Saturday, April 16, 2011

Are We Officially a Third World Nation Yet?

Buried in the Times report is the troubling story of why Ikea opened a plant in the United States in the first place. No, the decision wasn’t made to take advantage of superior workforce skills or productivity - positive attributes that once drove our manufacturing sector and built our middle class. Instead, it was made to exploit our decreasing wage levels and weak worker protections.

Though company factories in Sweden produce the same bookcases as the plant in Virginia, the Times notes that ‘the big difference is that the Europeans enjoy a minimum wage of about $19 an hour and a government-mandated five weeks of paid vacation (while) full-time employees in Danville start at $8 an hour with 12 vacation days’ - and that doesn’t count the one-third of Danville workers who are paid even less because they are deliberately subcontracted through temp agencies.

David Sirota, Ikea joins the race to the bottom

Ikea transplants jobs to the US for the same reason the US transports jobs to Mexico. Shouldn't that tell someone something?

The Marvel Comics Challenge

This was another 30 Day Challenge from Tumblr created by Comics Corner. I decided I'd do it here as a meme.

1. Your favorite character.
The great thing about Marvel Comics characters--at least, what I used to love about them--is how easy they were to relate to. I related a lot to Spider-Man over the years because Peter Parker was unpopular and overwhelmed. I related to Nightcrawler from the X-Men because I thought I was ugly and I was an outcast. I related a lot to the Hulk because I could get angry and freak out pretty quickly over anything. So I guess, in a big way, Spidey, Nightcrawler, and the Hulk are my favorite Marvel characters.

If I have to pick just one, I'm going to say Spider-Man. Marvel's never done better comics than the original Stan Lee-Steve Ditko run on The Amazing Spider-Man, anyway.

2. Your favorite villain.
Dr. Doom, especially in the early years of Fantastic Four, before writers got too carried away in his grandiosity.

3. Your favorite diva.
I'm not even sure what this question really means. I find divas and the whole concept pretty tiresome. Have you ever read the early Ant-Man stories or the early issues of The Avengers where the Wasp keeps complaining about wanting to go dancing and how handsome Thor is? That shit got old in the first 2 seconds.

4. Your favorite royal.
I like the tragedy of Black Bolt. I liked Namor when he wasn't a bad guy but was angry and misunderstood.

5. Your favorite team.
The Pet Avengers are my new favorites. All of the others have been run into the ground by now. I always hated those issues of The Avengers where they had to have a freaking conference of everyone who's ever been an Avenger just to decide who the new team is going to be, as if Spider-Man is actually going to stick around this time. And then, to supplement people who have their own books, it's always losers like the Black Knight and wastes of space like Tygra. Who cares? Those issues had very few surprises. And gosh, there are so many X-Men now that they don't even need to bother fighting for tolerance, since they've practically bred out the population. These guys could form their own nation now.

6. Your favorite organization.
I can't think of one. The Marvel Universe always had lame-o's like AIM or Hydra hanging around the place. Even SHIELD was never really interesting, despite Jim Steranko's often-great efforts.

7. Your favorite creature.
The Marvel Universe does, however, have great creatures. If Howard the Duck counts, then it's Howard. If not, Lockjaw. But I also love Lockheed. And I even think the Man-Thing's kind of neat, as shambling, misunderstood monsters go.

8. Your favorite movie.
Spider-Man 2.

9. Your favorite classic character.
I'm not sure quite what they're going for here, since Marvel is so anal retentive about its characters. Pretty much every character that ever graced half of a panel in a Marvel comic is still up and walking around or just waiting to be resurrected. I'd still have to say Spider-Man, because I love the classic comics. (And I didn't mention it before, but I adore the Thing.)

10. Your favorite costume.
The classic yellow and red Iron Man armor. I'm not sure which one it is. Lee, help me out: Mark III?

11. Your favorite power.
If I could have one of the powers of the Marvel Universe, it would be Silver Surfer's power cosmic.

12. Your favorite weapon.
Thor's hammer.

13. Your least favorite character.
What the fuck is the point of Cable, Venom, Bishop, Marrow, or Deadpool? Deadpool especially. He's like Harley Quinn for boys.

14. Your favorite romance.
Kitty Pryde and Colossus.

15. The best rivalry.
Just a rivalry, or an arch-nemesis? Because Flash Thompson and Peter Parker had a rivalry, but Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus was pretty epic.

16. The most powerful character.
Silver Surfer's pretty powerful, but I'd probably have to put Thor up at the top. I mean, Thor's a god. Whose more powerful, a god or a cosmic herald? I wonder where that falls in the Marvel cosmogony...

17. Your favorite god.
They're not gods, per se, but I love the Warriors Three.

18. Your favorite comic to screen character adaptation.
Rosemary Harris as Aunt May in the Spider-Man movies, hands down.

19. Your least favorite comic to screen character adaptation.
Hard to say. I was going to say Venom in Spider-Man 3, but Venom sucks anyway. They didn't have anything good to work with. Lots of the X-Men characters suck, too, but most of the character overload in those movies is pure, pointless fan service. What does the Angel even do in X-Men: The Last Stand other than give fans boners for recognizing something? Ugh. The majority of Marvel movies still suck.

Oh, I know: the entire Fantastic Four in those awful movies. With the possible exception of Chris Evans as Johnny Storm. But Ben, Reed, and Sue were just terrible. And Doctor Doom was even worse! So, I guess my choice would actually be Julian McMahon as Doctor Doom, because that was an embarrassment.

20. Your best casting of a character (if you were casting).
I want Harlan Ellison to do the voice of Howard the Duck.

21. The most memorable death.
Does it matter? Death is so impermanent in the Marvel Universe that the fear of it has been completely removed from every character. There's no dramatic tension over the possibility of a character dying at all. I guess I'd pick Gwen Stacy since the fans keep going on about how essential it is to the character of Spider-Man, but in a world where his entire relationship with Mary Jane has been magically erased, does any of it even matter anymore?

22. Your favorite universe/dimension.
I have no idea. It's not another dimension, but I really like the Savage Land.

23. The best form of transportation.
The Silver Surfer's board.

24. Your favorite cartoon adaptation.
None. Marvel cartoons are terrible. I especially despise the 90s X-Men cartoon, like, an insane amount. The only time I remember really liking a Marvel cartoon was that "Pryde of the X-Men" pilot that didn't sell. And that was more because I liked the animation.

If anyone counts the Men in Black cartoon (I don't), that was really funny. It was a lot like The Real Ghostbusters.

25. Your favorite video game.
I loved the old X-Men arcade game from the early 90s. The Konami game. That was so much fun. I also recently dug Ultimate Alliance.

26: Your favorite elemental.
I don't really know. Storm, probably. Does she count? She has weather powers.

27. Your favorite non-human race.
I just think the Skrulls are neat. The design is so cheesy.

28. Your favorite comic time period.
I guess, when it comes to Marvel, it's the 1970s. Almost entirely because of Howard the Duck and Conan the Barbarian.

29. Your favorite series you would suggest to read.
I'm long past suggesting anyone read anything. I've learned that my tastes are very different and no one's interested in my recommendations, anyway.

30. Your favorite Marvel Event.
I really enjoyed The Infinity Gauntlet. That was the only one that really pulled me in.

Franco Time

TV Report

:: How much did I enjoy Will Ferrell on The Office? I don't think I've laughed so hard at an episode in the last calendar year. The whole reason I'm watching this season is to see how they mature Michael and give him closure as a character. It's been a dreadful season, as bad as the last one, but just watching Steve Carell and Will Ferrell together was delightful. They play off of each other perfectly, and playing it so that Deangelo Vickers was pretty much just like Michael except more competent and, I suspect, more ruthless--and then seeing everyone gleefully suck up to him, making Michael that much more jealous--was another good step in Michael's development. I'm sure Will Ferrell won't be around more than a couple of episodes, but as guest stars go, this is one of their best.

And, honestly, one of the reasons I love Deangelo is that he refused to be charmed by Jim and Pam's baby: "That baby could be the star of a show called Babies I Don't Care About." Jim and Pam have really rounded the corner to the point where I find them completely insufferable. I mean, wow, honestly, what a couple of assholes they've turned into. I'm worried that once Michael and Deangelo are gone, there's not going to be a single character left that I give a shit about. I still figure I won't bother watching next season, unless by some miracle Will Ferrell sticks around or they replace Michael with someone really, really good.

:: Also, 30 Rock is getting very, very tired.

:: I really dug Helen Mirren on Saturday Night Live.

:: I was blown away by HBO and Todd Haynes' adaptation of Mildred Pierce. I can't remember the last time I was that captivated by Kate Winslet. And Evan Rachel Wood was very good at making Veda Pierce so awful and evil. I got caught up in this series and basically watched it all at once. I'd like to see more of this sort of thing from HBO. Giving it five hours to let the story breathe was a great choice; which isn't to say that I don't love the film noir version with Joan Crawford, but I've seen that and it would be irritating to watch someone try to do it again. This was sort of the middle ground between overwrought sensationalism (which is what a feature probably would be today, and it would probably star someone inappropriate like, I don't know, freaking Keira Knightley) and full-blown Masterpiece Theatre. I really, really enjoyed this.

:: I knew How I Met Your Mother was going to start making Zoey irritating as soon as she and Ted were together. I think the ball was dropped on this one, too, which is a shame since it was incredibly obvious they were going to get the two characters together, anyway. True, they've already flat-out said on the show that Ted and Zoey had a bad break-up, but even that's obvious since she's protesting his dream project--how long was it really going to last when it came time to tear down the building she's trying to save?

:: Someone's supposed to die on the season finale of Castle, and I really hope it's not Captain Montgomery...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Since When Is There a Joan Jett Barbie and Why Don't I Have One?

And why isn't there a Cherie Currie Barbie? And if there is, do I want to know, or will it just make me covet that one, too?

Building My Self-Esteem

BECCA: What are you looking at?

ME: Nothing. I'm turning my neck to hear you. This is how far my neck turns.

BECCA: That's it? I can look all the way behind myself.

ME: If you can do that, how come it's so incredibly easy for me to sneak up behind you and scare you every day?

BECCA: I'm trying to boost your self-esteem.

Mark "Crash" McCreery

I just sort of randomly came across this image while doing a Google search the other day. I'd totally forgotten about it, and I can't believe I did.

If you weren't there, it's kind of hard to impress upon you just what a big deal Jurassic Park was when it was released. This was 1993, the summer I turned 17, and the internet had yet to pervade every aspect of daily life. There weren't any massive film sites that picked over every single detail--real, rumored, and imagined--of every film being released. There wasn't a CGI-filled blockbuster every two weeks all year long. This was Steven Spielberg and dinosaurs and a bestselling novel and it was everywhere and in everything. Today's merchandising and marketing seems like an afterthought compared to Jurassic Park's onslaught.

Anyway, one of the things I got into was the series of trading cards. These cards were a big deal to me for one reason and one reason only: the concept art by Mark "Crash" McCreery. Beautiful dinosaur art, right up there with William Stout. The card series had a healthy number of concept cards showcasing Crash's art, and I was mad for it. Like, drive to various stores to see if they carry the cards mad. I don't know how much I spent on the cards (or any Jurassic Park stuff, including the film itself, which I saw in the theater 16 times--not an exaggeration). You were guaranteed a concept card in every pack, and I wanted them all.

Gosh, I must have them somewhere... I have at least two albums filled with card pages, and I haven't looked at them in years. I used to buy so many trading cards... I'll have to look for those.

But anyway, I geeked out seeing this image again. It's one of my favorite pieces of dinosaur art.


BECCA: [on her laptop] How do you make a cat?

ME: What are you talking about?

BECCA: You know, the cat face. Like, with the smile and the backwards curls.

ME: Huh?

BECCA: People use it all the time on Tumblr.

ME: ... are you talking about the colon and number three?

BECCA: ... Shut up. I just used the word "nutsack," so obviously I can't use my brain right now.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The New Superman Sounds Like the Old Superman

It looks like Zack Snyder's Superman movie is going to retell Superman's origin yet again.

Look, everyone in the world knows Superman's origin. Two week-old babies know Superman's origin. After 72 years, we've all got Superman's origin down, and we can just move on and tell stories now. We've done it. We did it on every Superman-related TV series. We did it in Richard Donner's movie, and we did it in Bryan Singer's poor tracing of Richard Donner's movie. We don't need to do it again.

Also, the villain is General Zod. And while I like that Michael Shannon is going to be in the movie (because he's a terrific actor), do we need to do General Zod again?

You know, you might not know it to look at the movies we've had over the last three decades, but Superman actually has other villains besides Zod and Lex Luthor. Granted, I don't expect to see Mr. Mxyzptlk in a movie these days, or Bizarro, or anything where they might have to make something surreal work in a world where comic book movies are meant to be taken with rigid seriousness. But jeez, why not Parasite or Metallo or Mongul or the Ultra-Humanite or freaking Brainiac? I'd personally love to see Darkseid as the villain, but hell, at this point I'd settle for Toyman if we could just get something different.

How many times are the going to try and make the same movie? They made it right the first time.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

12 April 1961

50 years ago today, Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space. Humankind began to look up to a viable, space-exploring future that, sadly, has yet to really begin. We need to share the wonders instead of giving Donald Trump more tax breaks.

Monday, April 11, 2011

This Is the Most Marvelously Disturbing Thing I've Seen in a While

I found this on Tumblr. If anyone knows where it came from, or if there are any more like it, please let me know!

Kristen Bell Mondays

Sunday, April 10, 2011

McDonald's Burger with Pineapple

Why does this look so darn good to me? I've never even thought of pineapple on a burger. Becca took one look at this ad and started to drool. I wonder where this ad is from, because this didn't happen here.

Song of the Week: "The Wind"

Because there's a beautiful breeze today and Teaser and the Firecat is one of my favorite albums. I will always be grateful my Mom had Cat Stevens records.

Brokeback Cobra

From my silly Hail, Cobra Commander! blog.