Tuesday, July 29, 2008

New adventures in spandex

Broken Mystic has an interesting and lengthy post on the role of women in the comics put out by two fairly new companies: Kuwait's Teshkeel Comics and the Egyptian AK Comics. From a Western perspective, this is an unusual combo platter. If you go to your local comic book store--assuming you still have one--and ask for something Muslim and feminist, you'll likely get a blank look. On the other hand, academics on the Middle East... In some cases they may be interested in action comics, but I wouldn't count on it.

Teshkeel's The 99 seems like a very ambitious project. In part this is because it delves into the mystical side of Islam, and does so very boldly. And then there's the fact that it's projected to actually have 99 superpowered characters. Chris Claremont could have a nervous breakdown!

I understand Broken Mystic's criticism of AK's approach, but I have some cavils with it.

Pictured above is “Jalila: Protector of The City of All Faiths” who appears in AK Comics, founded by Dr. Ayman Kandeel. Not to sound too negative in my introduction of Jalila and the other female super-heroine, “Aya: Princess of Darkness,” but the images and roles of women in Kandeel’s comics are not an improvement from what we typically see in mainstream American comic books. Unlike “The 99,” the writers and artists for AK Comics seem to be more concerned with drawing voluptuous women rather than focusing on character development and original storylines. In fact, the image you see posted above is rare to find since censors in Egypt have now colored Jalila’s exposed stomach with a lighter shade of blue. You can still see the details on her stomach, but I guess the added colors from the censors make her look like she’s wearing an undershirt, therefore less “exposed.” Yeah, like that changes the way she’s being depicted.

Thing is, when I see this image:

I don't think "voluptuous female," I think "cool hood ornament." This kind of body is just too obviously fake to do much for me. And that's a tradeoff artists and editors are fully aware of. For one thing, the target market of teenage boys is not really so choosy. For another, accurate anatomy of women or of men takes a backseat to drawing kickass fight scenes.

Which is not to say that all the habits AK is picking up from American comics are good ones. A lot of American comics kinds suck. But it's good that the Arab world has some competition in this field. Hopefully this means these two companies will be trying to outsmart each other.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Begging the question

A somewhat relevant post from Dangerblond, subbing for the Rude Pundit.

Earlier this evening I went for a little sump'n sump'n at an international coffee concern which shall remain nameless. When I got there I saw a man who used to be the boss on one of my campus jobs when I was in college. He was sitting and chatting with a friend of his. Now my old boss is black, and his friend is white. This may or may not be relevant, as far as their respective viewpoints go. Use your best judgment.

Now the conversation turned to natural disasters. The friend was comparing the responses of New Orleans during and after Katrina with the upper Midwest during the Iowa flood this year. According to him the upper Mississippi river folk got together and defended their homes with sandbags and hard work, while the New Orleanians let their city fall apart, then waited for the federal government to bail them out.

Had to eventually get away from this, and not just because I was trying to read the Angela Carter book I got from the library.

I don't want to overload the straw here. Some of the things he said may be true, about Mayor Nagin not knowing what he was doing. But this kind of "all hail the mighty market" conservatism that puts the blame right back on the poor? There are times when you should at least step back and question it. Or at least wonder if you'd see things differently if you were more involved with the Katrina aftermath than with the morning word jumble.

I've only been to the Big Easy once, mostly in the French Quarter, with some travel through the poorer sections. Since then I've talked to a couple of displaced natives. My impression is that the people still down there, or returning, are doing a lot of things in the hopes of saving themselves and their homes. Waiting for a handout is not at the top of the list. This does not mean they don't need help.

My old boss is from Jamaica, originally. There's a good chance he's seen deep poverty in the islands. He may also be a Republican, for all I know. But he seemed to have a more complex vantage point on the problem. If he was able to get that across, more power to him.

Friday, July 25, 2008

So John McCain is Green Arrow?

Rarely has an article so quickly become a butt of jokes than Andrew Klavan's mind-numbing appreciation of the box-office smash The Dark Knight. And as even a cursory reading will show, rarely has that ridicule been so justified. Klavan's article doesn't have a bias so much as it has a comically ill-disguised agenda. It's like he thought George W. Bush deserved a crushed-ice blow job, but feared the legal ramifications if he provided it in traditional form.

You can't really say it starts well.

A cry for help goes out from a city beleaguered by violence and fear: A beam of light flashed into the night sky, the dark symbol of a bat projected onto the surface of the racing clouds . . .

Oh, wait a minute. That's not a bat, actually. In fact, when you trace the outline with your finger, it looks kind of like . . . a "W."

Okay, I know that's a joke. You know that's a joke. But does Klavan know, even as he's making it? This, by the way, is the Bat-Signal as it appears in the movie.

Yeah, pure "W."

Anyway, the author is soon onto strawmen made of low-quality straw.
Leftists frequently complain that right-wing morality is simplistic. Morality is relative, they say; nuanced, complex. They're wrong, of course, even on their own terms.

Left and right, all Americans know that freedom is better than slavery, that love is better than hate, kindness better than cruelty, tolerance better than bigotry. We don't always know how we know these things, and yet mysteriously we know them nonetheless.

Anyone who knows more than three leftists knows that there is now conflict between being on the left and being a moral absolutist. One begins to suspect that--shocking as it seems--Klavan's social circle is somewhat limited.

But the absolute gem is this quote.
The true complexity arises when we must defend these values in a world that does not universally embrace them -- when we reach the place where we must be intolerant in order to defend tolerance, or unkind in order to defend kindness, or hateful in order to defend what we love.

When heroes arise who take those difficult duties on themselves, it is tempting for the rest of us to turn our backs on them, to vilify them in order to protect our own appearance of righteousness. We prosecute and execrate the violent soldier or the cruel interrogator in order to parade ourselves as paragons of the peaceful values they preserve. As Gary Oldman's Commissioner Gordon says of the hated and hunted Batman, "He has to run away -- because we have to chase him."

So where does the hunting come in? Who is Commissioner Gordon? Bush is running away? As far as I can tell, Dub's future consists of sun, surf, good food, and not having to hide his drinking anymore. To be fair, Bruce Wayne is obscenely wealthy.

It seems unlikely that a movie trying to rehabilitate a failed presidency will ever crack $150 odd million in its opening weekend. But some of us will take solace in the belief that it's already happened.

I'm still here, and this is the Friday Random Ten

1. Don Byron--The Tobacco Auctioneer
2. Ben Folds Five--Mess
3. Bjork--Innocence
4. Ry Cooder--Chloe
5. The White Stripes--The Same Boy You've Always Known
6. T. Rex--Sound Pit
7. Frank Sinatra--I've Got the World on a String
8. Dressy Bessy--Flower Jargon
9. Nellie McKay--Waiter
10. Eurythmics--Jennifer

Note for the user: the Bjork song is a great one for clearing out any residual cobwebs you might have in the morning.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

With Dr. Evil on piano!

How's this for a moment of Zen? From an Israeli TV production of Brecht and Weill's Threepenny Opera.

There's a lot here to love. The lady singing is phenomenal. I have no idea what she's saying, but I have an idea what she's saying, if you get me.

And it's a nice simple set, too. But watch out for that falling window.

Monday, July 21, 2008

It all (eventually) comes out in the wash

Tonight was laundry night. I loaded the whites and durables into a front-loader and inserted money and detergent, then left it alone as the water started running. When I came back to it, the clothes were all dry and still smelled like sweat. Since the attendant (who was cool about restarting the machine) couldn't find a blown fuse, I can only assume someone tampered with the washer. Needless to say, I have a new mission of VENGEANCE!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Anothah dog days of summah Friday Random Ten

1. Isobel Campbell--Black Mountain*
2. Bobby Conn & the Glass Gypsies--My Special Friend
3. REM--New Test Leper
4. Thomas Dolby--Dissidents
5. Martha & the Vandellas--I Promise to Wait My Love
6. Elton John--Where to Now, St Peter?
7. Scissor Sisters--The Other Side
8. Tori Amos--Marianne
9. Sarah Vaughan--The Nearness of You
10. Possum Dixon--In Buildings

On Ballad of the Broken Seas, so it shows on the iPod as Isobel... and Mark Lanegan", but I think it's pretty much a Campbell solo piece. Not that he doesn't have other fine accomplishments.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Twilight of the Treats

The writing of epics is not a business for sane men. Luckily, Portland, Oregon resident Brendan Douglas Jones seems not to be one.

Jones is the creator of the online graphic novel Breakfast of the Gods. BOTG is a tolkien-scale epic featuring characters introduced in TV rooms across America, lo these many years ago. No, I can't quite do it justice. It really must be seen--and preferably tasted--to be believed.

As you can see, there has been some reinterpretation, some fleshing out. Jones plays it fairly straight, which sort of cuts the ground out from you.

The main villains--and this is not too much of a spoiler--are Count Chocula and his right hand bastard Frankenberry. It would be intriguing to see someone do the story from the other side, making them the sympathetic ones. Just as long as that someone is not Francis Ford Coppola.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Kool thing, walking like a panther

I dunno.

There's apparently a bunch of different people saying a bunch of different things about that New Yorker cover. The magazine meant it as a satire on right-wing propaganda relating to Senator Obama. Some people on the right are saying it's all too accurate. A few on the left say it's racist, or something.

To me, the image is kind of appealing in its own right. Michelle Obama in a black top and camo pants, toting an AK47? HAWT!!! And Barack himself looks NTBFW in that kaftan. Maybe crop the right edge of the picture. I'm not a big fan of Osama, believe it or not. And flagburning is kind of hack.

Still, it's a trip. It would be interesting to see a major party candidate run on a platform of "rock n' roll, dope, and fucking in the streets." But then they'd have to redesign the website, and I guess all the interns are assigned elsewhere.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Proving genius geeks can be ignorant

The saddest thing I can say about this story is that it doesn't surprise me at this point. The fact that the editor in question is Native American rather than white is a slight twist, but doesn't really change anything. In fact, his prejudice or lack thereof is not really the issue. September 11th made racism cool again, and science fiction was dismayingly susceptible to the bug.

This blogger posts a response, and is immediately confronted with a commenter who conflates Islam with jihadism. The latter is a somewhat nonsensical word to begin with--talk about "fightism", "crusadism", or "strugglism" and watch the kinds of looks you get--but some word may be needed to describe the ideology of actual terrorists. Thing is, when you ascribe such an ideology to the vast part of the Muslim population, that makes things scarier. It also makes things easier, too much so. Again, not a surprise. I could link to some essays by Dan Simmons, but it's getting late and they're not the entertaining kind of creepy.

And no, it doesn't end with one outgroup. You thought it would? Note that Larry Niven suggests scamming Hispanics out of seeking medical treatment, and he gets high-fived for being "politically incorrect."

My sense is that this kind of attitude is more prevalent in speculative fiction than it was twenty or forty years ago. Maybe I'm wrong, but it's kind of a depressing sight.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Mostly mellow Friday Random Ten

1. Ry Cooder--Smack Dab in the Middle
2. Charlie Parker--Out of Nowhere
3. Sonic Youth--I'm Insane
4. Scissor Sisters--Lights
5. Bob Dylan--Shelter From the Storm
6. Howlin' Wolf--Spoonful
7. Julie London--Sway
8. Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan--(Do You Wanna) Come Walk With Me?
9. Talking Heads--Cities
10. Mimi & Richard Fariña--Pack Up Your Sorrows

Starting off with Ry's treatment of an R&B standard, going back at least to Count Basie's band. Love the "open up the door to Fort Knox."

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Like Robinson Crusoe

The Apartment, 1960

I don't know whether Jack Lemmon knew any Italian or not. It's evident that C.C. Baxter doesn't. This is still one of my favorite movies.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The thing is...

It's the heat. And it's the humidity.

Monday, July 7, 2008

here to help

Today Now!: How To Pretend You Give A Shit About The Election

This news piece gleaned from The Onion should be useful to many. Admit it. You wish you thought of that child's drawing thing first.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Dear Burger King

You need to discontinue that new ad campaign. You know the one. Two Ken doll bachelors are sitting on a park bench waiting for a little sumthin sumthin. One of them gets all smug and opens his BK bag, filled with munchkin hamburgers. All of a sudden they're surrounded by beach girls cooing over "those adorable little burgers." Polluting rivers, clogging arteries, well, that's just business. But aiming your marketing at Klüver-Bucy and those who sexually prey on them? Beyond the pale. Never mind the distasteful associations that Burger Shot seems to have among the young folk.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Grand Independence Day/Canada Day Friday Random Ten Blowout!

1. Arcade Fire--The Well and the Lighthouse
2. Gang of Four--Anthrax
3. Ry Cooder--Down in Hollywood
4. Beck--Nobody's Fault But My Own
5. Nellie McKay--Ding Dong
6. David Bowie--Stay
7. Blossom Dearie--Love is a Necessary Evil
8. Joni Mitchell--Twisted
9. Rufus Harley--The Monkey Driver
10. Broken Social Scene--7/4 (Shoreline)

So named because we start and end with Canadian bands. Although Arcade Fire frontman Win Butler and his brother Will are Texans. Not big fans of W., though.

Joni Mitchell is Canadian too, of course, even if she lived in New York or SoCal for much of her career.

Two or three of the artists above are British. So was Thomas Paine. Deal with it.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

No facts, either

In a courageous act of armchair investigative journalism, I ambled over to Larry Johnson's No Quarter USA blog to see what was what. Whatever this site used to be, it's now pretty much all (anti) Obama, all the time. Johnson's post on Christopher Hitchens' cast-against-type denunciation of waterboarding is a rare exception.

It's also a rare issue-related post. The site is light on policy, surprisingly so. Oh sure, it's fairly standard nowadays to either attack or laud a candidate's character without touching on their positions. But this is a blog meistered by a security wonk, so you'd think there'd be more going after Obama on stupid ideas they might allege he has. But again and again, you read the words "inexperienced", "unreliable", "untrustworthy," with the implication that whatever Mr. Barack says he's either lying or doesn't know what he talks about. That and his birth certificate is fake which, what's the narrative here? Someone wanted to raise a puppet US president, but they failed to get him born in the country? I tremble with fear.

Then there's this exposé on LIAR Obama's two-faced support for gender pay equity. Well, why don't I just reproduce the whole thing here.

What He Wants Us To Believe

Barack Obama has made recent claims indicating pay equity for women would be a top priority if he were elected President. Sounds great. In fact, it might compel some to seriously consider his candidacy.

Don’t be fooled. What we’ve seen of Mr. Obama is a candidacy based on opportunism. Whenever convenient, he will use his prose to proclaim lofty ideals, ideals that many want so badly to believe in, ideals so many want to become realities.

Mr. Obama is all talk. How do we really know if his lofty ideals will translate into actual policy? We certainly can not point to his legislative accomplishments. There are too few. He may have been present but what the hell does that mean - nothing in the context of policy.

Anyone can advocate anything. A true leader turns advocacy into bona-fide action. We’ve not seen this from Mr. Obama. We have seen, unfortunately, reversals and inconsistencies.


While Mr. Obama may be an advocate for pay equity, analysis of his Senate staff leaves one to wonder. We know the reports that show women on his staff earn roughly $6,000 less than males on staff. But, here is further information:

Of five staffers that earned more than $100,000 only one was a women
Of staffers earning more than $23,000/year, 33 were men while 31 were women and the pay difference between them was >$10,000
Comparatively speaking, Senator Hillary Clinton’s Senate staff is comprised more than 2 to 1 women to men. And, the pay is nearly equal. In fact, nearly 70% of Clinton’s staff are women.

Did You Know?

Senator John McCain’s Senate staff, comprised of 69 individuals as of October, 2007 which also includes interns, MORE than half were women. Excluding the 23 interns, the 30 women on his staff earned an average of $59,100 compared to the $56,600 earned by the 16 men.

Remember, talk is cheap. Look for action, past and present. I own my vote.

"Oh but Ben," I hear you cry, "You screwed up. You didn't include all the links that fdrjim added to bolster his case."

Yeah, about that. I actually did. The astroturfy "I own my vote" site is the only one this blogger linked to. He or she did not include links to any news sources. Wonder why.

A Google search on some of the keywords is rich in results, but not so much in variety. You get stories from L Brent Bozell's pet news site; copies of same by other Nobama sites; much dittoing from generally loony right-wing blogs; and approving quotes on general-audience messageboards, no doubt from impartial observers.

In fact, the entire "Obama gyps the girls" meme pretty much seems to stem from this one Cybercast story. Which is, to say the least, a little light on peer review. At this juncture the story has about as much credibility as the Michelle Obama "Whitey" panic. And if you've forgotten how that turned out, here's a reminder.