Friday, February 20, 2015

Random Restaurant Review: Heimat House

The phrase "German culture" has not been popular for a while. A lot of people ignore thousands of years of perfectly good history, and concentrate all their attention on Germany in the 1940s.

(Actually, an argument can be made for "hundreds of thousands of years" of history, since the oldest known spears were unearthed in Schöningen, near Hannover.)

However, those of us who lived there for 15 years or so have a somewhat different view of the country. It's clean, well-run, and the food is amazing. So I was interested to see what the food was like at The Heimat House, located conveniently near my job, at 6910 Montgomery Blvd NE (basically at the corner of Montgomery and Louisiana).

I'm happy to say it was incredible.

(A quick aside: Heimat is a German word that doesn't translate directly into English. A close equivalent is "home" or "homeland," but a better description would be that it's the polar opposite of "social isolation." The Nazis tried to subvert the word for a while, but they failed.)

The exterior of the restaurant is still being renovated (not sure how much is actually being done), but the inside was done in dark woods (a line of large-screen TV's by the bar sort of ruined the ambiance, but... America, you know? Can't get through the day without enough distractions).

The Trophy Wife had a vegetarian schnitzel - a fried eggplant with standard schnitzel breading. The outside was crisp and delicious, while the inside was buttery-soft. (Not a huge fan of eggplant myself, but if I had to eat it, this would be the way to go.)

It was served with a cucumber salad (good; very traditional), and a large side of the best spätzle I've had since we left Germany. They were soft, creamy and flavorful, and practically melted in your mouth.

(As long as we're talking about the German language, spätzle translates to "little sparrows" for no particularly good reason any more - at first, they were shaped by hand or spoon, and looked vaguely like birds. It hasn't been true for probably a century or more.)

I had a roulade (a rolled pastry filled with a pork cutlet, herbs and a pickle) in an incredible cream sauce, with some basic pan-fried potatoes and a small eggplant salad (which was definitely OK, but did I mention that I wasn't a huge fan of eggplant?).

Overall, it was basic Bavarian "peasant food," but done awe-inspiringly well. Considering the origins of the menu, I should have thought that the food ($12 to $20 per entree) was slightly overpriced, but the quality of the food easily made it worth the price.

In good (if stereotypical) German style, their extensive wine list was equal in size with their beer list.

We'll be going back.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Trotsky, White Supremacists, and the Origins of "Racism"

As I am wont to do, I was skulking around the dark back alleys of the internet, and accidentally stumbled across a newly-revived myth, one that I hadn't heard in over a decade. It was such a ridiculous idea, even at the time, that it didn't make much of an impression on me.

To be honest, I couldn't tell you when, exactly, it started. I first ran across the idea shortly around the turn of the century. Somewhere around 2005 or so, I came across a concept on some white supremacist websites, where they were claiming that the word "racism" was coined by Leon Trotsky as a term to browbeat dissenters in the Communist party, and has now been adopted by the "radical left." The year that he was supposed to have done this ranges from 1927 to about 1934, depending on where you find the claim. In fact, I'll let some reprint of a reprint from the white supremacist website Stormfront explain it.
The word "racist" has for a long time been the single most effective fear-word in the leftist and neoconservative arsenal. For decades, they have successfully used it in the political arena to slander traditionalists, shut down debate, and leave opponents running for cover. In the social arena, they have caused even more damage by using it to brainwash impressionable children and young college students, and to teach people to hate their nation, their cultural traditions, and worst of all, themselves.

What surprisingly remains almost totally undiscussed, even on the hard core traditionalist Right, is the word's origin. Did it come from a liberal sociologist? A 60's Marxist college professor? Perhaps a politician in the Democratic Party? No. It turns out that the word was invented by none other than one of the principal architects of the 74-year Soviet nightmare, the founder and first leader of the infamous Red Army, Leon Trotsky.

Take a look at this document if you would, dear reader.


Славянофильство, мессианизм отсталости, строило свою философию на том, что русский народ и его церковь насквозь демократичны, а официальная Россия -- это немецкая бюрократия, насажденная Петром. Маркс заметил по этому поводу: "Ведь точно так же и тевтонские ослы сваливают деспотизм Фридриха II и т. д. на французов, как будто отсталые рабы не нуждаются всегда в цивилизованных рабах, чтобы пройти нужную выучку". Это краткое замечание исчерпывает до дна не только старую философию славянофилов, но и новейшие откровения "расистов".

This is Leon Trotsky's 1930 work, "The History of the Russian Revolution", from which shown above is a passage. The last word in that passage is "расистов", whose Latin transliteration is "racistov", i.e., "racists". This work here is the first time in history one will ever find that word.
Almost sounds intellectual, doesn't it? Like he did his homework? Maybe knew what he was talking about, right?

Yeah, it sounds that way. It's total crap, of course, but it sounds really smart.

See, this is a basic ad hominem fallacy, where you "shoot the messenger" instead of taking on the argument itself. "This is a concept created by a monster from the old Soviet Union! Nobody ever used it before him! It's evil and tainted and can never be used!"

Except for one little problem. A quick look at the etymology of the word shatters the very premise of the argument.

See, right around the turn of the century, the English-speaking world was using terms like racialism, or sometimes race hatred or race prejudice (one of my personal favorites, dating back to the 1800s, was negrophobia). Around that same time, the French were using raciste or racisme (particularly, a few decades later, to refer to the Germans and their philosophies).

For example, the terms pensée raciste (racist thought) and individualité raciste (racial individuality) appear in La Terro d’oc: revisto felibrenco e federalisto from 1906.

The Oxford English Dictionary cites Richard Henry Pratt in 1902 for the first use of the word "racist" in English.

There are probaly earlier versions in both languages, but who needs them? We've already destroyed the basic premise of the argument.

Once again, the Right (and in this case, the Extremely Far Right) is trying to create a little revisionist history to give cover to their sins.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Are We Done With "Muslim No-Go Zones" Yet?

Fox "News" recently had to apologize for their idiotic support of the the idea that "Muslim No-Go zones" were flourishing: places where white people couldn't enter because they'd be killed by the scary Allah-worshippers.


In a reasonable world, when you're shown to be totally wrong on a subject, you shouldn't be called an expert. (And when the Prime Minister of England calls you an idiot, your career should be over.) But Fox "News" would not exist in a reasonable world.

It wasn't just that isolated incident, either. The concept was repeated multiple times, with one guest even expanding on the idea, to say that we should put razor wire around these mythical "no-go zones" and turn off the water, to drive them out and register them.

In Paris, at least one popular TV show (and much of social media) roundly mocked Fox "News."

The mayor of Paris didn't take it in such good humor: she considered suing them.

The myth of "no-go zones" is nothing new. They started cropping up after the 9/11 terrorist attack in 2001; you can even find maps of supposed "no-go" zones in America. These tend to be less common, though - it's too easy debunk. A simple road trip will show you the truth, so American racists prefer to place their scary "no-go zones" in far away places where their ignorant audience will never visit, like England or France.

It's just when they accidentally get quoted on the international stage, and those pesky Limeys and Frenchies point out that you're an idiot, that this strategy backfires on them.

So then, career racists like Mark Steyn desperately try to justify their lies, despite the fact that these are all questions that were settled years ago.

All of which leads to Bobby Jindal, apparently aware that his election requires him to mobilize the brain-dead racist wing of the party, doubling down on the racist myth, even though he can't substantiate it when confronted with facts.



Of course, will the bigots and low-information voters be willing to vote for a dark-skinned son of Punjab like Bobby Jindal? That's a tricky question, and one that Jindal might want to consider before he goes too far into the weeds on this.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Happy Holidays 2014! Our sporadically-annual review

Well, Thanksgiving is over, that last piece of turkey breast is shoved to the back of the refrigerator, and it's time for Fox "News" to start flogging the War on Christmas.

(Trivia: in the 1920s, Henry Ford published a series of anti-Semitic articles, and noted that “Last Christmas most people had a hard time finding Christmas cards that indicated in any way that Christmas commemorated Someone's Birth.” But it wasn't until 1959 that the John Birch society published a pamphlet to warn the nation about an "assault on Christmas." In case you were curious where all this started.)

As usual, the Most Important Sign that there's a War on Christmas is the prevalence of people uttering the phrase "Happy Holidays!" instead of "Merry Christmas!" An Un-American Act which blatantly fails to ignore the fact that not everybody is Christian!

But, because I'm something of a troublemaker, let's consider that little fact. Why IS "Happy Holidays" more appropriate than "Merry Christmas"?

There are any number of strange commemorations and artificial "holidays" set in December and early January, like National Bouillabaisse Day (December 14) and Poinsettia Day (December 12); I'm going to do my best to ignore those, in favor of religious (and semi-religious) holidays which might possibly mean a little more to a larger number of people.

(An argument can be made that Maple Syrup Day is holy to the Canadians, but, unlike the Américains impies, they celebrate it on February 6, when the sap first starts to flow, rather than December 17. So I'm feeling pretty safe on this one.)

December 22 is Forefather's Day, commemorating the Pilgrim's landing on Plymouth Rock. You want a whiter, more all-American holiday? And how come you didn't celebrate it last year, you commie?

The day after Christmas, December 26 is Boxing Day, which is mostly (but not entirely) only still celebrated in England.

If you're catholic, there's a whole string of feast days for various saints, if that's what you're into. (After slightly over 2000 years of history, they have wa-a-a-aayyy more than 365 saints, so there's a lot of overlap on them. You wonder if the saints sharing a particular day get along - do they go out drinking together on their day?)

In fact, you know that whole "12 days of Christmas" thing? It's twelve specific feast days, running from Christmas Day through Twelfth Night (5 January). There's a whole list of specific holidays for each of the twelve days; there's also a bunch of saint's days that have been tacked on. Both these lists vary depending on which flavor of Christian church you're dealing with. (There's also some question of how to tack on Epiphany - the day the Wise Men were supposed to have arrived - which is 6 January. If you're interested, you can read up on it on your own.

The point is, even if you're stuck on the "We're a Christian nation!" thing, you don't even have to leave your own traditions for "Happy Holidays" to be more accurate than "Merry Christmas." But we're better than that, right? We can accept that almost a quarter of the American population is not Christian, and maybe they have the right to have their own traditions, too.

For example, December 4 through December 21, a roughly 2-week string, are considered Zappadan, celebrating the life and works of Frank Zappa. Popular culture also gave us Festivus (you know, for the rest of us) on December 23.

Among the 6.6 million Jewish Americans, Hanukkah runs from December 17th through the 24th. And since our Christian friends like to talk about the "Judeo-Christian tradition," it's a little silly to complain about honoring that one, isn't it?

But this is America, and like it or not, there are plenty of people of other religions, too.

If you follow Tantric Buddhism, the 16th is Dakinis' Day, when they make offerings to the Dakinis (female embodiments of enlightened energy) and Mother Tantra. Among the Tibetan Buddhists, yesterday (December 13th, 2014) was Lha Bab Duchen, celebrating the Buddha's descent from heaven after teaching the Dharma there. And coming up on the 21st is Shakyamuni Buddha Day, where they meditate on the Buddha's teachings and strive to fulfill the Precepts. And the 29th is Tara Puja, the fast of Bodhisattva Tara (she has a lot of aspects - it's a little confusing, looking in from outside).

In the Islamic calendar, you just missed Arba'een (Arabic: الأربعين‎, "forty") on the 12th - a Shia observance that occurs forty days after the Day of Ashura, commemorating the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of Muhammad. However, coming up on either the 3rd or 8th of January (depending on whether you're Sunni or Shia), we have Mawlid, celebrating the birthday of the prophet Muhammad.

If you happen to be African-American, Kwanzaa runs from December 26 through January 1, and it's a commemoration of African heritage; having first been celebrated in 1966, it's now officially older than a lot of the people bitching about it.

Here's a thought: if you're going to complain about people not honoring your white, Christian traditions, perhaps you shouldn't complain when they hold celebrations in honor of theirs.)

Monday, December 01, 2014

Are Democrats racist?

Wandering around the conservative end of the internet, every so often I'll slam up against the phrase "the Democrat Party is the most racist!" Usually misspelled, and often in all-caps.

It's easy to refute, but you end up knocking down the same arguments, over and over. For example:
The Democrats are the Party of the Klan
Now, it's true that Nathan Bedford Forrest was a Democrat even before he set up the first iteration of the Ku Klux Klan (there have been three, if you're curious). And it's also true that Abraham Lincoln was a Republican when he was first elected.

(Fun fact: Lincoln left the Republican Party at the end of his first term. Republicans are rarely aware of that: for his second term, Lincoln created the National Union Party, a coalition party made up of both Republicans and Democrats.)

But here's the thing: at that point in time, the Republican Party was liberal, and the Democratic Party was conservative. (This fact particularly angers the Teabaggers, who've been brainwashed to think that liberalism is synonymous with "evil.") And from the Civil War to about 1950, the Southern Democrats (sometimes called "Dixiecrats") were among the most conservative (and usually racist) people in America.

In 1948, though, Truman, as the Democratic candidate, put forward a very mild civil rights platform, and that was too much for the Southern Democrats: 35 of them walked out of the Democratic National Convention, and they split off into their own political party, called the States Rights Democratic Party (a.k.a. "Dixiecrats," a term which has been used ever since for hyper-conservative Southern Democrats).

The Dixiecrats ran Strom Thurmond for president, and actually managed to carry four states (Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina) along with one stray electoral vote from Tennessee. (Incidentally, that, plus the 39 electoral votes drained from Truman by Progressive Party nominee Henry A. Wallace, was expected to have produced a Republican victory, which is why we have the most famous newspaper flub of all time.)

The Dixiecrats never ran another presidential candidate, and eventually the party dissolved. And following that victory, the liberal Democrats became a stronger and stronger force in the party, eventually reversing the formerly conservative platforms, and passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

This same action, of course, drew the Republican Party to the right, in an effort to pick up the disillusioned Southern Democrats.

Following the 1964 Civil Rights act, LBJ famously said “I think we just lost the South,” which would prove to be remarkably prescient: in the late Sixties, Richard Nixon, with the help of his advisor Pat Buchanan, devised the "Southern Strategy," using dog-whistle racist terms (example: "states' rights" - the states would have the "right" to ignore these new civil rights laws).

In 1980, Ronald Reagan (working with Nixon's advisor Pat Buchanan) further honed the "Southern Strategy." In fact, it was another of his aides, Lee Atwater, who famously spilled the beans years later, thinking he was speaking off the record to a reporter.
You start out in 1954 by saying, "Nigger, nigger, nigger." By 1968 you can't say "nigger" — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, "We want to cut this," is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than "Nigger, nigger."
And that's where the Republican myth of the "racist Democrats" comes from: the Dixiecrats, and the changing face of the Democratic party. Back when Democrats were the conservative party, they were, in fact, racist; in swinging to the left, they also became the party of racial equality. To the point that, yes, the Ku Klux Klan may have been founded by Democrats, but these days, while not every Republican is in the KKK, almost every Klansman votes Republican.

__________________

Edit: (12/6/14) Corrected "North Carolina" to "South Carolina," with apologies to any North Carolinian in the audience.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Marky Mark and the Movie Bunch

I saw Mark Wahlberg's 2007 movie Shooter last night. There was... less wrong with it than a lot of action movies. You have to admire a movie with an "Inferno Compositor" and six "Combustion Artists." They seemed to listen to their military advisors to a certain extent, and the physics were frequently correct.

It was OK. I might go so far as to say it was "watchable."

All that being said, in 1998 he was in a movie called The Big Hit. I loved that one, and I forgive him a lot for having starred in it.

Having said that, though, I saw Michael Bay's Transformers and enjoyed it. Then I saw the second one, Revenge of the Fallen, and was less impressed. Didn't even see the third one.

(Is that a problem? I don't want to miss out on any character development that might have happened in that one...)

I have not yet seen Transformers: Age of Extinction, where Wahlberg is replacing Shia LaBeouf. And I'm not sure I want to, because I don't know how I'll feel about his work after that.

We'll see. Someday. I'm in no real rush, to be honest.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Running the water

So last night, with the help of a friend, we installed a new water heater in our house. Total cost, less than $350.

If I’d used a licensed contractor, it would have cost an additional $300 to $500, plus "we might have to bring in a guy to redo your ducts if they aren’t up to code."

(On an unrelated note, my ducts aren’t up to code.)

This morning, my bath was too hot. Life is good.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Wassail

Winter is coming. With that in mind, Wassail is a big favorite. And we shouldn't be the only people who can make it right (seriously, we keep getting told ours is better, which is just stupid). It's one of the simplest hot drinks ever (unless you like microwaving your water). I don't even measure, really (all metric measurements are approximate).

So, dust off that crock pot you haven't used since you got it for your wedding.

Wassail
Cloved orange
2 sticks cinnamon
1 palmful allspice berries
2 quart apple cider (about 2 L)
2 cup cranberry juice (about 1/2 L)

Add everything together in the crock pot. Turn it on high for an hour, then leave it at low. You can drink it straight, or add rum, bourbon, whatever.

The only tricks are:
  • A cloved orange is just an orange with whole cloves driven straight through the skin. Over the whole surface, about 1/2 to 1" apart (1-3 cm)
  • Both juices should be unsweetened. Just trust me. That's the most obvious mistake. (And don't even think about cranapple. The proportions are all wrong.)
  • If you're storing leftovers, the orange should get thrown away. It'll make the rest of the batch bitter and sour.
That's all there is to it. (Now, maybe you'll find other uses for that crock pot, since you've started.)

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Did Adolf get right with God?

Let's talk about Hitler again, shall we? That's always a fun topic, right?

Here's the thing. The God-botherers keep trying to avoid the sad truth - that Hitler was, in fact, a Christian. I've just had a 3-day argument with a guy on Twitter who doesn't want to admit it, and he had two different arguments. The first is just to lie about the subject, and the second is to claim that Hitler wasn't a Christian because he didn't follow the proper "Christian virtues."

Here's the problem: Hitler was an amazingly private man. He didn't share his private thoughts with a lot of people, and that leaves a lot of room for interpretation. On the one hand, we have the writings of Goebbels and Bormann, who claimed he spoke badly of Christianity to them. Unfortunately, these were private conversations with no way to verify them, and both men were open, contemptuous atheists, who wanted Hitler to believe the way they did.

And then you get books like Hitler's Cross, written by Erwin Lutzer, an evangelical pastor, who desperately wanted Hitler not to have believed in the same things he did.

But on the other hand, we have his extensive use of Christian themes in his writings and speeches. We also have the fact that the Wehrmacht had the motto "God is with us," which seems fairly straightforward.

We also have the fact that Hitler was raised Catholic, and went to a monastary school; he was even an altar boy. The Vatican had an agreement with the Nazis called the Reichconcordat. Hitler never left the Catholic church, and (unlike Goebbels), was never excommunicated. But, to be honest, he wasn't Catholic. What he actually was, was a member of the religion he sponsored and supported, the Deutsche Christen (German Christian) movement.

See, the problem with standard Christian doctrine was that it was a little too Jewy for Adolph and his party boys. So, back in 1907, a guy named Max Bewer wrote a book called Der Deutsche Christus ("The German Christ"), where his theory was that Jesus was a product of Mary cuckolding Joseph with some German soldiers from the Roman Garrison (that's the body - the whole "spirit" thing still comes from God).

Philosophically, they ignored (and in some cases, removed) the Old Testament (you know, what some people even today call "the Hebrew Bible"), and pushed what they called "positive Christianity" (Positives Christentum) - less stress on that Lutheran "sinfulness" thing, more on redemption (in fact, if you strip away the Nazi overtones, it's similar to what mega-churches preach today).

Was Hitler a "good Christian"? Well, that's where you have to define your terms. Was he raised a Christian? Yes, he was. Did he go to church? Why, yes. He did. He also prayed with his troops, and insisted that chaplains travel with his troops, too.

Did he attend church every Sunday? Probably not. He was a busy man: had a country to run, other countries to invade, people to oppress. Kind of like Donald Trump.

An argument can be made that "Hitler was more of an opportunist than a good church-goer." But that doesn't negate his Christianity: my grandfather, an Army chaplain, used to talk about "Et Cetera Christians" (ETC - Easter Thanksgiving Christmas).

Most Christians go to church out of habit, mouthing the words because that's expected. And then they go about their daily lives, slandering people, ignoring the sick and the hungry, and generally ignoring all the good things that Jesus Christ supported ("Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." Matthew 25:31-46)

And remember: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:8-10) And while you may not agree with him, Hitler always thought he was doing good works
So the basic argument against Hitler being a Christian boils down to "Some people who hated Christianity said he hated Christianity too!" and "Some of his writings opposed the other churches and he didn't like the Jewish parts of Christianity! I'm going to ignore all the pro-Christian things he said!"

Once you strip those away, you're left with "Well, he did un-Christian things," which would certainly be an effective argument to make, if you were likewise going to say that nobody can be a Christian: Hitler may have done more horrific acts than most, but who actually lives up to the words of Jesus?

For example, even if you're lying about Hitler, you're still lying.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Early reaction to Twitter

As I might have mentioned, I recently started playing around with Twitter. Sweet Jesus, it's a unique environment. With only 140 characters to play with, it's like swimming in a crowded whirlpool, and having people grab you, yell something in your ear, and get pulled away by the tide.

I'm noticing some various trends among users. I find a lot of them fall into several categories.

There's the celebrities, of course. People famous for being on TV, or in movies, or writing books or whatever. I've heard that 1% of Twitter users are celebrities, but 99% of the other users follow them. Which might be accurate; I don't know. Some celebrities just tweet about their lives. Others try to use their celebrity to promote the things that are important to them, like causes. Or... instagram filters.
Here's a little fact nobody mentions: if you're looking to get more jokes on your feed, comedians are a weird bunch. Many of them will try out jokes on Twitter, but a lot don't seem to want to "waste" them like that - and, really, that's understandable. When you make your living having people pay to hear your jokes, you don't want to give them away for free.

So sometimes you end up with streams from comedians like Iliza Shlesinger (@iliza), who seems to mostly tweet pictures from her Instagram feed. But most often, you get a lot of tweets like "Had a great time tonight, @HeliumComedy in Philly! Thanks for coming out!" or "I'll be headlining at the #ItchyKitty in Reseda tonight! Be sure to stop by! Tickets at the door!"

There are a lot of people who apparently don't have anything to say. All they do is read their stream, and occasionally retweet ("RT") something somebody else has written. They don't tend to add anything to the discussion. But then, just to keep things exciting, I guess, they'll find somebody who looks interesting and poke through their feed. Then they'll favorite or RT a long string of things from that same person, and then, after that brief flurry of activity, I guess they just go back to grazing through their Twitter stream passively, like bipolar cattle.

Trivia: "starbang" is to favorite a lot of tweets in a row (because the symbol for "favorite" is a star, see?). There's probably a similar term for obsessively retweeting somebody else's words, but I haven't run across it yet.

There's also a weird subclass of Twitter users (or maybe even superusers) that seem to have allowed Twitter to take over their lives. They tend to tweet or retweet constantly, and I'm not entirely clear that they do anything else throughout the day.
I mean, I'll tweet some random, semi-funny line every so often, but these people spew unrelated jokes every 15-20 minutes. And then regurgitate a string of retweets, and then back to spewing their own "humor." I guess it's easier than getting a life...

I'm coming to realize that for a good 99% of users, if you follow them, it's best to just turn off the ability to see their retweets. It's just a good policy.

You know all those mindless idiots who believe everything Fox "News" and Sarah Palin spew? Yeah, a lot of them have Twitter accounts. They can be fun for a while - they tend to block you before too long, though. (I wonder if I've been blocked more often than I've been retweeted? That's an interesting question; somebody's got to have an app that'll show those stats...)

There's also a collection of what must be bots out there - programs that just spew whatever tweets they're designed for. There are "users" who just tweet ads for random ezines (I'm looking at you, funnient.com); I'm starting to suspect that the entire ad department for a lot of these ezines is a Twitter user sending out promos for their latest slideshow.

Also, if you answer somebody with a quote, you'll suddenly find yourself followed by quotebots (everybody from Gandhi to Marilyn Monroe) - it's weird. (Also, some of these things that claim to be quotebots are just adbots. Go figure.

It's a strange world out there. I'm just sayin'...

Saturday, August 16, 2014

"But it's OK! He was a thug!"

You've probably heard that there's a little bit of unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. It's right outside of St Louis, and there seem to be some unhappy people there.

See, according to eyewitnesses, a cop confronted the teen, then shot him. The details are a little sketchy, but according to eyewitnesses, the cop told the teens to "get the fuck off the street," started to drive off, and then came back, shouting something to the effect of "What'd you say?!?" And then Michael Brown was shot.

Like I said, the details are sketchy, because, obviously, the cop had a different story than the three eyewitnesses. A lot of the people watching this story from a distance were thrilled when the police released video showing somebody who looked kind of like Michael Brown stealing a box of cheap cigars (Swisher Sweets, if you're curious), because, obviously, Brown was a "thug," and the cop was a hero.

(That's something else: why is it that black teens are now "thugs," if they might be linked to any type of crime, even a misdemeanor? I don't see that word applied to a lot of white kids. Is this like people calling Obama "arrogant" for doing his job as president? Since they aren't saying "uppity," that makes it OK, right?)

There's just one problem with that narrative: the cop in question, Darren Wilson, didn't know that Brown was allegedly involved with any crime other than jaywalking. The police chief has admitted it.

So, the question remains: is it OK for the police to shoot unarmed teens, as long as they can tie them to a crime later?

I can't see any way that might be abused.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Number One With a Bullet



The slavering ammosexuals have been making some headlines lately, with their "open carry" protests and mindless claims that "Obama's going to take our guns!" (Despite, you know, the lack of a single gun-control measure to emerge from this administration since he came into office.)

Here's the thing: the NRA-fellators get sweaty and start spewing spittle if you point out that the Holy Second Amendment has an opening clause that's just getting ignored.
A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
A simple grammatical test will tell you that the first half of that sentence defines why the second half exists. You have the right to own guns because the country needs a well-regulated militia.

(If you want context, the Founding Fathers didn't believe in a standing army - they knew that the fledgling country couldn't afford one, and they also believed that having an army around was how tyrants stayed in power. That's why Article 1 of the Constitution limits the army to a 2-year lifespan.
To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years
(Weirdly, no such restriction on funding the Navy - our Founding Fathers loved their boats: rum, sodomy and the lash - you know how it is.)

The NRA used to understand this, but that day is gone. The modern NRA is a lobbying group supporting, not the people, but the weapons manufacturers. The only right they support now is the unrestricted sale of firearms, but it wasn't always thus.

The first president of the NRA, back in 1871, was former Gen. Ambrose Burnside (he of the famous facial hair), and he acted as a symbol of the "civilian militia" concept. One of the first actions of the NRA was convincing New York State to build them a firing range to promote marksmanship. Through the decades, the NRA helped various state and federal legislatures write gun control legislation.

In 1938, NRA President Karl T. Frederick (lawyer and Olympic gold-medalist for marksmanship) spoke in support of gun control laws before Congress. "I have never believed in the general practice of carrying weapons. I seldom carry one. ... I do not believe in the general promiscuous toting of guns. I think it should be sharply restricted and only under licenses."

Now, in the Sixties, there was this thing they called "the Civil Rights movement." Blacks were tired of getting lynched, attacked, and occasionally beaten by the police. They started patrolling the streets on the "black side of town," carrying rifles, as a means of "policing the police." As Malcolm X put it:
I must say this concerning the great controversy over rifles and shotguns. The only thing that I've ever said is that in areas where the government has proven itself either unwilling or unable to defend the lives and the property of Negroes, it’s time for Negroes to defend themselves.

Article number two of the constitutional amendments provides you and me the right to own a rifle or a shotgun. It is constitutionally legal to own a shotgun or a rifle. This doesn't mean you’re going to get a rifle and form battalions and go out looking for white folks, although you’d be within your rights — I mean, you’d be justified; but that would be illegal and we don’t do anything illegal.
Then, in 1967, in California, the NRA assisted California Assemblyman Don Mulford in writing the "Mulford Act," which would prohibit carrying of loaded firearms in public. While it was being debated, the Black Panthers staged a protest, where they walked into the California State House, openly carrying guns.

That strategy backfired on them just a little, as it ended debate quickly, and the bill (soon to be part of the California penal code) was signed into law by then-Governor Ronald Reagan.

In fact, Reagan, having been reminded that black people were allowed to carry guns too, explained to reporters "There's no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons."

So, apparently, that's what we need. In order to get some sort of reasonable gun control passed, we have to organize and arm brown people. Let's have black people wearing berets, walking the streets with semi-automatic weapons. Let's have armed Muslims outside of mosques, and keeping their neighborhoods safe.

Hell, let's have armed Sikh patrols, too! The beards and turbans already freak some people out.

We'd have the Second Amendment repealed within a month.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

A plague on both your houses

Among the Right Wing Nut Job folks, you have a long-running meme: they take their unquestioning support of the Israeli peoples, invert it, and claim that all liberals hate Israel.

Less clear, of course, is why the Right Wing supports Israel, right or wrong. The evangelical movement has always supported Israel for a number of reasons, but for the rank-and-file conservative, the reasons are less clear.

Personally, and I say this as an open, unabashed lefty, I usually don't have a problem with Israel. They're a small country, literally surrounded by people who want them dead, and they're doing their best in the face of that. They have an army that is second to none, with a long history of coming out on top of any conflict.

But in their current conflict with Hamas, they are dead wrong.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not saying that Hamas is any better. They keep attacking Israeli targets, forcing the Israeli's to respond. And in their position, Israel can't afford to appear weak, so their response may appear unreasonable at times.

Then again, the Israelis have attacked, starved and imprisoned Palestinians, and consistently treated them as less than human. They have taken everything the Palestinians had, and given nothing in exchange. But both sides are wrong. And now Israel is attacking civilian targets and UN facilities. They're killing children.

Both sides have equally-questionable claims to the area: the borders to the area called Palestine was set by the Franco-British boundary agreement of 1920, and the Transjordan memorandum of 1922; the Palestinians indigenous to that region were then displaced after World War II, to make room for the new state of Israel.

Both sides have killed thousands, even millions of people on the other side. The anger on both sides is tenacious and unending, and both sides have made promises that they have later broken. The only chance they have of ever ending the conflict is for the leaders of both sides to come together, and for both sides to give up part of what they want.

It isn't going to happen. And America needs to just stay out of it and let them work it out for themselves. The only outcome I can see from American involvement is a waste of money and American lives.

I say fuck 'em. Let them fend for themselves.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Would the future pluperfect tense of "tweet" be "to twat"?

Well, my old phone finally died a few months ago, and I had to get an upgrade. (You know, something made in this century.) Since I've been technologically challenged in this area, I've only now been discovering several things about smartphones. Things that most of America already knows.
  1. There are a lot of really stupid free games on the market
  2. There's all kinds of ways to stick an ad into an app.
  3. Looks like I can text after all.
  4. Man, cellphone batteries suck.
Oh, and it seems there's this app called "Twitter." Have you heard of it?

I have to assume that since I've discovered it, that means it's no longer popular. But I'm noticing that once you get past that initial learning curve, it's can be a little bit addictive.

The biggest challenge for me is restricting myself to 140 characters. Particularly since I have a serious disdain for Twitterspeak.

I'm not a 13-year-old girl. I refuse to use "4" instead of "for." I like punctuation. And someday I might resort to "b/c" to mean "because," but this is not that day.

But it can be a real time-suck. I'm going to have to monitor that. I'm getting older. There's only so many hours left in my life, much less in a day.

But hey, look me up if you're there. (@NamelessCynic, just like it says up there at the top of the page.)

I'll probably even follow you back, if your feed isn't boring.

Friday, July 04, 2014

"Explosions are not comfortable." (Yevgeny Zamyatin, exiled Soviet dissident)

For many years, our country has proudly embraced our heritage of blowing shit up by scheduling an annual celebration of gunpowder and explosions.

It's a long and noble birthright, of invading sovereign nations, toppling governments and propping up dictators. Our very nation is founded in destruction and bloodshed, 238 years ago. And the GOP in our our Congress wants to continue it even today, in far-flung corners of the globe (mostly the Middle East).

However, as more veterans return from the battlefield scarred with wounds they may never recover from, both physical and psychic, the media is finally noting something that some of us noted some years ago: perhaps some of our veterans don't appreciate random explosions in their neighborhood.

It's a fairly simple equation, one that I can attest to myself, but only to an extremely limited extent. (My older son, returned from far too many tours in Afghanistan, struggles with PTSD every day.)

There is something about being in a high-stress environment, and having no warning as to when a loud noise might mean the death of a friend or a companion. Or worse, the knowledge that you, yourself, might never hear the last echo dying away, as you do the same yourself.

There are many reasons to oppose fireworks, especially here in New Mexico. Hundreds and thousands of acres of land are destroyed every year, homes are destroyed and people are killed, because of wildfires here in the Southwest, many of them caused by unregulated use of fireworks. But there's another fact that the American people are finally realizing.

In honoring our nation's history, you are, perhaps inadvertently, harming our nation's veterans.

Way to support the troops, America.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Please bow your heads for the passing of Molly

I owned a 2004 Mazda 3 for nearly a decade. (My wife called it "Molly" - I was never clear why.) Normally, I try to avoid getting the first generation of any tech, because they haven't worked the bugs out yet. However, I got a bargain on it, and if I'd bought it the year before, it would have been called a Protegé.

And to be honest, it worked out pretty well for me (as you could probably tell from the fact that I put 150K miles on it over 10 years). However, it had one problem that I never got past.

The air conditioner in the Mazda 3 was a piece of crap. It never worked well: it cycled on and off, and toward the end, it wouldn't necessarily work at all unless the fan was set to an even number.

Living in Albuquerque, there are only a couple of weeks every year where this was a major problem, so it wasn't that bad, but here's the thing.

Having gone a decade without a truly functional air conditioner, I now have a car where the a/c works, and that's the problem. As it turns out, I can be pretty unreasonable.

See, when it's hot outside, the inside of the car can get pretty hot. And the coolant is way down inside the engine and has to cool off everything between before it can get cold air to me. But what that means to me is that the cold air doesn't come on immediately. I understand the mechanics of it, but when I had a car where I knew that the air conditioner wasn't necessarily going to work, it didn't bother me. Now that the situation has changed, I find myself subconsciously angered by the fact that I don't have instant gratification.

I try to be a reasonable person, but as it turns out, I can get pissed off by physics.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Why Benghazi doesn't matter as much as they want it to.

There's a video that's making the rounds, by a guy named Bill Whittle, who is something of a tool; he's worked for conservative groups such as Pajama's Media, the National Review and Fox "News" (all of which, you might notice, are openly anti-Obama). But let's not attack the messenger - let's look at his message.


First of all, he is wrong from his opening statement. Benghazi isn't irrelevant, but it is, in fact, both trivial and a witch hunt. In his efforts to make the president look bad, he commits both the sins of omission and commission - he lies, and he ignores any facts that he finds inconvenient.

For example, Whittle tries to ignore the fact that attacks on American embassies overseas have gone on for years, by using a fascinatingly cherry-picked graphic which refers to ten attacks and sixty people dead. As Politifact has pointed out, there have been 39 attacks or attempted attacks on US embassies and embassy personnel during Bush the Younger's reign.

Of these attacks, 20 resulted in at least one death. But even if you only count attacks on embassies or consular property, you still get thirteen incidents with fatalities, not the ten he claims.

If you count fatalities from the 20 attacks, the death toll was 87 people; only if you restrict yourself to the 13 attacks on embassy personnel on embassy ground does the number of deaths drop to 66. So he was only off by 10%, right?

But that kind of margin of error is OK, in Whittle's world. Because apparently none of those deaths matter, whether they were American or not.

He makes the claim that "It is not the responsibility of the US State Department and the President of the United States to protect the lives of foreign nationals, no matter how tragic or common these attacks may be. Their job is to protect American citizens and especially Consular personnel living abroad."

That, in and of itself, is complete and utter bullshit. If a person contracts to work for the US State Department, then that person is then under the protection of the State Department, whether they are American, Iraqi, or Dutch refugees to Lichtenstein. They have agreed to work for the United States, so the United States is obligated to keep them as safe as possible.

(On top of which, it's adorable how he refers to "the responsibility of the US State Department and the President of the United States." Because the President himself should strap on a gun and personally fight the terrorists, like Harrison Ford in Air Force One. Sorry guys: just because Bush slipped into a flight suit and codpiece, he was no action hero.)

Even if Whittle is only concerned about American deaths, why is it that he only mentions one diplomat (David Foy) by name? Why doesn't he talk about Edward J. Seitz, the first State Department employee killed in Iraq? What about Jim Mollen, U.S. Embassy senior consultant? What about any of the other Americans killed?

Because they don't fit the narrative he wants to present.

Whittle presents a long and convoluted "timeline," which he apparently thinks proves that the Obama administration covered up the fact that this was a terrorist attack, and that they lied by blaming everything on an American-made online video.

What poor little Bill Whittle couldn't count on was the fact that within a week of his putting out this web-only episode of the Firewall, that same Obama administration that he hates (or more accurately, the US special forces that he masturbates over) would capture Ahmed Abu Khattala, the mastermind behind the Benghazi attack. And Abu Khattala told everyone who would listen that he had planned the attack as retaliation for that same insulting video.

It was a terrorist attack. AND it was due to the video in question. Just because you don't like facts, Mr Whittle, you don't get to ignore them. Life is more complex than you want to admit.

Incidentally, though, the special forces who captured Abu Khattala? They were working for the US military. Which, by the way, is headed by the Commander-in-Chief, President Barack Obama. If he was personally responsible for the response to the attack on Benghazi, then he is equally responsible for the capture of the terrorist Ahmed Abu Khattala. And the death of Osama Bin Laden. And untold other successful attacks on terrorists and their strongholds. You have to be consistent in these things, after all: if you're going to give him the blame when things go wrong, you also have to give him the credit when things go right.

On a side note, Whittle also wants to bring up the claim that Obama skipped the daily intelligence briefings leading up to the attack. This is a popular narrative with the Benghazi Birthers. It's based on an opinion piece published in the Washington Post, which claimed that Obama skips most of them.

Unfortunately, that's the difference between an opinion piece and an article. The WaPo fact checker eventually had to weigh in on the subject; he pointed out that Obama gets his Presidential Daily Briefing in writing every day. Bush wasn't a strong reader, so he preferred to get it in person. Every president has gotten their briefing differently: Reagan skipped his briefings 99% of the time.

(While we're on the subject, should we mention the Presidential Daily Briefing of August 6, 2001? The one that was completely ignored, entitled "Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US"? No. No, we shouldn't; that could be considered "using the deaths of Americans for political purposes," couldn't it?)

And finally, in his efforts to lay all of the blame for the failure in embassy security on the President, Whittle completely ignores the fact that Congress, in votes led by 100% of the congressional Republicans, voted to cut nearly $300 million dollars from the US Embassy security budget. Money that might have been used in increase their security, and could have saved the lives of all of the people killed in Benghazi.

So overall, this video ignores the facts completely, in an effort to attack the President of the United States. The only truth that we can get from this video is that Bill Whittle is a dishonest douchebag, who should be ignored by any patriotic American citizen. And by anybody with a basic grasp of logic.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

The Long Bowe Hunters

Let's talk about Bowe Bergdahl, shall we? The Right Wing, like always, has been looking for a reason to attack Obama. And their latest one just happens to be the polar opposite of one of their earlier ones. For the past five years, Bowe Bergdahl, the only captured American prisoner, has been a cause célèbre for the GOP, a consistent placard that they could hold up to punctuate the phrase "Obama doesn't care about the troops!"

At least, that's how it was until there was a possibility that Bergdahl might be released. Now, suddenly, people who've been crying out for his release are calling him a traitor. They have literally reversed their position on the subject. And why? Because it might have ended up looking good for the black guy.


Sarah Palin. Senators John McCain (Arizona) and Kelly Ayotte (New Hampshire). Every un-American, small-minded, troop-hating maniac on the right has spun their position 180 degrees away from what they were saying as recently as the beginning of this year. And why? Because they don't care about the military; they only care about attacking the president.

Now, suddenly, all they can say is "Obama has endangered the country! He released terrorists! And for a deserter!"

Let me explain this as clearly and rationally as I can. Anyone who says that we should not have made a deal to get Bowe Bergdahl released can suck my balls.

Are you saying that we should have left an American citizen in the hands of the Taliban? That he deserved to stay in their custody forever? If you believe that, you are a pustulent sore on the asshole of humanity. Oh, and fuck you.

Let's be clear on this - no investigation has been done. There has been no trial. You don't get to convict American citizens on the basis of rumors, half-truths and outright lies. If you want Bowe Bergdahl punished, then you bring him back to the States, and let the military do their job. And if it turns out that he is guilty, then they get to punish him. Not you, not Fox "News," and not every cowardly, Cheeto-eating, overweight loudmouthed blogger on the planet.

Fuck every one of you, you chicken-shit, scum-sucking, America-hating losers.

The military has jurisdiction here, and they've never been shy about using it. Look up the case of another PFC, a guy named Robert Garwood: a POW in Vietnam, he was returned to the US in 1979, where he was tried for desertion and several other charges, court martialed and convicted (they lost the desertion conviction, but got him on other things).

That's the military's job. They're pretty good at it.

Oh, but incidentally, bad news for all you amateur lawyers out there: the maximum punishment for desertion can only be death in a time of war - and the US never declared war in Afghanistan. Plus, there's only been one person given the death sentence for desertion since the Civil War: Eddie Slovik in 1945. The military prefers to avoid that. Most likely, he'd get confinement, demotion and forfeiture of pay. But he'd only get it after a trial. That's how these things work.

The various branches of the Special Forces have taken the position that "you don't leave a man behind" for decades, for one simple reason: it's difficult to get people to risk their lives, if they don't believe that you'll be supporting them later when things go wrong. We support our soldiers for having sworn an oath to protect their country to begin with, and we continue to support them, even if we don't agree with their statements on every subject.

It's called "free speech" - if you stop wiping your ass with the Constitution for a few minutes and read the fucking thing, maybe you'll discover that it gives the American people all kinds of rights that don't involve guns.

We keep hearing that he was responsible for the deaths of soldiers who were searching for him. Unfortunately, you can't really blame him for every death that happened in theater at the time; the records from the region don't really support that.
Mr. Bethea wrote that of the six men killed in August and September, two died in a roadside bombing while on a reconnaissance mission, a third was shot during a search for a Taliban political leader and three others were killed while conducting patrols — two in an ambush and one who stepped on a mine.

He suggested some connection to Sergeant Bergdahl for several of the deaths, saying the Taliban leader and a village that was in the area of one of the patrols were "thought affiliated with Bergdahl's captors." He also said a village in the areas of the other patrol was "near the area where Bergdahl vanished."

Still, those villages and insurgents were in the overall area of responsibility for the soldiers, and the logs make clear that the region was an insurgent hotbed. A log on May 21, 2009, for example, said it had historically been a "safe haven" for the Taliban.

A retired senior American military officer, who was briefed at the time on the search for Sergeant Bergdahl, said that even though soldiers were instructed to watch for signs of the missing American, they would have been conducting patrols and performing risky operations anyway.

"Look, it’s not like these soldiers would have been sitting around their base," he said.
And incidentally, while we're cutting through the lies, can we stop with the phrase "we don't negotiate with terrorists"? Is it because George W. Bush kept repeating that canard? Did you know that he would say it almost immediately after completing a series of negotiations with terrorists for (as one of his chief negotiators pointed out) "information, supplies, personnel — a lot of different topics."

In fact, every president has negotiated with terrorists, whether drug traffickers or radical Islamic factions. Whether it was Carter getting 52 American hostages released in Iran by unfreezing assets from American banks, or Reagan selling missiles to Iran, America has a long history of negotiating with terrorists. As does every other country in the world.

But to hell with that. It doesn't matter what it took to get Bergdahl's release. We got it. Because we had to get it. Here's two quotes for you that explain why: the first is from President Obama. I know, you don't like him, because he's all black and uppity and stuff. Doesn't matter - he's the Commander in Chief of the military, and as he put it:
"Regardless of circumstances ... we still get an American prisoner back," Obama said during a news conference in Warsaw, Poland. "Period, full stop -- we don't condition that."
And if that isn't enough for you, how about the words of the Pentagon spokesman, Rear Admiral John F. Kirby:
"When you're in the Navy, and you go overboard, it doesn't matter if you were pushed, fell or jumped," he said. "We're going to turn the ship around and pick you up."
So, are we clear on this? If you say we should have just left him in the hands of the Afghani's, you are a crappy American. You're allowing your hatred of a black president to make you into a traitor, a coward, and an idiot. Fuck you, and go find a country that shares your beliefs. Try Somalia: you'll like it there - everybody has guns, and women don't have rights.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

A violent man will die a violent death (Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching, ch 42)

So I was on Facebook, because I'm old and it's no longer fashionable. And I came across this post.

And that sounds like a terrible thing, right? A guy, murdered in his home by rogue police officers - that's a travesty of justice!

Yeah, it sounds pretty bad, until you look into it. But that's part of the problem with the internet - people post stories, and other people believe them without looking up the details.

Now, before I start, let me point out that I oppose police brutality. I understand that there is police overreach, and that criminal acts have been and will be performed under the cover of a badge. I mean, hell, I live in Albuquerque - I'd have to be an idiot to think otherwise.

The thing is, this one isn't like that. Not according to the available evidence. The police were, in fact, sent to the wrong address. But only after they arrived did things go straight into the crapper.
Waller exited his residence and entered the garage with a handgun showing. Police did not know if he was a resident or a suspect.

Investigators said that the Hoeppner gave Waller repeated commands to drop his gun, but the homeowner did not comply. According to the officer, Waller responded with "Why?" and "Get that light out of my eyes."

Hoeppner added that Waller eventually put his gun down on the trunk of a car. As the officer moved in to retrieve the weapon, Waller scrambled to pick it up, and then pointed it at the officer. The report said that this is when Hoeppner fired his weapon six times.
Waller wasn't an innocent man - he was a paranoid nutjob with a gun. And he felt that he had the right to point that gun at the police. Sure, they were at the wrong location, but they were doing their job. And what, exactly, are the police supposed to do when confronted with armed lunatics brandishing firearms? Lie down and bleed?

The NRA wants you to believe that an armed society is a polite society, and that the only defense against a bad man is a good man with a gun. But they're wrong. Because what is the defense against a good man with a gun? Or an armed man who believes he's good?

If Waller hadn't been a Second Amendment cultist, nothing would have happened. But he felt that he was had the right, and the knowledge, and the training, to act as some kind of lone vigilante protecting his homestead. So instead, he committed suicide by cop.

The only tragedy for Waller's family is that they didn't talk him down off the ledge; you have to wonder how long he'd been cleaning his guns and muttering angrily to himself. But the real tragedy is for Officer Hoeppner, who had to face the choice of killing a man or being killed himself. He made the right choice, but now he has to live with it.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Let's see if I have psychic powers.

I'll admit that I didn't know enough about Maya Angelou. I'm really not a huge fan of most poetry. It's just not how I'm wired.


But she died last night at age 86. From what little I knew about her, she was a wise woman, and a lot of people liked her poetry. She was widely honored, with a Pulitzer, a Tony Award nomination, three Grammys, the National Medal of Arts and several other awards.

But here's my point. Despite all that recognition, I foresee a coming dark cloud.

See, she was awarded the Lincoln medal by GW Bush, but then recieved the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama. She didn't always agree with his policies (she initially supported Hillary Clinton), but she and Michelle Obama corresponded, and Barack Obama quoted her in speeches; they might not have been close friends, but they knew each other.

Given that, it will not be unreasonable for Obama to speak about her death. And now I'm going to make a prediction. When he does so, there will be an outcry on the right that Obama is racist because he only honors black people. (The word might not be "honors" - I'll give them credit for knowing what a thesaurus is.)

Hear my words, you wise men; listen to me, you men of learning. What I foresee will come to pass.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Some villains that Marvel Comics won't be bringing back for the movies

So, let me see if I've got this straight: The Amazing Spiderman 2 is no longer the top grossing movie in America, but is still the top grossing movie worldwide. And in the course of this movie, Spidey has to fight the Rhino, Electro, and Green Goblin Jr.

And I'll be honest, I didn't think we'd be seeing the Rhino in a Spidey movie anytime soon, because, frankly, it's kind of a stupid costume. But they took some liberties with the concept, and there he is.

Still, there are some villains in the Marvel Universe that we aren't going to be seeing any time soon, for a number of reasons.

(Full disclosure: Marvel may have less embarrassing villains running around than DC - even if you only take the combined Rogue's Galleries from Batman and the Flash - but they've produced their share of stinkers. And these are only a sampling. I didn't try to get scientific, or make a complete list. These are just a few of the worst - Marvel Marvel has some great heroes and villains, but they haven't all been winners.)

There's a lot of reasons that characters might be flops. Sometimes, science catches up with a character. In Human Torch Comics #27 (1947 - that's Marvel's original Human Torch, a robot who burst into flame when exposed to oxygen), the writers had no idea why it would be a bad idea to introduce Asbestos Lady. She had an asbestos suit. That was her "power."

She disappeared after a few years. Probably into a cancer ward. (In fact, the Marvel Wiki entry for her ends with:
The Asbestos Lady was again imprisoned, but learned in the years that followed that she had contracted cancer due to her constant exposure to asbestos. Her final fate is unknown, but she is believed to have succumbed to the disease.
...but I'm pretty sure that was a retcon that they just threw in later. It doesn't seem to be in the original material that I remember.

Sometimes, a villain just comes out at the wrong time.

Marvel first started using Sinbad (the legendary sailor, not the 90s comedian) in 1974; their version owes a lot more to the Ray Harryhausen movies than to the original legends, of course.

But, as far as timing goes, if you're going to create a mystical genie, who was tricked by Sinbad to go to the future and fight the Fantastic Four (in a one-shot entitled The Fantastic 4th Voyage Of Sinbad), there's nothing wrong with that. There are worse ideas.

But maybe naming him Jihad, and having a cover date on the book that contains him dated September 2001 (a week and a half before a couple of airplanes were flown into the Twin Towers) was a mistake.

Admittedly, the comic book came out in July (because that's how cover dates work). But it still said September.

Chris Claremont (the writer of that particular adventure) was just another victim of 9/11.

But sometimes, the problem has nothing to do with any outside forces. Sometimes, for instance, the writers run out of villains, and just throw some random crap out.

Like The Matador, who first appeared in Daredevil #5 (1964), and seemed to reappear every 10 years or so, just long enough for everybody to forget who he was.

Because what he was, was a bullfighter. That’s it. A guy in a stupid outfit, with a sword that he didn’t use much, and a cape. He liked to use his cape to blind people, and then hit them. That was pretty much it.

If you've been reading Marvel comics for a while, you've probably seen the Kingpin. A fat crimelord modeled on the actor Sydney Greenstreet, he's been a problem for several of Marvel's heroes. But he wasn't the only plus-sized crimelord.

There was, for example, Ulysses X. Lugman, or "the Slug." He was a major drug lord, and he was fat. About 1,200 pounds worth. He wasn’t strong, and he could barely move. Whenever he appeared in a comic frame, he would be eating.

He was smart, and apparently a master planner. He had plenty of henchmen, and lots of money. And, really, he would occasionally demonstrate one superpower: once in a while, he would decide to smother people in the folds of his fat.

Just... eww...

I really don't think that will translate well to the silver screen. But Marvel seems to like fat villains for some reason.

They introduced Pink Pearl in Alpha Flight # 22 (May 1985). She didn't really have powers. She was kind of strong. She was tough (because of her... I don't know, fat armor?). And she was fat. And Canadian.

Other times, the entire concept for a villain is just stupid. For example, in "Obnoxio the Clown vs. the X-Men #1," a one-shot from 1983.

I'm going to ignore Obnoxio the Clown here, because he wasn't a villain so much as a recurring annoyance. But further down this page, we find Eye-Scream. His power? He could turn into any flavor of ice cream.

I think I've made my point just in explaining him.

Sometimes (maybe a lot of times) the writer and the artist are just on drugs.

How about Goody Two-Shoes? He was in The Thing #7 in 1984. He had a bad Swedish accent and "atomic boots." And he kicked things.

Turner D. Century (Spider-Woman #33 - December 1980) hated the modern age.

He dressed like somebody from 1900, rode a flying tandem bike (that's a mannequin on the back seat - even girls in comic books were embarrassed to be seen with him), and his two big weapons were a flamethrower umbrella, and a "time horn" that was supposed to kill anyone under 65.

'Nuff said.

The Disco Era gave us the Hypno-Hustler, in The Spectacular Spider-Man #24 (1978).

He had goggles that could hypnotize people. Or he used his guitar (and his hypnotized backup singers, the Mercy Killers) to hypnotize people. (You see the theme yet?) His boots spit knockout gas and had retractable spikes. And he was so much worse than even his description makes him sound.

But the Disco Era has other crimes to answer for.


In 1978, The Amazing Spiderman #s 182 and 183 gave us a two-fer of crappy villains. The Rocket Racer (who first appeared a year earlier) had a rocket-powered skateboard, and punched people with his rocket powered gloves. And he was fighting The Big Wheel (a guy with a giant mechanical wheel that climbed walls; it was equipped with both guns and grabby-arms).

Even if it wasn't ridiculously dated (and even if one of them wouldn't have a trademark fight with Hasbro), I don't think these two could be redeemed.