at almost 13 x 9 and two inches thick, and the printing is flawless, the art running all the way to the edge of the page. The Absolutes seem to run anywhere from $75-$100 when new, which means I am likely never ever going to own one, but damn. If you’re going to lay down a number of Franklins to own a book, it should look this good.

So it sort of saddens me to see this noble beast the worse for wear. Way back when, after I had finished carving up the brontosaurus for the evening meal, I could look in the back of a library book, at the card in the little manila pocket glued to the back cover, a card bearing the due date, and see how many people had checked out the book. Or at least how many had on that particular card – who knew how many cards had been used in that book, but had run out of room and had to be replaced?

In the current modern of the library, that’s not possible – it’s all RFID chips and black magic. That’s a fabulous leap forward and I love it. I love being able to step up to a self check-out kiosk and be on my way in seconds. But it also means I have to ponder how many people have handled a book, without the possibility of ever knowing the answer.

The Long Halloween‘s very size works against it. The other great books currently in my loving care, a couple of the Fantagraphic’s E.C Segar’s Popeye, have a similar problem: at a daunting 14 1/2 x 10 inches, they’re an odd, ungainly size, and their once sharp corners are now blunted and bent. The spines are similarly cracked, and wobble slightly as the book is opened. Again, the modern library has to take a little of the blame for this; self check-in is the norm, with the patron depositing the books one-by-one through a night deposit-style chute. I can only assume there is scanner similar to the one at the self check-out, reading the RFID chip and amending the database. It’s convenient and fast, and once again, I love it… but it’s got to be rough on big books like these, especially when it’s repeated over and over again.

There’s really no point to complaining about this; the wear and tear on library books is entropy at work, an unavoidable fact of life, and the alternative – no lending libraries at all – is unthinkable. I’m considering mending the one torn page I’ve found thus far in Long Halloween, as even my usual fumble-thumbed attempt at repair will be better than the sure loss of that page at some point.

Added bonus: checking Amazon for the dimensions of the Popeye books finds them to be surprisingly affordable. Now if I could just get family and friends to start looking at that darned wish list…

Motion Control Sickness

Yeah, I’m about a week late embedding this, but I find it hilarious, and it distills perfectly my feeling about the newly announced motion controls for game consoles: motion control is nice and natural for some games, but for the most part publishers are shoehorning motion control onto games that don’t reward it, like the current fad for 3-D in movies that were not intended for same. Like nailing a homemade wooden spoiler onto a car thinking a) it looks badass, and b) you will get better gas mileage, when neither is true.

Please note: not my car.

I should just shut up and let Yahtzee speak breathlessly:

Or at least I would if I could get WordPress to embed a video from that site, so go go gadget Tumblr blog!

Reading Matters

I was awakened by a spirited round of cat rugby in the hallway outside my bedroom at 3am this morning. Being rudely awakened by  sounds remarkably similar to burglars rampaging through your house is not conducive of settling back down to sleep. It doesn’t matter if the sound was caused by the adult cat finally getting tired of the younger cat’s antics and slamming its head repeatedly into your door, and not a band of ne’er-do-wells looking to try out their new zip guns and gravity knives or whatever it is the hooligans are carrying these days. Sharpened thumb drives, I don’t know.

Going back to sleep being out of the question, it was time to enumerate what options were open. Ideally, I’d go back to sleep and simply come into work in the afternoon, my schedule is currently flexible enough for that; but no, big staff meeting in the morning. Oh, well. Might as well go in incredibly early.

This is going to be a very long day.

Got some reading done over the suddenly-free weekend. First of all, I finally found the Peanuts strip I was looking for. In The Complete Peanuts, 1950-1952, there it is, on Sunday, November 16, 1952. Lucy – who has gone, in less than a year, from wearing footie pajamas in a crib to totally jacking with people’s karma – for the first time jerks away a football, causing Charlie Brown to fly through the air and land on his back. In the very same strip, she then holds the ball so tightly that he trips over it. The dailies for the week following involve Charlie Brown losing at checkers to Lucy over and over again, until, when he finally wins, Lucy tells him that she let him win because she felt sorry for him.

And there it is. With an almost audible sound of shattering crystal, Charlie Brown’s spirit breaks. Oh, there’s still the Christmas strips, but it’s obvious he’s just going through the motions so no one will suspect, or they will fall upon him like jackals upon a wounded wildebeest. He’s just delaying the inevitable, of course. He will spend the next few decades in Hell.

No, weisenheimer, reading comics isn’t the only thing I do. It’s just a very large part of what I do. Compilations of comic strips present me with an incredible amount of content – it took me well over a month to get through Peanuts 1950-52. I was excited to find my branch also had the first volume of the Bloom County archives, but I’ve still got two volumes of Popeye to get through. It’s a damned nice problem to have.

But. Non-comic related stuff. Sort of.

I am currently enjoying the heck out of Seth Grahame-Smith’s How to Survive a Horror Movie. I’m pretty sure this material has been covered before, but Grahame-Smith covers it in a snappy, hilarious, yet extremely knowledgeable manner.  As the cover reminds us, he is, after all, the best-selling author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. He even goes so far as to give pointers on how to tell if you’re in a sequel, and the “stop, drop and roll” of horror movie survival: C.R.A.V.E.N.: which stands for  Cover, Reconnaissance, Arsenal, Vehicle, Escape, and North – apparently the horror lessens the northier you go.

Here’s one of my favorite bits:

10 PLACES TO NEVER, EVER GO UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES

1.   Rooms lit by a single hanging lightbulb
2.   Rooms lit by nothing
3.   Any graveyard that isn’t Arlington National Cemetery
4.   Summer camps whose annual counselor murder rate exceeds 10 per cent
5.   Maine
6.   “The old ________”
7.   Hotels/motels that aren’t part of giant international chains
8.   Upstairs
9.   Downstairs
10. Any log cabin anywhere on the face of the earth.

Every page is drenched in stuff like that which keeps me nodding in agreement and grinning with recognition.

The other non-comic book is 101 Sci-Fi Movies You Must See Before You Die, edited by Steven Jay Schneider. Now, I dislike Top 10 lists and that sort of thing, but something like this I find irresistible, if only to find out if I can pass on with a clear conscience or not. It’s a fat little book, with an emphasis on the “little” –  it measures an almost square 6 x 5 inches. It affords each movie only four pages, and two of those pages are photos – usually a poster and a publicity shot. It’s dandy junk food reading, since in-depth analysis is impossible at two small pages, and it becomes an orgy of “oh, yeah, I’ve seen that“, which allows you to feel like you’re one of the in-crowd.

Well, up to a point. I like that the authors have made a point of finding movies throughout the history of cinema, and across international lines. It has so far nudged me that I haven’t yet seen the original Solaris or Stalker (aaaaa! Commie movies!), but exactly how I’m supposed to track down copies of obscurities like Paris Asleep and Who Killed Jessie? is beyond me. I guess that means I’m functionally immortal.

All these of course came from my local library. After years of not using it, I have taken to using the library system with a vengenace. Fort Bend County opened up a very nice, very fancy and very modern new branch a few months ago, a ballsy thing to do in a recession, even if it was partnered with my employers, the Houston Community College System. Then again, the city passed a bond issue that paid for the library quite handily, so the public support was definitely there.

So it gets a bit discouraging when you hear that Chicago’s Fox station did a story claiming that public libraries in this Internet age were a waste of tax dollars. But it gets heartening when Chicago’s Public Library Commissioners skillfully rebuts the story, and in fact – to use the Internetese – completely pwns it – and, moreover, the Fox station has the guts and professionalism to actually publish that rebuttal. Good for them, and good for the Commissioner. I’d send her flowers if I could afford it.

You’re kidding, right? It IS the heat.

I made the mistake of going out this morning to get the boxes I needed for my re-org project, the theory being if I hit the stores as they opened, before it got hot, I would be ahead of the game. The flaw in that theory is in the “before it got hot” clause.

Had an acquaintance almost two decades ago, who theorized in another twenty years it would be impossible to sustain life in Houston during the summer. She may have had something there. When I went out at 9am, the heat index was already 96, and it’s only going to go up from there.

So I’ve already sweat through my clothes, gone through a liter of water, and am looking at my re-org project and groaning. It’ll get done. After I dry off. If I crank the fan up another notch, that may only take an hour or so.

Every time I see this cover, I am struck by the metaphor for what happens whenever I open my front door in the summer:

Yeah, the gun works about as well on humidity, too.

Happy 4th, please don’t blow yourself up

I normally don’t blog on weekends, outside a possible small update from my Crackberry, but I find myself oddly healthy today.

I had really expected to be comatose and near-crippled today, after covering the city’s 4th of July parade, which held last night. But after two days of heavy rain – by my highly scientific trashcan-without-a-lid method, seven inches – the field we would have set up in was soaked, and would have proved hazardous to run power across to the equipment. And there would have been well over a million dollars worth of equipment (and I’m being conservative) put at risk in a still-unstable weather picture.

So it was decided to pitch the six-camera setup and go with a much smaller production, one that could be more easily hustled to cover should the weather demand it. This was the proper decision, as it rained twice more between our 11am crew call and the parade’s eventual go-time of 7pm. I lost out on a fair chunk of overtime, but my body’s happier for it. Also, we would have been breaking down equipment and packing it away after sundown, and I was eyeballing the fresh new fire ant mounds in that field, thinking how nice it would be to blunder into them in the dark.

The only real downside… okay the financial downside is terribly real also, but you know what I mean… is that the parade coverage was the only reason I didn’t accompany my wife and son to West Texas for the weekend, and Monday and Tuesday at San Antonio’s River Walk. So waaah and boo hoo. I’m making some brave attempts at organization, but (as usual) this means having a couple of boxes I do not possess. So I can either drag my ponderous ass out into the humidity to get them, or I can sit here and type at you.

On the subject of patriotism: when I look at this a year from now, this is going to be a quite obvious molehill, but most people are probably aware that DC announced i nthe last week that Wonder Woman was going through a revamp, with a new costume.  There was the usual firestorm of geek boy and girl mouth-running at this, and I think DC must be fairly tummeling at the response, since the mainstream media has picked it up and run with it, probably farther than they would have if DC had, as the practice has become, killed her and then brought her back in a year. (which has become such standard operating procedure that it really isn’t news anymore).

The most remarkable thing about this is – and smarter, better writers than myself have already said this – is:

  1. If all these people had just bought Wonder Woman comics these last few years, DC wouldn’t have felt a need to stir things up in hopes of boosting circulation;
  2. The astounding quantity of people decrying it as an anti-patriotic move miss the fact that Wonder Woman is not an American. In fact, if she were truly patriotic, she would have come in on the Amazon’s side when they attacked DC a few years ago. (Now that I think on it, that’s a statement that works on many levels)
  3. It was apparently a slow news weeks if pundits are reduced to foaming over a comic book. Or you can interpret that as, Look How Far Comics Have Come.
  4. Naaaaaaaaah.

I don’t think it will last. The story arc will play out, we’ll eventually see a return to the status quo, and Diana will once again be kicking evil’s ass in a one-piece bathing suit. Which, when you think about it, has to be about the most demoralizing thing possible for a thug. “You got your butt handed to you by a chick in a swimsuit? Dude. You suck.”

Enough on that. I could go on, but there’s so much digital ink being sprayed over the subject, why add more? I’ll just leave you with a lot more stuff you’re seeing elsewhere:

Nick’s Fireworks Emporium does not allow embedding, so Communism must be afoot.

Under the Hood

Well, yesterday and today we’ve finally been getting the torrential rains promised us early in the week. Alas, there is no longer a hurricane to threaten us with, so we must now live in fear of flash floods. But that’s a rational fear, so you just don’t hear as much about it.

A little over a week ago, I found a copy of the Watchmen adjunct DVD, Tales of the Black Freighter/Under the Hood had washed up at Half-Price Books for cheap, and picked it up. (I also stopped listening to the rational side of my brain and also picked up the Asylum Sherlock Holmes mockbuster for equally cheap). Last night I watched Under the Hood, and I rather liked it. There are currently no plans to watch Tales of the Black Freighter, because motion comics are an abomination before God.

Under the Hood was the title of the autobiography of Hollis Mason, the original 1940s Night Owl, one of the first of the costumed heroes in Watchmen‘s continuity. It was one of Alan Moore’s brilliant touches in an already brilliant book, text pieces in the back of each issue which filled us in on the alternate history, the world of the series.

To make this work in a video context, the material is presented in the form of a TV show, The Culpeper Minute, in which host Barry Culpeper, circa 1985 (the time of the Watchmen movie and book), presents a re-broadcast of a 1975 episode marking the publication of said book.

Much of the information in the text pieces is covered in an interview with Mason; where the piece goes beyond the call of duty is to establish the world further by adding more interviews past Mason’s, and the best part of that is we get to see more of Carla Gugino as Sally Jupiter, which is a good thing.

And we get to see even more of Carla Gugino in 1940s drag, which is a very good thing:

An odd thing – well not so odd, I suppose, given the DC imprint slathered all over – is a jettisoning of one of Moore’s most interesting social culture extrapolations: given that super heroes already actually existed, that particular comic book genre never took off – instead, pirate comics became all the rage (hence Tales of the Black Freighter). Instead, the first appearance of Superman is specifically mentioned, then a few more make their appearance as inspirations to Hollis Mason, alongside the pulp heroes Moore referenced. And so it goes.

We get more screen time with incidental characters who received short shrift in the movie, notably Matt Frewer’s Moloch, Dr. Manhattan’s Pal, Wally Weaver, and Bernie the newsvendor, who was the book’s everyman-on-the-street greek chorus, and virtually nonexistant in the film. And so it goes.

Expanding past the text pieces gives Under the Hood a chance to say interesting things about the necessity of heroes, costumed or not, and does continue the book’s examination of what real-world pressures would be brought to bear on people wearing fetish gear beating up thugs on the street – and if nothing else, makes use of all that Golden Age material they shot for the movie proper that never made it in (except, I suppose, for that Ultimate Edition that came out last Christmas, that I could not afford, nor asked for).

Overall, I still feel there was absolutely no reason to make Watchmen into a movie, except that hey, them other funnybook movies made money, and the geekboys love this’un! It’s like printing money! Looking at other attempts to turn comic books into movies, this one could have been a lot, lot worse. A lot. A bit too faithful to the original material, until that final, disastrous changing of the ending that I still feel damages the movie irreparably – which I should probably go into more detail about, but we’ll leave that for another time. Under the Hood reminded me that although I didn’t care for the movie itself, its casting and production design was absolutely spot-on.