Link’n’Blogs – 12.2.16 – Love is the Answer


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I loved Lincoln Logs when I was a kid. Though I never entertained the idea that I would be a designer, engineer or architect, something about putting together these wooden and plastic pieces was simply simple fun. Connecting to ideas through the blogosphere seems similar to this pursuit, hence the title of this weekly post. Each Friday, I intend to post something interesting I’ve read out there on the internets. Hopefully others will find these posts as thought provoking as I have.

It feels like a strange world these days… a topsy-turvy world. In the midst of motion, it is often good to ground ourselves in truth. Greg Boyle, SJ, knows just where to find it as this post from Millennial illustrates.

Love is the Answer

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The 2016 Denver Broncos – Week Thirteen: Denver @ Jacksonville


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Denver Broncos @ Jacksonville Jaguars

Sunday, December 4, 2016

 broncs-jags

BACKGROUND

Chiefs Broncos FootballAre we in must win territory?

 

If the playoffs started today, the 7 – 4 Broncos would be home watching them, unable to mount a defense of their Super Bowl win. Ouch.

Last Sunday’s loss to the Chiefs was a heartbreaker on a number of levels. Though I know it was arguably the best game of the NFL season (or 3 of the best quarters of the season – the 2nd half and overtime), going into it, it was clear that the loser of the tilt would have an uphill climb making the playoffs and an almost impossible task winning the division.

So here we are. The Broncos need to beat the Jaguars this Sunday. Period. They must win 4 of their next 5 to remain in the playoff mix and this game looks to be the easiest 1 to take. Drop this game, and we truly might be looking to next season with 4 more to play.

KEY MATCH UP

bortlesThe Broncos defense showed up and played big for about 55 minutes last Sunday. Then they wilted. Inexplicably. They wilted against a Chiefs offense that has been pedestrian at best over the course of the last few weeks. They allowed 14 points in the 4th quarter and overtime. Of all the stunning things that happened last Sunday, this has to be the most stunning.

The Jaguars have an good offense. I think. They certainly have players who are talented. The Denver defense must shut them down. Take them out of the game. Give them no reason to believe they can go toe-to-toe with them.

An early turnover would help mightily.

 X-FACTOR

lynchWho is going to play quarterback for the Broncos? As I write this, it sounds like Paxton Lynch may be starting both this week and next, so significant is the injury to Trevor Siemian’s foot. How does that change things? Coming off one of Siemian’s best games as a professional, the Broncos had to be feeling pretty good about the offense. Now with his loss (and the loss of full back Andy Janovich), the offense looks like a question mark.

Again.

 

 PREDICTION

keep-calmThe Broncos must have this game. They must find a way, with all the noise and distraction and attention, to win it in the early time slot on the road. I believe they will. I think the defense steps way up – perhaps provides a score – and shuts down the Jaguars. I think Paxton Lynch will look better than he did in his one start this year against the Falcons and I think the running game, even without Janovich, gets going here.

I think the Broncos take this and keep things interesting going forward.

If they lose, I won’t use the “Keep Calm” icon for the rest of the year.

  BRONCOS   24      JAGUARS  13     

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The Best Sequential Art I Read Last Week: November 23 – 29, 2016


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I am a comic book collector and happy to be one. I might say “proud” if I hadn’t, over a year ago, switched to reading digital as opposed to print comics. I feel a bit robbed of the tactile sensations of the hobby – of the turn of the page, the sneaking look to the panel a page over, the bagging and shorting and stacking and filing. Though I read my comics in a different medium than I used to, I still treat each Wednesday (comic book delivery day to specialty shops around the country) as different from the other days of the week. I subscribe and now, rather than go to the comic store to be handed the books pulled for my “Hold Slot,” I click a button on my iPad and watch them download.

Then I read them.

Rare is the week that I don’t read them all between Wednesdays and some weeks I have, well… let’s just say more comic books in my digital downloads than a grown man should. Comic book legend Will Eisner (creator of The Spirit) is one of the most influential men even to put pencil to drawing board in the pursuit of making comics. So influential was he that the industry awards (think the Oscars or the Emmys or the Grammys) are named The Eisner Awards. He called comic books “sequential art,” perhaps because he became embarrassed by his profession when he had to admit what he did for a living. This is my weekly reaction to the comics I read.

I read comics last week: Detective Comics #945, Action Comics #968, Titans #5, Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1, Star Wars #25, Wonder Woman#11, Civil War II #7 and Han Solo #5.

The best comic I read last week was Detective Comics #945.

detective-comics-945

 

When DC relaunched their comic book universe with Rebirth, the did something very cool with Detective and Action Comics: they returned both books to their original numbering. So, while the majority of DC books are in double digits (and likely to be renumbered prior to them ever reaching even issue 100), Detective and Action Comics are approaching 1000 issues. Impressive. The decision to renumber pays homage to DC’s vast and sustained publishing history and to the staying power of Batman and Superman who have been the headliners for the overwhelming majority of Detective and Action Comics respectively.

The new story arc James Tynion IV is crafting in Detective is called “The Victim Syndicate” and it is both clever and involving. The set up (surprisingly similar to the current set up on the CW’s Arrow, by-the-way) is that there has been collateral damage created in Batman’s war on crime and those victims of Batman’s initial villains have found powers of their own and have banded together to suggest that the real enemy is not Batman’s rogues gallery, but Batman himself.

While it remains to be seen if the villains themselves will have any staying power in the overall Batman mythos, the conceit is engaging. It is made all the more pertinent in the context of what Tynion has done with Detective Comics since its relaunch. He’s populated the book with Batman’s sidekicks being trained by Batwoman to fight the war on crime. They believe they’ve already lost Red Robin to the cause – they haven’t but that’s some good dramatic irony – and now the Victim Syndicate suggests to the trainees (especially to Spoiler) that the root of the issues that plague Gotham City may well be Batman himself. Nice twist.

The rotating art is a bit uneven from issue-to-issue and its particularly challenging here. Though Al Barrionuevo and Carmen Carnero do fine, their styles don’t seamlessly blend and the combination of the two is a bit off putting. They are both good, but the quality of the work is not entirely on par with the drafting of Eddy Barrows who handles many issues of the title. The inks and colors of Scott Hanna and Adriano Lucas lend some consistency, but things seem a bit off.

So it’s all the more a testament to the great story Tynion is telling that this was my favorite book of the week. And who wouldn’t like a book with actual dialogue on its cover! I’ve not see that in years!

 

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The 2016 Denver Broncos – Week Twelve: Kansas City @ Denver


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Kansas City Chiefs @ Denver Broncos

Sunday, November 27, 2016

 USP NFL: AFC WILD CARD PLAYOFF-CINCINNATI BENGALS S FBN USA TX

BACKGROUND

 

keep-calmAccording to the Broncos, the playoffs start Sunday.

I love that kind of thinking and, from what I understand (and I DON’T understand all the tie breaker scenarios), if the Broncos win their next six, they take the top seed in the AFC playoff bracket.

That would be great.

What would be more immediately great is if they beat the Chiefs Sunday night at Sports Authority Field. The Chiefs come in having surprisingly lost last week at home to the Buccaneers. They are looking to prove they are for real. The Broncos come in with much the same agenda – and they come in as healthy as they have been since Week Two.

KEY MATCH UP

talibThe Broncos get Aqib Talib back on the field Sunday night. Make no mistake, the defense (which is terrific) is better with Talib on the field. They feed off his energy and they feed off his confidence. It also allows the Broncos to be more clever in play calling and to really shut down a passing game.

The Chiefs aren’t particularly great through the air at any rate. Having to throw at Talib won’t help an Alex Smith who is struggling and doesn’t look like the quarterback he was last year.

 X-FACTOR

 

bookerThe Chiefs are a little banged up on their defensive front. The Broncos want to run the ball. The Broncos need to run the ball. The Broncos will try to run the ball.

Establish the run, and the Broncos may be able to win this game in relatively convincing fashion. Struggle in the run game and this may be a long afternoon with the outcome in doubt until the end of the game.

As the push to the playoffs, the Broncos want the ground game to perk up and dominate. I don’t think they will get away from it too quickly Sunday night no matter the score of the game.

 PREDICTION

 

siemian-happyThis game is the first of three in the division in the Broncos’ last six. They really do control their destiny in terms of winning the division and reaching the playoffs. It’s time to play their best football of the year.

Denver, coming off the Bye, will put together its most complete game of the season, limit the Chiefs passing game, control their running game and come out with a fairly impressive win.

CHIEFS  17      BRONCOS   27          

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Link’n’Blogs – 11.25.16 – Friendship and Faith


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I loved Lincoln Logs when I was a kid. Though I never entertained the idea that I would be a designer, engineer or architect, something about putting together these wooden and plastic pieces was simply simple fun. Connecting to ideas through the blogosphere seems similar to this pursuit, hence the title of this weekly post. Each Friday, I intend to post something interesting I’ve read out there on the internets. Hopefully others will find these posts as thought provoking as I have.

Sometimes we don’t know just how much we need our hearts to be warmed. Sometimes we forget that even big corporations (like Amazon) can do the warming. Watch this video and try not to be moved…

A Cup of Tea

amazon

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The Best Sequential Art I Read Last Week: November 16 – 22, 2016


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I am a comic book collector and happy to be one. I might say “proud” if I hadn’t, over a year ago, switched to reading digital as opposed to print comics. I feel a bit robbed of the tactile sensations of the hobby – of the turn of the page, the sneaking look to the panel a page over, the bagging and shorting and stacking and filing. Though I read my comics in a different medium than I used to, I still treat each Wednesday (comic book delivery day to specialty shops around the country) as different from the other days of the week. I subscribe and now, rather than go to the comic store to be handed the books pulled for my “Hold Slot,” I click a button on my iPad and watch them download.

Then I read them.

Rare is the week that I don’t read them all between Wednesdays and some weeks I have, well… let’s just say more comic books in my digital downloads than a grown man should. Comic book legend Will Eisner (creator of The Spirit) is one of the most influential men even to put pencil to drawing board in the pursuit of making comics. So influential was he that the industry awards (think the Oscars or the Emmys or the Grammys) are named The Eisner Awards. He called comic books “sequential art,” perhaps because he became embarrassed by his profession when he had to admit what he did for a living. This is my weekly reaction to the comics I read.

I read 11 comics last week: Superman # 11, Trinity #3, Nightwing #9, Spider-Man #9, Batman #11, Star Trek: Waypoint #2, Justice League #9, Amazing Spider-Man #21, Infamous Iron Man #2, Black Panther #8 and Doctor Strange #14.

The best comic I read last week was Trinity #3.

trinity-three

 

The magic continues…

Over the course of the last months, I’ve paid attention to fandom bickering about the dark DC Universe of the Zach Snyder movies and the hopeful DC Universe emerging in recent comics. As someone who has enjoyed the Snyder films and likes the direction they have taken the DC Cinematic Universe, I’ve been a bit taken aback by the vitriol aimed at them and their tone. I’ve simply seen them as a different interpretation of classic characters and the interpretation worked for me.

However, when reading Francis Manapul’s Trinity, I admit I can see validity in the critiques of the dark DC. Manapul has crafted an initial arc in Trinity which will serve to redefine the dynamic between the top three heroes of the DC Universe in the most hopeful and heroic of manners: by connecting them all the more intimately with one another. Through story machinations I won’t spoil here, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are forced to revisit the events which made them heroes – their origin stories – and they are forced to do this together. The friendship and compassion they show each other is, clearly, far more important than whatever adversary they are facing and that compassion serves to bring the three together and will likewise serve to reestablish them as the core of the DC Universe.

Remember, this Superman is an outsider – a newcomer to the Rebirth Universe – and an easy story out would be for Batman to continue his paranoid mistrust of the character and for Wonder Woman to pine for the deceased Superman of this universe – a man who was her lover. Manapul doesn’t do easy. Rather he writes a story with rich emotional resonance. It is also a reflection on what it means to be a hero, and can only be read as an intentional rebuke of the darkness that can invade comics and has invaded the DC films. Again, I like the DC films, but books like this make me realize how much more I like my heroes, well, wholly heroic.

The issue suffers a bit from fill-in artist Clay Mann’s work as opposed to Manapul’s art. Dont’ get me wrong: Mann is terrific and does a great job keeping the visual style of Manapul front-and-center in the issue, but Manapul is Manapul. However, if having as capable and artist as Mann on hand to keep Trinity shipping regularly, readers could do a lot worse. Mann is more than capable and shows some real dynamism in his work.

I said this last month – let Manapul do ALL the comics. He’s that good.

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Arrival – A Movie Review


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arrivalAmy Adams is absolutely riveting in Arrival, a fascinating and challenging movie dealing with far more than first contact with an alien species, it deals with questions of perception, memory and what it means to be human. Adams is transfixing and it is her performance that carries the film and could likewise carry her to another Academy Award nomination. One could see it for her performance alone and come away thinking “that’s a couple hours well spent.”

Controlled and restrained, the talented actor exudes depth and pathos as Louisa Banks, a brilliant linguist pressed into service when the Earth is visited by twelve shell-like spacecraft, the occupants of which inconveniently don’t speak a language anyone on the planet can recognize. Brought into the unavoidable military mission by Forest Whitaker’s Colonel Weber (Whitaker is also good, though his role is far less demanding than Adams’), Banks races against something of a doomsday clock to establish communication with the aliens in order to answer the question at the center of all alien contact movies: why are you here?

The entire opening plays out like something Michael Crichton might have devised and I love much of what Michael Crichton devised.

12 alien shell ships have come down at 12 different locations and diverse teams of military forces and scientists in each location are attempting to unlock the secrets of the crafts and their occupants. Coordinating their efforts proves difficult, however, when individual governmental concerns and local fears begin to come into play.

That’s the set up. Where screenwriters Eric Heisserer and Ted Chiang and director Dennis Villeneuve take the story from there is the payoff. Along the way, the audience sees different scenes from Banks’ life which we increasingly come to understand have far more to do with the events playing out with the first contact mission than we might initially imagined. We also meet Jeremy Renner’s Ian Donnely, a scientist paired with Banks who will consider the scientific implications of all that is being learned from the alien species.

That the film boasts actors of Adams’, Renner’s and Whitaker’s pedigree speaks to its quality. The cast takes the proceedings most seriously, and the film does, too. It does not stop to explain much to the audience, either, and does not let itself get bogged down in exposition. It expects its audience to be on its toes and succeeds in engrossing the audience, demanding the kind of intellectual engagement that is rarely asked of film goers these days. You have to be paying attention – close attention – to sort out the events of Arrival as they unfold in the life of Louisa and, even if you are paying close attention, the ending of the film will likely surprise and challenge you.

Arrival is an excellent movie, perhaps Best Picture excellent, and rivets the attention of the audience without resorting to needless action or contrived conflict.

Arrival is a not only a most powerful piece of well considered and conceived science fiction, it does something that good science fiction is able to do: it asks us to perceive ourselves in a different light. It asks us to consider ourselves in a new way. The breathtaking conclusion of the movie (which plays out without any action movie trope) leaves us asking questions about communication, memory and what connects all humanity.

That’s a pretty amazing thing for a movie to do.

ARRIVAL receives FIVE HEPTAPODS out of a possible FIVE. 

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