Saturday, January 28, 2006

Top 5 Lines You'll Never Hear In A 'Frosted Flakes' Commercial

5. "Gee, Tony, I've never knocked over anything bigger than a liquor store!"

4. "Gee, Tony, I've never gotten past second base with a girl before!" (This one presumably would bring new meaning to 'brings out the tiger in you'.)

3. "Gee, Tony, the picketers outside this abortion clinic look pretty scary!"

2. "Gee, Tony, she looks cute, but she's only thirteen!"

1. "Gee, Tony, I just don't think I have the guts to kill myself."

Thursday, January 26, 2006


So, on a whim, I decided today to try to find a webpage that would give me some information on DC's latest cross-over, 'Infinite Crisis'. (Not to be confused with 'Identity Crisis', or 'Crisis on Infinite Earths'. DC seems to be in full-on panic mode way too often for a universe that has Batman and Superman. Marvel seems much calmer.) And so I made the horrible mistake of trying to read a FAQ on IC.

DEAR GOD. Seriously, this is the most convoluted, over-complicated, bloated mess that any human being could conceive of--in fact, almost certainly moreso. It sincerely looks like if you want to make any goddamn sense out of the current DC storyline, you have to have read every single DC comic since 1985...minimum. They're bringing back every single bad idea that they got rid of in 'Crisis on Infinite Earths' (well, every one they hadn't already brought back--they brought back Krypto the fucking Super-Dog a few years back, which was probably a sign of the end times then and there), they've turned every single super-hero in the DC Universe into a paranoid psychotic, and by the time I've finished writing this, they plan to jump the entire universe a year ahead and release a 52-issue miniseries explaining what happened in the missing year. (OK, it happens next month, but almost certainly by the time anybody reads this, that'll happen.)

I'm of two minds about this. One, the sensible part, which has listened to comics gurus like Warren Ellis and Alan Moore, and who isn't part of the completist grind anymore (and don't fool yourself, it is a grind. If you want to be a comics collector, you have to read a lot of shit to "keep up" with developments in the fictional universe you enjoy some stories in. Otherwise you'll be reading a fun Garth Ennis book like 'Hitman' and wondering, "Who's this Keanu-looking doof who's claiming to be Green Lantern?") This part of me is shrieking, "Have you gone out of your ever-loving minds, DC? This--this abomination of a bloated mess--is why comics readership is declining! With comics being as expensive as they are nowadays, if you make your readers choose between following everything in order to understand the events of the one or two books they like, and dropping comics altogether, they're just going to drop everything! You must, must, must release books that appeal to the casual reader, and stop huge bloated 'event' cross-overs that just perpetuate the insane soap-opera that only masturbatingly-obsessive DC continuity freaks care about! Listen to Warren Ellis! Short, sweet, self-contained, well-written! Not never-ending, bloated, and forcing you to read each panel from each book released over the course of two years in order to understand what all the different Luthors are doing fighting each other!"

Then there's the other, either more realistic or more cynical part, which says, "Screw it. Maybe they're right. Maybe it's just not possible for DC to get the casual readers anymore, maybe their continuity is just too entrenched and convoluted to get rid of, and maybe their only hope is to pander to the small obsessive, rich, DC fanboy market for all it's worth, using the trade paperbacks as a lure to that extremely rare marketing segment that picks up an issue of something like 'Infinite Crisis' and, instead of saying, "This is incomprehensible shit!", says, "I have got to know what this is all about." And hoping that niche market is enough to sustain them.

We'll see which part of me is right in ten years' time. If it's the first part, I'm buying the rights to Hawk and Dove. That series rocked.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Hot Stoves and Brick Walls

At some point during our Thing With Iraq (it can't be a war, since we declared victory; people get very shirty if you call it an occupation; and I'm not sure if we really want to try to explain why we're "liberating" them with torture centers, guns, tanks, and in a few rare cases, body armor)...well, at some point, the administration pretty much waved the white flag in the "moral authority" department. Basically, the argument has gone, "Alright, yes, there were no weapons of mass destruction. Yes, the intelligence was, at best, shoddy, and at worst so overtly shoddy that it's blatantly obvious that we were willfully misreading it to construct a causus belli, and everyone knew it even at the time. Yes, the entire war has been nothing but a blatant power grab. BUT..."

The new conservative rationale for the war. "Now that we're there, we have to win, because the alternatives are too horrible to contemplate."

Discussing a pull-out of the troops is considered to be "defeatist" talk, the same sort of thing that people did in World War II because they secretly supported Hitler or something. We're told that this "hurts troop morale", because after a long hard day of getting shot at, watching your friend get scissored in half by a chunk of shrapnel the size of a cat, and missing your wife and kids desperately, nothing will really lower your morale like hearing that people back home want to get you the hell out of Iraq.

The fact of the matter is, any realistic discussion of the war in Iraq must consider the question, "What are the conditions for victory, and are those conditions still attainable?" If the answer to the latter half of the question is "No," then it is not defeatist to say that we should cut our losses and go, any more than it would be defeatist to suggest that we shouldn't try to break a brick wall with our skulls. We can't do it, and we'll probably do ourselves serious harm in the process.

The current administration is refusing to consider this question. They have sub-ordinated the best interests of the American military, the realities of public policy, and quite possibly the well-being of the nation for the forseeable future, to the egotistical belief that they will be vindicated by history if they can simply pour a sufficient amount of resources into the war. By attempting to salvage their reputation, they are in fact making it worse. It's like touching a hot stove, and instead of pulling your hand back, holding it there to prove how tough it is.

So, let's take a moment and actually consider the question. "What are the conditions of victory in Iraq?" The answer would seem to be, "The creation of a stable, humane, US-friendly government in the country." If this is, in fact, the answer, we should pull out now, because that was never an achievable goal and never will be. Any government that is stable is stable because it is responsive to the needs of its citizens; any government that is humane is humane because it values its citizens; any government that is US-friendly (in the terms we are attempting to impose upon Iraq) values our goodwill higher than it does its own citizens. Meaning that any government that is US-friendly will either have to resort to violence to keep power, or else ask us to do it for them. "Stable, friendly, humane" is the "cheap, close, nice" of nation-building: Pick two.

So what's a realistic "condition of victory" in Iraq, one we can actually achieve that won't make us feel that this is a total failure (or worse--a chaotic, unstable Iraq would be a total failure, a stable-but-actively-hostile-to-the-US Iraq would be worse). This is something that is changing day to day, which is another thing that the Bush administration is failing to understand, or possibly deliberately refusing to understand. "Events are in the saddle, and ride mankind." It was spoken of Vietnam, but it's equally true here. The statement, "We have to stay until we win," presumes that there will always be an existing condition of victory, that we have an unlimited supply of time, money, manpower, material, and goodwill (both of the US and Iraqi public) to accomplish our aims. We do not. The clock is ticking.

It may already have run out.

Friday, January 06, 2006

The End of the Conversation

(Go watch 'Anne', the first episode of Buffy Season Three. Pause it right at the end of Scene 15, the conversation between Giles and Joyce. This is what I always figured Giles must have said.)

"She's a young woman who's been placed under any number of burdens, Ms. Summers. Some of them are the same as any other girl her age, but others are absolutely unique, and she has borne them when any number of others would have broken. She's saved my life on more than one occasion, and more than that, she's saved the lives of her friends, of her family, of total strangers and of every man, woman and child in the entire world. I realize that it's a bit hard to take in a phrase like that, so I will repeat it so that you don't miss it.

"Every living being on this planet today owes their life to your daughter. In fact, we all owe her our lives several times over; her courage and skill has saved the entire planet more than once. She saved all these people without thought of the considerable danger to herself, without any wish for reward or recompense, and indeed at great personal cost. If you have to put that into a single word, Ms. Summers, I believe the one I'd select would be 'hero'...and frankly, if you wish to place the 'blame' for that onto my shoulders, I take it as the greatest of compliments. Good day to you."

At which point Giles walks out, leaving Joyce to maybe feel a bit bad about the way she's been handling things.

One Tiny Thing

Changed my mind about 'Purge', by Bif Naked. It's dreamy. (I must have been in a bad mood the first time I listened to it.)