Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Skunked Again

Tried to get a group of friends to go catch Jonathan Coulton in Chicago this Saturday, but one by one, all declined due to other plans. That is, until I heard from my friend Holly who was an all-go for the show.

Unfortunately, though, the JoCo date in question is now sold out which I was afraid of.

Oh, well. I’ll just have to keep an eye out for his return, which will hopefully be in the near-future.

Until then, I’ll have to watch the above clip, and just fantasize about being at the Lakeshore Theatre this weekend – or failing that, I’ll show up anyway, shank the door guy in the kidneys, sneak in amidst the screaming, and watch the show gratis.

Either way, I'm flexible.

Sound and Fury

As of today, there’s no doubt Jeremiah Wright has gone from a consistent thorn to Barack Obama’s campaign to a tumor that is steadily poisoning it with angry noise.

In response to comments made by Wright last weekend, Obama today issued his strongest attempt yet to divorce himself from his ex-pastor. But the damage to Obama’s presidential bid is deepening, fueled by repeatedly lame, guilt-by-association politics, and the media’s obsession with Wright’s every syllable, beginning at right-wing outlets like Fox before then bleeding into larger sources.

One reason for this Wright story lasting as long as it has involves the drawn-out pace of the Democratic primaries.

As Obama and Clinton slug it out, the media feels compelled to talk about something in-between state contests, and Wright is as salacious a story as any floating about right now with the possible exception of Miley Cyrus’ bare teenage back. But closer to the point, when I think of Obama’s current PR quagmire, I can’t help thinking of Willem Defoe (as Norman Osborn in “Spider-Man”) speechifying that the only thing people love more than a hero is to see a hero fail.

For months, Barack Obama was that lofty hero, enjoying huge campaign coffers and sunny comparisons to JFK while stacking up caucus victories. Then the Wright story ignited in March, and Obama’s campaign has been in a slow tailspin every since, while today Hillary Clinton—still lagging in numbers—is regaining momentum in Indiana, and today captured an attagirl from North Carolina’s governor.

As for John McCain, he’s doing little else but killing time – puttering around in his tour bus, and glad-handing locals as the Dems sort their laundry.

Is Obama on the ropes? Not yet.

I still feel that come Denver this August, Obama will be the Democrats’ man. But his message (already unfocused) is taking a beating from the constant media bleating around insinuations of his past.

Maybe one day, we’ll all get back to real issues hitting the country. Too bad it won’t happen anytime soon.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Fish in A Barrel

Saw the following bumper sticker on the ride home from work today…

Let’s pick off the blatant historical inaccuracies one by one, shall we? It’s not hard.

Fascism...hasn’t gone anywhere (ever heard of Bosnia or Iran?)

Nazism ...while beaten into submission post-WWII, hasn’t gone anywhere (ever heard of Central Europe or the United States?)

Communism ...hasn’t gone anywhere (ever heard of North Korea or China? Plus, war did not end the Soviet Bloc, bankruptcy did.)

And finally, and most emphatically... Slavery hasn’t gone anywhere (ever heard of Earth?)


All of which brings me to the following conclusion: to whomever wrote the above sticker slogan (veteran or not) and/or chooses to place it on their car (veteran or not), you are a complete and utter imbecile.

And while were on the subject of ugly truths: read a book, preferably one about history.

Pick A Card

Behold one of the following new "Dark Knight" international one-sheet posters arrived today. God knows I could be horribly wrong, but this movie looks incredible. Seems the new trailer will be out this Sunday; a few poor quality bootlegs are floating out there online.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Boogie-Woogie Berwyn

For anyone who grew up in the Chicago area circa the late '70s/early '80s, and was a Channel 32 watcher, this one's for you.

What's The Matter With Atheism?

I personally have no objection with atheism, much less atheists.

However, I find it puzzling how in American culture, atheism is often considered akin to child molestation or Nazism, especially in military culture which is predominantly conservative.

Never mind that atheists are no less likely to pay their taxes than any Christian or Wiccan, which begs the question of why--considering atheists are a small minority of US citizens—so much resentment is broached against them?

Is it because persons of faith feel insulted (or closer to the point, threatened) by another rejecting their worldview? If so, why? Who the hell cares if someone else believes in a higher power, or not? Don’t we all have bigger fish to fry in our lives? Yes, I realize religion is a deeply ingrained part of American culture, but I still don’t see why that should post scarlet letters on those who decline it.

Contrary to those who feel the First Amendment’s Free Exercise clause means that all Americans must practice religion by state decree, those who reject religion are just as protected under the constitution and free to peacefully go about their lives.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

America The Rudderless

Yesterday’s 8.6% win in Pennsylvania by Hillary Clinton revealed both much and little about the nature of the 2008 Democratic bid for the White House, if not American politics as a whole.

On one hand, Clinton’s victory did little to budge the math enjoyed by Barack Obama, with his lead in elected delegates and popular vote intact. Yet Obama’s recent inability to win white and blue-collar votes has become a significant Achilles Heel for his campaign. Truly, Obama cannot rely solely on young and African-American voters to drive him to victory, not only versus Hillary this spring, but in a general election match-up versus John McCain as well.

I still believe Obama will win North Carolina by a big margin on May 6, with Indiana now a toss-up courtesy of the momentum (however lasting) earned by Clinton in PA.

Neither of these calls are very earth-shattering, but this continued lack of a unified vote across the Democratic Party is troubling for its supporters. Ironically, Democrats are languishing under a perfect storm created by the notoriety of Obama and Clinton as historic election year front-runners, with each enjoying support from specific voting blocs while failing to win the soul of the overall party.

In the meantime, as Republicans relish the struggles of Democrats, a beached whale of an economy and Iraq in stasis gives them little to cheer about either. Yes, the party has its candidate in John McCain (with Mitt Romney strutting for a VP spot like a hooker on an exit ramp), but today’s GOP is hardly a gang held aloft by focused, Reagan-style optimism. Plus, in addition to liquid cash, McCain is also staggering light on details for a national vision, and God knows the outgoing administration is hardly a star he should hitch his wagon to (although McCain is certainly trying).

So judging from all of the above, it seems the U.S. electorate has few options, and little idea of what the hell it wants – a situation which I’m sure will be resolved in November, but is one that inspires little optimism in the nation’s future.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Field of Dreams and Kielbasa

Congrats to my brother, Scott, who among 15 others up for the position, scored a new, full-time gig as a sports cameraman/editor for WDJT, the CBS television affiliate in Milwaukee.

He starts this week.

Scott’s previous part-time job at Comcast SportsNet in Chicago turned out to be a major disappointment after being given a handful of hours since January, a problem several other part-timers have also had due to management overhiring too many people for the same responsibilities.

Great way to run a business, huh?

Nevertheless, after much struggling and sudden questions over apartment hunting in Milwaukee, Scott will be spending a lot of time this summer at Miller Park shooting post-game interviews with Brewers players.

Well done, I say.

Is it wrong for five men to dress up as giant links of ethnic meat,
and race around an infield? I don’t think so.


My official prediction for tomorrow’s PA Democratic primary is as follows: Hillary Clinton wins by 6-8 percentage points (slightly up from my original call of 4-6), but still lags seriously behind in total delegates.

However, Hillary’s campaign will finally be killed (mathematically) two weeks later (on May 6) by a huge Barack Obama victory in North Carolina, with Indiana too close to call at this moment.

Either way, the numbers will insist that Hillary finally drop out of the race – not that that reality will stop her from pushing on anyhow.

But it won’t matter. The undecided Democratic superdelegates will desert her en masse for Obama.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Broke Trek

I've seen many "Brokeback Mountain" parodies online, but IMO, this one is by far the best.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Surfing The Crust

Although a co-worker of mine said today’s surprise 5.2 earthquake based in southern Illinois woke her up this morning, and felt like “lying on a waterbed” (impressive as the epicenter was 275 miles away), I slept through the incident without a peep.

If the electric fan I keep in my bedroom would have switched off during the night, however, I would have woken up like a gunshot.

I needs me my white noise.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Attn: ABC News (Re: You Suck Ass)

For the record, neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama won last night’s Democratic presidential debate in Pennsylvania.

The actual winner? Fox “News” pundit--and RNC flack--Sean Hannity.

Ten bucks says Hannity floated to his office today on vapors of joy, as his trademark slanted brand of journalism easily won out the night.

(Jesus Christ, even right-winger Jonah Goldberg agrees, and he just wrote a book titled “Liberal Fascism.”)

Versus delving into concrete issues Americans can relate to (e.g. gas/food prices, the shrinking dollar, massive Chinese debt, Iraq, home foreclosures, etc), ABC News moderators Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos instead chose to harp on Hannity's anti-Obama talking points for the debate’s first 51 minutes. The same desperate talking points Hannity’s been tossing on Fox like Molotov cocktails for weeks: Jeremiah Wright, old ‘60s radical Bill Ayres, and “bittergate.”

Watching Gibson and Stephanopoulos parrot his dogma during the telecast, Hannity must have been dancing around his garage like Shaggy after scoring a dimebag. After all, his M.O. of turning news into partisan propaganda was validated before a mainstream media audience. It must have been a banner night for 'ol Slanthead.

However, I doubt Wednesday’s show (somehow, I can’t call it a “debate”) will affect the PA primary next week. After local voters have been awash in political ads over the past month, I suspect most have already picked a candidate, and if they vote at all is another matter. But I also suspect that Hillary Clinton exploiting the defensive tack Obama was forced to take last night may again backfire with voters, a trend which has sent her negative ratings up in recent polls.

In the final wash, though, last night’s event was an indicator of two things: 1) it previewed the kind of political attacks Barack Obama could expect in a general election, and considering the mainstream media is busy fawning over John McCain, that does not bode well for Obama, and; 2) it risked a voter backlash against those who neglect issues that directly impact them versus, for example, ranting about a candidate’s choice of lapel pin.

I just hope these same voters will smell Sean Hannity’s politics of horseshit and distraction for the fraud it is (and was Wednesday night), and force actual election issues back to the fore.

Well done, Sean. I'm sure the check is in the mail.

Attn: Marvel Comics (Re: And That Goes Double For You!)

After reading Marvel Comics since 1976, at the age of eight, I am officially cutting any reader loyalty to the company.

For me, the final straw was tonight after picking up one of Marvel’s few remaining boosk for which I have any interest: “Captain America,” written by Ed Brubaker.

Since the splashy demise of Steve Rogers in 2007, Cap’s mantle has been up by his old WWII-era pal Bucky, who’s done very capably in the role. So much, in fact, that I had become grateful of Rogers’ death, as it allowed Cap’s mythology to grow in new directions. Yet the final panel of “Cap” #37 (spoiler alert) released this week, showing a scarred, and possibly living Steve Rogers, threw any hope for such growth into the sewer.

Sure, it could be a stunt. Plus, the notion of superheroes returning from the grave is hardly new nor unexpected.

But what really roasts my walnuts is Marvel apparently taking up the credo of no positive character development going unpunished. Instead, chief editor Joe Quesada would apparently fall back on what has become is unenviable hallmark: tired, soapy plots aimed at ten year-old boys.

Yet what Joe fails to realize is that most modern comic readers—the same who learned to love comics in the ‘70s and ‘80s, as he did—have grown up, as has their brain power. And expecting these now-adult readers to fall for the same hackneyed plot twists they did at age ten, or worse (“One More Day,” “Secret Invasion”) is insulting.

Thus, upon hitting my FNCS tonight, I struck all Marvel titles from my weekly sub list.

Forgive the soapboxing, but my self-respect can’t take it anymore.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Feral Chicago

After a two year-old male cougar was cornered—always a smart move—and sadly shot to death by police in Chicago two days ago, it seems cougar-mania has descended upon us, as seen in the following report of another large cat allegedly spotted near Skokie, Illinois.

As for the slain puma, although local wildlife experts doubt it, I’d wager it belonged to some imbecile who kept it as a pet, and either escaped or was turned loose when it became unmanageable.

However, wild cougars have been increasingly confirmed as living in the Midwest, including Wisconsin and southern Illinois.

Down kitty.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Jones and Obama Are Right

One of my all-time favorite movie quotes goes as follows:

“A person is smart, yes. But people are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it.” – Tommy Lee Jones, “Men In Black”

Mr. Jones was right, and so was Barack Obama in his recent speech in San Francisco which referred to “bitterness: in small-town America.

Republican campaign organizers know it too, which explains why they consistently harp on emotionally-charged “scare” issues every four years. They know much of their electorate is easily jolted by straw bogeymen (“God, gays, guns, and John McCain’s secret black child”) aimed at sensibilities they, yes, cling to most.

Want some real-world examples? No problem.

In 2000, the NRA circulated pamphlets in Tennessee claiming a chief priority of a President Al Gore would be to confiscate legal firearms, while another local Republican flyer claimed Gore would outlaw Bibles. Both bad lies, sure, but clearly some area voters were dense enough to buy it, as were others four years later when Dick Cheney insinuated that those casting a ballot for John Kerry were gambling with their families’ lives on terror security.

How about two more 2004 election year classic “scare” issues: same-sex marriage, and embryonic stem cell research.

With the former, what is the literal difference between two men or two women co-habitating as a legally wed couple, or not? None. By its legal definition, marriage is a socio-economic contract which is why lawyers manage divorces, and not church officials. Secondly, to religious conservatives so horrified by human embryos being used to harvest stem cells, I encourage you to protest outside a local in-vitro fertility clinic, as such places discard (meaning throw in the trash, or toilet) unwanted embryos on a regular basis.

Thus, no matter if these embryos are used to recover stems, or tossed out as surplus, the outcome is the same. If you’re going to be (self) righteous, at least be consistent about it.

As for “small-town” economic issues, who could blame residents of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, or Indiana for ”bitterness”? Their local economies (most all manufacturing-based) have struggled for over 35 years with no uptick in sight. How could they not be emotionally fried, especially when decades of government promises for relief have largely gone by the boards?

With the exception of economic hardships—which impacts everyone—these aforementioned “fear” voters are precisely those the RNC bank on, ones easily herded to their side of the ballot, prodded along by electric buzzwords (e.g. “elitist,” “America hater,” “socialist”) which GOP lackeys at Fox “News” and their right-wing talk radio counterparts are too happy to howl ad hominem on air.

All of the above are points Barack Obama was driving at in his “bitter” San Francisco speech.

Could he have phrased the message better?

Yes, most people dislike being reminded of their shortcomings, which does not imply that religion or gun-ownership is a weakness, but rather how some use them to express anger with government.

But on the whole, Obama’s basic message could not have been more accurate.

This said, do I personally feel that Republican voters—on the whole—are brain-dead, or least any more than Democratic ones? No. But on the other hand, what does it say when voters fall for the same crap every four years? Of course, election year fear-mongering is not new in American politics (LBJ’s 1964 “Daisy” TV spot is a prime example), but when it strikes, few voters seem able to recognize it as the cellophane ghost rising out of the attic trunk it truly is.

Thus, this fearful drum will continue beating.

Yet to voters—whomever they are—so deeply offended by Obama’s “bitter” remarks, riddle me this: the Republican Party—not to mention Hillary Clinton—are treating you like easily scared, impulsive rabbits.

Why do you keep living up to their expectations?

Sunday, April 13, 2008


Having never previously seen the show, after watching three consecutive episodes of Top Chef: Chicago this afternoon, I have realized an essential self-truth: I hate food snobs.

And Spike? Get rid of those fucking hats. You look like a kitchen pimp.

That is all.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Fifteen All (A Revised Reply To Brad Weber)

Yesterday, I found a comment on this blog by Brad Weber rebutting my post earlier made this week addressing a recent article about comics pariah Dr. Frederic Wertham, and his impact on the medium.

In response, I rattled off a reply on Brad’s blog last night, one I still largely stand by.

However, after taking my time to rethink both Brad’s position on Wertham (see above links) and my own, I wrote the following clarification today:

Dear Brad:

The point I was (perhaps too casually) trying to make in my post about Wertham is that the period sensibilities which enabled his moral crusade against an apparently leztastic Wonder Woman in 1954 have today been neutered by a far more liberal (read as, post-1960s) mainstream American culture.

Thus, as McCarthy is now widely considered a ideologue crackpot for chasing pinko wild geese during the same era, Wertham is as much an intellectual daisy today for his misadventures in logical thinking made in Seduction (e.g. “Johnny reads comics. Johnny starts fires. Therefore, comics cause Johnny to start fires”).

Now granted, the disdain levied against constitutional freedoms by McCarthy--and others like him during the ‘50s—are still relevant, as those carried out by the Bush Administration today nearly as grave. But my comparison, were the second coming of Frederic Wertham to come along in 2008, he’d be ignored by everyone in the popular culture except, say, Bill O’Reilly.

Sure, we’ll always have local imbeciles who protest books by Mark Twain and Alice Walker, but those individuals—whose rants are almost always inevitably rejected by their local school boards under ACLU pressure--are more the exception to how pop culture is regarded in this country than the rule.



Monday, April 7, 2008

Equal Time

In the interests of fairness, check out the following article on Slate questioning if Dr. Frederic Wertham is perhaps fairly labeled by comic fans and creators alike as the Joseph Stalin of the comic book world.

It’s a decent read.

However, inasmuch as I enjoy torching uptight moral crusaders, considering what a spectacular failure Wertham’s attempt—via his highly dubious study on the social impact of comics on young readers, The Seduction of The Innocent—at social engineering has proven 54 years later, I find it difficult to gin up much anger in his direction. In fact, I’d wager that most comic readers under the age of 25 have no idea who Frederic Wertham is, much less what his bizarre psycho-scribble was about.

In other words, Wertham is well on his way to being utterly forgotten, both by history and pop culture. And as such, we should do nothing to slow that course from finishing itself out.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

So If She Weighs As Much As A Duck...

The following report over at Ed Brayton’s DFTCW would be hilarious, if it weren’t so damned ironic.

It describes staff of ultra-orthodox colleges being (I hesitate to say “persecuted”) for making statements that run contrary to Calvinist doctrine, such as endorsing Darwin, or rejecting the notion of homosexuality (or voting for Democrats) as a moral flaw. However, the loophole that allows such colleges to rebuff these actions without legal backlash is that newly hired staff must sign a “Statement of Belief” defining each school’s religious credo, for which violators may be tried for—I kid you not—heresy.

Y’know, that old chestnut used by Spanish Inquisitors back in the 15th Century?

Obviously, pouring molten silver down one’s throat is not involved in these modern-day “heresy trials,” but simply using the phrase to conduct these inquiries at any college (religious or not) smacks of sheer medievalism, as embodied in the following example.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Shut Up & Drink Your Tea

Read yesterday (shame on me for missing it) that the cranky heirs of author J.R.R. Tolkien are up in arms yet again over New Line’s recent film adaptation of “LOTR,” complaining that the family has not seen bupkis in residuals from the trilogy’s worldwide mega-box office.

As such, Christopher Tolkien—who, save his grandson Royd, has never endorsed J.R.R.’s work being put to film—and clan are suing New Line for a piece of the action, which may delay (or entirely halt) current plans for a new movie production of “The Hobbit” under the guidance of Peter Jackson.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but J.R.R. Tolkien’s heirs aren’t owed a proverbial red shilling from any “LOTR” movie profits.


Tolkien sold the film rights to “LOTR” and “The Hobbit” before his death in 1973, and unless any prior deal was struck with the author on points—which I seriously doubt—his estate is owed nothing further from New Line.

Thus, my advice to Tolkien’s surviving family is to bugger off.

Peter Jackson’s treatment of “LOTR” didn’t only respect J.R.R. Tolkien’s—very windy--source material, it vastly improved upon it,,,despite, y’know, a certain homoerotic subtext involving Frodo and Sam.

Not that there’s anything wrong with hobbits exploring their sexuality, mind you, especially in highly stressful situations. I mean, in a way, it's perfectly understandable.

PS (4-6-08): Was watching a retrospective on Tolkien this afternoon, including a rather frightening snippet that the Beatles once lobbied J.R.R. for the film rights to “LOTR” so they could make a movie of the trilogy starring the band in major roles (e.g. John Lennon as Gollum, Paul McCartney as Frodo, Ringo Starr as Sam, and George Harrison as Gandalf).

However, as the following piece from 2002 explains, Tolkien had the presence of mind to reject the Fab Four’s idea.

May I speak for the group a moment? Thank Christ.

Although a part of me wonders how a Beatle-fied screenplay of “LOTR” would have read. I’m guessing the Fellowship spent a lot of time with the elves—truly the flower children of Middle Earth—dropping acid, and debating the nature of good and evil amidst late-night binges of Funyuns and Jack-In-The-Box.