"When the going gets weird…"

Image from Gary Johnson, used under Creative Commons 2.0 Generic Licence

Image from Gary Johnson, used under Creative Commons 2.0 Generic Licence

In every presidential election I've voted in (every one since 1992), I've had only one surefire prediction that holds up almost every time: Anything can happen, and damn near everything will happen.

It's usually a safe bet. Some races get so weird that I declare them races where anything can happen, and everything (no matter how implausible) will happen.

1992 was one such race, with Ross Perot becoming a credible candidate, dropping out mid-race, and dropping back in not too long afterwards.

2000 only mildly weird… until election day itself. Nothing like a looming constitutional crisis to spice up a dull election season.

2016 is already a weird one, and we haven't even gotten a single ballot cast yet, much less even arrived in the year 2016 itself!

It could be so weird that the likely Libertarian nominee could run as the "normal" candidate, as observed by Todd Seavey at Splice Today:

I mean, if the Republicans end up offering someone as odd as Trump or Carson, and the Democrats offer a criminal such as Clinton or a socialist such as Sanders... couldn’t Johnson plausibly just run as the non-weird candidate for whom America has been waiting?

Johnson, after all, is a successful, smart, and respected former two-term governor of New Mexico, elected and re-elected as a Republican even in a majority-Democrat state. He never raised taxes even when building new highways, shrank the budget, vetoed more legislation (from both parties) than any other governor, created more jobs than Rick Perry’s Texas despite occasional claims to the contrary, and let the state government workforce shrink through attrition as workers retired—probably the least-painful way to deal with public-sector bloat.

Source: http://www.splicetoday.com/politics-and-me...

The $750 Pill: Corporate Greed, Excessive Regulation—or Both?

Photo credit: TaxRebate.org.uk; used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license ; Photo has been modified for use here.

Photo credit: TaxRebate.org.uk; used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license ; Photo has been modified for use here.

Dr. Mary Ruwart

Why, you might ask, can Shkreli price his drug so high and not fear that a generic competitor will undercut him? After all, the daraprim no longer has patent protection. The answer: Turing Pharmaceuticals has a de facto monopoly, courtesy of the ever-increasing costs of gaining FDA approval, both for new drugs (over $1 billion and 11 years) and generics. Any generic company could make daraprim; its patent expired decades ago.

The $750 pill might be considered an example of “corporate greed.” However, Turing probably wouldn’t have even attempted such a price hike without high cost of FDA-mandated drug development, both new and generic, which virtually eliminated his competition.

Hat tip to Independent Political Report

Review: Daredevil on Netflix

"Daredevil" fan art by Nagy Norbert

"Daredevil" fan art by Nagy Norbert

Over the span of three days, I consumed the entirety of Netflix's first contribution to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Daredevil.

Welcome to the darker, edgier, more realistic(-ish) corner of the MCU. It's no less awesome than the rest of it.

It ties into the main Marvel Cinematic Universe only in so far as one of the premises is that the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of New York City is one of the neighborhoods that got hit pretty hard by the alien invasion in the Avengers movie. (Which may account for why the Kitchen is a bad neigborhood in the MCU despite it having been gentrified in the real world decades ago.) The construction companies involved in the reconstruction over the past several years have ties to criminal activitiy.

In case you are unfamiliar with Daredevil here's a rundown of the premise: Matt Murdock (played by Charlie Cox) is a lawyer by day, and by night is a masked vigilante, eventually named Daredevil. The twist, Matt is blind, but he can fight in his masked persona as if he was sighted (or better) given his other senses that have become superhumanly strong. His main nemesis is the new secret crime boss of New York City, Wilson Fisk (played by Vincent D'Onofrio).

I'm of two minds on how much they embraced ability to go more "adult" I don't mind it being darker, dangerous, and with a bit of a body count. But at times it went too heavily into explicit violence, almost Tarantino-esque. So much that few negative reviews called it "blood porn". Episode 3 was the worst offender here, and though it could have been worse, it was pretty hardcore.

At its best, the violence was shown to have consequenses. The beatings Matt takes carry over from episode to episode, requiring lots of medical attention from an unlikely ally in the form of an ER nurse during her off-hours treating him in secret (played by Rosario Dawson). The wounds and torn flesh are shown onscreen when being treated, which must have been a masterwork in effects makeup.

Further consequese is that to the soul of Matt himself. How far outside the law is he willing to go is one that Matt wrestles with throughout the series, especially as it becomes increasingly apparent that the bad guys have too much an edge in terms of control of what should be institutions of law and order through bribed and threatened cops, lawyers, and media.

Between the blood and explicit language (Certainly R rated quality language) this is clearly not for kids. But I think it goes a little too far in distancing itself from the tone of the rest of the Marvel movies and TV shows. With its levels of violence and language it is more like HBO's Sopranos (though not quite so frequent with the cursing, and no nudity or sexual activitiy, save for a brief tease of nudity in the first episode.), when it ought to have reigned it in to more of a basic cable level, ala Breaking Bad.

Still, I wouldn't say that the MCU shouldn't have darker corners, meant for more mature audiences. It's just that with the connection to PG rated material, it would have helped to keep it a bit more accessable.

It's said that any hero is only as good as it's villain. And D'Onofrio delivers a great performance as Wilson Fisk. It's notable that through the first two episodes (and most of the third) Fisk isn't even mentioned by name. He's refered to only tangentially, but clearly the top man in the criminal world, and one to be feared.

But once his is introduced onscreen its in the context of him wooing a woman, Vanessa. His relationship with her and his freindship with his right hand man, Wesley, are strong, positive relationships. This is not some cardboard cutout one dimensional villain. He has ambitions and dreams that are laudable. But his criminal means, dark secrets, and occasional brutal nature have clearly cast his path as one of evil. Just as Matt goes through his own crisises, we see Fisk deal with his own.

The closing fight scene of episode two has been praised up one way and down the other as an incredible one-shot scene (with some opportunity for cheats as the camera reverses direction) set in a hallway. It tells a story of endurance, determination, and heroics like no fight scene in the history of super-hero adaptations. Even if you don't watch the entire series, episodes one and two are must see. Do not stop at just the first episode and give both a try.

I find that at it's best, the vigilate aspect of the super-hero genre is an exercise in personal ethics, and Daredevil has embraced that. Matt and Fisk's personal journeys show the consequenses of the choices on each other, and their personal relationships, as well as how those personal relationships affect their own choices. It's this thread that ties the whole season together, and makes for compelling viewing.

Netflix has lined up four more series for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, A.K.A. Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, which will tie in to Daredevil and each other to some degree, leading ultimately to "The Defenders" a team-up series featuring all four characters. One hopes that there will be further seasons of Daredevil on top of this, but based on the example here, I'm a least looking forward to the rest of Netflix's Marvel offerings.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

The Lack of MagSafe — The Brooks Review

Ben Brooks on complaints that the new MacBook doesn't have a MacSafe power connector:

You're charging it wrong.

USB-C won’t cause more crashing MacBooks, just as long as you use the MacBook as it is intended: on battery power.

Thomas Knapp on 'Net Neutrality:

Apparently the Internet needs to be "saved" from the guys who made it cheap, ubiquitous and pretty darn free (free as in free speech, not as in free beer). Who's doing the saving? The gang that historically has always, every time, without exception made anything and everything it touches more expensive, less reliable and less friendly to freedom of expression.

Read more at Knappster.

Robert Crumb on the Charlie Hedbo attacks.

From the New York Observer:

I’m not going to make a career out of baiting some fucking religious fanatics, you know, by insulting their prophet. I wouldn’t do that. That seems crazy. But then, after they got killed, I just had to draw that cartoon, you know, showing the Prophet. The cartoon I drew shows me, myself, holding up a cartoon that I’ve just drawn. A crude drawing of an ass that’s labeled “The Hairy Ass of Muhammed.” [Laughs.]

You did what?!

Yeah, I sent that to Liberation, so we’ll see what happens. You know, that’s the most I’ve stuck my neck out for a long time…

I've got my differences with the man (mostly for his reasons for leaving the U.S.). But much respect to him for living up to the phrase "Je suis Charlie" in the most accurate way possible.

Do read the whole thing

Late addition before publishing:

Apparently, the cartoon has been released: