28 October 2008

The Hulk: A Review of Marvel's latest story arc

My daughter took up comic books a few months ago so she is to blame for this. By this I mean my own revitalized interest in the medium. She begged and pleaded for me to buy her a huge omnibus, called Planet Hulk (written by one of Marvel's most talented writers Greg Pak) which compiled nearly a year's worth of the Jade Giant's travails in exile on a world called Saakar. It culiminated in another graphic novel (itself a collection of four issues, also written by Greg Pak, and pencilled by the incomprable John Romita Jr. and inked by Klaus Janson) called World War Hulk. The experience of reading those to works reminded me of what comic books can do. Since that time, the brat and I have begun collecting all the Hulk related comic books. Hulk, She-Hulk, and Skaar: Son of Hulk are all on our to read list.

Grek Pak no longer writes Hulk and mores the pity. He brought depth, imagination, and daring to a character that can in the wrong hands be terribly one dimensional. Pak currently brings his considerable talent to Skaar(Skaar is the monster atop the dragon on the right). Peter David currently writes the witty She-Hulk.

This all brings me to the current creative team for Hulk, Jeff Loeb and Ed McGuinness. Loeb has historically impressed the hell out of me with his masterful work on Batman (see The Long Halloween, Hush, and to a lesser extent Supergirl. Loeb, along with his frequent collaborator Tim Sale, has also been an incredible creative force in shows like Heroes, and Smallville. However this turn on Hulk has been singularly unimpressive to say the very least. It is jumpy, the dialogue is unremarkable, and the art is inconsistent. It is either very good, or it is skirting a mark below mediocre. And if fails to deal with the past year and a half of story. And that makes the trials the Hulk and his friends face barely interesting.

The story thus far involves the introduction of a new character, the mysterious Red-Hulk. We don't know much about him. Except he seems capable of maintaining his intellect while transformed, uses guns, and hates Bruce Banner and his not so mild-mannered alter-ego. Oh, and instead of getting stronger as he gets madder like his green counter-part, he gets hotter. Okay this is all fine and good. However it is all just too easy for him. He beats every one as if it is child's play, even including the Hulk. Okay maybe this is okay, since everything in super-hero comic books stretches the bounds of verisimilitude who am I to find it a little convenient for this sub-par story arc? Where was this guy when Hulk was about to destroy Earth? When he had imprisoned the Avengers? Eh? Okay I am not going to go too geek here.

My main problem is with the poverty of character. Jeff Loeb ignores almost entirely all the character development of the past year, and in its stead gives us paper thing story, punctuated every pages by fights, and almost a constant repitition of the phrase, "THIS ENDS NOW!" No reflection, no explanations, no exploration.
In a word.....Boring.

25 October 2008

Beyond Belief: Candles in the Dark

Here is a website that I think should be at the top of your most frequently visited.
It is the Science Network, http://thesciencenetwork.org/intro. There are many fascinating videos, conferences (the Beyond Belief Conference for instance). For my educator pals here is a place to find challenging videos for your high school level students, and of course undergraduates.
Click on the title of this article to go straight to the site.


15 October 2008

Fedor Vs Tim

This fight didn't go exactly as I predicted it would except in the broadest sense. I always thought Fedor had Tim's number. And I never thought the fight would last terribly long. But I didn't expect the rear naked choke. Nope. Soccer kick? Sure. Knees? Absolutely.

What hurt Tim Sylvia? What hurts many UFC fighters especially in top tiers? Let me tell you what I think it is. It is the UFC and Dana White's leadership. There is no such thing as the journeyman fighter in the UFC and that is inflating the image of most of its stars. Not all of them, but many. The journeyman is a time honoured concept in boxing. It is a quality fighter but one that will not likely hold a championship, or if they do it will not be for very long. What they do is provide a test, or gateway into the greats. You beat the journeyman, you probably have a shot at sports immortality. Such a fighter always gives great and challenging fights, and gives a competitve match that gauges up and coming talent.

This class of fighter does not exist in the UFC because if you don't win all the time you are out of there. Sooo fighters tend to fight more conservatively, especially in the upper tiers. That is the UFC.

Pride, contrary to the opinions of the over-rated Dana White, was a better organization for developing talent. Losing didn't, and doesn't mean much to Japanese crowds so long as you give an exciting and compelling fight. So even guys who lost consistently fought alot because they came out and threw from the fences, were good fighters overall, and entertained the crowds. Fedor was formed in that vastly more competitive mix. So it begins with a difference in mentality. Fedor gets off first because he just isn't worried about how he just lost a pay-per-view contract. Tim, like many UFC fighters,by and large are vastly more conservative unless they know they have the upper hand in every arena. So mentally I don't think Sylvia was ready.

Secondly he is a pretty one dimensional fighter. His strongest attribute is his right hand (even though I have to admit he looked much better against Nog than I think he ever has) he doesn't have much in the way of movement, he isn't very fast and has a weaker ground game than most UFC heavy weights. Against really skilled ground fighters Sylvia tends to lose. Think Couture, think Mir, Think Nog, and to a lesser extent think Arlovski, and now think Fedor. This was always Fedor's fight. So I wonder if Dana White will amend his comments about the guy who positively handled his former champ?

10 October 2008

The Straight-talk express....derailed.

John McCain used to be someone you could disagree with but still, more or less, respect. In 2000 he was easily the best choice in a field whose qualifications to lead were thin on the ground. In 2000 though, he would have probably stood out even in a strong field. He rode the Straight-talk Express talked about reaching across the aisle and healing a partisan divide that was making politics nearly undoable. He hurled mighty bolts of unapologetic castigation on something he called "the politics of personal destruction." And with good reason, he was viciously attacked by the immoral Karl Rove, dark prince of modern political warfare, and like minded ilk. They, used push-polls, unfair and untrue accusations in their win at any costs style of politics. McCain intimated that he'd rather lose an election if he had to win it by such subterfuge. So his current behavior has me scratching my head and wondering....
....What happened to that guy? You know, the one from 2000 that I kinda liked, and wouldn't have thought a craven unethical political animal.

You may be scratching your head as well as you watch the McCain machine implode in negativity, and hypocrisy. Once the mighty straight-talker refered to Jerry Falwell, and Pat Robertson as preachers of intolerance and condemned their views as divisive. Now of course to even come close to getting a Republican nomination you have to court the loud, and very vocal Christian conservative base that has essentially hijacked the party. What is strange about this is the none too secret secret that Washington conservative personalities seem to universally despise evangelicals.
(Below is a brief clip of Tucker Carlson discussing the elites in his own party. At the end of the clip you can see the evangelical Andrew Sullivan agreeing with Calrson.)

I wouldn't say that you could have lumped McCain into the ranks of the contemptuous, but he certainly prior to his current campaign didn't exactly bend over backwards for conservative Christians. Now his roster of evangelical support is as nutty as Falwell and Robertson. John Hagee? This guy may actually be nuttier than Falwell, and easily as nutty as Pat Robertson. Here is a guy whose devisiveness can be considered no less than other pastors that have felt McCain's withering criticism, so why invite such learned first century men like Hagee, and Ohio pastor Rod Parsely, to support and endorse him? Why the sudden hypocrisy? Let us grant anyone the observation that Obama's faith circle jerk is also deeply nutty but he didn't make the very public dissociation with such groups either. McCain, in seeking out such endorsements reveals that he will, in fact do almost anything to get into office.

Below are two articles that dicuss Hagee, and Parsely. I don't particular care about the whine in them that laments the sectarian tone the pastors take. One says, poor Islam, the other poor Catholocism. Both of these sects have strong streaks of the same thing -that is to say sectarian closed-minded stupidity- going the other way (What Catholic reading this fails to remember Masses ad infinititum in which some bronze age simpleton suggested we pray for those unfortunate enough not to be snug in the arms of Cathol?). I simply link you to them as demonstration of what seems like a stunning reversal on the part of Senator McCain. The first article deals largely with Ohio polyploid Pastor Rod while the second deals with the deranged Hagee, who I think expects the end of the world to occur at any moment.

But this tail tucked, hat in hand posture taken by McCain has not been enough to bounce him past Obama. And he has taken up a suite of tactics, and called on advisors that once were used so effectively against him. To which I ask more than what happened to the McCain I used to respect, it also has me asking the more profound, and penetrating, "what the fuck?" Or as it is stated in the world of IM and texting WTF? What is with all the obfuscation, negativity, fear-mongering, race-baiting, and near incitement to violence that is just spewing forth from the McCain machine. Did McCain get political pointers from a similarly ambitious,but somewhat morally unhibited, politician from Metropolis? I mean should be looking for Lex Luthor behind this turn of events and character. Is it an evil doppleganger? Is it maybe Bizarro McCain. I mean that might make some sense.

McCain's hypocrisy only begins with his reversal on religious issues, and his courting of religious conservatives. He has essentially recapitulated the campaigns of "W" in every way. I can only imagine that he and his handlers have decided that the backbone of a winning campaign at this point must be comprised of naked dishonesty, and demagoguery. The now long discredited smear linking Obama with Bill Ayers, former member of the Weather Underground is back again and even less true than it was when Hillary Clinton used the Ayers Manuever.

At McCain rallies McCain and Sarah Palin have spewed dangerous, race, and religion baiting tactics that now has people at GOP rallies calling Obama a terrorist. Screaming "Kill HIM!" Or, at least one rally calling for his beheading. Only recently as the backlash of this campaign has grown, has McCain finally corrected what are looking more and more like mob scenes. Sarah Palin actually accused, and continues to accuse Obama of pal-in'around, by gosh (wink, wink) with terrorists!" They constantly refer to the rather innocuous middle name of Obama as if it were in itself a crediblity destroyer. Obama Hussein, Barack Hussein (wink, wink). The middle name says it all doesn't it? I mean come on. I am surprised they have not hit upon the glaring similarity between his first name, Barack, and the villian from the Mortal Combat games, Baraka. That guy had knives the size of my shins that would spring from his hands. He also bitch-slapped people. Think of where they GOP could go with that association. But isn't this a cultural smear? Isn't it an attempt to play on tribalism and xenophobia? Its sad that the GOP has decided to sink this low?

So much for the big tent party of the republicans. So much for diversity. No this has become the party of fear and its application. And it has been using the fear of the other since the democrats became the big tent party. This is the party of vote for us or I swear to god we will all die I promise you. This is in short a party that has nothing interesting to say. McCain has become a bald hypocrit, and Palin is, I sorry to say, simply not up to the challenge by any standard. McCain consistantly worries at the fact Obama will be getting on the job training while he is ready to go. The sad fact is this. As author Sam Harris has noticed, John McCain is, statistically ready to go. He is an old man, with a history of serious health problems. Insurance companies would look at the man askance and worriedly. The woman who cannot construct a thoughtful, coherent sentence on a regular basis is not far at all from occupying this country's highest as well as the worlds most powerful office as you would think. This veep in waiting is not only dishonest, she was a singularly unimpressive political figure in Alaska. Her experience in thinking deeply about foreign policy is revealed by her astoundingly vapid statement, "You can't blink," and this deep thought has been prompted by the fact that she can "see Russia from" her house. She also has nothing interesting to say. But tries to dress up that nothing with her folksie bullshit.
But, dagnabit I do wish she would get some medication for that tick that makes her close one of her eyes when she thinks she is being cute and folksie. An eyepatch maybe or superglue, or maybe some meth from the city she use to be mayor of, you know the one that is the meth capital of Alaska.
I kid the governer. I do.

There are legitamate discussions that could be had between republicans and democrats about how this country should move forward. It will take work to really end partisan sillyness, and findd meaningful compromise. Partisanship does the country no good. John McCain and Sarah Palin, however, are not the team to bring anything serious to the table. John McCain has no ideas, and Sarah Palin could not spot or understand things like ideas.

Take the second debate between McCain and Obama. McCain was reduced to stuttering incoherence (one can only suppose this comes from hanging out with his running mate) and the deeply uninformative mantra, "I know how to get us out of..." "I know how to solve...." It was "I know, I know, I promise you I know.." all night long. But senator surely between your none to subtle smears of Obama, and all your "I knows" you must realize that you didn't lay out, for us the American people what you say you know. You assumed, I guess, that we are just going to take your word for what you say you know.
WTF John, wtf indeed.