Sunday, July 21, 2013

Man of Steel sequel announced, will include Batman

By now you've probably heard the news from Comic Con that Man of Steel will be getting a sequel and that Batman will appear in the movie. Head over to Modern Myth Media for the official press release and to Batman of Film for Bill's thoughts on the news from the perspective of one of the biggest Batman fans out there. When I heard this news yesterday my immediate reaction was a lot of excitement. I enjoyed Man of Steel and I thought it showed a lot of potential for what could become a great Superman franchise. And obviously I love Batman. So the prospect of getting more of that character is always welcome news.

Having slept on the news I'm still mostly excited about it. I have my concerns about how they will portray Batman within Superman's world given the obvious difference that Batman has no superpowers. You can't make Batman look overwhelmed by every other hero or villain or else you risk making him insignificant. And you can't invent too unrealistic things to bring Batman up to a level he isn't overwhelmed by superpowered people or you risk him not being taken seriously by the audience. There's also the question of who they cast. Christian Bale couldn't have been more perfect IMO. And he's still going to be pretty fresh in people's minds when this comes out in 2015. So there are a lot of potential obstacles in the way when it comes to making this sequel.

Bill over at Batman of Film says he heard that the studio wasn't completely satisfied with the success of Man of Steel, thus possibly prompting the decision to put such a proven commodity as Batman in the sequel. But the fact that it's a sequel to Man of Steel is significant because it strongly suggests it will continue to focus primarily on Clark as did Man of Steel. Making Batman a sort of secondary character takes some of the pressure off how he will be viewed by the audience. And by setting Batman within this world that has already been built in Man of Steel they can shape him to fit within it easier than if they had to create an environment for Batman out of thin air like in Batman Begins.

The way I see this playing out is that Bruce Wayne was present in Man of Steel all along (as the Wayne Enterprises satellite suggests). We just didn't see him because this was Clark/Superman's origin story. And Batman makes his presence known in the sequel because he witnessed all of the crazy stuff that happened during Man of Steel and he's worried about everyone's safety. Seeing as Batman is kind of neurotic to begin with and has devoted his life to protecting people, it makes complete sense to me that he would at the very least have some suspicion about Clark and his ability to destroy things and hurt people. So the basic outline to me would be Clark doing his thing as Superman and as a reporter at the Daily Planet while Bruce keeps tabs on him to make sure he's not going to fly off the handle. Meanwhile, Lex Luther kind of parallels Bruce as a corporate competitor and someone who is suspicious of Superman after the events of Man of Steel.

Bringing in Lex as the villain is a way to walk that line with Batman between not having to worry about his lack of superpowers making him look insignificant and still having a threat big enough that justifies having Batman and Superman team up. Having Bruce and Lex be competing businessmen is a way for Clark to get involved with them, likely through investigating their business practices. And having Bruce and Lex interact within their competition allows for Clark to be suspicious of Bruce since it appears he is the same type of person as Lex. That's that basic conflict of the film, that three people of enormous (though different) power are worried that each will abuse it for their own ends. And it's a natural way for Clark and Bruce to play off their secret identities, which also creates tension.

That's basically how I see it. I don't think it would work very well to have Batman just show up in Metropolis and try to befriend Superman and offer him his help. There's no arc there. And there's not much of a reason for either one of them to trust the other right away. After all, one guy can fly, shoot fire out of his eyes, and is basically indestructible. And the other is a guy who dresses up like a bat and fights criminals with his bare hands every night. Having Clark distrust Lois and humanity, and vice versa, initially was a big part of Man of Steel. The trust had to be earned. The same should go for Clark and Bruce. That raises the question of what happens to Batman if Superman doesn't trust him? Can't Superman just crush Batman at any second? First of all, after killing Zod in Man of Steel, I'm pretty sure Clark will establish a no kill policy. Second, Bruce doesn't know that and he can't take that chance. So you have him study Superman and try to find a weakness. Batman is a great detective after all. Or maybe that's what Bruce and Lex's companies are focusing on, finding a weakness in Superman so that they can protect people.

Those are my thoughts for a basic outline of what the sequel will look like. I'm excited. I have a lot of faith in David Goyer and Zack Snider. It should be fun to get a new director's take on Batman. I'm sure they don't need them, but if they need any ideas I had a few just for fun. For the opening scene, I think it would be cool to fade to black from whatever logo they choose and then fade to the blackness of the Batcave. Have a few bats fly through the frame. And then cut to the back of a large chair that sits in front of a big computer screen. The pointy ears of the cowl poke up from the top of the chair. The camera moves in to show Batman reviewing footage of the events of Man of Steel. The camera pans around from that footage onto Bruce as he watches with concern. Cut to Alfred walking into the Batcave to discuss the events with Bruce. Aside from just being a cool way to open the movie I think this would be a good way to remind the audience what happened in the previous movie and the put forward the idea that Batman is suspicious right away.

Another idea for a short scene I had was we have Superman doing a pretty standard saving people scene in Metropolis. He does his thing and flies away. As the camera pans out to show him flying off, we see Batman sitting on top of building, cape blowing in the wind, doing some recon, studying Superman. Superman could even stop, think he saw something, turn to see if he did and have Batman disappeared from his perch. That's all I've got for now. I'm sure more will come to mind from now until what is looking like will be an incredible summer of 2015.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Bridge: Sonya and introverts

I was going to write this post about how Sonya from FX's new show The Bridge is very introverted and how I can identify with her. But I checked wikipedia to see how to spell her name correctly and I found out that she isn't so much really introverted as she has Asperger's syndrome. Though that's kind of like a heightened form of introversion. So I wasn't too far off. In fact, just a quick skim of some articles suggests that we don't know a lot about introversion and Asperger's.

There seem to be some overlapping traits; isn't comfortable around people, quiet, reflective (why Sonya is probably a good detective). But there don't seem to be many agreed upon definitions as to what introversion is and how far away it is from being autistic or having Asperger's. That link I posted right above suggests that maybe these things exist on a scale where different people have varying degrees of one characteristic or another.

I identify a lot with Sonya because of the many introverted traits she possesses. Like her, I'm uncomfortable around people I don't know and I enjoy my solitude. But even though I'm far from a great people person, I seem to be much more able to navigate social situations than Sonya. She has a very difficult time communicating effectively. And it often comes off as her being cold or indifferent towards people. But whereas I can often understand when I'm doing that and act to avoid it, Sonya doesn't seem aware that she's having that effect. Often times I want to react the way she does. But I guess I care enough about how others are going to react to me and what they think of me that I resist.

I like how they've handled Sonya so far. You don't seem many characters like her on tv (Abed from Community is the only other one that comes to mind). Part of that is just that the nature of tv and characters is that they have to interact at least a bit with other people. Another part of that is introverts or those with Asperger's aren't very well understood by society at large. So I hope that beyond just being an interesting character on a tv show, Sonya can expose more people to different personalities and show that it's ok to be different.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

James Madison on gov't power

Charles Pierce posts a quote from James Madison every night because James Madison is pretty awesome and should be read every day. So thanks to the also awesome Charles Pierce for that. The post from last night from Federalist 46 discussing concerns about federal and state power was interesting:

The federal and State governments are in fact but different agents and trustees of the people, constituted with different powers, and designed for different purposes. The adversaries of the Constitution seem to have lost sight of the people altogether in their reasonings on this subject; and to have viewed these different establishments, not only as mutual rivals and enemies, but as uncontrolled by any common superior in their efforts to usurp the authorities of each other. These gentlemen must here be reminded of their error. They must be told that the ultimate authority, wherever the derivative may be found, resides in the people alone, and that it will not depend merely on the comparative ambition or address of the different governments, whether either, or which of them, will be able to enlarge its sphere of jurisdiction at the expense of the other. Truth, no less than decency, requires that the event in every case should be supposed to depend on the sentiments and sanction of their common constituents.

Basically, he's say that it's the voters' job to limit or expand the power of their state and federal gov't as they see fit. If people don't like the way things are going, get off your ass and do something about it. Of course, I realize that collective action problem there. So few people vote and stay involved in the political process that it's difficult to make any change. And many of those involved have much more power than us. But that's the challenge democracy and the founders gave us. Elected officials can and will make crappy decisions. It's up to the people to decide if they are going to live with it or not.

A solution to local tax revenue problems?

The Memphis city council passed a budget a few weeks ago. The city isn't in great financial shape, thus it was difficult for the council to figure out where to cut or how much to raise taxes. Likewise, Shelby County (which is where Memphis resides) is in a similar financial situation. They have recently been debating whether they should raise property taxes in order to pass a fairly modest budget.

One way to generate more revenue without raising rates would be to get more people to start paying property taxes. That would entail changing zoning codes around the county to allow more construction and get more densely populated areas, making that housing cheaper and therefore open to new taxpayers. But that's going to be limited by the state of the housing market and the demand associated with it. Another way to generate revenue would be to start charging property taxes on already existing entities that don't pay anything. I've written about this before. Matt Yglesias has another post on why subsidizing churches and other non-profits is a bad idea:

One huge problem with it is that of all the ways you can come up with subsidizing a worthy nonprofit organization, a property tax exemption has just about the worst incentive structure you can imagine. If you look at the list of things that churches and other religious institutions spend money on, "acquiring land and buildings" has got to be one of the least socially beneficial and worthy of encouragement. And it's the same with universities. The tendency of administrators and the fundraising-donor complex to plow more and more money into more and more buildings is something policymakers should be looking to restrain not encourage. And the distributional impact is perverse. Property tax subsidies give the biggest benefit to the nonprofits with the healthiest financial base. The colleges that do the most to serve the marginal college student get the least benefit from this form of subsidy, while well-endowed institutions reap vast benefits.

But this approach is also nutty as urban development policy. Level property taxes encourage land owners to transform valuable parcels of land into high-value uses that generate useful economic activity throughout the city. George Washington University is using prime land at the corner of 20th and H NW as an open air parking lot.

Two examples close to me are a church that uses it's vast swath of land for a baseball complex and literally, a field of nicely mowed grass. One of the biggest churches in the area uses it's even bigger swath of land for an even bigger sports complex and a huge building supposedly used for a seminary, but which is empty every time I drive by. How any of this is being used for the benefit of society at large is beyond me. These churches can obviously afford to pay some property taxes if they can afford to build a fucking baseball complex.

I'm sure some of these organizations do some fine work that really helps society. For those that can demonstrate as such I'm in favor of finding ways to give them a break. But I agree with Matt that letting them buy up huge amounts of land that they use just to build ridiculously big buildings and sports complexes is a bad policy and it's costing local governments money that they could be using for things that actually benefit society, like fully funding fire and policy departments.

Friday, July 12, 2013

This is the Republican party

They can't make any more clear who they are as a party than what they did with the Farm bill:

House Republicans successfully passed a Farm Bill Thursday by splitting apart funding for food stamps from federal agricultural policy, a move that infuriated the White House and congressional Democrats who spent most of the day trying to delay a final vote.

....The vote made clear that Republicans intend to make significant reductions in food stamp money and handed Republican leaders a much-needed victory three weeks after conservative lawmakers and rural state Democrats revolted and blocked the original version of the bill that included food stamp money.

....The White House said late Wednesday that President Obama would veto any Farm Bill that fails to comprehensively address federal farm and food aid policy. In a statement, White House officials said they had insufficient time to review the bill.

To recap, they just voted to spend hundreds of millions of dollars for farm subsidies and nothing for food stamps. They purposefully separated the food stamp funding from the larger Farm bill because they want to significantly cut the funding. This is the most clear and blatant demonstration that Republicans care vastly more about rich, white people than everyone else as I can remember. These self-identified christians think the poor in this country have it too well, or that not letting them starve is just holding them back. But they think farm corporations are the ones being held back by, something, I guess. They are the ones that need money from the gov't because the gov't giving money to people is bad unless, something, I guess. I've almost run out of ways to be disgusted with this party.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Chuck series finale: memories and love

I've mentioned that I'm rewatching Chuck. I'm at the end of the series where Sarah loses her memory of Chuck because of the intersect. If you're unfamiliar with the show, Chuck was a computer geek who worked at the show's equivalent of the Geek Squad. He was implanted with a dataset (the intersect) of all the government's intel and secrets by an old friend as a way to keep the intersect out of the wrong hands. Sarah, a CIA agent, was sent to watch over Chuck. Long story short, they had chemistry right away and after a few seasons of well-handled will they, won't they stuff, they fell in love and got married.

Stuff happens in the final season that brings Sarah to the moment that she has to install the intersect (this version equips the person with combat skills and intel) in her mind so that she can save Chuck. But this version of the intersect is faulty and it causes Sarah to lose the memories of the last five years. She has no idea what happened or who Chuck is. My initial reaction to this was slightly negative. I understood why they would go this route. It made for compelling tv. But it also seemed to be a bit harsh for characters I had grown to love. Losing your memory is losing a part of yourself. Aside from your body, your memories are you. Being deprived of them is akin to have never lived that part of your life. The series ends with Sarah starting to remember a few things and with a hopeful tone. So we are meant to think that eventually everything will work out and Sarah and Chuck will go back to being the same.

But watching it for the second time got me thinking about what would happen if Sarah never got her memories back. She would obviously feel very confused. But since she doesn't remember feeling love for Chuck she can't feel the loss of having loved him before and not loving him now. In a way, she is spared. I think it's Chuck that would suffer a lot from knowing that Sarah no longer shares the same feelings he does. I don't think that would change the fact that Chuck loves her. But I think it could change the nature of that love.

There seems to be two different kinds of love; the unconditional love and romantic love. The difference as I see it is that the latter is more conditioned on the other person reciprocating the same feelings you have for them. In other words, I think it would be very difficult to love someone romantically if they don't love you back. In a way, part of why you love a person romantically is that you know they love you in the same way. You don't need that to love a family member. Your kid or sibling could deal meth and be a complete asshole that doesn't want anything to do with you. But you'd probably still care for them. If your wife or husband all of the sudden decided they hated you and wanted to deal meth you would probably still care for them on some level, but you probably wouldn't want to continue the romantic relationship.

As I said, this doesn't seem to be a problem for Chuck. Sarah seems to be getting her memories back at a fairly quick rate. So while Sarah can't fully reciprocate the same love Chuck has for her, Chuck can at least hold on to the hope that one day soon she will. But if she couldn't and there was no hope, I don't think he could continue to feel the same way he had before she lost her memory. And Chuck having the memories of that love would make not having them hurt even more. I think that's why myself and a lot of fans had a negative reaction to the finale at first. We just felt horrible for Chuck. I actually haven't rewatched the last episode yet. After thinking about it some more I'll probably have a better reaction the second time. I'm already hopeful after seeing the great scene where Sarah watches the diary she made of her days as Chuck's handler and her admitting to herself that she loves Chuck. So I'm hoping that the memory I'm left with after finishing the show is of Sarah and Chuck being in love and living happily ever after.

Monday, July 8, 2013

The 7th Annual Pajiba 10 and my 5 freebies

It's time for one of my favorite internet traditions, the 7th Annual Pajiba 10. Get all of the details and see who is already in the Pajiba 10 Hall of Fame at the link. In short, you pick the five people you would cheat with if you had immunity. All the votes are tallied and the 5 people from each sex with the most votes make up the Pajiba 10.

Here are my votes from last year. I went with Alyson Hannigan, Alison Brie, Krysten Ritter, Aubrey Plaza, and Anne Hathaway. As I explained last year, I take into account whether someone is already in the Pajiba Hall of Fame (Alison Brie made it last year) and I weight their current or recent work more than their earlier work. I also don't include anyone who is in my Hall of Fame, which I'll post at the end. So here's my 5 freebies for 2013:

Krysten Ritter
Anna Kendrick
Jenna-Louise Coleman
Yvonne Strahovski
Amy Acker

Ritter is the only holdover from last year. Don't Trust the B in Apt 23 was canceled. But she will likely not be out of work for long. Beyond being uniquely gorgeous, she is very talented. Anna Kendrick hasn't quite gone mainstream yet. But she is so adorable and funny (follow her on twitter, she's great) that it won't be long before she's a star. Jenna-Loiuse Coleman was the latest companion of the Doctor on Doctor Who (I just started watching this season). I'm not sure if she will continue in that capacity. But at worst I hope she does and at best I'd like to see her as the new Doctor. Yvonne Strahovski is best known as Sarah Walker from Chuck. I've been rewatching that lately and she is just incredible. If she isn't at least thought about for every kick-ass female part in movies then casting directors need to be fired. And Amy Acker is a long time favorite of mine from her days on Angel where she played Fred. Most recently she is in Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing. Beyond her work, she has the most beautiful smile ever and just seems like a genuinely sweet person.

Krysten Ritter is one more list away from getting into my Hall of Fame. Next year she will look to join a group consisting of Sarah Michelle Gellar, Kristin Kreuk, Alyson Hannigan, and Alison Brie. And because Pajiba and myself are progressive, for my female and gay readers I'd like to offer some suggestions: Tom Hardy, Jake Johnson (from New Girl), Daniel Craig (James Bond), Chris Pine (Captain James T. Kirk), and Henry Cavill (Superman). I would have said Christian Bale and Timothy Olyphant but they are already in the Pajiba Hall of Fame.