Wednesday, August 24, 2016

What's a little Traffic between friends?

Ramblings Post #320
While the city of Atlanta contains one of the worst stretches of highway in the world that doesn't contain land mines, the rest of the city's traffic isn't really all that bad. Sure you've got your problem people on the road, but all in all if you know the proper side streets and connections you can get around pretty good. With rare exception. Or soon to be not so rare exception, if somebody doesn't do something soon. 

The Westside of Atlanta is hot right now. And by Westside I mean that tiny little bit of real estate parcels between Northside Drive and Marietta Blvd, right around the reservoir. Not to be confused with like, the actual west side of the city where all the black people live. The new restaurants, shopping, wine places, apartments are all fusing together to create that "place" feel that has been successful in Atlanta over the last decade (see Atlantic Station, Shoppes of Buckhead, Avalon.) A quick peruse of Curbed Atlanta shows that even more development is planned for this busy little corridor. So in the Westside, not on the West Side, it seems that everybody with a few million to rub together is trying to get in while the getting is good. 

Now I drive through this area pretty much everyday, as it's on the way to and from work. Note I said drive. Primarily because Atlanta has a slack public transportation system due to too many reasons to go into here, and partly because I no longer completely trust the parking lot at the Marta station on the West Side. But I digress, because right now, during the morning and afternoon rushes, the area's former livestock trails that they've paved over and pretend to be streets are filled to bursting. I get through the morass by knowing when to get in the right, left or bus lane at which particular intersection or stretch of road, having the timing down, and blind luck. A single bus, slow driver, rain or a person trying to do something silly and the whole thing goes to hell very, very quickly. 
From Google Maps, with some drawing on it...
Was a traffic study required before all this was allowed to be built up practically right on top of each other? Is one going to be required in the future for all the other things they're still trying to cram in there? Because all these sweet amenities mean nothing if the streets that connect them are designed for a quarter of the traffic. As much as this city wants to be a New York South, that namesake major city has fairly good public transportation that people actually use. Because it goes places. Atlanta is distinctly a car city.

Under current conditions, there are blind driveways leading to and from shopping, spots where a single car making a left turn means backing up traffic for a block, where I think the light timing is probably set on randomizer, and places where the parking rules for a gin joint from 1935 are the current fashion. And that's on a Tuesday afternoon. Imagine a Friday night, when the nightclubs and bars are open. And since they've just finished knocking something else down to make room to build something else - right across the street from the apartment building I think they finished this spring that already has parking issues - it's only going to get worse. I realize that developers run Atlanta and that zoning laws are merely suggestions to them, but damn. 

I hope that with the coming of the Westside Reservoir Park, no relation, on the actual west side of Atlanta, some of that development will move maybe, to the west. Westerly if you will. To where the black people live. I find it odd that in the black mecca of America that all the development is taking place in the areas without the black people. Funny, huh? This process of economic inclusion could probably be sped along by basically zoning out the rest of the Westside so that you can get close, but not right in there, or starting the next little "place" on the actual west side. Like, say, up the street from my house? Which if anyone is reading this besides those two guys in Russia and the nice lady in Singapore (love you guys! mean it), that means that property values and TAX revenues increase in a broader area. Which might be a good thing, I don't know, not a politician. 

I am wondering exactly how they're going to pull the gentrification that has to happen around the new Georgia Dome in preparation for the Super Bowl. That's a very 'urban' area. I dunno, maybe some of that development will rub off.  I kid. 

Barkeep, A cold beer. No, it doesn't have to be from the brewery by the reservoir, jeez. As long as it's cold.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Gawker ye shall be missed.

Ramblings Post #319
You never really miss something until it's gone. Because usually, and quite mistakenly, we all have a tendency to believe that those things we care about, or at least like, or have gotten familiar with will be around until we come back to it. It's that sinking feeling when you get a taste for something, then ride over to get it only to find that the place that served that certain something is now a Starbucks. Unless you wanted Starbucks, in which case I'm ashamed for you. 

Gawker. Good Media. Gone too soon.
I used to read Gawker a lot. It was kind of what I like to call Buddy Media, and by that I mean that it's selection seemed more like things a guy you actually know would chose than an actual media outlet. A smart guy, but a guy you know, like from school or the bar. Sometimes it was insightful and meaningful stories that made you think. Other times it was dumb or silly reporting that made you wonder if people actually got paid for that crap. But, it was always interesting. And now, out of spite, it's gone.

Online media has always been an odd play for real news. Professional organizations like CBS and NBC seemingly just edited their regular news stories down and stuck them on the web. Other professional groups, like Slate, takes serious questions and cuts them down into a mix of short articles, bite sized chunks and blurbs. So how to differentiate yourself? That would have been Gawker, whose slightly opinionated occasionally off kilter and sometimes oddly refreshing and informative news articles kept you coming back. Important journalism, with things you didn't even know you needed to know, mixed with stories you knew you didn't need to know, but read anyway. Then they branched out, covering sports, video games, women's issues and more. It was good journalism, but a few times  a week you knew they'd just posted something and left the office early, maybe for margaritas.

Now, I understand most of it survived. Jezebel, Kokatu, Deadspin and the others will live on. But the linchpin, the hub, Gawker itself, is too toxic a brand to be viable. And so the digital fourth estate loses its class clown, leaving behind a void of much needed slightly reckless reporting that keeps the news fresh and from appearing to be what most of it is now....PR work. Tough shoes to fill.

Hey, I'll give'em five dollars for the address. Let those who will be offended sue me.

Barkeep, first article, how to get free drinks at the bar. What? What did I say? I have cash! 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

So, there is more to it than just costumes?

Ramblings Post #318
Twenty five years ago I wanted to write a comic. Okay, I've wanted to write a comic for longer than that, but twenty five years ago I sat down, created a alternate universe, populated it with characters, made some maps, wrote a history, write a dense and detailed story line...found out that I really like the process of world building just as much as writing. I got started on some other things, but that experience helped me understand the comics I'd been reading as more than just pictures on a page. It's the understanding that's elusive. As a lot of people are finding out at Warner Brothers.

With the arrival of Suicide Squad on the heels of the poorly conceived BvS, two things are becoming increasingly clear: One, you can't just put people in tights and call it a superhero movie, and Two: DC doesn't know what it's doing. Or rather, the people doing DC movies don't know what they're doing. 

This was there template. They wanted more of this.
Sometime ago, perhaps after the first ridiculous incarnation of the Fantastic Four, Marvel decided to take cinematic control of the destinies of the film versions of its characters. They gathered up the heroes they hadn't sold off yet and created a plan. A long range overarching plan that encompassed multiple films, introduced characters who retained their core elements, had a connecting theme or elements, used crossover appearances, etc., where each piece built on, reinforced or extended the others. It was, and is, like a multi-issue comic book event, something they actually knew how to do, only on film. And they went forth to made a buttload of money.

Which brings us to DC, who is desperately trying to emulate the success of their competitors, who've managed to elevate B-List heroes into superstars. But it's like PS4 v Xbone. Yes, I said Xbone.   

DC? I don't think whoever is over there has a plan. Not a movie release schedule, a plan. Maybe I don't see it yet, but right this second it looks like they're just throwing stuff at the wall and waiting to see what sticks. Their iconic characters have shed their elemental core values, the very things that made us like who they are, the things that have made the characters enduring, and no one seems to have a vision for how Hero Movie #1 will tie into Other Hero Movie  #2 until after the CGI is done. So much CGI! And the scripting of these things seem like they are being  written for video games, an by that I mean the stories seem to be just moving from grand cinematic moment to grand cinematic moment, cut scenes if you will, rather than telling a coherent story. And finally, just because Batman was dark doesn't mean everything else had to be too!  

So, how do we fix the DCCU (DC Cinematic Universe)?


Hell, comic books restart all the time. A new #1 of everything came again for like the fifth time two years or so ago, so just scrap everything and start over. No, I'm not crazy, we're about to get like the third restart of Spiderman in less than twenty years and we're still excited about it. DC can do that with their characters too, if they stop acting so desperate. Movie fans are less stringent than comic book fans, they'll get over it. But this time, create a plan - not a schedule, A PLAN - so that a central theme runs through each movie leading up to a cinematic event. I'll throw it out there, one film for each core hero, then a second round of three, where the villains start teaming up. Then the event can be the creation of the Legion of Doom, in this incarnation a kind of super-villain syndicate. The existence of which leads to the birth of the Justice League. 

This means that DC habit of killing the villain at the end of the movie... has to stop, which leads to my next item. They need to require the director who wants the seat at the helm to read at least 100 issues of the comic they'll be bringing to life. And write a 5,000 word report, in their own handwriting, explaining what the important themes of the character and story lines are. Yes, I just said the director needs to write a book report to get the job. That's how you avoid a Zack Snyder. I'd also require a similar report and an audio-visual presentation for the writer. No, for the writer, I need to see his comic book collection. And there will be a test. 
Why reading? BvS. They based the whole film on this one page of comic. One page. With no sense of context.
Why? Because not being familiar with the source material, the material the expected fans who will turn out to see the movie will be familiar with, is just stupid. It would be like making a period drama about the civil war and not looking at any history. If you treat it as though it's trite, as though its history and canon merit no respect, you get crap out the other Suicide Squad. 

But I digress. The reboot. Each movie needs to have it's own look or feel, so that they're distinctive. I mean Batman needs to be dark and brooding, that's who he is. But Superman is hope and justice, dark isn't really appropriate. Neither does Wonder Woman, whose trailer looks like they ran it through the Darko-Gritty Filter 3000 after they shot it. Each character needs their own take, their own style. And the event film can either switch styles, so you know who the focus is, or have a separate style all its own.  

I would also like to remind everyone in Hollywood that the fate of the world need not hang in the balance to make a movie all dramatic. Nobody expects the hero to die, so give them something else to fight for. Did you see Cap's Civil War? Nothing world destroying, just relationship stuff.  

This scene however, should never appear on film anywhere.
There is a reason it's Marvel and DC. The longtime stalwart Detective Comics has created some great characters and stories over the years, which have been enjoyed by those who few who still read and savor the feel of the paper and the print. Yes, I know the idea, Marvel creates people while DC creates icons, still, it would be a shame if those tales don't make it to the big screen. But if they don't change something soon...well, I always did prefer Marvel anyway. 

Barkeep. Let me get a Bat-tini. I swear they used to drink on that old TV show. Seriously. 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Hillary just might be the world's first real Super-villain

This is a political post. Nonetheless...a segue piece. 

I'm pro-Bernie but would vote Hillary as I am a one issue voter, and that issue is not opening the seventh seal and ushering in the apocalypse.
~ Ivan Hernandez 

President Obama is a family man with no scandals  who sounds like the former professor he is and looks like that background character in an action movie who looks middling, but you find out is a little tougher than he first appears a little later on. Even with both of his political hands tied behind his back in the form of a hostile Congress, he proved to be a very effective leader. I had hoped that the first woman president would be much like this; a savvy crusader that was calm in the midst of chaos and inspired you to be better for your country. Instead, we got a political version of Griselda Blanco.

I'm sorry Bernie Bros, and I voted for Bernie, but she got us. Now we have no choice. We HAVE to vote for her. That's right, HAVE TO. No ifs, no buts, no coconuts. The stakes are just a bit too high.

This is does not mean I agree with her tactics or that of the DNC, the bulk of which to me indicate a definite house cleaning is needed, not just the removal of the Debster. New leadership, new staff, new janitors. Everybody.  All this time pundits were talking about how the RNC was going to circumvent the will of the people to keep Trump out, and all the time the DNC was was doing all the real dirty work. Go figure. It's hard to be mad at them, when it turns out we are worse than them. But I digress...

First, to the Hillary supporters who want us to join up and close ranks, I'm going to ask you to be quiet right now, because trust me you are not helping. I've heard the arguments that she had more votes anyway so the shenanigans on the Debster's part don't really matter, and I find them flawed in their conception. Just like you can't use a word to define that word, you can't use the results of the rigged election process as proof of the result. And to the cynics no this isn't the result of SJW fanatics willing to corrupt democracy itself to get a woman to the top of ticket, because Hills has been putting this scheme together long before that movement started. I'm talking about back when she like to use the plural to describe her husband's presidency. (I bet it won't be "we" this time.) No, I need ya'll "Hill's Angel's" to back up. We former Bernie supporters just need a bit of space to process this.

Now, my people, aside from the idea that Jill Stein is a kook with her wishy washy vaccination ideas as well as polling in the teens this close to post time, and as revolutionary as the idea of a write in President might be, both qualify as a long shot options. Like lottery long shot. And while in a lot of instances it might be worth a shot even if it doesn't work, now is not the time to even try it. The price of failure is too high.

The Price? Well, let's get out our omni-political calculators. Ready? Let's start with the basics. A divided Democratic party and as little as 5% shift in some states means that Trump wins the White House. Double bonus, he could potentially be gifted with a fully cooperative Republican House and Senate because we newly minted high minded activists voted Green "just the punish the Democrats in general"'down the ticket for their transgressions. We so smart. 

So Trump's in. Now, given the aging process, and the nomination currently in limbo, the next President could get up to four Supreme Court choices, shaping American life and policy for the next three decades. Which means that Justice Chris Christie, Justice Omorosa Stallworth, Justice Sean Hannity and Justice Melania Trump isn't just potentially morally questionable slash fiction, but also a real possibility. Then, armed with a unassailable conservative majority, I can easily see a possible complete overturn of little things like, say, Roe v. Wade. Maybe a complete disassembly of the Civil Rights Act, the end of Affirmative Action, a repeal of Obamacare and the solidification of the increasingly large amounts of shadow contributions to political parties. And that's just domestic. On the international front, I think that our closest ally doesn't want to allow Trump into the country sounds peachy, his plan for the unwinding of NATO just as Russia surges seems brilliant, I can already see troops overseas somewhere because who doesn't love a war and do we even have to mention the Wall?

And that's just the beginning.

Think of this as your moment of blackness. Much like black people have in most elections, the candidates aren't really what you were hoping for (the Obama Presidency being an exception.) So you go down to the polls and vote for the one who will do the least damage.

For you, that person is Hillary Clinton. And now your moment of blackness is over. And no, this does not grant you any n-word privileges.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

A Non-Review: Ghostbuster's 2016

Ramblings Post #317
I had a bad feeling about this. Maybe I'm right, maybe I'm wrong but I'll never know, but this will explain why I was all weirded about this. Those special memories I was talking about. Now, I'm fairly certain those who only read the title and the first few lines will be outraged by this. But then those with short attention spans really don't read me anyway. I could post Beyonce's private phone number and nobody would notice. Not that I have it. But I'm just saying, I'm an acquired taste. 

I don't intend to go see Ghostbusters 2016. No interest at all. I'll explain a little later.

First, I don't think this film will be initially rated on it's merits or it's faults. Not for years. The detractors view it as an abomination, a reboot of something that should have been left alone. To them it's like remaking Citizen Kane or Star Wars. To the film's champions it is a glass ceiling breaking and paradigm shifting call of truth to power. It's funny dammit, and you better like it. Maybe ten years from now we'll all be able to watch it after all the attached dross has been shorn away and look at it for what it is...a comedy about people chasing ghosts. It might even be good.

What I have found curious, and more than slightly disturbing, is the glee in which those who champion the film have taken in bashing those who oppose the very idea of the film. Those who disagree with the idea are often categorized as not wanting to give women a chance or clinging to the past (the term man-baby is just weird) and alternatively must just be wildly misogynist. Not a little, a lot. I'm certain their are some small penis jokes floating about too. And maybe some are misogynistic, but I bet most aren't, but the righteousness embodied in some of the insults feels downright Freudian. Damn, tell us how you really feel. I realize that we are in an age where wholly demonizing your opponent is the norm, but this feels more personal, angrier, what should be rational discussions get clouded with belittling terms and ceaseless name calling. From the women. I mean jeez, men have feelings too. 

Now, let me tell you why I'm not going to see Ghostbusters 2016:

When I was growing up, the neighborhood I lived in didn't have many kids in it. Really not any kids. My parents were busy providing us with a living, and this was in the days before play-dates and the internet, so you just sucked it up an watched a lot of television. On the other hand the people I went to school with, in the age of cluster education, all lived together. Like right around the corner, use the backdoor close. So I daily would hear about their after-school adventures, of which I was not a part of for reasons beyond my control. I know, such FUN. I did however, get to go to summer camps. Sleepaway summer camps. At camp I was just one of the guys, I felt like I belonged and wasn't the guy who didn't know what happened that time that so was funny. And it was during one of those summers, where I was just one of the guys, we saw Ghostbusters. That bus ride back to camp where we shouted movie lines at each and laughed....

So, this particular piece of intellectual property holds a special meaning for me. I'd like to keep that great childhood feeling, that memory. I am allowed that, aren't I?

I understand that Hollywood doesn't give a damn about my feelings. To them intellectual property is property, and goodwill is infinitely transferable. With the advent of the internet and alternate access points for entertainment, the slow development of property is a thing of the past - it's a blockbuster or it's garbage. Filmmakers can't afford to experimental, and are reduced to trying to graft the goodwill from the old to the new and double up. Economics, well, the desired economics, cause Hollywood to alternate between being the creators of dreams, tellers of great stories, builders of soul-moving myths, and greedy self-serving assholes.

I want to see women succeed. We need more female heroes. But this particular piece of intellectual property is special, okay? I mean jeez, I can name three or four female oriented pieces of fiction ripe for revival or raising to the next level of public awareness without trying hard. Where is the Honor Harrington movie? Or the re-reboot of Modesty Blaise? Or Dakota North? Someone can go back and try to get Tank Girl to make sense. Or a try a Nightwing Restorations series? There is is the story I read that I thought would have been perfect for a (when they were all alive) Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan, Betty White reunion that involved a island community in the 40's, a scavenger hunt, motorcycles with sidecars and a bank robbery. If I find that, can we do that now? Where is that Lumberjanes adaptation? Reboot Laura Croft? This list took like 30 seconds.

I know why Hollywood doesn't care, they've imagined themselves as desperate. I didn't expect the same from society. Maybe we need to sit down and talk more than we know. As one of my coworkers put after some conversation about this: There is so much out there that female characters need not usurp the identities of male characters to be validated. They can be their own people. I thought she had a point.

I hope the film does well, and that we can put this all behind us.

Barkeep. A drink for the ladies! What? Buying a woman a drink is sexist? Well, I guess this one worked out for me then....

Monday, July 11, 2016

Some thoughts on Tragedy

This is a political post. 

I'm going to first suggest a simple step, a change of policy.  How about....all media outlets NOT use mugshots to discuss any victims AND stop using Facebook glamour photos to describe any alleged murderers. Let's start there. 

I drove down to visit the folks the the country this week. My father has started wearing shorts, which is monumental if you know him, and my mother is still putting together food for me to take so I don't have to cook when I get back. My younger brother looks good. I bring this up because it on those trips that I try to escape my bubble and see what the rest of the world is thinking. I find those who only want to work in echo chambers unpalatable, no matter what the views are, so I strive not to be one of them whenever possible. So, between my house and my parents, I listen to a variety of local media to see where my thoughts are on the social spectrum. 

I was somewhat taken aback.

On the final leg of the journey back from parents on Sunday, I tuned into a a right wing pundit's radio show.  What at first seemed funny, then a lot less funny, quickly transformed into a defensive screed. Listening to him I got the impression that Libertarians are apparently trying to join Crossfitters and Vegans, in that every one in those groups can't wait to share that fact with you. This radio pundit mentioned he was a Libertarian before nearly every statement he made, as though the term signified his thoughts held more gravity due to his association. After listening for almost a half hour, him working through his always self centered rationalizations as a way of explanations, contradicting himself and failing to see it, and ignoring basic concepts of empathy I'm surprised he's still on the radio. Ah, but it was conservative radio, so my bad.  

He first indicated that he was sure white male privilege was a fraudulent concept. Apparently just designed to annoy him. Then he explained how there was no relationship between the Dallas police department and what happened in Baton Rouge and Minnesota. As though this was a news flash, and we aren't all aware that the irrational people don't think logically. There was a long piece about how terrible hate crime laws are, because people should only be judged on the actions. But he kept repeating the term "in cold blood" to describe the events in Dallas as though simply killing someone wouldn't qualify as heinous enough. He followed that up with the Black Lives Matter Movement conspiracy concept, in the protests that continued despite the shooting were designed to push the events in Dallas off the front page. As though the BLM movement is a vast well organized machine. He finished by to educating his listeners to the dangers of thought police, how he was an enlightened man who knew he was and needed no validation, while carefully treading over some past professional transgressions he was obviously still very bothered about. It would have been funny if he wasn't dead serious.

That he has a radio show, which means people listen to him, is a frightening concept.

It is my opinion that what happened in Dallas was outrageous, there is no reason to shoot police officers at all. Even now, prominent activists have been calling for peaceful protests all weekend, not pushing out calls for a repeat performance. Before this act of senseless violence we saw a model demonstration, where the police and protesters were even taking photos together. Afterwards, we found ourselves again in the cycle of finger pointing, confirmation bias derived anger and the usual conspiracy theories. What could and should have been a starting point for reasonable conversation concerning the deaths of Sterling and Castile, has once again devolved into social and political gamesmanship. Despite what my new favorite radio personality would have you believe, it is possible to both a believer in the ideals of Black Lives Matter and pro-Police. The two are not mutually exclusive.

I'm not sure where we're headed. We live interesting times.

Changes in thinking an attitudes move slowly, but we live in an instant digital world, where we expect change and satisfaction quickly. Where relationships can blossom in 500 words or less. This problem isn't from a digital world, and so we're going to have to go a time of thoughtful conversation and address it. I hope we're up to it.