Friday, June 30, 2006

Hamdan's Buyer's Remorse

The fatal flaw of Bush’s plan to try Gitmo detainees before a military tribunals--the failure to seek Congressional approval--will be corrected after Congress returns from the July 4th holday break. At that point, a carefully worded authorization that fits within but military and international law will be drafted. It’s an extra and unnecessary step that the united states has given to the terrorists and gave been given no credit for it. The detainees were captured on a battlefield in arms against coalition forces. They were irregular fighters. Not uniformed or representatives of a legitimate government. Under military law, they could have been summarily executed. While foreign opinion might have been harsh on the action, there would have been no legal grounds for any human rights groups to pose any actions. Instead, they were spared for intelligence gathering purposes, then given trials they had no legal rights to. Now, the US hs gone an extra step and granted them a further consideration.

Firebreathers are upset, but they need not be. The result is going to be the same. Captured al Qaeda members aren’t going to waltz out of Cuba free, unpunished men. For goodness sakes, Hamdan was convicted of conspiracy and he was only Bin Laden’s chauffeur! But in all the heated discussion, don’t miss something interesting that was said by Hamdan’s lawyers yesterday: “I think he was awe-struck that the court would rule for him, and give a little man like him an equal chance. Where he’s from, that’s not true.” I’m not sure how adamant an Al Qaeda member Hamdan was. Odds are he was some poor shmuck who thought he had a great job driving a rich guy around and just heard too much. Maybe he personally rew up plans for 9/11 and delivered suicide bomb making materials in his car instead. I don’t know. But I do think if we want to win the hearts and minds of the Muslim people--and that is the only way short of genocide this war is going to end--then showing them thy get a fairer shake in the system they are trying to destroy versus their own countries is a fantastic weigh to start.

Before you all start to gripe at me in the comments, I don’t mean the war is a bad thing. I’m far from a jingoist, but I support the general war on terror. I understand there are radical zealots out there and the only thing you can do to stop them is to kill them and we are doing so with steady determination. I look at this in an historical perspective. Militant Islam I a morally bankrupt, corrupt system, not unlike communism was. With a combination of military might and the innate need for people to be free of tyranny, it will eventually join communism on the discarded heap of history. It’s going to be bloody--communism’s death toll of 100 million+ makes Islamofascism look like rank amateurs--but it will be done. One needs to realizze it will not be done by the sword alone.
In Four Colors For a Dime

Today is the end of June and that means the end of my comic spotlights. I considered making it a summer long deal, but the summaries are over 80 double spaced pages. Somehow writing a 240 page book by August on a subject virtually none of my readers cares about seems like a waste of time particularly considering I have only posted 98 pages of Washed Ashore--a project I have supposedly been diligently putting on paper for a year or so now. J. D. Salinger and I have more in common than just being recluses, it would seem. We both write at the speed of a thousand words or less a month.

I have a an…interesting…covering my old comics. It brought back memories of better days. Days when my health was functional, my family wasn’t hell bent on self-destruction, and the future held every possibility imaginable. I try not to think about that sort of thing anymore. I am too melancholic to do it comfortably. That sounds melodramatic, I know, but I’m sure there are silly, inconsequential things from your past that bring up bittersweet memories to you even though no one else would be affected. If you don’t, then you need to slow down in life because you are missing out on little things that you might regret one day when you start reaching the autumn of your life.

I drifted largely away from comics around 1995 or 96 at least as far as back issues were concerned. I used to buy new comics on an irrehular basis. A lot of the thrill of it was gone. I think I enjoyed the nostalgia of my younger days more than anything else. I never really quit, though. I bought a stack the weekend before my retina detached. I recall getting a rare DC comic because John Byrne and Chris Claremont were reteaming for the first time since the late ‘70‘s for a story arc on Justice League. I had to wrap up my last week of classes that week and saved them for the weekend. The rest is history. They are boxed away in the basement along with a the other things I no longer have any use for. I think that’s where they should remain.
Guardians of the Galaxy # 1--"But Are They Ready For..."

Since we have reached the end of June and my comic collection features, It seems only appropriate to finish off with the last chronicled days of the Marvel Universe. Truth be told, I was never a huge fan of the Guardians of the Galaxy. I wasn’t alone in that. The Guardians had been around four decades before they got their own series, guest starring here and there, but never getting their own title. For nearly twenty years, the Guardians bounced around as guests stars in the Defenders, Avengers, Marvel-Two-in-One, and Marvel Team-Up before getting their own title in 1990. The early ‘90’s was a booming time for comics and you never could tell what the next big thing was going to be, but if you missed out on it, you were going to be paying some huckster throw the nose six months later to get in on it. That only lasted around five years and so many kids got burnt, they still won’t go anywhere near a comic shop. But at the time, it was custom to buy any first issue that hit the racks because you never knew. That’s’ how I wound up with this comic.

The Guardians were superheroes from an alternate future of the Marvel Universe in which genetically engineered humans have settled the solar system by the 31st century. The Guardians were each from a different settled planet in the solar system and were lead by Maj. Vance Astro, a 20th century astronaut who had been in suspended animation on a trip to Alpha Centauri. They were forced to become a team because their homes had been wiped out in a war between the Earth and a reptilian race called the Badoon. At various times, Marvel heroes including the Defenders, Captain America, and the Thing wound up time traveling to the 31st century an battling the Badoon to save Earth. On one trip, the Guardians and the Defenders successfully repelled the Badoon invasion of Earth and they gave up all attempts to conquer the planet.

The Guardians, having no real home left or purpose, decided to travel to 20th century Earth. A cyborg collaborator named Korvac, who had previously attempted to conquer the devastated human race in the wake of the war with the Badoon, followed them to attempt conquering 20th century Earth instead. The Guardians teamed with the Avengers to defeat Korvac’s scheme to turn the world into his own kingdom and became honorary members of the team. The Guardians also had a famous team up with Spider-Man. While in our time period, Vance Astro approached his younger self and convinced him not to become an astronaut. Thi change in history split the timeline, causing “our” Vance Astro to become another hero called Justice, a moniker h used as a member of the New Warriors and eventually the Avengers.

How exactly the timeline of the series launch in 1990 was effected is a bit ambiguous, but the title was set in the 31st century with no time travel elements. There were many references to 20th century Earth, however, and that’s what made the series popular. The first story arc involved the team looking for Captain America’s indestructible shield which Vance Astro used as his own throughout the remainder of the series. The Guardians encountered an alien race that used armor technology similar to Tony Stark’s Iron Man costume. An alien race had invaded Earth in the early 21st century and Stark, fearing they would use the technology, sent it off into space where it was eventually discovered by aliens anyway who considered it a gift from a god they called The Stark. Once the Guardians encountered of small civilization of humans being lead by a group of mutants who leader was said to be a descendent of Wolverine.So forth and so on.

The artist and writer who guided the title, Jim Valentino, was forced off the series after thirty issues because he had joined the creator owned company Image and was working on his own character, Shadowhawk. The quality of the title went downhill dramatically and it was cancelled after only 62 issues. The Guardians have all but disappeared since then. Their one appearance was a brief bit in the Avengers Forever miniseries in which Kang has conquered the Badoon in some alternate timeline and the Guardians are freedom fighters. Their current whereabouts and activities are unknown and that I disappointing. They have a lot more potential than they have been given a chance to prove.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

How About Some Kristen Bell to Lighten the Mood?

After three posts on the Hamdan decision handed down today, I think a shift of gears is in order. Here are three Really nice photos of Veronica Mars herself, Kristen Bell. The loveliest part? One of them is a naked photo! Never accuse me of not delivering the goods.All right. She's only technically nude there. I have standards. They are low, but I have them. You may click to enlarge any photo should you deem it necessary.
Hamdan Aftermath

I figured apart from a few legal eagles, emotions would run high and a lot of pundits would miss the point. I have read quite a few of my leftists brethren cheering that the decision was a slap at Bush and that’s the virtue of it. Pshaw. If anyone has been insulted by this decision, it’s Chief justice John Roberts. He was on the DC Court which made the original ruling. Higher courts are loathe to overturn decisions of lower courts because it is, in legal etiquette, a slap at the prior judge’s legal acumen. Not only did the SCOTUS overturn a lower court decision this time, it was one by not only their new colleague, but the freaking Chief Justice of the United States. That’s ballsy, people. This wasn’t a frivolous decision. It was carefully made.

I read one fellow quip that Al Qaeda cannot win in Afghanistan, but they can win in Washington. Don’t give me that, either. Justice Stephens noted that nothing in this decision prevents Bush from asking Congress for the power to try the detainees within the scope of the Geneva Convention and them granting it. Or, barring that, keeping the detainees on ice until hostilities are over, which means the surrender of Al Qaeda. When do you think that is going to happen? The current war on terror is going to be a generational thing. The current crop of Muslim youngsters are going to have to cast aside the militant ways of their fathers and older brothers from anyof this to end. I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one, either.

I assume after the Congressional break, there will be some further legislation working around the SCOTUS ruling. Further, I imagine future detainees are headed to foreign governments to be tortured for intelligence more often than they are not to avoid any further ruckus on the human rights front. Expect this whole affair to play out in our judicial system for a long time to come as, I imagine, we shift from considering the detainees combatants to criminals.
The Hamdan Decision

The opinion has been released and I have done the best fine tooth combing to the best of my abilities. The decision is huge and there's no way I can sift through all of it in such a short period of time to really get to the meat of it. here are just some quickie initial thoughts that are up for affirmation or repubiation in the comments sectio by you or subsequent posts by me. I'm sure analysts will bring out many things in the coming days i have missed.

First I have to say there isn’t a whole heck of a lot of need for supporters of the war on terror to be upset. The important issue was whether the US could detain suspected terrorists for the duration of hostilities and the SCOTUS has confirmed that we can. That is good news. The question of trying the detainees and whether the Geneva Convention applies is the fuzzy matter and, at least in my opinion, can still work out to suit all parties. Let’s get real for a moment. The detainees were placed in Cuba because the assumption, in the heat of the moment, was that federal courts did not have jurisdiction there. That was a wrong assumption. Period.

In hindsight, it was a no brainer that Congress could not take away SCOTUS’ right to review the military tribunals. While Congress does have the power to establish any federal court it deems necessary, it cannot interfere with the right of judicial review established by Marbury v. Madison. That is a longstanding principle of separation of powrs and checks and balances. The SCOTUS decision has not ruled the detainees cannot be tried, jut that the military tribunals currently established are invalid. The SCOTUSexpressly declared that it was not questioning the government's power to hold Salim Ahmed Hamdan "for the duration of active hostilities" to prevent harm to innocent civilians. But, it said, "in undertaking to try Hamdan and subject him to criminal punishment, the Executive is bound to comply with the Rule of Law that prevails in this jurisdiction."

The tribunal validity ruling is the least of it. The SCOTUS has ruled Common Article 3 of Geneva aplies as a matter of treaty obligation to the conflict against Al Qaeda This iis interesting to note, considering treaties are only considered valid among signatories. Al Qeada has never signed or acknowledged the Geneva Convention, aren’t obligated to follow it when they capture anyone, but are subject to it when one of their members is captured. The Geneva Convention does make provisions for the treatment of nonsignatories, but the SCOTU decision hasn’t (at least in my mind) well defined precisely what rights the Gitmo detainees have under it. Most assuredly the ruling has ramifications for the interrogation techniques that have been used among other issues.

Here’s what you have now. The US can hold these detainees until the end of hostilities. For all intents and purposes, that means indefinitely. As long as Al Qaeda is pursuing its aggression agaist the US, hostilities are still present. The military tribunals themselves are invalid; the right to try the detainees is not. It is conceivable they can still be charged, tried, and punished by the US. Finally, if push comes to shove, when and if the war ends, the detainees can just be deported back to their home countries for trial. Most are criminals wanted for various crimes back home. It’s part of their motivation for joining Al Qaeda in the first place. Most likely they would rather plea bargain for 15-20 years in a US prison rather than be beheaded in Yemen, Sudan, or Saudi Arabia anyway, no?
SCOTUS: Gitmo Trials Violate Rule of Law

Ah, the Supreme Court always saves the best for last. Remember Kelo and the Ten Commandment cases last year? The Texas redistricting decision handed down yesterday didn’t set much of a fire under anyone, at least that I encountered. I think the Hamdan decision might be a wee bit different. I can picture conservatives upset a key part of the antiterrorist strategy has been eliminated while liberals are upset the SCOTUS cannot really be call a laptop of the president. That will not stop them from doing so, of course, but there is no credibility to the charge whatsoever anymore even for those who adamantly believe Bush was selected as president by the SCOTUS.

The ruling states that Congress did not take away the SCOTUS’ authority to rule on the military commissions' validity, and then ruled rule that Bush did not have authority to set up the tribunals at Guantanamo Bay. They found the military tribunal commissions illegal under both military justice law and the Geneva Convention. The vote was 5-3, with the Chief Justice recusing himself because he had ruled on the original DC circuit Court decision that was overturned.

The SCOTUS did not question the right to hold Hamdon for the duration of hostilities to prevent him from harming innocents, only that the Commission and criminal trial are forbidden under both US military law and the Geneva Convention. In plain language, Bush has overstepped his bounds.

Had Roberts not recused himself, this would have been yet another 5-4 decision with the usual suspects in their usual places. There is a moderate=liberal working majority opposed by a literalist minority consisting of Sacalia, Thomas, Alito, and Roberts. Anyone who ever freaked about the changing dynamic of the SCOTUS with Rehnquist and O’Connor gone was largely kidding themselves. You just cannot guage a justice’s jurisprudence once he gets into that eternally secure spot on the bench.

I don’t have the text of the opinion yet. I’m sure I’ll have more of substance to say once I have read it.
Avengers # 57--"Behold, the Vision"

This comics was among the first high end comics I ever bought. Silver Age comics weren’t terribly hard to come by in general during the late ‘80’s when I started amassing them, but finding them in good shape for a fair price was. I haggled this one off a guy at a flea market in Myrtle Beach while on Easter vacation. The young man was heading off to college in the fall and was selling off his collection to avoid taking out loans. He was a quintessential fan. His collection was organization and the books wre well cared for. They were perfect investment grade, but I could tell that wasn’t his motive. He loved the things and was pained to part with them. On occasion, my mother would let slip to me that my collection would probably have to be sacrificed for college as well. She usually said that out of general meanness, as she was angry at the world in general, but it actually motivated me to work hard and earn a free ride through college instead, which I did. I don’t credit comics for that, but I have a college degree, a legal education, and every single comic I ever bought, so it has to count for something, no?

This story was the first appearance of the Vision, an android built by another villainous android called Ultron to take revenge on the Avengers. This began an off and on soap opera storyline that, as far as I know, is still rumbling around out there. A few issues back, Dr. Henry Pym, a brilliant scientist who invented Pym Particles--a substance that could change the size of anyone who inhale them, created an android to assist him in his guise as Goliath. Unfortunately, he built the thing too well. It gained sentience, but was unstable. It believed itself to be the ultimate life form and all inferior life must be destroyed. Ultron, as the android was dubbed, battled the Avengers, but was defeated. In what would become its regular MO, Ultron upgraded itself to correct whatever flaw had lead to his previous and designated himself a new number. I was Ultron V that created the Vision, an android using the body of the original Human Torch (from the World War II group the Invaders) and the brain patterns of slain villain Wonder Man.

The Avengers defeated Vision and he in shot order joined the group as the Wonder Man personality, which was a man who only wanted immortality to begin with, emerged. Eventually, the Scarlet Witch, a member of the Avengers, fell in love with the android. The wonder man personalty reciprocated and the two married. Using her mutant powers, the witch even gave birth to twins. Problems arose when the original Wonder Man was revived by a necromancer as a tool of revenge. Wonder Man eventually recovered an joined the team as well, but was essentially a flesh and blood version of Vision. Wonder man himself quickly fell in love with the Scarlet Witch, but kept quiet for torturous years.

Vision was severely damaged in battle and remained on life support for weeks. For all anyone knew, his brain waves ere gone. In reality, Vision’s consciousness was floating about in cyberspace when he suddenly realized he could seize control of the world’s computer systems. In a fit of idealism, he freezed the world’s nuclear arsenals. The avengers convinced him he would not create world peace this way. What he had done would ony lead to distrustful coutries accusing each other of sabotage and conventional war. Vision released his control and returned to his natural body. But the damage was done.

An international group of intelligence agencies assigned a disgraced ex-Avenger and former SHIELD agent known as Mockingbird to arrange for the Vision’s kidnapping. She did so, felt guilty about it, and aided or former--and distrusting teammates--in a rescue . They were too late. They found Vision in a laboratory stronghold completely taken apart with his mind wiped of all sentience, not just the government secrets he had obtained.

Henry Pym rebuilt Vision, but needed Wonder Man’s original brain patterns to restore him. Wonder Man refused to let them be copied. It was his personality that was in love with the Scarlet Witch and his personality that she loved. The Scarlet With stormed off in anger. Pym installed a general robotic personality in Vision, one that repaired the flaws inherent in Ultron, but the marriage and family were over. The Scarlet Witch’s children literally blinked out of existence and she snapped, even rejoining her father Magneto for a time in his crusade for mutants to dominate mankind.

Visio remained with the Avengers as an emotionless ally an is still that way today. The Scarlet Witch has returned to the Avengers at times, but obviously has no romantic ties to him. She and Wonder man are also still estranged. Wonder Man has had an ax to grind over losing the woman he loves plus Vision, whom he considered something like a brother. The Avengers team split in two, one each on the East and West coast., so they all decided to put distance between them by joining different teams. In doing so, the Storyline fell by the wayside and the status quo has remained for well over a decade now.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Ladies of Lost--Evangeline Lilly VI

Here we have some nice photos of Evangeline Lilly cavorting on a beach in a blue bikini apparently looking for her lost (no pun intended) Hobbit. Why in the world he'd stroll off instead of sticking close to a hot body like that is beyond me, but then again, so much of the world is a mystery to me. Better to spend my time bikini inspecting--starting with Evangeline.You may click to enlarge these photos should you deem it necessary.
Rescue Me Lights a Third Season Fire

I like Rescue Me. It’s not a show I am dying to see every week, because it needs to be taken in small doses. It is a morally ambiguous show with deeply flawed characters. Sometimes it is even too raw for my cynical old heart of stone. From time to time, there are moments of abject horror that either symbolize a punishment for the characters’ lack of moral turpitude or represent the general cruelty of fate and make the behavior seem pointless to begin with. It all depends on your view of human nature and redemption. That the characters are New York City firefighters dealing with a post 9/11 world makes some viewers squeamish. After all, firefighters have been revered since the world trade Center attack.

Up until now, I have pretty much excused it myself. I have never been one to think people are decent creatures to begin with. We are all a hot meal and a good night’s sleep away from barbarism. I have excused it because the writing--which seems to be what draws me to any television show--has been superb. I offer up the penultimate episode last season, which ending in a musical montage with no dialogue, yet spoke volumes. Tommy Gavin, the msin character played by Dennis Leary, bought hi eight year old son a bicycle. The little boy is riding it for the first time and gets hits by a care. Tommy carried his broken, bloody body into his truck and to the emergency room, where doctors work on him to no avail. Tommy closed his dead sons eyes and his wife slapped him for buying the bicycle. It was a perfect example of how the show can do so much with sparingly few words and of the punitive nature of the characters’ actions.

There is one theme that rolls through the whole show and that is a certain misogyny. Because the emphasis has largely been n the relations between the guys in the firehouse and that has been presented so well, I have chalked up the characterization of the women in their lives as shrews to the alpha male caricature of women. Whether it is right or wrong, mscho men often viw women as shrews. They also tend to view women as sex objects and that is the controversy that has emerged since last week’s episode, “Sparks.”

As a short recap: Tommy’s wife blames him for their son’s death and the two are getting a divorce. His wife is also carrying on an affair with his brother. Tommy is angry, hurt, and jealous. He wants to get the best of his wife and when the two are in a heated argument over the propert settlement, Tomy forces himself on her. Television critics have been debating since then not only whether this was rape, but whether the writers have gone too far in presenting the characters as flaed. They seem to have crossed the line into deviancy.

The first question is one I am hesitant to address. Once while observing a married man discuss the married sex life with a youn Christian who believed that one should be a virgin before marrige but could bring out the handcuffs, leather straps, and the midget hanging from the chandelier once it was pronounced that he may kiss the bride. He told the young man that married sex was a gie and take, but that a husband shouldn’t have to ask for it. It was an implied wifely duty. In more blunt terms, he meant sometimes you have just got to take it. (Have I mentioned lately home much I hated Regent University? I can’t mention it often enough to suit myself.) Now, I have never been married and I never will be, so maybe that is the way things go. If it is, I am glad I am never going to be a part of it. The scene in “Sparks” has often been referred to as “hate sex,” which I assume is when one overly passionate emotion (anger) turns into another (lust). That’s another one that baffles me. After a few long moments, Tommy’s wife starts getting into it and enjoys the rest of the act. I think that was more part of macho man fantasy than any bit of reality. The second question regarding repercussions is on a wait and see pattern. Tommy left his wife’s house after the deed, donned sung glasses and a big smile, and drove off triumphantly to happy pop music. Itv was like he had scored a big victory over his estranged wife.

The show has a long memory. Loose ends are always tied up, so somewhere down the line the incident will come back to haunt Tommy. But it has been an uneasy curiosity hus far that it has so far been presented as a protagonist victory. There is no way to know yet how everything will play out, but by the buzz I have heard so far, it seems like a number of fans aren’t going to wat around to find out.
Truth, Justice, and Other Stuff

Superman has returned for a new movie--sans his motto “Truth, Justice and the American Way.” The screenwriters, for Superman Returns, Mike Dougherty an Dan Harris, explain the change:
Dan: “I don’t think ‘the American way’ means what it meant in 1945.” Mike: “He’s not just for Metropolis and not just for America.” Dan: “He’s an alien, from Krypton; he has come to Earth to be kind of a savior for this world, not our country . . . And he has no papers.” Mike: “What would happen with the immigration laws we have now?” Dan: “I’d like to see someone kick him out!”
The pair seem interested in avoiding an “outdated” jingoism just as much as they seem into in wallowing in a self-loathing moral relativism. You know the drill--claiming one set of ideals over another is wrong because one’s who don’t share the ideals will feel bad about themselves. I have grown accustomed to encountering that attitude moving about in our increasingly cynical (and often self-appointed) intelligentsia, so it doesn’t phase me.

Superman has been a citizen of the world from the very beginning. It is true the character once battled nefarious Nazi spies an Japanese saboteurs in his earliest adventures. The super powered Nazi the Ultra Humantie was one of his first costumed villains. But every character had his own involvement during world War II. The idea fell out of favor in subsequent wars and other times of national crisis as Superman became a symbol of world pace and unity (witness the execrable Superman IV) rather than an anti fascist or communist crusader. The superman mythos took on a more messianic tone as the character was often torn about how his presence was effecting human development. Indeed, in the 1996 miniseries Kingdom Come, he exiled himself for that very reason. So while some might get uptight about the change, I don’t really see it as one--even though I would just as soon see the original motto up there onscreen.

I just wish there was a bot more historical perspective in the whole deal. First Superman was created by two Canadians who probably didn’t have the American way in mind when they first put him down on paper. Considering how badly they were treated by DC over the years in regards to royalties, they probably see the motto as a bitterly ironic comment on American capitalism. Secondly, the motto didn’t not emerge in 1945. It was actually the tagline for the George Reeves starring Adventures of Superman in the 1950’s. it was a product of the Cold War “us v. them” mentality. Freedom v. Totalitarianism, God fearing Americans v. godless Russkies. It should resonate any less now that we are battling another form of religious fascism in militant Islam, but the whole idea of valuing American ideals over car bombings, suicide attacks, and brutalizing woman just isn’t as clearly correct as it once was, right?
Incredible Hulk # 377--"Honey, I Shrunk the Hulk"

Over the years, the Hulk has had various personalities. He has been the green toddler perpetually suffering from the terrible twos, a sadistic grey version, and at times, another green version with Bruce Banner’s mind in control, among others. Any writer who stayed on the title for a significant period of time developed his version for the duration. Peter David, noted author of Star Trek novelsand the creator of television’s Space Cases, remained on the title for 12 yearsand only then left under strained circumstances. David’s version of the Hulk has proven the most popular and award winning version to date. The development of his Hulk came to a head in this issue.

But first, a little background. David began writing the title shortly after Bruce Banner and the Hulk were merged into one. The green Hulk was gone at this point, replaced by a smaller, but craftier Hulk that was still being pursued by SHIELD. Early in the run, the Hulk came out at night and was Banner during the day. That changed pat way through the run and Banner was buried deep within the grey Hulk’s psyche. SHIELD caught up to the Hulk and seemingly killed him. With everyone off his back, the Hulk took a job as an enforcer in Las Vegas which satiated his new found Ayn Rand (forgive me) attitude.

Eventually, he lost that job and began wandering about yet again. Along the way, he hooked up with his old supporting cast: Rick Jones, his girlfriend Marlo, and with help from the Leader, his estranged wife Betty. All was not well, however. The Hulk/Banner relationship was unstable and in a fit of anger, the grreen Hulk emerged once again. The three of them wound up in constant conflict until Do Samson arrived to help. He had determined why his last attempt to separate Banner from the Hulk failed--they are all aspects of the same personality. They need each other.

With the help of the criminal Ringmaster, Doc Sampson hypnotized Bruce Banner and worked him through merging his personalities. David had established that Brian Banner, Bruce’s father, had been physically abusive for years. Bruce had suppressed his rage over the years but after the gamma bomb accident created the Hulk, the monster became a personification of his rage. The grey Hulk exuded pure confidence and strength. Bruce was, of course, the rational mind. Each possessed trait’s the other needed to survive.

During the process, the three Hulks imagined themselves in a dreamscape where they had to confront terrible images of their childhood--Brian killed Bruce’s mother. The three “confronted” and defeated “Brian” in the dreamscape and agreed to merge into one being for everyone’s survival. The Hulk became a seven foot tall, green monster with Banner’s intelligence and the grey Hulk’s attitude and cunning.

The hulk soon joined a group of world traveling adventurers known as the Pantheon and the title quickly became something like a super powered version of Mission: Impossible as the Pantheon tipped apple carts in hot spots all across the planet. There was one catch. At one point, the Hulk traveled to the distant future and realized at some pint, his current personality lead him to conquer the entire planet. Clues wre set up throughout the remainder of David’s run as to how that came about, but editorial dictates at Marvel caused a shift in storyline and friction between David and the brass. He left the title and much of what he had established faded into oblivion. Sales on the title tanked and an attempt was made to bring back the psychological underpinnings of David’s run, but the comic has yet to hit the heights it once soared.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

I Cannot Believe It

Andre Bauer, South Carolina's frat boy of a Lt. Governor, had a come from behind victory over Mike Campbell, the son of the late Gov. Carroll Campbell, in the GOP primary for Lt. Governor. I suspected the plane crash he was in a couple of weeks ago might tug at even hardened Republican heart strings, and it did. Bauer spent the last few weeks campaigning on crutches. Word has it due to Bauer's success, Gov. Mark Sanford and Sen. Lindesey Graham are thinking about taking flying lessons with Launchpad McQuack before they have to face voters again.

(Kudos to anyone who catches that reference. Thou art truly a child of the '80's.)
A Public Affair With Jessica Simpson

Here are a couple of pictures from the filming of Jessica Simpson’s new video for her song, “A Public Affair.” It is an interestingly appropriate title considering her rather public affair with Johnny Knoxville. Or was it Nick Lachey’s affair with Kristin Chenoweth? I hope not. I like her too much to think such things about her. Anyway, Jessica’s video will feature Eva Langpria, Christina Applegate (Wow. Where has she been/) and Ryan Seacrest in cameos. Evidently the theme is roller disco. How timely. Jessica Simpson has nice legs in it, though, doesn’t she?You may click to enlarge these photos should you deem it necessary.
Spider-Man III Trailer

Check it out. May 2007 is going to be a long wait.
Another Admiral Ackbar Moment

Earlier this month, I linked to a video of a (likely unintentional) homage to Admiral Ackbar’s panicking scene in Return of the Jedi, featuring a Dalek. Here’s another similar video, this time from the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode, “Sacrifice of Angels.

The episode is set as the Dominion War is in full swing. The Cardassians, backed by Doinion forces, have occupied Deep Space Nine for the last season and now Capt. Ben Sisko I leading a force of 200 Federation, Klingon, and Romulan ships to retake the station. Gul Dukat isn’t happy about the situation, but the civil administrator, Weyoun, has the right idea how to handle it:The saddest part about this is that I have taken a number of those "Which Deep Space Nine Character Are You? quizzes over the years and I always wind up as Weyoun. Friends just shrug and say, "We could have told you that." Is it any wonder I'm a misanthrope?
It's Never Too Late

I can't decide if this is cute or macabre. I guess it does prove there is hope for us all, though.
Batman # 426--"A Death in the Family"

I dip into my meager DC holdings for the final time this month for one of the rare DC storylines I was really into. DC just never clicked with me. Maybe it was the loose continuity it had for years or the long periods of cartoonish stories they published in order to capitalize on the popularity of their various television shows and cartoons. Even the revamps that took place after Crisis on Infinite Earths --an attempt to make the comics more serious--seemed largely like a publicity stunt. Whatever the reason, I had a tough time getting into the charactes. Most any DC comic that found its way into my collection was something sought after by virtually every collector and it just seemed only proper I should hsve it, too. This comic was the first of a four part storyline. What’s special about this issue is that it included a phone number for fans to call and vote on the major turning point of the story arc. The question fans were to vote on? Should Robin die?

This was Jason Todd, the second Robin. Some years previous to this story, the first Robin was injured severely by a villain and Batman suddenly has qualms about sending a teenager out on such dangerous assignments with him. He fired Robin on the spot. Dick Grayson moved out of Wayne Manor in a huff and adopted a new costumed identity. He called himself Nightwing and from then on was the head honcho of the Teen Titans. Batman went solo for quite a while until one night while visiting Crime Alley on the anniversary of his parents’ murder, a young hoodlum named Jason Todd was stealing the hubcaps off the Batmobile. Batman was impressed with his gustiness and after Jason helped him bring down the criminal operation that was being run out of the juvenile hall Jason was living in, Bruce Wayne adopted him and trained him as the new Robin.

Many times, Batman considered it a mistake. He was trying to make Jason into the eparted Dick Grayson, but couldn’t. Dick had skills. All Jason had was rage at the world in general. Jason grew into the role, but made an awful lot of mistakes, making it clear he would forever be in the original Robin’ shadow. As this issue begins, Robin jumps the gun on a group of bad guys and nearly gets himself killed. Batman notes that he has been taking a lot more riks like that lately and decides to suspend his duties as Robin until he can work things out. Jason leaves in a huff to wander around and think. He absentmindedly wanders back into his old neighborhood when a friend of his dead mother recognizes him and gives him a box of mementoes his mother always wanted him to have.

As he sifts through the box of stuff, his finds his birth certificate with his mother’s name scribbled out. Oly the first letter is visible, but it is not the first letter of the mother he has known. Jason learns he was adopted and that his real mother may still be alive. Using records from the Batcave computer and his detective skills, he determines three women were attached to his father that may be possibilities. One is a former Mossad agent, so Jason steals Bruce’s credit card and heads to Tel Aviv.

Batmn plans to hunt him down, but unfortunately something bigger comes up--the Joker escapes from Arkham Asylum. The Joker is short on cash and decides he has to sell something speial of his in order to increase his cash flow to fund further schemes. In a wacky twist that could only happen in comics, the Joker has a cruise missile hidden which he plans to sell to the PLO . Yes, fate puts both Batman and Robin inIsrael at the same time for two different reasons. Just go with it. I did.

Long story short, the two run up on each other and discover they are both after the same the same man for info. They join together to stop the Joker from selling the missile and discover the Mossad agent, Shiva, is not Jason’s real mother. He is dejected, but Batman assures him if they’ve come this far, they have to see it through. The next stop is Ethiopia where the second possible suspect is a member of Doctors Without Borders. Did I mention that while thw Joker is here, he decides to go to Ethiopia as well because he is connected to the woman as well? Yes, C comics are great.

In Ethiopia, Jason finds the woman in the middle of a refugee camp and both he and Bruce know immediately she’s his mother. Bruce leaves the two to get acquainted. He doesn’t realize the Joker got to her first. Apparently, Jason mother had been performing illegal abortions on teenage girls and had her medical license taken away. She came in shame to continue practicing medicine. The Joker decides he wants to lighten her load by poisoning the emergency food supplies being given to the starving Ethiopians. Jason reveals to his mother that he is Robin and says he can stop the Joker. Unfortunately, she betrays his secret to the Joker who proceeds to seemingly beat him to death with a crowbar. The Joker then betrays his old doctor buddy. He locks both in a food storage center with a bomb. In the cliffhanger, the bomb goes off in front of Bruce Wayne’s horrified eyes.

The vote was close, but it did not go in Robin’s favor. Jason Todd was revealed to be killed in the blast. This lead to a supposedly final showdown between Batman an the Joker which most fans agree was not believably emotional enough under the circumstances. The Joker is seemingly killed, but his body is not found. To C’s credit, the he did not appear again for over a year, adding to the suspense of things even though no one ever assumed the Joker was actually dead.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Well, It's About Time

It's embarrassing enough to admit in this part of the country I am a Jeff Gordon fan, but it gets darn near impossible when it takes him 16 races to actually win one. Jeff gordon finally pulled into victory lane yesterday at Sonoma. I guess it took him a good while to get over that $ 15 million divorce settlement with former beauty queen, Brooke. Ah, that could happen to anyone, no?

If you want to know why so many fans hate Jeff gordon, have a look at this YubeTube video. It shows, in all its gory detail, how Gordon caused a twenty car pile up at the 2002 Daytona 500. I, for one, thought it was a hoot. Drunken rednecks everywhere disagreed.

(For the uninitiated, Jeff Gordon is the # 24 DuPont car.)
Gone With the Wind Turns Seventy

This week, the novel Gone With the Wind turns 70. Interesting how a book of such humble origins--Margaret Mitchell’s husband gave her a stack of blank pages while she was confined to bed with a broken ankle and said, “Write a book”--could become such a classic. It is a mythical story, no doubt. The romance of the Lost Cause permeated throughout the south at the time and the Depression Era readers were well in tune with Scarleet’s proclamation that “God as my witness, I will never be hungry again.”

The book sold 178, 000 copies in three week and had sold 2 million within the first two years of its release. By 2006, 30 million copies have been sold and another 350,000 are bought in the United States and around the world. Mitchell sold the movie rights for $50,000--a paltry sum considering the Clark Gable-Vivien Leigh movie has grossed $ 3.8 billion worldwide since 1939. It is said Chairman Mao often held private screenings for his wife over the years.

Mitchell never wrote another novel. Indeed, she didn’t live long enough to see her novel become the phenomenon it was too become. She was struck by a taxi driven by a drunkard in Atlanta . She was only 49.

I am often curious to see how Southerners react to the movie these days. (I am not naïve enough to believe many have read the original novel.) The whole notion of the New south has been a particular fascination of mine. South Carolina, for one, has a mix of old (Ft. Sumter, the Confederate Memorial on the State House grounds) and the new (banking and insurance are the new King Cotton). At the same time, I have noted in my travels that Georgia has whitewashed its connections to the past even though when the Olympics were held in Atlanta a decade ago, the first thing foreign visitors wanted to know was, “Where is Tara?” Virginia, too, has abandoned much of its character and in my experience, replaced it with empty commercialism.

I had many a discussion in college, bohth in and outside of class, trying to define precisely what the New South is. Cowboy hat wearing agribusiness men? Bill Clinton yuppies? Maybe doom saying crusaders like Al Gore who have adopted social causes instead of the state of people’s hellbound souls as street preachers used to do? I don’t know The South is a place where Jimmy Swaggert and Jerry Lee Lewis meet up at the family reunion even though each’s existence is anathema to the other. That has to go a long way towards explaining the South’s love/hate relationship with Gone With the Wind.
Marvel Team-Up # 61--"Not All Thy Powers Can Save Thee"

Several of the comics I have featured here have no significance in the grand stream of comics history or continuity other than being old favorites that got me interested in new characters or titles. This was one of, if not the first, issues of Marvel Team-Up I ever bought. I found it at a convention in Charlotte in either 1989 or 1990. I had always been a fan of Spidey, but had shied away from the team up title generally out of a disinterest in the costar. That notion was tossed by the wayside when I started collecting its sister title, Marvel Two-in-One with the Thing and grew fond of the concept. This issue was a fine example of how the team up concept flowed from issue to issue.

In the previous issue, Spidey had teamed up with the Wasp to battle a one time villain with thermal powers. They lead him to the Fantastic Four’s headquarters hoping Reed Richards had a way to contain him. The FF weren’t home, but Spidey and the Wasp jury rigged a method anyway and destroyed the critter. When this issue begins, Spidey is cleaning up the place when he is suddenly attacked by each member of the FF, one at a time. He realizes they are out for blood and attempts to high tail it out when he I trapped by an invisible force field, then punched by the Thing. Spidey is knocked out the window and falls seemingy to his doom when he is rescued by the Human Torch.

He wonders why the torch bothered to save him when his teammates had just brutally attacked him. The Torch responds that the FF aren’t in town, so they couldn’t have attacked him. Then it dawns on the Torch what is going on. He rushes back to their headquarters with Spidey in hot pursuit. Once there, the Torch realizes an artifact which had been housing one of the FF’s toughest enemies was broken during Spidey ad the Wasp’s battle.

It was a mystical wand that Tigra, another hero had used to capture th Super Skrull some months before. The Skrulls were a reptilian race of shape shifters who had tried unsuccessfully to invade Earth on a number of occasions and were thwarted usually by the FF. The team vexed them to the point they genetically engineered a Skrull warrior with all the powers of the FF to counter them. Their plan for earth had to be put on hold when a neighboring race, the Kree, began a brutal war against them. The Super Skrull fought in that war, but wound up stranded on Earth until encountering Tigra and being trapped within the wand. Tigra gave the wand to Reed Richards for safekeeping.

The Super Skrull presented himself and battled Spidey and the Torch. He proved too powerful and the Torch was overcome. Spidey assumed the FF or the Avengers would come to his rescue if he could occupy the Super Skrull long enough. Unknown to him, neither team was available and the cliffhanger spelled out his impending doom at the hands o a too powerful enemy.

The next issue a Kree named Ms. Marvel witnesses Spidey battling a Skrull and joins in. Ms. Marvel was soon to join the Avengers and receive her own title, so the team up with Spidey was a preview for it. The two of them lead the Super Skrull onto a cruise liner and Ms. Marvel jury rigs a Kree weapon to dispose of him. Nothing Earth shattering. Jut two issues of slam bang action.

The Super Skrull would return later to battle Alpha Flight, Hulk, and the Sub mariner among others. Ms. Marvel eventually becomes absorbed by the X-Men’s Rogue and becomes a part of her psyche. For a while, the two could switch control of Rogue’s body in situations that might call for Ms. Marvel’s touch. The Kree-Skrull War ended with the Skrulls being defeated, but still being a menace to Earth’s heroes from time to time.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

After Rose, Freema Agyeman

Not to drift too far off the Doctor Who theme just yet, I have a couple of new pictures of the apparently camera shy Freema Agyeman The first appears to be a red carpet shot while the second is of her in character with David Tennant playing the Doctor (Not playing Doctor. Get your mind out of the gutter.) in either “Army of Ghosts” or “Doomsday,” I am not certain which.Rumor has it her character, Adeola, is attached to Torchwood and may be a spy. i was under the impression the earpiece she's wearing was identical to the ones from the alternate Earth featured in "Rise of the Cybermen" and "The Age of Steel," indicating she was from that Earth instead. I actually have no idea at this point. Torchwood was established originally in "Tooth and Claw" because Queen Victoria feared the Doctor and other aliens comig to Earth, o the spy angle makes some sense.The writers definitely made Rose a more pivotal and assertive character this season. She has played the biggest role in three of the last four episodes, saving the day as many times as the Doctor did. It is going to be strange to see a new companion dynamic take shape. Not being a longtime Whovian, companion turnover is a new experience for me.
Doctor Who--"Fear Her"

“Fear Her” was a last minute (in television production terms) replacement for a script weitten by comedian Stephen Fry. Fry’s episode was rumored to be set during the first world War and effects heavy, so it has been postponed until next season and presumably rewritten due to the departure of Billie Piper. The episode had the feel of a fill in episode. Like “Father’s Day” in the first season, it plays on high emotional to distract from the fact the entire episode takes place in only two settings.

The episode begins in a London neighborhood where the Olympic torch is about to pass by on the way to start the 2012 games. An old woman is walking down the street when she feels some sort of evil presence. She sees two young boys playing soccer and admonishes their parents to get the kids inside. The father scoffs, but inside a neighboring house, a little girl sits down to draw one of the boys. When she does, the boy disappears.

The TARDIS materializes twice in a comedic sequence that appeared to be a time filler for the script running short. The Doctor strolls along babbling on, but rose notices three missing kids signs posted and calls his attention to them. The Olympics will have to wait. The Dotor investigates the yard where the boy disappeared when he is approached by the boy’s irate father. An argument ensues in the middle of the street between parents whose kids are also missing. The Doctor manages to calm the situation and decides he and Rowe need to snoop around further.

They do so, and Rose sense a commotion in a nearby garage. When she opens the door, she is attacked by what appears to be a balled up tornado. The doctor uses his sonic screwdriver (a handy little thing, natch.) to stop it. He carries it into the TARDIS for analysis and learns that it is made of graphite, like pencil lead. It appears to be a drawing come to life. The Doctor and Rose believe they should talk to the little girl secluded up in her room. Her mother at first refuses to talk with them, but relinquishes after the Doctor assures her he’s there to help.

The Little girl’s name is Chloe and she has not been acting herself lately. Her abusive father died recently, but it seems to be more than just that. Chloe refuses to talk to the Doctor at first,. Rose begins to sneak around the house and into Chloe’s room when she hears a disturbance in the closet. There is some sort of creature there--a personification of nightmares Chloe has had about her father. The doctor rushes in to rescue Rose and to try reading Chloe’s mind. When he does, he discovers Chloe is possessed by an alien child separated from its siblings. The alien has a childhood lasting thouands of years and it needs to be around its siblings to create an imaginary world for them to play in. Without that, the alien has been forced to steal other kids to poulate its world. The Doctor instructs Rose and Chloe’s mother to take away all writing utensils while he searches for the alien’s crashed ship.

They are unsuccessful, as Chhloe has hidden some in a doll of hers. She draws a picture of the TARDIS and the Doctor. The two promptly disappear. Ose demands Chloe return the Doctor, but she refuses. Rose realizes the only thing she can do is earch for the ship herself. Sh asks a road worker if he has seen anything unusual. He has, in an area he poured fresh cement over days before in preparation for the torch to pass by. Rose grabs a pickaxe from his truck and starts swinging, much to his chagrin. Someone she manages to not destroy the ship. Talented girl that Rose Tyler. In the meantime, the Olympic stadium is full of spectators waiting to see the torch lit. Chloe draws the stadium crowd and everyone disappears.

Rose panics to discover this while seeing the disappearances on television. Rose beats down Chloe's bedroom door with the pickaxe, but she still has no clue what to do next. She notices the drawing Chloe made of the Doctor has changed. he is pointing to a representation of an object that he was retrieving from the TARDIS originally. Rose needs to recharge the ship, but how? It dawns on her that all the emotions the Olympic torch represents might just do the trick. While she tries to reach the torch runner, Chloe begins drawing the planet Earth on her bedroom wall.

Rose can’t get to the runner, so she desperately throws the tiny ship towards the torch, which is good enough to recharge it. Talented girl, that Rose Tyler. The alien senses its ship is fixed and flie off to it and rejoin its siblings. As it does, Chloe returns to normal and all the kids and the stadium people.. The doctor seemingly does not, but the manifestation of Chloe’s father does. She and her mother are trapped in the house as the nightmarish version of her father heads down the stairs to them. They can’t escape the house and Rose, aware something is going on, can’t get in. After a tense moment, the father disappears before we ever get a chance to see it and without any real explanation, for that matter. But the Doctor is still gone--that is until the torh runner collapses on television and the doctor appears to carry the torch the rest of the way. Mercy, how cheesy. At the end, there is a big celebration, but the Doctor muses there is a storm brewing.

For all its fauls, this was a nifty little episode. Much lik the Doctor muses, “ear her” was a calm before the strm o the two part season finale. There were some logical flaws as I pointed out, but the episode didn’t take them seriously, so why should I? There was a throwaway line in which the Doctor admits he was a parent once, much to Roe’s surprise. I’m guessing that is a nod to the First Doctor whose companion was said to be his granddaughter in order to avoid the appearance of hanky panky that would have corrupted young British minds in the 1960’s. A more knowledgeable Whovian can perhaps shed more light on the matter or correct me if necessary.

One other note--they are laying Rose’s departure awfully thick. They have gone beyond foreshadowing to beating the veiwer over the head with it. It is to the point that they can’t logically kill her off or fans will see it as cheap writing. Like Elton speculated last week, I think Rose and her mother are going to pay a price, but I believe Jackie will join the choir invisible and that will either prompt Rose to sop traveling in the TARDIS or otherwise dispose of her while still preserving her life. Russell T. Davies’ statement that the door is open for her return not only plays that out, but hints she will probably make at least one future appearance regardless once Billie Piper leaves the show. We’ll see. Idle speculation at the moment.

Rating: *** (out of 5)
X-Men # 287--"Bishop to King's Five"

I was hesitant to include this comic on the list because, while it introduced a popular storyline that ran in the back ground of X-Men comics for nearly four years, fizzled out towards the end because of writer turnover. This was the first issue of the famed X traitor story that had half the comics world guessing and the other half wondering why in the world the X-Men titles sold so well producing such schlock. By the end, everyone had fallen into the latter group and the mutant fad was replaced by a fascination with manga that most mainstream titles still haven’t recovered from years later.

The issue begin with Bishop, a cop from the future chasing after several henchmen of the mutant criminal mastermind, Fitzroy. Fitzroy has escaped several issue before through a portal that lead to modern day Earth. His henchmen discovered the portal and escaped themselves with Bishop in hot pursuit behind them. Bishop found himself trapped on modern day Earth. The X-Men, alerted to the presence of a new powerful mutant, fin Bishop and bring him to Professor X. The Professor offers membership to Bishop and he agrees, but he has a story to tell them as well.

Bishop is from a dystopian future in which humans and mutants are in constant, brutal conflict. The conflict was the result of the X-Men’ betrayal and death at the hands of one of their allies at some point in the near future. The only thing Bishop knows about their fate is an old recording, a call for help made by Jean Grey, indicating someone who had been close to them was responsible for their deaths. Bishop believed that if he could discover the traitor in time, he could save the X-Men and change the future for the better.

The idea was neat at first. There were mny suspects and suspicion shifted among characters for literally years. Among the possibilities:

Cyclops--had been under the influence of Mr. Sinister.

Havok-- started out as a criminal.

Gambit-- had ties to a criminal organization in his past.

Wolverine--A former Canadian intelligence agent whose original memories had beeen wiped.

Jean Grey--Dark Phoenix personality may be reemerging.

Joseph--an amnesiac Magneto may be recovering.

Bishop--decides to martyr the X-Men.

Cable--has some mysterious ties to Apocalypse.

Angel--was once a Four Horsemen of Apocalypse.

Psylocke--was once kidnapped by the group The Hand to harness her psychic powers.

Rogue--the daughter of Mystiwque, who has an ax to grind with Professor X.

Forge--a sometime ally and US government agent.

Beast--was kidnapped and replaced by an alternate version.

We will probably never know who the real traitor was. Chris Claremont, the X-Men writer for 18 years, departed before leaving a big mark on the story, leaving it to Scott Lobdell, a stand up comedian and joke writer, and Mark Waid, fresh off his success with DC’s Kingdom Come to put their mark on it. The head honchos at Marvel decided to milk the story for all it was worth and tie it in to a major summer crossover called Onslaught. Orignally, Onslaught was a being of poor psionic energy and was intended by writer Waid to be a personification of Professor X’s pent up negative thoughts. The iea was that Professor X had purged himself of all dark thoughts, but his mutant powers created a being out of them instead. Waid left the X-Men titles before finishing and Lobdell decided it made more sense for Onslaught to be Magneto’s memories, which Professor X had wiped years before. It turns out that Professor X was the traitor. The first major issue of the crossover ended with Jean Grey making the cry for help.

Fans were extremely let down. First because they realized the resolution came out of the blue and the real traitor had to be someone else. Second, the consensus was Waid’s idea of Professor X purging his dark thoughts was an intriguing one that should have been kept. Finally, when Onslaught was defeated, the federal government took Professor X into custody and he disappeared from the X-Men titles completely. It lead to a new, faltering era of the X-Men which didn’t truly recover until the movie version hit theaters in 2000 causing a resurgence of interest.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Patsy Ramsey (1957-2006)

Yes, I know. A third obituary. If a man bites a dog, I’ll report that. As it is, I can’t control what is news of interest. Besides, it’s been that kind of day. Patsy Ramsey died this morning of complications relating to a brain tumor. She has been battling cancer off and on since 1993. Ramsey will, however, best be remembered as the mother of slain JonBenet Ramsey.

Truth be told, I never understood the fascination with the case. Hundreds of children suffer in silence, go missing, and are killed every year with nary a word from the public at large. Well, let me clarify that. I do understand why America was fascinated with it. The Ramsey’s were rich, Patsy was a former beauty queen and the case had all the macabre Sunny Van Bulow-sque trappings of perhaps one o the parents did it and we all like to see that stuff on television, whether we admit it or not.

I don’t know who killed JonBenet. I recall a number of conversations among college classmates that year speculating on the parents guilt because JonBenet was killed in their home, it looked like a kidnapping, the ransom of $ 119,000 seemed like on odd sum to ask for, and the two of them clammed up and asked for lawyers when interrogated by police. After legal study, I’m easier on them for that last. It’s just prudent, but I’m still squeamish about the others. Admittedly, its all about the creepy way JonBenet was raised and the parents’ subsequent behavior.

You just don’t parade a seven year old girl around like a cabaret singer. Maybe it’s all innocent, maybe she’s having a good time, but I don’t like it. It smells of a mild form of child abuse and even mild forms are distasteful. If you are going to paint your kid up, shove her in a velvet cage, and push her out on stage for heaven only knows who to look at her, don’t be surprised when fingers point at you when something tragic happens to her. John Ramsey ran for a State House seat in Michigan in 2004 and talked a lot about how his daughter was dead and even though the killer was still out there, he had to get on with his life. He lost badly. No wonder why. The two weren’t so eager to get this all behind them and move on with their lives that they couldn’t find the time to write and promote a book about their experience.

I know. De mortuis, nihil nisi bonum. Patsy was a beauty queen herself. It’s probably the only life she knew and wanted to live vicariously through JonBenet once now that her time in the spotlight was over. That just makes things all the more tragic to me. I am becoming more in tune with how people are helplessly buffeted by fate and the terrible consequences that can strike anyone at anytime, not to mention there are always gawkers and someone there ready to milk it out of self-interest.
Never Come, Easy Go

In one of those incredibly odd twists of fate, E. Pierce Marshall who battled Anna Nicole Smith’s inheritance of his father’s fortune all the way up to the United States supreme Court, died this week of a sudden and serious infection. If I had a dark sense of humor, I’d speculate he died over the shock of losing a SCOTUS case to Anna Nicole smith--if I had a dark sense of humor, that is.

For all his accomplishments--at least personally--he will be forever remembered as the man who battled the Playboy bunny over his billionaire father’s fortune. What a legacy to leave behind. Marshall claimed for nearly a decade in legal battles that Smith was only due the $ 6 million in gifts she was given during her one year marriage to the oil magnate. You know, if the old man is willing to fork over that much in gifts, he probably wanted Smith to have it all, don’t you think?

The SCOTUS decision didn’t guarantee smith would get any money. Pierce vowed to fight on in California federal court ‘to clear his good name.” Oh, and get a hold of all those billions You can‘t take it with you, pal. But I guess you know that now. It would be even more bitter if he wins his federal case post mortem..
Aaron Spelling (1923-2006)

Uberproducer Aaron Spelling has died at his Los Angeles home due to complications from a stroke he suffered on June 18. I can’t honestly say Spelling was a craftsman. Most of his television shows were pure schlock, but I have to confess watching quite a few of them in my youth. Yes, the critics hated the mindless fluff, but thirty million Americans didn’t.

I recall (embarrassingly) that Starsky & Hutch, Charlie's Angels, Fantasy Island and T. J. Hooker are shows are remember watching in my younger days. They all seem horribly dated now, but so does most everything else I enjoyed back then. I never could get into any of the soap operas he produced throughout the 90’s until now, but I believe those were still some of his biggest hits. It is amazing that he could keep such a successful career going for over fifty years in a business with more turnover than Burger King.

It is interesting to note Spelling started out as a bit actor and moved to the creative/business side of things. Tons of actors try to do that (Ron Howard, Rob Reiner, and Jonathon Frakes come to mind immediately) and rarely hit the heights of success Spelling did. (Okay, Howard has won Oscars. That’s a big deal, I know.) The question is now: who is going to hire Tori Spelling to act now that daddy is gone?
American Gothic V

Growing up, church and school leaders had a favorite argument they’d spring on you at inconvenient times. They said you should picture yourself in trial, accused of being a Christian. Would there be enough evidence to convict? Every kid in the room usually went dead silent for about ten minutes while the speaker went on about how degenerate we all were for outward signs of inward thoughts. I’m not sure at what point in finally occurred to me that it didn’t matter one iota whether twelve “jurors” thought I was a Christian or not. The whole idea of deciding someone isn’t “good” enough smelled of a pious Puritanism and dead spirituality. I became a much more comfortable person spiritually when I took the admonition that iit is blessed to pray in the closet where you won’t impress anyone who might be looking.

I promptly headed off to secular environments because, frankly, I think that’s where I was called to go. That was confirmed for me by the large number of Christians I was surrounded by. They were an interesting lot. They possessed a quiet spirituality that was not demonstrated by wearing crosses or :Jesus Saves” t-shirts or even toting around the Bible or The Purpose Driven Life or whatever other trite tome was popular at the time. It was the outward signs of what they had learned from a relationship with Christ. By their fruit ye shall know them. These were folks who happened to be Christians, but were going on about their earthly callings. The combination of their inherent spirituality and their pursuit of nomal lives felt right to me.

I was disappointed to return to a completely Christian environment. No matter how good or right the belief system is, when you box it up into a closed society, the society members become brainwashed. I never met a group of people before who could quote scripture up and down yet have no clue what any of it meant beyond dos and don’ts. A callous attitude permeates as people realize they are under grace and see no reason to seek forgiveness or to make up for wrongs committed against another because they are already forgiven by the Only One That Matters. That’s not a wayto live peaceably among people and I saw brutal conflicts emerge. Not only emerge, but spill over.

I think 9/11 promoted a new spirituality in this country, at least for a time. Some around me applauded it. As usual, I was skeptical of any mass conversion. But I have to logical about the whole thing. We were at war with religious fanatics staunchly opposed to Christianity. Does it not makes sense that Christianity will reemerge itself to fight? The idea of holy warriors is a squeamish one for me. I accept Christianity on faith the same as the Muslim accepts Islam. At least on that level, we are even. I have to take further on faith that I am right, he is wrong, and that is enough to take up arms. I can accept that. Radical Islam is an evil thing, but I am not often pleased with who my allies are.

One day shortly before Operation Iraqi Freedom began, an older classmate was giving a devotion in my Criminal Law class. She called it a devotion. She actually read a speech given by Patrick Henry pushing for the impending war with Great Britain. If there must be war, let it come. Bo one else seemed bothered by the mixing of American foreign policy and what was supposed to be a time to meditate on spiritual matters. I mean, was there really a Christian position on the invasion of Iraq? Since everyone at Regent moved lockstep behind it or forever held their peace, I suppose so.

I saw The Passion when it was released. It struck me as a brutal film that Christians would hve considered obscenely violent if it wre not about Christ. Now I note that televangelists are offering the DVD as a way of sweetening the deal ehen hawking their self-help wares on TBN. They are embracing--enriching--Mel Gibson, a man to whom a few years before they would have considered an un-Christian degenerate for making such films as Lethal Weapon and Braveheart with their violence an incidental nudity. It is bizarre beyond words.

That I my whole point. The whole country has gone mad. Christianity has reasserted itself, become some patchwork of Puritanism and holy warriors allied with former leftists who have given up promoting their social utopian ideas from that side of the aisle and moved right. We worry not about whether the Bible is read, the state of our spiritual relationship, or whether the lines of communication with God are wide open, but Janet Jackson’s boobs, the Dixie Chick’s political leanings, and what third world country we ought to invade next assuming we have time, what with battling the Gay Agenda (patent pending) and all. It is gard not to accept that we aren’t heading downhill as a nation, because I don’t see the alternative as being much better.
Fatastic Four # 292--"The Man Who Dreamed the World"

The question of whether, if given the opportunity to go back in time and kill Hitler, would you is such a cliché Philosophy 101 essay exam question, it almost seems too strange to put in a pop culture story. Yet, this comic addressed the issue in what appeared to be a time travel story, but wound up being something else. This story was most certainly not the first appearance of Hitler in Marvel comics. In fact, he has been a staple since 1941.

Hitler first appeared when marvel as known as Timely Comics in an issue of Captain America dated from the early 1940’s. It was not until the 1970’s until writer Roy Thomas created Invaders that it was established Captain America had been a part of a group of super heroes battling the Nazi menace or that Nick Fury and his military platoon dubbed the Howling Commandoes also had run ins with Der Fuhrer. In Marvel history, Hitler was only said to have committed suicide in his bunker on April 30, 1945. In reality, he died in combat with the original Human Torch, the last remaining active member of the Invaders, who had split up after Captain America an Bucky had apparently died defeating Baron Zemo’s plot to destroy London with an enhanced V2 rocket. Hitler had a back up plan. He had the mad scientist Arnim Zola devise cloned bodies for him to transfer his mind into upon death, which he did,

Hitler escaped to South America to bide his time and build up a new operation It is hinted he personally ran the real Operation Odessa, the effort to establish a Fourth Reich. Unable to maintain a high enough profile to gain power, Hitler had Arnim Zola develop a weapon he could use to manipulate emotions. Zola was successful in creating one and Hitler created a new identity for himself. Donning a hood and robes resembling a cross between the Ku Klu Klan and the Spanish Inquisition, he dubbed himself the hate-Monger and set out to form an army.

At this point, super heroes wre reemerging at a pace not seen since World War II and the Hate Monger came up with a plan to use his ray on the most powerful heroes he could find--the Fantastic Four. Nick Fury, now a secret agent for SHIELD, freed the FF from the hate Monger’s influence. The five of them battled their way through his headquarters and confronted him. The hate Monger died in the battle. He was unmasked to the horrible of the five assembled heroes. What they did not realize is that Hitler had transferred his mind into another body to escape. He eventually reunited with his old henchman the Red Skull in a plot to create a cosmic cube. The two sought to double cross each other and when Hitler tried to transfer himself into the cube, he discovered it was empty. Hitler fell screaming into a nothingness void, finally having been destroyed.

This story occurs years later. The Invisible Woman, the Human Torch, She Hulk, and Nick Fury are seemingly transported back in time during an accident which apparently kills Reed Richards. The four of them wind up in 1936 New York and have absolutely no clue what they should do about it other than stay out of sight. She Hulk finds that impossible to do as she stops a bunch of gangsters trying to run over a young man. The man thanks She Hulk even though he is completely baffled as to what she is. The Invisible Woman glares at She Hulk for changing history, but there is nothing they can do about it now. The man explains to them tht he has visions and he had been picking winning horses for the gangsters to bet on, ut bad things had been happening to each horse he named as of late and they were losing a bundle of money. The group decides that matter is over once he agrees to leave town.

Nick Fury is having ideas of his own. Hitler has already begun his expansionist plans an Nick decides now is a good time to kill him before he passes the point of no return. Without telling the others, he head off to Germany to do the deed. The others soon figure out what he is up to and go off in hot pursuit. Fury makes his way into the Reichstag but is subdued by the SS and captured. The three remaining heroes assault the Reichstag themselves and discover a robot Hitler had planned to use to storm across Europe. They destroy it after a pitched battle and rescue Fury who has nearly been tortured to death. The Invisible Woman convinces Fury that history has already been written. Everyone that died in the war was supposed to. She fears the time stream has already been damaged irreparably. Seizing upon that, Fury decides what does he have to lose and shoots Hitler dead.

Hitler’s death brings them all back to reality. The four of them had been in an unnatural comatose state since the accident last issue. That were existing in someone ele’s dream. Reeed indicates a very old man--the same man who She hulk saved in “1936.” Turns out he had originally been injured by the car attack and had been in a coma since then. He was a mutant who had the power to alter reality with his dreams . The Fantastic Four and Fury had been caught up in his latest. But had snapped out once history had been irreversibly changed by Fury killing Hitler. It seems all too pat for Fury, who broods over the inevitability of fate.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Selma Blair Divorces

Selma Blair gave herself a 34th birthday present and filed for divorce from Ahmet Zappa, her husband of two years. Blair is another one of those girls like Ashlee Simpson who I recognize as attractive, but just doesn’t click with me. I’ve always gotten the impression she was a little weird. She did marry one of frank Zappa’s sons--on purpose. That has to be certifiable in a few states at least.

I think my first exposure to her was Cruel Intentions in 1999. She played Cecile, a naïve but sweet girl who gets caught up in the main characters’ manipulations. She was playing second fiddle to Reese Witherspoon there as far as I am concerned and depending on what day you ask me, she might have been playing the triangle behind Sarah Michelle Gellar, but at least she still has a part in the symphony.

I think she's an odd combination of skinny and lanky that is just...well, okay. Here’s a few photos to judge for yourself. There is a bikini photo or two, a partially nude photo, and the most famous one of all--kissing Sarah Michelle Gellar in Cruel Intentions.You may click to enlarge any photo should you deem it necessary.
Futurama Returns

Comedy Central has commissioned a 13 episode season to complement its acquisition of 72 episodes of the show’s original run. I’m happy to see the show return even though I have to wait until 2008. . Like any other sci fi/comic book geek, I thought the show was much funnier than Family Guy and had hopes the show’s revival might also spur on a return of Futurama. Well, it only took three years.

I never understood why FOX treated the show like a red headed stepchild in the first place. You would think they would have shown some faith and/or gratitude to Matt Greoning, the creator, because of the financial and critical success the Simpsons was and still is. Instead the show was preempted by football constantly. Enough episode remained unaired when production was officially halted to carry on for another shortened season.

Now it has found a place on Comedy Central where I imagine its biting satire can really cut loose. I am quite excited at the prospect, although I hope the show is more South Park and less Drawn Together. The original cast returns for to voice the min characters.
Der Furrer

Here is a blog dedicated to cats that look like Hitler. You can imagine the cats resemble Charlie Chaplin if you prefer.

My sister used to have a cat that had black markings resembling Hitler's hairstyle and mustache. She promptly named the animal after Der Fuhrer and it was quite apt. That was one mean little critter. He disappeared one day while my sister was in the hospital giving birth to my first niece. We never discovered precisely what happened, but there has been much suspicion the other cats plotted his death.
American Gothic IV

I have no idea how it happened, to be honest. I grew up believing that Christians were a dwindling minority with zero influence, constantly battered by the minions of Satan, and there wasn’t a blessed thing you could do about it, nor should you want to. Let the fallen world descend into hell. We were too busy eaten up with Original Sin guilt and “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” sermons to care. Oh sure, there were a few. Rosalyn Carter prayed outside Larry Flynt’s hospital when he was shoot, imploring the Lord forgive his pornographic empire before killing him. That wasn’t unusual. Even Bob Jones, Sr. lead his troops in similar fashion in Tennessee during the Scopes Trial.

Ironic, then, that Jones and Flynt made strange bedfellows as things further developed o degenerated, depending on your perspective. The updated unuion between religion and politics reemerged itself in 1983 when Pres. Reagan intervened on behalf of Bob Jones University to restore its tax exempt status. That was the first time since the integration of the South that its racist policies were exposed for the country to see, yet it remained a tiny blip on the radar. No surprise, really. There are BJU grads up and down state government in South Carolina, including the former State House Majority Leader who was a strong possibility for governor until he contracted cancer and passed away. The duel over parody between Jerry Falwell and Larry Flynt gave Christians a renewed vigor to head to court and/or the polls to further the Lord’s work. Never mind that not only did Falwell lose the case before the Supreme Court, but has since appeared with Flynt on news programs continually over the years as almost friendly rivals. I’ll go on record as believing Falwell is moe a media figure than man of God, although I do not know his heart and will not judge any further than saying I wouldn’t hitch my wagon to that horse. Sometimes I can’t believe I hitched my wagon to Pat Robertson’s horse, even though I went to Regent in spite of him, not because. Not really an excuse, I know.

Winding up there post-9/11 was an experience. Whether the general public blasted Falwell and Robertson for their incendiary statements about the root cause of the attack, the fact was that people who had never prayed or been to church before suddenly started to do so. It didn’t last--it never does--but it was enough to get the moral crusaders rolling. Not only rolling in the sense of beating down the Devil’s influence in spiritual lives, but in the cultural and foreign policy arenas as well. Id fellow Christians want to click their tongues in my general direction over the musi I listen to or movie I watch, that is one thing. To support, secretly or not, an attempt to bring about the Biblical Armageddon,--the same Armageddon they ducked under the bed in few of 10-15 years before--is something else entirely. I wouldn't have believe it possible if I weren't surrounded by it on a daily basis.
Amazing Spider-Man # 262--"Trade Secret"

Today’s comic is unusual in a couple of respects. The most obvious being that it has a photo cover, an unusual thing then and new. Even in the ‘90’s when gimmick covers on special issues were all the rage, a cover photo was a rare schtick. The second point--and this seems rather quaint considering the events of Civil War--someone discovers Peter Parker is Spider-Man. I’ve touch on before how the main theme of Spider-Man is that with great power comes great responsibility. Spidey is constantly torn between using his powers for good and not letting his loved ones down. A big part of that was going to great links to preserve his secret identity.

The issue, Peter Parker is latte getting to the airport, so he decides to websling there as Spider-Man instead. He uses a storage room to change into civilian clothes, but in his haste, doesn’t web the door closed like he normally would. A tabloid photographer there to snap photos of arriving celebrities ducks into the storage room himself to adjust his camera. There he sees Peter Parker halfway between his costume and civilian clothes. He instinctively snaps a picture and dashes off. Spidey gives chase but because he had to put the rest of his costume on, the photographer had enough time to get away.

Thus begins a physical and moral crusade for Spidey. He tears his way through the underworld looking for clues as to where the sleazy photographer might be and whether he’d sell the photo to criminal elements. At the same time, he is torn about what to do once he catches the guy? Is his secret identity worth killing the guy over? Interestingly, Parker consults with fellow reporter Ben Urich over that issue, although he clouds the actual moral dilemma in a hypothetical. While Urich is a fellow Daily Bugle employee (and modeled after Jack McGee from the Hulk television show) he had bee featured most prominently in Daredevil. That Parker would seek him out as a mentor was something never touched on before and rarely seen again.

Spidey successfully hunts down the photographer. He was correct in assuming he would try to sell the photos to crime bosses. Unfortunately for the photographer, they decide to take it instead. First rule--never bring the roll of film with you when you are trying to sell it to crime lords. The henchmen have the photographer corned in an alley with Spidey watching from a rooftop. He debates whether to lt the goons kill the photographer, then take the roll of film from them. It sounds like killing two birds with one stone, but Spidey’s conscience won’t let him do that. He saves the photographer and then, after cornering the guy himself, demands the roll of film. The photographer hands it over and grovels for his life, but Spidey just walks away. In a city of 8 million people, his secret is safe, right? Right?