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I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.

                     T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

30 December 2007

The days dwindle down...
This will be the last Mermaids post of 2007. Had things gone as I had planned, it might well have been the last Mermaids post ever.

I was planning to shut this almost-a-blog (to quote a friend) down as of tomorrow and greet the New Year with a new, WordPress blog run from this site or, as things stood earlier this week, from the WordPress site itself.

Isn't going to happen. That's partially because I've been too busy to really master WordPress and get it going right, partially because I may be too dumb to figure out how to master WordPress and partially because, old dinosaur that I am, I really find myself clinging to this clunky, old dinosaur of a site and the (probably silly) method of hand-coding every damn thing, just because I have complete control over the whole mess. Comes to that, the final reason there may well account for the first two.

Anyway, here we are, right back when we started from. Or, more accurately, here we will be, come 2008 on Tuesday.

Even though our days here might turn out to be limited, I will be doing something to clean the place up a bit, weaning the links list for one thing, 'cause there are links on there that I haven't used in months, perhaps years in a few instances. For another, while I will probably leave the Comments Page in place, I will also render it sort of unnecessary. Not that it isn't already, given the limited comments we've drawn here. Now you might say there's little worth commenting on, but part of the idea of a comments section is for you to participate, to make things more comment-worthy with your own input. Anyway, starting next year (will this one ever end?), I'd be posting your comments, if any, here on the "front page" on a weekly, or more frequent basis. Or not. The ball is in your court.

Finally, so we don't end the year on all that self-referential and internal stuff, I've got a "what if?" political note from this morning's paper and an online end-of-year list for you.

Jonathan Last, a conservative columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, but not one of the nutso ones, so you'll probably not have heard his name (and speaking of "nustso," Bill "I've never gotten anything right yet but I do have a famous name" Kristol gets a New York Times opinion column? Jesus!), noted something I'd never even thought about in his weekly One Last Thing column today:

Proving once again that America got the wrong Bush brother as president, Jeb Bush wryly noted that "intellectual curiosity" is something "the next president of the United States is going to need to have." Imagine how much fun the holidays were at the Bush homestead.

Recall that George W. Bush won the White House by a margin of 537 votes in Florida only because in 1994 brother Jeb lost the Florida governor's race by 63,940 votes.

If Jeb had won that election - and Floridians were only delaying the inevitable; he took it in 1998 - then Jeb would have probably been the GOP nominee, and perhaps the president, in 2000. And George W. today would be a well-liked former governor in line to be next baseball commissioner. History: a game of inches.

Lord knows, Jeb would have been an improvement over his inept sibling. Then again, pretty much anybody would have been, aside from maybe most of the guys now running for the GOP nomination in 2008.

To quote Adlai Stevenson from way back in 1952, "where do they find these people?"

Another historical "what if?" having to with the 2000 election (possibly the event which will eventually be judged by history as marking the point when the U.S. began its Great Decline if the forces unleashed by that event continue to wreak havoc on our traditions and laws) is something I've been thinking about a lot recently with regard to the forthcoming 2008 "throw the bums out" expression of the popular will.

Like many, I'm disturbed, aside from all the other concerns about who is or isn't a good candidate, about the Bush-Clinton, Bush-(potentially)-Clinton back & forth which could possibly mean that the White House will be the personal fiefdom of two families for a stretch of 28 years. I still think that's a bad thing in general, but I've come to realize of late that, since George W. Bush did not, repeat did not, win the 2000 election (history will record that too, we all know it aside from the clowns in the wingnut bunkers), if that scenario takes place, it will not reflect a failure on the part of the system but instead reflect yet another consequence of the extraordinary right wing assault on the very soul of this nation which began with the election of the Newt ("I am a genius, really, I am") Gingrich House in 1994.

Then again, we get the government we deserve, do we not? They couldn't do it unless we let them. Which brings me to that online list I was talking about:The 50 Most Loathsome People in America, 2007.

Guess who made the list:

9. You
Charges:
You believe in freedom of speech, until someone says something that offends you. You suddenly give a damn about border integrity, because the automated voice system at your pharmacy asked you to press 9 for Spanish. You cling to every scrap of bullshit you can find to support your ludicrous belief system, and reject all empirical evidence to the contrary. You know the difference between patriotism and nationalism -- it's nationalism when foreigners do it. You hate anyone who seems smarter than you. You care more about zygotes than actual people. You love to blame people for their misfortunes, even if it means screwing yourself over. You still think Republicans favor limited government. Your knowledge of politics and government are dwarfed by your concern for Britney Spears' children. You think buying Chinese goods stimulates our economy. You think you're going to get universal health care. You tolerate the phrase "enhanced interrogation techniques." You think the government is actually trying to improve education. You think watching CNN makes you smarter. You think two parties is enough. You can't spell. You think $9 trillion in debt is manageable. You believe in an afterlife for the sole reason that you don't want to die. You think lowering taxes raises revenue. You think the economy's doing well. You're an idiot.

Exhibit A: You couldn't get enough Anna Nicole Smith coverage.

Sentence: A gradual decline into abject poverty as you continue to vote against your own self-interest. Death by an easily treated disorder that your health insurance doesn't cover. You deserve it, chump.

The whole thing is fun reading and it skewers just about everybody you might wish, from Nicole Richie at #50 on through the likes of (not in this order necessarily) including Hillary Clinton, Rudy Giuliani, Tim Russert, Britney Spears, Mitt Romney, Chris Matthews, Anne Coulter, Alberto Gonzales, Dana Perino (In a nation weary of White House press secretaries who feign ignorance, the Bush administration took an innovative step this year, appointing one who genuinely doesn't know anything), Lou Dobbs, Bud Selig and Nancy Pelosi & Harry Reid (a tandem entry), finishing up with The Obvious Suspects at #2 & 1:
2. Dick Cheney
Charges:
Worst president ever. So openly horrible, he now makes jokes about being Darth Vader. Unashamedly advocating for executive abuse of power and corporate theft. In and out of public office since his congressional internship during the Nixon Administration. Didn't care about the quagmire he foresaw in '94, because since then he'd deftly maneuvered to profit from it. Polling lower than HPV.

Exhibit A: His Halliburton stock options rose 3000% in value from 2004-2005. No joke.

[ ... ]

1. George W. Bush
Charges:
Is it a civil rights milestone to have a retarded president? Maybe it would be, if he were ever legitimately elected. You can practically hear the whole nation holding its breath, hoping this guy will just fucking leave come January '09 and not declare martial law. Only supporters left are the ones who would worship a fucking turnip if it promised to kill foreigners. Is so clearly not in charge of his own White House that his feeble attempts to define himself as "decider" or "commander guy" are the equivalent of a five-year-old kid sitting on his dad's Harley and saying "vroom vroom!" Has lost so many disgusted staffers that all he's left with are the kids from Jesus Camp. The first president who is so visibly stupid he can say "I didn't know what was in the National Intelligence Estimate until last week" and sound plausible. Inarguably a major criminal and a much greater threat to the future of America than any Muslim terrorist.

What they said.

And Happy New Year.

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[Posted 5:30pm edt]

28 December 2007

"I just went out to dinner with 18 close friends I'd never met before."
There's an extraordinary
online wake currently going on for a very nice man named Paul Grant, who died too young on November 20. The word of his demise first became public this week and it has inspired a re-gathering of a whole passel of people who used to gather together pretty much daily in the CompuServe Comics and Animation Forum back in the early days of the internet, a time when, as Heidi MacDonald (a Downingtown girl way back in the day) wrote, "just having an email address made you special."

You can read for yourselves the original post by site host John Ostrander, one of the finest comics writers of the '90s, and learn about the man we all knew as Zeus and what a fine man he was. If you read through the comments which follow, you'll see that reaffirmed again and again and also experience the joy tinged with sadness of so many people finally finding one another again.

I am reminded of the lyrics to a favorite song, Bob Dylan's Dream:

I dreamed a dream that made me sad,
Concerning myself and the first few friends I had.

[ ... ]

We thought we could sit forever in fun
But our chances really was a million to one.

The world changed, the internet changed and we all went our separate ways. It's the pattern of life, truth be told. This moment we are now experiencing may be just that, a passing moment, and once the nostalgia has passed and we've talked about what we used to talk about more than once or twice, we may all find that we have nothing to say to one another, that we are different people in a different time.

If somebody does find a way to create a place where we can see if we can really reconnect, you bet I'll be there.

The heading for this post, you'll see if you've read the comments section on the Ostrander site, comes from a fellow named John Sardegna and I'm pretty sure that dinner he's talking about happened in a second floor Chinatown restaurant in Philadelphia back in the early '90s, the same weekend as the gathering at my home which I talked about in my own comments.

That was the weekend I met several people who've become long-standing friends, among them Tim Fitzpatrick, who created the software and provides the technical support for my comics mail order business (several old CIS-ers are customers), and Allan Lappin, the guy who created the ultimate Comics Forum lapel pin, a comic word balloon with the words "What do you read, what do you enjoy?". Tim and his wife and baby son stayed at our house, as did Carl Pietrantonio, who has showed up at my door many times since, the most recent being a trip he took across the country to spend four days helping me move, an act of friendship so amazing that it still leaves me semi-verklempt when I try to describe it to people without my voice cracking.

I met Rob Davis, with whom I have done The Dubya Chronicles since January 20, 2001, on the Forum and then physically in San Diego at the annual Comic-Con. I got to (electronically) talk with several prominent comics writers in the Forum, among them Ostrander, Neil Gaiman and Peter David. I probably did more interviews with and stories about Gaiman than any other creator during five or six years writing in the comics industry and, when I went to Ireland back in 1992, he recommended a place to stay which was one of the highlights of the trip. I got to tell Peter David that a big surprise he had planned for a title he'd just taken over had been blown on the internet (I never did tell him that I thought the leaked story was way off base and was stunned by his reaction which told me it was real).

Knowing those sorts of emerging stars helped me make my contact to write for Wizard Magazine, back when writing for it was more, um, journalistic than it later became. My way in the door was Patrick Daniel O'Neill, a Forum member and, as far as I know, still a resident of Delaware county, roughly 45 minutes from where I'm writing this. There was a stretch there where Paul, a guy named Craig "Mr. Silver Age" Shutt and I wrote a good 60% or more of every issue before we were sent packing. In my comments on the Ostrander site, I tell the story of one assignment which I had to give up to Paul, only to get another equally as good (in terms of the "star quality" of the interviewee).

Another local Forum member, Jeff Lang, put me in touch with Patty Jeres, then the one-woman publicity department for DC Comics, leading to three or four years of my writing one or two, even three on one occasion, interviews or stories for them about forthcoming titles (accounting for a lot of that Gaiman material as I became the go-to Vertigo guy when that more adult imprint was in its heyday). And it was Jeff and wife Katie Fritz who invited me downtown to a meeting of comics folks early on.

I could go on and on with this, pouring out names and stories that most of you would find baffling, so I will behave and stop here. Just know that a good man has died and all who knew him came to love him and, even though we, most of us, drifted out of his orbit, or he ours, we are all saddened, and lessened, by his passing.

He is now, truly, "Zeus on the Loose" and his "View From Olympus" will remain clear and bright forevermore.

Rest well, old friend.

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[Posted 6:50pm edt]

24 December 2007

First I was naughty, now I'm nice.
I hit you with a downright despicable video link on Saturday and now, in the spirt of the season, I am here to make up for it. Go to
TV Worth Watching and get a bit of the background, then click on the links provided, especially for the shy opera singer and the amazing little girl. They are delightful.

And here's a story about a guy who once played Secret Santa and whose legacy lives on after him. And Jay Brooks at the always excellent Brookstone Bulletin site has a somewhat similar story about a guy they've dubbed the Woodstock Santa.. Not too sure how I feel about that one, but there's no doubt his gifts are appreciated.

Let me note as well a very popular anecdote from Mark Evanier with a Christmas flavor to it. I love this story.

And finally, perhaps not entirely in the spirit of the season, the inestimable Rob Davis and I gave a Christmas twist to the penultimate Dubya Chronicles cartoon of 2007.

Enjoy the holidays, my friends.

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[Posted 2:40pm edt]

22 December 2007

The most appalling Christmas message of this, or any, season.
Warren Ellis posted this on his site, I found it via Neil Gaiman and site and I post it here for your edification. It is the work of The Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas, fine Christian Americans who seem to believe that the true message of Jesus is Hate.


http://view.break.com/278059 - Watch more free videos

I'll say it again, and again, and again: anyone who isn't scared witless by the growing acceptance of religion as a political tool just isn't paying attention. These folks aren't too far removed from the lower extremes of the GOP Evangelistic "base," trust me.

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[Posted 4:20pm edt]

17 December 2007

Here's a suggestion that probably sounds really stupid on the surface.
I would urge the Democrats in Congress to let, hell, urge, Joe Lieberman to leave, using today's endorsement of John McCain for President.

In fact, don't even give him a choice. Send his ass packing, which is what would, at last, show some strength and character.

But that would let the Repubs had control of the Senate, you say?

Fine, I say.

Look, given this year's performance (and, yes, I know they don't really have a "majority" nor the votes, but the majority of the public doesn't), it couldn't be any worse to be in the minority with a Big Dick (Cheney) as the erstwhile Decider (a role he has held in the Decider's administration for, lo, these past seven years).

Seriously, you give yourself a year of opposing and railing against Dick Cheney and Whatzizname, the putative president. Can that be a bad thing?

I mean, seriously, has Harry Reid really been Horatio at the gate? Seriously?

Furthermore, moving toward an election in which a Democratic landslide is possible and maybe probable, wouldn't it be nice to let all those Senators who talk the talk but fold and vote with the White House anyway, stew in their own juices? And increase the odds even more?

No excuses. No having the Scream Machine and the "Liberal" Media (Dave Broder, phone home) report day after day, week after week, that the "Democratic Congress" has failed to do this or that.

They've already failed. And will continue to fail, so long as the GOP, including its vaunted (and oh-so-cowardly) moderates, stew in the boiling kettle of George Bush's incompetence, inadequacies and disinterest.

I suppose there are arguments, mostly control of the committee chairs, against all this, and I know it will mean even more suffering for our troops and our poorest citizens, but, honestly, don't you think another year like the one now ending wouldn't mean the same thing anyway?

Put Bush's face on it all, every speck of it, and let his party stand by him into electoral oblivion.

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[Posted 8:45pm edt]

Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of guys.
While the media blithers and blathers and gets its panties in a tangle trying to figure out why the voters, even the vaunted Base which has been willing to accept and endorse anything over the past decade or two, are so completely turned-off by the current batch of GOP presidential candidates, the underlying story is that the party's leadership is finally, and properly, reaping the whirlwind.

For more than three decades, stretching back to the emergence of Ronald Reagan in 1964 and '68 and his image being cultivated for another dozen years until the 1980 triumph, the power brokers in the party have built a "conservatism" which has been far, far from conservative in the truest sense of the word, but rather an amalgamation of Southern Evangelistic true believers and Western libertarians whose primary "leave me alone" motivation has been all about taxes, or a mindless desire to be free of same.

Now they have, at long last, a leading candidate who believes such things as that the world is but 6000 years old and that end times eschatology is real and true (in the case of the latter, imminent would be good as well) and has no apparent knowledge of the world beyond our borders (they already had one of those selected, if not elected) and a surprisingly popular one who is a real libertarian who opposes their beloved war(s) and has this charmingly old-fashioned belief in civil rights and true personal freedom and privacy.

The rabble has, at long last, stormed the ramparts of power and the money managers, corporate lawyers and bib biz lobbyists are scared silly.

It all is yet another portent of a Democratic sweep and change which is likely to last a decade or two.

Weep bitter tears, Rush, Drudge and all you arrogant phonies at Fox (I'm talking to you specifically, O'Reilly). Your shit is about to hit the fan.

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[Posted 8:45pm edt]

Hurray for Chris Dodd.
Shame on Harry Reid.

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[Posted 8:45pm edt]

16 December 2007

Shameless.
If you're paying any attention to presidential politics at all at this point, you've surely seen Barack Obama's brilliant riposte to Hillary Clinton during the (thankfully) last and second worst (the GOP one which preceded it by a day was the nadir) of the godawful debates which have marked the last several months.

If not, though, here it is.

That moment has spawned one of the funnier cartoons about the campaign as well:

I bring this up in order to shamelessly direct your attention to today's cartoon entry by Rob Davis and me (we have assiduously ignored the debates, like most of America), wherein we take one of the week's big stories and use it to examine the behavior of a Big Dick and speak truth to the power-mad.

You gotta admit, it does make sense.

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[Posted am edt]

9 December 2007

The Jesus primary.
I've used that heading twice today (the second one over at
The Dubya Chronicles) because it so perfectly sums up the major politicals happenings of the week past.

The latest spectacle among the worst group of presidential aspirants that any major party has ever fielded in our lifetimes, when it wasn't centered around hating on immigrants and the weakest among us, was all about who was the most Christian of them all.

In the 21st Century, we have Republican wanna-bes arguing with straight faces that a belief in Jesus Christ as lord and savior is an important factor, perhaps the defining factor, in their qualifications to be president of the United States.

Believe me, it is almost as amusing to hear the emerging candidate in the other party talks of not fighting the battles of the past in a not-so-sly dig at his opponent, apparently ignoring the fact that those who created those past battles lie licking their chops in the woods. He harkens his argument back to the Clinton presidency, now seven years gone, and either forgets or conveniently overlooks the Gore and Kerry smearings in the two elections since, as if it won't happen to him, or to any Democratic candidate.

But the Democrats at least have anywhere from three to five candidates who, one might reasonably argue, appear to have a combination of experience, intelligence, strength, discipline and will to be president (some stronger in one area that another, obviously), while the GOP has not yet a single possibility, I suspect, that a significant portion of the body politic would be willing to pull the lever to elect except out of irrational hatred or induced fear, and that latter segment of voters is already theirs, the so-called "base."

And so they squabbled on in a phony U-Tube debate which theoretically expressed the questions of the public (everyone ignoring the fact that the eventual questions asked were culled from the mass by CNN types and seemed to represent some weird agenda, given that the first 30 minutes or so were all about illegal immigrants, an issue which measures extremely low on citizen concern in every poll extant), with the Cult Guy and the Adulterer Guy whacking away at one another while the POW Guy, the Minister Guy and the Crazy guys circled around.

Out of it all came the decision by putative leader (everywhere except where the votes will first be cast) Mitt Romney to change his mind and position (not, one must say, an unusual occurrence) and make his "JFK Speech," long in the preparing (and don't believe any different), at last.

Except it wasn't anything like Kennedy's famed 1960 speech at all, of course. Kennedy was trying to convince an audience filled with hate that he would not be dictated to by his church or religion; Romney was trying to convince an audience filled with hate that he would not be dictated to by his church either but would happily be dictated to by the church and religion of their choosing.

Nobody has dared mention so far, in either print or on the tube, that it was essentially the same audience both times.

Why is none of this scaring the hell out of the nation? One of the enduring, damaging legacies of the Bush Administration, which will leave a plethora of same, will be the acceptance of religious belief as a political verity well beyond the unspoken importance it has had ever since the agnostics and Deists who founded this country faded away.

Even now, we see Gov. Huckabee, a man who holds near-insane positions on science, sex and guns and appears to be a blank slate in terms of foreign policy (that latter remind you of any recent candidate and what he has wrought?), beginning to move to the fore, ahead of Mitt and Rudy and the rest, mostly because he seems a better human being that the lot of them and (apart from, surprisingly, John McCain, who sometimes forgets that he has long since sold out to the Bushies and accidentally says something pertinent and intelligent, thus further alienating the base which already hates him) is the only GOP candidate who seems capable of taking an humane approach now and then.

You think I'm exaggerating this threat, which I've been warning about since Bush's first months in office showed what he was all about, something which has, understandably, gotten lost in our discovery of what his vice-president is all about? Allow me to remind you of Mitt's WTF? Moment during his speech on Thursday:

"Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom."
Seriously, WTF?

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[Posted 11:50am edt]

Are you depressed or just sad?
The subject of depression, for a variety of reasons, is one that I have strong feelings about and I urge you to read
Sadness is not a disorder, from this morning's Philadelphia Inquirer.

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[Posted 11:50am edt]

5 December 2007

Friedman finally gets it right (it's about time).
I'm not anywhere near a fan of Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, a foreign affairs "expert" who has made himself a laughing stock over the past several years with his never-ending "six more months" deadlines for the Bush foreign policy (that seems a bad word, you know? Policy? Bush?), but there's no denying he's pretty much
got it right today.

To tell you the truth, I still might have chosen to not link to this, no matter how good it is, because Friedman has become such a tool, but my li'l gummint buddy from the West Coast insisted.

I mean, he asked nicely. That works.

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[Posted 8:25pm edt]

3 December 2007

The truth shall set us free. Or be ignored. Whatever.
Back before we all agreed that reality and non-reality are mutually acceptable alternatives and neither is superior to the other,
this news would have stunned the body politic and subjected those whose arguments, attitudes and arrogance had been thoroughly undermined to ridicule.

Today, not so much. The White House will lie, the Right Wing dissemblers will explain away and a New Reason To Bomb will be rolled out ASAP.

And the Worst. President. Ever. will glide blissfully along, mistaken, misinformed and misled, happy in his ignorance, comfortable in his role as a neo-con tool and secure in his misbegotten faith in a god who somehow approves of his carefully protected unenlightened state of being.

What a country.

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[Posted 7:20pm edt]

Hil-Freakin'-Larious!

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[Posted 11:15am edt]

A beer guy's knight of the moon.
Duane Swierczynski is the editor of
Philadelphia'sCity Paper, an alternative weekly; a beer guy , and a successful writer of hard-boiled crime fiction.

Hey, it's almost like he's living the life I dreamed of my self when I was young and still believed in dreams. These days, I struggle with even placing any faith in possibilities.

But that's off the point, which is that last marked the debut of Swierczynski's first comic book work, and it is very, very good. The Moon Knight character is Marvel Comics' Batman in the sense that he is a mysterious do-gooder working the nighttime streets and a rough customer to deal with if you're a bad guy. Swierczynski clearly understands the way comics work and the relationships between words and art. His pacing, tone and sparse script are dead on and make for a very good piece or work.

Granted, he uses some writerly tricks here and benefits from this issue being an Annual, a done-in-one (issue) story which doesn't really require the author to pay much attention to the baggage that an ongoing monthly storyline and cast demand. Indeed, Moon Knight himself barely appears in the issue and is something of a deus ex machina who exists to make it all work. He could, in fact, have been any character, indeed anybody at all. All of which means that what Swierczynski has done is writer a solid, hard-boiled story rather than a Moon Knight adventure per se.

Moon Night Annual #1 is clever and takes real advantage of the comics format, as I said, making for a damned impressive debut for the writer. Word is that he will be taking over one of the Marvel books on a regular basis in 2008, one of the mutant titles if I remember correctly. That's when the real test will come, with extended storylines, a cast of supporting characters and reappearing villains to deal with and the periodic pressure from editorial to tie in with complicated company-wide cross-over stories.

It was Ed Brubaker who got Swierczynski the new gig and he's a guy whose current situation is one that the Philadelphian might wisely aspire to match. His own series of mini-series (five or six part stories told in monthly format and then collected into trade paperback editions) have given him a personal little crime-noir corner of the Marvel Universe and he has given the most notable of the other titles he writes, Captain America, the same sort of noir-ish feel within a superhero context, managing in the process to make 2007's major comic book "event," the death of the title character, work into a storyline in which the deceased hero continues to dominate but never appears.

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[Posted 10:25am edt]

The above item has been cross-posted here.

2 December 2007

The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard.
That's the name of this five-part Masterpiece Theater series I saved over the last several weeks to watch during the holidays when pretty much everything goes into reruns. The writers' strike has moved up that timetable and so I sat down Friday night to start enjoying this tale of a British woman, a supermarket manager, who finds herself elected Prime Minister of England to succeed Tony Blair.

First came an annoying and very strange shock. The first segment on my DVR, although it was titled correctly and the info I brought up to describe it was accurate, turned out to be a recording a racy and somewhat sophomoric Brit sitcom called Coupling. It is beyond my understanding how this could have happened, especially given that the show I theoretically recorded was broadcast and PBS and this one on BBC America. Weird.

In the end, I realized when I'd watched the other four segments yesterday, that was a bit of a benefit. Several story threads were apparently established in episode one (I found an online summary after I'd finished my viewing). Without those, a lot of plot elements came a real surprise to me as the story unfolded and that helped make the whole thing more enjoyable. I'm sure I missed some nuances and connection by not seeing the first hour, of course. For one thing, I was struck by an underlying feminist aspect of the story, but was never aware that one of the key elements in the first hour was that a number of female Members of Parliament switched over to the new party created my Mrs. Pritchard when she became disgusted with the behavior of local politicians.

I'd expected this to be a comedy from what I'd seen or read at whatever source it was that inspired me to view it, but it was a much more serious drama than that. Politics and politic issues and machinations were treated seriously throughout, the Brits apparently believing their audiences have the brains to deal with such (and with reality in general, Mrs. Pritchard apparently blurts out the "F" word in frustration at one point, something which is blanked out to shield delicate American ears), with the assassination of a visiting African president's family in London in episode two my first true clue. In the third episode, there is a major disaster in London for which the government might be at fault through neglect or wrongful policies (somewhat reminiscent of 9/11) and in the fourth, Mrs. Pritchard lays it all on the line with a promise to resign if her big environmental policy experiment fails.

Some of the new PM's programs are truly ground-breaking, such as the moving of Parliament from Westminster to Bradford (something I found entirely unbelievable), the revision of the House of Lords into a more egalitarian body and a directive that no one in Britain except those who absolutely had to would drive a private automobile on Wednesdays as a strike against carbon emissions. In each of these instances, we get one or more scenes of the classic face to face encounters in Parliament, one party on each side, wherein a member of the opposition castigates the PM and she responds in turn. All I could imagine (with great glee) is the US embracing such a system and seeing the Prez-nint, Big Dick and others in the docket, as it were.

There's a soap-opera-ish aspect to all of this as well, involving the PM's family and the entanglements of members of her cabinet, plus a few Big Secrets of which she is kept blissfully unaware, and all of these come to a head in the final hour, much of which is pure soap, truth be told. All of this builds to an ending which is, shall be say, strikingly similar to another famous series close-out this past year. In both instances, I found the approach both satisfactory and satsifying.

Two other notes. A Wikipedia entry indicates that there were six, rather than five, episodes broadcast. I don't know what to make of this. Netflix lists a DVD version which runs a total of 354 minutes, which makes that believable, so I either missed recording one altogether or that first US episode incorporated two hours of story. That same entry also says that--and I'm trying to be careful here so as not to give anything away--that there is a bit more to ending in that version than is given in the one I watched.

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[Posted 11:20am edt]

Desperately seeking an outlet.
They dropped the equivalent of a small town into place in a big open space about four miles and not many more minutes from where I live last month. "They" is Chelsea Premium Outlets, a real estate group which creates and manages retail outlet malls, operating under the name Philadelphia Premium Outlets in this region.

The new center on right off Rt. 422, about 35 minutes from the city, and will likely transform this area, not a in a good way, into an extension of the huge King of Prussia shopping region which lies approximately midway between the city and the new Limerick mall. The new stores are also about midway between the city and Reading, the closest and biggest major outlet center for Philadelphians until last month.

There are 120 brand-name outlets already in place and the plans are to add 30 more stores come spring. Think about that.

I drove by the place or Rt. 422 on the day it opened, on the way to my daughter's house at about 4:30pm. People had come by the thousands and every parking space in the huge lot was filled with two or more cars waiting for any spot to open, the entire thing a mass of unmoving automobiles and, I'd guess, aisles crowded full inside each store. I read later that it took as long as an hour for cars to exit Rt. 422 at the Sanatoga Road ramp leading to the site and almost as long to find a parking spot. My local service station guy had already printed up directions to hand out to preclude the flood of lost bargain seekers who pulled in to ask. Residents of Sanatoga and environs are, shall we say, not entirely delighted with their good fortune.

Even though we are only about 45 minutes from the city, which would make for a journey of no real consequence in the mid and far western parts of the nation, and many residents commute there daily, the Pottstown area is considered "the sticks" in a general overview of the region. That's about to change, big time.

I've never been in an outlet store in my life that I can recall. I guess I'll have to go take a look now, although perhaps not until after the holidays when, I hope, a recession of manic shopping frenzy and less favorable weather conditions might make that adventure less than a multi-hour task.

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[Posted 11:20am edt]

1 December 2007

It all depends on whose gored ox is being protected.
The government is our enemy and only the private sector can save us.

No, wait! It's our savior. Hurray!

As Wall Street rallied this week, it seemed that investors were taking comfort in the notion that the economy had become so imperiled by the crumbling housing market that it was forcing the government to finally mount an aggressive rescue effort.

Investors found reassurance yesterday in talk that the White House was brokering a deal with banks that could diminish a looming tidal wave of home foreclosures. Soothing words from the Federal Reserve earlier this week revived the hope that more interest rate cuts are on the way, drowning nervousness in a din of buying.

"The market now feels comfortable that the Fed has come to appreciate the severity of the situation," said Robert Barbera, chief economist at the brokerage and advisory firm ITG. "The bad news gives you the blessing of lower interest rates."

I just love it when all that "free market" ballyhoo crumbles around the financial world and they come scrambling back with hands out.

Well, maybe not so much. But it is always amusing in a bitter sort of what.

If every member of the Fed and all the nation's investment gurus could all be stricken with serious health issues and somehow stripped of their insurance and pension protections simultaneously, maybe we could get true universal health care and some semblance of financial security as the birthright of every American.

Meanwhile, while we wait for that to happen (and pigs to fly and our prez-nint to have an original thought), some of our "leaders" are busy hating on illegal immigrants, supporting wars which don't directly affect then or anybody they know, proclaiming themselves as God's warriors on earth and covering up their sex scandals and how they paid for them with the public's money.

Hey, it's their patriotic duty. I mean, somebody's got to run for the GOP presidential nomination and appeal to the base base.

That last is not a typo, just the same word with two different meanings as an adjective and a noun respectively). Around here, you get not only my rantings, but also a bit of grammatical learning now and then.

You all remember grammar, something what has pretty much gone the way of Latin, but to which I still cling as best I can. Maybe that makes me a conservative or maybe it's 'cause I get off on memories of mean nuns with slashing rulers and really angry scowls. Or maybe it's just a personal quirk.

Whatever gets you through the night, y' know?

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[Posted 11:20am edt]

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