Superman

 


This is what you find in the category of, "hey, we have a serious problem here..."

Deadline has just announced that Ta-Nehisi Coates will be writing the screenplay for the latest Superman reboot. J.J. Abrams is producing, and Henry Cavill will reprise his role as the Gap sale section of superheroes.

Though the very subject of Hollywood’s love affair with endless superhero reboots it tedious at this point (so we reboot on, boats against the current, etc., etc.), the idea of what Coates can do with the world’s most vanilla superhero is nevertheless intriguing.

In addition to his widely lauded works of non-fiction and Oprah-approved novel, Coates has previously written both a Black Panther and a Captain America series for Marvel Comics, so he’s no stranger to the genre. As to whether he can breathe life into Superman, the superhero equivalent of those styrofoam cups of vanilla ice cream they used to serve in elementary school cafeterias, remains to be seen—but if anyone can do it, he can.

I can't think of anything else that could be more out of ideas and more irrelevant to our current situation in this country. The problem here is that there's money to make this movie but there's no compelling reason why it has to be made and then seen. It's like a contractual obligation and nothing more. Here, we need to throw shit at the wall. Here's some shit. Now, we can go throw it at the wall in the Summer of next year or the next, cross that off the list.

Did anyone wake up demanding to know if there was anything else that could be wrung out of something that's been done to death? What if we make Superman evil? There you go, reboot it, flip it, kill someone off who you don't care about, got it. On to the next atrocity.

You don't make a Superman movie because you want to tell a story. You do it because there's a market for a blockbuster movie aimed at a certain audience that will earn x amount of dollars in ticket sales. You can do whatever you want and convince yourself that it will be artistic and groundbreaking and fascinating but, really, by the time skittish film company executives get done with it, all of those pieces will be completely sanded off.

No one reboots a film that has been rebooted three times already and then deludes themselves into thinking that everyone has to see it, right? Can you imagine the mentality of someone who is shitting themselves with excitement over something that will roll into the popular culture and take up the space that five or six legitimately original but smaller films would have taken up? There's a reason why everything sucks and that's because you're not seeing any gems out there anymore. The oxygen has already been consumed. That great script that so-and-so wrote that has a promising story in it? Not getting made because you can't explain the plot to a teenager in such-and-such place.

We've seen eight or nine or twenty versions of this already. No one is interested in it for the story at this point. It's been done.

You don't hire J.J. Abrams to make a new movie. You hire him to make a new version of the old movie you really liked. Let's not kid ourselves.

Don't hate on Coates for wanting to make a living as a writer. Some gigs you take because they'll support the fifty other things you want to do. 

Oh, it'll be the greatest thing ever. You'll see it on free cable and you'll really feel bad that you missed it. Can't wait to see how they market this. Maybe there will be a fake controversy about how it's your fault no one cares.

Honestly, a Superman movie is like waking up to find someone didn't shovel the walk after a snowstorm. You can't even get mad about it. All you can do is pick of a shovel and try to clear a path through something you didn't want to see.

Hilma af Klint

 


Her work was done in secret but now you know who she is:

If you are a regular Open Culture reader, you’ve probably seen our many posts on Hilma af Klint, the Swedish abstract painter who might have been recognized, before Wassily Kandinsky, as the first 20th century abstractionist; that is, if she had shown any of her work before her death in obscurity in 1944 (the same year that Kandinsky died, it happens). Instead, af Klint instructed that her paintings not be exhibited until twenty years after her death. Then, another 22 years went by before anyone would see her enigmatic canvases. They first went on display in a 1986 Los Angeles show called, after Kandinsky, “The Spiritual in Art.” 

Comparisons seem inevitable, but where the great Russian abstractionist theorized about art and spirit, af Klint encountered it in person, she claimed in her Theosophical accounts, in which she writes of meeting five “high masters” in a séance and receiving instructions for her new style. She was a channel, a vessel, and a medium for the spirits, as she saw it.

There will be seven volumes published that will feature her work. She is absolutely remarkable and should be celebrated for her achievements.


 

Moonlighting

 


You could argue that this was the very early beginning of prestige television, a show so good it rivaled feature films in quality and substance:

It’s impossible to say all the ways in which Moonlighting influenced television that came after it. Its wacky breaking-the-fourth wall, mile-a-minute jokes, throwaway references that not all audience members might even understand place it in a lineage of television’s smartest, most sophisticated situation comedies. And its particular, zany take on the “lighthearted detective show” gambit was new, too—whenever I watch a show like Psych, I am overcome by the debt owed to Moonlighting. But Moonlighting’s impact was also extremely personal. One of these days I’ll launch an essay contest, a “what Moonlighting means to me” sort of deal. It made an enormous impact. The television critic Howard Rosenberg, who had panned the show upon its release, wrote a correction a few weeks later to apologize for not having understood Moonlighting and to confirm that he had since seen the light. After its startling first season, it had become such an enormous sensation that (according to people who were alive in the 80s) Moonlighting became the ubiquitous conversation topic on Wednesday mornings at work. Two years after it aired, sixty million viewers tuned in to watch the protagonists finally hook up, in a passionate (edgy for prime-time) sex-scene that involved destroying every nearby prop. (Anyone who wants to read about this, more in-depth, should pre-order Scott Ryan’s official book on the series, which is due out in June 2021.)

In terms of being a romance, procedural, mystery, or comedy show, Moonlighting was really a screwball workplace program. It did sexual tension and chemistry better than Cheers and was so good it burned out and fell off the schedule before most people knew it was even there.

Maybe White People Need to Stop Being So Bigoted and Racist

 


Bruce Springsteen has surprised me in recent years by being very much an advocate for defeating Republicans who espouse bigotry and hatred and racism. He is very much against what Trump did to this country for the last four years. And so, we now have his ad for Jeep.

It's Super Bowl Sunday and the stars are out, showing up in big budget commercials for the big game. Bruce Springsteen, who has never let his music be used in an ad, let alone appeared in one, decided to appear in a two-minute ad from Jeep titled "The Middle" that isn't so much about selling cars as it is about the idea of America and a need to find common ground. The ad was shot at U.S. Center Chapel in Kansas which is the geographic center point of the Lower 48 states.

 

 "It's no secret the middle has been a hard place to get to lately,' Bruce says in voiceover narration set against scenes of Bruce driving around and visiting the church and other heartland locales. "Between red and blue, servant and citizen, between our freedom and our fear. Now fear has never been the best of who we are. And as for freedom, it not the property of just the fortunate few. It belongs to us all. Whoever you are, wherever you're from, it's what connects us, and we need that connection. We need the middle." He later adds "We just have to remember the very soil we stand on is common ground" and that "We will cross this divide." The commercial ends with the tagline, "To the ReUnited States of America."

Those of us who did not vote for Trump did not "disunite" the United States. Trump being a completely and utter troll and jackass did that. I'm not sure who I need to tolerate and unite with. I'm not sure who I'm supposed to meet "in the middle" when the middle doesn't even exist in the minds of Trump supporters. 

These people have literally killed people who disagree with them politically. They don't accept the votes of African-Americans and they threw babies in cages.

Sorry, Bruce. Fuck that shit.





Austerlitz

 


I don't understand why this wouldn't be in a museum rather than in the hands of a private collector:

Napoleon Bonaparte’s account of his victory at the Battle of Austerlitz, dictated and annotated during his exile on the island of St Helena, has gone on sale in Paris for €1m (£880,000).

The description of the battle, the strategy behind which is still taught in military schools, is viewed by historians as evidence of Napoleon’s desire to record his hour of glory for posterity after his 1815 humiliation at Waterloo and subsequent capture by the British.

It was dictated to his loyal aide-de-camp Gen Henri-Gatien Bertrand, who remained with him in exile on the volcanic island in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean.

Densely written over 74 pages, the manuscript recounts the December 1805 “day of the three emperors” clash with Russo-Austrian forces, which is considered the Napolean’s greatest military victory. It takes readers through preparations for battle and the fighting itself, and is completed by a battle plan drawn on tracing paper by Bertrand.

You could put it in a display about megalomania or revisionist history. 

Bimbling

 


In another universe, I'm trying to do what Iain Welch does without hesitation. Every day, he puts out something amazing.

The Milam Building

 


At one time, this was one of the few air conditioned office buildings in the whole country. I can't believe I used to walk by the Milam Building every day.

It's true, I never went in.

Graveyard of Old Broken Bottles


 Oh, sure. It looks like a fun lake. I'm telling you, it's a graveyard for broken bottles and old tires.

The Beauty of Thinking About Other Things

 


See how it is when you can finally have nice things again?

Each one of the world’s 317 land borders is defined and agreed to, formalized as a result of agreements between those countries that abut each other, as neighbors; and each has been surveyed with, in most cases, a mutually agreed level of precision. To read a table of these boundaries and their history is to learn much, in the same way that stamp collecting, now in popular disfavor, used to teach much about the world’s historical geography.

One can derive great pleasure in picking at random from the United Nations list: learning of how, for instance, the Albanian border with Montenegro was first agreed to by a delegation of Turkish pashas who went to Germany and signed the Treaty of Berlin in 1878; that the northwestern border of Myanmar, separating it from the Indian state of Manipur, was the result of a victory over the Arakanese by the Burmese army back in 1558; that in 1821 an entity called the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves annexed a free-spirited confection of small states gathered around the Río de la Plata’s estuary and known at the time as the Liga Federal, and in doing so set up a line still recognized today as the border between the modern countries of Argentina and Uruguay; and that the border between Ireland and Britain came about in 1921 when the 26 southern counties of the Irish Republic, all with a majority population of Roman Catholics, declared an independence from Britain which the six mostly Protestant-majority counties of the northeast of the island could not and would not accept, and who thus remained loyal, if troubled, and protected behind what would become a highly militarized border, for much of the century beyond.

The luxury of being able to distract yourself with things like this is a welcome relief from four years of outrage and terror.

Abstract Painting, End of 2020

 


Throughout the end of 2020, I went through a brief period of creating abstracts and landscapes, bouncing back and forth between tempera paints and watercolors and not really coming up with much in terms of inspiration. Too much discord, too much strife, whatever you want to call it. Never really settled, never really into a groove.

This one turned out okay, so here it is. I might get to a better scan of this or a better appraisal of last year's work, but very little of it seems to have jumped out at me. I did a far better job cartooning, and supporting the Combined Federal Campaign.