Friday, August 15, 2014

Five Things on a Friday: When Superheroes Attack!

It's been a crazy, crazy week, and not always in a good way.  Let's get to it.

The effort by the NYPD comes after costumed characters have come under scrutiny for bad behavior of all sorts…

Marvel would quite like for drunks in Times Square to stop using its
intellectual property as a prop for panhandling.
I didn’t see a bunch of these guys in Times Square last time I was there, but I wasn’t exactly looking, either.  I can only imagine some intimidated suburban family from Iowa being shaken down by a smelly, half-drunk Spider-Man on 42nd Street.  That’s funny.  
It’s good that the cops are cracking down, though.
The odds-on favorite.
“In [Obama’s] interview with Friedman, he described the turmoil in the Middle East in terms of history and economics rather than religion. ‘I do believe that what we’re seeing in the Middle East and parts of North Africa is an order that dates back to World War I starting to buckle,’ the President said. More specifically, he pointed to the rise of a disaffected Sunni population, stretching from Baghdad to Damascus, that was politically alienated and economically isolated: ‘Unless we can give them a formula that speaks to the aspirations of that population, we are inevitably going to have problems.’
Clinton, by contrast, placed the threat of radical Islam front and center, and she didn’t shy away from describing it. ‘One of the reasons why I worry about what’s happening in the Middle East right now is because of the breakout capacity of jihadist groups that can affect Europe, can affect the United States,’ she said. ‘Jihadist groups are governing territory. They will never stay there, though. They are driven to expand. Their raison d’être is to be against the West, against the Crusaders, against the fill-in-the-blank—and we all fit into one of these categories.’”
I’m not some huge fan of Hillary Clinton, but there is a good chance she’s going to be our next president, so I’m trying to read a little to understand what she believes.  I tend to agree with her that Obama’s policy statement, “Don’t do stupid stuff”, does not state any kind of policy at all.  However, I have always believed in the economics of things rather than ideology or theology.  Ideology and theology are excellent motivators for a very small slice of humanity, but most people aren’t willing to burn for their convictions.  Most just want to live and do their thing.  When basic necessities are threatened over the long term, and there seems to be neither hope nor a realistic end in sight, this is when mass numbers of ostensibly sensible folk begin to fall into seriously antisocial behaviors.  That’s not news.  In fact, it’s one of the themes in my book, Sneakatara Boatman and the Priest of Loki.
Clinton talks about containing jihadist groups in the way that the West contained Communism, and I am generally a proponent of containment, but her concept misses the point.  The initial step to containing Communism in Europe was the Marshal Plan, which revitalized Europe’s economy while simultaneously setting the U.S. Dollar as the world’s reserve currency for the foreseeable future.  It worked because it gave Europeans hope for a better way forward than violent Socialist revolution.  However, Clinton’s talking about a fundamentally military strategy.
I don’t have all the answers, and I’m not claiming that I do.  I like that Clinton is at least trying to put some doctrine on the table that contains coherent internal logic.  However, I am becoming a firm believer in the idea that you can’t partner with someone who is corrupt and ineffectual, and I have no idea how you implement a strategy of containment without stable regional partners, and in this I am not talking about Israel.  Where do you draw the line in today’s Middle East?  What areas are you trying to contain, and where are your regional partners who show a better way forward?  These are the essential questions for the proposed policy.
There’s more in the article, and it’s worth reading.  Now is the time to try to get a handle on what potential candidates think.  By the time 2016 rolls around, it’ll all be sound-bites and memorable platitudes on heavy repeat rotation.
“A group of leading authors, including Donna Tartt, Stephen King and Malcolm Gladwell, has attempted to intervene in the dispute between publisher Hachette and retailing behemoth Amazon. Observers of the music industry are familiar with this tactic; prominent musicians are persuaded that the interests of music publishers are aligned with their own. The reality is very different…
What matters to the success or failure of a book is the quality of conception and execution of the underlying project, the competence of the editing, and the effectiveness of marketing and promotion. Most new self-published titles fail these tests; in particular, the lack of a competent editor is often obvious. But this is also true of many titles now published by established houses.”
R.A. Salvatore is a titan of fantasy
genre fiction.  His comic work hasn't
always been as successful.
I’m surprised to see King and others openly siding with Amazon, but I’ve heard a few other prominent authors speak on the subject—notably fantasy author R.A. Salvatore—and they have often said the following along similar lines.  Established authors do well in the new paradigm because they already have a following, and even if they sell fewer books, their revenues are better because they no longer have to split the take with their publishing houses.  Having an existing fan base and support structure is the key.  
The new paradigm’s problems are mainly for readers and, paradoxically, for new writers.  It’s now nearly impossible to tell what’s worth reading, and on top of that, there’s a crap-ton of badly edited books out there.  This is one reason why this blog so often discusses what I’m reading and what I’ve recently enjoyed.  Similarly, new writers can now get their work out there without much effort, but keeping quality high has become a solely individual responsibility, and standing out from the herd is an increasingly difficult proposition.
“[O]fficers from multiple departments in riot gear and in military equipment have clashed nightly with protesters, who chant, ‘Hands up, don't shoot.’ Wednesday saw more tense confrontations and further volleys of tear gas from police — this time paired with smoke bombs in response to flaming projectiles and other objects lobbed from the crowd. Protesters faced heavily armed police who at times trained weapons on them from armored trucks.”
A sniper in Fergusson.
It’s impossible to know what’s really going on in Ferguson without being there.  The inciting incident seems deplorable, but we don’t yet have the facts of the case from an authoritative source.  This is why we need an impartial investigation.  Regardless, a substantial part of the public in Ferguson has clearly lost all respect or trust in the government, which is a problem all by itself—and not one that can be solved in the long-term with assault rifles and up-armored trucks.
A lot of people in Fergusson were clearly waiting for some real shit to finally go down.  Police have all this high-speed gear, and it looks like they’re excited that they’re finally getting to use it.  To Hell with all that due process bullshit, these guys wanna jack somebody up.  Meanwhile, a substantial portion of the public has absolutely had it with whatever’s pissing them off.  Either they want to “Fuck the Police” for some injustice, real or imagined, or else they’re just tired of being poor, and they’re using the events to grab the shit they’ve been eying forever now that the shit has finally kicked off.  
Government has failed either way.  
What’s scary is that no one is trying to heal the rifts in the community.  Government keeps trying to put down the boot heel, and frankly, the rioters seems to prefer it that way.  These are people who have no faith in government and hence no stake in the established order.  They may as well fight because fuck it, it’s already a war out there.  At least this way it’s on TV.
5.  Geek News
Thankfully, it’s not all gloom-and-doom:

 -- Harrison Ford is back on the set of Star Wars VII.
 -- Rocket Raccoon sold 300,000 copies last month!  Holy shit, that is a lot.
 -- Alberto Contador is racing the Vuelta.  That’s not surprising, but I’m glad he’s okay.
 -- It’s Redskins vs. Browns on Monday Night Football.  That means RG3 vs. Johnny Football.  Now if only Tim Tebow would do the sideline reporting, we’d have a media Sharknado!
That’s all I’ve got!  We’re riding tomorrow.
Have a good weekend.

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