Avengers Quiz: The Answers Revealed!

Sorry I couldn’t come up with 20 questions this time. Just count each question as worth two points.

1. True/False: Ultron stands for Ultimate Logic Terror Robot Omniscient Nullifier FALSE. Ultron is not an acronym

ultron-first-appearance 12. Ultron was created by: (c)  Henry Pym. a.k.a. Ant Man. More on him later.

3. Ultron’s frame is made of: (a) Adamantium. Same as Wolverine’s claws.

4. Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch are the children of: (f) Who the hell knows? Marvel will change the story 10 minutes after you read this. Wanda and Pietro’s parentage has been changed repeatedly over time. All three examples listed were at one time believed to be the parents. Magneto has been their father for decades but that was recently reversed because Marvel doesn’t control the movie rights to the X-Men or mutants in general. No one knows who their parents are currently.

5. This Avenger was at one time deemed worthy to wield Mjolnir (Thor’s hammer, but you knew that): (b) Captain America. No big surprise there.

6. The Vision’s brain patterns were originally based on which Avenger: (d)  Wonder Man. He was dead at the time and Hank Pym made a copy of his brain patterns (whatever those are) for safekeeping. Ultron found them and used them when building The Vision.

7. True/False: Black Widow was once in a relationship with Bruce Banner. FALSE. Natasha has been involved with Red Guardian, Hawkeye, Daredevil, Hercules and Bucky Barnes. I believe she had a fling with Tony Stark and for a time had a crush on Captain America. She’s shown no interest in the HULK (or Thor, that I know of). But that will probably change soon…

flash-vs-quicksilver8. True/False: Ultron numbers himself after each defeat/resurrection TRUE THEN, NOW FALSE. He stopped doing that after Ultron Mark 12, I believe. 

9. True/False: Quicksilver is faster than The Flash. FALSE. No one is faster than The Flash. Not even Superman.

10. True/False: The Vision and the Scarlet Witch marry and have children. TRUE. Despite not being human, The Vision was able to conceive twins with Wanda back in the 1980s. It all got weird and complicated in later years. You know, comics.

20-16: Welcome to Stark Tower

15-10: Your intelligence isn’t totally artificial

9-5: What a way to make a living

4-0: Puny human

Are You Smarter Than An Artificial Intelligence?

You may not be a genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist but hopefully you won’t embarrass yourself with this year’s Avengers Quiz.

Note: Answers come from Comic Book History, not Movie History, unless otherwise noted. Because comic book history is real history. Until it changes.

Avengers_Vol_1_1711. True/False: Ultron stands for Ultimate Logic Terror Robot Omniscient Nullifier

2. Ultron was created by: (a) Don Blake (b) Tony Stark (c)  Henry Pym (d) Bruce Banner

3. Ultron’s frame is made of: (a) Adamantium (b) Vibranium (c) Uru (d) Stainless Steel

4. Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch are the children of: (a) Django and Marya Maximoff (b) The Whizzer and Miss America (c) Magneto and Magda (d) All of the Above (e) None of the Above (f) Who the hell knows? Marvel will change the story 10 minutes after you read this.

5. This Avenger was at one time deemed worthy to wield Mjolnir (Thor’s hammer, but you knew that): (a) Black Panther (b) Captain America (c) Black Knight (d) Spider-Man

Vision6. The Vision’s brain patterns were originally based on which Avenger:  (a) Ant Man (b) Hawkeye (c) Iron Man (d)  Wonder Man

7. True/False: Black Widow was once in a relationship with Bruce Banner.

8. True/False: Ultron numbers himself after each defeat/resurrection

9. True/False: Quicksilver is faster than The Flash

10. True/False: The Vision and the Scarlet Witch marry and have children.

TOMORROW: The Answers

Welcome 2 Avengers Week

After waiting so long, it’s hard to believe it’s finally here. “Avengers: Age of Ultron” opens this week in these United States after breaking box office records overseas.

To celebrate, we are once again dedicating the entire week to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Which sucks because it means I have to work every day, but it’s worth it.

Of course I’m not going to work too hard today. It’s Sunday, after all. So here’s your lineup for the week ahead:

3198298-ultronMONDAY: Avengers Quiz: Age of Ultron Edition

TUESDAY: The Answers

WEDNESDAY: Before You Go

THURSDAY: The Review

FRIDAY: Read More About It

SATURDAY: Free Comic Book Day – Avengers Edition

My apologies to HULK for not fitting on the banner. HULK doesn’t fit on banner. Heh. That’s a joke, son.

A Farewell To ARC

In late 2011 I hit rock bottom.

Two years earlier, in honor of my 20th anniversary at the St. Charles Journal, the good people at Lee Enterprises kicked me out the door. I wasn’t alone.

“You’ll be fine,” everyone said. “With your skills and knowledge you won’t have any trouble finding a job,” everyone said. “You’ll be better off,” everyone said. “If  there’s anything I can do to help, let me know,” everyone said.

Everyone lied.

You see, I’d lost my job at the height of the Great Recession of 2009. It was so bad the government was giving you extra money for not having a job. When I left the unemployment office for the first time the receptionist didn’t say “Good luck finding a job,” she said “See you next week.”

The job market had changed greatly in 20 years. I got my job at the Journal by walking into the office one day and telling the receptionist I was a journalist looking for work. She went back to the newsroom and the managing editor came out and told me to leave him my number. I was hired a couple weeks later.

Today you can’t do that. Today it’s all Human Resources and Go To Our Website and Fill Out This Form but first Create a Login and Password. Talk to a human being that you might actually be working for? Forget that.

It was not a good time. I lost faith. I lost friends. The small reservoir of self-confidence I had quickly ran dry. The only thing I was building up was bitterness and jealousy.

Two years later, after watching every episode of “That ’70s Show” out of sequence (try making sense of all the relationships when you watch it that way), the unemployment ran out. It was around this time that one of Andrew’s teachers mentioned to Laura that there was always a need for people to work with the developmentally disabled. Oh, but they couldn’t hire me because (a) conflict of interest and (b) it would be too convenient.

I searched the web and found the St. Louis ARC. Sure enough, they were hiring. I filled out their form. Someone from Human Resources got back to me. We met. She was impressed by one of my answers, which I had simply quoted verbatim from the company website. I was cleared for a second interview. My first second interview in two years.

At the same time, I had applied for a job in the public relations department at the Special School District — a district that works with developmentally disabled kids in St. Louis. Surely I would get this gig. I have a writing background, I have a developmentally disabled kid. I had an interview.

Before I heard back from them, the ARC sent me to their facility in Creve Coeur. I walked in the room to meet the director and was — what’s the word I’m looking for? – overwhelmed. It’s one thing to live with a developmentally disabled person, it’s a whole other thing to live with 40 all at once. We eventually went into his private office where I was pretty much offered the job. I told the man I had another opportunity waiting in the wings but I would let him know soon.

I drove home praying that SSD would call. They didn’t. I didn’t even rate a second interview. And you wonder why I lost my faith. Reluctantly, I accepted the job at Sunnen.

Unlike other locations, the Sunnen facility is all in one big, open room — appropriately called the Work Activity Room (or WAR room — and yes, I know it’s redundant). I don’t know exactly how many people we served, let’s just stick with 40. All with their own…personalities. Some never spoke. Some screamed at random. Some asked the same questions over and over. Some said the same phrases over and over (It was here that I learned to appreciate that my son wouldn’t talk). Some would get violent. Some would fall down. Some loved to hug. Some would break into tears spontaneously. Some would steal your food. Some had issues using the bathroom. Terrible, horrible issues.

But enough about the staff.


Just kidding. It was the staff that kept me going. It takes special people to work with special people. And the people at the ARC were indeed special. So how would I fit in?

I went to the benefits meeting. The guy talked about putting money in the retirement plan and how it would be vested in five years. No thanks, I won’t be here that long.

I sat in the lunch room, watching people eat. Some people you should never watch eat. I tried to keep my food down. Across the room, Annie looks over at me, smiles, and says, “You’ll get used to it.”

Not me. I’m just here until something better comes along.

Four years later…something came along.

11149337_10101076533161034_8792001446375215206_nI can’t say it was something better because something happened over those four years.

I got used to it.

More than that, I came to enjoy working at the St. Louis ARC. I came to love all those crazy people, and not just the staff. Oh, some of them I never really connected with, but some I did. Some of them made me laugh. Some I wanted to punch in the face.  They all drove me crazy at times but they could also show unconditional affection. I am confident I have been hugged more in the past four years than I have in the previous 40. 

Still, there’s only so many times you can find yourself sitting on the floor of a bathroom stall in Wal-Mart, struggling to get clean pants on someone all the while hearing “I have a Master’s Degree! I have a Master’s Degree!” running through your head.

My last day at Sunnen was Monday. I started my new job on Wednesday. It’s a lot quieter there. No one has hugged me yet. I have a feeling it would be frowned on. Things seem to be going OK but I like to think if it doesn’t work out that I’ll be welcomed back at Sunnen.

That’s the thing about the ARC and why it’s special. They take in people who no one else will.

Like an unemployed entertainment writer.

At The Movies: Ex Machina

If you can’t wait another week to see if an artificial intelligence can outwit humans, then check out the new British sci-fi thriller”Ex Machina.” It’s not as bombastic and explosive as “Avengers: Age of Ultron” is expected to be — it’s a creepier and more cerebral story.

Domhnall Gleeson stars as Caleb Smith, a geeky computer programmer who has won a one-week visit at the secluded compound of his employer — the reclusive and alcoholic genius inventor Nathan Bateman (Oscar Issac).

MV5BMTUxNzc0OTIxMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDI3NzU2NDE@._V1_SX214_AL_It turns out Caleb hasn’t been invited to Nathan’s cabin in the mountains for a week of drinking and partying. Nathan has built an artificial intelligence in female form named Ava (Alicia Vikander) and he wants Caleb to take part in a series of tests to determine if she is self-aware.

The sessions begin and things get complicated as the week progresses. During one of the compound’s many mysterious power outages, Ava tells Caleb that Nathan is not to be trusted. Caleb begins to care for Ava and worries what would happen if Nathan decides to erase her and start over with a new version.

Written and directed by Alex Garland, “Ex Machina” is the kind of thoughtful science fiction that you don’t see much in the age of “Transformers.” The film spends a good deal of time with Caleb and Nathan talking about ideas and philosophy as the story moves forward. It’s a slow, sometimes ponderous, movie but when the secrets are revealed things become tense and compelling quickly.

“Ex Machina” is stylishly filmed and there is a lot of lovely imagery, from the scenes of nature surrounding the compound to Ava’s intriguing robotic design. While the story is intriguing it is helped along by a trio of strong performances. Isaac in particular stands out for his portrayal of the boozy, manipulative, eccentric inventor.


April Is The Cruellest Month…for movies, anyway

Another weekend and another I-can’t-be-bothered-to-write-a-review. It’s not that I’ve retired, it’s just that there hasn’t been anything of interest shown up on the screening list that would make me drag my ass off the couch and drive across town to the theater.

Conventional wisdom is that January and February are the worst months for movies. A dumping ground for bad films during a time when people are stuck inside anyway due to the weather. But that’s not necessarily the case when you live outside New York and L.A. Many of the awards-bait/prestige movies open here in January and February.

MV5BMzIxNDc1MDg0MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTI3ODE4MzE@._V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_AL_I mean, look at this month. It started off strong with “Fast & Furious 7″ but since then? A cowboy romance? A movie about monkeys? A horror movie based on what you do to people you don’t like on Facebook?

“Paul Blart Mall Cop 2?”

No thank you. I’ll go sit out on this bank of sand and watch the river flow. Besides, we’re only a few weeks away from “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”

That’s when I’ll get back to work.

For The Record: The New Basement Tapes; Rhiannon Giddens

A few months back Showtime did one of those free weekend events. Three days of multiple Showtime channels and yet nothing to watch. I did eventually settle on a documentary called  “Lost Songs: The Basement Tapes Continued.”

The documentary was good. The music was better. Which brings us to this long-delayed write-up on “Lost on the River,” by The New Basement Tapes.

As every loyal Bob Dylan fan knows, back in the late ’60s Dylan was injured in a motorcycle accident. He recovered in a house in New York and during this time recorded a number of songs with The Band that went on to be known as “The Basement Tapes.”

unnamedRecently a stack of unfinished song lyrics from that period were unearthed and handed over to record producer T. Bone Burnett. Burnett assembled a sextet of musicians — Marcus Mumford (Mumford and Sons), Jim James (My Morning Jacket), Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), Rhiannon Giddens (Carolina Chocolate Drops) and Elvis Costello (no parenthesis necessary) — handed them the lyrics and tasked them with finishing the songs.

The result is a delightfully eclectic collection of tunes in which the words of Dylan are filtered through each artist’s own style. The album comes in a deluxe version with 20 songs and a … “non-deluxe” version with 15 songs. There are a couple songs I’m not completely sold on but most of them are great.

It’s also interesting to listen to how different musicians will handle the same lyrics, as in a couple of cases — “Lost in the River” features versions by Costello and Giddens while “Six Months in Kansas City (Liberty Street)” offers wildly different interpretations by Costello and Goldsmith.

Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 12.44.46 PMWhile watching the documentary we were really taken by Rhiannon Giddens, the lone woman in the group. As luck would have it, she was putting out her debut solo album around the same time we were watching the documentary. As luck would further have it, this was right around Valentine’s Day. Present solved.

Tomorrow Is My Turn is also a wonderful and eclectic collection of tunes, also produced by Burnett. There’s gospel, olde tyme, blues, country, Irish — something for every taste. Surprisingly my favorite track is “Don’t Let It Trouble Your Mind,” an old Dolly Parton tune.