Pop culture reaction rapid-fire

Preeeeeeeee-senting: quick reactions to controversies and whatnots that have been plaguing the interwebs as of late that I can’t be bothered to write a full post about. Fun times!

Miley something something

So people seem to still be talking about Miley Cyrus at the VMAs. Did she cross a line? Are people slut-shaming needlessly? Is it important that I care? I suggest that it is not.

This is the only opinion I’ve been able to form about this so-called controversy: I cannot think of the last time I’ve seen someone try that hard to be sexy yet fail in so many ways. That haircut was questionable. The bikini was unflattering. And the tongue? I don’t know what that was supposed to be but it did nothing for me.

Should a pop star be allowed to act sexy if she wants, even if that means showing skin on television? Sure. I want to live in a world where that’s not an issue worth talking about. But man. That whole routine was just… unpleasant. But as long as she’s happy.

Blurred Lines

While on the subject of the VMAs… I like Blurred Lines a bit. As a song, it’s adequately catchy. I had it stuck in my head for the entirety of a 13 hour meeting on budget for my theatre company and never really minded. But I will admit: I enjoy the video for Blurred Lines for the exact reason my feminist friends dislike it. Emily Ratajkowski is crazy hot and nearly naked in it.

Does that harm women’s issues? I probably shouldn’t even begin to guess. This topic gets me in trouble. Eventually someone says “male gaze” and I ask “What exactly does that mean, and what is the endgame to making an issue out of it?” and I probably say “Straight men enjoy looking an pretty girls and asking that to not be true is irrational” and then I get yelled at a lot.

Although, on the other hand, I think Robin Thicke abandoned his right to claim the song is in any way empowering to lady folk after he added the lyric “You the hottest bitch in this place.” Pretty much sunk that argument.

I’ve probably said too much already. But as long as I’m in trouble…

12th Doctor

I finally understood why I didn’t get the controversy over Peter Capaldi being cast as the 12th Doctor instead of someone less white or not male. First off, I’d have been fine with a non-white Doctor or a female Doctor, as long as they could be the Doctor. The qualities I’m looking for, cleverness, the ability to inspire, to thrill, to be a force of nature onto themselves… none of these are connected to skin tone or gender. I’m also 100% fine with the rumours that they may be considering a black guy for the Human Torch in the Fantastic Four movie. As long as the character is being done well, I don’t care if they cast someone who isn’t white.

Where I failed was in understanding why someone else might.

Value comes from scarcity. We based economies on gold instead of granite because gold was harder to come by. If you dress up fancy every once in a while it has more impact than if you do it all the time. And that’s why I didn’t immediately lock onto “women and people of different skin tones would like to see more heroes who look like them, and maybe the Doctor could have been one for a change.” Because 95% of heroes, super or otherwise, are white dudes, and I attach no value to that. I don’t think “Hey, the Doctor is Scottish! I’m half-Scottish!”

But I do get it now. People around the world are becoming ready to see the day saved by people other than the League of Extraordinary White Guys. I’m fine with that. Maybe other people (the ones raising hell over a black Johnny Storm, for example) should learn to be okay with that as well.

As for “But he’s old!” well, that’s ageism pure and simple. And as a reminder, it was only four years ago that people were complaining that Matt Smith was too young, and he sure shut us up. I have faith Peter Capaldi will do the same.

Also, Chiwetel Ejiofor turned the role down, so it’s not like they’ve never tried. He’d have been great, though. Pity.

Agree, disagree, think I should shut up and stick to talking about travel and Batman? All valid choices, man. All valid choices.

Danny reads: Jam

I was going to do an in-depth examination of the joys of being ill this weekend (probably food poisoning, could have been a stomach bug) but it’s now occurring to me that illness is one of those things that’s of profound interest to the person going through it, but nearly impossible to make interesting to other people. Like pain or dreams. There’s only so many times and ways you can say “It hurts, it hurts so bad” before the person you’re talking to can only roll their eyes and reply “Yes, you mentioned that.” Or so I’ve gleaned from paramedics. Not this weekend, that was another thing, and… yeah. Anyway.

So instead, let me tell you about Jam by Yahtzee Crowshaw, because telling people about it one by one is getting tiring.

Jammy Doom

The second novel from Yahtzee, best known for his Zero Punctuation game reviews, is best summarized by its opening sentence: “I woke up one morning to find that the city had been covered by a three-foot layer of man-eating jam.”

Strawberry, to be precise.

Set in Yahtzee’s current hometown of Brisbane, Australia, the novel finds several people trying to stay alive in the middle of what’s known as a “grey goo” apocalypse: an end-of-world scenario in which, in the example it’s named for, tiny nanobots are released that break down everything they encounter into more nano-bots, and the world is reduced to a sea of grey nano-bot goo. In this case, it’s a sea of what certainly appears to be strawberry jam, save for the way it instantly consumes any and all organic material it encounters and its ability to extend tendrils in order to snag any such material that’s just out of reach.

Our protagonist and narrator is the meek, timid and easily persuaded Travis. Travis joins with his roommate Tim and neighbours Angela and Don to try and find a way to avoid starvation and jammy death. (Not gonna lie, half the fun of writing this is using phrases like “jammy death.” “Jammy” is a fun adjective and I’m not sorry.) And in this cast, we begin to see the satire that fuels this engaging, thrilling, and frequently amusing apocalypse.

Tropes vs. Yahtzee

Yahtzee’s been reviewing video games and dwelling on the internet for years, and there are clearly some character archetypes he is out to take the piss out of. And he does it majestically. Tim is the guy who’s a little too excited to see society end so he can build a new one from its ashes. Or jammy residue, as the case may be. Don is his opposite number, driven to extreme lengths to find and protect the video game he’s been designing, because he refuses to accept that the world as he knew it may be gone. Angela is the would-be journalist, out to prove that someone caused all this, even if there’s no one left to prove it to. And none of these tropes are as hard-hit as those of X and Y, the American military personnel who seem to know more than they let on about the jam.

That’s downplaying it. I’d guess that of all the end-of-world, sinister-conspiracy cliches Yahtzee’s been encountering over the years, the one he’s the most sick of is the people pretending not to know anything even though every single thing they do is screaming out “They’re behind this, they know all!” And that is cranked up to maximum with X (called that because she won’t even reveal her name, yet insists she’s trustworthy). Every step she takes, every conversation she has cries out to everyone around her that she knows what the jam is, and where it came from, but each time she’s confronted, she lapses into the same, unconvincing press-agent routine denying any special knowledge. Which causes entertaining friction with truth-seeking Angela.

And yet more than tropes

But what makes this a great read is that, while mocking their tropes, Yahtzee still makes everyone a real character. There are real human motivations at their cores, even X. It keeps their struggles entertaining, keeps you rooting for them to stay alive, when they could have just become parodies we’re waiting to see die in the jammy depths.

On the other hand, we have the plastic people. A religious cult based out of a mall that worship “Crazy Bob” and sacrifice people to the jam for failing him. But it’s okay, because they’re doing it ironically.

Tropes get satirized in this book, but the notion of “doing it ironically” really takes it in the shorts. Yahtzee holds this concept down and beats it until his knuckles break. X and Y are set up to be the least trustworthy characters in the book, and they still look like saints next to Lord Awesomo of the plastic people. But I suspect they’re meant to, because he’s one of the book’s real villains.

Wrap it up

It’s a fun, engaging book. It takes a silly situation (JAMMY DOOM), treats it seriously (millions have died and the survivors’ chances are bleak), but saves room for satire. You should get yourself a copy (Amazon appears to be stocked) so that we can actually discuss it rather than me just saying “Hey! You there! Read Jam!”

That had to be more entertaining than hearing me describe why I know it was illness and not a hangover, no matter what my mother first assumed. Right?

In which I disagree with the Internet

Maybe it’s me. Maybe I nerd wrong. I just… I don’t nerd-rage over casting in movies the way the rest of the Internet seems to. But given that I refuse to buy into the notion of “true geeks,” the idea that being a geek is something that must be earned (see the ridiculous. hateful, “fake geek girls” outrage that I really wish would die in a fire very soon), I’m going to assume I am nerding just fine, and that this is an entirely valid thing to say:

I have no quarrel with Ben Affleck playing Batman.

I shall now share some thoughts that the Internet thinks I’m wrong about. Perhaps I can convince some of you that I am not.

1. I actually quite liked Man of Steel.

I saw Man of Steel opening weekend. I was a little worried that this was going to be another Green Lantern, which I found perfectly enjoyable, but only because I love all things Green Lantern enough that I could ignore flaws others could not. But not so this time. I thought Man of Steel was great. The people I was with enjoyed it as well, even Charlotte, who was there specifically to hate it in front of me. I then spent two months reading, hearing, and absorbing the criticisms people were lobbing at it, then this week, watched it again.

I still dig it.

Some mild spoilers will follow. Skip to point two if you haven’t seen it but wish to. Also call me, we should totally go watch it at the cheap theatre.

Henry Cavill is actually a really good Superman. He captures the inherent goodness, the “I just want to help” nature that Superman should have as well as the “Must keep myself a secret” turmoil that is the first act. Kevin Costner and Russell Crowe were great as his two fathers. I loved the new invention of Lois Lane knowing Clark Kent is Superman before he even is Superman. Lois was tough, clever as hell, and adorable (but I always find Amy Adams adorable, I am but a man). Michael Shannon made one of the better superhero movie villains in General Zod, a man born, raised, and trained with the sole purpose of defending his planet and his people at any cost, who will cross any line and commit any atrocity if it means a future for Krypton. Well, the parts of Krypton he likes.

Okay, yes, the civic destruction gets a little much in act three. But I disagree with branding the movie “too dark” because of it. Nor the final battle with Zod. Superman is forced to make a choice, forced to do something abhorrent to him in order to protect the world. And I found it an incredibly powerful moment; Zod, blind with hatred after having lost everything, his people, his world, his reason to exist; Superman, begging Zod to stop; Zod’s refusal; Superman’s anguish at what he must do. It was damn near Doctor Who powerful. And no, I will not accept that suddenly this is unacceptable because he’s Superman. If you didn’t complain about Iron Man racking up a higher body count than Freddy Krueger but throw a hissy fit about Superman killing one genocidal demi-god who’s made it clear he won’t stop until either he dies or every single human is dead? Then shut up.

Act three did lack that sense of Superman being a figure of inspiration, a saviour to the people. He didn’t swoop around saving people during the final battle. Well, he did save several soldiers from Faora in Smallville, even while said soldiers were occasionally shooting at him, people forget about that, but the only thing he did to save people in Metropolis was smash the world engine on the far side of the planet and end the massive destruction it was causing. Which, I might argue, was a) kind of important, and b) almost killed him, which he knew was a risk but still didn’t hesitate. And after that he was a little busy getting punched in his face by Zod.

But the infrastructure is there. Jor-El has told him that his purpose is to inspire, to be an example that the people of Earth will one day reach to catch up to. Cavill is playing him to be that figure. He reaches out to earn the trust of the military, a struggle he’s shown as winning through Christopher Meloni’s great performance as Colonel Hardy. The foundations are there, we’re through the origin, future installments can bring that sense of hope and inspiration that I admit this film lacked.

But if you’re going to say “He should have spent less time fighting and more time saving people,” I think you owe Superman Returns an apology. But that’s a whole other rant.

2. Ben Affleck could be a good Batman.

Ben Affleck actually can act. There. I said it. Watch The Town. Watch Argo. Those are great movies and he’s good in them. Ben Affleck had a bad run, made some bad movies (to court further controversy, I don’t count Jersey Girl among them, I just don’t), took a break, let the dust settle, and rebuilt his career with a series of excellent films. Then he gets cast as Batman and the internet starts pretending that never happened while throwing movies from ten years ago in his face. Okay. Let’s look at the arguments against.

1. “Daredevil was awful! Thus this will be awful!”
Um… okay. Yes, Daredevil had flaws. Many. But is it possible those had more to do with the script and director? My issues with Daredevil weren’t with Ben, they with the fact that the movie didn’t seem to actually get Daredevil. And some poor script decisions. But say you disagree. Say you think if Daniel Day-Lewis had been Daredevil that movie would have been Dark Knight good. (You can’t, can you? No you can’t. The idea is madness. But still.) Affleck has given much better performances since then. Why assume he’s going to pull a Daredevil or Gigli? Why would he risk everything he’s rebuilt by not bringing the A-game he demonstrated in Argo and The Town?

2. “George Clooney was an awful Batman and so Ben Affleck will be too!”
The point being, this is a similar casting decision to when they had George Clooney replace Val Kilmer for Batman and Robin, a film so infamously terrible it nearly killed the superhero movie genre. But come on. Come on. That movie was terrible from the ground up. The script was awful, the direction was a day-glo nightmare, that movie was doomed to be a spectacular failure on every level before George Clooney even showed up on set. You cannot blame Clooney for Batman and Robin. He couldn’t have been a good Batman in that train wreck. Nobody could have. Superman/Batman will not have this problem. Why? Because Zach Snyder is better at this than Joel Schumacher. If you disagree, I’ll refer you to my above arguments regarding Man of Steel and inform you that we are fighting. We are now in a fight.

I believe that Ben Affleck could do well in this movie, and I’d rather wait until the movie comes out to debate it further. Which, actually, brings me to my final point…

3. Can we give this nerd raging over casting a rest? Please?

Did I not just go through this with Doctor Who? Is the Internet not still rebuilding from exploding over Peter Capaldi being revealed as the new Doctor? I suffered through the waves of complaint that the 12th Doctor was still white, still male, and, horror of horrors, old. I mean, how dare they take the Doctor in a different direction that isn’t the different direction we wanted.

Actually my issues with the Capaldi backlash and where I think those issues come from would be a large diversion I’ll save for another day. For now, it just comes down to “Anyone who’s seen him act should know he could be an amazing Doctor, so can we just chill until actual episodes start airing?”

But we can’t. Nerds have to freak out over everything, including nearly every casting decision in a superhero movie. Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, and Christian Bale weren’t exactly embraced when we heard they were playing Batman. People freaked right out over Heath Ledger playing the Joker, and they were as wrong to do so as it is possible to be. If you don’t think Heath Ledger’s Joker was incredible, then sorry but we can’t be friends. I kid, we can totally be friends, we just shouldn’t see movies together. The list goes on: Chris Evans as Captain America, Chris Pratt as Star Lord (though we’ll have to wait and see on that one), Idris Elba as Heimdall, Laurence Fishburne as Perry White, the song remains the same, if occasionally smacking of racism. And most of the time all that nerd rage is for nothing. Most of the time the actor exceeds our expectations.

Ben Affleck might not pull off the same triumph as Heath Ledger, but assuming he’ll be another George Clooney is depressingly pessimistic. There’s no need for that.

Look, the movie’s not out for two years. In the meantime we’ll have casting news for the new Star Wars cast, Ultron, villains for the third Amazing Spider-man movie, maybe Lex Luthor, and probably at least one new Doctor Who companion to freak out over. Or maybe just accept with cautious optimism.

I’m telling you, it’s just a better way to live. Keep calm, and watch Argo.

The vending machine and the bear

So a couple of years back I began to realize that I had feelings for a friend. Wasn’t the first time this had happened, and this time I was determined not to be a jerk about it. You know, the kind of jerk who hangs around being “just friends” while hiding his true feelings and hoping that one day she magically realizes that the perfect guy has been right in front of her the whole time.

Because man, fuck that guy.

Anyway. Actually having the conversation proved… difficult. I suspect she saw it coming and, being afraid of conflict, did whatever was necessary to dodge it. Which I found weird, because this was going to be a way less pleasant conversation for me. But I’m not here today to talk about that, or the few highs and powerful lows of the year and change that followed. You see, the other day I came across something I wrote that fateful February. My attempt to explain, through a certain amount of self-depreciating humour, what being in my position felt like.

I present that for you now. Enjoy.

And now, a metaphor gets weird

How to explain it. How to say what I’m thinking without actually saying what I’m thinking? Because that’s crazy. Can’t actually say it out loud. Then people would know. What’s the point of secrets if you’re going to let people know what they are?

And this is where we turn to metaphors. Literary code. Yes, metaphors are the way to explain what you find unexplainable.

But this one gets kind of muddled. Bear with me.

Imagine a weight. A pressure, pushing down on you. All the time. As though a vending machine had collapsed on top of you. The weight is a constant. Some days you can manage it, you find a way to distribute the weight or manage to distract yourself until it doesn’t seem so bad, but other days it feels like more than you can handle. You don’t know if you can live with it.

Well, no, of course you can’t live with being trapped under a vending machine, you’re going to run out of food and water, even if you do break the machine open. Also those things are heavy, you’re probably bleeding internally. But that’s literal thinking, it’s what we’re trying to avoid. None of that is germane to the metaphor.

Germane. No, not the Jackson brother. It’s a word, look it up.

So. Stuck under the vending machine. There is a way out, but it’s not exactly ideal. The only way to free yourself is to… and this is where the metaphor begins to get muddled… is to surround yourself with fresh salmon, so as to lure over a nearby bear, which will pry the machine off you to get at the fish.

(Yes, I know. Took a weird left turn there. But muscle through it and it’ll all start to make sense.)

The problem is, you don’t know how the bear is going to react once it’s dislodged the vending machine. It came for fish and found you. What will it do? You want to believe that it will just ignore you and let you leave. Maybe, and this must be wishful thinking, give you a friendly lick on its way? But no. You’re pretty sure you know what’s going to happen. It’s going to maul you. Maybe you’ll live, maybe you’ll die, but that bear is coming at you tooth and claw and it is going to be terrible.

You put it off as long as you can, but the non-stop weight of the machine won’t be denied. You have to do something. You have to make it stop. You’re willing to risk the mauling just to get away. So you summon the salmon. Freedom is close.

Look, I don’t know where the salmon comes from. Maybe it was in the machine, maybe there’s a delivery chute or something, but no, there is no delivery guy that will help you escape. It’s the bear or nothing, and the salmon is on the way so you’d better brace for that.

And so you do. You try to steel yourself for the moment, figure out what you can do to protect yourself if it all goes wrong. The fear builds. The adrenalin kicks in. And there’s that spark of hope, that thought that maybe, just maybe, everything will work out better than your feared. But if you let yourself believe that, the mauling will only be worse. Better to be prepared for the worst.

Only the salmon doesn’t come. For whatever reason, maybe the tube is blocked, I don’t know, you can’t get the salmon when you ordered it. Maybe later. Next week, something like that. There will be no summoning the bear, no mauling, no anything. It’s hard not to be relieved, isn’t it? Your situation hasn’t improved, but for one more day, one more week, possibly, you don’t have to worry about it getting worse. You can just relax.

Except for that weight. Apparently you get to keep living with it. Well, crap.

“Are you even trying?” presents…

This may or may not be a new recurring feature around here, but sometimes you have to look at a promotional campaign, or a public figure, and ask yourself… Are you even trying?

Today, I ask this of the people trying to pitch the idea of “drinking less.”

Don’t drive drunk, you moron

First of all, convincing people not to drink themselves into oblivion and then risk innocent lives by driving a car is a noble aspiration. I know several people who could stand to learn a thing or two about that. I know more people who say “I’m not drinking tonight, people are depending on me to get them home safely,” and that’s admirable and should be celebrated.

Some anti-drinking and driving ads manage that. One ad on the radio recently has a woman talking to her friend about that great guy who gave up drinking for a night to be the DD, and how she totally let him take her home (she’s describing it fondly the next day, so we may assume he wasn’t a serial rapist). Another ad in the same campaign celebrates the drunk dial, as a man calls a friend in the middle of the night because he’s had some epic adventures and needs a ride home.

Well done, those ads. Show us the alternatives to driving drunk and make them look cool. That’s the way to do it.

And then there are these idiots.

No! Only drink at designated drinking areas!

Watching the Daily Show on the Comedy Network website means dealing with ads. Fine. I read Achewood or surf Reddit and mute that terrible Mio ad set to Eye of the Tiger until John Oliver is back (I imagine this trend will continue once John Stewart returns). But one of the frequent ads is from a campaign called “Every Drink Counts.” They’re fighting against drunkenness by attacking the idea of pre-drinking. They show a bunch of people preparing for a night out, with the banner “pre-drinking…”

Sober, contemplative preparation to party
Sober, contemplative preparation to party

And then this happens.

This has clearly spiraled out of control.

The idea being, once you start drinking, it’s called drinking. Pre-drinking still gets you drunk, you fools!

Okay. Where to start.

Nobody thought that having drinks before the party would mean they were still sober. That concert or bar or birthday party doesn’t have magic powers. The beers don’t suddenly become alcoholic or not because of the place you drink them, and we all know that.

Let me explain it to you, Every Drink Counts. By and large, “pre-drinking” doesn’t mean “drinks before we start drinking.” It’s an abbreviation of “pre-event drinking,” meaning “we want a bit of a buzz when we get to the party, because it’s fun and we’re goddamn grownups.” Yes, it is possible to have a good time sober. Look at my colleague the Video Vulture. He doesn’t drink and he’s one of the most fun people I’ve ever known. But it’s also possible to have fun with the aid of some adult beverages, and we get to do that, because we live in Canada, not Egypt.

So if we want to have a drink or two before we leave, and we have a ride, so be it. We know we’re getting drunk when we pre-drink. That is the entire point. Combating this notion by saying “No! You’re still drinking!” is aiding nothing. Stop it.

Although demonizing excessive drinking by demanding you only drink in the designated venue doesn’t come across nearly as stupid as trying to make moderation seem awesome. Observe.

Woo! Fitting in with the preferences of officials! PARTY!

I don’t know if this campaign made it outside of my home city of Calgary, so maybe you haven’t heard of Responsibly Beer and Responsibly Coolers.

This nonsense.

Basically, it was a series of radio ads and billboards selling the notion of moderation the same way advertisers in the 80s and 90s tried to sell Coors Light. A male announcer would talk excitedly about hitting the town with Responsibly Beer or a female announcer would talk excitedly about having a ladies’ night with Responsibly Coolers (women don’t drink beer, silly people) while either a hair metal or calypso band, respectively, sang things like “Moderation!” or “Safe!” or the real kicker, the money phrase anyone looking for a good time wants to hear, “Government approved!”

I don’t care what calypso crooner or Poison cover band reject is singing them, the words “Government approved” are never, ever going to sound awesome or cool. You’re just going to have to accept that.

They’re not trying to say drinking an entire bottle of Jagermeister and throwing up all over someone’s living room is perhaps undesirable (I don’t want to do anything in that sentence, personally). They’re trying to say a three-pack of beer (or a two-pack for the ladies…their claim, not mine) is a party.

It’s just… how to… argh. One the one hand, just sitting around drinking does not qualify as a party. It’s merely something one can do at a party. But on the other hand, there is just something inherently futile in trying to dress up responsibility as awesome good times. Say that we can still have fun with only three drinks? Fine. I believe you. That is true and a positive message. But I just want to doubt you so much because you’re coming across like a 45 year old white math teacher trying to seem “hip” and “with it” by saying trigonometry is “the bomb” and describing a “totally fresh” way to find the hypotenuse.

Basically, Responsibly Beer, you’re not wrong. But you’re embarrassing both of us.

Alright, wrapping it up…

I give these campaigns a hard time not because I think “drink less” is a bad message. From time to time it’s an unnecessary one, provided you’re being safe, but it’s not a bad message. I just hate to see someone do an important thing badly. Like when awareness of gay teens being bullied hit an all-time high and the almost annoyingly gay-friendly series Glee responded by being weirdly pro-bully.

Before you disagree, ask yourself: did the people who bullied Kurt for being gay, or Finn for seeming gay, or the people who tried to destroy Mr. Shuester (mostly Sue), or threw eggs at Rachel, or who mocked that girl until she had an eating disorder years after I gave up on this show for being a hollow, badly-written exercise in selling bland, toothless, auto-tuned covers of popular songs on iTunes … did any of them face any sort of consequence? Or did Finn, Mr. Shuester and all face a consequence for daring to fight back?

That’s a digression and I’m sorry. Where was I? Right. Drinking responsibly isn’t a bad idea, but you’re making it look like one.

I mean come on. Are you even trying?

In Which Dan Talks About Comic Con

I am a geek with opinions and I have a blog, so we’re talking about Comic Con now. That’s what’s happening.

Age of Ultron, you say?

So at the end of their panel, Marvel brought out Joss Whedon to announce that the full title of the Avengers sequel will be Avengers: Age of Ultron. For those who don’t follow comics with the same unhealthy intensity I do, Age of Ultron was a recent event comic Marvel put out in which Ultron has successfully conquered the world and the few remaining heroes need a desperate plan to stop him. It was pretty clear, from the word go, that Joss was only going to be using the title “Age of Ultron” rather than the story. The actual miniseries couldn’t work as an Avengers sequel, since A) it hinges on Ultron being a long-term established threat; B) Ultron is barely in it, and non-comic readers would likely respond poorly to announcing a villain who doesn’t actually appear; and C) it’s not even about the Avengers. It’s a Wolverine story. Even moreso than most Marvel events.

So, Ultron’s our villain for the next movie? Interesting, should work out. Still, does kind of make a liar out of that end-credit tease of Thanos, doesn’t it? “Hey! That spooky boss of Loki? It was this guy! Maybe we’ll put him in a movie some day! Just not soon!”

And this is not the first time they’ve set up a future villain and then dropped him. Iron Man set up the Ten Rings, a terrorist organization named after the signature weapon of the Mandarin, Iron Man’s biggest enemy. Iron Man 2 had Sam Rockwell’s Justin Hammer, evil corporate rival from the comics, dragged away by the police promising to return and seek revenge. And Iron Man 3 dropped all of that to take its own angle on the Mandarin and bring in a new corporate rival in Aldrich Killian and AIM. I mean, Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin was neat, and putting Guy Pearce in a movie is never the wrong choice, but still. That was a lot of build-up tossed out.

Incredible Hulk had Banner-blood leak into fellow-scientist Samuel Sterns’ head to set him up to be the Leader. But that would have required them to make another Hulk movie.

So is that Thanos tease going anywhere? Who knows. The other examples come down to changing creative teams (Iron Man 3) and lack of sequels, but in this case Joss Whedon decided to include the Thanos tease, and Joss Whedon decided to make Ultron his next villain instead. Maybe he’s planning on using Thanos for Avengers 3, but that is still five years away. I’m all about the long game but that’s really pushing it.

Superman/Batman? Go on.

Warner/DC’s big announcement? The sequel to Man of Steel coming in 2015 will be a Superman/Batman movie. This one announcement has generated enough attention that a legitimate website actually asked who won Comic Con, DC or Marvel, despite the fact that Marvel had footage from three movies (including one that had been shooting for less than two weeks) and trotted out enough stars to have a pickup soccer game in the parking lot, and DC announced one thing with at best tentative plans for two more, hasn’t cast the new Batman yet, and said more about what Batman/Superman won’t be than what it will (it won’t be an adaptation of Dark Knight Returns or a follow-up to Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy).

So, yeah, Marvel wins because their panel had Amy Pond and The Piemaker on one panel, but there’s still something important in what DC had to say. Producer Emma Thomas confirmed that this is not going to be a continuation of the Nolan/Bale Batman. It’s a new Batman, a Justice League friendly Batman.

And they’re not introducing him in an origin story.

How is that not the conversation? How are we not excited that they’re actually going to trust us to remember what Batman’s deal is rather than start over at his parents dying again? And once they’re done fighting each other, who will they be teaming up against? Come on, this is cool. This could be super cool. Plus, how about some credit for trying to expand the universe in a different way than the Marvel model? Huh? That worth something?

And, let’s be real, summer of 2015 they’re up against the sequel to the most successful superhero movie ever made. Putting Superman and Batman in the same movie puts Warner Brothers back in the running.

Final thoughts

There are two things that are truly important from this year’s Comic Con announcement. First, and most important… Summer Glau is on Arrow next season. They… they get me. They really do.

Second… DC is aiming to have the Justice League on screens by 2017. Thanos will not be in any Marvel movie before 2018, if that. Warner Bros, this is your chance to get Darkseid in a movie and not be accused of ripping off his pale imitator Thanos.


Thank you and good day.

Dan and Ian Wander Europe: In Bruges

So, you know that annoying thing people on the internet will do, where they fail to update their blog/comic/whatever, and then apologize by saying that they were working on something super cool that they can’t tell you about yet?


The real problem is that, since we last spoke, I’ve been working on something that I’m not telling people about because the odds seem very small that it will go anywhere. It might. It might go somewhere, and if it did, it would be the single greatest thing that has ever happened to me by a significant margin. Save for “successfully being born,” I guess. But until that switches over from “dimly possible” to “actually probable” I’m trying not to get my or anyone’s hopes up by making a big deal.

And now that I’ve done that exact thing I dislike, onwards. Belgium. Let’s do this.


I won’t lie to you. Bruges did not get on the itinerary through the noblest of methods. We weren’t in Belgium to see Flanders Field. We didn’t hit any World War memorials. We did not swing by the EU Parliament building in Brussels. No, we were in Bruges because I saw the movie In Bruges and thought it looked worth visiting.

And I was not wrong.

Since my return, people ask “What was the highlight of the trip?” And that is often a difficult question, since so much of it was great. But when I do come up with an answer, it’s usually “Other than London? Paris for the city, Rome for the weather, and Bruges for the food.”

Seriously you guys, everything in Bruges was delicious.

Show me where your noms at

My primary goal for Switzerland was cheese fondue: for Belgium, it was waffles. And the old town had plenty of waffle take-out windows to get lovely, fluffy waffles doused in chocolate, caramel, whatever you desired… I had a waffle in Calgary not so long ago. What a bland waste of time it was in comparison.

Belgium is also the birthplace of the french fry, thus giving us all the excuse we needed to gorge on street fries outside of the famous Belfry. You see, there’s a regular contest in Bruges: local fry makers compete against each other, and the two top entries get the right to set up a fry cart in front of the Belfry. This means those two carts are pretty much guaranteed to have the best fries in the whole city, and if you’re not helping yourself to an order from each one to see who comes out on top, why are you even there? Why are you even there.

I did not expect to say “Bruges had the best meatball I’ve ever had,” but there it is. It’s said. It happened. A random lunch stop brought us to a mom ‘n’ pop restaurant with a hilarious name and absolutely incredible food.

Funny name, maybe, but so tasty
Funny name, maybe, but so tasty

If you’re in Bruges, go there. Get a meatball. You will thank me. Do this or I will find you and hurt you.

Time for beers

I’m not a beer drinker. This is generally known about me. Just never developed a taste for it. When I finally began experimenting with alcohol, I drifted towards whiskey and cocktails, and skipped over beer completely, finding it unpleasant. But we were in Belgium. They brew over 2000 beers in Belgium, and they take it seriously. How seriously? They have designed individual glasses for each of those beers to optimize the drinking experience. And if you were to serve, say, a Hoegaarden in a Duvel glass, a Belgian drinker will send that shit back and demand you do it properly.

So while beer had never been my thing, going to Belgium and not sampling their ales would be like going to Italy and not having any pasta, or going to Greece and not having a single souvlaki, and god damn it I am not doing that again.

So, on our first night in Bruges, I eventually opted to skim the beer menu, see if I could find something palatable. What’s that, Duvel? You have a 12% alcohol content? Why, this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

New friends

Also, if you’re in Bruges on a budget, by all means check out the St. Christopher’s hostel. Best room? No, not really. Best beds? Not quite. But it’s got a bar. A bar full of fellow travelers. The perfect place to hang out and have a few drinks with new friends. Ian put up another “Hey, we’re nice but shy, so come talk to us” sign, and within minutes we were invited to what became known as the “Commonwealth party:” a table of four Scots, two Australians and a Chinese woman living in Germany (for variety) that had met doing the In Bruges walking tour, something we’d been eyeing for our full day in the city, given my fondness for the movie and Ian’s fondness for looking at stuff.

Spot Ian. Bet you can.
Damp but fun.

The people behind the walking tour (which used our hostel as home base) also had two other gatherings: a beer tasting, in the pub connected to our hostel, and a pub crawl. I continued to succumb to local fares and signed us up for the beer tasting the following night, where I learned that Belgian ales are, in fact, not too shabby in general. Yes, I was like Christopher Columbus: boldly discovering something that millions of people already knew about.

We chose not to go on the pub crawl, despite the fact that it meant parting ways with our lovely beer tasting hostess, Caitlyn (being named Caitlyn makes you 10% more attractive to me, not sure where that comes from). Instead, we hung out with a new friend we made during the beer tasting, a ginger from America who may have moved to Florida but never lost her New York attitude. Once we’d finished the beers that came with the beer tasting experience, we set off into the damp night in search of other bars with other beers. Our primary targets, including a small tavern at the end of Bruges’ smallest street that brews a beer unavailable anywhere else in the world, were closed, but we continued undeterred, determined to find more beers. She suggested we make an adventure out of it.

We managed to only subtly imply that our reaction to being asked on a drinking adventure by a cute ginger was less “Oh, if we must” and more “Where the hell have you been the last three weeks?”

Oh, but before we left she had to check in with a guy from Scotland she’d “accidentally fallen in love with,” so don’t get excited.

I thought one full day would allow us to get the full Bruges experience. I don’t know why I thought that, but I was quite clearly mistaken. Perhaps one day I shall return… one day…


Dan and Ian Wander Europe: Near-miss Bus Riot

Time for some more tales to catch you up on Italy while I’m still only one country ahead of it on the itinerary.

When tourists attack

During our time in Rome, we dealt with massive crowds at most locations, got chided by the best dressed cop I’d ever seen (the Italian police uniform is weirdly, uncomfortably formal) for drinking in public (before dark, that was apparently our mistake), and witnessed a massive anti-abortion rally that was right next to a children’s volleyball tournament, and the one time I felt actually nervous for my safety was in line for a bus.

The two busiest places in Rome appeared to be Termini Station, where we first boarded (eventually; it was a busy day in Rome) and the Vatican, where we first hopped off and attempted to hop back on. Dozens of people were attempting to board our specific bus line outside the Vatican (popular jump-off point, go figure), and the one guy left to herd us triaged the crowd into three lines: those who had yet to buy tickets were line three, lowest priority; those who had vouchers but had yet to exchange them for time-sensitive tickets were line two; and those who, like Ian and myself, had tickets and thus our 24 hours of access was counting down.

This meant that one family had been in line two for, they claimed, an hour. They were growing tired of it. Especially the father. And the man trying his best to get all of us on a bus as quickly as possible was in no mood to be yelled at. He told the mother to line up against the wall, she didn’t, he told her louder, the father yelled at him to shut up… and the yelling started in earnest. Even the calmer, college aged son got in on telling the bus employee to watch his tone. It looked for a minute like it might end in violence on this very cramped sidewalk.

Minutes later, not one but two busses pulled up. The angry family pushed to the front of the line (the front of our line, not their second-tier line) because they were done waiting and the people herder was too ready to be rid of them to put up much of a fight.

They needn’t have bothered. Every person in all three lines got on one of those two busses. But sadly patience was the only thing in short supply right then.

It probably doesn’t add anything to point out that his happened a few blocks from one of the largest religious buildings built by man. But I feel that it should.

Next time, more Italy but less Rome. Hopefully. I’m four cities behind at this point. Crap, five cities.

Dan and Ian Wander Europe: Back in Blighty

As I write this, my associate Ian is on the phone with his credit card company having his card replaced. Six hours in Paris and he got pickpocketed. Lovely. Really thought we’d make Italy before this became an issue. While he deals with that, I’m looking back at happier times: our arrival in my favourite city, London.

When I’ve been to a place before, it feels instantly familiar when I come back. Within minutes it feels like I’ve never left. But London’s special. Get me anywhere in London I recognise and I feel like I’m home.

London was the one spot on our trip where I felt like an expert. I haven’t been to Paris or Italy since 1994. London, or at least central London, I know like my own city. So I simply tried to make myself a resource for Ian. I made suggestions of where we could go, pointed out spots my adventures had taken me previously, led the way when we had a destination in mind… and tried to pretend I wasn’t half dead from exhaustion.

The plan was simple: take some sleeping pills on the plane, awaken rested and ready to tackle London. Didn’t quite work out. All the pills got me was a three hour nap and a revolting aftertaste that stuck around and tainted everything I ate or drank for like eight hours. So I was not exactly fresh or rested.

We started at St. Paul’s, crossed the Thames and headed east. It was like my final night there in 2011 only backwards. I spotted the 400 year-old pub where I’d had my birthday dinner of scampi and chips, the Greek restaurant I’d been looking for, the Clink prison museum (which, after 23 years of near-misses, I finally visited), and eventually arrived at the Tower of London. Ian gleefully suggested we head in, having been eager to see a proper castle.

Partway through the beefeater tour I came alarmingly close to discovering what it’s like to pass out while standing. Thankfully I caught myself before falling. Both times. After seeing the armoury and the crown jewels (tired or no, admission was like 20 quid and we were getting our damn money’s worth), it was time to head back to my cousin Roy’s, have a quick nap, and grab dinner.

Cardiff proved just as easy to navigate. Had we wanted to go anywhere I hadn’t been in 2011, that would have been different, but we were there for two things: the Doctor Who Experience (my second visit, Ian’s first) and Cardiff Castle (which we arrived too late to see properly).

Two days in which I could play expert. Two days showing off my favourite city. And now it’s done for a spell. Paris is still largely unknown to me, being a distant memory of school-led tours. But one annoying theft aside, I look forward to seeing what it has for us. Now that my wallet is more secure.

Dan and Ian Wander Europe: To Do

My flight to London and the beginning of our shenanigan-filled European odyssey is, as I write these very words, 28 hours away. Which means we’re into final prep and errand time. So for a refreshingly short post, I thought I’d take you through my to-do list for the next day and change.

1. Haircut. This is just overdue as it is and I’m gonna want to be wearing my adventure hat without worrying about hat hair.

Atop the volcano
It is the source of all my power.

2. Banking. Need to move some money around in my theatre company’s bank account. And maybe get some British pounds. And Euros. Or do I want to stick to ATMs? Not carry around stealable currency? BAH. I have given this NO thought. WHY was I born a fool?

3. Drug store. Running low on synthroid. Can’t have that.

4. Laundry. Need maximum clean socks.

5. Printing. Need hard copies of our hostel reservations, if only so we have the addresses handy. Also need to write my cousin’s address on something.

6. Packing. Clothes. Towel. Day bag. Chargers. Power converter. Swimsuit. Kindle. Physical book for if Kindle’s unavailable. All of our flight info. All of our hostel info. All of our train tickets. Pillow if there’s room.

7. Stop by rehearsal? Maybe? If there’s time.

8. Finish the second draft of my new script? Maybe? If I’m able.

9. Sleep a bit. Not too much, I intend to drug myself unconscious tomorrow afternoon.

10. Job interview. I don’t know why I thought applying for jobs two days before I left the country was a good idea, but hey, it worked.

11. Last-minute packing. Meds. Toothpaste. Contact solution. Spare contacts. Toothbrush. Glasses.  Razor. Shaving cream.

12. Try to figure out what that thing I’m forgetting to pack is. Hopefully it’s not the train tickets. Need those.

13. 11:30: Get picked up. Earlier than I’d like, but that’s when he’s available. Lunch at the airport, I guess.

14. Actually remember what that thing I forgot to pack is. Hope it wasn’t my passport.

15. 2:00: meet Ian, check in.

16. 4:00: wheels up.

17.  4:05: drug myself into unconsciousness.

18. Land in London. Commence hijinks.

See you on the other side, everybody.