SHIELD, HYDRA And Evil

Okay while I understand it’s just comic book stories and there has to be a definitive good vs. evil story line, I have to admit I was a little disappointed by the HYDRA story line in the last episode of Agents of SHIELD. I think it would have been much more interesting and subversive if it was discovered that SHIELD had been slowly taken over by HYDRA operatives or people who supported the fascist goals that HYDRA stood for.

Seriously, in the real world, look at the CIA, who have done things that many of us would consider to be pure evil: hell, I’d say that most of our troubles in the Middle East and in Central America and even internally have been caused by the CIA. They use many of the same methods as the Soviet KGB or the Schutzstaffel of the Nazis, what do you think would happen if they came right out and started calling themselves that? Better to keep the original name and pretend what you’re doing is for the good of the nation.

I was making a point of this elsewhere, talking about the old Brotherhood of Evil Mutants: why would anyone intentionally join something that openly proclaimed itself to be evil? Magneto certainly thinks (and he makes a good point) his cause is a good one, protecting his people from persecution. The people who flew the planes into the World Trade Center didn’t think of themselves as evil, they had a holy cause. I’m sure the SS and the KGB never saw themselves that way, even if they were just enjoying being brutal for the sake of being brutal, they thought what they were doing was perfectly reasonable. The slave-owners of the Confederacy didn’t think they were evil, they believed (and many still do) that they had the favor of God.

So anyway now it appears that we will have a kind of Civil War between SHIELD and HYDRA. But the HYDRA operatives inside SHIELD severely hurt their cause by coming out into the open like that, what purpose did they think they were serving? We know SHIELD is eventually going to win out, because it’s still a comic book story even if it is a Joss Whedon thing, but I have to say I think it could have been handled better.

Bristle While You Work

I’ve spent pretty much all my working life, those times when I’ve actually had a job anyway, working in places where music is played constantly throughout the workday, and I know how emotional people get about what they like to listen to when they work. I knpw places where fistfights have broken out over what kind of music is played, and one place where they had to come to an agreement where they listen to one kind of music on certain days and another on a dfferent day. Personally I like a little peace and quiet when I work, music is a distraction for me when it’s music I like, and an annoyance when it’s music I don’t like. I despise any top 40 radio station of any genre, because they tend to play the same music over and over again, and that’s irritating to me when it’s music I like. I still remember calling up the DJ at a “classic rock” radio station in Atlanta and telling her “I happen to know for a fact that the Beatles sang more than six songs”. I gave up listening to radio by choice around 1975, tired of loud commercials and idiotic DJ’s talking over the music.

I do like listening to music, obviously: at last count I had over 24,000 songs, more than 100 GB of assorted music in my music directory, running the gamut from punk rock to 40′s ballads, showtunes, music from movies and TV, anime soundtracks, comedy and other “novelty” songs, alternative, you name it, there’s a song or two in every genre that I’ll admit to liking. And when I listen to my music, I really tend to get into it: I don’t read or write or do anything else. Looks kinda silly really, though Cathy didn’t think so. But I don’t listen all the time. Like I said, I prefer a little peace and quiet. That’s not even an age thing, I’ve been like that as far back as I remember.

Now lately I have been forced to work at a lot of low-wage, low-skill jobs that are populated mostly by black people, which is fine, because I get along with black people pretty well: most of them, at least the ones I work with, are like me, in the lower middle class and we have a lot in common, and I’m pretty comfortable around them, more comfortable than I would be around, say, hipsters. But the one thing that really annoys me about working with black people is that they never want to listen to anything but hip hop, they want to listen to it loud, and they take offense when anyone suggests they change it or make them lower the volume of it or if people have the nerve to tell them what a piece of shit most hip hop music is, which of course it is. That’s not an issue of debate with me, it’s just horrible, horrible music that is pretty much the lowest common denominator, and the fact that it’s been the dominant form of music for the last almost thirty years means nothing to me.

And you know it would be OK if they listen to rap music as part of a variety of music, like I said, even I like one or two songs in every genre. Even if it was a race thing and they wanted to listen to nothing but music by black performers, that would be great, because you know, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Chuck Berry, Gladys Knight, Nat King Cole, Diana Ross, Billy Preston, Dionne Warwick, Michael Jackson, I mean seriously, that’s some of the best music ever made. But they don’t do that. It’s the same thing over and over, day in and day out, hour after hour of mind-numbing, brain cell killing garbage. And most of it is the absolute worst kind: motherfucker this and nigger that and bitch and ho and “look at the money I got”, I mean how do people do that to themselves?

If there’s a genre of music I like more than any other, it would be what we now call “classic rock”. The Beatles first and foremost of course, but even within that genre the music is very diverse: from Pink Floyd and ELO to The Sex Pistols and Nirvana, lighter stuff like Paul Simon, great voices like Linda Ronstadt and Freddie Mercury, there’s a ton of variety even within the classic rock genre.

But if I were to go in to work with seven hours (a normal shift) of self-picked programming of all the kinds of music I like, within fifteen minutes my co-workers, who don’t seem to understand why I make such a big deal over it, would be looking for an excuse to leave, or screaming bloody murder to turn it off. Yet meanwhile I am expected to “be considerate” and just accept the fact that this is what we’re playing so fuck you. And that’s what really pisses me off. There’s no point in trying to force them to change it, or even turn the volume down, that’s what they want to hear and nothing else. I’ve told them to their faces that they ought to be ashamed of themselves for listening to it, I think it deadens their minds and it speaks volumes about their character, or lack thereof, that they demand that everyone else just go along with it. It’s the kind of thing that, if I didn’t so desperately need the work, I would leave what is an otherwise very good job rather than be subjected to what amounts to me as pure torture. Don’t tell me to “tune it out”, that’s hard to do when the music is so loud you almost have to yell to be heard over it.

Anyway, that’s my rant.

On Editors And Censorship

“Creative people listen to [editors] because [they] make that a condition of employment. [Editors] are worse than useless when it comes to creativity. [They] are intrusive.”
-Dave Sim

I think Mr. Sim is equating editors with censors here, and in that vein I disagree. Even the best writers can get caught up in their own work and not see how it appears to others. A good editor, who has the respect of the writer, can actually improve on a work with subtle changes. And all due respect to Mr. Sim, whose work I admire, someone could have told him to tone down the rants or at least publish them separately, as I feel his personal issues became far too much of the Cerebus story.

Even censorship can be a positive thing: after all, the Smothers Brothers thrived on pushing the edge, it was CBS that went overboard by canceling them. Two of Seinfeld‘s classic episodes became that way because they had to find creative ways to get around censorship: how funny would The Contest have been if they were free to just say “masturbation”? Or Not that there’s anything wrong with that?

I agree with Mr. Moore (from the article) that working for a big corporation like Marvel or DC can really stunt the creative process, and he has every right to disassociate himself with them (and kudos to him for continuing to work even when the situation changed, as he pointed out, he had a responsibility to others who were working), and of course Sim, to paraphrase one of his own characters, did more than just pick a side and start swinging, he started his own side.

I made a point in an earlier post that I don’t submit any of my work for critique: I’m confident enough in my own writing style and skill that I don’t feel the need for that kind of validation, if a company wants to perform my play, that’s recognition enough for me.  And I can also edit my own work, and a harsh editor I can be: I’ve had to remove some very good lines because they don’t fit into the greater work that I’m doing, and I will rewrite whole scenes if I don’t like the tone, even if they’re important to the story.

But if someone makes a very constructive comment, I listen, and sometimes I wish I had someone working with me who could show me a new angle or way of thinking.  I still have the final say, as I think all artists should, but I won’t discount any constructive comment out of hand.

Scams

Setting:

FOX restaurant, somewhere in a red state

Mr FOXwatcher
Morning

FOXbot
Morning

Mr FOXwatcher
What have you got, then?

FOXbot
Well, there’s Muslim and Benghazi; Muslim Kenya and Benghazi; Muslim and scams; Muslim, Benghazi and scams; Muslim, Benghazi, Kenya and scams; scams, Benghazi, Kenya and scams; scams, Muslim, scams, scams, Benghazi and scams; scams, scams, scams, Muslim and scams; scams, scams, scams, scams, scams, scams, socialism, scams, scams, scams and scams; or a series of discussions featuring four conservatives to every liberal moderated by someone who hasn’t had a clue about anything that’s ever happened since 1987 and scams.

Mrs FOXwatcher
Have you got anything without scams in it?

FOXbot
Well, there’s scams Muslim Kenya and scams, that’s not got much scams in it.

Mrs FOXwatcher
I don’t want any scams!

Mr FOXwatcher
Why can’t she have Muslim, Benghazi, scams and Kenya?

Mrs FOXwatcher
That’s got scams in it!

Mr FOXwatcher
Not as much as scams, Muslim, Kenya and scams.

Mrs FOXwatcher
Look, could I have Muslim, Benghazi, scams and Kenya without the scams?

FOXbot
Uuuuuuggggh!

Mrs FOXwatcher
What d’you mean, uuugggh? I don’t like scams!

Vikings
(singing) Scams, scams, scams, scams, scams … scams, scams, scams, scams … lovely scams, wonderful scams …

FOXbot
Shut up. Shut up! Shut up! You can’t have Muslim, Benghazi, scams and Kenya without the scams.

Mrs FOXwatcher
Why not?

FOXbot
No, it wouldn’t be Muslim, Benghazi, scams and Kenya, would it?

Mrs FOXwatcher
I don’t like scams!

Mr FOXwatcher
Don’t make a fuss, dear. I’ll have your scams. I love ‘em. I’m having scams, scams, scams, scams, scams socialism, scams, scams and scams.

FOXbot
Socialism is off.

Mr FOXwatcher
Well can I have scams instead?

FOXbot
You mean scams, scams, scams, scams, scams, scams, scams, scams, scams, scams?

Mr FOXwatcher
Yes.

FOXbot
Arrggh!

And so on and so on and so on…

RIP Bartcop

Terry Coppage, known to many of us as “Bartcop“, was one of the original bloggers, doing it before the term was even coined. He was a boisterous, unapologetic supporter of liberal causes and an opponent of everything the right wing has done to us over the years. Sadly, since the professional left has no conception of the idea that you need to support people like Bart, he did most of his work while struggling to keep his rent and bills paid, but it never lessened his enthusiasm for what he did, nor ruined his love of life, particularly drinking Chinaco and playing poker.

The original title of his blog was “Rush Limbaugh Lying Nazi Whore”, so in that vein let me present this, this song was obviously done many years ago (you can tell by the references), but it was very cleverly put together, as that’s really Rush’s voice, carefully edited. The music video was done much later.

An excerpt from Bartcop from way back in 1996 is perhaps the best example of how he dealt with issues of the day:

I have a satellite dish. I caught some audio of Dole after the show. The caterer brought some food in. “Bob Dole wants a diet Coke,” he said. “Bob Dole wants a Hot Dog!”

Someone, maybe a kid serving the food, asked Dole if he wanted mustard on his Hot Dog.

Bob Dole said: “Well, I feel that’s it’s my view that mustard is certainly one of the options we’re looking at. We’re looking at a number of options, actually. There’s lot of condiments… ketchup, for instance. Some like it, some don’t….

That’s not up to the federal government to decide. Those decisions are best made locally …the states. Some people talk about relish, relish… is…

Cheese! Lot of cheese lovers in America….. Perhaps we’ll go with mustard, but we haven’t made a final determination on that, haven’t decided… It might come down to a situation where we have some ketchup and some mustard…we’ll know soon…”

Mrs. Dole interrupted and said:

“Bob Dole has always supported mustard on Hot Dogs. Bob Dole has been, and continues to be pro-mustard. Mustard has a friend in Bob Dole.”

Rest In Peace, Terry, you are already missed.

Here are some other links remembering Bart

Raw Story

Democratic Underground

Crooks & Liars

Smirking Chimp

And Another Thing

America And The Lessons Of The 21st Century

I think that when the USSR finally fell, as it would have eventually regardless of what we did, IMO, the US felt vindicated, being the only remaining “superpower”, but not so much for reasons of democracy and self-rule, but for reasons of economics: Capitalism had crushed Communism. But Capitalism, left to itself, can also crush democratic self-rule, because the nature of unregulated capitalism is for wealth to flow upwards.

But the neoconservatives, the ones who foisted Afghanistan and Iraq on us, never understood how big a role “soft power” played in defeating Communism. They assume American military might alone did it, but they are wrong, just as the USSR was wrong in thinking they could use military force to get their way.

What the USSR couldn’t give people is a sense of fun, being happy for the sake of being happy. There could never be a Beatles in Russia because the State was entirely preoccupied with preserving its own power above all else, and as we saw, once enough people got fed up with the whole thing, the system fell apart. Not that what replaced it is much better.

Capitalism has the same problem, which by the way is why Liberalism, Socialism and Communism came into being in the first place. “Work ’till you die” for the benefit of a very few wealthy people is no foundation on which to build a society. We learned this lesson before, it seems it’s one we will have to keep learning over and over again.

Which is why, of course, I’m a liberal. I love the good things that capitalism brings us, I love the variety of products, I love the idea of being part of a system that not only protects my political rights, but makes those rights meaningful by giving me the economic freedom to make my own choices. But left to itself, capitalism will strip those freedoms away bit by bit so that a few people, whose only skill is the acquisition and retention of wealth, can dominate us both politically and economically. What’s happening in West Virginia now is a perfect example of that, a state government colluding with a private company that is casually poisoning its own citizens for the sake of profits, and sadly, they still have the support of many of those citizens who have been made to believe that economic freedom is the only freedom that exists, and that money is the only meaningful measurement of success. Propaganda, unfortunately, works all too well. Maybe that’s changing, we’ll see.

Peasantry

The human body needs air, food and water to live. Take any one of those out of the equation………..and you die. It’s that simple.

So it’s a wonder to me that states allow corporations to poison our lands, poison our air or poison our fresh water supply, showing a complete disregard for human life, all in the name of profit.

Corporate industrial pollution is a crime against humanity. For states to allow it is suicide.

-Brandon From Brooklyn

No no no, you’re forgetting the Second Principle of conservative thought: Money and Power are the only things that are real. Air, water, food, clothing and shelter, these are only things you obtain with that money and power.

Never mind anything else, that’s the mindset. It’s always about the acquisition and retention of wealth and power, period. The First Principle of conservative thought is justification: Some People Are Better Than Others. The Second Principle is application, the third, The World Ends When You Die is arrogance: a disdain for any future above and beyond your lifetime. Because as long as you have what you have, what happens after you die is of no concern, apart from whatever legacy you hope to leave behind.

Sadly, most of the people being poisoned in the name of the Second Principle continue to hurt only themselves by supporting these policies and politicians under the false impression that the 1% earned what they have and the rest deserve their fate. Maybe some honestly believe that if they work hard enough they too can be one of the 1%, but at this point that has to just be a delusion, as it should be very clear by now that that just isn’t going to happen.

That’s the difference between a medieval agrarian mindset and an modern industrial mindset. A peasant can never be a King, but a free citizen can have a good life without being either. It’s harder work, being a free citizen, but it’s definitely more worth it.

Our Stupid Minds!

“A friend once asked if it was true that no politician ever failed by underestimating the intelligence of the peasants and the livestock. I told him we would never know, because their intelligence was something that was impossible to underestimate.”

-President Weishaupt, from Cerebus The Aardvark

I read about a lot of people who are surprised and amazed when they hear some of the things said by Republican politicians these days. While obviously there are serious reasons that one political party will oppose another, there’s a difference between an honest disagreement and an opposition that’s based on no facts whatsoever. Like the idea that President Obama was born in Kenya, or that he’s a Muslim: that both of those statements are undeniably false means nothing: they validate the hatred of the President and that’s all that matters. As Im so fond of saying, discussing politics with some of these people is like discussing baseball with someone who is absolutely and unwaveringly certain that Babe Ruth played shortstop for the Chicago Cubs in the nineteen-fifties, it’s that far removed from reality. And it really becomes pointless to even try to talk to them.

My usual answer when I read about these comments from politicians is that if you think they’re idiots, you have yet to meet their constituents. I saw a video of a town hall meeting where one lady was saying with absolute certainty that the President was bringing Muslim terrorists into the country as pilots, which was a new one on me. She didn’t make this up herself, on further research it seems this was a story going around on the B-level right wing talk circuit, but it’s a perfect example of how people will believe the most ridiculous things if it concurs with their already existing prejudices.

Lincoln famously said that the Union could not exist half slave and half free, it’s also true that the Union cannot exist when half the population, or half the elected officials, is batshit crazy.  Because crazy they surely are, and I for one don’t entirely understand the motivations behind some of the things they do. Granted, for the ones perpetuating these stories, most of it is just a scam, an advancement of things that televangelists have been doing for ages to separate the rubes from their money. If you don’t believe me, watch an hour or so of a show like The 700 Club, if you can bear it. We’re all in danger, send money is what it always boils down to, and there are no end to the assorted threats and dangers, when one is forgotten there is a new one: we have always been at war with Eastasia, etc.. That it comes from a private organization and not the government doesn’t make much difference. Of course victory can never be achieved, if it did, the gravy train would stop, and you can’t have that.  So I can at least understand the desire to catapult the propaganda, what I don’t really understand is why, time and time again, the marks fall for it.

I recall many many years ago I watched a documentary about the origins of the religious right as a political organization in the US, and apparently they began to organize politically when President Carter was preparing to order the Justice Department to investigate some of these scams. Because of that the hucksters learned how to organize politically, and thanks to massive amounts of funding from individuals like the Koch brothers (who aren’t associated with the religious right but on whose vote they require in order to pursue their own agenda), as well as the gerrymandering of numerous congressional districts that ensure the craziest of crazy people can say pretty much whatever they want without fear of the consequences, we have a situation where this country is very much in danger of falling apart completely.

At Cooper Union, Lincoln correctly pointed out that the slave states would never be convinced that the free states had no intention of ending slavery, which of course they did not. Many businesses relied on slavery for their business just as much as the slave states relied on it for their economy.  Most people of the day in fact believed that slavery would continue, that some sort of deal would be made, and many in the free states even sympathized with the slave states to an extent, and had no more love for slaves than the antebellum South. That all changed when Fort Sumter was fired upon, and Lincoln was proved right: only through bloody war were the slave states brought to bay, and even so, to this day, they remain absolutely convinced of their righteousness, ignoring the facts of history and looking forward to the day when the “South will rise again”.

A country cannot be allowed to go this crazy without consequences, and I believe one of two things has to happen in order for us to return to any reasonable sense of normalcy: a massive political revolt along the lines of the New Deal, when things get so bad that tremendous changes need to be made not just to how we do government but to how we perceive our daily lives, or that sort of change has to come from without, from an outside force moving in to make these changes for the safety of the rest of the world. I think that will be more of an economic struggle than a military one, but we’ll see. I think such a thing is inevitable, just a matter of when, and I wonder if it will happen in my lifetime.

Until then, I will remain unsurprised by any of the stupid things being said or done by the Republican Party.

Happiness

Image

This little comic shared by someone on Facebook recently kinda got to me, because it’s so simple and happy. There’s so much cynicism in the world today, so much negativity about who we are and what’s happening to us, not just in America but all over the world, except for a very few places that seem to have figured out that it’s not always about money.

Even the stuff that is supposed to be uplifting comes across to me as either creepy Randian “success” stories or syrupy, condescending twaddle. I was starting to watch a documentary on PBS about North Korea and I just had to turn it off, it was so disturbing to me.  And as much as I feel for the people who live there, I also feel for the people of West Virginia, who for years have enthusiastically voted for people who have, for decades, been poisoning them. And I have very little confidence that things will change: like alcoholics, it’s not something that can be imposed from without, it has to come from within, and after so many years I just don’t know if they’re capable of understanding that there’s no honor in suffering.

I wish things were that simple, that life wasn’t such a hardship for so many reasons. It doesn’t have to be this way, but we work so hard in making it that way that you wonder if this is what people really want: to work at jobs that make them miserable, to watch TV shows that are primarily about people screaming at each other or ridiculing people who are less fortunate, to take pleasure when they see someone else suffering. To literally take food away from children and just throw it away. This isn’t happening in some Third World country like North Korea, it’s happening here, and there’s absolutely no reason for it.

Something has to change, and what makes me sad is that it will either take so long that I won’t be around to see it, or that the change itself will be worse than what we have now. And what makes me sadder is that we bring it on ourselves.

If the circus was in town, maybe I’d go. If I could borrow a couple of bucks from someone!

The Problem With Atlanta

Speaking as someone who has lived in both cold weather and warm weather environments (including Atlanta), and speaking only for myself, I have to say I’m rather enjoying watching Atlantans cope, or more precisely, not cope, with the little snowstorm that paralyzed the Atlanta metro area a couple of days ago. To me, though, it has nothing to do with an inability to drive in harsh conditions: in my time in Atlanta as a professional driver I had to deal with some of the most selfish drivers in the country, I can say for a fact that their inability to drive has nothing to do with weather conditions. The truth is, no one in any city can drive on ice no matter how good or bad a driver you are. Not changing your driving habits, well, that just comes with the territory.

No, the reason I’m enjoying watching them collapse under a couple of inches of snow is because it’s something they could have easily avoided if the entire philosophy of the Atlanta metro area wasn’t “you’re on your own”. Also “fuck everyone else”. What happened in Atlanta this week, writes Rebecca Burns, is not a matter of Southerners blindsided by unpredictable weather. More than any event I’ve witnessed in two decades of living in and writing about this city, this snowstorm underscores the horrible history of suburban sprawl in the United States and the bad political decisions that drive it.

And those bad political decisions are based on the policies of pridefully ignorant, selfish, and self-centered people whose wealth still comes from the taxes of people they disdain. I would make more mention of racism as well, but why bother?: since it would be belaboring the obvious even above and beyond the supposed subject of this entire blog. The residents don’t call MARTA “Moving Africans Rapidly Through Atlanta” for nothing, you know. That’s why the Braves are moving out to the suburbs.

This is about more than just roads, or bad driving. It’s about a mindset that rejects the idea that people should work together for their own benefit, or that we are a self-governed nation seeking common goals, or that there is a world that exists beyond their own little bubble. It’s not just Atlanta, it’s the whole country, and if the US is in decline, this is why. It’s not the politicians, the politicians are only the symptoms. The disease is us.