Happy Xmas, denizens of the Internet. Or, you know, a tolerable one, anyway.

I had started to write a post about how Christmas is a drag for a lot of us fifth-wheel types in this society, and it's true that for me and plenty of others Christmas is less a time to anticipate and celebrate than a time to endure and get through. It's the loneliest time of year, sometimes especially when surrounded by other people unwittingly flaunting their relative happiness.

But that post was starting to get not just dour and depressing but hostile and resentful, and that's not where I want to be. So I'll just say to everyone out there, enjoy whatever you're doing tomorrow and whomever you spend it with. Myself, I will spend tomorrow cooking Mexican food and watching movies and punting my real holiday to Wednesday, when the people I want to be with are free of their relatives. That's just how it is, and I'm good with that as the alternatives are worse or to ignore the holiday altogether.

Meanwhile, some notes of positivity to lighten things up some...

  • The new Captain America comics are outstanding. By J. Michael Straczynski and Jesús Saiz, the new series follows Cap mostly in his plain-clothes Steve Rogers state as he opts to buy his former apartment building from the slumlord that was going to demolish it and instead renovate it and keep its residents from being tossed out. A very Steve Rogers thing to do. While doing this we see Steve flash back to his childhood memories related to the building, which of course were in the 1930s as World War II was ramping up. Those events will tie into a current threat, of course, but it's a nice little parallel to see presentations of scrawny pre-super-soldier-serum Steve and his neighbors clash with the very real American Nazis of the 1930s and witness them describe their nefarious plans for Germany and the US in language that is reflected menacingly by modern-day Republicans in the real non-comic-book world. Straczynski's idea was to explore a Captain America backstory that hasn't been tapped yet:
    The years young Steve was on his own were the same years during which the American Bund – for all intents and purposes the Nazi Party in America – was growing very powerful in real world New York, blocks from where he lived. They held public marches and rallies, harassed people, and spread hate, all part of an effort to get America on the side of the Nazis, a campaign that came to a head with the biggest Nazi rally on American soil in history, as tens of thousands of people, Nazis and Nazi sympathizers, crammed into Madison Square Garden to celebrate their dream of a thousand-year Reich. We are going to put young Steve right into the middle of that real-life vortex, where despite terrible odds he will make a crucial difference at an even more crucial moment. For a young Peter Parker, the murder of his uncle Ben was a transformational event putting him on the path to becoming Spider-Man. This story will be equally transformational, putting a young Steve Rogers on the path to being the hero he eventually becomes.
    Anyway, it's great, I recommend it.
  • Speaking of fascist movements in America, Miles Taylor's new book Blowback is essential reading for anyone who hasn't been paying attention to American politics for the last, oh, ten years or so. Taylor was "Anonymous," the author of the unsigned New York Times Op-Ed that explained that he was among the grown-ups reining in the worst abuses of the Trump Administration; this book not only delves into what that meant, but how as Trump learned how the government worked—which is to say, as he figured out where the laws and officials that prevented him from doing the various un-American and illegal things he wanted to do were situated—he began to worm his way around obstacles via legal loopholes and things like "acting" appointments of toadies that needn't be approved by anyone. Which meant that the adults in the room were no longer effective at reining him in and were largely forced to depart. Each chapter starts with details on Taylor's experiences and ends with the logical extension of how the next authoritarian to reach office will behave. It's an excellent book and a chilling read, so not exactly uplifting and fun, but tremendously worthwhile nonetheless.
  • For all Mankind is back with its fourth season on AppleTV+, and it's great as always. The only characters still around from the beginning are Ed Baldwin, Dani Poole, and Margo Madison, but the whole group is terrific. The show starts off in July of 1969, whereupon history diverges from what we know when the Soviets land on the moon first. Over the course of the series, the divergent history gets farther and farther away from what we know from the "real world," and in the current season we're in the early 2000s establishing a more permanent presence on Mars, or at least trying to. I miss executive producer Ronald D. Moore's more hands-on influence and past characters, especially Jodi Balfour's Ellen Waverly/Wilson, but I still eagerly await each new episode.

2024 is just around the corner. Buckle up, folks, it's going to be a wild one.

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