Archive for June 30th, 2006

Superman, revisited

Yes, it’s an awful lot of space to dedicate to a middling movie, but the hero is an American icon. And, like a lot of other icons, dull. Why?

He’s omnipotent. Yes, yes, there’s trouble in this movie and others, he nearly bites it, and so forth. But in every movie, he’s the favorite. It’s Lex Luthor who’s the underdog.

Did I mention he’s omnipotent? That means he can do anything. Where’s the risk? What are the stakes? Ironically Superman’s omnipotence is his weakness. It makes him less interesting than, say, Batman or Spiderman. In the early comics, Superman was not so powerful. He couldn’t fly, he could only leap…tall buildings. He didn’t have the multitude of visions he later developed, x-ray, laser vision. I think others crop up when the need arises. H*ll, the dude can turn back time.

I’ve read this before, I’ll repeat it as my own, but unlike other superheroes, Superman is the real guy, Clark Kent is the manufactured identity. The other heroes are people first; the hero is an inner expression, a persona that goes with the powers – usually accidental. That’s what drags down Superman. We can never really sympathize because we could never become Superman. He’s an omnipotent alien descended to the stars like some arbitrary God. He’s not an average joe squeaking by doing the best he can with his limited gifts like the rest of us.

Other super thoughts:

So the guy can hear everything. He knows what goes on everywhere. So…how does he decide who to save and who to let hang? Now that’s an awesome responsibility and the only challenge as far as I can see that taxes his superpowers. There are just too d*mn many of us.

Which leads me to the next question: why does he have a job? It’s a waste of time, isn’t it? Eight hours he could be fighting crime, saving downed planes, putting out fires. It’s a big world. Does he sleep? Eat? If not, why bother work as a journalist at all? If he does eat and sleep, why the job? Couldn’t he just make his own food, rearrange molecules or something? He could sleep wherever he wanted. On the sidewalk. In a flophouse. On a roof somewhere where it’s warm – not that heat or cold affect him. It’s not like anyone’s going to surprise him in his sleep, stick him with a knife or anything.

And he always chooses Metropolis over the rest of the world, Lois Lane in particular. How many others have died so that Lois can go on a quiet midnight ride over Metropolis Bay?

World Cup thoughts

Seems like the final was already played: Argentina v. Germany. Not a great game because the teams were so evenly matched and the ball spent the majority of its time in the midfield. But what skilled, cohesive teams! What deadly offensive skill, what smothering defense!

Brazil – Ghana was a dull game. Ghana controlled the ball most of the time and had a load of opportunities. Brazil’s defense is just good enough. And Brazil’s goals, all of them sort of cheap, quick counter-attacks, timing passes, etc. You know what? Brazil is the new Argentina. I hate that style of play. They are not a fun team to watch.

Defenders should never have a perm. Leave the perms for the strikers. Defenders should have everyday conservative haircuts. If possible, a defender should even be balding.

Speaking of hair, I’ve discovered an easy way to tell who’s going to win the game early on. By the team hair. The more hair bands, hair nets, and head bands a team has to pull back long, flowing locks highlighted, teased, cut into shapes, the less likely that team will win the game.

You think I’m joking?

South Korea – Switzerland. South Korea had perhaps the worst haircuts in the tourney: between the forward with the bleach surf ‘do and the defender with the 1960s Beatles mop-top were a whole lot of other bad cuts. Switzerland sported not a single ‘do that leaked over the ear. Switzerland wins, 2-0.

Spain – France. Spain featured at least three guys with shoulder-length hair and perms. One guy even wore the kind of u-shaped hair band you find on preppie teens. Two others wore headbands. Another had moussed himself a mohawk. France has a couple of bald guys and a guy missing a side burn and some hair on his temple because of a scar. France wins, 3-1.

Argentina – Germany. Historically, Argentina – along with Italy – is a hair disaster. They practically revolutionized the greasy-mop-tied-with-string look. This year they were less egregious, with only one or two greasy mops tied with a string. They had at least one perm. They also had a wild-haired Native American looking guy who actually looked kick-*ss. Germany, however, features nary a single extraordinary ‘do. Germany wins on PKs, 1-1 (4:2).

Go back and examine the record. You’ll see I’m right. Besides Ronaldhino, Brazil has very modest haircuts – and Ronaldhino’s having a very mediocre tournament. They win. England has subdued hair this time around and has survived despite mediocre play. Italy’s hair is toned down this year, and lo! They do not get booted out on PKs!

Hair predictions for the rest of the tournament:

Tomorrow, Beckham, in a conservative close-cropped do, and teammates beat a heavily permed and treated Portuguese team. Conservative hair Brazil defeat the bald and missing side burn of France. Next, Germany easily takes down the subtler, yet still more groomed Azzurri. England loses to Brazil despite Ronaldhino’s poor play on a bad pass made by the tousle- and moussed-hair forward, Crouch. In the final, the German squad, uniformly conservative in their hair styling, defeat an overrated Brazil squad as the country blames curly-locked Ronaldhino for its loss. (He just can’t replace the close-cropped leader of the 2002 WC champs, Rivaldo.)

You can put money on it!

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So I saw Superman today. Matinee. Eh.

As part of the plot, super reporter and Superman love interest, Lois Lane, penned two separate editorials: “Why the world doesn’t need Superman,” and “Why the world needs Superman.” You can guess for yourselves how this fit into the plot and Lois’ – er — interest in the Hunk of Steel. But I thought it’d make an interesting post.

And I come down…against Superman.

That’s right.

At first, when I was watching the flick, I was like “ooo yeah, if only Superman were here now, he’d know what to do with the CIA’s secret prisons.” I can easily picture him twisting iron train ties around the necks of certain federal officials, dusting off his hands, and considering a job well done. He’d save us all for truth, justice, and the American Way, none of which seems terribly popular in Congress or the White House.

Yeah, an invulnerable hero swooping in and cleaning out the bad guys. Yeah, that’s what we need, right?

Superman was first popular just as the Great Depression got underway. Some consider him the “ultimate immigrant” (from Krypton) who battled the rich and the corrupt. (His first appearance had him bust up munitions manufacturers and their corrupt, bought government cronies who started wars to boost sales – oh yeah, that’s what I’m talking about!) He was a social crusader, a man of the people, of the downtrodden. And he was omnipotent. He could do anything.

In other words, he’s the model for a dictator.

The funny thing about Americans is that when they hear “dictatorship,” they inherently think of the negatives of such an institution. A dictatorship, in our popular gestalt, is a jack-booted thug wearing a silly military uniform and ordering the deaths of a considerable swath of his own population. There’s prisons and beatings and death camps, barbed wire, German shepherds, and search lights.

But dictatorships have their benefits, too. There’s no check on an executive: he can act swiftly and decisively to, say, eliminate mid-level corruption among bureaucrats or make the trains run on time. There’s an awkward dispute with two controversial sides? No problem! Enter the dictator and poof! Problem solved. You don’t like the solution? Off to the Gulag with you, brother!

Remember, both the Hitler and Stalin dictatorships were popular with their people. Popular enough anyway to have the benefits outweigh the negatives, if you were lucky enough not to be a Jew or Trotskyite. Hitler reversed the economic depression in Germany by building a war machine; Stalin modernized the Soviet Union’s economy and made the country a world superpower.

And that’s the danger of a dictator, the allure. It’s easy to picture Superman as a friend. And, heck, he’d probably do a decent job as dictator – after all, there have been absolute monarchs who had peaceful, prosperous, and tolerant reigns. But once you open up the door – even to someone you like and trust – there’s no closing it again. And someone you don’t like might step through the opening.

So, for me, I’m going to say “no thanks” to Superman. This is a job for you and me.

Links…

Matt Stoller has an amazing description of the Net Neutrality debate in the Senate Commerce Committee and what it likely means for the issue on the floor.

Wulfgar! emerges from his den and mauls the flag-burning amendment and its supporters.

GOP bootlickers rush to give President the authority to ignore the recent SCOTUS decision regarding military tribunals. Um…that still wouldn’t make it constitutional

Digby is pessimistic that Bush will heed the court’s decision anyway. Good point.

The Department of Homeland Security does not make you safer. Apparently it is a big money-pit. Can we have some accountability in Washington, please? Oh, that’s right, we’re busy arguing about fags, flag burning, and those traitors at the New York Times.

Speak out! What should the goal for Western Strategy be? How about saving the country from the GOP?

I know some people out there think we should be “above” sliming Rush – but I can’t help it! It’s too funny!

Colbert tackles the SWIFT scandal: “The New York Times wants you dead.”

The New Republic comes out against…baseball caps. For the record, I’m with them on this one.

Boing Boing! has the video for a new mixed soundtrack for class sci-fi full length animation, “The Fantastic Planet.” If see only one 1970s sci-fi feature-length cartoon, this is it.




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