so that captain america news from yesterday…

26
May

For those not in the know, in the current arc of the new Steve Rogers: Captain America comic (which hit comic shops yesterday), it’s been shockingly revealed that …Cap’s been a HYDRA Agent all along!.

Thanks to a full-court press by Marvel Executive Editor/Senior VP of Publishing Tom Brevoort, a nice chunk of the mainstream media latched on to this “revelation” as some amazing earth-shattering status-quo-breaking event, and has people on social media crapping themselves and ranting and raving about it everywhere.

Just like Marvel hoped they would.

As a fan, I understand that people get attached to these characters, especially recently, given the great performance Chris Evans has given as Steve Rogers for a bunch of big movies now. Captain America, today, just as he was back when Jack Kirby and Joe Simon thought him up back in the Timely days, is a symbol a lot of people, even non-comics fans, respond to, and often attach their own ideals to.

I also understand that comics is a business, and that Marvel’s modus operandi since Stan and Jack started the bullpen is to hype the hell out of things, promise that things are NEVER GOING TO BE THE SAME, and aren’t above a little misdirection (or occasionally flat-out making things up) to get the attention of the reader.

This is the first issue of a new story arc, which will likely run a solid six to twelve issues, before having the twist revealed and will settle out as being not all that different than they way they were before. Comics run on the illusion of change; it’s all part of the relationship fans and creators have.

I see a lot of this in the marketing here. Writer Nick Spencer’s definitely got an angle; this quote below from the EW piece that broke all this nonsense yesterday is right out of the Stan Lee playbook:

Issue 2 will lay a lot of our cards on the table in terms of what the new status quo is, but the one thing we can say unequivocally is: This is not a clone, not an imposter, not mind control, not someone else acting through Steve. This really is Steve Rogers, Captain America himself.

…a comics guy brings out “unequivocally” and lists a bunch of conditions, get out your shovel, because somebody’s getting snowed. This list of conditions is broad, but also oddly specific; there’s a lot of room for all kinds of other technicalities, which is what has always happened.

Especially in a comics universe that has, in the past year, been destroyed and rebuilt in a new image thanks to the “Secret Wars” event, for which the new “status quo” is still being determined (though it won’t be all that different in the end, except Miles Morales gets to be Spider-Man as well), and has, in the last ten years, has had the Captain America mantle held by three different people (there are currently two Caps running around), has had Steve Rogers killed and resurrected, and for the last couple of years, Steve Rogers has been a depowered old man who recently got his Super-Soldier powers and his youth back thanks to a Cosmic Cube, which has, traditionally, been the biggest macguffin in a sea of macguffins the Marvel Universe has created.

In my mind, it’s also not a coincidence that this happened when it did, mid-way through the first week since release that the Captain America: Civil War blockbuster film hasn’t topped the box office, and on the same day when DC comics rolls out it’s latest universe-shattering event, Rebirth, which changes the status quo over there again, ahead of the usual 7-10 year schedule they’ve maintained since Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Can the average non-comic fan person in America tell you what the #1 movie in America is this week? Probably not. Can they tell you what’s going on over at Marvel’s Distinguished Competition? Nope. But they sure as hell know that Captain America is, for the moment, a life-long HYDRA agent. And they have a strong, uninformed opinion on it.

Marvel wins the cycle. Boom.

And Marvel and parent company Disney don’t really care that much about individual comic book sales; they haven’t for years, really. The comics haven’t been the profit leaders for decades. Since the 90s, it’s been licensing the IP for movies, tv, and merchandise. A HUGE comic in today’s market sells *maybe* 100,000 copies. That pales in comparison to the revenue the Marvel movies and licensed merchandise bring in.

Something like this gets the IP on the minds of people, who might, as a result, go see Civil War again, buy a t-shirt, or go into a comic shop out of curiousity, and if not buy the offending issue, might buy one of the high-profit margin reprint omnibus editions of “classic” Cap stories. Just like when they announced that Thor was now a girl, or that Doctor Octopus took over Spider-Man’s body, or back in the 70s, when Cap found out that Richard Nixon was leader of the Secret Empire, and gave up the shield in disgust and when on a road trip across america to find himself as Nomad, Man Without A Country. All those stories ended (or are in the process of ending) with the status quo going back to the way it was, and usually resulting in a pretty cool story when all was said and done.

Don’t worry, ginned up fans of Captain America who have your red-white-and-blue panties in a twist about Marvel betraying their beloved character; it’ll all work out. Listen to the Washington Post, they understand.

Cap didn’t stay a werewolf, did he?

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don’t panic

25
May

in case this needs any explanation.

Also, a certain small independent film opened on this date back in 1977, which might be worth celebrating a bit.

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slow paperwork day

24
May

I’m half afflicted with some weird stomach bug I acquired late this weekend (though I hear it’s going around), but since my calendar is completely empty today (as is my building), I went to work this morning in the hope of not interacting physically with another soul for eight hours, and complete some paperwork and documentation. If I need to handle the stomach bug, I’ll also have the restroom to myself all day.

it’s working so far, in the sense that the paperwork’s done, and the inbox is empty, and the rest of the organization is leaving me the hell alone.

…and also find myself talking Superman Returns and Game of Thrones on social media.

…eh.

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“yesterday felt like” friday random ten

20
May

Nothing truly amazing to report around these parts, other than the fact it was tougher than usual getting up this morning; yesterday, involving as it did a drive back from Northern Virginia after a two day meeting sitting in a conference room talking about combining organizations (which I won’t even be part of, because I’m getting detailed to another project altogether), staring at powerpoint slides, and watching all kinds of old IT grognards get wistful about punch cards….

Made me feel like I wasn’t the oldest guy in the room, which, given my life lately, was novel.

Anyway, to complete my original thought: yesterday, because drive on I-95 etc etc, tripped my muscle/neural memory, which spent more than ten years ending my work week by driving south out of Our Nation’s Capital’s Suburbs.

It wasn’t a bad trip overall; I got to meet a couple of people in person I’ve only talked to on the phone, which is almost always pleasant and beneficial. I didn’t do a hell of a lot otherwise; I’ve been run ragged with all kinds of things lately, and enjoyed the break from having to drag anyone anywhere by not leaving the hotel once I arrived (The hotel had decent enough free food to satisfy my low standards, and they had TV and wifi to entertain myself before I dropped off to sleep early). It was kind of nice, but one night in a hotel isn’t enough to really settle in, especially since I’m hopping properties for a while (gonna build up some Hilton points, as that’s where my con gigs are these days), and I’m not entirely used to the layouts.

Wasn’t that bad; Homewood Suites is roughly equal to Residence Inn, only brown.

As for the weekend, we’re looking at rain and running teenagers places. The usual. Have a good one yourselves, okay?

  1. “I’d Die For You” – Bon Jovi
  2. “All You Zombies” – the Hooters
  3. “Doctor Worm” – TMBG
  4. “Shadow of a Doubt” – Sonic Youth
  5. “I’ll Be You” – The Replacements
  6. “You Might think” – The Cars
  7. “Gardening at Night” – R.E.M.
  8. “KARATE” – BABYMETAL
  9. “Speak to the Wild” – Thurston Moore
  10. “The Gold Medal” – The Donnas
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going to miss rhetoric like this

16
May

…from President Obama’s commencement address at Rutgers on Sunday:

Facts, evidence, reason, logic, an understanding of science — these are good things. These are qualities you want in people making policy. These are qualities you want to continue to cultivate in yourselves as citizens. That might seem obvious….We traditionally have valued those things. But if you were listening to today’s political debate, you might wonder where this strain of anti-intellectualism came from. So, Class of 2016, let me be as clear as I can be. In politics and in life, ignorance is not a virtue. It’s not cool to not know what you’re talking about. That’s not keeping it real, or telling it like it is. That’s not challenging political correctness. That’s just not knowing what you’re talking about. And yet, we’ve become confused about this.

Look, our nation’s Founders — Franklin, Madison, Hamilton, Jefferson — they were born of the Enlightenment. They sought to escape superstition, and sectarianism, and tribalism, and no-nothingness. They believed in rational thought and experimentation, and the capacity of informed citizens to master our own fates. That is embedded in our constitutional design. That spirit informed our inventors and our explorers, the Edisons and the Wright Brothers, and the George Washington Carvers and the Grace Hoppers, and the Norman Borlaugs and the Steve Jobses. That’s what built this country.

Here’s the full text. It’s a good read, certainly better than the forgotten person who spoke at my commencement…whose identity seems lost to cursory internet searches….of course, I graduated in December, so it probably doesn’t even count (I’ll forgive the President for not giving Theodore Parker proper credit for that “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice” thing, which Dr. King paraphrased to great effect).

He may not have been a perfect President (and who would be), but it’s words like this that we’re going to miss when he terms out. Also, he got more right than wrong, and history’s going to remember him well, probably better than we do.

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as a gen-x old, I am insulted on behalf of millenials everywhere

13
May

…and in general, I dislike millenials in the aggregate (I think maybe my older kids count, so I can’t speak in specifics).

Exhibit: this damned Chevrolet ad campaign, that I was subjected to every couple of minutes while I was streaming a tv show the other day (streaming video via a set-top box; kinda millenial, though I used a 50 inch tv rather than a 4 inch phone screen, so not that millenial).



“Hey focus group, give us yourimpression of this Chevy Cruze, using only emojis!

Um…no. First of all, focus group ads are awful. These “real people, not actors” (coughBULLSHITcough) are awful. the Chevy Cruze, is, having driven one for a couple days as a rental while the insurance people were sorting things out, decidedly average.

This emoji business is insulting.

The guys over at jalopnik (including someone in the comments who claims to be an honest-to-goodness millenial who works at GM) have a lot more insightful analysis on this, but the general thought is…nobody seems to know how to market to millenials, who, according to marketing data, aren’t necessarily buying many new cars anyway, and when they do market cars to them, they don’t actually talk about the car, but rather just vomit out emojiphonewifipoochie at them.

Now, I know few people who love their phones more than your typical millenial (one of those people is my wife, but I forgive her), but I would assume that one who would be looking to buy a car would be looking at more than built-in-wifi (which is just an LTE data plan you have to pay for anyway) when the phone in your pocket already does that, and they’re certainly not going to buy a car based on the emoji ad.

I guess this says something about General Motors, though, which kind of saddens me.

I grew up a Chevy kid. Blue collar rust belt America? Chevy trucks and Camaros were my jam. I’ve owned a lot of GMs over the years (Chevys and Pontiacs), for probably much longer than I should have because it didn’t occur to me to look anywhere else, even when the alternator blew on every single model I owned, and had some sort of weird electrical problem after a while. I had two Pontiacs when GM killed the brand; one I bought from a Saturn dealer.

I can actually kind of thank General Motors for getting me off of them, too. My first “new car” was a Pontiac Vibe, which I loved with a love I reserve few few other things*. It was a Corolla until the last step on the assembly line when they put on the Pontiac front clip. The Toyota engineering in the body and frame saved me from serious injury when some idiot in an Isuzu rear-ended me at 40mph when I was stopped in traffic.

When I went to replace it, I got a Toyota. Which I traded in on a Scion (whose ads are also weird and laden with James Franco, but are the only marque through which I could get a Corolla hatchback -with a manual transmission and upgraded suspension- in 2016…this means I do research and comparison shop, like a smart person should), which is another Toyota. I replaced the other Pontiac (before the wiring went weird) with a Mazda. The ownership experience, the buying experience, the service experience…was so much better than with General Motors products.

I don’t think I’d buy a Chevy today. The products are probably better now than when I was buying them, but they are, on the whole, pretty average. More “beige” than a Camry or Altima (yes, I dissed Toyota a bit – Camrys are solid, but boring). I can get equivalent or better engineering and efficiency, and a decidedly better service experience for probably less money, along with a lot fewer blown alternators.

…and nobody gets condescended to (and yes, I’m even counting “grounded to the ground” here) with Japanese kawaii shorthand as part of the bargain.

__________________________________________

*-some of those thing: My wife. My dear departed tortoiseshell cat Calypso. Playing music. Wasabi peas.

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friday random ten: “sleep for the dead” edition

13
May

Happy Friday, folks. ‘Tis been a week. I’ve spent a lot of it convalescing. The week started with my “front row” (that’s where they sit) analysts popping in and out due to illness; which struck me Wednesday. I woke up long enough to call in sick around 6am, then went back to bed, and woke up sometime around 1:30pm. The body tells you what it needs, right?

I’m mostly better now. I guess. However, this constant rain and gloom out there is really starting to get to me. Season Affective Disorder (or at least the “I haven’t seen the sun in a week” variant) is real. I hear that maybe on Sunday the sun will be back. Here’s to hoping.

The bits of the week not given over to work or rest have been given over to music. I had a pretty decent first “rehearsal” (wherein a bunch of us got together with instruments for the first time and attempted a couple of agreed-upon songs) with this gestating project I’ve gotten involved with. It feels good enough that something might come of it. After a few more weeks I’ll know for sure, but for now, I’m optimistic.

Tonight I’ll be doing dry runs/dress rehearsals for this weekend’s Godspell production; I’ve been having fun with this short-term commitment the last couple of weeks, but I’d be lying if I won’t be glad to put it behind me. You can only listen to “Save the People” so many times before it haunts your dreams…and it has, fighting for earworm space with, for some reason, counting Crows’ “Mr. Jones”, which, serendipitously (or not), popped up unbidden in the random Pandora ten (or so…I stopped counting when R.E.M. came up again…I really need to see what I can do to futz with Pandora’s algorithms. I really just let things spin until I’m finished writing) below:

  1. “M79” – Vampire Weekend
  2. “I am a Wizard” – Harry and the Potters
  3. “Back in Black” – AC/DC
  4. “Being With You” – that dog
  5. “You Give Love A Bad Name (live)” – Bon Jovi
  6. “Teenage Riot” – Sonic Youth
  7. “The One I Love” – R.E.M.
  8. “Mr. Jones” – Counting Crows
  9. “Ophelia” – Lumineers
  10. “Don’t Stop Believing” – Journey
  11. “Thinking in Ways” – the Badlees
  12. “Favorite Thing” – The Replacements
  13. “One Love/People Get Ready” – Bob Marley
  14. “Somebody to Love” – Queen
  15. “Animal” – Def Leppard

Otherwise, I’ll wish any readers a pleasant weekend, filled with sun, smiles, and other pleasant alliterative things.

Oh yeah, The Blibbering Humdingers released another album into the wild this week; one of our live sets from Dragon*Con last year. Give it a listen if you’ve got the time (and buy it for eight bucks if you’ve got the knuts and sickles!)


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“no. you move.” – a weekend

09
May

As is habit, this is the place where I tell you about some of the stuff I did this weekend; the amount of stuff being not inconsiderable this time around.

Friday was relatively low-key. Having some soon-to-expire travel comp time, I made it a half day at work after a busy week of testing, briefing the CIO, and wrestling with issues, because I deserve it, and I’d rather use the leave rather than have it disappear. Day was rather uneventful otherwise.

Saturday, however, was a bit different. I met a bunch of friends in the morning down along the canal walk in Richmond, where we biked in caravan for a section of the Virginia Capital Trail which opened up last year, and runs from Richmond to Williamsburg. We put down about 25 miles total, with a stop for lunch at Ronnie’s BBQ in the middle, and a celebratory pint at 7 Hills Brewing Company at the back end. It was a really nice day after a week of seemingly never-ending rain. We hit a few sprinkles after lunch, but they were light and short, and actually served to cool us off a bit more than anything else.

My biggest surprise was that I managed to stay nicely middle-of-the-pack (I had no chance of keeping up with the “career cyclists” who routinely pull century rides) for not getting much wheel time in recently. I was proud of my performance at any rate; starting the season when you’re a bit out of shape right off with a 25 miler isn’t exactly easy. Doesn’t stop my back side from complaining after ten miles, but that’s mostly due to my noassatall diagnosis.

Saturday evening (after a welcome shower and a change of clothes), Colleen and I got out of the house for a few hours (because we deserved it, and because the kids needed some time to prep holiday surprises) and caught a screening of Captain America: Civil War. I’ll leave spoilers out of it for now (though based on the box office, I expect a lot of you reading this have probably already seen it), but it was damned good, balancing all those Avengers characters (they were pretty much all in there save one or two) much more successfully than Age of Ultron did (though I’m sure there’s 20 minutes of that movie that got cut that we’ll never see), introduced two new ones, and still kept the story coherent, the stakes real and personal, and the experience completely entertaining. Also, they found a way to work in Cap’s semi-iconic “No, you move.” speech from the (admittedly flawed*) source comics in a clever and unexpected way, which was a much appreciated nod to the source material.

Black Panther and Spider-Man were great additions; both had nice character arcs, and they didn’t belabor origin stories; they just picked up with both of them, in media res, dispensing with backstory in a few lines of dialogue (though they leaned a bit on pretty much everybody being passingly familiar with Peter’s spider-bite origin given the five films and two, now three, different actors over the last decade and a half). I gotta say, I loved the treatment and characterization of Spidey; Tom Holland nailed the part, and Marvel’s effortless presentation made us wonder why Sony and their Spider-teams had so much difficulty getting it right to begin with. I am looking forward to both the Black Panther and Spider-Man films coming in the next few years.

And Sunday, the kids nailed those German Chocolate cupcakes.

This week? Lots of musical rehearsal (I’m backing an abbreviated production of Godspell this weekend, and that project I alluded to a little while ago is getting together to run some tunes), software testing at work, and…you know…life.

______________________________

*-yes, the Civil War comics event was seriously flawed, because it required all the characters to be much stupider (and occasionally fascist) than they’d been characterized for the last 40 or 50 years in order for the story to work. Some of that stuff was still present in the movie as well (especially on Cap’s part), though both Cap and Iron Man were both more or less in line, in broad terms, with their characterization as presented in the Marvel movies since 2008. The movie people did the best they could, I think, in making the somewhat ridiculous source material work within the frame they’d set up for themselves. They got their second act phase downer ending leading into Phase three, and now that they’ve gotten Civil War out of their system, they can put it behind them.

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may the fourth etc etc

04
May

Happy Star Wars Day, everyone!

I guess this is kind of a appropriate, as I spent the weekend doing sci-fi like things (if not exactly Star Wars things) at Ravencon. We had some pretty good shows that were well-enjoyed by our fans (wow…I have fans? That’s weird), even if I was a little “off” all weekend, and felt that it maybe intruded into my playing a bit…If the audience noticed, they didn’t say anything, and covered it up with lots of nice comments.

There was some backstage drama amongst one of the other acts on the bill, which made things a little uncomfortable and difficult, though I expect that it was, on the whole, for the best, both for the con and the act in question. All I shall say is that a few people learned a few things about how the community sees them; for good or ill (either one, depending on which individuals we’re talking about). And, i think some neat things might end up being born from the controversy (more on that later, as I may myself be involved…hmmm).

It was nice to see all my friends, and make a few new ones (I highly recommend, for example, you check out The Positronic Cats, a neat little acoustic duo from South-Central Pennsylvania), and spend time with them, sharing music, art, and obsessive fandom….and DONUT PARTIES. It was especially nice to spend a little time with and enjoy several performances by our friend Jonah Knight, an amazing musician and all-around great guy who will be moving to the other coast soon, and it’ll probably be a while until we get to see each other again…his “final show” this weekend was great, and occasionally emotional, as he’s become a much loved and appreciated asset to the mid-atlantic con scene these last however many years.

After the Con, we came home, stashed some stuff, and turned around and visited the Beacon Theater down the road a ways for Queensrÿche‘s show for which I won a pair of last-minute tickets from wnrn late last week. The Beacon is a neat little 1920s theater/movie house that spent the last several decades abandoned or in disrepair until a few years ago when a group of investors cleaned it up, refurbished it, and opened it once again to the public. It’s a really nice, intimate room that’s been hosting a lot of national touring acts (seems like a good place for the state fair crowd to perform on the off-season) lately, and I was curious to check it out, especially since it’s only about 10 minutes from home. This was a good opportunity.

The show good, if maybe a bit sterile. You could tell these guys have been doing this a long time, and they’re pretty damned competent, though it almost felt like I was watching animatronic rock stars rather than actual musicians; it was maybe a little too-well choreographed, I guess. This band has actually had an interesting last couple of years, with inter-band drama, dueling versions of the band performing until the rights and name and stuff could be sorted out legally and all that. They’ve had a new singer tha last couple of years who sounds remarkably like the old guy, and looks remarkably like Mark Wahlberg in the movie Rock Star, right down to the posing and cropped leather jacket. One of the only things detracting from the whole sterility of the thing was when newish (circa 2009) guitarist Parker Lundgren’s occasional “Ha! I’m getting paid to be a rock star” shit-eating grin behind the tattoos and heavy black guyliner, which broke the serious progressive-metal illusion, and was actually a highlight of the show.

We enjoyed ourselves (and the mullets on display were SPECTACULAR), though we left before the second encore (where they surely played “Silent Lucidity”) in order to beat traffic.

Anyway, that’s the most recent/interesting news from this end; this week is rain, a couple of musical rehearsals for short-term commitments (church is doing an abbreviated Godspell that I’m backing), hoping the rain holds off for a bike ride with friends this weekend, and making time to catch Captain America: Civil War at some point.

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weekend plans

28
Apr

In case anybody’s looking, I’ll be at RavenCon this weekend, now in Williamsburg rather than Richmond doing the fan thing and doing several shows with the Humdingers over the course of the weekend.

I’m curious to see how the new venue is going to work out – it was nice enough for MarsCon a few months back, though there were probably some tweaks to be made to get the best use out of the facilities. As there are a lot of the same folks working behind the scenes for both cons, I’m hoping at least some of those lessons get worked into this weekend’s events.

Anyway – all the programming info can be had here in a variety of formats. If you want to stalk me, we’ll be performing at the following times/places:

  • Saturday, 10am (Small Auditorium)
  • Saturday, 9pm (Large Auditorium)
  • Sunday, 2pm (Large Auditorum)

Also, there’s probably some other stuff going on, what with there being “open filking” and such on the schedule, and me being basically a whore musician for hire, I occasionally end up on stage with bands I’m not usually a part of.

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