June 28, 2007

Summer 2007 photologue

Too many good pictures to upload to the blog. If you want to see more, sporadic updates will be to here.

June 21, 2007

No Sidecar? Fail!

Hot new picks of Batmans two-wheeled wonder. To the Batcycle!

Note, I don't see a spare helmet there. Bad form!

June 19, 2007

Insert Witty Title Here

Since Noumena feels the need to bounce for the summer, the next sleeper cell of Team Blog has been activated. Namely, me. I know that my posts and comments throughout the history of this blog have been few and far between, but I will do my best to pick up some slack in the summer months.

I fully admit that I am not a politico of the MosBen/Noumena caliber (although one could argue that you don't really need to be to be concerned about the impending Democratic Draft), so I'll leave those matters to the better equipped. What you can expect from me is some movie/television comments, general social commentary of a demotivational nature, musical nerdery, etc. I guess it could all be lumped together as some straight hipster shit - minus any non-comedic snobbery or retarded fashion sense. I like you folks, but I'm not wearing skinny pants for you.

This week is a busy one, as family members are steadily pouring into the state for my older sister's wedding this Saturday. Please send some nice words for me to your deity/deities of choice if you're so inclined.

June 17, 2007

A Note To The Internet

Because it seems to happen often, "a lot" is not one word. It's an easy typo, but I get the distinct impression too many people do it purposefully. Now back to your regularly scheduled comics/politics blogging.

June 16, 2007

Review - Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer

Yes, I'm a nerd and I've got a bit of a soft spot for comic book movies, so I might be willing to give them a bit more slack than your average person if they're, shall we say, not Academy material. Still, FF2 isn't a great movie. It isn't a good movie either, but as I walked out of the theater I heard the word "terrible" a couple times, and it's just not that. If I had to categorize the way I would have chosen to watch it in retrospect, it'd be a Sunday afternoon HBO or TNT movie when I'm kind of bored. But I've seen terrible movies and if "terrible" encompasses this movie and movies that are truly terrible than it's simply not a category worth a damn.

The plot made sense. The special effects were well done. Some of the jokes, though not nearly all, got a chuckle. There were nice little bits sprinkled lightly throughout the film. Overall though, things just didn't pop they way I expect them to in a good movie. The movie definitely captured the family aspect of the group pretty well and I thought the Silver Surfer was pretty close to the morose dispationate guy I think he should have been. The movie lost the philosophical depth to the character Galactus that the comic had, but honestly I'm a smart guy and I can't think of a way to do that unless it spanned two movies. Who knows, maybe, like Spiderman 3, this should have been a story spread over two films, but that's not what we got and I think it's patently too big a risk for me to expect a studio to do in this day and age with the budget it takes to make major summer action movies.

FF2 isn't terrible, it's mediocre. Almost everything it does fits into a template of "things that you need in a summer movie" and that's damning enough without turning everything that doesn't delight me into the most recent tragedy on film. I'll save the disgust for something that deserves it and maybe catch bits and pieces of this when it's on TNT and I've got absolutely nothing better to do.

June 14, 2007

Mr. Wizard

I was never a huge Mr. Wizard fan, as I was more of a PBS kid after school, but it's hard to over estimate the impact he had on children's television, especially science shows like Beakman's World or Bill Nye The Science Guy. Actually, I'm not even aware what the current science-tv personalities are these days. I certainly hope there are some out there following in his footsteps.

Update: Changed the accidental "under estimate" to the intended "over estimate".

Time For Accountability

The Justice Leaguers are supposed to be role models for the children! Well, not the vigilantism thing, but the public service!

June 12, 2007


Well, Noumena may be taking off until August, but some of us don't have a studio apartment in the Ivory Tower, so you'll hopefully be getting plenty of me all through those sun soaked months. Well, until I leave for a week and a half in July...

Anyway, The Sopranos is the most dissapointing series in recent memory and perhaps ever. Yeah, I know I've said I don't take expectations into account when I watch TV or movies, but that doesn't mean dissapointment doesn't exist from time to time. Fortunately, this last season of The Sopranos was so bad that I don't need to take dissapointment into account to trash it. I guess you should know from here that I'll be spoiling with abandon, so plan accordingly.

So, back to my utter dissapointment. The first two seasons of The Sopranos was absolutely fantastic. It was mile smarter than network TV and while not as gritty as Oz, HBO's other crime show, it still challenged what people had become comfortable with in television shows. It gave an interesting look at the workings of modern organized crime while dealing with complex issues of family, friendship, aging, and suburbia. Most of all, like Oz and any other great crime show, it made utterly dispicable characters at the very least interesting and at the most actually sympathetic. It takes a pretty good show to make you watch a scene where a doctor is hit by a moving car for making some bad bets and root for the driver.

Season 3 was still good, but starting there the show started a slow slide from being about people and their lives to being a show about the mob. The recently finished final season was more about shocking deaths than anything else. Why did Bobby Bacala and Sylvio get shot? As near as I can tell they got shot because they were popular almost-nice-guy characters who's deaths (or comas as the case may be) would pull at the audience's heart strings. Why was there even a mini mob war in the last two episodes (yeah, just the two)? Because the show was ending and I guess they needed something "big" to happen. Nothing resonated for me this season because nothing seemed to happen for a reason other than the immediate necessity of the show ending. The show wasn't "about" anything anymore. Even the end (*especially* the end!) just sort of putters along, pretending to be tense but being about nothing. Is the show about how things just go on? That would certainly be a valid and potentially interesting place to take the show, but just having your characters do the same things that they've always done doesn't make that point on its own.

All that promise at the start of the show just drained away by increasingly mediocre writing and principle actors that looked less and less like they wanted to be there the more often they renegotiated their contracts and delayed the later seasons. I've actually never had a show that I liked so much at the beginning only to hate at the end. I guess that's a rather dubious prize.

Did anyone actually make it through John from Cincinatti? I'm not the type of person who's turned of by weird obtuse fiction, but I turned it off after a half hour just bored.

Summer vacation

On Friday I'll be leaving the SB for seven wonderful weeks on the Left Coast. I'm spending the rest of this week socialising and preparing for my trip. I may post the occasional update, but basically, I'll see you all in August.

June 07, 2007

Wow...Just, Wow

“At the end of the day, I believe fully the president is doing the right thing,
and I think all we need is some attacks on American soil like we had on [Sept.
11, 2001 ], and the naysayers will come around very quickly to appreciate not
only the commitment for President Bush, but the sacrifice that has been made by
men and women to protect this country,” Milligan said.

So says the head of the Republican Party for the State of Arkansas...

Once More To The Well!

Ok, I really do need to find a few things to post about not related to comics and sexism, but what can I say, this stuff is hot right now.

So we've been talking about Heroes for Hire for a few days now, so let's tie it in with the Mary Jane statuette we talked about earlier. Here's a much better column from the other side than you'll find in any of the postings on the various message boards where this is discussed. At least, it's better in that it's not filled with bile, complete ignorance, and raises some interesting counter-arguments. Of course, it is rather dismissive of people who might dislike the statuette.

I think it's important to keep things in perspective though. Too often I find liberal arguments, whether they are about national politics or discussions about comic books, lumped together as if there is only one level of outrage or dislike that a liberal can feel. We're either in favor of something, ambivalent, or insanely, irrationally pissed off. Are both the H4H cover and the Mary Jane statuette in bad taste? Of course they are. Am I as upset by the Mary Jane statuette as I am about the H4H cover? No.

The Mary Jane statue is immature fanservice. It's cheesecake, yes, and invokes certain styles of the past, but that doesn't mean we should just accept it as totally awesome and give it a pass. It takes a strong female character and reduces her to a passive, submissive, sexy object for Spiderman, and the viewer's, pleasure. To me, it's eye-rolling sexism; a symptom of the way many men still think they need to view women. It's juvenile and should be addressed both by fans discussing it and within the company, but it's not something that I get outraged about. I should note, however, that I do get rather frustrated with the discussions *about* things like the statuette when people deny that there's anything even the slightest big sexist about it.

The H4H cover, on the other hand, deserved every bit of outrage it got. It isn't just a bit of juvenile arousal, it's an attempt to sell books by sexyfying rape. These two examples of sexism are not the same, and they shouldn't be treated as such, but neither is worthy of being blithely dismissed as "fangirl entitlement". People who are such things get the Bingo.

On the other hand, Steven Grant writes a column over at Comic Book Resources and has a much better post over at Publisher's Weekly about this stuff and more.

June 05, 2007

When On A Roll...

Here's another in what's becoming a long line of posts about sexism in comics. Well, I don't really have a lot to add to this column. It's just one of those things that hits you (well, it hit me!) on the head, forcing an "Oh yeah, I guess there really *aren't* a lot of female science heroes in mainstream comics!" Now, the column doesn't mention this, but it's important to note that mainstream comics aren't without examples of women who are scientists, though those examples are certainly few. But those few women who are written with a firm grasp on hard sciences almost never (I certainly can't think of an example) apply those skills to heroic pursuits as their male counterparts do.

June 04, 2007

10 Inconvenient Truths About File Sharing

The European version of the RIAA has released a list of 10 Inconvenient Truths about file sharing which is a weirdly mixed bag of statements. The linked article does a pretty good job of discussing the list, but I just wanted to comment on a couple of them.

I think Item 9 is incredibly cynical. It's not that people won't stop stealing until the law stops them, it's that people use file sharing because it's super easy and the industry offered alternatives aren't appealing enough. I think the best thing the industry could do to combat music sharing would be to offer drm-free songs at $.50 per song. Turning the screws on punishments works better if you've got reletively few people to punish, but with as many people using file sharing as there are, my guess is that it will only drive them to inovate new ways of avoiding getting caught.

Item 10 also doesn't really approach the question correctly. It's obvious that Metallica would be downloaded a lot through file sharing. This doesn't address whether the people downloading Metallica were already familiar with their works or if they're coming to the music because file sharing made it so easy. It's entirely possible that a person who is a fan of mainstream pop could discover mainstream metal through file sharing. The statement also doesn't address whether the ratio of downloads of mainstream to underground music is higher than the ratio of mainstream to underground cd sales.

More On The Heroes For Hire #13 Cover

You know, part of me thinks I should just complete the registration process for the Newarama boards so I can post these posts in the relevant topics, but hey, not doing so keeps me posting things here and as a bonus I don't have to deal with a million fanboys that just don't get or care about why something in their books could be offensive.

Anyway, in the recent "New Joe Fridays" Joe Quesada addressed the Heroes for Hire #13 cover for a second time. This time he does go out of his way to appologize to the people who were offended by the image, which I suppose is a nice thing to do. I'm suspicious of the contention that he had no idea that the concept of "tentacle rape" existed, but I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt there.

Then he launches into an explanation of why a publisher shouldn't bow to pressure from offended fans to change something offensive because it's a slippery slope. As much as I like Joe, his argument really doesn't apply here and almost makes the apology feel like a non-apology apology. Ok, so he's sorry that people were offended, but this is what happens when you let women become leading heroes. Whaaa?

He lists as three examples the death of Freedom Ring, a gay character, in Marvel Teamup, the death of Bill Foster ("Black Goliath") in Civil War, and the torture of some gay characters in the Runaways/Young Avengers crossover. The only story of those that I've read is the death of Bill Foster, though I've read Freedom Ring's Wikipedia page, so I have an idea what happened there. Joe's argument is that if you have more inclusion of minority characters in superheroing books those heroes are going to be placed in dangerous circumstances.

Ok, that's fine. Give me a gay Spiderman guest star and I'm willing to accept that he might get punched by The Vulture or something. Fair enough. And indeed the death of Bill Foster, and as far as I know the death of Freedom Ring, were just perilous situations that come with the trade. Clor coulda zapped anybody with a big ass lighting bolt and it just so happened Mr. Foster was thirty feet tall at the time. Bill Foster's death had nothing to do with his race and his death was an important part of the story. Hell, you could have done a death where his race was a central factor and still have the death be and important part of the story you were telling. Of course, if the story was all about how Marvel thinks the Klan is right or something, people would be rightly offended and rightly so.

The Heroes for Hire cover is different. This isn't a depiction of "heroes in danger." This is a depiction of *women* in danger. I challenge anyone to find a picture from either a cover or an interior of a comic that shows a male character being attacked by the Brood in this manner. Ultimately, while I may think more people know about the concept of "tentacle rape" in hentei than might admit to it, knowledge of the micro-niche genre is really unnecessary. These characters are shown in a position of fear and weakness because they're female characters and *that's* what's offensive about the picture. I actually wouldn't even be surprised if someone didn't recognize off the top of their head all of the standard rape iconography present in the image. What I do hope for, if not expect, is for people to be able to see them when they're pointed out, apologize, and then admit that this sort of depiction of women should be avoided in the future.

They would never have done this to the male Avengers, and that's that ballgame.

June 03, 2007

SYP IV: Kitcher's four theses of scientism

My SYP reading has lead me to Phil Kitcher's Science, truth, and democracy (2001). The first, introductory chapter introduces two of what I, borrowing some postmodernist jargon, will call metanarratives. One metanarrative is called `scientism' or `faith in science', and Kitcher identifies four theses:
  1. The sciences can provide us with knowledge of nature.
  2. They have a definite aim, namely to offer knowledge that is as systematic and complete as possible.
  3. That knowledge can be used for practical ends, but the moral appraisal of the uses is properly directed at technology and public policy, not at science itself.
  4. Besides its practical benefits or harms, the knowledge has intrinsic value, and that value typically overrides mundane practical concerns.

I want to go through these one by one, with a little analysis and a little more of my own personal opinions.

First, I take the sciences to be paradigmatic of knowledge. But this doesn't mean that I think scientific theories are (generally) true in any standard correspondence conception of truth. It also doesn't mean that I think scientific theories are not (generally) true according to such a conception. Rather, I don't care about truth. I think truth is a metaphysical notion, and hence philosophically suspect at best. Instead, I think theories are epistemically adequate, and paradigmatic of epistemic adequacy. I won't talk about this notion in any detail here, except to assert that it is epistemic, rather than metaphysical, and is orthogonal to the realist/antirealist debate.

Second, I do not think science has a definite aim, yet it does aim at systematic and complete knowledge. This aim is not definite because it is complex, heterogeneous, and contextual. Complex and heterogeneous because knowledge is a complex good, which can be valuable in many different ways. As a first pass, knowledge can be valuable for making predictions or for providing explanations; and some pieces of knowledge will be valuable in one respect but not do well in the other. Contextual because the standards for knowledge depend upon the socio-political and epistemic context in which the knowledge claims are made.

Third, I have a modified pragmatic understanding of epistemology: knowledge is primarily valuable both in itself and for enabling more complex interactions with the world and the pursuit of non-epistemic projects. I do not make a strong distinction between `knowledge that' and `knowledge how', and hence do not recognise a strong distinction between `pure' science and technology. To the extent that the third thesis presupposes such a distinction, therefore, I reject it.

But I also, following Helen Longino, believe that socio-political values play an essential role in guiding certain lines of enquiry. Without racist and sexist values, for example, research into innate sexual and racial differences in cognitive abilities would not exist. Such lines of enquiry can therefore be criticised for their close connection to objectionable values.

Finally, I do think that knowledge has intrinsic value. But I do not think this intrinsic value overrides its pragmatic value, or exempts it from criticism on grounds that would classically be considered non-epistemic. So I agree with the fourth thesis, but only up through the `and'.