Saturday, October 25, 2014

Saturday Night Family History Thoughts

So, Saturday nights are for family history, right?  You guys sit at home, drink spiked apple cider and wander through the labyrinth that is your family tree?  Right.  Me, too!

So, my paternal grandmother's parents were a roadblock.  I knew their names, but not much else.  There's evidence that her father, John Wyatt, was the son of another John Wyatt who served in the Civil War in a unit from Indiana, but there's not much online I can find to confirm that, at this point.

I feel confident enough with a couple sources that my great grandmother's maiden name was Stewart, which would attach her to a whole line of folks stretching back to Jolly Ol' England all the way back to a gentleman named Thomas Askew.

Askew.  That fits me.

On a couple levels, actually.

Turns out Askew is derived from the name Ayscough and Ainscough. 

Which is where Acuff comes from, as well.

So.   I got Acuffs/Ayscoughs/Askews on a couple branches of the family tree, which came back together when Earl Acuff married Ethel Wyatt way back some time between 1930 and 1935....

Don't know why I've been playing so hard with the family history, lately.  But it's interesting, especially seeing family on different sides of conflicts...i.e. Union vs. Confederacy....or even different sides of rebellions against England's Crown....

Friday, October 17, 2014

Quick Fanboy thoughts on the string of DCU movies

So, this little piece has gotten shoved around the interweb the past day or so.  Again, Warner and DC are doing little toward making me think this won't be a clusterfuck of epic proportions.
Giving some thought to the success of the Marvel flicks, as DC does nothing to make me think it won't be a pigpile. I feel like the 3 stars of Marvel's phase 1, up to and including Avengers, have to be Robert Downey Jr., for being a charismatic and believable (within the framework) superhero, Tom Hiddleston (and the writing crew of Thor, and later, Avengers) for bringing an understandable, even likeable villain to the table, and Clark Gregg, who as Agent Coulson brings an every-man (an ultra-competent every-man, but an every-man nonetheless).

I am hopeful Warner and DC find a written thread and a string of performances strong enough to make their Universe work. Henry Cavill wasn't bad as Superman (I've not considered his mopey Superman to be a fault in anything but direction), but he wasn't as strong as Downey as Iron Man, or Evans as Captain America. Affleck's Batman is a concern, but despite my "meh" feelings on his performances, I do believe he understands storytelling and the strength of source material that I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt.
I look at that list, and I find concern with Jason Momoa in an Aquaman movie. I'm not saying it can't or won't work. I'm saying that 8 years ago, if you'd said "Iron Man" movie to me, I'd also have been "meh." But, I had enough faith in Favreau and Downey that I didn't think it was going to be a train wreck going in. I'm not as familiar with Momoa as I was Downey, though I was a bigger fan than most of Conan the Barbarian a couple years back. Still, there wasn't a lot in Conan, or as Khal Drogo, to make me think he would be interesting enough to carry a whole movie.  I liked Conan because he wasn't insulting as Conan, and I felt that movie was closer to the feel of Robert Howard's stories I read back in sixth grade than any other adaptation to that point.  That said?  We're not ankle deep in sequels to that flick, so the general public didn't apparently show their love in the form of dollars paid.
That's where I'm afraid DC's making their mistake. Is he going to get enough attention in Batman v. Superman, or Justice League, to make most go see an Aquaman movie? This whole thing feels top heavy, I guess. I'm not saying Batman or Superman need an origin movie. I am saying that some characters do. I don't want to bank on Zack Snyder being able to do the characters credit with 5-30 minutes of shared screentime.
And I guess that that's the turd in the punchbowl for me. Snyder's take on Man of Steel is my biggest concern, considering he's already concocted a lumbering monstrosity that ran counter to a couple of the most important aspects of the Superman character. And he's the one driving this Justice League tank. He wore out any gravitas he might have earned with 300 and Watchmen with Superman and Zod brawling through Metropolis.

One last thing I'll mention about the Marvel flicks of phase 2.  That string of things tying things together from phase 1 hasn't been as apparent to me for Iron man 3, Thor: Dark World, Captain American Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy.  But, each of those movies was strong, with Winter Soldier and Guardians being home runs.  Tangential thought?  I think the biggest swing and miss of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to this point was completely under-utilizing Chris Eccleston in Thor: Dark World.  That man is an awesome actor, and a great fit to the Thor Universe, yet all the have him do is walk around and growl?  That one felt like they worked hard to inflate the role of Hiddleston's Loki.  I'm not complaining about more Loki, except that I wish it hadn't come at the expense of Eccleston.
Just a fanboy thought, or two. And I guess that's the last thing I'll want to say. I am a fanboy. Warner and DC don't really need to worry about getting my money, probably for any of these flicks. I'll likely see all of them in the theater. What might be more telling is if I pay to see them again--Guardians of the Galaxy, I've ended up seeing three times...and that's not something I've done for a movie in recent least since Dark Knight.

Tommy's Mindlessly Stupid Project, Volume 5

Still ongoing.  I think this has been going since around Memorial Day.  I am currently maybe 25 % through the second shelf.  Need to get my ass in gear blogging, though.

The Blair Witch Project   (1999, D: Myrick/Sanchez)

I never saw this one on the Big Screen, and in a weird way, I'm glad.  There are occasionally movies that deserve to be watched in a dark room on a smallish screen.  This is one.

I don't know if I'm an apologist, or a defender, or a booster.  I like this flick.  I've liked it from the get-go.  Hits many of the right notes for me.  Lost in the woods.  The claustrophobic feeling of being in a tent, when there's something you can't see outside the tent.  Abandoned structures out in the woods.  A lot of this flick feels like it could have been filmed on the ridge across the field from my folks' house.

Still?  There's a leap of faith for found footage movies, and this one's not any different.  At some point, self-preservation, fatigue and battery life have to come into play.  You're too scared, tired or pissed off to keep filming.

This was the first time in a while that I'd watch this one, and was kind of expecting to want to toss it.  I liked it.  There are other found footage features that end up doing it better, but the tidal wave that accompanied this one in 1999 is still fun to me....

Blazing Saddles     (1974, D: Brooks)

What's not to love with Blazing Saddles.  I was in high school the first time I watched this, after somebody had to explain the reference "Mongo only pawn in game of life."  It's one of those flicks that just speaks right to the silly part of my makeup.  As soon as I saw it, it shot up to the top of my favorite movies list.

I tend not to watch it often, just to preserve some of the magic.  It's been a while since I'd sat down with this one.  Harvey Korman doesn't get enough credit.  I once purposely tanked a question at a quiz bowl tournament just so we could do the Hedy/Hedley LaMarr joke with Charlie Steinhice....

Blues Brothers     (1980, D: Landis)

Just a great schmozz of a movie.  A white boy's R&B love letter.  I love that this flick could take place in the same universe as South Pacific or Annie, in that people break into song and choreographed dance numbers at the drop of a hat.

Is it out of line to note that Aretha Franklin always seems like she'd be a hell of a fun lady to hang out with.  Smart, down to Earth with a good sense of humor?

My roommate in college and I argued about whether Jake's girlfriend was Carrie Fisher or Ronald Reagan's daughter Nancy Davis.

Bonnie and Clyde    (1967, D: Penn)

As opposed to Aretha Franklin, doesn't Estelle Parsons specialize in playing people you want to jump through your screen to beat with a shoe?  I spent this viewing just gritting my teeth along with Bonnie every time Blanche talked.

It's weird how, every time I watch this, Warren Beatty as Clyde, just gets younger and younger...

This movie contains Dub Taylor Movie Shelf Appearance #3

Braveheart    (1995, D: Gibson)

Mel may be a lunatic, but he makes a hell of a fun flick.  I would like Mel and Kevin Costner to make competing movies about the same event and Mel's, he would be man against the antagonistic Costner (and the world).  Kevin would likewise be a man against the world, facing Gibson.

This movie contains Brendan Gleeson Movie Shelf Appearance #4

Brazil    (1985, D: Gilliam)

I had to take this one out of the Getting Ready for Work TV and go put it on the Big TV out in the living room.  This one deserve and annual-or-so sit and view.  Oddly Pretty.  Funny, and a little scary.  Might end up being Gilliam's technical and artful best.  He's not just some Python making human cartoons, here.

Bridge on the River Kwai    (1957, D: Lean)

What a pretty, pretty flick.  Honor.  Duty.   Which is more and more impotant.  I'm kind of sad that I watched this one in increments, because it's another one that deserves a watch on a big screen.  Beautifully shot.  Lots of conflict between guys who are all pretty much fighting the same internal fight with themselves, all while fighting with each other.

Brother Bear      (2003, D: Blaise/Walker)

I tried watching this one straight, and couldn't make it through.  Weak, weak outing from Disney, that's only saved by backup performances, and in this case, a backup commentary track.  If you have the means, I highly recommend watching this one with Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis providing commentary as their characters, Rutt and Tuke, who are themselves, cleaned up versions of Bob and Doug McKenzie.  Big Props to Disney for including that on their disc.  I'd never have even considered watching the movie, were it not for Buddy at Videoculture, back in the day....

Bubba Ho-Tep   (2002, D: Coscarelli)

Bruce Campbell and Joe R. Lansdale are a near perfect pairing.  One of my favorite actors in a work based on one of my favorite writers.  And it doesn't disappoint.  Bruce Campbell is a walking cartoon with a heart of gold.  Favorite bit?  Finding the scars behind the ear....

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A good vacation?

You know, even with 4 days to go, I'm going to go ahead and declare this The Best Vacation of 2014.

Got to see a lot of friends last weekend.  A Great Hysterics.

Got to take in some Nashville Predators hockey.  First game of theirs I've attended in five or six years.

And tonight?  I got to watch the Cardinals get eliminated from the NLCS.

Not that I have any great love for the Giants.  But, I'm in much of a mind that my favorite team is The Cubs, and whoever's playing the Cardinals.

Ah.  That was fun.

Fun things that may or may not be true in my family tree

Been playing with for a few months.  Lot of good info out there.  Lot of bad info, too, put there by people who want to feel better about their existences, I would say.

There's a lot of salt grain taking.

Still.  Interesting people I might be connected to?

William Penn  (a great grandfather, along my mother's father's line).
John Penn (same line, though this one seems tenuous....a signer of the Declaration)
Rhys ap Thomas  (a great grandfather, along my mother's mother's line).
William Carey (a courtier of Henry VIII, and brother-in-law to Anne Boleyn)  (along my father's father's line)
Agnes Tocker (an early settler of Jamestown, who may have died there)
Hannah Crewes (an early settler whose parentage is of some question...part Powhatan Indian seems likely, but could be part Caribbean Indian or part Black)

Tonight?  William Shakespeare's grandfather Robert Arden might be my great (x13) grandfather along that line.

Interesting.  Might be total bullshit.  Who knows?

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Optimus Prime vs. Donatello

Tonight, while he was pooping, my nephew yelled from the bathroom whether it would be better to be Donatello or Optimus Prime?

Now, I suppose the first thing I should mention is that my nephew is 4.  It's not like I've got a 31-year-old nephew who's yelling things down the hall while crapping.  My nephew is 4, and hasn't yet discovered joys of quiet contemplation during defecation.

Being that he's 4, and he's not yet been beaten down by life, he believes in magic, that pro wrestling and Santa Claus are real, and that Optimus Prime and Donatello are both somebody that you can call on the telephone, if you have the right connections.

I don't want to be the guy to go up the hallway of my sister's house to rip him out of the absurd bit of speculation.  I don't want to destroy the little guy's self esteem by laughing at the ridiculous notion that being Donetello, either the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, or he of the name Donato di Niccolo de Betto Bardi, would compare competitively at all with being the leader of the Autobots.

Look.  Being an irradiated superhero with ninja training is awesome.  I'm sure.  

Likewise, being the premiere worker in bas-relief, and one of the most sought after artists for commission of his time has to have some perks.

But can either of them transform into a transfer truck?

Does either of them hold the Matrix of Leadership?

Is either of them voiced by Peter Cullen?

Look, when I come into my fortune, I'm going to pay Peter Cullen to be my friend as Optimus Prime, just so I can call him and ask his opinion on things.  Optimus?  You think the Cubs are looking to contend in 2015?  You think I should just toss all these jean shorts, or will they come back into fashion?  Which thoughts exactly, Prime, kept me out of the really good schools?

Look at it this way.  In a fair fight, Optimus would wipe the floor with either one of them.

Look at it another way.  If both Donatellos teamed up to fight Optimus Prime, it would still be a very short fight.

That's my philosophy, in life.  When choosing between to things, simply set them alongside one another, and imagine them fighting to the death.  It's how I chose my favorite grandmother.

There's just not much that can whip Optimus Prime in a fight to the death.

You might argue Megatron, or perhaps Bludgeon.  Maybe Godzilla, or Shaquille O'Neal, if Lemon Demon is to be believed.

However, in this life?  There is little that can beat Optimus Prime.

I know, because in 1993, Optimus Prime killed my brother in just such a contest.  And my brother was a bad fucking ass, man.  The baddest I knew, up until that point.

Once, five or six years ago, Prime challenged me to a fight drunk on memory and sour energon.

I did not fight him.

Is it cooler to be Optimus Prime or Big Stupid Tommy?

Optimus Prime.  Of course.