Wednesday, November 27, 2013

10 Brief Notes on the Gods/Superheroes

1. Nearby you’ll see pictures of Malinda Boothe, taken by her friend Lawrence D. Roberts, whacking a hammer against a resonant, metallic piece of interactive art at the surreal, amazing, sprawling, hilly, 500-acre(!), outdoor Storm King art museum not far from New York City -- and me amidst the vibrations. 

Walking around that place is like awakening in some Valhalla for artists (but it’s slightly farther away than Valhalla, NY).

2. That, and a second day of rain here in New York City, will have to substitute for any profound observations about Thor being back in theatres (though I will say that there must be at least some Marvel execs nervous about having schlocky ex-Troma producer James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy this coming summer be the thing to tee up the “third phase” of Marvel movies, likely climaxing with the third ensemble Avengers film’s final battle with Thanos circa 2018).

3. Alan Moore sure doesn’t care whether the Avengers movies continue to do well, though.  Hasn’t he taken every last one of his marbles and gone all the way home by now?

4. I don’t know what the name of the third ensemble Avengers film (presumably to be directed by Joss Whedon) will be, but I do notice Marvel already owns the URL, surely a good one to have on hand if it all climaxes with deathgod Thanos putting all the magical “Infinity Stones” together (here’s hoping they somehow have space to squeeze in Thanos-fighting hero Adam Warlock if it does).

They should also get the Rolling Stones to do an end credits song for it.  Something about stones and living death, maybe.

5. There’s something unapologetically pagan and pantheon-building about all these sorts of stories -- and I’ll revisit the topic of our pagan brethren (and their gods) soon in an entry about what G.K. Chesterton thought of them.

6. Of course, despite religious people constantly assuming (as they must) that secular folk must be tone-deaf, emotionally deadened, shallow creatures, we science-loving nerds fully understand that for aesthetic purposes, it is sometimes deeply wrong to reduce a story about magic to humdrum material explanations (fiction and reality are two different things, as we are more keenly aware). 

Thus, the midi-chlorians -- the bacteria that cause the Force in the eternally accursed Phantom Menace -- were one of the biggest mistakes in film history, we can all agree.  And I think DC Comics (if anyone I know still cares, and I’m not sure anyone does) made a similar mistake recently.

After two years of heightened fan interest, increased sales, and intersecting plotlines spawned by the 2011 reboot of the DC Comics fictional universe, the core plot -- about the goddess Pandora trying to find a fully-good or fully-evil person able to open her fabled Box again and destroy the literal Seven Sins themselves, thus warding off an incursion from beyond the universe that necessitated the reboot as a defensive measure -- ended (or worse, blurred into the next story) with the revelation that the Sins were just irrelevant alien parasites, the Box was just a teleportation device, the big incursion was just the Crime Syndicate (the evil Justice League from Earth-3), and Pandora’s scheming and manipulation of reality over the past 10,000 years or so was pretty much pointless. 

Oh, well.  On to the next advertising blitz and/or film tie-in.  Best to turn your eyes elsewhere (perhaps to a website called Liberty Island -- but more about that in a few weeks).

7. Yet geek hope springs eternal, and, for instance, I am cautiously optimistic about the impending second Hobbit film, despite the first one being bland, for the simple reason that dividing the fairly short and simple book up into three films, while a mistake, should at least have the positive side effect (I hope) of cramming the entire dragon arc of the story, from our first full sight of him to his death, into this one film. 

That should be a cool traditional story arc even if the first and third films prove lacking.  Go, Smaug!

8. Smaug is a very traditional sort of character, as J.R.R. Tolkien well knew.  More modern depictions of evil tend toward the unsettling, as with “BOB” from Twin Peaks, who oddly enough (or quite fittingly?) is sort of likened to ABC (and now Disney) exec Bob Iger in this neat 1991 news piece about the TV series.  It even has cream corn (pardon me, garmonbozia) and a nice chat with the actors who played “BOB” and the dwarf.

9. I feel as if the closest I get to dealing with creepy entities from a gnostic Black Lodge in real life is being tweeted at by and occasionally interacting face to face with “neo-reactionaries” and “Dark Enlightenment” advocates such as Michael Anissimov.  If you want to know why they’re weird-but-interesting, this recent article (h/t Tushar Saxena and Marilynn Larkin) is a good place to start.  If you find yourself thinking with alarm that it sounds like some people you know (or have dated), you may well be right.

10. Speaking of creepy friends, some lucky person is about to become my 666th Facebook friend.  Surely, we near the end times. 

(Or at least, we near the end of me doing such frequent Facebooking, tweeting, blogging, and e-mailing, I swear -- if I am thus unresponsive to your future Facebook-friend requests, do not be offended, and please assume I’m either offline or can’t tell whether you’re a bot.  All other overdue matters shall soon be attended to.)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

10 Revisionist Media/Politics Notes

1. That story about the anti-gay note on a restaurant receipt?  A total fabrication (like so many leftist martyr tales).  See the evidence and see the unhappy-seeming lesbian waitress confronted about it here.

2. Actor Woody Harrelson’s dad really was a Mob hitman and once claimed to have been involved in the JFK assassination (he looked a lot like one of the “three tramps” arrested in Dallas that day).  But the truly creepy thing is just his resemblance to Woody Harrelson, as in this prison video clip (Woody and Oliver Stone must have discussed all this on the set of Natural Born Killers).

3. John Stossel seems just slightly annoyed with a representative “Bleeding Heart Libertarian” for trying to frame the philosophy in terms of “social justice.”  Can you blame him?  So say we all.

4. Despite the BHL crowd pretending not to have noticed that a left-leaning culture produces bigger government, the UK is rapidly learning to love p.c. totalitarianism.  Just ask the eight-year-olds threatened with permanent “racist” labels by their schools.

5. But, hey, I hate to sound like a radical when I call for all government everywhere to be abolished.  Thank goodness we have a single, government-run system of courts and police, right?  (h/t Matt Pritchard)

Important sidenote on that story: Sade Baderinwa is super-hot and I saw her in Starbucks once.

6. The Duke lacrosse rape accuser was just convicted of murder, several years after she garnered so much support from feminists such as Amanda Marcotte, who called those who doubted the accuser “rape-loving scum.”  (Again: leftist martyr fables have a tendency to turn out to be fabricated.)

9. Not only is Obamacare, like all things government attempts to do from welfare to warfare, incompetent and awful (as conservatives and libertarians warned you it would be), even non-conservative journalist Mark Halperin now confirms it contains “death panels.” 

But go ahead, make more Sarah Palin jokes, half based on things actually said by Tina Fey, if it makes you feel superior.  I’m guessing nothing else does.

10. I used to wonder how members of the left/media establishment slept at night, but I suspect now that I know: with proud, contented smiles on their faces, dreaming of licking the boots of kings.

Monday, November 18, 2013

22 Thoughts for the JFK Death 50th Anniversary (11/22)

1. It’s by now hard to talk about the anniversary of the JFK assassination without talking about the numerous contradictory theories that have sprouted up about how it happened.  In that way, it’s like 9/11, which in addition to inspiring changes in both domestic and foreign policy inspired conspiracy theories -- and that sticker some marijuana activist placed near Ground Zero, seen in my photo nearby (along with a picture of a dentist’s office in Chinatown a few blocks east).

2. I occasionally mention fringe beliefs more out of an interest in how the brain works than out of the expectation the beliefs are true.  I admit I bought a book about Bigfoot during my recent trip to DC to see my fellow Novak Fellows, but it was Graham Roumieu’s amusing illustrated Bigfoot tell-all: Bigfoot: I Not Dead.

I also considered getting an anthology of the great comic strip T-Rex Trying (he is very large but has very small arms).  Rest assured I also bought a copy of Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia, though.  But then, it’s not just stupid, crazy people who think, for instance, that there was a JFK assassination conspiracy.  Only about a quarter of Americans think Oswald acted alone -- and one of the first people to write about his doubts about the Warren Commission account was philosopher Bertrand Russell.

3. Most people have long since taken the agnostic/ironic route on the whole question, though the makers of Robot Chicken may have it all figured out.  

4. One of several reasons I’m a bit more worried about next year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past movie than I expected to be is that they’ve apparently ditched the idea of having it take place one year after the last ensemble X-Men movie (in which the U.S. government nearly killed Magneto and other mutants during 1962’s Cuban Missile Crisis), with Magneto causing the “magic bullet” to kill JFK in 1963. 

Given that the film’s main plotline is taken from a comic book time travel plot that hinged on a political assassination, this would have been a great opportunity to fuse these elements.  Instead, it appears the “past” segments of the film will take place in 1973.  Farewell, JFK?

5. Speaking of time travel, Doctor Who should certainly tip its hat to the assassination at some point (if it hasn’t already), given that the show debuted the day after JFK (and Aldous Huxley and C.S. Lewis) died.

6. The inimitable libertarian/Republican campaign veteran Roger Stone has his own theory about what happened that day, as suggested by his new book, The Man Who Killed Kennedy: The Case Against LBJ (I read that on the way down to DC, so I went straight from that to Bigfoot: I Not Dead).  The big question the book raises for me is: who didn’t want John F. Kennedy dead? 

Without finding a smoking gun, the book distills many existing arguments for an assassination conspiracy but, perhaps more usefully, also recounts the numerous proven ties between the Mob, the CIA, and multiple politicians of the day, including JFK, LBJ, and even Stone’s own ex-boss, Nixon. 

Heck, my own grandmother has been calling the Kennedys “gangsters” for over fifty years, and she is of course entirely correct (she should know -- she married into the family of familiar-looking bootlegger/pirate turned customs enforcer “Roaring Dan” Seavey, after all).  Government, as the saying goes, is organized crime.  There’s even one bonkers theory out there that Gov. Connally shot JFK from within the car.  This ex-Secret Service man who thinks a Klan-sympathizer did it, by contrast, sounds fairly convincing.

Stone’s synergistic theory, by contrast, revolves around the fact that JFK had betrayed more dangerous associates (of all stripes) than you can shake a stick at.  These included not just crazy Marxists but:

•the Mob (who had been longtime associates of JFK’s bootlegger dad, had substantially aided the Kennedy presidential campaign with the help of mutual associate Frank Sinatra, and had helped the Nixon campaign to boot),

•the CIA (who weren’t happy about JFK’s failure to back the Bay of Pigs invasion nor his assassination of a president -- namely, the authoritarian but anti-Communist president of South Vietnam),

•and Lyndon Johnson, a brutal and uncouth sociopath who may well have had a hand in several prior murders and had at least one convicted hitman associate. 

We can’t be sure they all had a hand in his death -- as was suggested in that hilariously complex rant by the Joe Pesci character in Oliver Stone's JFK -- but this much of Pesci’s rant is not crazy: There really were (and in all likelihood still are) huge areas of overlap between the Mob, the CIA, and the publicly-acknowledged activities of politicians.  Those politicians also spend a great deal of their time pressuring businessmen and other politicians into providing them with money, women, and other favors.  These are not people we should be surprised to find involved in the occasional assassination, though the public, for its own emotional wellbeing, likes to keep treating such revelations as aberrations instead of the main stuff of real-world politics.  That naivete may be dangerous. 

But partisan that he is, Stone seems to have different standards of evidence for the politicians he likes and the ones he doesn’t.  As with most conspiracy theories, most of the book is guilt-by-association (and the ties are undeniably interesting).  Yet despite Nixon being described as literally partying with the other purported members of the conspiracy -- and even though two of the mysterious “three tramps” photographed near Dealey Plaza look uncannily like Watergate burglars, including E. Howard Hunt, of whom we have audio recordings on his death bed confessing to the crime -- Nixon somehow emerges from the book looking like an innocent, or at least as innocent as a man can be while consorting with Mob fundraisers and dropping numerous joking hints that he didn’t think a lone gunman offed JFK. 

And Nixon really had an election stolen from him by JFK, recall.  I’m not saying he did it -- just that I’d think a pro-LBJ writer could as easily piece together a case for Nixon’s guilt as Stone has for LBJ’s.  Hell, maybe everyone was in on it.  (Have you seen that video of the elder Bush laughing during Nixon’s funeral while mentioning the lone gunman who shot JFK?)

7. People who think Oswald was in no way tied to any conspiracy must still answer two questions (though the answers could well prove mundane): Why did mobster Jack Ruby want Oswald dead?  Did Ruby have reason to think he’d get away with it -- or be pardoned?  Keep thinking, America.  Like three-fourths of you, I’m not confident we’ve gotten to the bottom of this one (and Stone’s book is not a bad place to start if you’re wondering what strange other avenues of inquiry still exist on the assassination). 

8. Again, I can’t think of any conspiracy or paranormal claims I actually believe – but purely as an epistemological and psychological matter, it’s worth reminding ourselves once in a while that the conspiracy theorists sometimes have good reason to think they’re the sane ones.

9. One upshot of this is that if any Pauls get elected president and (in all likelihood) embarrass libertarians everywhere by alluding to strange or racist conspiracy theories, they will be (as Jesse Walker’s recent book argues) perfectly in keeping with American political tradition.  There are worse things than conspiracy theorists. 

10. I am eternally grateful to Nick Gillespie for recommending Chris Elliott’s comedic FDR: A One-Man Show from the 1980s, which among other deliberate deviations from known history, makes a baffling, surreal passing reference to FDR being assassinated by Truman. 

11. A question on the minds of some conspiracy theorists today, though, is whether Matrix sequels and Man of Steel actor Harry Lennix trained Obama to seem more “presidential” -- by mimicking Lennix.  My theatre connections say: probably (and it’s amusing now to watch Lennix interviewed and hear how much he sounds like Obama).  More disturbingly for the conspiracy theorists, it’s not the first time we’ve heard stories hinting at Obama being groomed by powerful handlers far in advance of his election. 

But in the end, none of that matters: they’re politicians.  They’re all evil.  Let us turn away from conspiracy theories, then, and toward other political figures.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Lou Reed and Death (and Laurie Anderson and Neil Gaiman)

As I type this, musician Laurie Anderson and comics writer Neil Gaiman are scheduled to be in conversation onstage at the Rubin Museum here in NYC.  Coincidentally, someone decided to mark her husband Lou Reed’s recent passing by depicting him with Gaiman’s goth-girl version of Death (as noted by the site ComicBookResources).

If you (a bit perfunctorily) fused other alternative rockers with X-Men characters, though, you’d have this array, including Debbie Harry as Phoenix.

And speaking of fusing comics characters, if, as rumors suggest, DC Comics is contemplating doing something like killing Nightwing (Dick Grayson) and resurrecting him as a zombie-like Talon warrior of the Court of Owls, maybe they should give him the combo name Nite Owl, like the Watchmen character, just to give Alan Moore another rage seizure. 

But on a more important note: I will update this entry when my second article on Reed’s passing -- for a publication in India this time -- is online. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Puritanical and Anti-Puritanical Folk Should Join Us Tonight

Just a reminder: tonight (Mon., Nov. 11, 8pm) at Muchmore’s (2 Havemeyer St. in Williamsburg), I moderate a discussion about who the worst modern puritans are, Christians, Muslims, or nanny-staters (as argued by Matt Stillman, Gerard Perry, and Jim Lesczynski, respectively).

So whether you’re, say, the sort of person who agrees with Ender’s Game author Orson Scott Card that gays should not be able to marry -- or, say, the kind of person who thinks it’s an outrage that anyone would go see the Ender’s Game movie -- there is a space for you on one of the comfy sofas at tonight’s Dionysium gathering. 

And Muchmore’s has beer. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

11+5 Thoughts for Guy Fawkes Day (11/5)

1. I’ll “remember, remember” that today, the anniversary of Guy Fawkes’ attempt to blow up Parliament, has become a day beloved by anarchists -- but just for the heck of it, I’ll also vote.  In particular, I must cast at least a protest vote against the apparently unstoppable self-proclaimed social democrat and liberation theology admirer BILL DE BLASIO, the de facto ex-Sandinista all but certain to be NYC’s next mayor, almost as if 1989 never happened.

But, hey, 100 million dead at Communism’s hands in the twentieth century isn’t just a lesson that de Blasio failed to absorb back then -- it’s a lesson that the Catholic Church, which played an important role in Communism’s collapse, still doesn’t understand today.  All signs point to the Church being on the verge, under its quirky new Pope, of planning an explicit (pseudo-)moral onslaught against global finance capitalism, as if it weren’t bad enough that capitalism is already opposed by such secular forces as government and, well, half of the finance capitalists themselves.

Also: I think my Proposition votes must be: yes on 1, no on 2 and 3, yes on 4, no on 5, yes on 6.  Ideally, of course, there would no government and thus no voting at all.  Consider today’s voting more of an intellectual exercise than an endorsement of an incoherent concept like “self-governance.”

2. It’s sad that de Blasio’s major-party opponent Joe Lhota will go down to defeat not just as some fascist apparatchik but (broadly speaking) as a “socially liberal, fiscally conservative” Republican of the sort one might expect to fare well if there were a snowball’s chance in hell of this town ever electing Republicans again.

I’m also pleased to see him criticizing Harry Belafonte (for likening the Koch Brothers to the KKK), though this will probably end up being spun by the victors as evidence that Lhota is not as inclusive as de Blasio’s half-black family or some other such nonsense. 

3. One company fleeing NYC (for Burbank, CA) is DC Comics, likely taking my pal Scott Nybakken and many others westward in the process.  DC are also the creators of those V for Vendetta Guy Fawkes masks that have become symbols of protest the world over.

4. And remember, the use of those masks as protest symbols was started thanks in part to me, according to this Wikipedia passage.  I admit that unlike the left-anarchists protesting that day, my group got its V masks from a Time Warner publicity staffer, but our political sentiments were real and preceded the masks. 

In any case, I will endeavor to live up to my historic responsibility to keep the libertarian message anarchist, to keep the anarchist message property-rights-respecting, and to keep my fingers crossed that Jaimie Alexander is playing Wonder Woman in the Batman vs. Superman movie in 2015.

5. The property rights point isn’t just bourgeois social conservatism.  It’s the small legal “personal forcefield,” if you will, that enables people in a governmentless society to act freely and plan their lives and trade -- the simplest, most decentralized rule by which to allow social order without forcing the whole world to listen to one big Occupy “general assembly.”

But many people, when they hear the word “anarchy,” picture something more like this new Call of Duty ad featuring Megan Fox.  Not that that isn’t awesome in its own way.

6. Of course, Guy Fawkes isn’t really an accurate representative of anarchy either.  He was a vengeful Catholic radical, not an anarchist.  

Similarly, I can’t help wondering if James Poulos is more Catholic radical than libertarian, when I see his recent piece for Reason implying Banksy (the street vandal for whom a couple other libertarian friends of mine display an excessive fondness) is an embodiment of “divine grace” and as such, I guess, gets to violate property rights in NYC.  I don’t think so.

7. Comedian and all-around wacko Russell Brand might be the biggest threat to Parliament at the moment, since his banal call for socialist revolution and the abolition of profits in a recent video interview seems very popular online -- even (once again) with some confused or reckless libertarians, such as Patri Friedman. 

I sometimes think I’m the only person fighting for your property rights.  It’s bad enough the liberals aren’t for free markets, but neither are the conservatives, and now I’m starting to wonder about some of the libertarians.  For now, I guess the term anarcho-capitalist remains safe, though given the historical connotations of the prefix and the origins of the root in that term, it’s a bit like one of those left-wing efforts to reclaim negative terms, like calling oneself a proud “slut-dyke” or something. 

(An aside on the use of “slut,” by the way: I hope I’m not the only one left who’s sane enough to see that there’s something strange about now living in an era when you are considered an ardent feminist for encouraging underage women to have parades in skimpy outfits in which they call themselves “sluts” but are considered a proponent of “rape culture” if, say, you tell pedestrians “Take care -- there are reports of a rapist in the area!”  Insanity is almost considered a virtue now.  However, I will do my part for gender equality by linking to this purportedly real amusing/disturbing online reminder that men are not the only ones who can turn into crazy stalkers.)

8. Speaking of the ladies, I'll tell you what the Progressives will say when they are finally forced to admit Obamacare is awful, since tactics and the next election are all they really care about: They’ll just say getting Hillary into office is now the key to making it all better. 

9. But before figuring out the future of Obamacare, check out the origins of its flaws, ably and succinctly summed up by Mark Cunningham here.

10. As the establishment increasingly boosts Hillary, they'll also find time to repeatedly attack the one man likely to be able to mount a credible philosophical challenge to her in the 2016 presidential race, Rand Paul.  Already, they are attacking him for things as petty as using Wikipedia summaries to describe movies (I thought that was what it was for) and for repeating findings from thinktanks (who were probably delighted -- that’s pretty much what they’re for). 

You know a politician has quietly had a target symbol painted on him by the establishment when things that no one cares about when others do them are suddenly regarded (as Upworthy might put it) as SHOCKING FAILS(!) when he does them.  I would rather be casting a vote for him today, though of course elections alone are not the solution.

11. More important than shuffling who runs the state is