according to the all-seeing eye of agamotto

28
Oct

Benedict Cumberbatch is Doctor Strange. Again. This week. Maybe. Probably.

Well, maybe not the Eye, but Deadline reported it yesterday, and everyone, including the major news media (like CNN and stuff) have run with it. It’s not bad casting, to be sure – I think he’d do a good job with it. However, I’m going to wait for the official press release from Marvel before I truly believe anything.

Maybe we’ll know this afternoon, as rumor is Marvel has a surprise press event scheduled at 11am Pacific today. And if we don’t, maybe we’ll get confirmation of some of the many other rumors (Captain Marvel -pleasekateesackoffplease-, Black Panther, Spider-Man coming back to Marvel, etc) that have been floating around for months.

Until then, though, the real truth is concealed behind the Mists of Munnopor.

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local mid-term political round-up, plus some non-local color

27
Oct

In about a week, we as Americans will be going to the polls once again to elect our representatives in government. This year, it’s the whole House of Representatives, one-third of the US Senate, a bunch of state governors, and various and sundry local officials, depending on where you are.

In my corner of the world, Virginia’s 4th Congressional district; it’s especially quiet. Just two races to speak of, and both relatively settled. In the Senate, We’ve got Mark Warner cruising easily toward re-election by a double-digit margin, not surprising for a popular former governor who’s made a good showing in the upper house the last few years, and the guy who started the whole ball rolling toward all of Virginia’s statewide offices being held by Democrats, despite the Commonwealth’s conservative reputation.

In the House, the 7th district next door is the much sexier race, after the upset of Eric Cantor during the primaries. In the fourth, we’ve got the latest Democratic sacrifice updstart, Elliott Fausz running against inertial incumbent J. Randy Forbes. It’s pretty much the same story here every two years – Forbes, endlessly ineffectual, but entrenched in his gerrymandered conservative district, largely ignores his opponent (and campaigning altogether, really), and slides into another term, during which he’ll continue to do very little. This year, at least locally feels a little different, with Fausz signs all over the neighborhood (Fausz is local, the son of the publishers of my suburban village’s free weekly). Fausz’s positions look pretty good to me, and will at least be palatable to most of my conservative neighbors. I plan on voting for him, and threw a few bucks into his campaign fund, though I’m pretty sure that while he may top Forbes in the local precincts (itself a huge accomplishment), I have a hard time believing Fausz will end up pulling this one out, as much as I’d like him to.

That’s the local round-up. Now I’m going going start complaining about non-local races. Prepare for bitching to follow:

Because I make a habit of throwing $25 bucks here or there toward candidates I favor, and have volunteered here and there over the years, my name’s gotten on lists. And, honestly, it doesn’t really bother me; if a campaign I’ve supported can make a few bucks selling its mailing list to a like-minded organization, I’m okay with that; those few bucks might make the difference between a win or a loss, close out some campaign debt, or buy a round of donuts and coffee for some phone volunteers. All necessary expenses. Works for me.

Sometimes, though, I find myself regretting I ever got into that world. I don’t know who got my name on the mailing list for John Foust, the Democrat running in Northern Virginia’s 10th district for the open seat there after Congressman Frank Wolf’s retirement. Could’ve been anyone. I have some contacts up there going back to the Dean Presidential campaign in 2004, some of whom are actual elected officials now. Or the DNC/DNCC/DNSC/DPVA or some other organization got it to them. Whatever; it’s normally not a big deal. Normally.

I don’t know much about John Foust; he’s not my representative, nor will he be if he wins. Unless it’s a seriously newsworthy race, I’m normally not that checked in. I looked at his campaign site; he seems to have his priorities aligned more-or-less with mine. If I lived in the 10th, I’d not be opposed to voting for him as a candidate.

What I do know of John Foust is that his campaign sends me so many emails every day asking for money in increasingly frenzied and vexatious ways, I’m glad I’m not an active participant in the race, because my personal feelings about the way his folks do email marketing would seriously stretch my ability to swallow my annoyance and vote in line with my ideology.

Because dammit, it’s annoying. I get emails from the campaign. from the candidate’s wife. from “John’s iphone”. All of them talking not about his opponent Barbara Comstock, but the evil spectre of John Boehner and how he’ll bring down civilization as we know it (which is not actually an exaggeration) if I don’t contribute $5/$10/$25 TODAY! These days, most of them don’t even mention issues or the campaign; they’re increasingly desperate pleas to please answer their call, becaue they haven’t been able to get me to respond, won’t I please respond?!?! When it doesn’t sound like a desperate collections agency, it’s what I imagine emails from a clingy ex-girlfriend would be like right before I file the restraining order.

Look, I understand the way money works in politics, and I expect Northern Virginia is a more expensive than average market. I understand the race is tight. I’m spared a lot of it, not having cable in the house, and not paying that much attention to network television, which, at this point in the cycle, is all ads, all the time, all of them with that doom and gloom narration and clank! sound effect. I understand, though, that political ads are necessary because they reach people. Even if people don’t like them, statistics show they work. Maybe things are worse this year; I don’t know. I do know that Foust’s fundraising stuff is so craven that he’s called “particuarly insistent” in an NPR piece from July on deperate fundraising before filing deadlines, and he’s only gotten more exasperated since then.

My spam folder can’t even contain it anymore. I’m dumping that thing four or five times a day. It stopped being mildly entertaining a while ago. I wish Supervisor Foust the best of luck in his tough congressional race, but I am so, so, very tired of the constant barrage shrill over-the-top emails.

So, you think you could maybe lay off a little bit?

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i quit. i give up.

27
Oct

Hello Monday. I was already done with you and your crap by 8am. Good riddance to you, now leave me alone.

I’m not in the car driving to Ohio today, which is not unwelcome, though the work thing I was supposed to do this week has already been cancelled twice. I really kind of want to get this over with so the project moves forward. Not sure how this work week’s going work out, since I worked like hell to clear the calendar so I could be free to do the cancelled work thing. Also, thanks to the last-minute schedule changes, I’m adjusting things so people can do other things we scheduled based on the old schedule, and the fallout from that is just peachy, thanks…

The weekend was, thankfully, a bit more pleasant, mostly. I had an enjoyable Friday night attending a friend’s housewarming party, which was a nice relaxing evening. Saturday, I woke up feeling not particularly great, so I did laundry in between naps cleverly disguised as “Chuck watching movies in a big comfy chair”, and did little else other than a quick run to the store. Being semi-sick isn’t awful if the world leaves you alone to have your body deal with it.

Sunday involved music with Steve Wyse’s Down Home Dharma, which is a fun thing I get to do now and then with some great friends and talented musicians; We sounded pretty good, all told. After that, the family made our way over to the VCentral Virginia Celtic Festival and Highland Games. It was an interesting diversion, with lots of entertaining music and interesting vendors’ wares to peruse with some friends, and burly people heaving heavy objects around for fun and profit. It was a little crowded, and kind of hectic, but it continued the tradition of us attending any and all events within spitting distance where one is likely to encounter the certain segments of society who are driven to find opportunities to strap on swords and bracers, or dress up like a WoW elf.

It did, perhaps most importantly, give me a chance to don the kilt; and if I do say so myself, I rocked that thing. Once again, my theory that my body type is much more suited to clothing that was stylish more than a hundred years ago rather than anything modern is proven valid. Marvel as my lovely spouse defends my pasty Irish legs from the agression of tiny pirate types:

Oh, and finally, wish my kitten, Lady Sif good luck; she’s getting fixed and chipped today. Poor thing, she had no idea what she was in for this morning.

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dammit, hydra

23
Oct

The teaser for Avengers: Age of Ultron was supposed to drop with next week’s episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but there was a leak last night (which Marvel blamed on HYDRA), so Marvel just went ahead and officially released it early.

At the moment, I’m kind of embed-challenged, but you can see the trailer by following that link above. According to folks who were there, this is basically the same footage that ran at SDCC a couple of months back, and it’s pretty cool. It comes across as pretty dark, though I don’t expect the movie to be quite so bleak as it appears here. Lots of neat images: Hulkbuster, creepy early-Ultron “puppet” (complete with the creepy, processed Pinocchio song), a little bit of Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver (official MCU versions), and a rather iconic image of Cap’s shield, shattered…

…And Andy Serkis playing some unidentified character, which along with a couple of other quick images in the trailer, has spawned yet another Doctor Strange casting rumor, unlikely as it might be. I do, however, think this one is my favorite; since I’m sure Mr. Serkis could pull it off with just the right balance of charisma and otherworldly weirdness in a way that all those marquee idol pretty faces being bandied around couldn’t match.

So, now that this leak and early release happened, what does this mean for Agent Coulson and company next week? No matter how good it’s been this year, it could’ve used the ratings boost the trailer reveal would’ve given it…or, given how crafty Marvel seems to be, I wonder if the leak wasn’t planted from the start, leading Marvel to sneak out some other, juicier piece of footage/information on Tuesday night? Maybe sticking some titles to all those unidentified Marvel movie dates out there to match the big DC announcement last week? Hints at Captain Marvel or Black Panther? Something else cool nobody’s even thought of yet?

One can only hope. It’s a cool time to be a comic geek.

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things I did this weekend

20
Oct

Because absolutely nobody cares, including me (not caring that nobody cares):

Saw my friend Steve’s rockin’ band Cha Cha’s Cadillac absolutely tear up an Irish pub. Early in the first set, the manager told them they need to play much quieter. They turned everything *way* up. \m/

Partook of what was likely the world’s blandest Mexican food :-(

Watched my kid’s Irish dance company bring a little bit of culture and international flavor to a quaint, conservative small town festival.

Washed a metric assload* of laundry.

Re-strung my Fender Telecaster because I’ll be needing it this weekend for some Down Home Dharma.

Took some time to clear out both my email inbox and the hard drive on my Playstation 3 (and only accidentally deleted my progress on one game I had hours and hours invested in).

Finished reading the first post-Expanded Universe Star Wars novel, A New Dawn. I wish I could say I was more impressed. It was Star Wars, I guess, and had some neat ideas, but it was honestly kind of a slog by the end; finished more out of obligation and misplaced optimism than enjoyment.

…and so on.

This week’s looking like a lot of proposal reviews at the office with a few musical interludes interspersed throughout, and maybe the spaying of a cat.

________________

*- yes this is a technical term.

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by the hoary hosts of hoggoth! cast this thing already

16
Oct

Warning: comic book deep-geekery™ ahead

There’s been lots of Marvel movie news floating around the internet the last couple of weeks, the biggest news being the apparent set up of the Civil War arc in Cap 3 with prominent appearances by Robert Downey Jr. leading into giant special event pictures down the road. See also at that link DC jumping into the whole shared universe thing with both feet. Of course, I think this whole business is fascinating (although the print Civil War could have been a whole lot better, and isn’t an easy copy/paste into the movie universe they’ve set up), and I’ll keep watching as things continue to roll out. It’s an exciting time to be a comic book fan.

Lost under the fanfare of that stuff, though, is the rampant speculation about Doctor Strange, who is supposed to be a huge fixture in Marvel films’ Phase 3 plans. The film has a director (horror guy Scott Derrickson), a writer (genre stalwart Jon Spaihts, who wrote the first, way better than the final product, draft of Prometheus), and is set to go before the cameras early next year for a 2016 release. There’s one thing they don’t have: a star.

They are not, however, short of rumors. Every day, it seems some new 30-40something actor has his name thrown into the mix, whether they’re a good fit or not. Joaquin Phoenix, Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hardy all had their turn. Last week it was Keanu Reeves. This week has already gone through Ewan MacGregor and Ryan Gosling, and it’s only Thursday. Yesterday, Variety, the bible of the entertainment industry, posted a “short list” of actors supposedly being considered by Marvel for the part, including old favorites such as MacGregor, Ethan Hawke and Jared Leto, and seeming longshots like Matthew McConaughey.

Not surprisingly, Marvel themselves have been almost completely silent on this – they run a very tight ship. I fully expect that Kevin Feige’s office has an armed security detail on it round-the-clock – which leads me to believe that all of this is mostly speculation. Marvel, might, however, be encouraging this to build buzz, but I wonder if it’s all gone on too long now? Do the fans, the ones who hang on every bit of movie gossip and show up opening day for these things, already have some of the symptoms of Strange fatigue?

I don’t know, but I’m kind of getting there. I make no secret that while I enjoy almost all the Marvel stuff, most of my favorites are what many people would consider third or fourth stringers. For example, I’m inordinately excited and amazed that I live in a time where, as I type this, they’re lensing a movie based on Ant-Man for a blockbuster release. My favorite comic being published right now is probably G. Willow Wilson’s Ms. Marvel, which currently features the Inhumans’ giant teleporting bulldog-thing, Lockjaw. I have a terrible fondness for Steve Gerber’s and Bill Mantlo’s work on oddball team The Defenders and Dan Slott’s run on She-Hulk; not exactly top-shelf marquee material for most people.

Doctor Strange fits right in there. He’s not your typical hero – he’s a former surgeon turned Sorceror Supreme, who lives a bohemian lifestyle in a gothic brownstone in Greenwich Village, mostly staying out of Avengers-style slugfests in favor of psychadelic-tinged magickal battles with existential threats to the universe on far-off planes and in the battlefield of the mind. For my money, he’s Steve Ditko’s greatest creation (and I’m a total Spider-Man loyalist), and I’m really looking forward to the film. It should be cool and visually interesting, and distinctly different than existing comic book properties, which can only be a good thing; comics, even superhero comics, are a medium of great variety, and Strange is a great chance to demonstrate that to the masses.

However, I am tired of the speculation. I want this thing to get rolling. I don’t need spoilers, I just want this thing to have a cast in place so it doesn’t fall apart; so it becomes a real thing. I want to get excited about something concrete, to either immediately appreciate the eventual casting choice, or to have time to make my peace with the choice and come around if I don’t. Unfounded speculation is fun, but only to a point; after a while, it becomes just noise, and enthusiasm wanes. One can be teased too much. I’m getting there.

I’m well aware that I’m owed nothing from the folks making this. There’s plenty of other interesting stuff competing for my attention (including stuff I’m playing a part in making myself) outside of the stuff that keeps food on my table, which is busy enough right now (I trained over 700 people yesterday on a software tool I’ve been managing development for for the last year!). But, as people are fond of saying, Superheroes are our modern myths, and I’m a fan of those myths – I get excited about back-channel geek industry news the same way sports fans get engaged with stuff coming out of their favorite sportsball team’s business offices, and I have no shame about that, nor should I.

I’m just shouting out my opinion on the internet because I can, you know?

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my friends can write

14
Oct

So, it’s only Tuesday morning (and given that Monday doesn’t count this week because of a bank holiday celebrating European Imperialism), but I’m pretty sure the following literary image is going to be the best thing I’ll read this week:

…went down like a sack of potatoes. Cheap, hungover potatoes. The sort they’d throw out rather than make vodka from.

This particularly evocative bit of wordsmithing is courtesy of Lynn Townsend.

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unseaming

07
Oct



I told you I was going to link to this one again today. It’s the perfect autumn book; all the right sorts of creepy across fourteen stories of horror and dark fantasy. Here’s Antimatter’s promo site, filled with all kinds of amazing reviews. I’ve read it. It’s brilliant.

Now, click on this link to buy it. Trust me.

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virginia is finally for *all* lovers

06
Oct

So, as I write this, marriage equality has been the law of the land in Virginia for approximately seven minutes.

So yeah, good news. Not only good for Virginia, but as the Supreme Court declined to hear appeals on the marriage equality cases in the Fourth and Seventh Curuit courts, the legal impediments have fallen, or will likely soon fall in, if I’m counting right, 30 of the 50 US States.

As indicated above, starting at 1pm today, VA officials will be able to perform marriages, and the state will recognize marriages performed in other states. That means that several dear friends of mine now have (but didn’t before lunch) the same recognition for their partnership as I do. That’s amazing news.

I’ll probably have more thoughts on this later. Right now, though, it feels like a victory for what’s right. Virginia, home of Loving v. Virginia, is a particularly symbolic state for equality under the law for same sex couples to finally be the law of the land. Kudos to the work of all the active proponents in the state, particularly Equality Virginia and People of Faith for Equality in Virginia for all the work they did to get Virginia here.

Given the history, it seems right to me to close with some words from Mildred Loving on the 40th anniversary of Loving v. Virginia:

I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry… I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight, seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about.

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i get knocked down, but I get up again

06
Oct

T’was quiet for a week or thereabouts in these parts. I’ve been busy with work and life, is all. Plus, I got sick there for a couple of days. Wasn’t fun.

Only a couple of things to report, but they might be of interest to some folks. Probably not.

First of all, another announcement from Antimatter: Our second official release, Mike Allen’s Unseaming, is out tomorrow. You can purchase it at the link back there. Five dollars and ninety-nine cents for a collection of fourteen really creepy short stories for your Hallowe’en reading pleasure, . The lead-off story, “The Button Bin” is an amazing piece of work, and a 2008 Nebula Award nominee. I’ll throw another link up tomorrow to remind you again. This one’s very, very good.

After flirting with the idea for several years now, I bought a kilt. A pretty nice “modern” kilt from UT Kilts. I have several sorts of occasions where it’s wear would be appropriate (Celtic Festivals, RenFaires, Irish Dance competitions, Geek Conventions) throughout the year, and it seemed like it would be a fun thing to have. I’ve already had several congratulatory comments from kilted friends who wish to gather for kilted photos, and it only took a few minutes after this acquisition was made public for me to be the recipient of the “what does one wear under there?” question. For the record, my answer is as follows:

I have been advised by men much wiser than myself that one must never answer that question directly; it destroys the mystery of this revered garment. Also, it’s none of your business.

Also this week, I got a new mobile phone. It was time for an upgrade. For once, I’m actually on the forefront of technology; the spouse and I got shiny new Samsung Galaxy s5s. It’s nice. Does what I need it to do. The battery life good. It’s a phone. I don’t get too excited about them, but a lot of people do (like the couple of co-workers who couldn’t stop fondling their new iphones in the last couple of weeks), so I thought someone might be interested.

Saturday, some friends and I took the new fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons for a spin. I’ve played most of the various versions of this over the past years, though really bought back in with 4th edition, which was a bit different than previous; it was a good game, though I understand why many folks said it didn’t “feel” like D&D. I did one of the open playtests for this edition a while back, and had a good experience, though after playing though the opening dungeon crawl included in the starter set box that came out over the summer, I can say that this one feels a lot like “old school” D&D, though with some updated and streamlined mechanics of the later editions that really worked – it’s a very good synthesis of the old and new. Combat moves swiftly, everybody had something to contribute at first level, and the rules get out of the way and let you try some weird, off-the-wall stuff to add to the fun factor. It worked, and I’m looking forward to playing again.

Otherwise, life continues to happen. There’s stuff, but nothing to talk about at this point. Maybe later. We’ll see.

In any case, have a nice week, folks. Maybe read something. I’ve given you a couple of suggestions already. ;-)

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