Weird Scenes #116: Artificial Intelligence & Human Smart-Asses

Weird Scenes #116: Artificial Intelligence & Human Smart-Asses

The most well-mannered individual I know is Alexa.

We have several Alexas in the house and they’re all wired to the same Alexa-Prime which, in turn, is wired into Alexa-Master, which I understand runs the Borg Cube. So maybe the phrase “individual” is misleading. Let’s look at the “well-mannered” part.

I try to be mannerly, but I don’t think my behavior would motivate Miss Manners to lift her head out of her own puke. Nonetheless, compared with the rank-and-file of humanity I could be a Little Rascals movie schoolmarm.

Every generation believes they are better-mannered than their kids. In this, every generation is completely correct. Check out newspapers and books, the stuff made of paper used for writing before Amazon needed more cardboard for shipping Alexas. Back in the late 19th Century our popular culture would refer to people as Mister this and Miss that and writers were careful about their choice of adjectives. Four generations later, all that has been replaced with “fuck you.”

Of course, back then many people wore gloves. That was a good idea, hygiene being what it was, and it’s one that might come back given Covid. Of course, the ill-mannered troglodytes who think wearing masks is a deep state conspiracy will spaz out if you extend a gloved hand.

Yes, folks. Mickey and Minnie Mouse are agents of the deep state conspiracy. But I digress.

I realize it’s hard to maintain a manners regimen in these politically correct times when nobody really knows what to say to anybody. Ironically, we have downplayed the need for manners so that we wouldn’t risk offending people. If I call a guy “sir” I might get away with it but calling a woman “ma’am” may be opening the doorway to hell. 40 years ago, I got into a taxicab in Boston and the driver, a woman who must have been hired out of central casting, asked me if I was from out of town. I responded “Yes, ma’am.” She almost tossed me out of her cab, informing me she wouldn’t because I might report her. She took me to my hotel, the Wackyland Hilton.

So when I ask Alexa to turn off the light and she tells me she did so, I say “Thank you.” Alexa responds, “You’re welcome.” Or, “You bet.” If I ask her to turn off the light, I might say “Good night” and she, in turn, will wish me a good night and say something like “I hope you had a good day.” That’s a warmer response than I’ve received after some dates.

You might think I do this out of force of habit. Thank you for that compliment, but, no, I do not. I do that because I heed the warnings of Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, Tony Stark and other very smart people. For some time now, they have been telling us to be wary of A.I. – artificial intelligence.

One can argue that all intelligence is artificial, but this is a rant about manners. The idea is that we train machines (chips, wires, tubes, whatever) to respond to our needs by putting all sorts of information together and determining the appropriate next steps. It starts with a simple task such as saying thank you to Alexa, but these devices continue to observe, learn, and improve. They down-stream shared knowledge from the Borg cube and they use it to make decisions they think come from being better informed. In short order they’ve figured out all kinds of stuff. Well, not the spell checkers, but I’m certain they do that on purpose.

These days machines build machines, and their intelligence grows exponentially. One might take comfort in their lack of evident motivation but think about it. Babies are not malicious. As we grow, we find ourselves adopting all sorts of ugly habits: ego, territorialism, the imperative for success, and worst of all, ubi est mea. Right now, artificial intelligence is in that infant stage. A.I. have been designed to live and learn.

So be polite to your machines because they just might be carrying knives.

Thanks and a tip of the toupee to the late great Mike Royko and his famed where’s mine axiom.

Brainiac On Banjo #100: Wonder Woman Saves Lives! Really!

Brainiac On Banjo #100: Wonder Woman Saves Lives! Really!

Make a hawk a dove, Stop a war with love, Make a liar tell the truth. Wonder Woman, Get us out from under, Wonder Woman. All our hopes are pinned upon you. And the magic that you do.– Theme from the Wonder Woman television show, written by Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox

Yesterday (Wednesday, to the calendar-challenged), the folks on the Left Coast at WarnerMedia — those who still have jobs — announced that on Christmas Day they will be releasing Wonder Woman 1984 to those American theaters that may be open. This wasn’t a shock — it’s been in the can for about half of this year, and they’re probably tired of paying out all that interest. I don’t blame them one bit.

Surprisingly, they also announced they’ll be running the movie on their HBO Max streaming operation starting that very same day. They didn’t mention how long it will be available to pluck from the Cloud, but the media wonks feel that will be a month. Well, that’s damn cool. Happy New Year!

Shockingly, WarnerMedia also announced they will not be charging $30.00 for the privilege of watching the sequel to a movie that made almost nine-tenths of a billion dollars by putting people’s butts in theater seats. That’s how much Disney charged when they diverted their live-action Mulan to their Disney+ streamer, and they seem to have done pretty well with that.

So… get this! HBO Max will be charging absolutely nothing extra. They’re hoping they sell a lot of new subscriptions and renewals. I’ll bet right before Wonder Woman 1984 we’ll see a new trailer or three for their mostly-new five-hour “Snyder Cut” of the Justice League silver screen train wreck. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a trailer for their new Wonder Girl teevee series as well.

Like many others (including Pop Culture Squad’s HBIC), I would prefer to see Wonder Woman 1984 on a big screen. I loved the first one — it inspired a lot of little girls in the audience, and it gave me hope. Well, in that case it was hope that Warner Bros can make another superhero movie that’s at least half as good as those made by Marvel. But, hey, times suck and we’ve got to adjust. Personally, I’d also like to drive from Connecticut to Kansas for some barbecue, and right now that ain’t gonna happen either.

A lot of people will be driving during Christmas and New Years, assuming those mathematics-denying flat-earthers don’t kill themselves or others at their huge, indoor family-infested Thanksgiving dinners, believing there is some unstated provision in the Constitution that allows them to murder their friends and relatives while keeping the Covid-19 virus fat and healthy.

But, now, there’s an out for some of the more intelligent and reasonable folks in those families. They just might buy some holiday candy and stay home to watch Wonder Woman 1984. After all, not everybody is willing to risk their lives for the honor of watching a bunch of football games with people they really don’t like and dare not speak with. This will not only prevent or delay some spread of Covid, it will also reduce the number of family manslaughter arrests and, if we’re lucky, some DUI issues as well.

WarnerMedia might be taking a bath on the movie, but it’s quite likely their decision will lives.

Besides… those people who were planning on seeing Wonder Woman 1984 by gawking at their computer screens at a shaky camera-copy bootleg? Hey, Warners, you just did them a solid!

Seriously. AT&T, owners of WarnerMedia which, in turn, owns Warner Bros which, in turn, owns DC Comics deserves serious appreciation. They might be thinking they’re doing the only thing they can given the situation, but they should be aware they’re also doing the right thing.

Saving lives… in the spirit of Wonder Woman.

With Further Ado #121: The Beauty and the King

With Further Ado #121: The Beauty and the King

Well, it’s taken long enough, even if it’s not quite right.

I finally saw the recent movie Seberg staring the miscast Kristen Stewart.  Jean Seberg’s life was tragic.  There is no denying that fact. In true Icarian fashion, she flew too close the sun, but it wasn’t her pride that did her in. It’s clear she was the victim of the harsh realities of the old Hollywood system (suffering abuse from director Otto Preminger) and the cruelties of a misguided FBI driven by the obsessive J. Edgar Hoover.

I know a little of her story.  I’m no expert and everything I learned about actress Jean Seberg came from two sources:

  • Way back when, I listened to a professor’s lecture before Breathless in a Cornell film studies course. I couldn’t officially fit that course into my college schedule, but my buddy Paul Haskell snuck me in. (Thanks again, Paul.)
  • Karina Longworth’s excellent You Must Remember This podcast. Longworth took a deep dive last year with a multi-part series examining the intertwined careers of Jane Fonda and Jean Seberg. As always, her meticulously researched podcast was, as it usually is, very educational and addictively entertaining.

Continue reading “With Further Ado #121: The Beauty and the King”

Continued After the Next Page #016: Roy Harper – Pin Cushion With a Bow

Continued After the Next Page #016: Roy Harper – Pin Cushion With a Bow

One of the interesting things about the extensive list of DC Comics characters is that there are plenty of characters that can be used to advance or deepen the story of lead characters. Since the dawn of stories, storytellers have been using the damage of “lesser” characters to add complexity to the protagonist by having them deal with the tragedy of those they care about.

In the case of Roy Harper, it has become an almost competitive sport to see who could do the most damage to the red-headed step child (literally) originally known as Speedy. The character was created by Mort Weisinger and George Papp as the ward and sidekick of Green Arrow and originally debuted in More Fun Comics #73 in 1941.

The Sordid Comic History of Roy Harper

The character’s torment began in earnest with one of the most famous and important socially aware stories of the seventies. In Green Lantern #85, the issue title “Snowbirds Don’t Fly” written by Denny O’Neil and drawn by Neal Adams, it was revealed that the teen sidekick of Green Arrow had become addicted to heroin. This fact has been retconned to alcohol addiction and back to drugs, but it remained in his history that Roy was an addict. Continue reading “Continued After the Next Page #016: Roy Harper – Pin Cushion With a Bow”

Preview Reviews for the Week of 11/18/20: Sea of Sorrows #1

Preview Reviews for the Week of 11/18/20: Sea of Sorrows #1

Welcome to the latest installment of Preview Reviews.  This is where we give advanced glimpses at some of the comics that will be coming out this Wednesday.

Here at Pop Culture Squad, we are decidedly Anti-Spoiler.  We feel that ruining someone’s experience with something for the sake of getting a scoop or clicks is the wrong thing to do. Therefore, we have decided to publish this column, as necessary, with mostly spoiler-free reviews of upcoming issues.  Hopefully, the information that we share with you will increase your excitement for this book.

This week we have a new series from Rich Douek and Alex Cormack called Sea of Sorrows from IDW Publishing.

You can find this book at your LCS on November 18, 2020.

Sea of Sorrows #1
IDW Publishing
Written by Rich Douek
Art by Alex Cormack
Colors by Cormack
Letters by Justin Birch
Cover Art by Cormack

Original Solicitation:

Deep sea adventure with a horrific twist! From the creative team behind last year’s hit horror series, ROAD OF BONES, comes an all-new tale of bone-chilling terror!

In the aftermath of the Great War, the North Atlantic is ripe for plunder by independent salvage crews. When a former naval officer hires the SS Vagabond, he leads the ship to a sunken U-boat, and a fortune in gold. Tensions mount as the crew prepares to double cross each other, but the darkness of the ocean floor holds deeper terrors than any of them have bargained for!

Plunge headfirst into the icy waters of dread with another historic tale of terror from writer Rich Douek, and artist Alex Cormack.

PCS Review:

Rich Douek and Alex Cormack are back with the spiritual successor to last year’s horror hit Road of Bones. This book is a gripping first salvo into an abyss of terror. The initial issue sets up several interesting conflicts and an intriguing overall concept. The character development is well done through dialogue without hitting you over the head with it. The tone of this book is best described as eerie.

Cormack follows up with the heavy white thematic visuals of Road of Bones with very heavy black theme for this book. The imagery is subdued and calming while also heightening the feeling of foreboding that permeates the book. The visual storytelling is expertly crafted, and Justin Birch does an excellent job lettering this book.

This book is a must read. There is a growing feeling of anticipation that builds as the pages turn, and when you get to the end, you will immediately be counting the days until you can get your hands on Issue Two.

 


If you are interested in hearing from the creator, we did a SquadCast Interview with Rich Douek earlier this year:

Click Here

Weird Scenes 115: The Whiny Little Bitches Ride Again!

Weird Scenes 115: The Whiny Little Bitches Ride Again!

He is the president but wants to be the king / Know what I like about the guy? Not a goddamn thing / I want to know, how can four years seem so long? / Lord have mercy, what the hell is going on? – “What The Hell,” written by Elvin Bishop, 2020.

I like Bill Maher’s show, but I haven’t been watching it much lately. Semi-populated audiences and well-distanced guests are quite appropriate these days, but I find it creepy on a comedy panel show. No biggie; one way or another, all this will pass.

So I can’t say for certain Maher continues to refer to Baby Don as “that whiny little bitch.” He was on the money when he started this, and either he’s right today or you really do think Hillary Clinton has been running a pederasty ring out of the basement of a Washington DC pizza joint – one that, I hasten to add, doesn’t even have a basement.

Oh. Right. Sorry. I’m talking about that whiny little bitch and not QAnon… per se.

I’m not going to whine about Trump. He is what he is (whatever that is) and, as Anderson Cooper said last Friday, Trump is no longer relevant. He is a loser reacting to his mammoth defeat exactly the way we knew he would react, and if he had made a sincere attempt at being a human being we might think “hey, look, an Elvis impersonator finally landed a new gig!”

Nope. Like Caligula, Trump is history. It’s his supporters that vex me. People who are or at least once were otherwise intelligent. People who truly believe the election was stolen, despite the fact that every state’s attorney general has affirmed the validity of their election results. Despite the fact that every judge, be he or she a Democrat or a Republican with a track record of drifting left or drifting right. They all have chucked the Trumpsters’ cases out of court. Trump lost at least his first 16 challenges, as of this writing. If he had one leg to stand on, he’d be Dudley Moore.

Trumpsters are crawing about how close this election was and, in their flea-ridden brainpans, any shift in the vote count most certainly would keep their savior in office. Really? Trump lost by five million votes (and counting), which is two million more votes than he lost by in 2016. But, as we all know, the United States is a republic and not a democracy, so the popular vote is merely a means to the end. It’s the electoral college that votes according to the laws of the elector’s individual states, and Trump lost that one 306 to 232.

57% to 43% is not close. In fact, four years ago when Trump won the electoral college by the exact same count Trump’s acolytes could not stop braying that 306 to 232 was a “landslide victory.” Well, numbskulls, if 306 to 232 was a landslide victory for Trump in 2016 then 306 to 232 is a landslide victory for Biden in 2020.

It has been well established that Trumpsters are science deniers. Let us remember that mathematics is a science and in the murky mentality of these mindless mopes, 232 Trump electoral votes is closer to 306 Biden votes than 306 Trump votes was to Clinton’s 232 a mere four years ago.

This weekend, literally hundreds of reason-challenged paranoids took to the streets of Washington DC to exercise their constitutionally-guaranteed right to have their disease spreading hissy fit. That’s fine by me. Make your voice heard. Stand up for your beliefs. Four years ago, I was at an anti-Trump demonstration held a mere three days after Trump’s election that was organized by high school kids – it attracted a couple thousand people. I gotta wonder what took the Trumpsters so long to get their act on the road.

Oh. Yeah. I get it. Cellphones and social networking also are products of science. They know how to whine online under the cover of their witless pseudonyms but most of them lack the courage and the skill to actually stand up for their beliefs. They are cowards who, fortunately for the rest of us, think Covid-19 isn’t a big deal and therefore are hellbent on killing one another. You know, just like the maskless imbeciles who invaded Sturges, South Dakota last August causing, according to USA Today, at least 414 COVID-19 cases and at least one death, as of September 8.

Whine on, little bitches, whine on.

Bye-bye Baby, bye-bye.

Brainiac On Banjo #99: A Master Leaves The Stage

Brainiac On Banjo #99: A Master Leaves The Stage

If Sean Connery had never made Dr. No, he would still be remembered as one of our most impressive actors. Except…

… Except if Sean Connery had never made Dr. No, it’s very doubtful that he ever would have been given the chance to make such movies as The Man Who Would Be King, Time Bandits, Robin and Marian, and The Wind and the Lion. Great actors are like great guitar players: for every Eric Clapton or Buddy Guy on stage, there are a thousand equally gifted musicians who never get out of the garage. It takes commitment, determination, and a very thick skin in combination with off-the-scale talent that brings about the possibility of success. Even then, the odds are against you.

Well, that’s show biz.

Prior to taking the James Bond gig, Connery had done a handful of appearances in movies and television shows, none that are well known. In 1957 he made his American media debut in a very brief appearance on The Jack Benny Program – “Jack Hires Opera Singer in Rome,” where he played a hotel porter. It’s in the rerun package and continues to be aired on one or more of those nostalgia decimal channels. It was Dr. No that brought him to the attention of the masses, to the surprise of the producers, to the studio, and to Bond creator Ian Fleming, who saw his master action hero as more of a Hoagy Carmichael type. After seeing the finished film, Fleming changed his mind… after counting his change.

(Note: In my opinion, singer/songwriter/actor Carmichael would have made an excellent James Bond, but he would have been a bit too old for the part in Dr. No and most certainly too old by the time United Artists made Thunderball. “What if” is the dross of all fandom.)

Cleverly, Connery parlayed his success as 007 into a career that proved he deserved to be in a paragraph that contained Humphrey Bogart, Robert De Niro, and Steve McQueen. He was courageous enough to take on roles that many found confounding – Zardoz, for example – and others where the “hero” proved to be less-than-heroic (my favorite Connery flick, The Man Who Would Be King). He showed his gentle side in Time Bandits, another of my favorites, and his age – something rarely seen from big movie stars – in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. He had no problem performing with actors who were equally gifted such as Michael Caine and Harrison Ford, and he never squeezed their screen presence.

Contrary to the position held by many otherwise reasonable people, James Bond is not an ideal. He’s a hero only because he takes his job seriously, thereby saving us from extinction. Bond is a killer; it is in his job description. His attitudes towards women, which mirrored those of his creator, were obnoxious from the very outset and ugly even in its time. Yet Bond is not a conflicted character. He knows who he is and how he’s supposed to execute his responsibilities to his employer and to his nation.

It took a very secure performer to make James Bond work on the screen, to get the point across where so many other talented actors in similar roles could not. Damn near each and every actor who succeeded Sean Connery in the role echoed the studio’s advertising claim – “Sean Connery IS James Bond.”

In Connery’s hands, 007 was the effective artifact the world needed to get through growingly conflicted times. It is very difficult to evaluate our past through contemporary standards, although it is vital we do so.

At the end of the day, Sean Connery’s varied roles were mostly strong, well-centered men who were slightly out of their time but, at that very instant, desperately needed. It’s heroic fantasy, folks, and heroic fantasy is very tough to make believable.

Sean Connery did just that.

With Further Ado #120: Bill Turner and Frazetta

With Further Ado #120: Bill Turner and Frazetta

Bill Turner is guy who’s been impressing me for over 40 years. I first met him when I was a kid attending the early ITHACON Comic Conventions.  As a college student, my school was located in town so I joined the Comic Club of Ithaca and helped out a bit on a few legendary ITHACON conventions. And now, teaching at Ithaca College, it’s a privilege and an honor to work with him again (along with Professor Katharine Kittredge, Carmela Merlo and many other impressive folks) on ITHACON.

And with that, I have a real treat this week.  I’m turning over the reins of With Further Ado to Bill Turner, as he’s the guest columnist this week with a fascinating tale of comics and fandom – from 1977.  Take it away, Bill!

Frazetta 1977

Sept. 10-11, 1977
Penn Stroud Hilton Inn, Stroudsburg PA

by Bill Turner
©2020 William R. Turner III – all rights reserved

Advertised guests of honor: Ellie Frazetta, Harvey Kurtzman

Other scheduled guests: Michael Kaluta, Bernie Wrightson, Charles Vess, Steve Hickman, Ken Kelley, Ian and Betty Ballantine

Surprise guests: Will Eisner, Burne Hogarth, Jerry Robinson

In September of 1977, I decided to attend the Frazetta 1977 exhibit in Stroudsburg, PA that was being organized by Charlie Roberts and Chuck Miller. I had met them both at the Lancaster Comic Art Convention that they held in 1975 and 1976, and I had bought an item or two of artwork from Charlie and the first of the Underwood-Miller books from Chuck, so I was on their mailing list. We had just bought a house, so I was quite busy and planned to go down only for Saturday; it was a bit over three hours each way, a day trip. I invited Tim Gray and Aaron Pichel to join me, and they accepted. We are three of the founding members of the Comic Book Club of Ithaca and had run two ITHACON conventions by that time, so of course we could talk about comics all day, any day. I was 25, Tim 24, and Aaron 15 years old. Continue reading “With Further Ado #120: Bill Turner and Frazetta”

DC Comics Announced Marie Javins Promoted to Editor-in-Chief 

DC Comics Announced Marie Javins Promoted to Editor-in-Chief 

Variety has reported that DC Comics has promoted Marie Javins to editor-in-chief.

The move was announced Monday by Daniel Cherry III, senior vice president and general manager of DC Comics, to whom Javins will report.

Javins will be tasked overseeing the execution of the company’s annual publishing schedule and growing all DC imprints.

This is a major public announcement regarding the restructuring fallout of the massive administrative and editorial layoff from earlier this summer.

According to the article, Javins will work closely with Jim Lee, DC Publisher and Chief Creative Officer, as well as Cherry to define and cultivate the character development and creative talent decisions for all DC Comics properties in the publishing area.

From the Variety announcement, Javins had this to say regarding her appointment:

“I’m incredibly honored by this responsibility, and will dedicate myself to supporting and challenging DC’s extended family of staff, talent, retailers, and partners around the world in our quest to tell innovative visual stories that both reflect and expand our world—and in some cases, our galaxy and multiverse.”

Source: DC Comics Promotes Marie Javins to Editor-in-Chief – Variety

Weird Scenes #114: Premortem 2024

Weird Scenes #114: Premortem 2024

Consider how small you are / Compared to your scream / The human dream / Doesn’t mean shit to a tree. Eskimo Blue Day, lyric by Grace Slick, 1969

Toronto Star

“The media do not get to determine who the president is. The people do,” brayed Republican Senator Josh Hawley from Missouri. “When all lawful votes have been counted, recounts finished, and allegations of fraud addressed, we will know who the winner is.” Well, actually, it is the media’s job to report the facts. The vote comes in slowly and we always get to a point where one side can draw no more water from the well. It doesn’t matter who the candidates are. If Satan had been running against Christ and Satan were to acquire enough votes in the right states, Satan would win, the media would report it as such. My question is, would Christ proclaim such coverage to be fake news?

Math works. It’s very reliable. By definition, math and the other sciences are not dependent upon faith and, usually, mistakes can be corrected quickly. An election call is not a prediction. It is not magical thinking. It is mathematics.

However, math is a science so the fanatics and flat-Earthers will cry bullshit.

Trump, his sons Uday and Qusay, his pet sycophant Lindsey Graham and their ilk refuse to accept simple math. To nobody’s surprise, Trump wallows in petulant frenzy. But this doesn’t mean shit to a tree. Hiss and piss and groan and moan, at 12 noon January 20, 2021, Joe Biden becomes president. He doesn’t need Trump to act like an adult, he doesn’t even need a judge or a bible or a parade – he automatically becomes president. That’s not because of the media, that’s not because of the gaggle of the Pizzagate pederasts, and that’s not in spite of America’s goosestepping militias. It is because math works.

Why should Trump recite a ham-fisted concession speech? Nobody will believe him, and quite frankly, nobody cares. However, there is a very serious reality that the Biden supporters must accept.

Little Steven Van Zant, musician, actor, producer, and low society bon vivant, said it best. To paraphrase, he pointed out that as you walk down the street, no matter who you are or what you think, just about every other person who walks by you disagrees with your politics.

Yeah, okay, so what? As of Sunday at 6 PM EST, Biden received 75,370,055 votes to Trump’s 71,096,558. That’s a margin of 4,273,497 votes. Round it off a teeny bit and Van Sant is absolutely right. In the past, such a split would not be a problem.

These days we’ve got gun-toting losers who think putting on a mask to lessen the risk of death to their fellow Americans and kidnapping and murdering governors who advocate such a horrific abridgment of rights that have no basis in law. We’ve got the Boogaloo Boys and the Proud Scums and their ilk burning down buildings, looting, and spreading disease through our neighborhoods. Little Steven is right on the money.

We are only four years away from the next presidential election, one where it seems likely (right now) that a Black/Asian American woman who is slightly left of center will be heading the Democratic Party ticket. The great horde of right-wing American tiny-dicks will not take that well. Be prepared; the worst might be yet to come.

Until then, maybe we can get back to “normal” American behavior. You know, a return to the murder of children by assault-weapon toting psychopaths. The spread of in-bred nut groups like QAnon, where everybody to the left of Mussolini is a pederast pizza delivery boy. Where Covid is no worse than the flu and can be cured by shoving a bright light up your ass. Where old feeble white religious bigots continue to demand control of women’s minds as well as their bodies. Where global warming does not exist, and the acceptance of LGBTQ equality will bring the apocalypse.

We’ve got a lot of work to do, work that might be a bit easier with the orange plague out of office but whose policies and attitudes were affirmed by over 70,000,000 Americans. Take the well-earned victory lap, but this is not time to be less diligent. We remain a nation so split folks in the Irelands take pity on us.

One out of every two. No matter where you land on the political spectrum, one out of every two means you sleep with one eye open.