24 June, 2011

Who is Seth DeSignor?

Long days at work. Things have gotten so rough, I've been putting in late nights as a stripper. Don't believe me?

I don't know what this all means or where it's going, but these were fun to make and I have ideas for more. I just can't let it take over finishing the book. I'm still not halfway through the fourth draft, and it's over three months since I had intended to have a finished product. Work's also been going well.

I could say more, but I obviously haven't gotten a lot of sleep lately, so I should catch up on some of that.

But my goodness, these were fun to make.

Here's a larger version of "Great Wall of China" by Gerhard.

19 June, 2011

And so this is Father's Day, and what have we done?

And now the Republican slate of candidates includes two women, the one everybody hates because she might run and the one who's actually winning.

What would "Gilligan's Island" be without Maryanne and Ginger? Even Peter Parker had Gwen and Mary Jane. The shadow of Diane Chambers followed Sam Malone's life [and now I'm picturing a Van Halen analogy where Rebecca is Sammy Hagar so let me try to get back on the original subject]

Michelle Bachman won a lot of fans with her appearance at the recent debate. It's certainly amusing that so much of the hatred went to Palin that she was able to advance this far without anybody noticing. About all I know of Bachman is that she was accused of being a witch in her last election, and not by the intolerant religious right either.

I'm still sexist, I don't want a woman President. But if we must have one, at least the latest candidates are going through the same motions every other candidate does. Except they're not, because contrary to what feminists have said, the personal is *not* the political. Palin wrote emails to her unborn child and so far as we know, her husband isn't texting pictures of his wang to college students and porn stars. Palin's emails were considered public property and legions of volunteers rushed to read them.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, the rush to announce Palin-hatred reminded me of nothing so much as a woman who incessantly talks about how awful a certain man is, bringing him up at every opportunity, and it's clear to everyone else that she needs to change her panties. She's as awful as any other Presidential candidate (successful or not), ok, that's a given. She's not even a candidate, so why worry about it? Howard Dean, Al Gore and John Edwards (to pick three names at random) don't arouse such loathing from their opponents.

The White House's current occupant has showed us how difficult the Chief Executive position is for anybody and the concepts of leadership, authority and responsibility aren't easy to communicate to anybody who's never consciously experienced them. Having a family - one man, one woman, a given number of kids - is how most people experience that, consciously or not. Running a business, getting a promotion, holding elected office, owning property, these are all ways people can choose a more difficult - more *conscious* - manner of experiencing leadership, authority, responsibility.

A new scandal - which may or may not go anywhere - has Obama spokespeople rejecting some form he signed in the mid-90's about his stance on gay marriage. It makes a funny joke, he won't acknowledge his own signature, and I've given it little notice. I don't know what his position on the form was, or who he's sent out to give an unconvincing explanation, or who was asking in the first place. Whatever his answer was, gay groups and Democrats were apparently happy with it in the mid-90s up until just recently. The spokesman (or Obama's defenders on the internet; as I say I'm not following the details) say that some staffer shoved the form under his face and it wasn't a literal promise, just a rough statement of principles that all candidates get.

Which they do, but the guy who signed it is still responsible for upholding it. Maybe he was lying, maybe he genuinely believed whatever it took to get elected, but the buck still stops with him whether he was a city-councilman, mayor or candidate for Veep. And that goes whether he's responsible for property or a family or a business or an elected post. And if he'll lie about his legal stance on dudes who are into other dudes, what else will he lie about?

[Chicks who are into chicks are a different story because, you know, that's kinda hot.]

Ok, after John Edwards, Al Gore, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Bill Clinton and Anthony Weiner, what will he lie about? None of them are noted for their ability to say 'ok, you caught me, I'll accept the punishment without complaint.' [Although to be fair, Al Gore has responded admirably, as one would expect of a gentleman and a southerner. He's become ungodly rich selling snake-oil or similar. One doesn't have to disagree with current global warming theories to see that. But the people currently trying anything to rebrand the latest climate change theories have proven, time and again, that they are allied with people who use bombs and bullets to enforce their will. Grant Morrison gave PETA a free ad directly on the pages of "Animal Man", and look what they've done since.

[Remember "Animal Man"? That DC comic from the late 80's about a guy with the powers of any animal? He had a very few appearances in the DCU Universe since his creation but only comic geeks would know that. Grant Morrison was such a comics geek, he started off with a miniseries that had a few neat ideas. I'd never heard of the character, there was nothing in Brian Bolland's promo art that appealed to me. I can take or leave stories about animals, had never heard of the character and had no idea people actually sat down and made the damned things. Made comic books, that is, not animals which are natural beings worthy of respect for what they are. They have their own ways and settle them with the plants among themselves and that's fine. If they can write and draw a cool DC comic, that's fine, just as it would have been in 1961 or 1941.

The ad must have drawn me to the comic, because I looked at the first issue and it appealed to me enough. They were doing superhero stuff I liked but in a different way. A very well-done sitcom family mixed in with villainous silhouettes and scenes that show someone put thought into the nature of a superhero world, television appearances and putting on a jacket because a skintight outfit is embarassing. The first issue ends with this inexperienced but very likeable superhero confronting a smashed laboratory and a merged pile of monkeys. It was familiar, yet different. The straightforward honesty of Morrison's storytelling and the clean, natural art by Chas Truog and Doug Hazlewood were appealing. The second issue built extremely multiple storylines quite well. Not for kids, if you consider a drawing of someone's brutally-severed arm unsuitable for children, or a drawing of a dead deer, both of which happened in the second issue.

Obviously when the DC editors saw this, they knew they'd hit a bossible source of wealth. Morrison's career has demonstrated that they were right - in bad ways too, I find it almost depressing to look at the collected volumes and see a lot of what I see in modern comics, except without the clean storytelling. The coloring alone is much more interesting than the computer crap. But I digress.

It was in the first issue he had to write after being asked to do more than a 4-issue miniseries that really sealed the deal. My Dad was talking about how amazing "The Coyote Gospel" was. The passion play starring Wile E. Coyote in which the hero plays an irrelevant role, leading to a twenty issue storyline that combined metafictional theorizing with the decades of DC comics characters and the "Crisis on Infinite Earths" itself. You know, the one where they killed Supergirl and Barry Allen and changed everything forever.

Anyway, the stories continue. They're something charmingly British about the Mirror Master appearance, in which a villain invades the hero's home and beats him every step of the way. The hero's wife comes in with her arms full of groceries, asks the villain what he's doing there and kicks him in the nuts. Isn't there a little "Jiggs and Maggie" in all of them? Or Al and Peg Bundy? Or their cute 'cousins'?

But it's there for us, just like for our fathers and for theirs. The rest is just what we have to do to get through life.

18 June, 2011

"Excuse me while I whip this out."

We've made it through another sex scandal in an increasingly-weird series of them.

New York Congressman Anthony Weiner was texting a young woman an unsolicited picture of his wang, but accidentally made it public instead of private. He took the picture down, but evidently there are people who pay attention to his tweets and were able to copy the pic before he did so. The Congressman was asked 'wtf' and responded that his account had been hacked but he wasn't going to call the police or anything and anybody who made any other claims were liars.

Cyberspace is not private, so more information started dribbling out. Weiner became belligerent in defending himself, as did his close friends and all went out for a spree of tv appearances and interviews that no way did he do anything inappropriate and those girls were all over age and only an evil right-wing conspiracy would say otherwise. Prudes.

The multiple times he turned out to send pictures of his wang was bad enough. He didn't send it to the underage girl he was texting with. He admitted that it had all been lies, which pissed off the friends who had been defending him (and it doesn't seem like he had that many friends to begin with). He wasn't going to resign though, and somewhere there was even a statement that he couldn't afford to quit because he needed the money too badly.

[It's an insoluble problem that Congresspeople and other legislators don't get paid very much. The arguments are that the positions are therefore only open to people who have enough money that they can afford to sit out a year or four, and that the low pay leaves them much more open to bribery. On the other hand, they work for the public and who wants to be overcharged for lousy service like this? I don't think there's a good solution.]

In the aftermath, it has come out that Weiner, by his own admission, doesn't hold any marketable skills except campaigning and holding public office. He's not going to get 200 grand a year changing tires or plumbing. Larry Flynt has offered him a job at a similar salary, but it sounds dubious unless you're really desperate.

By the time the porn star was holding a press conference about his unwanted tweets, his former defenders had turned against him, as had his party leaders, including the President. Former President Clinton was also not happy, nor was his wife, the Secretary of State. Mrs. Clinton is Mrs. Weiner's boss and Mr. Clinton officiated at their wedding. Mrs. Weiner started her career as a White House intern in 1996 and 15 years later she's extremely attractive so back then she must tave been scorching.

Interestingly, Mr. Weiner is Jewish and Mrs. Weiner is Muslim. Far be it from me to suggest any behavior on her part, even in jest, at any time inappropriate for a proper Muslim woman. That said, given the level of devotion their friends and followers had, they may well have been an up-and-coming Washington power couple to rival John and Elizabeth Edwards, following in the footsteps of such luminaries as Bill and Hillary Clinton, or Al and Tipper Gore. The Weiners had to have *something* going for them to get so far and it doesn't appear that the husband had a lot going for him other than the ability to show off his wang to women he doesn't know and not get arrested.

Which isn't entirely worthless, considering how many men would *love* the opportunity to do stuff like that and get away with it. But it's where sociopathy meets the democratic process. If you practice enough predatory behavior, on the mass of voters or individual women, sooner or later you'll get something. In a democracy, the sociopath has many opportunities and many more if women are part of the group and have an equal say. Gender equality being something of a given in Western civilization, women can be equal sociopaths. Mrs. Edwards, Mrs. Gore, Mrs. Clinton all got gigantic mansions out of their marriage - as did Mr.s Dominique Strauss-Kahn - and one wonders how many other wives could put up with a little wang-tweeting/masseusse-molesting/cigar puffing in their husbands if their lifestyle improved similarly. "You mean I get a dream house, endless clothes and servants, and he won't even bother me for sex? What's the catch?"

Mr. Weiner was obviously fine with the deal. He was so fine, he'd go on talk shows and blatantly lie about who he was tweeting his wang to and attack anyone who even questions him. He's a Congressman who deals with sensitive information, if he says his account has been hacked, he needs to go to the police immediately. If he's not doing that, why not? He may not think it's important and the people defending him may not think it's important, but a hacked account and suspicious behavior would leave him a target for blackmail, so that option needs to be ruled out in order to protect the secret information that a six-term Congressman would have access to.

Mr. Weiner's friends were obviously fine with the sort of person he was. Kristen Powers wrote a rage-filled article denouncing him after she found out she had lied for him. In addition to their dating briefly years ago, she admitted that a couple years back (before he was married) the two spent a lovely afternoon together in the immediate aftermath of a painful break-up she had. *That's* full disclosure. I like that. Her anger finds outlet in calling him a misogynist and denouncing a culture that creates such harm for women.

Coming from a woman who's first on-the-rebound response is to call up Mr. Weiner, that's really saying something.

Mr. Weiner's online defenders were the scary ones. They were so avid to defend him because he was a great progressive. Never mind that he didn't have any legislative achievements to point to, in six terms in Congress or prior elected offices he'd held. Never mind that he hasn't achieved anything, he's a great fighter for progressive causes. Does that get anywhere? No, but he's got a great house and a hot wife and a lot of chicks to tweet his wang to. He was out there fighting for the Obamacare bill and then he was out there fighting to get the entire state of New York a waiver from the Obamacare bill.

Amusingly, a couple of days after he resigned, the administration announced that no more waivers to Obamacare would be granted. After September, that is. That's how the chief executive has to look at it, Weiner's a typical party member, depressing as that is, and he's only distinguished by his support of the administration and this. That's how party members become liabilities inside the Washington bubble, he's a typical party member who got caught in an otherwise unexceptional sex scandal.

Weiner's defenders were the acolytes that put him over the top and reinforced his fetish? arrogance? ego? far beyond the point where it was defensible. They lashed out with conspiracy theories against Republican sex scandals and Justice Thomas' wife. At no point did anyone say 'this is kinda fucked up, maybe you should just take your lumps.'

That's groupthink as we see it in operation on the left. It functions the same way on the right, but the right is glad to make use of material wealth and property rights and family values to do it. The left says none of that stuff is important, in fact it's oppressive upon anybody who doesn't share it. These are the basic paradigms that appear in pretty much everything we see.

The right says marriage should be between one man and one woman until death do they part. The left says marriage is patriarchal oppression except for Hillary and Tipper - who both used their husband's wangs to get them high-level government committees trying to fundamentally re-write the contract between the people and the government. And they did so *for the children* even though both support any abortion at any time. Tipper buys a Prince album for her daughter and is horrified that one song is about a girl masturbating with a magazine in a hotel lobby, so she wants to impose rules about what can be labelled and how it can be sold and to whom. [Why couldn't Prince be more like Michael Jackson?]

The right says people should keep the money they earn which goes to create jobs and goods. The left says they shouldn't. Then when they realize they can't implement a single policy upon millions of Americans without the help of a corporate entity, they give all the perks to the ones they like, re-writing laws, seizing assets and never mind the cost in jobs, property rights, contract rights, working conditions or tax revenue.

The right says religion is important and should be respected as an institution and a source of morality. The left says that's not true and proceeds to treat religion as evil, as racist, as oppressive, as an excuse for property and opiate of the people, as something that blinds to reality. The left proclaims it will die for their beliefs. For proof, they point to global warming (minus inconvenient facts) taxpayer funding for experiments on aborted fetuses, "Piss Christ", and there's no sign of them filling the streets like citizens of Cairo, Damascus or Teheran are doing. Even if the President is, you know, dropping bombs in an oil-rich Muslim country that never threatened us.

Sure, the right is just as evil and hypocritical, but their values are what permit Damascus to exist for thousands of years, that permit women to survive childbirth in the first place, that let well-fed people give Michael Moore an award for criticizing his leader in a way Libyans have never known. It's been over thirty years since Jimmy Carter had any elected power, and none of his successors have ever seen him as a threat. Nor did Carter see any of his living predecessors as a threat and deal with them the way powerful leaders do everywhere else in the world. If that's rich religious corporate propaganda, it's still a giant improvement. A disgraced Democrat could have been a snake-oil selling, masseusse-abusing aristocrat in any time or any place. He might have grown up to be Che Guevara and killed as many people as possible in the name of the revolution. Ardent Stalinists don't text their wangs to many people, but they wouldn't live long in a society where that was possible.

I could probably write more, but I could probably have written less. So, in tribute to the former Congressman...

I'd never actually heard the song before, but I love Chuck's diversions into monologues and shout-outs to freedom. "There's the future Parliament there!"

"Those of you who will not sing / must be playing with your..." The great Chuck Berry, ladies and gentlemen.


04 June, 2011

Oops, she did it again

Another female journalist has been assaulted in Egypt. It was one of the first things I found when I checked the news this morning, so I don't have any details. I've noticed I tend to wait a few days for things like this. It's easy to go into attack mode without knowing the facts.

Such as with another female assaulted by journalism. Like most people who care about this sort of thing, I'd heard last night - I don't always wait a few days - that Sarah Palin had said something stupid about Paul Revere, warning the British, ringing bells, and all the things that good well-informed American citizens know never ever happened so she is unquestionably stupid for saying otherwise.

The fact that she's taking a family trip through American historical sites completely escapes her critics. For someone who might enjoy pranking those who irk her (you know, the way any normal human being does) there's probably a dozen things learned at each stop that makes her go "Ohhhhh" in an ascending feminine voice, turning to whoever's next to her and going "I didn't know that", like any woman on a public tour of [insert historical stop here] would do and then turn back to the guide. 'I always thought Paul Revere rode through and yelled that the British were coming. How fascinating!'

But she's a politician who may or may not run for President. This sort of prank is pretty mild as far as those people go. And it's funny. It's a shame John Hughes is dead, he could probably get some great mileage out of the Palin family bus trip across America, minus Christie Brinkley speeding by in a Ferrarri. In the meantime, we'll have to sit through all those people who consider themselves informed about America [slavery, racism, sexism, genocide] calling someone else stupid. Why else would the press be giving her such coverage?

Last week at Westminster Abbey, Barack Obama was signing the guest book, turned to ask someone what the date was, and then put May 24, 2008.

You see, she's stupid. He's thoughtful and competent. That's why he asked somebody first before getting today's date wrong by three years, and that's why it doesn't get remotely the play that Palin's gaffe-that-wasn't gets. Because Obama's opponents are so hateful and condescending.

I've been thinking about national identities recently. Whether deliberate or not, I've wondered if Palin's family trip (and recent career choices) has been a (reference? invocation? affirmation?) of Americana. Some time ago, she told Tea Partiers to party like it was 1773, and got this same accusation of being stupid, ignorant, ill-informed. Of course the Boston Tea Party happened in 1773, so she actually knew what she was talking about, and the people criticizing her didn't.

[These same people rushed to accuse her of murder in the Giffords shooting. You'd almost think they didn't like her, that they didn't think she should be treated the way they'd like to be treated in a similar situation, you know, as an equal.]

It's a little unnerving that she's going straight to references from the American Revolution for these references. In a time of crisis like this - I hear the rapture was scheduled for a couple weeks ago - it makes sense to retrace our steps from the Founding Fathers, but it's a bit worrisome that she has to. This reminds us where we came from. It's what our national identities are. Americans play baseball and bake pies and go to work and watch tv and raise their kids to be Americans, and we're already sick of hearing about the election scheduled in seventeen months, the same thing Americans were doing a hundred years ago, or two hundred.

When Obama wrote the wrong date, it occured to me that it was a case of national identities bumping against each other. Even on vacation, I'm sure the President has to sign and date any number of papers every day, so the likelihood of him forgetting what year it is seems pretty nil, even if he's being absent-minded or having an off-day.

To quote the Reverend Jesse Custer, "This is kinda difficult to put into words an' not sound a little shy in the hat size." I wonder if it was the location itself, and a judgement served by the building itself, or at least whatever historical forces run through it.

Founded by Benedictine monks in the 960s-70s, the actual abbey was built by Edward the Confessor, right before the Norman Conquest. It was spared the wrath of Henry VIII when he took over the English churches. When the abbey was founded, the Magna Carta, one of the basic building blocks of Western Civilization, was still over two and a half centuries in the future. It's been less time than that since Americans signed the Declaration of Independence. Geoffrey Chaucer was even more centuries ahead when he lived there on a royal pension and founded English Literature. Just down the road, the Beatles recorded a few popular tunes. Let's just say it's seen a lot of history in its time.

Since people don't live longer than a century, we don't think in those terms, but if there are any... presences? apparitions? ghosts? they probably do think of a hundred years as being a short span of time. They would probably associate with the places and things that have lasted as long. Their presence may have contributed to the buildings and institutions themselves lasting for so long. Or maybe it's because the places last that "ghosts" come to exist and inhabit them.

I am speculating that these "ghosts" are conscious themselves, while they may just be natural forces akin to gravity or entropy. We record the effects as history but can't do more than speculate the causes.

So when the current historical blip occupying the White House - burned by the English in 1812 - visits Westminster Abbey, the collective judgement of England represented by the building guides his hand to inscribe a date before his election. I don't know why, I don't know what it means, not a clue why he would otherwise choose 2008. Hell, Occam's Razor says that it was purely his own screw-up (because he's so thoughtful and competent, not like GWB or Sarah Palin.)

I'm certainly glad that so many people are paying attention to this or that historical moment (like the story of Paul Revere, who probably hasn't gotten this much attention in ages). But it's a bit depressing to think we have to instead of watching movies or whatever else we'd rather fill up our lives with. But at this crucial time in history, it is important to affirm how we got to where we are and what makes us Americans (or British, or English, or Westerners, or civilized.)

I was hoping to get back to musings on rock music in this post, specifically Aerosmith, but it doesn't look like it'll happen now. Much like a new Aerosmith album...

Instead, here's their early 90's live performance of "Dream On", a song Steven Tyler wrote when he was about 17, long before Aerosmith was formed, before the song briefly appeared as the first single from the first album, before it became a hit when it was rereleased after the 'Smith found commercial success. That's Michael Kamen leading the orchestra, as he's done everywhere from Pink Floyd's "The Wall" to Metallica's "S&M" and G'n'R's "November Rain".

And here's the video for Queen's "Who Wants To Live Forever". Kamen's not in it, but he did arrange the orchestra, so his work's there anyway. I once played this song for my grandmother, and even she liked it. Roger's kind of out of place though. Freddie's in a suit, John's in a jacket, Brian's in respectable dark clothes and Roger's in a denim jacket.

And what the hell, here's "November Rain". Kamen's conducting the orchestra, but strangely he didn't do anything on the song, that was all Axl playing on synthesizers. Kamen was basically the go-to guy for a couple decades when rock stars wanted to use classical orchestration. He's dead now. He also did the scores for all four Lethal Weapon movies, in collaboration with Eric Clapton. and a lot more besides.]

Amusingly if you don't know who these people are, G'n'R is indistinguishable from Aerosmith in the earlier video, down to the tall blond bass player. [G'n'R would be flattered, they certainly patterned themselves after the 'Smith. As with "Dream On", Axl was even working on this song long before the band was formed.]

We never did find out why the guy jumped through the wedding cake at the end. I think it was because the rain had already ruined the cake and the reception, so why not? When else was he ever going to have a chance to do that. Wouldn't you?