The original plan was to build this week’s Amusement Park Podcast around reviewing Captain Marvel, which figured to be the big geek culture event of the week. Then, news of Arrow announcing it would end after Season 8 broke and there was suddenly another topic to which we had to devote some significant time.
So our Captain Marvel review and reaction will be in a separate, special episode.
Eight seasons is a formidable run for any TV show. But it seems especially notable for a superhero TV show, and Arrow opened the door for a lot of other superhero programming to walk through — and that’s just on the CW alone with The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, Black Lightning and Supergirl anchoring that network. Arrow isn’t the show it once was — ultimately, it may have been too much of a Batman clone — and it’s probably bowing out at the right time.
We also dive into the Steven Spielberg vs. Netflix debate. I see where Spielberg is coming from. Someone needs to stick up for movie theaters and the experience they create. However, people increasingly prefer to watch movies at home if there’s a streaming option. To deny that is to deny the current moviegoing reality.
And I tip my cap to Seth Everett, who runs his own geek culture podcast titled Hall of Justice. It’s the show we hope the Amusement Park Podcast can come close to being someday. But Seth is also a sports guy who likes to let his geek flag fly, which is pretty cool. What a pleasant surprise to see him as a guest on DC Universe’s DC Daily show last week, and he interviewed the cast on his podcast.
This might be one of my more anti-social tendencies, but I enjoy going to the movies by myself. Mark Serrels planted his flag for solo moviegoing, calling it one of “life’s secret pleasures” in a piece for CNET, so I figured I’d share my feelings on the topic too.
Most people I know — and I presume most people you know — have a big hang-up about it, like going alone says something about you socially. Or maybe they just don’t like being by themselves in that kind of environment.
I totally understand. That was something I needed to get over too. And I feel the same way on a Friday or Saturday night, when it’s all couples at the theater. It feels awkward, especially if I’m unfortunate enough to be seated between two couples or groups. Most of my solo moviegoing is done during the day, and I imagine that’s the case for the majority of people who see a movie alone.
Going to the movies by myself wasn’t necessarily a choice I made early on. It was kind of forced on me as a kid. As a sixth grader, I wanted to see a movie on a Saturday afternoon and asked my dad if we could go. He had work to do — or just didn’t want to see that particular movie — and rather than deal with a bored, possibly pouting, kid around the house, he made what turned out to be a very formative suggestion.
Dad gave me $10 for the movie and apparently thought it would be good exercise for me to walk to the mall, nearly two miles away. Decades later, I still remember how surprised I was by that. You won’t even give me a ride? He was probably worried about me being too chubby at that age.
Of course, that would be seen as awful parenting in 2019. People would freak out if they saw a 10-year-old walking anywhere alone these days. It was obviously a very different time, and I’m sure many people who grew up in the 1980s have stories about being left in the car, riding without a car seat, and other stuff that just seemed normal then.
If my father was still around to ask about it, I wonder if he’d express any regret or surprise over sending me off to the movies. (He expressed remorse for a lot of things he did after he had heart surgery and his health declined.) But my parents felt strongly about me being independent. I was routinely sent to the grocery store, drugstore, or even the nearby Domino’s Pizza to pick stuff up. Though now that I think about it, I don’t recall any of my friends ever being sent on errands like that.
No worries, Dad. I’d thank you for it. Going to the movies by myself — even if it included a two-mile walk at that point (and eventually I rode my bike) — was liberating. I no longer had to rely on my parents (Mom didn’t drive) to see a movie if I wanted. That went for friends too. If they didn’t want to or couldn’t join me, I’d just go by myself. I’ve applied that ethos to just about everything ever since (though it works better for some situations than others).
I don’t know if I’d say I prefer going to the movies alone, but I’m certainly accustomed to it — especially when seeing some films to review. Having someone to talk about the movie with afterwards can be a lot of fun, especially if it’s a film that compels some discussion. That walk, drive or time at a coffee shop or bar can be almost as engaging as the movie itself.
But I definitely agree with Serrels. It’s an underrated pleasure, an opportunity to escape from the world for a couple of hours that often feels refreshing.
Spreading the Links
Rather than post a long list of links to read, I think I’m going to sprinkle them throughout each Overzealous Recycling from here on out. Let me know what you prefer as a reader, however.
** Guillermo Del Toro getting to present this year’s Best Director Academy Award to his friend and fellow Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron was a special moment. And it was the latest update to the story of three Mexican filmmakers (do we really want to call them the “Three Amigos”?) ruling the Oscars. Del Toro, Cuaron and Alejandro González Iñárritu have won five of the past six Best Director awards. [Slate]
** Hi, my name is Ian and I am a nail-biter. I don’t know when I started, and it was really bad through my teens and 20s. My fingernails probably aren’t as strong as they could be because of it. I’m not so bad anymore, though I’d still rather bite my nails than clip them. It’s “a manual art,” as Suzannah Showler writes. [New York Times]
My Comic Book DNA
On Twitter a couple of weeks ago, writer Alex Segura asked people to post their #ComicsDNA, the three or four books that formed their fandom as readers. That led to a whole bunch of fun and fascinating responses.
Unfortunately, I missed out on this a couple of weeks ago, so I’d like to do it here. I’m not absolutely certain, but I’m pretty sure this was the first comic book my mother ever bought for me, picking it up at the drugstore on her way home from work:
Of course, I was a big fan of Super Friends on Saturday morning and after-school cartoons. Remembering that a Super Friends comic book was important to me, I think this is the one that got me hooked. (Seems kind of dark, looking at it now.)
I love plenty of Batman comic books, but none is more important to me than issue No. 1 of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.
And the same holds true for Daredevil comics. I love a bunch of ’em, especially during Frank Miller’s run. But this is the one that means the most, written by Miller and illustrated by David Mazzuchelli. I should get that image of Daredevil tattooed on me somewhere.
** Dave Bautista says he wants to be viewed more as an actor than action star. Some of his recent choices, like taking smaller roles in Blade Runner 2049 and Hotel Artemis, have been impressive. Facing Triple H at Wrestlemania might run counter to that, though. [Tampa Bay Times]
** I’m a Bill Maher fan, and I think his Real Time panel discussions can occasionally be some of the most intelligent and engaging conversations on politics in a given week (though not as often as it once was). But Drew Magary is right: Real Time is too often a safe haven for liberals now and marginalizes Maher. He tries to be too provocative because of it. By the way, I don’t give a shit about what Maher thinks of Stan Lee or my love of comic books and superheroes. [GQ]
With a second Academy Award in three years now under his belt and a compelling Season 3 of True Detective (in which he played a character throughout five timelines) completed, let’s also look at Ali’s burgeoning career as a rapper. Prince Ali! [Hat tip, The Big Lead]
Next week, are we going to find out that Mahershala was an aspiring four-star chef or race car driver? What can’t this man do?
** Tom King is arguably the most intriguing writer in comic books right now. Some fans don’t like his plotting or storytelling, and his narratives sometimes feel dragged out. But his willingness to dig into the psychology of superheroes (seen in Batman, Mister Miracle and Vision) is fascinating. His Heroes in Crisis mini-series — exploring the mental trauma suffered by these characters — is a really compelling read. [The Ringer]
** I will always be baffled by people who say they “forgot to eat.” And I’m certainly envious of athletes who have difficulty keeping on weight. Washington Nationals pitcher Erick Fedde put on 20 pounds in hopes of becoming a better, more durable pitcher this year. I could probably do that over one weekend eating on Atlanta’s Buford Highway. [Washington Post]
** My go-to line whenever lamenting a possibly bad Best Picture winner is that we’ll look back in 10 years and wonder what the hell the Academy Awards were thinking. Unfortunately, that’s happened many times. What are the best nominees that didn’t win the big award each year? [Vulture]
** Writer Victor LaValle explained how profoundly meaningful the Miles Morales version of Spider-Man is to him. I wish I’d thought more about the importance of representation and diversity in comic books while reading them as a kid. I certainly appreciate it as an adult with three young nieces. [New York Times]
** I wonder how I would’ve felt about an Asian-American Hulk when I was a kid, especially in those formative junior high years as a comic book reader. Would Amadeus Cho’s Totally Awesome Hulk, the Kamala Khan Ms. Marvel, Silk, or S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Jimmy Woo have blown my mind? Or would I have still preferred Peter Parker and Bruce Wayne? I probably would’ve followed the big names, but I’m intrigued by the growing number of Asian-American characters now. [Fandom]
I did read some Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu, comics, but think I preferred watching Bruce Lee films for martial arts action.
** Filmmaker Michael Mann has launched a book imprint. It’s been a while since his last film (2015’s Blackhat), so it’s nice to see that his good taste in storytelling can be applied to true crime, such as Elaine Shannon’s Hunting LeRoux. Fiction — including a prequel to Heat — is coming soon. [Vulture]
I’ve always been a fan of the Academy Awards, even when I wasn’t as much of a movie buff as I am now. Once upon a time, I let the Oscars dictate most of the movies I went to see. Now, it’s the other way around: I hope the Oscars reflect what I felt were the best movies of the past year.
For various reasons, I wasn’t as excited about the Oscars this year as I usually am. I didn’t even make an effort to see all of the Best Picture candidates, which I typically do. I had plenty of opportunity to see The Favourite, Green Book, and Roma, however. (And I’ll see them in the weeks to come.)
But there was still plenty to talk about with the Oscars, notably the show not having a host and a crowd-pleasing blockbuster like Black Panther being one of the Best Picture nominees.
We also dissected the Season 3 finale of True Detective. Overall, I enjoyed the season, especially Stephen Dorff’s performance as Roland West. The mystery was intriguing enough, though not the driving storyline for the season, as it turned out.
I’ve been following a lot more people on Twitter recently, largely to try and get more views in my timeline. That’s increased the noise on my TweetDeck, but I felt like I wasn’t seeing as much stuff as I wanted to while trying to keep my follower count lean.
No, I haven’t been adding more conservative political views or anything like that. Most of the follows have been culture writers, especially people who either work in the comic book industry or cover it, to try and learn as much as I can for The Amusement Park Podcast or my own writing.
Along the way, I’ve noticed a few writers linking to their Muck Rack page, a database for journalists and public relations professionals. (I think it was Meg Downey, writing for DC Universe, who first got my attention.)
This reminded me that I created a Muck Rack page for myself a couple years ago. I had actually forgotten! I’m even a verified journalist there! My avatar was a photo of baseball player Munenori Kawasaki wearing a Cubs cap, which means I posted it in 2016. So I figured it was time to wipe off the cobwebs and update that thing.
I’m guessing a few PR people found me that way, but I’m hoping some editors and hiring managers might be browsing Muck Rack as I’m actively seeking new work. I’ve linked the page on my Twitter bio as well, but you can find my Muck Rack page here.
You’ll Be Deeply Missed, Nick Cafardo
Baseball — and baseball media — lost one of its best with the Boston Globe‘s Nick Cafardo passing away this past week. Cafardo was 62, which is just far too young. It’s just about the same age my father was when he died, which made this resonate a bit more.
I think it was impossible to cover or follow baseball — as a beat reporter, columnist, blogger, or a fan — without reading Cafardo’s work. His Sunday Notes and On Baseball columns were extremely insightful and enjoyable. As a baseball writer, they were indispensable for learning what was going on throughout the sport.
Cafardo had been with the Globe for 30 years, covering the Red Sox for the past 15 years after a stint reporting on the New England Patriots. He covered the Pats just as their long run of success under Bill Belichick and Tom Brady began. And the Red Sox won four World Series championships while he followed the team.
It just doesn’t seem possible that we won’t have another baseball season with Cafardo’s information and insight. Condolences to his family, including his son Ben, who many of us have worked with through ESPN’s PR department. Cafardo will truly be missed.
Grocery Store Playlist
It’s been a couple weeks since I went grocery shopping long enough to listen to some music. But I finally ran low enough on food that I needed an extended visit. So here’s a new playlist.
This time, I shopped at Trader Joe’s, if you think any of these songs (the David Lee Roth version of “California Girls”? Really?) don’t sound like current supermarket fare. The frozen and cheese sections are particularly loaded, which allows for some good listening.
10 to Read
** I have spent most of the past nine months trying to find a better work-life balance, veering dangerously close to whining about it. I think I’m in a good place now, though may have leaned too far toward the “life” side of the equation. Is trying to “balance” those parts of your life creating an unrealistic expectation? [Fast Company]
** Mahershala Ali could win his second Best Supporting Actor Academy Award Sunday night. (What if it happens while many of us are watching him in the True Detective finale?) In college, he was a role player known for his defense with Saint Mary’s, then going by Hershal Gilmore. [Washington Post]
** Speaking of the Oscars, I feel less interest for this year’s awards than I have in the past. (Though I’ll still tune in Sunday night, of course.) I think a big reason for that is because the movie that looks like the best to me, A Star Is Born, seems to have lost momentum since its October release. Is it bad to be the front-runner four months out? Do some knock A Star Is Born for being a remake? [Vulture]
By the way, I think Green Book is going to win Best Picture. Just a vibe. I don’t think it’s the deserving winner.
** This is a fun list of spaceship reveals in pop culture. But my favorite didn’t make the cut. I love, love, love the scene in J.J. Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek when James Kirk and Leonard McCoy see the U.S.S. Enterprise for the first time. (OK, Michael Giacchino’s score helps — a lot.) [io9]
A close second, which is on io9’s list, is Rey and Finn finding the Millennium Falcon in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Abrams knows how to reveal spaceships, man.
** “I’m good at two things in this world: throwing baseballs, and pissing people off.” Cleveland Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer is a major asshole, and he knows it. Maybe lay off harassing young women on social media, dude. You can see why he clashes with teammates and coaches. But he’s also kind of fascinating. I’m sure I’d like him a lot more if he pitched for my team. [Sports Illustrated]
** If you saw Alita: Battle Angel (I thought it was really impressive visually, but only OK, story-wise) and are curious about the original manga source material, this is a good introduction. Personally, I’m always fascinated by how a movie adapts a book, which stories and characters are used, and which are left behind. [Kotaku]
** It probably shouldn’t be a surprise that DC Comics canceled the publication of a book in which Jesus Christ returns to the world and is dismayed to discover that most people worship an all-powerful superhero. The comic was going to be released under DC’s Vertigo imprint. Writer Mark Russell and illustrator Richard Pace will be able to publish Second Coming elsewhere, however. [SYFY]
I saw on Facebook that Paul Westerberg’s Suicaine Gratification was released 20 years ago. This was Westerberg’s third solo album, following 14 Songs and Eventually.
Yes, 20 years ago makes me feel old. But I just listened to the album recently while going through old CDs and it sounded so fresh to me. Westerberg really seemed to have progressed as a songwriter by then.
** Greg Pak is a comic book writer, filmmaker and Rhodes Scholar with whom you may or may not be familiar. His experience as a freelancer has led to some good insight on taking opportunities, even when they’re not exactly what you want, knowing when to say no, holding yourself accountable for your mistakes, and how to engage a potential audience. [ICv2]
** Should we say “no” more often in our personal lives, in addition to our work lives? Maybe that helps eliminate life clutter and reduce stress. I’ve probably gone a bit too far in this direction, and sometimes think I should say “yes” more often. In work situations, however? I burned myself out. [The Guardian]
** I ate jackfruit as a meat substitute for the first time last week. Prepared with a lemon-garlic sauce, it was pretty good! I’d like to try it as a pulled pork substitute, but every time I’m at a BBQ joint, I’d rather have the real thing. I’ll do it someday soon, though. [The Guardian]
I’d even consider buying a jackfruit next time I visit the Hong Kong Supermarket in Norcross, Georgia, where boxes of the giant, spiky fruit are on pallets. But they’re like the size of an infant, and there’s a lot of smell and slime to deal with once you cut through that outer shell.
We usually save something inspirational for the end of these (not a) newsletters. But Steven Soderbergh has been doing quite a bit of press for the release of his new film, High Flying Bird, on Netflix. (I hope to post a review this coming week.) And in one interview, he responded to his 2001 Academy Award acceptance speech being used by Oscar telecast producers as an example for the ideal acknowledgement for winners.
If you haven’t seen it, here’s the speech Soderbergh gave upon winning the Academy Award for Best Director. (Traffic was the film that earned him the honor.)
Succinct and to the point. It’s definitely a good example for other Oscar winners to follow. Here’s the key passage, the one which really spoke to me and so many others:
“I want to thank anyone who spends part of their day creating. I don’t care if it’s a book, a film, a painting, a dance, a piece of theater, a piece of music — anybody who spends part of their day sharing their experience with us. I think this world would be unlivable without art, and I thank you.”
As an aspiring writer, that meant something. I’ve cited it many times in my own writing, in classroom settings, and to contemporaries. It was important to hear, occasionally providing a little nudge to try a little harder, to finish that idea I was shaping, that story I was writing.
In an interview this past week with IndieWire, Soderbergh downplayed that speech, saying it was a result of “alcohol and adrenaline” because he didn’t expect to win. He seemed embarrassed that it was cited as a template. But he shouldn’t be. Modesty aside, what he said is a great example of creativity on the fly and the sincerity of articulating a feeling without preparation.
The older I get, the softer I prefer my scrambled eggs. (I don’t think that has anything to do with my teeth getting soft. Still in good shape there.) While listening to an older House of Carbs podcast (I’m determined to listen to every episode), I was hooked on Eggslut founder Alvin Cailan’s description of the signature soft scrambled eggs they make for their sandwiches.
Naturally, I figured that there had to be videos of preparing those eggs and I wasn’t disappointed.
Having the patience to stir and fold eggs in a cold pan that slowly warms isn’t necessarily the way to go if you’ve gotta have breakfast RIGHT NOW. (It helps to have some bacon to munch on while you’re standing at the stove.) So maybe it’s better for a Saturday or Sunday morning.
But the payoff is worth it. The eggs are creamy and have more flavor, even without cheese, chives, or even salt and pepper. (And no, I don’t add caramelized onions. There’s only so much time in a day.) It’s been pointed out to me, however, that I spend far more time cooking the meal than eating it. I always eat too fast.
10 to Read
** Frank Robinson, who died this week at 83 years old, wasn’t a household name among casual baseball fans and those who don’t follow sports. But he was a momentous figure in baseball history — 586 career home runs, MVP awards in both leagues, Rookie of the Year, a Triple Crown winner, and baseball’s first black manager — as Barry Svrluga reminds us while recounting his experiences with Robinson. [Washington Post]
** It’s difficult to argue that articles about Donald Trump’s tan accomplish very much, and maybe the NYT should be above such stuff. But Trump’s skin tone is something many people notice, so why not ask how he gets that orange color? [New York Times]
** Late to this, but this is a stunning story of how a Minneapolis dancer’s reputation was terribly smeared by two writers (one of which is Kevin Powell, whom you might remember from the first season of The Real World) in retaliation for something she didn’t write. It was a horrible case of mistaken identity, and Powell and his wife didn’t even bother to do the bare minimum in making sure they called out the right person. [City Pages]
This weekend marks the 20th anniversary of Sparklehorse’s Good Morning Spider. I’d forgotten just how much I enjoyed that album until re-listening to a lot of my music collection while converting my CDs to digital files. (I know, I was like 15 years late in doing so.)
Annie Zaleski writes about Good Morning Spider in far greater depth than I could ever hope to achieve for Stereogum. Yet she also distills the album down to the key point that Sparklehorse — and songwriter, the late Mark Linkous — played with so many different styles that the music couldn’t be easily defined. Yet what could’ve been a creative mess turned into truly memorable.
** Are people really saying that “books are dead”? In my circle (which I’m not saying is expansive), most everyone is reading something. Devices like Kindle or services like Audible allow us to fit reading in rather easily. Watching cable news and even sports studio programming, it seems like just about everybody is writing a book. [TIME]
Maybe the novel is in a more precarious situation? I’ve certainly been guilty of reading far more nonfiction than fiction during the past 10 to 15 years. It feels more difficult for my brain to get in the right mode to lose myself in fiction. I’m trying to change that this year.
** Michael Bloomberg probably won’t run for president among what’s already become a ridiculously crowded field of candidates. But he could provide significant help to Democrats campaigning against Donald Trump with “all the data” and a system for applying that information toward potential voters. [The Atlantic]
** Dana Perino became an unwitting Super Bowl meme by tweeting a photo of what looked like very unappetizing queso dip. What are the origins of chile con queso, how did it become a thing, and what are some tasty variations? [Eater]
** Bob Mould’s new album, Sunshine Rock, was released on Friday and I’m spending a good chunk of the weekend listening to it. In this interview, he says he’s tried to be more positive in his recent songwriting I admire the guy for moving to Berlin without knowing how to speak German. [Rolling Stone]
** It’s been five years since Shane Salerno’s documentary about J.D. Salinger and accompanying biography was released. But Salinger’s son, Matt (who played Captain America in a 1990 film), says there is plenty of unpublished material that could be released over the next 10 years. But it needs work. [The Guardian]
** Fielding Yost is a football coaching legend at Michigan, but his name isn’t often cited among the coaching pioneers of the game. That made it notable when New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick cited Yost among those he learned from in reading vintage football books. [MVictors]
** I eat a lot of pickles (cucumbers, peppers, garlic, okra, asparagus and more), which leaves jars of leftover pickle juice. Just tossing it down the sink seems like a waste, but what can be done with it? I typically use pickle juice for salad dressings, but might try some of these other suggestions. [Garden & Gun]
On the latest Amusement Park Podcast, we respond to the first half (six episodes) of The Punisher and the Oscar nominations, which include a Best Picture nod for Black Panther and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse being nominated for Best Animated Film. (How many Oscar nominees do you get a chance to see where you live?)
We also dig into what Netflix joining the MPAA means, briefly review Glass, and share what we’re enjoying this week.
Thank you for listening! Please give us a like on our Facebook page to help boost our signal. You can also give us feedback at email@example.com and find us on Twitter and Instagram. We’d love to hear from you!
The Academy Award nominations are always an exciting morning, but the 2019 Oscars seem to have a bit less juice than in previous years. Maybe because there’s not one clear front-runner that many fans are rallying around? No clear critical darling?
Also, I think there are a lot of movies that people either simply haven’t seen. That’s always the case (and Oscar nominations can change that), but feels like it’s even more so this year. Also, one of the favorites was made for Netflix, an idea people will have to get used to.
Since I typically write something about the Oscars, I figured I’d do a quick overview of the big categories, picking the favorites and noting the snubs. And there were a lot of notable snubs this year.
I’ve seen five of the eight Best Picture nominees, but there are several contenders I need to watch. (That’s one reason why I dragged my ass on putting together a Best of 2018 list.) Those include Green Book, The Favourite, Roma, Shoplifters, Can You Ever Forgive Me and The Wife. (I know!) So my opinions on any of these could change before Feb. 24. If so, maybe we’ll have some predictions.