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March 31, 2013

A taste of things to come

Or something claiming to be Godzilla, anyway.

By fnord12 | March 31, 2013, 9:28 PM | Comics & Godzilla | Comments (4) | Link



March 29, 2013

Something really is killing the bees

It's not Google Reader. But it is happening. We've seen these stories for several years now, and it doesn't seem like there's been any progress, and it seems to be getting worse.

I guess i shouldn't say there isn't any progress. The consensus seems to be that herbicides and pesticides, especially neonicotinoids, are the cause. But there is mighty pushback from the pesticide industry. This is to be expected, but we really ought to have a regulatory body strong enough to push the other way.


By fnord12 | March 29, 2013, 12:58 PM | Science | Comments (0) | Link



What was up with the Mutant Massacre?

It won't be too long before i wrap up my current backissue add and get to 1986 (yeah, right, keep telling yourself that, fnord. You're only on 1973...) and with that will come the Mutant Massacre. But the impetus for the Massacre wasn't explained at the time, and the subsequent details have been... disappointing. So Nathan Adler at Fanfix puts his mind towards finding a better idea that also ties up a few additional loose ends.

Be sure to stick around for the postscript, which gets into Apocalypse and the Celestials.

Oh, and guess who helped Nathan out with the screenshots? (No wonder i'm still on 1973!)(Ok, it's not really Nathan's fault. Put away your pitchforks. Or direct them at whoever sends me to this office 5 days a week.)


By fnord12 | March 29, 2013, 12:08 PM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link



March 28, 2013

First they came for the grease trucks...

Yglesias covers this topic often and surely it's not at the top of anyone's list of problems, but i do recognize it as something that can happen. Where min and i went to college, there used to be food trucks that could actually drive around the campus. By the time we got there they were restricted to a single parking lot, which defeated the purpose, and then the trucks all got bought by a single vendor and later there was just a single "truck" which was really more of a permanent structure. And i'm not even sure if that exists anymore. I always thought it was mainly a traffic concern. But Yglesias suggests, and has talked about in more detail in the past, that the reason you have these laws restricting the movement of food trucks is because the brick & mortar restaurants are lobbying for it because the trucks are a threat to them.

Depending on how you frame it, it's either a conservative anti-regulation argument or a "more democracy in local government" argument (especially in a college town where the customers aren't voters).


By fnord12 | March 28, 2013, 1:58 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



My brain improves things

Second half of the first verse from Dodo by Genesis.

Darth Vader
Agitator
Keeps asking questions, says he wants to know why

I'm apparently not alone.

It's a pretty awesome live video i've linked to (good quality audio and video, nice focus on the musicians playing their instruments in a way that you can actually see, and Phil Collins gets crazy at the end), but unfortunately they do a close up on Collins' face when he says my mondegreen, so it's more difficult to hear it the "improved" way.


By fnord12 | March 28, 2013, 9:54 AM | Music & Star Wars | Comments (0) | Link



March 27, 2013

I Think Creationists Lack a Basic Understanding of the Definition of Science

In that, simply "because it's in the Bible" does not qualify something as scientific or factual. Link

A California creationist is offering a $10,000 challenge to anyone who can prove in front of a judge that science contradicts the literal interpretation of the book of Genesis.

Dr Joseph Mastropaolo, who says he has set up the contest, the Literal Genesis Trial, in the hope of improving the quality of arguments between creationists and evolutionists, has pledged to put $10,000 of his own money into an escrow account before the debate. His competitor would be expected to do the same. The winner would take the $20,000 balance.

...

Mastropaolo plans to have a bailiff and court reporter in attendance, along with the judge. Contest rules state that evidence must be scientific, which means it is "objective, valid, reliable and calibrated".

I think he pretty much loses the argument there. Pretty sure there's no way a literal translation of Genesis is going to be in any of those things.

Mastropaolo believes that evolution cannot be proved scientifically. "It turns out that there is nothing in the universe [that] is evolving, everything is devolving, everything is going in the opposite direction," he said.

Yep. We're devolving. By next year, we'll all be pudding. And not one of those good flavors like chocolate or vanilla. No, sir. We're devolving into butterscotch pudding. *shudder*

While i'm curious to see which superior court judge has so much time on their hands that they're willing to take on the job of judging this...contest(?), i really hope there isn't a scientist out there who will validate this crazy guy by engaging with him.


By min | March 27, 2013, 9:11 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



Apparently the line-item veto has been here all along

I know that the Justice Department has the discretion to decide which laws they want to prioritize the enforcement of, but that's a far cry from a President just deciding by himself that a law is unconstitutional and choosing not to enforce it.

TPM:

Chief Justice John Roberts took a swipe at President Obama during oral arguments Wednesday, arguing that the president should stop executing the parts of the Defense of Marriage Act he deems unconstitutional rather than relying on the courts to pave the way.

"If he has made a determination that executing the law by enforcing the terms is unconstitutional, I don't see why he doesn't have the courage of his convictions," Roberts said of Obama, "and execute not only the statute, but do it consistent with his view of the Constitution, rather than saying, oh, we'll wait till the Supreme Court tells us we have no choice."

And here's Scalia:

Which is the equivalent of the government saying, yeah, [a law is] unconstitutional but I'm going to enforce it anyway... I'm wondering if we're living in this new world where the Attorney General can simply decide, yeah, it's unconstitutional, but it's not so unconstitutional that I'm not willing to enforce it. If we're in this new world, I don't want these cases like this to come before this Court all the time.

Technically the President has to follow the law. It's literally the Supreme Court's job to decide what's constitutional.

It's true that another approach to this would be to have Congress repeal DOMA, but that's not what the Justices are saying here, and of course we all know Congress wouldn't have done that anyway, and i like it better this way since the Supreme Court can now set the precedent that discriminating based on sexual orientation is unconstitutional.


By fnord12 | March 27, 2013, 3:41 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (2) | Link



SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

All-New X-Men #9 - Remember when Jean Grey used her telekinesis to pick up a bus and threw it at a sentinel? According to Kitty Pryde, that was only "decent" for someone who, in the old Uncanny issues, could barely lift a person for more than a few seconds. I also wish Young Scott wasn't acting quite so belligerent, or that Kitty would be a little more explanatory. "You won't talk to me about Mystique? Why not? Just so you know, she's a shape-shifting villain that has tried to kill the X-Men on multiple occasions, as well as assassinate public figures. Are you sure you don't want to tell me about her?" I did enjoy the raid on SHIELD, but that's why i was disappointed to see Old Scott show up at the end. Focus on one plot at a time, Bendis, and you might actually get to finish a storyline before the year is up.

X-Factor #253 - I've gone from my usually zenlike lack of interest in this book to active impatience for this storyline to wrap up. Especially disappointed by Satana's generic personality after liking so much the way she was handled recently in Thunderbolts.

Daredevil #24 - Even in disease-drama mode, this continues to be a really great book, and not just because of all the mocking of Hank Pym. Actually Waid handles Pym, and all the characters, really well.

Indestructible Hulk #5 Ditto. More and more i'm wondering why i skipped Waid's FF. Mark Waid clearly writes the type of stories i enjoy. Samnee's clean but very dense (in panels-per-page) style is very different than Yu's, but Waid works well with both.

Captain Marvel #11 - Well, last issue i liked seeing the classic Deathbird, but now i feel like i'm being mocked since she was apparently so retro and stupid that it was an obvious fake. Having avoided the majority of post-Claremont X-Men was probably a factor here. Otherwise, if we get past the "de-powering your powerful female superhero" problem, i'm enjoying the dialogue and the very stylized art that still shows a lot of detail and action. Not looking forward to a crossover with Avengers Assemble, though.


By fnord12 | March 27, 2013, 11:33 AM | Comics | Comments (3) | Link



ogooglebar

That is all.


By fnord12 | March 27, 2013, 10:30 AM | Good Words | Comments (1) | Link



March 26, 2013

Beeeee careful

Taking away Google Reader is killing the bees!

Reader's users, while again, relatively small in number, are hugely influential in the spread of news around the web. In a sense, Reader is the flower that allows the news bees to pollinate the social web. You know all those links you click on and re-share on Twitter and Facebook? They have to first be found somewhere, by someone. And I'd guess a lot of that discovery happens by news junkies using Reader.

By killing the flower, Google could also kill the bees. That would be bad for all of us, even if we no longer use Reader or have any clue what RSS is.


By fnord12 | March 26, 2013, 4:27 PM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (0) | Link



If you're worried about any other kind of apocalypse, i've got nothing

Just a quickly* since i don't have any fully formed thoughts of my own on this, but Kevin Drum has an interesting post on how China and Russia have been passing up opportunities to expand their spheres of control. The article Drum is working off of is behind a paywall, so there isn't a lot to go on, but if you've been worried about an eventual apocalyptic show-down between the US and China, maybe this will relax you.

*it's like a quickie, but more formal.


By fnord12 | March 26, 2013, 1:27 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



March 25, 2013

At the risk of getting all New World Order on you

From Jay Ackroyd posting at Atrios:

The Trans-Pacific Partnership isn't getting enough attention (by design, it seems.) The idea is that a supranational body would be empowered to override national regulations if a country had a regulatory regime in, say environmental policy or copyright policy, that was more restrictive than other countries, it would be forced to bring its regime in line with the others.

After noting that the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Sierra Club (PDF) are against the treaty, Ackroyd continues:

The broader idea is the elimination of national regulatory authority over production and distribution of manufactured goods, natural resources and "intellectual property." To be clear, this is not an instance of "free trade." The elimination of the public domain under copyright law is a restriction on trade. A bad one.

This is just a continuation of NAFTA and the WTO. And the issue here isn't (just) that corporations are conspiring to bring all countries' regulation to the lowest common denominator. It's that we have a global economy but not a functional global government. Global corporations are right to want consistent regulations in the various countries in which they do business. But the solution is to have a stronger global government that can implement regulations that take into account the interests of all the people, not just the business people.


By fnord12 | March 25, 2013, 3:10 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



March 24, 2013

Vegan Omelette

I think this recipe was originally from Post Punk Kitchen, but at this point, i'm not 100% sure of its provenance. The recipe now has my own mods and notes incorporated into the original based on lessons learned from a few failed tries.

vegan omelette

Today's filling consists of ham, mushrooms, and red bell peppers

Ingredients

  • 1 pkg water-packed silken tofu, drained
  • 1/2 c chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 T nutritional yeast
  • 1 T cornstarch
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 tsp black salt
  • 1/2 tsp regular salt
  • 1/2 tsp tumeric
  • 1 cup vegan cheese (we like Daiya shreds)
  • Filling options:
    2/3 cup total of any diced vegetable/vegan meat combo of choice - e.g., mushrooms, spinach, peppers, bacon, ham, etc.
    2/3 cup total of any vegan meat of choice, diced, to incorporate into the batter

    Yield: two 10" omelettes or four 5" omelettes

Throw everything into a food processor and blend it until it's well combined. It will be the consistency of pudding. If your stupid store was all out of silken and only had soft tofu, just add about 1/3 cup of water to get it to the right consistency. You'll end up with a little more than 2 cups of batter. Incorporate the 2/3 cup diced meat of choice into the batter.

And, let me just warn you right now - once that black salt hits liquid, it is going to stink like something special. You need it because it gives the omelette that sulfurous egg flavor. Trust me, it's necessary. I would not subject myself to the smell of bad eggs for nothing. I've gotten used to it by now, but we used to have to open the window whenever we made this.

A well-seasoned cast iron pan is my implement of choice, but any heavy-bottomed, non-stick pan will do. Lightly sauté the diced vegetables until just cooked, sprinkling with a bit of salt. Set aside in a bowl.

Coat the pan very lightly with oil. Too much and your omelette will not fry and brown properly. Set your burner on medium intensity. Add the appropriate fraction of the batter based on how many omelettes you intend to make. Spread the batter into a circle being careful not to spread it thinner than ~1/8" else you'll end up with scramble instead of an omelette. And leave room at the edges of the pan for your spatula to get under.

Now is the hard part. Don't touch it! It's going to cook for about 5 minutes and if you mess with it, you'll again end up with scramble. Leave it alone until you see the top start to dry out. At this point, you may test it's doneness by carefully running your spatula under the edges. If you can easily separate the omelette from the pan, it's ready to flip. If not, then let it cook another minute and try again.

The omelette is super delicate, so the flip needs to be quick and confident. And preferably attempted with a rather large spatula. If you hesitate, guess what? Scramble (do you notice a recurring theme?). If you fail, it'll still be delicious. It just won't be pretty.

Once you've successfully (or not) flipped it over, sprinkle the corresponding fraction of cheese over the whole thing and the filling only over half. Let it cook for another 3-5 minutes, again testing for doneness by seeing if it'll easily come off the pan. Fold the non-fillinged side over the fillinged side.

Technically, at this point, we could call it done (unless your cheese was frozen to begin with and then what you have is sad, unmelted cheese). But, i like finishing the omelettes with a 10 min (or so) stay in a 200degF oven, and i'll tell you why.

  1. I've only got 1 pan so i can only make 1 omelette at a time. Putting the already made omelette(s) in the oven while i'm cooking the rest keeps it (them) warm.
  2. It guarantees the cheese will be nice and melty, even if it started off frozen.

So, go boil some water for tea or make toast or cut up some fruit or something while the omelettes are in the oven.

We eat ours with a side of salsa, but you can do your own weird thing.


By min | March 24, 2013, 6:36 PM | Vegan Vittles | Comments (0) | Link



Samuel Delany & Wonder Woman

Just wanted to put up these quotes from Silent Interviews after a recent conversation. For those who don't know, Samuel Delany is a really good science fiction novelist; one of my favorites.

Gary Groth: I read that you had scripted Wonder Woman. I wasn't aware of that. How did that come about?

SRD: For two issues, I think. This was back when National was at the end of its "relevant" phase. They'd been trying to do the relevant bit with a number of standard titles: Green Lantern (with Green Arrow) was, of course, the great success. But now they were trying the same thing with Wonder Woman. Only it wasn't working. Mainly that was because the people they had writing it just didn't have much of a feel for the women's movement. Short of getting a woman writer for the series (Don't ask me why they didn't put some energy in that direction!), nobody could come up with anything. So at one point I said to Denny [O'Neil]: "I think I have more of a sense of this thing. Why don't you let me do a couple? So i did. A couple.

GG: This was while Denny was editing it?

SRD: Yes. From those two issues there was actually some very nice feedback. But then there was a big change. National decided to put Wonder Woman back into her American flag falsies and bring back the bullets and bracelets bit. For the previous ten years, basically she'd been wearing a gi and was a super karate expert. It was a lot more realistic and a lot more amenable to stories with social bite.

But there was this nostalgia surge to take her back to her fifties incarnation. DC used a chance comment Gloria Steinem dropped while being shown through National offices to throw out all of Wonder Woman's concerns for women's real, social problems. Instead of a believable woman, working with other women, fighting corrupt department store moguls and crusading for food cooperatives against supermarket monopolies - as she'd been doing in my scripts - she got back all her super powers... and went off to battle the Green Meanies from Mars who were Threatening the Earth's Very Survival...

I wasn't interested in that. So I pulled out.

Personally, i have no problem with Wonder Woman having super-powers and fighting aliens. I think a karate expert fighting a corrupt department store mogul could be good; i'm just not sure it's a Wonder Woman story.

Later, on a different topic.

You know, it's funny about overwriting in comics.

Any time I've done work in this medium, even back when I was with Denny, everyone would warn me: "Don't overwrite! Don't overwrite!" So I'd spend my time on the synopsis. And I was always very lucky with my artists: Dick Giordano, for example, back when we were doing Wonder Woman, with incredible clarity and economy, always gave me everything I wanted. And my synopses tended to be three times as long as anybody else's. That wasn't more action, either. It was a case of specifying more things panel by panel I wanted shown.

But as soon as I'd hand in my correspondingly thin script (because if it's all shown, you don't have to write it), Denny would say: "Where're the words?" and add two sentences here and three there. [Laughter.] The only thing any comics editor I've ever worked for has ever done to any of my texts, from Byron [Preiss, editor of the Delany/Chaykin graphic novel Empire] to Denny to Archie Goodwin, is add words to the text - and usually words that flat-out contradicted or obscured something perfectly clear from the pictures.

At first I thought it was just me, as a novice comic writer, who was getting this treatment. Then I saw it happening to other writers. There's this very ambivalent feeling in the field about which is privileged, the text or the pictures. Hitchcock at one point said he originally tried to conceive of every one of his films as a silent movie. Only after that did he add dialogue. Yet can you really imagine nine out of ten Hitchcock movies without their soundtrack?

They've apparently reprinted Wonder Woman's relevant period in trade form, so we may be taking a look at this stuff eventually.


By fnord12 | March 24, 2013, 2:14 PM | Boooooks & Comics | Comments (1) | Link



March 23, 2013

That's 20%, Half Over Again 10%

Not only are you getting more dish soap, you're also getting a lesson in percentages!

However, it's 25% less than the competitor's 26.66666666667 oz bottle.


h/t to Bob for making this all possible.

By min | March 23, 2013, 8:00 PM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (0) | Link



March 22, 2013

It's been a long week, and you deserve a picture of Godzilla fighting a radioactive mutant flower

Or, 'looking into the mouth of a radioactive mutant flower', anyway.

By fnord12 | March 22, 2013, 2:18 PM | Godzilla | Comments (0) | Link



Your choices are increase social security benefits, or Logan's Run.

Ted Siedle at Forbes:

We are on the precipice of the greatest retirement crisis in the history of the world. In the decades to come, we will witness millions of elderly Americans, the Baby Boomers and others, slipping into poverty. Too frail to work, too poor to retire will become the "new normal" for many elderly Americans.

Calling 401k plans a "disaster", Siedle notes that the average 401k has about $25,000 in it, and regarding those few people who still have pensions, "Whether you know it or not, someone is busy trying to figure how to screw you out of" it.

Another thing to consider, only briefly touched upon in the article, is that due to this crisis, people aren't retiring, and that means less opportunities for the next generation A few years back the big crisis in the HR world was aging baby boomers nearing retirement age and how that was going to require a massive recruiting effort, which would necessitate accommodating Gen Y-ers in a big way, leading to a lot of articles like this. The positive spin on this (and you could even form a conspiracy theory if you wanted to) is that companies will have more time to deal with those issues. But of course that means more out-of-work young people during their formative years where job experience is tremendously important.

This is why Atrios is always, correctly, pushing the "We need to increase, not cut, social security benefits" angle. And if "because we don't want old people to starve to death" is too moralistic a motivation for you, there's also the societal cost to all of this. Eliminating the income cap on SS payments and even increasing the overall tax is a lot less costly than dealing with millions of elderly people struggling in poverty.

And looking at that second Atrios post i re-linked to... from the Forbes article:

Let me emphasize that we're talking about the overwhelming majority, not a small percentage who arguably made bad decisions throughout their working lives.

And just to keep this post going in as many directions as possible, here's why we'll never actually address this issue.


By fnord12 | March 22, 2013, 12:17 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



Her life with the Thrill Kill Kult

I've been searching on and off for the origin of certain samples for years with no luck, but today after a semi-success in finding the origins of the samples in Propellerhead's Velvet Pants (it's from a documentary made in 1969 called Groupies and it's on YouTube but i can't find the actual clip and i sure ain't watching the whole thing) i went for an encore and this time actually found something. I'm talking about samples from an interview that were used in several My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult songs, most prominently A Daisy Chain 4 Satan, and also in Meat Beat Manifesto's Acid Again.

And, here's the scoop. It's actually a pretty terrible story and i'm glad to learn that the lady turned out ok in the end. More here.


By fnord12 | March 22, 2013, 10:31 AM | Music | Comments (0) | Link



March 21, 2013

Barrett Brown Defense Fund

Glenn Greenwald has a post today about prosecutorial abuse in the case of journalist Barrett Brown who was investigating the unfair treatment of whistleblowers (like Bradley Manning) and campaigning for internet freedom.

The issues Brown was investigating are complex and serious, and I won't detail all of that here. In addition to Gallagher's article, two superb and detailed accounts of Brown's journalism in these areas have been published by Christian Stork of WhoWhatWhy and Vice's Patrick McGuire; read those to see how threatening Brown's work had become to lots of well-connected people. Suffice to say, Brown, using the documents obtained by Anonymous, was digging around - with increasing efficacy - in places which National Security and Surveillance State agencies devote considerable energy to concealing.

For those of you familiar with Aaron Swartz's experience with prosecutorial abuse before his suicide, this story about Brown won't come as a shock. And here's a link to his defense fund.

Fnord12 was concerned at first that after donating, the jackbooted thugs would come crashing through our door, but he realized how silly that was. They can just drop a bomb from a drone.


By min | March 21, 2013, 3:10 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



I'm Fairly Certain I was Fed Well My First Year

Link

Malnutrition in the first year life, even when followed by a good diet and restored physical health, predisposes people to a troubled personality at age 40, new research suggests.
...
Compared with peers who were well-fed throughout their lives, formerly malnourished men and women reported markedly more anxiety, vulnerability to stress, hostility, mistrust of others, anger and depression, Galler's team reports March 12 in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. Survivors of early malnutrition also cited relatively little intellectual curiosity, social warmth, cooperativeness and willingness to try new experiences and to work hard at achieving goals.

And yet, this is practically a description of me! Well, except for the social warmth bit. Everyone i know could tell you how socially warm i am. I do so love people.


By min | March 21, 2013, 3:05 PM | Science | Comments (0) | Link



Filibuster reform success stories

I've already mentioned two cases of how well Harry Reid's "gentleman's agreement" of a filibuster reform has already proven itself a spectacular failure, but TPM has some more:

Here, for instance, is our most recent story about must-pass legislation to avoid a government shutdown. Long story short, some Republicans weren't allowed votes on their amendments. Then instead of accepting the fact that the bill has supermajority support, they wasted three legislative days out of protest. That's three days the Senate wasn't debating the Dem budget Republicans have been salivating over for four years.

But the filibuster reform flop is also partially to blame for the early demise of Dianne Feinstein's assault weapons ban.

...
Now it's hard to escape the conclusion that Reid is hiding behind this filibuster, or at least isn't terribly distraught about it... But yet a third supposed goal of rules reform was greater transparency -- preventing senators from using parliamentary procedure to hide power moves from public scrutiny. And it's not working very well in that regard either.

By fnord12 | March 21, 2013, 9:56 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



March 20, 2013

"People take their bingo very seriously."

And they say local news is dead:

"Just like you can't run into a theater and yell 'fire' when it's not on fire, you can't run into a crowded bingo hall and yell 'bingo' when there isn't one," said Park Hills Police Sgt. Richard Webster, the officer who cited Whaley.

On Feb. 9, Webster was working an off-duty security detail at a Covington bingo hall on West Pike Street when Whaley entered the hall with several other youths and yelled "bingo," Webster said.

"This caused the hall to quit operating since they thought someone had won," Webster wrote on his citation. "This delayed the game by several minutes and caused alarm to patrons."

Webster said the crowd of mostly elderly women did not take kindly to Whaley's bingo call.


By fnord12 | March 20, 2013, 2:03 PM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (0) | Link



Heck, you'd think even "high-income individuals" would like to take vacations

Ygleasias looks at David Brooks trying to criticize the CPC's budget and failing.

The biggest problem the liberal faction of the Democratic Party generally has is getting heard at all, so I'm really glad that David Brooks dedicated a column to explaining his problems with the Congressional Progressive Caucus budget that was released last Thursday. In a way, I think Brooks' complaints make the case for the CPC budget more strongly than any of the praise I've read.
...
Long story short, I would say the CPC budget has the following main advantages over the Ryan budget:

  • More food and medical care for poor children.
  • Less air pollution and a meaningful chance to avert the worst consequences of climate change.
  • Lower taxes on middle-class and working-poor families.
  • Medicare reform focused on reducing the unit price of health care services rather than increasing it.
  • More funding for transportation infrastructure and basic research.

Brooks says the Ryan budget has the following main advantages over the CPC budget:

  • High-income individuals will be less inclined to take vacations or retire and more inclined to work long hours.

By fnord12 | March 20, 2013, 9:53 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



March 19, 2013

Marvel Sales

February.

A few call outs:

23. SAVAGE WOLVERINE
01/13 Savage Wolverine #1 - 102,530
02/13 Savage Wolverine #2 - 58,254 (-43.2%)

This seems to be the usual order of second issue drop for the major Marvel Now titles.

...

46. YOUNG AVENGERS
01/13 Young Avengers v2 #1 - 71,254
02/13 Young Avengers v2 #2 - 43,559 (-38.9%)

Pretty standard Marvel Now second-issue drop.

Good god. I know it's first issue collectors and variant cover stuff, but those are pretty devastating "standard" drops.

Some titles are leveling out after that. But not Gillen/Land Iron Man:

11/12 Iron Man v6 #1 - 116,529 (+215.1%)
11/12 Iron Man v6 #2 - 72,902 ( -37.4%)
12/12 Iron Man v6 #3 - 59,041 ( -19.0%)
12/12 Iron Man v6 #4 - 56,708 ( -4.0%)
01/13 Iron Man v6 #5 - 50,899 ( -10.2%)
02/13 Iron Man v6 #6 - 46,206 ( -9.2%)

I'll also note that Avengers Arena is currently coming in around #65 on the chart and dropping 10% a month. So much for shock value.


By fnord12 | March 19, 2013, 3:38 PM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link



Magicsticks Battery Chargers

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy and dealing with the "horror" of running out of charge on our cell phones, i thought these Magicsticks by Powerrocks were pretty kewl. I can definitely think of one or two people i could gift these to.

To avoid certain doom, we travel with a couple of battery chargers; these brightly-colored "Magicsticks" which are small enough to be mistaken for a lipstick.

They charge quickly, are small and easy to pack, and are powerful enough to power most phones to full capacity. Made by "Powerrocks," the L 2600mAh portable battery works with any device that uses the universal micro USB charging port -which pretty much includes any device you own.


By min | March 19, 2013, 2:08 PM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (2) | Link



Everything is Flowers for Algernon to Me

They're implanting mouse brains with human cells, and it's making them smarter...for now.

Link

In the new study, researchers led by neurologist and stem cell biologist Steven Goldman and neurobiologist Maiken Nedergaard of the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York implanted human cells called glial progenitor cells into the brains of newborn mice.
...
Previously, the researchers had transplanted human glial progenitor cells into the brains of mice that had a genetic disorder mimicking multiple sclerosis. The glial progenitor cells healed the mice, allowing them to live a normal life span. That result held promise that such cell transplants might help people with neurological disorders.

The researchers also noticed something curious in the brains of mice that had received human cell transplants. "The shocker was that all the glial progenitors were human and had completely taken over the mouse progenitors," Goldman says.

...

The researchers also put mice through a battery of tests, probing the animals' ability to learn mazes, distinguish new objects from old ones, and learn that a certain sound portends a mild electric shock. It took normal mice and mice with mouse cell transplants several tries to pick up on the association between the sound and the shock. Mice with human astrocytes "pretty much picked up the association immediately and got more fearful," Goldman says.

I think it says something not very nice about scientists when their measure of how a mouse's intelligence has increased is how quickly they learn to be afraid.


By min | March 19, 2013, 1:48 PM | Science | Comments (0) | Link



3-D Printed Replacement Skull

Time for some link blogging. If you thought the concept of 3-D printers was kewl before when people were using it to print out parts they needed for home repairs and the like, this is going to impress you even more.

Link

Surgeons have replaced 75 percent of a man's skull with a custom-designed polymer cranium constructed with a 3-D printer. The surgery took place on March 4 and is the first U.S. case following the FDA's approval of the implants last month.
...
Technicians used CT scans to get images of the part of the skull that needed replacing. Then, with computer software and input from surgeons, engineers designed the replacement part.
...
Such implants have value as a brain-protecting material, says Jeremy Mao, a biomedical engineer and codirector of Columbia University's center for craniofacial regeneration. But doctors will need to keep an eye out for long-term problems; The skull isn't just a box for the brain but a complicated piece of anatomy linked to connective and soft tissues.

By min | March 19, 2013, 1:42 PM | Science | Comments (0) | Link



SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

Wolverine #1 - With Wolverine appearing... everywhere, i really didn't need to collect his solo series. But i'm contractually obligated to get all Marvel books that Alan Davis draws. And with Paul Cornell writing, i was ok with that. This issue was a content-free prologue introducing an alien-looking gun that possesses people, and there really wasn't enough there yet for me to form an opinion, which would usually result in me forming a negative opinion and dropping the book.

Secret Avengers #2 - Well, there's that AIM island that they were talking about in Hickman's Avengers. It almost seemed like it was just getting introduced here but maybe that's because they heard me complain about it. Then there was Bagalia, a city populated entirely by super-villains? I can't believe they're still using Pink Pearl. I was honestly done with this book after the first issue but min wanted to give it a longer try, so here we are.

Fearless Defenders #2 - First, something's wrong with my issue. I tried to take out my Dani Moonstar action figure to play with it and i just ended up ripping the cover. Unfortunately the interior isn't nearly as cool as that cover, but it's still a decent book. I now get the concept of the series, which is that Valkyrie is supposed to be rebuilding the Valkyries (confusing!) with modern female super-heroes, and that's a good excuse for a Defenders title (which has really always been more of a group team-up book than a real team). There was some major goofiness in the first issue but this (less action oriented) issue was a little better (unless you count Misty Knight trying to flying-kick Hela). I see that Wonder Woman's mom is going to join the team under a code name previously reserved for a Nazi; that should be interesting.

Avengers Spider-Man #18 - OK, did i miss a memo? What is going on with Thor recently? Is this a movie influence thing? Yost is a good writer and i continue to enjoy his depiction of Doc Ock in Spidey's body, but it's a bit ruined by the way Thor is written. If i hadn't already seen it in Hickman's Avengers, i'd be flipping out at Yost, but instead i'm just... sad.

Avengers Arena #6 - This is great. Let Hopeless kill all his own characters and leave everybody else alone.

Thunderbolts #6 - I was pretty disappointed by the two-page spread of Madman that was pretty unimpressive looking (it was a two-page spread of Madman's shoulder, basically). But i'm still enjoying the book; i like the dysfunctional character dynamics.


By fnord12 | March 19, 2013, 1:35 PM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link



Crunky Cover Reviews: April 2013

I'm a bit late with these this month cause i was busy with things. Newsarama was a bit lax with crediting all of the cover artists this month and half of the artists don't seem to be signing their work, so i will do my best with guessing which artist goes with which cover. If there are mistakes, let me know so i can fix them.

Clicking on the link will take you to the cover.

1. Age of Ultron #5 by Bryan Hitch

It's surprisingly and disappointingly pretty sketchy for a cover. The three guys in the front - Hawkeye, Wolverine, and Kazar(? Kamandi? random loincloth guy?) have moderately detailed faces, but everyone in the background has just got the very basic 2 eyes, 1 nose, 1 mouth and no discernible expressions.

I realize they're in the background and ofc will be less detailed than foreground characters, but except for Captain America's and Storm's heads, the remaining three unmasked characters all seem to have enough face for a little more than just marking off the relevant bits.



2. Avengers Assemble #14AU by Nic Klein

So, nothing really particularly good or bad with this cover. I just wanted to show it to you so i could say how it bugs me that they put Black Widow in front of a giant B and W so that you would know it was the Black Widow because it's so hard to distinguish one chick with long hair from another nowadays. These are my stupid reviews. I can nitpick if i want.



3. Wolverine & the X-Men #27AU by Mike Deodato

I am disappointed by this Deodato cover. You can usually count on Deodato to draw people well. But on this cover, something's wonky.

First off, you've got Cap and Wolverine with biceps of ginormousness. Nobody's biceps should be greater than or equal to the size of their heads. Unless they're a Hulk. Or an alien. Then it'd be ok.

Then you've got Scarlet Witch in a very bizarre pose. It's like it's trying to be a sexy pose but it's failing miserably and instead makes her look like she stumbled just as the photo was taken. Now, if anyone can draw a chick in a sexy pose, it's gotta be Mr. Cheesecake himself, Mike Deodato. So, what happened here?

And lastly, why is Captain America about 10-12 inches taller than everybody else (who's at normal human height)? Well, everyone except the Invisible Woman's hair. I get that Steve Rogers is a big guy and Wolverine is short. But since when does Hawkeye only come up to Cap's nose?



4. Thanos Rising #1 by Simone Bianchi and variant by Marko Djurdjevic

Ok, who doesn't love a Thanos cover?



5. X-Men #1 by Olivier Coipel

I like this cover alot. I like the post-apocalyptic setting. I like that each character is exuding attitude that is both similar and also fitting for each individual. My only problem is that Kitty Pryde seems to have been de-aged to her 14 year old self.



6. X-Men #1 variant by Terry Dodsen

The art is good in that proportions seem to be correct. Two major problems, though.


  1. Storm is about a half inch away from total nipple exposure. And believe you me, if you're moving around, so will your clothing, and seeing as she's a superhero and all, i'm guessing there will be quite a bit of moving around.

  2. I only know those two chicks with the long, dark hair are Kitty Pryde and Psylocke by deduction (and looking at someone else's cover to find out who is on the team). I mean, at first glance, i was wondering who those twin Asian chicks were. Then i cleverly deduced that the one with the straight hair must be Psylocke. And then i was stumped on the one with the wavy hair cause there was no way my brain was accepting that was supposed to be Kitty. If you're going to dress a bunch of people in nearly identical clothes, can you make a bigger effort to draw those characters to match their classic appearance so the rest of us have a chance of identifying them?

I totally approve of the bubblegum-chewing Jubilee, though.



7. New Avengers #5 variant by Joe Quinones

Is that supposed to be the Beast? Is it? Cause if it is, Quinones needs glasses. And if this is supposed to be what Beast looks like now, wtf? Look, i didn't say anything when you turned him into a tiger, but this is just awful. At least being a Tiger-Man was kinda kewl. This is caveman brow ridge, big chin unkewl.



8. Avengers Arena # 7 variant by John Tyler Christopher

I enjoy a technical spec drawing. I also enjoy a detailed drawing of the old school Iron Man costume.



9. Fearless Defenders #3 variant by Phil Jimenez

*sigh* I just love Jimenez. His people are fantastic. He's able to convey any number of emotions from his faces. Their proportions are always great. His detail in everything. *squee!!*

And nobody's metal boob covers are on their clavicles.



10. Fantastic Four #7 by Mark Bagley

Not reading Fantastic Four (can't call that FF anymore. jerks. *shakes fist*), but i like this cover. The image of the FF huddled on a rock, protected by the Invisible Woman's shield is nicely detailed, contrasting with the stark nothingness of the background.



11. Thor: God of Thunder #7 variant by Gabriele Dell'Otto

I feel like Thor is often drawn in this pose where he's got the right arm pulled way back and one leg forward. I don't have any actual proof of that, so i'm throwing it out there so you guys can either back me up or tell me i'm crazy.

But here's a perfect example of a superhero whose costume has shifted due to movement. I'm pretty sure Thor didn't want those round plates to cover his pecs quite like that. They are prolly originally a bit off to the side when he's standing straight. But now that he's fighting, it's all shifted over. Now imagine the costume malfunction that would occur in many of the female costumes (e.g. Storm's costume as mentioned above in X-Men #1).



12. A+X #7 by Stefano Casselli

That is a good Thing.



13. Uncanny X-Men #4 by Chris Bachalo

That is a beautiful drawing of Magick with the black, white, and red Sin City-esque coloring. She's got the long strands of hair whipping around while she blocks her crotch with one sword, her weight distributed slightly to the left as she prepares to bring the left sword slashing down. It's great.



14. Scarlet Spider #16 variant by Mike McKone and Morry Hollowell

So, either Iron Man's legs are fused together or somebody was lazy and only drew half of Iron Man and copied the mirror image for the other half. I also think it's hilarious just how much muscle definition is drawn on what is supposed to be a metal suit. McKone's not the only offender on this point, but it's even more obviously bad when the muscle definition suddenly stops at the point of fusion on Iron Man's legs.



And that's April. Alot less crunky than is my usual MO. How concerning.


By min | March 19, 2013, 11:51 AM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link



March 18, 2013

St. Patrick's Day 2013 Vegan Vittles

Vegan Soda Bread

This year, i went looking for a traditional Irish soda bread recipe instead of one that had been fancied up to taste better, and i found this. The author of this site is pretty adamant about what does and does not constitute traditional soda bread. FYI: raisins in soda bread makes it a "spotted dog", not soda bread.

So, i went with the recipe for White Soda Bread with a couple of mods - 1) because i had to use a substitute for cake flour and 2) to make it vegan.


  • The recipe says to use all-purpose (AP) flour, but on the soda bread site, the author said cake flour was the best type to use. The internets told me that i could make my own cake flour by subtracting 2T of AP flour for every cup of flour used and replacing it with 2T of cornstarch. With 4 cups of AP flour, the conversion worked out to 3 1/2 cups AP flour + 1/2 cup cornstarch. Sift together several times before using. Be warned - it makes an unholy mess.

  • For the buttermilk, i mixed in 1T + 2 1/4tsp of white vinegar to 1 3/4 cup of unsweetened coconut milk (not the canned kind)

Here's the recipe with some of my own notes added:

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups of buttermilk (sub sour milk as described above)
  • 4 cups (16 oz) of all purpose flour (sub cake flour)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt

Prep the sour milk. Lightly grease 6-8qt heavy lidded pot (i use a Pyrex casserole dish). Place the pot in the oven. Preheat the oven to 425degF.

In a large bowl, sieve and combine all the dry ingredients.

Add the sour milk to form a sticky dough. Place on floured surface and lightly knead. The dough will appear raggedy and will still be tacky. Be careful not to knead too much else all the gas will escape and your bread will be flat and tough.

Shape into a flat ball and dump in the heated pot (cereally. i just drop it into the pot without trying to be pretty about it or anything.). Cut a cross in the top of the dough. Cover and bake for 30 minutes (this simulates the bastible pot). Remove cover and bake for an additional 15 minutes.

Move the loaf to a rack to cool. Cover the bread in a tea towel and lightly sprinkle water on the cloth to keep the bread moist.

Other than the cornstarch flying all over the place, making the bread was pretty simple. And it looked pretty good, too.

vegan traditional irish soda bread

As for taste...well, it's soda bread, so there are many other things that taste better. But, it was actually surprisingly tasty considering the lack of the usual mods to make it taste better (sugar, caraway seeds, butter, etc). Toasted with butter, it's almost delicious even. Next year, we say fuck tradition. I'll be making soda bread with mods of yum.

And now onto dessert.

I draw the line at traditional Irish desserts and the reason is because they usually involve white potatoes in some sort of sweet pie or candy concoction and just no. So, i did the lame thing and went with a regular dessert containing alcohol and tinted green. Trust me. Better this than a "soufflé" made of mashed potatoes, orange juice, and eggs. *shudder*

vegan vanilla cupcakes w/irish whiskey buttercream frosting


Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes

This is based on a recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.


Ingredients

  • 1 cup milk
  • dash tumeric, optional
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/4 cup white flour (i occasionally use a mix of 3/4 cup white + 1/2 cup white wheat for a nuttier texture and so i can pretend it's a tiny bit healthier)
  • 2 T cornstarch
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup butter (we like Earth Balance buttery sticks)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Yield: 12 cupcakes

What's the tumeric about? Well, if you'd like your cupcakes to be a golden, yellow cake color instead of the pallid, egg-free white of most vegan cakes, adding tumeric can do that.

In a saucepan, combine the milk with the turmeric and heat slowly until the milk starts to simmer (2-3min), stirring to prevent a skin from forming. The milk will become yellower as it cools, so don't add too much turmeric as too much can make the cupcakes bitter.

While the milk is cooling, line a 12-cupcake tin. Preheat the oven to 350degF.

Sift the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together.

After cooling the milk for 5 minutes, add vinegar.

In a mixing bowl, beat the butter for ~30 seconds and then add the sugar and cream at medium-high speed for 1 1/2 minutes. Add the vanilla and cream until combined, but no more than 30 seconds.

Add half of the dry ingredients. Mix on low until the dry ingredients are incorporated (~1 min). Add all of the wet ingredients. Mix on low-med for a minute. Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix on low for another 30 seconds.*

Distribute the batter evenly in each cupcake tin and bake for 20-22 minutes. Cool cakes on a rack.

*It's important to pay attention to the times given here. Overmixing a vegan cake can be fatal and instead of a delicious, light cake, you end up with a less delicious, dense cake.



Irish Whiskey Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients

  • 6 T vegetable shortening, softened (we like Earth Balance shortening sticks)
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened (we like Earth Balance buttery sticks)
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 T milk
  • 1-2 T Irish whiskey
  • Yield: enough to generously frost 12 cupcakes

Beat the shortening in a mixer until smooth so that it will combine well with the butter. Add the butter and mix until well combined.

Sift the powdered sugar and add to the fat with the vanilla and milk. Mix until smooth. It may seem a bit thick at this point.

Add the whiskey to taste. (I only used 1 T this time as it was my first try and fnord12 assured me there was a faint whiskey taste, so i stopped there. after eating 1 or 4 cupcakes, i still can't taste it, so i think doubling the whiskey might be something to try next time.)

If the frosting still seems too thick, add more milk, 1 tablespoon at a time until it's nice and smooth. Beat it on high for a few minutes until light and fluffy.

There are only 10 cupcakes in this photo because 2 of them were frosted poorly, and you don't get to see them.

You also don't get to see me and fnord12 being completely gross and squeezing the leftover frosting directly into our mouths out of the pastry bag. Yes. We are animals. Fat, happy animals.


By min | March 18, 2013, 8:23 PM | Vegan Vittles | Comments (0) | Link



Dear iTunes

I don't need a little arrow button flickering on and off every time i hover over a song. You know why? Because i have more than one mouse button.


By fnord12 | March 18, 2013, 8:40 AM | Music | Comments (0) | Link



What happened to this country?

We went to two different bagel stores yesterday and neither one was selling green bagels for St. Paddy's Day. This isn't the America i grew up in. What happened to tradition?


By fnord12 | March 18, 2013, 8:39 AM | My stupid life | Comments (0) | Link



March 15, 2013

Government surplus balloons

After reading 10,000 comics, and reading Mail-Order Mysteries, you'd think there'd be nothing left to surprise you in these types of ads.

The only way I could be surprised is if I'm caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live sea monkey.

But wait, what's this?

I confess i wouldn't know how to rig a vacuum cleaner to inflate it.

Why did the government have all these giant balloons? And now they don't need them anymore? What would anyone do with them? Fill them with helium?!? Float to the moon?

I wonder if they came with a warning that said "Do not inflate indoors."


By fnord12 | March 15, 2013, 3:39 PM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link



Forming a committee to discuss forming a committee to discuss it

TPM summarizing WaPo:

The Obama administration is "leaning toward" revising a centerpiece of its second term agenda, a proposal to regulate gas emissions from new power plants, in order to bolster its standing against potential legal challenges.

Just to put this in context, in 2007 the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA was failing in its job to regulate carbon. Six years later, under a Democratic administration, they are still dragging their feet.

By the way, this was supposed to be the leverage for Cap & Trade. You get the EPA running on this Day 1 of Obama's first term, and you use it as a bargaining chip to pass a law that isn't as restrictive as just setting hard limits, which is what the EPA has the power to do.

Related: Obama signals to Republicans that he is serious about cutting entitlements. Why do we bother with elections?


By fnord12 | March 15, 2013, 1:43 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



Point and Counterpoint

Yglesias and Drum do a little accidental debating here:

I'm glad that Senator Rob Portman of Ohio has reconsidered his view on gay marriage upon realization that his son is gay, but I also find this particular window into moderation--memorably dubbed Miss America conservatism by Mark Schmitt--to be the most annoying form.

...

Rob Portman doesn't have a son with a preexisting medical condition who's locked out of the health insurance market. Rob Portman doesn't have a son engaged in peasant agriculture whose livelihood is likely to be wiped out by climate change. Rob Portman doesn't have a son who'll be malnourished if SNAP benefits are cut. So Rob Portman doesn't care.

...

Obviously the answers to complicated public policy questions don't just directly fall out of the emotion of compassion. But what Portman is telling here is that on this one issue, his previous position was driven by a lack of compassion and empathy. Once he looked at the issue through his son's eyes, he realized he was wrong. Shouldn't that lead to some broader soul-searching?

Vs.

I admit that my first reaction to this was disgust: I'm tired of conservatives who suddenly decide that Medicaid should be more generous with stroke victims after they've had a stroke themselves, or who suddenly decide gay marriage is OK when someone in their family turns out to be gay. Is it too much to ask that they show a little empathy even for people and causes that don't directly affect their own lives?

But first reactions aren't always right. I do wish conservatives could demonstrate a little empathy even for people and causes that don't directly affect their own lives, but it's not as if this is an exclusively conservative thing. It's a human thing. Personal experience always touches us more deeply than facts and figures, and in the case of gay marriage we all knew this was how progress would be made...

We all knew this was how it would happen, slowly but steadily. We knew it. And now it's happened to Rob Portman. It's progress. It's human. And I should be less churlish about it.

I'm with Yglesias here. There's a limited number of issues that can turn out to directly affect a politician, so having empathy and/or the ability to apply the implications of policy positions to actual people ought to be one of the job requirements. I'll take progress any way i can get it, but intellectually, a guy that believes homosexuality is morally wrong even if his son is gay makes more sense to me than a guy who changes his opinion only when it affects him personally.


By fnord12 | March 15, 2013, 1:03 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



Why not just show me one word at a time, on flashcards?

Ok, people. Just consider this post me crankily working through change acceptance and feel free to ignore it. But i'm trying out Feedly and it's got this three column layout that drives me nuts.

Really?  A quarter of the screen devoted to some menu items that should be in a drop-down somewhere?

Look at all that wasted space. I'm getting claustrophobic reading this. I feel like someone is squeezing the sides of my head.

Compare to Google Reader.

Yes, this is the sort of crap i read all day.  Now you know what i *don't* blog about.

Ahhhhh. Look how much more i can read without scrolling.

I'm not just picking on Feedly. There might even be some configuration option in Feedly i'm not aware of yet. But it's the default layout, and it's something you see a lot. TPM's front page has 3 columns (it used to have 4!) and it's also got fat margins on the side. For a while we got away from designing your websites to look like print magazine pages but with Mobile we seem to going back to it worse than ever.

I can kinda sorta understand it for the front page of a branded website. But for an RSS reader, you're going there to do some hardcore reading and you don't need all that extra crap. If you wanted that you can go to the actual website.

Anyway, to be self-aware, i know we sort-of have a 3-column website here at SuperMegaMonkey. But there's a lot more usable space. And i think seeing smiley faces as you scroll all the way down is a helpful balance to all the political crap and other random complaining we post here. And we also offer an RSS feed!

I was going to preview this post and then take a screenshot of it, creating a recursive loop, but it seemed like too much work.

And on the comics blog, you can now turn off the left nav, giving you even more space.

You knew it was going to be Secret Wars.

By fnord12 | March 15, 2013, 10:19 AM | My stupid life | Comments (1) | Link



March 14, 2013

RSS Reader Crisis

Feedly seems to be the way to go, but i guess i really didn't want to have to download a plug in. The nice thing about Google Reader was it was web based and you could access it from any browser on any computer.

Surely Twitter isn't the right answer, though.

What i find amazing is the number of people complaining about this, and the fact that sites like Feedly and NewsBlur are having trouble handling the sudden increase in demand. Google is saying they are discontinuing the product due to lack of use. I guess it's a "no one *i* know voted for Nixon" type of thing.

If you don't know what the hell i'm talking about, i don't understand how you read the internet.


By fnord12 | March 14, 2013, 12:24 PM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (0) | Link



March 13, 2013

SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

Three week's worth, so let's get to it.

Uncanny Captain Marvel #10 - I liked the stylized art, i liked the script, i liked the story, i liked the Deathbird. From a sales perspective, i question the decision to de-power Carol but i guess the series is already the lowest selling in-continuity book that isn't already cancelled, so what does it matter.

Uncanny Avengers Academy Arena #5 - Overall pacing issues for the series aside (could you imagine if Secret Wars had moved at this pace? We're five issues in already...), i thought this was pretty good. I think Hopeless does better with his new characters than the pre-existing ones; the idea that the new Kid Briton (he is new, right?) is an ass and that works because the Captain Britains' powers come from their confidence is good. Still waiting for issue #7 to make a formal decision here.

Uncanny Avenging Spider-Man #17 - Fun, wacky issue. If i had a complaint, it's when Octo-Spidey says that the young cloned Wizard is like him at an early age. I think Doc Ock's personality is more... complicated than that. He was a successful scientist who went crazy when he got his powers. He wasn't a born super-villain. Anyway, minor quibble and unreliable narrator for sure. A little off-putting to see Death's Head showing up here and in Iron Man but it's alternate dimension time-travel stuff so no problem. What i like about this book more than anything is the internal monologing from Octavius where we get to see his opinions on all the people he meets. Saying that Mr. Fantastic is "one of the few who recognizes that my own brilliance is superior to his" (a twisted reference to the time Reed asked him to help with Sue's pregnancy), calling Medusa "acceptable" after bashing the other new FF members, etc.

Uncanny Daredevil #23 - A consistently good book.

Uncanny FF #4 - Very cute. I'd rather they shuffled off Future Johnny Storm completely and just did these types of stories.

Uncanny Guardians of the Galaxy #.1 - I don't have the very first Starlord story but i have one that covers his origin in about a third of the space and i'd argue that this offers only minimally more characterization (and it's generic Bendis characterization). I'm not too worried about variations between this origin and the original (his father, the king, is still alive in the original actually i misread; he's alive in this issue too. Makes you wonder why the Badoon felt the need to try to kill the son when the father was still alive.) because i was never sure if the original Starlord issues was supposed to be in continuity when the character was re-introduced in the Giffen stuff. One revision that i do like is turning the Space Lizard-Man that killed Starlord's mom into a Badoon; it's close enough and it also allows a tie-back to the original Guardians of the Galaxy's main opponents.

Uncanny X-Factor #252 - It's fine for what it is.

Uncanny Indestructible Hulk #4 - I really like this status quo for Bruce/Hulk and this was another good issue. Waid needs to back down just a bit from the super-genius angle. "In less time than it takes to solve the Poincare Conjecture by deforming a manifold using the Ricci flow" is far too quippy, especially for internal monologue (i could read it maybe as Bruce showing off now that he's had time to get his head together thanks to the way he's got the Hulk under control, but it makes no sense as narration). But that's not a big deal. I generally don't like Leinil Yu. His first few issues were actually not bad, but with this issue i'm back to not liking the art again. It's less the usual problems, though, and more the way he makes Hulk look like a Frankenstein monster that's nothing like the classic version of Hulk (and no, not like the early Kirby version either). I do love how in the lettercol they're just straight-up soliciting for nominations for villain of the month; Waid is writing a character story about Bruce/Hulk and... well, i don't want to say he doesn't care about the villains in the book (i liked his Attuma story here; he was a real threat), but it's clearly secondary to him.

Uncanny Punisher War Zone #5 - Ok. Good story. Nice fight against the whole team at the end. And you could argue that if it wasn't for Wolverine's help the Punisher wouldn't have fared even as well as he did. So... good series. But i can't believe this didn't end with a set-up for Thunderbolts. It would have been one thing if the Punisher had just escaped at the end. But to have him in what Iron Man describes as a very sophisticated prison... then how does he get out to be recruited by the Red Hulk. Such an obvious tie-in opportunity, but blown completely.

Uncanny Thunderbolts #5 - Loving the complete breakdown of the team. Loving Deadpool. Ennis Dillon's art appropriately violent. Fun stuff.

Uncanny Uncanny Avengers #4 - Man, Scarlet Witch is a badass, huh? I really loved the way the Red Skull tried to tear down Captain America's belief in the American dream (heck, i was buying into it; "an uneducated population fixated on competition, material wealth and voyeurism" as the art shows a bunch of sullen people in a dismal big box parking lot). Nice scene at the end with Thor and Wolverine, too. I hear there are some complaints about the wordiness of this book? I'm not seeing a problem.

Uncanny Uncanny X-Force #2 - An big improvement from issue #1, i'd say. Psylocke using a random bystander to fight for her, and giving him Punch-Out visions, was brilliant. The situation with Bishop is interesting (Demon Bear?). Nice Garney art. Interesting team dynamics.

Uncanny Young Avengers #2 - It's hard for me to get past the premise that Wiccan is really dumb enough to think that pulling Hulkling's mom from an alternate dimension was a good idea. But since that happened last issue, i guess you can say in isolation that this was a fun version of a creepy twilight zoney (or maybe Buffy-y) story, with really smart dialogue and good art, and some out of the box (ha ha!) panel layouts.

Uncanny Age of Ultron #1 - Ok, so it's just an alternate universe story. I don't need it, and we can drop it. Which is good, because i was getting pretty pissed off with the panel flow, and i had some questions about why Ultron would be interested in letting ANY humans alive, or why the Owl and Hammerhead think that an apocalyptic evil robot world-takeover is a good time to be selling MGH. These types of things should be established in issue #1. But, i fortunately do not have to care. I know, i know, the book will tie in with the real Marvel Universe at some point, but with a Captain America in his classic costume and a non-Octo-Spidey, it can't turn out to be all that relevant.

Uncanny All-New X-Men #8 - I don't know what's going on with Angel currently so a lot of this issue was lost on me. But i did think Iceman and Kitty's mock Cap/Beast conversation was funny, and i really liked the way Young Cyclops came up to Cap and impressed him at the end; Cyclops has always been a character in the mold of Captain America so it was a really good scene. Marvel Girl's mind-control thing is certainly intriguing, too. I thought this series was more "the young, innocent X-Men react to the modern world gone bad" in a flip of the usual future dystopia stories, but "the young, innocent X-Men are corrupted by the modern world" is an interesting subset of that.

Uncanny Iron Man #7 - So i tried to quickly look up info on the Rigellian Recorder to see if the one that regularly appeared in Thor and elsewhere was the same as the Recorder 451 appearing in this series, but i got sidetracked when i saw that the dude's name has changed from Recorder to Analyzer and then Deus Ex Machina over the years. So i'm still not sure. Hmmm? Oh, the issue. Well, as far as Gillen/Land pairings go, Gillen's script wins out this time, but just barely. The whole "fight to prove your innocence" idea was a fun play on an old trope. I love how the fight sequence layout was designed to make sure all the actual action happens just off panel. Do i find the plot plausible? That these sort-of proto Shi'ar (who hated Phoenix) Bird People worshiped the Phoenix and fed off of its energy? Eh, sure. It's a big universe.

Uncanny Red She-Hulk #63 - As always, i think this is really a Machine Man book that the Red She-Hulk happens to be in, but that's fine with me, and it's a lot of fun from that perspective. I loved the Hulk tie-ins, especially seeing the Mad Thinker. Betty's expression when a bunch of guys with guns showed up to stop her has hilarious.

Bonus non-Marvel book!

Amala's Blade #0 - I wasn't all that excited by it, honestly. And that's taking into account the fact that the book had pirates, a monkey, steampunk (supposedly; we don't really see any steampunk) and an ass-kicking heroine with a blade.


By fnord12 | March 13, 2013, 4:23 PM | Comics | Comments (2) | Link



Is anyone surprised by this except Senate Dems?

TPM:

Senate Democratic leaders have engaged in preliminary discussions about how to address Republican procedural obstruction, according to a senior Democratic aide, reflecting an awareness that key administration and judicial vacancies might never be filled, and that a watered-down rules reform deal the parties struck early this Congress has failed.

"The general agreement was that Republicans would only filibuster nominees in the case of extraordinary circumstances, and once again Republicans are expanding the definition of that term to make it entirely meaningless," the aide said.

Of course:

The source said conversations are still too preliminary for Democrats to lay out publicly potential avenues of recourse just yet. And the last thing leaders want is to create the expectation that they will change the filibuster rules in the middle of the current Senate session.

Sure, sure. Let's not get hasty.


By fnord12 | March 13, 2013, 10:07 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



March 11, 2013

Nocenti & Simonson

Really fun interview with Ann Nocenti and Louise Simonson talking about writing and editing comics in the 80s.


By fnord12 | March 11, 2013, 3:47 PM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link



Failing the "Success as measured in skyscrapers" test

I'm catching up on my RSS feed after traveling and getting to the coverage of Chavez' death. And everyone is noting this paragraph from the AP:

Chavez invested Venezuela's oil wealth into social programs including state-run food markets, cash benefits for poor families, free health clinics and education programs. But those gains were meager compared with the spectacular construction projects that oil riches spurred in glittering Middle Eastern cities, including the world's tallest building in Dubai and plans for branches of the Louvre and Guggenheim museums in Abu Dhabi.

Just to be clear, whatever you think of Chavez (and he certainly became nuttier the longer he was in office, but of course when everyone is out to get you...), here's what he did accomplish:

...proportion of Venezuelans living on less than $2 a day falling from 35 percent to 13 percent over three years.

Yeah, that sucks.

More from Yglesias, Lawyers, Guns and Money, and FAIR.


By fnord12 | March 11, 2013, 2:10 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



Articles that you'd think we wouldn't need

How Raising the Retirement Age Screws the Working Poor.

Up next: How Kicking Puppies Hurts Puppies.


By fnord12 | March 11, 2013, 12:57 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



March 8, 2013

So then, some obligatory Skymall nonsense

Dude, i guarantee you i can't sleep as comfortably as that man.  Because self-awareness.

I wear it around the office.  Repels co-workers even better than bed bugs.

By fnord12 | March 8, 2013, 2:51 PM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (2) | Link



Don't call me, Ishmael. I'll call you.

So since i knew i didn't have enough comics for the flight home, i popped into the airport bookstore. And there it was. It was like fate.

In addition to a doorstop, it's a great way to let the rest of the band offstage for a drink.

So did i buy it? Nah. I didn't think my comic-addled, jet-lagged brain could handle starting a novel on a plane. Better stick with the Skymall catalog.


By fnord12 | March 8, 2013, 2:39 PM | Boooooks | Comments (0) | Link



March 7, 2013

Tying Knots in Fluid

Or "Why dolphins are awesome".

First, i need to define what a "vortex ring" is. Take an imaginary axis where fluid or gases are rotating around that axis, essentially forming a spinning tube. Now take that tube and bend it so that it makes a donut. That's a vortex ring. And dolphins can just make them to play with.

Cause they're more awesome than you.

In 1867, Lord Kelvin suggested you could tie these rings into knots. It's taken until now for physicists to figure out how to make this happen in a lab. They needed 3D printer technology to be invented first, i guess, so that they could make this looped "airplane wing".

And here's a video from different angles so you can really see the knots.

Not being all that knowledgeable about particle physics or magnetic fields, i'm not sure what the results of this will be, but i think it's pretty nifty that you can create a knot in a fluid.


By min | March 7, 2013, 7:17 PM | Science | Comments (0) | Link



March 6, 2013

Underpacked

Half of the total comics are about two years worth of Thor that all need to fit between two issues of the Avengers.

Here are the comics i brought on my trip. It's all the comics i can fit in my "personal item" (when you don't check your luggage, you can have one carry-on suitcase and one personal item). In the back are the comics that i read on my six hour flight in. The smaller pile (about a third of the larger one) is all i have to read on my way back. Which clearly means i didn't bring enough comics and now i'm going to have nothing to do for two-thirds of my flight home.

Normally i bring more comics in my carry-on suitcase and swap them out for the trip home. But this was a particularly long trip so i had to fill my suitcase with stupid unimportant things (i.e. clothes) instead of comics.

The good news is i had plenty of opportunities to escape my corporate masters and review comics, so i don't have as big a backlog to review when i get back.


By fnord12 | March 6, 2013, 11:02 PM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link



Hooray! Right now!

Rights-free music is a crime against humanity. Compare the music in this Kasperky commercial to this Fatboy Slim song.


By fnord12 | March 6, 2013, 10:51 PM | Music | Comments (2) | Link



I mean, what if the United States declared financial regulation "done" and repealed Glass-Steagall in the 90s. Oh wait.

I'm not sure i follow Matthew Yglesias on this one. Microsoft has apparently violated a legal agreement in the EU regarding Internet Explorer, and now they are being fined for it. Yglesias says that regulators should consider the browser wars "done", declare victory, and move on.

My understanding is that the concern was that Microsoft could use its vast penetration in the Operating System and Office efficiency software markets to essentially force people to use IE. Essentially force people to use it. Imagine not being able to set a different browser as your default, for example, or having to go through difficult and buried configuration settings to access the internet through anything besides IE. Think of devices like smart phones and tablets, where what you can install is much more locked down.

Yglesais says, "Which isn't to say the initial scrutiny of Microsoft was misguided--arguably today's browser ecology is the result of that scrutiny." So he acknowledges the value of the regulation. Why does he think that not enforcing it wouldn't just cause these issues to start creeping up again?


By fnord12 | March 6, 2013, 10:22 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



Better luck next time

Atrios is on the "Increase Social Security Benefits" beat again in USA Today, and i really liked this:

Some people who have objected to my proposal for increasing Social Security retirement benefits have done so on the basis that this is something people should be personally responsible for. Essentially, life's a big test, and one element of that test is a lifelong commitment to amassing significant personal wealth that can be drawn down in your twilight years. If you fail, well, better luck next time. Except ...

But there's no need for retirement income to be in this special category of things we must be personally responsible for. We are not personally responsible for many things in our lives. I didn't build the roads I drive on, or purchase the buses that stop regularly on my corner. I have little to do with the hiring and management of police and fire personnel or air traffic controllers.


By fnord12 | March 6, 2013, 8:15 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



Jon Stewart to Direct Docu-Drama

Stewart is taking the break to make his feature directorial debut with Rosewater. Stewart also wrote the screenplay for the adaptation of BBC journalist Maziar Bahari's New York Times best-selling memoir Then They Came for Me: A Family's Story of Love, Captivity and Survival.

Bahari's book tells the story of his 2009 arrest by the Iranian government while covering an election protest. He subsequently was interrogated and tortured during the next 118 days.

Link

John Oliver will be taking over the hosting for the 12 weeks Stewart will be away. I hope he doesn't try to do any accents during that stint cause he's god awful at it.

I read about this in the Guardian first which had the requisite "what did he do before" paragraph at the end. It brings up Jon Stewart's acting career, which i already knew about in a vague sort of way. What i didn't know was his acting career included playing romantic leads in at least 2 films! Look at these - Wishful Thinking (1996) and Playing by Heart (1998)! He's on the covers! Sean Connery is in one of these movies!

Oh, you know i just added these to my Netflix queue. I bet they'll be awful. Squeeee!!!


By min | March 6, 2013, 11:45 AM | Liberal Outrage & Movies & TeeVee | Comments (0) | Link



The 1950s - When All Foods Were Colloids

Whether or not they started off as one.

I found a blog. It's a frightening blog. It's an awesome blog. It's a blog where a woman makes shit from 1950s cookbooks and then eats them. It's clear the 1950s were a sad, sad time where perfectly good food was ruined by the addition of such things as gelatin and...well, mostly gelatin.

See for yourself.

This is where things got off track. This is where things went wrong. This is where people got hurt after the fun and games. This is where I cooked up a bunch of liver and buttermilk and gelatin and put it in a blender. [and canned string beans! --min]

This is Liver Pate En Masque.

...

I probably should have blended it longer. There were chunks. I remember tears actually forming in my eyes as an especially large chunk glopped out of the blender and fell into the mold. I really, really didn't want to eat this.

And there are pictures! Oh, are there pictures. My favorite ones are the reaction photos of her husband as he tastes things like Tuna Pizza made with evaporated milk and ketchup. Mmmmm!

Why is she torturing food like this? We know better now. There's no reason at all to mix stuffed olives with pineapples and suspend them in lemon jello.

The pilgrims didn't just come across the water on the Mayflower with their heads stuffed full of Asian fusion cuisine. It was a long, painful and sometimes disgusting road that lead to our current national gourmand status. Most people like to forget about it. I think we should embrace it. Yeah, at one point it was the height of fashion to have sour cream mixed with powered french onion soup mix at your party. Let's acknowledge it and be proud.

The culture of post-war America was rife with enthusiasm for the new and improved, the do-everything gadget, and prepared foods in a can. This attitude invaded everything, and housewives were treated to something they had never had before: a short-cut for dinner. Some of these shortcuts worked, and some of them didn't. We all know about the ones that did. They are with us in the form of Bisquick pancakes, tuna noodle casserole and even the aforementioned French Onion dip. But what about the stuff that didn't work out? Ketchup as a quick sundae topping. A salad suspended in Jello. These are the things this blog seeks to acknowledge, and to drag out of our collective closets and into the bright light of day.

My one huge gripe about this experiment is that it's a huge waste of food. I think most of it ends up tossed because it's completely inedible. And it's not surprisingly inedible like "Oh man. It looked like it would be something good." She knows going in that it's going to be horrible and is occasionally pleasantly surprised when it's not. I hate wasting food. I will gorge myself to the point of illness to clean my plate. So, this is a problem for me, despite the amount of enjoyment i derive from the pictures of grossness.

I'm starting to think i need to get my hands on some of these cookbooks. Not to make any of it. I'm pretty sure vegan was not part of the mid-century cookbook vocabulary. Plus, it all seems pretty disgusting. I just want to look at pictures of overly decorated foodstuffs sealed in aspic.

And i think i need to stop mocking the Irish for their poor cuisine. Boiling your cabbage and meat until it all turns into a gray mass is loads better than whipped lime jello and tuna in a carved pineapple bowl.


By min | March 6, 2013, 8:03 AM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (0) | Link



March 1, 2013

Mad Scientists

They're not just characters in fiction. They exist as funded researchers.

Researchers have transplanted frog eyes to other body parts for decades, but until now, no one had shown that those oddly placed eyes (called "ectopic" eyes) actually worked.

Wait. What? They've been transplanting eyeballs on frogs to other parts of their bodies for decades, but testing to see if the eyes worked wasn't the first thing they tried?? Then what the hell were they transplanting them for??

And now they've decided to grow eyeballs on tadpoles' tails.

The experiment seemed like a natural to test how well the brain can adapt, Levin says. "There's no way the tadpole's brain is expecting an eye on its tail."

To be fair, i don't think anyone's brain expected an eye on that tadpole's tail.

But, their insanity doesn't stop with growing eyes where eyes ought not be. No. They then had to add an element of douchebaggery to their experiments.

A mild electric shock zapped the tadpole when it was in one half of the dish so that the animal learned to associate the color with the shock. The researchers periodically switched the colors in the chamber so that the tadpoles didn't learn that staying still would save them.

Yes, let's zap them to condition their behavior, and when they've learned our little tricks, we'll switch it up. Ha ha!

Oh yeah. This experiment was totally about learning more about the brain and not about doing dick things for fun.


By min | March 1, 2013, 10:02 PM | Science | Comments (0) | Link



NIMBY, Sex Offenders

In California, if you've been convicted of a sex offense, have served your time, and are now out of jail, you still can't live near a school or a park or a daycare center.

This has the unintended consequence of concentrating sex offenders in areas that aren't near those (ubiquitous) institutions, and the solution of the neighborhoods seeing these concentrations is to build more parks.

I certainly understand the reasoning behind those laws, but it's an interesting problem. Since the laws are recognizing the likelihood of repeat offenses, maybe it would make sense to combine the restriction with some sort of treatment program?


By fnord12 | March 1, 2013, 1:52 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



Coolometer stream of consciousness

I didn't know what culottes were, but i have to admit they are pretty cool.

While reading a Ghost Rider reprint published in 1992:

Oh god it's one of those coolometers those were so annoying i shouldn't even look at this i can't help myself wait isn't that upside down why is uncool at the bottom hrm it's the last one that's good let's see here kool and the gang is definitely cooler than kool moe dee you have to factor in their early funk stuff wow i didn't realize calvin coolidge was that cool WTF WHY IS KULAN GATH SO LOW ON THE CHART YOU ASSHOLES HOW DARE YOU?!?!?!


By fnord12 | March 1, 2013, 9:49 AM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link



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