Junior Mad Scientist – Lab Notes

Password for “Kick-Ass and the Hopeless Stupidity of American Moviegoers”

May 10th, 2010 by Weber

think big copyright bradley weber

Here’s something you don’t see every day: a blog entry that is password protected but the writer gives away the password.


The reason is that the other post has some language and ideas that don’t exactly pass the “all ages” litmus test. It’s nothing too bad, just kind of shocking and a little more in-your-face than kids need to be reading. Adults, sure. Actually, it’s just the stuff adults should read and think about.

So, to make you responsible for your decision to read the article, it is accessible only by typing or pasting the following into the box:


This way, whoever reads it has done so actively. This way nobody can claim, “It was on my screen and I couldn’t look away in time to not have my feelings hurt.”



(p.s. — Since the next post down is password protected, there doesn’t seem to be a way for readers to add comments. If you’ve got something to say about the article, add the comments to this post. Yeah, it’s confusing, but if you’re reading this blog, you’re smart enough to figure it out. Right! bjw)

Posted in Editorials, Movies, Weridness | 1 Comment »

Protected: KICK-ASS and the Hopless Stupidity of American Moviegoers

May 10th, 2010 by Weber

[I’m warning you right now that this one has some language in it — language that, if you’re over the age of seven, you’ve probably said at least once today. And if you haven’t said it, then you’ve thought it or heard your parents say it, probably more than once today. But when they’re in print, words are suddenly different. Don’t ask me why. I’m a writer and I still don’t understand the physics of words (supposedly) having more meaning when they’re on the page. Anyway, if you’re under the age of 18 or easily offended, you’ll likely want to skip this one. Just sayin’. bjw]

Why so stupid?

There’s one in every crowd. The guy who hands you back the fast food garbage you dumped in the Home Depot parking lot. The guy who yells in the theater for you to put away your goddamned cell phone and watch the movie. The guy who whips a rock at your car because you just blew the stop sign while he was walking his kid across the street.

Like I said: There’s one in every crowd.

Usually, it’s me.


It’d been a long Sunday: the only worthwhile things being time spent with the wife and kid, pricing bookcases for the new office, and some barbeque and strange conversation at a friend’s house. After that, it was 8:30pm and I was at loose ends. The local Googolplex was showing KICK-ASS at 8:45. I snagged a twenty and headed out the door.

My cell phone and watch were left home on purpose, so I had no idea what time it was when the woman tried to sneak in with the little boy. This was right around the part where Kick-Ass first meets up with the Red Mist in the alley. The kid sits one over from me; she’s on his left. The kid is so small he’s practically swallowed by the seat.

I saw them come in, fresh from either DIARY OF A WIMPY KID or HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON. The kid was oblivious. She was furtive, clearly new at trying to get away with something and failing hard. It makes no difference who you are; we’ve all done it, all failed to be invisible. Whether it’s your first crack at theater-hopping, shoplifting porn or buying that first box of condoms, we all act the same way and it’s easy to spot.

As God as my witness, I wanted to let it go.

Not that this woman needed to be Tased for sneaking into a movie. Hell, no. Except for under–paid theater managers and over–paid studio executives, nobody gives a shit about that kind of thing because whether anybody is in the theater or not, the movie still runs. So, as long as she stayed off her phone and the kid kept his yap shut, I would count myself among the careless nobodies.

But she brought this little, little kid to this particular movie. This stupid, stupid woman, whose knowledge of the film was likely gleaned from a fast glance at the movie poster, and this kid, no doubt tripping on Mountain Dew and Twizzler Bites, who is geeked to be up past his bedtime on a school night and sneaking into a superhero movie. And who could blame him?

The thing is, I know what’s coming. I’d never read the comics, but had seen enough reviews to know how bad it would be. That I paid ten bucks to see this piece of crap is my problem, my choice. But this kid, he doesn’t have a choice, doesn’t know he has a choice. Even if he did know, he’d still vote to stay. Because it’s a superhero movie.

And I think about the people I know –– personally know –– who let their five- and six- and seven-year-olds watch SPIDER–MAN 3, THE INCREDIBLE HULK, and THE DARK KNIGHT, over and over and over. Especially THE DARK KNIGHT. Because to most parents, the line between THE INCREDIBLES and THE DARK KNIGHT doesn’t exist. Because they are superhero movies.

One of these days, I’m going hit my brakes while the wrong guy tailgates me. One of these days, I’ll tell the wrong woman “you’re welcome” when she fails to smile, make friendly eye contact, say “thank you” while I hold the door open for her. One of these days, I’m going to tell the wrong guy that if he and his buddies want to talk they should go to Denny’s –– otherwise they need to shut up and watch the movie. One of these days, I’m going to get slapped around, have a cigarette put out in my face, get stabbed. Get shot.

One of these days, I’m going to mind my own business.

I lean over the empty seat. I tell the lady, “You know this rated R, right?”

“Oh. It is?” she asks, and means it.


I turn to the kid. “Hey, pal. How old are you?”

He holds up four fingers, says he’s three. His eyes never leave the screen.

“He’s four,” she smiles.

I say, “Listen, lady. They already showed a little girl get shot in the chest by her father and it’s only going to get worse. You need to get him the hell out of here. Like, now.”

She says, “Oh,” and starts tugging a jacket on her mesmerized kid. “OK. Thanks.”

“You know the best way to thank me? Read the reviews before you take your kid to the movies. Because shit like this will fuck him up fast. Now beat it before they start having sex and chopping off heads.”

She hustled that kid out with a lot less furtive than she came in with.

One of these days, I’m going to Hell.

–– Chicago, May 2010

Posted in Editorials, Movies, Weridness | Comments Off on Protected: KICK-ASS and the Hopless Stupidity of American Moviegoers

Carbon Print Shell Game?

December 4th, 2009 by Weber

The Future Begins Tomorrow!

As anyone who reads this (IF anyone still reads this) knows, I don’t usually jump into discussions on environmental issues or politics, at least not here. But the science part of my brain couldn’t leave this alone.

Just caught a news story about Tesla Motors new +$128K roadster: “faster than a Ferrari and with zero emissions.” Nice design, looks fun to drive — and it makes that winding-dynamo buzz, so it really does sound like the future.

But here’s something I’ve been wondering for a while:

All this talk of “zero emissions” is great, but what about the emissions from the electric plants burning coal or running nuke power to juice those cars? How much more in the way of emissions will be coming out on the front end? I never hear the greenies talking about that, do you?

Has anyone read anything about the expected increases in overall power plant emissions due to ever-higher demand for electricity?

Yeah, yeah, there’s all kind of talk from people promoting solar (a pipe dream for now) or wind (too much opposition from people who think the turbine farms are ugly or that the blades kill birds) or wanting to burn high-density grasses to fuel power plants (easily renewable resource, good for the environment, etc.). Again, sounds great, very forward-thinking, etc.

(But first someone has to get the coal and oil interests to let go the free-flowing, government-subsidized teats of their respective cash cows. For the chances of that happening, see my aside re:solar power.)

So, if we’re really planning to burn grass for power, will we then be trucking those hundreds of millions of yard waste bags full of sticks, leaves, and clippings to the plants as well? If not, why not? It’s a better alternative than the landfills.

Anyway, just wondering.

Because unless we do go with solar or wind (or tidal or geothermal, which are even longer-shots than the first two), we have to burn something to power the turbines that generate electricity. That’s just how it all works. It seems like it’s just a question of what gets torched in order to power all our stuff.

Posted in Editorials, General, Science! | Comments Off on Carbon Print Shell Game?

The Great Comic Book Plague: Final

April 28th, 2008 by Weber


Time to hang this one up . . . Oh, wait.

At JMS Labs, we are very concerned with closure. Usually, it’s body bags and bio-hazard containers, but, hey, closure is closure.

To wit —

The last bit of follow-up to my April 9th post rebutting Varney’s ignore-ist approach to Frederick Wertham:
Varney’s initial post
My rebuttal and his comments
His re-direct
His inquiry and my comment (#5 and #6, respectively)

Though I’ve drafted a careful reply, I’m letting that last thought (#6) stand as my final word.

— Over at The New Republic, Douglas Wolk replies to David Hajdu’s comments regrading Wertham, comics, etc.

— Little did I know that while wrapping up my comments on the whole Wertham blow-up, comics maestro Eddie Campbell (Fate Of The Artist, The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard) was doing the same, though he’s done a way better job of following and expounding on the whole pointless mess. Read his posts from April 21st, 22nd, 25th, and 28th. Campbell’s informed analysis is well worth your time.

“God save us from some of these half-arsed historians,” indeed.


Posted in Comics, Editorials | Comments Off on The Great Comic Book Plague: Final

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of Sell-Outs

April 25th, 2008 by Weber


(click here for larger)

Anybody who’s talked to me for more than 45 seconds will tell you that I can be a pretty harsh critic. This is especially true of comic books and movies. Bring up either topic and settle in for some serious un-varnished truthifying about the sorry state of mainstream storytelling in both industries.

For years, these two have been traveling hand-in-hand down the deeply rutted road to Stupidsville, riding first-class atop bales of crisp cash, picked fresh and green from consumer pockets.

The stories these clowns have been feeding the public are tantamount to narrative fast food — a steady diet high in saturated schmaltz and saccharine full of empty promises, wasted time, and perfect for replacing mental muscle with synaptic flab.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Editorials, Movies | 8 Comments »

The Dark Knight no es sabroso

April 20th, 2008 by Weber


What’s a 16C Spanish Monarch have to do with Batman? Uhhhhh . . . .

Another new candy bar at my grocery store today: Nestle’s CARLOS V. Why every Holy Roman Emperor doesn’t have a candy bar named after him, I don’t know. Maybe they lack the same marketing engines employed by baseball players, NASCAR drivers, and other religious icons.

According to the fine people over at Candy Snob, the CARLOS V seems to be a re-release of an older confection. Why? Something to do with the packaging, perhaps????


and the zoom-shot


What’s the connection? Is there one?

Nothing I’ve read indicates Charles V was known as “El Caballero Oscuro”; his parents didn’t die in a robbery-gone-bad; nor did young Charlie develop a predilection for high-tech gadgetry and vigilante justice; all of which leaves me flummoxed how Nestle might justify tagging this candy with the ‘Dark Knight’ moniker.

Yeah, yeah, whatever. How’s the candy?


Unlike my encounter with the Big Mo’, I bought this particular ticket and took the ride. The first bite of the CARLOS V is dry and overly sweet, like Eucharist crumbles stirred in a package of Swiss Miss, but not as tasty. The second’s even worse.

At two-for-a-dollar, the CARLOS V is still a rip-off — that is unless you plan to give them to lousy neighbors or hated co-workers in the hope that bad candy will drive them the hell away from you. Then it’s a bargain.

But if you like candy and dig the chocolate/wafer combo, stick to Kit-Kats.

Posted in Editorials, Food, Weridness | Comments Off on The Dark Knight no es sabroso

Kirk vs. Cthulhu?

April 13th, 2008 by Weber


I’ve just finished reading Tales Of H.P. Lovecraft, a collection of the master’s shorter works selected and introduced by Joyce Carol Oates. (With some nice cover art by Mike Mignola, creator of the steampunk-tastic, Amazing Screw-On Head!)

Tales is a nice intro to Lovecraft’s mad and lonely world. The ten stories showcase what I imagine are some of the man’s best (and most accessible?) efforts, but also provide a Whitman’s Sampler of what has become known as The Cthulhu Mythos.

The central tenant of Lovecraft’s ‘pseudomythology’ is that Earth has been repeatedly invaded and populated over the eons by a series of alien races. In fact, “At The Mountains Of Madness,” hints that everything living here — plants, animals, humans — evolved from some ancient Elder Things’ experiments that were left to run wild.

So, if they (the Old Ones/Elder Things, Outer Gods, etc., etc.), are of outer space, and for as far and wide as the Enterprise ranged over the years, you’d think sometime, somewhere, Kirk & Co. would have come across these star-spawn, or at the very least, the degenerate remains of their home worlds.

I went looking for Star Trek/Cthulhu Mythos stories — authorized or fan fic — but my Interwebbular searches availed naught.

Has anyone written or found anything in this vein? If so, I humbly request your links. Please add them to the Comments section.

Many thanks.

( Kirk image courtesy of these nice people, Cthulhu image courtesy of this guy.)

Posted in Book Reviews, Editorials, Stories, Weridness | 3 Comments »

The Great Comic Book Plague: some follow-up

April 10th, 2008 by Weber

“I need this like another . . . Oh, wait.”
“Man, I need this like I need another . . . . Oh, wait.”

Below are a few items relevant to my April 9th post regarding the trouble with ignoring/forgetting the historicity of Frederick Wertham’s crusade against comics.:

—- Varney’s reply to my rebuttal. (I’m still considering a response.)

—- The New Republic’s ultra-cool slide show of ’50s horror comics covers. While only eight in the deck, each is a fine example of the lack of restraint publishers showed during the period. (original link via BoingBoing)

Of particular interest is the cover for Mister Mystery #12 and it’s strong use of the ‘injury-to-eye-motif’, which was a big story element in that era.

I can’t help but wonder if that particular theme/meme helped sell more comics, similar to former DC Editor Julius Schwartz’s maxim that any comic will sell better with a gorilla on its cover.

(image courtesy Greg Hyland over at LethargicLad.com)

Also —- if you’re into the whole Wertham argument, there looks to be the start of a debate between Ten-cent Plague author David Hajdu and pop culturalist and comics/graphic novel theoretician Douglas Wolk.

Click here to read Wolk’s initial volley.

Posted in Comics, Editorials | 6 Comments »

Equal Time: a rebuttal

April 9th, 2008 by Weber

(image courtesy of Dial B for Blog)

(update April 13, 2010: had do disable comments on this because of the massive amounts of spam. If you have something to say about this post or want to add to the discussion, send me an email via the ABOUT page or comment on another post and I’ll transfer it over. Thanks. bjw)

Stopped by The Church Of Shiny Objects blog the other day, just to see what my pal Varney’s been up to.

Chris turns a good phrase, lately in the service of movie reviews, sports commentary, and other pop culture consumables.

In the April 7th entry, Equal Time, Chris briefly discusses a Slate article referencing Dr. Frederick Wertham and the 1954 comic book witch trials as discussed in David Hajdu’s new book The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America.

Chris’s notes read fine until the concluding paragraph:

Wertham is well on his way to being utterly forgotten . . . . we should do nothing to slow that course from finishing itself out.

And I’m thinking that’s not such a good idea.


To quote the oft mis-quoted George Santayana: Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Never mind the inability to learn one’s history. Deliberately allowing it to be ‘utterly forgotten’ is an even surer ticket to Doomsville.

Why remember Wertham?
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Comics, Editorials | 1 Comment »

The Big Mo’: Will Gay Community Embrace NASCAR Candy Bar?

February 25th, 2008 by Weber

The Big Mo’ — A misplaced apostrophe?

Yes, these candy bars are for real. I almost tripped over a big display of them at my local grocery store.

Here’s some info from NASCAR‘s official Web site

After months of anticipation by NASCAR and chocolate fans alike, “Dale Jr.’s Big Mo’ ” chocolate bar is now on shelves at most major food retailers nationwide.

The Big Mo’ was created specifically for NASCAR’s mega star driver through the R.M. Palmer Company. The name Big Mo’ is a play off Earnhardt Jr.’s hometown of Mooresville, N.C., and the longtime moniker used for he and his closest friends, the Dirty Mo’ Posse.

Weighing in at an impressive 2.5 ounces for only 99 cents, the king-size, quality milk chocolate bar is available with either creamy caramel or peanut butter filling. Creating the exclusive recipe of the Big Mo’ bar included numerous taste-tests by Earnhardt Jr., and was tailored to please his palate

The King Size Mo’ is made by R.M. Palmer, the company responsible for a fat lot of the chocolate goodies you’ll be shoveling into your gaping maw this Easter — right on the heels of the fat lot of chocolate goodies you shoveled in during Valentine’s day.

As one business site puts it: R.M. Palmer probably produces more chocolate bunnies than anyone in the United States.

Good to know.

But what’s really going on here?
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Editorials, Food, Weridness | 9 Comments »

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