Tuesday, July 24, 2012

I could be a "Chopped Champion"

Sometimes when I am at home, cooking something for myself, I pretend that I am on the Food Network cooking competition "Chopped." I'll be cooking, and I'll imagine that Ted Allen comes up to me and says, "Ricky, could you tell me a little about your strategy in this round?"

Then I'll say (in my mind), "Well, Ted, when I saw that the basket of mystery ingredients included a box of pasta, and a jar of pasta sauce, I immediately decided to make some pasta with pasta sauce."

Or I'll put a pizza in the oven, and go sit at the computer, and I'll imagine Ted coming up to me and asking, "Do you think it's a good idea to leave your food unattended like that?"

Then I'll say (in my mind), "Well, Ted, I'm pretty comfortable leaving a frozen pizza in the oven for 25-28 minutes. If you'll look at the side of the box, you'll see that's the recommended cooking time on it. Besides, there's an interesting flame war going on right now on reddit."

The best part is when the cooking is done, and I have to present my dishes to the judges. Geoffrey Zakarian is always impressed with the way I incorporated the mystery ingredients in the dish, by using only the mystery ingredients in the dish, since the mystery ingredients are whatever I happen to have on hand.

"I like what you've done here with this Hungry Man meal," he says. "You put it in the microwave, then removed the brownie, just like the instructions say, then you put the meal back in the microwave to complete the cooking process. That was definitely a good move."

Chris Santos is similarly impressed: "This is maybe the best Hungry Man meal I've ever had."

"Thank you," I say.

"The chicken is really -- what did you put on it, I saw you putting something on it just after you brought it out of the microwave...?"

"That was black pepper."

He nods. "A wise choice. The pepper definitely gives it a kick. And the mashed potatoes are definitely recognizable as potatoes. I mean, they have the same coloring as potatoes."

Where I always get tripped up is with the sour and irritating Alex Guarnaschelli. She takes one bite of the Hungry Man and scowls. "I'm not impressed," she says. "I found a small bone in the chicken," she says.

"Oh, I'm sorry," I say, even though I'm really not. I don't like her.

"And, there's too much liquid in the corn. And the brownie is too dry."

"Now, hold on," Geoffrey says. "He cooked the brownie exactly as it should be. Those are tough to pull off..."

But Alex isn't having any of it. "I think he left it in the microwave too long," she says.

By this time, I'm generally finished eating my meal, and I've moved on to other things. I'm not sure if, in my fantasy, I ever actually end up winning "Chopped," but I like to think that Santos and Zakarian outvote Guarnaschelli, and I walk away with 10,000 imaginary bucks.

Would the Hungry Man Classic Fried Chicken Meal be enough to earn me the title of "Chopped Champion"?

Hungry Man photo swiped from frozenfoodjournal's flickr stream.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The tragic events in Aurora Colorado provide a great opportunity for us to show how sensitive and thoughtful we can be

There really aren't adequate words to describe the horribleness of the murders that took place during a Dark Knight Rises screening in Aurora Colorado early Friday morning. 12 people were killed, and 11 more critically injured. Dozens of others were also injured. Families have been devastated. The survivors are now part of a solemn fraternity of unknowable and frightful pain.

What do you say? What do you do?

For one thing, you can use your network television platform to speculate as to the motives of the murderer. Once you get his name, why not scour certain political websites? If you find someone listed who has the same name, you can then speculate that this might be the same person, but, you know, we're not sure.
[ABC News's Brian] Ross came under attack again Friday when he reported that James Holmes, the suspect of today’s theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., may have connections to the tea party — basing that on a single web page that listed an Aurora-based “Jim Holmes” as a member of the Colorado Tea Party Patriots. 
“There is a Jim Holmes of Aurora, Colorado, page on the Colorado Tea Party site as well, talking about him joining the tea party last year,” Ross reported on Good Morning America. “Now, we don’t know if this is the same Jim Holmes – but this is Jim Holmes of Aurora, Colorado.”
And if your speculation turns out to be completely and utterly wrong, you can always apologize for it later. After all, we're just trying to make some sense of tragedy in this modern world of 24 hour journalism. Sometimes you're going to make a few mistakes. The important thing is, you were out there, trying to get a story.

You can use the events to advance your own particular worldview, such as was done by a Texas representative called Louie Gohmert, who believes that there's just not enough god in America today.
You know, when people say, where was God in all of this? Well, you know, we don’t let … in fact we’ve threatened high school graduation participants that if they use God’s name that they’re going to be jailed, we had a principal of a school, and a superintendent or a coach down in Florida that were threatened with jail because they said the blessing at a voluntary off-campus dinner. I mean, that kind of stuff … where is God? Where, where? What have we done with God? We told him that we don’t want him around. I kind of like his protective hand being present.
Is this the same god, I wonder, who killed people for practicing birth control? The same god who claimed that just thinking about committing adultery is the same as actually committing adultery? The same god who murdered every single innocent man, woman, and child in the world because he was angry with a few "sinners"?

You can see how much sense that makes.

Faced with such a profoundly traumatic event, it's difficult to practice restraint. That's why the words of someone called Elizabeth Rappe, writing at film.com, are so refreshing:
It’s too early to speculate on why this madman committed such a heinous act.
It takes genuine fortitude to make such a statement. Sometimes the simplest thought, concisely expressed, is the best, and I applaud Ms. Rappe for writing that sentence.

Oh, wait. Hold on a second. I just saw the title of the long essay in which that single sentence appears. The title is
Why 'The Dark Knight Rises'? Is Fandom Too Violent?
Now I admit I'm confused. It's too early to speculate on the madman's motives, but the title of the essay is a speculation on the madman's motives. But surely the title is just rhetorical? I mean, she says in the essay that it's too early to speculate. So the essay itself probably doesn't have any speculation in it.

Oh, wait.
It may very well be that this man was obsessed with DC Comics, Christopher Nolan and Batman. He may be one of the very people who was sending death threats to critics. He may have been too into Nolan’s world, a sick mind who fancied himself a supervillain, and wanted to make his mark on a piece of pop culture in a louder way than in a comment field. We’ve seen the positive sides of fandom – fan-made posters, trailers, web comics, costumes, charity events – and it’s constantly thriving and shaped by people who want to be a part, on some level, of a property. Where there’s good and honest people who just want to join with others, celebrate and even leave the world better than they found it, there are people who want to hurt, maim, and ruin in the name of obsession.
So -- bearing in mind that it's too early to speculate on this -- it could be that the madman in question was obsessed with DC Comics, Christopher Nolan, and Batman. But, again, it's too early to speculate. Then again, fandom might be "too violent."
This couldn’t have happened at a worse time. “Fans” have been sending death threats to anyone who dared give “Rises” a less than stellar review. Websites and comment fields have been shut down. There was already a discussion forming about civility, rationality and fandom.
Fandom might be too violent, because people have made nasty comments. Nasty comments equal violence. Just as Louie Gohmert's god has said that merely thinking about something is the same as doing it, so too has Elizabeth Rappe decreed that making nasty comments is the same as committing an act of violence.

You just have to get something out there. Show that you're really struggling with this. Maybe he's politically motivated. Maybe god's mad at us for kicking him out of our public school graduation ceremonies. Maybe he was a fanboy. It could be all of those things, and it could be none of them. But at a time like this, it's important to be saying something.

And, as long as we're saying something, let's not be afraid to politicize this. That's the message of someone called Michael Grunwald, writing at Time.
It’s telling that the people who get paid to analyze politics recoil at the notion that its practitioners should connect it to real-life pain. They think they’re covering a sport, an entertainment. But politics matters, because policies matter. “Obamacare” and “gay marriage” are not just issues that might play badly with swing voters or turn the tide in Virginia; they’re issues that affect people’s lives. Gun control and the Second Amendment are issues, too, and now seems like a pretty good time to talk about them.
All right, Mr. Grunwald, I'll take the bait. I won't be afraid to politicize this tragedy, as the title of your post suggests.

Imagine you're at a crowded gathering somewhere in public. You're with a few friends, but the majority of people there are people you've never met. You have a family that you love and who loves you. All your life you've tried to do the right thing, but you've lived in difficult circumstances. You don't always have as much food as you'd like. You don't have reliable, regular access to electricity. You earn only a small amount of money. Still, you manage to get by, and you even make time to get together with your friends and go out for a fun shared experience, such as you're doing right now.

Suddenly, the scene is shattered by chaos. A rumble. An explosion. Debris rains down upon you -- there is blood everywhere, but you can't tell if any of it's yours because your entire body seems to have gone numb and there is just so much of it, everywhere. There are -- no, it can't be -- there are limbs flying around you. People are running, screaming, panicked, the air is thick with smoke. You're choking on it, your lungs are burning, then there's another explosion, and the structure collapses upon you, and everything goes dark.

The public place where you'd gone was targeted by the leader of a foreign power who decided, in secret, that someone who happened to be at the same place at that time was an enemy of his government. So he made the decision to use a flying drone to drop a bomb on that public place. Because you happened to be standing within 25 feet of "the target," and you happened to be a military-aged male, you were deemed to be an enemy combatant yourself, even though you'd never actively participated in any combat in your life.

When the US government targets people in a public place, it's all part of the "War on Terror." When a lone "madman" does it, well, we just don't have enough god, or it might be the tea party, or he just read too many comic books.

Do you see how I politicized it, Mr. Grunwald? Thanks for giving us permission to do that -- we're all the better for it.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

How bad do the comments have to get for Rotten Tomatoes to shut them down?

It's a lot of fun to watch certain high-strung, sensitive fanboys go on the offensive when they think that their favored films aren't being shown enough critical adulation. I've done two comics about it, featuring that great superhero, RottenTomatoBot, which incorporates actual user comments into dialogue spoken by the character.

But now, the fun has turned deadly.

Apparently, reaction to certain critics of the new film "The Dark Knight Rises" has been so vitriolic that Rotten Tomatoes has decided they have to silence the RottenTomatobots.
Matt Atchity, the site's editor-in-chief, said Tuesday it was the first time RottenTomatoes.com has suspended user comments, adding postings about "Dark Knight" reviews would likely be restored by the end of the week. The final film in director Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy opens Friday.  
 "The job of policing the comments became more than my staff could handle for that film, so we stopped the comments altogether," said Atchity. "It just got to be too much hate based on reactions to reviews of movies that people hadn't even seen."
My question is, "What else is new?" That question is meant to be ironic, since Rotten Tomatoes users have been doing this kind of thing for a long, long time.

And what in the hell is all this about "policing the comments?"  They've had people policing these comments? I mean, there have been death threats and childish name calling and vitriol and racial and homophobic slurs hurled at anyone who dares to jeopardize a fanboy-favorite's chance at a "100% fresh" rating. Just ask Armond White.

So, anyway, what is Rotten Tomatoes planning on doing about it?
Atchity said the site is considering a move to a Facebook commenting system, which might cut down on the glut of anonymous posts. Other film review aggregating sites, such as MetaCritic.com and MovieReviewIntelligence.com, either don't allow user comments or don't permit comments to be posted before a film opens.  
"There are a lot of options on the table," said Atchity, who is worried about a similar backlash when director Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" is released later this year. "We may do away with comments completely or get to a place where comments are only activated after a movie opens."
So they know what's coming -- when and if there's a negative review of The Hobbit, the fanboys are going on the attack, because they are so damned predictable, they do it every time, and in exactly the same way, using the same tired, pathetic tactics.

Here's one comment thread. It actually doesn't look too bad right now, but maybe that's because it's already been "policed." (Please note that a number of commenters are actually attacking other commenters for their assaholism.)

The most vitriolic comments are the most amusing of course, but what's even more interesting and sad are the comments like those of "Steve G," (when you click on his moniker you get a 404 error messagecommenting on Marshall Fine's "Dark Knight Rises" review:
I knew there'd be a contrarian troll or hipster somewhere to taint the film's perfect 100% fresh rating.
This criticism, or some variation on it, is a favorite of the fanboys. They're so far into their own heads that they can only process criticism of their favored art as an act of willful defiance. This film, which many of them haven't even seen, simply must be good, they know it must be good, it's an indisputable, self-evident fact, and anyone who says anything different is just being obstinate.

And, looking for attention on the internet. Clearly, the only reason someone would write a negative review of a film that everyone knows is amazing is so that they can get page views. They're just trolls. Or, as commenter Chris B so eloquently put it:
Another favorite tactic is to reference a past review, and use that to somehow undermine the current one, a tactic employed by redsoxin2009, who points out that Mr. Fine liked Men In Black 3:
MIB III is fresh but this has to much action??
How could he give a positive review to one film, and then give a negative review to another, different film? It's almost like he's judging each film on its own merits, which obviously makes no sense -- therefore, his opinion is pathetic, he's a hack, and just a troll.

Then there's the "you just don't like these kinds of movies anyway" argument, a variation of which is represented by Joe L:
Giving this movie a rotten review because of loud noises is what makes this absurd. Whether or not it was too much action for his taste, he has to critique the film for what other 99.9% of critics are praising it as...the best superhero movie of all time. According to this guy, Amazing Spiderman has a leg up (pun intended) on TDKR. Ridiculousness!
He is criticizing the things that other reviewers liked about it -- and if other reviewers liked those elements which are important to the film then those elements are good and therefore the film is good. It's an action movie, and he didn't like the action in it. Absurd!

And then there are those who say something like, "It's not that he didn't like the film, it's the way that he didn't like it that bothers me," represented here by Dictator F:
It's not that he didn't like it as much as that he compared it to Transformers. There's nothing wrong with liking and disliking different movies (that's the point of Rotten Tomatoes!) but there is something wrong with comparing brilliance to garbage.
Again, it's self-evident: Transformers is of course "garbage," and everybody knows that. So comparing Transformers to Dark Knight Rises completely undermines everything in his review.

Enough, you get the idea. All of these comments are pathetic attempts to intimidate people into groupthink -- they're right, they know they're right, and any disagreement is just screaming for attention by someone who is too stupid to get it and they don't like these kinds of movies anyway and by the way did you see the positive review he gave to Transformers?

If you disagree, you're at best an idiot. Or maybe you're retarded.

The irony, of course, is that it's the so-called "contrarian" reviews that should be celebrated. The big entertainment conglomerates have totally co-opted the film critics, who now serve as one arm of their advertising and promotion departments. They're certainly not independent "journalists."

Most of the magazines and newspapers that publish "reviews", along with interviews articles about upcoming movies/tv shows/cds are owned by the big entertainment corporations. They all buy each other's magazines when they run articles about their products. They buy these magazines in bulk, and distribute them around the world, as part of their promotional packages. One must keep that in mind when reading something like, for instance, this mewling bit of embarrassment from Entertainment Weekly's "critic," Owen Gleiberman, in which he says he cried at the end of that paean to corporate entertainment, Toy Story 3:
I’m not just talking about shedding a tear or two, or having that Brian’s Song lump in the throat. I’m talking about that soppy, awkward thing where you make sounds. Even in our huggy-sensitive post-New Age it’s-okay-for-men-to-cry culture, I was, quite frankly, a little bit embarrassed. So now, with the hope and cause of transcending my shame, I would like to own up to my inner sap and ask my fellow weepie male moviegoers to join me in saying: I cried at Toy Story 3, and it’s okay!
I do not mean to undermine Mr. Gleiberman's emotional involvement in a film about corporate entertainment products. What I do mean is to at least make you question his sincerity as a film critic. Entertainment Weekly is part of the Time Warner megaconglomerate. It is a magazine that is designed specifically to promote corporate entertainment.

Why in the hell would you care what a staff member of a promotional pamphlet thinks of a film that you haven't even seen yet?

These people are happy promoters of the corporate line. "Critics" willingly play along with the entertainment corporations in exchange for getting to go to free screenings and press junkets, and for access to the celebrities who appear in films. They feel like they are part of the studio's publicity machine -- they are not journalists. Remember back in December, when the New Yorker's David Denby broke Sony's "embargo" and published an early review of David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? He admitted that he wouldn't have broken Sony's review embargo for a negative review:
Denby’s excuse that he would never have published an early negative review proved that many reviewers feel complicit in helping to promote movies rather than critiquing them. Denby’s weak apology didn’t wash with Rudin who threatened to bar him from future screenings of his productions; Rudin complained that by reneging on an agreement not to review the movie Denby had derailed its planned media launch. Most accounts of this conflict disingenuously overlooked how today’s media culture prioritizes commercial practices rather an interest in art. Denby gave preference to a big-budget Hollywood movie merely to score a scoop for The New Yorker. “We had to get something serious in the magazine,” was the worst part of Denby’s alibi.
The people that we call "critics" have been totally co-opted. It's gotten to the point that filmmakers expect critics to toe the line in this regard. Back when Kevin Smith made and released the film Cop Out (remember that one?), he lashed out at critics for not doing their job and, you know, promoting his film:
In a series of posts on his Twitter.com page, he writes, "I gotta say that every day I hate film theory & film students & critics more & more. Film fandom's become a nasty bloodsport where cartoonishly rooting for failure gets the hit count up. Watching them beat the s**t out of it was sad. Like, it's called 'Cop Out'; that sound like a very ambitious title to you? You REALLY wanna s**t in the mouth of a flick that so OBVIOUSLY strived for nothing more than laughs. Was it called 'Schindler's Cop Out'?   
"Writing a nasty review for 'Cop Out' is akin to bullying a retarded kid. All you've done is make fun of something that wasn't doing you any harm and wanted only to give some cats some fun laughs."  
And the experience has convinced Smith the system is "backwards" -- he'd prefer to turn the job of reviewing movies over to members of the public.
That last line is pretty amusing, considering that the "members of the public," i.e., the Rotten Tomatobots, are making death threats and using slurs against those who disagree with their opinions.

And of course the final punchline to this story is that Warner Bros -- the studio behind The Dark Knight Rises -- also owns Rotten Tomatoes. That's right, Rotten Tomatobots: The website where you so passionately post about your favorite corporate entertainment is in fact owned by the very corporation whose intellectual property you're protecting.

You are living the dream, fanboys!

UPDATE: Friday July 20 @ 7:30 AM PST: Really terrible news this morning that a gunman murdered 12 people during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora Colorado.
Eyewitnesses said the gunman entered the movie theater through the emergency exit door near the front of the screen in theater No. 9 at the Century 16 in Aurora. A witness, who declined to be identified, told The Times that the gunman then "threw a canister across the theater," unleashing gas, "then started shooting."
I wonder what the Rotten Tomatobots, the ones who make death threats against those who disagree with them, think about this? How long before they start making jokes about it?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Who, exactly, are the "heroes" of "Comic Store Heroes"?

I'm old enough to remember when the National Geographic brand conjured in the mind images of amazing photos of faraway lands and interesting information about exotic animals, architecture, culture, and conservation. I knew a lot of people who collected the magazine, proudly displaying the spines on ornate bookshelves. The presence of the magazine on your coffeetable was a signal to any visitors that you were an intellectually curious person with good taste and wide-ranging interests.

I guess National Geographic, like the comic book industry, wasn't above doing gimmicky covers to get noticed.

Today, the National Geographic Channel schedules three-hour blocks of television programs in which people hunt for UFOs (it's balanced, because the team is composed of "one believer, one skeptic, and one undecided").

Last night, they aired a program entitled "Comic Store Heroes," which centered around New York City's Midtown Comics (which is apparently the largest comic book store in America), and the indefatigable fans who shop there.

How many of Midtown Comics's customers do you think go for the pizza?

The program gets off on an unintentionally hilarious note, when Gerry (described as "the Boss" in the Comic Book font chyron), says "We've got all kinds of customers here at Midtown..." and then the editors cut to footage of customers perusing the store shelves. Every single white, middle-aged, balding one of them. A customer then notes, without any commentary, that there is a cliche about "the stereotypical nerd-type of comic book fan," while another fan, dressed as a banana for some reason (when I was about ten years old I had a character called "Gyro Monkey," and his arch enemy was called "The Big Banana," and he was a giant banana with legs -- but I doubt that's who this particular fan was referencing) says something self-aware and humorous like "Don't you wish you were me?" or something. During the same montage, another fan, who also appears to be white and middle aged, wonders aloud ("it just seems odd") why Cyborg was included as part of the new Justice League.

All of this raises questions that a more intellectually curious documentary might look into: Why are comics fans getting older every year? Why are so many of them middle aged white men? Why did DC choose Cyborg to be part of the new Justice League, and what was the context in which that fan was discussing Cyborg's inclusion in the Justice League?

Instead, there are a couple of halfhearted swipes at phoneybaloney reality show tension when Gerry assigns his buyer, Alex, with the task of locating a copy of the first issue of Hot Stuff the Little Devil, the comic that got Gerry interested in comics in the first place. Will he find the issue before the end of the hour? Spoiler alert: Who cares?

The marketing guy, Thor, has to ensure that the great Frank Miller, one of the maybe 5 best cartoonists of all time, will be at Midtown's New York Comic Con booth. Spoiler alert: What the hell is the great Frank Miller doing on this piece of crud show?

There's also a bit about a cute girl named Zoë who works for the shop, apparently just standing around and looking cute, talking to the "all kinds of customers" who frequent the store and might not otherwise get to talk to a cute girl who knows about comics. This obviously raises other questions -- or, maybe I shouldn't use the word "obviously" in that context because the questions apparently didn't occur to the creators of this program.

The uninteresting and manufactured dramas at the comic book shop (I haven't even mentioned the cute girl's secret admirer who turns out to be Alex, with no explanation or context!) are contrasted with a look into the life of an aspiring comic book creator and a comics fan and blogger. First, the creator, a guy called Chris Notarile. From all the images we see of him, and from all the interviews he does, he appears to be a healthy, young, intelligent man in full possession of all his faculties.

The Protector -- the comic YOU helped pay for!

I mention all of these things because it turns out that US taxpayers are subsidizing his dream of writing a comic book. Several times he mentions that he's on food stamps. He's so focused on his dream that he can't get a job to buy himself food. This despite the fact that he's obviously in a position to do so.

I don't want to get into a political debate, and I don't begrudge people being on food stamps. I understand that sometimes people fall on hard times. When I was growing up, for example, my family was on food stamps for awhile. But there is nothing sympathetic about Mr. Notarile's plight. He's apparently childless, healthy, and intelligent. He could get a job. Lots of us get day jobs and then write and draw at night, without expecting to get money earmarked for people going through real problems. There might be perfectly valid reasons why Mr. Notarile can't do this, but in the documentary, all we're told is that he's on food stamps. As I've said, they mention this several times.

It's clear we're meant to sympathize with this scrappy young creator willing to do anything to pursue his dream, but all I saw -- all the documentary allows us to see -- is a spoiled, entitled man who could get a part-time job if he really wanted to.

He doesn't help his case when he reveals that he's not even all that interested in comics. During an interview he says:

"The dream is to bring The Protector to life, and, go from this comic character into, ultimately, a feature film."

Yep, the scrappy young comics creator really just wants to create intellectual property that he can sell to the movies. You can see the results of his efforts here. (Why not check it out -- you helped pay for it!)

Do you think it's more compelling than, for instance, Marvel's long-rumored Ant Man film?

(Full disclosure: I'm a big fan of Edgar Wright, who I think is the best filmmaker working today, so I am looking forward to anything he does, even if it is part of the Marvel studios film universe.)

By far the most interesting character on the show is the comics fan and blogger Jill Pantozzi, who isn't introduced until nearly halfway through. When we first meet her, she informs us that she's gotten a lot of marriage proposals simply by virtue of the fact that she's a cute girl who reads comics.

Again, why don't the documentarians care to explore this area?

When we discover that Ms. Pantozzi has muscular dystrophy, her story becomes all the more compelling. She believes that part of why she relates to superheroes is

"[B]ecause you read those stories where somebody gets bitten by a radioactive spider and all of a sudden has these powers, or just some... overnight magical thing happens, and, when I was growing up I kept wishing that I would wake up one day and I would get these crazy powers."

In particular, Ms. Pantozzi says that she closely identifies with DC Comics's Oracle character. Oracle of course is Barbara Gordon, who was paralyzed in the Alan Moore-Brian Bolland classic (and controversial) The Killing Joke and as a result was left having to use a wheelchair, like Ms. Pantozzi. She says,

"The best thing about her is she learned how to fight in her wheelchair, which was really, really cool. She's never let her disability stop her. And I think that's what a lot of people see in me, for just accomplishing what I have in my life."

Once again, the documentarians have a wide-open opportunity to explore another question, and they just let it slide: How does Ms. Pantozzi feel about DC Comics's "New 52" company-wide reboot, that took Barbara Gordon out of her wheelchair? Does it diminish the character, or is it a more realistic take on it -- why would people who live in a world that includes super scientists like Ray Palmer ever have to worry about paralysis? And, even more important than that, what do the constant reboots, reimaginings, retcons, recyclings and etc ad nauseum say about the state of the comics industry, and the ever-aging fans who follow it?

Barbara Gordon, jumping out of that wheelchair.

Please compare and contrast Ms. Pantozzi's story of genuine difficulty and hardship, and the inspiration she gets from superhero stories, and the guy who's on food stamps while trying to create intellectual property for the movies. One of the great flaws of the documentary is that, it seems, the creators didn't have the self-awareness to examine this. They spend way too much approving time on the hard work and difficulty that went into the creation of the single issue of "The Protector," and the short promotional film created for it (it rained one day while they were shooting the video!), and the phoneybaloney tension over whether or not the single issue will make it onto Midtown Comics's shelves. Spoiler alert: Who cares?

There's even less excuse for this than we might first think, since during an interview Ms. Pantozzi reveals that she isn't even a regular shopper at Midtown Comics, and the documentarians pursued her:
I’m sad to say I’m only a casual shopper at Midtown but I adore everyone there. They really are some of the nicest shops around. See, I was living in New Jersey up until the end of last year, so my LCS was Little Shop of Comics in Scotch Plains. And now I’ve almost entirely switched to digital comics so I don’t have the need to go to a physical store all that often.
I was approached about two years ago by a production group in the UK called Parthenon. It wasn’t really clear at the point what the show was going to be but I had a general idea. Mostly, they wanted to tell stories about real people who are in love with comics and they wanted to make sure they represented all types. I already knew a few of the people involved and managed to connect them with a few others and we went from there. The crew filmed me at Midtown Comics, my home, my job, NYCC, and hanging out with friends and got a pretty good look at what comics mean to me personally.
Emphasis added because that is yet another question the documentarians could have explored: The tension between comic book publishers and comic book shops over the handling of digital content.

I'm not sure if "Comic Store Heroes" was intended to be a series, the plans for which were scrapped after AMC's and Kevin Smith's "Comic Book Men" appeared last year (the world can support multiple shows about rednecks diving into stagnant pools of water and pulling animals out, but two tv shows about comic book shops is just too much), or if it was originally intended to be a longer documentary and they ran out of funding, or if the creators just got bored. Any of those seem like possibilties to me. Whatever is the case, the show was monumentally half-assed and uninspired.

At least the "Chasing UFOs" show has a "skeptic."

Friday, July 13, 2012

Comic: The Funny Alien Family, Episode 1

The Funny Alien Family is a delightful new comic strip that will warm your heart! It's all about a funny alien family that is surprisingly very much like your own (human) family! Here is the first episode, that is full of humor, and warmth, and is imminently relatable!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

My review of The Amazing Spider-Man movie

The Amazing Spider-Man is the newest movie to spin a web of excitement around our hearts. It stars Andrew Garfield, of Facebook Is Ruining Our Culture, and Emma Stone, from the Jim Carrey video, as the star-crossed lovers of the title. It is so good, I haven’t actually seen it, because it is too precious to be seen. The most pure way to experience a great film like this, with all its action and romance, is to only dream about it rather than see it, which is what I did.

Andrew Garfield proves that acting isn't just a spectator sport anymore!

The villain of the film is Lizard Man. He was born without arms, so he uses his toes to buy vegetables and play guitar. He wants to grow arms for himself, so he injects his body with lizard fluid, derived from the sex organs of lizards (he was also born without a penis). He gets his arms to grow, and his leg, his third leg, but at what a cost! (He becomes a lizard himself!)

But I haven’t even gotten to the romance. First of all, Spider-Man is Peter Parker at first. He is an awkward kid living in New York. He is very shy around girls, even though he’s really a cool guy, because he collects comic books and likes poems about French prostitutes, just like I do. Nobody in the world knows how cool I really am, because they will not just get to know the real me. They all think I’m weird, but really I’m a lot cooler than them, and if they’d just talk to me for five minutes instead of going around having sex with each other and playing football games, then I would really be a winner. 

I bet if Emma Stone ever met me, she'd really like me!

Then there is Emma Stone. She is really pretty, but for some reason, they had her play Gwen Stacy, who dies in the comic books and is blond, instead of Mary Jane Watson, who is a red head and is very good looking, because red heads are pretty. Anyway, she understands me pretty well, and she goes up to me after all the other people have picked on me, and she says, “I understand you, Peter Parker.” I don’t think anyone will expect that Peter Parker’s parents die early in the film. What is their mysterious connection to Lizard Man? (They are brothers!) They all work together at the same evil corporation, called EviLizardInc. Will Peter Parker unravel the secret of his parents’ connections to the Lizard Man? Only by viewing the full film will you learn the secret for yourself, that there will be a sequel.

Here is one action-packed scene of the movie, where Spider-Man jumps on a wall and sticks his hand out dramatically!

But I know what you really wonder about: the action. Does it measure up to the great action that you expect from comic book movies? Spoiler alert: The action does measure up to the great action that you expect from comic book movies! When Spider-Man jumps around, swinging on his webs, you get the sense of being a young person with a dream of swinging through the city, and you fall in love with yourself and with the idea of being a young superhero who’s really a lot cooler than you think, and Emma Stone will fall in love with you, too.

I don’t think I could stand to tell you about the final confrontation between Spider-Man, who finally learns how to use his spider powers, and Lizard Man, who is half man and half lizard, but fully evil! I think if I did that, you would puke from excitement, and hit yourself in the head to try to calm yourself down. Let me just say that this is one movie that does not scrimp on either the action or the romance, such as in the scenes where we see them having sex in interesting positions, like the Spinning Reverse Webbing, the Eight Legged Trombone, and Arachnofellatio.

Your favorite part of the movie will probably be at the end, when Spider-Man joins the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, and they all fight Lizard Man, and Lizard Man opens his mouth and spits lizard eggs at them, and all the eggs hatch in midair, and there are about a million salamanders flying around and then the million little salamanders attack them all, and get into their pores and nostrils and ears, and make them all go crazy, except for Spider-Man, who has a mask that covers all his pores and orifices, so he finally wins the battle and then there is a sequel in a couple of years.

In one scene of the movie, Spider-Man tries to take his dog, Morsel the Spider-Dog, for a walk, but, "The Spoiler" (New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg) has passed an ordinance against dogs!

You probably are asking yourself, “Ricky, does this movie deliver all the goods and then some?” I would have to say that it does deliver the goods, and then some. I couldn’t wait to see the movie again, which I imagined I did, except the second time I imagined it, there was more sex, and I fell asleep about halfway through. All in all, this was a thrilling time at the movies, and a thoroughly enjoyable film that felt completely necessary and I’m glad I didn’t spoil the film by actually seeing it, but only imagining I saw it. I give it 4 webs up!

I probably shouldn't tell you about this, but there are also a lot of really funny scenes in the film, such as the scene where Spider-Man goes to the bathroom and pees!

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises: Is it panic time?

The Dark Knight Rises won't "batwing" its way into theaters until July 20th -- I can't wait, I have already got my ticket for the 12:01 AM showing, the 3:45 AM showing, the 7:00 AM showing, the 9:00 AM showing, the 9:45 AM showing, the 9:50 AM showing, the 9:52 AM showing, the 10:23 AM showing, the 11:47 AM showing, the 12:01 PM showing, the 12:02 PM showing, the 12:13 PM showing, the 1:29 PM showing, the 1:46 PM showing, the 2:31 PM showing, the 4:23 PM showing (I'm planning on eating and using the bathroom), the 5:01 PM showing, the 5:62 PM showing, the 6:34 PM showing, the 6:35 PM showing, the 6:36:18 PM showing, the 7:41 PM showing, the 7:59 PM showing, the 8:01:34.6 PM showing, the 8:12:34 PM showing, the 36-24-36 PM showing, the 8:56 PM showing, the 9:05 PM showing, the 9:87 PM showing, the 10:43 PM showing, the 11:02 PM showing, and the 11:23 PM showing! -- but already there are signs that the film might be in trouble.

For one thing, Nikki Finke over at Deadline Hollywood is reporting that projector issues caused the cancellation of a press screening on Friday.
The movie started promptly at 7 PM. But at about 8:15 PM, as a new reel began, the dialogue between Christian Bale and Michael Caine was clearly out of sync - with a full 5- to 10-second lip-flap after lines were spoken. After a few minutes the crowd shouted for a projectionist. The movie was stopped and the lights went up. A 40-year employee of IMAX said that this has never ever happened to him before.
This is the first time this has happened in 40 years. In other words, this is as unprecedented as the film itself.

We all know that The Dark Knight Rises is the greatest film of all time, at least since The Avengers, which was the greatest film of all time. But I have to wonder now if maybe we should start to begin the process of mindlessly panicking about the film's artistic and commercial prospects.

In 40 years, no other IMAX screening has ever been halted because the projection machine refused to play the film. And yet, it has happened with DKR. Obviously, this raises the following question:

Is The Dark Knight Rises so bad that even the projector rebelled against showing it?

But, if that is the case, then why did the projector wait over an hour to start sabotaging the screening? Well, bear with me a moment:

This news follows hard on the "batheels" of the speculation that the kid from "Third Rock from the Sun" might be portraying a version of Batman's kid sidekick, Robin the Boy Wonder. As Scott Johnson over at comicbook.com points out, there are at least five reasons to believe that Robin will make an appearance:
During one of the first Dark Knight Rises trailers, the Robin logo appeared in the stands at a Gotham Rogues game.
Sure the Gotham Rogues player with Ward on the back of his jersey was actually former Pittsburgh Steeler Hines Ward, but Ward was also the last name of Burt Ward who played Robin on the sixties Batman TV show.
During one of the trailers, there is a chalk symbol drawn that was first thought to be a bat symbol, but Forbes writer Mark Hughes claimed it looked more like Nightwing’s symbol. Of course, Nightwing is the superhero identity that Dick Grayson adopted after Robin.
There are other, even more compelling reasons given in the post, but I'll let the reader click over for him- or herself, if s/he so desires. The important thing is, if Robin appears in DKR, as Johnson's impressive scholarship suggests, then it will be bad, because Robin is a kid character who has ruined every tv show and movie he's been in. Think about it. If Robin hadn't been in the 1960s TV show, it would have been AWESOME, instead of a total violation of the Batman mythos. And, in the 80s and 90s, the first two Tim Burton Batman films were exceptional, but then Tim Burton left and Joel Schumacher introduced Robin into the movies, and they all stunk.

Don't get me wrong. Robin is an awesome comic book character, and he would be awesome in his own film. But he will ruin any Batman film he is in, because he has always ruined every Batman film he is in.

My theory is that about an hour and ten minutes into the movie, we start to learn that the "John Blake" character played by the kid from "Third Rock from the Sun" is really Robin in disguise. The projection machine, sensing the total ruination of Christopher Nolan's masterpiece trilogy, attempted to destroy the print rather than let the screening go on. It's suspicious, for instance, that we're told that the screening couldn't go on because of lip syncing issues during a scene involving dialogue between Christian Bale and Michael Caine, yet we're not told what they were talking about during the scene.

Why is that? Answer: Because they were talking about Robin. There is no other explanation. Here is what I believe is in the dialogue in question:

Alfred, where is that kid from "Third Rock from the Sun"?

He is out running around fighting crime in his alter ego as Robin, the Boy Wonder.

That's right. I forgot that I recruited him to be my sidekick after his parents were killed by gangsters, when they were working as trapeze artists at the circus. I gave him a little green leotard with a red tunic and a yellow cape to run around in.

That was right after you had me put the name "WARD" on the back of that football player's jersey, as a secret code.

Sensing trouble, the projection machine began shutting itself down.

All of this is coming after another report at Deadline Hollywood that secret information about the film had been leaked on the official DKR website:
Warner Bros has done everything possible to keep a lid on the details of the upcoming The Dark Knight Rises. So it’s a shocker that today the studio posted a 49-page document filled with production notes – including a synopsis a well as some dialogue and several interviews with the main actors and other behind-the-scenes intel –on the ‘About The Film’ section of the official website.
If you're interested in having the film spoiled, you can follow the link above and get a look at the pdf of the leaked information. If, however, you truly care about art in general, and Batman in particular, you will remain on this blog and continue reading this post:

Clearly, no one would willingly leak this important information about the film. As Deadline points out, "Warner Bros has done everything possible to keep a lid on details of the" film. I believe that this is another example of a machine, in this case, a computer at Warner Bros, sensing that something isn't quite right about the film, and therefore attempting to sabotage it by uploading "spoilers" to the website, in an attempt to get people less interested in seeing the film.

I have not read any of the information that was posted on the website, but I suspect at least some of it reads as follows:

Batman meets that kid from "Third Rock from the Sun." Batman recruits him to play his sidekick, Robin. The rest of the movie then stinks.

And I haven't even mentioned the fact that last year set photos were leaked which showed Christian Bale in full Batman regalia with a big smile on his face. Everyone knows the Dark Knight Detective is a grim fighter for justice. Batman does not smile, not ever. He doesn't have time to smile, when there is danger to be crushed.

Then there's the fact that Anne Hathaway's nude scenes are making people sick. When she appears in the film as Catwoman, will audiences go running for the bathrooms?

Obviously, I can't say for sure that The Dark Knight Rises is a disastrous film until I've actually seen it. Until then, all I can say for certain is that it will be the greatest, most epic film of all time. But if it isn't, and it turns out to be as bad as it appears it will be, then I hope that people don't forget that I sounded the alarm early.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The god particle thing: Maybe I was being too subtle.

A few days ago, I saw an AP article linked on yahoo's main page that said "proof of 'god particle found." The so-called "god particle" is a profoundly subliterate name given by some journalists to something called the Higgs boson. In the 10th - 12th paragraphs of AP's superficial story, we learn the following:
Though an impenetrable concept to many, the Higgs boson has until now been just that — a concept intended to explain a riddle: How were the subatomic particles, such as electrons, protons and neutrons, themselves formed? What gives them their mass? 
The answer came in a theory first proposed by physicist Peter Higgs and others in the 1960s. It envisioned an energy field where particles interact with a key particle, the Higgs boson. 
The idea is that other particles attract Higgs bosons and the more they attract, the bigger their mass will be. Some liken the effect to a ubiquitous Higgs snowfield that affects other particles traveling through it depending on whether they are wearing, metaphorically speaking, skis, snowshoes or just shoes.
Being an atheist, with an interest in science, I was amused that the Higgs boson would be called "the god particle," which is a silly, unscientific name for a complex concept being given a simplistic explanation. Obviously this "god particle" is not in any way proof of the existence of a "god." It's just a name given to a concept that some people didn't fully understand. I don't fully understand the internet, and occasionally, I say that it's "magical." That does not mean that the internet is "magic." It just means that I am too dense to fully understand how it works. Well, this whole "god particle" nonsense is the same thing. So I tweeted something that I thought was pretty funny, and obviously ironic, or at least sarcastic.

Unbeknownst to me, that tweet has been retweeted 35 times, and favorited 3 times. I don't know if it was atheists or believers who did the favoriting or retweeting, and I don't really care.

It's nice to be retweeted and favorited. To those of you who retweeted and favorited, I thank you.

It also got one reply, from someone called Anthony Hecht:

Okay, thanks for the information, but this is simply a straightforward restatement of my original post, the intent of which was lost on Mr. Hecht, et. al. I'm not sure how, since I wrote "suck on THAT," which to me sounds obviously sarcastic (especially in relation to a "god particle" being used as proof against atheists), but, again, maybe I was being too subtle.

My tweet was also picked up as part of a screenshot that gathered together several god particle tweets:

This screenshot, which a friend forwarded to me from the facebook page of Proud to be a Filthy Liberal Scum, has been shared on Facebook over 200 times. I do like the idea that my face is being seen by all those people (I like to think that it made them feel a little better about themselves), I can't help but notice that many of them have, again, MISSED THE SUBTLETY OF MY APPARENTLY INCREDIBLY SUBTLE WIT when it comes to tweeting.

In his/her comment on the screenshot, Proud to be a Filthy Liberal Scum writes,

And I checked to see if maybe this was photoshopped. It wasn't. I can't. I just can't.

You see? Words fail him or her, because the tweets are just so stupid, because these people obviously believe that this "god particle" is in fact a particle of god, or something, and that scientists have now discovered proof of god's existence, and these people are obviously all stoopid, and s/he is just so despairing for the world. And by the way, s/he checked to see if it was photoshopped, but didn't see fit to check for irony. Ha, ha.

A sampling of some of the other comments:
I am at a complete loss of words over the SHEER STUPIDITY of these MORONS!!!! SAD, SAD, SAD!!!! 
This makes me kinda mad. And sad lol. 
I would be Christian if it wasn't for all those Christians 
I know it's wrong of me, but can we safely assume that all of those retards are American, and Republican, and still think they live in a capitalist system? Go on, tell me it's true - we all know the stereotype is real! lol 
And it's such a Godlike attitude they are displaying, eh? ::shakes head in disgust:: This is why Christianity is bashed, because of people like these folks (if they are real!) 
I can't even make the effort to facepalm due to the aneurysm this caused... 
These are examples of the way the GOP wants all people to "think." by not using their brain.
I stopped with that last one because I like the irony of it. The guy who's making fun of people for not using their brain, missed the irony of my INCREDIBLY WITTY TWEET!!!

Ha, ha!

But isn't it amusing that the people commenting on the "stupidity" of the "MORONS" who made these tweets are engaged in childish, intemperate namecalling? Isn't that a great way to get people thinking critically and explaining to them when they've made what you perceive to be a mistake? Hey, stupid American retard MORON, you're STUPID lol!

I would like to thank all the people who made those comments, though. You've certainly made me feel better about myself and my own attitude. I mean, I am at a complete loss of words to respond to those comments. I can barely muster the energy to facepalm, I'm so weary about the stupidity of Americans who "think" without using their brains.

PREVIOUSLY, I felt some internet and twitter wrath over my post about the tv psychic pscumbag Theresa Caputo.

Monday, July 2, 2012