Check out UberFriendship’s first in our new video review series REVIEWBER.
How well do we really know our friends?
Imagine that we only spent a minute every day with every single one of our friends. I have 389 Facebook friends. The one minute friendship would consume about 6 and a half hour every day. Simply staying in touch with every single Facebook friend would be a 45+ hour workweek for me. If friendship is magic, one minute friendships are a full-time job.
Some food for thought.
It seems that the older I get the further I fall behind the cool pop culture stories of the day. Maybe I’ve just reached my capacity as far as interests go. Or maybe I’m just running out of free time and I’ve got a backlog. Whatever the reason is, I have only just got around to reading Ultimate Comics Spider-Man. Unfortunately, because of Marvel’s tendency to rebrand the Ultimate line every other week, that statement doesn’t really clarify what I’m reading. Allow me to explain.
The Ultimate line of comics was a reboot of the Marvel universe. Its premise was simple – What if the Marvel stories you know and love happened in the 2000s instead of the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s or whatever? They started off small and were incredibly successful at adapting previous material, but streamlining it and modernizing it. This proved very popular as the stories were good, and you didn’t need to understand 50 years of continuity to appreciate it. The regular Marvel Universe caught on to this and started to distance itself from slavishly following continuity in favor of just telling good stories. So, the Ultimate universe needed to do something to stand out again. What they decided to do was make changes that could never happen in the regular books.
The most successful change (arguably, the only successful change) was to kill off Peter Parker and introduce a new Spider-Man. The premise might seem familiar – a smart, shy teenager is bitten by an altered spider and given super powers. But, this boy is named Miles Morales, he’s 13, and he’s half-black and half-latino. This was a pretty groundbreaking change as there aren’t many mainstream superheroes you aren’t incredibly white. Certainly not many who have pajamas with their likeness on them.
This storyline started in 2011 (hence my little “behind the times” rant at the beginning) but I’ve now read the first three trades and I can honestly say it’s great. There are a bunch of very deep characters who are established quickly. Miles, his best friend Ganke, and Miles’ uncle Aaron are particularly well done. The uncle is actually a high tech burglar named The Prowler. The name and costume come from a Spider-Man ally in the original Marvel universe, but Uncle Aaron is a lot less sympathetic. They have a great relationship and it makes for an exciting and surprising read.
The other thing that struck me about these stories was the introduction of Scorpion to the Ultimate universe. There had been one previously, but it was a weird Peter Parker clone and was only around for a few issues. This one is a huge gangster with a chain that has a large hook on the end. Look, he’s not the most exciting super villain, but it’s a great twist on the Scorpion character.
My one complaint with the series thus far, though, is the United We Stand crossover. Just as the series is hitting its pace, it gets dragged into this boring storyline about Hydra trying to take over the United States. Captain America rallies the troops, and Spider-Man joins up, but it just feels like a speed bump in an otherwise great story.
All right, so that’s my take on this new twist on a classic character. If you liked Ultimate Spider-Man before but sort of got lost in the myriad relaunches, give it another shot with young Miles Morales behind the mask.
Graham Becksted is slowly getting through is “to read” pile. He is also the author of Graham’s Grumbles, the second blog by that name that is listed in Google results when you search for Graham’s Grumbles. If you would like to be his 95th follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.
It’s time for my traditional end of the year countdown of the albums I listened to most in the past 12 months according to last.fm. Once again, I must confess to not knowing anything about music. Because of that, I can’t really explain why I liked these albums very clearly. That being said, I’ll give it my best shot.
1. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires
I love this band to death. I see them live whenever possible, and instantly adored their first two albums. This third one took a bit more work. Their last two albums were like bottled fun, and this one felt darker. I think that might contribute to why this had the most listens – I was waiting for that click to happen. You know, that moment when the album you just didn’t get suddenly works for you. It took awhile, but it did finally happen with this one. It’s just as good as the first two albums, but maybe needs to be in a different category. Here’s the first single:
2. Lumineers – Lumineers
One of many albums that I came to just a little late. This was on a lot of best of lists from last year, and I guess that’s why I picked it up. I’m so-so on the whole folk-resurgence thing. I picked up the first Mumford and Sons album and played it until I kind of hated it. This one has definitely stuck with me more. It’s incredibly charming, and whenever I listen to it, I envision being at some huge foot stomping shindig in a barn and drinking moonshine. As Ho Hey has been played to death in every TV show, commercial, and movie trailer, I’ve decided to pick a somewhat less well known track:
3. Fun. – Some Nights
As mentioned above – late to the party. This band was huge in 2012, and I only got the album this past year. But, wow, did I listen to it a lot. I ended up listening to this and the Lumineers while reading The Shining, and unfortunately it’s made both of them a little unsettling to listen to. That being said, the fun quotient on this album gets me past it. Incredibly original, and an album where just about every track could have been a hit. If you’ve only heard the singles, I offer you the song It Gets Better. It’s one of those songs that I hated the first time I heard it, and now it’s my favorite track.
4. Regina Spektor – What We Saw from the Cheap Seats
One more to round out my big in 2012 trilogy. This is her sixth album, but the first that I’ve heard. And damn, is it good. Really interesting production, especially since it’s so simple. I should confess that I’m a sucker for lady singer-songwriters (see She & Him, Kate Nash, Lily Allen.) Regina tops the list right now, though. The song that I chose for this list is Oh Marcello which is one of those songs that I could probably play on loop for hours and never get tired of it.
5. July Talk – July Talk
I’m cheating with this one. They’re not technically my next most listened to album of the year, but I only got it a couple of weeks ago and it’s already pretty high on the list. They are a local Toronto band, but I first heard them on YouTube ads. They also happen to be amazing. They sound sort of like Tom Waits joined Paramore. The highest praise I can offer for them is that I would see them live in a second. They sound like the sort of band that would leave everything on the stage, and you would leave the show covered in your sweat and theirs.
The Pogues – The Very Best of The Pogues
This album didn’t make the list because I listen to it at work on YouTube, so Last.Fm doesn’t track it. But, my god is this band amazing! Whenever I listen to them, I can’t help but imagine an alcohol drenched show where everyone sings along until their voices give out.
Others – Elliott Smith – Either/Or, Ben Gibbard – Former Lives, Franz Ferdinand – Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Actions, Airborne Toxic Event – Such Hot Blood
Graham Becksted is wishing you a happy new year. He is also the author of Graham’s Grumbles, the second blog by that name that is listed in Google results when you search for Graham’s Grumbles. If you would like to be his 94th follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.
New years resolutions are like a giant bowl of poutine. At first it seems like a great idea. But then halfway into it, you realize that you really aren’t going to finish what you started.
For example, let’s look at people who sign up for gym memberships in January. Statistically, most people who sign up in January will stop going to the gym by February. Their New Year’s resolution will probably fail. I’m just trying to keep it real here. If real life was like Dragonball Z, I’d be telling Krillin that he should just stay at home. That’s just the way it is…
Let me be the first on UberFriendship to welcome you all to 2014.
2013 on this here site saw many a post from our regular contributors The Glenn and Graham. It saw our British corespondent Matt Jones make a trip all the way to Toronto from his mother land of jolly ol’ England.
But what about video? Well, it’s no secret that there was a lack in that content this past year, but we did begin developing some new content.
Yet, the proof is in the pudding, and this ain’t no pistachio pudding, I’m talking about the 2014 Pudding!
So keep an eye out for new content. I won’t say exactly when, I suck at promises (and hell, I’d love to have new things weekly), but if a New Years Resolution is anything to stand by, 2014 should at the very least be an interesting year.
So Toronto kind of looks like the picture above right now. Everything is encased in ice: cars, sidewalks, stairs, roads, and trees. The frozen trees are the biggest problem because many of the branches are falling off due to the sheer weight of the ice. Some of the branches land on roads and create obstacles. Some of them have landed on power lines around Toronto, causing blackouts everywhere. Many areas currently still don’t have power. Driving around at night without working street lights is pretty surreal and eerie.
I’ve had to learn how to get all the ice off my car. The easiest way is to break enough ice to get in, start the engine, and let the car heat up. Eventually the ice will melt a bit and will break off easily. I learned the hard way not to whack the car too hard to try to smash the ice off. There are subtle shallow dents all over my car now. Oops.
The second thing I’ve learned is that life is boring with the Internet. I’ve had to go two days without it. Withdrawal sucks. I spend a ridiculously large chunk of my life in front of the computer on the Internet. I’m not sure what to do without it. I don’t know when I became addicted but it wasn’t always like this. The Internet used to suck. I first started using the Internet on dial-up and there was no Youtube. And there simply wasn’t such a huge amount of interesting and useful information that you can quickly find with Google, because people weren’t as serious about building websites and Google didn’t exist yet. Slowly, the Internet has morphed into this thing where the incredibly useful and legitimate uses for it (e.g. email, learning how to do things, looking up information, etc.) are a gateway drug. It now offers many ways of wasting time: games, entertainment, viral videos, creeping your friends on Facebook, etc. etc. In any case, I’m glad my Internet is back. Now I can enjoy my holidays.
I have a feeling that I’m a little bit late to the game on this one, but it’s something that’s been bugging me lately so I thought I should get it off of my chest. I’m tired of best of lists. Not all of them, mind you, just ones that are presented as definitive. If it’s presented as one person’s opinion, I don’t have a problem with it. Especially if it’s different. I find that a lot of professional reviewers tend to follow the pack. Not the general public pack, but the reviewer pack. A Big Mac may be the most popular food in the country, but it will never end up on a best food list.
I once heard an interesting fact about judges of sporting events. Any judge who’s scoring is significantly different from the rest of the panel will not be hired again. I feel like movie reviewers are the same way. With the sports judges, I kind of get it. There are certain things that have to be accomplished in certain ways to get points. With movies, though, it is subjective. Or at least it’s supposed to be.
Let’s take this year for example. I took a look at the best movie of the year lists by critics from three well known publications: AO Scott from the New York Times, Richard Corliss from Time Magazine, and Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly. Two put out top ten lists, and one put out a top 9. Out of a possible 29 movies, 4 appeared on two out of the three lists, and 2 appeared on all three. Now this was just a sampling. The more critics I add to this list, the fewer new entries there are. If I add The Atlantic’s top ten of 2013, only three of their picks wouldn’t be doubles, triples, or quadruples of what these three listed.
To me, this is astonishing. I don’t know about you, but if I’m in a room with four of my friends we have a hard enough time trying to pick one movie to watch. If we wrote down our top ten favorite movies of the year, I don’t think there would be much overlap. I think, though, that if we tried to make a list of what critics would think were the ten best movies of 2013 we would all end up with similar lists.
Maybe that’s just it. Maybe critics are all desperately trying to fit in with each other, so they just try and like movies that they think all their critic buddies will like. I mean, that would explain why Citizen Kane ends up as the best film of all time on lists. Most recently, it topped Entertainment Weekly’s list of best films of all time. Sight and Sound does a poll of movie people every ten years, and Citizen Kane came out as it’s number one movie every decade until this one when it ended up in second.
I don’t see how a movie from 70 years ago can still be hailed as the best of all time so unanimously unless it is as simple as critics following the herd. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a fine movie. I went to school for Radio and Television Arts, so I know how important it was to the development of cinema and camera technique. But I definitely don’t think it’s the greatest movie of all time.
I honestly believe that if reviewers had to watch and review films in a void, without ever hearing what other critics think, we’d have much different lists. Obviously, that’s not possible, but I think reviewers should keep it in mind when they do their work. It will lead to more interesting reviews, and more interesting conversations between reviewers.
Graham Becksted is critical of critics. He is also the author of Graham’s Grumbles, the second blog by that name that is listed in Google results when you search for Graham’s Grumbles. If you would like to be his 94th follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.
I don’t read the newspaper daily. If something really important is going on in the world, I will probably hear about it through friends or random people on the Internet. Of course, this means that I live in my own special bubble where I get most of my news from Facebook. The biggest news story of 2013 was Rob Ford, the crack-smoking mayor of Toronto.
(If you don’t live in Toronto, Jon Steward has a good overview of Toronto’s mayor.)
Oddly enough, Facebook is perhaps the best implementation of personalized news. If a Steam sale is about to happen, I’ll probably know about it. I don’t believe that the Toronto Star has ever reported a Steam sale; searching the site for the phrase doesn’t return any results.
As far as the quality of journalism goes, traditional news outlets are ok. However, thanks to the Internet, I can do my own research on news that interests me. I often find that certain types of stories are constantly misrepresented.
- Many news outlets describe the TTC’s next-generation streetcars as accessible. They are not.
- Many news outlets portray First Nation leaders as corrupt, overpaid, and incompetent. I find this incredibly racist as these claims are misleading in many cases. The reality is more complex. Their financial problems are largely due to underfunding (which is kind of racist because white communities are rarely underfunded) and not because band leaders wasted or misspent the money. Many news outlets will suggest that a particular First Nations community governs itself, which is usually not true. Their band finances are often controlled by government bureaucrats with six figure salaries.
- The media will sometimes portray “high-frequency trading” as an evil perpetuated by Wall Street. While there is a degree of truth to these stories, it kind of misses the point. The real problem is that most financial exchanges give special trading advantages to market makers. These market makers then use these special advantages to rip off investors. Most financial exchanges are basically selling out their real clients (the investors) to market makers; the exchanges and market makers are working together to skim money from investors. This form of skimming has been happening for decades before high-speed computer systems became one of the tools.
Traditional media has done a poor job of explaining how the skimming works and has glossed over the root of the problem: the conflicts of interests between brokers and their customers.
While I sometimes read the newspaper offline or online, I don’t do it on a daily basis. I’m ok with not knowing everything that goes on in the world. I don’t need to know about every hurricane or mass shooting or the latest gossip on Kim Kardashian. And if I do want to know about something specific going on in the world, I am probably better off doing my own research.
So here are my current obsessions.
#1 – Chrono Trigger + Jay-Z combined together like some giant megazord
A rapper/producer/retail associate named 2 Mello has put together an awesome mash-up for Jay-Z versus the soundtrack to Chrono Trigger. You can find it at:
This song is way too catchy.