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Various Things Which Do Not Make a Post

Wow. Hadn't realized just how much time had gone by since I blogged here. Partly this has been illness; partly the complete lack of a blogging bug. But, still, a few random things from here and there:

1. A biography/history that for once, I don't have any real complaints about: Superman: The High Flying History of America's Most Enduring Hero. Definitely on the popular side, with sex! Murder! (Ok, to be fair, insinuations and discussions of murder.) Flying accidents! Lawsuits! Quotes from basketball players! Gossipy little tidbits! A failure to completely get all the decisions made with Smallville! (We all feel you there, Mr. Tye, we all feel you.) Interviews with all of the (not murdered) still alive people involved with Superman! Analysis of why the dude is so popular. The book stops short of reviewing Man of Steel, since it went to print before the movie, but otherwise does a pretty thorough job of following Superman through newspapers, comic books, radio, television and film. Nothing deep here, but a fun pop culture history with more Superman gossip than you probably ever needed to know.

2. I'm not against the general idea of leaving politics out of Hugo voting, but if you really want me to seriously consider, say, your novelette for a major literary award, it might help if you did not spend the day spreading false allegations about a professional writers group that I happen to be a member of.

Just saying.

3. Speaking of the Hugos, I seem to have most of my plans in place for my upcoming trip to World Con and Shamrockon in August. This is my first trip to the UK in awhile, and my first trip ever to Ireland, so this should be interesting. Also I will be crossing the Irish Sea in a boat, which should be very interesting, so this is a general warning to those I'm meeting in Dublin that I don't expect to be overly coherent at first, especially if Macnamman mac Lir chooses to be unkind. Let us hope.

4. On a World Cup note, I was very sad to hear that today's headlines about the Biter From Uraguay did not, in fact, mean that the World Cup is now featuring teams of vampires biting each other between ball kicks. World Cup, you disappoint me. On the other hand, VAMOS COLOMBIA!

Superboys

Brad Rizza's Super Boys tells the story of writer Jerry Siegel and his best friend artist Joe Shuster, who together created Superman. It didn't benefit them much. Infamously, as Rizza details, Siegel and Shuster were so desperate to get their creation in print that they sold the rights to Superman for a pathetically low amount, and later, worn down and weary, accepted a very low settlement for the rights to Superboy during a long lawsuit that might have won them more cash.

It's a fairly depressing read. Siegel and Shuster were the sons of Jewish immigrants, something Rizza finds significant but then really doesn't know what to do with, who met in high school. Discovering a mutual love of science fiction and horror movies, they began to create comics together, starting with Shuster illustrating Siegel's high school stories, and continuing onto real comics. They created several in multiple genres. Superman was their first, and really only, blockbuster success, and it was followed by lawsuits, World War II, more lawsuits, financial problems and a pathetic interview at an early Comic Con where fans helped Siegel lobby Warner Brothers for cash before the release of the 1978 Superman movie. Things even once reached the point where Jerry Seigel attempted to turn his publishers into the FBI. This failed, because the snappily dressed J. Edgar Hoover didn't know who Siegel was.

Siegel did write other things post Superman, going here, there, and everywhere; Rizza, a major Siegel fan, likes many of these later efforts, especially those written for Archie Comics, more than Siegel's publishers did. Shuster had more issues. After watching Siegel walk off with his girlfriend (they later married) in a drama that apparently no one wanted to get on record about, Shuster ended up drawing a lot of pornographic cartoons and sleeping on city streets. Later, he rushed into an apparently none too happy marriage.

So, yeah, not the most pleasant of reads. It's also not helped by the problem that from time to time Rizza seems to have issues distinguishing the early lives of Jerry and Joe, whose families did come from similar backgrounds, and by the fact that at the time of Rizza's writing and interviews, both estates were involved in a bitter lawsuit with Warner Brothers, and were therefore reluctant to speak too much on the record. In some cases, Rizza admits that he's not clear on the timeline, which muddles things further. Also, Rizza's clear hero-worship of Siegel hampers him from time to time: reading through the lines, it's fairly evident that from time to time Siegel was just not a nice man. He went through a nasty divorce and was estranged from his son. (In a nasty twist, the son only contacted Siegel's daughter, his half-sister, over concerns about legal issues with Warner Brothers.) At other times, Siegel could be by all reports generous and kind, but there's stuff there that Rizza doesn't seem to want to deal with.

But the book does have some fun tidbits of information about the early days of science fiction (Hugo Gernsback really treated everyone like crap, didn't he? Can I just pretend that the Hugo Awards are named for Victor Hugo, not him? Thanks muchly), comics, cartoons and the start of San Diego Comic Con. Rizza's done a good job of detailing life in Cleveland between the wars, and if you're at all interested in the history of comics, this is worth a read.

Smallville series finale

I didn't watch the series finale of Smallville live, partly because setting up the television and trying to find the CW channel would be a major effort (we watch a lot of DVDs, but not broadcast television), and mostly because I hadn't seen the show for several seasons, especially after the departure of the only person consistently worth watching on the show: Michael Rosenbaum's Lex Luthor.

Oh, yes, Lionel Luthor was often worth watching, and I liked Chloe Sullivan, but Lana annoyed me (and many other people) and Lois annoyed me and plotlines annoyed me and so on. To be fair, I've seen Lana Lang's actress in other things, and given a decent script, she can act, and to be fair, I don't think it was Erica Durance as Lois who annoyed me but just the Lois character in general. The only Lois portrayal I've ever liked was Teri Hatcher's in Lois and Clark, and I'm digressing. Anyway I'd drifted off from the show.

But I decided that I'd invested enough time in the show to give the series finale a whirl. And what do you know? It was corny, the dialogue was frequently gag-inducing, it had plot holes too large even for the Man of Steel to fix (and a bit at the end that just does not make any sense), it had incredibly cheap and pathetic narrative tricks to handle previously poorly managed actor contracts that came across as incredibly cheap and pathetic narrative tricks, it had people talking to gravestones and clichéd scene after clichéd scene and by the end I was grinning, a bit teary eyed, and clapping and all happy. It's enough to get me to go back and check out the last couple of seasons. Maybe.

Damn you, show.

I don"t suppose anyone really cares about spoilers or couldn"t guess the ending, but just in case, cut for spoilers and some prurient thoughts about White House interns, not the current onesCollapse )

Completely unscientific survey

Of approximately 23 reviews of Superman Returns written or spoken by LJers, friends or acqaintances, exactly 19 have speculated on Superman's sex life.

That's four of you with pure and innocent minds. I didn't know I knew so many of you :)

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Superman Returns

The marvelous thing about seeing a movie like Superman Returns on pre-opening night is that you see it in a theatre full of complete geeks, who cheer at everything worth cheering for – including the trailer for Spider-Man 3. Which is, I must say, much better on the big screen than on the little screen. But I digress.

Short review: I liked it. Kevin Spacey is fun; Parker Posey as his dog-toting sidekick is even more fun; the cute kid is not as annoying as cute kids in films generally are; and the film offers good dialogue, witty jokes, and the final chance of seeing Eva Marie Saint and Marlon Brando together again, sorta, in a film.* The taut action scenes zing – sure, the results are relatively predictable, with the exception of a later sequence that I won't reveal – but Singer has not lost his touch for suspense. So yes, recommended.

Longer review: I could leave it there, especially since I really don't have anything snarky to say about the film except to echo the wonder voiced by many people that Superman would be so eager to save a world that cannot even see behind his alter-ego's glasses (watch for the film's joke on this). But something more needs to be said here, I think, because this film is both a continuation and a contrast with the first two Superman movies.

It's not merely that the special effects have improved tremendously (and they have). But the tone of this third movie (it pretends that Superman III and Superman IV never happened, to the great joy of an audience that has no difficulty with this) But the first two films were shot in the Cold War age, an age looking for icons; the Superman of those two films is the all-American apple pie hero, a twinkle in his eye, there to save the day, yes, and refuse to kneel before General Zod, but a hero. Nothing more, nothing less.

Superman Returns's Superman is no hero: he is a savior, sent to bring hope to a post-911 world. That phrase "post 9-11 world" is so clichéd I almost hate to say it, but this movie is very much a "post 9-11 world." Nothing overt, no talk of terrorists, no talk of distrusting the neighbors, but a different message: the world doesn't just need a hero; the world – whatever its denials -- most desperately needs a savior. The destruction, too, is both more contained and far greater than the near-destruction of California and Zod's happy stomping through various U.S. monuments. And this Lex Luthor is much colder.

In this sense, this is one of the bleakest portrayals of Superman ever, and although it's a continuation of the first two Superman movies, in some ways it channels more of the angst of Smallville (although without the teenage soap opera) than the two 80s films. This despite Brandon Routh's attempt to channel Christopher Reeve. He's good, but he's not that good, and he lacks Reeve's lighthearted touch, and although this film is intended to be a sequel to the first two movies, it might have been better to allow Brandon Routh to have his own interpretation of the character – the way Dean Cain and Tom Welling did.

But had Routh been allowed to do so, the contrast might not have been as startling.

Watch Superman I either before or after you see this movie, and I'll think you'll understand what I've been struggling to find the words to say.


* The presence of Eva Marie Saint does not, alas, encourage Jor-el to shout out, "You coulda been a contender! But no, you gotta ditch the planet that I specifically put you on for five years! Five years you leave them and then you're all whiny about some newspaper article? Five years and that Luthor dude is already creating more real estate in the Atlantic! You coulda been a contender."

Lessons learned from last night:

1) Never attempt to put on a face mask or open a bottle of wine in the immediate presence of a cat or a computer.

2) When a watermelon filled with alcohol comes flying down and smashes on your porch, you can safely assume that a story is behind this.

3) Further investigation of this story is not a wise idea.

4) The DVD of Lois and Clark Season Three starts with a rather cool montage of various Supermans/Clarks from various incarnations – the TV shows, the movies, and so on. A sales gimmick, of course, but rather a good one.

5) Peter Boyle is pretty much outstanding in everything he does. My favorite role of his remains Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein, followed closely by his appearance in the second-best X-Files episode ever, "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose," but I'd forgotten just how funny he was in Lois and Clark until I started rewatching this recently. He and Bruce Campbell need to work together far more often.

6) The idea of wearing your oldest, more comfortable relaxing clothing for a relaxing evening at home is not, inherently, a bad one, but can fail to take certain considerations into effect. Like, for example, potentially interacting with more people than you thought you might be going to. And watermelons. Or, in this case, one watermelon.

Incidental lessons learned from the morning:

1) Confirmed: on July 10, I'll be holding a blowtorch and aiming it at so far unidentified things.

2) On Tuesday mornings, people will announce their willingness to trust me with fire. Of course, these are the same people completely unaware that you are the sort of person who gets watermelons filled with alcohol thrown however incidentally and as part of a larger problem on your porch.

3) Watermelon combined with alcohol is more tricky to clean up then you would think. We will be attacking this with a large hose. Wish us luck.

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Mari Ness

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