Captain America, Civil War and Clickbait, with Spoilers (#SFWApro)

civilwar1varaThe title of CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (2016) — cover by Michael Turner, all rights to current holder — is pure clickbait, to tie it in with that comics Big Event (and it’s depressing that would actually encourage anyone to go to the theater, but that’s another matter). In reality, the premise of the U.S. government demanding the Avengers put themselves under the authority of a UN commission is irrelevant to the film—and that’s a good thing.

Because that premise is pretty weak. We have to believe that a)the U.S. government is actually concerned when counter-terrorism causes collateral damage in the Third World (nope); b)the government actually cares when the rest of the world criticizes our policies; c)the government would be willing to put a powerful U.S. asset (and I think the Avengers qualify) under international control (at one point Ross compares the Avengers to nukes; anyone think we’d put our nukes under U.N. supervision?). Not to mention that the initial deaths in Lagos are reasonably defensible: Wanda’s in the middle of a crisis situation, she attempts to remove a suicide bomber from a crowded plaza, but can’t get him far enough away to stop collateral damage. I can understand her feeling guilty but it’s hard to see why the rest of the team doesn’t stick up for her (the Vision excepted—this has the start of the Vizh/Wanda romance that captivated me so much in the Bronze Age).

None of that matters though, because the plot doesn’t really depend on whether Captain America supports registration or not. The core of the plot is that the Winter Soldier has been framed for a terrorist attack and our government, among others (including the Wakandan leader the Black Panther) has decided to take him out or bring him in, whichever works. Cap believes his old buddy is innocent (and he’s right) and sets out to save Bucky. Tony objects. The team divides and in the grand tradition, has a lot of Hero vs. Hero fights (spectacular fights to boot). It’s lots of cool super-hero action, some good acting, and just plain fun, particularly the new Spider-Man (“Kid, my fights don’t usually involve this much talk.”).

I was disappointed in the big finish. It felt like a whole lot of pieces fell into place conveniently—how did Zemo even know that the information on Stark’s parents was the key he needed, for instance? And Zemo himself is almost too mundane, a grieving revenge-prone father. I could see him wanting revenge on Tony (who avengers006did, after all, create Ultron) but destroying the whole team? And given Zemos of two generations have been major players in the MU, I could have done without them using that name (cover by Jack Kirby, all rights to current holder) And the final battle felt perfunctory, like the creators just had to have it come down to a death match.

On a minor point, I loved T’Challa, but I hated his costume, which seems like too many other costumes. I’d have preferred the straight black cloth of his Silver Age look, then just say it has vibranium armor woven into it or something.

Still, overall this was a spectacular, entertaining film. Glad I caught it.

 

 

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Don’t blame Republicans for conservative racism, Megan McArdle says

So Megan McArdle decides to tackle the question of why so many Republicans are backing a racist, sexist slimeball and concludes that Republicans have done nothing to encourage or cater to racism and sexism. Sure, cutting back welfare and getting tough on crime were harsh on blacks, but that’s because they commit most crimes and receive most welfare checks. And the party can’t be blamed for the fact so many small-government conservatives happened to be racists (“unless you’re prepared to advocate that both parties should systematically collude to disenfranchise these folks, and split the remaining vote between them. That’s both impractical and more than a little creepy.”). So, no blame to be had, move along please.

Of course, white people receive the majority of welfare checks, being the majority of the poor people. And the people voting for Trump have made it clear they’ve never been in favor of cutting welfare … for themselves. It’s welfare to blacks and Latinos they want to axe. Nor have Republicans ever been for small government or reduced spending in my time as a voter. Reagan gave us record deficits; W trumped them. Lots of Republicans cheered for government having increasingly invasive powers to spy on us during the W years (as long as they targeted Muslims and liberals, not patriotic right-wingers) and plenty of Trump voters favor discrimination against Muslims, bombing the Middle East or making Mexico pay for a wall across the border.

And while it’s true Republicans can’t somehow stop bigots from voting R, they’ve never been shy about encouraging them. Reagan made one of his big Southern appearances at a site where civil-rights workers were murdered, after being told he’d win votes that way. They welcomed segregationist Jerry Falwell into politics. William F. Buckley endorsed the rights of whites to dominate a black majority and once argued David Duke (ex-KKK leader and a neo-Nazi) should be perfectly acceptable as a political candidate — after all, he says he’s dropped his white supremacist views, why shouldn’t we believe him?

I agree with her the racism might still be seething there even if the Republicans hadn’t tried to milk it. America’s racial problems run deep. But she’s still spewing bullshit.

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My Fort Walton Beach trip: some photos (#SFWApro)

I didn’t take a lot of pictures when I visited Ft. Walton Beach last week but here are some of the ones I did. Of course there are lots of sensations photos can’t capture, like the oh-I’d-forgotten-this sensation of having my glasses mist over as soon as I stepped out of the air-conditioned car, but the images will have to do.

bird stick 2From Liza Jackson Park. I know I’m a tourist know because I’m taking what my friend Tina calls “bird on a stick” photos.

ducksDucks from the narrow beach at the same park.

meggieMy friend Cindy’s 40-pound chow mix Meggie Sue. A very sweet dog who loves to cuddle and get scratched.

me and womenMy friend Rhonda on my right, April on my left. We had dinner (along with April’s husband John), at Thaiger. Tasty Thai restaurant.

bright ballsMy eyes … HURT!

mumMum (Tracy holding her hand).

dadMy Dad.

tracyTracy at work. Regrettably my only shot of Cindy came out too blurred to use.

pelican2Pelicans over the beach.

the beachThe white sands of the beach.

white beach flowerThe dunes behind the white beach sands.. I don’t know what the flower is.

Copyright to all photos is mine. If anyone wishes to use them, please acknowledge me.

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Standing astride history yelling “stop Pajama Boy!” (and other political links)

As you may recall, a few years ago the Obama Administration’s early ads for ACA health coverage included a young man signing up while sipping coffee in his pajamas. Some conservatives still freak out about “Pajama Boy.”

•Conservative bloggers are also shell-shocked about the Obama administration supporting transgender students.

•Don’t worry that Donald Trump is sexist. According to one Republican leader, Trump is above normal rules. I’m sure they’ll find a way to excuse his other problems too. And discover that as the party has all its eggs in Trump’s basket, the basket is awesome. Certainly supposedly moral conservative Foster Fries (all women need for contraception is an aspirin pressed between their legs!) is fine with it—he’s not going to judge Trump just because of a few affairs in his past.

•There have been several recent cases where a toddler found their parent’s gun and injured themselves using it. Police response seems to vary depending on skin color.

•Eye doctors sometimes hang on to the glasses prescription so you can’t get the specs somewhere else. Bad idea, the government says. And insurers must now provide services regardless of gender identity.

•The working class was better off back when we had unionized manufacturing jobs. LGM argues that in today’s economy the “union” part is the more important. Conversely, outsourcing and the gig economy can reach even management jobs. And here’s another argument for paying service workers well.

•Speaking of the gig economy, Lyft is agreeing to a $27 million settlement to keep California drivers classified as independent contractors, not employees.

•A security guard gunned down a fleeing man for stealing a 95 cent candy bar.

•A while back I linked to a Rewire story that involved a right-to-life group tricking a teen into signing a document claiming she didn’t want an abortion. Rewire alerted me that the attorney involved in the mess is running for the Mississippi state court.

•North Carolina governor Pat McCrory—the guy now struggling to defend the No Transsexuals in Bathrooms Law—has always been hostile to gays.

•As Scott Lemieux says, claims that American liberals want white, working-class Trump voters to suffer hardship are bullshit. I don’t think they deserve more consideration than, say, the black or Hispanic working class, but they don’t deserve less either.

•A company developed a New Improved Blood Test a couple of years back … but it turns out it doesn’t work well.

•A new Senate bill would limit the government’s ability to hack into our computers and phones as part of an investigation. The DOJ unsurprising says the bill is not needed.

•The threat of antibiotic-resistant superbugs continues to grow.

•One woman’s story: enlisted in the military, raped, discharged as mentally unstable when she spoke up.

•This Ruthless World vents about militarizing police in America and the belief the military have all the answers to everything.

•Muslims skewed heavily Republican in 2000; today not so much. Could it be because of things like a Republican insisting a Muslim can’t be Republican (although the Repub objector was overruled in this case)? Northier Than Thou looks at the way rules and platforms become creeds. You can also check out my blog post about dogma from a few years back.

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And men shall call you—expat! Visiting Fort Walton Beach (#SFWApro)

So last week I went on vacation down in Fort Walton Beach, following through on my commitment to do this once a year (starting last year). I had a wonderful time but even though I still refer to FWB as “home” in conversation, I think I see Durham as my real home now. Everything was very familiar down in Florida, but I didn’t find myself missing anything except the people. It didn’t feel like the place where I used to live as much as a place I visit regularly (that’s the best I can describe the feeling). TYG wasn’t able to accompany me due to schedule conflicts (and with Plush Dog on cage rest, I doubt she’d have come anyway).

waterlilliesUnlike last year, I didn’t spend time in a hotel. My sister Tracy and our mutual best friend Cindy are rooming together, so I got to stay at their place (nice morning window view, huh?). This worked out great as I saw much more of Cindy than I did last year, and I do miss her. I saw more of Tracy too, but that would have happened anyway, as we popped by the nursing home to visit my mother every day.

Mum is not in great shape—she’s deteriorated a lot since I saw her sixteen months ago. And the wing she’s in is not a very stimulating environment, which doesn’t help, but she needs constant watching and this is the best place (no criticism intended of the staff, who work hard on what must be a very stressful detail). Her voice is very faint too, which makes conversation difficult. I did my best, though.

Tracy nudged me into going to see Dad in Pensacola; I didn’t really want to make the drive, but I’m glad she got me to do it. We had a pleasant evening watching TV, and went out to breakfast. Veggie eggs benedict for me, which is not something I’d had before. Two thumbs up. Rained furiously on the way home, but I made it okay.

I also saw my beloved drama teacher Jo Yeager, and drew comfort from the fact she’s still active at 80-something (she just finished a children’s book). She’s still an inspiration to me. I hung out with lots of other friends, although I missed a few due to the time needed for parental visits (I think everyone will understand).

white sadI did make it out to the beach once and enjoyed the spectacularly white, sugary sand. Seriously, it’s fluffy as powdered sugar. I also hit one of the waterfront (but not beach) parks for an hour.

I hit several stores I used to shop in, and was pleasantly surprised some of the staff remembered me.

I read a lot, as you can tell from yesterday’s post. I actually used up everything I’d brought with me and fell back on some PDFs I’d downloaded to my laptop.

Overall everything was great and reasonably affordable, until the last day. Somehow I lost the spare key to my rental car, which is the high-tech kind without an actual key (the rental desk staff had to show me how to start it). So that’s going to cost me a couple of hundred extra. Good thing I saved on the hotel.

Barring my making a shit-ton of money in the next few months, or some awful parental health crisis, I doubt I’ll be back until next year. But I’m looking forward to it.

I have a couple more posts about the trip I’ll put up later this week.

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I kept my nose in some books this week (#SFWApro)

6937985DOUBLE PHOENIX (cover by Gervasio Gallardo, all rights with current holder) contains two allegorical novellas linked together by the common use as a symbol. In Edmund Cooper’s “The Firebird,” a young boy spends his life chasing after the phoenix, despite everyone he meets insisting he’s either a heretic or a madman and the Firebird doesn’t exist anyway—in short, the wimpy Lovecraftian theme that The World Hates Dreamers. It’s trite but well-written, which cannot be said of Roger Lancelyn Green’s “From the World’s End,” in which a couple must resist seduction by avatars of Shallow Philosophy, Passionless Academia and Gross Physical Desire before the phoenix rewards them at the end. Editor Lin Carter admits in the intro that allegory is tricky to do right, but optimistically thinks these two qualify; I strongly disagree.

NEW WORLDS FOR OLD was a collection Carter edited for Ballantine’s Adult Fantasy line, mostly focusing on pulp fantasy but with some more contemporary stuff. There’s a section of William Beckford’s Vathek, stories by Robert E. Howard, Lovecraft and C.L. Moore, Gary Myers (a very good take on Lovecraft’s Dreamlands stories), “Duar the Accursed” by Clifford Ball (some mystical stuff which works, bogged down by a stiff, Conan-knockoff hero) and a blatant knockoff of Lord Dunsany’s “The Sword of Welleran” by Carter himself (apparently he considered that a perk of editing anthologies). Overall this is good, though I’ve never been able to finish the two fantasy poems included here.

WHEN VOIHA WAKES by Joy Chant is set in the same world as her Red Moon and Black Mountain
but in a different, matriarchal culture. The story has the heir to the local clan leadership bedding a young craftsman (crafts like pottery, sculpture and carpentry are Men’s Work) only to discover his dream is to be a musician, a much lower-class career. Chant does a good job on love not conquering all, and I really liked the culture: unlike Island of the Mighty or Weighing Shadows it doesn’t present the matriarchy as an idealized society, just a different one, and equally mess in its own way.

BUSMAN’S HONEYMOON is the Peter Wimsey novel author Dorothy Sayers describes as a love story with detective intrusions (which as she notes is probably how most couples in mystery stories see events). Following Harriet Vane saying yes to Peter in Gaudy Night, we open with their wedding (including lots of cameos from various characters from the series), after which they face the challenge of figuring out just what marriage means to them; while this gets a little heavy on theoretical relationship talk, it’s anchored enough in the characters it worked for me. However we also have the plot of them moving into a rural village (Harriet’s roots are there) and buying a broken-down old home, which feels interchangeable with The Egg and I or A Year in Provence (only not as entertaining). And finally there’s the mystery, when it turns out the shady dealer who sold them the house has been nobbled with a fatal blow to the head. Efforts to crack it are, like Five Red Herrings, more mechanical than brilliant: Lord Peter asserts at one point that he doesn’t have to know anyone’s character or motive, just figuring out how the crime was committed will prove the culprit (which is doubly odd as he solves several earlier books by knowing the motive). And as Raymond Chandler pointed out, a plot that hinges on the victim triggering a trap by standing in exactly the right position is a bad scheme (six inches to the left and he’d have been fine). This was the last Wimsey novel but I have a second book of short stories to read yet.

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My hobby is—matter? (#SFWApro)

(Week in review post will go up Sunday).

So after reading a Consumerist blog post on Facebook ad preferences, I decided to follow the article’s advice and check on my own preferences—what FB tells advertisers I’m interested in. The partial list:

•Regions of France.

•Man caves.

•Working as a sea captain.

•Yacht charters.

•Irish wolfhounds.

I will admit that I like the regions of France I’ve visited. And I’m sure I’d love an Irish wolfhound if I met one. My other supposed preferences, not so much.

And my hobbies include “street” and “matter.” Funny, you’d think in my line of work I’d have “thought” for a hobby. Is being interested in matter instead supposed to be how I rest my brain?

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