« December 2004 | Main | February 2005 »

January 31, 2005

On The Inevitable Michael Jackson …

Himself no stranger to the whispered accusation of child molester, Michael Jackson’s father said his son’s travails were because of racism. The elder Mr. Jackson is certainly correct in part, but I believe the dominant force here is freakism.

If you’re going to invite numerous children to live with you in your private villa which you call Neverland, stock the place with exotic animals and the bones of the Elephant Man, dress like you couldn’t control yourself at Sgt. Pepper’s garage sale and transform yourself into a Hannes Bok drawing, some folks are likely to misinterpret your intent.

However, it is certainly your right to invite children to live with you in your private villa, call it Neverland, stock it with exotic animals and the bones of the Elephant Man, dress like you couldn’t control yourself at Sgt. Pepper’s garage sale and transform yourself into a Hannes Bok drawing.

Nobody knows if Mr. Jackson is guilty as charged, outside of Mr. Jackson himself and the child he befriended. He may or may not be a victim and to characterize him as such at this time is pejorative. The prosecutor’s office has had no less than seventeen months – and actually several years – to try Jackson in the public arena knowing full well, as all prosecutors know, that a person cannot defend himself in that court without shifting the burdon of proof from the government to the defense. It is up to the prosecutor to convince a jury of Jackson’s guilt. How can you prove you did not share a bed with a person who was staying at your house? I, for one, do not have a camera focused on my bed 24/7, and even if I did, I know a couple damn good videotape editors.

So why does this case command our attention? Because Michael Jackson was a major pop star who decided to become a freak. That was his choice. Every media star should be counseled on how the media treats stars and how a public personality’s “right” to privacy is severely curtailed.

But I do know one thing. If this trial lasts five months, that’s five months of not having the media inundate us with the Robert Blake trial. Anybody who claims he didn’t kill his wife because he was busy going back for his gun at the time the murder was committed is a whole ‘nother type of freak.

Posted by Mike Gold at 04:15 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

On Déjà vu …

From our friend and frequent commentator Rick Oliver, via Walt Starr:

"United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in South Vietnam's presidential election despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting. According to reports from Saigon, 83 percent of the 5.85 million registered voters cast their ballots yesterday. Many of them risked reprisals threatened by the Vietcong. A successful election has long been seen as the keystone in President Johnson's policy of encouraging the growth of constitutional processes in South Vietnam."

- Peter Grose, in a page 2 New York Times article titled 'U.S. Encouraged by Vietnam Vote,' September 4, 1967.

Posted by Mike Gold at 02:17 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

January 23, 2005

On The Freedom Family™ …

If memory serves, back around the Summer of Love in 1967 a large and growing group of disgusting long-haired dope-smoking dancing free-sex advocating faggot commie pinkos (I get nostalgic just typing the phrase) decided to own up to the Red Right’s nightmare. We started calling ourselves “freaks.” Just like they said we were.

It was a great lesson. It’s a shame we didn’t learn from it.

More than a decade ago, the Red Right co-opted the phrase “family.” They abandoned the name “Moral Majority.” They were neither, but I doubt that influenced their strategy. No longer did the word “family” refer to “A fundamental social group in society typically consisting of one or two parents and their children; Two or more people who share goals and values, have long-term commitments to one another, and reside usually in the same dwelling place; All the members of a household under one roof; A group of persons sharing common ancestry.*”

According to the Red Right, the word family now means “a Christian mother plus a Christian father, plus one or more Christian children, all living under the same roof in a right-wing Christian environment – no leftist philosophies, no single-parent families, no bastard children, no titillating entertainment, and certainly no gay adoption. If your family didn’t follow these edicts, you weren’t a family, you didn’t have family values, you really have no values at all, and therefore you are a scourge on society. You are immoral, and you probably should be smitten. Certainly if you’re homosexual.

It’s hard to find a more hate-filled effort without lighting the ovens.

Normal people – not just the Blue Left, but, those sane folks who don’t immolate self-righteous firebrands – sat back and let that happen. The Blue Left was way too busy defining its own politically correct language (my favorite is the way they shoved the term “Native American” down Indians’ throats, as if Amerigo Vespucci was some sort of boon to this land’s original occupants). Actually, they should have known better.

Now the Red Right has done it again. Now we’ve lost the word “freedom.”

It is President Li’l Bastard who has assumed the cloak of freedom fighter. He and his Red Right are pro-freedom, and anybody who is opposed to their work is therefore anti-freedom. At worst, a traitor. At best, a freak. Freedom now means pro-Earth rape, anti-Moslem, pro-concentration camp, pro-torture, pro-big oil, pro-big money, pro-Corporation Uber Alles.

It’s a shame. Family was a damn fine word. Freedom was a damn fine word. Now, both are bad jokes. And, of course, some Red Right asshole is going to say “well, this man just said freedom and family are bad jokes; he is a monster.”

No, I am not. I am their worst enemy. Join me.

*Definition from Dictionary.com, which I recommend, if that means anything.

Posted by Mike Gold at 01:37 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

January 18, 2005

On Boycotts …

A group of well-intentioned activists have called for a nationwide economic boycott to “get a message to the Bush administration” on the day of the li’l bastard’s re-coronation. Interesting idea; I feel their pain.

The problem is where the boom falls. Who is most affected by such a boycott? The owners of the big box stores and chains? No, people who shop at Wal*Mart today (and I am not among them) will shop there tomorrow. If they skip a day, fine. The product will still move. It’s like a snow storm or flood – temporary delays are part of the cost of doing business.

By the time the cost of temporarily frozen sales fly back up the chain, the owners will need to make only minor mid-course adjustments. This will come in the form of layoffs. The grunts at the bottom will be looking for a job. The bastards making a couple million a year won’t miss a single check.

But the grunts aren’t the ones who will get hurt the most. The small business owner who is being squeezed to death by Wal*Mart, Home Despot, and Albertsons (who operate their food stores under a wide, wide variety of regional names), is living from day to day. And, therefore, so are his or her employees.

So when it comes to doing business on Coronation Day, I’ll be there continuing to back the small stores whenever possible. Boycott Wal*Mart; fine. Employees who get laid off will do better on welfare anyway, at least for their 20 months. But don’t smash the people who are selling their wares off the main drag. They need the business.

By the way, successful boycotts don’t “send a message.” Successful boycotts smash governments – by they in the Southern United States or in South Africa. And they take a hell of a lot of support, some of it from our federal government, and they take a hell of a long time.

Posted by Mike Gold at 01:53 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

January 12, 2005

On Ted Rall …

I like Ted Rall. A lot. I like his weekly column, I like his three-times-a-week editorial cartoons (both to be found at http://www.tedrall.com/), and I like him personally. Not that we hang out or he’d recognize me if I sat on his face; we’ve chatted at MoCCA and such places on a couple occasions.

Now, this is where people usually say, “but…” Well, there’s no but. I don’t agree with him all the time (I don’t agree with me all the time), but I certainly respect his sheer naked courage in expressing his point of view. For people who think that sometimes I get a little extreme, well, think about this: I look up to Ted Rall. Often from afar, as I’m concerned that some right wing lunatic full of the fear of his or her god will Larry Flynt him. And that’s a genuine concern.

All this is an introduction and a plug. His column this week points out one of those all-too-obvious observations that only seem all-too-obvious after somebody like Rall points it out. Mr. Rall sez:

As Congress prepared to rubberstamp the nomination of torture aficionado Alberto Gonzales as the nation's chief prosecutor, the Washington Post broke news that would have torn a saner nation apart. The Bush Administration, the paper reported January 2, is no longer planning to keep hundreds of Muslim prisoners currently rotting away in U.S. concentration camps at Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib and Bagram merely "indefinitely." The Defense Department and CIA are now planning "a more permanent approach for potentially lifetime detentions" for these innocents.

We're locking them up forever. Without due process.

I’d like to direct your attention to a single phrase: U.S. concentration camps at Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib and Bagram. Republicans and liberals hate it when you compare Bush to Hitler. They feel that’s inappropriate, and they’ve got a point. Hitler was lawfully elected by a majority of the voters. And Bush’s body count is higher than Hitler’s was when he was only four years in office. And Rove would stop Goebbels cold in shock and awe … and professional admiration. But, to be fair, George has the advantage of a stronger economy and better technology.

If you look at what’s going on at Guantánamo and you look at the laws Bush has rammed through an all-too-willing Congress and you look at his two Attorneys General, it’s hard for a rational person to deny it: these are concentration camps. Not in the “gas all the Jews, homosexuals, and Gypsies” sense, but certainly in the textbook sense.

Well, at least not “gas all the Jews and Gypsies.”

Posted by Mike Gold at 05:13 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

January 07, 2005

On Fat ...

According to Men's Fitness magazine, my blessed Chicago remains in fifth place in the fattest cities in America rankings. Fifth this year, fifth last year. The Top 10 Fattest Cities in the United States are:

1. Houston (up from #2)
2. Philadelphia (up from #7; nice going!)
3. Detroit (down from #1)
4. Memphis (up from #20!!!)
5. Chicago (toddling in place)
6. Dallas (down from #3)
7. New Orleans (up from #22)
8. New York (up from #21)
9. Las Vegas (up from #16)
10. San Antonio (down from #4)

What does this tell us, outside of the possibility that a lot of people have been moving from Dallas and San Antonio to Houston?

For one thing, mere food consumption isn’t sufficient for success. Men’s Fitness looks at a number of factors such as fast food restaurants per capita, TV watching, air quality, and the number of parks. I can’t decide if “parks” was pro-fat or pro-fitness. Did they consider the number of needles, crack bottles and used condoms found in these parks? All three mitigate against fat production, and as a loyal Chicagoan I resent the possibility that our comparatively low fat ranking might be because we’ve got fewer crackheads and better zoning laws.

“Fattest” is fattest, period. Generations of Chicagoans have been perfecting the Italian Beef sandwich, mastering the hand-cut French Fry, and loading the appropriate tonnage onto our hot dogs. The fattest cities should be ranked – and I mean this literally – by their number of fat folks.

To this respect, what the hell have the folks in Memphis been eating? The place has (arguably) the best ribs in the galaxy. What did they add to their diet to move up 16 places?

One thing more. Let’s not confuse “fattest” with “least healthy.” All of the Top 10 fittest cities were western towns – as a Midwesterner, I perceive Colorado as “the west” – and Seattle ranked #1. Seattle, the caffeine capital of the world.

I can’t speak for Houston, but if you were to creep up behind, say, 50 Chicagoans and shouted “boo!” you’d hardly induce a single myocardial infarction. Try the same stunt on 50 typical coffee junkies in Seattle and you’d have enough bodies to turn the Green River Killer emerald with envy.

How do I know this? Hey, I don’t question what you do in your spare time.

Posted by Mike Gold at 04:33 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

January 06, 2005

On Tucker ...

CNN has declined to renew Tucker Carlson's contract.

Why do I feel this is a major victory for Delta House?

Posted by Mike Gold at 11:28 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

January 04, 2005

On Will Eisner …

Every art form has its masters – people generally perceived as the very best in the field. Ray Charles, Pete Townshend, Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, Nelson Algren, Harlan Ellison … I’m sure you have your own list of the greats.

The comic art form has its masters as well; people who have brought much-desired legitimacy to a field that, in the United States, had been perceived as disposable fodder for children and the dull-witted. The newspaper comic strip had the first recognized masters: Al Capp, Milton Caniff, Alex Raymond. Such recognition came to comic books more slowly. When Master of the Sense of Wonder Jack Kirby died, at least one of the teevee nets covered it in their evening newscast – I think it was ABC, designating Jack their person of the week. More recently, graphic novels have been getting reviewed in places like Time Magazine, the New York Times, and other “prestigious” publications.

With one foot in the strips and the other in books, one man towered above all others. Will Eisner, the master of the genuine graphic novel, the man who used the graphic storytelling form to show us the passion in the tenements and the humanity in humans. Will brought depth and soul into his work and had been doing so for 65 years (his final graphic novel "The Plot: The Secret Story of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” will be published by W.W. Norton & Company this May). He imbued his characters with passions so sweet that you could identify with their shortcomings, you could despair for the man who cheated on his wife while at the same time understanding why that wife had to throw her husband out – to her own detriment.

Nobody wins in life – that’s the Noir Coda – but to Will’s eyes humanity suffered no shortage of love and noble intention.

I was privileged to know Will for more than 25 years. I interviewed him many times on stage at various conventions, I conspired with him during the founding days of the modern independent comics movement (“Did you know DC was going to start taking direct sales returns?” Will said, sadly, back in the days he didn’t trust DC because of their “mob” ownership), I later worked with him when I was editing at DC (turns out they didn’t start taking direct sales returns after all). But my favorite story about Will Eisner doesn’t involve Will at all. It involves my father.

Back in the late 1970s, Will was supposed to show up at the Chicago Comicon as our guest of honor. He didn’t make it that year, having fallen off a ladder earlier that week (Will rescheduled for the following year). But when the show started, many attendees didn’t know it yet. My father came over to the convention to drop something off for me, and as we were chatting a couple fans came up and asked Dad for his autograph. We both were taken aback, until the fans said “… Mister Eisner.”

And I looked at my father with eyes anew. I love my father, but being a comics fan of the first order, the mere fact that he was confused with Will Eisner made him all the more impressive to me. I told Dad he was just confused with the greatest master of the comic art form. He thought that was pretty cool; all the moreso when I laid a copy of Contract With God on him. And, yes, my father does look like Will Eisner. He’s a year older.

Will died last night of complications following heart surgery, at the age of 87. We’ll see other comics masters, and someday maybe even better ones (I ain’t betting on that, though). But Will was the guy who gave comics its heart and soul.

Will Eisner didn’t turn the comic book into an art form. He turned it into literature.

Folks unfamiliar with Will’s work are urged to check out the obit written by the Chicago Tribune’s Robert K. Elder at http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/chi-050104willeisner.story Robert tells me he’ll be doing a feature story about Will in this coming Friday’s edition.

Posted by Mike Gold at 05:13 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

On Bugs ...

About an hour and a half after Linda, Adriane and I all came down with the flu, an announcement was made saying, basically, the vaccine shortage has been dealt with and we've got so much of this stuff we're probably going to have to dump some of it.

Great. Thanks, assholes.

Let’s start a panic, overreact to its solution, make certain the people who need the services don’t get it, and then stick the taxpayers with the tab. You know, I’m beginning to think those lawyer commercials (“if you’ve got this disease or have already died from it, call now!”) aren’t so obnoxious after all.

Except for the goony guy who looks like his mother was an owl. Sorry, dude, but you should be suing somebody.

Posted by Mike Gold at 02:43 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack