And we’re back! Phil once again reminds us of Erin’s claustrophobia, Rachel’s money-counting problems, and Darius and Cameron’s Race-ending mistake. On with the Race!
continue reading "Amazing Race 28, Episode 4: “Get It Trending”"
And we’re back! Phil once again reminds us of Erin’s claustrophobia, Rachel’s money-counting problems, and Darius and Cameron’s Race-ending mistake. On with the Race!
continue reading "Amazing Race 28, Episode 4: “Get It Trending”"
Last night was…interesting. One of my roommates, Samantha, had gone to pick up pizza on account of how none of us felt up to cooking. I was in the living room watching TV when she got back, and I suddenly heard a startled yelp, the words, “No! No! Bad!” and a thumping noise. Naturally, I drew the conclusion that one or more of the pizzas had just hit the floor, and that Echo (the tuxedo cat who lives in the dining room–there’s a complicated detente among our household cats, with a bonded pair of girls who stick to the basement, a bonded pair of boys who stay in the living room, and Echo disdainfully scorning them all to stay in the dining room) was attempting to snack on the scattered remains.
Naturally concerned about the status of the evening’s dinner, I immediately made my way into the dining room to see Samantha holding all the pizzas, and Echo settled in her cat bed. “What happened?” I asked. “Oh, nothing much, she replied. “A stray dog came in behind me and was chasing Echo a little bit, and I shooed him out.”
Now, this is not a normal occurrence in our neighborhood. I don’t necessarily know if roving packs of feral dogs are normal occurrences in any American neighborhoods, but it was certainly a novel experience for me. But when I looked through the glass doors, sure enough, there was what looked to be a purebred Doberman Pinscher staring back at me as if to say, “Is this my house? I forget.”
It had a collar on, so I pulled on some winter gear (not that it was particularly cold, but it occurred to me that I might be happy to have some protection for my arms and hands just in case it wasn’t as friendly as it seemed) and went out to see if I could find a tag. As soon as I got outside, though, the dog scampered over to the driveway. It didn’t seem actually scared, just wary, so I walked over to it while trying to look as non-threatening as possible. (Which is pretty non-threatening. In fact, not to brag, but I got an A- in “Non Threatening Studies” at Body Language University.)
The dog clearly thought we were playing a game, because it started running long loops of my yard, the neighbor’s yard, the neighbor’s neighbor’s yard, across the street to see if the person who just came home was their owner, back over to me, back over to the yard…I was getting tired just watching him. I decided this may be a job for the professionals, and pulled out my smart phone to look up the number for Animal Control.
Animal Control was closed. So I called the police. They told me that Animal Control was closed, but that they’d file a report and see if anyone was missing a dog. I wasn’t really happy with this answer, because the dog was crossing the street multiple times and I was more than a little concerned about a car accident, but they didn’t seem inclined to do much more. But just as I was on the phone with the police, the dog decided it was bored with the game and wanted to go inside. It trotted back over to the door, and this time when I went over to it, it let me hook my hand inside the collar no questions asked.
No tag, though. Shit. I decided the best course of action was to stash the dog in the garage for the night, and call Animal Control again in the morning. (One thing I should interject here–I already knew that our city has a no-kill shelter. I would have taken very different actions if that hadn’t been the case.) So I led the dog over to the garage…and no dice. Wouldn’t go in. Practically yanked my shoulder off backing away. I got Samantha to get me some dog food (we’d fostered a dog a while back, and still had some leftover paraphernalia) and I tried to lure it in with that…and no dice. Even though it was a skinny thing, it wasn’t willing to be suckered with dry dog food.
So I took him into the house. I kept a hand on the collar in case he bolted after Echo, but he had no interest in the puffed up, growling cat with its back arched as tall as possible, apart from a few alert barks to warn us that a dangerous feline predator had infiltrated our home. Once he was in the light, I got a good look at him–he was skinny but not painfully so, and his fur was glossy, so he clearly either hadn’t been stray for long or was good at scavenging. Evidence pointed a bit to the latter, as he continued to ignore dog food but made several spirited sallies towards the garbage can that I’m still feeling today in my shoulder muscles. I was at this point acting as a human leash, keeping him restricted to a small circle of kitchen floor while we figured out our next move.
“Our next move” turned out to be introducing him to the whole family. One by one and in pairs, everyone came in to see the pooch, and he was thrilled to see all of them. No licking–he was clearly still a little nervous from the strange sights and smells–but he gave everyone a friendly sniff and let himself be petted. The only real sign he gave that he was even a little bit uncomfortable with it all was that he’d occasionally lean into me the way that big dogs do when they’re nervous and they want body contact to reassure them. We determined that he knew how to sit on command during the round of introductions, but he didn’t really want to do “stay”. He’d sit for a moment, then do some more lazy circles of the small area around my body and charge towards whatever looked most interesting until I managed to distract him with petting.
Finally, we got an old dog crate and dog bed set up in the garage, and made another attempt to settle him in there. (With a space heater going. It was unseasonably warm for Minnesota, but still chilly.) He was reluctant to go in, but finally the bribe of a whole can of chicken lured him to the crate and I was able to give my arms a rest. I looked up Animal Control again, to see if they had their hours posted…and lo and behold, there was a 24-hour “report a lost or found pet” number to call!
When I called, it connected me right back to the police. This time, though, with the animal in our hands, they said they’d be willing to send someone to the shelter to receive the dog. This was a good thing, as he’d responded to the dog crate and the absence of humans by wailing loudly in distress, and that wasn’t going to work as an overnight thing. We loaded the crate into the back of the station wagon, took him to the shelter, and deposited him there with some food and water. The officer took our contact information and promised to let us know what happened, and I was finally able to get to my pizza after only a two hour delay.
So if you happen to know anyone in the Bloomington, MN area who’s missing a Doberman Pinscher, feel free to let them know about this. And if you want to learn about my exciting new “Doberman Workout”, which works the shoulder and arm muscles rigorously to build strength and endurance, send check or money order to–
Too much? Too much.
UPDATE: The dog’s owners stopped by the shelter this afternoon to collect him (don’t know if they called to report a missing pet, or if the dog was microchipped, and don’t care so long as it worked out okay).
Back again! I know, we’re settling into a schedule of recapping last week’s Race about two days before this week’s Race, but on the other hand you’re not just getting hammered with 12 straight posts of TAR content, so hopefully it evens out. Last week, of course, we had a lot of running around through France that ended with everyone except for budding Southern Gothic Denise and James Earl being told they were still racing and heading for Rotterdam. Which, given that this is the second of back-to-back double legs, means that the Racers are getting tired…
continue reading "Amazing Race 27, Episode 7: “Full Speed Ahead, Captain!”"
So I’ve been getting a few emails lately, mostly along the lines of “where are you, is everything okay, did John Seavey murder you and is he now wearing your skin as a sort of mask,” that sort of thing. The thing of it is simple: I am fine, and Seavey couldn’t filet a fish let alone cut off a human face for a mask (that’s an art, you know).
I’ve just been very, very busy over the last eight months, and something had to give. Mostly this started in the tail end of 2014, when my parents finally sold the home where I grew up to downsize into a rental apartment. (Not by choice, you understand.) That was moderately traumatic for the entire family and I incurred a lot of expense in the process.
Shortly after that, my girlfriend and I decided that we were going to move in together. (Which has been pretty great, for the record.) But if you don’t live in Toronto, let me tell you: finding a reasonably priced rental property in this city is nearly impossible. We spent two months on that, literally every night and weekend spent either researching new listings or going to see places, and when we weren’t doing that we were selling a whole lot of things ($2000 worth of boardgames and miniatures, $1500 worth of books and DVDs – and trust me, we still have plenty of all of that). It was basically a second full-time job. But, happy ending, we found a place on the waterfront that’s large and well under market price and has tons of amenities. We walk out the front door of our building and Lake Ontario is right there. We moved in on May 1st and at this point we are nearly finished the full move-in process, just a final few boxes to sort through.
Of course, almost immediately after we moved in, I had to do a full trial, which is – again – something that takes up all of one’s free time. This is only the second trial I’ve done in four years, and that’s a track record of which I’m extremely proud because it shows that I’ve been able to keep high-conflict clients from going to trial. Family law is traumatic at the best of times and trial is the absolute worst for clients – both emotionally and financially – so whenever I can get a case to settle, I treat that as a major win for my clients. But this was a super-urgent and super-dramatic affair (it was an international child abduction being litigated under the Hague Convention) and settlement was not possible, so on relatively short notice I ended up conducting a trial which lasted about a week and a half, with about as much time for prep beforehand and an equivalent amount of time on followup work thereafter – plus, you know, being completely exhausted.
(In case you’re wondering: yes, I won. So that was nice.)
So that takes us up to about midway through June. Then my girlfriend and I planned our first real vacation together and my first proper vacation in years – we’re going to Europe together for a couple of weeks, Paris for a week (we have a family friend’s flat on the Right Bank where we can stay for free), then going around Benelux and western Germany for a week and change, including one day’s stop-off in Essen for Essen Spiel. We are going to Luxembourg for a day so we can say that we have been to Luxembourg. A couple days in Brussels, a couple days in Cologne, a couple days in Amsterdam. It should be really good and, honestly, I need it.
While I’ve been doing all of this Davinder and I have finalized the pitch documents for the print collection of Al’Rashad – I won’t say who we’ve pitched so far but people can probably guess – and we’re trying to figure out how to get Ra-Boka: Kingdom of the Bound up and running as that’s our natural next step. It’ll probably involve a Patreon or similar, because Davinder needs to get paid for what is essentially a part-time job. And I’ve been working on a few small comics side projects in the interim, and dusting off the novel again…
All of this is to say that I am not abandoning the blog. But the last six months, in particular, have been one major free time hit after another. I haven’t really even had time to post links to my weekly TV column, which is still a thing. This is simply part of being a grown-up, and it sucks, but there you go. I want and need to get back to posting here on a regular basis, because while Twitter is fun, it’s not really conducive to longer-form writing even with the advent of the numbered Twitter essay and Storify.
So: have patience. I’ll be back on a regularish basis (weekly, if nothing else) sooner rather than later.
Originally, I was planning to talk about Groo the Wanderer and how awesome he is, but that requires some screenshots to display Sergio Aragonés’ amazing artwork and WordPress doesn’t seem to want to let me add pictures. I was then thinking about summarizing the whole Hugo debacle, but frankly it’s just not worth it. So I’m giving up and talking about ‘Jurassic World’.
I haven’t seen it yet, because as I keep explaining to people, I want the movie to be about Starlord raising a pack of baby velociraptors and then taking them on space adventures, and anything else is bound to be a disappointment to me. But it does strike me based on what I’ve heard that they went down the wrong tack here, and I mean completely. Because as I’m given to understand it, the movie is about a group of people who manage to successfully clone FREAKING DINOSAURS, build functional habitats for them that also accommodate the needs of thousands of tourists, manage the logistics of running a full hotel and zoo for animals whose habits and biology are for the most part a mystery…and they decide that’s boring, so they build a giant murder monster that breaks loose and kills people just like every other iteration of the franchise.
You know what? I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that the successful park might have been more interesting than yet another installment of “People Run Away From Dinosaurs: The Movie”. Seriously, is there anyone whose interest wasn’t piqued by the idea of a velociraptor trainer? Is there anyone who didn’t get a thrill out of seeing a water show with a mosasaur? The idea of Jurassic World as a functioning zoo and theme park is a billion times more interesting than the idea of it failing…which is, let’s face it, the same idea we got in the first three movies, that Dinosaurs Are Dangerous and We Shouldn’t Tamper in God…er, Evolution’s Domain and yet another iteration of what Tony Stark beautifully called the “Mustn’t Meddle Medley”.
I say go the opposite direction. Do the successful park story. Do it as a series, because if it’s a successful Jurassic World it functions as its own story generator and there’s no way you can fit every interesting idea in that concept into two hours. You’d probably want to focus primarily on the keepers, who would have both the most amazing job in the world and the most terrifying all at once; they’re inventing a new field of zoology on the fly, learning the behaviors of the animals while trying to keep them healthy and happy in an environment that’s only a bad guess at their native habitat. They’d obviously interact with the veterinarians studying the animals and the scientists who created them, as well as park visitors.
Plots for the show could range from escaped animals (not always the big ones, either) to illnesses going through the populations to keepers finding ways to deal with behavioral problems…and if ‘House’ for dinosaurs doesn’t sound awesome to you, you’re just a very different person from me…to visitors to the park and the problems they cause. I think you could get at least a couple of seasons out of it. Best of all, it would be a series where dinosaurs were treated as animals and not monsters, which would be a nice change.
Sorry I’m now officially a week behind on the Amazing Race with no Batfleck to make up for it; it’s been crazy busy this week, but hopefully I’ll be able to catch up for the finale. But that means that “last time” is actually two times ago, when we were all in Amsterdam together and Phil reminded us that Hayley and Blair still hate each other oh so very, very much, and that this was a non-elimination leg. Which means that this is an elimination leg…
continue reading "Amazing Race Recap: “Fruits of Our Labor”"
Since the Amazing Race did a Wednesday premiere before settling in on its regular night, you’re getting two recaps in pretty short succession. I hope this is a positive for most of you. 🙂
continue reading "Amazing Race Recap: “I Got the Smartest Dude”"
Let’s just start this right off with spoilers.
continue reading "What I Found Interesting About the 50th Anniversary Special"
I recently spent a weekend playing with Netflix, catching up on some of the movies that I’ve been meaning to watch for ages and just hadn’t gotten around to for one reason or another. It’s actually kind of nice to be too busy to watch something right away, in some ways; sure, you miss out on a bit of the cultural experience that comes from being part of the zeitgeist, and there’s a much bigger risk of spoilers. But on the other hand, it means that you don’t wind up watching something that makes a huge pop-culture impact, but turns out to actually suck hard when you finally experience it for yourself. (See ‘Blair Witch Project, The’.) Some of these movies are a few years old…but if I’m still hearing about a movie two or three years later, that means it’s probably worth a watch. And so I’m providing my somewhat belated impressions of movies that you’ve either already seen years ago…or, like me, you keep wondering whether it’s worth watching. I’ll start with ‘V/H/S’, a horror movie from last year that got some people talking.
This one is a conceptually clever mashup of the “found footage” horror movie and older horror anthology films like ‘Tales From the Crypt’ and ‘Vault of Horror’. The framing sequences involve a group of petty crooks who sell clips of vandalism and sexual assault online; they make a pittance from the videos, but they’re clearly in it for the thrill of demonstrating their ability to violate people and get away with it. But one of them has a more lucrative gig in mind; he’s been promised a large sum of money to steal a videotape from an old man’s house. The crooks arrive to find a vast collection of VHS cassettes; their efforts to find the right one (they were simply told “you’ll know it when you see it”) form the bulk of the movie.
Anthologies are always going to be uneven. It’s a hazard of the form; no matter how hard you work at selecting the material, it’s still going to be a thing of parts and the average audience is going to like some bits more than others. So when I say, “V/H/S is a bit uneven,” I hope you understand that this isn’t so much a criticism as a general caveat. Even so, there’s nothing in the film that’s totally worthless; even the weakest segments do some interesting things with their narrative style. If there is a single overarching complaint, it’s that a lot of the segments (especially the framing sequence) seem hauntingly inconclusive. We’re getting little snippets of a story, and while it’s kind of interesting to fill in the blanks yourself, there are times when you’re frustrated by a lack of knowledge of what happened after the camera stopped rolling.
In order, the sequences are: ‘Amateur Night’, which is a vignette about a group of dudebros whose plan to covertly film themselves having sex with women goes somewhat awry when one of the women they pick up isn’t…normal. It introduces a major theme of the anthology, the way that we instinctively recognize a power dynamic in the act of recording someone; the men in this segment get off on the fact that they’re going to be filming women without their knowledge, and the secret gives them power right up until things go pear-shaped for them. The best thing about this one (apart from the excellent, underplayed special effects) is Hannah Fierman as Lily, the woman who they pick up. She does an excellent job of conveying someone who’s dangerous and vulnerable at the same time.
The second sequence, ‘Second Honeymoon’, contains one of the few moments I’ve ever seen of perfect horror. Unfortunately, the director doesn’t realize he filmed it and keeps going. The ending you actually get is maddeningly vague and inconclusive, especially as you realize pretty early on that the story should have stopped several minutes ago. (At one point, the wife shuts down the video camera to go to bed. The video camera turns back on, panning over the husband again…then panning over to the sleeping wife. It’s that moment, when you imagine husband and wife back at home watching the “happy memories” of their trip and seeing this unexpected bonus footage, that you understand how perfect this could have been. And not incidentally, how much power the person holding the camera really has.)
The third sequence, ‘Tuesday the 17th’, tries for a ‘Cabin in the Woods’ knowing mockery of slasher genre tropes, but doesn’t quite manage to pull it off. It’s about a group of friends going to the woods to draw out a mysterious killer in order to gain evidence of his activities; there are some mildly funny moments as the instigator of the plan behaves with knowing matter-of-factness about their chances of survival, but it can’t quite manage the shifts between horror and comedy and so the scary bits fall flat. That’s despite a really interesting and creepy visual trick; the killer doesn’t show up on video at all, appearing as a series of blocky, pixilated “glitches” in the footage. (Which, if nothing else, has certainly made watching digital cable a creepier experience.) Again, this fits in nicely with the theme of the film–the killer avoids the power exchange inherent in recording by being unfilmable–but it doesn’t work as well as the director probably hoped.
The fourth sequence, ‘The Sick Thing That Happened To Emily When She Was Younger’, is probably the one that suffers most from being found footage, but in some ways its tantalizing hints at a larger and more complicated world are the best thing about it. It features the titular Emily as a lonely college student having Skype sessions with her long-distance boyfriend, talking about her haunted apartment and the strange lump in her arm. All of these things have explanations, but they’re not the ones you would expect and finding out the truth only leads you to more questions that never get answered. This one could probably be expanded out into a feature if the director wanted. Or maybe it works better as a short. Maybe the answers I’m imagining are more interesting than anything the director could have come up with.
The last sequence, ’10/31/98′, functions more as a traditional horror story, albeit one that makes good use of its found footage conceit. A group of dudebros go to what they think is a “haunted house” party, and realize a little too late that they’re in an actual haunted house. The ending, in which they realize that there’s a further twist, is elegantly done, even if the audience figured out what was going on about five minutes before the characters did.
On the whole, it’s probably worth watching. It’s certainly worth watching for free; even if the whole is less than the sum of its parts, many of the parts are really quite excellent.
Back in 2007, when I was writing about the death of the original Green Goblin, I described how shocking it was to see him die in the classic “Death of Gwen Stacy” storyline. I pointed out that he was impaled on-panel, just to make it clear that he was really dead and there wasn’t going to be a last-minute cheat to allow the character to survive. “Except that there was,” I then said, “some twenty years later, but we’ll save that for another long, angry day.”
That day has arrived, but I’m not really angry anymore. Marvel’s doing its thing and I’m doing mine. But I did want to explain why it was a mistake to bring back Norman Osborn, and along the way give my answer to why Norman isn’t Spider-Man’s arch-nemesis (although I should note clearly here that this is entirely separate from any answer MGK might give, and that he reserves the right to give his own answer at some future point. He’s nice enough to give me a guest spot here, but I don’t speak for him.) But let’s start with the resurrection of Norman Osborn. (After the cut, because this is kind of a long one.)
This Toronto Sun article by Julia Alexander is simply bad comedy: a Sun reporter – and for those of you not aware, the Sun is the most conservative paper in the city, a right-wing tabloid rag that makes a point of showing off nearly-naked girls on page five every day – starts out by declaring how she hates cyclists, and then in a spontaneous fit of journalism actually decides to try out cycling downtown. At this point she learns that, whoops, cyclists have it way worse than drivers, and spends two hours scared out of her mind. But, because she is a Sun reporter, Ms. Alexander’s final conclusion is this:
I used to hate cyclists, but I don’t anymore. I understand them, but for things to get better, they need to start understanding drivers, like myself, have needs too.
At which point you just have to throw up your hands and say “no, what actually needs to happen is that you need to fuck off.” Because cyclists understand drivers perfectly well. Most of us do drive cars on occasion, you know; most cyclists are not rabid environmentalists to the point of refusing to drive. We know what it is like to drive a car, and we also know that the majority of drivers simply do not give a shit about cyclists. We know this via statistics and we know it via experience.
This is generally the point where some well-meaning driver just exclaims in frustration that no, they really do care, they just wish cyclists would obey traffic laws. But any experienced cyclist knows this is bullshit, because it is a tossup at any given time whether drivers get pissed at you for disobeying traffic laws or pissed at you for obeying traffic laws. I have literally had drivers get out of their car and shout at me when I was waiting for them to advance at a stop sign. Cyclists know that it is simply a tossup as to whether a driver gets pissed at you for trying to execute a proper and legal left turn or if they get pissed at you because you choose to cross with the pedestrian crossing because you’ve been nearly killed too many times trying to execute proper and legal left turns. It is up to each driver’s individual whimsy! What fun!
Of course, all of this assumes that the driver deigns to acknowledge your existence in the first place, and that itself is a hit-or-miss proposition to say the least. Ms. Alexander confesses that she often opens her door into traffic without checking first, and since the two times I have come closest to getting killed while on my bike were because of drivers dooring me in my goddamn neck and causing me to collapse over towards the middle of the road, I will at least note that she is being honest about something that I think causes more cyclists to think murderous thoughts than any other, but that is all the credit she gets because, you know, there were those near-death experiences and I’m still a little put out about them. Ms. Alexander explains them away in this manner:
Ironically, drivers and cyclists share a similar concern — survival. Cyclists don’t want to be hit by an oncoming vehicle and drivers don’t want to hit them.
Which: no, we don’t share a similar concern. Cyclists are concerned about their own survival. Drivers, when they are concerned about cyclists at all – and again, this is very much a hit or miss proposition – are concerned about somebody else’s survival, and I shouldn’t have to explain that worrying about somebody else’s safety is not the same thing as worrying about your own. If those two things were equivalent then Ms. Alexander wouldn’t be opening her goddamned car door into traffic without looking, or doing all of the other stupid, negligent things drivers do every day when they operate their vehicles, which in case we have forgotten are large and dangerous enough to be able to kill somebody when they are only moving fifteen kilometers per hour.
And this is the thing: I drive as well, and I get it. Driving has become more and more stressful over the years; I would not be surprised to find that the incidence of road rage has increased at basically the same rate that the real median wage has decreased, because the more costly any accident becomes for an individual, the more they personalize their driving experience – where an accident in decades past might have been unfortunate but livable, now an accident means an often-unaffordable increase in insurance premiums and the loss of something vital to many people’s jobs.
More to the point: driving is very, very easy to fuck up! Forgetting to check your blind spot, not signalling a turn, sudden dangerous stops, not obeying traffic signs properly – every driver alive does something wrong at least once per day, because there are simply so many things you can get wrong. On my bike ride home from work each day, I see at least three or four “rolling stops” at stop signs – hey, they’re only stop signs! Really, if I had a nickel for every basic driver error I see each day, I could go buy my own private island, pave it and cycle around on that instead.
But just because I understand that driving is stressful and much more difficult than people assume doesn’t mean I’m sympathetic to this article’s position that this is a teachable moment for all concerned. Because it isn’t. The problem is not cyclists. Yeah, there are a few asshole cyclists out there, but there’s a few assholes everywhere: most cyclists are generally law-abiding. The problem is drivers, because the root of the problem is that every driver wishes that they had the road to themselves, and unlike their relationship with other drivers, the relationship a driver has with a cyclist is inherently an imbalanced one.
So don’t come to me, as a cyclist, and tell me I need to “understand drivers.” Because I understand what drivers want from cyclists. They want them not to be there.
I originally wasn’t sure if I wanted to write about the Steubenville rape trial; I imagined that everything I want to say on the subject would be pretty obvious, and it’s not exactly a fun topic of conversation. But my wife pointed out that the people who need to hear most about the subject are the ones who are least likely to listen to the people currently talking about it. She specifically asked me to write about it, and I trust her judgment.
The first thing that stands out about this whole event is how bizarre the media reaction has been. For those of you unfamiliar with the trial, or the events leading up to it, a group of teenage football players at a party repeatedly raped a teenage girl who had passed out. (They may also have drugged her drink, which would suggest premeditation, but that was not proven.) They took photos and videos of themselves in the act, posted them to their Twitter and Facebook feeds, and shared photos and recordings of the act. They were confident at the time that their coach (who was something of a legend in the local sports scene) would be able to make the issue “go away”. Instead, two of them were charged with, and convicted of, rape. (There is currently a grand jury deciding whether further indictments need to be handed down, as well as possible civil suits that are yet to play out.)
Many people, particularly news reporters, have attempted to portray the two young men as remorseful. They point to the way that both broke down in tears at their sentencing, their apologies to the girl after sentence was passed, and to the consequences to their futures (both were tried as juveniles, and will be doing a remarkably modest amount of jail time given the severity of their crime. But they are now registered sex offenders, which will follow them for the rest of their lives.) The victim, and the effects of being raped on her life, have not come up much in the national conversation as conducted by the 24-hour news networks. (Except for the accidental reveal of her real name by Fox News.)
I can’t see any of the remorse that CNN saw in these boys. They didn’t break down in tears at what they’d done; they broke down in tears when it became obvious that they weren’t going to be able to get away scot-free with the horrific crime that they joked and bragged about. They aren’t foolish young boys who made a mistake; they are cruel, arrogant, callous, self-entitled brutes who assaulted a young woman and assumed that their connections within the community rendered them immune to the consequences of their actions. I don’t believe them to be irredeemable, but I think the first step in making them decent human beings is confronting them with the truth of their actions and their attitudes and not letting them justify themselves. This is not a time to give them sympathy. This is a time to hold their ugliness up to a mirror and let them see it.
The victim, on the other hand, deserves all our sympathy. Some of the worst elements of this case have involved the treatment of the victim, not just at the hands of the media but at the hands of the public. Much of the commentary on the Internet has revolved around what the victim “should” have done to avoid the rape–she “should” have avoided underage drinking, she “should” have dressed more modestly, she “should” have acted in a way that didn’t “incite the boys’ hormones”–all of which colossally misses the point. The point is that every human being has the right to an expectation that being vulnerable, whether due to circumstances or decisions, should not be taken as an excuse for predation. One blogger stated that the boys were “helpless” (his post has apparently been taken down) to avoid having sex with the victim when she was in that state, and that she should be ashamed of herself for putting temptation in their way. Rape is the only crime to invite this kind of spurious asshole logic. Nobody says to a stockbroker, “You got mugged? Well, you were walking through this neighborhood dressed all rich, and you even paid cash for your drinks at that bar! Frankly, someone as poor as your attacker had no choice but to steal your wallet.” Nobody insists that Richard Ramirez was the real victim, because those women should never have let themselves be alone with a man knowing that some of them are serial killers who are pathologically unable to avoid killing when they can get away with it.
This is rape culture, the idea that women are responsible for policing their sexuality because men are incapable of doing so. It’s dehumanizing, misogynistic and misanthropic; it demands an impossible standard of perfection from women, blaming them for the actions of others by suggesting that rapists only assault women who violate the unspoken rules of conduct that govern our society. Likewise, it infantilizes and dehumanizes men, suggesting that they’re incapable of acting with any kind of good judgment or ethical behavior and there’s no point in expecting it of them. It argues that men are nothing more than mindless animals, driven by their lusts, and it’s up to women to avoid anything that might be construed as “leading them on”. It’s a standard no woman can possibly meet, and it allows the worst of men to get away with their crimes secure in the belief that a silent crowd exonerates their every action.
It stops one person at a time. It is up to men everywhere to stand up and say, “Hey, guess what? I don’t think with my dick. If I can do it, you can do it. If you can’t do it, then maybe it’s not so much that ‘men are helpless against their hormones’ and more that you’re just an asshole.'” It’s up to all of us to say, “No, sorry. If your friend passed out drunk, then it’s your duty as a human being to keep her safe, get her medical attention if necessary, and get her home. ‘Not raping her’ is actually below the minimums of human decency, and ‘raping her’ is below even that.” It is up to all of us to find a better standard for the treatment of women, and hold each other to it.
That’s what I think about the Steubenville rape trial. Hopefully, it came across as really obvious to you. If you said, “Geez, does this really even need to be said, let alone talked about at this much length?” I’d be thrilled.
‘Damage Control’ is one of those little, everyday Voight-Kampf tests that you come across in popular culture sometimes. If you sit someone down with a copy of the ‘Damage Control’ mini-series, written by the late, great Dwayne McDuffie with art by the wonderfully talented Ernie Colón, and they do not finish it smiling, then you should slowly and quietly get out of the room and call for the blade runners, because the person you just met has no soul. It is pure fun, plain and simple.
The series starts from that weird dichotomy between the two views of “realism” in comics, especially Marvel comics. Some people who read Marvel for its “realism” like it because it’s a world they recognize; New York is a real city, and most of the writers and artists at Marvel either live there or know the place well enough that they can depict it accurately. The world of Marvel feels just like the world outside your window, and it’s easy to imagine that you could visit New York and just happen to see Spidey swinging by. It catches people’s imaginations. The other group, though, see “realism” and think of it as the logical exploration of the consequences of a world with superhuman beings; to them, Marvel is being “realistic” when it has things like Congressional hearings on superhumans, or when we see the futuristic technology of Reed Richards being used in logical ways. This makes them feel immersed in the world, because there aren’t any big and awkward gaps of logic that they have to ignore in order to enjoy the series.
The problem is, these views are pretty much mutually incompatible. Any world that deals with the realistic consequences of power armor, otherdimensional incursions, mutants and superhero battles isn’t going to look like our world for long. (I always wondered how long real-world persecution of mutants would last. “We had ourselves a lynching party last night for that mutant SOB!” “How’d it go?” “Well, we lost about seven people, and the mutant survived. But we think it’ll go better next time!”) The idea of Marvel being the world right outside your window, only with superheroes requires a tremendous amount of mental gymnastics to make work if you assume genuinely realistic consequences. In fact, if you think about it, the whole thing is kind of silly.
Dwayne McDuffie clearly thought about it. The logical answer, he realized, is also completely absurd; you’d need a superhumanly competent construction company, working round-the-clock at insane speed and efficiency, just to repair all the damage to New York caused by all these fights between the Hulk and the Thing. And so he invented one. Damage Control is a group of people that fix the post-battle devastation, collecting their bills from Doctor Doom and raising Avengers Mansion from the bottom of New York harbor. Naturally, this requires a certain amount of finesse…when you’re constantly cleaning up after supervillains, they stop becoming enemies of society and start becoming a source of income. Dealing with the Kingpin, Thunderball, the Punisher, and a cheesed-off Captain America who doesn’t like the way they’re handling the repairs is everyday (or at least every issue) business to them…to say nothing of handling the various construction workers who accidentally get superpowers while cleaning up the messes.
It is a transcendently goofy, yet wholly logical exploration of the consequences of life in the Marvel Universe, and the creators did a wonderful job with every issue of the three mini-series that featured them. (Including tie-ins to ‘Acts of Vengeance’, which was yet another reason why that crossover rocked so hard.) Of course, comics being what they are, we got a “grim and gritty” Damage Control showing up in ‘Civil War’, but let’s not focus on that. Let’s focus instead on the good, the fun, and the joyous, like Doom showing mercy to an embezzler in his embassy by simply firing him. (Why does Doom pay for the repairs when he causes mayhem in New York? Because a monarch always settles his debts.) The series has sadly never been collected, but back issues aren’t hard to come by. Go, read, and have a little fun with the “realism” of the Marvel Universe.
And now it’s time for another one of those posts where I eschew cynicism and snark to just talk about the things I love about comics. Because if you’re here reading this, you probably love them too. Today, I’m going to talk about a single-issue story that always brings a goofy grin to my face every time I think about it: Tales of Suspense #83, “Enter…the Tumbler!”
Technically speaking, it’s not a totally self-contained story, so let me set the stage. In #82, Captain America has returned to the Avengers Mansion after a long day of trouncing the hordes of HYDRA, only to find himself hallucinating and flashing back to World War II. At first, he assumes that he’s finally succumbed to some sort of PTSD after years of combat, but in reality, Jarvis has drugged his tea! (Insert dramatic sting.) He finally collapses, and Jarvis reveals himself to be not Jarvis, but a robot designed by HYDRA to destroy Cap and SHIELD. The Adaptoid (this was before he was Super) impersonated the Avengers’ butler to get close to the perfect physical specimen, Steve Rogers, and now duplicates him precisely in order to become the ultimate living weapon against SHIELD. He ties up the unconscious Cap in a closet and prepares to attack SHIELD HQ, using his enemy’s face…
And then, as the title of this story suggests, the Tumbler enters. He’s a small-time crook who read about Captain America’s exploits and realized that any man can do amazing things if only he trains hard and perserveres. With this inspirational message in his heart, he goes off to become the best darned criminal he can be! And after years of intensive training in acrobatics, weight-lifting, and unarmed combat, he’s ready to show that he’s no small-time crook anymore. He’s going to defeat Captain America, and then take over New York’s mobs!
The Adaptoid assumes, at first, that he’ll be able to handle this enemy easily. After all, he’s duplicated Captain America, the perfect physical specimen. But he quickly finds out that while Cap is stronger and faster than any other human, the difference between him and an Olympic-level athlete is minor, at best. The Tumbler quickly overwhelms him, using his aggressive acrobatics to confuse and disorient the android, and proceeds to beat six kinds of hell out of him. Capdaptoid tries to take him out with a shield throw, but the Tumbler adroitly dodges out of the way and starts beating him with his own shield. The Adaptoid actually tries to adapt to the Tumbler, assuming that he must be superior to Cap because after all, he’s beating the living shit out of someone in Cap’s body, but he’s being hammered too hard to make the switch. Finally, the Tumbler throws his defeated foe clear through the wooden doors leading deeper into the mansion, and prepares to strut off with his trophy–Captain America’s shield–while saying, “I’m a dozen times the fighter Captain America ever was!”
And then Cap walks right back out of those same doors, because he’s been recovering from the drugs and untying himself while the Tumbler and the Adaptoid fought. The Tumbler doesn’t even have time to get cocky before Cap pastes one on him for the crime of being mouthy, and then asks, “Who are you? And what are you doing here?” Because Cap doesn’t have time to ask questions of people before starting the beating. He’s on a schedule, people.
The Tumbler tries to fight back, throwing Cap’s own shield at him. Cap catches it “like it was nothing more than a toss from shortstop to first”, and proceeds to wing it right past the Tumbler’s head at slapshot speed. He could have hit him with it, of course, but why knock a man out when you can show off by ricocheting a piece of metal past his head three or four times in less than a second? The Tumbler tries some of his acrobatics…so Cap hits him with a table. Then the beat-down starts in earnest. The best part is that this is 60s Cap, before he became all “Eat your Wheaties, kids!” He’s openly smack-talking the guy while he fights. (The Tumbler at one point says, “I was set to be the kingpin of the whole underworld after I’d beaten you!” To which Cap responds, “But it would have put you in the higher brackets! Think of the taxes you’d have to pay!” I think this is an argument still being used on Fox News.)
After a few pages, Cap literally knocks the man into comics obscurity (literally–this is the Tumbler’s first and only appearance) and rounds up the unconscious Adaptoid for later study. If you want to find out what happens next, you can find the story in ‘Essential Captain America, Volume One’…or, if you just want to see one of the most hilariously inept supervillains ever and his one, shining moment of thinking he’d just trounced the greatest hero of World War II.
Earlier this week, I posted my thoughts for where to go with another Batman movie, now that Christopher Nolan seems to have wrapped up his “Dark Knight” trilogy. Little did I know that Newsarama and io9 were both planning to rip me off, albeit with more actual speculation about where to go next and fewer brainwashed killer orphans. But that’s okay. I can play that game too. And after the cut, I’ll talk about what I seriously think the next Batman movie should be like. (Hint: brainwashed killer orphans…from space!
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