Saturday, January 30, 2010

Comics Roundup for 1/27/10

Big, expensive week. Here goes:

New Avengers #61 - A few issues back, I complained that the issue didn't really live up to the cover, as it indicated that there'd be some Spider-Man interaction with Spider-Woman. I suppose that cover belonged on this issue, as we finally get some here, and it certainly was amusing. It's been a long time coming, and it really shows that the only thing these two have in common is the "Spider" part of their names. Oh, and Steve Rogers is back! But he's not dressing as Captain America? What the heck? Oh well, it was a fun issue, even if a whole lot didn't actually happen.

Green Lantern #50 - I'm thinking that the Blackest Night is going to be the final phase of Hal Jordan's redemption. What does he go and do in this issue? He willingly fuses with Parallax (the creature that turned him evil years and years ago) in order to stop a Black Lantern Specter. Of course, everybody thinks he's crazy for doing it, but a good Green Lantern shows no fear - not even of the living embodiment of fear. It should be interesting to see what happens next.

Blackest Night: The Flash #2 (of 3) - I suppose I'd be more into this if I was more familiar with The Flash and his rogues gallery, but this was still an amusing little issue. Only one more issue? I'm down. Plus, we get to see a bit more of Blue Lantern Flash, and I hope that we learn a bit more about exactly what that means next issue.

Superman: Secret Origin #4 (of 6) - This series is enjoyable, but I'm starting to feel more and more that it's not really all that necessary. I liked it when we got all the Legion of Superheroes stuff in the first couple of issues, but right now it's just a story that I've seen several times already. I'll stick around until the end, as this creative team has a way of surprising me and has earned the benefit of the doubt. Let's hope they don't disappoint.

Astro City: The Dark Age - Book Four #1 (of 4) - I flipped through it, and it looks good, but I'm going to go ahead and sit down and read this entire 16-part Dark Age story once all the issues are out. There's just too much going on from month to month for me to remember.

Thor #606 - Awesome issue, even if it is Billy Tan on art. (Is it me, or does he always start out pretty good and then it just goes south after that?) This issue finally explains how Valhalla winds up just over American soil - which is what the situation was in the first issue of Siege. Not only that, but there was a great interaction between Loki and Doctor Doom, where both of them thought they were manipulating the other, and honestly I'm not sure which one has the upperhand? Normally I'd say bet on the god, but we are talking about Doctor Doom here.

Daredevil #504 - Another solid issue, and we see Daredevil really taking things to even greater extremes by the end of this installment. I really like how Andy Diggle is really running with the story that was handed to him, and he doesn't seem to be in any huge hurry to wrap it up. Hopefully he won't make the opposite mistake of having it go on for too long, but the stakes keep getting ramped up every issue, so I don't see any signs of that.

Kick-Ass #8 - Yeah, they're making a movie out of this. I've seen the preview. I'm not sure how well this thing's going to translate. It's definitely a fun series, and this installment was a good one - but a movie? I don't know. From what I can tell though, they're sticking pretty close to the story, but having an 11 year old girl hack a bunch of mobsters to bits in a comic is one thing, in a movie, that might be a bit too hard for people to handle.

The Amazing Spider-Man #619 - We get some pretty cool Mysterio action in this one, as the fishbowl-headed villain manages to really get under Spidey's skin by convincing him that he killed a guy. Of course, just like any villain, he takes things too far and Spider-Man has him figured out by the end. Oh, and Marcos Martin is still doing the art. Awesome!

Captain America: Reborn #6 (of 6) - Hey! Steven Rogers is back! Not that it's a surprise, but considering that this issue came out after some of the post-"Reborn" stories have come out, it's really, really a non-surprise. But who cares? Steve Rogers is back! And it's good to have him back.

Spider-Man: Clone Saga #5 (of 6) - I mentioned last issue that this series was actually getting pretty interesting, and it's not really obvious just where it's going. That holds true with this one, and I'm curious as to how they're going to wrap all this up next issue. Not only that, but I have to wonder how much of this really was the original plan for this story?

Batman and Robin #7 - Grant Morrison is always intriguing, but sometimes he's also confusing. This issue made me feel like I jumped right into the middle of the story. Also, I still don't get how Batwoman just appeared out of nowhere. Still, this storyline is going to explain what the deal is with the body of Bruce Wayne. I'll stick around.

Echo #19 - This is another one of those series where I really don't have much to say, yet I wouldn't dream of not picking up the next issue. Once again, things move along, Terry Moore's art is as expressive as ever, and I'm wondering what's going to happen next. What else would you want from a comic?

So when are YOU going to have a baby?

One thing that really irritated me before my wife and I got married is when people would keep asking us when we were going to get married. I guess it was one thing when family members did it, but I'd hear it from a lot of people whom I barely even knew. I never think to ask the couples I know when they're going to get married. A coworker and friend of mine just got married, and while I'm certainly happy for him, I don't feel as though I really had anything invested in whether he married or not. Maybe when I know a couple pretty well, I might ask them out of sheer curiosity if they're going to get married, but I'd phrase it more along the lines of "Do you guys think you'll get married?" and not "When are you going to get married?"

Of course, the only thing worse than this is when people won't leave you the hell alone when it comes to when you're going to have a baby, and this tends to happen almost instantly after you get married. I was hearing it from all sides, and I really have to give my in-laws credit on this one. I know that they were ready to be grandparents the day after Kirsti and I married, but they never got on our case about having a baby. They deserve to be commended, as you could actually make the argument that they do have something at stake here. After all, my father-in-law was already looking into getting season passes to the zoo until we told him that maybe he might want to hold off for a couple of years. (Infants, I imagine, get the same thrill from the zoo as they would the backyard.)

Where I did hear it though was from a lot of people who really should have minded their own damned business. One of them was my sister's ex-husband's mother's brother. (Okay, it wasn't really that - but the actual relation to me was just as tenuous.) It was almost like some kind of weird peer-pressure thing, where it was like their best argument was, "Come on, you should have a baby." And that really isn't really an argument at all. I mean, do these people really think that the type of person who'd have a child simply to stop being nagged is the kind of person who SHOULD be having a child? Also, what is it with this issue anyway? Is the human race dying off or something? I never realized that the future of humanity rested on my shoulders, because some people pretty much acted like it did.

The thing is, I know some people who have decided that they don't want to have kids. Some of them are my age, so they still get grief from people who tell them that they ought to have them. I really don't understand that. I want my friends to be happy and do what's right for them. If they want to have children, then they should, but if they don't, then they really, really shouldn't. What better reason to not have kids than the simple fact that you don't want to have kids?

Of course, all of the above is how I used to think. Now that my wife and I are expecting, I'm asking every couple I know when they're going to have a baby. 'Cause if you think about it, they totally should.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Baby thoughts

I haven't blogged in a while, and the main reason for that is that the one thing that's been taking up a lot of space in my mind was something that I wasn't ready to announce just yet. I can now finally say what that thing is, and I can finally start writing some of my thoughts. In short: I am going to be a father.

As is my wont, my head is spinning on all sorts of things about this. Don't get me wrong - the primary emotion that I'm feeling over this news is happiness. Still, I'm anticipating many annoying, clueless, and even downright stupid remarks from people. While this will be my first child, I know enough about how this stuff works that I can expect people to give me all sorts of advice, and no doubt I will be doing some things that will make them think that I'm raising a potential serial killer and/or spontaneous combustion.

I also want to clear something up. As many people know, my wife and I were hoping to adopt a child. That process wound up taking much longer than we ever suspected. Finally, we decided to just go ahead and try to have one for ourselves, and maybe down the line if we want another kid we can adopt one.

Basically, my wife and I anticipated, and sure enough we're getting them, comments about how "everything happens for a reason". Now, anybody who knows me knows that phrase makes me go into a murderous rage as it is, but this really shows that they don't quite understand what happened. We had a baby of our own because the adoption process wasn't working out for us. It's not the other way around. We did not seek to adopt because we couldn't have one of our own - we genuinely wanted to adopt a child. In other words, adoption was our first choice.

Speaking of things that bug me, I told my wife that I was going to punch the first person who told me our child's astrological sign. Well, somebody already went and did that, but that person is a sweetie, so I don't want to say anything bad about her. And to be fair, she said it because she was the same sign, and it wasn't followed up by a description of what this sign was and how we should properly prepare. It was just kind of a "Oh, it'll be a __________." type of comment that wasn't meant to mean anything important. Still, I did punch her in the face - not very hard though. I'm a man of my word.

What will drive me crazy is when people start to talk about it as though it's something that I'm going to give any consideration to at all. (Notice that I refuse to identify which one it is? You'll never hear the word escape from my mouth.) Recently somebody asked my wife and I what signs we both were - as if it mattered to us. I just don't know what to do about people sometimes.

Anyway, I realize that this is just an expression, but it's an expression that needs to go away. I'm talking about when people refer to a baby as a "miracle". No, it's not a miracle. We know where babies come from. It's a natural process. Is it still amazing? Sure. I also think that when a dog has babies it's amazing, but this is quite a bit moreso only because it's MY baby (and my wife's - she seems to have some sort of role to play in this whole thing). It really hit me hard (in a good way) when I saw him/her moving around like a Mexican jumping bean when we saw the ultrasound. It's fantastic, it's wonderful, it's sublime, but it's not a miracle. A miracle would be if the baby just popped out of nowhere. At the very least, it would be a miracle if it didn't make my poor wife feel bloated and sick to her stomach.

It's a natural process, like I said. This isn't to say that it's somehow not great and beautiful, but to me a miracle would be the type of thing where you just don't know how the heck it could have happened. We know how this happened. (Or maybe that's the problem - some folks don't know!)

Anyway, I'm rambling. I'm sure that I will post more thoughts about this as the next few months fly by.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Comics Roundup for 1/20/10

I skipped going last week, as there were only two books out that I wanted. Here are those two books plus this week's haul:

Captain America #602 - I'm not entirely thrilled that there's a lame "Nomad" backup that brings the price of this book up a whole dollar, but considering that the main story is as good as it is, I don't mind too much. I'm guessing that while the Steve Rogers Captain America is going to play a bigger part in Siege, the Bucky-Cap is going to play a bigger part in the regular series. I'm fine with that, as the character has really grown on me. Also, I like that we're finally catching up on the third Captain America, the one from the 1950s who's a bit on the crazy side. Plus, it's nice to see Brubaker using some current events in this, and we even get a "Tea Party" rally with somebody holding the "no government in my Medicare" sign. (The villains are taking advantage of the discontent in the country.) This whole saga continues to be amongst my current and maybe even all-time favorites.

Batman: Streets of Gotham #8 - Another guest writer? It's a decent issue, and it's nice to see that Dustin Nguyen is still on board for the art, giving it a consistent look. Still, I was really into Paul Dini's current storyline. It looks like this will be a two-parter, so it'll be a little while until we get back to that. Oh well, not a big deal. Like I said, it's a decent story, plus I'm getting into the "Manhunter" backup storyline, so I wouldn't want to miss that.

Batman #695 - I was hesitant to get this one, as the last issue was a bit of a mess. This one was much stronger, and I need to sit down and read all of Tony Daniel's issues in one sitting. One thing is for sure, this is definitely some of his best artwork that he's done for this series. Why couldn't it have been this good when he was drawing Grant Morrison's scripts?

The Amazing Spider-Man #617 & #618 - They continue to bring back the old villains, with The Rhino making his appearance in 617 and Mysterio popping up in 618. The art in the Rhino issue was decent, but the Mysterio story, which will run for three parts, I believe, is being drawn by Marcos Martin, easily one of my favorite artists right now. His Spider-Man is a great blend of Ditko and Romita. Plus, his Mysterio captures the goofy awesomeness that is that character. I'm glad they didn't try to update his costume like they've done so many times in the past. Anyway, it's only somewhat clear how all this stuff ties together, but supposedly this series is building towards something pretty big. I'm sure I'll be there for the ride.

Spider-Woman #5 - Yup, still getting this one. I think that if it weren't for Alex Maleev's art, I wouldn't bother. I'll definitely say that the story picked up a bit in this issue though, and the last panel ends on a nice cliffhanger. This series seems to be a "one damned thing after another" situation with old Jessica Drew. That can be good, but it's difficult to keep up the momentum.

Dark Avengers #13 - I've never been that keen on The Sentry. I don't know why, he's a decent enough of a character, and his personality problems make him more than what he seems to be on the outside, which is simply a Superman clone. This issue shows that he might be even more messed up than we thought. I guess I'm a bit more interested. Also, Marvel recently announced that this series, along with all of the Avengers-related comics, will be canceled at the end of the whole Siege storyline. That sounds like the right decision to me, as this series especially won't make a whole lot of sense after that story goes down. I'm just pretty curious as to what they're going to do to replace them. Hmmm...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

More Spidey Reboot Thoughts

It looks like the reboot is pretty official, and things are moving along pretty rapidly. Honestly, I'm becoming more and more optimistic about this all the time. For starters, they got the guy who directed 500 Days of Summer to do this one. Also, they're going to focus on a teenage Peter Parker. As I've mentioned before, this might sound to some like a move to attract the Twilight audience - and it very well may be - but it does have its precedent in the comics. Peter Parker was in high school for the first dozen or so issues of the original series. Also, I've read that the new series of films will be inspired more by the Ultimate Spider-Man line of comics, which has kept Peter in high school throughout its 100+ issues. I happen to love Ultimate Spider-Man, so that's just fine with me.

What's also interesting is that they're going to go somewhat low-budget for this new movie. That doesn't necessarily mean that it'll be good or bad, but usually a smaller budget means that the creators have more control. Oh, and I forgot to mention that the screenwriter is James Vanderbilt, who wrote the screenplay for Zodiac. I don't know if that's necessarily a good thing, as it's a very different sort of a movie, but it certainly isn't a bad thing. As I've stated before, one of the main reasons why the third Spidey film went wrong is due to studio interference, as Sam Raimi wasn't even interested in using Venom in it.

I guess the only bit of news that has me somewhat concerned is that they're supposedly going for a "darker" tone. I don't even remember where I read that, but let me just say that "darker" is definitely not where you want to go for Spider-Man. Unless it means no more "Staying Alive" types of scenes like we saw in the third one, then "dark" is not a word to describe Spider-Man's adventures.

Tony Hicks from the Contra Costa Times recently wrote about his thoughts on the reboot. While I vehemently disagree with him about Spider-Man 2, I thought that he had some interesting points. He, for one, did not like Tobey McGuire as Spider-Man. I've been a Toby defender since day one, and I think that he perfectly captured Peter Parker. I was suspecting Hicks' comments to be along the lines of others that I've heard, where they show that they simply don't get the character. However, Hicks' problem was that McGuire didn't capture the Spider-Man part just right.

This got me to thinking - he's right. While I still think that McGuire was a good choice, people who only know Spider-Man from the movies aren't as familiar with the wise-cracking hero that the comics fans know. Sure, you'd hear Spidey crack a joke or two here and there, but in the comics, he's a motormouth - he even annoys some of his fellow members of The Avengers with the simple fact that he doesn't seem to ever shut up. Of course, all Spidey fans know that he does this to distract his opponents, as his lame jokes tend to get them all frustrated and sloppy. I think that this will be a tough thing to get right. If it's done in the wrong way, it'll be downright campy and silly. If it's done right, it'll be awesome.

What's the last bit of news I read? They're going for unknowns for the actors. Hmmm...maybe this will have us Spidey fans going "Tobey who?" We'll see.

Oh, and I was going to (and might still) write about my thoughts on the upcoming Green Lantern movie. It looks like they're going to do a lot of the things that I'd hope they'd do.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Any jackass can preach.

In order to become a public high school English teacher, the first thing I needed to do was get a high school diploma. From there, I needed a bachelor's degree, and I needed to pass the CBEST. In order to keep working full-time, I had to complete a credential program, and I had to pass two content-specific tests - the SSAT and the Praxis. Beyond that, my performance was reviewed for two years before I received tenure. While there certainly are some dim bulbs and/or trainwrecks who manage to get through the system, my point in explaining all this is that I did have to go through a bit of work and study before I could have my job.

As an English teacher, I'm expected to know my subject matter. Generally speaking, I have a better vocabulary and command of grammar than the average person does. Not only that, but I have a pretty good grasp on writing and how to tell when it's done well and when it isn't. Beyond that, I have a fairly decent sense as to how I can pass on this information to others. In other words, in matters of language and literature, a lot of people feel confident in seeking my advice. What I don't get, thankfully, is people expecting me to know things about any and every topic in the world. People don't assume that I know how to fix their car, explain quantum physics, or perform open-heart surgery.

I suppose that if I wanted a job that didn't require qualifications, and I wanted people to take me as an authority on all sorts of things that I knew nothing about, I'd go ahead and be a preacher. Now look, I know that a lot of preachers are well-read, learned people. Many of them have to go to seminary and study the Bible in-depth (without considering the possibility that it's nothing more than a book of mythology though). Still, what's to stop me from preaching on a corner and starting up my own congregation? If I was a good enough of a demagogue, would it matter to my followers as to whether I had actually gone through a tremendous amount of studying?

I think of this because I recently found out that one of the biggest idiots I've ever known in my entire life has become a preacher. Let's just call him Ennis, okay? While I knew him beforehand, I had the unfortunate luck to have him as a student in summer school one year. He was the type who had to go to summer school because he essentially failed out of every one of his classes. One of his biggest problems involved waking up and getting to school on time. Another one involved him shutting his stupid mouth up long enough to learn anything.

The thing is, he wasn't a completely inept person. He was pulling off a B in my class. Now, in summer school, that's not really saying much. Still, you'll get a knuckle-dragger or two who can't even really pull that off. What was really stupid though was that when there was only about a week and a half left of a six week term, he dropped the class. He claimed that he dropped because he didn't see the point in finishing since he wasn't getting an A. To be fair, his dad made some kind of a deal with him where he had to get an A in order to something or other. Still, getting some more units in order to graduate wasn't incentive enough, I guess.

Okay, dumb is one thing, but he was also a compulsive liar. He was a BS artist of the highest order. He'd often talk about how he was going to go to UC Berkeley and become a scientist. When I was puzzled as to how he was going to pull that off, he claimed that his high school transcripts wouldn't matter because he was going to get "all A's" in junior college and then transfer. In my head, I thought to myself that I'd be impressed if he even finished a class at the junior college. (Guess what? He didn't.) He also spoke of becoming a cop, a lawyer, and a cabinet maker. He even got a job selling cars, but that didn't last for very long.

He worked for a grocery store for a while, and I know that he almost got fired from there for chronic lateness. He quit before that could happen, and a few jobs later he worked construction. Basically the only job he could be trusted with was digging ditches, and he couldn't even do that very well. Not only that, but he eventually got fired because he could never show up on time - even after repeated warnings.

My point is, the guy is a compulsive liar and an idiot, and now he's preaching. In a way, I thought to myself that it's the perfect job for him. After all, even though I never fell for his crock-and-bull stories, I know that there were plenty of people who did. The guy does have a talent for convincing the morons of this world. I can easily see him standing in front of a crowd of people and talking all sorts of crap about what the Bible supposedly says and doesn't say, and they'll all fall for the whole thing.

Of course, they'll probably also turn to him about all sorts of other things. I can't help but think of that clown shoe, Rick Warren, when he was on Larry King and was talking about everything from homosexuality to the theory of evolution as though he had any idea what he was talking about. Was it that Warren had studied psychology and biology? Of course not. He's a preacher though, so his followers will just take him at his word because after all, a "man of God" knows what he's talking about, right?

I realize that not every preacher is a jackass, but any jackass can become a preacher.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Catholicism quandary

I'm going to write about a few people I know here, and I know that they read my blog. I don't want to sound self-righteous or as though I'm saying that they did the wrong thing. So, I'm going to start with my conclusion. It is, as follows:

I'm glad that I was never put in their position because it would be too hard for me to figure out what the right thing to do was, and I'd feel conflicted about my decision no matter which one I went with.

With that said, let me get to what I'm even talking about.

I was lucky when I married my wife that she is not a religious person. She refers to herself as agnostic, although she leans a bit more atheist sometimes, but at the time she leaned more toward being a believer in some sort of higher power. The point is, we didn't have any problem deciding that we wanted a decidedly non-religious marriage ceremony. We had a guy from the Unitarian church marry us, and after talking to the guy, I'd probably best describe him as being somewhat of a deist. I could live with that, and even though he mentioned something about "the blessings of the Holy One" at the end of the ceremony, I didn't have a problem with it. There were no Bible verses or references to Da Jeebus. "The Holy One" is so vague that it could mean anything, so there was no problem.

So I was lucky. I had a friend who got married in a Catholic Church because his wife was a Catholic. I know somebody else who got their baby baptized in the Catholic Church because the grandparents wanted it. One other friend became a godfather to his nephew. (I should point out that none of these people are religious at all.) I sometimes put myself in their shoes, and depending on which way the wind is blowing, I have one of two reactions:

1. I do not compromise. I view the Catholic Church as a largely evil institution. No, I don't view all Catholics as being mostly evil, but the institution itself is evil. This could be a blog post in itself, but do I have to go any further than mention not only all the child molestations but the subsequent coverups? Imagine if the same thing happened in the public school system! Anyway, in this scenario I say to my would-be wife: "I cannot take part in anything that goes so firmly against my principles. I will have nothing to do with that institution, and for you to ask me to do it is for you to have absolutely no respect for me."

2. I compromise. While I may have a problem with the institution itself, I don't have a problem with traditions and rituals (so long as they're not something harmful like snake-handling). My wife and her family are not engaged in any of the evil aspects of the Catholic Church. For them it's about tradition. Also, the very nature of marriage involves compromise, and so long as nobody's asking me to believe certain things, I can go along with it. Besides, do I want to throw away my entire relationship based on just this one issue?

In all honesty, the first scenario plays out far more often in my head. Lucky for me, I never had to deal with this scenario. If I did, I'd have to play the non-compromise angle out to its inevitable, and potentially disastrous conclusion. Still, if I went ahead and compromised, I'm sure that would stick in the back of my brain for the rest of my life, and I'd always feel some degree of resentment.

What's the right choice? I don't know. Again, I'll give my conclusion: I'm glad that I never had to actually make this choice. It would have been a real Scylla and Charybdis moment for me.

Oh, and if you'd like to hear some good arguments as to why the Catholic Church is evil, check out this debate. It's a bit long, but it's definitely worth it:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Part 5:

Monday, January 11, 2010

Spider-Man 4 No More!

I was going to write about my thoughts on John Malkovich playing the part of The Vulture in the new Spider-Man film, but it turns out that's not going to happen. Instead, it looks like Raimi and Maguire are out for a fourth Spider-Man film, and instead the studio is going to reboot the franchise. I have mixed feelings about this.

During Movie-A-Day month, I wrote about Spider-Man 2 as one of my favorite movies. I think that the first one is pretty good as well, and the best I can say about the third is that it has some good ideas and some good moments scattered throughout a jumbled mess. Part of me was hoping that Sam Raimi and company would be able to vindicate themselves with a fourth picture. My optimism grew when I read that they were only going to do it if Raimi had more control over the picture - which is something that he didn't have with the third one, and I believe that's one of the main reasons why it went south. (It turns out that he wasn't even interested in using Venom - which was smart of him even though so many fans like that villain.) When I heard that Malkovich was supposedly playing The Vulture, my hopes went up. However, I found out about the whole thing going kaput as I sat down to write this entry.

At the end of my Spider-Man 2 review, I wrote that I had to make peace with the fact that even if they did make a good fourth movie, chances were bad that it would be as good as the second one. I suppose that I could have lived with that, but it would have been really awful if they made one that was as bad, if not worse, than the third one. I remember an online conversation where a friend and I were mocking Transformers and somebody countered that it couldn't be worse than making another Spider-Man film. It was annoying because I can certainly defend the first two, but it's hard to defend a franchise that ends on such a craptastic note. (Still, I'll say that Spidey 3 was better than Transformers - at least the action scenes were comprehensible.)

So, what do I think about doing a reboot? Maybe this is not such a bad idea. Still, I think that Hollywood is getting a little reboot-happy. I'm not opposed to the idea, but it seems like some time needs to pass first. Still, it seems like they're going to go with a teenage Peter Parker in the new series, which is fine as that's how the character started out, and that's what they've kept him as in the Ultimate Spider-Man comic series and the Sensational Spider-Man cartoon series. (Which is a pretty good show! I need to remember to set my DVR, as I think that it's almost up there with the old Batman Animated Series.)

I just hope that the first movie isn't an origin story, and I hope that they find a nice mix of villains that we've seen before along with some that we haven't. Personally, I'd rather see a high-budget TV series, as Spider-Man's adventures lend themselves more easily to serialized drama - which is exactly what a comic book is. Too bad nobody in Hollywood is listening to me though.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Evolution is like hella hard and stuff

A few months ago, I finished reading Richard Dawkins' latest book, The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution. I'll be honest - I skipped about half of one chapter where it just got too darned technical. I consider myself a fairly intelligent person still, and the one thing that I hate to admit after having read this book is this: evolution is too difficult for a lot of people to understand.

Sure, there are countries where the vast majority of people accept evolution. Accepting and understanding are two different things though. Just as there are people who claim to be Christian, and yet they don't know some of the basic concepts of their own religion (like when I have Catholics tell me that they aren't Christians) I am sure that there are folks who have sided with the evolutionary explanation of how life got here, and they'd be hard-pressed to explain some of its most basic concepts. Shoot, I've had to correct some people who accept evolution when they described it as "random". Evolution's not random, people - the only thing random about it is the mutations. As for which mutations are selected to be passed down, there isn't anything random about it.

The thing is with this book is that all it will do is arm the rationalist with some more information while debating the "history deniers" (that's Dawkins' term for those who don't accept evolution - a fairly fitting one, I think). I don't think that it's going to convince anybody. It especially won't convince the sort of person who continues to think that evolution has something to do with us "coming from monkeys" or thinks that the Big Bang is part of evolutionary theory. Generally speaking, those people have had it explained to them time and again how they don't even understand the whole idea behind evolution. If they continue to repeat those same strawmen, this book won't get them to stop.

With that said though, the book is amazing. Sure, it's a tough slog in a lot of parts. Still, I was able to understand most of it, and the parts that I understood filled me with a real sense of awe and appreciation for the simple fact that I'm even alive in the first place. Not only that, but it gave me an even greater sense of how connected everything is. Everything that's alive is related - albeit some things much more distantly related than others. And it's not like there's just a little bit of evidence - the evidence is overwhelming. Ever since Darwin published his theory, there has been so much new information that's been discovered - and so much of it could have led to his theory being tossed out the door. And yet what happened? It all just continued to support the theory! The funny thing is, the creationists of all stripes keep talking about Darwin's theory like it's on the way out - as though its time has come. They've been saying this for about 150 years now. The thing is, if it ever is found to be untrue, it won't be by the likes of the creationists who disprove it - it will be actual, real scientists.

As I said though, the book is pretty dense in some places. I really like the bits about adaptations and whatnot, but I get a little lost when he explains radiometric dating. I can understand it while I read it, but I'm probably not so good at explaining it to somebody. I remember when I was a kid asking my parents about how the Earth could only be as old as many of the religious-types say when scientists use carbon-14 dating to prove that it's actually quite a bit older. Their response, no doubt told to them by some ignorant creationist, was that carbon-14 is only good for dating things back so far. This is true, but what creationists don't like to talk about is that carbon-14 is only one form of radiometric dating - there are other kinds that are far more reliable for much longer time spans.

I guess the last thing that I should point out is that while this book is clearly anti-Intelligent Design, it's not like his book The God Delusion which sought to explain why the belief in God is illogical. He's not concerned with disproving anything. Instead, this book is a one-stop guide to everything we currently know about evolutionary theory. I'd like to see the likes of Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron refute what's in there instead of going after Darwin, who's not around to defend himself.

It came, it went, it never happened.

One of the worst things about being a teacher is the constant defamation barrage that comes my way. You'd be shocked to hear this, but currently several of my colleagues and I are the victims of a vicious attack, where our accusers claim that we had mustaches. I can't believe that anybody with any sense of morals or decency would go around accusing somebody of having a mustache. Considering that the likes of Hitler, Stalin, and Geraldo Rivera all had mustaches, that's not the kind of accusation you want to go just throwing like it was nothing.

This all started when I found some posters in my classroom with various mustachioed individuals on them, including the likes of Doc Holliday, Ted Nugent, and Sinestro. Right below the photos was a cryptic message that read: "It's Coming." Of course, I had absolutely no idea what these meant. Some of the students accused ME of putting them up! What they didn't realize is that this has also happened to many of my fellow teachers. I suppose I went into all of their rooms and put them up as well, huh? That's absurd.

It really started to get weird when some of the seniors were talking about how there was going to be another "Mustache Week". I had no idea what they were talking about, but according to them, a bunch of teachers, including myself, all grew mustaches for the week after Winter Break. As if that's not crazy enough, they then accused us of having denied them the following week. Seriously? What kind of a person would grow a mustache and then later deny having it? Don't these kids realize that we have better things to do?

I told them to prove it, and in response they showed me a photo from the yearbook with myself and a bunch of other teachers. I was outraged to see that somebody Photoshopped a mustache on my face! Not just me, but on the faces of my fellow teachers as well! As if it wasn't shameful enough, the yearbook staff took it upon themselves to also slander a few veteran teachers - including one who was retiring that year. What kind of a send-off is it when you accuse a man of having had a mustache?

I should have known that this would happen again. Already I am hearing kids tell me that I had a mustache all last week. I can assure you that I did not. If they show you pictures, realize how easy it is to alter a person's face with all these fancy computers and whatnot that the kids have nowadays. Some of them are even accusing me of posting photos of myself with my mustache. Supposedly I altered it every day. If that's true, people, then I ask you this: If I supposedly had a mustache, then where did it go? Did it just magically disappear?

Get real. It never happened.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Comics Roundup for 1/6/10

I didn't pick up much, but it took me a bit of time to get through it, considering one was a trade paperback. Here goes:

Siege #1 - After reading this and thinking about it some, I realize that this story is kind of like what if our worst fears about the government were true. That is, if you're one of those conspiracy theorists along the lines of the 9/11 Truth Movement. Basically, Norman Osborn goes out of his way to manufacture an "incident" so he can wage war. What brings this into the comic book world though? He's waging war on Asgard, home of the Norse gods. I like the fact that Ares, who's a member of his "Dark" Avengers, is a bit conflicted about fighting his fellow immortals.

Essentially, this issue is mostly setup, but it's got me interested. I also like the fact that it's only going to be four issues, and they're not dragging it all out unnecessarily like they sometimes do with these big event stories.

Echo #18 - Last issue we got some backstory, and with this issue, things start to move along again. There's some crazy old guy who has part of the same special suit that Julie got, and he's out for blood. I'm hoping that Terry Moore reveals what his deal is sometime soon, but it's interesting to see that this series has one of those bad guys where you really have to wonder just how the hell he can ever possibly be defeated.

The Walking Dead: Volume 11 - I've been getting this series in trade paperbacks, and like always, I tend to read through a volume really quickly and then flip through it and sorta reread it for the next week. For some reason, I was under the impression that the group of human survivors in a zombie world were going to find some sort of sanctuary in this volume. No such luck for them. Anyway, like usual, we lose some main characters and we gain some characters. Not only that, but the characters are finally in a position where food is an issue - and they meet another group that found a way around that issue. I'd imagine that if a zombie apocalypse were to happen, household pets would be amongst the first things to become dinner. Beyond that, a side o' human might not seem so bad.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Free speech versus lion food

Once again, we have another instance of some Christians acting like they're being fed to the lions just because people are criticizing what they say. The current hoopla is over Fox commentator Brit Hume's comment regarding Tiger Woods:
Tiger Woods will recover as a golfer. Whether he can recover as a person, I think, is a very open question… the extent to which he can recover, it seems to me, depends on his faith. He’s said to be a Buddhist, I don’t think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith. So, my message to Tiger would be: "Tiger, turn to the Christian faith, and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world."
Naturally, a lot of people are criticizing him for saying it, and as a result, you'd think that they were preparing to toss Hume into the arena. As usual with these kinds of things, the important points are not being addressed.

For starters, I just want to get out of the way that I don't care about the whole Tiger Woods incident one way or another. If the story wasn't so ubiquitous, I wouldn't even have known about it. However, it's pretty hard to miss. I didn't take any interest at all until this whole thing happened.

I want to make it clear that I really don't believe that Hume shouldn't be allowed to say those sorts of things. From what I understand, it seemed a little non-sequitur given the context of the show, but hey, if that's what he feels when asked a question about Tiger Woods, then he should have every right to say it. This, however, does not mean that he gets to be free from people reacting to it. Again, this is the thing that so many people just don't get about the way our country works. You are free to say nonsense, and I am free to call it nonsense.

I'll get to the nonsense of his statement, but first I think that I'll call nonsense on some folks who are on my side. Apparently Keith Olbermann had this to say:
This crosses that principle [of keeping] religious advocacy out of public life, since, you know, the worst examples of that are jihadists, not to mention, you know, guys who don’t know their own religions or somebody else’s religion, like Brit Hume.
In a similar vein, Dan Savage had this to say:
Whenever we have a discussion in our country about jihadism and radical Muslims, you always hear, ‘where are the moderate voices? Where are the moderate Muslims? Why don’t they speak up?’ Where are the moderate Liberal Progressive Christians when something like this happens?… American Christianity’s been hijacked by the lunatics [including] people like Brit Hume.
That's laying it on a bit thick, don't you think? Comparisons to radical Muslim terrorists should only be used with extreme circumstances like those who blow up abortion clinics. This really isn't the right sort of analogy you want to go with here, and all it does is fire up people like Adam Baldwin who whines about secularism in his blog. Of course, Baldwin also has every right to say what he wants, but I wish that people on my side wouldn't give him such easy-to-refute soundbites like that.

Anyway, let's get to the real meat of the issue here. What, if anything, is wrong with what Brit Hume said? For starters, he's essentially insulting a religious faith, and no doubt he would get mad if somebody said some other religion offered something better than Christianity did. While I don't know for sure, I somehow doubt that Hume exhaustively researched Buddhism before making his statement. If he did, he'd know that at least as far as changing one's bad behaviors go, Buddhism offers a system that's as good - if not better - than Christianity. Essentially the core of Buddhist belief is letting go of all your worldly wants. Surely sleeping around with women who aren't your wife would count as a result of giving into that sort of a thing.

Beyond that, it just demonstrates an overall blindness to reality. How many professed Christians have committed adultery? Is there any statistic that Christians are less likely to do that sort of a thing than any other religion? I'd be interested in reading it, but I'd also be shocked considering that their divorce rates are as bad as everybody else's.

Sure, only Christianity is going to offer forgiveness from God - but this is only a problem if you believe that the Christian God exists in the first place. I really don't worry too much about whether Jesus forgives me any more than I worry whether Superman likes what shoes I wear. I reckon that Tiger Woods doesn't care too much either about that sort of a thing.

And of course, we could also get into the issue as to whether there's any legitimacy to the claims of Christianity one way or another - or any religion for that matter. I don't cheat on my wife. Is it because I'm afraid that I'll upset Richard Dawkins? Must be...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Blasphemy! - Preacher

Today's Blasphemy-A-Day post came to my head as I was reading about the current state of the Preacher movie. The news is, there is no news. There was some talk of it being an HBO miniseries (best choice) and then that was dead in the water, and then there was talk of a movie again. That seems to be going nowhere. Let's face it; it probably ain't gonna happen. America's still not ready for it - not yet, anyway. If this movie ever gets made, and it's true to the original series, middle America is going to go crazy. It's the most blasphemous thing you could imagine, and most people don't seem to realize that blasphemy is a victimless crime.

The thing is, it's not like this is a work like The Passion of the Christ or Dogma where it was made by Christians who had some controversial things to say about their faith. It was written by Garth Ennis, an atheist. (I don't know if the illustrator Steve Dillon is one or not.) Not only that, but it comes to the logical conclusion that every atheist comes to: if the Christian God were actually real, then he would be a villain. One of the best parts of the entire series was when God tried to explain how good and loving he was while he was simultaneously doing all sorts of evil stuff.

It's been a while, but it's high-time for me to re-read this entire series. When people ask me what my favorite comic of all time is, I instantly say Preacher. Sure, I may be a bigger fan of characters like Spider-Man, Batman, and Captain America, but those characters have had a whole host of writers and artists creating their adventures. With the exceptions of some guest artists doing some related miniseries, Preacher has had one consistent vision. It's good from beginning to end - all 70+ issues of it.

I'm hesitant to explain the plot, as it really sells it all short, but here goes anyway: a powerful creature who's the offspring of an angel/demon love affair comes to Earth and fuses with a Texas preacher who's lost his faith. The preacher, Jesse Custer, soon learns that God has quit out of fear of the creature, so he decides to search for God and make him explain himself. Along for the ride are his gun-toting girlfriend, Tulip and his Irish Vampire buddy, Cassidy.

While the story is compelling, the best part of the series has always been the characterizations. Cassidy is probably my favorite character, mainly because he reminds me of so many total screwups that I've known in my life. He's one of those people whose self-destructive behavior creates more and more problems for him, and yet he never seems to be able to get a grasp of how he's the cause of so many of his own problems.

This series really came at a right time for me. I started reading it when I was having my own struggle with faith. By the time the series had finished, I was an admitted atheist. Was there a connection? It would be crazy to say that it turned me into one. Still, it might have sped up the process a little bit.

Oh, and this series also has some wonderfully obscene quotes. (And I should warn anybody who might be interested, there's some of the most screwed up, totally perverted things going on in this series. It's hardly the draw of the story, but dammit if it's not part of the entertainment factor. Many times I went "Oh my god!" while reading it - like when the series introduced a guy who likes to have sex with meat products.) There are also a lot of great quotes, and here's a quick sample. Potty mouth language will ensue:
Son of God or son of man, Marseille: You can't fuck your sister and expect much good to come of it.

I'm sayin' you're the kind of guy who'd crawl through a perfectly good whorehouse to get to a fat boy's ass.

Why is it the greatest champions of the white race always turn out to be the worst examples of it? YOU! Where the fuck is your CHIN?

Time I'm done with you, you're gonna wish your Father pulled out early.

They're having something called sex, Hoover, and apparently enjoying it immensely as I myself once did before a certain moron arranged to have me anally raped.

I have an enormous penis. I pay women to tell me so.

Jesus Cass, you look like Wil E. Coyote after one of his fuckups.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Rock & Roll! - A Brown Eyed, Handsome Man

I got the idea for today's 50s Rocker-A-Day post while perusing the streaming movies that Netflix was offering. I settled on The Buddy Holly story, which I remember having seen on TV when I was a kid and really liking it quite a bit. I only got to watch a bit, and I look forward to watching the rest tonight. The pleasant thing about this whole experiences is that once again it hit me just how great Buddy Holly is.

I guess I tend to forget about the fact that he's one of my favorites. I think that much of this is due to the fact that his career was so short-lived, and I only have one 20-song compilation of his. He doesn't have such a sizeable body of work like some of my other favorites like The Beatles, Pearl Jam, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and The Who. Basically what happens is that every now and then I pull out that CD and give it a listen, and since that's the only one I have, I don't have another to listen to when I'm all done. With a band like The Beatles, I'll listen to Revolver and then think to myself, "Hey! Beatles for Sale is really great too! I should listen to that next!" No such equivalent with Buddy, unfortunately. (However, I just did an search and apparently there is a ton of other stuff out there. I need to look into it some more before I consider buying it. Is it stuff that was left on the cutting room floor - and therefore belonged there? Or is it like Jimi Hendrix's cutting-room floor stuff that's still pretty damned awesome?)

I think that a lot of people from my generation don't necessarily realize just how important Buddy Holly was. Sure, his career was short-lived due to that tragic plane crash, but he went on to influence the entire next generation of musicians. It's no coincidence that one of the best tracks on Beatles for Sale is "Words of Love" - a Buddy Holly tune.

I think that part of the problem is that many people of my generation (and subsequent ones) don't realize is how revolutionary and downright dangerous rock and roll was back then. Fifties rock has become such a part of our collective unconscious that we associate it with what you hear in the grocery store and jingles for commercials. We rarely just listen to it and consider its merits - especially within its historical context.

One of the smartest CD purchases I ever made was a boxed set called Loud, Fast, and Out of Control. It's a compilation of 50s rock, and it's all the stuff that upset conservatives and convinced parents that their children would be hellbound if they continued to listen to it. You won't find mushy "Mr. Sandman" stuff on this set - just the good stuff - the stuff that's raw and aggressive. Of course, Buddy Holly makes the cut with "Brown Eyed Handsome Man", which is an excellent song.

Holly's music is one of those things that always makes me feel good whenever I hear it. Most notable are songs like "Everyday" and "Well...All Right". Still, when I listen to that 20 song compilation, I'm entertained the whole way through. The only bad thing is that it gets me to wonder what could have been. Would he still be making relevant music in the 60s and 70s, or would he have become a parody of himself like Elvis did?

And don't get mad, Elvis fans. I'm probably a bigger fan of the King. However, if we're to take an honest look at the entirety of Presley's and Holly's body of work and measure the percentage of quality to crap - Holly wins, hands-down. Maybe Elvis is a bit more of a contender if you only count his stuff from the 1950s (which is really all that I like with a few exceptions). One way or the other, the world is probably poorer for Holly's loss, as I'm sure that he must have had at least a few more good songs in him.

Oh, and yes, I have visited the Buddy Holly statue in Lubbock, Texas. No, I didn't go there for that reason, but there was no way that I wasn't going to see it.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Kook! - Deep-pockets Chopra

Today's Kook-A-Day got me to thinking about a blog post by Roger Ebert, who recently wrote a great article about how "New Agers and Creationists Should not be President." I couldn't agree with this more, and I like the fact that he takes liberals who believe in all sorts of woo-woo bullcrap to task just as harshly as he takes on the Christian fundamentalists. Let's face it, that type of liberal deserves the criticism just as much as the conservatives on the other side.

Much like what he relates in his article, I, too, have met people who laugh at creationists just like I do, and yet they give credence to things like astrology. Yeah, I know, I pick on the extremist Christians a lot in my blog, but let me make this very clear: believing in astrology is just as bad as believing in creationism. They both have the same amount of evidence, and they're both as equally unfalsifiable in the eyes of the believer. In other words, there's nothing you can say that would convince them to not believe in their crap. And before you accuse me of being just as bad in the other direction with my skepticism, let me say this: I am more than willing to believe in either one of these things if only they had some reliable evidence. Not only that, but I'd like to hear the other side say what they'd accept as evidence that it's all bull. The sheer fact that both of these modes of thought are unfalsifiable is exactly what makes the horsecrap. If astrology could pass something as simple as the identical twin test, and if creationism could explain why God would give me an appendix, then I'll be willing to at least give them some consideration.

Somewhere on the fringes of rationalism and kookiness exists the wonderful world of Deepak Chopra. I was going to spend a lot of time researching what he writes, as he's a case where I only hear from him in short bursts here and there, and every time I do, I think to myself: "What a load of crap. He's just making stuff up!" I wanted to be really specific in my criticism, but hey, I'm not getting paid to write this blog, so I didn't bother. If you think that there's some article of his in particular I should read, send it my way and I'll respond point-for-point. Until then, I just have some general and scattered thoughts.

First of all, the kind of person who likes Chopra is obviously somebody who's impressed with the following sorts of "Daily Inspirations" from him:
When love and spirit are brought together, their power can accomplish anything. The love, power, and spirit are one.

The less you open your heart to others, the more your heart suffers.

When you perceive yourself as spirit, you will not simply feel love–you will be love.

Anything that is of value in life only multiplies when it is given.

The love reflected from another person has its source in your own heart.

As you can tell, it's all just a bunch of fortune cookie sophistry. It all sounds very pretty and nice, but what the hell does it all mean? This is pretty much the feeling I get whenever I hear him talking or read anything he wrote. He's also one of these yahoos who uses the phrase "Western Science." Here's the thing - if you use that phrase, and you actually think that it means something, then you don't understand the basic concept of science. Science is a process based upon evidence. There is no "western" and "eastern" way. When the Chinese want to send a rocket into space, they don't use some other form of science to get it up there. They use the exact same processes that our scientists do. And from what I understand, a lot of Chinese doctors are having a hard time combating "traditional Chinese medicine". Do you really think that if you see a doctor in China he's going to give you some kind of herbal woo-wah bullcrap? No, he's going to use methods that are grounded in science.

Guys like Chopra are always going to have a following though because he's an expert in sophistry and obfuscation. (Yeah, I know I used that word when describing Christian apologists, but this is a tactic that apologists and New Agers have in common. Instead of addressing the real point, they use a lot of fancy-babble that has little if no actual meaning if you spend any time really analyzing what they've said.)

Lately, he's been taking on skeptics and skepticism, with an online debate with Michael Shermer. I suggest that you check it out. I also suggest that you check out how PZ Myers eviscerates Chopra's ignorance of science and evolution.

I realize that what I wrote is hardly an in-depth takedown of the guy, but I honestly can't read through too much of his claptrap before my eyes start to roll. Like I said, the "daily inspirations" are pretty awful enough. Go check him out for yourself if you want to make up your own mind, but if you're like me, and you're thinking that you've read deeper Bazooka Joe fortunes, then you might want to just take my word for it and move on with your life. Here, compare Chopra's words of wisdom with Joe's. I'm partial to the latter:
When the student is ready, the teacher will stop flunking him.

He who pays the cell phone bill calls the tune.

Friendship is the sturdiest of all ships; although, sometimes it springs a leak!

The door to the club of greatness is guarded by many bouncers.

People who live in glass houses should put on a robe!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Breakfast! - Trix are for kids!

In yesterday's Cereal Mascot-A-Day blog post, I addressed the injustice of Lucky, of Lucky Charms fame, having to constantly worry about a mob of immoral thieves running off with what was rightfully his. Today, I want to talk about a far greater injustice, one that we were taught to simply accept as children. We were so brainwashed by it that we were even given a little slogan to justify our atrocities - "Tricks are for kids". Have a look:

Notice how the rabbit has to assume some sort of disguise in order to enjoy a sample of Trix cereal. When he thinks about it, he gets so excited that his rabbit ears are revealed, which causes the child to take away the cereal from him. After that, the commercial has the audacity to show some stickers that one can get when they buy Trix cereal - stickers that the rabbit obviously will never get to enjoy, as apparently when it comes to Trix, rabbits need not apply.

Am I the only one who sees the injustice here? The Trix Rabbit sponsors the product! His image is used to sell it! No doubt his name was changed in order to become "The Trix Rabbit". And yet, he isn't allowed to even have any? I don't know about you, but it's clear to me that the makers of Trix cereal are not above using slave labor to sell their products, and make no mistake, that's exactly what this is.

It shouldn't be too surprising, as cereals have always done their part to encourage immorality on the part of children. I already wrote about how Lucky Charms encourages thievery, and now you know about how Trix encourages slavery and discrimination. Well, what about "The Cap'n" from Cap'n Crunch? That's a guy who takes a bunch of children on a boat. Not only does his name encourage bad grammar, but it's pretty clear that he's a pedophile. And don't get me started on that Froot Loops bird and how he encourages kids to believe in the lie that is evolution.

When Da Jeebus finally comes back and all the scores are settled, you can rest assured that the kids who refused the rabbit some Trix will be burning in hell as the Rabbit eats his Trix up in heaven - provided that he's saved, that is.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Veep! - Potatoe?

Vice President-A-Day Month keeps chugging along, as I jump ahead from Estes Kefauver to the 44th V.P. - Dan Quayle. Remember this guy? I sure do, and I have to think about him whenever people utter the phrase "Palin Presidency". Look, I'm not going to go into it right here, but thinking that Sarah Palin is Presidential material and being smart are two mutually exclusive propositions. That said, it's nice to know that if McCain had won, this country would have survived a Palin Vice-Presidency at the very least. If we survived Quayle, we can handle just about anything.

I've written before as to how I sometimes check out conservative blogs - one in particular which has banned me. (I probably deserved it, but I don't feel bad about what I wrote.) Anyway, the blogger would write about how Obama isn't a very good speaker unless he has his teleprompter in front of him. While one can certainly make the case that...Obama...pauses...pretty...often, he doesn't make anywhere near the amount of boob-tastic statements that Quayle used to make. Yeah, Obama said something about "the Austrian language" and "57 states". Hey, I say dumb stuff all the time - it happens to the best of us.

The difference is this, when you see or hear an interview with Obama, you can tell that he's a thoughtful person. His points aren't always in easily-digestible soundbites. Sure, he has a few with his "hope and change" line, but I saw him on 60 Minutes a while ago, and the man is thoughtful. This even goes for Joe Biden, who has a severe case of foot-in-the-mouth disease, but when he gets a chance to have a conversation with an interviewer, you can tell that there's something going on in his head.

This is definitely not the case for Sarah Palin, who didn't even have an answer for what she reads. (A conservative tried to justify it by saying that she was "over-thinking" because she knew that Katie Couric was a "lib" and might have been trying to set her up. I'll give you a moment to pick up the pieces of your head, as it has no doubt just exploded.) With her, it's all about stupid, folksy-sounding, easily digestible catchphrases that impress the rubes. Perhaps she's actually smarter than all that, but it represents the absolute worst and most cynical aspect of American politics.

And of course, this leads me back to Dan Quayle - the man who went after a fictional TV character for having a baby out of wedlock. (Should she have aborted it? What if the writers made it all "just a dream"? Is that just as bad as an abortion?) This is the guy who got us talking about "traditional family values" - whatever the hell that means. I remember watching a rally on the news for Quayle one time, and a supporter said that he liked Quayle because that's what he stood for. Do these people think? Can I become V.P. material if I claim to be for puppies, chocolate and goodness? And let's face it, I don't think I'm stretching it too far when I say that you can translate "traditional family values" to "queers need not apply".

Anyway, for your reading pleasure, here are some Quayle quotes from

"If we don't succeed, we run the risk of failure."

"Republicans understand the importance of bondage between a mother and child."

"What a waste it is to lose one's mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is."

"One word sums up probably the responsibility of any vice president, and that one word is 'to be prepared.'"

"Welcome to President Bush, Mrs. Bush, and my fellow astronauts."

"Mars is essentially in the same orbit . . . Mars is somewhat the same distance from the Sun, which is very important. We have seen pictures where there are canals, we believe, and water. If there is water, that means there is oxygen. If oxygen, that means we can breathe."

"The Holocaust was an obscene period in our nation's history. I mean in this century's history. But we all lived in this century. I didn't live in this century."

"I believe we are on an irreversible trend toward more freedom and democracy -- but that could change."

"I have made good judgments in the past. I have made good judgments in the future."

"The future will be better tomorrow."

"We're going to have the best-educated American people in the world."

"People that are really very weird can get into sensitive positions and have a tremendous impact on history."

"We have a firm commitment to NATO, we are a part of NATO. We have a firm commitment to Europe. We are a part of Europe."

"I am not part of the problem. I am a Republican."

"I love California, I practically grew up in Phoenix."

"A low voter turnout is an indication of fewer people going to the polls."

"When I have been asked during these last weeks who caused the riots and the killing in L.A., my answer has been direct and simple: Who is to blame for the riots? The rioters are to blame. Who is to blame for the killings? The killers are to blame."

"Illegitimacy is something we should talk about in terms of not having it."

"We are ready for any unforeseen event that may or may not occur."

"For NASA, space is still a high priority."

"Quite frankly, teachers are the only profession that teach our children."

"It isn't pollution that's harming the environment. It's the impurities in our air and water that are doing it."

"[It's] time for the human race to enter the solar system."

"Verbosity leads to unclear, inarticulate things."

"I stand by all the misstatements that I've made."

Friday, January 1, 2010

Egg! - Romanov Tercentenary

Faberge Egg-A-Day month kicks off with one that I was tempted to save for last, but I thought that I'd go ahead and start off with my favorite one. And if you read the title of this entry, you know that it's the Romanov Tercentenary, which Tsar Nicholas II presented to his wife in 1913.

I'm not quite sure what it is about this one that makes it my favorite. Is it the gold? The silver? The fact that there are eighteen portraits of Romanov Tsars? It's really hard to say, but if you just look at the thing, you can really tell why it's awesome.

One time, while having a conversation with Nolan, he insisted that the Romanov Tercentenary was inferior to the Alexander Palace Egg. Now, I realize that many things in life are subjective, and everybody has their favorite Faberge Egg. Still, how stupid does this guy have to be? He wouldn't know a quality Faberge Egg from a cuckoo's egg. I told him that he was an idiot for having that opinion, and I have refused to speak to him since. As for Scott, I just kind of pity him, as he simply said, "Mmmm...eggs! Me likey omelettes!"

That's it for today. Tomorrow...The Twelve Monograms!