Todd McFarlane (Still) Answers to No One

Vulture:

For a time he’d harbored visions of playing baseball by day and drawing comics by night, so with the former option closed to him, he focused on the latter. He already had promising inroads, having earned a spot penciling a story in a low-selling Marvel series called Coyote near the end of college, followed by dribs and drabs of work for Marvel and its rival, DC Comics. His star rose with a short run on a Batman story, and a longer run on Marvel’s The Incredible Hulk. Then, in 1988, he was assigned to Marvel flagship series The Amazing Spider-Man, and made one of the biggest career jumps in comics history.

It’s hard to overstate how revolutionary the 27-year-old McFarlane’s visual take on Spidey was. “When I took over the book, I thought they were doing Spider-Man with an emphasis on man,” he says. “I took it and did Spider-Man, big emphasis on spider.” All of a sudden, the wall-crawler was swinging, crawling, and leaping in a way that felt thrillingly animalistic. His knees would rise to his ears, his toes would point like daggers, his mask’s eye holes grew to massive proportions, and — most famous of all — his webbing would writhe and twist around itself like cylinders of linguini.

“Welcome to Geekdom:” Spidey Extravaganza Part 1

Yours truly is on the latest episode of “Welcome to Geekdom” talking all about Spider-Man, Spider-Gwen, and all kinds of nerdy Spider-stuff.

Jason Tate returns to the podcast to talk about The Spectacular Spider-Man, Spider-Gwen, and Miles Morales. Comics covered include Spider-Gwen #1-5, Spider-Gwen #1-18, Spider-Man #1-15, Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1-28, and Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man #1-12.

Here’s the Overcast link if that’s your bag.

The Boy Scouts Can Do a Good Turn Finally

James Dale, writing for The New York Times:

The Mormon Church’s latest announcement suggests that this time has come. It would therefore be a good moment for the Boy Scouts of America to take the opportunity to end anti-gay discrimination within its organization, without exception. The Boy Scouts has debated this issue for so many years already, to which I bear witness from my own struggles to change scouting so that it would accept gay youth and leaders.

In 1990, the Boy Scouts expelled me for being gay. I was a 19-year-old assistant scoutmaster in the New Jersey troop where I earned my Eagle Scout badge. For the next decade, I fought my expulsion, challenging the anti-gay policy on the basis that it violated New Jersey’s law against discrimination, including sexual-orientation discrimination.

In 2000, my lawsuit ended up before the United States Supreme Court. The justices then held, by a 5-to-4 vote, that the Boy Scouts of America was exempt from the state law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation because of the First Amendment. The court concluded that the Boy Scouts effectively had a legal right to exclude gay people because the organization viewed them as “immoral” and “unclean.”

Makes Me Laugh (Encore Episode 148)

Encore 148

On this week’s episode of Encore I am once again joined by special guest Drew Beringer. This week we talk all about the new albums from New Found Glory and Paramore. First we catch up a little (Drew got married!), talk a little basketball, Funkos, the usual. Then we dive into the most recent releases from New Found Glory and Paramore and talk about their place in the music scene and their careers as a whole. Mixed within is a talk about Blink-182 and if they should shake it up with a new producer like NFG did (spoiler: probably), and a talk about leaks not mattering much these days, and how we feel about long wait times between album announcements.

Winners and Losers of the Recent Nuclear Holocaust

McSweeneys:

The nation was recently rocked by retaliatory nuclear blasts that have turned much of America into a barren wasteland, decimating the population, triggering the rise of firestorms and supervolcanoes, and generally bringing civilization to the brink of collapse. Let’s take a look at the political fallout.

Perfect satire of the “politics as theatre” bullshit made popular by Chris Cillizza and the like.

Sorting 2 Metric Tons of Lego

Jacques Mattheij:

After a trip to lego land in Denmark I noticed how even adults buy lego in vast quantities, and at prices that were considerably higher than what you might expect for what is essentially bulk ABS. Even second hand lego isn’t cheap at all, it is sold by the part on specialized websites, and by the set, the kilo or the tub on ebay.

After doing some minimal research I noticed that sets do roughly 40 euros / Kg and that bulk lego is about 10, rare parts and lego technic go for 100’s of euros per kg. So, there exists a cottage industry of people that buy lego in bulk, buy new sets and then part this all out or sort it (manually) into more desirable and thus more valuable groupings.

I figured this would be a fun thing to get in on and to build an automated sorter. Not thinking too hard I put in some bids on large lots of lego on the local ebay subsidiary and went to bed. The next morning I woke up to a rather large number of emails congratulating me on having won almost every bid (lesson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high). This was both good and bad. It was bad because it was probably too expensive and it was also bad because it was rather more than I expected. It was good because this provided enough motivation to overcome my natural inertia to actually go and build something.

In the Spotlight Playlist: 50 Songs You Need to Hear

This week we unveiled our “In the Spotlight” feature where we highlighted 50 bands we thought you needed to hear. In the feature we’ve got blurbs and “recommended if you like” hints to try and convince you to listen to the bands, but sometimes just having all the recommended tracks in a playlist to churn through is the way to go.

Our “In the Spotlight Playlist” is available on Spotify and Apple Music.

An Act of Monstrous Cruelty

Paul Weldman:

Here at the Plum Line, we write a lot about the mechanics of politics — the processes of governing, the interplay of political forces, the back-and-forth between citizens and lawmakers, and so on. We do that because it’s interesting and because it winds up affecting all our lives. But there are moments when you have to set aside the mechanics and focus intently on the substance of what government does — or in this case, what government is trying to do.

I won’t mince words. The health-care bill that the House of Representatives passed this afternoon, in an incredibly narrow 217-to-213 vote, is not just wrong, or misguided, or problematic or foolish. It is an abomination. If there has been a piece of legislation in our lifetimes that boiled over with as much malice and indifference to human suffering, I can’t recall what it might have been. And every member of the House who voted for it must be held accountable.

In the Spotlight: 50 Bands You Need to Hear (Part One)

In the Spotlight (Part 1)

Back on AbsolutePunk.net we would run a feature each year called the “Absolute 100.” The basic idea was to put together a list of bands and artists that we thought needed to get a little more attention. This would range from unsigned, to under-the-radar, to underrated acts that we wanted to highlight. Over the years it ended up being one of my favorite features we compiled (I personally discovered quite a few new bands from it). And, I’ve heard from a lot for readers that you loved it as well.

Today I’m excited to bring this feature back under a new name. We’re calling it “In the Spotlight” and we’ve got the same goal: highlight a bunch of artists we think you should check out. This year we’ve got 50 for you. Over the past month our contributors have been putting together blurbs and pulling out song recommendations, and today we’ve got the first group of 25. We’ll be releasing the next set tomorrow.

A Decade of ‘Anhedonia’ (Encore Episode 147)

Encore 147

The Graduate’s Anhedonia turned ten this week and former lead singer, Corey Warning, joins Encore to talk all about it. We discuss the early stages of the band, recording the album, the stories behind some of the songs, and check in on what Corey has been up to the past few years. We dive into why a reunion probably isn’t in the cards and spend some time waxing nostalgic about the music scene from 10 years ago. If you were a fan of this band and album, I think you’re going to love this one. If you’ve never heard this album before, you should probably get on that, but this episode also has a bunch of great industry insights, tips, and tales that make it worth your while. It’s a fun one.

Note: We recorded this episode live, in person, so the quality is a little different than you may be used to. However, I think that the back and forth of being in person gives it a really fun vibe that’s totally worth it.

The Hardy Boys The Final Chapter

The Washington Post:

I recently rediscovered my youth. It made me sneeze.

It lay unremembered at the top of a tall bookcase: 15 vintage Hardy Boys novels by Franklin W. Dixon. In getting them down I took a faceful of dust and beetle carapaces.

I carried the books to my favorite rocking chair, beside my favorite lamp, and reverently broke them open to revisit the literature that had inspired in me a lifelong love of language. The pages were as thick as a shirt collar and ochered with age. They smelled the way old books smell, faintly perfumed, quaintly mysterious, like the lining of Great-Grandma’s alligator handbag out in the steamer trunk. I began to read.

Pretty soon a new smell entered the room.

The Hardy Boys stank.

Lucky Boys Confusion – ‘Stormchasers’ (Album Premiere)

I bought Lucky Boys Confusion’s Throwing the Game on a whim because an online friend told me it had a unique pop-punk meets reggae sound with hooks all over the place. It was my senior year of high-school and that was more than enough to get me to spend my lunch money on an album. I loved it. Now, some 16 years later the band are releasing their first new album in over 10 years and we’ve got an exclusive stream for you to check out. Lead singer, Kaustubh Pandav, describes the album as a concept album that was discovered only after its recording:

Sometimes you just have to reflect back on your art to see what your subconscious mind has been trying to create. It wasn’t until we got to take breath and were able to listen back to this record that we realized that we had just created a concept record. A story of how tragedy and loss lead to strength and courage in hopes to find a little peace of mind. We hope everyone can relate at least to a part of our story.

The album comes out on April 14th and you can pick it up on the band’s webstore. And, if you’re in the Chicago area, the band’s record release show is this Saturday at House of Blues.

NBA Watching the Basketball Tournament’s Innovative Approach to Crunch Time

Zach Lowe, writing for ESPN:

Elam, a Mensa member, has devoted most of his spare time since 2004 to solving the slog of NBA crunch time. Oklahoma City’s win was remarkable to Elam because the Thunder’s deliberate fouling worked.

Elam has tracked thousands of NBA, college, and international games over the last four years and found basketball’s classic comeback tactic — intentional fouling — almost never results in successful comebacks. Elam found at least one deliberate crunch-time foul from trailing teams in 397 of 877 nationally televised NBA games from 2014 through the middle of this season, according to a PowerPoint presentation he has sent across the basketball world. The trailing team won zero of those games, according to Elam’s data.

I’m not convinced this idea doesn’t make most of the game kind of pointless, but it’s definitely outside of the box.

It’s Been a Year

One year ago I retired AbsolutePunk.net and launched Chorus.fm into the world. I can’t believe it’s been a year. First, I want to thank everyone that’s supported the website for a full year and all of you that kept monthly payments on and re-signed up today with a new yearly subscription. Seriously, thank you. I had no idea if this entire endeavor was ever going to work, and all of the support has truly blown me away. I’ve loved getting to know so many of you over the past year and being able to share this experience with you. Again, I can’t tell you thank you enough.

One year in I figured is as good a time as ever to run down some of the numbers from the last 12 months:

  • 5,145 articles posted on the main site.
  • 1,004,735 words written in those articles.
  • 895,137 forum posts.
  • 34,766 registered forum members.
  • 891,056 likes given out.
  • 2,000 private messages sent per month (average).
  • 27 podcast episodes recorded (and 3 bonus episodes).
  • Over 160,000 podcast listens.
  • 83,035,328 pageviews.
  • A 6:40 average session time.
  • 13 “first listen” blogs in the supporter forum.
  • 365 days where I was happy with the choice I made.

Let’s Do It Live (Encore Episode 146)

Thomas Nassiff returns to the show to talk about live albums and when and where we think they work. We talk about our favorites, live bootlegs, and wonder why more bands don’t release more live material. We also talk about March Madness, having birthdays, the other Encore podcast, the other Chorus logo, home automation, books about tech companies, and all our usual stuff.

Hiding Music From Our Parents (Encore Episode 145)

On this week’s episode of Encore I am joined by special guest Ryan Gardner. Ryan joins the show to talk about growing up in this music scene and the bands that we first fell in love with. Then we talk a little about starting young with writing online, the lessons learned and why we think it’s important to just try, and how to maybe parlay that into some kind of career in the future. Freelancing, journalism, and how this alternative music scene has changed over the years rounds out the episode.

Thanks for listening!

Considerations on Cost Disease

Scott Alexander:

So, to summarize: in the past fifty years, education costs have doubled, college costs have dectupled, health insurance costs have dectupled, subway costs have at least dectupled, and housing costs have increased by about fifty percent. US health care costs about four times as much as equivalent health care in other First World countries; US subways cost about eight times as much as equivalent subways in other First World countries.

I worry that people don’t appreciate how weird this is. I didn’t appreciate it for a long time. I guess I just figured that Grandpa used to talk about how back in his day movie tickets only cost a nickel; that was just the way of the world. But all of the numbers above are inflation-adjusted. These things have dectupled in cost even after you adjust for movies costing a nickel in Grandpa’s day. They have really, genuinely dectupled in cost, no economic trickery involved.

This entire post is fascinating.

Write Better Songs (Encore Episode 144)

On this week’s episode of Encore I am joined by special guest Jesse Cannon. Jesse has credits on albums from The Menzingers, to Man Overboard, to The Cure. He has managed bands, produced bands, and has written multiple books about the music industry and navigating the current realities of being a musician and a songwriter in the internet era. He joins the show to talk about everything from authentic creativity when writing songs, to originality in music, to the biggest mistakes bands make when recording. We talk about sophomore slumps, how being emotionally aware leads to better music, and the entire idea behind bands writing albums for themselves versus for the fans. There’s a lot here, but it’s a fun one.