The weblog of Joshua Drescher

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John Hodgman reviews Jack Kirby’s “Fourth World”

June 3rd, 2008 · No Comments · Art

From the New York Times Sunday Book Review:

Born in 1917, Kirby (né Jacob Kurtzberg) was a pugnacious child of the Depression-era Lower East Side and thus far more likely to favor a sure paycheck over a smartly negotiated contract. (Often, there were no contracts at all.) By the end of the ’60s, fights with Marvel over money and growing resentment over Stan Lee’s celebrity led Kirby to an unthinkable defection to the competition.

DC, by contrast, offered him vast creative latitude and an almost overdetermined amount of credit. “KIRBY’S HERE!” shouted bold sunbursts on the cover of early Kirby issues. The Fourth World was to be his liberation — the place where he would at last get to do his own thing.

The results were startling. Kirby fans already knew that his art was muscular and kinetic, and in this collection, he’s at the height of his powers. His characters are always in motion, leaping and punching at impossible angles, straining at the panels that try to contain them. Kirby’s writing was the same way. His stories were linear — even primitive. But there is something powerful and melancholy and personal that weeps in Orion’s epic, city-smashing rages.

He was 53 when he undertook the Fourth World, and a veteran of World War II. But as Evanier points out, and as is evident throughout this book, Kirby was deeply inspired by the young generation that was renouncing war around him. His understanding of the youth movement was perhaps idiosyncratic (in Kirby’s world, the “Hairies” built their perfect society in a giant missile carrier they called “The Mountain of Judgment”). But they too were forging a new world; and the pleasure he clearly took in their efforts seems to have balanced the bouts of Orion-like rage. In one moment, Highfather of New Genesis turns to one of the young boys in his care. “Esak,” he asks, “what is it that makes the very young — so very wise?”

“Tee hee!!” Esak replies. “It’s our defense, Highfather — against the very old!!”

This is probably the only passage in the English language containing the words “tee hee” that has actually moved me.

Hodgman’s review is touching, honest and true to what all Kirby fans know. To read Kirby is to love him. His stories were always fantastic and often quite odd - full of ideas at some points that remain fresh and resonant to today and at other times veering off into indescribable weirdness. But it was Kirby the draftsman that shook the world with his genius. Through sheer force of will he built an entire visual language and a kinetic philosophy of heroism and storytelling that continues to reverberate through our entire popular culture to this day.

Read the whole thing, then swing by and borrow some Kirby books from me. Even if all you do is thumb through and soak up the visuals, you’ll soon feel the pull of Kirby’s creative gravity.

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Michelle Obama - the next MAJOR SHOE!

June 3rd, 2008 · No Comments · Politics

Just when it seemed like Clinton would surely concede, Democratic strategist Bob Beckel claims that the “shoe will drop on OBAMA regarding Michelle, tomorrow.”

My guess is that “the major shoe” will relate to these remarks. It’s what we all deserve at this point, to be sure.

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File under: Hilarious, impossible.

June 3rd, 2008 · No Comments · Politics

From those wacky kids at the NYPost:

If Hillary Rodham Clinton wants to restore her tattered reputation and repair the party she has shattered, there is only one place for her to be tonight: St. Paul, Minn.

That is where Barack Obama will kick off his general-election campaign tonight.

A surprise appearance and endorsement by Clinton - who is scheduled to hold her own event in Manhattan - would allow Democrats to mark that territory in history as the heart of a new and perfect unity for the party.

It’s never going to happen, of course, but if it DID it would be like an awesome pro-wrestling swerve where Luchadore Jesus appears drops from the rafters to offer help to the good guy at the last moment.

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Autopsy of the Primaries.

June 3rd, 2008 · No Comments · Politics

From Victor Davis Hanson:

Both Obama and McCain have pulled off the once unthinkable. The former dethroned some 16 year of Clintonian political hegemony by the sheer force of personality and charisma, when initially all the hierarchy and political machinery were against him. The latter by sheer force of will, stubbornness, and a certain courage, never gave up when most had written him off, and simply out toughed his opponents.

There is a certain irony here. In a year that for historical and contemporary reasons should be a Democratic shoo-in, the Democrats have nominated about the only candidate who can lose in November, the Republicans the only one of their own who can still win it.

That last line pretty much sums up my thoughts thus far.

Tomorrow, the Obamaniacs celebrate.

The following day, the Democrats’ long, troubled road to the general election begins for real. Exactly four decades after the Democrats’ bloodiest and darkest year, they seem poised to relive the turmoil and internal anguish that punctuated the latter stages of the doomed ‘68 campaign. I fully expect protests at the convention - not violent, but definitely visible. And they won’t just be supporters like Harriet Christian that can be giggled at and brushed aside by the party’s core. This is a fractured party and Obama’s early, Quixotic charm has worn off - leaving the raw political machinery inside of him exposed. He has an enormous challenge ahead of him and the work necessary to rebuild his party, attract swing voters and defeat McCain is far greater than the VAST majority of his supporters seem willing to recognize.

But Clinton has perhaps the toughest set of choices of all moving forward. I fully expect her to make some effort to calm her supporters and get them to rally behind Obama. I expect those efforts to fail for many of them. I do NOT expect her to campaign terribly hard or visibly on Obama’s behalf and I doubt his campaign will bother to ask her to do so anyway. The choice she faces is whether or not she throws in with Obama now. If she does, that’s basically the end of her Presidential ambitions.

Settling for a VP nod threatens to poison her chances in 2012 by attaching her fate to his if he loses. And if he wins she’ll still be 70 in 2016 and the shifting from “60-something” to “70-something” would magically make her too old to become the first female President.

Agreeing to be his Secretary of Health and Human Services threatens to (for a second time) risk the future of the issue she’s built her entire political life around.

If I were Clinton, I’d think long and hard about Barack Obama’s chances. If I were Clinton, I’d probably reject any offer of membership in the Obama Administration and instead seek to consolidate power in the Senate - likely seeking (and almost certainly getting) the position of Majority Leader. If McCain wins, the Democrats will rally around her like a beacon, having failed to listen to her and having lost as a result. She’d go into 2012 having gotten to lock horns nonstop with McCain for four straight years. If Obama wins, well… she can certainly help to make his life more… interesting.

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Bo Diddley - R.I.P.

June 2nd, 2008 · No Comments · Art, Misc.

Uncle Warren nails it:

Decades before people were hyping themselves in rap, Bo Diddley was doing nothing but singing songs about Bo Diddley (while ripping the piss out of “Hush Little Baby”) and inventing the Bo Diddley beat (while actually trying to teach himself some old Gene Autry saw).

The first time I remember hearing Bo Diddley was actually a clip played on some BBC TV music quiz show, probably in the early 80s. I said something like, “what the hell…?” and my dad said, “Ssh. Listen. Listen to his guitar.” And that was it. Because it’s the sound of your heart skipping a beat. Boom-ba-boom-boom bam-boom. I don’t think Bo Diddley met a second chord in his life, he made Status Quo look like Segovia for that. It’s all about that beat. “I play the guitar as if I were playing drums,” Diddley said. See, my dad had been a drummer, and that’s what he picked up on.

People thought he was weird because he had women in his band — musicians like Peggy Jones and the Duchess, who could crank out primal blues riffs that would’ve made John Lee Hooker stand to attention.

Bo Diddley died today, aged 79.

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They could have done worse.

June 1st, 2008 · No Comments · Politics

WaPo’s Dana Milbank points out that the Democrats’ decision to seat 1/2 delegations for Michigan and Florida COULD have been worse:

The chaos and vitriol seemed to confirm Democrats’ fears that they might blow an election that should otherwise be an easy victory for them. Nor did the compromise fit well with the Democrats’ oft-voiced commitment to voting rights. They decided they would give Florida and Michigan half of their voting rights — one of the more arbitrary compromises since the 1787 decision that a slave should count as three-fifths of a person — and voted to award Obama 59 Michigan delegates, each with half a vote, even though his name wasn’t even on the ballot in the state.

To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that somebody in the DNC actually proposed a 3/5 compromise yesterday.

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June 1st, 2008 · No Comments · Politics

Dr. Dean and Crew probably shaved a couple of weeks off of the Democratic primary mess by making the otherwise terrible decision to half-seat Florida and Michigan’s delegates yesterday. While it hands the nomination to Obama by reducing Clinton’s options to either dropping out or crazily forcing an up or down vote AT the convention impossible, it’s come at a hefty price.

Choosing to seat half of their delegates isn’t significantly better than just deciding not to seat them at all. It gives you all of the negatives of not seating the delegates at all while ALSO undermining the validity of party rules AND pissing off Clinton’s supporters even more. Case in point:

Now, she’s obviously a bit of an extreme example, but that’s a good example of the type of voter Obama now has to placate. He really has no choice at this point but to offer Clinton some sort of position in his administration. The current buzz seems to be that he’s considering offering her the role of health secretary and allowing her to shepherd healthcare reform personally.

I can see that helping, but only if his campaign actually announces that publicly and then lets her hit the trail on his behalf. A handful of endorsements sprinkled between here and November from Clinton isn’t going to be sufficient to repair the rift that exists between her supporters and their party’s chosen candidate.

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There’s always more room under the bus.

June 1st, 2008 · No Comments · Politics

Obama officially resigned from Trinity United today. Which is, of course, what he SHOULD have done months ago. My general feeling on the whole affair is summed up pretty nicely here:

It’s been just over two months since Obama’s Philadelphia speech on race — the one that was compared by the historian Garry Wills to Lincoln’s Cooper Union address. In that speech Obama famously said he could not more disown the Reverend Jeremiah Wright than he could disown the black community or his own grandmother and spoke about how Trinity United “embodies the black community in its entirely.”

Since that speech Wright has been tossed under the bus — and now, so has Trinity United.

Obama’s twenty-year participation at Trinity United and his close relationship with its senior pastor raised a lot of questions about Obama — both about his decision to associate himself with Trinity United and Wright in the first place and Obama’s tortured explanations since the public first learned of Wright’s anti-American tirades.

What Obama did today may have been politically necessary. It was certainly politically expedient. And it is yet one more blow to Obama’s image as a different kind of politician. In fact, as we’ve learned over the last few months, Obama appears to be a Chicago politician through and through. When he perceived a threat to his self-interest, he cut his ties to first his pastor and then his church, both of which he had expressed familial love and fidelity. This whole episode is deeply unattractive, even as it is deeply revealing.

Most of that is totally correct. Obama really IS a rather typical political figure.

Where I do take exception with the NRO commentary is the implication that Obama was “secretly” aware of Trinity’s “culture and style gap” for years, but chose to ignore it. The far simpler answer is that he attempted to leverage a tool that had served him well for years and it back-fired. I honestly believe that Obama probably knew next to nothing of what the church’s regular “message” tended to be because I doubt that he was ever a member for anything but personal, political reasons.

His early political ambition demanded that he pay tribute to influential entities in Chicago. He joined Trinity United to further his career and it worked very well at the time. His affiliation with the church was born of political necessity - not religious faith. Which is perfectly normal for most politicians. Yet, somehow, he was unable to see when that tribute was no longer needed - when the relationship had ceased to be a worthwhile one.

It continues to amaze me that the entire affair was handled so poorly by his campaign. Since early March, he’s been taking tiny half-steps in the hopes that he can JUUUUST nudge himself over the line where people will stop caring. As a result, he’s spent that entire time bleeding out slowly. And now, more clearly than ever, it’s obvious that it wasn’t his “agenda of change” that put him in this position standing behind his pastor and his church - it was simple, political miscalculation.

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Vote McCain!

May 30th, 2008 · No Comments · Politics

If McCain wins, we all win!

[Susan Sarandon] says if John McCain gets elected, she will move to Italy or Canada. She adds, “It’s a critical time, but I have faith in the American people.”

I have faith in them too. Faith that they can help make her Italy’s problem from now on.

I’d rather not have her in Canada, since that’s still within whining range of US soil.

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Quote of the Day

May 30th, 2008 · No Comments · Politics

Regarding NY Gov. Paterson’s recent announcement that his state will recognize same-sex marriages from other states:

“It’s outrageous that the governor did what he did,” said Michael Long, chairman of the state’s Conservative Party. “He’s for same-sex marriage, that’s fine. I have no problem with that. To do this in the dark of night, through the back door, to begin the process of destroying the sanctity of marriage, is really wrong.”

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Thoughts on Scott McClellan

May 29th, 2008 · 1 Comment · Politics

1) He’s a young guy whose political career is already over. He’s tainted by his association with Bush in the eyes of most people and he’s tainted in the eyes of Bush and Crew due to his poor performance on behalf of the Administration. Like Gonzalez and Brown and Ashcroft and Rumsfeld, he’s hated by the Left and shunned by the Right. He lacks the charisma to make it on his own and no one is going to waste the political capital necessary to bring him on board down the line. He’s a political albatross.

1.5) Even IF he wasn’t being shunned by his former cronies, said cronies are up to their eyeballs in trouble at the moment. The chances of that wing of the GOP surviving the next few years is extremely low and, by extension, any coattails McClellan might have hoped to ride will soon be torn away.

2) He read Ari Fleischer’s Bush-lovin’ memoir and saw how piss-poorly it sold. Wanting to make money to help support himself (see #1), he decided that there was only one sane path - throw Bush under the bus in his book.

3) He (wisely) relied on Internet Hullaballoo to sell mucho copies of his Bush Bashin’ Book. Mission most definitely accomplished.

I don’t think he had a change of heart or an epiphany or suddenly developed the courage to stand up for what he believed in. He was a mediocre hack that stumbled into a job he was poor at during a time when only either a truly insightful, charismatic figure OR a sociopathic liar could have done the job well. He got fired - partly as a scapegoat and partly for sucking at his job. Now, no one gives two shits about HIM, but he can make some bank from a vicious little tell-all screed.

Simple as that.

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Just say no…

May 29th, 2008 · No Comments · Art, Politics

…to Rick Hunter.

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I wanna be…

May 28th, 2008 · No Comments · Politics

like Barack:

Barack is left-handed, so hold that MET-Rx chocolate roasted-peanut protein bar in your left hand as a tribute when you undertake the Barack Obama diet. Get plenty of exercise, too. Play basketball. Don’t be bowling. Watch sports. Don’t watch the news. Check your BlackBerry and have a sip of that Black Forest Berry Honest Tea. Layer in some Nicorette for balance. Now, relax. Purify your hands. Hope. Dream. Everything is going to be all right.

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Indy IV

May 27th, 2008 · No Comments · Movies, Rants

Quick and dirty, spoiler-free review:

It’s quite good. Harrison Ford looks great and plays his role in a way that makes frequent (perhaps TOO frequent) nods to his age without sacrificing any of the action we expect from Dr. Jones. Shia LaBeouf plays his role with surprising effectiveness, switching effortlessly between comic sidekick and burgeoning Heroic Man of Action.

The whole film is full of nods to the earlier pictures - which you’ll either love or hate. I loved it.

It felt like an Indiana Jones film - preposterous, light-hearted, raucous and fun. If you ever enjoyed any of the earlier films, you’ll almost certainly enjoy this one.

Additional, spoiler-heavy comments below:

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Bob Barr wins the LP nomination.

May 26th, 2008 · No Comments · Politics


With Clinton basically done for, McCain still considering Romney and Huckabee as Veep choices and now this, my options for November are really starting to dwindle.

Are you allowed to support Obama as a “least worst” candidate? Or is there an actual “hope level” exam you have to pass before voting for him?

Maybe it’s another Nader Year.

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Um… wow.

May 23rd, 2008 · 1 Comment · Politics

Hillary Clinton’s latest excuse for staying in the race:


“My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California.”

I honestly don’t know what to say to that.

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Lookin’ sharp.

May 22nd, 2008 · 2 Comments · Politics

Now THIS is a man ready to run for President:

GQ, baby!

- Slick duds to impress the ladies? Check.

- Hip shades to wow the kiddies? Check.

- Tiny flag pin to appease the hillbillies? Check.

- Fareed Zakaria’s new book to convince the brie and chardonnay crowd that he’s still “one of them”? Check.

Watch out, McCain!

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May 21st, 2008 · No Comments · Politics

Clinton lost in Oregon - which Obama needs to cling to tightly as it was once a GOP stronghold.

Obama got trounced horribly in KY.

There’s no chance of Clinton leaving before Puerto Rico votes.

Obama is trying to trick her into quitting sooner by being REEEEALLY nice in his victory speeches.

It won’t work.


Obama, In Code, to Hillary: The VP Slot Is Yours If You Want It

A curious shift. I wonder why he’d suddenly become some nice to Clin-


80% of Clinton voters in KY are unsatisfied with Obama as the nominee.

Well, that’s probably not a bad reason. Still, Michelle will be PISSED.

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Why I love Dave Letterman.

May 21st, 2008 · No Comments · Art, Misc.

Fussing about with iTunes earlier this evening, I wound up listening to a bunch of Warren Zevon tracks. Which, of course, made me miss Warren Zevon. He died in the middle of 2003 from mesothelioma.

A google or two later and I stumbled upon the fact that Warren’s last public performance had been on the Late Show With David Letterman - when Dave gave the entire show over to celebrating Zevon’s life and work. And what a show it was - featuring not only that final performance (ending with my ABSOLUTE favorite Zevon track - Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner - but also the first presentation of Zevon’s final statement to the world:

“Enjoy every sandwich.”

Letterman, for his part, puts on a brave face as he tries to interview his dying friend for the last time. You can see his resolve crack numerous times, but Zevon always catches him with a quick joke or a smart-ass comment. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that he faced death better than most and Letterman - to his credit - did his part to provide a final stage for Zevon’s wit and genius.

Thanks to the wonder of youtube, here’s the whole show (minus the unrelated opening gags):

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Obama: Separate but equal is fine if you’re gay.

May 20th, 2008 · No Comments · Politics, Rants

From TNR:

“Barack Obama has always believed that same-sex couples should enjoy equal rights under the law, and he will continue to fight for civil unions as president,” the Obama campaign stated oh-so-carefully in response to this week’s California Supreme Court decision striking down the state’s ban on gay marriage. “He respects the decision of the California Supreme Court, and continues to believe that states should make their own decisions when it comes to the issue of marriage.”

It was a gracious response from a man the court had just branded as the legal equivalent of a segregationist.

“[Affording] access to this designation exclusively to opposite-sex couples, while providing same-sex couples access to only a novel alternative designation, realistically must be viewed as constituting significantly unequal treatment to same-sex couples,” the court wrote. Those challenging the law “persuasively invoke by analogy the decisions of the United States Supreme Court finding inadequate a state’s creation of a separate law school for Black students rather than granting such students access to the University of Texas Law School.”

This is an outstanding example of the precise reason why I feel no obligation to the Democratic Party. They’re craven, court the polls rather than standing for their supposed principles and - in the end - it results in their accomplishing astonishing feats of mediocrity and cowardice.
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