more FF musings

06
Jul

Because I have strong opinions on this, and I’ve got to cleanse the palate before stoking the fires on 2016 presidential politics…

So, as we get closer to the Fantastic Four reboot release, the marketing continues to be schizophrenic; the guys making it continue to take the “grim and gritty”, “grounded and realistic” take, while other folks keep throwing out world-changing, cosmic stakes and rollicking adventure. The first trailer was suitably dour. Now the tv spot has bad jokes and Kanye.

There are so many of us out there that really want this to succeed; we old-school comic nerds are invested. The FF shouldn’t be that hard; it’s a little hokey and not exactly what the modern definition of “cool” is, but if The Fast and The Furious franchise can make crazy car stunts and hitting the audience over the head with the concept of “family” work, then Reed, Sue, Johnny, and Ben shouldn’t be that hard to do; people are ready for it. We’re going to all go see Ant-Man, which is probably more of a risk than this property should be, with its history, old movies and TV series behind it. It just needs to own what it actually is, and not try to be something it isn’t.

Now that I’ve ranted for two big paragraphs, I’ll draw your attention, as I often do, to somebody who says pretty much the same thing as I do, only much more eloquently: io9.com commenter Bengimon nails it in the comments from today’s Morning Spoilers column:

FF should be what Tomorrowland wasn’t – this hugely optimistic, yearning, forward-looking celebration of science and human thought, wrapped up in a unique twist on the so-called nuclear family. They’re not only going to save the world from galactic threats and bad science, they’re the ones who’re going to lead the world to a better tomorrow.

Give me crazy cosmic monsters, noble and risky experiments for SCIENCE!, Weirdly art-deco equipment, Kirby krackle, Johnny giving Ben the hot foot, a little Yancy Street Gang, and an affectionate and optimistic 60s sitcom family dynamic with occasional world-eating danger, and I’ll be happy.

…but I’d be satisfied with them just owning the inherent optimism.

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all for the want of pants

30
Jun

Younger. Cooler. Smarter. Edgier.

This is how Empire Magazine characterizes the new Fantastic Four film in it’s promo image for an upcoming puff piece.

Problem is, none of these words really apply to the FF. Fun, Family, Adventure, or even Hokey are all words that would apply to the cast of the “World’s Greatest Comics Magazine”, but not “young” or “edgy” – it’s not their thing. They’re not grim* or dark either (which is really what “edgy” means in marketing parlance); they’re a family of science explorers with weird superpowers who take day trips into the Negative Zone to banter with Blastaar the Living Bomb-Burst, not look all serious and dark in badly photoshopped promotional photos.

This kind of marketing doesn’t give me hope.

Plus, Ben Grimm needs some pants. That image there is really disturbing; at best, it reminds me of this; not what really should be a fun sci-fi family adventure (ideally set in the 1960s).

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*- …well, one of them is. Grimm.

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nobody puts $character in a corner

29
Jun

Twas a somewhat busy weekend, though it was the kind of busy that helped me temporarily put aside some weekday stressors for at least a little while. Hopefully I’ll be able to kick them forward at least a couple of steps (if not resolve them) in the next couple of days, to make room for the inevitable next source of weekday stress. Yeah, that’s the way I’m looking it at it these days; I’m not at all happy about it, but it’s the way it is, at least for the near term.

The weekend was kind of neat, though. Much of it had to do with dance…you see, this weekend was dance recital weekend for the girls, so there was lots of running about to get hair and makeup and costumes together and photographed and dress rehearsaled and whatnot. They all did well, and put on a good show (even if I dropped the ball somewhat). We spent Friday evening throwing cheesy classic 80s dance movies at the girl children, because Kenny Loggins’ “Footloose” was involved in the recital, and it felt wrong not to have them experience it in it’s original context. So many montages, and (as my teenager pointed out) more than a little bit of gay subtext, and a nicely nuanced performance by John Lithgow, which I totally didn’t remember being as good as it was (I’d bet they couldn’t get away with doing the character that way today – I haven’t seen the recent remake). We threw in Dirty Dancing for good measure, because why not – she liked that one too, though was a bit baffled by our stories of how it was a cultural teenage touchstone for people who are now in their forties. Things I noticed? I forgot how political it all was (and not in a bad way – again, I don’t think they could get away with the back-alley abortion storyline the same way today), and realized exactly how many times overtly-80s saxophone solos disrupt the flow of otherwise proper period music for a story set in 1963.

We also retrieved the boy from a week away at scout camp, packing a bunch of dirty laundry, weaving and woodworking crafts, and a pile of camp stories that felt a lot like my old ones. He seemed to have had a good time, which is what you want from these things…I’m hoping the right parts of scouting are starting to stick with the kid; in a lot of ways, Scouting was one of the best parts of my teenage years; I’d love for him to have a bit of that himself (which seems possible, despite the changes in the program since I was a kid).

otherwise, I played a little bit of music on Sunday (with the semi-regular instrumental string ensemble), made a pretty decent mexican macaroni and cheese casserole, and hooked my teenage daughter on Orphan Black, in between naps and some time logged on Marvel Heroes.

Of course, now the new week starts, and I have to deal with those old stressors again, at least for a couple of days, because I’m padding out my Independence Day weekend with a few extra days off, for no reason at all other than the fact that I deserve to sleep in now and then.

wish me luck.

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eastern perspectives on the ant-man

26
Jun

Yes, there’s some new footage here, but it’s really the Japanese announcer and the occasional kanji titles that really make this Japanese Ant-Man trailer really pop.

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finally

26
Jun

The supreme Court, moments ago, released it’s ruling on Obergefell v. Hodges, which has a little something to do with marriage.

In a 5-4 decision, the courst struck down the various state bans upheld by the Sixth Circuit. Same Sex Marriage is now legal and recognized in all 50 states.

The final paragraph of the majority opinion:

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed.

It is so ordered

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expanding my vocabulary of despair

24
Jun

I discovered a new word today; a good German word to describe a complex concept; the kind of word we just don’t have in English.

It also does a pretty good job of describing a feeling I run into all too often these days…

weltschmerz:

1: mental depression or apathy caused by comparison of the actual state of the world with an ideal state

2: a mood of sentimental sadness

Argh, it’s like I’m Morrissey these days..

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as a transplanted damnyankee here in ole virginnie – on the confederate flag

24
Jun

The clearly race-motivated shootings last weekend down in South Carolina were awful things. My heart goes out to the victims, their families and friends, and all the other people affected by this terrible ocurrence. I’ve also been tremendously impressed with the way the people affected have reacted publicly and privately; so much grace, peace, humility, and forgiveness from so many people who would have found a lot of sympathy in reacting otherwise. It’s nice to see the better side of humanity come out of a situation that started with the worst of it.

As people pick up the pieces, the lingering discussion nationwide has been focused on the Confederate Battle Flag* and what flying it, either from your house, truck, or State House symbolizes. In general, people are starting to think that it’s a pretty bad thing to do, or at least gauche, in modern America. , concerned citizens, and southern Republican Governors have all instituded bans, or called for them, depending on their ability to enact such things, in the name of decency, sympathy, or the desire to not appear to offend vast swaths of potential American supporters, voters, or shoppers.

I think this is a positive development – people are finally getting it through their head, through the sheer weight of overwhelming public opinion, in some cases, that the flag is a divisive symbol, representing racism and intolerance, and probably shouldn’t be displayed by public institutions, in the interest of satisfying the modern collective unconscious.

All the same, there will still be folks out there who will make the claim that it’s all about “heritage” or “southern pride”. I live amongst many of these people. Most of them, on balance, are decent, if wearing some pretty heavy blinders to certain issues, and are certainly misinformed about their own heritage they’re so proud of.

Growing up in the north amidst the rural wilds of “Pennsyltucky”, I saw the flag flown pretty regularly amongst “salt of the earth” types, especially once I was wordly enough to really notice that the world didn’t necessarily work the way these folks believed it did in their relatively isolated enclaves. The flag was largely adopted by young and enthusiastic youth adopting the “country” cultural tics, many of whom had never been south of the Mason-Dixon (and likely had never seen more than a handful of people who looked different than they did except on television and through (tightly closed) car windows when passing through an urban area. I’m not saying these were bad people – most would drop everything to help someone in a jam, especially if they felt a connection to them. That said, the casual, theoretical racism, homophobia, and fear of the “other” they picked up from their elders in their sheltered environments continues to be there, even if they don’t rise to the levels of action or violence we see all to often. Their adoption of the flag has nothing to do with “heritage”, but rather with adoption of the values of a group whose distrust of the “other” aligns with their own.

Upon moving to “the south”, I noticed that racism here was a little different; with a much less homogeneous population, people are, for the most part, more careful about what they say in public (or at least in mixed company) – “southern courtesy” doesn’t allow for it, unless one feels safe behind the walls of a sympathetic enclave, or if one finds oneself “in his cups” and finds social barriers perforated chemically. In those cases, what one hears is pretty damned awful to my ears, worse than the northern redneck kids who don’t know any better who are mostly posturing. There are folks where who hold these racist feelings sacred. These folks totally know what they’re doing – the flag’s a dog whistle to them, and they use it like a secret handshake to identify their own.

Those folks are the minority, though, really; a relatively small part of the “confederate flag=heritage” crowd; a lot of folks don’t know any better, largely because of the social filters in place in Southern society. For younger folks who weren’t around during the heyday of segregation/integration and the civil rights movement, the flag has always been there as a symbol of their “heritage”, and mostly, they aren’t aware that the flag itself was largely a relic from 1865 until the late 1950s, when it was revived in the wake of opposition to the civil rights movement. It’s totally a symbol of racism, hate, and intolerance; so much so that in modern Germany, neo-nazi sympathizers use the confederate battle flag because swastikas are specifically prohibited. It’s a failure of (or a calculated feature of, depending on how you look at it) our American educational system that such information doesn’t get out there, and the “heritage, not hate” movement continues; ignorant of history, believing they have a legitimate reason behind their claim of heritage (even if they’re probably a little bit racist as well).

As an aside, let’s examine the “The Confederacy wasn’t about Slavery, it was about States’ Rights” position, which is closely aligned to confederate battle flag waving and the heritage crowd. There’s not much to this position, and Alexander Stephens, the Vice President of the Confederate States of America, would agree:

Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition.

And if the words of the Vice President arent enough, let’s take a look at the CSA’s Constitution, article IV, Section 3(3):

The Confederate States may acquire new territory; and Congress shall have power to legislate and provide governments for the inhabitants of all territory belonging to the Confederate States, lying without the limits of the several states; and may permit them, at such times, and in such manner as it may by law provide, to form states to be admitted into the Confederacy. In all such territory, the institution of negro slavery as it now exists in the Confederate States, shall be recognized and protected by Congress, and by the territorial government: and the inhabitants of the several Confederate States and Territories, shall have the right to take to such territory any slaves lawfully held by them in any of the states or territories of the Confederate states.

So yes, the “heritage” of the Confederate States of America is very closely tied into the concept of racism and white supremacy. The battle flag, when used in any context outside of 1861-1865 (and even within that context, really) , is unavoidably steeped in the concepts of racism and opposition to civil rights for minorities. That we’ve started to realize as a nation that this symbol isn’t appropriate in polite company is a positive step; even if it’s only, at this point, a step for certain entities to avoid alienating propsective customers or voters – behavior drives attitude, at least in some cases. There is a lot of progress yet to be made on all kinds of issues of intolerance and -isms in this country, but nonetheless, I’m encouraged by the fact that we seem to be moving at least a little bit in the right direction on this one.

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*-Not the “stars and bars”- that’s this, the national flag of the CSA – although I my inner history major cringed visibily when my local NPR newsreader referred to it that way on the airwaves in the former Capital of the Confederacy.

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sweet? dunno. cool? yeah.

19
Jun

So…it comes to this. Sixteen years ago today (well, overnight last night, anyway), after spending the previous few weeks in and out of the hospital thanks to pregnancy induced complications (already causing grief before even breathing independently…hrmmm), I watched a really, really tiny human get squeezed out of my wife. It was weird, gross, scary, and utterly fascinating.

Fascinating enough that we’ve managed to keep her alive for sixteen whole years.

And during that time, on average, she’s managed to continually impress, amaze, occasionally infuriate, but in general, inspire feelings of pride and admiration; despite our best efforts, she’s turned into a generally pleasant, talented, intelligent, opinionated, well (if not entirely non-vulgar) spoken young adult, who tends to win over most of the other responsible adults with her maturity and poise, which shows, if nothing else, she knows when to deploy said maturity and poise to greatest effect, which, I suppose, is a lesson in itself.

As such, I don’t worry about having to support her financially well into middle age*, because she’ll be able to handle herself, and while she, like any human being, makes the occasional bad choice, I trust that she won’t make most of the really bad ones, which, in some ways of looking at things, is one of the best things a parent can say about the experience of raising a child.

Anyway, I look forward to many more years of sharing old-person music, barely understood teenage slang, shouting up the stairs, witnessing amazing accomplishments and wisdom beyond anything I managed at a similar age, and generally being proud of my kid.

happy birthday!

Oh – traditionally, on kids birthdays, i try to post an image of a number of animals (usually kittens) equal to the number of years we’re concerned with, but an image search for sixteen cats got weird and confusing very quickly. It did, however, turn up this song, which I’d never heard, but is, nonetheless, a pretty cool find.

_________________________

* – given our experiences over the last six months or so, though, I may end up driving her places forever…

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cool, and intimidating

19
Jun

I learned this morning that, depending on which CD was passed on, “Weird” Al Yankovic may indeed own a recording of me playing several instruments, as well as a photo of me on stage playing bass with The Blibbering Humdingers.

This is both very cool, and very intimidating. Mostly, I hope he likes it, if it didn’t immediately end up in the tour bus trash. I like to think that Al would at least take a listen to a professionally-produced CD such as ours, rather than trash it out of hand. He’s that kind of guy.

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slouching towards something…

09
Jun

I don’t have any particularly profound things to share, but the space feels empty, and I have a few minutes. Oh look, it’s June.

Life is life, really…moving along, slow and steady, generally not particularly noteworthy. Employment is employment: I’ve been at this particular chapter for five months and change now; it’s mostly paying the bills, and I’m mostly managing the stress. To be brutally honest, it’s not the most rewarding work I’ve ever had. I’m learning what I can, fixing problems where I’m able, but I’m having trouble looking at this position as a long-term prospect; everything I do I tend to mentally frame as “leaving things better than a found them” rather than “feathering the nest.” I’m not necessarily proud of my looking at things this way, but it’s reality, and perhaps a coping mechanism. I feel like I’m spinning wheels a bit, maybe…At nearly 41, I’m pretty sure I still don’t know what I want to be when i grow up.

I guess it’s a good thing I have some creative outlets. The band and other occasional musical outlets help, though after the gig the other weekend, I don’t have anything officially lined up. It’s probably my exhaustion and chemical imbalances talking, but things felt the slightest bit, I dunno, final; at least the end of a chapter, with the release of the CD (which is really good). It’s probably just the slowing down after con season and the fact that for the first time in six months or so, I don’t have a definite gig lined up to look forward to, which is a weird feeling. Anyway, I hope it’s not the end; I really enjoy the experience.

Reading back on the last couple of paragraphs, things really sound kinda bleak, don’t they?

It’s not all Eyore and little black rainclouds. There are other adventures. Last weekend, half a dozen of us, friends old and new, did our (at least) annual Appalachian Trail hike, doing roughly nine miles between 3400 and 4000 feet above sea level, between Pinnacles and Stony Man in Shenandoah National Park. It was a good time, though the combined might of con crud earlier in the week and my not being in the absolute best shape of the last couple of years, I struggled, especially on the uphill sections, but I conquered opponents both viral and gravitational, and kicked that trail’s ass.

This Thursday, I’ve also got fourth row tickets to “Weird” Al Yankovic’s show in town. I’ll be in the audience for one of the best live bands performing today, enjoying the musical comedy sountrack of my life since I was in elementary school, with friends scattered all over the crowd (sales limits prevented us from managing to all sit together). Nostalgia, entertainment, and something to look forward to.

So, on balance, it’s a wash. two steps forward, one and a half steps back. Slouching towards something, but not terribly enthusiastic about any of it.

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