Spider-Man, and other films, non-MCU

ANOTHER iteration?

The_Amazing_Spider-Man_theatrical_posterI started watching the movies in what was eventually labeled the Marvel Cinematic Universe back when it started in in 2008. Now for those of you NOT seeped in these things, not every Marvel character that appeared in a movie this century is an MCU film.

For convoluted aesthetic and licensing reasons, the films with the X-Men, Fantastic Four, Blade, and Deadpool films, among others, are not part of the canon. The Spider-Man films in 2002/2004/2007 and 2012/2014 are not MCU. But the recent ones with Tom Holland, including Captain America: Civil War and the last two Avengers films, ARE MCU. Got that? There will be a test.

Despite having had collected comic books for over a quarter-century, primarily Marvel products – and I still own some Marvel Masterworks books – I hadn’t watched all that many of the films. Before I tackle the MCU, I thought I’d check to see which ones of the other Marvel films I’ve seen.

Howard the Duck (1986) – the movie was previewed in Albany in a movie theater, sponsored by FantaCo, the comic book store where I worked. I related to the “trapped in a world that he never made” description in the comic book, which also transferred to the film. It was roundly panned, and perhaps deservedly so. Yet I had an odd fondness for it.

Fantastic Four (1994 – unreleased) – at some point in the 2010s I saw this, possibly on YouTube. It was not very good. In fact, it was so awful, it was mildly enjoyable.

Friendly, neighborhood…

Spider-Man (2002) and Spider-Man 2 (2004) . These are the ones starring Tobey Maguire. I saw the first one in a cinema, the second at a resort in the Berkshires. Never saw the third one. I liked the first two enough to get them on DVD.

X2 (2003) – I watched in a hotel in Oneonta on New Year’s Eve many years back. Maybe because I didn’t see the first X-Men film, it didn’t make as much sense as I thought it should.

Fantastic Four (2005) – I thought Michael Chiklis was actually quite good in this. That is high praise since he was all but unrecognizable as The Thing. The rest of the story, as I recall, was pretty pedestrian. That’s necessary, I suppose for an introductory piece, but still… Never saw the follow-up.

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) – for reasons I’ll explain soon, I have been watching a LOT of MCU movies this summer. So in early July 2020, I needed a palate cleanser before starting on Avengers: Infinity War.

Why did we need ANOTHER iteration of the web-slinger? I say that as someone whose favorite Marvel character is Peter Parker, the awkward young man with a secret.

Maybe we didn’t. But I felt Andrew Garfield was a credible Peter. And since the earlier Sam Raimi stories focused on his relationship with Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), it seemed natural that the series deal with his first love, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). Her internship with Osgood Corp may have been a bit too coincidental for my taste.

Still, I appreciated their relationship. Her father, the cop (Denis Leary) felt like a real dad, as did Peter’s uncle Ben (Martin Sheen). Aunt May (Sally Field) fretted a lot. If the villain was more tortured soul than actually evil (Rhys Ifans as Curt Connor/the Lizard), that would be in keeping with the comic book narrative.

Ultimately, I didn’t enjoy it as much as the films I had seen a decade and a half earlier. Still, it was time well-spent. I’m still warming up to the new Spider-Man. But that’s a story for another time.

Steve Derrick; beautiful nurses’ eyes

portraits of healthcare workers

eyes.Steve derrickOn the Road with Steve Hartman introduced me to Steve Derrick, an artist from Clifton Park. He “has produced more than 100 portraits of healthcare workers as they ended their shifts, many of them nurses at Albany Medical Center.”

The artist paints portraits of medical workers and captures their exhaustion treating Covid-19 patients. The subjects are weary, tired, brave, bruised, and raw. “Steve Derrick’s paintings depict the spirit of healthcare heroes on the front lines.”

“To escape the overwhelm of the pandemic, he engaged in painting. He says, ‘there was so much negativity on the news. This gave me something positive to think about while sitting in quarantine.'”

I found the story so touching, so compelling that after seeing it on the CBS Evening News on a Friday, I watched it again on CBS Sunday Morning. “He presents the finished portrait, a moment in time that omits no detail, to each of his subjects, and refuses payment.” Herrick’s actions have become part of a movement.

The eyes have it

Beyond this story, I’ve discovered that I have spent a whole lot more time looking at the eyes of people wearing masks. I find almost all of them are beautiful. Without seeing the whole face, it’s been necessary to discern how another is feeling. I’m required to actually look at people in a new, and arguably, better way.

Googling “eyes,” I came across a poet and short story writer named Avijeet Das. He wrote: “Eyes speak. Eyes say the unsaid words. Eyes express feelings. Eyes convey emotions. Eyes are eloquent. Eyes are tender. Eyes are sensitive. Eyes are captivating. I can’t help looking into eyes. I am always fascinated by eyes. If I were a painter then I would love to paint the eyes of the people I meet and come across.”

CBS’s Steve Hartman asked painter Steve Derrick if he were painting the nurses at their worst. Derrick totally disagreed. It is his belief that he has captured them at their best. I believe he is correct.

An actual enumeration of all persons

1/3 of the country has still not responded to the Census

Census 2020 buttonThe guy in the White House wants to make an “unconstitutional move seeking to block undocumented immigrants from being counted in the census.”

An article in the Los Angeles Times notes this. “The Constitution mandates an ‘actual Enumeration’ every 10 years of ‘all persons’ in the country, but the president has repeatedly tried to limit who is counted.”

As you know, the census count helps in determining where taxpayer money is spent on building public facilities such as schools, hospitals, and fire departments. And, of course, it’s used in calculating states’ apportionment in the U.S. House of Representatives. But it determines other legislative districts as well.

I don’t know how he does this. And by that, I don’t just mean he’s being reprehensible. I’m saying I don’t know where he would get the data. Back in 2018, the regime attempted to include a question about citizenship on the census form. It was “a move that was ultimately rejected by the Supreme Court in 2019.”

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote that “Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had failed to honestly explain why he sought to change the census forms. Roberts called the stated reason — a need to have information to enforce the Voting Rights Act — ‘contrived.'”

How does one determine how many undocumented people there are, and in specific geographies? The directive would “adopt a practice never before used in U.S. history, faces several major hurdles — legal, logistical and political.

“If successfully carried out, it could have far-reaching effects by reducing the political clout of states with significant numbers of immigrants, including California and Texas. It could also shift power toward whiter, more rural areas of states at the expense of more diverse cities.”

Counted but then subtracted?

According to the IMPOTUS memo: “Census workers would continue counting immigrants who are in the country illegally, but they would not be factored into decisions about the congressional representation. The Census Bureau would have five months to come up with a way to accurately estimate the number of residents illegally in each state in order to subtract them from the overall count.

Michael McDonald, a political science professor at the University of Florida, has his doubts. It’s unlikely the Commerce Department, which oversees the Census Bureau, could meet the timeline. It’s difficult to quickly develop a methodology for estimating the number of immigrants without legal status in various areas of the country. “There are just so many moving parts here.”

Totally true, based on what I know about Census processes. Plus Title 13 of the US Code says that the data can only be used for statistical purposes. I can’t imagine how the Bureau is supposed to discern who’s “legal” and who is not at such a granular level.

Advocacy groups remain concerned that the publicity around Trump’s push for a citizenship question already has made millions of immigrants or mixed-status families reluctant to respond to the census.

Kelsey Herbert, National Campaigns Director for Faith in Public Life sounded the alarm. “The intention of this executive order is merely to suppress census participation, especially in hard-to-count communities.”

It’s not too late to answer by computer, mail, or phone

The U.S. Census Bureau sent reminder postcards last week to an estimated 34.3 million households. That was “the final mailing before census takers begin visiting nonresponding households across the nation in mid-August. Responding now minimizes the need for census takers to visit homes to collect responses in person.”

And you don’t want them to do that.

The Census Bureau uses an online map that tracks the nation’s participation in the census. More than 92 million households (or 62.3 percent of households) have already responded online, by phone, or by mail.” That number for New York State is 57.9%

“The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the nationwide start of census taker visits from mid-May to mid-August. Sending a postcard is one reminder in a series of reminders that the Census Bureau has mailed nonresponding households since mid-March urging them to respond.

“The Census Bureau strongly encourages the public to respond online at 2020census.gov. Households can respond online or by phone in English or 12 other languages. Or households can also respond by mail using the paper questionnaire that was mailed in April to most nonresponding addresses. Households can continue to respond on their own until these visits conclude on October 31.”

1970 Earth Day music v. the war

Everyday people, sing a simple song

Fifty years ago, in 1970, the country was experiencing racial tension, worrying about the environment, and fighting a far-off war. It’s so much different now.

Here were the #1 songs on the pop charts in 1970. I remember all of them and I own most. Some of my favorite tunes. RB=rhythm charts.

Bridge Over Troubled Water – Simon and Garfunkel. #1 for six weeks. Gold record. My second favorite S&G song.

I’ll Be There– Jackson Five. Or Jackson 5ive, if you prefer. #1 for five weeks; #1 for six weeks RB.

Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head – B.J Thomas. #1 for four weeks. Gold record. From the 1969 movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, which I saw in the cinema.

(They Long To Be) Close To You – Carpenters. #1 for four weeks. Gold record.

My Sweet Lord – George Harrison. #1 for four weeks, Gold record.

I Think I Love You – Partridge Family. #1 for three weeks. Gold record.

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – Diana Ross. #1 for three weeks; #1 RB. This tune was used for some high school Black History assembly I was in, or so I seem to recall.

American Woman – The Guess Who. #1 for three weeks. Gold record. I kept the 1:15 album intro. One of Tricia Nixon’s favorite songs.

War – Edwin Starr. #1 for three weeks; #3 RB. The Temptations were the first to record this. “Motown head Berry Gordy didn’t want them associated with such a controversial song, so he had Starr record it and his version was released as a single. Starr didn’t have as big a fan base to offend.”

Mother Mary

Let It Be – The Beatles. #1 for two weeks. Double platinum record.

The Tears of a Clown – Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. #1 for two weeks; #1 for three weeks RB. “Just like Pagliacci.”

Mama Told Me Not To Come – Three Dog Night. #1 for two weeks. Gold record. A Randy Newman song.

ABC – The Jackson Five. #1 for two weeks; #1 for four weeks RB.

The Love You Save – Jackson Five. #1 for two weeks; #1 for six weeks RB. I always liked sing the Jermaine parts.

Thank You (Falletinme Be Mice Elf Agin) – Sly and the Family Stone. #1 for two weeks; #1 for five weeks RB. Gold record. I’m a sucker for a song that namechecks other songs by the group.

Everything Is Beautiful – Ray Stevens. #1 for two weeks. Gold record.

The Long and Winding Road – The Beatles. #1 for two weeks. Platinum record. the last Beatles single for a while.

Make It With You – Bread. Gold record.

I Want You Back – Jackson Five. #1 for four weeks RB. Platinum record.

Venus – The Shocking Blue. Gold record.

Cracklin’ Rosie – Neil Diamond. Platinum record.

July rambling: The True True Truth

Blind Tom Wiggins and Ulysses Simpson Kay – black composers

Arguments against wearing a parachute.This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives 3.0 Unported License

Who Are Those Guys? – Customs and Border Protection agents in Portland, OR.

Why Hundreds of Mathematicians Are Boycotting Predictive Policing.

Looming Immigration Services Shutdown May Fuel Voter Suppression in 2020.

Apologies that aren’t apologies, 2020 edition.

They’re trying to kill the Postal Service so they can privatize it.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: China & Uighurs.

The Cancel Culture Debate.

Methane is mysteriously leaking from the sea floor in Antarctica, edging global heating to a point of no return.

The Truth About Micromanagers.

People who like embarrassing or angering others find social media more addictive.

Violin Makers’ Dark Future.

Patriotic Millionaires.

The Lincoln Project ads: How It Starts and Trumpfeld and The Wall and New.

The No Cars Experiment.

Why You Should Travel Without a Smartphone.

The Sisyphean Quest to Bring Back Discontinued Foods.

An Oral History of Big Mouth Billy Bass.

How the Ice Cream Truck Made Summer Cool.

I am spiritually Finnish.

Actor John Saxon, RIP.

Gone With the Wind’ star Olivia de Havilland dies at 104.

The sons and daughters of John Wayne, John Lennon, Caitlyn Jenner, and others tell what it was like to grow up with a world-famous dad .

Rotten Tomatoes: 100 Worst Movies Of All Time. I’ve seen zero of them, FWIW.


Rep. John Lewis wasn’t seen as a hero from the beginning — and there’s a lesson in that. Plus Barack Obama delivers his eulogy.

A new word in my vocab: misogynoir, where racism and sexism meet.

The health disparities of systemic racism.

ERIC Crow, Jim Crow’s liberal twin.

Peggy Shepard is Featured in CBS Environmental Racism Story.

I’ve not read it. Thoughts? Robin DiAngelo’s best-seller White Fragility is a book about how to make certain educated white readers feel better about themselves.

Characteristics of white supremacy culture and, from NPR: White supremacist ideas have historical roots in U.S. Christianity.

“I Have Struggled”: Black TV Journalists Talk George Floyd Coverage, Industry Diversity.

Calling on the Ancestors: The Gift of Ralph Ellison.

Now I Know

The Post Office That’s Underwater and The Cheeseburger on Ice and When Video Games Go Bitter and International Wallyball and When Bread Breaks Arms and The Politician Who Went to Prison.

Confirmed Cases.
Confirmed Cases. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives 3.0 Unported License

Health care executives fear public distrust of vaccine will lead to the continued spread of disease.

John Oliver on coronavirus conspiracy theories, and related, The True True Truth.

Inside His Failure: The Rush to Abandon Leadership Role on the Virus.

DeVos’s Plan to Reopen Schools Hides a Sinister Agenda and Back to School.

We’ve Reached Peak Libertarianism — And It’s Literally Killing Us.

Buddy, first dog to test positive for COVID-19 in the U.S., has died.

How to make masks that everyone will want to wear.

Why Pandemic First Dates Are Better and We Found Love in a Hopeless Place.

Gee, Anthony Fauci -Randy Rainbow.


Lincoln Center version of Carousel starring Kelli O’Hara and Nathan Gunn available until 8 PM ET on September 8.

Rebecca Jade! Live From The Merc with Peter Sprague (7/26) and Home Made, Part 4 (7/25).

Everybody Cries – Rita Wilson, from “The Outpost”.

The Battle of Manassas, by Blind Tom Wiggins.

How Can I Keep from Singing – NYC Virtual Choir and Orchestra.

Fantasy Variations by Ulysses Simpson Kay.

A rock concert of 1,000 performers.

Coverville 1317: Cover Stories for Beck and Jack White and 1318: The Slash Cover Story.

If the world was ending – JP Saxe.

Hamilton Cast Tribute To The 40th Anniversary of A Chorus Line (2015).

Longest Time (Quarantine Edition) – Phoenix Chamber Choir.

Jumpin’ Jive – Cab Calloway with the Nicholas Brothers number from Stormy Weather.

Lean on Me – Bill Withers (live).

K-Chuck Radio: Order in the Court”.

“BIG DADDY…STRANDED IN THE JUNGLE” to ten (audio version) episodes!