Down from the mountain

Sugarloaf MountainWe hopped out of the city briefly on Saturday to hike Maryland’s Sugarloaf Mountain. It was gorgeous, and there’s a winery up there that’s not too shabby. There’s nothing like a good binge on fresh air to cap a week. Here’s a recap.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

I appreciated the ideas behind the dream sequences for the purposes of character development. But they really did seem like under-cooked, over-extended abstractions that didn’t need to be there. That, said, James Spader was a phenomenal villain (even if Ultron’s lip movements looked completely out of place), the Whedon-era spirit was strong during the film’s lighter moments, Stan Lee probably had his best cameo in a Marvel movie yet.

Additionally, the movie really does go all out to remind you that Marvel is part of Disney now with its use of “I’ve Got No Strings” from Pinocchio (1940) as Ultron’s personal song.

That actually worked for me as a meta-reference, as did Whedon’s Archie Comics-inspired naming of the Hulkbuster armor satellite, “Veronica” (named because Bruce Banner’s comics love interest is named Betty). That was clever.

I kind of wonder if Quicksilver’s fate wasn’t sort of a slap in the face Fox, given all the inter-company drama with the Marvel film rights, though.

Regardless, Age of Ultron was a great watch.

UFO sightings

I stumbled upon a great interactive map for visualizing UFO sightings since 1933. I brought up how no one seems to see anything in the District, but it uses records from all over the world. So no matter where you live, it’ll show where people have reported seeing strange things in the sky.

Metro’s funding on the chopping block

WMATA deserves some scrutiny and pressure right now, given its recent disasters and reluctance to spend money on maintenance. But the move in the House to halve federal funding in the coming year seems like it’s a little risky at a time when D.C.’s public transit system needs to get safer and more dependable.

Abe’s train dreams

Japan’s prime minister visited D.C., though he picked a bad week if originally had any intentions of discussing Baltimore. He has pressured Obama in the past about a high-speed rail project that could get transport people from there to D.C. in 15 minutes. And he’s still pushing to get more Japanese train technology into the U.S. as a part of his plan to get his country’s economy into better shape.