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January 29, 2013

Recap 52

Red Dragon Hunt

By min | January 29, 2013, 10:39 PM | D&D| Link

SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

Winter Soldier #14 - It's over, baby! After initially resisting Brubaker's Cap run because he brought Bucky back from the dead, i can't deny that i mostly enjoyed it very much. I was a little less enthused with Captain America turning into a franchise, and this Winter Soldier book wasn't very good. Muddy, unclear artwork, really drawn out plots (or really only a single plot: do you realize that since issue #1 we've really only been focused on dealing with the other members of the Winter Soldier experiment? We never just got Bucky doing cool spy stuff!), and a complete failure to deliver on Dr. Doom vs. Super-Apes. I did want to note that Brubaker did partially put his toys away here by wiping the Black Widow's mind of any memories of Bucky. I guess the purpose is to allow the Widow to have other romantic interests again. Anyway, not sorry to see this book end but i will miss Brubaker being at Marvel.

Avengers #3 - Atrocious. Not only has this book been unengaging throughout with Hickman clearly having no knack for dialogue or pacing, but... really? That's the resolution to this conflict? Look, i totally get the idea that you've got these guys that claim to be on a mission for the universe and then the embodiment of the universe literally shows up as Captain Universe and says, "Hey guys, that's not what i wanted. Knock it off." On paper, that's kind of cool. But there's no build to it, no explanation, nothing. God help anyone who doesn't already know who Captain Universe is. If this is your plot idea, maybe do a story where the good guys do some research and go on a quest and find Captain Universe, explain who s/he/it is, and the recruit her to come help you. Don't just make it so you randomly introduce her with eight million other new members and then whoops, we accidentally won that battle. When i read issue #1 and said "If you've got Captain Universe and Hyperion on your team, you probably don't need Spider-Man and Wolverine", i didn't know how right i was going to be. What was the point of introducing Cannonball and Sunspot to the team in this arc? Anyway, the good news is this wrapped up after just three issues, so if min catches up in time and agrees, we can drop this.

Uncanny Avengers #3 - I thought this was pretty good. I really like those panels with the concentric circles where the Red Skull is using his mental powers. Very pseudo-Silver Agey. As you can see from my post below, i like Mzee, at least visually, and i like Honest John. The other minions seem a little lame, though. I did like how even after Cap resisted the anti-mutant effect he was still snippy and Havok, and i generally like the Cap/Havok dynamic.

Uncanny X-Force #1 - This was about when i realized that Marvel was just picking characters and title names out of hats. And i love how on the editorial page they're like "Hey if you don't like this X-Force, try the other one!". But i like Ron Garney's art, so let's see how a team that includes Puck, Bishop, and Spiral works out. And... meh so far. I'm not sure i love this depiction of Puck. Things seem a bit disparate, but i know i have to adjust my pacing expectations for "writing for the trade" (at least we made it back to the opening flash-forward scene in the same issue). I did think the dialogue was good, if you accept randy-Puck. We'll see how it goes. I was trade-waiting on Remender's X-Force and i may decide to do the same here if the plotting continues to seem slow. I do want to say that it's pretty annoying that even with this seemingly random bunch of characters, we've got two team members here that overlap with Brian Wood's X-Men title.

FF #3 - Let me show you something:

It's the Marvel Universe so there's no reason those performers have to be wearing costumes.

As long as i can have something like that in every issue, i don't really care about what is going on in the plot. Which is good because, um, i don't really care about what is going on in the plot.

Young Avengers #1 - So obviously this issue should have been Young Loki tricking Hulkling into going on a rampage and then Hulkling having to hide himself by dressing up as a circus clown that everyone assumes is a robot. But if you can get past that (glaring) mistake, this seemed fine. Not great; i'm a little weirded out by how easily everyone seemed to accept Hulkling's alternate-dimension mom or that Wiccan even thought it was a good idea, and i have a few other quibbles. But i trust Gillen and i think this'll turn out ok. Not the home dunk i was hoping for, but not bad.

By fnord12 | January 29, 2013, 4:30 PM | Comics | Comments (3) | Link

Snapper, the Turtle-Man Terror

When i was adding some Golden Age books to my project a little while back, i kept running into this guy when i was doing screenshots (i have reprints of other stories from these issues, but not this actual story, to my utmost disappointment). I half considered going out and seeing if i could get a copy of this but i have enough to review right now. But then when the turtle guy (the much less aptly named "Mzee") appeared recently among the Red Skull's new minions in Uncanny Avengers, i was really hoping he would turn out to be the same dude. Doesn't seem to be the case, but for the record...

The ad in Captain America Comics #22:

The terror is mostly about not wanting to get drooled on.

And some choice scenes from the actual story in issue #23:

That dog isn't scared.

Captain America and Bucky weren't very smart.

Seriously.  Pretty dumb, guys.

Now, it turns out that he's just a guy in a turtle suit, but you've got some balls going up against Captain America with just that, and to be fair, he does have trained attack turtles.

*Giant* attack turtles.  I guess the dog *should have been* scared.

By fnord12 | January 29, 2013, 3:48 PM | Comics| Link

January 27, 2013

Chris Sims' Waffle House Visit

I'm torn. On the one hand, i don't want to go anywhere near a state where this conversation could possibly occur. On the other hand, i too would have ordered more food just to watch how it all played out.

"How about you get back in the truck and we go home and I give you a can of Vienna sausages and a fork?!"
"It was an accident!" "Poking holes in the wall with a sword wasn't no accident!" I SWEAR TO GO THIS WAS JUST SAID.

Now this is a valid use of Twitter.

By min | January 27, 2013, 8:08 PM | Ummm... Other?| Link

January 25, 2013

Hello ma'am. Hoooooooooowwwwwwrrr may I direct your call?

Good thing for the speech impediment.

We don't have pets so this is the sort of nonsense you have to put up with.

By fnord12 | January 25, 2013, 5:00 PM | Cute Things & Star Wars| Link

Quote of the day

Via Kevin Drum, regarding the electoral vote distribution schemes i mentioned earlier:

"The last election, constituents were concerned that it didn't matter what they did, that more densely populated areas were going to outvote them."

Drum infers the racial connotation, but dude! In every election, some people are going to outvote some other people. You don't get to vote on a curve.

By fnord12 | January 25, 2013, 2:40 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

I Am a Mole Person

And therefore, quite fucked. Link

Studies first uncovered a link between myopia and limited outdoor time during childhood just a few years ago.
Some scientists say the benefit could come from exposure to natural light, a relaxation of the eye gained from viewing things at a distance or the visual tableau that reaches the eyes' peripheries while outdoors. Or it could be a mix of all those factors.
Aside from spending time outdoors, a person's other behaviors might matter too. The higher myopia rates documented today coincide with a whole generation of children raised on computers, video games and, especially in the Far East, intense pressure to achieve in school. Some researchers cite a long-debated theory linking myopia to excessive reading or other "near work."

So, not only can i blame my parents for poor genetics in the eye department, they're also to blame for all that studying they made me do. *shakes fist* And apparently, once you're near-sighted, it's too late to fix it with more outdoor time. Gah!

Between this and my growing inability to determine what direction a sound is coming from, i'm going to have to learn to be Helen Keller.

This part of the article amused me.

As these theories get vetted, some scientists are already encouraging action. "We need to get the message out to parents," Stell says. "Kick the kids outside."

Morgan agrees, but says cultural expectations might block the way in some of the countries where myopia rates are already soaring. "It's just stunning how strongly organized the life of a Chinese child is toward study," he says. In school, children nap indoors for an hour or two at lunchtime, resting up to do hours of homework later. It would be hard to change this pattern, he says. "When I floated the idea of stopping naps at lunchtime in China, the response was almost like I was advocating child cruelty." Western kids may work hard, Morgan says, "but you ain't seen nothing until you've seen China."

My god, i could have used a lunchtime nap in school. It is cruelty to try taking it away. Course, trying to convince Chinese parents to let their kids run around outside after school is out of the question. No play time until all your homework is completed. At most, you get a snack when you come home, but then it's homework until dinner and then more homework if you didn't finish. Duh.

By min | January 25, 2013, 10:57 AM | Science | Comments (2) | Link

Football? I thought we were playing badminton.

While the Senate Democrats had to pull out the smelling salts over the thought of challenging Republican abuse of the filibuster (you have to love this quote from Carl Levin: ""Look, we just can't have a situation in the Senate where the majority can decide what the rules are at any time," Levin told reporters. "Those aren't rules. ...That just becomes like the House of Representatives." Perish forbid!), because they must preserve Senate tradition, harumph harumph!, Republicans will of course continue to use the filibuster at historically unprecedented levels.

Ah, tradition.

More importantly, Republicans have already used their wins at the statehouse level in 2010 to re-write congressional districts, ensuring Republican control of the House even when Dems win the popular vote. And they're continuing to do so. You've probably heard by this point about what happened in Virginia, where Republicans took advantage of the fact that a black civil rights veteran went to see the second inauguration of our first black president on Martin Luther King day to push through a redistricting on a 20-19 vote.

And they're continuing that on a national level, including changing the way electoral votes are distributed - only in states where Dems usually win - so that they are proportional instead of winner takes all.

To review, here's how it works. The US electoral college system is based on winner take all delegate allocation in all but two states. If you get just one more vote than the other candidate you get all the electoral votes. One way to change the system is go to proportional allocation. That would still give some advantage to the overall winner. But not much. The key to the Republican plan is to do this but only in Democratic leaning swing states -- not in any of the states where Republicans win. That means you take away all the advantage Dems win by winning states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and so forth.

But the Republican plan goes a step further.

Rather than going by the overall vote in a state, they'd allocate by congressional district. And this is where it gets real good, or bad, depending on your point of view. Democrats are now increasingly concentrated in urban areas and Republicans did an extremely successful round of gerrymandering in 2010, enough to enable them to hold on to a substantial House majority even though they got fewer votes in House races than Democrats.

In other words, the new plan is to make the electoral college as wired for Republicans as the House currently is. But only in Dem leaning states. In Republican states just keep it winner take all. So Dems get no electoral votes at all.

I don't fault Republicans for any of this (well, except the Virginia thing). They're using all their powers within the rules and aggressively pushing forward for their agenda. The Democrats, however, don't seem to understand the rules, or even what game they're playing. So they get sacked every time (i'm really out of my element using sports metaphors here but i think a Halo/Mario Party comparison wouldn't work as well).

If you want to get a sense of the outrage over this, here's a letter a Senate staffer sent to TPM trying to spin the filibuster "reform" as a win. And here's two pages of reader reactions to the letter. As some of the writers point out, the letter is semi-incoherent, combining "we could never get those reforms but we did the best we could and you should see this as a step in the right direction" with "those reforms would be bad for the Senate and we didn't want them anyway". And here's more commentary from TPM writer Brian Beutler, with the key sentence for me: "Weakening the filibuster would make the Senate a more democratic institution, and give Democrats more power -- and that's precisely why filibuster reform is so problematic for individual senators."

If you're a conservative you might not believe it, but TPM is actually more of a center-left, partisan Democrat website than a liberal one. That's why i'm focusing on the reaction there instead of, say, Digby (who has actually been more sanguine about this, thanks to lower expectations (not unlike someone else who blogs here)).

One of the arguments the anonymous staffer throws out is that we wouldn't like filibuster reform if the Republicans controlled the Senate. First, that ignores the fact that Republicans have threatened to use the "nuclear option" in the past and could do so again (and managed to initiate two wars and pass the Patriot Act and the Bush tax cuts with little resistance when they were in control), and that Republicans planned on getting around the filibuster using reconciliation if Romney had won and Republicans took back the Senate. They've already got this covered. But more importantly, i think that if Republicans took over the Senate, they should be allowed to pursue their agenda. That's what the country voted for, so that's what they should get.

Actually, this is why now was a good time to pass real filibuster reform. Republicans control the House, so nothing was getting through Congress for the next two years (at least) anyway. Reforming the filibuster now does it in a neutral way where no party gains anything.

Ok, that's the Friday morning political rant. Let's just hope the outrage over this leads to primary challenges for Reid, Levin, and the other saps who torpedoed this.

By fnord12 | January 25, 2013, 9:39 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link

January 24, 2013

Fighting a fire in freezing weather

Awesome, but only because everything worked out ok

By fnord12 | January 24, 2013, 4:44 PM | Ummm... Other?| Link

Filibuster not reformed

As min predicted, the Dems have folded again, this time on filibuster reform:

Progressive senators working to dramatically alter Senate rules were defeated on Thursday, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and his counterpart, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), set to announce a series of compromise reforms on the Senate floor that fall far short of the demands.

...the deal still requires Democrats to muscle 60 votes to invoke cloture on that motion, despite Reid's earlier suggestion that he would bar a filibuster on that motion entirely.

An alternate route to get past the motion to proceed will be implemented as a change to the rules, and a filibuster on the motion would be barred if the majority can find eight members of the minority, including the minority leader, to sign a petition. But Democrats already have 55 members in their caucus, five short of the 60 needed to end a filibuster, so it's unclear what the purpose of getting three additional Republicans would be.

Brilliant! You can either find 5 Republicans to vote to break the filibuster, or you can find 8 Republicans to vote to break the filibuster! Your choice! Nice win, Harry Reid. You make the good deals.

By fnord12 | January 24, 2013, 1:20 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link

January 23, 2013

False equivalency alert: the liberal war on science

Scientific American has an article called The Liberals' War on Science. After pointing out that some liberals believe in Creationism (a very legitimate concern: 41% of Democrats apparently believe this) and don't accept global warming as fact (19%), the author says:

On energy issues, for example, the authors contend that progressive liberals tend to be antinuclear because of the waste-disposal problem, anti-fossil fuels because of global warming, antihydroelectric because dams disrupt river ecosystems, and anti-wind power because of avian fatalities. The underlying current is "everything natural is good" and "everything unnatural is bad."

(For what it's worth, min and i use a power provider that uses wind, hydro, and a little solar.)

Maybe worrying about avian fatalities and river ecosystems is extreme, but i think the disposal of nuclear waste is a legitimate concern, and certainly one hopes the author agrees that global warming is. I also think that more liberals would accept nuclear power if an adequate answer to "what happens to the radioactive waste" is provided.

The (short) article then goes on to mention liberal opposition to GMOs. I've also seen similar articles reference people who don't give their children vaccines due to fear that it causes autism. I think both of these are more about distrust of corporations (Monsanto has heavily resisted the idea of the FDA testing their food products, and the pharmaceutical industry weirdly snuck the provision into the Homeland Security Bill that prevented parents from suing them over autism links) but more importantly, the author is comparing fringe views on the left with very mainstream views on the right. There are members of Congress, and even more in the state houses, who don't believe in evolution, believe in Creationism, and deny global warming (and that's not getting into "legitimate rape" biology). I don't think you can find any such equivalent among elected Democrats (just look at the FDA's lack of interest in testing GMOs during the Clinton and Obama administrations; whatever opposition to GMOs there has been, it's a far cry from blocking all efforts to deal with global warming).

I think Scientific American has a legitimate interest in combating all anti-science beliefs. And as liberals we shouldn't just pat ourselves on the back and mock the other tribe; clearly we ought to be doing something about that 41% number! But i think running quotes like "if it is true that conservatives have declared a war on science, then progressives have declared Armageddon" is really counter-productive.

By fnord12 | January 23, 2013, 9:46 AM | Liberal Outrage & Science| Link

January 22, 2013

Alternate universe desensitization

Here's another thing about All-New X-Men that's been bugging me. I think it's my own problem and not the book's, but i wanted to put it out there.

The degree to which Cyclops is rattled by the idea that he grows up to be a radical mutant that killed Xavier feels overdone. Similarly, the way the other young X-Men have reacted to the same information seems wrong.

The problem i have with this gets into basic time travel paradox. I know Marvel doesn't go by the rules established in the 1980s anymore, but even if we throw that out, unless you believe in predetermination, it would seem that this future could only be a possible future for the young X-Men. And we're years away from the point where young Scott would be showing any signs that he'd become like old Scott. It's not like he's been a radical character all along. He's the most straight-laced of the team, and extremely loyal to Xavier. So being faced with a future where Scott goes out of control, joins Magneto, and kills Professor X would be hard to comprehend, scary, and certainly something that might cause some inner reflection, but i don't see it causing such alienation between Scott and his friends, and i don't see it depressing Scott so much.

Put it this way: if Future Rod were to show up and tell me that he wasted his life devoting himself to his job, putting in extra hours at the office, and never got to finish his Marvel Timeline project, i'd be unable to comprehend it, but i wouldn't think i was destined to turn into him. Even if Future Rod showed up and said he wasted his life working on the Marvel Timeline project and therefore never got to travel the world or write the grand symphony that he's now realized would have been a better legacy, it would give me food for thought, possibly cause me to change my behavior, but it wouldn't depress me.

Now, i know that this is the Young X-Men's first alternate universe. And maybe even with the sliding timescale they never got to see Back to the Future. So like i said, this could be because i'm too jaded by the millions of alternate future stories i've read and watched to understand why they are so affected. But it really does feel like an overreaction to me. Can anyone think of another parallel universe or alternate future story where the main characters were so devastated by what they see themselves turning into?

By fnord12 | January 22, 2013, 10:14 AM | Comics | Comments (3) | Link

January 21, 2013

I Have Something You Don't Have

We couldn't have just gotten one. He would have gotten lonely.

and not one of them has a speech impediment

They haven't got arms! How do they get things into and out of their bandolier pouch without arms? Did they lose them playing 3-D holographic space chess?

i posted about these in August. fnord12 ordered them as a surprise, and it's taken until now for them to arrive.

By min | January 21, 2013, 8:50 PM | Cute Things & Star Wars | Comments (5) | Link

SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

All-Talk X-Men Weekly #6 - Well, the title isn't too disrupted by the lack of Immonen, although that's partially thanks to the lack of anything really happening. Actually there were a few really wonky pages with panel layouts. Guys, unless it's really obvious, we read down the page and then go up to the top of the next page. You need to make it really clear if we are supposed to read across the page. And there needs to be a really good reason to break that flow. Look at this:

These weren't the only pages with this problem in this issue, by the way.

No one will instinctively know to read across that top section. Those panel shapes don't even line up. Looking at this more closely i see a lot of arbitrary panel decisions that seem to be more about the artist being bored than trying to communicate anything (the last four panels on the second page: why do the first three have borders but the fourth doesn't?). Anyway, the art (pictures) looks fine, and there's no action in this issue so no concern about following the flow of an action sequence yet, anyway. I do have some other complaints. On the same spread above, Kitty says that Jean Grey "was in the class in front of me" and also implies that she was a teacher, "a little tough on me. Sometimes." In fact Jean was dead when Kitty joined the school, and by the time Jean came back to life and Kitty was done being in Excalibur and everything else, they wouldn't have had that kind of relationship, if they ever were on the X-Men team at the same time. I don't think Kitty ever had any meaningful interactions with Jean (there's plenty of X-books i'm not at all familiar with but it seems very unlikely). This is really important. The premise of this book is interesting, but it only works if the history Bendis is using is the real one and not stuff that he arbitrarily makes up.

New Avengers #2 - Wow, on the basis of almost nothing, Captain America is suggesting putting together the Infinity Gauntlet? Admittedly i kind of fell asleep during that whole alternate universe lecture so maybe there's something more obviously bad here than every other threat the Avengers have ever faced, but all i saw was a fake Earth get blown up and then the Black Panther captured the lady who did it all by himself. Meanwhile, dreary unengaging dialogue, a glacial pace, wonky metaphysics (i used to think Hickman was kind of like a Mark Gruenwald - continuity minded and good ideas but bad at executing them - but now i'm thinking he's more like J.M. DeMatteis. I was having eye-clawing flashbacks to the time he tried to consolidate the various Satan incarnations during his Defenders run while Reed Richards was drawing all those circles) and a Black Panther i don't recognize. Min said she liked the second issue of Hickman's regular Avengers, so i'm holding off on pulling the plug on this until she catches up, but Outlook Not So Good.

X-Factor #250 - This is what it is, basically. An engaging read about characters i mostly don't care that much about.

Avenging Spider-Man #16 - Now this... this was tons of fun. Really awesome seeing Doc Ock Spidey's reactions to and thoughts about the X-Men. Great! I'm really glad this book exists because i have no interest in reading anything by Dan Slott but i like the premise of Doc Ock in Spidey's body, and this book is not only doing it very well but giving us great team-ups at the same time. Plus a Jackal/Mr. Sinister connection, which is very cool.

Daredevil #22 - See above; Waid does as well as Yost here. Another really fun book. Of course Waid is now injecting a cancer subplot into the fun...

Indestructible Hulk #3 - I haven't read the original Quintronic Man story yet (it's in the pile) but i hope Waid continues to pull these kind of things out, although i hope they're not all quite so throwaway. I'm enjoying this too. Looking forward to seeing the new supporting cast. Yu's art still doesn't really appeal to me but it's gotten better. I was alarmed when i saw one of the new scientists said she could go work for Egghead; i was afraid that either he was back from the dead after all these years or someone stole my idea to make Trish Starr a new Egghead, but i see there's actually a new robot Egghead that appeared in a Dark Reign tie-in (I might even have read it, who knows?).

By fnord12 | January 21, 2013, 4:36 PM | Comics | Comments (2) | Link

How is Marvel NOW! doing?

Vocal comic store owner Brian Hibbs compares Marvel NOW! to DC's New 52 reboot, and the results are mixed. Even though NOW! was pretty clearly a reaction to DC's relaunch, i still think it's a bit of an apples to oranges comparison. NOW! was basically just a banner that Marvel stuck on the covers to represent a creative team reshuffling and yet another renumbering. DC rebooted their entire continuity and started from scratch.

Still it's worth a read regarding the relative success of each company's efforts, at least at Hibbs' store.

As a tangent, Hibbs suggests that the constant renumbering has hurt collectibility.

I think that the constant restarts of numbering actually end up hurting the true "collectibility" of long-running series, because they're constantly resetting the continuity of a title. And I don't mean the "Steve Rogers loves Sharon Carter" sense of "continuity," but rather the understanding that Marvel is actually comprised of titles that have (by and large) run unceasingly for 50-ish years. Back when I first opened, you'd simply bring new creative teams wherever they fell, and that constant, regular infusion into ongoing books created points every so often where a book became highly collectible -- "Thor" #337, "Amazing Spider-Man" #298, "X-Men" #108, and so on -- by having those points appear in the middle of long runs, it drives up collectibility for the series as a whole. By relaunching the series instead, you're able to leverage that collectibility thinking ("It is a #1, therefore it will be worth more") and get a sales increase, but, ironically, it's that very sales increase that mitigates against the comic being collectible in the mid-to-long-run.

I hate the renumbering due to the basic organizational/communication challenges it presents, so i'd love for Hibbs' theory to be true here, although i have no way of knowing if there's really anything behind it, and the ship has probably sailed in terms of Marvel changing their strategy at this point.

In fact, Caleb at Every Day Is Like Wednesday makes the counter-argument. After noting that Journey Into Mystery and Red She-Hulk did not get new numberings and therefore didn't get the resultant sales bumps that other titles did, he writes:

On a purely practical level, I don't really understand how these handful of not re-started comics (all of which have as much or more reason to justify a restart as any of the other comics named in this post) work as part of the "Marvel Now."

What happens to the reader who hears Jeff Parker's Red She-Hulk is really good, and wants to start with the first issue, but can't find anything with a lower number than 50-something on the cover (and can't find the trades collecting the first 50 imaginary, non-existent issues)? Or the person who was told Journey Into Mystery had a nice blend of fantasy and superheroics, and was written by a female writer and featured a female protagonist, but sees that "#646" on the cover and thinks "Jesus, this book looks six-and-a-half times harder to catch up on then Walking Dead...!"...?

I'd say this is only a problem because we've trained people to look for new number ones; that wasn't the case in the examples that Hibbs mentioned above (e.g. Thor #337) and it also doesn't seem to be a blocker when people come in looking for, say, the death of Spider-Man in Amazing Spider-Man #700.

By fnord12 | January 21, 2013, 11:12 AM | Comics| Link

January 18, 2013

Asgardian hat envy problem solved

I need Kirby-er glasses.

By fnord12 | January 18, 2013, 5:37 PM | Comics| Link

January 17, 2013

An end to gridlock?

Min will say i'm like Charlie Brown with the football here, but it looks like the Senate is moving to some (watered down, but still some) weakening of the filibuster and the House is considering eliminating the rule that requires a majority of the majority (e.g., a majority of Republicans, instead of just a majority of all members of the House) to bring a bill up for a vote. In theory that could mean a majority of elected representatives in both houses might be able to pass a bill.

By fnord12 | January 17, 2013, 3:41 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

The not-so-poor huddled masses

This made the rounds yesterday but i can't pass it up.

No wonder these people want to cut social security if they think the average retired couple has $180,000 in annual income.

I understand the Wall Street Journal's problem. They want to show the devastating impact of the tax increase (really just expiration of the Bush tax cuts) that was included in the Fiscal Cliff deal, but in order to show anyone who was actually impacted, we have to find the single mother struggling to raise children on a mere $260,000 a year.

The irony is that part of the Fiscal Cliff deal was that the payroll tax breaks expired too. That has an impact on everyone who works, so this infographic could have shown real impact on people not making six digit salaries, but it's a separate category from "income tax". So admitting that those people pay taxes defeats their "47% of the country doesn't pay taxes" claim.

By fnord12 | January 17, 2013, 12:22 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

January 16, 2013

SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

Let's do this the way Tom Brevoort requests. Nay, the way these works of art deserve.

I thought some of the metaphysical imagery was really particularly effective. Interesting rhythmic devices too, which seemed to counterpoint the surrealism of the underlying metaphor of the humanity of the writer's compassionate soul, which contrives through the medium of the art structure to sublimate this, transcend that, and come to terms with the fundamental dichotomies of the other, and one is left with a profound and vivid insight into... er... a bunch of people standing around not doing much as depicted in panels that don't flow together very well, moving forward some ponderous stories by a snippet or two.

Ok, that covers most of what i had to say, but just a few footnotes:

Iron Man #5 - I'm ready to drop this. Kieron Gillen is doing the best he can but i can't take Land any more. I'm also intrigued by the Iron Man In Space plans and the tie-in with Guardians of the Galaxy but i can't take Land any more.

New Avengers #1 - The sad thing is, i thought the throwaway intro story would have been interesting. "Wakanda kicks off a new space race". But then those characters got killed off. The rest of this story was intently boring (and the similarities to the plot in the other Hickman Avnegers book don't help) and i'd say drop it right here but i'm fairly certain that issue #2 will be out before we can act on that. WHY YOU DO THIS TO ME MARVEL WHY YOU PUT HICKMAN WITH EPTING BUT GILLEN WITH LAND? P.S. what's with the BP's attitude towards the "illuminati" characters? What's his problem with Black Bolt?

All-New X-Men #5 - All-Talk X-Men is more like it but i have to admit i'm still more or less enjoying this. That Bendis is hammering home the fact that Xavier will just mind-wipe the young X-Men when this is all over comforting; it lets me just go with it. I am kind of dreading what happens next issue without Immonen, though. I do wish Marvel would LEAVE THE BEAST ALOOOOOONE at this point.

Punisher War Zone # - Was Carmine di Giandomenico always on art? I didn't exactly love his Thor here. I don't know what i really wanted out of this book; i was kind of expecting the Punisher to fight the Avengers. I didn't know how that was going to work but Thor and the Punisher having a beer together was an unexpected twist, in any event. At this point, with the Punisher already in the Thunderbolts i'm really just ready for this to end so i can move on, and i'll pay someone a dollar if they'll make it so this series ends with Captain America making a recruitment recommendation to Red Hulk.

Avengers Arena #3 - Does it feel like there's not a lot going on at Arcade Island? Like, most people are just kinda sitting around? Rationally, you'd think everyone would get together and talk about what they're going to do about the mess they're in. I get that that would ruin the premise of the series though. So in lieu of that, how about a lot more fighting? One of these issues could probably handle about two additional threads of character interactions without feeling cluttered; right now it's the opposite of cluttered. I'm also... not... sure... what happened to Justin. The art looked like... i don't know what. But the dialogue said it was "folding in on itself and around that kid". So i guess it was it was meant to be Justin dying. I dunno, this has been... ok, i guess, so far, but mainly i hope it doesn't continue at this pace.

Red She-Hulk #61 - I think i go into every issue of this just looking for an excuse to drop it, but i come out thinking it's not bad. I like the art, i obviously love Parker's writing generally, and i like his Machine Man here. I'm still not sold on this unrecognizable version of Betty, let alone Red She-Hulk. It's not that Betty ever really was much of a character (maybe during the PAD run?) but that's kind of the point; i haven't yet seen how we get here from there. I'm probably just being impatient; Parker got me to believe Red Hulk as a credible character through a series of good scenes and flashbacks, but they didn't all come right away. So i just need to hang in there. Right?

Thunderbolts #3 - This i am enjoying with no waffling. Sure, i don't approve of orangutang killing. But it's a fun, funny book with distinct characters that are being handled well, and i like the use of the Leader and the reveal for the reason why. And Steve Dillon on art.

By fnord12 | January 16, 2013, 9:08 PM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link

January 15, 2013

Recap 51

Closing the Chapter on Liches and Vampires

Next Up: A new adventure in the Five Kingdoms

By min | January 15, 2013, 6:35 PM | D&D| Link

Lead and crime

For a while now, Kevin Drum has been putting forth a really remarkable theory regarding lead levels in the environment (from gasoline and paint) and how that correlated with a rise and fall in crime rates. He's now helpfully compiled a sort of link-index to his writing on the subject. I really recommend at least reading through the first (long) link he's got there.

If you accept the theory (and the evidence seems strong) it's really humbling to realize how much we are products of our environment. And for more on that see this little blurb from Atrios which may sound snarky but really isn't.

By fnord12 | January 15, 2013, 3:13 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

No free time for you

Matthew Yglesias points to a possible new drug that will reduce the need for sleep. But if you were thinking that means i could stay up all night doing comic reviews, Yglesias has a wet blanket of you:

People in certain kinds of high-status professions--CEOs and Ezra Klein and such--will presumably be de facto required to work 18 hour days if they can get by on two hours of sleep. All the way at the other end of the spectrum, people like migrant factory workers in China (or whatever the new China is in terms of sweatshop work) will probably do the same, working super-long workweeks in order to save up money and go back home.

If anything, i think Yglesias underestimates who would have to work longer hours. The advent of cell phones and telecommuting and "work-life balance" initiatives really just resulted in more working hours for people in my non-high status but also non-sweatshop job category, and i have no reason to think this latest innovation would be any different.

By fnord12 | January 15, 2013, 1:26 PM | Liberal Outrage & Science | Comments (1) | Link

All-Female X-Team

I saw this today

Out in April, the first issue in the new X-Men series from writer Brian Wood steers clear of any male team members, instead focusing on female characters including Storm, Psylocke, Jubilee, Kitty Pryde, Rachel Grey and Rogue.

and despite my better judgment, i'm excited by this concept. I have a love of seeing chicks kick ass. I'm quite fond of movies with female leads doing alot of ass kicking (Heroic Trio, SuckerPunch, and Haywire come to mind) - the caveat is that it has to be filmed right so i can see all them moves, ofc (thank you Hong Kong).

I know i'll prolly end up angry and bitter in the end, but for now i'm trying to not be a crank and remain hopeful.

Obliviously, we all know that if i do like this book, it'll just get cancelled...

By min | January 15, 2013, 11:46 AM | Comics| Link

Don't Be Pregnant in South Carolina

Or Florida. Or Ohio. Or Oregon. Or D.C. (at least two of those should have been obvious without me having to point them out)


In the first study of its kind, to be published on Tuesday, researchers from the National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) identified 413 criminal and civil cases across 44 states involving the arrests, detentions and equivalent deprivations of pregnant women's liberty between 1973 and 2005. NAWP said that it is aware of a further 250 cases since 2005. Both figures are likely to be underestimates, it said.
It found a wide range of cases in which pregnant women were arrested and detained not only if they ended a pregnancy or expressed an intention to end a pregnancy, but also after suffering unintentional pregnancy loss.

The cases of detention and forced medical intervention varied widely and included one in which a judge in Ohio kept a woman imprisoned to prevent her having an abortion.

Another involved a woman in Oregon who refused a doctor's recommendation for additional testing for gestational diabetes. She was held in a locked psychiatric ward. Another case involved a court in Washington DC, which ordered a critically ill woman to undergo caesarian section over her objections. Neither she nor the baby survived.


The study found that police, prosecutors and judges relied directly and indirectly on foeticide statutes that create separate rights for the unborn, claiming to protecting pregnant women and the eggs, embryos and foetuses they carry from third-party violence, on state abortion laws that include language similar to personhood measures and to "misinterpretation of Roe v Wade as holding what personhood measures propose - that foetuses may be treated as separate legal persons".

To conclude:

  • Fetuses are people with rights.

  • Women aren't.

  • And babies out of the womb better get their lazy asses to a job instead of bleeding this country dry with their constant requests for handouts.

By min | January 15, 2013, 11:27 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link

January 11, 2013

Captain America Meets the Asthma Monster

And now, your weekend non-political post. Sadly, this is not canon.

'Aller-gun doesn't really sound like 'allergens'.

Talk, or i will continue to make it impossible for you to talk due to asthma.

You'll also need super-steroids.

Wait, Sally.  I'm starting to think this Asthma Monster guy might be somehow triggering my asthma attacks.

Why is Captain America pointing to the Asthma Monster's world balloons?  Or is he trying to say, 'Um, can I get a word in here edgewise, please?'.  Captain America is polite.

By fnord12 | January 11, 2013, 5:10 PM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link

Imagine the surprise of my D&D players...

...when they slay the big red dragon at their next session and find that his treasure "hoard" consists of a single platinum piece with Baron Karzda's face stamped on it.

By fnord12 | January 11, 2013, 4:59 PM | D&D| Link

Yes, the Platinum Coin means that our political system is hopeless

If you don't know about the Platinum Coin, i envy you, but not for long because i'm about to 'splain it to you.

I can't even believe that we're here talking about this. I really can't. You see, back at the end of 2012, we had a "Fiscal Cliff" (please assume scare quotes around all use of this phrase going forward). And as i've described here before, that Fiscal Cliff was the last time that Obama was going to have any leverage with the House Republicans. Because if nothing was going to be done, the Bush Tax cuts were going to expire and automatic cuts to the military were going to happen. And Republicans didn't want those things to happen. So Obama should have been able to demand a few things in return for preventing those things from happening.

The right way to do it was to wait until after we went over the cliff, wait till everyone was in a panic about these things happening, and then say "Ok, i want A, B, and C in return for not letting all the tax cuts expire and not letting all the military cuts happen." "C", by the way, was eliminating this debt ceiling nonsense once and for all. But that didn't happen. Obama aggressively pursued a weak-sauce compromise before we went over the cliff, and got very little in return. And more importantly, kicked "B" (the sequestration cuts) down the road three months, which coincides with when we'll reach our next debt ceiling. So he's coming into this new crisis with no ammo to fight with.

Now, what is this debt ceiling business? Congress passes laws. Those laws direct the government on how much money to spend, and on what. The Treasury department pays for that spending, and if the spending costs more than we have in revenue (e.g. taxes), it borrows the difference. Separately, we have a law that sets the maximum amount we can borrow. So you can see the disconnect here. If Congress doesn't want the government to spend more than X dollars, it shouldn't pass laws telling the government to spend more than X dollars.

This is important, because the perception a lot of people seem to have is that the Obama administration is out there spending all this money on its own accord, and that's not the case at all. Obama doesn't get to decide how much money to spend. Congress does. Obama (or his Treasury Secretary) just has to pay for it.

So it's very weird that we have this debt ceiling that Congress votes on separately from their spending bills. But we do, and Congress has routinely increased the limit when we reach it (usually after a little grandstanding). But the last time this came up, the Republicans refused to vote to increase it unless concessions were made, and the Obama administration complied. Now they are doing so again, and this time the Obama administration is saying they won't comply. If anyone has faith in Obama's steely resolve on this though, i'll just point you to the Fiscal Cliff agreement.

Remember, raising the debt ceiling isn't about increasing spending. It's about paying for things you already bought. Congress bought stuff on the credit card and now they won't let Timothy Geithner pay the bill.

If we don't pay our bills, our economy will collapse. This isn't like the Fiscal Cliff where we really could (and should) have went over it with some minor disruptions here and there. This will be a signal to the entire world that our Treasury bonds are not guaranteed. Treasury bonds are where people put money when the economy is risky or fragile. They are the risk-free choice. If suddenly that safety net is gone, then nowhere is safe, and we are in economic free-fall. Every investor pulls their money out of everything and stuffs it under their mattress, and every business in America is out of capital. That means layoffs, recession, disaster.

So Obama has two choices to avoid economic collapse: agree to Republican demands and agree to major cuts to Medicare and Social Security (and, by the way, agree to them again the next time we reach the debt limit and every time after that. Because once you show that you can be pushed around this way, it's no longer an outrageous one-off thing; it's a regular occurrence), or find some way to circumvent the debt limit.

In the "circumvent" column are a few possibilities, all tenuous, but the one that is gaining momentum is the Platinum Coin. Due to an obscure law, the Treasury is allowed to mint coins and assign values to them. So the idea is that the Treasury mints a coin, stamps $1 trillion on it, and then deposits it at the Fed and withdraws regular money to pay its debts.

Remember, again, the Obama administration can't do anything they want with that coin. Biden can't take it to Hooters. The government can only spend money on things that Congress has approved. So this can only be used to pay our existing obligations.

Also, and this really seems to be difficult for some people to grasp, but you don't need the coin to be made out of $1 trillion worth of platinum, any more than your $20 bill is made out of $20 of paper and cotton.

Now we get to the title of my post. It's really the only reason i'm going through this agonizing explanation. But Bob Somerby at the Daily Howler raises an important point here. This debate is between people who are "in the know", so to speak. People who understand that the debt ceiling crisis is absurd, and so the Platinum Coin works as an equally absurd response for someone with no other options (and some, including some liberals, who think it's too crazy or wouldn't stand up in court). But as the Howler points out, if Obama actually did this, the average person would assume that Obama was coining money and spending it of his own accord.

Somerby wonders why liberals are wasting time coming up with crazy counter-strategies to the Republicans' crazy strategies. Why find some absurd solution? Why not go to the public and say "Here's the facts. Go yell at your Republican congresscritter!"

In all these discussions, we continue to be struck by the dog that doesn't yelp or howl. We see no one wondering how Obama might persuade the public that the debt limit has to be raised.

Could liberals actually go to the public and win a public debate? The possibility doesn't seem to enter our liberal heads! In the current case, this is especially strange, since many major business interests, not being crazy, don't want to go down the road of default or its' like again.

Could Obama go to the public and win? We liberals don't even seem to consider that possibility. It doesn't seem to enter our heads that we could state a case in the public square and come away with a win.

And he's absolutely right. But i put it to you that even if Democrats had the necessary infrastructure in place to get a message out to the public (and they are woefully inadequate in that regard), and even if it worked and they were able to explain all the intricacies of the debt ceiling and they got the public on their side... it still wouldn't make a difference.

First, we just had an election. People in Congress right now are feeling pretty safe; an election two years from now isn't going to be a pressing concern.

Second, the Republicans in the House are pretty safe no matter how close we are to an election. Democrats won the popular vote in the House by more than half a million votes in the last elections, and yet the Republicans still have a 54% majority in the House. It's said that Democrats would have to win the popular vote by a 7% margin to regain the House. That's because of gerrymandering. These Republicans are safe. They can't be kicked out. So they've got nothing to be afraid of.

So that means (legal) chicanery and gimmicks are our only hope.

By fnord12 | January 11, 2013, 3:55 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

Froggie and Icky

Froggie and Ichabod Bear were very good friends. Some, at first glance, might find it odd that a frog who was just a head would have anything in common with a bear in possession of all his limbs. But, you see, Ichabod Bear had a special talent. When so inclined, Ichabod could pop his head right off his body. The two friends were bound by this mutual understanding.

One afternoon, as Froggie sat by the kitchen window working on his sums, Ichabod Bear went out to retrieve the mail. Most of the items in the mailbox were the usual advertisements from stores they had never frequented. Amongst those numerous dull things, however, was nestled a bright red envelope.

Grasping the envelope excitedly, Ichabod Bear hurried into the kitchen.

"Froggie! What do you think? We've been invited to tea with the Duchess!"

By min | January 11, 2013, 11:25 AM | Ummm... Other?| Link

January 9, 2013

When 98% of reviewers suck, maybe you're thinking about it wrong

Some recent answers from Tom Brevoort's formspring page:

>> Read a nexus review for New Avengers. How do you guys put up with some of this stuff? Its like there is no longer an art of criticism, its just nit picking and finding ways for things to be wrong. No research, no nouse, just myopia. NA was awesome cool

I haven't read the review you're talking about, but I feel that way about 98% of the reviews out there. The Internet has allowed everybody to become a faux-reviewer, without any particular qualifications or ability. Ain't no sin having an opinion, or expressing that opinion, of course. I just don't take most of them any more seriously than I would a guy chatting to me at a comic shop or a convention. I would like to see the emergence of more better, more substantive reviewers, especially at the big comics news sites--but that's easier said than done.

>> Tom, have you ever considered that you lend credence to their reviews? If you guys didn't give them all your announcements as exclusives people would spend less attention to whats posted there.

That doesn't fix my problem, though. I don't want fewer people visiting sites, I want better and more cogent reviews.

>> With out your exclusives and such, they would have to improve the actual content of the site to secure page views, instead of just counting on your stuff to drive us to them

Doesn't work that way. If it did, there'd be all kinds of excellent reviews on sites to which we're not providing content--and there are more of those kinds of sites than ones we're working with, and still a dearth of good reviews.

>> It's funny you don't agree with a lot of reviewers. The ones I've read enjoy Daredevil, Hulk and several other books and are annoyed by a lot of the gaping plotholes in books from bendis and Fraction or the art by Greg Land. Seems spot on to me.

I'm not talking about agreeing with the reviews, I'm talking about the reviews being well-written and insightful, of them having something legitimate to offer in terms of analysis of the craft involved. I'm not looking for all positive reviews or anything--that doesn't help anybody. But I would like to see more reviews with more thought behind them than, "I just finished reading this comic two seconds ago, let me tell you about what I thought message board style." That's not a review, it's a blog.

I know, i know: stop reading Tom Brevoort's formspring page. But i did, and this line of answers really kinda stunned me. Now to be clear, we're not talking about my SpeedReviews here. Which clearly are of the "I just finished reading this comic two seconds ago" variety, by design. So i'm not taking this personally! We're talking about the "big comic news sites" here. But i keep getting this impression that Marvel thinks it's producing high art, and this reinforces it. Now it's high art that no one even appreciates! The problem with that way of thinking is that it's used to justify continuity mistakes and bad characterization and bad research. "We're not letting that stuff get in the way of a good story" is the explanation when this stuff gets messed up.

I do want to go back to "That's not a review, it's a blog", for a moment, though. Guess what? Reviews go on blogs nowadays. My deliberately quickie SpeedReviews aside, what you're going to get in a review by, say, Paul O'Brien or Caleb Mozzocco is really more than these comics deserve. A comic that takes literally ten minutes to read is not worth more than a paragraph to review.

And back to the main point, we're talking about super-hero stories here. I guess this might be strange coming from me but i've actually been consistent on this point. As i've said before, no one is reading Avengers expecting Sandman. But now i realize that Brevoort and company believe that they are producing Sandman, since they think they deserve this kind of detailed substantive review. You're not, guys. And i think if you stopped pretending you were, you might make a better match with your audience.

By fnord12 | January 9, 2013, 4:14 PM | Comics| Link

January 8, 2013

Ask Baron Karzda

For those following along at home.

By fnord12 | January 8, 2013, 10:34 AM | D&D| Link

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