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Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Modern Epic

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It occurred to me after drawing this that's it's basically a summary of The End of History.


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WorldMaker
18 hours ago
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The secret identity was inside us this whole time
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jlvanderzwan
16 hours ago
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Just one more way in which Superman/Clark Kent changed storytelling I guess

Every Hug in Avengers: Infinity War, Ranked

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bucky and cap in Avengers: Infinity War

Very little makes my fangirl heart happier than superheroes hugging each other.

It doesn’t matter if the hug is romantic or platonic, or even if it’s a sad hug instead of happy one; I’m a fan of seeing comic book characters giving and seeking emotional support, and hugging, specifically, is an act of warmth and kindness that can bring more humanity and depth to larger-than-life personalities. Call me a softie, but people embracing one another is such a common gesture for greetings and reassurance that when it’s absent from character interactions, onscreen relationships can start to feel a bit stiff and lacking to me.

So, imagine my delight when Avengers: Infinity War gave us FIVE hugs in its two and a half hour runtime—yes, five. In the midst of huge stakes, wild action, and quite a few somber moments, this movie was still able to squeeze in a handful of solid hugs.

This is how it should be.

Beyond fangirling, these moments serve as great reminders, for viewers of all ages, that our personal connections are our greatest strength—and that this is true even for people with extraordinary abilities.

Here, I’m ranking all five hugs based on emotional impact and character enthusiasm. Please join me on this quest of feels.

black widow and War Machine hug

5. Rhodey and Natasha

To start things off, let me be clear that there are no losers on this list. Every hug is a good hug! But this particular one is also easily the least memorable in the movie—I had honestly forgotten about it until I rewatched. Still, it’s a happy little hug between two friends who haven’t seen each other (or, presumably, communicated at all) in a quite a while.

This hug occurs just after Natasha, Steve, and Sam arrive at Rhodey’s lab with Wanda and Vision in tow. As the group greets Rhodey, Natasha steps forward and happily embraces him. Blink and you could miss it, but I love that it was included, since it makes the scene and their greeting feel that much more personal and realistic.

In a movie with only one or two hugs, this one might have been more of a standout, but in this case, we have four more to go! So, respectively, this hug gets a 5/10.

Bucky and Steve hug in Avengers: Infinity War

4. Steve and Bucky

I was pretty excited for all the Stucky shippers when this greeting played out, only to later discover that many of them apparently found it far too brief and casual  … which, you know, I can kind of understand. I mean, I’m pretty neutral on this ship, but everyone knows these two love each other.

The directors did confirm that they approached this greeting as though the two had already interacted in the time since Bucky’s recovery in Wakanda—which strikes me as a good move, since it’s hard to imagine Steve postponing their reunion for any reason. So, while a more dramatic “at long last” embrace might have worked well, here, the current tone does make sense in context. (And I’m confident that fanfic writers are filling in the gaps!)

As it stands, this hug serves to put their friendship in quick context, while also becoming somewhat heartbreaking in retrospect: Since Bucky is one of many characters who dissolve at the end of the movie, this becomes their last-ever hug (as far as they know). It’s probably not a stretch to say that Steve also wishes it had lasted a little longer, in hindsight. (Am I right, shippers?) If the results of the snap are undone in next summer’s sequel as so many fans expect, I’d wager we’ll see another hug—and a much less casual one, next time.

Looking at the current, final hug on its own, I’m calling it a 7/10.

young gamora hugging her mom in Avengers: Infinity War

3. Young Gamora and her mother

As heartbreaking as it is to consider all Thanos stole from Gamora by invading her homeworld of Zen-Whoberi, I was genuinely excited to catch a glimpse of her planet and gain some new insight into her backstory. This tender moment with little Gamora, held tightly in her mother’s arms as they hide from the chaos outside, reveals Gamora’s final memories of her life before Thanos appointed himself as her adoptive father.

The tragic scene on Zen-Whoberi is also one of many reasons my mind is boggled by fans who try to assert that Thanos’s actions and goals are even partially justified. We plainly see a child ripped away from her loving mother, who is then mercilessly executed along with half of the planet’s population. The scope of the grief and psychological damage Thanos leaves in his wake is unimaginable—no end goal could ever be defensible at such a high price. For anyone out there still hanging onto that “devil’s advocate” position, I invite you to visualize how Gamora might react if you said it to her face.

What’s more, hugs between mothers and daughters are something I’d love to see more often in all genres of film, but maybe especially in sci-fi. Altogether, I’m giving it an 8/10.

spider-man dying in Avengers: Infinity War

2. Tony and Peter Parker

Yes, we’ve arrived at the film’s most distressing hug. This, of course, comes during the post-snap scene on Titan, which nearly everyone can quote by now: “Mr. Stark, I don’t feel so good.” The directors confirmed that Peter’s Spider-sense allows him to feel the effects of the dissolve earlier than others, and as it takes hold, he throws himself against Tony. Helpless to save him and undoubtedly in shock, Tony holds him for a moment before easing him down onto the rocky terrain, where Peter turns to dust.

It might seem odd not to rank this hug as #1 given its likely place in MCU history as the most gut-wrenching embrace of all time. But in that same vein, I actually think the shock and sadness of Peter’s death (and Tom Holland’s heartbreaking monologue) somewhat override the impact of the panicked hug, by itself. Still, I’m giving this extremely sad hug a 9.5/10.

bruce tony hug avengers infinity war

1. Bruce and Tony

In my super official Hug Scoring Book, Bruce totally takes the gold for the way he doesn’t hold back in throwing his arms around Tony and leaning into the embrace. (I also just really want to end on a happy hug, alright?)

Not only has Bruce missed his close friend, but it’s a pretty surefire bet that he’s relieved to finally be back on Earth after his (mis)adventures in Thor: Ragnarok. Tony is understandably stunned, sparing a disbelieving glance at an equally speechless Pepper as he returns the hug. Fans have been waiting for Tony and Bruce to reunite since the Hulk went off the grid at the end of the previous Avengers installment, Age of Ultron—their geeky friendship was a major strong point in that otherwise messy movie—and now we finally have science bros bro-ing once more!

On top of all that, Bruce knows that he’s going to have to deliver the worst news his friend has ever heard, which is a shitty way to make a comeback—so it’s sort of an apologetic, happy, and reassurance-seeking hug all at the same time. For his part, Tony finally has confirmation that Bruce is still alive after he vanished without a trace.

This is the type of hug fangirl dreams are made of! Before anyone asks: No, I’m not wearing shipper goggles here, either—I just can’t help but adore this moment since their greeting could have played out with no hug, and that might have seemed appropriate, with Doctor Strange practically muttering “tick, tock” nearby. But given this established friendship, the hug is just so much better. It has the added bonus of making us laugh a little, both at Bruce’s characteristic awkwardness and Tony’s bewildered reaction, before they get into the heavy stuff. 10/10, flawless hug!

Although this rollercoaster of a film blessed us with several hugs, I think there was room for even more—particularly with such an enormous cast of heroes! In a movie that featured multiple romantic relationships, I’m actually surprised that we didn’t get a genuine embrace between any of the established couples—kisses, yes, but no full-on hugs. There’s nothing lesser about platonic/friendship hugs, of course, and this movie really delivers for mushy hug-loving softies like me.

Looking to the uncertain future of the MCU, with so many unanswered questions and lives lost, one thing remains certain: There could never be too many hugs in any given film. The sequel could be titled Avengers: Infinity Hugs and open with a massive group hug including all the surviving Avengers, and I’d be on cloud nine.

Which of the Infinity War hugs carried the most weight for you? Every fan’s takeaway is different, so let me know how you’d rank them in the comments!

Alicia Kania is a writer and publishing professional based in Dallas. Frequently seen fangirling, reading sci-fi novels, and taking photos of her cat. Follow her on Twitter at @aliciaofearth.

(images: Marvel Entertainment)

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WorldMaker
4 days ago
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I had not realized I needed these hugs ranked, but here we are. Also, Avengers: Infinity Hugs is a platonic ideal of a title for A4.
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Offering a more progressive definition of freedom

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Pete Buttigieg is the mayor of South Bend, Indiana. He is a progressive Democrat, Rhodes scholar, served a tour of duty in Afghanistan during his time as mayor, and is openly gay. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Buttigieg talked about the need for progressives to recast concepts that conservatives have traditionally “owned” — like freedom, family, and patriotism — in more progressive terms.

You’ll hear me talk all the time about freedom. Because I think there is a failure on our side if we allow conservatives to monopolize the idea of freedom — especially now that they’ve produced an authoritarian president. But what actually gives people freedom in their lives? The most profound freedoms of my everyday existence have been safeguarded by progressive policies, mostly. The freedom to marry who I choose, for one, but also the freedom that comes with paved roads and stop lights. Freedom from some obscure regulation is so much more abstract. But that’s the freedom that conservatism has now come down to.

Or think about the idea of family, in the context of everyday life. It’s one thing to talk about family values as a theme, or a wedge — but what’s it actually like to have a family? Your family does better if you get a fair wage, if there’s good public education, if there’s good health care when you need it. These things intuitively make sense, but we’re out of practice talking about them.

I also think we need to talk about a different kind of patriotism: a fidelity to American greatness in its truest sense. You think about this as a local official, of course, but a truly great country is made of great communities. What makes a country great isn’t chauvinism. It’s the kinds of lives you enable people to lead. I think about wastewater management as freedom. If a resident of our city doesn’t have to give it a second thought, she’s freer.

Clean drinking water is freedom. Good public education is freedom. Universal healthcare is freedom. Fair wages are freedom. Policing by consent is freedom. Gun control is freedom. Fighting climate change is freedom. A non-punitive criminal justice system is freedom. Affirmative action is freedom. Decriminalizing poverty is freedom. Easy & secure voting is freedom. This is an idea of freedom I can get behind.

Tags: language   Pete Buttigieg   politics
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WorldMaker
19 days ago
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Don't Think of an Elephant. Words have power and progressives do need to stop ceding them.
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18 days ago
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samuel
19 days ago
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The Haight in San Francisco
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satadru
13 days ago
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FDR talked about this in his "Four Freedoms" speech. And let's not forget that "freedoms" and "rights" have long been interchangeable. The problem with discussing rights & freedoms is that they're just aspirational without enabling legislation and structures.

And yes, freedoms and rights in this context have LONG been owned by progressives. Look at the UDHR, or at the various human rights conventions thereafter. Look at what they cover, and what they do NOT cover. For instance, the convention on women doesn't include talking about violence against women...
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lousyd
18 days ago
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Some of that stuff isn't freedom. And the word freedom is being used in multiple conflicting ways.
jhamill
18 days ago
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I endorse this idea of freedom.
California

The Gamification of Rhetoric

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I posted a thought earlier on Twitter today and I’ll repost it here in non-tweet form:

It’s really frustrating to me that more people don’t understand that racist/alt-right people have gamified their rhetoric; they’re not interested in discussion, they’re slapping down cards from a “Debate: The Gathering” stack, and the only goal is taking heads.

They gamify their rhetoric because essentially this shit is a low-stake game for them, whereas for other people it’s their actual lives. That’s an advantage they have. If they lose, they shuffle their cards and go on to the next thing. If others lose, their life takes a hit.

And because their rhetorical strategy is essentially card-based, actual knowledge of issues is unimportant and probably a hinderance. They don’t want or need to understand the issues that affect others, they just need you to play their game so they can win.

I don’t have time anymore to diddle about with children who think other people’s lives are some sort of turn-based game, especially when all they want is to hurt other people. And it bothers me more people, especially those with power, don’t understand this shit.

I’m not going to tell people not to engage with these chuckleheads. But don’t engage with them on their terms. Engage with them on your own. One, they hate that, and two, it exposes what they’re doing as a pointless, hateful exercise, and them as awful people.

In sum: Understand what these folks are doing. Refuse to play along. And if you choose, point out to others the hollowness of their game. Because their “game” is to hurt other people, and then go on to the next target. Their game is other people’s lives.

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WorldMaker
43 days ago
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Also, gamified rhetoric is easier to automate, easier to scale, than honest/empathic/actual debate. You aren't going to get far in most FPSes if you spend so much time on individual one-on-one matches and ignoring the vast scale of the mob surrounding you. Get to higher ground first if you are going to snipe; learn when you sometimes should bring an automatic weapon to a large scale battle.
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44 days ago
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The Real Villain of Ready Player One Is James Halliday and You Cannot Convince Me Otherwise

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halliday ready player one villain

Ready Player One takes place in the year 2045, at a time when, thanks to overpopulation, environmental destruction and the like, most of the world’s activities have moved into virtual reality–specifically into something called The Oasis, created by the brilliant yet obsessive and controlling supervillain James Halliday.

Except Halliday isn’t actually supposed to be a villain. And I find that super weird.

In both the book and the movie (and don’t worry, there are no spoilers for either beyond basic plot and what you might see in the trailer), Halliday is a reclusive, narcissistic supergenius. He’s created a virtual universe on which the entire world is dependent. And in doing so, he’s able to have an incredible amount of control not just over people’s behavior, but their interests. Halliday loved 80s pop culture, so the world must love 80s pop culture.

After Halliday’s death, he reveals that he’s hidden keys to a puzzle throughout the Oasis, and the only way to find them, and to win the immense fortune and control over the virtual world itself, is to know the most about Halliday’s life and the things he enjoyed. An interest in pop culture turns from an aesthetic to a necessity and ostensibly the only way to obtain a better life for oneself. In the year 2045, one man has forced the world to live like it’s 1992, for the sole reason that that was what he liked. Sure, you could choose not to share Halliday’s interests, but The Oasis–the place where all your friends and family spend all of their time because the real world has turned into a cesspit–is built around an 80s aesthetic. And if you want those trillions of dollars, you have no choice but to spend your life immersed in that culture.

Halliday’s insistence that the whole world play his games and share his specific interests isn’t quite at the level of, say Robert Daly of Black Mirror’s USS Callister, or that kid from The Twilight Zone that sends his dad to a cornfield, but it’s not that far off. Halliday had no patience for or understanding of anyone who doesn’t share his love of Tron and Akira. In the book at least (I can’t remember if this is mentioned in the film), he would fire employees who didn’t share his extensive knowledge of the pop culture of decades past.

Oh, and in true supervillain fashion, much of his obsession and arrested emotional development is tied to his unreciprocated feelings for a woman.

Yet it’s Nolan Sorrento, the head of IOI, who’s the book and movie’s villain. And let’s be clear: he is. He literally kills people in his quest to own the Oasis. I’m not rooting for the evil corporation here. But to our hero Wade Watts, Sorrento’s real crimes seem to be less about the murdering and more about how little he cares about Halliday’s references. Rather than spending his life memorizing Fast Times at Ridgemont High and WarGames, he’s employed armies of gunters to play for him, and we are just supposed to accept that this is a form of cheating, and is unforgivable. In this world, your ability to spot references is a moral signifier and the worst thing a person can do is to not truly care about the fandom, but instead want access to the world’s most valuable commodity.

How dare he.

(image: Warner Bros.)

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WorldMaker
162 days ago
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I have been saying this since I read the book. My semi-pro opinion is that the economy and game design in Oasis are incredibly broken, micro-transacted to hell and back, and stuck to major rentiers enabled by draconian copyright laws, with the only "user content" simply reconfigured bits of nickel-and-dimed monopolist parts. The dystopia outside Oasis is the same dystopia inside Oasis and strongly correlated if not 100% causality linked. Andrew Ryan's Rapture was less effective than Halliday's accidental Bond villain.
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Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Burial Ground

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Some of them are trapped in a ghostly cycle, forever arguing on twitter.

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Just 1.5 weeks until BAHFest Houston and tickets are selling fast!

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WorldMaker
224 days ago
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Too real. 👻
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