Isis has a new hiding spot

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Marquette Day 2017

Last evening was National Marquette Day and this year we were TV in the evening. We also celebrated at Pinballz Lake Creek which was my idea. The venue has a TV with cable, full bar and good food. I took care of the room and Annette handled the coordinating.

It went really well. Highest turnout I’ve seen in a while. I think having this take place in the evening helped. People have errands and chores during the day. It’s easier to plan things at night. Pinballz was a great choice in my opinion because the kids can play all the different games while we adults could watch the team.

The Marquette team really pulled through. They clobbered Xavier by 22 points and were ahead the entire match.

The festivities around the middle of the game.

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The Dark Crystal in 70mm

Another interesting choice for Alamo’s 70mm series. I haven’t seen The Dark Crystal in years. I want to say I may have via Somara’s DVD collection but I keep thinking back to my senior year of high school when it was on Showtime. All those times we kept imitating the Skeksis chancellor during gym class or singing “flicker ball” like the Mystics to tell gym teacher Mrs. Kuch what we wanted to do.

The print was rather worn, mostly reddish and brown. It was probably shot in 35mm and then blown up to 70 as per what we learned years ago when Alamo started this series.

Crystal‘s overall story remains as weak as I remembered in 1982, rushed, little time for character development. Maybe it would’ve worked better as a miniseries. The Muppets remain spectacular. You can see all the Brian Froud-inspired details in their skin and clothing, namely the Mystics, Skeksis, the witch and the little pod people. All the practical effects remain believable with one exception, the Gelflings who happened to be the heroes; their faces are stuck in this expressionless mode which makes Kristin Stewart look rubbery.

I’m glad we went though. Even a bad Jim Henson movie is better most of the junk Hollywood accountants promote as “family friendly.” This failure would lead to Henson and Froud trying again with the much stronger Labyrinth. Can’t remember what the hit movie of Xmas 1982 was neither, thankfully not the unfunny Modern Problems starring Chevy Chase.

Alamo Extras: The Muppet Show clips with Steve Martin, Don Knotts, Elton John, John Cleese and Bob Hope; Pigs in Space!; HUD ad with the Muppets promoting the FHA; the infamous Wilkins Coffee commercials with porto-Kermit; Trailers for Labyrinth, Goliath, The Never Princess, Sinbad and the Magic Ring; Clash of the Titans (the original), Tom Thumb, Puss in Boots with Christopher Walken! and Roger Corman’s version of The Raven starring Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre and Jack Nicholson.

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Peter Pan Minigolf

This ant has great tastes in shoes.

Somara and I have been trying to find new things to do besides going to the movies on our joint day off together. Hard to believe we’ve put off Austin’s famous mini-golf course for like a decade or more. Hell, Somara decorated a birthday cake with this as the theme.

After my first visit, I now know why few speak about it. Parking is a nightmare and they only take cash…it’s the 21st Century! Still, I wanted to get some practice in before our Las Vegas Kiss Course Invitational, thus I paid the extortion fee (ahem! ATM fee) to get us the money to play the easier 18 holes.

It was actually amusing. I liked all the sculptures but Peter Pan isn’t for those expecting super mechanical-driven thrills like the course you see on The Simpsons or Kiss in LV. Peter Pan is a pure challenge. Speaking of challenge, as always, Somara whipped me by seven strokes despite me being the only hole-in-one achiever.

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Trainspotting: 20 or so years later

With the upcoming sequel due in a few weeks, Alamo had a screening recently that I wanted to revisit as preparation plus I hadn’t remember watching Trainspotting in years. I did read the book after seeing it at the old Village Four twice. I also found my original review back when Picayune was a physical “magazine.”

Life is a series of choices says the narrator and anti-hero, Mark Renton. And so Renton and his friends have chosen heroin because they only see the futility of “life,” defined as a career with a soul-crushing job, consumerism and watching television. Despite that choice, Renton’s heroin addiction is a love-hate matter. He’s wants to break his addiction but lacks the motivation and ambition because he doesn’t know what he will do if he isn’t a junkie. So he’s constantly pulled back into addiction and the lifestyle that accompanies it; stealing to raise money, lying to everyone, living in squalor (they usually shoot up in Edinburgh’s equivalent of Cabrini Green), bad health, paranoia and AIDS. Heroin isn’t the only substance to get a bad reputation. His associate Begbie comments about how he wouldn’t put any filthy chemicals in his body as he downs his beer and takes a drag on a cigarette. Ironcially, he’s the most emotionally unstable of all the characters since he is constantly starting brawls. Trainspotting is worth every once of hype Miramax put into promoting it. All the fuss people made about it glorifying drug usage is obviously a criticism from people who didn’t watch it. Nothing good comes from heroin as the movie vividly demonstrates—two people die directly or indirectly from drug usage. A more observant person who will (see) how easily and quickly they would all betray each other for personal gain. I don’t want to go on and on saying this movie is absolutely perfect, it has its flaws. The thick Scottish accents and slang are a little intimidating in the first 10 minutes but that cannot be avoided. However, thick, regional accents are acceptable and mandatory when a film has a strong plot and characters accompanying them. Unlike Fargo leaning on its accents for 60 minutes due to the story evaporating. This movie is the true must-see of 1996.

Thankfully, Trainspotting has stood the test of time. The acting and storytelling remain excellent. There are obvious dated elements like the fashion, technology and maybe heroin. I’m 20 years older too so I have no idea which drugs are in vogue but I do remember smack made a huge comeback in the Nineties. The imagery Danny Boyle put into this dreary tale really captured the daily hopelessness, nihilism and despair these young people dealt with…even when some parts were exaggerations; Renton’s withdrawal and near overdose especially. I had forgotten how the second act was more upbeat, namely after Renton had been cleaned up by his parents and he tried to be an adult working in real estate during the London boom. It’s still funny at its key scenes as well, including the stomach-turning ones. This time I was able to avoid the dry heaves during the toilet incident.

Given Boyle’s track record via the movies he made afterwards (Sunshine, 28 Days Later), I honestly think T2 has a decent chance at being a plausibly enjoyable follow up on what has happened to Renton, Begbie, Sick Boy and Spud 20 years later. For me, the main question will be if Begbie and/or Sick Boy try to kill Renton for taking off with the £16,000 at the end of this movie.

Alamo Extras: Thomas the Tank Engine set to music; Music video for UK beer brand; Pee Wee Herman doing a PSA against crack; News story about a pub in Aberdeen, Scotland run by the rudest man alive; UK song about beer; More PSAs against drugs; Dragnet scene of Jack Friday warning about the slippery slope of pot (hilarious since the actor Jack Webb was a drunk); PSA against needle sharing; and Iggy Pop on a TV show lip syncing to “Lust For Life.”

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Rest in Peace: Loren Wiseman

Loren was a co-worker during my brief time at GDW and before I joined the game publisher, I only had a passing recollection of his name via the numerous products I had purchased (Traveller and 2300 AD). After I moved back to Central Illinois, I became more familiar with him as an editor, developer and designer. Overall, Loren was like an odd uncle. When I mean odd, it was more along the lines of unusual. He didn’t drive. His tastes in music were out of step for his generation (in my opinion). Modern humor seem to evade him; I’d think he probably loved The Onion, good satire transcends generations. Yet Loren was genuine in his ways, not a pretentious jerk trying to be different. I think he just belonged in the earlier decades of America.

As for GDW stuff. I learned a handful of things from him. Namely what the earlier years of the industry were like. I loved his D&D stories and how he saw Star Wars multiple times as research for Traveller. Loren taught me a couple gaming cheats too, namely mapmaking and how to mine history for cool names and campaign ideas. Lastly, he once made an interesting argument against D&D’s character levels I’ve continued to contemplate. He said, “Levels solve a problem that doesn’t exist.” To this day, I would only agree with him when it comes to superhero games, maybe horror but the WOTC staffers found a way to make it work credibly through d20.

After GDW ended badly for me, I do recall Loren bore me no ill will personally and I did feel the same. I think I saw him a couple more times until I left for good to the warmer climate and prospects in Austin. He allegedly moved here in 1997 or 1998 to work on Steve Jackson Games’ GURPS Traveller. We had a one-day reunion in the Fall of 1998 to catch up and he needed a ride to buy some necessities. I feel pretty awful that I never really stayed in touch. Austin was probably pretty alien to Loren for a while and I think he wasn’t really comfortable with his feelings to say he was lonely. Just my personal theory. Sadly, I was still annoyed over the recent past involving GDW and I was pre-occupied getting my life together for what would become Austin Volume Two.

I truly hope he managed to make Austin his home and find happiness like I did.

Thanks for being that uncle Loren along with your contributions to RPGs.

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Miguel the Cat update 3

Miguel got a booster shot this week to help with his health and immune system. He’s also been showing up more on the porch. I’m not sure if it’s hunger or the cold weather yet. Still trying to get him conditioned to come by to eat every day. Miguel has gained a little weight, he isn’t so boney in the hindquarters which is a good sign. The one thing he does that breaks my heart is look up at me with his sad eyes and tries to go into our house where it’s warmer. Just can’t since he’s contagious, plus he’d probably have a fight with alpha cat Kuroneko.

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Lego Batman: Must See

The breakout character from the hit Lego Movie stars in what will have to be the sequel until there is a second Lego Movie. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s completely the opposite, totally awesome. We get to see the Will Arnett version in his element! A welcome relief after the turgid Batman v. Superman and numerous Frank Miller-influenced versions we’ve endured for 27 years. We get to enjoy Batman fighting a Lego version of the Dark Knight’s Rogues Gallery (mostly voiced by comedians, Bane was my personal favorite) while singing another hilarious song. There’s more to it than goofiness as the trailer shows; Bruce/Bats has to come to grips with his loneliness and his accidental adoption of Dick Grayson, a very energetic Michael Cera. Meanwhile, the new commissioner, Barbara Gordon, wants to rein Batman in by having him cooperate with the  police because she quickly shows the public that the crime rate has remained the same despite Batman’s actions. Adding fuel to the fire of problems is the Joker…his feelings are hurt by Batman saying they aren’t nemeses.

Anything further would ruin the fun. If you loved the irreverence of The Lego Movie, you’ll enjoy Batman even more. The writers kept his master builder skills but they only happen at key moments. There’s numerous cameos too, including the return of Channing Tatum’s Superman and Jonah Hill’s Green Lantern. Lastly, the funniest bits were references to all the Batman movies made since 1966 and there were a couple outside the trailer you may have seen when Alfred listed them.

Kids will love it for it’s Batman and/or Lego. Adults will laugh at the few jokes which go over the kids’ heads.

The master builders of Texas made a Lego Alamo for the event.

Alamo Extras: Lego Hulk movies by Michael Hickox; a Zellers commercial with Batman & Robin; Lego Star Wars Olympics; an old Lego 8-bit thing; Mego Batman toy commercials; a weird Filipino music video with Batman and foes; a Japanese abdominal cruncher device ad; Bat TV channel surfing; Batman v. the Joker with the score ending with Batman winning 14-0; Profiles in Villains (this I won’t disclose due to these characters being in the movie as a surprise); a parallel history of Batman and Lego evolving through the decades; lastly, a darling little pug dog singing “Batman!”

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A belated tribute to Abraham Lincoln’s birthday

Given the recent rise in the American Nazi Party (there is no “alt-right”) and their allies, the Klan. I felt it was only appropriate to honor the man who helped hold the country together by showing how I really feel about the flag of traitors, bigots and murderers. I also take issue with today’s Republicans trying to capitalize on Abe; they tend to be the ones defending the Confederacy these days and most of their voters are the Deep South now.

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RIP: Al Jarreau

We heard the sad news as we pulled into our driveway yesterday. It made me regret never getting around to seeing Al perform too. He was quite a fixture of Milwaukee pride around Summerfest and the city’s somewhat conservative Jazz cliques.

Like most people, I never heard of him until his mainstream Pop hit, “We’re In This Love Together” around 1981. It would take me another decade to gain a greater appreciation of his music though. WBZN lives!

One really cool thing I always loved about Al was his good nature on SCTV. Unlike SNL, the more daring Canadian show would integrate the musical guest into a couple skits. For him, he played the reluctant son in their parody of The Jazz Singer. Their twist, Al didn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps (a Pop star), he wanted to be a cantor.

Thanks for all the great music and smiles Al! I hope Milwaukee builds a statue to you and your generosity.

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