1 in 500 Americans have died of covid.

The WaPo discusses the grim statistics.

Washington state has managed its Trump Virus cases. It’s also accepting Idaho cases that state’s system is too overloaded to handle. Idaho Governor “Typhoid Brad” Little (I’m going to be using Typhoid Republican nicknames a lot for a while) is still adamant against any sort of mandates — he’s just going to wait for residents to do the right thing. Which worked out badly for one Alabama man. And the people are ending up in hospital from ivermectin poisoning. And the many people being forced to postpone surgeries.

LGM points out there are “huge numbers of basically apolitical or weakly political people who aren’t right wing zealots, but who are right wing adjacent in some way — they live in social/cultural bubbles where the Republican puke funnel is taken to be news rather than propaganda, and therefore it’s easy for them to just sort of slide into genuine vaccine “hesitancy” in the literal sense of the word. If not for the right-wing media, they might be okay. Instead, for some people, getting the vaccine feels like breaking with your community.

Which makes sense, when we have Republicans are telling them vaccines mandates are fascism. Or Erick Erickson, right-wing ass-hat, claiming it’s all a plot to whip up hate for unvaccinated Republicans. Or that Christian conservatives are incorporating vaccine and mask opposition into their Christianity (one anti-vax pastor also thinks math is nonsense).

We’ve always had vaccine mandates in America. One worry is that while Republicans are focused on covid, it won’t stop there. After all, right-wing anti-vaxxing goes back before Trump, and not just on the fringes. Of course, when President Obama said vaccines were good, a lot of Republicans denounced them. Tucker Carlson says the goal of mandatory military vaccination “is to identify the sincere Christians in the ranks, the free thinkers, the men with high testosterone levels, and anyone else who doesn’t love Joe Biden and make them leave immediately.” Breitbart claims that liberals are aggressively pro-vaccine and mocking anti-vaxxers because they want right-wingers to reject it and die … hmm, maybe taking it would be the ultimate way to own the libs?

It says a lot about the right that that’s the best rationale Breitbart can offer. As Roy Edroso points out, it’s bullshit (conservatives had to refuse the vaccine before they got mocked) — and he’s probably right it’s less about encouraging vaccination than giving readers a new reason to hate liberals.

Though it’s not just politics that’s the problem — a lot of online wellness influencers are anti-vax.

It’s hell on the medical personnel dealing with this: “I’m fatigued because I’m working more than ever, but more people don’t have to die,” Erickson told Medscape Medical News. “It’s been very hard physically, mentally, emotionally.” It’s certainly a good thing that at least one doctor spewing misinformation has lost his license.

LGM sums up the Republican position: “People should be free to acquire and transmit to others a deadly and extremely communicable virus, that is causing a catastrophic pandemic, even though this catastrophe could be avoided completely if people chose to take a free and safe vaccine. Furthermore, it’s morally wrong for the government to engage in even the mildest coercion to nudge people toward getting vaccinated, because such coercion interferes with individual liberty, which is always the highest social value in every circumstance.”

Likewise,  “That Reeves would dismiss these deaths as bad “timing” says plenty about what Republican governors value — optics over lives.”

Or as John Scalzi says, “They’re killing their own people because of politics. Not anyone else. Not any more. And they’ll keep doing it. For as long as it takes. Because this is how they think they will win.”

 

 

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Links and quotes about writing and reading

The first three were going to be the basis for long posts in themselves. But it’s been a while and I still don’t have anything to say, so I’ll toss them out as they stand.

Writing about her first book, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, NK Jemisin once said she’d always had trouble with the idea of Lord of the Rings that all the heroes should do is fix the world and restore it to normal: ” Yeah, sure, there’s a certain mental comfort food in the idea of putting the world back to rights. But there’s always a part of me that wonders, which rights should it be put back to? Did the heroes make the best choice, or just the easiest one? Who gets to answer that question? But such questions aren’t easy to answer, which is why I think a lot of fantasy simply doesn’t try.” I think it’s a good question even though Jemisin is wrong about LOTR — they don’t restore the world to normal, they end the Age.

2)Marvel editor-in chief Tom Brevoort had a post on his blog some time back about superhero morality particularly as it applies to the transition to movies. Comics are still widely seen as a kids’ medium so a lot of heroes carry an old-school don’t kill morality with them. Movies on the other hand, even superhero movies, aspire to an audience that includes a lot of adults and in action film that usually means killing as catharsis: the bad guy’s gonna pay for what he did.

3)My fellow Atomic Junkshop scribe Greg hatcher wrote the following about Batman writers who try to go excessively adult: “He’s still fighting the Adam West fight,” is how my friends and I refer to it. You can always tell when someone’s fighting the Adam West fight in a modern superhero story; mostly because there will be jarringly inappropriate sex scenes, the violence is way over the top, and everyone swears like a sailor…. But it’s still your basic chase, explosion, good guy hits bad guy, the end plot.”

Now, other links:

One problem with Batman adaptations is that the writers can’t make a mystery only Batman can solve which results in bad Batman plots.

A company launches a proposed YA rating system. Foz Meadows explains the problems with it.

Why one Sikh cosplays as a bearded, bespectacled Captain America.

The problem with autistic characters in movies.

“A romance story is a story in which a woman is the most significant damn thing in the book.”

Why it’s sometimes a problem to give a character a tragic revenge backstory.

There’s a popular legend that Bruce Lee created the concept for the Kung Fu TV series and the showrunners stole it. It isn’t true.

You may have heard this already, but the grown-up baby on the cover of Nirvana’s Nevermind is now suing them on the grounds the cover image is child porn.

It’s hard to be a fan when your faves can turn out to be monsters.

Researching the 1930s.

#SFWApro. Cover by Michael Kaluta, all rights remain with current holder.

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So I bought a book of Virgil Finlay art

Phantasms is my third such, because Finlay’s art is just gorgeous. So here’s some Finlay art. First, from “Yesterday’s Doors” by Arthur J. Burks.Next from The Shadowy Third by Ellen GlasgowAnd a scene from a book called The Hobbit.#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holders.

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Undead Sexist Cliche: Women are so happy when men dominate them

Much like the long tradition of pretending slaves loooved them some shackles and white dominance (and the same for Jim Crow), there’s a tradition of insisting that women really, really want men to be the boss of them.

Psychologist Leonard Sax, for example, claimed back in 2008 that all feminism’s denial of innate gender differences has accomplished is to create “a horde of girls who adore the traditional male and female roles and relationships in the ‘Twilight’ saga.” Women enjoy Twilight, ergo they must crave a strong, dominant man to control them like Edward controls Bella. Feminism has failed, women are happier under men’s thumbs. Molly Hemingway of The Federalist similarly claimed (though I don’t have a handy link) that the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey proves women want to let men be the boss — maybe they should try for that instead of aspiring to the prestige of an executive position (said by the online magazine’s editor in chief — though given the level of bullshit they churn out, Hemingway has successfully avoided acquiring any prestige).

After Republican Paul Ryan briefly sported a beard, Nicole Russell at The Federalist (again) gushed how he “exuded manliness” and women need and crave manly men to support the emotional roller-coaster of the female mind. Guys who won’t take charge of their women are as cruel to them as men who discriminate against women!

A number of the evangelicals quoted in Jesus and John Wayne say the same thing. Male supremacist Edwin Louise Cole, for example, argued back in the 1980s that women were begging for men to lead them; when men dominated, women would want them more. Evangelical Gordon Dalbey argued that women were “crying out” for men to become all male and dominant so that women could regain their submissive, “authentic femininity.” John Piper, one of the misogynist complementarians, claims man’s nature is to protect women and “women, at their deepest and most honest selves, give profound assent to this noble impulse.”

This is one of those lipstick-on-a-pig rationalizations. At some level, they may have just enough awareness of their own bullshit that they need to reassure themselves they’re making women happy. Or they’re simply using this as a cover for how misogynistic they are — no, women want to live in a Handmaid’s Tale dystopia! It fits with the claim they’ve been making since Phyliss Schlafly was the vanguard of antifeminism, that the reason women aren’t happy to stay home is because feminists brainwashed them with their dark Jedi mind tricks.

Schlafly’s niece Suzanne Venker, for example, claims women have been “indoctrinated by feminists” who “robbed you of what you naturally want: to be a wife, a mother, homebound.” Of course, as a professional pundit, Venker isn’t homebound and clearly doesn’t want to be, but that’s a typical “do as I say, not as I do” attitude for professional female antifeminists. And it fits with the idea that women year for someone to boss them around; it should be men, but instead it’s those evil feminists.

This ignores that many women of the 1950s happily left those supposedly ideal marriages when easy divorce became an option, or renegotiated the terms (getting jobs outside the home, say). They weren’t brainwashed by Sith feminism; they knew what they were doing. Like other undead sexist cliches, claims women yearn for male dominance are a pile of codswallop.

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Action films explained and some so-so comic collections.

Rereading ACTION SPEAKS LOUDER: Violence, Spectacle and the American Action Movie by Eric Litchtenfeld proved a good move as he has excellent insights about Predator, Independence Day and the Spielberg War of the Worlds. Lichtenfeld argues that the action film (as opposed to war films or PI films  with lots of action in them) starts in the 1970s with Dirty Harry and Death Wish

— bringing Western themes of violent vengeance to urban setting. Then the genre goes through phases including the Schwarzenegger/Stallone era of buff musclemen, martial arts from Stephen Segal and Churck Norris, Die Hard knockoffs and disaster films (which is where he sees Independence Day falling), all with running themes such as revenge, captivity narratives and fetishized weapons. While I might quibble with Lichtenfeld’s genre boundaries in spots, overall this is excellent.

THE WOODS: The Arrow by James Tynian IV and Michael Dialynas has a high school mysteriously transported into the middle of an alien forest. They have no running water, a limited food supply, there are monsters outside; the president of the student council does what she can, an ex-military gym coach becomes obsessed with imposing order and an antisocial needs leads a party in pursuit of a possible answer. Like Summit last week, this is too by the numbers, though it’s a more interesting book.

ETHER: Death of the Last Golden Blaze by Matt Kindt and David Rubîn is the story of Boone Dias, a scientist cum detective (he seems very Sherlock Holmes to me) investigating crimes in Ether, a parallel world of magic. Dias doesn’t believe in magic — it’s all science to him — which makes it easier to think analytically about crimes, such as the murder of Golden Blaze, Ether’s great champion. This volume had too much set-up for the series, but it’s a good story nonetheless.

ADLER by Lavie Tidhar and Paul McCaffrey is such a good idea — accurately described as “League of Extraordinary Gentlewoman” — I wish the execution had been better. It’s 1902 in a somewhat steampunk Great Britain, with Queen Victoria still alive thanks to drug treatments from Dr. Jekyll. When nurse Jane Eyre returns from the Boer War, she finds rooms with Irene Adler and becomes embroiled in her latest adventure, thwarting a terrorist attack by Ayesha of Kor — she’s PO’d the British have colonized her kingdom — on London making a bomb out of some of this radium Madam Curie has discovered.

Despite it’s many flaws, Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentleman uses Victorian characters who are clearly recognizable. Here, however, the characters feel like name-only versions: the nurse character has nothing to do with Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Jane appeared in fiction fifty years earlier. There’s no shortage of characters I might see doing the nursing thing (female PI Loveday Brooke or Polly from the “Old Man in the Corner” stories) so I can’t see any reason to pick Jane beyond name value. And Ayesha’s scheme is not only overly complicated (building a death ray she has no intention of using) it comes too close to the climax of the original LGX. The art is good-looking but in the action scenes I had a hard time following who was doing what to whom. Overall, a disappointment.

#SFWApro. Irene Adler portrait by J. Allen St. John, all rights to images remain with current holders.

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Superman and James Spader, in love (no, not with each other).

Despite his success directing Superman, Richard Donner locked horns with producers Alex and Ilya Salkind often enough that they ditched him with Superman II unfinished (they were saving money by shooting both at the same time, as the Salkinds had done with Three and Four Musketeers). Donner shot enough footage, however, that Warners eventually assembled SUPERMAN II: The Donner Cut (2006) by combining his work, some of the Richard Lester film, and some screen test material. The result is a bit of a mess (continuity is all over the place) but it works well enough I wish Donner had completed the theatrical version.

The film starts off with Lois, very much in Silver Age mode, realizing Clark is Superman, then jumping out the window to prove it; he saves her, of course, but without revealing himself. The reveal comes at Niagara, and not by accident: Lois fires a gun at Clark who confesses, but points out she could have killed him. “With blanks?”

Another change is the battle at the White House, with Zod and his lackeys coming off much more violent and murderous. The really big change is after Superman flies Lois to the Fortress. At the time Lester assumed control of II, Marlon Brando was suing the Salkinds for allegedly stiffing him on his cut of the first film’s profits. They axed him from II and put in Lara instead of Jor-El. That’s a shame — as Donner says on the commentary track, using Jor and showing how his relationship with his son fractures has more punch.

Where Lara gently gives Clark advice, Jor-El is pissed: loving Lois means he’s choosing the One over the Many which is not his role on Earth (the Christ overtones are undeniable). Clark demands the right to be happy, and Jor-El reluctantly accedes. In the theatrical movie, we don’t really see how he regains his powers; here he shows up at the Fortress, sobbing and admitting he was wrong. Jor-El’s hologram materializes and sacrifices its existence to recharge Superman’s powers.

The showdown in the Fortress at the end is quicker, stripped of all the teleporting and holograms that treated Kryptonian powers like magic. Instead of the magic kiss that erases Lois’s memory, this has Superman rewinding time so none of the events (including the Phantom Zoners breaking loose) have happened. That’s a jarring repeat of the original movie’s deus ex machina; Donner says he’d always intended this as II‘s finish, but the Salkinds moved it up to the first film when nobody could think of a good ending. “There is one man here on Earth who will never bow before you.”

STARCROSSED (1985) has James Spader offering sexy defector Belinda Bauer (“Your accent suggests there’s an Iron Curtain in your past.”) shelter from what he assumes are the KGB agents trying to drag her from the land of freedom. Instead, it turns out she’s an ET refugee hunted by agents of the imperial power that conquered her peaceful world (making her entire race peaceful is the flip side of Othering alien invaders by making them all monstrous warmongers). Can they stay one jump ahead of the bad ETs? Will Spader show her how much fun human-style sex is (if you can’t guess, you ain’t watched enough TV movies)?

Although Bauer is stiff, Spader’s personal charm and talent makes this run very well until they throw in some Men in Black also hunting for Bauer; at that point the film just seems to bog down. Still, Spader does make it watchable enough. And I do like his explanation for why Bauer looks human (“God made us in his own image, right? How many images do you think God has?”). “When your people have been doing something for so long, you think of it as natural.”

#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holders.

 

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TYG and I weren’t planning to become a two-cat family

But we’ve had “White Cat” (placeholder name) irregularly sniffing around our house for a couple of months now. More recently she’s been sniffing and mewing plaintively for food, so we fed her. Happily she likes a brand of soft food I bought for Wisp much more than Wisp does.

Wisp, surprisingly, is quite chill with her. None of the aggressive territorial defense I’ve seen with other cats. I don’t know what the difference is. She’s nowhere near as skittish as Wisp. She runs away from us if we get too close, but it took Wisp a year before she’d let me come as close as White Cat does here.She’s definitely been a house pet, probably more recently than Wisp was when we met her. White Cat also seems a lot less comfortable surviving on her own. Did someone just decide to dump her? We’ll never know.

We have an appointment at the feral/stray cat clinic Sept. 26  for spay/neuter and general checkup. Hopefully our new acquaintance will show up the night before and get trapped (we have the trap cage already). Where we go from there, who knows? We aren’t looking for more pets, but as the saying goes, you cannot leave the work unfinished.

Speaking of work, I did get some of that done too. I squeezed in seven Leaf articles at the start of the week, then for whatever reason the flow stopped. The timing is convenient as that meant more work on Alien Visitors; that said, it probably means lower than usual income for the month. I did sell another copy of Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast and made $24 in royalties on my film books for the past six months, but that won’t pay the bills. Which isn’t to say I’m unhappy — it’s a real kick that 20 years after it came out, Cyborgs, Santa Claus and Satan still sells a few copies a year.

Work on Alien Visitors is going well but it takes much more time than I anticipate. Given my looming deadline, that makes me a little uneasy, but if I keep my nose to the grindstone, it’s doable. I did some scheduling today to make sure of that. I want to make sure I write some of it every day — not that this is more efficient but I noticed at the start of the week, when I’d done nothing but watch movies and write Leafs, I slept very poorly. Stress does that.

I also proofed the introduction and first two chapters of Undead Sexist Cliches and I’m pleased. My previous editing was good enough I only had one section where I needed to make major changes. So I think I’m still on track for an end of October release.

All in all, not a bad week.

#SFWApro. All rights to cover illustration remain with current holder.

 

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Trixie and the very large cone of shame

Both our dogs are prone to allergies, which leads to constant gnawing on themselves. After their last shot, Trixie kept on gnawing at her back left foot, which made it sore so she gnawed on it more.

We went to the vet who gave us a numbing skin powder and recommended we keep her in the cone of shame. It turns out she can, with a little effort, reach past the edge of the cone and keep gnawing. It’s still effective if we watch her close enough. However we did try swapping it out with Plushie’s much larger cone of shame.Ultimately it was just too awkward so we switched back. Her foot is recovered so we made the right call.

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Peace and prosperity are the point (a late 9/11 post)

“For all the nostalgia for the sense of national unity in the 9/11 aftermath, I remember feeling rubbed the wrong way by one specific variant of triumphalism: the idea that post Cold War we’d grown soft and frivolous and now we’d at least toughen up and deal with reality. [But] Peace and prosperity are the point of all the policy, right? The goal? Give me a soft society doing yoga and pottery and starting businesses and going on nice vacations over a tough, purpose-minded society where everyone is joining the military to fight a big foreign threat. The latter is necessary at times but it’s hardly to be desired for itself.” — from Lawyers, Guns and Money.

As Corey Robin documents in Remembrance of Empires Past (which I’ve blogged about before), that was a controversial view back when 9/11 hit. Pundit Frank Rich declared the attack “has awakened us from a frivolous if not decadent decade-long dream” and David Brooks celebrated that “it is no longer possible to live so comfortably in one’s own private paradise.” None of this sitting around on our butts enjoying life, nosirree! We’d be forced to fight! To achieve greatness! No more living comfortably … unless you were multimillionaire David Brooks, whose sacrifice to the war effort was devoting columns to how embarrassed liberals would be for criticizing W’s stunning success rebuilding Iraq (when he later wrote about how our leaders misjudged Iraq, he somehow forgot to mention his own errors). He remains enthusiastic about other people fighting wars while he cheers them on.

The belief (as John Stuart Mill put it “that savage life is preferable to civilized; that the work of civilization should as far as possible be undone” is not a new one. Nor is the belief of countless rich conservatives that working minimum wage jobs to support yourself is a proud and noble endeavor. That doesn’t make these views any more palatable or sensible. It’s true that someone who can work 40 hours a week, then chill in front of the TV knowing their bills are paid (during the Clinton years a lot more people could live that way) may never be driven to high achievement. But while someone who has to work 60 hour s a week to keep a roof over their kids’ head may be struggling harder and showing greater self-sacrifice, their life is not preferable.

And while I have respect for people who serve honorably in the military, coming home from Afghanistan with PTSD or a missing limb from combat is not preferable either. Certainly not compared to not getting involved in wars when it’s not necessary. Some conservatives wail that we’re not all stoic like the Donner Party, but you know what? Avoiding situations where people have to resort to cannibalism is preferable. If that takes government intervention, I’m okay with that.

It’s possible that people who have it easy will never achieve greatness, but struggling just to survive isn’t achieving greatness either. I’ve done a small bit of that and it’s not pleasant. Living more comfortably actually makes it easier to achieve: less stress, more time, greater mental resources.  It’s also possible to make sacrifices and contribute to the public good even in time of peace and prosperity. Donate to charity. Run a food bank. Give blood. Volunteer at an animal shelter. These are also easier to do when you have time and money.

There’s a line in the film Things to Come to the effect that “our revolution didn’t abolish danger or death, it simply made danger and death worthwhile!” That’s what people like Brooks and countless others who shit on peace and prosperity (for the common throng, that is — they ain’t giving up their own) don’t get. The challenge and struggle of launching a business, painting a masterpiece, writing a blockbuster investigative journalism piece, trying to change public policy, those mean something. The challenge and struggle just to put bread on the table? That’s necessary, but it’s not a desirable way to live. It’s depressing that some people think otherwise.

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Mostly depressing stuff about global warming, plus other science links

“At its worst, net zero by 2050 is a device for shunting responsibility across both time and space. Those in power today seek to pass their liabilities to those in power tomorrow. Every industry seeks to pass the buck to another industry. ” — a Guardian columnist on how our current goals for fighting global warming fall short.

As the world heats up, air conditioning becomes more vital, but it also makes the problems worse. What are the alternatives?

Air-travel contributes to global warming too. Here are the big problems they need to solve.

Global warming and other factors have put the Komodo dragon on the endangered list. There are dangers for vanilla and avocado crops, too.

The world’s largest carbon-capture machine has gone live.

Floating wind turbines could be a great clean energy source, but there are obstacles to overcome first.

“Black cemeteries are now at a disproportionate risk of being lost, some before they have even been officially found.”

The U.S. Army is looking to a cyborg future and worried movies will bias us against cyborgs.

To tighten its grip on the people, the Russian government is deploying its own internet.

Millionaire Julia Davies is helping acres of British farmland go back to nature.

How a rare New Zealand parrot may have removed harmful mutations from its gene pool.

Environmental activism around the world leads to activists being murdered.

“You do pi because everyone else has been doing pi.” — an article on whether there’s any point to calculating pi out to the trillions of digits.

Dogs are amazing — even as covid detectors. I’m sure Plushie could handle it.

What we’re still learning about the asteroid that ended the dinosaur age.

The technical and ethical challenges to resurrecting the woolly mammoth.

The California condor population has gone from 22 to more than 500.

#SFWApro. Comics cover by Mike Sekowsky, all rights to images remain with current holders.

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