This week 50 high school students went to the White House to accept a great honor. They've been selected as Presidential Scholars, one from each state of the union, based on their outstanding leadership and academic abilities.
This makes me so damn proud proud proud to be an American. And it gives me such hope for the future.
The off-guard White House staggered into full bullshit mode. "The president enjoyed a visit with the students," said deputy press secretary Dana Perino, "accepted the letter and upon reading it let the student know that the United States does not torture and that we value human rights."
Like most mouthpieces in the Bush Administration, Dana Perino is a lying sack of shit. We know it. These students know it. The world knows it.
If you want proof, check out the Washington Post'sgripping four-part examination of Vice President Dick Cheney's imperial power grab. It documents explicity how the morally corrupt neo-cons decided to abandon the Geneva Conventions and institutionalize the cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners.
And if you can stomach that, read the recent New Yorker profile of the Army general called to investigate these claims in the wake of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal ... and the outright condescension and scorn he faced from then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
This is America. We're better than this.
If you're not pissed off, you're not paying attention.
These 50 teenagers from across the nation are pissed off and paying attention. And I hope each and every one of them runs for elected office someday.
Variety's posted their yearly list of 10 Screenwriters to Watch (also Directors, Comics, and European Actors ... but they are strangely, tellingly silent on the subject of the top European Comic Actor/Writer/Directors).
The Eaton Collection contains more than 110,000 volumes of sci-fi from around the world. Most of it was donated by longtime fan J. Lloyd Eaton, a Bay area physician.
Thanks to some shuttered minds, this treasure was almost lost for good. It took a comparative literature professor, George Slusser, and a university librarian years to secure the collection's funding. Along the way, Slusser was told that he wouldn't receive tenure unless he abandoned his studies of such a silly, lowbrow genre:
All the while, fellow faculty tried to torpedo Slusser's efforts.
professors went after his funding, arguing to library administrators
and English department heads that hoarding collectible James Joyce
titles was more important than any featuring Frodo Baggins, Slusser
Other professors snickered at him in campus hallways. They
even grilled his students during departmental exams: Why not study
something more meaningful like feminism or multiculturalism?
"It was guerrilla warfare," Slusser said.
I'm glad to see genres such as SF and horror taken more seriously in academe. I've written about my experiences here. The fact is that any mode of narrative -- yes, even reality TV and soap operas, he said grudgingly -- can and should be studied for what it illuminates and/or reflects about its audience. I've no doubt that African-American, Gay/Lesbian, and Women's studies were once held in the same contempt by the dusty, musty old guard that lambastes anything they consider unproper.
Slusser's a hero. So are the colleagues and fans who helped him maintain this collection during its darkest days.
Despite the success of superheroes in mainstream culture -- Batman Begins, NBC's Heroes, and even Bryan Singer's sluggish but earnest Superman Returns -- I keep coming back to a regressive but increasingly haunting thought.
Maybe superhero tales just aren't suited for live action.
Superheroes are by definition larger than life. Maybe it's only through comics and animation that their mythic scale can be effectively portrayed. Think about the sharp kinetic lines of Jack Kirby, one of last century's most potent and influential storytellers. His panels absolutely kill on the page. Click to enlarge this vertiginous splash page from Fantastic Four # 7 in 1963:
Now, take the same subject matter, stuff some actors into tights and latex, and what do you get?
As convincing as Batman's new suit or bike or car might be, I often find myself watching people in tights swinging from wires and thinking: Why, that ain't nothin' but a person in tights swingin' on a damn wire. And even when it works, something at the back of my mind sits there fidgeting with mild embarrassment. Because when it's served up with all the clarity of photo-realism, it's kinda-sorta pretty damn silly.
Heroes and villains of narrative should be larger than life. We learned that much from the Greeks. Modern superheroes sprang out of comics and they're also at home in the world of animation. So should they stay there? Is there something about comics and cartoons that makes superheroes more palatable and convincing?
"... I'm sitting in front of the TV with my mouth hanging open. This is a far cry from Superfriends. In the span of a 45-minute superhero cartoon, [producer/writer] Bruce Timm and company have just told me more about society, civilization and justice than I ever learned in a season of Law and Order."
I watched those episodes and he's right. The creative team behind Justice League was freed from the constraints of filming only what's possible with live actors and tailored costumes and special effects. Their imagination (and that of the viewers) was freed to explore the most imaginative worlds and situations with total immersion and verisimilitude.
I'm totally digging this series like a junkie right now. I'd say it even tops that acclaimed Batman animated series from the 90s. It's a superhero saga that for my money is so much more exciting and emotionally involving than any live-action effort.
Now I read that WB is planning a Justice League movie ... live-action. They may try to get Brandon Routh to reprise his Superman. There may or may not be Christian Bale's Batman.
Hey, I wish them luck. I'll be in line to buy a ticket. But even if it's good ... if the costumes work flawlessly and the wires are hidden ... even if the script rocks some Greek-level tragedy that allows us to suspend our disbelief, even if only for two hours ... I'll probably be sitting there wishing the damn thing was animated.
It's not surprising that political commentary doesn't date well. Just ask all the right-wingers who frothed about Bill Clinton's consensual sex with another adult. Their self-righteous condemnations about fornication in the White House seem positively quaint these days, particularly after Newt Gingrich admitted to having an affair during Clinton's impeachment proceedings, and especially after former House Speaker Dennis Hastert tried to cover up Rep. Mark Foley's penchant for hitting on minors.
The Bush Administration has been unusually consistent in its ineptitude, so commentary from two years ago feels just as relevant today. The only difference is that Americans are more aware of the idiocy that's taken our great country into the biggest foreign policy debacle in history. I'm glad so many people have opened their eyes to the corruption of the neo-cons and the vile propaganda spewing forth from Fox News. Sometimes Bush's plummeting poll numbers are the only thing giving me hope that we can, somehow, get this country back on track.
Here's some political commentary from Clarkblog. Any and all comments are welcome.