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May 31, 2015

Now It's Happening at Work

It took me a while to get this up...

About 1 week after the baby bunny incident, i'm unlocking the front doors at work, and i see this sitting on the patio right in front of the door:

Fnord tells me it looks like it's the size of a hen, but it was actually about the size of my palm.


Normal birds, when you open doors near them, fly away. This one just sat there like a lump. I sort of tapped it with my foot to encourage it to fly away. The damned thing rolled over! Why did you roll over! Why didn't you fly away! Or hop? Are you broken???

It wasn't broken. I know this because after several minutes of me crouching right next to it, it finally decided it had enough and walked a whole 2 feet away.

I googled. I think it's some kind of sparrow. And since some of the feathers on its back were still fluffy, i think it meant it was a fledgeling - old enough to be kicked out of the nest but not yet able to fly. So that explains why it didn't fly away when i opened the door. It doesn't explain why it just sat there like a dope when i was practically on top of it. It might not be able to fly, but its legs were in perfect working order. Hop, damn you!

It spent the whole day hiding behind a metal bin. It was gone the next morning, so it either figured out how to fly or a feral cat got it. We're going to go with the first option.


By min | May 31, 2015, 1:45 PM | My stupid life| Link



I Think We Won the Amazon Wars

We've achieved all we can ever hope to achieve in this life. We just got the biggest box ever from Amazon.

And it's full of essential stuff - popcorn and vegan cheddar kettle chips. Yeah. We did that.

I don't think we can ever apologize enough to our poor mail carrier.


By min | May 31, 2015, 1:36 PM | My stupid life| Link



Vegan Chocolate Cake with Ganache

vegan chocolate cake with ganache topping

Vegan Chocolate Cake

Ingredients

  • 2 cups unflavored non-dairy milk

  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar

  • 2 cups flour

  • 2/3 cups cocoa powder

  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda

  • 1 tsp baking powder

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 5 T butter, softened (we like Earth Balance buttery sticks)

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar

  • 1/4 cup + 1 T oil

  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Yield: 2 9-inch round cakes

Grease 2 9-inch round baking pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.

Whisk the milk and vinegar together.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Whisk to mix.

Preheat the oven to 350degF.

Using a mixer, cream the butter. Beat in the sugar, mixing on med-high for a few minutes. Add the oil and vanilla extract. Mix for a few more minutes until smooth.

Pour half of dry ingredients into the butter mixture. Beat on low until just combined (~30 seconds). Be careful not to over mix the batter. Scrape the bowl and beater, then pour in all of the milk mixture. Mix on low for another 30-60 seconds. Pour in the rest of the dry ingredients and mix on low again until just mixed (~30 seconds). The batter will appear a little lumpy, but that's ok.

Divide the batter evenly between the 2 cake pans. Give the pans a little jiggle/spin to level off the batter, and place the pans in the oven. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, turning the pans 180deg after the first 15 minutes.

Set the pans on a rack to cool for about 15 minutes before turning the cakes out onto the rack to finish cooling completely.


Vegan Fudgey Filling

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened (we like Earth Balance buttery sticks)

  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder, sifted

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted

  • 2 T maple syrup

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Yield: 1 cup fudge filling

This is basically an extra fudgey, soft buttercream frosting that isn't too sweet. The recipe could be tripled to make enough to frost the entire cake, as well, but it would definitely need some time in the fridge to firm up else the layers could be in danger of sliding.

Cream the butter. Add the cocoa powder and sugar. Beat well. Mix in the maple syrup and vanilla extract. If the mixture isn't sweet enough for you, add more powdered sugar and maple syrup a tablespoon at a time. Keep in mind each addition of a dry or a wet ingredient will change the consistency slightly. If the filling is too dry, but you don't want to go any sweeter, add non-dairy milk until you achieve the desired consistency.


Vegan Ganache Topping

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup non-dairy milk

  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate (you can use chocolate chips)

  • 2 T maple syrup

  • 2 pints raspberries, rinsed and blotted dry
  • Yield: ~1 1/4 cup ganache (not exactly sure - i didn't measure it)

I know! How the hell much is 4oz of chocolate for people who don't have a food scale??? I'm going to guesstimate it to be about 1 1/4 cups. Or just look at your 12 oz bag of chocolate chips and pour out approximately 1/3 of that bag. Close enough!

Heat the milk on low until it just starts to bubble on the edges. Remove from heat and add the chocolate and maple syrup. Stir until smooth. Set aside for about 20 minutes so that it's cooled down and is a little less runny.


Assembling the Cake

Place one of the cakes on a plate/platter upside down. This way, the domed top (that some recipes will suggest you slice off) is on the bottom and you have a nice flat surface to frost. Gravity will take care of the dome.

Smooth the fudgey filling over the bottom layer of cake. Stick this in the fridge for about 10 minutes before placing the second layer on top. As i mentioned earlier, the fudgey filling is a little soft, so chilling it a little will make sure everything stays in place.

Carefully pour half of the ganache over the top. Using a rubber spatula, spread the ganache evenly without pushing it over the sides. Let this chill for 10 minutes or so and pour another layer of ganache over the cake. There will be a little ganache that overflows and drips down the side, but your goal is to make sure most of the ganache is on the cake and not pooling on the cake plate.

Chill for 10 minutes before decorating the top with the fresh raspberries and a dusting of powdered sugar.

Refrigerate until about 15 minutes before serving.


By min | May 31, 2015, 12:40 AM | Vegan Vittles| Link



May 29, 2015

The music of fnord12

The band that Min and i were in, Lead Singer Syndrome, had been on semi-hiatus for a few years and recently we finally decided it was time to admit that it was really just dead. I'm still sporadically working with some of the other members of the group and it may return in some fashion at a later date (without Min). But during the hiatus i had basically put a hold on making music for myself, and once i admitted that the band was dead i was able to get back to that. So i've "released" a new "album" (i.e., i've put some songs up on the website). And i've also revamped the music section a bit, organizing it better and updating the music player from the old flash based thing to a nice HTML 5 player called jPlayer that should work on all devices (as opposed to flash). The new album is a combination of some purely new songs plus some tracks that i originally created as blueprints for LSS.

You can check out the updated Music section on the sidebar (or here) and the new stuff specifically is Chumley Lives Again.

Chumley Lives Again

By fnord12 | May 29, 2015, 12:02 PM | Music| Link



Recap 67

There's a Squid-Faced Elder God at the Door Asking for You


By min | May 29, 2015, 11:42 AM | D&D| Link



May 28, 2015

Who's co-opting who?

Josh Marshall at TPM has an interesting post about a pretty weird and funny scenario where the DNC is sending out a lot of Bernie Sanders messaging. Marshall's point is that everyone is so sure that Hillary Clinton is going to win that they feel comfortable sending out sort of a happy message of co-existence. My more sinister thought is that the DNC is pulling in all these disaffected and lapsed liberals into the Democrat's apparatus with the idea that they'll stick around to vote for Clinton in the general as long as the primary doesn't get contentious. But on the other hand... the DNC is sending out a lot of Bernie Sanders messaging! That's kind of crazy, and it seems like Sanders' mission of pulling the Democrats to the left is already working. Even if the "sinister" scenario is the correct one, they still need to keep all the people they pull in engaged for the general.

In other Bernie news, the New York Times' contribution is um, that old people like him.


By fnord12 | May 28, 2015, 2:23 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link



Mary Sue

On the comics blog recently, a commenter used the phrase "Mary Sue" in a way that i believe to be incorrect. But from all of his previous comments i know that person to be smart and well read, and the usage is one that i see a lot. I think of this usage as being a lot like how "beg the question" has evolved into meaning something entirely different than originally intended. But i could just be plain wrong, so i wanted to outline my understanding of the phrase and see if people agree. I don't mean to single out any commenter (especially ones whose alter egos are invading Kree soldiers); it's something that's been bugging me for a while and the fact that it came up recently just brought it to the front of my mind.

I've always understood the phrase Mary Sue to be when an author inserts themselves* into the story in a wish fulfillment kind of way. And that's how Wikipedia defines it. The name originally came from a parody of fan fiction where a Lieutenant Mary Sue joined the Starship Enterprise crew and just proved to be a wonderful officer and got to be romantically involved with William Shatner and everything else. Simple, basic fan fiction where the author is fantasizing about being a part of the story.

We really shouldn't see this sort of thing in professional writing, and i can't think of any examples where we do. The closest sort of thing i can think of in comics is Richard Rory (and to a lesser degree Howard the Duck) being a stand-in for Steve Gerber, or the Beyonder in Secret Wars II being a metaphor for Jim Shooter. But those characters don't qualify as Mary Sues because the point of them is not for the author to fantasize about being part of the story. It's to provide that external voice, or to do an autobiographical self-examination (see also every Woody Allen movie). We may or may not like the meta nature of this type of character, but it's not simply the author showing how awesome they would be if they could be in the story.

The above examples aren't really where i see the phrase being (mis-?)used, though. Where it always seems to come up is in cases where the author has what i call a pet character. One major example is Roger Stern's Monica Rambeau, aka Captain Marvel. The common complaint is that Stern made the character too powerful and too perfect and structured stories so that she could always be the hero. This post isn't about debating the merits of that criticism. I just don't think it's correct to call Captain Marvel a Mary Sue. Stern isn't trying to insert himself into the story. He's just (perhaps) going too far in trying to sell or develop the character he's created, at the expense of other characters or good storytelling.

That's a potentially valid criticism, and we do need a phrase for it (again, i use "pet character"), but i think it should be distinguished from Mary Sue. Maybe i'm fighting an uphill battle here, but i already do that with "beg the question" so i'm obviously not above that sort of thing.


*See previous post


By fnord12 | May 28, 2015, 10:04 AM | Comics & Master of Style | Comments (9) | Link



Them!

Not the giant ants. This is a Master of Style post, so we're talking grammar here. And i'm linking to a Kevin Drum post that is several months old. This is just a belated notice that i am following Drum down the dark side in using "them" and "they" as a singular third person pronoun.


By fnord12 | May 28, 2015, 9:31 AM | Master of Style | Comments (1) | Link



May 27, 2015

Women in comedy

A serious roundtable interview that still manages to be quite funny.


By fnord12 | May 27, 2015, 5:32 PM | Liberal Outrage & Movies & TeeVee| Link



A more serious Bernie Sanders post

The good news is that Bernie Sanders is now polling in the double digits (and these are still polls where people that aren't even candidates, like Elizabeth Warren, are being included). The bad news is that the media's double standard in covering Sanders compared to Republican candidates that are doing the same or worse than him continues.

Just as a warning: my political posts died down a lot after the midterm Elections since it was obvious at that point that we were going to be dealing with gridlock for the next two years. But now with Bernie Sanders running i'm back on the political sites, so there's going to be a lot more posts about Bernie specifically and politics more generally.


By fnord12 | May 27, 2015, 5:28 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link



Brilliant, guys

LA's labor unions want an exemption from the city's new $15-an-hour minimum wage. The optics alone are a disaster, let alone the fact that it would result in lower wages for union employees. You know, the people you are supposed to represent?


By fnord12 | May 27, 2015, 4:51 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link



Best 404 Error Page ever

Warning: a video will start playing automatically when you click this link, but it will be worth it.

Bernie for President!


By fnord12 | May 27, 2015, 1:00 PM | Liberal Outrage & Ummm... Other?| Link



These days?

In all my years of political awareness, i've never understood it to be anything else.


By fnord12 | May 27, 2015, 12:53 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link



Who are we talking to here?

Comic store price listings were a staple of comics ads since at least the early 80s (and you can definitely find smaller classified ads prior to that). But they begin to take on a different tone in 1990.

Cap is "hot"? Alien Nation "should be very strong"? It sounds like this ad is talking to other dealers. The speculator market is happening, people.

I can't even find mention of a Deluxe version of Alien Nation #1 on mycomicshop.com, so maybe it really was hot! The regular #1 from 1990 sells for $1.35 Near Mint, though.


By fnord12 | May 27, 2015, 11:13 AM | Comics| Link



Just a few random observations

1. As i've mentioned before, i hate it when green Hulk is colored to look like grey Hulk. There's more to what made the grey Hulk cool than just having grey skin!

2. There are nearly as many comics with "special prices" as there are regular titles.

3. I am surprised that X-Men Classics was more than a regular title. It was just a reprint book, like Marvel Tales, and didn't even have the back-up feature at this point.


By fnord12 | May 27, 2015, 11:02 AM | Comics | Comments (5) | Link



May 26, 2015

How the Honey Nut Cheerios Bee saved the Native Americans

This should be a series. A honey bee going back in time to right the various wrongs of history by tricking people into thinking that they were eating a healthy breakfast instead of a bowl of sugar.


By fnord12 | May 26, 2015, 3:07 PM | Ummm... Other?| Link



May 22, 2015

Ok, maybe i wasn't kidding about that Three Strike rule

Looking at our latest wonderful oil spill, i see this:

Meanwhile, Plains All American Pipeline is among the worst violators listed by the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration and surpassed all but four of more than 1,700 operators in reporting safety and maintenance infractions, the federal agency said.

The company has 175 federal safety and maintenance violations since 2006, responsible for more than 16,000 barrels in spills that have caused more than $23 million worth of property damage.

...Plains All American Pipeline violated federal environmental violations 10 times between 2004 and 2007, when about 273,420 gallons of crude oil were discharged into waters or shorelines in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Kansas, the EPA said.

Most of the spills were caused by corrosion on pipe, the EPA said.

The oil company agreed to pay a $3.25 million civil penalty and spend $41 million to upgrade 10,420 miles of crude oil pipeline operated in the United States, the EPA said in 2010.

How was this company still allowed to operate? Obviously those fines were just the cost of doing business and didn't inspire a serious revamp of their operations or infrastructure. Note that their previous spills caused $23 million+ in "property damage" (which probably underestimates or ignores the environmental impact) but they only payed $3.25 million in penalties. They also spent $41 million to upgrade their pipes so it wouldn't happen again, but here were are talking about them today. Shut these guys down.


By fnord12 | May 22, 2015, 9:31 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link



Immigrants create jobs

It's understandably hard for people to grok, but if you don't think of jobs as a zero sum game (there are a limited number of jobs and if you get one, i don't) and instead think of them as producing economic activity (you are doing things that require resources and now have money that you will need to spend on services), it's easier to understand how more people means more jobs. Yglesias has made this point before but now he summarizes a study quantifying it, saying that every new immigrant adds 1.2 additional new jobs to the economy.


By fnord12 | May 22, 2015, 9:24 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link



Totally busted

Politico has a bizarre hit piece on Elizabeth Warren. As Yglesias says:

Elizabeth Warren does not approve of the Trans-Pacific Partnership in part because she does not approve of its Investor-State Dispute Settlement provisions that let businesses sue governments over regulatory matters outside of the normal judicial process. In fact, Warren hates the way ISDS empowers corporations so much that fifteen years ago she served as an expert witness for the US government when it was defending itself against a corporate complaint before an ISDS arbitration panel.

Except apparently some swathes of the Beltway media would like us to believe that it is hypocritical of Warren to have participated in an arbitration process that she opposes.

...Imagine that we were debating drug legalization, and one Senator is running around talking about how it's appalling that we are sending people to trial over possession of drugs. Now someone writes a story saying Senator X didn't seem to think drug trials were so appalling back when he was working as a defense lawyer for people accused of drug possession.

Nobody would write that, of course, because it doesn't make any sense.

Even the Politico piece (no link; i'm not going to help them "win the morning") has this:

Warren's involvement in the case centered on a narrow aspect of bankruptcy law. Her office says it doesn't conflict at all with her current stance.

"Fifteen years ago, when a big company used ISDS to sue the United States in an attempt to undermine the American justice system and the rule of law, Senator Warren helped the government in its successful effort to defeat the case," Warren spokeswoman Lacey Rose told POLITICO in an emailed statement. "Senator Warren opposes ISDS in trade treaties for the same reasons that were so clearly demonstrated in that case -- because it tilts the playing field toward big companies, and undermines the American justice system and the rule of law."

Ted Posner, a specialist in international arbitration cases and a former George W. Bush administration trade official, argued that Warren's involvement in the 2000 case was an "interesting tidbit" but ultimately not relevant.

"I really don't see any connection between her provision of expert advice to the government in Loewen and her position on ISDS in her current capacity as a U.S. senator," said Posner, who is a partner at the law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. "The advice she gave in Loewen was in her capacity as an expert on U.S. bankruptcy law. She was not acting as an expert on ISDS."

That probably should have ended the article (or stopped it from being published entirely), but they still manage to go on for another 18 paragraphs.

Update: Krugman weighs in on this, too, noting that the whole thing was likely fed to Politico by an Obama operative, but also lambasting the media for the lazy "hypocrisy" narrative.


By fnord12 | May 22, 2015, 7:26 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link



May 21, 2015

Pendulum swings

Interesting story out of Nebraska about draconian prison sentencing laws basically collapsing under their own weight, resulting in some serious reforms, including the abolition of the death penalty, in a very conservative state. The unavailability of drugs for lethal injection was also a factor.


By fnord12 | May 21, 2015, 9:28 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link



Talk to your congresscritters, people

TPM has a writeup of a study saying that lawmakers, both liberal and conservative, assume that their constituents are more conservative than they actually are. The summary of the actual study does say "voters" and not just "constituents", which is an important thing to clarify. But the summary also suggests that the reason for this might be that "politically active citizens tend to be wealthier and more conservative". As a remedy, the summary suggests that "progressive groups might be able to use a simple lobbying strategy - just let legislators know the truth about what their constituents think and want!"


By fnord12 | May 21, 2015, 9:15 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link



May 20, 2015

What Happens In My Brain When I Watch a Movie

As illustrated by The Toast as they review the new Mad Max. There are spoilers. Eventually. I wouldn't recommend trying to read all of it. I did because it speaks to me, but you prolly shouldn't. Definitely.


By min | May 20, 2015, 2:16 PM | Movies| Link



Bernie!

Highlights of a Reddit interview.


By fnord12 | May 20, 2015, 1:49 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link



TPP Catch-22

"You need to tell me what's wrong with this trade agreement, not one that was passed 25 years ago," a frustrated President Barack Obama recently complained about criticisms of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). He's right. The public criticisms of the TPP have been vague. That's by design--anyone who has read the text of the agreement could be jailed for disclosing its contents. I've actually read the TPP text provided to the government's own advisors, and I've given the president an earful about how this trade deal will damage this nation. But I can't share my criticisms with you.

More.


By fnord12 | May 20, 2015, 10:47 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link



The Best Reform We Can Get?

Disgruntled, but not terribly surprised.

Link

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced on Tuesday that he will allow the Senate to vote on the USA Freedom Act, the surveillance reform bill that the House overwhelmingly passed last week, but that he had threatened to block. Congress only had a few days left to act before some key provisions of the Patriot Act expired, including the one the NSA has said gives it the authority to collect in bulk the phone records of Americans.

The bill would end that bulk collection, forcing the NSA to make specific requests to the phone companies instead. The bill also requires more disclosure -- and a public advocate -- for the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, while otherwise extending the three provisions that were due to sunset on June 1.

On the one hand, the bill would impose restrictions on the National Security Agency for the first time since the 1970s. On the other hand, in the context of the incredibly broad mass surveillance here and around the globe exposed by Snowden, the change would be minimal. It would do nothing to limit NSA programs officially targeted at foreigners that "incidentally" collect vast amounts of American communications. It would not limit the agency's mass surveillance of non-American communications at all.

...

Passing the Freedom Act would hardly be a defeat. As the New York Times wrote in a second-day story after the House vote -- headlined "Why the N.S.A. Isn't Howling Over Restrictions" -- the key "reform" in the bill was actually proposed by the then-NSA director Keith Alexander.

So why was McConnell fighting so hard to extend the Patriot Act as is?

Maybe because if the hardliners gave up without a fight, it wouldn't look like the reformers had prevailed.

So when the Freedom Act passes, after a ferocious fight at the buzzer, it will look like the reformers have won, when in fact it's tails, they lose.


By min | May 20, 2015, 10:39 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link



Ok, But Diarrhea and Eczema Really Suck

Link


To actually learn about the impacts of breastfeeding, we need to rely on studies in which breastfeeding is assigned randomly (the best option) or, in the absence of that experiment design, studies that somehow fully adjust for differences across women.

This leaves us with a small but informative set of studies. In the first camp -- the randomized trial camp -- we have one very large-scale study from Belarus. Known as the PROBIT trial, it was run in the 1990s and continued to follow up as the children aged.1 The study randomized women into two groups, one in which breastfeeding was encouraged and another in which it wasn't, and found that the encouragement treatment increased breastfeeding rates. The trial has studied all sorts of outcomes, including infant and child health and cognitive development.

...

Infants in the treatment group -- who, remember, were more likely to be breastfed -- had fewer gastrointestinal infections (read: less diarrhea) and were less likely to experience eczema and other rashes. However, there were no significant differences in any of the other outcomes considered. These include: respiratory infections, ear infections, croup, wheezing and infant mortality.

In other words, the evidence suggests that breastfeeding may slightly decrease your infant's chance of diarrhea and eczema but will not change the rate at which he gets colds or ear infections and will not prevent death.

So, you know, mom...mebbe you could try to breastfeed just a little? Think of all the laundry you could be saving yourself without all that messy diarrhea happening. Also, i would like to point out that rashes are no fun. I have cortisone cream stashed all over my house for just in case i get itchy.

Sadly, it there's no proof that breastfeeding makes you smarter, either, so quit your mom-shaming, people!

First, researchers looked at all the kids in the study. For this sample, the evaluation of IQ was done by evaluators who knew whether or not a child was in the breastfeeding-encouraged treatment group. There were no significant effects of breastfeeding on overall IQ. In addition, breastfeeding had no effect on teachers' evaluation of the children's school performance. But the researchers observed large effects of breastfeeding on verbal IQ.

Because the researchers were concerned about evaluator bias, they also had a subset of children evaluated by independent evaluators who did not know which children were breastfed. The differences in verbal IQ disappeared. This, in combination with the teacher evaluations, makes it seem likely that the overall effect was driven by the evaluators, not by true differences among children because of breastfeeding.

This explanation seems especially likely since the effects observed in the full sample are too large to be plausible. Taking into account the impact of the program on breastfeeding rates, the results suggest that nursing increases child IQ by about 24 IQ points, which is far outside of what any other study -- even one seriously biased by differences across mothers -- would suggest. Overall, as others have noted, this study doesn't provide especially strong support for the claim that breastfeeding increases IQ.

Comparisons among siblings (i.e., this and this) also show no IQ impacts. Again, these studies make clear that if you ignore differences across mothers, you can find large impacts of breastfeeding on IQ. It is only when you compare within the same family that you reveal the fact that it really doesn't seem to matter.

Although, really, i feel a lot better now because i wasn't breastfed and i had been all sad about my missed potential. Now i can rest assured that i didn't actually have any potential to lose. Woot!


By min | May 20, 2015, 10:09 AM | Science| Link



Marvel style

Just a note for myself, really, but it is interesting. Tom Brevoort says that through the 90s, over 90% of Marvel books were still being written in "Marvel style", where a writer writes up a plot and gives it to the artist, and then gets the art back to write the script. It wasn't until the Bill Jemas era that the switchover to full script (where the writer writes a full "movie script" style story with panel by panel descriptions) happened. Marvel style gives artists a lot more leeway and creative control of the story, which can be a good or bad thing depending on the artist's storytelling abilities. But i'd bet that a lot of what i don't like about more modern art, which often feels lifeless and even unclear to me, is due to that change.

I wonder if there was a tilt back to Marvel style with the more creator driven books like Daredevil and Hawkeye.


By fnord12 | May 20, 2015, 9:02 AM | Comics | Comments (2) | Link



May 19, 2015

Now I Want to See Mad Max

Originally, i didn't because i've seen Mad Max. We did that already. Do something new. Sheesh. So sick of all these remakes. But then i read Kelly Thompson's review on CBR, and i think now i have to see it.

As I've said many times before, not every film (or book or comic or whatever) has to be about women, in fact they shouldn't all be about women, but if you're going to use female characters, Mad Max: Fury Road is the perfect template for how to do it right. Because Mad Max: Fury Road not only gets it right, but gets it right on several complicated levels where it could have gone horribly awry.
...
So let's get into the nitty gritty of why this works like gangbusters: Imperator Furiosa is every bit Max's equal - both in the story and execution and in the way she is presented to the audience.
...
Most notable next to Furiosa is the element which is by far the most dangerous to include and which could have gone magnificently wrong and this is The Five Wives. The Five Wives are beautiful "breeders" and the "wives" (read: sex slaves) of lead big bad Immortan Joe.
...
These women are anything but damsels. They are fighting for their lives and freedom and risking everything, just like Furiosa and Max. They do not have the same skill levels of Furiosa and Max, and they shouldn't as they have led very different lives, but these are not shrinking violets. They do everything and anything within their power to help Furiosa (and anyone else along the way that tries to aid them)...
...
In action movies, hell, in most movies that aren't "chick films," women have clothing and hair that makes no goddamn sense. It's also true in comics to a massive degree, though we're going through a nice phase right now where there's a focus on design that makes more sense (see: Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, Batgirl, Spider-Gwen, etc.). So it's nice to see all of that so fantastically realized in Fury Road. It's okay that The Five Wives are basically wearing white sheets wrapped to make them look like pliant sexual beings, because that's what they have been designed to be in this world. It makes sense that they are paler and more beautiful than everyone else because they are literally kept in a vault away from the sun. It makes sense that they have gorgeous flowing (clean) locks of hair and supple groomed limbs and all their teeth because they have been pampered while everyone else starves and works and grovels. Of course that pampering comes with rape and imprisonment and who knows what else, but visually it makes sense. They look completely out of place in this world and it is deliberate and well considered and it's not in any way sexist because it's smart and real and not put there for random male gaze wank factor. Often beautiful women in movies are beautiful just because, and sometimes it makes no sense that they are this way, but here they are beautiful on purpose. By contrast Furiosa looks ready for battle just like Max does, including very short hair and lots of leather. By FURTHER contrast the women in the desert (The Vuvalini) they hook up with later look motorcycle riding badass desert survivalists. This all makes SENSE. None of it is random or put there to be titillating. It's there to serve story. And story rules all.

I, too, hate when costumes make no sense. Seeing female superheroes mincing around in heeled boots when their power set involves them getting into physical combat irritates me to no end. Do you have any idea how little traction heels provide? Do you??? And don't tell me "super powers". They're fighting against other supers so any advantage they might have over a normal person with their super strength and super speed and super holding up my costume with "magic" is negated.

I love action movies that involve female characters getting actiony. And if this film is as good as Kelly Thompson says at portraying women as being vulnerable and yet not just as eye candy damsels, i want to see that. Netflix, hurry up and get this on streaming! I might want to see this film, but not so badly that i'm going to brave a movie theater to do it.


By min | May 19, 2015, 8:28 AM | Movies| Link



May 18, 2015

"And whatever's going on in the X-books"

Just got a little chuckle out of the fact that all of the bi-weekly summer books had events going on except for the mutant comics. Events? Storylines? We're the X-books! We don't need any of that! And it's true. Sales on the X-books would have dwarfed anything else there, except for Spider-Man.

To be clear, it's not like the X-books didn't have events. Excalibur was coming off of the Cross-Time Caper during this bi-weekly period, and X-Men were building up to the X-Tinction Agenda crossover with New Mutants and X-Factor. But to get the kids to buy twice as many Captain America comics during the summer, they needed a special story, whereas the X-books just barreled on through.


By fnord12 | May 18, 2015, 2:12 PM | Comics | Comments (4) | Link



May 15, 2015

At a minimum, fixing broken windows discourages more broken windows

I blog a lot about the lead/crime hypothesis. Most of my link-blogging comes from posts by Kevin Drum, who always cautions that it doesn't mean that other crime theories aren't also true, but i've always seen the lead theory as being at odds with the "broken windows" theory popularized by Rudolph Giuliani. So it's interesting and maybe a little eye opening to see Vera te Velde's post saying that there's a lot of evidence that the broken windows theory works. Now, if you can stomach reading the comments, you'll see that Velde agrees that there's nothing saying that preventing or allowing minor graffiti-like crimes has any effect on violent crime, which is what the broken windows theory is really about. And she also acknowledges that the theory led to harassment (or worse) of minority citizens.

Seems to me the theories can work hand in hand. The lead theory should lead to less "crackdown" policing, but that doesn't mean we can't put up more No Littering signs.


By fnord12 | May 15, 2015, 2:55 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (2) | Link



Slim Fast - More Absurd Than I Thought

I have to post this cause i can't stop thinking about it. I'm all outraged on behalf of all the nutty people who go on this diet.

I have a protein shake for breakfast every weekday. It's convenient. There's no way in hell i'm waking up earlier to make actual food. I barely get out the door to make it to work on time. So, having something that takes a minute to put together and is portable is fantastic. For reasons, i ended up having a second shake for lunch earlier this week, and it got me thinking about the whole Slim Fast "2 shakes a day and a sensible dinner" diet, because having a shake for breakfast and one for lunch is beat. So, i went to their website to see exactly what their plan was. This was when i discovered the extent of the absurd.

Each of their shakes are 190 calories. You are allowed up to 3-100 calorie snacks. And then dinner should be 500 calories. That's a total of 1180 calories (1200 if you have a "meal replacement bar" instead of shakes). For a day. For an adult human being. If all i did was lay on the floor and breathe for a day, i would burn approximately 1400 calories. I'm 5'2" and weigh 114 lbs. I don't have a lot of excess me requiring frivolous calories. If someone put me on 1180 calories/day, i'd be gnawing on the furniture.

They also claim the shakes give you "up to 4 hours hunger control". One of my shakes is 310 calories. By the 3.5hr mark, my body is starting to tell me i had better feed it soon or things are going to get ugly. Staying hunger-free for 4 hours on 190 calories sounds like magic.

And the plan isn't scaled based on how much you weigh to start. Regardless if you're 300 lbs or 150 lbs, it's the same regimen.

Let's say you're 200lbs and used to consuming an average of 2400 calories/day. All at once, your calories are cut in half. How does that sound manageable? There's no way you wouldn't cheat. And you'd prolly still feel deprived and punished because that bag of potato chips you snuck doesn't change the fact that your lunch was liquid, and you're still hungry after eating dinner. Plus you feel guilty for eating those chips.

And that's before we consider what happens when you miraculously meet your goal and go back to eating regular food. Well, since the plan never teaches the person how to budget their food intake, coupled with the glee of finally being able to eat food again, it's no surprise people go back to eating how they used to and re-gain all the weight they lost. All that misery for nothing.

You'd prolly have better luck if all you did was replace your usual lunch with a piece of unfried, unbreaded protein and vegetables seasoned in some non-fatty way and changed nothing else.


By min | May 15, 2015, 10:50 AM | Ummm... Other?| Link



May 14, 2015

What are you people doing?

Matthew Yglesias actually has off the record conversations with Democratic strategists and politicians. So i am sure this is not coming from nowhere. But when he writes an article saying that Elizabeth Warren has found a way to thread the needle between talking about income distribution and mobility/opportunity, i mean, i really have to scratch my head. I barely understand the distinction. This has been what's paralyzing Democrats from talking about this stuff? Do they really think the average non-engaged voter is having some nuanced internal debate, like... i mean i can't even articulate it.

Republicans, meanwhile, have their base worried that Obama is going to take over Texas. That's the difference in strategy between the two sides.


By fnord12 | May 14, 2015, 4:21 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link



Snow White's mirror said "partners in crime!"

Black Sabbath being on Top of the Pops in 1978 is weird.

The fact that they 100% stole the guitar riff from Thin Lizzy is a whole different story.


By fnord12 | May 14, 2015, 7:34 AM | Music| Link



May 13, 2015

Thanos wants you to go vegan and buy a hybrid

I know. You're thinking to yourself, "Why should i do what Thanos wants?". So let me rephrase it: Thanos will destroy half the universe's population if you don't go vegan and buy a hybrid.


By fnord12 | May 13, 2015, 9:45 AM | Comics| Link



Skateboarding is not a crime!

Odd letter, odder response.


By fnord12 | May 13, 2015, 9:43 AM | Comics | Comments (8) | Link



May 11, 2015

Scarlet Witch Scholarship

The Beat has an interesting article on Stan & Jack's probable influences for the Scarlet Witch. Be sure to get to the Max Pemberton story at the bottom.


By fnord12 | May 11, 2015, 9:28 AM | Comics | Comments (2) | Link



May 8, 2015

Grades

Hey, Bernie Sanders gets a B+ so i guess i shouldn't complain.


By fnord12 | May 8, 2015, 4:19 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link



Not Enough Job Hopping

At my first 2 jobs right after college, i stayed at both for about 18 months. That seemed like more than long enough as the shine of a new job and new co-workers had definitely worn off by around month 12. There were other reasons for leaving, ofc, but i certainly didn't need to try very hard to decide it was time to go.

Then inertia set in. I've been at my current job so long, i got invited to a luncheon and qualified for an anniversary gift (I chose the cool mist humidifier cause holy crap does it get hot and dry in here when they turn the heat on. It leaks. I have to sit it in a bowl.).

Anyway, the point is, job hopping is normal when you've just entered the work force proper, and people should stop talking about it like it's a crazy new thing these young people are doing. And FiveThirtyEight says it's not even true that it's happening more with the current generation.

The data consistently shows that today's young people are actually less professionally itinerant than previous generations. In fact, millennials -- and the U.S. economy as a whole -- would be better off if they'd live up to the stereotype and start switching jobs more often.

To support its case, the Journal (where I was a reporter from 2006 to 2013) cites Bureau of Labor Statistics data showing that the typical worker aged 20 to 24 has been in their job for about 16 months. "For those aged 25 to 34, it was three years," the Journal continues, "still far short of the 5.5-year median tenure for all workers age 25 and over."

But those numbers are highly misleading. Sure, most people in their early 20s are fairly new to their jobs, but most of them are fairly new to the workforce, period.

More importantly, comparing today's 20-somethings to today's 30- and 40-somethings misses the point. Younger workers do tend to change jobs more often than older workers, but that's always been true. Numbers on job tenure for Americans in their 20s were almost exactly the same in the 1980s as they are today. Monthly data tells a similar story, as the chart below shows: Every month, about 3 percent of young workers (defined here as those between 22 and 29) change jobs, compared to about 4 percent in the mid-1990s.

...

Changing jobs is a key way for workers to make more money. That's especially true for younger workers, who often need to move around to find the job that suits -- and pays -- them best. By entering the workforce during a period of prolonged economic downturn, today's young people missed out on years of potential wage gains, a setback from which they might never fully recover.

In other words, we shouldn't worry that millennials are changing jobs too often, but rather, as the Washington Post's Jonnelle Marte has written, that they aren't changing jobs enough.



By min | May 8, 2015, 1:37 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link



May 7, 2015

Sometimes the streams cross in interesting ways

Brian Hibbs, a vocal comic retailer that i've linked to a number of times on this site because of his insights on the comic industry, writes in to Kevin Drum's website, which i link to a lot (Drum himself is recovering from chemotherapy so this is a guest post) to talk about the burden on small businesses to raising the minimum wage.


By fnord12 | May 7, 2015, 9:27 AM | Comics & Liberal Outrage| Link



May 6, 2015

How about a Netflix television series then?

Apparently there should never be a female solo super-hero movie because the Elektra movie was bad, or something.


By fnord12 | May 6, 2015, 6:51 PM | Comics & Movies | Comments (4) | Link



May 5, 2015

Evanesce

evanesce [ev-uh-nes, ev-uh-nes]


-v
to disappear gradually; vanish; fade away


By min | May 5, 2015, 1:07 PM | Good Words| Link



May 4, 2015

Big Hero 6 Marvel "cameos"

We watched Big Hero 6 over the weekend, and there's a scene where they go to the home of one of the characters, Fred, who has a big geek den.

Among probably a ton of other Easter Eggs, there are statues of a bunch of Marvel characters. I tried to find a site online that listed them all, but people seem more interested in finding appearances of Wreck It Ralph and other Pixar/Disney stuff. So i'll do my best.

The one in the center here looks like Torpedo:

To the side of Torpedo are two female characters. I can't get a good shot of the one on the right. The one on left is sort of a generic Dave Cockrum template, with the sash and domino mask (e.g. Ms. Marvel):

Here we have Orka and Black Talon, which you can see the best and many other sites have noticed. Pretty crazy to see them in a movie, even like this:

The one on the right below looks like Sleepwalker. I saw one site say that the one on the left looks like Manphibian. Looks more like Godzilla Jr.. Not sure about the robot in the middle.

The next one is probably the most obscure of all. It's Crimebuster, a minor Nova character. Don't know about the characters on either side.

One more group below. Chris in the comments notes that it's the Squadron Sinister/Supreme on the left. I don't recognize the other two.


By fnord12 | May 4, 2015, 9:37 AM | Comics & Movies | Comments (5) | Link



May 1, 2015

Or to put it another way

A different take on the Wonder Woman movie.

Hey, regardless of all the inside politics grousing we're doing over it, maybe they'll eventually actually make it a good film.


By fnord12 | May 1, 2015, 6:16 PM | Comics| Link



Maybe Sanders needs to close some bridges

I mentioned in a post below that i "know" Bernie Sanders won't win. But Atrios makes a good point about the press coverage:

Basically anyone with a pulse is taken seriously by our media if they run for president as a Republican... If you're a Democrat, however, and you're slightly to the left of Jeb Bush, you aren't "serious."

I ain't gonna bet on Bernie Sanders winning the nomination, but I wouldn't bet on Jindal, Perry, Christie, etc... either.

Chris Christie especially, at the moment.


By fnord12 | May 1, 2015, 3:17 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link



Guardrails

Someone should surround David Brooks with them.


By fnord12 | May 1, 2015, 3:15 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link



Marvel Sales

March.


By fnord12 | May 1, 2015, 10:34 AM | Comics| Link



Wonder Woman and the Bechdel Test

Heidi MacDonald at the Beat has a (semi-)satirical take on why it's apparently so hard to make a Wonder Woman movie.

Also, in the comments (which, as always, read at your own peril) someone links to this (from 2008) which suggests that the fact that movies constantly fail the Bechdel Test is no accident.


By fnord12 | May 1, 2015, 10:31 AM | Comics| Link



Why Are We Still Debating Capital Punishment?

What the hell is wrong with us? We're monsters.

By the time the blinds were raised at 6:23pm on April 29, 2014, to show Clayton Lockett strapped to the gurney and positioned to die, there was a lot that witnesses in Oklahoma's death house had not seen.

They did not see how, for nearly an hour, a paramedic and physician tried and failed to insert an IV line into various parts of Lockett's body, including his neck and feet.

They did not see how, after he was punctured some 14 to 16 times, Lockett's pants and underwear were cut off so that the doctor could clumsily inject the IV into his femoral vein, near his groin, using a needle too small for the task. Nor did witnesses see the IV, which the warden chose to cover with a blanket to protect his genitals from view, but also in the name of "dignity."

They did not see the makeshift rope that had been found earlier that day inside Lockett's holding cell, or the lacerations on Lockett's arms where he had slashed himself with a razor. Or the prison task force that came for Lockett early that morning, forcing their way into his blood-stained cell after he tried to block the door and subduing him with a TASER.

That's right. It would be wrong for a prisoner to kill themselves and take that privilege away from the State.

But what witnesses would see once Lockett was finally displayed before them was a human experiment -- the first execution in the state using 100 milligrams of a new drug, midazolam, to kick off its three-part cocktail. It would go terribly wrong. As the drugs started flowing, and after he had already been deemed unconscious, Lockett jerked his head, and began to writhe and moan. "Oh my God," Warden Anita Trammel later recalled thinking. "He's coming out of this. It's not working." In the overflow room where others watched on a TV monitor, "It was like a horror movie," one official told The Guardian. "He kept trying to talk." Witnesses heard Lockett say things like, "something is wrong," and "the drugs aren't working" and "this shit is fucking with my mind." After nine minutes, the blinds were hastily closed. The blanket was lifted to reveal that the drugs were seeping into the tissue of his inner thigh instead of his veins, causing his skin to swell.

Officials debated whether they should keep trying to kill Lockett or else try to save his life. They called the governor's office. They decided to halt the proceeding. But then, just after 7 o'clock, Clayton Lockett finally died.

On his death certificate: "Judicially Ordered Execution."

And i feel so much better that this is the Supreme Court deciding the case.

That the Court again found itself discussing lethal injection at all seemed to irritate the judges. Justice Samuel Alito blamed "a guerrilla war against the death penalty." Activists have made it "impossible for the States to obtain drugs that could be used to carry out capital punishment with little, if any, pain," he complained. "And so the States are reduced to using drugs like this one." Justice Scalia, too, inveighed against abolitionists for making it "impossible to get the 100 percent sure drugs," referring to sodium thiopental and pentobarbital. "I guess I would be more inclined to find that [midolazam] was intolerable if there was even some doubt about this drug when there was a perfectly safe other drug available," he said. In other words, the lack of good alternatives might just make midolazom good enough in his book.

Damn those "activist" drug companies and their anti-barbaric execution stance.

Wyrick tried to explain away the holes in his case by reiterating that it is up to the prisoners, not the state, to prove the only "constitutionally relevant" question: whether midazolam has "a ceiling effect that kicks in before we get to a level where [prisoners are] unconscious and unaware of the pain." No one seems to know exactly where that ceiling lies. So while the state concedes that there is a possibility that midazolam will wear off mid-execution, it argues that this does not mean it definitely will. This level of uncertainty over midazolam is apparently not too high for Oklahoma to stop killing people with it.

Justice Elena Kagan found the logic galling. If it's true that experiencing the effects of potassium chloride is "like being burned alive," she said, then this is like telling someone, "We're going to burn you at the stake, but before we do, we're going to use an anesthetic of completely unknown properties and unknown effects. Maybe you won't feel it, maybe you will. We just can't tell."

Link

Human life is only precious if it's still in the womb. Once you're out, you can go fuck yourself.


By min | May 1, 2015, 9:42 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (2) | Link



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