Sunday, February 28, 2010

pea-shooter 1, blimp 0

the best line from friday's much anticipated and overly hyped capitol hill sudden-death cage match bipartisan health care reform summit was president obama's response to house minority whip eric cantor, with a gratuitous assist by the daily show's jon stewart:

obama: we could set up a system where food was probably cheaper than it is right now, if we just eliminated ... meat inspectors.

absolutely effortless. like taking down a blimp with a pea-shooter.

Friday, February 26, 2010

talking heads

good question ... especially after tossing in sex, blasphemy, damnation, cannibalism, vampires, ghouls and zombies — all of which were enough to drive canadian artist chester brown's kafkaesque "ed the happy clown" afoul of international customs, making it risky for the book to be shipped across the border.

this complication did not prevent brown from earning a 1990 harvey award for best cartoonist.

bizarre, pathetic, hilarious, cruel and mesmerizing, the unpredictable and unrestrained adventures of brown's completely harmless and perpetually helpless hero were some of the best comics i'd discovered in '94, second only to scott mccloud's groundbreaking "understanding comics". i got my copy at that year's san diego comicon, where vortex, brown's publisher, had a few boxes personally driven to the show.

a pint-sized reagan, his sultry wife nancy and a hoary brian mulroney

while the book is not politcal, ronald and nancy reagan play commanding roles, even if they and former canadian prime minister brian mulroney look nothing like their familiar selves. nonetheless, their obvious dissimilarities go unremarked and these odd doppelgängers are taken as granted and treated as the real mccoys. as with many a dream i've had, such distortions only come to light with the dawn.

• • •

(story and art by chester brown)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

scrooge's nightmare

... during the other 364 days of the year, as told by dougj @ balloon juice:

american politics is haunted by the specter of undeserving poor and working class americans living beyond their means on someone else's dime. it's not just strapping young bucks buying t-bone steaks with food stamps, it's strapping young bucks buying flat-screen tvs with credit cards they can't pay off, strapping young bucks gorging themselves at the applebee's salad bar with their inflated union wages, strapping young bucks buying houses with CRA-mandated subprime loans, strapping young bucks suing doctors with lawyers on retainer, strapping young bucks getting elective surgery with their taxpayer-subsidized health care. it's an all-purpose paradigm — it explains why welfare and single-payer health care are bad, why we need "tort reform" rather than health care reform, why the bankruptcy bill was good, and why we had a recession even with galtian geniuses like greenspan and rubin in charge of everything.

now you'll have to excuse me ... here comes that shiftless bob cratchit and his useless whelp tiny tim. whatever could they want now?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

time for another satasd*

... is there any other kind when dealing with birthers?

but [hawai'i health department spokeswoman janice okubo] adamantly disagrees with the "birthers'" interpretation of hawai'i law.

"they usually say that by not giving out his birth certificate we're breaking the law," okubo said.

"but we would be breaking the law by giving out a birth certificate to someone who does not have a right to it."

when okubo told one writer they did not have a right to obama's birth certificate because they were not related to the president, the person wrote back saying they, indeed, had a common ancestor.

"they said they have a tangible right to his birth certificate because they're descended from adam," okubo said, referring to the biblical figure.

"we told them they need to provide some type of legal documentation."

* straight answer to a stupid demand

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

the last laugh

in their relentless pursuit of dramatic irony, the writers at e.c. comics churned out plots that became increasingly contrived, and this 1953 tales of the crypt story about an irrepressible prankster's one joke too far was no doubt written for the sole purpose of illustrating the gory centerpiece gag — which brings crashing down a storyline that could've been written by rube goldberg:

e.c. comic's devotion to the tradition of le théâtre du grand-guignol got them into trouble with the self-appointed moral guardians of the day, but largely because e.c. was the biggest fish, instead of the worst offender. their crimes were often purely gratuitous, like the wholly contrived ending to the previous issue's "strop! you're killing me!", the story of a fire company's ambitious new hire, who pushes out (fatally, of course) his older rival:

ouch! (or as the french say, "aïe!")

(stories by bill gaines and al feldstein; art by bill elder and jack davis)

Sunday, February 07, 2010

boston tea party '76

as the teabaggers put away their signs and flags and depart nashville, heady and spent after another uplifting weekend of patriotic self-affirmation, this weekend's display of racism, birtherism and homophobia recalls for the rest of us nothing recognizable of the historic boston tea party they claim to embody but instead the infamous boston bicentennial event immortalized on film by stanley j. forman and explored in prose in louis p. masur's "the soiling of old glory: the story of a photograph that shocked america":

some two hundred white students assembled for the march to city hall plaza. they attended for every reason, and for no reason at all: they despised forced busing, they hated blacks, they feared change, they followed their parents' lead, they welcomed days off from school, they wanted to hang out with their friends, they felt like they were part of a group. "we all wanted to belong to something big," recalls one teenage protester, "and the feeling of being part of the anti-busing movement along with the rest of southie had been the best feeling in the world." southie meant more than just the geographic place south boston. it meant neighborhood and community and ethnic pride. thinking of the long day ahead, some packed a snack. some made signs that said "RESIST." one student, before leaving his third-floor south boston apartment, grabbed the family's american flag.

from the start, the anti-busing movement identified itself with patriotism. the activists saw themselves as defending their liberty against the tyranny of a judge run amok. the celebration of bicentennial events in 1975 and 1976 only reinforced the idea that they were carrying on in a tradition of american resistance; one anti-busing group had as its motto "don't tread on me." at rallies and boycotts, protesters carried american flags and frequently sang "god bless america." protesters against the vietnam war had often burned Old Glory, but not here, not among the mainly working-class irish of boston.

(boston herald)

ted landsmark was late to a meeting. a lawyer for the contractors' association, he was headed to city hall for discussions on minority hiring in construction jobs. dressed well on this mild april morning, he was wearing a favorite three-piece suit, and enjoying the brisk walk.

the protesters spotted landsmark and turned on him. one went to trip him up. a couple of them yelled "get the nigger." a few of the anti-busing protesters at the front jumped him. he was being kicked and punched. another unidentified black man hurried away from the scene.

the flag bearer, joseph rakes of south boston, circled around and began to swing the flag at landsmark.

(patriots turned hate-riots: this photo won forman the second of three pulitzer prizes)

age 17, rakes had loved school but had stopped going entirely a year into the protests against busing. he worked part time to help his parents pay the bills, which now included tuition to send his older siblings to a private academy formed to educate those students who refused to attend south boston or charlestown high school. rakes' anger at a situation beyond his control was never far from the surface. he attended most rallies against busing and, on this day, he rushed into the fracas. some officers of the police mobile operations patrol and some adults intervened, but too late. the incident lasted maybe fifteen or twenty seconds. landsmark's glasses were shattered and his nose broken. he was left drifting, bloodied and dazed.

(stanley forman)

(boston herald)

some of the students who did not participate, indeed who recoiled with shock at the assault, trembled with disbelief. at the time, someone said landsmark must have provoked the attack by making a gesture, but an incredulous landsmark told reporters, "i didn't have time to make an obscene gesture." several years later, lisa mcgoff, whose family was profiled by j.anthony lukas in his pulitzer-prize winning book common ground, an examination of the busing crisis told through the lives of three families, informed lukas that she imagined that landsmark instigated the incident. according to lukas, mcgoff's first thought was that "this has to be a trick, because no black guy in his right mind would walk smack into the middle of an anti-busing demonstration."

but it was no trick. landsmark told a writer who wondered how this could happen to such a well-educated and well-respected person that "i couldn't put my yale degree in front of me to protect myself. the thing that is most troubling is that it happened not because i was somebody but because i was anybody. ... i was just a nigger they were trying to kill." to another reporter landsmark said, "i was just out there walking to city hall in my three-piece suit. i was anyone." and suddenly, someone tried "to kill me with the american flag."

as the "browning of america" proceeds with irresistible momentum, crystallized for the fearful by the seating of a brown man in its highest office, "patriotism" becomes their last refuge.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

webcams: not just for perverts

berlin (AP) watch the sunset, save a life.

a woman admiring the sunset on a tourist webcam in northern germany spotted a man who was lost on the frozen north sea and probably saved his life by alerting authorities, police said wednesday.

the man had climbed over pack ice off the coast to photograph a sunset near the town of st. peter-ording, then became disoriented on the ice, husum police spokeswoman kristin stielow said.

unable to locate the beach, the man began using his camera to flash for help. that got the attention of a woman hundreds of miles (kilometers) away in southern germany who was watching the sunset over the sea on her computer.

the woman contacted police, who located the man's signals and guided him into shore by flashing their car lights. officiers then lectured him on the dangers of trekking on the ice.

police would not identify the man or the woman who spotted him. stielow said he was a german tourist in his forties.

she said locals are well aware of the risk of disorientation as darkness falls and the beach becomes hard to identify, but vivid sunsets over frozen landscapes often draw people away from the shore.

at the time the man lost his bearings, the air temperature was below freezing. he could have frozen to death or fallen through the ice, stielow added.

st. peter-ording is popular tourist destination known for its beaches and sailing, and the local tourism board runs a web site with a webcam. the board, however, said images from the webcam are routinely erased and the dramatic flashes from the man's camera were not saved before the story came to light.

Monday, February 01, 2010

gop retreat

... 90 MINUTES LATER ...

one of the little things that amused me about the obama deathtrap fail the GOP sprung on themselves last week was the sight — on nationwide tv — of the president's staunchest foes crowding him for autographs and handshakes at the end of their own richly deserved drubbing.

sure, a certain protocol allowed it, and the signature of america's popular first black president is probably already worth a lot, but, for the sake of their rabid constituencies, whom they've fed — as obama painfully spelled out — a nonstop diet of conservative populist hate since obama's election, their representatives could have waited for the cameras to go dark before bowing to their alien overlord.

but anyone familiar with the authoritarian mindset shouldn't be surprised. bullies respect only power and despise weakness. as far as the bully is concerned, it's your own damn fault if you can't keep him from stealing your lunch money. by stealing the GOP's lunch money and eating their lunch in front of them and a national audience, obama became an object of worship, something every bully can respect ... at least until frank luntz can come up with a new set of talking points.