Gay or Jewish superheroes (Another rejected submission to the Radar List. What I love about this is that if you try to guess based on the names, you'll be led astray by how totally gay some of the Jewish ones are.)
4. Colossal Boy
5. Kitty Pryde
6. Moon Knight
7. Moon Dragon
9. The Thing
Gay: 1, 2, 7,12
Jewish: 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11
The problem with laws prohibiting speech is always the same. No matter how appealing it sounds to just silence people who "encourage terrorism," there are always unintended consequences. Oh, we didn't mean Christians! I can count the number of times I've agreed with Donald Rumsfeld on one finger, but his response — "Private citizens say all kinds of things all the time" — is exactly the right one, as are the responses of evangelical organizations distancing themselves from Robertson and of liberal activists pressuring commercial broadcasters to think about what kind of people they want to be in business with.
Americans who secretly (or openly) envy the lack of a First Amendment that allowed Britain to draft its anti-terror speech laws should consider what the effect of similar laws would be here, and whether that's really what they want.
Note, by the way, that one of the items on the UK's new list of things that can get you kicked out is "foster[ing] hatred which might lead to inter-community violence in the U.K." Might? Who makes that judgment? And how long before it's applied to somebody who condemns not "Western values" but Islamism (wouldn't Theo Van Gogh have fit the bill)?
Excerpts of letters to the editor of The New York Times from novelist Jane Smiley (a rejected submission to the Radar List).
"The truly appalling aspect of Mr. Bush's aggressive stance in the matter of the Florida vote is not his small-minded attempts to bully the other side but his total lack of concern for the rights of voters." —Nov. 13, 2000
"The Republican world looks to many of us like a Hobbesian jungle, where the poor and the unlucky have to play by harsh rules, but the rich and lucky have no rules at all."—Nov. 9, 2002
"What's another name for the vast right-wing conspiracy that Paul Krugman writes about? It is 'coup d'etat.'"—Mar. 29, 2002
"The Bush administration has utterly bungled war preparations and has done a great deal of damage to our stature in the world." —Feb. 19, 2003
"Wake up, America! Your government is being stolen right out from under your noses by the right wing." —July 2, 2003
"Europe seems to have learned several lessons from World War II that the rest of the world still doesn't understand. One is that religion is fraught with controversy. Another is that war is the least desirable option." —Oct. 14, 2003
"Walter Kirn's review of Martin Amis's novel "Yellow Dog" was so intelligent and charmingly written that I would have to say it is a bad review worth aspiring to." —Nov. 23, 2003
"Readers of Nicholas D. Kristof's columns about the Cambodian sex workers he has saved should remember that the conditions that these young women suffer today are only a little more than 200 years in the past in the First World." —Jan. 24, 2004
"The important thing about the failure to find W.M.D.'s and the failure to pacify Iraq and the failure to protect the treasures, the infrastructure and the women of Iraq is that these failures were foreseen by many who opposed the war." —Mar. 28, 2004
"As long as Americans live in thrall to the gun lobby, we will suffer the collateral damage of school shootings, workplace shootings, sniper attacks from bridges, and all sorts of other unnecessary mayhem." —Apr. 24, 2004
"Faulty intelligence. An administration eager to go to war. Volunteer army. Doctrine of pre-emptive attack. Here's how I connect the dots: arrogant fantasy resulting in criminal waste of blood, money and international good will." —July 10, 2004
"Alexander Hamilton, having actually established our nation on a sound fiscal footing, deserves to remain on the $10 bill. The obvious place for Ronald Reagan is the $3 bill." —July 25, 2004
"Laura Bush may think she's only being funny, but some of us think she is being a hypocrite, and even further exposing the true agenda of the Bush administration, which is to do harm and, apparently, enjoy it." —May 3, 2005
The New York Times has launched a series on the supposed evolution debate (and yet not word on Pastafarianism; damn liberal media!). While I won't deny that the intelligent design proponents are clever, I realize there's one really basic question I've never even seen them try to answer. Since ID is basically just a spiffed-up version of the argument from design, why isn't it vulnerable to the same counter-arguments? ID says that if something is irreducibly complex, the only rational explanation is that it was designed. So the question is, can a thing be designed by something less complex than itself? ID is careful to say that we can't know anything about the designer, but as a matter of simple logic we can know the following: either the designer is or is not irreducibly complex. If it is (the obvious choice), then by ID's own premise it must have been intentionally designed. And that designer too must have been designed. It's turtles all the way down.
If, however, the designer is not irreducibly complex, then the thing that is designed is merely once-removed from the naturalistic processes of life, and is no more a challenge to evolution than is wrist watch.
I know I'm not saying anything that most people didn't think about when they were 10 years old, but at least if you're asking "who made God?" the answer can legitimately be, "God has always been," because, well, it's theology. Once you start claiming to be science, you can't start making special exceptions to your foundational rules without any evidence whatsoever.
Though I haven't been able to find an IDist direct response to this question, Panda's Thumb has a thread on the subject, which includes an e-mail purportedly from ID bossman Michael Behe in which he answers the question of whether life on earth could have been designed by aliens, who themselves evolved naturally without any intelligence guiding them -- meaning that ID could be inherently atheistic. Behe says, "Yes, perhaps life elsewhere doesn’t require irreducibly complex structures. So maybe it arose naturally by chance and then designed us, as I speculated in Darwin’s Black Box (“Aliens and Time Travelers”, pp. 248-250). I don’t think that’s the case, but it isn’t logically impossible."
So that's one answer. How do you think it would go over in those public opinion polls we keep hearing about.
Update: If you actually read pp. 248-250 of Darwin's Black Box you'll see that Behe's e-mail is far more explicit an acknowledgement of the possibility of an atheistic intelligent design. In the book he only says that people with illogical (implied) "philosophical commitments against the supernatural" can be persuaded to accept ID by "put[tting] off" "the question of the design of the designer" with various loopy (implied) but naturalistic theories, such as aliens and time travel.
Now, nothing in the book is going to turn off Behe's religious constituency, but since in his e-mail (assuming it is genuine) he follows his thinking through to its logical conclusion, I think it's only fair to spread far and wide that the leading theorist of Intelligent Design believes it is logically possible that life on earth was created by a superintelligent race of aliens. I think that every school district that proposes teaching ID in the science classroom should be forced to address the question of whether students should be taught that they may only be here because Zardoz of Rigel VII had a really cool idea for his 6th grade science fair. Can you imagine how reasonable ID will still seem to most Americans once this gets out?
To that end, I am going to encourage the New York Times to run a correction regarding its statement today that ID "depend[s] on the existence of a supernatural force." I encourage others to press for similar accuracy in future media coverage of intelligent design.
Update: From the Times: "I've looked into this and discussed it with the author, and I don't think a published correction is in order. As Dr. Behe acknowledges in the passage you quote, he thinks it's unlikely that life could exist without the intervention of a higher being; he only says 'it isn't logically impossible.' And regardless of his musing on this highly theoretical point, doesn't intelligent design, by definition, require an intelligent designer?"
In the comments I explain why I think Behe's admission about the logical possibility that space aliens created life on earth is significant. But, I dunno, maybe I'm wrong. In any case, Behe has apparently decided that despite what he said in his book and e-mail, his undefined threshold of "likeliness" now allows him to say the opposite, with apparently no change in the evidence. It must be nice to have your very own science.
Landesman? Check. Huckapoo? Check. Promoting friends' vanity projects? I knew I'd forgotten something! Yes, I've been remiss in fulfilling one of this blog's prime objectives: hypocritical clubbiness. My buddy Gersh Kuntzman's musical has already had two performances at the Fringe Festival and I haven't plugged it once.
New York Magazine calls SUV: The Musical "a song-and-dance joyride!" NYtheatre.com raves, "A perfect show for the hot and humid summertime blues! A breezy, sloppy, all-over-the-place crowd pleaser!" Even Click and Clack love it (or least the idea of it). Me? I haven't seen it yet, but there are three more performances this week and next, so I'll see you at one of them.
OMG! OMG! OMG! Just when Huckapoo's debut album was starting to feel like the most vaporous vaporware since Duke Nukem Forever, our double super secret source inside the girly group headquarters has slipped us what appears to be a near-complete advance copy!! No art yet, but new mixes -- and in some cases new recordings -- of all your favorite Huckasongs in their final album order. A song-by-song preview, plus a picture of Joey Thunders devouring a small child, after the jump.
In some of my remarks about Jack Shafer's articles on Peter Landesman and sex trafficking I've suggested that I can't get quite as worked up as Jack does about the role of right-wing evangelicals in the anti-trafficking movement. I've generally taken the position that people can come to causes from different starting points and that just because you disagree with a group of people about some issues, doesn't mean you should dismiss their work on all issues.
But now Debbie Nathan has a must-read article in The Nation that spells out quite clearly why Jack was right to be concerned — and that along the way demolishes many assumptions of Landesman-style journalism. (In These Times published a similar article in March.)
Nathan explains how the Christian right (and its "abolitionist feminist" allies) have gamed the system to keep media and legal focus on forced sex work at the demonstrable expense of people who are enslaved (literally) in other jobs — even though there's evidence that far more people are forced to work on farms and in factories than in brothels.
What's more, the evangelicals managed to work official condemnation of all prostitution -- even voluntary -- into the laws on forced trafficking. Meaning that it is nearly impossible for groups seeking to help sex-workers by working with them to get funding. And remember that voluntary sex-workers vastly outnumber enslaved ones. But here's the really tricky side-effect of this: "In a slick rhetorical maneuver, the TVPA offers no assistance to individuals who've been voluntarily smuggled to work as prostitutes, yet it counts them as 'trafficking' victims, along with brothel prisoners. The conflation inflates the severity of the 'sex slave' problem in the public mind."
So where does Landesman fit in to this? Glad you asked.
"Still, the media favor sex-trafficking stories over accounts of other forced work. Television and the press are full of titillating reports, often with suggestive visuals (a New York Times Magazine cover piece featured a photo of a teenaged victim posed in a Catholic-style schoolgirl uniform -- sitting on a bed). Despite the likelihood that the coverage is skewed, researchers such as Kevin Bales, of the NGO Free the Slaves, have tallied press clippings to argue that prostitution predominates over other types of labor trafficking. The State Department makes the same claim by citing the Bales study." [emp. added]
Nathan's best estimate of the severity of the sex-slave trade is the only one that a responsible journalist can make: "No one knows." What we do know now -- and I've only scratched the surface of Nathan's excellent article here -- is that the Christian right (and paleofeminist left) have an obsession with sex that is making the work of freeing all enslaved people harder rather than easier.
Scientology "has taught me that you can teach a man to fish and he'll never go hungry, but if you teach a man to learn, he can teach himself how to fish and anything else he wants to do."
If only it had taught him what a metaphor was...
That's a student at the Scientology boarding school quoted on Anderson Cooper yesterday. Cooper also interviews Kim Masters about her cover story on Tom Cruise in the new issue of Radar, which is unofficially out now. I'll have more to say about the issue soon I hope.
J.K. Rowling was very wise -- though I doubt it was intentional -- to announce at the start that Harry Potter would be a seven book series. It's what's kept me reading. Don't get me wrong, I've very much enjoyed five out of the six so far (the exception being the unforgivable Goblet of Fire) but if I'd thought they were going to go on without end, I probably would have said, after around book three, "well, I'm not going to read these every other year for the rest of my life, so this is as good a place as any to stop."
I've always thought of Rowling as half a great writer. She's swell at devising plots and imagining details, but mediocre at best with the whole prose thing. Eric Berlin puts it nicely: "Words were merely the tools she needed to build a bridge between the points in her overwrought story. A perfectly respectable bridge, but not one you'd want to take pictures of or anything." And every now and then the bridge creaks threateningly, as when, in the new volume, Dumbledore "murmured soundlessly." A murmur is a sound by definition.
It was Stephen King who first opened my eyes to Rowling's worst habit: "As a writer, [she is] oddly, almost sweetly, insecure. The part of speech that indicates insecurity (“Did you really hear me? Did you really understand me?”) is the adverb, and Ms. Rowling seems to have never met one she didn’t like, especially when it comes to dialogue attribution. Harry’s godfather, Sirius, speaks “exasperatedly”; Mrs. Weasly (mother of Harry’s best friend Ron) speaks “sharply”; Tonks (a clumsy witch with punked-up, party-colored hair) speaks “earnestly.” As for Harry himself, he speaks quietly, automatically, slowly, quietly, and – often, given his current case of raving adolescence – ANGRILY."
You can see from this review why Entertainment Weekly thought it'd be a good idea to give King his own column. What doesn't make sense is why they haven't yet admitted their mistake.
The spot the adverb game kept me amused during my reading of The Half-Blood Prince (now available for free download), but I nearly choked when I read, "'Yes, thank you, Phineas,' said Dumbledore quellingly."
Quellingly? It's not clever enough to be a coinage; I can only assume Rowling thinks it's a real word. She's not exactly the first person to use it, but it has previously been restricted almost entirely to the realm of fan fiction, including -- hmm -- numerous Harry Potter fan stories. And that makes sense, really, for what does Rowling's prose remind you of if not better than average fan fiction?
In today’s Gawker, the editors tap into the cult of writing about the "girl crush" phenomenon. More specifically, they mock the New York Times' Stephanie Rosenbloom for writing an article very similar to one that appeared in the Observer in 2003.
"Aw, how cute. It’s taken Stephanie Rosenbloom almost two years to confess her girl-crush on Marshall’s story."
Aw, even cuter. It took Marshall almost three years to confess her girl-crush on Gwen Macsai's book Lipshtick, or, if you really want to get pissy about it, almost seven years to confess her girl-crush on Macsai's Morning Edition segment from which the book was adapted.
I'm kidding, of course. She probably got it from Caroline Knapp.
Academics will tell you that "the American suburb and its racial history is realized visually in the act of cultural cooptation embodied through the contemporary stereotype of white, suburban youth subcultures known as the 'wigger,' [who] seize black popular culture to affirm their privileged racial and class position."
The realization of this phenomenon in Huckapoo character P.J. Bardot is so blatant (and, frankly, boring) that I haven't bothered to mention it before, but the image above raises the potentially more interesting issue of P.J. not as coded African but as coded male. P.J., in her white tank top filled out no better (or worse) than that of the young man seated behind her, is clearly "one of the boys." But she is not just any of the boys, she is the one on whom the others -- surrounding her like a pack of wolves -- can safely project their homoerotic desire. No doubt the lad in the foreground with the nervous but excited grin has removed his shirt in front of his mates many times before, but it is only the liberating (if sublminal) force of P.J. Bardot that allows him to finally declare -- literally written on his naked body -- "I Love... Huckapoo."
Obviously this theory has profound implications for any male fan who lusts after the Huckapoo "girls." Not that I know anybody like that.
Oh yeah. I happened to be thinking about this because somebody here points out that P.J.'s shirt appears to say "boy sex." Nice secret code.
You can almost see the executives who dreamed up this campaign, sitting around the conference table, on speakerphone with the businessmen in Africa. "The problem," said one of them, "is that most women only have one diamond. Their engagement ring. Maybe one other if we're lucky, although that'll probably be some family heirloom from a hundred years ago. Doesn't get us bupkis."
"It's not just that women have only one diamond ring," said another. "It's worse -- they think they only need one diamond ring."
Sullen silence around the table. What a thought! To only need a single shiny rock mined from the earth by damn-near slave labor!
But a smart guy like Eric should know better than to call the campaign "desperate and transparent," since it is, after all, only a continuation of one of the most wildly successful marketing campaigns ever, the original DeBeers campaign that created the twin myths that diamonds were 1) valuable and 2) a symbol of romance. "It is essential," wrote ad-man N. W. Ayer in 1951, to generate "constant publicity to show that only the diamond is everywhere accepted and recognized as the symbol of betrothal." Of course the diamond right hand ring is a crock. So was the diamond engagement ring. Why shouldn't the same trick work twice?
Also no diamond exec would complain about diamond rings being family heirlooms since they're also the ones who created the idea that "the only proper way to 'dispose' of diamonds was to hand them down to a female descendant." The "Diamonds are Forver" slogan was devised largely to prevent the creation of a secondary market.
It's too early to tell if they've still got the magic, but the signs are promising. "After DeBeers started the right-hand diamond ring marketing campaign about a year ago, sales jumped 21 percent in the first quarter of 2004, the Diamond Information Center reported."
Jack Shafer thinks he's soooo smart, doesn't he? In his latest slam on the hard working journalists who are just trying to write entertaining trend stories for decent folk to read at the breakfast table, Shafer begins his search for "the meth capital of the world," with the sentence, "Everybody concedes that New York City is the financial capital of the world, Los Angeles the entertainment capital, and Tokyo its sushi capital."
Oh, really? Everybody? Because it says here that the entertainment capital of the world is most often identified as Las Vegas, followed by Hollywood, then L.A., then Orlando and New York. And at least some people locate the sushi capital in Osaka, Okinawa, and a little Japanese village called Vancouver.
So tell us, smart guy, what's the sex slave capital of the world?
"It is 2021, tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of 9/11. It is up to an underground group of bio-mechanically enhanced conservatives led by Sean Hannity, G. Gordon Liddy and Oliver North to thwart Ambassador Usama Bin Laden's plans to nuke New York City ...And wake the world from an Orwellian nightmare of United Nations- dominated ultra-liberalism."
It's also a prime example of victim politics on the right — the attitude, formerly reserved for the PC left, that the best way to achieve your goals is to whine about all the terrible things people say about you.
I vaguely recall as a kid in the Reagan years reading Anarchist Comix about a robotic Ronny R as a Big Brother figure in the not-too-distant future, so obviously neither side has a monopoly on this kind of fun and games. But the distinction is that in the Reagan years, Reagan was running the effin' country and the lefty comic writers were creating satire based on extrapolations of their actual experiences. Today, the whiny wingnuts who want to wallow in their powerlessness have to start by creating a fantastic alternate reality in which they aren't in fact running the world. That it's so wildly implausible is simultaneously the most entertaining and frightening thing about this comic.
If Liberality can tap into the same mindset that keeps conservative Christians coming back to end time thrillers about a bizarro world in which Christians are persecuted outsiders, it should be a monster hit.
By the way, in 2021, G. Gordon Liddy will be 91. What's his superpower, holding his chin over a drool cup without flinching?
The first article, "A Battle for Science's Soul" [scroll to "Gabrielle, July 9, 9:44], explains why ID is "far more radical and much more dangerous" than garden-variety (pun intended) creationism in that IDers seek to "redefine science itself to include non-natural or supernatural explanations for natural phenomena."
The second, "A Skeptic's Guide to Intelligent Design [scroll to "Gabrielle, July 9, 9:45], casually demolishes the premises of ID in a manner not quite as thorough as H. Allen Orr's recent New Yorker essay but much more accessible to the layperson.
This article also discusses The Wedge Strategy, a founding document of the Discovery Institute that leaked out a while back. It spells out in no uncertain terms that the leading (only?) ID think-tank was actually created "to defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies [and] replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and hurnan beings are created by God." (SCLM alert: recent articles mentioning intelligent design: 1,030; recent articles mentioning the Discovery Institute: 65; recent articles mentioning the Wedge Strategy: 2.)
A third article, Survival of the Slickest, isn't available in full but it begins, "Science only functions with the presumption of honesty. It flounders when confronted by those who knowingly and willingly distort the truth."
I flashed to this after reading the Discovery Institute's willingly distorted answer to the question [scroll to #6], "Is research about intelligent design published in peer-reviewed journals and monographs?" The short answer, "Yes," is immediately followed by a barrage of doublespeak making clear that the longer answer is, "no."
"Why should we hear about body bags and deaths...? It's not relevant. So, why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that."
This seems like the appropriate time to heed Rakoff's call to arms:
Mrs. Bush is not getting any younger. When she eventually ceases to walk among us we will undoubtedly see photographs of her flag-draped coffin. Whatever obituaries that run will admiringly mention those wizened, dynastic loins of hers and praise her staunch refusal to color her hair or glamorize her image. But will they remember this particular statement of hers, this "Let them eat cake" for the twenty-first century? Unlikely, since it received far too little play and definitely insufficient outrage when she said it. So let us promise herewith to never forget her callous disregard for other parents' children while her own son was sending them to make the ultimate sacrifice, while asking of the rest of us little more than to promise to go shopping. Commit the quote to memory and say it whenever her name comes up. Remind others how she lacked even the bare minimum of human integrity, the most basic requirement of decency that says that if you support a war, you should be willing, if not to join those ninteen-year-olds yourself, then at least, at the very least, to acknowledge that said war was actually going on. Stupid fucking cow.
Update: Lindsay and friends are going wobbly. Since I clearly say BB's statement was made before the war started and then link to the full exchange, I obviously wasn't trying to hide the context of this quote. And I disagree completely that the context changes the meaning. She's not talking about generic "media speculation," she's talking specifically about whether one should give some thought to how many Americans might be killed before sending them off to war. Hell, she wasn't even asked about that -- she volunteered it as her reason for not watching TV: I don't want to even consider the possibility that other people's children are going to die. Sounds pretty let them eat cake-ish to me. C'mon Linds, where's the "hmmm"?
So on Monday Florida secretary of state-turned congresswoman-turned senate candidate Katherine Harris told Sean Hannity that the only reason she looked so silly in all those pictures during the 2000 recount was because the liberal media "colorized my photograph."
When pressed on this obvious lie the next day, the candidate backpedaled, but also frontpedaled. All she meant to say was "I haven't worn blue eye shadow since the seventh grade when I was in the Girl Scouts." The Tampa Tribune reporter makes a stab at countering this by noting, "She didn't name a newspaper that showed blue eye shadow." But the real comeback would be to do a Google Image search, where you'd find the picture above -- complete with blue eye shadow -- on the first page of results. I'm not saying Katherine Harris was lying again, mind you. I'm just saying she was one fugly 12-year-old.
If you can't wait 16 days (or 16 years) for The 40 Year-Old Virgin, you can always seek out a 2003 8-minute short called The 24 Year-Old Virgin, which features "Hayden Elizabeth" before she did The Amazing Race and realized that there might be an advantage using her clunkier real name.
Or you could read Superstud: Or How I Became a 24-Year-Old Virgin (finally, a stickler for proper hyphenation!) by Paul Feig, who created Freaks and Geeks for executive producer Judd Apatow — the writer and director of The 40 Year-Old Virgin.
Still following? I read Feig's first book, and found it to be funny but not F&B brilliant — much my same reaction to Apatow's post-F&G project Undeclared. From what I've seen, 40YOV doesn't look like anything special either, which makes me think that Feig and Apatow need each other for that magic to happen. C'mon guys, surely you can sell some network on Freekier & Geekier: The 90s!
Until then, you'll probably want to check out the hilariously lo-fi personal web site Feig created in 1996, updated once in 1999, and then completely forgot about. The Public Domain Comedy Guide alone is worth the price of admission — free! (You can use that).
What you may not want to read is my 2001 interview with Apatow which reveals very little except that I shouldn't do celebrity interviews. (Fortunately you may not be able to read it, as modernhumorist.com seems to be down frequently these days).
Yet another Serenity trailer went live today. By the time the movie comes out, I worry I'll have seen the whole thing. It's an improvement on the first one but somehow less enticing than the international version. Once again I don't know if I should be concerned that the marketing department is having trouble getting a handle on the film, or if that's actually a good sign. Does the movie not juggle its disperate elements as well as the show did, or is it so rich and complex that it can't be contained in a trailer. Or three. Or a one sheet.
On balance, though, I'm glad to see they've apparently dropped the bewildering "Can't Stop the Signal" tag line -- which always sounded to me like a demented cell phone ad -- for the more accessible, if willfully vague, "The future is worth fighting for." I mean, now I get it: the movie takes place in the future and it has fighting. True, I'm not sure I want to see that movie, but those of us who know Firefly will see it anyway. The trick is suckering everyone else in.