It Looks Like President Mike Gravel Will Not Be Happening

The teenagers in charge of Mike Gravel’s presidential candidacy have thrown in the towel and suspended his campaign.

No surprise there.  The campaign has been upfront about only existing to get Gravel on the debate stage so that he could make a case for pushing the Democrats even further to the left.  With the DNC refusing to invite Gravel to participate in the 2nd debate (despite Gravel having met their fundraising requirement), it was obvious that Gravel’s campaign would soon end.

Just how involved the 89 year-old Gravel actually was with the campaign is not an easy question to answer.  The teens themselves only reached out to him after hearing about him on Chapo Trap House.  Some critics claimed that the campaign was elder abuse and others accused it of being a scampac.  I don’t think it was intentionally meant to be either.  Though I may not be on the same political side as the Gravel teens, I will miss their sarcastic twitter commentary.

According to the linked Politico article above, the two teens will be moving on to a fellowship with Jacobin Magazine.  Ten years from now, they’ll probably have their own HBO show with David Hogg.

For now, it’s time to say goodbye to the Mike Gravel presidential campaign and to thank them for making the campaign season a little more interesting.

Gracie Mansion: Where Dreams Go To Die

It’s been said that being Mayor of New York City is the “second toughest job in America.”  Only being President is tougher.  Of course, the President doesn’t have to deal with trying to fix the subways so how tough is his job, really?

I can understand why so many New York politicians dream of being mayor.  New York City may be “ungovernable,” as John Lindsay used to put it, but it’s still the center of both America’s culture and its economy.  Being mayor means that you’re in charge of one of the most important cities in the world.  It also means becoming an instant celebrity.

The job is also a political dead end.

Since 1665, there have been over a hundred mayors of New York City.  Only two of them have gone on to higher office after serving as mayor.

DeWitt Clinton was appointed the position in 1803, after having briefly served in the U.S. Senate.  While still serving as mayor, Clinton ran for President in 1812 and came close to defeating James Madison.  Clinton would later be elected governor.

Fernando Wood was a former Congressman who was twice elected mayor, once in 1854 and again in 1860.  During the Civil War, Wood suggested that the city should secede from the United States so that it could continue to trade with the Confederacy.  Wood’s opposition to the Civil War put an end to his presidential ambitions but he was reelected to Congress after his mayoral term ended.

And that’s it.  Others have tried but none have succeeded.

In 1940, President Roosevelt reportedly considered naming Fiorello H. La Guardia to be his running mate but it’s not known how serious Roosevelt was about the idea.

In 1956, Mayor Robert F. Wagner was the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate but was defeated by Jacob Javits.  That same year, Wagner was briefly a candidate for the Democratic vice presidential nomination but lost to Estes Kefauver.

John V. Lindsay, who was once compared to JFK, probably could have been named Nixon’s running mate in ’68 or been appointed to Bobby Kennedy’s senate seat if he hadn’t made an enemy of Governor Nelson Rockefeller.  Instead, the Republican Lindsay ended up switching to the Democratic Party in 1971, running unsuccessfully for President in 1972, and making a final and futile grasp for political relevance by running for the U.S. Senate in 1980.  (He came in third in the primary.)

Ed Koch tried to parlay his national popularity into a run for governor in 1982 and was defeated in the primary by Mario Cuomo, whom Koch had previously defeated in the 1977 mayoral election.  Upstate voters were not as enamored with Koch as New York City was.  (And the city would later turn on Koch in 1989, rejecting him in favor of David Dinkins.)

The presidential campaigns of George B. McClellan, Jr., William Jay Gaynor, Lindsay, and Rudy Giuliani all failed to go anywhere and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 2020 campaign has become a national joke.

And then there’s a case of Michael Bloomberg, who flirts with an improbable presidential run every four years.  Because he’s rich, Bloomberg is always taken seriously as a candidate, despite the fact that his every attempt to influence policy outside of New York has been a flop.

The most successful politician to run for Mayor of New York was someone who not only lost the election but came in a poor third, behind the winning Democrat and an insurgent socialist.  Teddy Roosevelt may have lost the 1886 mayoral election but, 15 years later, he would become President of the United States.  Would Roosevelt have ever become President if he had won that mayoral election?

Gracie Mansion is where dreams go to die.


Crisis on Campus

This has always been one of my favorite Spider-Man covers.  Credit for it goes to John Romita, Sr.

This issue of The Amazing Spider-Man came out in 1969, at the height of the student protests that rocked campuses across America.  Since Spider-Man was a student at Empire State University at the time, it makes sense that he would eventually be drawn into the protests.  In typical Marvel fashion, Spider-Man ended up supporting both the protesters and the police who later busted them.  Spider-Man felt the protesters had a right to protest but that the police were also necessary to maintain the peace.  Of course, in the end, the Kingpin would use the distraction of the protests to steal an ancient tablet, leaving the students to take the blame.

This cover perfectly captured the ambiguous place of both Spider-Man and Marvel in the counter culture.  Spider-Man may appear to be with the protesters but it’s also not a coincidence that he’s swinging above them, indicating that Spider-Man was both a part of the counterculture and yet above it all at the same time.  At a time of intense national polarization, Marvel manged to pull off the balancing act of supporting both sides at the same time.

Is Spider-Man a part of the protest or is he the one being protested?  It all depends on what you want to see.

A Late Review of PS4’s Spider-Man (Repost)

Today, Spider-Man is 57 year-old!  In honor of his birthday, I’m reposting my review of the Spider-Man PS4 game.  I originally posted this, back in February, on the Shattered Lens website.  Since that time, I’ve replayed the game a few times and I’ve had just as much fun as the first time.  The pigeons still drive me crazy, though.  Here’s my original review:

It took me a little over a month to make my way through PS4’s Spider-Man.

I started playing around the middle of December and I finally completed the game on January 30th.  I didn’t play every day, of course.  There was one week when I was so busy with the real world that I didn’t play at all.  Most days, when I did play, I would spend maybe 60 to 90 minutes on the game, sometimes more and sometimes less.  All told, I’d estimate that it took about a total of 25 hours for me to finish the game’s story.  That’s not counting the time that I spent on side quests or the times when I would just swing through New York and appreciate the massive amount of work and detail that went into recreating Manhattan Island.

The first half of the game is probably one of the best advertisements for New York City that’s ever been put together.  Whether you’re swinging through Central Park or taking in the sights in Times Square, it’s hard not to get drawn into the game’s depiction of New York as being the most exciting city in the world.  Both Spider-Man and Mary Jane Watson get scenes in which they talk about how much they love New York.  At the start of the game’s third act, a major disaster happens and New York is suddenly trashed and no longer as friendly a place.  While the streets are controlled by the paramilitary mercenaries of Sable International, the rooftops are populated by snipers who think nothing of trying to shoot you while you’re trying to swing from mission to mission.  And yet, even when things are at their worst, the indomitable spirit of New York survives.  Even though a biological weapon has been detonated and there’s been a massive prison break, you can still find people taking a stroll through Central Park.  (Of course, now they’re wearing surgical masks and some of them are stopping to cough.)  Even after martial law is declared, you can still drop in on the quad at Empire U and find students hanging out.  J. Jonah Jameson (who, in this game, hosts Spider-Man’s favorite podcast) may be a braying fool most of the time but he’s right when he says that New York will never surrender.

(The game’s action is limited to Manhattan.  As much as I would have loved to have visited the Bronx, I understand that there’s only so much that one game can do.  When I tried to swim to Staten Island, I discovered that swimming is the one thing that Spider-Man does not do well.  When I tried to cross the Brooklyn Bridge, I got a warning telling me that I was “leaving the game.”  Maybe the sequel will take Spider-Man into the outer boroughs.)

Spider-Man is voiced by Yuri Lowenthal and, after playing this game, it’ll be impossible for me to ever think of Spider-Man as sounding like anyone else.  Whether he’s telling a bad joke or, when the game takes a detour into Spider-Man’s subconscious, battling his own demons, Lowenthal simply is Spider-Man.

The game features many of the members of Spider-Man’s supporting cast, with Yuri Watanabe, Mary Jane, Miles Morales, and Aunt May all making welcome appearances.  (Four of the story’s missions require the player to take on the roles of either MJ or Miles.)  As for the game’s villains, Doctor Octopus, Kingpin, Tombstone, Taskmaster, Norman Osborne, Mr. Negative, Electro, Vulture, Rhino, Scorpion, Screwball, and Shocker all play roles of varying importance.  Doctor Octopus is reimagined as being, before he goes bad, almost a surrogate father to Peter.  When Spider-Man battles him, he’s not only fighting Doctor Octopus but he’s also battling his own guilt.  We all know the old saying: “With great power, comes great responsibility.”  PS4’s Spider-Man is one of the few adaptations of the character that actually understands what that means.

While I liked the way that the villains were depicted and I think that this is one of the few Spider-Man adaptations to actually capture what makes Electro such an *ahem* electrifying character, I do wish that some of the boss battles had been more difficult.  While they do provide some challenge, they can also often be won just by pushing the dodge button until your opponents eventually tire themselves out.  For one battle, Spider-Man debuts a new suit designed to give him an advantage.  I won the battle without ever using the advantage.  Another battle can be won by finding a high place to perch on while your two opponents defeat themselves with friendly fire.

To anyone playing the game for the first time, my main warning would be to hold off on talking to a homeless man named Howard.  It’s tempting to go over and speak with him because his sidequest is located right next to the building where you go to visit Aunt May.  When you see the little blue diamond inviting you to visit with Howard, it’s hard to resist.  However, when you talk to Howard, you eventually end up agreeing to help him find all of his pet pigeons.  Those pigeons are located across the city and, as soon as you find yourself near any of them them, they’ll take off flying and, regardless of whatever else you may have going on, you’ll be expected to chase after them.  When it comes to Howard, hold off on talking to him until after you’ve taken care of the game’s main story.

Flaws aside, Spider-Man captures the spirit of its main character.  It’s not just about fighting crime, though there is a lot of that to do.  It’s also about making sure that Aunt May isn’t wearing herself out with her volunteer work.  It’s about trying to find time to cook dinner for MJ without neglecting the demands of being a super hero.  It’s about the sidequest where you rescue a civilian who, because he’s wandering around New York dressed like you, has attracted the wrong type of attention.  It’s about checking in on the research stations that Harry Osborne set up around the city before he mysteriously disappeared.  Sometimes, it’s just about taking the time to stop and take a selfie with a fan.  There’s plenty of action but, for me, the game was at its best when it was simply about Spider-Man swinging across Manhattan, looking for old backpacks and sometimes taking pictures of landmarks.

Spider-Man is one of the most enjoyable games that I’ve played in a while and I look forward to replaying it.  Next time, though, I’m telling Howard to collect his own pigeons…