If I Wrote Spider-Man 4

Spider-Man 4 B

If I had written Spider-Man 3, it would have ended with a few unresolved cliffhangers. Spider-Man and Mary Jane are worried because Harry Osborn is on the loose as the new Green Goblin. They’re unaware that Eddie Brock, a suicidal Daily Bugle photographer who hates Peter Parker, has become the new Venom. And it would’ve been filmed back to back with Spider-Man 4.

These were my musings as college student who enjoyed the hell out of Spider-Man 2, but figured if they were going to do the alien costume saga and the Harry Osborn Green Goblin saga, they needed it to be at least two movies.

Before Spider-Man could deal with the other bad guys, he’d investigate the disappearance of Professor Curt Connors. This would lead to an encounter the Lizard. He might be interrupted by Martha Connors, who would reveal that her husband has been transformed into the monster.

Spider-Man tries to develop a cure for the Lizard, and hunt him down. The battle between Spider-Man & The Lizard is broken up by an attack by the Harry Osborn Green Goblin. Spider-Man allows the Lizard to escape, rather than risk the Green Goblin killing him.

After Spider-Man cleared his name, Flash Thompson has become a big fan of Spider-Man.

The Green Goblin abducts Mary Jane, and brings her to the Brooklyn Bridge. She believes so he could finish the job that his father was unable to finish. He reveals that it’s to prove that he would never hurt her, no matter what goes on between him & Spider-Man, similar to the opening of Spectacular Spider-Man #200.

Spider-Man 4 A

Venom ambushes Spider-Man, and leaves him for dead under hundreds of tons of wreckage, before deciding to replace Spider-Man as a superhero.

Mary Jane has to cover for the missing Peter.

Venom brutally beats on the Black Cat, who is trying to be a hero like Spider-Man.

Mary Jane confronts Harry, who claims to know nothing of Peter’s disappearance.

While searching for Peter, Mary Jane is accosted by thugs. She is rescued by someone she thinks is Spider-Man, but it’s really Venom, echoing her encounter with Kraven in Kraven’s Last Hunt. The experience scares her. When she gets home, Eddie Brock is there.

Eddie Brock convinces Mary Jane that he, and Peter were good friends, and misleads her as to why Peter’s gone missing. He claims that his reason for getting fired from the Bugle was that he knows who the Green Goblin was. He uses the alien costume’s memories, and brief meeting with Aunt May to enhance the illusion. He decides to claim that Jon Jameson is actually Venom.

Lizard

The Lizard slowly heals, plotting a violent revenge against the mammals, with his ability to control all of the reptiles.

A very angry and injured Spider-Man crawls out of the wreckage after being buried for days.

He confronts Venom, telling MJ to run. Venom evades him, leaving Spider-Man in a position where he has an enemy who knows his secret identity and has his powers.

Needing help, Spider-Man goes after the Harry Osborn Green Goblin, since he still needs to fight the Lizard and to cure Venom.

Green Goblin 2 confronts Spider-Man. Spider-Man asks for help against his enemies. At this point, they both have power and responsibility.

 

 

Green Goblin MJ

 

Harry decides to help Spider-Man against Venom. Harry and Venom both die.

Mary Jane is heartbroken. Spider-Man is devastated, but he pushes his feelings aside to find the Lizard, and cure him. That inspires him to keep at it.

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Reforming Middle School

this-teacher-welcomed-her-students-back-to-school-with-an-incredible-harry-potter-themed-classroom

This was an item I wrote a few years back for a class in my Education Masters program. It was a response to an article suggesting a reform in how middle school classes work, so that teacher teams would work together with the individual classes, rather than adopting a rigid schedule.

Beane’s view of curriculum has a few advantages. A focus on the schedule of projects/ activities rather than blocks for subjects can be very effective, allowing for greater flexibility with lesson length and educational strategies. Activities wouldn’t have to fit into 40 minute blocks, where much of the time is spent getting kids from one class to another.

He gives several reasons it’s going to be difficult to implement, although he may even understate the potential conflicts with parents. I’ve been convinced recently that the most controversial topic in American society is the appropriate ways to educate children, so any attempt at change is going to result in significant pushback. Parents and other voters could agree that something has to be done, but would be worried that the new developments are even worse. It seems unlikely that everything will be an improvement. Parents might like the idea in theory that we’ll have a better understanding of what works after years of practice with a new system, but they really won’t like the idea that their kids are the practice, the ones that might encounter new strategies that don’t work.

Another issue is that serious reform requires time and hard work. During the time when teachers and administrators try to figure out the ideal curriculum, someone is going to have to teach the students. The simplest thing from a lawmaker’s point of view is to insist that teachers and administrators do more work while transitioning from one system to another. That’s going to have obvious pushback in a profession that is already overworked. An alternative would be to pay teachers and administrators for their participation in the overhaul of the system of education at a pivotal period in a child’s life, which requires raising the budget. It makes sense to hire more people during a period in which there will be significantly more work, but it’s not clear what should happen to them afterwards, when less employees are needed. Teachers who specialize in one subject will presumably require more training to teach other classes. These logistics have to be figured out.

I would be interested in working in an Interdisciplinary team in the future. My only experience was a student. In Middle School, I stayed with the same group of students for three years, with a mostly Separate Subject approach, although I’m sure the teachers worked together to a degree. My High School had an interesting Humanities program that freshman could opt into. A History teacher and English teacher worked together so that as we learned about a particular historical period, we read material from that time. I think it was more effective than the normal approach. It ended up being two classes full of students, limited to 60 kids. I don’t know if it could be expanded to Math and Science, as these were two subjects that fit well together.

I could anticipate opportunities and pitfalls for teachers. In a grade of 300 students, assuming an average class size of 30 students, it might be advantageous to have ten different programs, allowing students to go with the one that works the best. That said, there might be more flexibility if students weren’t tied to one program, so that they didn’t always have the same class. Determining how students belong in a particular program can also be problematic. My Middle School had determined where I would be in eighth grade with a combination of a fifth grade test, and a handful of preferences (Do I want to learn Spanish or Italian? Do I like Art Appreciation?) That approach seemed to combine the disadvantages of Separate-Subject with the inflexibility of Integrated Curriculum.

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Throwback Thursday: Chris Christie As An Independent

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I found this in the drafts section from a few years back. It’s pretty clear things have gone in a different direction.

Here’s what I wrote then…

In a shameless bit of link bait, Joe Concha of Mediaite suggested Chris Christie could run for President as an Independent in 2016.

It’s very unlikely, but he could be a strong Independent candidate.

It requires a rare set of circumstances, including both parties nominating candidates who are either extreme or uninspiring. It would also help if a presidential nominee has a major gaffe, although the people talented enough to win presidential nominations tend not to say factually incorrect things about rape and pregnancy to interviewers.

Americans Elect showed that there can be a network in place for a strong independent candidate. 2012 wasn’t the year for that since Obama and Romney were close enough to the center, at least as far as voters were concerned, but also appealing enough to the base to avoid a strong challenge from the far-left or the far-right.

Christie is far more likely to run as a Republican, as there’s more of a precedent for that as a way to win the presidency. He has a strong chance of winning the primary in 2016 (especially if Rubio, Cruz, Ryan, Rand Paul and others split the more conservative vote) but he could also remain in contention for some time, in a party that has often later rewarded also-rans.

It’s quite unlikely, but it is worth noting that organizations like Americans Elect could help a top-tier third party candidate get on the ballot in every state, which negates some of the institutional difficulties. 2012 wasn’t really the year for a third-party centrist as Romney and Obama were closer to the center than many within the party, but not so far from the base as to inspire a significant challenger from the extremes. There may be an opening for a nationally known centrist if the two parties nominate candidates who aren’t particularly inspiring to Independents (in terms of political positions or charisma.)

So let’s assume Republicans nominate Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, and Democrats nominate Governor Martin O’Malley of Maryland. Ted Cruz chooses North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory (whose public issue statements were more conservative than any other Republican Governor, according to Nate Silver) as his running mate. Martin O’Malley chooses North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp as his running mate.

Chris Christie chooses billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates of Washington as his running mate. In 2008, McCain wanted his campaign to consider out of the box choices like Bill Gates for Veep. Christie’s choices do seem limited, as he would otherwise have to pick among Independent-minded Republicans (which could make it even easier to split the right-leaning vote) and Independent-minded Democrats (can’t think of any who might leave the party.) But a Bill Gates would allow him to argue an ability to change politics as usual.

Three person campaigns are quite unpredictable. It is worth noting just how insane the 1992 presidential election was, the last time an independent got more than fifteen percent. The uncumbent President whose party had won the previous three presidential elections got less than 38 percent of the vote. As a cautionary tale for Independents, Ross Perot got zero electoral votes despite winning 18.9% of the vote. Although he did run a chaotic campaign.

Looking back at this now, I got some stuff wrong. I really overestimated Americans Elect, which didn’t focus on the presidential election. The 2016 election demonstrated further difficulties with independent campaigns. Trump showed that it’s easier to win a major party nomination, and that in a situation in which the major party nominees are unpopular, voters are more compelled to vote for the lesser of two evils. Political institutions will have similar limits, backing the chosen candidate of their party.

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Learning From Schools in Other Countries

school divide

This was something I wrote for a class on multiculturalism in education, based on an article from the anthology Annual Editions- Education.

The main idea of this article is the need for those involved in education in the United States to learn about how other countries educate students, and how to incorporate those techniques and strategies here, in order to have a sufficient number of young people capable of participating in a global economy.

Three important facts the author uses to support the main idea are…

  •  The United States has a greater percentage of students who fail to reach grade standards than many other countries (32% of US 8th graders are proficient in Math compared to 50% of Canadian students and 60% of Finnish and Korean students.)
  • Singapore and Korea have a high bar for those entering the teaching profession, with many more applicants than positions.
  • Canada provides more funding for religious schools, offering parents more choices.

I’ve read about comparisons between American educational systems and those of other countries in numerous places. It comes up often in newspapers, and newsmagazines. Several textbooks have mentioned specific strategies implemented in other countries. The criticism that American education programs focus more on policy and sociological issues than on how to teach isn’t contradicted by what I’ve learned in other classes, or by the Annual Editions table of contents.

I do agree with much of the article. Education is no longer local. We need students to be able to move from one school to another without great difficulty, and we need to ensure that a diploma from one state is valid in another, given the number of students who go to out of state colleges. There are tremendous benefits to learning what works in other countries, even if there are certain techniques (Singapore’s solution to students who misbehave comes to mind) that are unlikely to be implemented in the United States.

The article is light on the difference between the multicultural United States and smaller countries with more homogeneous populations like Finland. That’s limited to a bullet point that suggests the need for higher standards, but is vague on details of what that means in a different system. The focus on meeting national standards is something that will affect every teacher, as it’s a big part of their lesson plans. If teaching is more prestigious, it can result in some teachers losing their jobs. One advantage of all these changes is that there are more national resources available than ever before, which provides more methods of educating the young.

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An off-putting subtext of Tomorrowland

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Tomorrowland was one of the big flops of the summer last year, and a quite interesting movie.

There are some arguments about how it’s underrated. Matt Looker of gameradar had some insights on the message that we can make a better future for ourselves.

This is the kind of moral lesson that would usually have our eyes rolling out of our heads. But Bird and Lindelof articulate a very potent message of creativity, hard work and hope, and only the most cynical of viewers – those that feed the bad wolf, if you will – can scoff at that.

It’s undeniably impressive too that Tomorrowland gets this idea across in what is a rollicking adventure, and that the action sequences are as inventive as the ideals it advocates.

Tomorrowland is about greatness, and something that could bother critics is the subtext about how the people who make the film are also great. Which may be true, but people don’t want to be reminded of it.

Director Brad Bird made three great animated films with The Iron Giant, The Incredibles and Ratatouiee. He is a great talent. As is writer Damon Lindelof, who has Lost and The Leftovers on his resume.

If the subtext is that the people making the film are great men, it turns their critics into the people who stood in the way of greatness. And that’s something they can’t abide.

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The Four Major Curriculum Styles

Simpsons school chaos

This was something I wrote for my class on Multiculturalism in Education in response to an article that summarized the four main curriculum styles: Linear Thinkers, Holists, Laissez-Faire advocates and critical theorists. Author Donna Miller’s takeaway is that teachers should be aware of these different ways of thinking, and how it influences their preferences.

Relevant facts mentioned in the article include that

  • Linear thinkers prefer order and efficiency, which extends to fiscal matters. Standards and procedures are valued under this school of thought, which is reflected in many aspects of the standard school experience (schedules, examinations), as well as the utilization of Bloom’s taxonomy.
  • Holists believe that student interest should drive the learning experience, with teachers modifying lessons accordingly. They focus on emotional and creative components, as well as the intellectual.
  • Laissez-faire suggests a “participatory democracy” where students are given access to material and texts that allow them to pursue their own interests.
  • Critical theorists guide students for leadership positions outside the school, with an emphasis on exploring social justice.

I’m fairly new to Education. The classes I’ve had have prepared me more for the linear thinking model, developing a greater understanding of Bloom’s taxonomy and lesson planning. Several theorists from the Holist and Laissez-faire models have also come up in my reading.

Since Common Core is obviously the result of a linear thinking model, it’s fortunate that it reflects my priorities the most. A major part of my political philosophy is using the public purse as efficiently as possible, and I believe it’s important for children living in different areas to have a similar quality of education, as many will be working together and going to college together. There is something enticing about critical theory, and it does fit my interest in looking at the world in counter-intuitive ways. I have deep concerns about it, as I’m worried that many students aren’t sufficiently prepared to be critical about the person telling them to be critical of authority. There are key questions that have to be addressed: Who determines the understanding of the world that children should have? What are the correct interpretations of debates people have had for centuries?

parking lot full question authority

During the summer, I co-taught a tenth grade ELA course. One of my struggles was determining what the students needed to learn, since a few of the Common Core requirements were rather vague, and covered material I wasn’t prepared for (IE- lexile bands.)  In other courses, at least there’s a better understanding of the ideal material. A science teacher knows what to cover in Biology, and what to cover in Chemistry, but these divisions aren’t as clear with English courses.

The High School I went to had an interesting compromise between the Linear Thinker and Holist model. The majority of courses were mandatory, which had the advantage of ensuring a consistent education. In addition, every student had to pick among various elective classes. That allowed the students to explore areas where they were interested, and many of those programs offered more opportunities for freedom to act.

Many of the criticisms of education do result in disagreements among adherents of various philosophies. I’m interested in the idea of the Western Canon, and how it can be used to ensure that students have similar frames of reference when they enter the adult world. A linear thinking model would ensure that most students cover the same material. The Holist model would allow teachers more flexibility to pick texts that would interest their students, while the Laissez-Faire model might leave it up to the individual students[1]. A critical theorist model would question how the canon was assembled, and why various texts were excluded.

Some of the shortcomings of the educational experience don’t really fall into any of these categories. For example, empirical evidence suggests that it’s better for teenagers to wake up later in the day, so that a 10-5 schedule is likely better than an 8-3. But we still have an 8-3 schedule. It’s a reminder that there are other forces determining education philosophy than the different views of the educators.

[1] It just occurred to me that this assignment fits a laissez-faire model with the students in the course selecting the reading they want to do. Ideally, they would use it to select the text that would teach them the most.

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Wizard’s Greatest Comic Book Moments Part 2

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In 1998, Wizard published a list of the “greatest moments in comic books.” Peter David wrote about their selections for Comic Book Buyer’s Guide, and later reposted the article on his website.

He didn’t care for the way the list ignored comics before 1979.

In the September 1998 issue, now on sale (with three different covers, yet), the Wizard staff “picks the 25 most memorable moments in comics history.” If the article were titled “25 most memorable moments to us” or “25 most memorable moments in comics that came out since we were born,” there would be no problem. But the article purports to cover “comics history.” The Wizard staff “set about picking and choosing the 25 most memorable comics moments,” which is defined as moments that are “so vivid, so surprising, so shocking that they are forever etched in your memory.”

A laudable goal. Could be interesting. Since we’re discussing “in comics history,” that’s a lot to consider.

Except apparently—it’s not.

Because of the 25 moments selected by the Wizard staff, only two occurred before 1979.

Let me say that again:

Of the 25 most memorable moments in comics history, according to the Wizard staff, only two occurred before 1979. In case you’re interested, one of them was the death of Gwen Stacy, and the other was the death of Uncle Ben, both in Amazing Spider-Man.

To summarize this article in a way that can quickly and cleanly be considered, in order to put it into its proper perspective: Judging by the staff’s picks, we must conclude that, apparently, Jack Kirby never drew a single incredibly memorable moment in all of comics history.

There are some factors in Wizard‘s defense. At that point, the trade paperback market was just kicking off, so many notable classic comics were not available in that form, which meant individual moments were less likely to be selected, and that there was less likely to be agreement among multiple staffers on the merits of a classic scene. Many of the big moments in Wizard’s list played on established characters, or subverting expectations in the form. That required longer stories that weren’t the norm before 1979. In addition, it’s difficult to assess how groundbreaking a moment from a comic in 1961 might be, if the thing that was once refreshing had become the norm. In the context of comics from 1969, a junkie’s overdose is shocking in a mainstream superhero comic, but it doesn’t have that effect to anyone who read Vertigo. A particular heroic sacrifice by a bystander in a superhero story may be moving, but it isn’t objectively better than another.

That said, there was no excuse for Wizard neglecting the opening of Amazing Spider-Man #33.

Green Lantern Green Arrow skins lecture

A later entry would include more of his selections for great moments.

9. The confrontation between the elderly black guy and Green Lantern (Green Lantern/Green Arrow #76). If the creation of Hal Jordan as Green Lantern was one of the defining moments of the Silver Age, this sequence (and retitling of the book) was the redefinition. Green Lantern, who had concentrated his adventures and will-powered ring on matters of mostly cosmic scale, suddenly found himself confronted by a guy who kind of looked like Joe Seneca.

The unnamed elderly black man said that he had heard tell that GL worked for “the blue skins,” and had done considerable things for beings of other assorted hues, but what had he done “for the black skins. Answer me that, Mr. Green Lantern.” A letter writer in a subsequent issue opined that Hal should have replied, “I saved your entire world a half a dozen times, now sod off,” and in real life, he just might have. Maybe even should have.

But the point of the moment was that Hal was becoming so involved with matters of cosmic importance that he had totally lost sight of social difficulties and problems right here on planet earth. Granted, there’s a disturbing side to this logic: It’s exactly the same school of thought that leads short-sighted critics to be opposed to the space program. In this instance, though, it was probably worth it since it lead to a memorable series of stories as GL took a long, hard look at himself, found himself wanting, and wound up going on a road trip with Green Arrow and an incognito Guardian of OA.

You know, they could probably do this comic now as a movie: Make Green Lantern black and cast Danny Glover, have Mel Gibson as Green Arrow, Joe Pesci as the Guardian—you got yourself a film.

10. The cover of Action Comics #1. I know it’s not a story—but it’s a moment nonetheless. Imagine what it must have been like, being a kid and seeing this incredible imagery. A man in a blue and red costume with a cape, lifting a car over his head with no more difficulty than you might lift a baseball, preparing to toss the auto at scattering thieves. Proof that it’s a memorable moment? Not only is it immediately leaping to your mind right now as I describe it, with crystal clarity, but it’s one of the most imitated and “homaged” covers.

It was a comic so memorable that it launched an entire damned genre, for crying out loud: the comic book superhero. (Yes, yes, I know, the Phantom predated him, but even the Ghost Who Walks couldn’t bench-press a Buick.)

He later wondered if there was an ahistoricism among comic fans. This is something that may have changed in the intervening twenty (yikes!) years, and might be the same. Classic material is now more available than ever before, although there are enough readers who won’t care for it, due to stylistic developments (the focus on cinematic comics) and demographic changes (plenty of readers want female and minority characters to be as important to a narrative as straight white males and that won’t always happen in comics written for teenage boys in the 60s, 70s and 80s.)

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