Showing posts with label news. Show all posts
Showing posts with label news. Show all posts

Monday, February 06, 2023

Ice Like a Hurricane

We just had a few days of weather here in Austin, Texas.  It's left the city a wreck.  Again.

To understand what happened, my memory of the days as they unfolded went a bit like this:  

Around Saturday January 28th, we knew we were getting a cold front and that the oddly warm weeks of January we'd been experiencing would soon end  (the 28th had a high around 60, but we'd seen the 70's several times during the month).  On Sunday the 29th, suddenly the "it'll be cold and just over freezing, and it will rain" forecast we'd been hearing changed.  Suddenly we were to expect freezing temps, rain and ice.  

I work from home these days, and I didn't think much of it.  It sounded like a pain, but this wasn't the same as the multi-day freeze in the teens and 20's we experienced in February 2021 that took out the city and led to PTSD for almost all of us who sat in the dark, trapped in our houses for days, wondering if we'd die in our own homes.  This would be 24-48 hours of nasty cold and some wet and then we'd be back to normal temps.  We do this every other year or so.

But then on Monday the schools started closing early and planning closings on Tuesday and Wednesday.  

What happened, starting Monday evening and through Wednesday, was that Austin received a tremendous amount of rain, ice, grapple and other precipitation and the temps fell below freezing.  My own measurements tell me we got something like 2.5 inches of moisture.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Balloon Boy

Judge Not, Lest Ye Be...

Ha ha. Just kidding. What kind of blog would this be if I weren't judging everyone who caught my attention for a split second? This means you, Emily!!!!

But, like everyone else, I've been thinking about Balloon Boy.

In case you had not heard, the Sheriff of Larimer County, Colorado has deduced that the entire balloon chasing production on Thursday wasn't just a hoax, but one intended to land the family involved a television contract. And apparently scrambling the air force, shutting down the Denver airport, involving a massive portion of the police force and untold numbers of public servants isn't exactly legal. Thus, the Sheriff is throwing the book at the Heene family.

Marshall had a post on this, responding to an article on gawker

My own brother had this to say.

Mostly, I'm admiring the entire scenario as a perfect encapsulation of how I believe a portion of the populace has viewed the post-Survivor/ Richard Hatch era of pointless celebrity. And, as countless other navel-gazers have concluded in regards to the sort of Z-level fame and meritless notoriety sought by the those such as Heene: this isn't actual celebrity.

There's no word for what this is, but if eskimos have a few dozenw ords for snow, for the number of fame-seeking jack-asses there are in the world, we need a word that better describes the Z-Level fame via reality show. You know... the kind of famous that earns you a life being known as "Juice-a-Licious" from your run on "Flava of Love" or assuming people will know or care who you are because you were a jackass on Survivor six years ago.

There's no real name for that kind of fame. Please send in your ideas.

What's so beautiful about the Balloon Boy story is how jumbo-sized hubris, ineptitude and counting on a six year old to keep a story straight spun out into a yarn that, if you made it up, people wouldn't buy it... And now, when and if the tale is folded into someone's TV movie of the week or Oscar winning picture, what with charges filed, nobody actually needs to pay Heene for his side of the story. And Papa Heene may well wind up in jail (and will most certainly go broke on legal costs).

Sounds like a Coen Bros. project to me.

The Gawker article blames "us", which I don't buy. If we hear a kid is pilotlessly drifting across the Colorado sky in a runaway balloon, we're going to tune in every once in a while to see if that kid is okay. The dimensions of our displays don't matter. Yes, "we" watched a balloon floating across the landscape (well, I didn't. I saw the headline and then walked into a two hour training presentation, and by the time I was done, it was all over). That's like blaming "us" for Baby Jessica falling down a well back in the 80's.

Yes, it was something exploited by Heene, but there is more than voyeurism in this, or guilt the media should feel for breaking a live story. "We" don't need to feel shame for clicking on a hyperlink to understand a headline in bright yellow at the top of I understand that because Heene fooled us, Gawker is trying to turn that into a "we should have known better" story of personal shame, but... I'm not buying it this time. There are a lot of things "we" should have known better than that nobody has bothered to shame anybody about.

Reality TV isn't what created someone like Heene, but it did make the myopic pursuit of fame-by-any-means-necessary seem like it may have a greater likelihood of success, once you realized you may lack any actual talent. And, it cut out the middle-man of asking people to love a character, and let them get right to the business of loving you directly. Had Heene's grasp not over-extended his reach, no doubt he would be cutting a deal with somebody right now to feature his wacky family and their exploits. Unfortunately, in believing he and his brood were smarter than, apparently, literally everyone in Colorado and/ or America, he screwed up. (Not to mention appearing twice before on TV, pitching shows about his family to basic cable networks, and leaving a trail of videos seemingly demonstrating exactly what sort of jackass he was molding his children into).

If any of the Heene kids wanted a chance at not ending up in the fail column, maybe humiliation and a little jail time for their old man on a national scale will give them a moment of pause before they decide they, too, can outsmart laws of physics and a background check.

Heene's actions weren't harmless (all the resources that had to be brought forth to deal with the situation), and had he succeeded, if he was willing to exploit his kids in this situation, what would have been next? If the book is thrown at him, so be it. And if it gives the next idiot inflating a balloon and actually sticking his kid into the balloon a moment of pause, all the better.

I think Jason posited that people were mad at the Heene's because they had become invested in the gripping story of danger that turned out to be false, but I'd suggest that was only part of the story. That may be true, but its also possible there is a population out there who doesn't buy the E! channels narrative, or that of the Insider, Entertainment Tonight, etc... and who have grown quite tired of the cult of celebrity and the past decade's insistence that we know about people like Richard Hatch, Kardashians, the awful New York woman of VH1, any Real Housewife in any city, Jon & Kate and a thousand just like them. And seeing someone cut down before they had an opportunity to pop up on our Yahoo News page, in our headlines on, etc... that they somehow managed to take care of themselves sits okay with many of us.

Sorry your dad is going to jail, Balloon Boy. God bless you for doing what kids do so often and telling some part of the truth. Lord knows CNN barely bothers with it anymore. Heck, Wolf Blitzer was so baffled he didn't even have a line of questioning he could follow immediately when the cat was out of the bag and wandering around the table.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Kirby Family to Sue Marvel for Characters

Ohhhhh man.

This should be interesting.

You know, back when they announced the Disney/ Marvel merger, my first thought was "huh. Wonder what Kirby's family thinks of the $4 billion price tag?"

Well, wonder no more.

Jack Kirby's family is looking to regain rights to several of King Kirby's creations. Read more here.

They were probably right about this being one of the world's greatest comics this year. If you ignore the existence of Jimmy Olsen. Which I do not, and never will..

Kirby's estate could claim all sorts of stuff, from the Fantastic Four to the Hulk. Thor. Several Avengers. Galactus (yeh!). Black Panther. The Inhumans. The Eternals. You know... the X-Men. Stuff like that.

If people think DC should be shaking because of the Siegel claim on Superman, Marvel has a much, much bigger problem. But mostly only if Kirby's heirs can lay claim to the major characters. But at Marvel that can include my buddy Fin Fang Foom. (If you think I do not have a toy of Fin Fang Foom, you are wrong.)

Now, Kirby is not a co-creator of Spider-Man, Iron Man and many other characters, and as Stan Lee is likely listed as a creator on many of these characters, I don't know how this will work. But certainly Captain America was Kirby and Simon all the way.

Such a simple, straightforward little title back then.

Now, an ample amount of the DCU was created by Kirby as well, but not quite as many high-profile DC characters (I mean, I know who Mr. Miracle is, but I'm pretty sure KareBear has no idea). And DC seems to have had a better relationship with Kirby. "Seems to" being the operative words here.

Mom, this is Mr. Miracle. He's a super escape artist.

Anyway, as interested as I've been in the Siegel/ DC case, I'll most likely be just as interested in how this shakes out for Kirby's heirs.

After a while, you get a feel for a character that absolutely must have originally been a Kirby character. Its the only way to explain characters named things like "Unus the Untouchable".

Here's a list I just found online of all of Kirby's Marvel creations.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

I don't mean to criticize, but...

It seems the great state of Washington sees fit to take its murderous, psychotic criminals to the county fair.

I'm all for rehabilitation and treatment of the mentally ill. Truly, I am. But killing folks should not win you a roof over your head, three hots and a cot, and annual trips to see who wins the blue ribbon for the county's best blueberry pie.

Do you know when the last time was I got to go to the @#$%ing County Fair?

Anyway, it seems that the State of Washington misplaced one of their psychos, somewhere near the fried Oreo booth.

Well done.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Snake Grows Foot, Terrifies League

Shoemaker just posted this elsewhere

I am going to go to bed and hide beneath the covers now.

Added Shoemaker found item bonus!!!

Collinsworth on his Romantic Life

I don't know Cris Collinsworth from his actual NFL days, but I've sort of loathed the man as first the host of Fox TV's "Guinness Book of World Records" freak show, and then as an NFL commentator and host.

Leaguers, I present to you: Collinsworth, the man in his own words:

Joe Wilson's got nuthin' on Kanye

A huge tip o' the sombrero to Jason Craft for this one

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Virtual University and the Future of Education

I worked in the eLearning space for most of my post-collegiate career (and depending on your definition, for a year before I graduated). Due to my career path, for years, I've seen articles cross my monitor that look more or less like this one from this weekend's Washington Post.

First: read the article, or much of the following rant will not make sense
Second: In the spirit of full disclosure, my paycheck today comes from a consortium of 18 universities (and growing), and my office is located in the basement at the library of one of these major universities. Its a great job, and I'm biased toward believing my employment will continue. I have also been employed by major universities from 1997 - 2002, 2002 - 2006 and 2008 - present.

1) I'll start with an obvious problem.

The real force for change is the market: Online classes are just cheaper to produce.

This is, I assure you, not true. What is cheaper? An instructor who walks into a classroom, fires up the projector, and begins talking? Or that same instructor, the instructional designer who helps them adapt their course for online distribution, the developers managing the content management system, the servers which must be maintained (admittedly, this is moving to the cloud), the hardware required to push the data out to the world, the money spent by the school for an IT infrastructure, the money spent on the people to manage that infrastructure, the licensing of software for off-campus use, etc...?

There are a multitude of hidden costs completely ignored in this seemingly straightforward statement.

This doesn't begin to approach the various models employed. I've been involved with asynchronous video distribution of courses, which was a very expensive model, but also provides a guarantee to both student and faculty that you've reduced the separation between on-campus and online students. That requires, at minimum, several thousand dollars sunk into production-quality equipment to capture the instructor alone. To capture the entire "studio classroom", the price increases exponentially.

Asynchronous, non-video models tend to see significant attrition. They are cheaper to produce, and are what one sees at places like Univ. of Phoenix Online. Make no mistake, this is significant work for both faculty and student to prepare and manage discussion, with artificial, time-consuming expectations placed on the students to ensure participation.

Whether instructors have a few online students or they have thousands, part of a college class is homework. Which requires a fairly complex document management process from the distance learning organization. While most Course Management Systems offer standard form-based quizzes, hopefully higher education is requiring a bit more than a multiple choice quiz. And that all costs money, including staff to grade.

And none of this takes proctoring exams into account.

Let us not also forget that universities are not a defensive driving class. The sciences and engineering require sophisticated labs for even their undergraduates as standard operation for the course. You do not ship an oil derrick to a petroleum engineering student's home, nor a nuclear reactor to a nuclear engineering student's home. You don't inject rabbits with ebola over your sink to see what happens (I mean you could, but that's a totally different experiment).

There's a sort of Henry Ford model inherent in the idea of printing courses and being done with it. But Ford also didn't sit on his laurels and stop dead in his tracks after the Model T. Scholarship is a funny thing in that there always seems to be something to add, some changes to be made, suggesting that after you've done all of this once, even a Roman History course will need to be refreshed on a fairly frequent basis.

Author Zephyr Teachout may be shocked to find out that most universities do not have the endowments and budget that Harvard is able to play with, and cannot afford all of the technology that is required (and that may even include a Blackboard Course management System) to run an eLearning course. It may be cheaper to employ adjunct faculty and turn on the lights rather than reproduce its entire curriculum online every semester.

Assuming cost remains constant or drops is, on its face, wrong.

2) Higher education is not a product one purchases like a car.

Universities are not looking for customers, they are looking for select bodies of students to help them maintain their profile.

Teachout says:

A student can already access videotaped lectures, full courses and openly available syllabuses online. And in five or 10 years, the curious 18- (or 54-) year-old will be able to find dozens of quality online classes, complete with take-it-yourself tests, a bulletin board populated by other "students," and links to free academic literature.

Some schools like MIT are currently happy to share their content online from classes that are hitting the internet, but because universities actually value their own intellectual property, no university at my last check was offering MIT's content as their own. Nor is even the most motivated of people eager enough to (a) sit through a 45 hour semester course with no pay-off 9and certainly not do homework and lab work), (b) multiply that by enough courses that would have earned them a degree.

What Teachout describes exists, but the intention and believed use was for people who might use snippets here and there, not kill the time they could have used earning a degree watching courses and NOT earning a degree.

As universities are not businesses, and operate on a model which values scholarship above all else, I can see how it might be difficult for a business-minded person to understand that universities are not likely to begin looking to cut costs by turning to corporate pre-packaged materials.

The essence of scholarship is the generation and dissemination of ideas, something that I would believe Teachout somehow missed as a visiting faculty at Harvard. I am guessing, in fact, that Teachout most likely sampled the Blackboard course management system, realized the possible applications, and leaped ahead in her assessment without considering either the lengthy history of distance education, or the value of scholarship as created in the university campus and disseminated in the classroom.

The efforts most universities are engaged with today are the polar opposite of the McDonald's style of homogenized scholarship Teachout foresees. And, in fact, most universities are working to produce resources for their faculty to extend their scholarly communication out to anyone who can Google it. They are challenging faculty to not live in an ivory tower, but use the tools of communication to reach out to one another and better promote their work.

3) The Nintendo Generation

In 1999, an IT person came to my office to meet with my team and announced "We are looking at the Nintendo generation. We need tos tart figuring out how to turn our courses into video games or we're going to lose these kids".

Nobody turned their course into a videogame in the entire college where I worked, and yet, semester after semester, students continue to turn up.

And the young students of tomorrow will be growing up in an on-demand, personalized world, in which the notion of a set-term, offline, prepackaged education will seem anachronistic.

A few things Teachout is missing: the idea of turning a course into something that millions of students will take will, by default, mean that the course will no longer be agile or more easily updated. It will, in fact, mean that the courses will be the pre-packaged courses she suggests won't happen.

In fact, if one wishes to partially use her metaphor, its far more likely that students would jump from course to course offering, depending upon the befits of which course were maximum and still earned them course credit. This can only happen, of course, if there are little start-up courses available AND ACCREDITED (which presents a whole new problem).

When radio and television were introduced, it was believed a primary function would be educational. Satellite, cable and videotape have made the possibility for the classroom seating virtual thousands to exist well before the internet. And that's ignoring the packet-based "correspondence classes" recognized by most universities when I was an undergrad. During this time, semi-affordable video conferencing equipment was the rage, and joint courses began being held between campuses.

My first full-time gig positioned me as manager of a studio classroom, which went from video-conference suite and tape distribution center to online broadcasting within about a year. Integrated with a CMS, we'd pretty much achieved several of the goals Teachout suggests.

Later, I'd work with something called "NTU", which was a clearinghouse which allowed for students to take courses from a potluck of offerings from all sorts of universities. Walden continues to exist with NTU as a subsidiary. I think it's a great idea, but its been in the market for a long while without finding a ranking for engineering schools. So do with that what you will.

4) CostCo Law School

I'm a tremendous fan of the dystopian comedy "Idiocracy". In the movie, as the timelost protagonist and his newfound companion wander through a future-CostCo (which stretches beyond the horizon), the contemprary character off-handedly comments that he got his law degree at CostCo.

In viewing education as lowest-common-denominator product that should be simplified and put online, so the maximum number of learners can gain the same knowledge for the lowest cost possible might be where public education is headed in Texas, its antithetical to the ideals of actual scholarship. There's value in creating communities of competitive ideas, where students have options and can work outside of their comfort zone.

Universities strive to offer programs in diverse knowledge areas with faculty in cutting-edge research not just to build up their portfolio of NSF grants, but to offer that learning experience to students.

5) The Newspaper Analogy

I get where Teachout was going with the newspaper analogy, but its a tough one to swallow. If we honestly believe that the same sort of data that's generated in our research universities will be found without those research centers, but just, you know... out there on a blog or something... we might as well start just packing it now as a culture.

I've no doubt that it would benefit community colleges to synchronize on some of their courses that take up teaching load and are basic requirements. Its certainly a possibility. But those are also a small, small portion of the courses one takes in college. And, at a major university, those are the classes that employ associate and junior faculty.

I understand the belief that courses will be aggregated, but I see it far more likely that you'll see cross-listed courses at "partner" universities (see: Western Governor's University), as researchers and various universities find ways to collaborate in the classroom as well as the lab.

That's a good thing, and its more like picking up articles from a wire service, not like saying good-bye to the local paper.

6) Keggers and Football

The university experience is, of course, as much about what happens outside of the classroom as within.

I'm not really sure I need to elaborate here. We've all seen Animal House, correct?

7) So in Conclusion

I am a strong proponent of eLearning. I believe in it. I've worked in it a heck of a lot more and longer than most folks who teach a semester in the modern university.

I would suggest the following again:

Universities are not a business hunting and pecking for student money. Unlike anything else that costs as much as a university education, it is not a consumer driven model. It is far more akin to earning a job and succeeding in that job.

It is therefore not necessarily the role of the university to turn its courses into video games or lose their students. Its the role of the student to rise to the set of challenges created by or issued by their university, not for the university to quiver in fear of their students' demands for immediate gratification, 24 hour communication with their faculty, or a specific letter grade.

In my experience, technology enters the picture not when students demand it (if they attended public school, they usually don't expect much out of a classroom), but because the university found it was more productive for their faculty to have access to the technology.

While a strata of education will see change, Teachout's belief that only elite (read: Ivy League) schools will go untouched by her model, the model of the university is not going to crumble in the 10 - 20 years Teachout predicts.

At some point education may become the consumer commodity Teachout suggests, but we're a long way from the CostCo model today. Students are still asking to get in and hoping to get accepted. Perhaps this model will change in my lifetime, but the students aren't anywhere close to dictating what happens on their campuses today.

Now wealthy alumni...

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

DC Gets a Corporate Shake-Up

Today, while I was working, apparently DC Comics announced the end of an era as Paul Levitz has stepped down from executive duties at DC Comics. Levitz was a writer who ascended DC's corporate ladder, becoming Jenette Kahn's right hand man (as near as I could tell), and when she left DC, became Head Honcho.

This was a move I'd recently hinted was likely to happen, and pondered what it could mean.

I obviously know very little about any of these figures other than interviews I'd read online or clips that would appear in the documentaries tied to my DC Comics-related DVD's and Blu-Ray discs. But I always liked Levitz. In interviews he always seemed aware of fanboy rantings and capriciousness, but it was one small factor as he considered DC's role within a massive media empire where the characters of Superman and Batman made millions on licensing, and the comics maybe eked out a small profit in a good year.

It's not often that I disagree with blogger Kevin Church, but I think he gets it very, very wrong. Even if its hilarious.

What happened:

Levitz announced his new position and acknowledged change was afoot on the DCU Source Blog, stating he's no longer in chief, but will keep up his writing duties. This is, of course, not unlike when Hollywood execs are let go, and to save face the company gives them a multi-picture deal with the studio as a producer (which they most likely pray will not materialize).

Later in the day, there was an announcement of that the rumored move to put Diane Nelson over DC had materialized, and DC Comics is now: DC Entertainment (sound trumpets)

IE: DC owns characters who are to be exploited in many different forms of media, not just funny books with word balloons. And Ms. Nelson will make that happen.

What it means when the new super-boss replaces the guy you thought of as boss

The continuity of Paul Levitz from Jenette Kahn meant roughly two-decades of the same leadership at DC. That's unusual in any business, let alone the entertainment business. Marvel certainly hasn't seen that kind of stability, and I'd guess with Disney now looking over their shoulder, Joey Q may want to at least have a copy of his resume updated.

I'm not surprised DC is starting from the top down. And for good or ill, Dan Didio's record at DC may be one of the most public track records of any editor in any medium, from comics journalism, bloggers and the endless interaction Didio has had with the comics media itself (which always surprised me. I'm not sure he always came off as well as he thought he did in those first few 20 Questions videos).

With Levitz de-powered, the old boys network of DC is most likely to see something of a shake-up as someone new comes in to see what actually sells, and, to be blunt, its always seemed to me there are writers put on books who must be friends of Didio or Levitz, or they wouldn't be getting the work they're currently enjoying, given where they consistently fall in sales and from a creative standpoint. And, of course, the editors who haven't really seemed to have a decent book out since I was in college, but who hang on at DC.

As of today, all bets are off at DC Comics. Removing the traditional head is usually the first signal that an organization is about to be "re-organized".

Given the lengthy readership of the fanboys who make up the bulk of the comics audience, to suggest that readers don't notice these things (or that its not their business) is sort of ridiculous on its face. Its like not noticing a band's work is better under certain producers, or that somehow certain directors make better movies than other directors, no matter who is actually in those movies. After a while you draw connections on the names you see...

Better Promotion of the DC Characters

Somehow, the comic geek perception of Superman, Aquaman, and many non-Batman DC characters as somehow not as "cool" as Marvel's heroes has seeped into the public consciousness (although, for my dollar, Brave and the Bold's Aquaman is where its at).

What we do know is that DC Comics, as its been, has lost a lot of ground to Marvel in the public eye, from number of films produced to shelf space in the toy aisle at Target. And certainly Disney declaring the competition is worth $4 Billion, even with all the dispersed licenses for theme parks, film franchises, etc...

I'd also return to the complicated issue of portrayal of women on the cover of DC's line of books (and in the interiors), and how new blood is going to bring new perspective to all of this. Especially as Nelson considers each character as a possible t-shirt, movie, TV show, etc...

From Nelson's letter on the DC Blog (this looked like an intra-office memo. I'm surprised it wound up on the blog):

The founding of DC Entertainment is about Warner Bros. taking DC to the next level and giving DC an even greater degree of focus and prioritization in all the businesses in which we operate—films, television, home entertainment, digital, consumer products and videogames.

For readers looking for Nelson to not make any big changes: it isn't going to be her focus. There's real money to be made here. But for folks who think DC is off her radar? Paul Levitz. Gone. Do the math.

In conclusion:

Surprise, comics fans... the huge multinational company that owns your favorite superheroes would very much like to exploit them in all sorts of ways that aren't currently happening, and the first thing to get a hit are the people who have been there and not found themselves worth $4 Billion dollars.

Its not going to be one massive change, but certainly Nelson has the opportunity to make her mark with DC, and is hopefully not as vaguely embarrassed by superheroes as the previous master of the kingdom seemed to be (but this is a guy who greenlit a Catwoman movie).

Monday, August 31, 2009

Disney Buys Marvel

So, it sounds like this Disney purchase of Marvel is going to happen.

The New York Times says so and Stan Lee likes it! (and owns Marvel stock, so...)

I was thinking a bit today about what Jack "King" Kirby would think. Jack worked mostly for hire, I believe, and so the Marvel Empire he created with Ditko, Lee and others, is now worth a lot more than the company that was so broke they figured "well, we might as well let Stan try this superhero thing".

My comic history is an undergraduate level, but I don't really know enough about Kirby to make a solid call. But if Siegel's family is still grumbling about the loss of the Superman rights, the Kirby, Ditko and the rest of the families have to be feeling a bit screwed, too. $4 Billion.

What comic nerds all know is that DC Comics has been owned by Warner Bros. for decades. They were a successful publisher, risen up from soft-core and other pulp imprints prior to comics, and it was a good deal when Warner Bros. integrated them.

Marvel, when I first noticed anything about the business, was owned at the time by New World Pictures. It was supposed to do what WB had done, bring recognizable properties to the big screen. Unfortunately, that didn't pan out when New World went under.

Since then, Marvel went through another owner or two before going it alone, with a stock offering that culminated in what I found to be a stunning bit of arrogance when Marvel dipped out of the red and actually published their annual report as a collector's item for the fanboys. No. Really. They did.

This was shortly after the release of Spider-Man 1, and the launch of the Ultimate line. So, yeah, Marvel had some reason to gloat.

Unfortunately, Marvel also spent that time making fun of DC for being owned by a corporation, and, regularly, in print, referred to DC as "AOL Comics" in reference to the AOL/ Time-Warner merger. It wasn't so much that it had any effect on DC, but it was the sort of juvenile posturing going on at Marvel at the time marked the years when Jemas took the reins, with current Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada right next to him.

I do, in fact, wonder if Quesada is wondering if DC will be referring to Marvel as "Mickey Marvel".

I don't doubt there's any "why" to Disney's purchase of Marvel. Disney has usually created brands within the company to reach certain demographics, or purchased them if that seemed more convenient. Touchstone Pictures was Disney's Rated-R arm for a while, and they bought Miramax from the Weinsteins when having something vaguely independent in appearance seemed profitable.

Marvel has a certain street cred of cool that DC hasn't had in 40 years, and their stable of super-heroes have become as well known as the Super Friends once were. Their characters appeal to the ever-profitable audience of young adult males. Disney hasn't been able to maintain the continuum with Mickey and Co., losing that audience after childhood, and waiting for people to become parents themselves to fully tap into the licensed property market. In fact, I'd say the closing of a good portion of the Disney Stores at malls was a sign that the licensing was missing a few key demographics.


Let's be clear: Disney is not buying Marvel so they can put out comics. In fact, this is a fairly messy area for Disney.

In recent years, Disney has tried to crack the comic-sphere. I believe they currently have a deal with SLG comics, where they tried to exploit the medium with comics based on The Haunted Mansion and other properties. I don't think I've seen any of the Disney comics that were supposed to come from that deal in four or five years, so that's some indicator of the success of that deal.

Within the last two months, upstart comic publisher Boom! Studios has made huge waves with their Disney/ Pixar licensed comics, and an announcement of the old Scrooge McDuck an other comics making their way from Gemstone over to Boom! And, honestly, I feel pretty badly for Boom! at the moment as this move means that their deal will most likely not last beyond the term of their current contract. And, in fact, Disney seems to have acted in a bit of odd, if not bad, faith.

Further, Marvel's publishing arm hasn't actually been doing super-duper the past year or so. However, in this game, its not about the comics, its about the licensing and film opportunities.

Part of the implied insult in Marvel's bad-natured teasing of DC about its Time-Warner ownership was the idea that DC's characters, beholden to their corporate overlords, couldn't be as "edgy" as Marvel's characters. To some degree, while I would guess all sorts of assurances are being made today, Marvel does now have a corporate structure within which it will fall. No matter the guarantees, at some point a Disney accountant is going to point out that "We are Disney. Our best known superhero does not make marriage-ending deals with Satan himself."

While I sincerely believe the Disney corporate overlords have better things to do than worry about Spidey's thrice-monthly adventures, this is also the same company that subducts its waste into an elaborate system of tunnels at Disney World so that one never sees someone handling a trashcan at The Magic Kingdom.

The Licensing

Marvel has never been shy about slapping Spidey's face on everything from a Universal Studios Theme Park Island to the pair of plastic binoculars I had in first grade.

With Disney owning the most important theme parks in the western Hemisphere, Marvel has an entire "Marvel Island" located at Universal Studios in Orlando. Its hard to believe that when the contracts expire, that Disney will simply renew the contracts without exacting a hefty fee from their neighbors a cab-ride away from the Magic Kingdom. (I met Captain America when I was there. It was neat.)

Marvel's licensing has accounted for a goodly chunk of the profits, to toy manufacturers, popsicle makers, etc... I don't pick up many Marvel comics, but they must also have some print-ad deal when they sign a contract, because half the comic looks like a catalog for hastily-crafted Marvel gear (there was Marvel cologne a few years ago).

Jason often makes fun of me for "buying any crap with an 'S' on it", but the truth is that were I an avid Spidey collector, Jamie and I would have to move out of the house to make room for all the junk with Spidey's two pale white eyes staring back at you. Seriously, walk around Target sometime with Spidey on the brain. It's a mind-boggling experience.

I don't believe Disney has anything to actually learn here. After Eisner was shown the door (and a bit before), they've had no trouble putting the face of their princesses, Pooh and the Mickey gang on all sorts of junk. But, again, there's that demographic where princesses and Mickey don't really work, but Iron Man most certainly does work.


When it comes to feature films, my assumption is that Disney is looking to buy tentpole summer movies that it can't seem to cook up on their own, what with the relative failure of the Narnia Chronicles. Not only do the movies tend to rake in dough, but the sale of the movie-related toys seems to be quite good.

Prior to Sam Raimi's Spider-Man, Marvel's history with movies was rocky, at best. Several 70's-era TV movies and a post-Burton-Batman Captain America film that never saw the silver screen... and, the much discussed but rarely seen Roger Corman Fantastic Four.

Here's the odd part to me about focusing a lot on the films...

Spider-Man is pretty well locked up at Sony. The FF isn't really ready for a reboot quite yet (although that's the next logical step). The last Hulk outing did less-well than the criticized Ang Lee Hulk. Ghost Rider and several other Marvel flicks (Elektra, Daredevil, two separate Punisher movies) were either critical or commercial bombs, or both. And the Wolverine film has a strong opening weekend and then fizzled.

In the past three or four years, only Iron Man has been a stand-out hit, and that may have been beginners luck. But iron Man, Hulk and several of Marvel's latest films that actually lent heavily from the comics (unlike the egregious FF movies) were actually produced in-house by Marvel Entertainment.

Will Disney buy the Marvel style of movie-producing, or will they do what WB insisted on doing withe the pre-Nolan Batman franchise, Catwoman, etc...?

That said, you never know. Iron Man is supposed to lead us to an Avengers movie, and there's just a blanket assumption that an Avengers movie will be The Next Big Thing. I can see it.

Animation and Television

Here's an area where DC has been kicking the crud out of Marvel for years.

DCU Animated has been doing pretty well with its slate of animated feature films, at least critically and from fan response. Marvel... has a long way to go. DC could easily still be spinning stories out from Bruce Timm and Co.'s vision which started when I was in high school, but that era has sort of wrapped.

I have no idea why Marvel's animation projects always wind up as a bit of a mess, but its not for lack of a quantity of attempts. Movies. MTV-3D-animated Spidey. 3D animated Iron Man. Baby Avengers. What-have-you. None of it seems to make much of a dent.

One is led to believe Disney may know a thing or two about how to do this better.

With Smallville, DC has also had a show about the boyhood of Clark Kent on TV going into its 9th Season this fall. That's nothing short of incredible. Especially when one considers that the show was preceeded by Lois and Clark and Superboy in the past 25 years or so.

Marvel hasn't had a regular television staple since Spidey joined the cast of The Electric Company.

In Conclusion:

On paper, the Marvel/ Disney deal looks good. I will be curious to see how it all pans out over the next two years. To see who stays and goes. And if Stan Lee gets richer and kookier (I hope so).

It's impossible to know exactly what will happen, who will stay and who will go.

I'm insanely tired or there would be something to talk about the buying and selling of characters and their likeness, in a Marvel vs. DC world, but... I haven't got it in me tonight.

Anyway, it'll be fun to watch.

Yes, I Know

As always, Nathan C was first to alert me to the news, followed within five minutes by Randy, and Dan G. walking into my office.

Yes, I am now aware that Disney bought Marvel Entertainment.

More to come.

As I told Randy: We can now have that Quasar/ Clarabelle Cow crossover so many of us fans have long believed should occur!

But I confess that the idea of Mickey in a web-slinger outfit strikes me as a particularly great idea... And Wolver-Duck. Berserker rage, indeed.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

In the News

Superman and Batman arrested in New York.

The best thing about this whole Bush surveillance deal? You choose!
(a) we'll never really know what happened
(b) someone thought this @#$% was a good idea
(c) now that someone went ahead and put this thing together, its not going to go away
(d) you just know that absolutely nobody is going to actually have to go to jail over all this
(e) someone is going to tell me that I shouldn't be concerned about this sort of thing

We thought we were going to be witness to some bad stuff at Barton Springs yesterday, but all ended well.
Jamie discusses here.
Here's the news report.

And the Dems demonstrate, once again, why they appear to be completely ineffective at government when they should be able to push just about anything through. A claim I'm finding, once again, difficult to dispute. I predict 2010 will be a repeat of '94 (popular prez, congressional dems decide to sabotage everything that got the guy voted into office. I might need to put on my Docs and start wearing flannel plaid).

While Fox News demonstrates, once again, that there are some uncomfortable undercurrents to the messaging and standpoints of their mouthpieces.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Place your bets here...

So Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, famous for accidentally removing credibility from the McCain campaign (sorry, Palin fans, its true) has resigned her post as Governor.

My guess is that Palin received an opportunity for a lucrative television contract. Something along the lines of a talk show (isn't the modern dream to be Oprah Winfrey?) or something on Fox.

But, I also have no doubt that its all part of her plans for 2012. If that's the case, this voter is really looking forward to the primaries.

Any other theories?

Perhaps this recent Vanity Fair article could shed some light...

thanks to Randy for starting this whole conversation

Thursday, July 02, 2009

It was a dark and stormy night...

If you've never heard of the Bulwer-Lytton contest, its a competition wherein folks submit a single sentence. The sentence is intended to be the start of a novel. A particularly bad novel that does not exist (yet).

I only remember this contest every few years, but I suggest perusing .


If the contest does not give an aspiring writer a moment of pause when they look upon their own prose, they either lack the self-awareness and insight into their own work enough to be a writer or they have an unhealthy level of self-confidence.

Two of my favorites:

Darnell knew he was getting hung out to dry when the D.A. made him come clean by airing other people's dirty laundry; the plea deal was a new wrinkle and there were still issues to iron out, but he hoped it would all come out in the wash - otherwise he had folded like a cheap suit for nothing.

Lynn Lamousin
Baton Rouge, LA

No man is an island, so they say, although the small crustaceans and the bird which sat impassively on Dirk Manhope's chest as he floated lazily in the pool would probably disagree.

Glen Robins
Brighton, East Sussex, U.K.

That second one sounds terribly likely in modern fiction.

Tip o' the hat to Unloveable.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The King of Pop merges with The Infinite

It seems only fitting that I would learn of Michael Jackson's passing from Leaguer Nathan Cone.

Nathan just sent this in from Variety.

The League of Melbotis is, despite all, a fan of the Thriller album and believes "Wanna be Starting Something" is nothing less than pop genius.

Its just the last 20 years or so that complicate things.

RIP, Michael Jackson.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Pig Flu


I'm not going to say this right, and I'm going to be taken the wrong way, but here we go.

I am aware that the flu/ Spanish Influenza/ Swine Flu/ Avian Flu, etc.... are all very serious.

But before we start saying "pandemic" and "epidemic", we should keep this in mind.

According to NOAA's National Severe Storms Laboratory, something like 100 people die from lightning strikes each year in the US, and about 500 are injured.

There are roughly 300 million Americans.

While lightning does not travel like a virus, before we all believe we're doomed from pig flu, let's get a handle on the statistics. Or else I suggest we start treating lightning as an epidemic.

As of today, they found 40 non-fatal cases of the flu in the US. You are more likely to die from lightning as of today in the US than you might from Pig Flu.

That could change tomorrow, but the number of cycles being lost as everyone calms everyone else and explains basic hygiene is sort of nuts. And I sincerely hope we don't see a return of La Grippe. I'm just not sure we're there yet.

That is all.

Monday, March 09, 2009

President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho

Sunday I watched about twenty minutes of the 2006 movie "Idiocracy". The movie wasn't terribly popular, but:

(a) the more times I stumble across it, the funnier I find it
(b) it's kind of stunning how swiftly we're all moving towards the world Mike Judge predicted. Gleefully so. Which is most likely why we didn't find it funny.

The problem, I think, with the poor showing "Idiocracy" had at the box office is only partially that its not a bad-ass dystpoian future of motorcycle gangs and gun fights or robots to fight against. It wasn't one single-source who doomed us who is looking for a savior. It was us who defeated us by acting pretty much how us acts. There's nobody to blame in Judge's future but ourselves, and his predictions aren't wild speculation, but the logical extension (although satirical) of how we deal with politics, shopping, entertainment, healthcare, mega-corporations, etc...

Welcome to CostCo. I love you.

The twenty minutes I watched included the part of the movie where President Camacho has appointed Luke Wilson's literal everyman Joe as Secretary of Agriculture or something so he can figure out why the crops aren't growing. Joe learns that its because they're spraying fields with a Power-Ade-like energy drink rather than water.

The people give Joe's solution of using water instead of Power-Ade on their plants about two days (at which point, the Power-Ade company goes bankrupt, because farmers were spraying large quantities of it on their plants, assuring the profitability of the energy drink company), and begin to riot outside the White House, which leads to Joe's trial and attempted execution by Monster Truck.

And as I watch CNN's headlines tick by, I can't help but note... We are Idiocracy.

Obama has been in office for about 6 weeks. We've had about 9 years or more of absolutely horrendous lending and financial practices which Obama is now being asked, both explicitly and implicitly, to fix. And watching the headlines, it all seems inevitable that he will be blamed if things don't begin a turn-around by 2011.

I sort of predicted that when Obama took office, people were going to be shocked that he couldn't magically fix everything by smiling at it and giving us a confident nod.

What's eye-rollingly irritating is that the press seems to kind of assume there's some obvious, single solution to our current dire financial straits, and that while THEY might not know what the solution is, and despite what every financial analyst they stick a micropphone in front of says its going to be years, there's an implicit suggestion in the headlines that its the job of the president to flip a switch and make it okay again. We're not to learn lessons, look within ourselves as a nation to see how we got here. We're to start buying houses we can't afford again and to make everything just how it was if you rolled the clock back to 2007 (when signs were beginning to show trouble, anyway).

We're seeing stories about how gray Obama has already become, how he's been working late, and that his budget isn't some miracle cure-all.

I guess my question is, sure, the former Pro-Wrestler, machine gun toting Camacho is a satirical stereotype... But you can't help but think "hey, the press and certain parties would be touting how Camacho was taking action and making decisions that were popular in the polls", so how far are we from "Ow, My Balls" and a push-button healthcare system where self-examination has been bred out of us all together?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Secret Identity Revealed

Anyone who spends more than 2 or 3 days at my house will see I watch an alarming amount of Austin's 24-hour news channel, News8Austin. Its all local news, weather, sports, events, etc... And its run the way I think a news channel should be run. It's mostly commentary free, unless they have "commentator" below someone's name, and the anchors and reporters don't freely editorialize.

But its also a small, shoe-string-budget operation where reporters build their portfolio or settle into News8's somewhat odd culture of "Pet of the Week" installments and showing up every time someone puts more than three folding chairs outside and rents a microphone.

This weekend they were taping the Austin Marathon (which may or may not have featured JAL), when photographer Eddie Garcia caught something entering the atmosphere and seemingly burning up. You can watch the video here.

Some speculated that it was part of the satellites which recently collided in orbit. NASA has dismissed all that. They say it was maybe a meteor.

Well, Leaguers. That was me. Its a little difficult to explain what I was doing in the ionosphere in the first place, but let us just say that wrongs needed righting, and I could not let the schemes of my nemesis, Dr. Nefario (aka: RHPT) come to fruition. Indeed, the fate of the world was at stake.

So, yeah, that's me and Lucy heading back to planetside. I didn't know I lit up like that on re-entry. Neat!

Monday, January 19, 2009

This Moment in History: Obama Inauguration/ MLK Day

Jamie, Lucy and I spent some time this weekend watching CNN footage of the inaugural activities going on in Washington DC.

It's tough to listen to the endless stream of superlatives and attempts by the commentators to repeatedly remind viewers of the historical significance of Obama's inauguration without feeling that it's just a portion of the significance. A vast portion, to be sure, but it does seem that it's almost forgetting the campaign and messages Barack Obama shared which lead to his election. It's not that I'm not aware of the fact that we have a changing of the guard, or that Obama is African-American. I get all that, and I get the historical significance of what it means for the character of the U.S. that the generations that would never have seen or allowed a man of Obama's racial make-up and background to ascend to the White House have either fallen away or have had a change of mind and heart.

These are things to celebrate, and, of course, its fitting that the inauguration would fall on the day following the national holiday celebrating Dr. King's message and legacy.

Before its forgotten, Obama wasn't elected or not elected because of race (although I do not want to dismiss the meaning for the U.S.). I would posit that he was elected because of the ideas that Barack Obama brought to the campaign trail.

I could appreciate that Obama's first volley was to reject big money donors to the campaign and rely mostly upon the smaller contributions of individuals. Sure, there were days when I thought that if I got one more e-mail from the campaign, I was going to scream, but rather than wondering what Obama would feel he owed certain contributors once in office, I knew what Obama was at least attempting to do by letting thousands have their voice rather than the needs of large donors. And, I could appreciate the make-or-break nature of such a plan, right up to the requests for donations to support the inaugural balls rather than having the Exxon Inaugural Ball, what have you...

If we're serious about government for the people, by the people, then I can get behind a person who has the vision to try to run their campaign by having faith in their supporters as much as possible. While they're important, I can believe in a candidate who recognizes that corporations are not people, and a politican who would rather be financially supported by thousands of individuals who believe in him than by behemoth groups looking for a quid pro quo.

There are also Obama's stances on international engagement, use of military force, health care, education and more that were welcome changes (and Senator Clinton reflected many of those same stances, so my choice making was made difficult). All of these things were incredibly important to me as a I selected my candidate of choice, and only rarely did I see Obama need to shift his message of plan for any of these issues. And I hope that Obama will work with Congress, and Congress with Obama to implement the messages put forth during the long, long campaign season.

The economy is an enormous issue, and I've appreciated Obama's straightforward discussion of what America faces in the months leading up to the inauguration. No one would envy Obama the challenges facing him as he steps into the Oval Office, and I will be watching closely to see what plans he and Congress cook up. It's my sincere hope that partisanship will only serve to craft refined economic plans as each party keeps the other honest. (I also hope for more in the way of job-creation rather than merely propping up crumbling financial empires, but that's just me).

The underlying tone of the enthusiasm one sees on cable news isn't just for a certain person to come into the presidency, but a hope and faith placed into Obama as a sign that the status quo of politics in the U.S. has the potential for change at this moment. While anyone over the age of 22 is probably jaded enough to know only so much can change, we can ask for President Obama to not fall prey to the partisanship of the past 20 or more years, political dynasties, what have you... to work in service to all Americans and not the implied oligarchy of "those who know what's best for you" that we've seen during such a huge swath of my lifetime. Or politicians who are admired for how they game the system rather than for their policies and how they lead.

But a lot of what Obama has promised has not been a change that he can carry on his own. The motto, after all was "Yes, we can", not "Your government has got it covered". So I find it fitting that the day before Obama is inaugurated, we find ourselves honoring the leadership of Dr. King and his quest for racial harmony and social justice. But MLK Day isn't just a bank and postal holiday, but also a day of service and remembering. No official can successfully lead by asking for their citizenry to remain unengaged or place their fates into the hands of their leaders without thought. Obama's calls for engagement in our community will need to be heeded, and already I'm getting e-mails from the First Lady asking for my service. And, honestly, its giving me a moment of pause. What can I do? Am I the change I wish to see?

Will we blame Obama when we, ourselves, fail? What can we do to ensure not that Obama succeeds, but that America succeeds?

Everything leading up to 12:00 Eastern tomorrow has been nothing but a prelude. We do not know what the future holds, or what compromises Obama will find himself in as he sits down with his cabinet this first week. Inevitably, the cheering throngs will decide (perhaps one by one) that Obama has disappointed them somehow as personal agendas go unaddressed, as congress stalls in pushing through reforms, laws, policy...

But we do have a choice under new leadership, and a leadership that has been fairly clear in that it is a "we". Americans need to remember that asking for a vote is asking for very little. "Yes, we can" is not just a call to show up at the polls, but a promise that we'll do better.

I'm celebrating the 43rd peaceful transition of power, of a hope for a better tomorrow, and for what it means to have this person at this time stepping into the position to be the face of America. I don't want to diminish the resonance that MLK Day has so close to the election, but to celebrate the sort of person who we've chosen to lead us, perhaps based not upon the color of his skin, but upon the content of his character.

Edit: By the way, while I was writing this, President-Elect Obama and Michelle Obama announced the USA Service website.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

So this is sort of more of a blog post

Moderated comments

We all have things we're touchy about. And when we start thinking of specific areas of our lives, we can probably find something that doesn't work for us. When it comes to maintaining this blog, the thing I find hardest to manage is the Anonymous Comment.

I want to be very, very clear about this: I am not mad at anyone, and that's not what this is about. I just received a spate of anonymous comments over the past few days, and I have no idea who is commenting. Were this some popular site, I'd probably think nothing of it, but as we have often the same visitors here, I prefer that if you comment, you find some way to self-identify.

That doesn't mean you need to use a Google account. You can still just post a comment, but I'd prefer you then sign your comments one way or another.

I know you're going to ask why.

1) Yes, each of you is a unique snowflake. But no matter what you think, I can't really hear "your voice" when you post anonymously, so it certainly is useful to see who is saying what so I can get the tone of what you're saying. The same comment that can seem incredibly rude from an anonymous comment can be understood as a joke or whatever if I know who the source is.

2) I have no way of knowing if you are someone new if you don't self-identify. I might think you're one of the Loyal Leaguers, but for all I know, you're somebody I don't know, and that makes it difficult to frame a response.

3) Sometimes I also want to talk about a comment that's been posted offline. No matter how open I try to be, every once in a while a comment shows up that I know is going to cause an issue, and I think that if we're all friends here, we should be able to talk about it sidebar rather than immediately causing a problem.

4) And I'll be truthful. Every once in a while we'll get one of these drive-by commentors who is literally doing nothing but being obnoxious. That happened today, and I'm just not in the mood. I know this person is having a grand time but... whatever.

So, anyway, I'm sorry about all that. But that's how we're going to roll for a little while. I think as we head towards our sixth year (yeah, seriously. SIX) I've earned enough trust that you know I will publish anything you guys say (within reason). But I also want to try this new policy. Hopefully it won't discourage you guys from commenting.

And, hey, this may all pass in a week or two and we'll be back to SOP.

Airplane in the Hudson

I don't even know what to say about the crew who landed a plane in the Hudson river and everyone involved made it out alive. That's simply amazing.

Read here.

Not only am I having a moment of pause that for once, a story involving a plane wasn't a tragedy, but... all those millions of times a flight attendant went through emergency procedures, this was the only time I heard of the steps for a water landing being actually applicable. It's sort of mind-boggling.

I will actually pay attention next time I'm on a plane.

I'm being plagiarized, sort of

So as you know, I write for a site called Comic Fodder.

I check technorati on a semi-weekly basis or so to see who may have linked to Comic Fodder. I find it to be good practice to see what people are saying about whatever the hell I said.

And I know the internet is full of people who steal your content all the time, but...

Anyway, (edit: I had the site directly linked, and it appears James Michael Wilcox has chosen to block me somehow. The URL is was completely ripping off Comic Fodder's content.

This dork is the party responsible.

Here is a photostream of his family.

He seems like a real bum.

He's also moved on and is ripping off other content.

Bad form.

Spidey y Obama

I did manage to get a copy of the limited edition issue of Spider-Man meeting Obama.

I don't usually seek this sort of thing out, but I've started collecting comics with political figures (there's a comic coming soon about Caroline Kennedy!)

Anyway, here's a pic of that cover.

Austin Books was very good about how they managed distribution, which I guess I'm saying, because I got a copy.

Bush says "adios"

So Pres. Bush had his farewell speech this evening which I sort of listened to while Jason cooked dinner (I know..! Jason cooked dinner!). It was short, covered the same talking points he's hit in every interview the past few months, and was full of no surprises.

So long, George. I wish I could say we'll miss you, but... well, there's like 22% of the people who will miss you.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Day After

Chinese President Hu Jintao on Obama's election

"In a new historical era, I look forward to taking our bilateral relationship of constructive co-operation to a new level."

He just feels too deeply. That's Hu's problem.

You can read more reactions from world leaders here.

I would especially point to the quote by European Commission Chief Jose Manuel Barroso:
This is a time for a renewed commitment between Europe and the United States of America. We need to change the current crisis into a new opportunity. We need a new deal for a new world.

I sincerely hope that with the leadership of President Obama, the United States of America will join forces with Europe to drive this new deal - for the benefit of our societies, for the benefit of the world.

I find it telling that Barroso conjures up the image of FDR and The New Deal, and completely understandable. Perhaps Obama's situation is different from that of FDR (history buffs will no doubt come up with a million ways in which I am wrong), but there are certain parallels, and certain challenges which are much the same. A spiralling economy, a world which seems on the tip of global conflict.

FDR did not live to see the conclusion of the war or the prosperity which followed. But he did live to see his policies and programs help his fellow Americans (my own grandfather supported his family with, I believe, NYA work). But I guess the point is that he used his position to try to prop up the economy on both macro and micro-levels, and perhaps we can learn from that.

He was also a great friend to Allied Europe (obviously), and understood international cooperation, and negotiation. Including doing as good a job as I guess one could have done working with a crackpot like Stalin in order to achieve victory in Europe and Japan.

If Barroso is hoping for another FDR... Well, let's give it a few months before we start calling the man a failure.

But he's also asking that Obama, America and perhaps Europe see opportunity in our current multiple crises. Opportunity, one assumes, to not go back to what led us into these messes in the first place, but a way back out. That perhaps with that whole "leader of the free world" tag comes some responsibility to act the part.

Of course, all of this is academic until January, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be paying close attention to what the President-elect begins to line up for that first hundred days.

I don't want to come across as a negative nelly, but I think since my ill-fated Nader vote, I'm usually fairly pragmatic about politics (but maybe not my ideals). I stumbled across this article by an historian discussing the inevitable disappointment in Obama as he attempts to tackle the challenges ahead and is unable to magically create 100K-earning jobs, free energy and unicorns to cart children to wizard school.

Here you go.

I am reminded of the Clintons' attempts to re-design healthcare, and the roadblocks tossed in their way by their own party. Or Bush's attempts to outsource social programs, etc... Sometimes, things just don't happen.

Obama is in a good place. He carried a lot of people in with him on his coattails. Hopefully Pelosi and Co. can do more with the next two years than the past two they've sort of squandered, and/ or done things that were expedient rather than wise.

But its also a narrow window. Clinton was in office for a short period before Newt and Co. rode into town with their Contract with America, creating a voting majority with a very different agenda from his own. I wouldn't encourage the same monarchy-in-all-but-name status Bush enjoyed from 2001-2006 as both houses rolled over for the man, but no doubt its going to be less of a deadlock than one might see with legislative and executive branches bumping heads.

When you boil it down, I'm not feeling celebratory. Today I'm feeling pretty sober about the responsibilities handed to President-Elect Obama.

I'm not one of those people who says "Gee, this is the toughest time humanity ever had it", because, really... we're humanity. The way we treat each other is abysmal and we're generally our own biggest enemy unless you want to talk influenza or marauding bears or something. Losing value in your house sucks, but not as much as, say, the Black Plague or the Spanish Inquisition. It feels big because it is.

But we are sitting on a pile of pickles right now that it'd be handy if we could sort them out without bankrupting the nation or causing a 2000 year vendetta war. What's key is that we pick a direction (a new direction, because, seriously...) and go with it, while being agile and wise enough to change course when what we're doing isn't working. And a person who will see their role and service as a privileged responsibility.

We won't know until our President-Elect takes office.

But I am optimistic. That's the value of change, in many ways. It provides an opportunity (there's that word again) for progress rather than trying to trying to merely maintain the status quo. Especially when you're looking at a whole big pile of pickles awaiting you on Day 1 of the new job.

What I was glad Obama called out (and which I'm not sure was heard, but, you know dude's gotta try) was that he needs for the citizenry to step it up. He won't be able to do this alone. He asked for service and sacrifice, something we have an odd relationship with in the US (and I do, in particular).

Going beyond the rhetoric, can a person inspire others to greater deeds?