Friday, December 20th, 2013
1

The Year In Crying At Your Desk

Enough about how technology is changing us, for now. It’s the end of the calendar year, and we’re consumed with the attendant complicated feelings of the holiday season, as well as settling accounts before the 13 changes to 14. And in that tally of the year soon to lapse, we look back. We remember. We write year-end reviews.

One opportunity that talked-to-death technology has afforded us, in ways that our parents never experienced, is the peculiar phenomenon of surreptitiously consuming Internet content while at one’s place of employment, and then being emotionally moved to the point of perhaps betraying the fact that one is not reviewing a spreadsheet [...]

---
0

The Man Who Put The Fun Back In Movies

Hal Needham was never a household name, something about which he did not care. He passed away last week at the age of 82. He was (by his account) the highest paid stuntman of all time and the director of a slew of memorable Burt Reynolds movies from the ‘70s and ‘80s, including Smokey And The Bandit, a film that, if you grew up in the South, rivaled the popularity of Star Wars. He ushered in a lighter touch to American pop movie culture, but he probably mostly cared about the checks in his mailbox.

Had Needham never sat behind a movie camera, we would still be talking about [...]

---
3

Twitter And The Death Of Quiet Enjoyment

On Monday, a movie-blog entrepreneur was tucking into a Toronto International Film Festival screening of a horror pic, when, to his actual horror, a fellow screenee was fiddling with his or her cell phone. Alex Billington went straight to film fest officials to complain.

They also claim that I am the only one who has ever complained about cell phone use at TIFF. So it's now a major campaign to take action.

— Alex Billington (@firstshowing) September 9, 2013

The major campaign undertaken by Billington was a call to 911. It was a short campaign, as “the dispatcher laughed" at him, although Billington said that his [...]

---
0

A Chat With Tim Leong, Author Of "Super Graphic"

When I first held it in my hands, I was afraid it was a trifle, the kind of published material you might pick up at Urban Outfitters: maybe pics of misplaced apostrophes, maybe something about hipsters. But Tim Leong’s Super Graphic, to be published tomorrow by Chronicle Books, is different. It’s a little bit longer and wider than a book that might be based on someone’s Tumblr, and there are at least half again as many pages. Also, it is not trifling at all, which is quite an accomplishment for a book of charts and graphs that each deal with some dataset derived from comic books and the [...]

---
---
8

'Wigwag' Revisited

It was not a likely name for a magazine. A kid's magazine, maybe, but a bold attempt to supplant the New Yorker? Eyebrows were raised. And yet Wigwag was launched anyway, in the fall of 1989. Editor Alexander Kaplen wrote in his introductory note: "The word isn't made up, and the name's no accident. This magazine has a lot to do with home—who lives where, what they do there, what they do there." The definition, according to Kaplen, is, "to signal someone home." Kaplen launched the magazine as a response to the ousting of long-time editor William Shawn in 1987 (detailed extensively by Elon Green last week). If [...]

---
7

Superman Isn't What He Used To Be

Man of Steel hits theaters tonight, and Warner Brothers is hoping that it will bring out the inner 40-year-old in all of us, and that the inner 40-year-old will dig deep and fork over the twelve to twenty dollars it will cost to see the film. It’s a tough spot: historically, the Superman franchise is one for five when it comes to good movies, which puts Superman pretty far behind John McClane. The movies make money, sure, but the movies themselves (other than II, of course)? Not so super.

Any fanboy will tell you that the solution to the relative quality of this upcoming reboot of the franchise will [...]

---
6

William Gibson On Burroughs, Sterling, Dick, Libraries, The Uncanny, The Web

In real life, William Gibson looks like you would imagine. A little older than the Gibson you imagine, but he was born in 1948, so it only stands to reason. He is gaunt and affable, clothes black, smart looking frames on his eyeglasses, more avuncular than professorial. And he really talks like that! Those neologisms and the sizzling chrome-finished turns of phrase? They fall out of his mouth in the course of conversation. He lives the gimmick.

Gibson appeared at the New York Public Library on Friday night for the LIVE From the NYPL series, and it was something of an occasion. Gibson, as active as he is in [...]

---
2

Carmine Infantino, 1925-2013

Lifelong comic book man Carmine Infantino died yesterday at the age of 87. If you are even a casual nerd, you know Infantino as that guy that got to draw The Flash off and on for thirty years. And his pencils were immediately identifiable: square-jawed and kinetic, with characters constantly tilting into a run or skidding to a halt. But that’s not all Infantino did.

Born in Brooklyn in 1924, Infantino got into the business while still in school (at what is now the High School of Art and Design), freelancing for "packagers." (At the time, the early 40s, some comic books were sub-contracted to studios—"packagers"—who would write and draw [...]

---
4

How Much More Do Baseball Players Make Today?

In honor of Opening Day on Sunday, the first of two essays today on the history of the game.

It's almost impossible to think of baseball without thinking of money. There's no better example than headline-grabbing Alex Rodriguez, third baseman for the New York Yankees. In 2000, he signed an alarming ten-year deal with the Texas Rangers for $252 million (which the Yankees traded for in 2004). This is the deal he opted out of during (like, in the middle of) Game Four of the 2007 World Series, only to sign another ten-year deal with the Yankees, this time for $275 million. Now, with Opening Day days away, [...]

---
5

The Future According To 1981: An 'Omni' Appreciation

In May of 1981, a draft-dodging ex-pat American published his first story in Omni magazine. The event went largely unremarked. After all, Ronald Reagan was just a few months in office then, and that was either awesome or terrible, depending on your viewpoint, plus that was the same month the Pope got shot! Which is why we now have a Popemobile! But there at your local newsstand, or, if you were lucky (or your parents were generous), there in your mailbox in the plain brown wrapper, William Gibson's "Johnny Mnemonic" saw print.

And as you may have heard, the Internet Archive has done the world a service by maintaining an [...]

---
9

How Much More Does Taking The Subway Cost Today?

It runs 24 hours a day—a rarity, anywhere in the world—and it moves 1.6 billion riders a year across the five boroughs of New York City. And on Friday (update: the new fare will be going into effect Sunday, March 3), it will become more expensive. After a fare hike five years ago, the base fare of taking the subway (that is with no discounts) will rise a quarter to $2.50 a pop. And although some of the service cuts enacted in 2010 have since been restored, this hike is not attached to any improvements in service—alas. As with other mandated fare hikes, this one was met with [...]

---
2

How Much More Does Getting Heartburn Cost Today?

There's a commercial that caught my eye during a recent spate of television watching with relatives, a spot for Prilosec, featuring a stand-up comedian, a veteran of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour. Actually it caught my eye several times because it was airing and then reairing again all through the holidays. It was disquieting. But obviously this was a good time to run a spot for a heartburn drug, during that period from Thanksgiving to the Super Bowl that is technically the Gluttony Season, as what better time to come down with a spot of heartburn? It’s ingrained in the advertising industry as the unintended consequence of the parties and [...]

---
2

How Much More Do Things Cost Today: The Super Bowl Edition

In the week leading up to the Super Bowl, we can be certain of a number of things. Someone will suggest that the Monday after Super Bowl Sunday should be a national holiday. The food journalism industry will grind to a halt with party menu suggestions. A current pop song will be selected as the background music for the stirring video recap/build-up to open the broadcast (like say, Band of Horses' "The Funeral"). The impact on the local strip clubs will be examined. A competition will be held in which people make a commercial for a product and the winning commercial will be broadcast.

It's [...]

---
13

The Joys And Derangement Of "F Troop"

Fort Courage, Kansas. Civil War hero Captain Wilton Parmenter is in command, protecting the Fort, and the neighboring town of the same name, from a tribe of Indians in the area, led by Chief Wild Eagle. With Sergeant O'Rourke and Corporal Agarn rounding out his staff, Captain Parmenter navigates Fort Courage through the dangerous waters of the expansionist latter half of the 19th Century.

Plus also: wackiness.

This is the synopsis of a situation comedy, circa 1965. Not an emphatically successful one, but "F Troop" was still a pristine specimen of what I grew up thinking was the Platonic ideal of sitcoms.

This essay is part of a [...]

---
14

David Mamet, Fairy Godmother

I don’t get enough advice. Maybe it’s because I spent years actively ignoring it? This year I was hoping for some good advice, and still am! No matter how well you’re doing, there’s always a sense that you’re dogging it, and there’s some bit of wisdom that will push you through the membrane of the day-to-day to untold fabulousness. A foolish thought to carry around with you, but there it is. However, while waiting for my fairy godmother to clobber me with a toaster, calendar 2012 was a year that I kept going back to the greatest advice I ever got: Never open your mouth until you know the shot.

[...]

---
3

The Long, Twisted History Of Marvel Comics: A Talk With Sean Howe

Marvel: The Untold Story is a meticulous reconstruction of the history of the other Marvel Universe. It's the tale of the men and women who were creating all the characters and plotlines of the Marvel empire that currently dominates Hollywood. I've been as big a fan of the medium as anyone, for decades now, so I was glad for the opportunity to talk by phone to the author of this obsessive work, the very pleasant Sean Howe, who spent three years of his life writing this history. The book makes a great gift, as I hear Secret Santa season is upon us. And his Tumblr, [...]

---
3

How Much More Money Do Presidential Candidates Raise Today?

As we slog through Election Day, let's look at the money that's gone into this election season. Not so long ago, it was reported that the Obama campaign apparatus had raised one billion dollars in the bid for reelection. It's not a universally accepted figure, and the final tabulations aren't in yet, but by the calculations of the New York Times, both candidates had raised roughly $900 million each, as of Oct. 17th. A lot of money. Compare that to the amount that John F. Kennedy raised in his 1960 race against Nixon: $9.8 million, which, adjusted for inflation, equals $76.6 million.

Another interesting thing: Nixon, who had [...]

---
1

The Fantastic Outer-Space Tale Of The Flatwoods Monster

Part of a series about monsters and other scary things happening here through Halloween.

I fed myself a steady diet of the paranormal growing up, in between all the comic books and all the television. The enthusiasm does tend to wane the further away from childhood you get, but it never really goes away. I grew up hoping, believing, that the world was weirder than the grown-ups would tell you. And I liked it that way. It helped that I grew up in West Virginia, where you're never too far from the woods or a mountain or a swamp, places for mysterious things to hide and then jump out [...]

---
7

The Most Important Of The Most Important Elections

Eight years ago, in the heat of the election between George Bush and John Kerry, The New York Times ran a Week In Review piece, consisting entirely of quotations from some candidate (or proponent of some candidate) declaring the then-current election, "The Most Important Election since [X]," wherein X equals some span of time. The earliest example was from the 1864 election, taken from a Times op-ed penned by Lincoln supporter Gen. James H. Lane, and from there it’s a march through American history, ending with a litany of examples from 2004. The secret was out: important people frequently declare each election more important than all the other elections.

[...]

---
12

The Cost Of Being A Kid In A Classic Adventure Novel

A special after-school installment of Adjusted for Inflation, as part of this series about youth.

You probably haven't been a kid for some years now. Maybe five years, or maybe many more. But whatever your age, there comes the moment of nostalgia sneaking up on you, and you remember that treehouse you had, or that clearing in the woods where all the kids played, which maybe you called something fanciful like Terabithia, or that playground with the monkey bars that served as the spaceship that everyone would compete to captain. Or maybe even bigger ventures, the running away from home, like Claudia and Nick in From The Mixed-Up [...]

---