Month: February 2016

What if there was an election and nobody won?

Guys, if I can briefly distract your attention from the ongoing flaming six-train pileup that is the US elections I need you to take a look at what’s happening in Ireland right now.

What’s happening in Ireland?

We had an election, and nobody won.

What? How is that even possible? Did nobody vote?

On the contrary, turnout this election was a very healthy 60%, down from 2011 but still high for a country where voting isn’t mandatory.

So what’s the problem?

Okay, a little background. Ireland elects the Dáil (our parliament) with the Proportional Representation: Single Transferable Vote. It’s the system that most accurately reflects the views of voters and using it makes the Dáil one of the most democratic legislatures in the world. Compare that to our upper house, the Seanad, which isn’t even fully elected and is probably the least democratic legislature in the developed world. Ireland: A land of contrasts. Basically in PR:STV you are allowed to not simply vote for your favourite candidate but to rank all the candidates in order of preference. This allows people to vote for smaller parties that better align with their politics without worrying that their vote will help parties they disagree with (think, being able to vote for Nader without worrying that you’re helping Bush to win).

That sounds super complicated.

It’s really not. You put a 1 by your favourite candidate, a 2 by your second and so on. Easy peasy.

No, I didn’t mean the voting, I meant the counting the vote.

That is SUPER complicated, yes. It’s a Lovecraftian, nightmare inducing madness but hey, I just vote so it’s not my problem. Although if you’re interested, this video explains the whole process better than I ever could.

So what happened?

The people cast their ballot and at the end the vote looked like this:

Election

Holy shit that’s a lot of parties. What am I even looking at?

Okay, so the blue bar at the top is Fine Gael, currently in government in coalition with the Labour party (the lighter red bar). Second down is Fianna Fáil who’ve been the party of government for most of Ireland’s history but were banished to the land of ghosts and shadows in the 2011 election because the 2008 crash happened on their watch. They’ve bounced back in a huge way this election because apparently a quarter of the country suffered some kind of head trauma that effects medium term memory. The bright patriotic green guys three rows down are Sinn Féin who are ABSOLUTELY NOT AFFILIATED WITH THE I.R.A. IN ANY WAY AND NEVER HAVE BEEN.

Wink

And below them? That big long black 13%? The independents, just ordinary men and women without even a party who managed to collectively come in fourth over all.

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Thor_poster

“You think me strange? Good strange, or bad strange?”

First dates are essentially scams. You sit down to dinner with someone you don’t know, and try to pretend that you’re someone else. Someone charming, and succesful, and definitely not into doing weird things with fish. No sir. Not you. The second and third dates are more or less the same. But by the time the fourth date rolls around you need to start being honest. That’s where you take your date on a long walk and say “Look. I really like you. I like where this is going. But if we’re going to have something together I’m going to have to tell you just how much of a freak I actually am.”
“This. This is me. This is what I get up to.”

“This. This is me. This is what I get up to.”

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has essentially been a long, meticulous romancing of the mainstream. Thor is the part of the relationship where Marvel finally says “I’m glad you like the snarky businessman in the robot suit and the scientist who turns into a green monster. Now here’s where we get nuts.” As a title, The Mighty Thor has always been an unapologetically melodramatic, ridiculous, camp, epic, nonsensical, glorious, mess. In short, it is one of the purest comic books ever written. It’s huge men with long flowing hair and fabulous capes yelling cod-Shakespearean insults at each other and not understanding the difference between “thee” and “thou”.
It, quite simply, does not give a fuck.
But first, a little history.
The character of Thor was created early in the first millennium by the Germanic peoples inhabiting what is now Scandinavia. Some stuff happened. Then, in 1962, the character was introduced into the Marvel universe by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby in the pages of Tales to Astonish. There’s a little bit of confusion as to who actually came up with the idea (aside from the ancient Vikings, I mean). Stan Lee claims that the idea came to him when he realised that the only way to create a character stronger than the Hulk would be to make him a god, and that rather than go with the more well-known Greek or Roman deities he decided to delve into Norse mythology.
Meanwhile, Cúchulainn sits on the damn shelf.

Meanwhile, Cúchulainn sits on the damn shelf.

Jack Kirby, on the other hand, claims that he created the character because of his love of Norse mythology and to be honest, I think the evidence is on Kirby’s side. Kirby had already created not one but two versions of Thor for DC in the golden age, so he clearly had an interest in the character. Not only that, but “comic book characters as post-industrial mythology” was kind of Jack Kirby’s whole deal. Thor’s sales have never exactly set the world on fire but this is nonetheless a character with some serious cred. There are many who consider Lee and Kirby’s run on the character the finest work of either men in the sixties (damn high praise) and he’s also had some celebrated runs, none greater than Walt Simonson’s glorious, batshit insane epic in the eighties.
This is normally the part of the review where I would say “we do not speak of the Frog of Thunder” but even this was AWESOME.

This is normally the part of the review where I would say “we do not speak of the Frog of Thunder” but even this was AWESOME.

He’s also been a  very consistent presence in the Marvel universe, showing up in almost everyone else’s books at one time or another and, if there’s a team of Avengers that Thor’s not on, it’s probably only because he’s dead again. He’s always been one of the company’s “faces”, one of their most visible and iconic characters. And yet, Thor has always struggled outside of comics. His live action appearances before 2011 was just a single episode of The Incredible Hulk, and he hasn’t headlined his own cartoon series since the frickin’ sixties (compare that to Spider-man, who gets a new cartoon show every time Stan Lee sneezes). Same Raimi originally pitched a Thor movie to Marvel all the way back in 1990 and from there it was dropped, picked up again, briefly re-conceived as a TV show starring Tyler Mane before bouncing to Sony, then to Paramount before finally arriving back at Marvel. The decision to nominate Kenneth Branagh to direct was surprising but also kind of inspired. Branagh is famous as an interpreter of Shakespeare for the masses, and Stan Lee is of course one of the biggest Shakespeare fanboys out there.
He made Falstaff into a superhero, people.

He made Falstaff into a superhero, people.

Branagh was the perfect candidate to make the overblown, melodramatic bluster of Thor work for a mainstream audience.  Just, for the love of God, don’t subject yourself to his commentary on the DVD.
"The director's an ass."

“The director’s an ass.”

Marvel knew going in that compared to Iron Man and Hulk, this movie was the real test. This is where they’d learn if a mainstream audience could really accept all the comic book nuttiness they were about to bring. It was time to see if this relationship had legs.
Blucatt ad

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MERCH!

My friends, the day at last has come when I cast off the lodestone of artistic credibility that I have carried on my shoulders for so long, and embrace the glorious freedom of unbridled capitalism.
I am selling out, and it feels so GOOD.
“Only capital can deliver freedom and prosperity to the working class!”

“But Mouse, what about your dedication to the eternal revolution!?”

“Only capital can deliver freedom and prosperity to the working class!”

“Only capital can deliver freedom and prosperity to the working class!”

“NYEEEEEEEET!”

“NYEEEEEEEET!”

I’ve partnered with the good folks at Ekki Ekki to bring you the Unshaved Mouse online store! Hoodies, mugs, T-shirts and more! We’ve got it all at the Unshaved Mouse store! That’s not our motto, simply a statement of fact. Simply go to the store, select a design, item (T-shirt, hoody, sweatshirt, tank top, mug or phone case) and colour and it’ll be printed to order and shipped straight to you.
What designs? At the moment we’ve got Unshaved Mouse, Spouse of Mouse, Mini-Mouse, Baby Mouse, Unscrupulous Mouse and BluCatt with hopefully more to come.
What better gift for your significant other/child/past self/evil doppelganger/mysterious foe who turned out to be Don Bluth in the end? It’s your only option really.
Mouse out!
Iron_Man_2_poster

“Like all guilty men, you try to rewrite your history…”

I’m still feeling my way around reviewing these Marvel movies. I was thinking that, when I review the first movie featuring a hero I’ll give you some history and overview of that specific character, and when the time comes to review the sequel I might take a look at their rogues gallery and what their villains say about that particular hero. Problem: Iron Man has quite possibly the worst rogues gallery of any major superhero. Notoriously so. Legendarily so. If you were to make a chart of superheroes by the quality of their rogues’ gallery it would be Batman at the top, closely followed by Spider-man and the Fantastic Four, then respectable mid-carders like Captain America and Superman and then waaaaaaaaaaaay way down at the bottom Iron Man and Wonder Woman are hanging out and getting sloshed on Ouzo. Yeah, yeah, no such thing as bad characters, only bad writers. True as far as it goes. Any villain, no matter how lame, can be made compelling with the right scribe working on them.
Some, however, take more heavy lifting than others.

Some, admittedly, take more heavy lifting than others.

But Iron Man’s villains probably require more heavy lifting than probably any other hero’s. Even Tony’s arch-nemesis, The Mandarin, while certainly a cool villain, doesn’t really have that much that sets him apart from similar bad guys like Doctor Doom or Baron Mordo other than the fact that in his early days he looked like Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Oh sixties.

Oh sixties.

As for the rest, they were mostly just an interchangeable series of commies in robot armour and rival industrialists. I mean hell, when the time came to find a villain for Iron Man 2, they actually just slapped two of them together. Ivan Vanko is a mishmash of Whiplash and the Crimson Dynamo. And nobody even cared. Think about that for a minute. Can you imagine if they did a Batman movie and they just merged the characters of Joker and the Penguin into one guy and called him the Penker? My God, the fans would skin them alive and hang their carcasses in the online forums as a warning to others. That’s how lame Iron Man’s rogues gallery is. Not even Iron Man fans care enough to get mad about changes to the source material.  But, did it work? Were they able to reverse Iron Man’s traditionally awful luck with villains? Will our hero triumph over the Penker? Let’s find out! Right after these messages.

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