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July 31, 2013

XKeyscore

PRISM allows the National Security Agency (that should be changed to the "National Surveillance Agency") to collect the data. It would naturally follow that they would also have a program for searching through all that data.

A top secret National Security Agency program allows analysts to search with no prior authorization through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals, according to documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
...
"I, sitting at my desk," said Snowden, could "wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email".

US officials vehemently denied this specific claim. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, said of Snowden's assertion: "He's lying. It's impossible for him to do what he was saying he could do."

But training materials for XKeyscore detail how analysts can use it and other systems to mine enormous agency databases by filling in a simple on-screen form giving only a broad justification for the search. The request is not reviewed by a court or any NSA personnel before it is processed.

XKeyscore, the documents boast, is the NSA's "widest reaching" system developing intelligence from computer networks - what the agency calls Digital Network Intelligence (DNI). One presentation claims the program covers "nearly everything a typical user does on the internet", including the content of emails, websites visited and searches, as well as their metadata.

Analysts can also use XKeyscore and other NSA systems to obtain ongoing "real-time" interception of an individual's internet activity.

This newest bit of information comes just as senators like Ron Wyden are pressuring the intelligence community for an explanation. Hopefully, this will make it even harder for them to placate the upset politicians and public with empty assurances about how responsibly and legitimately they're snooping into our lives.

It's a fairly long article, but i highly recommend reading the whole thing to fully experience the horror and outrage.


By min | July 31, 2013, 7:33 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link



The Machines are Learning

I got really excited when i read this. I started thinking about how kewl it would be to build my own AI computer and teach it to perform simple tasks. And then reality set in, and i realized that was a crazy idea for a couple of reasons. Because i don't know the first thing about coding for one. Or building shit for another. Also, i just saw 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The brain performs its canonical task -- learning -- by tweaking its myriad connections according to a secret set of rules. To unlock these secrets, scientists 30 years ago began developing computer models that try to replicate the learning process. Now, a growing number of experiments are revealing that these models behave strikingly similar to actual brains when performing certain tasks. Researchers say the similarities suggest a basic correspondence between the brains' and computers' underlying learning algorithms.
...
The synapses in the network start out with a random distribution of weights, and the weights are gradually tweaked according to a remarkably simple procedure: The neural firing pattern generated while the machine is being fed data (such as images or sounds) is compared with random firing activity that occurs while the input is turned off.

Each virtual synapse tracks both sets of statistics. If the neurons it connects fire in close sequence more frequently when driven by data than when they are firing randomly, the weight of the synapse is increased by an amount proportional to the difference. But if two neurons more often fire together during random firing than data-driven firing, the synapse connecting them is too thick and consequently is weakened.

Besides moving us closer to someone building Ultron, this work furthers understanding of the human brain which means a better understanding of mental illnesses and finding ways to overcome eye injuries (or other brain/body connection injuries, i would imagine).

I'm so ready for my bionic body.


By min | July 31, 2013, 6:27 PM | Science| Link



I Thought of Transmetropolitan

He's using the Google Glass like Spider Jerusalem used his glasses. It's pretty kewl when the present catches up with the future.

"When there's a wall of police firing plastic bullets at you, and you're running through a wall of tear-gas, having your hands free to cover your face, while saying 'OK Glass, record a video', makes that recording process a lot... easier," says Tim Pool.

Pool has been using Glass for his livestreaming coverage of recent protests in Istanbul, Cairo and Brazil for Vice in 2013, but he's been doing what he calls "mobile first-person" journalism since 2011, and the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York.

Ofc, the downside of that is the necessity of such a device to record abusive police actions, dystopia being the other side of the future.


By min | July 31, 2013, 10:47 AM | Comics & Liberal Outrage & Science| Link



July 29, 2013

Marvel Sales

June.


By fnord12 | July 29, 2013, 4:25 PM | Comics| Link



July 28, 2013

Guillermo del Toro's Raydeen vs. Godzilla

After seeing Pacific Rim on Friday night, i did a little networking and i am now excited to announce that i have exclusive access to the storyboards for the sequel (working title, according to friend Bob - Pacific Rim 2: Rimmed Harder). I've learned that Guillermo del Toro has acquired the licenses for a couple of characters:

Of course i went with the Marvel version of Raydeen.  But i couldn't do the same for Godzilla.  He's just too off model.  Sorry, Herb Trimpe.

Oh my god, you guys! This is going to be awesome! I can't wait to see it!

Here are the storyboards:

I use the Comic Sans font just because i know it bizarrely angers some people.

Hmmmmm. Not quite what i was expecting. What the hell just happened?


By fnord12 | July 28, 2013, 9:50 AM | Comics & Godzilla & Movies| Link



July 26, 2013

It's only a problem because someone keeps using up all the hours in my day with this thing called "work"

This is a few days old thanks to Old Reader being down, but MightyGodKing seems to really like Superior Spider-Man. I've certainly been enjoying Octo-Spidey in the team-up book but i haven't had much personal luck with Dan Slott and i didn't want to start with this. But this is looking more and more like a "pick up sooner than later" for the back-issues, especially if it's all going the way MGK thinks it's going.

Something to add to that category between "comics for the timeline project" and "current". Because when i'm not reading Marvel comics, i'm reading Marvel comics. That's kind of a problem, isn't it?

But since i'm me and i can't help focus on the negative, i'll just "heh, indeed" this bit that MGK politely tucks away in a footnote:

Yes, Peter will be back eventually. Probably it will involve Mephisto in some way, because why not. Let us all take a moment to acknowledge that after semi-rebooting Spider-Man to end his marriage in order to tell all the stories they couldn't tell with a married Spider-Man, the single best idea they had was "hey, let's kill him."

By fnord12 | July 26, 2013, 1:17 PM | Comics| Link



EPA Ignores the Dangers of Low Dose Exposure

And who's surprised by that, really? The chemical companies don't want to change so the EPA isn't going to do anything to upset them. Afterall, you don't bite the hand that feeds you. Link

Baby mice exposed in the womb to low doses - but not high doses - of bisphenol A were fatter and had metabolic changes linked to obesity and diabetes, according to a new study published Thursday.

Building on previous studies that link the hormone-altering chemical to changes in body weight and glucose tolerance, the new research fuels an ongoing controversy over whether federal testing of chemicals is adequate to protect people from low doses.

"What's scary is that we found effects at levels that the government not only says is safe, but that they don't bother to test," said Fredrick vom Saal, a University of Missouri, Columbia, professor and senior author of the study published in the journal Reproductive Toxicology.

...

The EPA frequently evaluates the safety of chemicals with tests that expose lab animals to high doses, then extrapolating to lower doses that people and wildlife encounter.

In a report last year, 12 scientists, including vom Saal, criticized that decades old-strategy, saying it fails to detect health threats from low doses of hormone-like chemicals. Pete Myers, founder of Environmental Health News and chief scientist at Environmental Health Sciences, was the senior author of that report.

Last month, reacting to that report, the EPA defended its testing, concluding that current testing of hormone-altering chemicals is adequate for detecting low-dose effects that may jeopardize health.

I say who cares if it's a high dose or a low dose. Why the hell are you exposing me to a hormone mimic, you fuckers?? Cause i know you can make shit without BPA. So just do it.


By min | July 26, 2013, 11:33 AM | Science| Link



July 23, 2013

No theme implied

Since the Old Reader is apparently going to be down for a couple of days, i thought it would be a good time to dump some random pictures i've been holding onto.

From a series of ads for Dungeons and Dragons in comics circa 1982. I've always liked this pic.

Art is by a young Bill Willingham, aka 'the Fables guy'.

Not the boobs! Not the boobs!

At least they're honest.  Well, not about 'synometrics'.

This requires no explanation (or, at least, you're not getting one):

The Metallic Jokers might actually be a good name for a band.  Less sure about The Special Metallic Jokers.  It could go either way.

By fnord12 | July 23, 2013, 11:25 AM | Comics & D&D & Good Name For a Band & My stupid life| Link



Almost literally priceless

Matthew Yglesias has an interesting/sad article up about a 99 year old minimum wage janitor and there's a line in there about how the company could replace the guy with a part time leaf-blower and save money, but they don't want to hurt the old man. And Yglesias suggests hiring the leaf-blower and using the savings to pay the old guy a pension. But the company would never do that because workers don't share in a company's productivity gains, as i've written previously.

You have to love Yglesias' line "The ability to pay a guy minimum wage for decades and come away from that feeling like you're the good guy in the story is every bit as much priceless as the ability to wake up every morning and feel like your work is vital and necessary."


By fnord12 | July 23, 2013, 11:14 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link



July 18, 2013

East of Eden Review

Yes! I completed a John Steinbeck novel. Woo hoo! After starting and never finishing Grapes of Wrath three times, i despaired of ever completing a Steinbeck. I was sure his work was not for me, which is still true in a way. Here's the back of the cover summary:

Set in the rich farmland of California's Salinas Valley, this sprawling and often brutal novel follows the intertwined destinies of two families - the Trasks and the Hamiltons - whose generations helplessly reenact the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry of Cain and Abel. Here is the work in which Steinbeck created his most mesmerizing characters and explored his most enduring themes: the mystery of identity; the inexplicability of love, and the murderous consequences of love's absence.

(Having just transcribed that, i question the mixing of the semi-colon and the comma in that last sentence...)

This was Steinbeck. This was going to be depressing. I hate depressing. Everyday i would come home and complain to fnord12 about how horrible this book was. And he would keep telling me i didn't have to keep reading it. I did it anyway because, by God, i was going to finish a Steinbeck this time! No matter how much whining fnord12 had to endure, i was going to do it!

So, i did. And i'm glad i did despite how awful it was. The writing is incredibly beautiful. If i had an infant, there would be no Goodnight, Moon at bedtime. I'd read East of Eden just so it could hear how lovely words can be when used properly.

There's this [emphasis mine]:

Liza Hamilton was a very different kettle of Irish. Her head was small and round and it held small round convictions. She had a button nose and a hard little set-back chin, a gripping jaw set on its course even though the angels of God argued against it.

Liza was a good plain cook, and her house - it was always her house - was brushed and pummeled and washed. Bearing her children did not hold her back very much - two weeks at the most she had to be careful. She must have had a pelvic arch of whalebone, for she had big children one after the other.

and this:

Samuel's anger grew and put out leaves.

Steinbeck has this incredible ability to put words together in such a way that they become tangible objects. It's amazing.

Unfortunately, the story itself was much less lovely. It is very in-your-face with the Cain and Abel analogy. The first third of the book is about two brothers, Charles and Adam Trask.

The remaining two thirds are about Adam's sons Cal and Aron.

The relationship between the two sets of brothers mimics each other in a way. Charles and Cal are both protective, yet contemptuous of their "weaker" brothers, exploiting that weakness for their own pleasure, though Cal's method was much more subtle, thus more interesting.

Cal did not question the fact that people like his brother better, but he had developed a means for making it all right with himself. He planned and waited until one time that admiring person exposed himself, and then something happened and the victim never knew how or why. Out of revenge Cal extracted a fluid of power, and out of power, joy. It was the strongest, purest emotion he knew. Far from disliking Aron, he loved him because he was usually the cause for Cal's feelings of triumph. He had forgotten - if he had ever known - that he punished because he wished he could be loved as Aron was loved. It had gone so far that he preferred what he had to what Aron had.

So, it's a "history repeating itself" kind of dread you feel as you keep reading.

I couldn't really stand Adam Trask. He was pretty useless, imo, and so lucky for the people around him who took care of him and his kids. I think they should have grabbed the kids and left Adam on the side of the road someplace.

My favorite characters were Adam's neighbor Samuel Hamilton, and Lee, Adam's Chinese servant (and nanny, despite Adam being an adult). They both can see disasters approaching and are both helpless to do anything to stop them. Sometimes they try and sometimes they just wait for whatever it is to happen in a resigned sort of manner, philosophizing along the way. If the book was more about them and less about everybody else, i would have loved it.

When you are first introduced to Lee, he speaks in pidgin even though he was born in the United States and has no accent at all. In a conversation with Hamilton, he explains why.

"Lee," he said at last, "I mean no disrespect, but I've never been able to figure why you people still talk pidgin when an illiterate baboon from the black bogs of Ireland, with a head full of Gaelic and a tongue like a potato, learns to talk a poor grade of English in ten years."

Lee grinned. "Me talkee Chinese talk," he said.

"Well, I guess you have your reasons. And it's not my affair. I hope you'll forgive me if I don't believe it, Lee."

Lee looked at him and the brown eyes under their rounded upper lids seemed to open and deepen until they weren't foreign any more, but man's eyes, warm with understanding. Lee chuckled. "It's more than a convenience," he said. It's even more than self-protection. Mostly we have to use it to be understood at all...I know it's hard to believe, but it has happened so often to me and to my friends that we take it for granted. If I should go up to a lady or a gentleman, for instance, and speak as I am doing now, I wouldn't be understood...Pidgin they expect, and pidgin they'll listen to. But English from me they don't listen to, and so they don't understand it."

That's an incredible accusation to make. I wonder exactly how true it was, how prevalent it was, and if it's still true today. Now every time someone has trouble understanding me, i'm going to analyze the why.

I got through this book by marking every crazy and wonderful thing written in it. By the time i was done, it was full of hot pink post-its. And now i'll post them here so that i can continue to enjoy them without having to read this awful (and beautiful) book again.

Click for the quotes.




There are the quotes that i just thought were amusing:

...he came about thirty years before the turn of the century and he brought with him his tiny Irish wife, a tight hard little woman humorless as a chicken. She had a dour Presbyterian mind and a code of morals that pinned down and beat the brains out of nearly everything that was pleasant to do.

It was quite normal in that day for a man to use up three or four wives in a normal lifetime.


No crime of commission was ever attributed to him, and his crimes of omission were only misdemeanors. In his middle life, at about the time such things were known about, it was discovered that he had pernicious anemia. It is possible that his virtue lived on a lack of energy.


The old house seemed to have grown out of the earth, and it was lovely. Bordoni used it for a cow barn. He was a Swiss, an immigrant, with his national passion for cleanliness. He distrusted the thick mud walls and built a frame house some distance away, and his cows put their heads out the deep recessed windows of the old Sanchez house.


She had a horror of being found dead with mended or, worse, unmended underclothes.


One day Samuel strained his back lifting a bale of hay, and it hurt his feelings more than his back, for he could not imagine a life in which Sam Hamilton was not privileged to lift a bale of hay. He felt insulted by his back, almost as he would have been if one of his children had been dishonest.


Liza: "Samuel," she said, "you're the most contentious man this world has ever seen."
Samuel: "Yes, Mother."
Liza: "Don't agree with me all the time. It hints of insincerity. Speak up for yourself."


"It's Lee at the hens," said Samuel. "You know, if chickens had government and church and history, they would take a distant and distasteful view of human joy. Let any gay and hopeful thing happen to a man, and some chicken goes howling to the block."


And the bits that sounded particularly true or required some deeper thought:

You can boast about anything if it's all you have. Maybe the less you have, the more you are required to boast.

Adam was glad of Charles the way a woman is glad of a fat diamond, and he depended on his brother in the way that same woman depends on the diamond's glitter and the self-security tied up in its worth; but love, affection, empathy, were beyond conception.


It seems to me that if you or I must choose between two courses of thought or action, we should remember our dying and try so to live that our death brings no pleasure to the world.


The Irish stereotype:

Lee: "But the Irish are said to be a happy people, full of jokes."
Samuel: "There's your pidgin and your queue. They're not. They're a dark people with a gift for suffering way past their deserving. It's said that without whisky to soak and soften the world, they'd kill themselves. But they tell jokes because it's expected of them."


And the Chinese stereotypes [which i thought were pretty hysterically accurate in many cases - my annotations are in italics]:

Cathy had always been able to shovel into the mind of any man and dig up his impulses and his desires. But Lee's brain gave and repelled like rubber. His face was lean and pleasant, his forehead broad, firm, and sensitive, and his lips curled in a perpetual smile.
[he's inscrutable!]

"We're controlled, we Chinese," he said. "We show no emotion."


Lee: "I've been thinking of going to San Francisco and starting a little business."
Samuel: "Like a laundry? Or a grocery store?"
Lee: "No. Too many Chinese laundries and restaurants."
[heh. he's right, you know.]


Lee poured the scalding green tea. He grimaced when Adam put two spoonfuls of sugar in his cup.
[i, too, have grimaced in horror as i watched someone put sugar into their green tea.]


Lee: "I don't think I've ever known what you people call happiness. We think of contentment as the desirable thing, and maybe that's negative."


Lee: "They were recruited largely from Canton, for the Cantonese are short and strong and durable, and also they are not quarrelsome."
[not quarrelsome? someone tell my family. they didn't get that memo.]


Lee: "Don't spill flour on my floor."
[he says this in the middle of a very emotionally personal conversation he's having with Abra. i thought it was funny because i would totally do the same thing and interrupt a serious discussion to admonish someone for making a mess. it doesn't mean we don't care! but really, quit spilling shit on my floor.]


By min | July 18, 2013, 1:09 PM | Boooooks| Link



July 16, 2013

Paralyzed By Sand

Did you ever feel you needed more proof that the world was a dangerous place and that you should be allowed to stay home protected by bubble wrap? If you did, here it is: Beaches are death traps.

Jeff Harris was on a beach in The Outer Banks, N.C., with friends, kicking a soccer ball in the surf. Diving for the ball in shallow water, he hit his head on the sand with such force that he couldn't move. He kept trying to lift his head but it became so tiring that he just let it dangle in the surf. He eventually passed out.
...
Harris, 30, is now paralyzed from the neck down.
...
Jesse Billauer, 34, was surfing in Malibu, Calif., riding a wave into one-meter-deep water when he was thrown into a sandbar, severing his spinal cord. Chad de Satnick, 36, was riding a wave in Cape May, N.J., when he hit shallow water, flew off his board and into the sand, fracturing his sixth and seventh vertebrae. Patrick Durkin, 59, was body surfing in Ocean City, Md., when he was caught unexpectedly by a wave close to shore. He rode it in but was thrown into a wall of sand that broke his neck. The list of bathers with spinal injuries goes on.

The article puts forth an ER doctor's hypothesis that beach replenishment was a possible factor in all of these spinal injuries, but nobody knows for sure what the cause is. All i know is that next time we are at the beach and fnord12 asks me if i want to go in the water, the answer is going to be "Hell, no! Are you out of your mind? Do you want to end up paralyzed?? Sit down and read your book, goddammit!".


By min | July 16, 2013, 2:44 PM | Ummm... Other?| Link



July 14, 2013

SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

I woke up this morning to find out that i don't even own this site anymore but i figured i should still try to get through this big pile of recent comics before i go away for the week (during which time, i imagine, the site will just completely melt down). It's been a while so i'll be Speed Reviewing two issues at once in some cases. And i've got to get to bed to catch a plane tomorrow morning, so no proofreading or nuthin'.

Secret Avengers #5-6 - I really have a problem with the weird premise of this series (Hawkeye and Black Widow agreeing to let SHIELD mindwipe them repeatedly while sending them on assassination missions and other questionably moral things) so you'd think i'd be happy with issue #5 where Hawkeye was finally beginning to question what the hell he was doing there. But instead i'm just like "Yeah! So walk away!". But he doesn't. I'm glad to see Maria Hill become the action director of SHIELD again, and the jokey acknowledgement that even the characters in the book can't tell them apart. AIM working its way onto the permanent UN Security Council seems insanely implausible. I enjoyed the bit with Rhodey taking over the Iron Patriots.

Red She-Hulk #67 - Let's just say whatever the merits of this issue, i'm sorry to see Jeff Parker go.

X-Factor #258 - I came in late to this iteration of X-Factor and i imagine the payoff for these final issues will be better for those who have been following from the beginning.

Thunderbolts #11 - We decided to drop this when Daniel Way left so i think this is our last issue. It's been fun. A bit thin, plotwise, but i've enjoyed the character interactions.

Avengers AI #1 - I dropped Age of Ultron early on, which, by all accounts, seems to have been the right move. Bought this on the strength of Sam Humphries, who is doing decent stuff on Uncanny X-Force. And i think i'm going to like this better. Can already tell i'm going to love the Doombot. But i'm not sure if i'm missing anything regarding the reason Pym was arrested by SHIELD; from what i saw here it seemed very unlikely that would happen. I actually didn't know Pym was going to feature so prominently in this series, which is probably for the best because i might have skipped it. I'm in it for a bunch of robots hanging out together. But even with Pym it seems like this is going to be a fun series. As an aside (but an important one!), i really wish someone would pull someone at Marvel aside and explain to them that Captain America is an absolute laughingstock in his current costume.

Young Avengers #6-7 - These continue to be great. I was missing McKelvie's art on #6 until we got to the guy in the Patriot suit doing a zombie-shuffle across the room; that was done really well by Kate Brown. Most of the issue was a downtime issue so it's hard to judge the art beyond that (although it was fine - Speed's facial expressions during the assembly sequence were more on the cartoony side than i initially liked but it could grow on me). And it was a good downtime issue. I must have read Prodigy's first appearance in the 2003 New Mutants series but i don't remember him and this was a great introduction and i really love the idea that he's using his knowledge to work at a super-hero (?) call center. Speed's "one second is a week" bit has been done before but it's the type of thing that bears repeating. Issue #7 was "downtime" as well (unless you count the Skifflefuffles in the beginning) but everything's building nicely.

FF #8 - Loved "Thing Rings, Do Your Thing". But i'm not comfortable with the characterization of two characters in this series. The first being Dr. Doom. Kidnapping a kid's parents and terrorizing a child and forcing him to do your bidding? Not how i like to see Dr. Doom portrayed. And Medusa - the idea that she is unapproachable royalty... i get the idea. But that ship sailed way back in Stan Lee's day and she wasn't on board. I saw Fraction do a little of that before and i hoped that would be the end of it, but it was really a focal point in this issue. Now maybe something happened (in Hickman's run) that explained this, but my policy is "if i don't know about it and there's no footnote, it's wrong!" and it really comes across like a much belated attempt at a do-over for her.

Captain Marvel #13 - To be fair, we're weirdly just getting the Captain Marvel parts of this Enemy Within crossover so i'm judging this based on only getting part of the story. At the same time the pacing on this seems to be such that it doesn't seem like we actually missed anything. All that said, it really does feel like with both Sebela and De Andrade not here, this book is missing vital components. The art... not great. If i wasn't being extra SuperSpeedy i would post this picture of Captain America because it is just hilariously bad. To give you an idea, he looks kind of like this. Plotwise, the idea that Earth is just loaded with Kree sentries seems outrageous to me.

Wolverine #5-6 - As i've said previously, i get so much Wolverine without even trying that i didn't need a Wolverine book, but Alan Davis' art was a draw. So now we've got these two issues, and guess who isn't on them? And remember last issue, when i was confused that the story clearly wasn't over but they were telling us it was over? Well, they've apparently redefined what a story arc means because these issues are a direct continuation of the previous four - seriously, this is just parts 5 and 6 of the story that started in issue #1 - just with a different artist. All that said... Paul Cornell has unloaded on us the fact that what we thought was a gun in the previous "arc" was really a Micronauts spaceship and i'm gonna say that makes it all worthwhile.

Iron Man #12 - I can't enjoy this because i'm just too nervous about what this story is saying about Tony Stark, which is that he was genetically programmed by a rogue Rigellian Recorder to be a super-genius. After some deep breaths, i am confident that Gillen will find a way to tell us it was all a big fake-out and then i can go back and read this in a more rational frame of mind. In the meantime, i do like Eaglesham's art.

Uncanny X-Force #7 - Silly Fantomex triplets stuff. It's good. But i'd prefer to get back to the full team and see a conclusion to the Demon Bear storyline at this point.

Uncanny Avengers #9 - In my local reading circle, i've been the hold out on this book. Everyone else is ready to drop it. And with this issue, i guess i'm ready to agree. It's the never-resolving petty arguments. I get that in theory this is supposed to be the book that deals with mutant/non-mutant tension. But it's not dealing with it. It's just every issue they bring it up again and everybody's yelling at each other. There's nothing Uncanny about it; it's the Angry Avengers. Bill Mantlo would be embarrassed. I did think one part of the argument was interesting. Not necessarily good. But when Rogue started talking about mutant culture and stuff like that, the response was that mutants aren't a "culture" and that being a mutant isn't like being an ethnic minority or gay or anything like that. And there's a real logic to that (not that it seemed to move Rogue one iota). But isn't that also backing away from the core theme of what mutants stand for at Marvel? Like, if you're going to point out the flaws in the comparison to real life discrimination, then what are we talking about here? What's the book supposed to be about? I think another factor here is that i could look past all that if the Apocalypse plot was moving. I mean, Apocalypse! But it's really dragging. Something about mummies and a last-page introduction to some resurrected heroes (conveniently both X- And Avengers characters). And apparently some off-panel killing of additional Celestials (did i read that right? And if so, did they really choose to rehash the X/Avengers fight scenes again instead of showing a child of Apocalypse fighting Celestials?). Compare to the Red Skull arc where the Red Skull and his silly minions were out front pretty much the whole time. I think we can trade-wait and/or bargain bin the rest of this.

Indestructible Hulk #9-10 - This is another one where someone needs to get pulled aside to be told "Psst, no one wants to see the Hulk wearing armor.". Anecdotally, this seems to be preventing people from trying out Mark Waid's Hulk run, which has been awesome. So let's cut it out. These issues were great - enjoyed the Daredevil "team-up", enjoyed seeing Baron Zemo.

Daredevil #27-28 - Two more really great Mark Waid issues. The first one concludes the weirdest Daredevil/Bullseye fight ever. The next one i was all ready to hate. Bringing back the bully that called Matt Murdock Daredevil? Really? But Waid handled it really well and i'm looking forward to the rest of this Sons of the Serpent storyline. The judge pulling out a gun in court was certainly something new. Foggy's cancer storyline is being handled nicely as well. Realistic, not maudlin.

X-Men #2 - For those who can't keep track of the adjectives, this is the all female/Brian Wood book. And it's really nice. Great characterization. Really nice art by Olivier Coipel. Nice pacing (especially if issue #3 really is the end of the arc as advertised and not another Wolverine fake-out). Just something as simple as making Kitty Pryde's "disruption of electronics while phasing" power a key point here was great. Paul O'Brien wrote about this issue that it "should have a lot of appeal to the more traditionally-minded X-Men reader" and holy god did that make me feel old, but yeah, if that's what you want to call it, sure. More like this, please.


By fnord12 | July 14, 2013, 11:32 PM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link



Automatic A+

Although this scene doesn't pass the Bechdel test.

By fnord12 | July 14, 2013, 11:27 PM | Comics| Link



July 12, 2013

The secret is: Stop sending us your filthy wrappers

The nice thing about the internet is when you see some weird ad in your comic books you can look it up and see what the hell they are talking about. I didn't know anything about an Indian Wrapper Legend, but according to Snopes it seems like people somehow got it into their heads that if you got a tootsie pop with an Indian picture on it you could send it in for a free tootsie pop. In fact according to that Snopes article (from 2011), they still get about 150 letters a week asking for free tootsie pops, and some stores feel compelled to give them away because people are so sure about it.

And so this ad seems to have been an attempt to disabuse people of this idea. They started sending out the "secret of the Indian Wrapper Legend" pamphlets and trying to get people to send some money along with their sticky candy wrappers in exchange for hats and towels or whatever.

It seems to me you shouldn't need a winter hat and a beach towel at the same time.

Weird. But that is one smug looking kid with all his tootsie roll paraphernalia. He earned it, though. By eating candy.


By fnord12 | July 12, 2013, 7:28 PM | Comics & Ummm... Other?| Link



July 11, 2013

I did not know that

I guess i should have guessed, but it turns out the impetus for the awful Origin comic was Hollywood. This is from an article reviewing the now available motion comic version:

For decades, the best kept secret in comics was the origin of Marvel's claw-wielding Canadian berserker, Wolverine. So secret, in fact, was this origin story that Wolverine himself actually had no idea what his early life consisted of, how exactly he got his metal-bonded skeleton and matching claws and even what his full name might be. He answered to the name "Logan", but there was no telling if this was really his own name. This was, of course, one of the most compelling and attractive things about the character and considering his mutant healing factor, the implication that "Logan" could be significantly older than he looks kept the mystery pumping for years.

That all changed when 20th Century Fox found success with its X-Men movie series and essentially mandated to Marvel Comics that either it divulge Wolverine's origin story or the studio would make up its own. Hence, in 2001, this story was told in the graphic novel limited series called Origin...

Again, i don't know why they didn't just hand them Barry Windsor-Smith's Weapon X saga and be done with it. But i guess it explains why that Origin comic was so useless (boring, barely a story in its own right, unsupported by previous work, and did nothing interesting for Wolverine's character). It was just a hack job done to satisfy some Hollywood execs.


By fnord12 | July 11, 2013, 12:45 PM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link



July 9, 2013

Recap 54

Kobolds - Not Just for First Level


By min | July 9, 2013, 2:18 PM | D&D| Link



What have i gotten myself into?

So i while back i did this, and now they've arrived. Four months late but as far as Kickstarters go that's nothing.

Ummm, painters wanted? I'm considering using them unpainted to start with so that they don't just sit in a box for months (or years). So many new ways to kill my players... why not use them right now?! Gonna need to figure out a new way to organize and store them.


Click for big bones

Well this is going to slow down my comics timeline project, for sure.

Update: this post is going to be my index for my progress on these. At the top is the link to the kickstarter info. And here's my review of the figures and the painting process.

And here's the posts with painted figures so far:
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31.


By fnord12 | July 9, 2013, 11:56 AM | D&D | Comments (5) | Link



Idiot destroys priceless comics to make dumb paper mache statues like you used to make in 3rd grade

At a minimum, looks like Avengers #1, Avengers #4, a Bruce Jones Ka-Zar, and part of that nice Captain America/Hulk crossover written by Roger Stern were destroyed.


By fnord12 | July 9, 2013, 10:12 AM | Comics| Link



July 6, 2013

Strawberry Pie

vegan strawberry pie

This is one of four 4-inch mini pies i made using this recipe.

Double Crust Ingredients

Update 6/2014: I've since revised my crust recipe because i felt this recipe was a bit brittle. The new version can be found here.


  • 3/4 cup vegan butter kept cold (we like Earth Balance buttery sticks)
  • 1 vegan egg* (we like Ener-G Egg Replacer)
  • 1 T ice water
  • 2 T cold non-dairy milk
  • 1 1/2 cup + 1 T white flour
  • 1/2 cup + 1 T whole wheat flour
  • 1 T + 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Cut the butter into small cubes and place in the freezer. Whisk together the egg, ice water, and milk in small bowl. Refrigerate.

In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, and salt and mix to combine. Add 6 T of the butter (half) and continue processing until well combined.

Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and process until a dough forms. Add remaining butter and pulse in a few short bursts just until the dough forms a ball. Do not over-mix. There should be visible chunks of butter in the dough. Flatten into a disc, wrap, and refrigerate for several hours before using. The dough will keep for several days in the fridge and several weeks in the freezer.

*i use ice water to make the egg, as well.


Pie Filling Ingredients

  • 2 qts fresh strawberries, de-stemmed and halved
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch*
  • 4 T vegan butter (we like Earth Balance buttery sticks)
  • Yield: 1 10-inch pie or 4 4-inch pies

*Cornstarch will not thicken the fruit juices after it's been in the freezer. If freezing the pie unbaked, use twice the amount of flour instead.

Combine the sugar, cinnamon, and cornstarch (or flour). Cut butter into the mixture. Add to the strawberries.

Pour into prepared pie shell. Cover with the top crust. Brush the crust with milk and sprinkle with raw sugar if desired. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Cover crust edges. Bake for 15 min at 425degF. Bake for another 30 min at 350degF. Uncover edges for the last 15 min.

Leave the pie in the cooling oven. Do not serve until the following day to allow the juices to be re-absorbed.


By min | July 6, 2013, 4:09 PM | Vegan Vittles| Link



July 5, 2013

Is It Just Me?

Or does this pancake look like an egg with the tail of a sperm hanging out of it?

it totally looks like an egg with a sperm tail.  you see it too, right?

I bet you're all judging me now.


By min | July 5, 2013, 3:58 PM | My stupid life | Comments (2) | Link



Then I Made a Scarf

Remember a year and a half ago when i proudly showed you the single sock i knit using a sock loom? Well, here's my first needle knitting project:

garter stitch scarf in 2 colors - nylon/acrylic blend yarn and a acrylic/bamboo blend yarn

Since i didn't have enough of the brighter green to make a decent length scarf, i used what yarn i had in the house. Yep. That's yarn from the sock project. That's prolly going to cause problems what with the 2 types of material most likely shrinking and wearing at different rates. But let's not worry about that now. Let's just look at the pretty scarf i made with no obvious mess-ups.

(we are not going to bring up the whereabouts of the second sock, so just shush.)


By min | July 5, 2013, 3:43 PM | My stupid life| Link



July 3, 2013

Hulk is maker, not taker!

This subscription ad from 1980 was just a little before my time, and when i first started collecting Marvel a few years later, the Hulk had Bruce Banners brain. So the joke of him sitting down for a nice cup of tea speaking articulately was a bit diluted for me. I was more focused on the fact that the lady sitting next to him had to be She-Hulk and it was kind of weird for her to be there in a setting more appropriate for a wife.

But what would have been totally over my head is the Atlas Shrugged book. That is hilarious.

Hulk just wants to be left alone!  Hulk understands that is now called 'going Galt!'.

By fnord12 | July 3, 2013, 10:35 AM | Comics| Link



Own your own comics

I continue to buy hard copies for all my comics and then download the digital files for scanning convenience. And i think the only Image series i'm currently following is Walking Dead and we're getting that in trade format. So this news isn't of immediate use to me, but i still think it's a positive move.

Image is now going to sell digital files of their comics. You'll have your option of PDF, EPUB, or my preferred CBR/CBZ format.

Image's Director of Business Development Ron Richards says that offering the direct-to-consumer downloads is important. "There's something to be said for the ownership factor. If readers purchase a book on ComiXology, that may be their library [on the service] but from what I understand that could be revoked. And God forbid, if ComiXology goes under or their data center has an earthquake all their hard drives go away -- then you've got nothing."
...
"My stance on piracy is that piracy is bad for bad entertainment," Image Comics publisher Eric Stephenson told Wired in an exclusive interview. "There's a pretty strong correlation with things that suck not being greatly pirated, while things that are successful have a higher piracy rate. If you put out a good comic book, even if somebody does download it illegally, if they enjoy it then the likelihood of them purchasing the book is pretty high. Obviously we don't want everybody giving a copy to a hundred friends, but this argument has been around since home taping was supposedly killing music back in the '70s, and that didn't happen. And I don't think it's happening now."
This was my first Dead Kennedys tape.

By fnord12 | July 3, 2013, 7:58 AM | Comics & Music| Link



July 1, 2013

Keeping us safe

Pretty amazing news over the weekend from the Snowden leaks showing that the US has been bugging European Union offices and "monitors Germany as closely as it does China, Iraq and Saudi Arabia". The good news is this could derail TPP negotiations. Germany is very angry.


By fnord12 | July 1, 2013, 8:49 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link



Write civil rights upside down and then cross out every letter

Now that the Supreme Court has thrown out the Voting Rights Act, Slate publishes a pre-VRA literacy test that Louisiana used to keep black people from voting. I know i couldn't get every answer right in the 10 minutes allotted but as Atrios says, the real issue is that you were graded by a white poll worker so it really didn't matter.

It's also worth noting that the literacy test wouldn't pass the literacy test. See question #30 for example.


By fnord12 | July 1, 2013, 8:41 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link



It sure gets us to spend time looking at them

Once again, Caleb reviews an ad in a Marvel book that boggled my mind too.


By fnord12 | July 1, 2013, 8:36 AM | Comics| Link



Whoodwin?

Crystal Castles
Crystal Castles

vs.

Crystal Castles
Crystal Castles

vs.

The Crystal Castle
The Crystal Castle


By fnord12 | July 1, 2013, 8:17 AM | Music & Video Games & Whoodwin| Link



Whoodwin?

Ice Castles vs.Crystal Castles
Ice Castles Crystal Castles

By fnord12 | July 1, 2013, 8:10 AM | Movies & Video Games & Whoodwin| Link



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