Friday, May 30, 2008

Don't be saucy with me, BĂ©arnaise.

First it's Dick Martin. Now it's Harvey Korman, who died Thursday at the age of 81. A bit too blooper-obsessed on the Carol Burnett Show (as everyone else was), Korman excelled in Mel Brooks's History of the World: Part I, Blazing Saddles, and High Anxiety. He basically mastered the art of sniveling.

Whedon's Astonishg X-Men Finale

It's out. I won't say anything more, except grumble, grumble, grumble.

Laker Watch

Can you have insider trading in sports?

Sony Watch

Evidently the PS3 was "on life support."

Does that mean it's been updated to stable condition now?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

In this New York Times photo from the 1970s, Senator John Glenn, Captain John McCain, and Senator Barry Goldwater are honored to be joined by Richard Cohen, fresh from his appearance on Love: American Style.

First, They Have to Meet Cute . . .

Fed-Ex sends Jane Espenson Ringo's clothes.

So awesome, on so many levels.

The Most Perfectly Obvious Headline Ever

"Brett Ratner to direct Beverly Hills Cop 4"

I don't know why it didn't occur to me to write that four years ago. It's like money in the bank.

Batman Drinks Milk?

I don't think so. And neither does WimB:

Batman doesn't drink fucking milk. That's bullshit. Milk is for emo douchebag ponces, like Spiderman. Batman drinks the blood of criminals. And then he washes it down with bourbon.

French Open Notes: Ashley Harkleroad

After being bounced from the tournament, the lovely Miss Harkleroad announced that she will appear in an upcoming issue of Playboy. Lots to discuss here, namely (1) How far down is Harkleroad on the list of WTA players you'd like to see in a gentleman's magazine? (I'd argue: not far.) (2) How many athletes have appeared in Playboy before? (Answer: Fewer than you might think.) and (3) How awesome is Harkleroad's motivation? While recovering from surgery, she said, "I was just laying there for three weeks, and, you know, an offer came to me. I thought, well, I'm not really doing anything right now . . ." An American hero.

In other notes, a commentator said today that Serena Williams is the only former champion in the women's draw. If true, that strikes me as a pretty rare sort of occurrence. Kind of interesting.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Sex and the City: The Movie

No interest in seeing it. But this review, on the other hand, is worth the price of a movie ticket:

Look, before you start with the chorus of “That movie wasn’t for you” remember this: I enjoy a good chick flick. But this wasn’t good; not by any stretch of the imagination. This was a dick and fart joke movie for women. Make no mistake, the humor in this is as crass and base as anything the boys’ movies have to offer. Someone shits themselves. There’s a close up of some forty-year-old pubic hair poking out of both sides of a swimsuit. A four year old utters the word SEX to the amusement and shock of all present in the room. A Dog repeatedly humps pillows. Sound familiar? I spent a goodly portion of this film wondering when the Farrelly Brothers had decided to cut their balls off and develop a fondness for Prada.

Two and a half god damned hours. . . .

But I just couldn’t get over how much this shared in common with BRATZ: the Movie. Montage after montage after montage with each and every problem finding a solution by the fabulously dressed four getting together, squee-ing in a pitch that will deafen dogs and neuter most of the males in the audience, and realizing that friendship will get you through any bout of rampant self-absorption. Oh, so this is what happens when you leave Bratz dolls in the sun too long. I’m not gonna get on the consumerism trip. Not here. Not with the crowd that will drop a grand on a mint condition Revenge of the Jedi poster and consider it an investment in the future. A COOL investment in the future. Come on, I’ve been to a sci-fi convention. And once you’ve stood in the dealer room and pondered dropping $45 on the Battlestar Galactica Boardgame you had when you were five years old, you can’t really fault a woman for getting excited about a $600 pair of purple fuzzy pumps that look like they should come with their own stripper pole. I mean, who the fuck am I to judge? But Christ in a bucket people, did we need so many montages of them doing it?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Suck on That, HBO Fanboys

I hadn't heard about Frank Rich's new gig as a general creative consultant for HBO until I saw Jack Shafer's sophisticated and worldly column about it. Three thoughts, in no particular order:

(1) Where are the conservative fanboys who turn their noses up at BSG and Veronica Mars while insisting that HBO is where real television happens?

(2) Once again, I'm thunderstruck at how sweet life is if you're part of the lefty mainstream media. Oh sure, conservatives have their own ghetto, where, if you're good and doctrinaire, after 10 years you can get speaking gigs at places like Hillsdale College and CPAC. Sigh.

(3) What really, really mystifies me is why Rich is bothering to keep his NYT column at all. The HBO job is so much more interesting. Why would anyone stay in the political/journalistic world given the chance to do something cool that was actually culturally relevant?

Update: Galley Friend J.E. responds:

I think I know why he's bothering to keep the NYT gig. For one, it's steady, pays incredibly well, requires (as he's shown repeatedly these last few years) minimal time and thought, and offers notable ancillary perks. Two, he's undoubtedly mindful of what happened when Pauline Kael, who thought she knew better than everyone how to make a good movie and what was wrong with bad movies, took an indefinite leave of absence from the New Yorker and went to work at Paramount in development. It was, history records, a colossal failure. Someone who has spent his/her entire adult life criticizing the work of others without having the balls to enter the arena himself will find the going hard, if not impossible. A little voice will keep whispering in his ear, telling him how the Frank Riches of the world will see this particular work, and that will be paralyzing. Then, too, the other above-the-line people will likely find him insufferable as he only criticizes the work in front of him and offers nothing useful. Sadly, though, like Kael, when this is all over and he leaves "to go back to my first love, newspapering," he will have learned no humility. Or grace.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Wait, Recount was written by . . .

. . . that Danny Strong?

The Whedonverse expands again. Once he finishes his Astonishing X-Men arc (and finally delivers his Runaways conclusion) there will be no stopping him!

PS: On a totally unrelated comic book note, is anyone else blown away by Michael Straczynski's The Twelve? It's like Watchmen, if Watchman was any good.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Public Service Announcement

I forget who's supposedly writing the big Andrew Sullivan hit piece tough, but fair, profile. So here's a bit of string:

Andrew Sullivan, Nov. 2007:

"But at least I concede an error when I make one, however innocently."

Andrew Sullivan, May 2008:

"Michael Goldfarb gets all catty about Barack Obama."

You have to follow the "catty" link to get the joke. And yes, Sullivan was alerted to the error a couple hours after he wrote the post.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Dear God . . .

Santino points us toward this train-wreck involving writer Emily Gould. I'm with Sonny all the way here: I rooted for Gould when she was ambushed by Jimmy Kimmel, but now I kind of regret it.

Here's Gould's lede, to a giant NYT Magazine cover piece:

Back in 2006, when I was 24, my life was cozy and safe. I had just been promoted to associate editor at the publishing house where I’d been working since I graduated from college, and I was living with my boyfriend, Henry, and two cats in a grubby but spacious two-bedroom apartment in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I spent most of my free time sitting with Henry in our cheery yellow living room on our stained Ikea couch, watching TV. And almost every day I updated my year-old blog, Emily Magazine, to let a few hundred people know what I was reading and watching and thinking about.

Some of my blog’s readers were my friends in real life, and even the ones who weren’t acted like friends when they posted comments or sent me e-mail. They criticized me sometimes, but kindly, the way you chide someone you know well. Some of them had blogs, too, and I read those and left my own comments. As nerdy and one-dimensional as my relationships with these people were, they were important to me. They made me feel like a part of some kind of community, and that made the giant city I lived in seem smaller and more manageable.

The anecdotes I posted on Emily Magazine occasionally featured Henry, whom my readers knew as a lovably bumbling character, a bassist in a fledgling noise-rock band who said unexpectedly insightful things about the contestants on “Project Runway” and then wondered aloud whether we had any snacks. I didn’t write about him often, but when I did, I’d quote his best jokes or tell stories about vacationing with his family.

It gets worse from there, with the use of "I" about 3,000 more times. Also, she tells the world--using nearly 8,000 words--how terrible her life was as a famous blogger. I'm not sure which is the larger driver of narcissism here--Gould's occupation as a blogger or her cultural identity as a New Yorker.

Look, I understand the deep psychological motivations for writing, the most perfect summation of which came from Don Marquis's Archy the cockroach. Archy was an aspiring writer who produced his craft by hurling himself, headfirst, into typewriter keys, creating his works one letter at a time. As Archy lamented, "Expression is the need of my soul."

But there is a difference between expression and exhibitionism. To the extent that blogs encourage the latter--even in thoughtful, professional writers--they are a pernicious force in the culture.

David Cook = John McCain

The most tortured political analogy of the decade.

How to Insult the World

A helpful guide.

Courtesy of Galley Friend T.R.

Best News Ever?

My favorite comic in production (tied with Astonishing X-Men) is Runaways. And now Marvel is putting it to film.

This is a really natural decision. The entire first-series of Runaways lends itself almost perfectly to a two-hour movie. It has a beginning, middle, and end and with only a little cutting should make a great movie with little or no need for structural change in the adaptation.

WiMB on X-Tina

So funny:

Christina Aguilera gave an interview in the latest issue of Us Weekly in which she revealed that her hooters are a whopping size E-cup. Now I've seen the photos of old Funbags Molloy recently, and hearing those puppies are a size "E" shouldn't surprise me--yet strangely it does, in the same way you'd look at a Aston Martin and know it's expensive but still be taken aback at the price tag.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Hard Copy

As Rob Stein reports in today's Washington Post, "Contrary to widespread belief, teenagers do not appear to commonly engage in oral sex as a way to preserve their virginity, according to the first study to examine the question nationally. The analysis of a federal survey of more than 2,200 males and females aged 15 to 19, released yesterday, found that more than half reported having had oral sex. But those who described themselves as virgins were far less likely to say they had tried it than those who had had intercourse." (Go on, have a glass of water.) As the study shows, "teens tend to become sexually active in many ways at about the same time. For example, although only one in four teenage virgins had engaged in oral sex, within six months after their first intercourse more than four out of five adolescents reported having oral sex." (Feel free to cross your legs.) And there's more: "This study . . . invalidates the suggestion that 'technical virgins' account for the rise in oral and anal sex," said Valerie Huber, executive director of the National Abstinence Education Association. "Sexually experienced teens were almost four times more likely to engage in oral sex and 20 times more likely to engage in anal sex than their peers who were virgins." Indeed, "More than half of our teens are having sex--vaginal and oral," said James Wagoner, president of the group Advocates for Youth.... "We have these images of oral sex parties" (Need to use the bathroom, huh?)

Well, the rest of the article is fairly predictable, blah, blah, blah. Okay, back to work now.

More Indy

I'm prepared for George Lucas to continue his serial raping of my childhood this weekend. In fact, I'm already compiling a short list of other franchises he can defile. Maybe Starblazers? Or Mr. Rogers?

But maybe it won't be that bad. AICN's Massawyrm generally loves Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, although this kind of excuse-making faint praise sets off alarm bells for me:

As many have already said, Ford actually feels like he gives a shit again and turns in a great performance as the tired, old Archeologist turned war hero turned tenured professor always ready for another jaunt. Everyone else pulls their weight and does a great job despite their character’s general lack of depth. If there’s anyone here who has a thankless job, it is Shia who – coupled with Lucas’s “Oh I haven’t told Steve or Harrison yet but I might as well tell the press” bullshit – is having a ton of weight dumped on his shoulders. He’s fucking great in this, and much like many of his other projects proves once again to be one of the very best things about it. But he’s no Indiana Jones. That’s not his destiny. He’s an incredibly talented kid who is just one of us. And when I say one of us, I don’t mean one of the AICN crew. I mean one of US. You and me. Dork. Geek. Filmlover. Just another kid looking for a time machine.

And when you’re a 21-year-old kid asked by George Lucas and Steven fucking Spielberg to be in an Indiana Jones movie – you fucking do it. And when they say “Here kid, hold his hat for a second and look longingly off camera as if to intimate a possible sequel” – you fucking do it. But, man. Is he ever going to get eviscerated for fucking doing it.

Also, Massawyrm says that the new installment isn't Raiders but is every bit the equal of the other two Indian Jones movies. Umm, has anyone here seen Temple of Doom lately? It makes Return of the Jedi look like cinematic poetry. In fact, in a lot of ways it's a reprise of Jedi--or at least an extended re-enactment of the Endor and Ewok sequences.

More Iron Man

Spencer Ackerman has written a very smart piece on the anti-imperialism of the Iron Man comic books:

For years, Iron Man's lesson was just that simple: Stark's keen technological mind represented the secret of American vitality; Iron Man's contribution to the nation's defense was an obligation that his gifts bestowed. America, under this Cold War logic, is powerful because America is inquisitive because America is free because America is good. Doesn't America have the right to defend itself? And shouldn't America use its endowment to the benefit of mankind? If so, doesn't that mean that when Wong-Chu comes to take over a South Vietnamese village, America would be irresponsible not to vanquish him with a souped-up transistor? In that vein, Iron Man's adversaries were fiends like the Red Barbarian, a Soviet general and spymaster who lived up to his nickname by bludgeoning his doltish subordinates with a ham hock.

But before long, the lessons of Vietnam sunk in on the comics juggernaut. Perhaps the idea that all the United States had to do was build bigger gadgets of disaster to use on a complicated world was hopelessly flawed. Perhaps Iron Man was symptomatic of the rot. Perhaps, by holding up a mirror to U.S. policies, Iron Man could become a vehicle for cleansing the country of its Cold War hang-ups. Marvel set to work reworking the character and its themes.

A problem confronted the company, though. Iron Man is a superhero. Cold-War product or not, Marvel couldn't very well turn him into a villain. Writers in the 1970s and 1980s solved the problem in two creative ways. First, the comic adopted the New Left's structural critique of Vietnam -- the war was the inevitable product of a systemic belief in unrestricted capitalism, American exceptionalism, and racism -- by making Stark Industries an enemy of poor Tony Stark, who had unleashed malevolent forces he couldn't control. Thus Iron Man's nemesis became a black-mirror version of himself: the ruthless metal juggernaut (another metal-suit weapon) subtly named Iron Monger, controlled by rival defense-industry bloodsucker Obadiah Stane. More cleverly, Stark's best friend Jim Rhodes became a second Iron Man -- but one sent into a paranoid frenzy of destruction by the armor's inability to interface properly with his brain. Rhodes's secret identity? War Machine.

There's more and it's well worth reading. For me, Iron Man's anti-imperialism was a bug, not a feature. But that doesn't make Ackerman's piece any less perceptive.

Big News in Philadelphis

The Flyers were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs over the weekend. Why is this news?

Because it marks the end of the 100th consecutive sports season in Philadelphia without a championship. That's right: 100 seasons of futility.

Here's the thing--there's no end in sight.

We hate because we hurt.

Monday, May 19, 2008

What Shall We Talk About?

I'm assuming this is old news so let's just consider this a self-revelation: With the return of Indiana Jones in theaters, the trilogy has been on television since last week and inevitably I'll tune in and end up watching most of it until the credits. But over the weekend it finally occurred to me: It is at best unclear that Indiana Jones has actually saved the world from the forces of darkness. If anything, the archaeologist has brought evildoers closer to their objective than they would've been had he not joined the adventure.

In Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Nazis were digging in the wrong place. It is Jones who actually excavates the Well of Souls and hands the Ark over to the Germans. And despite Jones's heroic pursuit of the Ark while on horseback, the prize is ultimately returned to the Germans when they board the ship. But even if Belloq did ultimately find the Well of Souls and the Ark, it would have remained on that Mediterranean island, having wiped out all present (who didn't close their eyes). Even better, had Dietrich insisted they return the Ark immediately to Berlin to be opened for the first time, it would have been Hitler's face melted off (or exploded).

In the Temple of Doom, Indiana does save a village and, one assumes, the world from the spread of the Thuggee cult. The bad guys did have possession of the stones and were able to successfully tear into men's chests to pull out their hearts. As Jones and Mola Ram struggle on the bridge, Jones says to Mola Ram that he "betrayed Shiva" just as the Hot Rocks start to ignite in the high priest's hand. In this case, Indiana Jones makes a difference by uttering in Sanskrit, apparently, the magic words.

Finally, in The Last Crusade, the Nazis cannot get their hands on the Holy Grail without the diary, which Jones brings to them in the castle (with the noble intention of rescuing his father). And even when the expedition arrives at the site, no one can actually retrieve the grail without getting beheaded. Jones again leads the way. But there is no bringing back the cup past the seal anyway.

This is not to say the movies are not enjoyable. Far from it. Raiders still remains in my top ten. But it will be interesting to see if this latest film follows a similar path. Does Indiana Jones inadvertently connect the Russians with the crystal skull before its powers destroy all those with bad intentions? Or does he actually make a difference? Variety's Todd McCarthy gives the movie a mostly positive review (particularly the first 20 minutes) and only hints at an extraterrestrial ending. With Lucas onboard, I imagine Indiana Jones will be spirited away in a flying saucer, surrounded by furry creatures from the Far Moon of Endor.

(And speaking of Belloq, have you seen the actor Paul Freeman, looking older and wiser, in the new Travelers Insurance ad?)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Greatness of Val Kilmer

Just drink it in.

Now is a great time to buy! Or sell!

From owning 15 houses to homeless in just 2 years.

What's the word I'm looking for?

Oh, that's right: Awesome!

The Final Cylon

A giant, very sophisticated, very smart bit of speculation. Courtesy of Galley Friend B.W.

Blu-Ray, Hitch, etc.

Galley Friend Santino has a couple of interesting posts up. One notes that Criterion is switching to Blu-Ray, which is about the first good news in hi-def DVD since Toshiba threw in the towel. If you want to get all hot and bothered, Criterion is doing a Blu-Ray release of The 400 Blows for October.

Also, Santino points us to the great Pete Suderman, who notes an eerie similarity between Chris Hitchens and a Speed Racer villain. Sonny then ">digs up the pics.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Athlete of the Year?

Check out Bonnie Richardson, who just won Texas' state 1A track and field team championship by herself. By which I mean, she was the only person from her school at the competition, she entered five events, and placed high enough to take home the team title on her own.

Richardson’s title march began with field events on Friday when she won the high jump (5 feet, 5 inches), placed second in the long jump (18-7) and was third in the discus (121-0).

On Saturday, she won the 200 meters in 25.03 seconds and nearly pulled off a huge upset in the 100 before finishing second (12.19) to defending champion Kendra Coleman of Santa Anna. Richardson, a junior, earned a total of 42 team points to edge team runner-up Chilton (36).

That's hard core.

Mobs of the World

This forthcoming book on the Yakuza sounds pretty good. But it does get one wondering: Which international crime syndicate is the scariest? The Mafia, the Russian mob, or the Yakuza? (I won't even count welterweights like MS-13 or the Aryans.)

On first blush, I'd guess the Russians because they're stocked full of ex-professional spooks and soldiers, who are probably a cut above career criminals in intelligence and training. Plus, Stalingrad.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Greatest Casting Ever?

For Stone's Bush movie: Scott Glenn as Donald Rumsfeld.


Any chance Stone could get Michael Hogan to do a cameo as John McCain?

Jimmy Fallon is the new Conan

That's the word.

I've never been a consumer of late-night TV product (other than Law & Order re-runs and West coast baseball) and to be honest, when I have dropped in on Leno, Letterman, Conan, Arsenio, Magic, Sajak, McEnroe, Chevy, etc. over the years, I've never found any of them even vaguely interesting. I'm not capping on the performers, mind you--I just don't get much out of the format, which feels uncomfortably like TV Guide Channel promotional filler.

That said, millions of people can't be wrong! I'd be curious to know what others think of Fallon in this new vehicle.

The Greatest Piece of Furniture, Ever

Is this.

That's right. I know what you're thinking: Ooooo, a giant NES controller being used as a coffee table. BFD.

Except for two things:

(1) This dude built it himself, from scratch, using nothing but a scan of a normal controller.

(2) This coffee table is fully functional! For reals!

Get Your Fresh CulturePulp!

Galley Friend Mike Russell has two exciting new bits. The first is a CulturePulp strip about visiting the set of the vampyre movie Twilight. The second is a long LAT essay about the movie itself. Both are well worth your time.

Oh, and hats off to the LAT for running this piece. It's the type of thing every newspaper in America should be doing more of.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Lereah Watch

You may remember David Lereah as one of the biggest [insert epithet] in corporate America. He used to be the "chief economist" for the National Association of Realtors and his pronouncements suggested that he was either the dumbest or more dishonest economist on the planet. Which is saying something.

Lereah isn't at NAR anymore, but he's still making news. Here he is claiming that the housing market has far from bottomed out. And in the next breath, "So even if this slump remains far from over, David Lereah still thinks it may be a smart time to buy."

Of course he does. There's a special place in hell for this git.

Radio City

Two ads heard on the local sportstalk station this morning, both of which left me scratching my head.

(1) An ad for the Jeep Liberty, where the narrator says, "You're the all-new owner of an all-Jeep Liberty."

"All-Jeep"? What in God's name is that supposed to mean? I have no idea, but any way you want to take it, the Liberty is the least "All-Jeep" Jeep model ever. It's more a half-Jeep, half-Daimler mutt. But maybe that's just the disgruntled ramblings of a Cherokee owner.

(2) An ad for the Baltimore branch of Scores proclaimed the strip joint "your bachelor and office party headquarters." Umm, in what office would it be perfectly acceptable to take the gang to Scores when someone has a case of the Mondays?

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Yet another sign the Apocalypse is near:

Tomorrow afternoon, the New York Stock Exchange's Closing Bell will be rung by ... Access Hollywood's Nancy O'Dell.

Nerd Humor

At its best. From deep down in the comments section:

Just goes to show, there are only 10 types of people that understand binary. Those who do, and those who don't.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Iron Man, cont.

Matt Yglesias makes a very astute point* about Iron Man, the iconic first-tier of superheroes, and very wide appeal of even second-tier heroes:

At the end of the day, the first tier of costumed crime fighters is limited to just three members -- Superman, Spiderman, and Batman -- truly ubiquitous figures who any American could recognize even if they don't know anything about them.

Iron Man belongs firmly to a second-tier of major comic book characters who'd be instantly familiar to anyone who was, at any time in his or (less likely) her life a reader of superhero books.

Where a lot of folks surprised about the success of the Iron Man film seem to me to have gone wrong is just in underestimating how big the audience for the second-tier is.

I can buy that. Surveying Iron Man's success and then recalling the box office success of second and even third tier properties such as Ghost Rider, Daredevil, Hellboy, and the Fantastic Four, I've been wondering if comic books are so ingrained in the culture that "superhero comic book" movie has become a bankable genre all on its own?

The number of total flops from this genre is pretty small: League of Extraordinary Gentleman, Catwoman, Elektra, and The Punisher, and that's about it.

But maybe this is really just about what Yglesias sees--a huge, acceptance of and appetite for second-tier comic book heroes, so long as the movies are somewhat competently made.

*One small quibble with Yglesias: I think the first-tier could reasonably be widened to include Wonder-Woman, the Hulk, and maybe even Captain America, all of whom occupy an enormous chunk of the popular consciousness.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

"It's a remote control and birth control rolled into one!"

Galley Friend M.G. sends us to Ace of Spades, who has the lowdown on a robotic R2-D2 that's also a DVD projector.

Go ahead, show me your O-face.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Advantage: Blogosphere

Galley Friend Sonny Bunch has launched what is sure to be a very fine blog on pop culture, movies, and basketball.

Go get some.

All Aboard!

Public Service Announcement: This coming Saturday, May 10, is National Train Day. So if you get the chance, try and board one. But if you can't, you can always run a train at home with your friends.

That is, assuming you have a model train set.


Thursday, May 01, 2008

I Am Iron Man

Galley Friend B.W. sends along this WaPost piece on Iron Man. It's as much about the property as it is the movie. A couple thoughts:

The reporter makes the case that Iron Man is a second-tier hero, closer to Thor than Spider-Man. I'm not sure I buy that. In recent years, Iron Man has assumed a larger and larger role in the Marvel universe; being one of the two main protagonists in Civil War, being the center (we think) of Secret Invasion; being the center of the very popular Ultimates and having his own very well regarded Ultimate Iron Man. If anything, I'd argue that Iron Man has become Marvel's ubiquitous hero, sort of their Batman and Superman rolled into one.

I'm not quite sure why this is. In part, I think it's because the internet and nanotechnology have, as plot devices, radically transformed the character's powers in the comics. Iron Man can now have whatever powers or abilities a writer needs him to have in any given situation. This makes him easier to write and quite useful as a plot center. But I'd also argue that it makes him a little boring. Heroes need well-defined limits of their abilities in order to maintain dramatic tension.

(Of course, maybe this was all long-range planning on Marvel's part to puff the character up leading to the debut of their first solo movie effort as a studio?)

Obama as Baller

Elsewhere I've posted a little analysis of Obama as a basketball player. I imagine that if the press ever gets around to it, they'll label him the second coming of Lebron. Which would be ridiculous. But he does seem like a nice player who knows how to handle himself. If I was on the playground picking teams, I'd want him running with me because he seems like a nice fluid player who knows how to stay within himself. And given his general temperament, I'd guess that he's not one of these 40-year-old Y-warriors who thinks every rec run to 11 is Game 7 of the Finals. In other words, I bet he's a lot of fun to play with, a guy who takes the game just seriously enough but understands that the only reason to be playing sports in middle age is to have a good time.