Five Things: August 3, 2023

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At this market are Mexico City’s best murals, which almost no one visits | Andy Hume

In the northeast corner of the historic center of Mexico City sits a far too rarely visited gem of classic 1930s mural work by acolytes and students of famous muralist. These enormous and astonishingly gorgeous works of Mexican and American masters remain absurdly neglected, especially given that their value is ranked fourth after the murals of the Bellas Artes palace, the Secretariat of Education and the National Palace.

Last month, we took a short but much-needed vacation to Mexico City, celebrating our 25th anniversary. We’ve been to Mexico several times, including our first trip 25 years earlier for our honeymoon, but always in the Riviera Maya — from early trips to Cancun and Tulum, before settling into Playa del Carmen as our preferred hub for everything in the area. Mexico City had been on our wish list for years and seemed perfect for a short 5-day trip. We were right, and also wrong!

Like any big city — and even being from NYC, Mexico City is enormous! — there are good and bad neighborhoods; places tourists can roam pretty freely, and places they shouldn’t step foot in. We stayed on the edge of Condesa and spent a lot of time walking around it, Roma, El Centro, and Coyoacán, enjoying delicious street food, amazing pulque, great parks, a couple of museums, and familiar but distinctive architecture. During one of our outings, we visited the Mercado Abelardo L. Rodríguez — a large neighborhood market for locals; a bodega on steroids inside what looks like a fancy but deteriorating old train station — and saw the amazing murals mentioned here. The article is from 2019, but although many of the murals are hidden behind and among various stalls, they’re in pretty remarkable condition, and parts appear to actively being restored.

If you’ve ever been curious about Mexico City, I’d highly recommend a visit. Flights can be pricey (at least from the East coast), but the currency exchange is very favorable (for Americans), so inexpensive food, lodging, and transportation can help offset it. We barely scratched the surface and are hoping to go back for a longer trip in the next couple of years as it leapfrogged every other destination of interest on our collective wish list.


Where’s My Rest Badge? | Anne Helen Petersen

I want validation for an unscheduled week — or month — on the calendar. I want a smartwatch that does those little explosive emojis when it sees that my body was tired and I listened to it. I wish having enough time to sleep as much as you need wasn’t quietly interpreted as a sign that you clearly don’t have enough going on in your life (“must be nice!”) I want to live with challenges, not constantly vanquish them and heed the expectation to take on yet another challenge.

I was literally in the middle of reading this article when my wife declared she was done being bullied by her Fitbit and wasn’t wearing it anymore. Meanwhile, my Garmin watch is one of my best friends because I love data the way I still love reading the sides of cereal boxes!

I get it, though. It’s really easy to be overwhelmed by the various gamification elements developers love to play with, and encouraging you to rest and/or relax on a regular basis means less useful data for them to collect and monetize. When I got sick earlier this year and my half marathon training plan was derailed, my fitness levels tanked but Garmin was quickly recommending hour-long runs when I hadn’t even gone on a long walk in weeks.

It’s not that these watches couldn’t be smarter and take sickness and recovery into account, it’s just not a design priority. Anyone who feels bullied or pressured by their watch should take it off and live without it for a while — whether you’re a hardcore athlete, casual runner, or just trying to stay reasonably active in a sedentary world.

PS: Among Substack’s solid analytics offerings I’ll miss is the overview of other newsletters your subscribers get, and Petersen’s “Culture Study” was my #2 for most of the time I was there. Oddly, I’d never read it and actually came across this post from someone on Mastodon. The internet finds a way, I guess.


Ali Krieger calls Carli Lloyd’s USWNT-bashing ‘not necessary’ | ESPN

“We got through, right? I feel like people were in panic mode because we haven’t had a really great game — feeling like we’re the team that’s going to win it — and pull through. But ultimately, we got through and that’s what’s most important.”

Between the extreme time zone difference and lack of access to FOX Sports, I’ve mostly been following the World Cup via recaps, hashtags on Mastodon, and, oddly, our local paper. I did catch two of the USWNT matches live in Spanish on Telemundo via Peacock — for which I can’t remember when or why we got a subscription, but it expires next month, and I don’t think we’ll be keeping it when the full price kicks in.

I woke up at 2;50am ET to watch their group stage finale vs. Portugal and it was an intense battle as Portugal could have advanced if they won, while the US only needed a draw but clearly wanted to make a statement with a big win. It wasn’t a pretty game, but Portugal isn’t getting nearly enough credit for being a good team who refused to be intimidated, and their goalkeeper, Inês Pereira, had a few critical saves to keep them in the match. At the other end, Alyssa Naeher didn’t have much to do, but looked shaky whenever she was called on and the goalpost made the biggest save of the night on her behalf.

There’s a lot to criticize about how the US played. It was too brute force, not enough patience and creativity, and they were always one mistake away from disaster. Despite having an historic chance at a threepeat (no pressure there), it’s also a relatively young and inexperienced team that’s missing a few key players and hasn’t had much time playing together.

Carli Lloyd can suck eggs, though, and I’m glad Ali Krieger called her out, because she’s one of the few with the credibility and resume to do it. Lloyd was an amazing athlete during her career, but there have been many hints over the last few years that she’s also a selfish teammate with some strong Karen tendencies, so her evolving into a blowhard pundit isn’t surprising.

Anyway, I still believe we [have a decent shot to] win, but Vlatko Andonovski’s refusal to use his full roster has painted him and the team into a corner from which winning is the only escape. Anything less will be considered a failure, with little to no regard given to the fact that the rest of the soccer world has clearly caught up and we’re no longer the best in the world. USWNT veterans need to keep that in mind lest they come off sounding like Boomers talking about how they put themselves through college while delivering newspapers.


It’s time to have an honest talk about the comic book industry | Joseph Illidge

The comic book industry is a ruthless Darwinian landscape of cronyism, narcissism, and power moves. Its main fodder is the creators who are the engines of its continued existence. Full of flair and pomp, colors and characters both fictional and real-life. A road to hell paved with landmines, bear traps, and the opportunity to work on high-profile, profitable media while living on the precipice of poverty. The industry is fueled by organizations with finite funds and infinite hubris.

I’ve known Illidge for years; so many that I can’t even remember how we met, but it was probably during my Buzzscope/Pop Culture Shock days when I was regularly devouring and writing about comics on a weekly basis, here and elsewhere. Over that time, I’ve pulled him in on programming I’ve put together for Digital Book World, Writer’s Digest, and most recently, at the day job, because he’s one the smartest people in comics who also isn’t afraid to speak out about its many, many ills.

When I first saw this post, I assumed it was a one-off hot take on the latest ills plaguing the industry but was instead thrilled to find it’s the opening salvo of an ongoing series that suggests a surprising undercurrent of pragmatic optimism. If Illidge can find a silver lining in the shitshow that is the comics industry, I’m all ears — and you should be, too!


City of Villains: Why I Don’t Trust Batman | Sarah Gailey

You met the billionaire playboy once. You grew up in one of his orphanages, after your Pop was killed by a villain and your Ma ran off to make her fortune robbing banks in a souped-up mech suit. The orphanage was nice, nicer than home even, because nobody there was squirreling away your lunch money to pay for mech suit parts.

For a long time, I considered Batman my favorite superhero, without question. When Tim Burton’s revolutionary take on him came out in 1989, 20-year-old me spent $200 on a replica costume that I wore to one Halloween party that year, and occasionally stood in the window of our floor-level apartment in the evening to freak out people walking by. I can confirm the jokes about the mask being uncomfortable and impractical being true, because that hot piece of latex was the worst! But it was also the best.

I forget the first time I heard the take about a billionaire vigilante choosing to terrorize poor people rather than use his money for good being a bad thing, but it completely ruined him for me — and to a lesser degree, superheroes in general. That’s a whole other train of thought for another time, though.

Anyway, many of my favorite Batman stories don’t actually feature him (eg, Gotham Central), and I love anything that leans into that idea of a billionaire vigilante maybe not being the best superhero. Gailey nails it in this great short story (not a comic) from the perspective of a henchman (goon? lackey?) just trying to make a living in the shadows of the bat signal.

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6 thoughts on “Five Things: August 3, 2023

  1. Re smart watches: If your one and only consistent workout is an outdoor walk or run, PLUS the temperature is over 95?F or under 10, or the air quality is marked as dangerous, that seems like not a hard algorithm to write to send a message along the lines of “Good job! Stay inside!” Or is that too close to acknowledging climate change?

  2. 1) Glad you found a new way to get the newsletter out!
    2) The reason that Batman still works for me as a character is that Bruce didn’t become Batman because he thought that was the most rational, efficient way he could end crime in Gotham City. Batman is his therapy, the way he works through his helplessness to stop his parents’ deaths.

    1. It’s not as elegant as Substack, or even Revue, but it works and it’s integrated with the blog, so I’m happy with it so far.

      re: Batman, I think his origin and earliest stories make sense in that context, but what he evolves into in his later years is where it falls apart, especially considering the realities of living under billionaires that Kane, Finger, and Fox probably never imagined.

  3. Great Issue!

    1. As a legacy chilango, I grew up in Mexico City in the 60s. I trolled a lot of mercados, including the Abelardo L. Rodríguez, looking for lucha and matador plastic figures and Fantomas comics. The murals always made an impression on me (You should look into Rodriquez’s life, fascinating dude. Aside from being a former President for example, he owned a film studio Bunuel film many movies at.). Aside: In the 70s some of my first alcohol was pulque and aguardiente. Took me several tries to appreciate the texture of pulque.

    2. Need an app that can tell the difference between daydreaming and screen-napping.

    3. There are a lot of good teams this year. When there is parity underdogism tends to beat exceptionalism.

    4. I think Joe’s optimism is well-placed, the comic industry is still in mid-disruption. The current playing field is anything but set. More change is going to come. There is an intrinsic shared social experience in comics that doesn’t exist in other mediums. There is still room for a publishing structure to emerge that takes advantage of all the opportunities now available to us. Hold this space.

    5. I don’t like Zuckerberg, Musk, and Bezos as the Waynes we have. Dorsey certainly dresses like Batman, no I think Sergey Brin has the best backstory for the modern, global Bruce Wayne. Still, Warren Buffet is the Wayne I wax nostalgic over, sort of the Gotham Murder He Wrote…

    1. It was our first time having pulque, and it was a little weird at first, but then we tried different curados and loved them. Walnut and pistachio were my favorites.

      Do you go back often?

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