"Joy and pleasure are as real as pain and sorrow and one must learn what they have to teach. . . ." -- Sean Russell, from Gatherer of Clouds

"If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right." -- Helyn D. Goldenberg

"I love you and I'm not afraid." -- Evanescence, "My Last Breath"

“If I hear ‘not allowed’ much oftener,” said Sam, “I’m going to get angry.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien, from Lord of the Rings

Friday, October 31, 2014

Superheroes in the Movies

Marvel has announced its development schedule for the next few years,and everyone's very excited:

May 6, 2016 — “Captain America: Civil War”
Nov. 4, 2016 — “Doctor Strange”
May 5, 2017 — “Guardians of the Galaxy 2″
July 28, 2017 — “Thor: Ragnarok”
Nov. 3, 2017 — “Black Panther”
May 4, 2018 — “Avengers: Infinity War Part I”
July 6, 2018 — “Captain Marvel”
Nov. 2, 2018 — “Inhumans”
May 3, 2019 — “Avengers: Infinity War Part II”

Part of the excitement, at least in certain quarters, is the fact that Marvel will be headlining two superheroes who are, as this article at HuffPo puts it, not white males.

On Tuesday, you likely saw Twitter freak out when Marvel announced its upcoming development schedule. “What are all of these nerds so excited about?” you maybe asked. “Who is this Carol everyone is tweeting about?" Well, here's the answer: the next five years of our lives will include not one but two non-white-male superheroes, Black Panther and Captain Marvel (aka Carol Danvers). The solidified plans are an impressive contrast to DC's speculative releases, and because it’s about time a genre about otherness started representing superheroes who aren't straight white males.

The discussion surrounding minority superheroes usually boils down to a variation on this: "Who cares about diversity? Everyone will go see these movies anyway." That's why this locked-down Marvel schedule is such awesome news. Sure, DC made its stab at expanding the comic-book universe, but it's not the same. The studio set “Wonder Woman” for release some time in 2017, but didn't provide any specifics; it also cast Ray Fisher as Cyborg, who will make his debut during the face-off of "Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice" before coming to a theater near you on his own ... in 2020. (It's a release date so far in the future, Cyborg might actually exist at the point.) Also, does anyone actually give a crap about Cyborg? While we'll have to wait for a solid Apollo and Midnighter film, Tuesday's announcement is a step in the right direction.

There's a good point here -- gods know it's time we started seeing women and minorities in superhero films in other than supporting roles. (And a side note: it's interesting that the second G.I. Joe movie, Retaliation, starred Dwayne Johnson, who took over after they killed off Channing Tatum. Granted, the Joes are not, strictly speaking, superheroes -- their "abilities" come largely from technology -- but lumping them all together into the category "action/adventure with special abilities," it works for me. And that film is not the only one in that super-genre to star a black actor, by a long shot.)

I think, though, the article, and a lot of the reactions, miss a point: There's something to be said for the literal representation of minorities as heroes, but there's a larger message, especially in the Marvel Universe, which came out most obviously in the X-Men movies, was alluded to in The Avengers, and forms a subtext in most of Marvel's superhero films (so far). It was brought home to me in a wonderful scene in Jim Heinberg's Young Avengers comics, in which Billy Kaplan (Wiccan) comes out to his parents as a superhero -- or tries to. Teddy (Hulkling) is there, and Billy's mother jumps to the conclusion that he's finally confessing to being gay, passing out hugs all around while Billy's father welcomes Teddy to the family. The obvious point is that it's OK to be gay, but being a superhero (read "mutant")? Not so much. Or, short answer: these are stories about outsiders.

(By the way, why isn't someone doing a Young Avengers movie? Would beat the hell out of the Twilight spin-offs that have been cluttering up movie screens.)

I suppose, though, that for the movie-going public, some things have to be really, really obvious. And sometimes Hollywood needs a kick in the butt: it seems they can make a movie about minorities, but absorbing them into "mainstream" fare is still a bit of a reach.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Today's Must-Read

This post at Mahablog, on -- well, the best I can summarize is "ideology vs. the economy." She quotes from this commentary by Paul Krugman:

Never mind that the economic models underlying such assertions have failed dramatically in practice, that the people who say such things have been predicting runaway inflation and soaring interest rates year after year and keep being wrong; these aren’t the kind of people who reconsider their views in the light of evidence. Never mind the obvious point that the private sector doesn’t and won’t supply most kinds of infrastructure, from local roads to sewer systems; such distinctions have been lost amid the chants of private sector good, government bad.

I might point out that we're dealing with a mindset that prioritizes faith over evidence, that reveres authority, no matter how unqualified, and that is impervious to facts.

Maha makes a telling point:

I can never tell how much they believe their own crap, but basically we’re dealing with people who are long on ideological theory and short on experience. Unfortunately, you can say the same thing for most of our Captains of Industry, most of whom have no idea how the products they are selling actually get made.

It’s like a perfect storm of derp. The people in charge of things, public and private, have no idea how stuff gets done and no idea what stuff needs to get done. And the country is at their capricious and greedy mercy.

It became obvious to me long ago that major Republican "economic policy wonk" Paul Ryan had no idea what he was talking about. Unfortunately, he's not alone, and these people are in control of the country.

Oh, and in case you were wondering about how the equivalent philosophy plays out in the corporate sector, here's the example that blows all that to hell:

The madness of the holiday shopping season has come to this: It's no longer notable when a retailer says it will stay open on Thanksgiving Day. Instead, it makes headlines when one says it's going to close.

Warehouse chain Costco recently confirmed just that, explaining the decision as a thank-you to its workers. "Our employees work especially hard during the holiday season and we simply believe that they deserve the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving with their families," a spokesperson told the Web site ThinkProgress. "Nothing more complicated than that."

The decision is in keeping with the ethos at Costco, which has long shrugged off Wall Street's complaints about how well it pays its retail workers (Costco even gave raises during the recession). A 2013 report put the company's average hourly wage at $20.89, far above the minimum wage. It showers employees with good benefits, from low health-insurance premiums to matching and profit-sharing contributions in their 401(k) plans.

Note to WalMart and friends: You can pay your employees a living wage, give them good benefits, and still make money. That's the way the country used to run, and it worked just fine.

(A footnote: I gleaned from somewhere this morning that Macy's, after facing blowback last year for opening on Thanksgiving evening, will open earlier this year. I avoid Macy's in Chicago -- it used to be Marshall Field's, which was the best department store anywhere, not only in quality of goods but in customer service. My sister suggested I check them out when I was looking at TVs, because I might be able to score a deal if they had something good on sale. The State Street store, which used to be Field's flagship, doesn't even carry TVs. Sic transit gloria.)





Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Why Is It

that the only place I can find any good news lately is on the gay sites?

(Yes, I've been surfing and catching up on the news. I may just stop -- permanently. But I'm afraid I'll turn into a teabagger, or the independent equivalent. Yes, I'm a registered independent, even though I've been voting Democratic since the Republican party went insane.)

I can't even find any funny cat videos this morning.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Together -- We Are Stronger

Something positive for today:

From the official description:
A few months ago we asked our users to take part in the exciting #GaySelfie global video. We were amazed to receive more than 100,000 Selfies entries shared on Moovz feed.

This proves how united we are :)


Here's more background from Joe.My.God.

Monday, October 27, 2014

And Here It Is!

With the perennially delicious Matt Baume:
The number of states with marriage has gone up yet again this week. Only a handful of states are stil trying to defend their marriage bans, and they're quickly running out of ways to delay their inevitable loss. A straight couple in Kansas has filed a new anti-gay lawsuit, and it's nuts. A federal judge just ruled against the freedom to marry, but his decision has virtually no chance of being upheld. Plus, there's a powerful new lawsuit in Mississippi.


Here's the story on those nutballs in Kansas who are afraid of their marriage being stolen.

Marriage News Watch, October 27, 2014

AFER hasn't posted its video yet -- I'll pop it in here as soon as I run across it -- but I wanted to plug in these two bits:

First, an interview with Ted Olson:

"I do not believe that the United States Supreme Court could rule that all of those laws prohibiting marriage are suddenly constitutional after all these individuals have gotten married and their rights have changed," he said in an interview on Capital Download. "To have that snatched away, it seems to me, would be inhuman; it would be cruel; and it would be inconsistent with what the Supreme Court has said about these issues in the cases that it has rendered."

Blogger won't accept the embed code for the video, so click through for the complete interview.

And for the Giggle du Jour, Westboro Baptist Church has filed a motion to intervene in Kansas' appeal of the 10th Circuit's ruling on SSM:
It is no small matter for a nation to accept the sin of sodomy, and the lifestyle or agenda that it entails. The description of the utter annihilation of Sodom and Gomorrah and three nearby cities is stark, and directly tied to homosexuality. This historical event described in Genesis 19:1-28, Holy Bible, must be considered at this hour, in all its graphic glory, and can be found at Addendum 2 for ready reference. Every adult, child, suckling and animal – utterly destroyed. (Most likely amidst a lot of talk about committed loving relationships and dignity and respect.) Sodom is held as an example in the New Testament, for instance: “Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire."

My immediate reaction was that Kansas already has Sam Brownback -- how can it get worse?

The complete filing is here, but I recommend you cover your keyboard before reading.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Drive-Bys

I don't know if I will make this a department here, but this morning I'm running into a bunch of things that deserve note, even if I don't have any real commentary to go with them.

First, the Tony Perkins Award for bald-face lies goes to Megyn Kelly at Fox News. Here's Rachel Maddow with the story:


Yep -- they just made it up.

(Digby also has some comments on the right-wing "voter fraud" hysteria.

And there's always something on the "traditional values" front. Here's a nice little story about traditional family values. The punch line, after the parents threw their son out:

This kid has no car because he sold it to help out his parents a few months back when they needed money. Ah, gotta love the ones with 'real' family values. Mom and Dad, you can go back to watching Fox now. Your work is done.

He should demand his money back.

And more nonsense from the "traditional values" crowd. I think this one deserves a Through the Looking Glass Award for the "history lesson."

A former aide to President Ronald Reagan is calling for southern states to secede from the union and form a new conservative nation called "Reagan" where citizens wouldn't be forced to compromise on "traditional values" like marriage.

I wonder if anyone's ever pointed out to this jerk that democracies work on compromise.

And finally, a story with an upside: Family Circle, the venerable "woman's magazine," published a story on two gay dads and their daughters. Given the readership, while there was a lot of positive response, the conservative backlash was tremendous. To the magazine's credit, they weren't having it.
Vice President and Editor-in-Chief Linda Fears has also responded to backlash saying: 'We are certainly not the first magazine or media brand to share the story of gay parents. But we will also publish stories on single parents, multi-racial couples, and unmarried couples with kids. People may not like those either, but they are all representative of American family life today.'

Here's the original Family Circle story, with reader comments.

Had enough? Well, I have.


Saturday, October 25, 2014

"My Rights Are Bigger Than Your Rights"

Digby noted something that started the old synapses firing:

I've been writing for quite a while about how the gun proliferation movement was essentially nullifying everyone elses freedoms. You might recall the final graph of this piece of mine at Salon which got a whole lot of comments:

All of this is allegedly being done to protect our freedoms. But it’s only the “freedom” of the person wearing a firearm that matters. Those parents who want their kids to feel safe in a public park aren’t free to tell a man waving a gun around to leave them alone, are they? Patrons and employees of Starbucks aren’t free to express their opinion of open carry laws when one of these demonstrations are taking place in the store. Those Jack in the Box employees aren’t free to refuse service to armed customers. Sure, they are all theoretically free to do those things. It’s their constitutional right just like it’s the constitutional right of these people to carry a gun. But in the real world, sane people do not confront armed men and women. They don’t argue with them over politics. They certainly do not put their kids in harm’s way in order to make a point. So when it comes right down to it, when you are in the presence of one of these armed citizens, you don’t really have any rights at all.

Now think about the "religious freedom" arguments used by "Christians" against having to have any associated with gays in any context. This is only the latest variation:

Since marriage equality’s arrival in North Carolina this month, at least two magistrates have resigned from their roles in the state judicial system to avoid having to officiate marriages for same-sex couples. This week, Senate Leader Phil Berger (R) said he will introduce legislation that allows officiants to refuse to perform marriages that violate their religious beliefs.

This is not some florist or baker he's talking about -- these are government officials. (Do I smell a violation of the Establishment Clause? You bet I do. Look at the court rulings on teacher-led prayer in schools.) This is a step above the "license to discriminate" laws vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer in Arizona, but passed and signed in Mississippi. (And look for more of those.) It's just a way of making certain religious beliefs paramount, the way the ammosexuals want to make the Second Amendment paramount.

Digby's post also triggered memories of reading a series of stories on the black pastors opposing equal rights for gays, especially marriage, on the ground that gay rights are not "civil rights":

In the brief, the coalition calls for a reversal of Friedman's decision. They argue that the marriage equality movement is inaccurately equated with the civil rights struggle, and that such comparison ignores the acute suffering of blacks throughout American history.

"The fact that American media or other factions erroneously characterize the traditional meaning of 'marriage' as being on par with the civil rights deprivations of Black Americans does not make it so," the brief states. "Comparing the dilemmas of same-sex couples to the centuries of discrimination faced by Black Americans is a distortion of our country’s cultural and legal history."

Excuse me? Where have you been for the last few hundred years? Oh, right -- pretending that only white people are gay.

The trend is obvious. It looks to me like the ungodly hybrid child of conservative insularity -- shrinking the idea of "us/other" rather than expanding it, an authoritarian mindset (also a conservative trait, mostly, reinforced by an authoritarian theology), greed, and fear, aided and abetted by the efforts of the right-wing noise machine. Yes, it's conservatives -- you won't find a lot of liberals running around in support of these ideas, because liberals tend to understand one of the basic tenets of insuring an orderly society: all rights have limits.

To conservatives, only other people's right have limits.