The recent death of author Christopher Hitchens has aroused much comment in the press on both sides of the Atlantic. Although I admire him for his fearless criticism of those "trendy lefties" who seek to apologize or defend militant jihadism( just as George Orwell ripped into those like Paul Robeson who "pimped for Stalin"), his declared atheism and support for "regime change" in Iraq make me uncomfortable to say the least! "Too right wing for the LEft and too left wing for the Right" would be the best epitath for him to my mind
Reports that there are to be a 12 issue limited series entitled "X-Men vs Avengers" fill me with foreboding. Not least because the MU superhero community is fairly small and is still smarting from the divisions over the Civil War and Secret Invasion storylines- just how many fratricidal conflicts can the MU endure before it ends in lasting estrangement between super groups( to the immense joy of villains everywhere, as Spider-Man observed during the Civil War)?
About a month ago( Nov 7, 2011), I warned that crowing over FIFA's "poppy ban" climbdownn could return to haunt Britain. Like Cassandra in Greek mythology I have been vindicated- according to today's "Daily Mail" (www.dailymail.co.uk, Dec. 2, 2011)- it now seems likely that Argentinian athletes at the London Olympics next summer will wear(or seek to wear) "The Falklands are Las Malvinas". True, the IOC has yet to issue a ruling on this issue( and if it does approve) , predictably the "usual suspects" in the "red top tabloids" will boo hoo- everybody hates us; Argentina can point to FIFA's climbdown over the "poppy ban" as precedent for permission for the wearing of symbols with political significance at sporting events. Such self-centered chauvinism can return to haunt us-and sooner than anybody thought possible!
The thought has recently occurred to me that the superhero experience in comics has become arguably too "Americanocentric"( NB this applies mainly but not exclusively to the Marvel/DC universes). With the demise of Excalbur and Alpha Flight titles, there are NO Marvel( and with DC's "Justice League International", only ONE- an admittedly welcome addition) books featuring non-US based heroes.
Yes, I admit the Marvel Universe tends to be America- based( which is where marvel's editorial offices are located), but even so, it reflects an extraordinarily parochial mindset( remember the Initiative, which proposed a superhero team for every US state)focusing on New York(and to a lesser extent LA?).
Is it really asking too much for those heroes who are based outside the Big Apple( never mind the US itself) to get at least SOME THING other than passing attention- if not their own titles, then at the very least a mini-series or graphic novel?
PS I'm writing a Captain America novel including at least two members of the Winter Guard, one of the chronically underused groups currently languihsing in obscurity in the Marvel Universe
Sometimes you read things in the paper that make you wish to laugh out loud- or cry! Case in point_ Al Qaeda's new leader Ayman al-Zawahiri's recent video rhapsodizing about the "good qualities" of his mentor and predecessor, the thankfully deceased Osama bin Laden- His qualities(bin Laden's that is!) as a good father and devoted husband( qualities not so incidentally shared with Mafia bosses and Nazi war criminals), his weeping over fallen jihadists( the 9/11 hijackers- their victims sufferings and the grief of their families seems not to have occurred to him- but hey, they were only "infidels"!).
My advice to al-Zawahiri is simple: don't get too choked up about Osama- you may very well be joining him(hopefully in Hell for all eternity- sorry no "72 virgins in paradise" for either of you) sooner than either of you expect!
Just saw Lady Gaga's new CD "Born This Way". It got me thinking- is gay really the same as black more or less? Yes and no. Yes- both groups have experiences of oppression at the hands of a prejudiced society-African Americans due to slavery and then segregation and gays by virtue of living in a homophobic world.
No, in the sense that skin colour is more obvious than sexual orientation(true, very fair skinned blacks can "pass", but to most people, black OR white,can readily identify black or mixed race people, be they the current President of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama, rapper/actor Ice-T or actresses like Lonette McKee or "Ugly Betty" star Vanessa L.Williams), whereas Lady Gaga , Drew Barrymore (my favourite film star incidentally)or British singer Jessie J. can deflect attention from their likely sexual orientation(all are widely regarded as being bisexual BTW) by dating men, getting married and having babies-at least theoretically.
There IS a school of thought which holds that sexual orientation is as immutable as skin colour, (both occur in the womb)but it is yet to be officially confirmed.
Some African American leaders have criticized the gay community (or at least its spokespersons, who tend to be white) for"leeching off" the freedom struggle of the Civil Rights Movement(but as a certain proportion of the gay community is black/Latino/Hispanic/Native American and always has been- the "down low" notwithstanding- the "down low" being the practise of closeted black men, often married or in a steady relationship, having sex with other men despite decrying "faggots", the overlap is inevitable).
Next Sunday will be Remembrance Sunday in the UK when characteristically the nation remembers all those who died in not just two world wars, but all subsequent conflicts. Word that that FIFA's President Sepp Blatter has decided to enforce a blanket ban on England's football team from wearing the Royal British Legion's poppy has predictably aroused apoplexy in some parts of Fleet Street, but I feel for one that he is well within his rights to do so. Firstly, as FIFA has pointed out, this ban is NOT directed against Britain but applies across the board to ALL FIFA member nations( viz signs or symbols with political, commercial or religious overtones or connotations). Secondly, if as some war veterans groups and tabloid commentators demand, the UK should get an exception, then it will be that much harder for FIFA to resist similar demands from other national teams. Thirdly, the reason for this ban was to impose a Chinese wall between sport and nationalist, religious or even political controversy( and given the manipulation of sport by both Nazi and Communist regimes in the 20th century, pace the notorious Berlin (1936) and Moscow(1980) Olympics,together with South Africa's long standing exclusion from sport during the apartheid era, this ban seems eminently sensible to my mind).
To sum up the "storm in a tea cup" over FIFA's "ban on the poppy"( as if the team was forbidden from wearing the poppy when off duty) is reminiscent of the worst attributes of the "red top tabloids", wilfully ignoring the wider context of the whole dubious intermingling of sport and nationalist, commercial, religious and even ideological causes, and instead insisting on its wishes being given priority and engaging in the "Violet Rose" school of political discourse( to those unacquainted with the "Just William" stories of author Richmal Crompton, Violet Rose was a spoiled little girl who when she didn't get what she wanted, she threatened to "scweam and scweam the whole house down!"). Even if we disagree with FIFA's stance on this issue we should abide by this ruling Anybody else think as I do on this issue?
Did anybody notice the article by writer Laurie Penny in last Friday's London Independent( and the follow up article "Women bloggers call for and end to "hateful" attacks in today's Observer Nov 5, 2011) about being repeatedly sexually insulted and abused by male "trolls" on the Internet?
Whilst I agree that repeatedly sexually based insults( rude comments on a woman's appearance, speculation about her sexual orientation and her genitalia) up to and including threats of rape, are not just "hateful" but also hurtful- but more to the point tiresome- it is after all easier to ridicule Ms Penny( and by implication other women writers such as Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Melanie Phillips and Mary Kenny) as "a castrating dyke bitch from Hell" than it is to take the time and effort to intellectually debate her arguments(which can be fairly debated not just for Penny but her sister scribes mentioned above). Nonetheless I am uncomfortable with this line of argument-journalism has ALWAYS been a rough and tumble sphere just as much as say, politics and if women want to take part in this field on an equal footing with men, then like it or not they must take the rough with the smooth- just as men do( I can recall being irritated/angered by what I considered unfair attacks on me on the Catholic Community Forum as well as this one but the idea of running to Big Brother or Sister was unthinkable- I gave as good as i got!
"If you can't stand the heat, then stay the hell out of the kitchen!" US President Harry Truman(who endured along with FDR, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama some pretty nasty press commentary in his time) quipped and to my mind, he's not far wrong. "Ring fencing" a religion or racial group from critical commentary is questionable enough- there should be no "sacred cows" in a democracy (pace the State of Israel, the religion of Islam)- neither should there be one for gender, to my mind. Is Ms Penny seriously implying that women are such delicate and sensitive creatures that they cannot respond to their critics in kind?
I have just finished reading the trade paperback "Captain America, the Truth: Red, White And Black" in which everybody's favourite Star Spangled Sentinel of Liberty finds out a decidedly gamier background to his origin-to whit, before his alter-ego Steve Rogers drank the Super Soldier formula, it was tested on a group of African American US soldiers in a Tuskegee style experiment(with decidedly horrific results).
It raised an issue that I have been wondering about for quite some time(and am currently writing a novel about)- can a superhero/heroine EVER be seen as separate from his or her country of origin( and more to the point the government and what is does both domestically and internationally, past and present)
True, tussles between individual superheroes and even groups( most noticeably the Avengers, Fantastic Four and even the X-Men) and the US federal government of the day are a recurring motif in the Marvel Universe( culminating in the all-too recent "Civil War" brouhaha vis a vis the Super Hero Registration Act(SHRA), but the issue is far from being resolved!
I am no more a fan of the late "brother Colonel" Muammar Gaddafi than I was of Osama Bin Laden, but the hoo-raying by the British press( "red top" and broadsheet alike, the Sun was the worst offender with its "That' s For Lockerbie!" headline) strikes me as being tasteless at best and downright GHOULISH at worst!
Rejoicing over the death( all right, his own people might have good reason to be happy) of any man, even personages as intellectually and morally depraved as Gaddafi and/or Bin Laden strikes me as a negation of common decency and humanity incompatible with the mores of a society that terms itself civilized far less avowedly Christian.