Archive for June, 2008

A Reminder

Posted in comic books with tags , , , , on June 26, 2008 by vagabondsaint

I’m going to take a break from all the political stuff for a minute here (that stuff gets tiring to wade through, you know) to talk about something that I used to know, forgot somehow, and was recently reminded of.

This reminder came courtesy of Brian Michael Bendis, writer of Ultimate Spider-Man and roughly 26 other comic books for Marvel Comics. Bendis is an excellent writer, one of my favourites, and he earns my respect again with Ultimate Spider-Man #122, in which the aforementioned reminder came.

Ultimate Spider-Man #122

The cover of Ultimate Spider-Man #122.

Over the previous 121 issues of this book, Spider-Man has occasionally encountered a villain called The Shocker, who uses technologically advanced guns that deliver some sort of vibrating-shock pulses (and yes, vibrator jokes have been made about them) to their victims. On the occasions that he’s shown up, he’s usually beaten up and delivered to the police within 3 pages or so; basically, a joke villain, a loser, used to illustrate the heroism of Spider-Man rather than make any sort of point.

Until this issue.

This issue, Shocky (as his friends call him) captures Spider-Man, and, like all villains throughout history, can’t resist the urge to talk about himself while he’s busy torturing the hero. But, when he talks, it’s not about his plan for world domination; it’s about himself, his life, his feelings, his experiences. . .and it made me remember something I’d forgotten.

Everyone has a story.

Every single person I encounter, whether I like them, love them, dislike them, hate them, or want to set them on fire, has a story. There are reasons that people are the way that they are, journeys that have taken that molded them into who they are, and everyone’s story is different. Almost everyone’s story is worth hearing, even if all they ever seem to do is get beaten up in 3 pages by a teenager in spandex. By the end of the story, a 3-page joke villain is transformed into a real, deep, developed character, and it puts all of his previous appearances into a different light.

Being a writer myself (though that’s arguable, to be certain), you would think I would remember that constantly. Being a storyteller first involving being a story listener, and the stories that spin out of me always come from the stories I have taken in. And yet, I had forgotten.

So, thank you, Brian Michael Bendis, for reminding me that everyone has a story. I shame my ancestors by having forgotten that, but you do honour to yours by reminding me.

VS – 6.26.08

Catching Up

Posted in economics, media failure, politics, ramble, religion, war with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 20, 2008 by vagabondsaint

Oh boy, lots to catch up on.

I’ve been sick for most of the week with sinus issues, so I’ve missed a lot of news. Not to worry, though; I’m feeling better now and ready to share with you my opinions of the general crap pulled by our government, the media, presidential candidates, and airhead Fox News anchors.

Let’s start with the double-bitchslap given to the Bush Administration last week by the Supreme Court. First, the court ruled that Guantanemo Bay detainees do in fact have the right to question and protest their detainment in front of a civilian judge, instead of the secret military tribunals. This restores to them the right of habeas corpus, which the administration has been denying to them for years now. We’ll see if they get it, though; the Supreme Court has made this ruling three times in the past four years and still been ignored by the administration. (For those unsure of how these things work, here’s a quick primer: the legislative branch makes the laws, the judicial branch interprets the laws, and the executive branch ignores both and does whatever the hell it wants. Don’t we have checks and balances for a reason?) Second, if you followed the link above, you may have noticed a tiny but important paragraph at the bottom, which comprises the backswing of this double-bitchslap: the Court found that American citizens that commit crimes in Iraq can be turned over to Iraqi courts for trial and do not have the right to petition American courts for their freedom. That’s small, but significant; it means the bastards at Blackwater, the mercenary firm contracted by the US Government for security work in Iraq, can from this point on be tried in Iraq for what they do there, which I’m sure is a relief to the Iraqi people. It’s a relief to me, since the Blackwater commandos have yet to be charged in the US for any of their crimes. And yes, the Bush Administration not only opposed charging Blackwater employees with crimes, but also renewed their contract after those incidents. That just stuns me. I mean, really, just how badly do you have to fuck up to lose a government contract? I’m in the wrong industry, I swear.

Moving on. . .

Courtesy of this clip from The Daily Show:

A new book says that John McCain called his prettier-than-he-deserves wife a “c-word.” (There are some things that even I won’t say, and that word is one of them.)

Cindy McCain

Cindy McCain: kinda hot, once you adjust the scale with an age modifier

Way to lock up that crucial “men who don’t deserve their wives” vote, Senator McCain.

Speaking of “undeserved”. . .

“Terrorist fist-jab”? Because Obama gave his wife a fist-pound at a rally? What ignorant, stupid, fear-mongering, malicious airhead could possibly think that. . .

Oh wait, that came from Fox News. No surprise, then. In fact, it’s more of a surprise that the “fist-jab” wasn’t also linked to gang activity, being black, being gay, Vietnam, and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Fox News: the only true word in their motto (“Fair And Balanced”) is “and.”

Hey, guess what? The Taliban’s back! You know, the people we failed to crush thoroughly in Afghanistan before getting bogged down in Iraq? Gee, if only we had someone willing to “finish the job” in office. . .

Speaking of ugly heads being reared (and no, my neighbour is not taking his pants off again): Offshore drilling is back in the news, as Bush urges Congress to lift the bans on it, supported by McCain. It’s almost a step in the right direction, aimed at ending our dependence on foreign oil. But I’m voting for the guy that wants to end our dependence on oil entirely and fund alternative energy sources. We can do better than oil, no matter where it comes from.

And finally, from Defenders Of Wildlife: The powerful Safari Club International has sued the federal government to once again allow wealthy U.S. hunters to kill struggling polar bears in Canada — and bring their carcasses back as trophies.

What the fuck? What the hell did polar bears ever to do to people smart enough to stay out of their way? Who needs a polar bear rug or head on their wall as a fucking hunting trophy? Dear Safari Club, I have a better idea: If you’ll leave the damn bears alone, I promise I will donate my money, time, and biting wit towards supporting legislation that allows you to hunt the most dangerous game of all: other Safari Club members. Think about it: prey that can shoot back. Isn’t that extreme? Isn’t that exciting? They might not make very good throw rugs, but I have it on the authority of some German pen pals that live in Argentina and BuffaloBill_91@yahoo.com that human skin is good for making lampshades, ashtrays, cushion covers, and dresses (but the skin must be carefully treated with lotion first, preferably while still alive). This way, everybody’s happy, and the polar bears are left the fuck alone.

Whew! I’m caught up now, I think.

More vitriol and acerbic humour soon. . .

VS – 6.20.2008

Disclaimer

Posted in ramble with tags on June 14, 2008 by vagabondsaint

It occurred to me that it might be a good idea to have a disclaimer on this site. So, here goes:

DISCLAIMER: The view and opinions expressed in these columns are not and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Vagabond Saint, WordPress, any of its parent companies, any of its affiliated companies, or in fact anyone, anywhere, ever. Reproduction of this column in part or in whole is a crime without the express written consent of ABC, the National Football League, that one guy Ted in Accounting, and at least three (3) unicorns. If you are offended by anything you read in these columns, the correct assumption to make is that nobody cares. Comments with grievous and repeated spelling and grammatical errors (even the “cool” misspellings), “leetspeak,” internet shorthand, or any references to New Kids On The Block will be deleted with extreme prejudice and may result in your home being burned down. When the revolution comes, these columns and this columnist are expressly forbidden from being the first against the wall. Your religion is your religion, not mine. Your religion is your problem, not mine. In fact, you are your problem, not mine. If your Tetris skills are weak, that is not the fault nor the responsibility of this column or the aforementioned organizations. If you don’t know what “aforementioned” means, you really should not be reading this column anyway. It’s got big words. Cats are secretly plotting world domination; you have been warned.

No animals have been harmed in the making of this column.

Nobody you’d miss was harmed in the making of this column.

That should cover it. . I have dislcaimed and you have been warned.

Don’t trust cats.

VS – 6.14.08

While Your Media Was Sleeping. . .

Posted in media failure, politics, war with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 11, 2008 by vagabondsaint

Ah, the Fourth Estate. Envisioned by our founding fathers as a means of keeping tabs on the government, on bringing the truth to the people via the free press should ever the government attempt to lie to and manipulate the American people. . .

Where did it all go wrong?

Oh yeah. . .government deregulation in the 80s allowed corporations to buy up media outlets at a fantastic rate and thereby control their output. That’‘s where it went wrong.

So now our fabulous news media has become, by and large, a corporate shill that seems sometimes designed more to keep the truth away from the American people, thereby depriving them of the information needed to make informed choices about their government and corporations.

Cases in point: these three news stories went almost completely ignored by the media in the past few weeks:

1. Senate Select Committee On Iraq War Intelligence Releases Their Report – This happened June 5, and this report had been eagerly awaited for three years. . .and yet, when it came out, it went almost completely unnoticed. Why? Maybe because the report found that the Bush Administration had manipulated information, suppressed facts, and outright lied to the American people in order to make the case for war. Not only that, but the report also documents “inappropriate” intelligence-gathering activity by the “DoD’s Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, without the knowledge of the Intelligence Community or the State Department.” And exactly how much media coverage did this congressional condemnation of the Bush Administration’s war-hawking receive?

I can’t comment on small presses or even newspapers, as I don’t read every paper in the country. I barely read the local ones. But what I did see of the national coverage amount to this: a 20-second blurb on the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams. Katie Couric of CBS had time for a story on gossip being spread over the internet, but not enough time for this report. The 24-hour news channels? Nothing. CNN (which I did watch) had stories on bird-poop facials and kids on YouTube, but nothing about this report. Fox News. . .well, we all know they’re just conservative mouthpieces, so let’s not even talk about what they had on.

So how did I know this report came out? No, I didn’t watch the NBC news. I watch The Daily Show, which did have a story about the report and another one about the media’s lack of coverage of this important story. Sorry kids, but when I get better, more relevant news from a “fake” news show than I do the “real” news, something is fucked up.

By the way, click here if you want to read the report. And click here to watch that episode of The Daily Show.

2. John McCain’s Callous Treatment of His First WifeI’ve been following McCain’s career since the 2000 campaign and I had no clue he even had a first wife, let alone that he was such a dick to her. And with being the presumptive Presidential candidate for the “Family Values” party, you’d think this would get some media attention.

Well, it did. . .from British news paper The Daily Mail, who interviewed McCain’s first wife, Carol. Read the article here. It is, of course, getting media coverage now, since The Daily Mail broke the story (and thanks to The Huffington Post for bringing it to my attention and the friend who brought The Huffington Post to my attention). But the big question here is this: Do we need to start reading British newspapers to find out what’s really going on in America?

(By the way, John McCain, a veteran and POW, also does not support Senator Jim Webb’s new GI BIll, which would cover the expenses of American soldiers who wish to attend any state-run university in their area. When you consider that John McCain has been in the military and in Congress for most of his life, it’s rather interesting that he would deny others access to the taxpayer-money teat he’s been sucking for so long. Just saying, is all.) (This is also covered on that episode of The Daily Show.)

3. Darcy Burner’s Responsible Plan For Ending The Iraq WarI read about this in local Seattle weekly The Stranger last week. For those that don’t read it, I’ll fill you in:

Darcy Burner, a Democrat, ran unsuccessfully in the 2006 elections for the US House of Representatives seat currently held by Republican Dave Reichert. (If his name sounds familiar to you, you’re like me and you’ve spent way too much time studying criminology; as a King County Sherriff’s Department detective in the 80s, Reichert was head of the task force assigned to finding the Green River Killer, and had even arrested Gary Ridgeway but had to let him go for lack of evidence. In 2002, as King County Sherriff, Reichert finally arrested and convicted Ridgeway, who confessed to more than 40 murders as the Green River Killer.) Darcy is running for the same seat again this year, two years wiser and with a secret weapon: she knows how to end the Iraq war.

Burner worked with national security experts and retired generals to come up with her plan, called A Responsible Plan , for ending the war on Iraq. By all accounts, this plan will work and it’s been endorsed by congressional candidates across the country. But national media attention? None. If it hadn’t been for the story in The Stranger, I wouldn’t have known about it (then again, if it weren’t for The Stranger, I would never have known that there are transvestite/transsexual “escorts” in this city, let alone what “santorum”* means. . .you gotta take the good with the bad, is my point here).

It’s also worth noting that no one actually holding a Congressional seat has endorsed this plan. By and large, the endorsers are Democratic challengers for Republican-held Congressional seats. It is also worth noting that this name appears on the list of endorsees: “Brigadier General John Johns (U.S. Army ret.)specialist in counterinsurgency and nation-building”. If the guy specialized in nation-building, and he endorses this plan, why the hell isn’t the media paying attention? For that matter, why wasn’t he part of post-war planning for Iraq? Or even planning for fighting the insurgency?

Sigh.

I’ve ranted too much, and now I have outrage fatigue.

Major media news outlets, do your fucking job.

VS – 6.11.08

* = you don’t want to know.

Moments Of Brilliance, #1: Stuck On Stupid

Posted in brilliance, politics with tags , , , , , on June 9, 2008 by vagabondsaint

For a few days, Larry Langford was my hero.

Last week, my roommate, who will be henceforth referred to in these pages as NE, brought an item on the news to my attention. (I wonder what it says about both of us that she only watches local news, while I only watch national or international news. . .but that’s something for another column.) The item was about the city of Birmingham, Alabama, which has recently placed all municipal workers on shifts of 10 hours a day, for 4 days a week, instead of the normal 8-hour day 5 days a week, in order to ease the burden of high gas prices. Good idea, right? Yeah, I thought so too. But what made Larry Langford, Mayor of Birmingham, my hero was this quote: “In America, we’ve been stuck on ‘stupid’ for so long that it’s become accepted; it’s become the norm.” (I’m paraphrasing.) And again, I have to agree with Mayor Langford. We in this country (America) have been doing things in stupid ways for so long that it’s accepted and normal and we’ll fight against any changes, even when those changes are beneficial in both personal and global ways (how long has the automotive industry been fighting against regulations to raise fuel efficiency? how long have oil companies sought through lobbying to crush efforts to develop cleaner energy sources?).

So Mayor Langford is quite correct. We need to stop being stuck on stupid and do things better, more intelligently.

One of the these things I think we need to stop is government corruption on all levels, state, federal, city, and county. For example, the case of a county commissioner in Alabama who has been under investigation by the SEC for years for suspicion of accepting $150k in cash and gifts in exchange for giving county bonds to a certain business. Said commissioner was sued by the SEC on April 30 of this year, even though he is no longer a county commissioner and is now. . .

. . .wait for it. . .

. . .is now the Mayor of Birmingham, The Arguably-Honourable Larry Langford!

The hell, Larry? The hell!

Ah well. . .I guess everyone has a moment of brilliance; even a broken clock is right twice a day.

VS – 6.9.08