There is nothing good about sitting at 3-8 when you defy the odds and win your Division the previous season. Everyone is looking for the key reasons as to how the same top five offense, bad defense and horrible special teams can’t pull it together to win seven straight again. It not easy to explain, but there are many factors that have put the Redskins into this slump that has most of us looking to 2014 for a breath of fresh air.
Compare the two seasons and you find a different final seven games against very different teams.
The 2013 Cowboys and Eagles are very different teams this year compared to last year. So are the Giants but in a worse way. Last year’s seven game win streak put the Redskins against teams of which only two finished the season with more wins over losses. Already in 2013, it would look to be that we are playing teams of which four have current winning records above .500. This isn’t any excuse of course, and doesn’t explain why we can’t seem to put points on the board.
Many things have happened in the NFL since Robert’s injury and recovery that have not only effected us, but other teams that run the read option. It’s not working as well as it did last year for most teams outside of Carolina and Seattle. They have success with it because it makes up very little of their total offense. Robert’s skill set was geared towards this type of play and sadly that will not sustain wins in the NFL and will most likely injure him further if used heavily. Colin Kapernick is struggling as well with this realization. It can have success, but it has to be a minimal part or exception. Greats like Rogers, Peyton, Brady, and Brees are extremely successful without running it at all. This is where young rookie QB’s have to place their focus, with allowing the read option to be a small portion of their pocket passing to succeed. It can’t be an all-in strategy.
Robert has to learn to be a pocket passer and we are seeing week to week that the coaching staff are pushing hard for it. He is having some success and improvement in learning to step up in the pocket and that is encouraging, however he seems to struggle with his pre-snap reads and he still tends to show his intentions too easily, which defenses are picking up. His footwork could use work and he needs to spend time trusting his recently repaired knee. After an injury like that, no QB is going to fully trust it right away, but he will have to work on trusting it more and more to not release throws off the balls of his foot. Planting is central to accuracy and confidence. It will come, but it won’t come immediately for a young QB who had no off-season or pre-season.
You can’t simply blame Robert for this teams inability to get an offense going. There are issues that start at the offensive line that would have even some of the best QB’s scrambling to get the ball out. The most solid part of our o-line is Trent Williams, and that’s about it. When an o-line can’t hold against a defense bringing four men, you have an issue. A pocket passer needs a good o-line and if the coaching staff expects Robert to learn this unknown-to-him play style then they have to protect him. Nothing kills confidence better than hit after hit and Robert has been taking hits that would make pro-wrestling jealous. Until we have depth here, there is no way to expect a second year QB to make huge strides in his ability to operate in the pocket. We were a team that was known for its unbreakable offensive line and it won us Superbowls. This needs to be priority number one this off-season, with the following priority right behind it.
There is nothing you are going to be able to get out of our current secondary on defense that can be seen as a positive. Late round draft picks have seen Rambo struggling with a few improvements and Phillip Thomas’s injury only prolongs being able to see what he could develop into. Our defensive front is not all that bad, but Josh Wilson is not going to be the answer at corner and Hall is only getting older. Hall has stepped up to become the corner he should have been all the time we were paying him big money, and more than likely we will need to pay up this off-season. Losing him to another team will hurt and I think the coaches know this. We need big pick-ups in our secondary if we want to even pretend to stop even backup QB’s from shredding us apart.
One thing we need to talk about is coaching. When you have almost the exact same weapons you had the previous season and those weapons aren’t getting open, tackling, hitting their mark, or blocking, it become clear that at some point coaching has taken a dive. Haslett has done what he can with what he has, but he has also lived off this excuse since we switched to a 3-4 defense. We simply don’t have the players to execute this type of defense, and so I think that at the end of the season it’s time to part ways with Jim. Lovie Smith is waiting out there in the wind and has had success in the past. I’m not against picking him up and seeing if he can light a fire under this teams ass. Seeing Haslett sitting in a booth game-to-game (even though it may be necessary with the personnel he has) seems like a coach who is disconnected from his players. The entire secondary is young and I’d like to see him down on the sidelines firing them up and giving them instant commentary on their successes and mistakes. Keep in mind we went from a top ten 4-3 defense to a worst ranked 3-4 defense. There is an issue on defense and I fear it starts at the top.
When it comes to offense, I’m undecided on what should be done. I’m not sure firing Kyle Shanahan is the right thing to do, but I will say that there has to be something done about his play calling on important downs. At most, it is suspect. Something about calling pass plays on third and two when you’ve run the ball all day makes me uneasy. He seems to fire on all cylinders in some games and then completely makes calls that boggle my mind in others. Calling a fade to Santana Moss (not a tall guy) on fourth down to tie the game seems like the last play to call in that situation. Something is not correct and maybe it’s Mike’s gambling that he often says he likes to do, that allows these calls to be made? I just don’t know. What I do know is we tend to always abandon the run game when it’s successful, knowing that the Redskins are a run team. I won’t say he needs to go, but I will say he needs to learn to evaluate his situational play calling.
Drops have been a constant this year. There is always going to be a learning curve and growth period for younger WR’s but too often, big plays have come to a halt because of the inability of Moss, or Garcon to hold onto a perfectly thrown ball. You’re paid millions to catch. You’re not always going to catch wobbled, off-mark, or poorly thrown balls, but perfect passes are supposed to be secured. If its in your hands, then its on you.
So how do these Redskins get better? Well for one we no longer owe the league 18 million a year for something every team did that off-season, which means we have to be able to re-sign key players and add depth to both sides of the field. O-line needs to take priority and we’ve been calling for it since Mike came to D.C. Secondly our secondary needs depth in ways were veteran players need to come in a teach these younger guys how to successfully play zone and man. Haslett needs to exit and we need to bring someone in who wont radio their dissatisfaction from a booth, completely disconnected from their squad. Mike needs one more year along with his son, but Kyle needs to understand that big flashy plays don’t guarantee wins. If you can win on the ground or in the short passing game, then you stick to what works to grab that W. With an o-line and a full off-season to sync up, you will see Robert improve greatly in the pocket. Robert is still only 23 years old and new to this style of offense. It’s going to take time, but time in the pocket will give you glimpses of what he can be. Just look at Cam Newton now for hope. Receivers need to sync and work on fundamental catching and defense needs to work on fundamental tackling (which has gotten better recently).
Most of all, us fans need to stop thinking that the solution in D.C. is to blow this team up every year and get all new coaches, systems, players, and QB’s. Development takes time and it sucks waiting, but the success known to the Packers, Patriots, Saints isn’t created overnight and requires vigilance to maintain. This off-season will be huge in being able to determine if D.C. acts in a way that will bring success. Watch them closely, because there are no excuses next year if they address these issues.
I write about this every year, but were a week away from that one horrible day of the year where millions of Americans go and waste every penny of their expected bonus check (or their regular pay check…ugh) on big ticket items for, well… who are we kidding? They’re purchasing these items for themselves or their spouse.
Before you ask the question let me answer it with my one and only black Friday experience. Yes, I participated once. I needed to pick up a camera for my college studies and had narrowed it down to one that was on sale that glorious day. I thought to myself, ‘what a deal! 25% off the camera I want!’ So I got up at three am and drove to my local Staples and low and behold I was fifth in line. Keep in mind this was back in the day when lines started merely a few hours before the store opened.
So being my first time, I made small talk with the person behind me. The woman in front of me had a walkie-talkie in her hands and was calling out orders to her troops who were lined up at other retailers. The store manager came out and expressed that all the big-ticket items from the ad would be on a table directly inside the doors and that any large items like TVs would be doled out to the first people in line in form of wristbands. I was here for a simple little camera hidden deep within the ad and so I was fairly certain being fifth in line, I’d have no issues.
I believe the store opened at five thirty am if I remember. As it got close the small talk ended, and everyone started facing forward. My Dad sat in his warm truck probably chuckling at it all. Then it happened. The doors opened and literally the four people ahead of me ran in. I was in shock to the point that the people behind me started shoving me forward as if to say, “Hey asshole, let’s go.” So I walked fast and got through the door. The table was in front of me. I saw the stack of cameras and reached my hand out only to find that the camera I had wanted was already picked clean. Four fucking people had already swiped what look like five cameras off the table. The next level up camera for $50 more was sitting there untouched. The people behind me were nabbing items left and right off the table. So I took one into my hands in anger and called my Dad to explain.
Another $50 added to my bill, but what was I supposed to do now? I had waited two and a half hours in the freezing dark. I was beyond tired. My Dad had woken up with me to drive me. We had planned this whole thing out and being fifth in line ended up not mattering at all. So in my anger I got in line to check out, which was already long. I sat and observed the entire fifteen minutes I was in line. People were rushing all over; almost none of them with smiles. The lady who had been on her walkie-talkie in line was yelling at a store employee to make sure he got the right TV off the wall.
It was a huge lesson in what it means to be sold. Being a student of graphic design, I wont lie that it wasn’t fascinating to see how the work I could be potentially doing for a career could drive everyday regular people into mass hysteria. The worst part of it all was realizing that even if a sale got you into the front of those early lines, it was still no guarantee that you’d get the item(s) you set out for. I paid and left.
We read it every year about the person trampled under foot as the doors fly open, or the shooting over a TV or PlayStation. Every year I ask the same question: what’s the point? There are deals all year long on big-ticket items if you know how to shop online and aren’t susceptible to the idea that you have to get it now or never. ‘Now or never’ doesn’t really exist in the retail sales market. Time is your biggest advantage as a consumer. No matter how fast something sells day one at full price, it simply can’t remain their forever. Eventually once demand is depleted, the price is as well.
Two years ago online, we bought an elliptical for my fiancé simply by ordering it on Cyber Monday, and we picked it up a few days later for a great price. There was no rushing, no trampling, no freezing cold lines, and no early alarms. Shopping is fun sometimes and I understand the excitement of getting a deal, but in reality black Friday deals happen all year long. The problem is too many people are used to heading to retailers rather than shopping online all year long, so when those ads go out for Black Friday, they seem incredible. Really Black Friday is a chance for retail stores to deplete old stock, while getting you in line with a very limited supply of new items with little mark down.
For example, Jimmy wants an iPad. Best Buy says they’re selling them at $50 off. So he waits in line, but finds out they only have ten available when the doors open. Well, the ten people in front of him are there for the same thing and they snag them all, so does Jimmy just go home? A smart Jimmy would, but most people after waiting that long in the cold are defeated and decide that they have to get something instead of the iPad to make the line wait worth something. So what does Best Buy offer at huge discounts? Old stock items for dirt cheap that Best Buy didn’t unload all year. Jimmy leaves with a TV he didn’t come for and Best Buy has removed one old stock item from their shelves with cash in their hands. A little profit is better than no profit, even if its already a loss for them.
The question I have is if Jimmy wants the iPad so bad, then he should do his research, because he’d find retailers make almost no money off selling iPads, because Apple doesn’t discount them. Had he bought it from Apple at the regular price he’d have the item he wants, wont have to wait in line, and doesn’t risk leaving with a TV. This is why Black Friday is so competitive for retailers. If they get you in their line, they get some type of sale from you, based on how long you had to wait to get in. If you try to visit two stores on Black Friday you miss the big-ticket items of the second store you visit. You have one chance to nab that item and if you’re not first in line, its not guaranteed. And trust me, unless you’re a pro, you won’t be first in line, let alone 10th.
So if you punish yourself every year I challenge you to stay home. Pick the items you want early. Research their prices online. Wait for a sale to pop up and snag them from your couch. Take full advantage of Cyber Monday, and see what’s available there. You don’t have to kill yourself to get deals. If you want that new game console, then do your homework, reserve one before it’s release, and expect to pay full price. Don’t be a dolt and think you’re going to get deals on tech items newly released in November before the sales.
Most importantly, if you do go out on Black Friday and wait in line, show some fucking respect to the young kids and store employees that are being forced to work so you can pretend you’re getting major deals. You may have had off Thanksgiving and the following day, but more than likely these people had to miss out on their meal to appease your inability to stay home and be a year round smart consumer. Most of the employees at Walmart and other major discount stores aren’t even making a living wage. Walmart, this year, is asking its employees to donate food to its other employees who can’t afford food for Thanksgiving. Where do you think their getting the food from? We’re talking about a company that prefers its employees go on welfare rather than pay them a decent wage. That alone should keep anyone with a heart away from lining up there that morning, but we all know it wont.
And remember its not you who are outwitting Walmart for nabbing that Black Friday deal. You’re being sold to the highest degree and in most cases you are the greatest of the ill-informed consumer and that’s exactly what Walmart, Best buy, Target, and others are relying on.
This issue seems to be pretty divisive amongst the two parties and really it comes down to understanding the idea behind the new Affordable Care Act that helps ease people’s worries. I’m going to try and curb my cynicism, because almost weekly I have to hear someone express his or her opinion on the new law which tends to be ignorant of how insurance worked before versus what a mandate means for future insurance premiums.
Before we start, I’d like to express that not everything in any law is perfect, but we have many avenues that can be used to responsibly argue, debate, amend, or in some cases even repeal a law. I’ll also advocate my position that I don’t think the law went far enough. The issues I have with the law is that there is still no public option to compete against private insurance, and that ultimately it is still tied to employers rather than a single payer system, which creates fear in the American workforce to take risks. But alas…it does some great things and reforms many aspects of insurance that laws before had not bothered to evaluate.
Lets start with how insurance worked before the implementation of the law. Private insurance in this country is and was usually offered by your employer or through your own private means. It was not mandatory that you have insurance and this is one of the issues that added to the rising cost of medical care (amongst many other reasons) and the annual rise in insurance premiums for those that did buy insurance to protect their health.
In 1986 this country agreed that even the uninsured could not be turned away from medical care regardless of whether they could afford it or not. I like this idea. We’re all human and we all make mistakes, and so it inevitable that were all going to be in a hospital one day and with high costs of care it very possible none of us can afford the bill. If you didn’t make enough to afford even your employer insurance (which means you definitely couldn’t afford any outside of your employer) and you broke your leg, it would be inhumane to refuse to fix you. Tea partiers would argue you should suffer the consequences and die from it, but what wont they argue? But then who pays for your care if you can’t? Well its simple: every other taxpayer, and anyone who could afford to pay for insurance (employer based or private). That’s’ right, the rest of us have our insurance premiums annually rise every year to cover those who cannot afford insurance and especially those who can and simply refuse to get it.
So how do we solve this problem? We’ll we could tell anyone who doesn’t buy insurance that they simply need to fuck off and die, but then what happens if we find ourselves in that position after we lose employment that we can’t afford it? It won’t matter that we once did have coverage, because we now don’t. We’ll a man from Detroit implemented a conservative system that required everyone in their state to comply with buying some form of health insurance or otherwise face a penalty or fee of sorts. It worked out great in his state, not perfect of course, because nothing ever is, but it is considered a success. This man ran for president and much to his surprise… lost… wait… what?! Why did he lose?
Well beyond many of his other stances on other social issues as well as a loose tongue, he was enlisted to fight against the very healthcare reform he had successfully set up in his own state. The look on his face when he had to actually tell a national audience that his program in his home state was not going to be successful for this country was the most telling sign of how far his party had come in their hopes to simply regain control of the White House. So he lost and his argument that he could compromise with democrats as he did in his own state wasn’t enough to earn the trust of the nation.
So the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act headed along on its way. The only thing to do at a time like if you’re hoping to derail it is to create a name for it and push out as much misinformation as possible to get people scared of it. So what does it do? Well go read it right here…
Seriously…read it…I’m not kidding. Stop pretending you have.
In a nutshell what it does is add protections for consumers who purchase private insurance, and creates a standard of which all insurance companies must provide at minimum. This is where things get interesting. Many have argued that their premiums are going to go up and for some that’s entirely true, but there is a reason for this. The reason is that more than likely, the cheap plan you were paying for actually didn’t cover what you thought it did. Bare bones insurance was cheap and in it’s cheapness before the PPACA, your insurance would have failed you when you reached a certain level of care needed. Lifetime limits, pre-existing conditions, etc. These are all things of the past, which now means that insurance companies have to offer you a better product, and as the market teaches us, that means you’re going to have to pay a little more for that service. However even if it’s more than you can afford you are eligible for subsidies if the amount you owe is over 8% of your total income. Not to mention, your current employer insurance will stay the same minus the few standards they need to update to make sure their abiding to a good standard of coverage.
What happens though is that those that aren’t subsidized entirely will have to contribute to their own healthcare or pay a tax to essentially cover their annual care so that you and I don’t have to. Now if that type of forced personal responsibility isn’t a Republican ideal, then nothing is. Then again this whole idea was born from a conservative think tank. If you and I don’t have to cover someone else’s care then we don’t have any reason to have our annual premiums increased beyond normal inflation. Thanks to the 80/20 split that forces insurance companies to take 80% of our money and use it towards actual claims, and the other 20% towards administrative services and CEO bonuses, it’s going to be hard for an insurance company to justify ridiculous increases, which again is what we were trying to curb in the first place. Not only that, but have state by state insurance exchanges where you can shop and compare all your options from multiple companies gives the consumer some say in how much coverage they need or want.
I’m not going to argue there wont be growing pains, but isn’t that what real reform is all about? Lacing up your bootstraps or whatever other mantra we’ve heard chanted from the conservative side of American politics since we were thrown into a recession by a deregulated finance industry? Half the country doesn’t favor the PPACA, keeping in mind that 20% of those are people who wanted it to go further, but 72% of this country also thinks holding government hostage for the sake of trying to repeal a law that has been passed in the House, passed in the Senate, signed by a President, upheld by the Supreme Court, and survived 40+ repeal attempts, is an unimaginable waste of time and for some …jobs. The Republican Party is eating itself inside out and I’m not sure for what good reason really. This was a conservative idea that modern conservatives are rejecting. It forces the “lazy” (often a term thrown around) who can afford insurance to pay up so that others don’t have to, and it moves us forward in reforming a completely broken previous system. Now if I could just get a competitive public option pushed through… sigh… politics.
The title of this post is what I hope I’m saying as I walk out of the theater after my first viewing of Batman/Superman summer 2015. This is probably not the position taken by most with regards to the announcement and truth be told, even my first reaction called for the casting director’s head. However, though I would have preferred to go another direction, schedules and casting rarely line up so easily when you’re hoping for the likes of John Hamm or even Josh Brolin.
So here we are with our new Dark Knight announced and he’s the same man who enriched great films like “The Town” and “Argo”, but also the same man who couldn’t puff out even passable performances in films like “Daredevil” and “Gigli”. So is it fair to judge him on his past? Has he turned a new corner? Honestly none of that matters to me. What makes me nervous is not how he used to be, but more what his current success means for his ego. Ben Affleck was a down and out guy a few years ago and he must have known it. To judge him on his most recent work is probably a better route in gauging whether I think the man can play the dual role of Bruce Wayne and Batman.
This duality is extremely important to understand if you’re not a huge Batman reader. Bruce Wayne and Batman are not the same person, figuratively. Bruce is the young kid who has everything going for him when his parents are gunned down in front of him. Bruce Wayne essentially dies that night. All his innocence, optimism, and love are stunted in the flash of the gun barrel. What grew up beyond that moment was a lost, angry, and unfocused shell of that young boy. The delicate balance between shutting everyone out of his life and yet his desire to not feel alone, eventually (along with a few key events) leads him to the revelation that fear is motivation. If he can encapsulate, hone, and dispense fear into the types of men who killed his parents, he feels he can save all of Gotham.
Bruce Wayne becomes a mask. This is key. The Batman is all there is. If you watched these movies growing up thinking that Bruce Wayne is a millionaire who fights crime in his off time, then you have missed the point (though probably due to the films misrepresentation rather than by you own fault). The real state of things is The Batman is a force within Gotham who needs to have a public persona to better help deceive his actions and that deception is Bruce Wayne’s status and roll in Gotham. Bruce is the real mask.
That being said, the hardest thing for me when it comes to the Ben Affleck casting is whether or not this concept is still spearheading the future Batman franchise. Ben has an issue seeming sincere to me even in his current films. I would say Argo is the first film where I felt his character had an internal motivation beyond the surface of seeming to be the best at what he does. Intimidation is also a huge factor with the Dark Knight and though I hope I’m proven wrong, it’s hard for me to see him as intimidating. Even at his most tense in “The Town” there was no part of me feeling intimidated. All of this doesn’t mean because he hasn’t shown it yet, that he doesn’t indeed have the chops to be so.
He is starring in a film coming out soon where he seems to be playing a scary mob type guy that shouldn’t be messed with and I’m hoping he brings more to it than the average “cocky frat guy challenging a rival sports fan” type intimidation that he exuded in “Good Will Hunting” or “Dogma”. There’s something special about Ben and I think it lies behind the camera in directing, but I’m not convinced yet that he can expand the role of Batman into a new level, much in the way Christian Bale did. However, I will hold my tongue until we start seeing bits and pieces from the production of Batman Vs. Superman.
Some people laugh at how much one casting decision can bother so many people, but this is an iconic character that after years of directors high on the 1960’s color scheme of the original TV show, finally had a good director, set of actors and great understanding of the world of the Dark Knight presented in three great movies (none without their small flaws). I hope Warner Brothers knows what they’re doing, because if they honestly expect the fan base to have to rely solely on Zack Snyder’s excitement after the way he handled the Man of Steel, then there’s a big problem. I’ll wait for a trailer, but mostly I hope Ben keeps that awful Boston accent at home.
Every comic nerd my age has that moment where they hit their teenage years and someone tells them that they should take care of their comics, because they could be worth something one day. It happened to me, and it started me on a quest (or hobby depending on how you look at it) to collect, find, protect, and store every comic I could afford. So from that day forth I collected probably over 400-500 issues that I made sure to bag with a white board and store in comic storage boxes. I thought I had it down pat. Buy an issue, read it carefully, seal it up, and store it for long term investment. It wasn’t until many years later that I found out how wrong I was.
Everyone knows an older relative that will tell you all about the comics they used to read from the 40’s-60’s and how they used to cost five cents. Most of the time those stories end with, “…I didn’t keep any of them.” Those types of stories almost always help fuel the interest in keeping our comics safe and preserved, but there’s a huge difference between the comics we are preserving and the ones they threw away. That difference is perceived value.
Have you ever seen someone who collects national Geographic magazine and wondered why the hell they keep stacks of them laying around or stored nicely? I mean how much could that collection be worth if National Geographic prints millions of copies f each magazine? Well, it’s worth just about as much as some other person who wants them is willing to pay, whether that’s five bucks or five thousand bucks. This is kind of what were looking at today with modern comics. Before I go further, I want to express that worth alone doesn’t mean you shouldn’t collect, because sometimes the act of collecting can be extremely therapeutic. I’m not here to persuade anyone from it, but rather to expand on the idea and crush the myth that your comic collection will be worth millions when you’re about to retire.
‘But I hear about all those Spider-man #1’s that are worth tens of thousands!’
You sure do, but the important thing to realize is that back in those days the amount of books printed were quite limited compared to the half a million per issue printed today. What makes the first Superman or Batman so valuable is that they were limited run printings, have up to 80 years of age (which requires insane protection from wear), and they are highly popular characters because their introduction changed the industry itself. An important aspect is the amount printed. Action Comics #1, which contains the first Superman appearance as well as being the first popular superhero comic ever, is said to have maybe 50-100 issues in circulation that have survived many ages. Even more so, only a very few of those are of exceptional quality since being first printed. A CGC graded 8.5 copy of this comic sold for 1.5 million in 2010. A CGC graded score of 5 drops its value to around $250,000. Point being that unless you have it hidden in perfect condition in your attic, you should be rolling in millions of dollars to even attempt to own this comic. That’s a true collectible.
This is not the type of numbers printed today. When it was first published, the first printing ran off about 200,000 copies of which 50-100 remain, partly because being the first comic to really introduce a super hero, there was little concept of what it could be worth decades from then. Comics like this are the dream that inspires many to purchase two copies of a new issue, run to a CDC grading booth and lock one up for storage and collection. However, even the smaller known Marvel issues are getting massive prints, and with the popularity of CDC grading, the value will only weaken. The more that assume a first printing of Spawn #1 is to be CDC graded and protected, inherently, drops it’s value in the long run (decades), which is part of the issue of arguing any modern comic’s worth to future generations.
‘But I got it signed by Jim Lee himself!’
I hate to say this, but… who cares? One of the hardest lessons I learned about getting an issue #1 signed by the artist or author was that its only really worth as much as someone who wants that version of the comic is willing to pay. I have many signed first issue, first prints, but ultimately I will have a harder time selling them (if I ever felt I wanted to), because many feel a signature damages the value of a comic. Yes, you heard me right. Unless Alan Moore signs your first edition, first print of Watchman, you are probably wasting your time with a signature if you seek true monetary value (unless you find the right buyer). If it’s simply for personal collecting, then continue to rock on my friend.
The problem is that most current artist work conventions to sell their image and art by attending almost any comic convention they can. Reason being, generally you pay a small price to stand in line and they sign a few issues. Sometimes Marvel or DC pays for them to show up and talk or sign, thus their signatures are free, but in the end I’ve seen many of the same artists within the same year and almost always you see comic fans run from the signature booth straight to the CDC grader (who also charges a stiff fee) to lock up their investment. For many of these events, by the time you pay $25-50 for the convention ticket, $10-20 for the signature, and anywhere from $25-95 for the CGC grading process, you could have invested anywhere from $60 - $165 (not including the cost of the issue itself depending on its current value) just protecting your investment.
I put down $20 for a Marvel, Steven King Gunslinger Variant cover and then waited and hour in line to have the writer sign it. About five years later I looked up the value of this book and even with a signature the value hadn’t moved. What had happened, was that I assumed this single issue was worth $20 for the Variant and that the signature would make it even more enticing, but in the end, every one and their mother had a copy just like mine sitting online waiting to be snagged for $40-$60 when not one comic value guide could justify that price. Even more discouraging was that every single person trying to sell hadn’t had one bid or offer. I would have never sold it, but curiosity often leads me to check in once and a while. Ill check back in another 5 years, I’m sure.
The comic industry is fickle. So it pays to have consumers invest a lot upfront for the perceived worth of a possible future value. But I have to wonder, does that actually help add value to a comic over decades of time? With as many issue that pour out weekly, versus the amount of those that are investing in CGC grading, should a brand new comic book that costs $3 on the shelf, be jettisoned to a value of over $200 overnight because it has a sketch variant cover and is contained in a 9.8 Mint CGC rating? I suppose that depends on the perceived value to someone looking to own it. Should we expect that a modern comic could equal the value of an 80-year-old Action Comics #1 Superman appearance of which only 50-100 are believed to exist anymore?
‘But I have the variant cover!
There is some attempt by comic publishers to give comic collectors a chance to see perceived value by printing a limited variant cover, which I suppose would mean that because there are less in circulation that they are thus more valuable. But as a guy who chased many of these during my high school and college days, I had to laugh at the idea that when Ultimate Wolverine Vs Hulk #1 was released, the comic store I stopped into offered its variant sketch cover for $200 on its release day. It was not CGC rated and was sitting in a simple plastic sleeve with a cardboard backing, like many of my own regular comics. This store had found a way to use the limited printing to overvalue the release day purchase price of a variant cover. It sent anger through my body, not because I couldn’t afford it, but because already the abuse of over-valuing was now going to be the commonplace way for stores to make much more money off of unknowing and new comic book fans.
From that day forward I began researching why a comic (even a variant) could cost $200 on day one and really couldn’t find any solid reasoning other than big comic publishers are going to push to sell the old idea that keeping your comics from your childhood could be worth millions one day. That used to be a true idea, but not simply because DC or Marvel wanted to sell you on the idea, but rather because time, importance, story, and care were the catalyst to understanding why Superman’s first appearance was so extraordinary to our culture. Now we have a system where those great comics of the past are traded amongst those with great wealth as cultural items of importance, while Marvel and DC have adapted their marketing to hope that every comic on their shelves can now be assumed to be the next Action Comics #1. Popularity, mass printing, Variant covers, and high first day prices are only selling the idea of worth, but 50 years from now we could all be looking at a market where no one can afford to trade or sell, because all of the kids my age and younger simply don’t know what it means to hold a comic that’s actually worth something.
In the end I say collect for your own personal reasons alone. The fact that you invested a lot of money upfront into a perceived idea of a future value doesn’t guarantee that your collection is indeed valuable. The more popular comics become the harder it’s going to be to sell that one modern issue even 20 years from now if thousands of other people invested the same in protection and grading. If you’re like me, you can dream all day long of getting that one issue that means a lot to you and is indeed worth something (and maybe one day you find it hidden in an attic or in a flea market), but collecting comics for an assumed future value is thinking very short term now a days. Ill keep mine and pass them onto my kids, but most of them even though being in my hands for almost 15 years are worth maybe $1 more than I paid for them on their first day and that’s ok, because in the end its all about the stories and not how much I can get for them. I love comics and even have moved towards digital comics to save room, but a comic, like any other collectible is only worth as much as the guy next to you is willing to pay. I have a fear that many new modern comic collectors are going to be upset years from now when they invested so much for so little.
We live in a 24-hour news and entertainment culture. There is no way to get around this fact. As soon as Justin Beiber runs over his neighbor’s trash cans we are alerted via the top spot on Google’s news feed, Twitter, Facebook, and just about every social media outlet known to us. CNN usually picks up the story days later and rushes to push inaccurate information to the embarrassment of anyone watching. This type of instant stream of content was not always the case. There was a time where you had to use payphones to check in with people via landlines. At one point, a celebrity fowl wouldn’t reach your small town until the local paper became aware. And since the beginning of mass communication of anytime there has always been someone in the spotlight saying or doing something stupid, where eventually the public catches wind.
One interesting effect of moving from slow news to instant streaming news is that currently we have a generational gap where those who grew up on slow newspapers are now confronted with instant streaming. Imagine a grandparent operating the newest cell phone and you can grasp a little of what I mean. As a culture we often push back against new forms of technology until we can afford it, in which we then praise and adopt it as standard. Everyone knows someone who has said, “I don’t need all those fancy options; it just has to make calls,” only later to catch that person constantly checking their social media once introduced to it. We are constantly re-adjusting to how we obtain media content. This being said, one thing has never changed and that is the ability for someone held in good standing with the public to make a huge error in judgment and say things or do things that shatter their public image. Nixon was found taping his own oval office meetings in which he personally involved himself in criminal acts. He was also caught snooping the DNC. This was the 1960’s. Not 2010. He was (at a slower pace of media) caught and then due to public perception and opinion, resigned his position as President. His actions offended some and probably didn’t bother some as well. He also was assuming not to have these things brought to light and sadly that was his downfall.
Recently celebrity chef Paula Deen has come under fire for her under-oath comments relating to a recent deposition regarding lawsuits brought upon her brother and sons managerial practices at their Deen family restaurant. I wont go into specifically what was said, you can read the deposition online on your own free time, but Food Network decided in was in their best financial interests to not renew her contract, which essentially means she is out of a job. What generally happens with these type of situations is that public perception takes the form of two positions: 1) Said person shouldn’t have said that type of comment and it offends me, or 2) She shouldn’t be fired because people are offended at her comments. Personally, I don’t watch Paula Deen and couldn’t care less about what she believes, because I hold no personal investment in her product. I never did and probably never will, though I’m sure I borrowed her macaroni recipe once for free online.
I tend to be surprised at the idea that those who scream free speech in this type of case are essentially offended at the idea that anyone would be offended by her comments. It’s as if we should be able to hear her public statements and say, “Meh, not my view and thus I wont pay for it or watch it.” And in theory this should be all it takes, but in reality even though her non-selling product and bad ratings could eventually get her fired via the idea of a free market, it doesn’t advance us as a culture to simply stay quiet when something bothers us.
Did her comments seal her fate? Possibly, but not entirely. Public perception is quite forgiving to a person who makes a mistake and admits fully to being wrong. America loves a good come back when it feels the person genuinely believes they made a mistake. Contrary to the miss-held belief that the public is a bunch of raving lunatics who seek to destroy public figures, we often can relate to the person who says something stupid and learns from it. D.C. mayor Marion Barry, anyone? And for those who jump to say, “That guy was a scumbag and shouldn’t have won his position back later on!” I ask this: do you feel the same way about Paula Deen? Often we tend to begrudgingly snarl at the idea of someone making a mistake that we already disliked, and yet accept the idea when it’s someone we followed with great admiration asking for forgiveness. Rarely do we accept a single standard for all. Hey, it’s human nature and in a scientific sense, it’s a form of confirmation bias. We like to confirm that which we are bias to and ignore that which doesn’t help confirm our bias.
The reason I throw Marion Barry (for the past times example) and Paula Deen (as the contemporary figure) is specifically, because I grew up in an area where many considered Barry utter trash and unworthy of reelection. However years later I see many of these same people labeling Paula’s issues as a tragedy. Obviously they are of different skin color and often with my area, they are “completely different” circumstances. Marion made enough of an example to change his ways that many in D.C. saw fit to bring him back to office. Paula has seemed to take the different route in that she has her finger aimed at other sources as to why she shouldn’t be held to the standard that every public figure has been no mater the pace of how media gets to us. Some of you may remember also how angry the O.J. Simpson verdict made you, for example.
Barry had a problem with drugs and women. Paula made comments that implied an inability to see the cultural issue with using certain derogatory terminology towards those of a different skin color. Both awful things in the eyes of the public. Did Paula lie under oath? No (we assume). Does that make her comments any more palatable? Sadly for her, no. Culture changes constantly. Even today as DOMA is struck down by the US Supreme Court, we are living in a culture of change. The ideals that Paula grew up in as a child in the South are not the ideals that her current culture has evolved to. There was a time where this type of story would not have mattered in the public eye (especially in the South), and so yes things have changed, but we have evolved to understand that just because something once was, doesn’t mean it was right. Had African Americans not stood up, non-violently, in the streets and shown their offense with demands that our culture no longer see them as third class citizens (or 3/5th a person if you consider the founding fathers) then there would have been no movement towards true equality for them. Even today it is still considered perfectly normal to hold these old racist ideals, though they generally survive only in private.
Culture endlessly changes, which is how we learn and refine what it is to be an American in a country where every person is supposed to be considered equal. There are countries where disobedience to the decided state religion is considered a crime punishable by prison and even death. Even in this country this idea is being tested every day. It’s easy to walk away from Paula’s comments and simply allow the free market to determine her fate, but without anyone being able to take offense to her comments, there is effectively no change in her attitudes towards it. It’s essentially allowing a child to steal a cookie before dinner without ever slapping his/her hand. Growing up a certain way doesn’t exclude you from evolving with culture, just as ignoring any racism or inequality because you aren’t objected to it on any level doesn’t exclude you from the cultural conversation.
White males, like myself, have it very easy. As Louis C.K. has mentioned in his act, you could essentially transplant a white male back as far as you want in time and they would be able to live a comfortable life, generally free from all persecution. There are no real cultural reigns holding back the progress of a white male’s goals and aspirations though all time. When I was in high school, I overheard a journalism teacher talking to an African American student about a piece he was attempting to write. It sounded like an argument, but the teacher was asking him how it felt to be a minority in an almost completely white school (1.5% black population in my high school and from the same single family). The student kept stating, “You just don’t get it!” The teacher responded, “Well make me get it!” Once again the student responded, “I don’t think I can, you just don’t get it.” And Ill never forget this moment when the teacher said, “If you can’t even explain it to me so that I can get it, then how the hell will anyone in this large school ever get it?”
At first I thought, that could be perceived as pretty strong verbiage for anyone stepping into the room right at that moment, but in reality the teacher’s point was to push this student to try and show the rest of us why it is we should care about what this lone African American student was going through on a daily basis. It was a moment I vividly remember and try to reflect on when issues of race pop up locally and on the national scale. Perhaps the question shouldn’t be why another’s comments offend someone, but rather why it is that person is feeling emboldened to say them in the first place expecting no consequence. The first step to solving an issue is discussion, which was an unavailable method to the African American community for hundreds of years. They were offended and demanded to be heard and our culture can’t ignore that. The same goes for any minority and even majority. You speak up when you feel wronged or offended, and you should never feel surprised when someone speaks back in rejection of your words. Free speech works both ways. We ARE more politically correct, and it is because our culture is moving away from allowing small-minded people to say anything they want without consequences. In this country you stand for what you believe in and you don’t cry when someone calls you on it. That is what America is and that’s an America I want for my children. Tolerance is a two way street. Deciding not to degrade someone first is always a more tolerant route then to degrade him or her and act surprised when they degrade back.
Paula Deen is an adult who said things in the public eye and now can’t grasp why no one agrees with her excuses for it. That is ultimately her problem understanding current culture. She could have easily admitted that the blame was hers alone and many would accept the more learned Paula back with open arms, but she pointed the finger at the language used by young males in her kitchens, “someone evil” trying to get her out of jealousy, and ultimately even you and I, because everyone says derogatory things. She’s probably got a point, but the public is watching her and right now she seems to have a problem seeing herself in the same light as her audience does. Paula got herself fired. That is the true “free market” at work.
October is a special time. It opens many of us up to the idea of wanting to be scared for fun. The mix of dead leaves, cold temperatures, and harvest festivals offer a retreat from the summer months. We grab our jackets to stay warm and seclude ourselves to the warmer indoors. It is the perfect annual set up for being more susceptible to fear. We even nestle into a dark theater or our living room couch in hopes of allowing a film to take advantage of our natural hibernation and reclusively throughout the changes of sunny and warm towards gray and cool. I find myself completely at home in late September through mind November. My mind spends extra energy imagining ideas that provoke a heightened sense of fear. In general, we all love a good scare.
Though my mind is always active during these months, it hasn’t been until maybe up to the last two years that feature films have caught up to my overactive imagination. Always on the hunt to be frightened beyond belief, I was almost always let down by the horror genre. Films like The Omen, The Exorcist, The Shining, and even on a more campy level, Poltergeist had moments that stuck with me forever. But these weren’t films of my generation. My sister brought me into the know with frequent screenings of these films, and probably at a much earlier age then I should have, which is the greatest gift you can give a kid who loves to be scared.
My generation’s additions to the genre are around 80% awful. “Slasher” films, though I hold a special place for some of them, were in no way interesting, thought provoking, or in the most important sense, truly scary. What Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation did in the face of Stephen King’s original work is not only genius, but deserving. There isn’t a time even now watching it where I feel completely at ease, which is not something I can say about most of the horror films of my generation.
We are now bombarded with the same gimmicks in the horror genre that ruins regular film genres. For example, the first Paranormal Activity was a neat experience. It had moments that were new and exciting. The original (no sequel) ending was intense and created an end to a really scary film. However it was scrapped for the multiple sequel endings, and the series now suffers for it. It’s no longer scary or thought provoking, but rather exercises in jump scares. Fun, but not really meaningful in story. This same thing happened to the “torture porn” genre of horror films like Saw, Tourista, and Hostel. These films are essentially 90-minute blood soaked exercises in torture, and are proof that blood being spilled isn’t necessarily scary. Though these types of films liter the theaters every October, hoping to squeeze another 100 million per film from audiences, there is a movement on the rise that has reclaimed what good horror should aspire to.
Last year I sat down with friends and watched a relatively unknown film called House of the Devil. We didn’t bother with a trailer viewing and simply loaded it up. Let me preface first that horror films are also only as successful as you allow them to be. If you’re in a room with people who are talking, joking, playing on their cell phones, and have lights on, you are generally doing a disservice to the effect you hope to receive. I have found that in most cases, the person who spent their entire viewing on their cell phone (texting or whatever) is almost always the first person who claims that the film wasn’t scary. So it’s best to scrutinize that person as much as possible before and after viewing the film. Atmosphere is everything, and if you don’t respect it, then don’t bother watching any horror film. Moving on….
Ti West is only now being recognized for his many films, and in a sense, still is completely off the radar, which is fine by me. Better that then being abused and stretched thin by the normal money grubbing Hollywood executives. House of the Devil follows a simple premise: A college student in the 80’s answers an ad for a babysitting job because she needs to make more money. I know, your first thought is…seen it. You’d be wrong. There is a pacing to this film that leaves your imagination misfiring constantly. You know something is off, but you can’t place it. There are cues that make you consider what you might do in the same situation, but nothing can really prepare you. Everything about the film is nostalgic which adds it’s own level of dread. It’s autumn, this girl is very much disconnected from friends and family (except for a dorm mate), and her decisions blur the line of convincing yourself that you wouldn’t do the same. I can say no more other than after one viewing I was on IMDB looking for more of his films to watch. Lucky for me, I found more….
The Innkeepers came next. Often you expect to experience a similar type story or feeling when watching a director’s collection of films. A Kubrick film very much holds certain expectations based on his style and technique. Ti West takes this film in an entirely different direction. There is a campy and humorous effect that relieves you of the high tension and yet adds more to the tension, because you can’t be certain of what hand the film will play with each scare. This story follows the actions of two employees watching the front desk of an old Connecticut Inn that is being shut down after a final weekend. These two are into paranormal investigation and decide to use the last couple days to record sound in a basically empty hotel. This film does something unique with sound where in the scenes of the main characters recording with microphones, we get to hear their recordings. And then separately we don’t in other situations. It’s very much a push and play on sound versus visual scares. The sound based scenes are almost more intense than the visual scares. They do say that 75% of a movie is sound, and this film explores it.
There is a more well-known, yet still direct to cable box film series called V/H/S. The second film has just been released, but the first was hailed as a new genre of found footage. I had essentially ignored the trailers and TV spots because it seemed like a serial killer movie about someone who keeps V/H/S tapes. It didn’t seem marketed correctly, and yet when we sat down to watch it; there was so much about it that was new, that I couldn’t turn away. Found footage has been beaten into the ground and we should expect more and more of it to continue to limp through the horror genre. The story is fragmented, but includes basically a group of delinquents who are tasked with retrieving a certain VHS tape from a home owned by an old man. They enter and find a treasure trove. Each tape watched is a 15-20 minute horror short by many different directors. Ti West has a story in there as well as many other indie horror directors. The camera work is still overly shaky on some of the stories, but the stories are true exercises in different types of found footage ideas. No idea is off the table. Supernatural, monster-based, and even mythical ideas are explored, each with their own level and value of good scares. Some are lesser, but in the end each story only gives you so much investment, so it’s easier to walk away if one lacks the ability to really get to you. The second film improves on the concept and is even more fun and thought provoking.
In the end, it’s all about the scare. Some like jumps, some like thought provoking scares, some love the slow burn, but if you have felt left out of the horror genre, these are some films to really get you back into the groove. Nothing is better than being able to let off some steam with a good scare. With correct atmosphere and an open mind these films can do just that. I can say that because of my overactive imagination, I won’t watch these films alone, and especially for one particular scene in V/H/S, I didn’t sleep well at all. Ti West has two more films coming this year and I couldn’t be ready enough. The Sacrament is his next film that follows a young man searching for his estranged sister who has become enveloped by an end day’s type cult. Sign me up, because really, the scariest part of a movie should be the drive home afterwards.
Well E3 is turning out to be better TV then…well… TV. Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo (who I won’t really be speaking about) had their time in the spotlight to get their messages to consumers and it was Sony who decided to make clear of some things.
As many gamers now know, the Xbox One was presented wholly as a media device that also plays games. This is not something gamers want to hear when they are the exact crowd that got Xbox to the level it is today. We expect games to be showcased at any presentation of a new piece of gaming hardware. Microsoft decided to show off how well its new hardware could gather all of your media into one central box and then quickly switch between that media seamlessly. It worked quite nice, but it lacked quite a bit of the showmanship and excitement that Sony brought with their preview conference a month earlier. Sony instead decided to show simply games. Sony kept silent when it came to discussing DRM (Digital Rights Management) and media features.
Microsoft was grilled for their statements about the Xbox being always on and how they decided to handle the used disc aftermarkets, to which gamers are accustomed. Sadly for them, they confused the conversation and muddled their message for weeks before finally confirming what sounded better than the worst possible scenario, but in reality is no better. By delegating your physical ownership rights to the developer in deciding whether you can resell the game back to a retailer (that we’re told must be a certified retailer…whatever that means}, they have essentially said that the $60 you just paid only allows you to lease the game. You do not own what you can’t resell. Even if a developer allows someone to sell their game back to a retailer and you go there hoping for a chance to pick up that game a little cheaper, it seems that you will be tasked with not only paying to get the disc out the door, but also possibly to activate it when you get home as well. This kills the used game market.
Microsoft can try to spin the idea that digital is the way to go, since they are squeezing out the aftermarket and the entire idea behind physical media, but in the end you don’t really own these products if you can only access them via 24 hour license checks (or 1 hour if you’re not on your xbox). Better yet you can’t even play the game you purchased offline for more than 24 hours. No more trips to grandma’s house with your Xbox, where Internet ceases to exist. What do the executives at Microsoft think about you not having solid broadband? Well…go buy an Xbox 360. That’s right. If you don’t have a good enough connection for the Xbox One, then go buy our older, last generation product and get over it. I could write hours about what Microsoft has done over the years to lose my money, but this is about taking your ownership rights, handing them over to the developer who sold you their game, and limiting your use of the game for the “greater good of cloud computing”.
Sony had one job leading up to E3, and it was simply to stay quiet. I’m not sure if Microsoft assumed that Sony would take up a similar type of DRM stance, and we may never know if Sony originally planned to, but they certainly saw what it did to Microsoft’s selling image. So in their first major PS4 presentation since their preview, Sony made it very clear that they have no intention to require an online connection to play single player games. They noted with a huge image on their main screen that the physical media you buy for their system is yours to do what you wish. Once you buy it (used or not) you own it. Sell it back if you want, give it to a friend indefinitely if you feel the need, or keep it forever. They wont restrict you whatsoever, because it seems they understand that even digital media should still be considered something that you as the consumer do indeed own after you pay the asking price.
This is a 65 billion dollar industry. There is a lot of interest and a lot of money to be made if you can satisfy your consumer base. Being from the generation of 8 bit gaming and watching the industry evolve over time, there is nothing more exciting to me than new gaming hardware. Two years ago I switched the majority of my gaming to the PC, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love a good console title. With the PC market I deal completely digitally and it is a great setup, but it still relies on competitive pricing and discount sales to get me to open my wallet. The idea that Microsoft believes I would be willing to forgo the right to choose where and how much I spend on a AAA title (most of which are rushed with little content worth their full price) is sickening. Why would any gamer assume that without a used game aftermarket, Microsoft wouldn’t slowly but surely extend the full purchase price over longer periods of time, making it harder to save money on even games that are a year or two old? If there is no outside competitive force helping drive the purchase price of an older game down, then what forces Microsoft to lower their digital and physical game prices below the standard $60, at least until that game’s sequel comes out?
DRM is essentially a way to have a consumer buy something, not own it, and then continue to pay for access to it. This is how the new Xbox will run. Can’t afford Xbox Live? No multiplayer for you (standard for Sony as well though paid online is a respected service). Can’t afford or don’t have the ability for a good broadband connection? Can’t play single player games you bought for $60. Enjoy watching TV and movies on your $500 cable box/BluRay player. It’s never a good idea to drop the consumer to please your developers, because without anyone to purchase, the developers are useless.
Sony has it right. Gamers know this and outside of the hardcore Call of Duty pre-teens, I don’t see how any gamer (my age at least) could want to invest their hard-earner cash into the new Xbox One. If I have to pay $60 for a game to play it then I should be able to do what I please with that ownership after Microsoft gets their cut as well as the developer (hint: maybe Microsoft should take a smaller cut to help the developer). For me to pay twice for an older game that has run its market course is an insult. You have my kudos, Sony. Goodbye, Microsoft.
I was skimming over my normal morning gaming news articles and saw one written by Chris Kohler over at Wired entitled, “Hardcore Console Gamers Don’t Want Much, Just the Impossible”. Basically Chris makes a valiant effort to explain why Microsoft’s current Xbox One presentation focused on nothing but TV and a few titles that I personally could care less about. His argument is basically that Microsoft will only be successful if it is an All-in-One machine that caters more towards all entertainment rather than just hardcore gaming.
I think he’s wrong. He does show some stats about their revenues and how it would seem that Sony’s inability to adopt to the all-in-one idea hurt them badly compared to Microsoft, and even explains that it is the exact reason Nintendo has stopped trying to keep up with the hardware specs of the other two. There is a reason all of their revenues took a hard hit. Lets go over each one a little from the perspective of us gamers who have been around since before 8-bit.
I love Nintendo, yet I own none of their hardware currently. Why is that? Chris argues that they dropped out of the hardware arms race (keeping up with specs essentially) because it was killing their overhead. Sure, no one is going to argue that the Wii was obviously a less powerful system compared to the 360 or PS3, but that’s not why I don’t own one anymore. In fact, I did own a Wii and was one of the first to do so thanks to a great friend. I enjoyed Mario Galaxy, Twilight Princess, Bowling, and the whole idea of motion controllers. However the problem started when the Wii market became inflated with third party game after third party game, that essentially added up to the experience of playing flash games on my PC. It seemed as if anyone could create a content lacking gimmicky game by simply submitting it to Nintendo. That flooded the market with crap and made finding a real good set of games almost a chore, keeping in mind that Nintendo’s core titles seemed to take forever to get produced. Launching without many of those core titles was a mistake.
Second problem Nintendo faced was it’s complete lack of interest in the online community. Can’t tell you how many times I read that “online gaming would never take off” according to Nintendo’s top brass. So what was I left with after buying the Wii? About a year of bowling being the best game for the system, no way to play online that really mattered, and more Pet [insert animal] type games that asked for $50 and really only gave you about $10 worth of entertainment. Ignoring HD didn’t help either. So I sold my Wii back to Gamestop with no sweat off my back. But keep in mind, Nintendo’s price points and ability to cater to the younger gamers is quite remarkable and I very much commend them for it.
Interestingly enough, when Chris talks about how the PS3 is the only hardcore gaming machine on the market. Is it though? I seem to remember the marketing for it being so much about making the PS3 the only box you’d need in the living room. I was a huge PS2 user and Sony guy long before that and so when the PS3 was announced I simply couldn’t wait, but time would show that most of Sony’s issues with selling the PS3 were their own freaking fault.
This was supposed to be the true all-in-one entertainment machine, and I will recognize that they won the BluRay versus HD-DVD race. Kudos to them. However, why are gamers up in arms about the all-in-one idea of Xbox One? It’s because they’ve heard this song and dance before, and you guessed it…from Sony regarding the PS3. How can a system be the all-in-one system when it seemed almost impossible to get content on it outside of physical disc media? Sure it played BluRays (which were overpriced at the release), played PS3 games (which were increased to $60 standard), and it eventually got Netflix capability. But not at launch. The PS3 was quite a lonely experience at launch when you first booted it up. And how much did it cost to get this massive all-in-one machine on day one? …. $600. They increased the starting price of most standard consoles by almost $200.
Comments from the top Sony brass to the tune of “if you can’t afford one then you don’t deserve to have one” put pretty much everyone off that I knew. Sony also presumed their hardware architecture was amazing, all the while developers found it backwards and hard to develop on. Chris explains that the PS3 is the hardcore gamers machine because it also gives free online service. Sure it doesn’t cost anything to play online, assuming you can get a solid connection at all (I still have not with madden), care about buying old PS2 games sine it’s not backwards compatible, and enjoy walking around a virtual house while ten year olds hit on your female avatar. There is a reason people gladly pay for Xbox live. It’s a real online environment, and one of the only things that gives Microsoft an edge. Sony killed themselves from day one by being presumptuous of their own tech, marketing something they couldn’t offer, giving away shitty online service, and then charging us $600 for a nice piece of hardware that developers hated.
There is a reason Microsoft can succeed, but is going to encounter much resistance from the hardcore gaming group. They are trying to sell the same idea that PS3 did, except now they have figured out (not very well at explaining it) how to restrict every aspect of how you enjoy their system so that they can squeeze every penny out of the consumer. They’re attempting to deflate the concept of hanging out with friends to play games and allowing friends to borrow your games. This is what gamers have been raised on since the first Atari systems. Gaming is communal. Sure, we all have our Skyrim saves, but it’s those late night Halo matches crammed next to one TV that everyone remembers.
Nintendo is wrong in thinking they can survive solely on single player. Sony thinks a free service will lure people away from Xbox when this leaves them little revenue to improve the service while getting hacked, and Microsoft recognizes the good of having an online multiplayer market. But… no one is arguing Xbox Live. It’s great and seemingly the only good thing as an entire company they have ever done.
What made growing up a gamer so much fun? Taking my games to a friends system and playing until 5am regardless of accounts, the owner of system or the disc being used. What Microsoft can seem to answer is what happens with two Xbox Ones in the home? Can one kid in the family play Madden on his Xbox account, and then an hour later can his sister use the same disc on her separate Xbox and Xbox account? If not for free then how much is the sharing fee? Is it the full cost of the game?
Microsoft doesn’t want to be known as the console that killed physical media reselling and used games, but they sure as hell want to do both as well as Sony with the PS4 as well. This is what has gamers (in a down economy) nervous. We have to pay the hardware costs ($500 and up for the system, $60 per controller, $60 per game) and therefore the only relief we get is the used markets and reselling. Some argue that because these are IP’s, they aren’t the same as selling anything else I physically own, except…yes they are. When I purchase a game new at full price, I own that game to do with what I want, whether that’s resell immediately or play and give away for free. Does this hurt the developer? Probably, but after the initial sale to me, they have been paid what they ask for their product. After that it’s not reasonable to have that developer recharge me because a friend loaned it to me or I bought it cheaper elsewhere. Don’t punish gamers for how a free market is supposed to work. If you don’t like retailers stealing profits, then offer a digital market that isn’t marked up to full price a year after the game comes out. Steam is pretty successful and they aren’t following standard business practice according to EA who thinks Steam will fail.
It will be interesting to see what happens once these new systems hit the market and the crazy fan boys finish their day one purchases. I have a feeling Microsoft may be in for a surprise. If you create content and give me every access to it to do as I please, I reward you with more money for more content. If you try to tell me how I can use my content after paying your asking price, I will gladly stop buying from you. Luckily I PC game more than any console so this issue can be avoided altogether for me, but for most who game on consoles as their sole source of entertainment…you’re hurting them Microsoft, maybe for the good of your shareholders, but not for the good of your audience. Consoles aren’t dead, they’re just so damn restricting now a days. No wonder people have slowed in emptying their pockets for you.
Before you read any further, know this… THERE WILL BE SPOILERS GALORE HERE. So if you are saving yourself for the theater, then stop reading and go look up more trailers. For those of you still here I continue.
This film has been talked about as a much heavier Tony Stark character piece rather than a straight up Iron Man film as the first two were. This is also not a bad thing, and I think it succeeds well in making Tony more like you an me. I like that aspect and I won’t debate it. But why do I feel more attached to the first two films? There is a reason, and if you haven’t heard already (or possibly you’re tired of hearing about it), then let me explain it quite simply.
This was the film I was most excited for out of all three, especially after experiencing the first two. Why? Yes, the Mandarin is exciting, but it’s the idea behind the villain in this movie. The first two villains were very much industrial enemies of Tony Stark, locked in competition to excel his talents, and when failing to do so intellectually, resorted to violence and ill tactics. Essentially, both being good films, deal with industrial counterparts, looking to destroy Stark Industries with their own version of “armor”.
The first film gave us a view of how even long time friends of the Stark family can be driven to jealously or anger when Tony has a change of heart about selling weapons. The second film follows a similar premise with a competitor trying to mimic the arch reactor technology. Though it is more of a revenge plot, due to the action of Tony and Ivan’s fathers. The third film was marketed to change this villain archetype in a drastic way. We were no longer dealing with a “genius” competitor or counterpart, but rather a “genius” madman with nothing but hate aimed towards Western society. How exciting as well as being such a breathe of fresh air. If you’re reading this then you watched the trailers, listened to the monologues and (admit it) were giddy at the prospect of what the Mandarin could mean for a true Tony Stark character arch.
So what happened? If you’ve seen it then you know. The first hour of the film gives you glimpses into the eyes of the leader of a terrorist organization hell bent on teaching the United States government a lesson. And even better the same organization that kidnapped Tony in the first film, “The Ten Rings”. There is also a little of the industrial villain concept from the first two films infused with the introduction of the nerdiest of all nerds, Aldrich Killian, who is ignored by Tony year before current time and thus his motivations are lacking enough credence to be really taken seriously.
As the film progresses we see that Aldrich now has seem to have cured his physical afflictions (cane and such), and has created a project that allows humans to upgrade their DNA. Pepper as well as many others (including Tony originally) have turned down investing in the idea, because it could become militarized and that is what Stark is against thanks to film one. So Aldrich walks away again disappointed. Meanwhile the Mandarin is sharing his message through radio waves and television, even executing the owner of a major oil company stating, “I’m sure he’s a really good guy….I’m gonna shoot him in the head.” Chilling stuff, because of Ben Kingsley’s direction with the character and his almost Southern preacher type voice. At this point I was on the edge of my seat. Obviously the Mandarin was seconds away from revealing himself and becoming the driving force in the film. Then only minutes later, the film simply became eye candy.
It turns out that we get the impression that Aldrich is working for the Mandarin, referring to him as the master, and when Tony breaks into the mansion where the filming of the Mandarin’s exploits has been traced to, we find a very different Mandarin. It turns out the Mandarin is simply an act, or a show. Trevor is a hired British actor paid handsomely with drugs, women, and a mansion to portray the character of the Mandarin, in order to drive attention away from what Aldrich is really doing. And what is Aldrich doing? That whole DNA thing, he now calls “Extremis”. Oddly even for a split second I allowed myself to believe that the Mandarin was simply pretending to be Trevor, in order to fool Tony into believing the Aldrich story. True deception. True illusion. To my anger, and after a poop joke and the pop of a beer can, I’m sadly left with the truth.
What is that truth? It is simply that the writing was stubborn enough to create such a illustrious character only to service a twist mechanic that then leaves us with a less interesting, poorly motivated, and mimicked copy of the villains from the first two films. Motivated by simple revenge and jealousy. Yawn. Forgive me for being disappointed.
Some would argue that Killian is not the same as the first two villains in that he doesn’t fight Tony with physical armor, but really all the Extremis project represents (in the limited explanation the writers gave here) is another form of armor. Even better if you can ignore the anger and try to enjoy the rest of the eye candy, you’re left with Aldrich’s explanation as he is about to kill Tony…”I am the mandarin. I have always been the Mandarin.” Taken literally, this would make no sense, but even in the context of him simply meaning that by being the main guy behind the whole mess of events, that he basically would also technically be the Mandarin, is still lazy and unimportant.
Are we to believe that to cap off the series as a whole, that the terrorists from the first film simply don’t really have any connection to this film? Does this mean that the Mandarin is simply not revealed yet and that maybe Killian creates an illusion based off of the little information known about the Ten Rings? What conclusion is supposed to be drawn from this twist? If the fake Mandarin is based off a real Mandarin that no one knows anything about yet, then this requires explanation somewhere in the film. My guess is that Marvel has successfully allowed the writers under direction of Shane Black to essentially avoid the perceived racist undertones of the original character from the 60’s. Maybe this was Marvel’s way of skipping over any possible controversy they thought could arise from the Asian communities. What would be the reason to think this is even remotely true? Well Shane has been quoted as referring to the Mandarin as a “racist caricature”. Neat, except that doesn’t bother Marvel from printing story after story about him from his early creation to modern day. So I call B.S.
What’s his defense for the twist?
"I would say that we struggled to find a way to present a mythic terrorist that had something about him that registered after the movie’s over as having been a unique take, or a clever idea, or a way to say something of use, And what was of use about the Mandarin’s portrayal in this movie, to me, is that it offers up a way that you can sort of show how people are complicit in being frightened. They buy into things in the way that the audience for this movie buys into it. And hopefully, by the end you’re like, ‘Yeah, we were really frightened of the Mandarin, but in the end he really wasn’t that bad after all’. In fact, the whole thing was just a product of this anonymous, behind-the-scenes guy. I think that’s a message that’s more interesting for the modern world because I think there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes, a lot of fear, that’s generated toward very available and obvious targets, which could perhaps be directed more intelligently at what’s behind them.”
Again I call B.S. You didn’t struggle in any way in presenting or depicting him for the first 40 minutes of the movie. In fact the interesting way you portrayed him was showing something entirely new to iron man audiences in that this was a villain not motivated by jealously or revenge against Tony himself and in effect could have played the idea that Tony inserted himself into the villains path endangering everyone he loves. Tony’s willingness to be a hero when he can’t come to grips with the large idea of aliens, gods, and wormholes is a very interesting idea in that he is paralyzed by PTSD and can’t even focus on a single dangerous human. Shane says it himself that he intentionally entrapped the fan base of the first two films into seeing this movie. That’s enraging. He’s right in that towards the end I wasn’t frightened, but neither was I suffering from tension or any type of interest in why I should care. There was no sense that Tony wouldn’t save the day, which ironically he doesn’t. None at all, which disturbs me, because fright, tension, and being on the edge of our seat is exactly why anyone goes to the movies. Not that I don’t get his behind-the-scenes guy (trying to be deeper) theme, but honestly I don’t go to the movies to replicate real life behind-the-scenes bad guys of our current world, but rather to forget them for 2 hours.
What Marvel has allowed Shane to do along with his writers is to for the first time create a film that not only doesn’t understand the three pieces of good source material it draws from (Extremis, The Mandarin, Iron Patriot), but it makes me worried about the next few Marvel films. The only one it seems I can really trust is Josh Whedon. It’s lazy on Shane’s part because he knows going into Iron Man 3 that he has a vast audience that will show up day one and pay for the film’s production cost three times over, without even having to have a page written. It bothers me even more that he took an artistic theme that he couldn’t replicate on screen as being amazing, all the while selling the fan base on a premise that he destroyed 40 minutes in. That’s not clever, intelligent, or interesting. It’s lazy and boring, and for everyone that paid to go see it…expensive (even for just two people).
I could address other holes in the story such as the fact that Tony has 40 suits hiding 20 feet below him as his house is being shot at. How he somehow doesn’t have a protocol to facially recognize his girlfriends face as to not kill her. How his DNA is the only one that will work with the suit, and thus the same for Rhodey who has his suit hijacked. How you can have one of the coolest sidekicks in the Marvel realm and not use him at all except to hint at Iron Patriot, which has nothing to really add to this film at all, unless you consider the one time it is hi-jacked as a nod to the Norman Osborne story (unnecessary). The fact that the second film revolves around finding a new source to keep the shrapnel away from his heart when all he needed was one simple hospital operation. Why was the PTSD completely ignored the final third of the film never to really be addressed? There’s too much in this movie that is irrelevant.
But most of all… what are you trying to tell us Marvel? Is Iron Man done? Is Downey done? We know he is contracted for Avengers 2, so what does this movie do for anyone? This movie is financially successful based on your first two films and a fibbed collection of trailers and TV spots, and as a piece of 2.5 hours worth of film, it has the same eye candy level as transformers with a better stand alone story. It has good things, but where was and is your head at? If someone were to ask me what the best part of the film was, I would say the Easter egg scene at the end. Why? Because for about 30 seconds I get to laugh and connect with the heavy events of the Avengers film (which you hinted at and then ignored) along with being able to forget how badly I wanted this film to matter. I love Iron Man, and it’s what got me into the theaters for Avengers. You owe us better than this. I wont be rushing out to the next film so quickly.
PS. I’ll give you a nod for the Hulk Buster suit. Kudos for including that.