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April 30, 2013

SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

FF #6 - No no no no no no no! Why do i buy this comic? His name is Mike Allred. Sure there's some cute stuff going on here. But it's not drawn by Mike Allred! I do think Joe Quinones would have been better off not trying to mimic Allred's style, in any event.

Uncanny Avengers #7 - Mixed feelings about this. Very mixed. I almost downloaded a scan of this to do a full review with images to help me work through all my problems, but instead i've just given the issue multiple reads, but this is going to be a long-ish speed review (i still retain all my usual rights to be sloppy, wrong, unfair, etc., as per a normal speed review).

I mentioned recently that if you put Celestials in your story you've got an in with me, and the same is true, in theory, about Apocalypse. But of course this isn't actually Apocalypse in this story. It's some Apocalypse Twins. Still, all that would be good enough, and a part of me is still intrigued by all of this. But there is so much crap mixed in here.

Some really bad art choices. Like that sequence with Holocaust/Genocide receiving the "death seed" from the Celestial. Really unclear what is happening there. And the panel where Wonder Man is in his room, before that atrocious exchange with Scarlet Witch. I'd like to think that he's mourning his dead brother, and he's looking at a picture of him, but the picture is just a nondescript man that could be him or his brother or just something he tore out of a magazine. Maybe a picture of himself and his brother as little kids would have been better. Because without a picture that clearly shows his brother, he's just sitting there feeling bad for himself ("I'm an abomination." Well you are if your brother just died and all you can think about is yourself; i don't care how much of a villain he was. And honestly i don't know where this stuff is coming from.). And generally the art is uneven; the very last panel with Thor is pretty bad.

On to story issues. I thought the point of Nick Fury Jr. was that he was going to be a field agent, so Marvel could do Steranko style spy stories again. So why is he the guy showing up (with "Commander Hill") to complain about the way the Uncanny Avengers are handling themselves. It really ought to be Daisy Johnson right now, right? Or at least Hill should do the majority of the talking. As to what SHIELD is complaining about, it's a mishmosh. Does anyone really still consider Rogue to be a member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants? Any moreso than Scarlet Witch? And Fury is blaming them for the Avalanche attack and the Red Skull attack? I don't know. I guess it's just meant to be an exposition dump but it makes Fury seem really cranky for unexplained reasons.

Then we get to the internal bickering and the really bewildering use of Rogue. Wasp inexplicably catty as well (Wanda is a "real" Avenger). And then Wasp hitting on Havoc.

Not too thrilled about the cliched "throw Cap in the last lifeboat" scene, either.

But the biggest concerns relate back to the flashback from last issue, and i won't rehash what i said but suffice it to say that this really does seem to be a pretty self-contained story or maybe "continuity-agnostic" (if it connects with anything, it's Jason Aaron's Thor series) that takes it as a given that this Jarnbjorn axe can defeat a Celestial no problem and will ignore the fact that when Odin built the Destroyer specifically to defeat Celestials it didn't even work that well. I was also surprised to see Wolverine recognize the axe, if that was indeed what was happening in that scene. Last issue there was a cutesy ancestor of Wolverine, i thought. Was it really supposed to be Wolverine? Or maybe Wolverine was just recognizing the Apocalpyse Twins from his time in Uncanny X-Force; let's hope so.

Anyway, i still want to hold out hope on this but considering some of the flaws i'm seeing in the non-Celestial/Apocalypse portions of the story, i'm losing confidence. I thought this story started out rather well with the Red Skull with Xavier's Brain arc, and maybe Remender should have wrapped that up and had a downtime issue to work out these team squabbles before getting involved in something else. I do think a lot of my dithering here (and generally) would go away if i was reading this stuff in trade form, and i am slowly coming around to realizing that's the better way to read most books nowadays.

Young Avengers #4 - Unqualified goodness here. I've really loved how each issue has had some unique and original art sequence (the diagram of Marvel Boy's attack in this issue), and i'm loving the dialogue and at this point sort of reveling in the obvious stupidity of the Kids vs. Parents theme.

By fnord12 | April 30, 2013, 3:49 PM | Comics | Comments (6) | Link

April 29, 2013

How does he run that fast with only one bionic leg?

Not even a bionic foot!

By fnord12 | April 29, 2013, 4:30 PM | Comics | Comments (2) | Link

Just pull up your mask, Spidey! You've done it before!

I'm not so sure about that first S.  Freez-esicles?   Freeze-sicles? Wouldn't 'Freezeicles' be better?

By fnord12 | April 29, 2013, 4:25 PM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link

April 28, 2013

Goldfish Psycho

Just before his bowl-mate tossed him out of the fishbowl, he whispered that next time, he'd pick a time when there wouldn't be a human nearby to save him.

By min | April 28, 2013, 9:55 PM | My Dreams| Link

April 26, 2013

Just give me a summary of the bullet points

We already employ this on our D&D recaps but i guess we can now call it a "scientifically proven" technique. Maybe i should do the same on the comics blog; i know i get ramble-y. At work, detailed documents were replaced by PowerPoints were replaced by quick emails were replaced by just email subjects and i imagine next we'll move to monosyllable grunting.

By fnord12 | April 26, 2013, 12:31 PM | Ummm... Other?| Link

Sales tax for the internet

I got an email from "eBay Government Relations" today reminding me that i wanted to blog about this bill currently making its way through the Senate that would force internet companies to collect and pay sales taxes to the applicable local governments.

Somewhat surprisingly, Amazon is in favor of this bill. It's because they are big enough to be a target for local governments already and at this point they've got distribution centers in every state so they already don't qualify for the exemption (that goes back to mail-order catalog days) that said you have to have a physical location in the state to be taxed, so why not make sure your competitors also have to pay taxes?

eBay, on the other hand, is looking at this from the point of view of the millions of "small businesses" (including random dudes selling off their old He-Man figures) that operate through them. The process of understanding what taxes you are supposed to charge and how to get them to the appropriate governments (this isn't just state level; there are some 9,600 tax jurisdictions in the US) is more the average eBay seller is going to be able to cope with. eBay isn't opposing the bill outright, though. They're looking for an exemption for businesses that do less than $10 million in annual out-of-state sales (which, per the eBay email, is what Amazon does in 90 minutes, but what the email doesn't tell you is that the current bill being considered already exempts companies with out-of-state revenues of less than $1 million, and that's a lot of He-Man figures).

Personally, i'm always a little nervous that we check the "I'm sorry, i couldn't hear you." box on our TurboTax form when they ask us if we bought anything over the internet in the past year, so i wouldn't mind if companies started collecting taxes, and clearly local governments could use the funds. Sales taxes are regressive, but as the article i linked to points out, "poorer Americans are less likely to shop online". So i guess i'm in favor of the bill, but i'd prefer maybe a national internet sales tax that funnels the money back to the state & local governments so that the onerous task of keeping track of all the local jurisdictions isn't put on businesses. But i am a big government liberal so that's what you'd expect me to say.

The bill seems to have a good chance of passing. Grover Norquist is opposed, but the bill was proposed by a Republican and it's supported by the National Retail Federation lobbyist group, which represents Wal-Mart and other brick & mortar stores.

By fnord12 | April 26, 2013, 9:21 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link

I think if he spelled it Su-perhero, it would be ok

Marvel & DC's joint trademark on Super-Hero/Super Hero is ridiculous.

Actually, the hyphen doesn't matter, per Brian Cronin's handy FAQ about this.

By fnord12 | April 26, 2013, 9:12 AM | Comics| Link

April 25, 2013

I had the same reaction

I mean, i know it's supposed to be like X of a 1,000 run limited edition, but it sure looks like Captain America divided by one to me.

By fnord12 | April 25, 2013, 12:51 PM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link

April 24, 2013

Which tense to use for recaps

This is probably very specific to our unique needs at SuperMegaMonkey (i.e. the Marvel reading order project and our D&D recaps) but when writing a recap, it should be in the present tense, so that events in flashbacks and previous issues/sessions can be in the past tense.

Captain Vegan makes his way to the Tofurky Factory (last issue he asked the factory owner to construct a Gigan-shaped tofurky) but that's when the Minions of the Meatball Menace strike.

By fnord12 | April 24, 2013, 10:23 AM | Master of Style| Link

SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

Iron Man #8 - I have to admit: you throw some Celestials at me and i'm much more likely to enjoy your book. They were even on model! Add that to Death's Head and a rogue/genocidal Rigellian Recorder and i guess i'm still on board with this book.

Captain Marvel #12 - Still enjoying this although not looking forward to the interruption of the story thanks to the crossover with Avengers Movieverssemble. Thanks to some recent activity on the timeline site, my first thought when Yon-Rogg was revealed as the bad guy was "Hey, maybe he was Mystique's 'Lord'. His silhouette is actually pretty close!", but of course it's madness to expect anyone to bring that up at this point. One thing i wanted to mention is that while i still think of this as DeConnick's book, Christopher Sebela has been a co-writer since issue #7 (the first part of the team-up with Monica Rambeau and also when Frank Gianelli, from the old Ms. Marvel series, was introduced). And that's when we started liking the book. If i recall correctly, it was said in an earlier lettercol that all of the references and tie-ins to Ms. Marvel's old book were coming from Sebela. So i don't know if Sebela would be a good writer on his own (i'd certainly try another Marvel book) but maybe what we have here is a good combination of a "good" writer (or Marvel-acceptable writer) and a continuity-minded writer, and together they make a great comic. Maybe that's a model for the future? Of course, a good editor could also play the second role...

X-Factor #254 - I've gone from "I don't really care about these characters but the writing is good." to "I don't really care about this plot but the writing is good." to "Gee this plot is kind of dragging." to "Now we're going in circles!". Tier will or won't fight the Hell-Gods. The endless Strong Guy/Monet fighting. Everybody just kind of running around and not moving the plot forward. The Hell-God fights, purely physical encounters with Mephisto just sneaking up and stabbing everyone in the back, aren't that exciting either. They are fine for an X-book where i wouldn't expect a lot of mystical coolness, but since the main characters are adrift, the Hell-God War is all we have to look at so i'd want more from a Satannish/Mephisto fight, for example. But mostly i think this needs to wrap up.

Daredevil #25 - Wow. That was the best fight comic i've read in a long time. Really great action sequences - lots of detail and storytime devoted to the actual fighting. And i really loved how every step of the way Daredevil was confident that he had things under control and this trick or tactic was going to turn things around, but he kept finding out that his opponent was better than he thought. Really well done.

Thunderbolts #8 - Missing Dillon at this point. The thing about Phil Noto's art is that it's as stiff and non-dynamic as Steve Dillon's, but it doesn't have that special Dillon look. And that may be part of the reason why i'm finding this second arc a little less cool than the first. The other reason is that the story is definitely paced for a trade. I recognized that with the first arc but i enjoyed the character interactions so much that i still felt like i was getting a lot out of the single issues. And part of that, i know, was just putting this unique group of characters together. So by now we've sort of settled in and there really isn't anything new to say on that front (well, Elektra did shoot Deadpool in the head, but besides that) so now i'm more antsy about the plot moving forward. Only three more issues, anyway.

By fnord12 | April 24, 2013, 9:16 AM | Comics | Comments (2) | Link

April 23, 2013

Unemployed at the wrong time

There has been a lot of talk lately confirming that the longer you are unemployed, the harder it becomes to find a job. Matthew Yglesias takes a look at that and says that it makes sense from the point of view as the hiring manager.

Suppose you had to hire one of two candidates for a job, and you had to base the decision solely on a resume. No interview allowed. The resumes are identical, but one person lost her job in a mass layoff event last week, while the other lost her job in a mass layoff event a year ago. Who are you going to hire? If you're smart, you hire the woman who lost her job last week. You're being asked to make a decision based on very little information. By discriminating against the long-term unemployed candidate, you can in effect "outsource" your decision-making. Most likely [the woman that's been unemployed longer] has interviewed for several jobs since being laid off. If she's still unemployed, there's probably something wrong with her. What? You don't know. You don't have any evidence. But faced with the need to decide under conditions of severe uncertainty it's a sound heuristic.

The real world is more complicated than that, but not all that complicated. Your time as a manager is finite and valuable. You don't want to call back every resume that comes in over the transom. You set yourself a target quantity of "good" resumes you want to identify to call. Then you start your search by assuming that every single person who's been jobless for over a year doesn't withstand scrutiny upon interviewing, and just search for good resumes among the short-term jobless. If you hit your target, then you call those people. It's only if you don't hit your target that you start looking at the resumes of the long-term unemployed.

That's understandable, but i think it misses the main point. I know that there were some local governments considering weird laws banning the practice of discrimination based on time unemployed, and if Yglesias is pushing back on that, fine. But the reason Felix Salmon, Paul Krugman, and Megan McArdle (Yglesias refers to them) are discussing this issue isn't because of that. It's a debate about whether or not we need more stimulus to get the economy strong enough that even these long-term unemployed will be considered again. The point is that the economy is in a very slow recovery, and because it's so slow, it is leaving a lot of people behind. The debate is entirely academic at this point, unfortunately; i don't expect anyone in power to be proposing a new stimulus.

By fnord12 | April 23, 2013, 12:11 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

Parenthesis and verb pluralization

Following up on the post below, i do want to open up a question about how verb pluralization should be affected by phrases in parenthesis.

For example:

Captain America (and Rick Jones, as we'll learn later) follows the Mad Thinker into the bowling alley.


Captain America (and Rick Jones, as we'll learn later) follow the Mad Thinker into the bowling alley.

In other words, does the additional person mentioned in the parens affect the verb?

I'm usually not happy either way so i wind up rephrasing the sentence like:

Captain America follows the Mad Thinker into the bowling alley (and we'll learn later learn that Rick Jones follows as well).

But that just makes the sentence longer than it needs to be.

By fnord12 | April 23, 2013, 12:04 PM | Master of Style | Comments (1) | Link

The Master of Style

I don't know how far we'll go with this but this is the first in a potential series where min and i outline some of our opinions on grammar and punctuation that you won't find in Strunk & White.

This might quickly devolve into a flame war between me and min. But in any event it will help show that at least some of the grammatical errors on my comics site are deliberate.

Anyway, the first of these rules is about quotes and punctuation. I believe that what's between quotes should only represent what is actually in the quoted text. The one exception is ellipses. And you can't use any punctuation in quotes as part of your own sentence.

For example, i won't write:

She said, "Give me a dollar."

I'll write:

She said, "Give me a dollar.".

And i can also write:

She said, "Give me a dollar." but i told her i spent all my money on comic books.

The period after dollar doesn't count for my sentence, so i have to add my own, but i can also continue writing after the quoted portion even though it has its own period. I don't agree with dropping the period, or, worse, turning it into a comma inside the quote.

The second rule is about parenthesis and punctuation. I like to use parens because my mind wanders in various directions with a lot of asides (and during my formative years i read Joseph Heller's Something Happened, which has pages and pages of parenthetical asides that just end and the original sentence picks up right where it left off before the parens), so my rule for punctuation and parenthesis is that if the parenthetical aside is "less than a sentence" no additional punctuation is needed. But if there's more than a sentence in the parens, the rules are similar to quotes.

I told him not to buy that Hickman book (but he did anyway).


I told him not to buy that Hickman book (but he did anyway. He never listens to me.).

Finally there's the possibility that an entire sentence stands on its own outside of any other sentence. In that case, no punctuation outside the parens:

I told him not to buy that Hickman book. (It's not that i'm trying to sabotage Hickman's career or something. People that like Hickman should obviously buy his stuff. But i know my friend doesn't like Hickman, so i don't know why he keeps buying the books.)

Next up is using letters as words in sentences. For example:

I once read a Spidey Super Stories comic where Doctor Octopus stole the letter H, and all the Hs in the word balloons were missing. Like, people would say "shoot!" but it would be printed as "s oot!". I wish i could find that comic again, if it ever really existed.

Putting an apostrophe between the H and the s in unacceptable. E.g.:

...all the H's in the world balloons were missing.

Apostrophes are for possession or contractions, and in the above example neither is true, so it is wrong. You should always use capital letters to make it clear, e.g.:

...all the hs in the world balloons were missing.

That just becomes unreadable.

The final rule for now is Ziggy's Rule of Humble Pronoun Usage. I don't capitalize my Is unless they are at the beginning of a sentence.

Actually, there is one last rule. And it's this: proofreading is for people who don't have a huge backlog of comics to review, so all of the above rules are subject to accidental violation without warning.

By fnord12 | April 23, 2013, 11:58 AM | Comics & Master of Style| Link

The miracle of the modern world (or at least multiple buffers)

This is going to be a weird sort of post but i just wanted to mention that as i was working on my comics project this past weekend i utilized two minor technological wonders that i wanted to publicly appreciate.

The first regards file transfers. I had some files in multiple folders on one hard drive that i wanted to transfer to multiple folders on a different drive. So i grabbed the first set of files and dragged them to the first folder on the other drive. Then, in the same explorer window, i navigated to the other set of files and dragged them to the second folder. And my pc just dutifully started up a second window tracking the progress of the second file transfer. Think about how crazy that is. In DOS (i know, i'm old), you would have to start a file transfer and just sit there and wait for it to finish before you could do anything else. With Windows and multiprocessors you could start your file transfer and then do other things in other windows. I don't know when it first became possible to trigger multiple file transfers at once (maybe it always was possible in Windows but i sure wouldn't have felt confident enough to try it in Windows 98) but that's a really sophisticated thing. And i could do all that and still go back to working in another window with no slowdown or anything. It's pretty amazing. It would be one thing if it just queued the second transfer. But to do both at once, without losing track of the original files and destinations, is really impressive. I've done this many times before but it's the first time it struck me how cool it was.

The second is that i was typing in one text box in my browser, and i realized that earlier i had screwed something up in a different text box. So without even thinking about it, i selected the other text box and hit Control-Z until it reverted back to what i wanted. And it worked! If hitting Control-Z reverted my most recent changes in the text box i had last typed in, i wouldn't have been the least bit upset. I would have said "Duh, what made me think i could do that?". But it worked! Which means that a separate undo history is being kept for each text box. Again, pretty amazing.

These are the unappreciated sort of small things that don't really get touted with new releases. And so when we upgrade to Windows 7 or Firefox version 20 or whatever, we're kind of like, "Yeah, this is fine but i don't see why they constantly put out upgrades.". Again, i don't even know when these things became possible. But if you took them away from us, put us back on Windows 98 and IE 3 or whatever, we'd be freaking out.

By fnord12 | April 23, 2013, 11:04 AM | My stupid life & Science| Link

Hobbit Bunkers

These poor kids in London have to take refuge in these adobe huts on the playground to shield themselves from the noise of the airplanes landing in Heathrow airport.

Four "superadobe" domes have gone up at a primary school in Hounslow, under the flight path for Heathrow's southern runway, and two other schools in the area plan to build similar structures. Constructed from coiled bags of earth with white plaster walls, the domes reduce the roar from incoming aeroplanes by 17 decibels for pupils inside.

The domes' builder, Julian Faulkner, said he had constructed about 70 homes and shelters using the same materials and techniques more common in Africa and Asia, predominantly in Nepal's earthquake-prone Kathmandu valley.

Planes pass 180 metres (600ft) overhead at Hounslow Heath infant school on their way to land at Heathrow. Faulkner said he was shocked by the sight of children clasping their hands over their ears in the playground. He said the buildings helped to mitigate the planes' impact, "both of the noise and psychologically". Classes of up to 30 can be seated inside the main dome, which has a diameter of 5.2 metres, with space for more in a sunken amphitheatre outside.

Needless to say, the proposal to expand the airport hasn't been met with alot of enthusiasm from the local population.

By min | April 23, 2013, 8:07 AM | Ummm... Other?| Link

April 22, 2013

Marvel Sales


By fnord12 | April 22, 2013, 11:40 AM | Comics| Link

April 19, 2013


Brian McFadden's latest comic.

By fnord12 | April 19, 2013, 3:09 PM | Comics & Liberal Outrage| Link

If it walks like a duck, etc.

The Daily Howler wonders, or pretends to wonder, why a bill that had 54 votes in the Senate failed to pass. More to the point, he wonders why none of the articles covering the failure use the word filibuster. Kevin Drum explains:

Here's the answer: over the past few years, as the use of the filibuster has become routine, it's become common to speed things up a bit by adopting unanimous consent agreements under which both sides agree that a piece of legislation will require 60 votes to pass but won't require all the usual procedural hurdles of an actual filibuster. This is often convenient for both parties.

That's what happened in this case. The party leaders negotiated a unanimous consent agreement which specified that 60 votes were required to proceed to debate on Manchin-Toomey. It didn't get those 60 votes, so it failed. [UPDATE: This agreement also applied to all the other amendments to the gun bill, both Democratic and Republican. That's why they all failed.]

This puts reporters in a bind. Here are their options:

  1. Explain the whole thing: a UC was negotiated; it required 60 votes on a motion to proceed; the motion failed because it got only 54 votes. Unfortunately, this will leave readers confused unless you also explain why Harry Reid agreed to such terms in the first place. The answer is that if Reid didn't, then Republicans would formally filibuster the bill. 60 votes would still be required and a bunch of other procedural hurdles would be put in place. Reid was better off negotiating the UC.
  2. Chalk it up to "Senate procedures" or something like that and move on. This is short and sweet, but it risks leaving a lot of readers scratching their heads and wondering what really happened.
  3. Just call it a filibuster. For all intents and purposes, that's what it is, and it's the threat of a filibuster that prompted the UC in the first place. Technically, however, it's not a filibuster, so reporting it as one isn't precisely correct.

You can see the problem: none of these is really satisfactory. #1 is out of the question. It's simply too long. #2 is unsatisfying. It doesn't really explain what happened. #3 gets the guts of the explanation right, but it's technically inaccurate.

Nonsense. It's a filibuster. Filibusters have become so commonplace they are taken for granted and easy to do, but that doesn't change what they are. The arcane technical details are irrelevant here.

By fnord12 | April 19, 2013, 3:02 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

But Which Eno?

Cause i will totally pump Eno at any and all family events. It shall be the car music played when carpooling with certain people. I just need to know which era of Eno i should be using.

When orthopaedic surgeon Robin Turner heard how serene his normally fidgety mother-in-law was when she visited a Brian Eno installation at Brighton festival, a flashbulb went off in his head.

The results of that were revealed on Thursday: a hospital quiet room created by the godfather of ambient music where patients can "think, take stock or simply relax" and an Eno light and music piece in the reception of the new £34m private Montefiore hospital in Hove.


Turner said they intended to examine any physiological changes to people in the Eno room - pulse, blood pressure, anxiety and so on - and there was anecdotal evidence this week when a cancer patient came out and began telling Eno, not recognising him, how wonderful it was.


By min | April 19, 2013, 12:38 PM | Music| Link

April 17, 2013

Doesn't anyone care about raw political power any more?

It's pretty clear at this point that immigration reform is a thing whose time has come. It's going to happen. The only question is how long Republican opponents can delay it and, more to the point of this post, how much centrist Democrats can screw up the details. That's how it is with these Gangs of 8 or whatever where a group of more moderate Republicans - the only ones who would ever vote for this kind of thing - and a group of moderate Democarts - who really serve no useful purpose at all since all Democrats except for a few conservative hold-outs will vote for it - get together and come up with these nutty compromises. The current one being floated includes an idea that undocumented workers will get "amnesty" now and then have to go through a 10+ year process to actually become citizens. Why? Because Republicans don't want to create a whole bunch of new Democratic voters. But why would any Democrats help enable that delay? The pressure is on to pass a bill. And if a bill isn't passed, people will know who to blame. There's no need to be compromising now.

There are plenty of legitimate arguments to be made against this dumb split between amnesty and citizenship. We shouldn't be creating a practically permanent underclass. And these people will deserve to be represented in the government (you might not agree with these points but then you are opposed to the idea behind the bill altogether). The whole thing smacks of the "civil unions" idea that people tried to use to deflect gay marriage with until recently. Separate and not quite equal.

But more practically, you'd think the Democrats would be interested in increasing their voting base now. And there's nothing wrong with that; the system is designed so that politicians are responsive to their citizens because they want to be re-elected. They should be like, yep, we want these people to get representation, and yes, we want their votes.

Now, maybe this will backfire for Democrats. Rand Paul will happily tell you that black people used to vote for Republicans until the passage of the Civil Right Act. And maybe these new citizens will start responding to the Republicans' lower tax and anti-abortion message once this whole citizenship thing is out of the way. But there's nothing wrong with Democrats explicitly thinking this will be a good move for them in terms of increasing their vote count.

It's the same thing with statehood for Washington D.C. or Puerto Rico. Democrats should be pushing for that like it's the number one priority in the country. That would probably end the gridlock in the Senate for a long while. And legitimately. The people in those "territories" deserve representation. But again, whenever discussion about that sounds like it might be going anywhere, people start coming up with weird compromises like also adding eastern Oregon as a new state. No! These types of things should not be voter-count neutral. Or it defeats the purpose of giving people their representation.

By contrast, when the Republicans won all the statehouses back in 2010, they wasted no time in redrawing the House districts to their advantage. They didn't say, ok, let's redraw these districts but let it take effect 10 years out when who knows who will be living where. They did it and it took effect immediately. And it was a legitimate, legal thing for them to do. There's no reason for Democrats to not use the same reasoning here.

By fnord12 | April 17, 2013, 2:14 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

Secret Avengers #3 - Between this and what i'm hearing about Age of Ultron, it sounds like Tony Stark needs another Armor Wars. Ummmm, what have we got here? Well, first of all, i think it's pretty clear that no one can tell Maria Hill and Daisy Johnson apart, because i'm fairly certain Ross drew Hill into that scene and Spencer covered for it in the dialogue. Either that or Johnson is very... mature for a teenager. Actually i guess that's not the case since she does use her powers. Still, it's confusing, and being able to draw different body types would be a big help. All this "director/acting director" nonsense is equally messy. The whole black ops / "we mess with Hawkeye's mind" situation is also feeling muddled. Suddenly Fury Jr. is against the idea, and meanwhile Hawkeye is just joking about it ("Is this one of those things we did that we're not allowed to remember? Because i would like to remember that. That's awesome."). I dunno, it's just hard to understand the book's tone. And then there's AIM. It seems AIM is being used very prominently in a number of books. But i don't like the "The new AIM is not the old AIM" message. Out of story we like to goof on the beekeeper suits, and MODOK, but in-story, with the exception of say, Spider-Man, the organization should be depicted as a deadly threat and shouldn't need a make-over to make them cool again. Especially since, ultimately, this version of AIM will be taken down too. It's too meta to say that any villain or group is a loser because they lose a lot. They don't have a choice in the matter. So it's up to the writers to make them still seem like credible threats, and they shouldn't have to resort to mocking the old version and saying this time they're cool. It also seems inconsistent to say that they are now recognized as a nation by the UN and then have a deadly fight break out between them and SHIELD at an arms show. The whole book just feels like a mess to me.

Wolverine #2 - This was done well, if a bit slow. Some nice moments with the alien observing Wolverine, and a cute interaction with Fury Jr.. I thought the protein jar with the homeless guy was weird; is that a reference to something i don't know about? As i've said before, the biggest roadblock for me is that i see so much of Wolverine i really don't need a solo book, even despite the good creators here, and especially when the plot is small scale (i was going to say that the small scale was deliberate, but here's the Watcher to prove otherwise). Since that's all i have to say about that, what's with the "Paul McCartney of supers" line? Paul McCartney wasn't in a lot of bands the way Wolverine is in a lot of super-teams. Trying to think of a better musician to use. Brian Eno? Too behind-the-scenes. Maybe Secret Defenders era Dr. Strange is the Brian Eno of supers. Ok, getting off track...

Uncanny Avengers #6 - So i thought we were going somewhere cool with this, and maybe we still are. The Asgardians have a connection to the Celestials through the Destroyer armor, which Odin created to fight off the Celestials if they ever decided the Earth was unworthy. And he also created the New Gods as (i think) proof that humanity had the potential that the Celestials were looking for, to judge us worthy. So here's Thor mucking about with an agent of the Celestials (more on that in a minute) and Odin tells him quit it because he's got this. So when Thor ignores Odin and messes with the Celestials anyway, you'd think there's be some tie-in to the Destroyer/New Gods stuff. But there wasn't any and it seems like the real implications of this action will be shown in an upcoming issue unrelated to established history. And i guess that could be because Apocalypse wasn't ever really an agent of the Celestials the way he's presented here. As i understood it (my understanding of Apocalypse admittedly only goes about up to X-Cutioner's song, and is muddled by my own conjectures over the years), Apocalypse wasn't an agent of the Celestials. He was someone who discovered Celestial tech early on and devoted his life to ensuring that Earth would be able to prove itself worthy to them. So Thor fighting Apocalypse wouldn't really be relevant to the Celestials at all, which means my two concerns cancel each other out, although that doesn't seem to be what Remender intends (again, it'll depend on where this goes). I have other concerns as well! First, per the Tales of Asgard, Thor was always pretty noble and goody goody, and he proved himself worthy of Mjolnir fairly early on. This story takes place in 1013, which seems pretty late for Thor to be going through a surly teenager phase. There's also the idea that Apocalypse is wearing armor, which isn't how i understand the character. He's a shape-shifter at the molecular level, in total control of his own body, and there's no need for him to wear armor. I guess it could just be a mistake on the part of Thor (& Odin & Kang, or Kang was just lying) that leads him to think he's wearing armor, but even so Apocalypse shouldn't be any more vulnerable on the inside than his surface. And he certainly shouldn't whine "Y-you've cheated...". ("Aha! You are worthy!" would have been better.) I'm really ok with retroactively establishing some history between all of these characters but it has to match up with what's already been established (and remember my rule: if i remember it one way, and your recap page and/or footnotes don't tell me otherwise, Marvel is wrong, not me. I know Jason Aaron is doing some awful-sounding revisions to Thor currently, but none of that is explained here, if it's relevant). Also? Introducing an ancestor of Wolverine that looks exactly like him is pretty dumb. Apocalypse was one of my favorite villains pretty early in my comic collecting days, and so you'd think i'd be pretty excited about this stuff, and i sort of am, but that's going to sour quickly if it turns out to just be ignoring everything that's come before.

Fearless Defenders #3 - I await min's commentary on the poses Misty Knight is doing when they first arrive in the empty town. Beyond that, i've lost all interest in this book.

Avengers Arena #7 - Well i was hoping this issue would provide some behind-the-scenes explanations for what was really happening in this series, but it is instead doubling-down on the idea that it is all really happening and not some VR simulation. Not that i needed it to be a simulation; i'm fine with characters dying in the process of a good story. But i've been reading this waiting for some kind of interesting twist, and this issue didn't deliver. I had some hopes for this series but it's really just dragged on and is going nowhere. So i'm gonna drop this now (i'd also drop Secret Avengers, Fearless Defenders, and Wolverine but there are other people in our reading chain who want to keep getting those books; i've been the only hold-out on this one). I'd also like to end with the idea that Arcade hosting a birthday party where he invites super-villains seems really out of character - he's a pychopath and an assassin. He doesn't hang out with super-villains. And the only reason the super-villains call him a loser is for the same reason i mentioned regarding AIM above. Every fricking character there is a loser by the same definition. Annoying.

Avenging Spider-Man #19 - I was disappointed by this. I've been enjoying Yost's take on Octo-Spidey and i was looking forward to either a cool redemption of Sleepwalker along the lines of what we saw for Darkhawk a little while back, or at least a fun goofy story using the character. Instead Yost went the route of doing a nightmare story and those are always tedious (at least it wasn't a Nightmare story). The one good thing about dream issues is that it's usually a chance for the artist to go wild, but Marco Checchetto's depictions were pretty bland. And i really don't need to know about Doc Ock being abused as a child. Arrogant genius driven insane by a radioactive explosion. That's all i need. Oh well. Unlike some of the other books i'm disappointed with this week, i'm pretty confident that this issue is an exception due to the topic and next issue will be fun again.

By fnord12 | April 17, 2013, 11:44 AM | Comics | Comments (3) | Link

April 16, 2013

It's Just the Russians

An Alaska-based military police officer has been sentenced to 16 years in prison and will receive a dishonourable discharge for selling military secrets to an undercover FBI agent posing as a Russian spy, a military panel has decided.

A panel of eight military members from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage recommended a 19-year sentence for Spec William Colton Millay, which was dropped to 16 years because of a pretrial agreement.


Military prosecutors said Millay was a white supremacist who was fed up with the army and the US, and was willing to sell secrets to an enemy agent even if that would cost his fellow soldiers their lives.


So, let me get this straight. If you intentionally try to betray your country by attempting to sell secrets to a foreign government, you get 16 years and your attorney promises to continue to seek clemency because of the "circumstances".

But if you think that your government is participating in something immoral, and you want to make the public aware of things they are doing that might be wrong, with the possible unintentional consequence that "enemies of the state" will also find out, you get caged for 2 years and tried for treason where the best outcome you could hope for is life in prison.

I think that's a pretty clear message. It's not good to sell secrets to foreign governments (who happen to have friendly relationships with countries on our "enemy" list) with full knowledge that it will compromise your fellow officers, but it's much much better than releasing information to the media about the bad things your government is doing.

By min | April 16, 2013, 11:28 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link

It's Still Snowing in Colorado??

Don't they know it's April?


Colorado residents on the Front Range are digging out as another spring snowstorm heads toward the state

More than a foot of snow was reported in Estes Park and Nederland by Tuesday morning. About 10 inches of snow fell in the Denver area.

There will be another band of snow developing Tuesday afternoon into Wednesday, bringing an additional 1 to 3 inches.

By min | April 16, 2013, 8:54 AM | Ummm... Other?| Link

April 15, 2013

Suck on That, Meat Eaters!

Lean steak is low in fat and cholesterol and high in protein -- qualities normally considered healthy. But eating a lot of it can still cause heart disease. Researchers have now laid the blame on bacteria in the human gut that convert a common nutrient found in beef into a compound that may speed up the build-up of plaques in the arteries.
Tests showed that consuming l-carnitine [found in red meat and dairy products] increased blood levels of trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO), a compound that, evidence suggests, can alter the metabolism of cholesterol and slow the removal of cholesterol that accumulates on arteries' walls.

But even when they took l-carnitine supplements, vegans and vegetarians made far less TMAO than meat eaters. Fecal studies showed that meat eaters and non-meat eaters also had very different types of bacteria in their guts. Hazen says that a regular diet of meat probably encourages the growth of bacteria that can turn l-carnitine into TMAO.


Meat - delicious, but deadly...

By min | April 15, 2013, 12:08 PM | Science| Link

Winner of the "strangest lyrics i heard this weekend" award

Blank Sugar by Jane Jenson:

Sitting in the theater with my headset on
Another psycho guy. The same plot unfolds.
Superheros out there on the streets somewhere
Sucking in July air.
I bet Jesus was there. But he's not here.

By fnord12 | April 15, 2013, 11:33 AM | Music | Comments (4) | Link

The Apologist can be found in the comments of any TPM post

Tom Tomorrow's latest cartoon is particularly good.

By fnord12 | April 15, 2013, 11:27 AM | Comics & Liberal Outrage| Link

April 12, 2013

Busy place

I was tearing up my Essential Man-Thing trade yesterday and i didn't want to lose this. I'm sure it's from a Handbook but i like it in b&w.

Not shown: site where Gary Okenfelks of Boca Raton dropped his keys, site where someone ditched an old station wagon they didn't want to pay to have taken away, site where literally nothing happened, ever.

I love it but i wonder what made the Handbook guys decide to map it all out with such specificity. Imagine a similar map of Manhattan; "sites where Spider-Man fought Doctor Octopus" alone would probably cover half the city in dots.

By fnord12 | April 12, 2013, 1:17 PM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link

That's a Horoscope, Not a Time Machine

When i saw this headline this morning - "Iranian scientist claims to have invented time machine" - i got excited thinking about how we could go back in time and stop Marvel from sucking everything up.

But then i read the article, and it's way less exciting than it sounds.

"My invention easily fits into the size of a personal computer case and can predict details of the next five-eight years of the life of its users. It will not take you into the future, it will bring the future to you," he said.

The Telegraph reports Mr Razeghi is the managing director of Iran's Centre for Strategic Inventions, and that he has another 179 inventions registered in his name.

That is not a time machine! A time machine is something that can take you back in time to steal Blackbeard's treasure, but then it turns out you're Blackbeard.

"The reason that we are not launching our prototype at this stage is that the Chinese will steal the idea and produce it in millions overnight."

Oh, the Chinese are totally going to steal your idea and mass produce it. It's what they do, man.

By min | April 12, 2013, 8:31 AM | Science| Link

April 11, 2013

SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

All-New X-Men #10 - Cyclops finally gets to present his side of the argument and it's pretty damn convincing. Frankly, that should end the series. "Oh, you were possessed by a thingie? Maybe you could've exercised some more willpower but you really weren't responsible for your actions? OK, i guess we can go home then." Wolverine should never say "Rrrrrhate him!!" like a petulant 4 year old. And can this be paced any slower? Did we really need such a clunky cliffhanger? Couldn't we have revealed on page 4 who it was that was going to "defect" and let them discuss the implications of it a little more? Regarding the new Brotherhood, i recognize that Lady Mastermind can obviously create illusions. But storywise, wouldn't it be better for her to not use that power to give everyone Mystique's ability? Doesn't that make Mystique redundant? Thanks to min, i'm now completely distracted by young Iceman's "snowman" form. We're 10 issues in and nothing has happened in this book so i'm at the point where as soon as we get to a logical break we can put this on the bargain trade wait list.

Red She-Hulk #64 - I like this book. The Mole Man's son was fun. The stuff with Ancient SHIELD is done in such a way that even if you don't really like the implications of that series, it still works as a cool Indiana Jones/Illuminatus type story. I like RShulk's "always attack, ready for anything" personality, and i of course like Machine Man too. The only thing that is missing from this series, and it's not a problem for any particular issue but it's something the series eventually needs to address, is that there's still no connection back to the "old" Betty Ross. There's nothing that makes this character Betty. As i've said before, Parker did a great job relating the Red Hulk back to General Ross, so i am hoping he'll get to do the same here, and considering how poorly this title sells i hope he does it sooner than later.

Indestructible Hulk #6 - It's funny; i've been reading the howls of outrage over how Hulk lifts Thor's hammer in this book, but this is so clearly a Not What It Seems scenario that you have to assume the people complaining haven't actually read the issue. As for the actual story, i thought it was fun. I do have some problems about Walt Simonson's art nowadays, unfortunately. Not sure how to describe it, but his light sketchy art has become heavy sketchy art, as if he is inking his every stray line very darkly or the process is now going direct from pencils and picking up too much. But there are too many line everywhere and it doesn't work with modern coloring and paper. I still like it. Love the detail, love how much action can be shown in one comic, fight scenes that are actually choreographed, details about what's happening, all wonderful. I think what i really want is for this to be on newsprint and manually colored!

By fnord12 | April 11, 2013, 2:22 PM | Comics | Comments (3) | Link

Don't Be a Flight Attendant

Cause not only do you have to deal with obnoxious people who insist their giant piece of luggage will fit in the overhead compartment and get whiny when told to turn off their electronics, you're more likely to get cancer than the general populace.

Although no one knows if flame retardants or other chemicals play a role, flight attendants are more likely to have cancer and miscarriages than the general public.

Female flight attendants have a 29 percent higher risk of all cancers, including more than an 11-times greater risk of melanoma and a 35 percent higher risk of breast cancer than the general public. The longer a flight attendant has been working, the greater the risk of cancer, research suggests.

They also have a 62 percent higher risk of miscarriage and stillbirth than the general public, according to 2010 study, which says these risks "have been poorly studied in a limited number of investigations." The Association of Professional Flight Attendants says that their flight attendants are allowed to fly during the first 28 weeks of pregnancy.

The triggers of these health problems are still under investigation, and researchers are studying a number of possible culprits, such as radiation.

More than likely, it's not just one thing that's the cause. There's the flame retardants, the radiation, the ozone, other people's germs, and the stale, recycled air, just to name a few, and they prolly all contribute to the problem. But, like one flight attendant said, short of quitting, what can they do?

By min | April 11, 2013, 12:59 PM | Science| Link

April 10, 2013

We'll Have No Gay Sex in Comics on Apple's Watch

Issue #12 of Brian K. Vaughan's Saga contains 2 images of a reflection of a male giving another male a blowjob. Apple decided it wasn't going to peddle this smut through its iOS apps.

Having just read the first trade for this series in which very early on there is a scene with two naked adults having sex, with the female on her hands and knees, it's hard to believe that it was the sexual content that caused Apple to decide to ban issue #12 from their stores.

By min | April 10, 2013, 3:30 PM | Comics & Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link

Grand Bargains are not set in stone

It's important to keep in mind that the idea that a Grand Bargain addressing our deficit would somehow put all the current arguments behind us is nonsense. Provably so. We had a "Grand Bargain" during the Clinton administration. The deficit was eliminated. Programs were cut (Welfare Reform?) and taxes were raised. And yet here we are again. The surpluses were used to justify a tax cut during the Bush administration.

The point isn't that Republicans will squander any surpluses on tax cuts, although it's worth asking why it's always Democrats who seem to try to solve this "problem" and Republicans never seem to worry about it when they are in charge. The point is that any future government can enact changes that will render any current bargain meaningless, so there is no value in agreeing to "minor concessions" now to prevent major changes later. Especially when those "minor concessions" mean cuts to programs that people's lives depend upon.

The Obama administration should spend its time in office trying to push forward a positive agenda, not pre-emptively blocking what a Ryan administration might do.

By fnord12 | April 10, 2013, 12:44 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

Crunky Cover Reviews: May 2013

I think i've finally cracked the complex image naming code! And if i haven't, you won't know until it's too late! Bwahahaha!!!

1. Fearless Defenders #4AU by Phil Jimenez

[insert the usual Jimenez gushing] Ok, i concede that fnord12's right. This character design is terrible. Nobody's going to want to draw all the detail necessary to make her look good. The hair alone is crazy and that's before you get to her costume. I just want to bask in Jimenez art, ok? Is that so wrong?

2. Uncanny Avengers #8AU by Jim Cheung

I have a basic proportion issue with this cover. My first impression is "Geez, Kang is giant." Now, i know the two in front of him are children. But children aren't just scaled down adults. They have their own body proportions that make them appear as children standing next to an adult, not an adult female with a boy and a giant. Ofc, these are not really human children, so we can just say that's why they look a little funny size-wise. But, their heads are tinier than Kang's gun (the gun that doesn't look particularly huge in Kang's hands). Just saying.

3. Uncanny Avengers #8 by John Cassaday

I think i just don't care for Cassaday's style. His people look doughy, and i feel his body proportions are off. The legs are too short and too bulky for the torsos. Sunfire's mask looks more like a cloth draped over his face ala early Baron Zemo.

4. Avengers #11 by Dustin Weaver

Not reading Hickman's Avengers, so i'm not really sure what's going on here. Why is Spider-Woman in a Sailor Moon costume? When did Cannonball turn into an Autobot?

As always, let's talk about body proportions. Spider-Woman's thighs are the same circumference as her arms. And is it just me or are Captain Marvel's legs somehow too big? I will let you see into a tiny portion of the insanity that's my brain. I'm looking at her big feet and her itty bitty head and then looking at my feet and wondering how i can get my feet to my head to compare relative sizes without anyone at work noticing. Her calves are the same size as her head! I know they're in boots, but still.

Anyway, what's really important is that we point out the unnecessary cleavage going on with the Black Widow's unzipped cat suit (cause a cat suit isn't sexy enough on its own). In general, when there is going to be lots of jumping around going on, women prefer the girls to be tightly secured, not 2 jump flips away from waving hello to the enemy. I could go on, but i'm sure nobody would appreciate that.

5. Avengers #12 by Dustin Weaver

Dinosaurs - good. Thor without his winged helmet - completely unacceptable. Goddamn movies.

6. All New X-Men #11 by Stuart Immonen

It's tough drawing 1960s Iceman, isn't it? I believe at the point in time they pulled this Iceman, he should have just figured out how to be icy rather than a walking snowman. On Immonen's cover, he's neither snowy nor icy. He's more alien, with the slanted eyes and the totally white, hairless skin. Kinda like those guys in Prometheus.

7. Young Avengers #5 by Jamie McKelvie

So, this is a commentary on the cover design, not the art itself. And it's going to be kinda rude. When i was a junior in high school, i somehow ended up in this graphic arts class that i definitely didn't belong in. I was given the assignment to design the program for some awards ceremony (as you may recall, there were always awards ceremonies going on in hs). Seeing as i had about zero clue as to how to do this, i basically got a bunch of clip art silhouettes of kids doing high school-y things (sports, mostly), and cobbled them together. My teacher being both a nice guy and pressed for time took it as is. I can only hope my name never appeared in any credits for it. It was a sad, sad piece of work.

That's what i think of when i look at this cover. The actual drawings of people are ok, but i feel the design gives off a slapped together "we didn't know what to draw" vibe. The whited out grabby hands contribute to that.

8. A+X #8 by Humberto Ramos

Do i even need to say it? Look at their heads. Now look at their bodies. Look at their heads again. Now look at their biceps. What the hell?

I'll give this to Ramos, though, he made Cap's head covering as unstupid looking as it could be. He doesn't look like he's wearing a bowl with a chinstrap, at least.

9. Thanos Rising #2 by Simone Bianchi

Oh, that is a very much not good Thanos. I don't even know what exactly is wrong. His face is just all stupid. It could be the puffy cheeks that seem to be pressed against the side of his helmet as he smiles. Could be the smarmy smile that's more "hey, baby" than "I've got a fantastic idea that will end in your quite painful death". And lest you think his stupid face distracted me from noticing his little feet, rest assured, it did not.

10. X-Men Legacy #10 by Mike Del Mundo

This is a kewl retro ad cover design.

11. Savage Wolverine #5 by Frank Cho

Hey! Boobies!

The Hulk gets a face. Wolverine gets a face. I would identify the chick except, oh gosh, she hasn't got a face.

12. Indestructible Hulk #8 by Walt Simonsen

Where's Thor's nose? It's like he got the bad nose job.

13. FF #7 by Michael Allred

Is it Marvel's new policy to make readers guess what comic they're looking at? Why is the title the same color as the background?? Are they testing us?

14. Fearless Defenders #4 by Mark Brooks

I cannot convey to you just how much i hate the cocked hip chick stance. This is Valkyrie, a Viking warrior, not Jessica Alba in Dark Angel (for years, i suspected she had a neck injury).

I like the Thor doll, but it doesn't make up for the outrage at another exploitive Brooks cover. Where's my dress-up Captain America paper doll? Where's my Thor in his underpants showing off his tight ass cover? You don't see those covers because they'd clearly be wrong and clearly have nothing to do with the story. But for some reason, this is ok.

Let's say Brooks had to design the cover way before the issue was written so he had to make it pretty generic. What's wrong with a picture of Valkyrie riding Aragorn and swinging her sword? How many generic Wolverine jumping and slashing covers have you seen in your lifetime? No, no. Let's go with the Valkyrie in her underwear option. Ugh.

I'm clearly back to my old cranky self. Last month was clearly a fluke. Huzzah!

By min | April 10, 2013, 12:43 PM | Comics | Comments (4) | Link

April 8, 2013

Oh, that'll go over well

The Democratic party has a plan to take back the House from the impassioned Tea Party Republicans. WaPo:

Democratic Party officials believe that Kevin Strouse is exactly the kind of candidate who can help them retake the House next year.

He's a smart, young former Army Ranger - good qualities for any aspiring politician. But what party leaders really like is that Strouse doesn't have particularly strong views on the country's hottest issues.

Immigration? Tax policy? "Certainly I have a lot of research to do," Strouse acknowledged in an interview Thursday as he announced his candidacy in a suburban Philadelphia House district.

Strouse's candidacy reflects an emerging Democratic strategy for taking back the House from Republicans after the tea party takeover of 2010.

I hope someone covers the debates. Every response could be "I don't really have an opinion on that. But i'm smart, i'm young, and i'm a former Army Ranger, so i'm sure i could think of something, if i needed to." That'll get Democrats to the polls.

By fnord12 | April 8, 2013, 1:17 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link

April 5, 2013

Your Friday Dose of Awesome

i think the skull belt buckle works particularly well with the jester-patterned spandex leggings.

By min | April 5, 2013, 3:36 PM | Music| Link

Carmine Infantino

Ty Templeton has a nice tribute to Carmine Infantino. Obviously he's more of a DC guy but just scrolling through the list of things it's obvious how significant he was to the industry. Due to my Marvel myopia, until a few years ago i mainly thought of him as the guy who drew the first 2 years or so of Spider-Woman's first series and had a run on Nova and did a few other things for Marvel, and never realized that he was kind of like DC's Stan Lee + Jack Kirby in one package.

By fnord12 | April 5, 2013, 12:04 PM | Comics| Link

I merged two semi-related topics into one post to reduce the number of retaliatory GG posts

I told min she needs to stop depressing us with Glenn Greenwald posts and she responded by saying that i need to stop depressing us with economic posts. So expect a lot more Glenn Greenwald posts, is what i'm telling you.

Because there is much more to say copy & paste about the latest job numbers and Obama's proposal.

Here's Drum on jobs:

The American economy added 88,000 new jobs last month, but about 90,000 of those jobs were needed just to keep up with population growth, so net job growth was actually slightly negative at -2,000 jobs. That's terrible. It's yet another spring swoon, but even earlier than usual. Ever since the end of the Great Recession we've been stuck in an odd pattern where employment growth looks promising in winter and then falls off a cliff in spring, but usually the dropoff doesn't happen until April or May. We're early this year.
Some of this bad news may have been due to the fiscal cliff deal in January, and the end of the payroll tax holiday, but it's probably too early for any of it to be due to the sequester. However, we can expect that to start biting in April and May. Nice work, Congress.

And here's Yglesias on the budget proposal:

The core issue is that this is a compromise the GOP has already rejected. They've rejected it in its details, and they've also rejected it as a general concept. So if this budget is meant to underscore Obama's eagerness for a deal and willingness to compromise it doesn't really achieve that... If you need further evidence you can look at the GOP's negotiating strategy during the 2011 debt ceiling battle, during the fiscal cliff in the 2012 lame duck session, and all throughout the sequestration controversy... There's a lot that's murky in American politics, but it's incredibly clear that the reason we don't have a grand bargain on the budget is that Republicans don't want one... The White House is frustrated by the fact that lots of folks in the media don't seem to see it the way I do and this budget is, among other things, part of a strategy to turn that around. But that's a doomed strategy. The ways of bipartisanthink are mysterious and won't be unraveled by any new proposals. To many people, the fact that a deal hasn't been made is all the proof they need that both sides are equally at fault.

The risk here now is twofold. Inside the Beltway, Republicans can say "well, look, we disagree about taxes but why don't we just do these entitlement reforms that even the president thinks we should do." Meanwhile, outside the Beltway Republican candidates can run ads castigating Democrats for bankrupting the country so badly that they want to add Social Security cuts to the dastardly Medicare cuts they already implemented. Part of the point of the Senate Democrats' budget was to stake out a position of easily defensible high ground. This seems like the White House wading into a much more exposed piece of territory.

"The White House is frustrated by the fact that lots of folks in the media don't seem to see it the way I do" is the same as Krugman's "The answer, I fear, is that Obama is still trying to win over the Serious People, by showing that he's willing to do what they consider Serious", but the question is why Obama still feels the need to do it at this point.

By fnord12 | April 5, 2013, 11:20 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link


More on the proposed social security cuts from Krugman.

The truth - although you'll never hear this in Serious circles - is that we really should be increasing SS benefits. Why? Because the shift from defined-benefit pensions to defined contribution, the rise of the 401(k), has been a bust, and many older Americans will soon find themselves in dire straits. SS is the last defined-benefit pension still standing - thank you, Nancy Pelosi, for standing up to Bush - and should be strengthened, not weakened.

So what's this about? The answer, I fear, is that Obama is still trying to win over the Serious People, by showing that he's willing to do what they consider Serious -- which just about always means sticking it to the poor and the middle class. The idea is that they will finally drop the false equivalence, and admit that he's reasonable while the GOP is mean-spirited and crazy.

But it won't happen. Watch the Washington Post editorial page over the next few days. I hereby predict that it will damn Obama with faint praise, saying that while it's a small step in the right direction, of course it's inadequate -- and anyway, Obama is to blame for Republican intransigence, because he could make them accept a Grand Bargain that includes major revenue increases if only he would show Leadership (TM).

Oh, and wanna bet that Republicans soon start running ads saying that Obama wants to cut your Social Security?

He also looks at the latest job numbers:

When all is said and done, we are following strongly contractionary fiscal policy in an economy in which monetary policy is still ineffective because of the zero lower bound... This is really stupid; as long as we're at the zero lower bound, austerity is a huge mistake. Yet for what, the third time since 2009, all discussion in Washington has turned away from job creation to deficits...

By fnord12 | April 5, 2013, 10:08 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link

Social Security needs to be expanded, not cut

Cutting Social Security benefits is of course a terrible idea. More people are acknowledging the failure of 401ks and proposing that we actually need to expand Social Security.

By fnord12 | April 5, 2013, 9:46 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link

Maybe positioning the country as "struggling to get by" is just dumb

When you're a second term president you don't have to worry about re-election, so you're kinda freed up to do the things that you want, or that you think are the right thing to do.

So of course Obama is proposing Social Security cuts and "leaning towards" approving the Keystone pipeline.

...he acknowledged that it is difficult to sell aggressive environmental action to Americans who are still struggling in a difficult economy to pay bills, buy gas and save for retirement.

"You may be concerned about the temperature of the planet, but it's probably not rising to your number-one concern," Mr. Obama said. "And if people think, well, that's shortsighted, that's what happens when you're struggling to get by."

Maybe explaining that the pipeline won't really add new jobs or lower energy prices would help, but i guess that's "difficult". Maybe aggressively pushing policies that would actually create jobs would be even better, but that's really crazy talk.

By fnord12 | April 5, 2013, 9:31 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link

April 4, 2013

The Cloaking Device that Defeats Daredevil

They can cloak objects from sound.

Scientists' recent efforts to render objects invisible to the eye are based on the fact that our perception of the world depends on the scattering of waves. We can see objects because waves of light strike them and scatter. Similarly, the Navy can detect faraway submarines because they scatter sound waves (sonar) that hit them.

So for the last several years scientists have been developing cloaks that prevent scattering by steering light or sound waves around an object.

By min | April 4, 2013, 10:49 AM | Science| Link

Domestic Drone Use in Our Future

Glenn Greenwald has a post about the inevitable use of drones by law enforcement agencies within the U.S. Obviously, the people who are concerned over this are being poo-pooed by people whose entire argument is based on two "facts:

  1. if you didn't do anything wrong, you have nothing to fear, and

  2. our government is Good.

Feel better now?

The belief that weaponized drones won't be used on US soil is patently irrational. Of course they will be. It's not just likely but inevitable. Police departments are already speaking openly about how their drones "could be equipped to carry nonlethal weapons such as Tasers or a bean-bag gun." The drone industry has already developed and is now aggressively marketing precisely such weaponized drones for domestic law enforcement use.
[A]nother article prominently touted on AV's website describes the tiny UAS product dubbed the "Switchblade", which, says the article, is "the leading edge of what is likely to be the broader, even wholesale, weaponization of unmanned systems." The article creepily hails the Switchblade drone as "the ultimate assassin bug". That's because, as I wrote back in 2011, "it is controlled by the operator at the scene, and it worms its way around buildings and into small areas, sending its surveillance imagery to an i-Pad held by the operator, who can then direct the Switchblade to lunge toward and kill the target (hence the name) by exploding in his face."
Multiple attributes of surveillance drones make them uniquely threatening. Because they are so cheap and getting cheaper, huge numbers of them can be deployed to create ubiquitous surveillance in a way that helicopters or satellites never could. How this works can already been seen in Afghanistan, where the US military has dubbed its drone surveillance system "the Gorgon Stare", named after the "mythical Greek creature whose unblinking eyes turned to stone those who beheld them". That drone surveillance system is "able to scan an area the size of a small town" and "the most sophisticated robotics use artificial intelligence that [can] seek out and record certain kinds of suspicious activity". Boasted one US General: "Gorgon Stare will be looking at a whole city, so there will be no way for the adversary to know what we're looking at, and we can see everything."

Boeing is one of the major manufacturers of drones. So, it's no surprise that when the Washington state legislature tried to introduce a bill that would require law enforcement agencies to get approval from the legislature for drone purchases, Boeing released the lobbyists. The Democrats killed the bill before it got to the floor.

Dystopian future, here we come!

By min | April 4, 2013, 10:33 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link

Shouldn't we think about something NOT incestuous, sir?

Forgive the low quality image.  Camera phone.  We're not turning this into a thing.

I'm reading through the trades of the Star Wars newspaper strips that came out from 1979 to 1984. And of course they are plenty goofy but there's some cool stuff, like Luke's first meeting with Boba Fett, the building of Darth Vader's Super Star Destroyer and the Rebels searching for a new base location and settling on Hoth. But it's always funny seeing Star Wars stuff written before the "reveal" in Jedi that Luke and Leia were sisters.

To go beyond the straight "Ha, ha, incest!" play here, i really like C-3PO in that panel. From what i remember about the prequels, C-3PO should have known all along that Luke and Leia were siblings*. So you have to imagine there were a lot of moments like this, where the droid had to distract Luke from his lusty impulses.

*Don't tell me about any expanded universe stuff, people. These newspaper strips are as close as i'm coming to that.

By fnord12 | April 4, 2013, 8:54 AM | Comics & Star Wars| Link

April 3, 2013

All i ask is to be released

Commenter Bob and Sean Whitmore at Comic Critics have the same general idea, and i agree, and i think we all saw it coming ever since Guardians of the Galaxy showed up in Avengers Assemble which as far as i can tell takes place entirely in the Movieverse.

Here's Sean Whitmore/@JoshCritic:

[T]his is the first time Marvel's been able to take a property with nothing currently invested in it and make it resemble the movieverse before the movie's even come out. Just as a minor for-instance: check out the "Council of Galactic Empires". We've seen this kind of thing a lot, but not with this lineup. Right off the bat, Spartax-which has been about as relevant to the MU in recent years as the planet Melmac-now has a front-row seat. Star-Lord even refers to his father as "king of the galaxy". He's being flippant, but the issue makes it seem like it's not that far off. The Brood are also present, which is weird. I can't imagine, say, the United Federation of Planets ever inviting Xenomorphs to their club. And then there's Annihilus, who should not only be at the top of every planet's hit list, but isn't even technically part of our galaxy. All of which means little except to reinforce my point that Marvel obviously views their cosmic mythology as particularly malleable. If nothing else, I'd wager Spartax will be a major cosmic player in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, akin to the role the Shi'ar usually play.

There's a point to be made about the futility of making your comics more like the movies to prepare for the huge influx of new fans that loved the movie and now want to read the comic book (it ain't happening, guys), but i'll skip it.

What's important to me is the fact that it's pretty clear that Marvel has lost interest in Marvel's continuity. I really take issue with the part i italicized in the quote above. Marvel actually did have something invested in their cosmic universe. They had a number of surprisingly successful events over the past several years coming out of those properties, and surely the buzz from that is why we're even going to get to see a Guardians of the Galaxy movie. They weren't top sellers, but they did much better than expected, and Marvel did an admirable job of keeping the books alive in various formats. And i'm going to argue that the reason they worked is because the creators (Giffen, DnA, and more) put together a cast from disparate parts of the MU and did a decent job of representing those characters in a way that was fairly consistent with what existed before. They worked within the existing framework (sure, there were inconsistencies and cheats, but that's always been the case). So that pulled in a lot of fans who remembered and were interest in those characters, and those fans didn't get angry and walk away when they were written poorly and out of character.

In contrast to that, from what i (and i think Bob, and @JoshCritic) can see in Bendis' GotG series, Marvel editorial is simply dumping whatever they don't like or (in the case of the Shi'ar, who are possibly tied up in the X-Men movie rights) can't use.

And i'm not here to complain (ha!). I just wish Marvel would do it clean. Close up the MU and reboot with something that can be consistent with the Movieverse. Let those of us who are really still hanging around only because we have a loyalty to the old Marvel Universe know that they're done with all of that. DC did it. Why not Marvel? It's time, guys. You've been hostile to continuity for a long time. Put your money behind your convictions and go for it.

I was going to write that Marvel can't do that because they know the vast majority of their fan base now comes from us older die hard readers. Other than the guy who thinks Bendis invented Rocket Squirrel, we're not really here for what you're doing now. We're here because it continues the story started by Lee & Kirby and was expanded on by many other great creators. It's why Marvel's tagline for Marvel NOW was "It's not a reboot, we swear!" and why they constantly have to come out and insist that Avengers Assemble and Age of Ultron and whatever else all take place in the real Marvel Universe.

I was going to write that, but i realized that's inconsistent with the fact that DC did it. DC rebooted their continuity and they still have readers. So really, there's no excuse for Marvel. If this is what they want to do, go for it. Heck i might even read a few of the books (in trade format, and if someone like Jeff Parker is writing).

By fnord12 | April 3, 2013, 11:26 AM | Comics | Comments (3) | Link

April 2, 2013

SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

Guardians of the Galaxy #1 - So i'm reading this and i'm going, wow, these are some krutacking major revisions. Here's Young Surly Star-Lord having an adolescent argument with his daddy, but Gamora was his girlfriend at the time? And there was some sort of intergalactic "leave Earth alone" council that included the Brood and Annihilus (Annihilus?!), let alone Spartax. And then they mention the Cancerverse and i realize this is all meant to be happening now. Umm, ok, i guess that's better, but then why is Star-Lord acting like, and being treated like, an 18 year old? His father even seems to know that he was a hero in the Annihilus War and other such events, so the "This is what you do with your time?" type of questions seem really weird. It's krutacking sad when "Oh, it's ok, it's just bad writing!" makes you feel better about something. I have a feeling that reading this book is just going to infuriate me and i should probably drop it. By the way, here is an actual letter in the lettercol:

0.1 rocked, it was FUN and I hope in the upcoming issues you flesh out WHO these characters are... particularly the squirrel dude.

Man, that just makes me feel old and sad. I'm clearly not the audience for this book, and i can't wait for when the movie comes out and Brian Michael Bendis is acknowledged in the credits in big letters while Abnett and Lanning and Starlin and Mantlo and Englehart and Claremont and Byrne and Kirby, etc. are lumped into a big list at the end, if at all.

FF #5 - This i liked. Whatever my past issues with Fraction in other books, there's no denying this book is a lot of crazy fun, and Allred can't get ALL the credit (not a pun).

Thunderbolts #7 - Honestly, Elektra/Punisher/Deadpool "love triangle" (it's of course nothing of the sort, but what else to call it?) issues aren't what i want most out of this book, but despite the off-putting cover i still enjoyed this. The lack of Dillon didn't bother me, either. Lots of good character stuff here. Since i don't have any serious complaints: the Avengers fighting AIM-powered Super-Apes shouldn't be a throwaway panel; it should be a series. That would be much more fun than anything Hickman is currently doing.

Uncanny Avengers #5 - First my own bugaboo: i read the first two or maybe three Uncanny X-Force trades and i know Remender was doing some stuff with Apocalypse, but i haven't read the rest. It feels like Remender is just picking up here with whatever he left off with in that series. Which is totally fine, but i guess i need to get caught up on those issues; i think they're not all out in trade yet. Now the internet's bugaboo: i don't know what Remender said on twitter, but just based on this issue, it seems like reasonable characterization for Havok to try to discourage the use of the word mutant. In real life we've seen minority groups attempt to "rebrand" vs. others who have attempted to "take back" certain words. Havok as a character choosing a particular path doesn't make it Marvel's official policy on the subject. I'm sure this has all been said elsewhere and more, so i'll leave it at that. Back to more geeky concerns, i really liked it when Rogue absorbed Wonder Man's powers and then said "I had no idea you were... that strong" after snapping the Reaper's neck.

Uncanny X-Force #3 - Note that this is an entirely different series than the Uncanny X-Force i mentioned above. I've been enjoying this. I thought the art was handled really well in this issue; the fight in the dark in the subway tunnel, and the dreamscape at the end. Good stuff, good character writing. I see Humphries is going to be writing a book about Avengers robots so we should get that.

Young Avengers #3 - Teenagers fighting super-evil versions of their parents is a bit overt as a theme, but it's all done smartly both writing and artwise. Haven't been sold on Miss America Chavez but getting a hint of her origins this issue makes her a bit more intriguing. And thrilled to see Gillen still writing Young Loki (but JiM did end with the return of old Loki in Young Loki's body, right?).

By fnord12 | April 2, 2013, 2:36 PM | Comics | Comments (5) | Link

Recap 53

New Friends, Old Enemies

By min | April 2, 2013, 2:03 PM | D&D| Link

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