The Last New Comics Day?

New Comics 03-25-2020!

New releases on my pull list for the week of March 25, 2020, a date I can hopefully forget someday.

As dimwitted youngsters insist spring break simply must go on, as certain stubborn governors take turns doing their macho impression of the mayor from Jaws, and as other top-ranking officials demand we all agree to hurry up and pretend everything is basically fine ASAP…it’s painfully obvious Americans hate change, hate being told what to do, hate self-control and self-restraint, hate hate hate when someone tells us we have to be patient, and intensely, passionately despise when the solution to a problem is “do what other countries did”. Like an insufferable teen rebel, we think we know best and we want to do things our way because, like, freedom an’ fun an’ whatnot.

Thousands of people are hospitalized. More will need the same as Coronavirus/COVID-19 testing becomes less of a unicorn-level rarity. Sacrifices are being made on innumerable levels. Nevertheless, idiocy continues to run nearly as rampant as the virus itself because the ramifications aren’t being grasped, the horrors are being downplayed, and the fatalities aren’t occurring four inches away from those in denial. That senseless obliviousness can’t last. Sooner or later this catastrophe will get to someone or something they do care about.

It might be major upheaval. And it might be the small stuff.

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The Interim Normal

workspace!

This is basically how I imagine a lot of CEO workspaces look at the moment.

For the past nineteen years my wife Anne and I have maintained firm boundaries between work and home. Home is our refuge from work, our earthly reward for jobs properly done, our container of collections and comfort, and our humble haven for our hearts. Work is an intrusion we’ve allowed inside only in extremely rare circumstances.

In this new era, our ongoing worldwide catastrophe, effective this week the line between work and home is one of many luxuries we’re no longer afforded.

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Disease Control: The Home Game

Pandemic!

Whoever chose the cities represented in this board game totally whiffed when they left out Seattle.

Four months ago our family added a new board game to our collection. Pandemic’s what-if scenario of infection spiraling out of control worldwide has been a plot device in occasional movies and TV shows. It seemed like an interesting concept for a fun game. Any supernatural foreshadowing inherent in this benign purchase was lost on us at the time.

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MCC Live-Tweeting: Oscars 2020

Oscars!

Them statuettes.

At a not-too draggy 215 minutes (give or take three), the 92nd Academy Awards once again sped down the same host-free track as last year, but allowed slightly more room for filler. After an intricate, audacious opening number by Janelle Monae and that Billy Porter guy who tends to wear the loudest outfits at any given awards ceremony, the audience was allowed one (1) segment for stand-up comedy, tag-teamed by former hosts Steve Martin and Chris Rock in a joint achievement in short-term blame-shifting, before the rest of the night barreled onward through the 24 aired categories and an offhand shout-out to the four winners whose lesser Oscars were deemed not fit for telecast. Considering those names included Geena Davis and David Lynch, that was one heck of an inconsiderate yadda-yadda.

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MCC Live-Tweeting: Oscars 2019

Gaga Cooper!

Each year I usually grab a pic of the host, but since the producers never filled the position, please enjoy this Lady Gaga/Bradley Cooper moment that had already been turned into meme fodder before the ceremony ended.

At a lean 199 minutes, the 91st Academy Awards was perhaps among the speediest ceremonies in decades, but the memorable moments may have been fewer than usual because there were simply fewer opportunities for much to happen. A few presenters did their parts to liven things up — e.g., Samuel L. Jackson, Danai Gurira, James McAvoy, Barbra Streisand (a huge fan of Spike Lee, fellow Brooklynite), and a few others. The triple-threat comedy team of Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Maya Rudolph had a few minutes to fill the night’s joke quota up front, and did so with a flair enviable to those of us who didn’t watch Fey/Poehler host the Golden Globes a few years ago and who wish they could’ve been bribed into taking charge here all night long.

That being said, it was a very entertaining evening for any moviegoers who liked some of the biggest winners a lot more than I did.

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MCC Live-Tweeting: Oscars 2018

Jimmy Kimmel!

Tonight one random winner took home a statuette personally contaminated by the host himself!

The 90th Academy Awards kicked off Sunday night on ABC with a mildly amusing spoof of olde-tyme theatrical newsreels before returning host Jimmy Kimmel threw down an unprecedented gauntlet: winners were encouraged to speak on any topic they wanted to, no matter how political or incendiary, for as long as they wanted. This promise was eventually broken, much to the consternation of The Shape of Water producer J. Miles Dale, who got orchestra’d out of his spotlight moment because everyone had assumed director Guillermo Del Toro should have the last word.

Also intermittently livening up the night was Kimmel’s chief running gag, a promise of a free jet ski to whoever had the shortest speech. Thus began a night of push and pull, of comparison and contrast, of #MeToo and #TimesUp and diversity abounding and white guys still winning lots of things but not all the things.

Kimmel’s contributions and interruptions were kept to a barer minimum than last year, setting aside one segment that once again indulged his addiction to practical jokes on ordinary people. Assorted parties dropped a few wisecracks at the expense of high-ranking politicians as well as accused sex offenders, but a surprising amount of the commentary was kept on the positive side — a celebration of artists and advancement instead of roasting the haters and attackers. In that sense, some speeches were more refreshing than others.

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MCC Live-Tweeting: Oscars 2017

Jimmy Kimmel!

“You want one of these so bad? Go make a movie that doesn’t suck, you lazy bum.”

The 89th Academy Awards began in style with Justin Timberlake singing or possibly lip-syncing his big Trolls single “Can’t Stop the Feeling”, but ended with all the feelings at cross-purposes when final presenters Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty — reunited fifty years after Bonnie & Clyde lost to In the Heat of the Night — made Oscar telecast history by inadvertently announcing La La Land as the winner when in fact the name printed on their card was Moonlight. La La producer Justin Horowitz broke the news when, after their speech time had already begun, he approached the mic and tried to re-announce the award. At first the audience thought he was just being humble and demurring. Then everyone realized he was serious and extremely classy as he held the card up for the cameras to see. Much confusion and Twitter quips about “fake news” ensued till things were confirmed and the Moonlight team tentatively took the stage and took their turn at thank-yous.

Between those memorable moments, ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel hosted in an effort to drum up business for his own show by bringing in his own bits such as “Celebrities Read Mean Tweets”, practical jokes, his Matt Damon feud, and I couldn’t tell you what else because I’ve never watched his show unless tonight’s Oscars telecast counted as an episode of it.

Right this way for the list of winners and a running commentary!

Oscars 2016: Nonwhite Presenters Present Bright Spots in White Cinema

Chris Rock!

“I counted at least fifteen black people in that montage!”

Thus did emcee Chris Rock kick off the 88th Academy Awards after an animated intro full of lamps with adjectives on them and Oscar statuettes being imbued with all the colors of the rainbow. After the actors and actresses of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences offered up their second consecutive slate of twenty white nominees in a row, the Academy faced an online onslaught of #OscarsSoWhite criticism and went into full damage control mode, enlisting writer/director and former BET CEO Reginald Hudlin as an additional producer and basically giving second-time host Rock a free pass to do whatever came to mind. This served him well for a surprisingly outrageous monologue and a few later comedy bits, until later in the ceremony when he threw away a significant chunk of goodwill on a quick, pointless, unfunny, racist gag that had nothing to do with anything.

It was one surprise in a night full of several, some of them not so tasteless. A few movies I really liked in 2015 came away with bragging rights, so I got that going for me.

Right this way for the list of winners and rundown of memorable moments!

Oscars 2015: A Salute to Diversity on Stage (or, Never Mind the Ballots)

Oscars!

87th Academy Awards host Neil Patrick Harris reminds you there are no small winners, only small haters.

“Tonight we honor Hollywood’s best and whitest…”

Thus did Neil Patrick Harris kick off the 87th Academy Awards, whose twenty acting nominations failed to impress any onlookers who favor a multicultural viewpoint on everyday life. Much has already been said about this disconcerting coincidence over the past month-plus, but the show’s producers, no doubt in tandem with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, went all-out in assembling a team of celebrity presenters positioned a bit more broadly across the racial spectrum. Big names announcing or handing out awards included Oprah Winfrey, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o (a lock regardless of controversy thanks to last year’s 12 Years a Slave win), Jennifer Lopez, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kerri Washington, Viola Davis, Zoe Saldana, Dwayne Johnson, Terrance Howard, Octavia Spencer, Kevin Hart, Eddie Murphy, and AMPAS President Cheryl Boone Isaacs (another lock by virtue of her position).

Their compensation efforts were noticed. And to be fair, not everyone who took home a statue tonight was white. There are other interesting categories besides acting.

Right this way for the winners and special moments!

Science Fiction is Our Most Realistic Defense Against Random Shooters

Candle.Headlines today informed Portland, Oregon, they were the next unfortunate recipient of a tragic American public shooting incident. You can dive into Twitter, Facebook, or any other corner of the internet where people with human emotions dwell and witness a diverse cross-section of reactions: horror, terror, outrage, lamentation, grief, et al. There are other corners where you can pull quotes from those who bask in inhuman emotions, but there’s no healthy reason for that.

Sadly, stories about shootings are commanding so many front pages and conversations, as much from frequency as from simple impact, that we’re seeing numbness and moral surrender joining the social-media chorus in increasing numbers. I’m a proponent of directed prayer myself because I firmly believe that many things are parsecs beyond my control, but when it comes to talking preventatives or cures or root causes or coping mechanisms with others of differing beliefs, I fear the internet in general may soon run out of eloquence on the subject. How many more ways can we express indignation, extend comfort, and proffer wisdom over the same kind of event over and over again? Could we reach a point of having to reuse the same sentiments every time it comes up? At the rate we’re covering this same ground at length, I won’t be surprised to see Hallmark mining everyone’s retweets and reblogs for material to reuse in a new line of shootings-specific sympathy cards.

So what can we do?

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Oscars 2014: Three Big Winners and Not Enough Pizza to Go Around

Oscars host Ellen DeGeneres

“Possibility #1: 12 Years a Slave wins Best Picture. Possibility #2: you’re all racists.”

Thus did host Ellen DeGeneres conclude her ten-minute opening monologue for the 86th Academy Awards — possibly not as safe and innocuous as the producers might’ve hoped, but not likely to inspire internet firestorms on Monday morning, either. Of all the nominees, three films walked away with the most awards, most of them unsurprising to anyone who kept up with the discussions to any degree. I’d guess Best Original Screenplay probably ruined the most Oscar pools this time around.

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Empty Nest Update #3: Handling Our First School Shooting

Purdue shooting black ribbon, 1/14/2014

For Andrew Boldt and family. Our prayers and thoughts are with them tonight.

Today during the course of one of our usual workday back-‘n’-forth email volleys, I thought it odd when my wife sent me another, separate email with a new title: “Purdue Shooting”. She knew she’d have my full attention.

Within the same minute that I opened her email, my son the Purdue freshman texted me. In case I heard about a shooting at Purdue, he wrote, he wanted me to know he was fine, even though he’d been in the same building where and when the shooting occurred.

That disrupted my concentration for a while.

In case you missed the news…

One Good Thing to Come Out of the “Bridgegate” Scandal

Chris Christie, New JerseyFor those just catching up on the week in headline news: Republican politician Chris Christie, currently governor of New Jersey but intermittently mentioned in hushed tones among optimistic rank-‘n’-file as a possible party savior in the 2016 Presidential race, has been accused of directing his subordinates to pull transportation strings and create a four-day traffic snarl where the George Washington Bridge connects Manhattan to the New Jersey town of Fort Lee, allegedly because its mayor hadn’t fallen in lockstep with his party colleagues and publicly endorsed Christie’s future endeavors.

Or something like that. I’ve missed some finer details. Political stories don’t stick with me for long. (When I first began noticing heated debates in my circles about Benghazi, my only reaction was, “Is that Ian MacKaye’s new band?”) Bridgegate was unusual enough and filled with enough bipartisan hot-button issues — political extortion, abuse of power, petty vengeance — that I finally relented and read an article or two about it. At this point it’s now all about denials, apologies, firings, and now I’m seeing the word “subpoena” creeping onto the battlefield. I imagine this brouhaha is only in its infancy and in no danger of falling off the main page anytime soon.

I am grateful for one noticeable change that’s a direct result of Bridgegate: over the past two days, whenever internet users were overwhelmed with the urge to take potshots at Christie, the jokes were no longer about his weight.

The following has zero to do with politics…

Behold the Future of Chicago Sun-Times Photojournalism

Marvel NOW!, C2E2 2013Hardly an award-winning pic, is it?

When I attended the “Marvel: From NOW! to Infinity” panel at C2E2 last April, I arrived late from another panel and found myself in the back row. I thought covering the panel from an amateur perspective might be a fun lark for one segment of the MCC readership. Unfortunately I back-burnered that part of my C2E2 experience because (a) pro comics-news sites had the panel’s announcements posted online days before I would’ve gotten around to them; and (b) my photos were rubbish.

I’d rather not imagine a world in which I might’ve had a chance of selling this reject for real American money. I enjoy seeing the work of skillful eyes and hands that justly shame me in this area. I doubt few dream of a world in which our news sites and newspapers drop several degrees in visual competence and settle for publishing any available photos to accompany their articles regardless of quality, offering whatever they can scrounge up from overworked reporters or untrained bystanders.

The Powers That Be at the Chicago Sun-Times believe so deeply in this alternate future that they’ve decided to push our timeline forward in that direction. Last week numerous sources reported the venerable institution dismissed all 28 of its staff photographers (including one Pulitzer winner) as a cost-cutting measure and announced plans to offer smartphone photography lessons to its staff reporters, who clearly had too much time on their hands and needed extra busywork to keep them from turning into total goof-offs.

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“Revolution” 4/15/2013: Pre-Empted on Account of Evil

Boston, Massachusetts

Please accept this placid aerial shot of Boston in lieu of ripped-from-the-headlines shock and horror. (photo credit: walknboston via photopin cc)

“In the meantime, the news is all about Boston. Three explosions so far, in case you haven’t heard.”

At the tail end of a day-long email volley, in which my wife and I had been taking turns trying to one-down each other and see which of us was having the worse work day, that’s how I learned about Monday’s horrifying bombing tragedy at the Boston Marathon. “Wait. What?” I thought in boldface as I realized she’d just buried the lede.

I had no idea what she was talking about. I’d been so wrapped up in my own pedestrian issues that I was oblivious to anything happening outside my immediate environs. I commenced ignoring what I had been doing, checked CNN.com, felt my heart sink, and closed that browser tab after one jarring image too many. Once again some inscrutable lost soul or an entire defective collective has created a moment to weep for humanity as a whole.

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Revamped Facebook News Feed to Launch Thursday, Offer New Options, Invite New Complaints

Facebook someecards

I’m bored with these things, but its use works on multiple levels. Just this once.

On Thursday, March 7th, Facebook users will have to prepare themselves for whatever egregious sins the site is preparing to commit against its users in the name of commerce, site aesthetics, or merry corporate pranksterism. Now that we’ve all settled down from the Timeline kerfuffle and the diminished prominence of Facebook Pages whose owners refuse to pay for placement privileges (such as MCC’s own), the company has decided we’ve all been too quiet and it’s time to ruffle feathers again.

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Oscars Blow-by-Blow 2013

Seth MacFarlane, 85th Academy AwardsAs my seventh annual foray into this personal fun ritual, presented below anyway is the timeline of events as I witnessed them during tonight’s ABC telecast of the 85th Academy Awards. All quotes are approximate as best as possible without benefit of rewatching, cribbing from national news outlets, or much proofreading. Our household does not own a DVR; all recollections are a combination of short-term memory and notes hastily handwritten on a legal pad, not a copy/paste reassembly of a distracted live-tweet flood. When I’m seated in front of a TV, I’d much rather watch than type.

8:30 — Our host Seth MacFarlane takes the stage with minimal intro and his first joke: “The quest to make Tommy Lee Jones laugh begins.” Naturally he jokes that he was only offered the gig after the producers were turned down by everyone else “from Whoopi on down to Ron Jeremy.” MacFarlane seems at ease and on his game most of the night, albeit with occasional edginess, such as a Rihanna/Chris Brown joke that seems more dated than offensive.

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“Anne of Green Gables” Reboot Emphasizes Unimportance of Accurate Book Covers

Anne of Green GablesLiteracy pundits wept this week over a controversial re-release of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s classic Anne of Green Gables, which is now in the public domain and can be reprinted and reformatted by anyone who thinks they can earn a dime from it, regardless of whether or not they’ve actually read it themselves. Rather than publish it with a cover that reflects one iota of the content, dark forces working through CreateSpace instead revamped little Anne’s image by disposing of everything about her except her gender. Presumably a skewed focus group or an ad executive with a one-track mind advised that today’s younger readers are 75% more likely to read a classic novel if the cover resembles a supermarket magazine.

Do the guilty parties have a point? Some publishers have found that quality content alone, regardless of pedigree, is often not enough to entice new readers, especially if the content is really old and uses archaic terms such as “gables”. Schoolteachers do their best to inform students of the perks and wonders of reading, but they only have so many months to force the kids to read as much as possible before they’re turned loose on the world and free to avoid books for the rest of their lives. If the writing itself isn’t enough of a draw, if the recommendations of elders send them in the opposite direction, how else are the classics supposed to attract new generations of audiences?

Clearly the answer is repackaging that catches the casual eye at any cost. Sure, photogenic Nü-Anne bears no resemblance to her textual counterpart and is somewhat of an affront to dedicated Anne fans, but you’ll note the Amazon listing as of this writing lists this new edition as sold out. Either someone ordered it pulled due to the media scrutiny, or the plan worked beyond anyone’s wildest expectations.

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Subway’s Scandalous Inconsistent Breadmaking: What Else Are They Hiding?

Times Square visitors were warned to be on the lookout for rogue eleven-inch sandwiches impersonating cute, innocent footlongs.

Today Subway, the world’s fastest growing lunchmeat sandwich company, joined the sad but worldwide fraternity of restaurants whose only membership requirement is the awesome specter of a PR fiasco.

Mainstream news outlets reported an alleged Australian Facebook vandal sharing an incriminating photo of a “footlong” Subway sandwich next to a ruler measuring its length at a mere eleven inches. These same news outlets failed to ask the bigger question in my mind: shouldn’t a continent that primarily uses the metric system be offering “meterlong” sandwiches? I’d consider moving there.

Subway fans were appalled at this covert product reduction that the company allegedly perpetrated right under their noses. All those paid-for inches of fast food, withheld from countless sandwiches sold in good faith, were clearly a misdeed committed by greedy corporate one-percenters. Millions of enraged citizens responded by driving like mad to the Subway next door to their house, buying a footlong, measuring it, Instagramming the results with an indignant caption, and eating it anyway.

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The View from 128,000 Feet

In case you somehow missed it because of football games on TV: today Austrian skydiver and BASE-jumper Felix Baumgartner broke more than one world record by riding a balloon 128,000 feet into the outer reaches of what can still technically be called atmosphere, jumping out of his claustrophobic cockpit, free-falling at speeds exceeding Mach 1, and landing safely several minutes later on the correct planet and in one very relieved piece.

This was his view mere moments before taking one small step for sponsor Red Bull, and one giant leap for mankind:

Felix Baumgartner, Red Bull Stratos freefall #livejump

Nothing I do for the rest of my life will ever be as cool as this. I think I’m getting ill just looking at this.

Temperatures outside the capsule were near zero Fahrenheit. Baumgartner and his beautiful balloon were upward bound for over 2½ hours before maxing out in the upper reaches of near-outer-space. He and Mission Control reviewed an exhaustive checklist of 30+ steps and checks before undertaking his epic plunge, not including what must have been an extensive, tortuous process to arrive at this historic moment in the first place. Cameras followed him as best they could every step of the way, and broadcast their viewpoints via live YouTube feed.

I imagine much of that footage should be reposted by hundreds of impressed YouTube users by the time I finish posting this. As of this minute, no such luck. Please hurry so everyone who missed it can see for themselves, fast-forward through the few quiet moments, and know what daredevil courage looks like in action.

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Updated 4:30 p.m. EDT: video posted at last. Now that’s service!

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