Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Tag Team: Steve and Brenna on superheroes, Star Wars and no coffee

To rip-off the disclaimer for Bill Simmons' BS Report, Tag Team is a free flowing discussion between two adults that sometimes touches on mature subjects. Back in the day, I used to teach URI 101, which is where I initially met Brenna McCabe. She then started working for the Cigar, and later became its editor-in-chief, three years after I did. She is also insane about puppies and coffee.

Want to do your own Tag Team with me? Send me an e-mail ( or leave a comment.


Steve says: First off, I have no clue what the freak your e-mail acronym is. BCabe M? Really? Was Brenna.McCabe taken? Or BMcCabe? Or McCabeBrenna? I expect a bit more out of you!

Second, let's get down to this superhero discussion. I still haven't seen either Hulk movie because I've heard conflicting things about both of the recent versions. The older one, the one released around 2000, is apparently too talky, while the newer one with Edward Norton is just a generic action movie, which I'm also not into.

It always amazes me how Hollywood can manage to screw up superhero franchises. The two worst I've seen are Catwoman and Elektra, and especially Elektra. The movie that spawned it - Daredevil - was pretty decent, but Elektra was pretty horrible. I watched it with someone who was a huge Alias fan, who owned practically everything Jennifer Garner had ever done on DVD, and she still fell asleep. I stayed awake, but mostly because it was so bad I cringed in a lot of parts.

If we're talking about good superhero movies, I think Iron Man, the Batman Begins series and the first two Spiderman movies are on the upper tier, and in roughly that order as well. In the next tier, I think there are a lot of serviceable films: the first two X-Men movies, Daredevil, Spawn, Spiderman 3. And in the bottom tier, there is a lot of cheesy stuff that is kind of worth watching, like X-Men 3.


Brenna says: Greenwell, you'd be surprised how many folks have (or I guess are strangely obsessed with) my name. Bcabem is first class stuff. It's also the only name that made sense and wasn't taken.

But let's get to the meat of this - for the past couple of weeks, I've been plagued by movie posters and trailers of the upcoming Hulk movie. You're absolutely right about Hollywood - It is astounding how many writers and directors have managed to butcher the Incredible Hulk franchise (this includes the hilariously bad TV show from the late '70s starring Lou Ferrigno), and the new movie, though I have an incredible (no pun intended) respect for the talent of Edward Norton, looks no different than the last one.

This movie, much like its predecessor, seems centered around the love story of Bruce Banner and Betty Ross. I think Marvel was going for a revamp similar to the revival of the Batman movies in Christian Bale, with an edgier look and better talent. The difference here is that the writer and director got in touch with the darker roots of the Batman comics -- namely the period of revival in the 1970s and 1980s when the strips took on the "grim avenger of the night" mantra.

But The Incredible Hulk doesn't look like it's going to do much for Marvel lovers, except for maybe giving a slight boost to Banner's character, formerly played by Eric Bana. (Which was one of the bleakest performances I've ever seen in a superhero movie ... almost worse than what's-his-face in Superman Returns. Cringe.)

As far as I can see, the movie doesn't even get into The Avengers or any of the cool villains that surface in the actual comic, which are the best parts of Hulk's story anyway!

I think the latest Batman movies still stand as the best superhero films of late, though I also have a strong attachment for the non-traditional V for Vendetta and the original Star Wars trilogy - I don't know if you count Luke Skywalker as a traditional superhero, but he might as well be. Mmmm, Mark Hamil.

Speaking of Star Wars, I recently happened upon "Wookieepidia," the official Star Wars wikia. Do you know what this means? This means I can FINALLY win arguments concerning the definition of a parsec, which in case you were wondering is equal to 3.26 light years. And...

"By real world definition a parsec is 360×60×60/2π Astronomical Units (AU). It is a measurement of distance based on apparent stellar motion as observed from Earth. Since the Galactic Standard "AU" would be based on Coruscant's orbit (368 days) it would equal 150,349,907,726 meters. This makes a Galactic Standard parsec equal 31,011,894,586,294,500 meters. Note, that it is also possible that the Coruscant Day, Hour, etc. are 0.75 percent shorter than Earth's, in which case the AU and parsec would be the same length as Earth's. Earth has a year 365.2424 days long and an AU of 149,597,870,691 meters. This makes an Earth based parsec equal 30,856,775,813,057,300 meters."

Ha! And now that I've gotten lost in the valley of Geekville, ne'er to return until I find a good GPS and some stellar caffeine adjustments, I leave you with this: I was venturing on YouTube last night and discovered the latest cartoon version of the X-Men, X-Men Evolution. Have you seen this poppycock!? Thirty-somethings are complaining about how all kids want to do is play on the computer instead of going outside and beating up other children on the playground like they're supposed to, but do you know what the real downfall of society is going to be? I'll tell you, Greenwell. It's poor-quality cartoons. How are kids supposed to function properly in society if they have no models to look up to?

X-Men Evolution is just some of the basic characters (Cyclops, Jean Grey, Wolverine & Storm) mixed in with some new ones (Shadowcat? Come on, man) ... as teenagers. In high school. It's the Gossip Girl version of a superhero TV series. Sure, there was some drama on the old series. But it was more about the fight and the philosophy, not about Jean Grey trying to score some cartoon hottie on the football field to make Scott jealous. Thoughts? Concerns? A strongly-worded letter to Marvel?


Steve said: I had forgotten that there is a lot of down time when you're being a writing coach at the Cigar. Whoops! See, if I had done this earlier, you would have had time to reply to it tonight. As is, I'm not sure if that will happen.

Speaking of being a writing coach, how do you like it? I realize you're only a couple months removed, but so was I when I started. It was a weird mix of happiness and melancholy for me; I kind of felt like I was backtracking a bit.

I really haven't seen any of the Hulk content; I just don't find him that compelling of a character. His whole motivation is based on rage and emotion, and his only "power" is actual brute force strength. With alternatives like Wolverine out there, I think he's a kind of boring character. He's like Superman to me with less spectacularness.

I also don't consider V For Vendetta a real "superhero" movie. It's mostly about a political struggle, except that one guy wears a mask and cape and ladies love him. Like, seriously - I bet female fans of that movie outnumber males 2 to 1. If I was teaching a literature class, I might consider showing it at the end of a unit on 1984 as an example of the dangers of complete authoritarian control, but I found the movie kind of... muddled.

On the whole, I think Star Wars is more like space drama than superhero, but Luke Skywalker is so underrated! I was arguing with another friend who I won't name fully - Let's call her A. Meyer. Ehhh, wait, make that Amanda M. Anyway, she's not into Luke Skywalker or Matt Fox's character on Lost, Jack, because they're too boring and heroic. I would angrily chastise her (more than I do) for this folly, except that pretty much everyone loves Han Solo in Star Wars.

You know what I say? FEH! That role is so cool that pretty much any actor could have played it. Luke has to make tougher decisions in the movies, and deal with more emotionally trying situations, so I'll always skew toward endorsing him.

I have seen portions of X-Men Evolution, and it really is... just... awful. I think it takes place in an "alternate" Marvel Universe, but I have no idea why they feel the need to do that. You have decades of great, high-selling comic books. Why would you then insist on using storylines aimed at stupid teenagers? Make them come up to you!

It's a sin I think journalism is guilty of too. Since the 1970s, most papers seem obsessed with becoming more like TV news - immediate, less investigative, less enterprise, less of an emphasis on WRITING. People sometimes throw The New York Times at me when I say that, except that the actual writing in that kind of stinks – they just use bigger words. Most of it is still mind-numbing to actually read. I think some of the best work out there now is being done by places like Slate, Rolling Stone and The New Yorker, and journalism novelists, like Malcolm Gladwell and Michael Lewis.


Brenna said:
Days and days and days later...

Sorry for responding so late, Greenwell. I've been very busy being important & working the early morning shift at a shitty part-time job (like all famous writers have started out doing). But I'm here, and I'm ready to rock the blogosphere.

I can't stop rhyming lately and I have no idea why.

My rhymes are so potent / That in this small segment / I made allllllll the ladies in the first two rows pregnant.
-Flight of the Conchords

Thank Allah for New Zealand!

All right, I'm stalling.

Let's start with the Cigar. The writing coach gig went well, but I know what you mean about backtracking. I'll admit it - all the warm, fuzzy Cigar feelings came back full force within the first five minutes of stepping into the room. The Reno 911: Miami poster, the photo pass board, the picture of Keith Cothran mid-alleyoop on the sports department board ...

I didn't realize I was so attached to posters until just now. But it was a great feeling to be back even though Lindsay Lorenz, the new chief, rearranged all the tables and my old office is no longer plastered with Patriots and Celtics schedules, and puppy posters. Seeing my young bucks take the lead as news editors was also a treat, though I felt oddly removed from everything at the same time. But these things take time, Greenwell. All things must come to an end.

Kind of like The Amazing Spiderman. There have been rumors that there is going to be three more Spiderman movies coming out, but what's even more disturbing is that there is a Broadway musical slated for 2010. And Bono from US has taken it upon himself to write the score. This is more abhorrent than shocking, seeing as U2 is one of the biggest musical sellouts of all-time. They're the kind of band that rides on their earlier musical masterpieces (“Sunday Bloody Sunday” and pretty much anything from The Joshua Tree) and thinks it's OK to produce crap like “Vertigo” because they can get away with it. (Although that song is still a guilty pleasure of mine because iut's so catchy.)

So now Bono is trying to do the same with Spiderman, one of my favorite superheroes of all time. And why? Who knows. Maybe he's insecure about his own sellout status so he has to pick on a comic book character that can't fight for his own dignity. No one's going to spin Bono up in a web and hang him from the Empire State building for this. Moreover, I'm too curious and too much of a Spiderman fan to simply IGNORE the musical, so I have to at least see it!

It's just like with the last three Star Wars movies... God knows they should have never been made, but they're part of the story. So I HAD to see them. I'm “that guy” that has to finish the goddamn book, even if I start picturing a hundred different ways to kill the author. Read Twilight and you'll know what I mean.

You know George Lucas is going to make three more Star Wars movies. You know he's going to do it. It's definitely going to be the Luke / Mara Jade storyline from the Star Wars books. The movies will probably be the last big project the man does before he kicks the bucket! If he does decide to disgrace himself further, I at least hope they pick a better actor for the role of Luke than he did for Anakin Skywalker.

In regards to the Luke vs. Han Solo match-up, I agree with you on that front. Though I can't say I wasn't always a little in love with Solo. That wit, that charm ... and what a hottie. Hahaha. But Luke had a better story, and that's definitely one reason why the old movies were so great.

I love this time of year because Spike plays the old Star Wars movies in frequent marathons. I'm also really excited for Star Wars in Concert coming to the Dunkin Donuts Center. Is that wrong? Should I check myself in somewhere? I mean, I'm not going to dress up for it or anything. But I am probably paying out the ass for it. And I only make a measly $12 per hour. Hmm. I wish that made a difference to me. My wallet is going to be really thin by the time Christmas rolls around - Marion (mom), Francis P. (dad), Little McCabe (Meaghan?), I hope you don't expect too much this year. Brenna's working the early shift for you people already!

Speaking of which, do you know how hard it is to quit coffee when you have to slap yourself awake at 4 a.m. each week? It's like kicking a nicotine habit (or so I imagine). News of my one-month no-coffee triumph spread like wildfire this week, so my co-workers have decided to torture me more by shoving coffee beans under my nose, trying to switch my decaf to regular when they think I'm not paying attention and tempting me with Starbucks syrup that they're only supposed to give to customers. I'm not entirely sure of this, but my investigative reporting skills have led me to believe that the waiters actually have a pool going for who can crack me first. Bollocks!

Luckily, Starbucks has been a kind soul to me. This week, for example, I found its new tribute to decaf: For now, I drink my free decaf coffee at the Viking Hotel. Fancy-schmancy-watered-down-decaffeination. Awesome. When my grandmother Mary died, I was told people threw Bingo chips in her coffin because she loved the game so much. All I ask is that my close friends do not feel the same way about my Starbucks mugs.


Steve said: Dear McCabe, at least your choice for procrastinating lyrics are excellent. That's still one of my away messages, one of the few that served the jump over to my new computer. But back to the matter at hand, yes.

With each year that passes from what should have been my true graduation year - 2006 - I feel more removed from the general URI student body. I mean, Lorenz is a senior at the Cigar, and I'm about FIVE years older than her. Ugh. Unlike that sleazy guy from Fast Times At Ridgemont High, this is not a discrepancy that makes me happy. Each time I go back, I feel like I'm reliving a sort of arrested development, and not in the good way, with Michael and George Michael and Gob. The posters still are everywhere; I was surprised that all of them were still up from my days, and that there is a picture of Nat "Buddy" Binns in the editor's office still, who nobody on the current paper knows.

This talk of Spiderman: The Musical worries me, especially if that horrible snake Bono is involved. What gives??? I wish I was a superhero, so that I could stop that. The third movie was bad enough that I'd be seriously worried about the future installments of the series. And like you, I have not really liked anything done by U2 since The Joshua Tree.

However, I am a bit excited at the prospect of more Star Wars movies, especially if Lucas isn't the sole architect of the project. I've read the officially-sanctioned unofficial 7, 8 and 9 books by
Zahn, and I thought they were pretty swell and plausible, much more so than the actual 1 and 2 films done by Lucas. (Revenge of the Sith is the only "new" Star Wars movie that I'll still
watch, because I think it really sets up A New Hope really well.)

You going to that Star Wars concert is pretty sad, though.

I do whole-heartedly agree with your no-coffee pledge though, since I dislike drinking coffee. It is a vile substance that just clings to your skin for hours. My favorite part of working for a different newspaper company is that I no longer have to constantly meet sources at the local coffee house, which I had to do a lot in Warren. It's weird that from southern to northern Rhode Island, there is a pretty decent split in terms of coffee consumption.


Want to do your own Tag Team now? Of course you do... Send an e-mail to and we'll make it work, as a wise man once said. On to the usual photo credits: The Spiderman photo is from here. The picture of the Hulk comes from an interview with Lou right here. The picture of Luke Skywalker is from here. Flight of the Conchords is from here.


  1. Sooo...I read most of that. haha
    1. I liked the Edward Norton Hulk movie. The first one was terrible. But this one is a huge improvement. And they do tie in the Avengers movie they'll be making. At the very end. Stark technology is used throughout the movie & Tony Stark [Downey jr.] does show up in the last couple minutes of the movie.

    2. I agree with Brenna. As a nanny, I watch lots of kids television and omggg they're cartoons and shows are SOOOO LAME. I mean, Isabel watches little kid cartoons cause she's 5...but I've seen enough commercials for new x-men to know I'm not at all excited to even know it exists. it's kinda like when they did a new teenage mutant ninja turtles series...that was just...ugh. They're eyes were like white and mean looking, and raphael said, "yo mamma." That's when I turned it off, after watching it for like a minute. I'm just glad we got to grow up when we did, with the good cartoons. And parents to make us watch their good cartoons.

  2. Danielle, I (fortunately, it seems) have not watched a ton of kids' television, so I will have to take your word for it... Even if you are a smelly Italian with cooties...


Try not to be too much of an ass, unless completely necessary. You are subject to tyrannical moderation.


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