"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

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Strong and Sweet

I always get sniffly when I see stuff like this. I'd like to see more of it in the States. This one's from Britain.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Change of Scene

I'm in Florida for the week, visiting family. It's a little unreal -- I'm not sure I believe the palm trees. (Which means that I've gotten way too used to my routines.)

And scanning through the news, it's all depressingly the same, which is actually the main reason that I haven't been posting much lately. I do want to point out one thing, from Pam's House Blend, though, about the effectiveness of grassroots campaigns (and yes, sadly, astroturf campaigns, as we can see from the disastrous Congress that was in stalled after the 2010 election). Key point: "Why letters to the editor? It’s simple. Advertising costs a fortune, but LTEs are free."

I think letters to the editor are also more real to most people -- ads and commercials always have a sense of fantasy to them (deliberately, I'm sure) that might influence people, but aren't reality, and we all know it. Letters to the editor are reality.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Today's Not Politics News

It seems that polar bears are not descended from brown bears after all:
Polar bears, long thought to have branched off relatively recently from brown bears, developing their white coats, webbed paws and other adaptations over the last 150,000 years or so to cope with life on Arctic Sea ice, are not descended from brown bears, scientists report. Instead, according to a research team that looked at DNA samples from the two species and from black bears, the brown bear and polar bear ancestral lines have a common ancestor and split about 600,000 years ago.
It gets even more complicated than that.
The findings challenge the idea that the bears adapted very quickly, but confirm that they have made it through warming periods and loss of sea ice before. It may have been touch and go for the bears, however, because the authors find evidence of evolutionary bottlenecks, probably during warm periods, when only small populations survived, even though warming was occurring much more slowly than it is now.
Food for thought.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Another Profile in Courage

Joe Sudbay has an excellent post over at AmericaBlog on Obama's refusal to sign an executive order mandating workplace protections for LGBT employees of federal contractors. I can't really add anything to it -- he's covered all the bases.

Rosen vs. Romney

I have to say, the Democrats sure know how to cave. Here's an excellent recap/commentary on the whole Hilary Rosen "Ann Romney never worked a day in her life" brouhaha, starting with what Rosen actually said:

“What you have,” she told Anderson Cooper on Wednesday night, “is Mitt Romney running around the country saying: ‘Well, you know, my wife tells me that what women really care about are economic issues. And when I listen to my wife, that’s what I’m hearing.’

“Guess what?” Rosen observed. “His wife has actually never worked a day in her life.”

Of course, Ann Romney shot back with the "I raised five boys, and that's hard work" mantra.

Please. I'm sure Ann Romney was able to spend quality time with her sons and be a nurturing, caring mother, while her staff took care of washing diapers and her husband clipped coupons -- when he wasn't throwing mothers who had to work outside the home out of jobs.

And almost before the first howls of faux outrage from the right had died down, President Obama, displaying that steel spine and steadfast courage for which he is known, came to Romney's defense.

“There is no tougher job than being a mom,” President Obama told a Cedar Rapids television station, mentioning his own wife and mother. He added, “I don’t have a lot of patience for commentary about the spouses of political candidates. My general view is those of us who are in the public life, we’re fair game. Our families are civilians.”

Did anyone mention to Obama that Mittens is the one who inserted his wife into the discussion? If Obama spent half the time laying into Republicans that he does trashing Democrats, the political landscape would be a lot different right now. (And that, boys and girls, is why I'm voting third party in the presidential election this year.)

And Rosen never should have apologized for her "poor phrasing." Her comment wasn't poorly phrased, but it was much worse, from the Republican view: it was true.

Read Hirschman's piece. It's a good recap of the "controversy" and a solid analysis of the reality of working mothers.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Comfort Food

It's National Grilled Cheese Day.

Chow down.


National problem that has to be dealt with at the local level. Here's a a creative -- and apparently very effective approach.

Johnson High School football players this school year have been guarding something other than the ball. At the urging of a school counselor, three of them came to the aid of a freshman who was being bullied.

Could be interesting, though, if jocks are the bullies.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

They're Failing

The "will bash for cash" crowd, that is. I just had a flash on one reason for their failure this morning. (Aside from the fact that their message goes against the grain for most Americans, who are basically decent people willing to live and let live.)


Let me explain. I've dived back into comics after an absence of many years, and am finding some surprising things. For example, there are several series I've started following, including Secret Six, Young Avengers, Astonishing X-Men, and X-Factor, all of which include prominent gay characters. In fact, Northstar, who somewhere along the line joined the X-Men when I wasn't looking, is due to marry his boyfriend in June. This is not including the Authority, which spun off a series focusing on its gay character, Midnighter. (Not a nice person at all, but he's completely different when he's with his husband, Apollo.)

So where are the OneMillion(minus 960,000)Moms while all this has been going on? Well, aside from the fact that their organization was formed last week, while gay characters have been in superhero comics at least since the late '80s, they've been wasting their time hating on Archie, who is sort of impervious to anything they can do at this point. Do they think that anyone who runs around in Spandex must be straight?

And I'm not going to go into detail about the small but devoted fan base for boys' love manga in this country. Think about boy on boy romances written for teenage girls who, in all probability, just figuring the percentages, are going to be dating boys. Think about the ripple effect on attitudes toward gays.

Because you see, in both the BL manga and the superhero comics, the same-sex relationships are viewed very matter-of-factly and positively. (In fact, one of the most humorous scenes in Young Avengers is when Billy Kaplan (Wiccan) decides to come out to his family as a teenage superhero. His boyfriend, Teddy Altman (Hulkling) comes by and they decide it's time. Before Billy can get the words out of his mouth, however, his parents are welcoming Teddy to the family, figuring that must be what he wants to tell them that's so serious.)

Now think about a universe in which being gay is fine, being a superhero, not so much.

This is what the AFA, FRC, AFTAH, NOM, and all the other anti-gay hate groups and hate-group wannabes are fighting.

Is it any wonder that they're losing? After all, the only bigots in superhero comics are the bad guys.

(And it occurs to me that comics have been, for quite some time, very heavy on social commentary, and as far as I know, the message has been overwhelmingly toward tolerance, respect for others, and acceptance of others' differences -- none of which are in the anti-gay repertoire.)

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Review in Brief: X-Factor: The Longest Night

I haven't done one of these in a while. Partly it's because I haven't had much crossing my desk that has generated a lot of enthusiasm, but mostly it's because writing has been really hard for me this winter. A little bit of burn-out, I think. But I've started a new comic series that looks interesting -- X-Factor.

The Darkest Night in the first compilation of Volume 3 of X-Factor, so the introductions are somewhat rudimentary. The basic set-up is that the team, which includes James Madrox, the Multiple Man; Guido, the Strong Guy; Wolfsbane, a shape-shifter with a religious bent; Siryn, whose voice can shatter just about anything; Rictor, a "living earthquake"; and Monet, who seems to be a multi-purpose witch, forms a detective agency, for lack of a better word. There's also something of a wild card included, Layla Miller, who "knows things" -- but no one knows what her allegiance is. This is post-Decimation, an event in which most of the world's mutants were stripped of their powers. Basically, the group works in Mutantown with what remains of the mutants, both with and without powers. And of course, someone is out to get them.

I had some reservations about this, because it was scripted by Peter David, and my previous run-ins with his work have been less than positive. As it happens, it's a good script -- he's not trying to be funny. It's sharp and tight, good dialogue, and good character development.

The art is kind of variable, although the volume doesn't really give you specifics on who did which chapters. Ryan Sook's drawing is appealing, sort of in the Jim Cheung/John Cassaday vein, but not as detailed. There are a couple of chapters that go very high-contrast that makes the images sometimes hard to read.

The main reason I started this series is that, eventually, Rictor and Shatterstar develop a relationship (which actually doesn't happen until volumes 7 and 8, which are on their way -- Shatterstar hasn't joined the team yet. There is, however, a very revealing frame in Avengers: The Chidren's Crusade, that establishes that they are a couple. I may review that one next.). It'll be interesting to see how David handles that one.


I haven't had much to say this week -- it's been abnormal and unsettled. I'm starting to wonder if my life will ever be "normal" again -- or if I just have to find a new normal.

At any rate, this post is as much a link dump as anything else, highlighting some of the more disgusting people in the news.

First off, the Catholic bishops are maintaining their lead easily. Now if you have a relationship with a group that has a relationship with a group that is working for equal rights for GLBTs, you'll lose your funding.

For three years now, Compañeros, a small nonprofit organization in rural southwestern Colorado, has received thousands of dollars from the Roman Catholic Church to help poor Hispanic immigrants with basic needs including access to health care and guidance on local laws.

But in February, the group was informed by a representative from the Diocese of Pueblo that its financing from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, an arm of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops devoted to ending poverty, was in danger.

The problem, the diocesan liaison explained, was Compañeros’s membership in an immigrant rights coalition that had joined forces with a statewide gay and lesbian advocacy group, recounted Nicole Mosher, Compañeros’s executive director.

How Christian of them.

And in Seattle, the Church is in the middle of politics:

The two bishops of the Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle, in a letter to the faithful, say they will deploy parishes to collect signatures for Referendum 74, a measure for the November ballot designed to roll back same-sex marriage in Washington.

While asking that signatures not be collected on Easter Sunday, the bishops described the issue as “critically important” and said information on the signature drive is being sent to pastors throughout the Western Washington diocese.

I guess even Catholic bishops have some sense of shame, since they don't want to collect signatures to deny civil rights to gays on Easter Sunday. It's unconscionable, though, that they're still trying to tailor civil law to their own primitive "morality". But it gets better:

In their letter, the bishops specifically deny that refusing marriage to same-sex couples equates to discrimination — an argument made by Gov. Christine Gregoire, a Catholic, in arguing for marriage equality.

“Treating different things differently is not unjust discrimination,” the bishops claim. “Marriage can only be between a man and a woman because of its unique ends, purpose and place in society. The word ‘marriage’ isn’t simply a label that can be attached to different types of relationships.

Arrogance and shallowness all wrapped up in one delicious quote. Since when to a couple of (theoretically) celibate men get to decide what marriage is?

I'm not even going to bother quoting Senator Reverend Ruben Diaz -- you already know what he's like.

The Catholic hierarchy seems to be taking most of the honors this week -- sort of odd that Rick Santorum managed to keep his mouth shut. This one is nice, however -- the bigots got some push-back.

A Catholic priest who hosted a mandatory assembly told seniors at Minneapolis’ DeLaSalle high school that single parents and children who are adopted are not normal, preached against same-sex marriage, and a Catholic couple who presented with the priest told the students gay marriage was akin to bestiality, all apparently in an effort to influence the seniors — soon to be of legal voting age — to vote for the anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment facing Minnesota, according to a report.

The priest, by the way, did nothing to correct the volunteer couple.

And the pushback? Well, according to the archdiocese, the presentation "upset" some of the students:

Jim Accurso, spokesman for the archdiocese, said most of the presentation went fine. But during a question-and-answer session, a presenter used “an unfortunate example” to answer the question and made students upset.

The students had a different take:

“It was a really awful ending,” said Bliss. “It was anger, anger, anger, and then we were done and they left. This is really a bad idea.”

It's not all Catholics, however. John Derbyshire has finally stepped over the line. I'm not going to try to excerpt this -- Charles Johnson has done a good job of it, if you follow the link. And if you want some evidence that Derbyshire is an unregenerate pig, read David Badash's article.

Scott Walker, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Enterprises, who one hopes will soon the be former governor of Wisconsin, outdid himself this week. From AFL-CIO:

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who is facing a recall election, quietly repealed a state law making it easier for pay discrimination victims to seek justice. Amanda Terkel reports in The Huffington Post that Walker signed into law a bill passed in party-line votes by Republicans in the state legislature that rolls back the 2009 Equal Pay Enforcement Act. The act had allowed workers to challenge pay discrimination in state rather than just federal courts.

That's just the latest. Check out this post at C&L to see what else he's been up to.

And finally, our own Supreme Court of the United States.

The US supreme court ruled on Monday that jails do not violate privacy rights by routinely strip-searching everyone, even those arrested on minor traffic offenses.

By a 5-4 vote and splitting along conservative-liberal ideological lines, the high court ruled that privacy rights involving the searches were outweighed by security concerns by jails about a suspect hiding drugs, weapons or other contraband.

Writing the opinion for the court's conservative majority, justice Anthony Kennedy concluded the jail search procedures struck a reasonable balance between inmate privacy and the needs of the institution.

The kicker on this one is that in the case presented, the plaintiff had been arrested for a traffic fine that he had paid. Isn't it nice to know you live in a country where any asshole with a badge can make you take your clothes off because he feels like it? If he doesn't decide to shoot you first. (I'm not going to comment on the Trayvon Martin murder, except to say that Zimmerman's "self-defense" defense is so full of holes you could use it to strain pasta.)

I'm going to spend the rest of the day reading comics, I think. They're much less surreal.