Friday, March 22, 2013

Chinua Achebe 1930-2013

Things Fall Apart was one of the few really perception-changing novels I've ever read. Thank you for that.

Mattel's 1966 Batman Line Continues to Be Essential

Man, I wish I could afford these... I haven't wanted to partake of an action figure series this badly since Palisades made The Muppet Show figures...

Now all I dare hope for is a surfing Joker and a King Tut.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

A beautiful Japanese animated film about a woman who falls in love with a man who can change into a wolf, and is left on her own to raise two children with similar powers that are hard to control. She moves into a small community away from the rush of the cities, and we follow her life as she attempts to provide for two rapidly growing with supernatural abilities. The depth and breadth of the emotions this movie generates are surprising and very, very rewarding. It's one of the best animated films of the last couple years, and pretty much blows away every animated film I saw last year. One of the most wonderful things fantasy can do is take our daily problems, exaggerate them, and make us re-examine what it means to be human beings. This film does it so well, and creates such fully realized characters, gets us to invest our emotions in it, and brings us to such a place of understanding... It's one of the most moving films I've seen. ****

MEN IN BLACK 3 (2012)
A decade after Men in Black II, and unfortunately the goofy charm and profound silliness has mainly become another day at the office. It's not a routine sci-fi action flick--and I'm surprised to find out that Will Smith still has it in him to be likable--but it's not special the way the first two were. (Yes, I'm sure you disagree, but I loved those flicks.) Still, it's a fun movie, but except for Michael Stuhlbarg's fun turn as an alien out of time, it's not a whole lot more. You could do worse for blowing off a couple of hours, though. ***


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Family That Dwelt Apart

Here's an interesting animated short from the National Film Board of Canada, an Oscar-nominated film from 1973 based on an EB White story and narrated by the man himself.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Song of the Week: "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)"

David Bowie's new album is excellent. Here's, already, a second video from the album.

Random Thoughts

This gallery of Chris Keegan's photoshopped NASA pictures is glorious. (Wired)

:: What is this shit about Matt Lauer possibly replacing Alex Trebek on Jeopardy? What a terrible idea. That would get me to never ever watch Jeopardy again. Boy, am I glad America seems to be long over it's bizarre love affair with Matt Lauer. I never got that. He always came across like a sleazy creep to me, honestly. Like a phony opportunist.

Anyway, why is no one saying Ken Jennings should take over Jeopardy when Trebek retires? He owns that shit.

:: This guy cuddling a wombat is probably the luckiest person in the world. I can't watch this video and not feel really good.

:: I'm just saying, if every booster in every Facebook game is going to cost Facebook credits I won't buy, why am I earning coins in every game?

:: The Veronica Mars Kickstarter may yet turn out to be a fluke and not a model, but it's led to a lot of interesting discussions about what other cult shows could be revived for a movie or another episode. I'm a little annoyed with how the conversation always immediately turns to Joss Whedon and Firefly, not only because I'm just not a Firefly fan, but because I think Joss Whedon fans kind of delude themselves a little bit about what's possible.

Look, I'm under no illusions that Veronica Mars got canceled because there just weren't enough viewers. It didn't change the face of television, it was just a really good show that I'm passionate about. And how much do you think this Kickstarter is really going to generate? I'd honestly be surprised if they got up to $8 million. But they can make a modest, good Veronica Mars movie for that.

But Firefly? They got a movie and it cost $40 million, and it didn't make its money back. I think if they got every Firefly fan in the world to kick in money, you wouldn't get up to something like $40 million. That's why the show got canceled. It's not because Fox was against it or had it in for the show; not enough people watched it to justify the cost. I'm just saying: it's not going to happen that way, and I get so weary of being needled about not liking the show and people assuming that genre fans must absolutely love it and somehow it's going to come out and make hundred of millions of dollars and everyone in the world is such a fan.

I mean, my favorite TV show of all time is Farscape, but I don't go on and on about it with people and make them feel like idiots for not seeing it or not liking it. I do this weird thing where I'm satisfied that I have anything of it at all. Four seasons and a miniseries is more than a lot of fans of things get.

Look, I don't mean to bash Joss Whedon fans or anything. I'm glad you have something you're into. But it's not my cup, and that's okay, isn't it? Stop trying to make me feel like I'm not really into science fiction because I'm not a Joss Whedon fan.

But, seriously, it would be nice to have the Veronica Mars conversation without having Whedon fans hijack it with "How does this potentially affect the Joss Whedon fandom?"

:: Okay, one more Whedon-related thing: Buffy the Vampire Slayer is not as big a deal as you think it is. I'm glad you had a show that you liked and got seven or eight years out of, or something, but can we please be realistic about it? It's so annoying reading the AV Club and seeing every TV show compared to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. They keep insisting that we're in the Golden Age of Television now, and it was all ushered in by the greatness of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a show that was watched by not a single person I knew while it was even on. You know what, I'm glad you like your show, but can you please, AV Club, stop talking about it like I should know all of the references you make to it in your critical evaluation of every other series? I don't know it: I didn't like it, and I didn't watch it, and it was never as popular as you seem to think it was. You don't need to compare every episode of Veronica Mars and Babylon 5 to it, because, Jesus.

Okay, sorry. Again, I don't mean to bash the fans of the show, because it bothers me not a whit if someone likes something I don't like. I don't begrudge anyone liking something I don't, even though people seem to think I do. I just get annoyed by the assumption that I must love this thing and think it's important just because I'm a genre fan or a fan of television. Some perspective, man.

(UPDATE 5:07 PM: Also, The Sopranos. "One of the most famous episodes in television history"... yeah, never saw it.)

:: Another show I see people suggesting needs more is Freaks and Geeks, which is probably my third favorite show of all time (after Farscape and The Muppet Show). I couldn't agree less. Who wants to see more Freaks and Geeks 13 years later? They had one great season and got canceled, and now we can always enjoy it. I think that show had so much character growth, and I think it ended in a place of realistic, comfortable uncertainty, but with real optimism. What are we going to do now? See a high school reunion, or something? Who cares? It robs us of all that growth and all of our personal feelings about what happened to everyone after that season. I think it would be a huge disservice to that show to try and do that again. I wouldn't be interested in seeing that at all. At all. Especially given the kinds of movies Paul Feig and Judd Apatow are making now... All I can guarantee you is that it would be far, far too long and unstructured, with too much uncomfortable improvising and Leslie Mann repeating her punchlines three times too many. (Because you assume she'd be in it somewhere.)

:: I've been a fan of Billy Joel since grade school, so I certainly dug this video that's been making the rounds. I really should've learned to play the piano. I'd give a lot to be able to play the piano like that. Maybe I should make that a therapy thing...

:: Everyone says they weren't surprised that Google would be discontinuing Google Reader, but I sure was. I have Reader open all day long, honestly. It's how I get news. I'm disappointed, because all I want is a no-frills RSS reader that's simple to use. Geekosystem said "The service was reliable and predictable, but, even fans have to admit, lacking in bells and whistles." Yeah, but that's what I want. I know this comes as a shock to platform designers these days, but I don't want everything I access to be a gateway to some kind of online community. I don't need to interact with a community just because I want to read blogs and news feeds; that's why I've never bothered with Google+. Stop forcing me to interact, everyone. Sometimes I just want to read and be left the fuck alone.

I guess I'll see if Feedly is any good. But some of us like things as plain as possible so we can choose when we want to interact and when we don't.

:: I sound really negative on this whole post, but I'm doing pretty good today.

:: So Senator Rob Portman, an anti-gay marriage Republican, now supports gay marriage because his own son came out to him and he, in good conscience, could no longer support something that would limit the rights of his child. I'm seeing a lot of people who are having this very liberal reaction of "Well, why couldn't he have empathy for everyone's child?" Well, you know, because humans are like that. They're self-interested. And you kind of expect that, by definition, someone politically conservative and traditional needs something like this to happen to them in order for them to change their opinions. I don't know why anyone's surprised by this. Sure, it would be nice if conservatives thought about everyone else's kids, too, but they don't. That's as obvious as it is frustrating.

What I'm saying is, it takes away from the small victory of changing one legislator's mind about gay people when you say that this victory isn't big enough. But I think there's a problem with talking about politics online where young people especially really expect that their blog posts or their Facebook arguments are having large, sweeping effects on social concerns and politics, and there's this sense of instant gratification, when a lot of times it's just small victories that add up.

Yes, it sucks that gay civil rights are still being discussed as though they're privileges and not rights and fundamental to everyone's equality. But I'm seeing too many people who should know better implying that this doesn't matter, and I think it does. It's one more mind changed.

:: There's a March Madness character bracket up at It comes down to Han Solo vs. Boba Fett and Boba Fett wins. Not that fanboys are predictable or anything. I'm sure it'll be a real nail-biter.

:: Hey, Candy Crowley: if you're actually trying to convince me that I should feel any sympathy right now for those two poor guilty high school rapists in the Steubenville rape case, you can go straight to hell.