Attn: Animation Geeks!

August 26, 2008 by

Last night I discovered that Ovation TV is doing a 5 day salute to animation (Aug 25 – 29).  Last night they showed Triplets of Belleville and Chuck Amuck: The Movie.

I had seen Triplets before but this was my first time seeing Chuck Amuck. It was from 1991 but looked much older. A great look into the world of animation legend, Chuck Jones it also gave a good look into the art of 2D animation as well. It was kinda sweet to see a gentle older woman clean up drawings of the Road Runner. 

Tonight Tokyo Godfathers is showing followed by Wallace and Gromit Go Hollywood.

Check your local listings.

The Doctor-Donna: Doctor Who Season Four

August 20, 2008 by

The post below contains spoilers for Doctor Who Season Four.

When the BBC announced that Catherine Tate was joining Doctor Who as the companion for the 4th season, I was a little leery. While I enjoyed The Runaway Bride episode that Tate had appeared in between the 2nd and 3rd seasons, I though her character, Donna Noble, was going to be a bit too intense for a full-time companion. She was a loud-mouthed, ill-informed and rather ribald low level secretary who spent half the episode screaming at the Doctor (although she did prove sympathetic in the end.) I was worried that 13 episodes of that would be too much. But having just seen the season finale for Season Four (or Series Four if you are British), I now must admit how wrong I was.

To see Part 2 click here.

I think I knew by the end of the season’s first episode Partners in Crime that Donna was going to be a good companion. First off, she and David Tennant have marvelous chemistry and you can tell they really enjoy working with each other. This was evident in the pantomime routine that occurs in Partners in Crime when Donna sees the Doctor again after many months of searching for him and the Doctor responds by being somewhat comically horrified. It showed some hilarious physical comedy between Tate and Tennant that boded well for their on-screen partnership.

Second, the fact that Donna in no way, shape or form had a crush on the Doctor was a well needed change of pace after what he went through with both Rose (whose feelings he did seem to reciprocate) and Martha’s (whose he didn’t). Having a third companion crushing on the Doctor would have been too much no matter how dreamy one finds David Tennant (and I’ll admit as a geek girl, he’s pretty dreamy). But Donna was having none of it, calling him a skinny beanpole and being rather insulted when anyone suggested they were a couple. Some fans didn’t like this, thinking it was disrespectful, but I thought it was hilarious.

The fact that Donna was older than Martha and Rose and had been around the block a few times, also gave her actions added weight. While being excited to travel the universe with the Doctor, she wasn’t awestruck and she was willing him to call him on it when she thought he was wrong. In The Fires of Pompeii and Planet of the Ood, Donna’s distinct sense of morality and innate human decency made a character that initially seemed overbearing become very sympathetic.

Throughout the rest of the season, I thought Donna made a wonderful companion. So much so that what happened to her character in the season finale was all the more heartbreaking. As Doctor Who season finales normally are, this one was jam packed and spread across three episodes. Not only did we see the return of Rose Tyler, but we saw former companions Martha Jones, Captain Jack Harkness and the crew from Torchwood, Sarah Jane Smith along with Jackie Tyler and Mickey Clarke. All of these past characters join the Doctor and Donna for another world ending battle against the Daleks (again!!! For a decimated race, there are an awful lot of them hanging about) and Davros.

Everyone has their little part to play in the finale but Donna winds up having the most important role. While she has spent many episodes saying she was nothing special and just a secretary, there have been hints that something huge and possibly tragic was going to happen to Donna and that she had a key role to play. It’s a little complicated to describe but in one scene, Donna gets what is basically a Time Lord brain boost and with the knowledge she gets access to she saves the entire universe from what would be certain destruction by the Daleks.

But unfortunately a human brain cannot handle having half a Time Lord brain and it starts to kill her (reminiscent of when Rose absorbed the Time Vortex in Season One’s finale and it started to kill her). In order to save her, the Doctor must erase all traces of himself and their travels together from her brain. And this reverts Donna back to the loud, ill-informed character that we met in The Runaway Bride, a woman who has no idea how special she really is and how she helped save the world. She meets the Doctor and has no idea who he is and barely bothers to say hello. For fans who came to love Donna (and I will admit that there are some that never warmed to her), this was absolutely crushing and almost crueler than if she had been killed. Not only did she not know how many brave and important things she did, all the progress her character made was destroyed in the process.

Doctor Who has long established that traveling with the Doctor can be devastating to his companions but I don’t think it was ever so evident as it was in this development. Although this plot twist made me sad, I also thought it was brutally effective. I knew that Catherine Tate was too big a star in Britain to stay on as a companion for more than one season so Donna’s presence was necessarily short-lived. But short as it was, it was definitely memorable.

Seeing Wii-sults

August 19, 2008 by

Back in my mid 20’s, something odd happened one day. Suddenly, and seemingly without warning my pants didn’t fit. I had just bought these pants and immediately assumed I had gotten the length/width sixes mixed up. But that theory was throw in the trash when I checked the tag. I guess I really was an adult since I was finally upsizing. I knew (and was told by several slightly older co-workers) that once I gave into upsizing, there was no going back. I was going to become one of those guys whose belt looks like it was swallowed by his gut. The battle was on.

My first course of action was joining a group of co-workers in an after hours Tae Bo group. Not being the most athletic person, I was nervous. After all there was kicking involved. But it was pretty fun and despite my lackluster kicking ability, I picked it up fairly well. The group atmosphere helped and the only drawback was having to stare at Billy Blanks sweaty crotch. Soon people were telling me that it looked like I lost weight. I didn’t see any “real” results. My pants were still weren’t going on any easier and eventually the group, much like my old pants, disbanded.

I was losing the battle. I began skateboarding and got a second job that required a lot of walking. I figured these combined efforts would stem the tide. Unfortunately they didn’t. Occasionally I would try to go back to Tae Bo or use my girlfriend’s treadmill but I never did either for very long. Eventually I got used to having to go up a size each year until I cut myself off and then got use to wearing small pants.

When I heard the Wii Fit I didn’t think a lot about it at first. The concept seemed a natural fit (no pun intended) for the Wii. The whole basis of the Wii seemed to be getting people off the couch and moving while still playing fun video games.

Even the game it is packaged with, Wii Sports, can make you break a sweat. As time went on though the idea Wii Fit seemed to grow on me. After watching an interview with Shigeru Miyamoto on the Nintendo Channel, I was convinced. According to him, the point of it wasn’t just to lose weight but to actually make you aware of your body and what you are putting in it and also to create discussions about it among families. Listening to Miyamoto made me a believer and on May 21st, I woke up early and got in line at the Nintendo Store at 8 a.m.

When I got home I immediately put in the disk and got on board. After the first workout I started to think that I might actually lose weight. Just a few minutes into Hula Hoop® and I was starting to break a serious sweat. The push-up/plank exercise made my arms sore and the yoga seemed to be stretching me. I prefer to believe that this was happening because it was a good workout and not because at that point walking from the couch to the kitchen was a considerable distance for me.

The other reason I thought this would work was that I liked doing it. Thanks to a friend my step aerobics class was filled with the cast of The Office, I felt ridiculous doing Hula Hoop®, and when things aren’t goofy fun (like Strength Training) I enjoyed trying to get the high score. Soon enough the scale started saying I was weighing less. Even more amazing, the number kept going down. Here it is 3 months later and I’ve lost 10 pounds. The last time that happened I had a stomach flu. So it seems to be working. And I’m not the only one. There are countless blogs ( like this one or this article) of people tracking their results.

But there’s something else going on here. Much like the Wii console itself, Wii Fit seems to becoming a sort of pop phenomenon. It’s already being used to aid in rehabilitation (or Wiihab). It’s been at the center of controversy. Plus this video has become such a hit on YouTube that Nintendo felt the need to deny it being a marketing scheme launched by them. Playboy has even posted similar videos on their website.

Is this the future or exercise? Are gyms obsolete? Is it just a way for fat ass gamers to become a normal shape? All I know is I have to go buy a new belt.

Apollo 13 Moves Toward My Top Ten

August 12, 2008 by

Recently AMC showed their DVD_TV version of Apollo 13. This is one of those movies that I watch pretty much whenever it’s on. It doesn’t matter what part of the movie I come in at, I will always watch it. I’ve found Ron Howard’s movies to be enjoyable for a while. They’re not usually critical smashes they are pretty solid “hollywood” style movies. there’s sort of a warm glow that surrounds them. But there’s something different about Apollo 13. The emotional core of it is stronger than any other Howard movie. Plus there is a palpable sense of the passion the people working on this movie had for the story. If what scrolled across the bottom of my screen while watching DVD_TV is true it must have been one hell of a shoot. Dozens of rides in the vomit comet so they could film weightless segments 23 seconds at a time, slowly bobbing up and down on set to appear weightless, trying to act in a cramped duplicate of a space capsule with a camera only a foot or two away. Movie sets in general aren’t all that fun but this goes beyond waking up at odd hours and having to act to a tennis ball in front of a green screen. Heck, they even used giant air conditioners to chill the set so the actors breath could be seen. I could only imagine what it would be like to be a grip or a PA on a set where you have to wear a parka indoors. Like the space program itself, they did it not because it was easy but because it was hard. And if there is any story worth going through all that for it’s the story of the early space mission and the Apollo 13 mission in particular.

Being born in the late 70’s I grew up not realizing the accomplishments or the enormity of the space program. I took for granted that we put a man on the moon (actually we put 12 there), bounced around, played some golf and came back. Other than that all I knew was Chairface Chippendale tried to write his name on it on The Tick. I don’t think I quite “got” it for a while. I was still waiting for things to be like they were in The Jetsons; high rises in the skies, jetpacks for everyone, flying cars,robot dogs (which we do have now…sort of) and of course Orbity. It wasn’t until a few years ago while working on a video shot where I met John Glenn, who was there to be interviewed, that it started to sink in. Listening to him talk about the beginning of the space program was when I started to think about what it would be like to be one of the first astronauts. To me they were the guys who drank Tang, I never realized that at the beginning they were test pilots. Just normal guys who volunteered to be strapped to rockets and attempt to ride off the planet. Think about that for a minute. That’s a little F-ed up. The fact that so few people have died in the quest to push the limits is a bit astounding.

The thing about Apollo 13 (the movie) is that it completely captures the energy of the space program in its glory. It makes you feel like you are there watching the missions live on tv. Between that and the recent Discovery mini-series, When We Left Earth, I have a new appreciation for the space program and what it was (and is) trying to accomplish. When a movie can make me feel that way I know it’s doing its job.

I Believe in Aaron Eckhart! A Review of The Dark Knight

August 5, 2008 by

Warning! This post contains spoilers for The Dark Knight.

Much has been written about The Dark Knight– its massive haul at the box office, Heath Ledger’s final performance as the Joker, Christian Bale’s strange growly voice as Batman but one topic has gotten lost in the shuffle in recent Batman discussions. And that is Aaron Eckhart’s performance as Harvey Dent.

I saw the movie a few weeks ago and while Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker is getting all the ink and the Oscar talk, I have to to say that Aaron Eckhart’s was the one that stayed with me. The Joker role, despite being the most colorful character in the Rogue’s Gallery,  really can be played by just opening mouth and inserting scenery. But the journey Harvey Dent has to take in The Dark Knight required an ability to dance on a very thin line and I thought Eckhart did that superbly.

We’ve seen Harvey Dent twice before in Batman movies and while Billy Dee Williams was never seen again after Batman, Tommy Lee Jones’s portrayal in Batman Forever was hardly what I would call subtle. Jones seemed to be infected by Jim Carrey’s antic mugging as the Riddler so he completely skimmed over the tragic aspect of Harvey Dent’s character that infuses Eckhart’s perfomance.

Dent is a good man, Gotham’s shining white knight who symbolizes that the city can save itself and does not need a winged vigilante to do so. As Eckhart plays him, Dent is a charismatic man who is strong in his convictions about right and wrong. In the wrong hands, Dent could seem like a cardboard character, all gleaming white teeth, fluffy blond hair and self-righteousness. But Eckhart shaded his portrayal so Dent seemed realistic and flawed. He also let hints of darkness peak through so his final transformation to Two Face was both believable and heart-breaking.

As for the rest of the film, I didn’t quite love it as much as I did Batman Begins. Being a Batman geek and Christian Bale fan since I was a teenager, when I heard that Bale was being cast as Batman for Batman Begins, I thought it must be my birthday. I couldn’t believe that Warner Brothers had cast the character in such a personally satisfying way.

And outside of the small flaw of Katie Holmes’s casting, I thought Batman Begins was magnificent. The cast was chock full of fantastic actors, all of whom were fully engaged and not slumming like you normally find in superhero movies. The story was compelling and instead of being punted aside in favor of colorful villians like in previous movies, Bruce Wayne was front and center. Bale was wonderful at showing how split Bruce was between his identities and how not only was Batman his alter ego but so was the public face of Bruce Wayne. He crafted the public Bruce to appear as an arrogant, spoiled playboy while the private Bruce toiled away in the dark, crafting Batman’s weapons and appearance.

But unfortunately in The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne got punted to the side again in favor of the Joker’s theatrics and other character’s issues. Where Bruce was the emotional heart of Batman Begins, it felt like Gary Oldman’s Jim Gordon and Eckhart’s Dent split that load this time. While I can’t complain since both Oldman and Eckhart were excellent, I missed the focus on Bruce.

Add a leather mask and you have Catwoman.

And while Maggie Gyllenhaal was a vast improvement on Katie Holmes, her role as Rachel Dawes was so small and her scenes with Bale so minimal that I wish they had saved Gyllenhaal for the Selena Kyle/ Catwoman role that I’m sure will eventually need to be filled. Although Rachel and Bruce’s story was covered in Batman Begins, the switch of actresses left me feeling a lack of strong connection between Gyllenhaal and Bale despite the fact that they did have chemistry. It felt like a wasted opportunity.

Even though I liked Batman Begins better, The Dark Knight is still a really dynamic movie. Christopher Nolan could have gotten away with making a plotless, CGI-heavy film packed with explosions every five minutes and probably laughed all the way to the bank. But he didn’t. He actually tried to make a Batman movie about something. As a result, it’s a heavy movie but you leave the theater thinking about it. I am definitely interested to see where Nolan takes the story from here and what villains are picked for the 3rd film. Until then, I’ll just have to stare at my Batman bubble gum machine and wonder.

Shall We Play A Game?

August 1, 2008 by

This year WarGames turns 25. I can’t remember how old I was when I first saw it. I pretty sure it was on tv. Considering it was released in theaters when I was 6, I doubt my parents let my brother and I go to a techno-thriller where a kid nearly starts world war 3. Whenever the blessed event finally happened, it was love at first sight. Like a lot of classic 80’s movies it had the two great fears of the decade:

1. The threat of nuclear war

and

2. The machines are taking over.

The vague notion that the US and USSR may blow each other to pieces grabbed my interest. Plus it had all this techno stuff I had never heard of before.

Computers can talk to each other! Backdoor passwords? This stuff was all new to me (as it was to many people) and I loved it. I felt so smart knowing what a modem was. The first time I heard one work (while signing onto AOL) I immediately thought of David Lightman. (Right after which I thought, “Man I wish I had Falken’s remote controlled dinosaur.”)   Plus it had Matthew Broderick. I will readily admit that as a young lad I had a man crush on him. Let’s face it, the guy was (and possibly still is) the shit. By the time I saw WarGames I had already seen him in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Project X (which how I learned to say “apple” and “help” in sign language) . He had a synth that made sneezing noises and he trained chimps to fly planes. What 10 year wouldn’t think he’s awesome.

When I realized a while ago I could get it onDemand, I watched it several times. My girlfriend thought I was being goofy or watching it for cheese factor but I wasn’t. I still enjoy it. Now I found out that not only am I not in the minority in thinking that it’s good but it’s now being called a classic! I first found out when AMC started showing it in honor of this anniversary. (It is called Amercian Movie CLASSICS.) Then I found out (to late) that it was being shown in theaters for one day only.  Then an article Wired Magazine calls it a classic! So it isn’t just me! There’s even a 25th anniversary dvd release and a crappy direct to dvd sequel! Take that Tremors!

The Wired article  also made a point that had never occured to me. David Lightman is the first real geek hero. He was hacking into government computers while getting Ally Sheedy hot and bothered. So congratulations WarGames not only are you a classic but you are sort of the Rosa Parks of geeks.

Joss Whedon Has Ruined Vampires For Me

July 30, 2008 by

Entertainment Weekly ran a cover on the Twilight book series a few weeks ago. I can honestly admit that I had never heard of the books before I saw the cover and was a little shocked that poor, dead Cedric Diggory had been cast as the lead in the movie coming out in December.

While I thought the cover photo was one of the worst EW has come up with in awhile (second to the horrific Watchmen cover), I was mildly interested when the writer compared the novels to the Harry Potter series (for which I am a true geek). Since I’ve been looking for something fun to read, I figured I’d give it a go and see if it was worth the Potter comparisons.

While I still have a hundred pages to go in finishing this fast-reading but badly written book, I realized that Joss Whedon has totally ruined vampires for me. I know that there is a legion of crazy Twilight fans out there but after being immersed in the Whedonverse, every vampire-themed project seems lame in comparison.  It’s not just Twilight (which I will get back to in a moment). I tried watching the CBS show Moonlight and only lasted two minutes realizing that I liked this show better when it was called Angel.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer represents the ground zero of my geekiness and I can say for certain that I have geeked out over it more than anything else- more than Twin Peaks, more than Doctor Who, more than Harry Potter, more than Batman. Anyone who knows me can attest that I am ridiculously geeky about all of those things.

Honestly, I have to admit that I didn’t follow either Buffy or Angel until well into their runs. I had a brief, embarrassing Anne Rice phase in high school so by the time BtVS came on, I was sort of over the whole genre. Friends tried to convince me to watch and I heard TV critics rave about how clever and well-written the show was but it took me until the fifth season to start paying attention. I randomly tuned into the fifth season finale (The Gift) and was blown away. While still being vaguely confused about who the Billy Idol impersonator was and how the Taster’s Choice guy was involved in it all, I became immediately obsessed with the show.

I tried to catch repeats over the summer and lucked out when FX decided to run the whole series in the fall start to finish. Since FX ran two episodes a night, it was a crash course in all things Buffy and turned into a mad obsession. I would refuse to answer the phone when new episodes came on and would frantically rush onto the internet after the episodes were over to dissect them. Total geek behavior, I know.

Im the worse potential! No! Im the worse potential

"I'm the worst potential!" "No! I'm the worst potential"

While the later seasons had some serious flaws (the Potential Slayers being a very big one), a great episode of Buffy could left me thinking for days. Not only did the show have well-crafted, believable characters, but the writing combined elements of comedy, horror and drama in a way that was hilarious, scary and heartbreaking. Besides crafting a really entertaining show, Whedon also took the piss out of the vampire legend. Sure his vampires were mysterious and powerful but they could also be as downright ridiculous and petty as his human characters. Angel could never figure out how to work his voicemail and Spike had a passion, for well, Passions as evidenced in this quote:

Spike: “Passions is on! Timmy’s down the bloody well, and if you make me miss it I’ll —”
Giles: “Do what? Lick me to death?”

While Whedon’s vampires could be very dangerous characters, he never took them so seriously that he failed to have fun with them.  And I’ve found that it’s the self-seriousness that plagues most other vampire- themed projects that has completely ruined more traditional takes on the genre for me.

And here is where I come back to Twilight. Besides the fact that the book is just badly written, it’s so deadly serious. The fact that a vampire and a human are in love with each other is treated as the Most.Dramatic.Relationship.Ever. And the female character seems completely willing to throw her life away without even questioning what she would be giving up. Even relationship drama queens Buffy and Angel would tell these two to get a grip.

Plus the characters in Twilight don’t seem to have any fun or a functioning sense of humor. The two main characters (Edward and Bella) are constantly glowering and glaring at each other although they are supposedly in love. I can’t recall a funny moment in the entire book. Even Broody McBroodster (that would be Angel for those unaware) was funny on occasion.

I’m not sure if I’m going to bother finishing the book because honestly, it makes me want to smash my head against the wall. I guess I’ll just go watch some Buffy instead.

Update: Laura Miller at Salon just published an article yesterday that covers a lot of the same material. I thought this paragraph was spot-on:

Comparisons to another famous human girl with a vampire boyfriend are inevitable, but Bella Swan is no Buffy Summers. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” was at heart one of those mythic hero’s journeys so beloved by Joseph Campbell-quoting screenwriters, albeit transfigured into something sharp and funny by making the hero a contemporary teenage girl. Buffy wrestled with a series of romantic dilemmas — in particular a penchant for hunky vampires — but her story always belonged to her. Fulfilling her responsibilities as a slayer, loyalty to her friends and family, doing the right thing and cobbling together some semblance of a healthy life were all ultimately as important, if not more important, to her than getting the guy. If Harry Potter has a vampire-loving, adolescent female counterpart, it’s Buffy Summers.

Who Will Watch the Watchmen?

July 27, 2008 by

It’s Comic-Con time again and so thousands of people are flocking to San Diego to trade, buy, sell, and collect comics. Oh yeah and I think they do some movie stuff there too. Comic-Con is quickly becoming Hollywood’s newest whore. Now that the studios realize that not only will geeks flock to see a good comic movie, but that they will also pony up for the merchandise, Hollywood is doing it’s best to capitalize on geek dollars. This summer’s Iron Man movie may have been the most exciting event in some geeks’ lives since the invention of the Real Doll. Since Spider-man first hit multiplexes, movie after movie has involved spandex clad men (and occasionally women). Most of these movies have made an incredible amount of money and the biggest may be yet to come. Next year Watchmen will be released.

Watchmen is one of my, and most comic fans, favorite graphic novels of all time. It’s regarded as not only a great graphic novel but also a great work of literature. It’s one of those works of art that after which nothing is ever the same again. I first read Watchmen in high school on the advice of my local comic book dealer (who never steered me wrong). The size intimidated me at first but one I got going I couldn’t stop. I became a true believer in Alan Moore and walked around preaching the virtues of Watchmen to anyone who would listen. It was a book I couldn’t keep to myself and could completely be enjoyed by a non-comic reader. Yeah it’s about costumed heroes but it’s about so much more than that.

A movie version has been in the works for a long time but for one reason or another it never seemed to materialize. Everybody except Alan Moore seem to be excited about it. Each time I’d hear about a new script or a new director I would have such conflicted feelings. The book is so cinematic it practically cries out to be made into a movie but it’s so dense there’s no way all of the nuance could be squeezed into a two hour flick. And seriously what are the odds that Hollywood would make a movie version that would live up to my beloved book. At one point several years ago there was a ray of hope. Paul Greengrass was announced as the new director. I was already a fan of Bourne Supremacy and after seeing Bloody Sunday, I knew he could handle the material. Of course eventually the walls came crashing down when Paramount put the movie into turnaround amid budget concerns and studio politics.

Ozymandias is on the far right.

Now Zach Snyder is helming the film. After making a zillion dollars with his adaption of Frank Miller’s 300, the studio believes he could be the one to do it. Aside from the fervor the MPAA stirred up, I haven’t seen (or read) a lack of confidence on the part of fans. I was being cautiously optimistic. until I saw the cover of Entertainment Weekly which made me extremely depressed. I mean come on! They look ridiculous! Especially Ozymandias, who looks like some young asshole who needs a slap. The article inside restored a little confidence but what has really been making me think it might not suck is the trailer. The only part of it that I didn’t really agree with is where it called Zach Snyder a “visionary” director. I don’t think following source material necessarily makes you a visionary. The rest of it looked so good that even my girlfriend was finally interested in reading the book. I’ve been trying for seven years to do that! I watched it on my computer and thought it was ok but when I saw it on the big screen before The Dark Knight  I thought, “Wow, that might be good.” Ozymandias still looks dumb but the rest of them don’t look to silly once you see them in action. Could Watchmen be the great film it deserves to be? I hope so. Right now I feel the ambivalence of Dr. Manhattan, the pessimism of Rorschach, and the hope of Nite Owl.

Living the Dream: Librarians

July 23, 2008 by

 Today we present you the first in what we hope will be an ongoing series of articles about geek dream jobs and those who are living the dream. Today, M. Flynn reports on what it’s like to be a librarian.

 

“Really? You’re a librarian?”

I get that all the time, and I don’t know whether to they want me sign autographs, be offended or act relieved. I don’t often use the word “librarian” myself and usually opt for “I work in a library.”  That’s a much less loaded statement. It’s easier that way.

Still, the second it “clicks” and they realize I am indeed a foot soldier of the Dewey Decimal system, the confessions usually start. Some need to apologize for hating their high school librarians or for pocketing that picture or Shaun Cassidy ripped quietly from the library’s latest Tiger Beat during the summer of ‘78. Some embarrassedly admit they never would have made it through Chemistry or British Lit without the help of their local librarian, and a few whisper quietly with a solemn look as if sharing a great shame: “I always loved the library.” Of course they love the library. What’s not to love?

I’ve been an academic librarian worked in an academic library for nearly 9 years and there are definitely a few things to love about the place and the job:

1. It’s hard to look dumb in the library. Everywhere you go, you are surrounded by shelves of weighty tomes and tables littered with clicking laptops, scribbling researchers and serious, focused readers. If that doesn’t make everyone in the building look gifted, I don’t know what does.

2. You have some of the most interesting conversations. One person wanted information on buying mosquitos (You can. If you have the right cage, you can buy as many larvae and hatch to your hearts content.). Another was looking for a place to purchase the chemicals needed to create the smell of vitamins. (You can purchase the smell in 5 gallon increments.)  Another needed to get 7mg of dry adhesive into every 1.5 inch square on a ream of paper. (We figured it out, but I still get dizzy if I think about it too much.)

3. You overhear some of the most interesting conversations. Let’s face it, even the most furtive whispers echo reverberate on the quiet floors, so if you don’t want the world to know it is your “third speeding ticket in as many days and your father is going to kill you”, Don’t say it. Don’t even whisper it.  Let’s just say that there are many, many things, I wish I didn’t know and leave it at that.

4. You don’t have to spend a lot on your attire to outdo the stereotypes. Keeping up with the Joneses is hard. Keeping up with society’s perception of librarians is easy.

5. You’ll never be bored. In one day, you can read “Don’t’ Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” to a 5-year-old, research bus safety statistics at the Department of Transportation website, help a woman pick out a mystery to read on her next bus trip, and spend 20 minutes helping a man find a “bus port”—a task made immeasurable easier when you realize it isn’t a “bus port” he’s looking for, it’s a “USB port.”

6. You get paid to read, think and play. Sure you may have to read a few things you don’t like. For example, that book you had to read to support the Public Health class–Ebola, Culture and Politics: The Anthropology of an Emerging Disease—was a downer, especially the chapter on “Facing Death and Stigmatization,”but you learned some great statistics for the next cocktail party you attend.

 

Sure, setting up your first LAMP server to test some open source application can be daunting, and identifying scholarly research on the effects of steroids for the tenth time can be hard, but take heart: you’ll look good doing it your better-than-your-average-librarian clothes, surrounded by a century of wisdom in one of the smartest buildings in town. What’s not to love?

I’m a librarian…really.  

M. Flynn

There at the Beginning

July 21, 2008 by

Very rarely to do people get to meet their heroes. Nine times out of ten they are a sports star, famous musician, or other such celebrity whose world you don’t have access to. If you do meet them it’s usually a short “Nice to meet you. I’m a big fan.” sort or thing. Having a real conversation almost never happens. But sometimes, just sometimes it does…

In the fall of 1997 I was in my junior year of art school. I was enjoying the experience overall but it was rough going at times. You see, I wanted to draw comic books. That wasn’t what most people at school planned on doing when they got their BFA. There were only a small group of us in the illustration department who were interested in graphic novels (high brow code for comics). In my class I think it was two. My instruction in the ways of comics was pretty much non-existent. I was learning how to be an illustrator. How to make paintings for corporate or commercial clients and how to get them done on time. While this stuff was definitely helping me become a better artist it didn’t feel like I was any closer to drawing comics. Then towards the end of the semester we were told we could sign up for a spring internship. I read through the list and immediately saw the one I wanted: Dynamic Forces – producer of limited edition and collectors comics. I was floored. Finally something to do with comics. It even called them comics!

I applied for the position just before Christmas break. The entire time I was home I was calling the teacher in charge of interships to make sure everything is going according to plan. It had been a long time since I was that excited. I remember talking to my friend, Dave, saying that this is where it would all begin.

When it actually began it wasn’t exactly glamourous. The building was an old warehouse on a strip of highway that was mostly populated by strip clubs. Shower stages seemed to be the newest stripper technology. I didn’t care. I was working in the world of comics. My assignments were mostly clerical stuff but every now and then get a cool assignment like writing copy for ad time we had bought on the Howard Stern Show. The real payoff (and reason why my supervisor there thought I would benefit from the internship) was the signings. Artists would be flown in to sign copies of whatever comics they worked on. I would work at these signings by passing the comics from one artist to the next, bagging the books, opening new boxes, and essentially hanging out and chatting it up with actual comic pros. It was awesome! Quickly I met Al Williamson (who I later had lunch with at his Honesdale studio) and Clayburn Moore. I even got to keep the slightly damaged stuff. If something wasn’tcompletely perfect it couldn’t be sold and I would have the opportunity to get it for free (which is how I got my Willow figure and started collecting Buffy figures). But the best was yet to come. My hero Alex Ross was coming to sign copies of Earth X. I was and still am a huge Alex Ross fan. I thought Kingdom Come was not only brilliantly written but drop dead gorgeous. I didn’t normally read mainstream comics but for some reason (I think it was the advice of my local comic dealer) I picked this up. It was hard to put down. Instantly Ross became an inspiration. He painted heroes with beauty and a humanity that couldn’t be matched.

When the day came I was probably the most excited I had ever been. I stood there passing comics from one member of the Earth X crew to the next. Occasionally bringing out more boxes of unsigned comics. As the day wore on I got more brave and tried to talk to the guys and even be a part of their conversations, the best of which was one between Alex and Jim Krueger. I don’t remember exactly how it started but Alex was talking about characters he liked and the two were soon plotting out a mini-series about the original Human Torch. If I’m remembering correctly it involved vampires and possibly even Namor becoming a vampire. The Human Torch was to be the hero and would be assisted by a woman (I can’t remember if she was a girlfriend, or just a female Torch) named, Toro. I remember thinking how cheesy I though the name Toro sounded so like one of the guys I said, “Toro. Alex does that sound like a bull fighter or something.” He looked at me and I could see the lightbulb go off in his head. “We’ll make her hispanic,” he said excitedly. I almost shit. I just helped Alex Ross

L to R: Alex Ross, John Paul Leon, Bill Reinhold, Jim Krueger, and Me

with a character (sorta). The two got more and more involved plotting of the whole series. It was a thing of beauty to watch. Alex even sketched out a rough cover for an issue with a sharpie and had me run it up to someone in one of the offices (I thought about photo-coping it but for some reason didn’t. I think the copier was on the fritz).  Soon all the Earth X stuff was signed and Alex wasfinishing up signing a box of Batman comics. When he was all done he sat back in his chair and let out a sigh of relief. “If you could just sign one more, Alex.” I requested. “One more box!” “No, just one more comic.” I pulled out my copy of the first issue of Kingdom Come. Everyone let out a little laugh and he was more then gracious about signing it. Of course I brought my camera and Alex had the president of Dynamic Forces take a picture of me with the Earth X crew. It was a near perfect day.

About a year later Phil, and I went to the Warner Bros. Store in NYC to see Alex and Paul Dini who were signing copies of a Batman comic they did together. Original artwork would be on display and they would be signing comics. When I got up to Alex I introduced myself and he actually remembered me. I asked about the Human Torch series and he replied that Marvel didn’t go ahead with it. They didn’t think the original Torch could carry a whole series. Phil stood next to me awkwardly starring at Paul Dini and getting uncomfortable as the line began to back up. I said my goodbyes, made some comment that we would have to work together someday, and left. On the way home Phil said watching me talk to Alex was like watching Jason Lee and Stan Lee converse in Mallrats.

This story had become one of my favorites over the years and I always wondered if Alex would ever get to do the book he wanted. A few months ago I received this email from a friend:

Remember telling me about how you met Alex Ross & he and some colleagues were brainstorming a HUGE crossover event that involved Namor, the original Human Torch, and a Hispanic girlfriend for one of the characters named “Toro?” Well, I picked up a promotional brochure for the upcoming Avengers vs Invaders limited series (for which Ross is artistic director) yesterday and I thought of you. It will feature Namor (both the Golden Age version and the contemporary version) and the original Human Torch … AND a sidekick named “Toro.” Coincidence??

I couldn’t believe it. Was it true? After a quick search on the Marvel website I found this article, which had this quote from Jim Krueger:

“Nick [Barrucci, Publisher for Dynamite Entertainment and President of Dynamic Forces], Alex and I have been talking together for a long time—about a lot of stuff,” Krueger continues. “Anyhow, this was one of those things that just sort of organically began a number of years ago when Alex and I were signing copies of EARTH X at Dynamic Forces and talking about doing something with the [Human] Torch. Anyhow, a number of years later, Alex and I are working on Justice and we each got a call from [Nick]. [Dynamite] had just pitched an idea to Marvel of an Avengers/Invaders team-up with Alex and I attached. In my mind, I went back to the Torch and Alex’s and my love for not only that character, but the entire Invaders mythology. So, we all started talking to Marvel and the ball just kept rolling.”

It was really happening and I had been there when it started.