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This was a week. And it had days in it. And I worked on some of them.

Not enough, though. I succumbed to one of my weaknesses — knowing I wouldn’t meet most of my writing goals and that I wasn’t going to make my writing goals, I just threw up my hands and did even less.

I did get a lot of Leaf work done so I’m ending the month in good financial shape. But that was about. TYG and I had some stuff we had to get done Thursday so I blocked the day off for no-writing. When it turned out we were done in a couple of hours I was way out of the zone. My bad.

But now the month ends! The slate is wiped clean! Next week I shall have no excuse! And while I will be taking some time away (blood donation, among other things) I’ve already factored that into my schedule. Victory will be mine!

At least that’s what I tell myself.

Wisp laughs at my confidence, but what does she know?

#SFWApro.

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“Typhoid Ron” DeSantis and other political topics

Typhoid Ron DeSantis’ bill to let parents sue teachers for discussions that make kids uncomfortable is kind of brilliant: rather than clear government rules, you have parents who may push back on almost anything. Saying the Civil War was about race or discussing the brutality of slavery or the Holocaust for example. Of course this frees up parents to sue from the left too but I’m guessing DeSantis is okay with that. The bill still helps make him look good to right-wing racists and the wing of the religious right that hates public education for teaching their kids reality will love him too.

I notice it also bans diversity training at businesses that makes anyone uncomfortable. I suspect what this means in practice is that as training makes racists and harassers uncomfortable, Republican political correctness requires protecting their fragile fee-fees. As Rebecca Fachner says, having parents report adults to the state used to be one of those things that distinguished totalitarian states from the US. As I’ve said before, Republicans are the new Communists.

“The complete list of moral and social issues in America that have nothing to do with racism is that there aren’t any.”

ALEC, a right-wing lobbying group, is pushing Republican legislatures to pass bills that block companies that divest fossil fuel stocks from doing business with the state. Bizarrely I learned that similar bills about Israel boycotts once extended to individuals — people receiving hurricane relief, a teacher told she’d have to sign a no-boycott pledge to keep her job (fortunately the courts were not down with this).

Michigan Trumper politicians are pushing a bill that would let politicians sue social media for deplatforming them for any reason. For the usual reasons (First Amendment! Freedom!).

Here’s how a big, powerful company can afford to laugh off court losses and legal sanctions.

Joe Rogan uses the n-word a lot in his podcasts. Trump, of course, is furious Rogan’s apologized. DeSantis immediately said the same. I suppose it’s only a matter of time before DeSantis or some other ambitious right-winger tries to prove their right-wing cred by saying the word publicly themselves.

Republicans attempt to play the race card by claiming white guys are victims. This is not new: remember when Trump claimed a Latino judge was prima facie biased against Trump?

Unsurprisingly, Virginia Republicans have killed bills that would have removed anti-gay marriage language from the state lawbooks and automatically restored voting rights to felons. But I was struck by the blatant lies of the Family Foundation of Virginia that their only problem is that allowing gay marriage would also allow polygamy. In other words, gay marriage is not the issue — but as their website states they’re anti-gay marriage and also oppose civil rights protection for gays, claiming there’s no evidence of discrimination. Methinks they lie …

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Let’s start today’s post with a sad, bad cover

I mean, H.P. Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror is a classic of cosmic horror, right? Yet, the uncredited artist couldn’t do better than the bland image below?This next uncredited image at least looks more like a horror cover.Then we have Charles Binger whose cover does not, I think, capture the spirit of Huxley’s Brave New World.And doesn’t this Robert Gibson Jones 1951 cover look a lot like the Star Trek episode “Bread and Circuses?”#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holders.

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In just a couple of days …

All these books and reference magazines are going back on the shelves.I use the Internet for a lot of stuff but reference books are frequently preferable to clicking on a half-dozen sites about a film or TV show until I find one that has the information I need.

#SFWApro.

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Out of time? Yes, feels that way

Finishing the alien pregnancy chapter with the spotlight on Village of the Damned is taking longer than I thought. So this Frank Frazetta cover will have to do.#SFWApro

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My haunted bedroom

Lying in bed recently, I thought this looked eerie enough to be worth photographing.But not too spooky. After all, look who was next to me.#SFWApro.

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I hope your week has been better than Stephen Strange’s

And that the Spawn of Sligguth didn’t drag you down!I got my permanent crown in Wednesday, so I feel definitely victorious over darkness. No more worrying about biting down on nuts or toffee, whoo-hoo!

#SFWApro. Art by Frank Brunner, all rights remain with current holder.

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Adam Strange and commitment

Finishing DC’s Adam Strange Omnibus recently has me thinking about former Marvel editor Tom Brevoort’s post on the importance of committing to the idea. As Brevoort explains it, in the comics business you may end up working on a strip you don’t like or can’t get into. Rather than radically turning it into something you’d prefer, “what you need to be able to do is to figure out what it is about the character or the book that appeals to the people who like it–or is supposed to–and then Commit To The Idea.” How does that connect to Adam Strange? I’ll get to that.

For those who don’t know Adam, or only know him from Krypton, he debuted in Showcase #17. Showcase was DC’s tryout magazine, testing new features for several issues to see if they had the strength to go to series. Adam didn’t make it to his own book but he did land the cover spot in the SF anthology Mystery In Space, starting in 1959 and continuing until 1965.

In the first story, by Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky, we meet Adam as an archeologist attacked by natives while excavating a South American site. As he runs he’s hit by a beam and materializes (as he and we learn) on Rann, a planet around Alpha Centauri, slightly over four light years away. Sardath, the chief scientist of the city state of Ranagar, has been experimenting with a communication ray called a Zeta Beam, but space radiation in the four years it took to reach Earth has mutated it into a teleport ray instead. Adam stays on Rann long enough to fall in love with Sardath’s daughter Alanna and to save Rann from the Eternals, immortals seeking a McGuffin that will maintain their ageless state. The Zeta Beam energy wears off, returning Adam to Earth but Sardath’s told him where the next one will strike, so  soon he’s on his way back to Alanna.

No question the series was formulaic. Typically we’d open with Adam trying to catch the Zeta Beam despite obstacles. Once he arrives on Rann, something menaces the planet (in an early example of lampshading, he and Alanna joke about this throughout the series) and Adam figures out a way to stop it. Rather than whipping up a super-weapon, typically the solution involved Adam out-thinking his foe; quick wits were his super-power. In the classic “Planet That Came to a Standstill,” for example, the alien villain has figured out how to give himself super-powers via Rann’s triple sun, modeled on the way Superman gains powers from our sun. Adam correctly deduces that Kanjar Ro will be vulnerable to radioactive metal from his homeworld just as Superman is vulnerable to kryptonite. He defeats Kanjar Ro where the Justice League failed.

What made it work, at least for fans like me, is that the stories were genuinely fun and often clever. The long-distance relationship with Alanna added some romantic tension and they clearly had a very affectionate physical relationship (of all the unmarried heroes of the Silver Age, Adam’s the one most likely to be bedding his girlfriend). Carmine Infantino, taking over the art from Sekowsky, provides really great visuals, especially when paired with Murphy Anderson.The last dozen or so issues, with an entirely different creative team, are a disappointment (the editor, Julius Schwartz, had been transferred over to Batman, and taken Fox and Infantino with him). But they did stay true to the idea. Alan Moore, when he wroe Adam Strange in Swamp Thing #87 and 88 did not.

Adam Strange’s adventures were upbeat, optimistic and full of a sense of wonder. When a star-traveling Swamp Thing arrives on Ranagar, the tone is bleak, cramped and miserable (this was setting up for Adam’s new direction, in a limited series that came out a few years later). Rann is a dying world with radiation from past wars sterilizing much of the population. Adam was brought deliberately, not by accident, so that he could be used to impregnate Alanna. The Rannians look at him with contempt as an Earth primitive rather than a hero. IIRC, there was a hint that the various menaces were just distractions to keep Adam occupied, but I can’t swear to that.

For me, this sucked; the subsequent series by Richard Brunning sucked worse. Rather than commit to the idea they’d decided to deconstruct the series and make it grim, gritty and Serious.

Of course if you’re trying to reboot a series or character that got cancelled years earlier, I expect the new writers to try something new. But there’s a difference between adapting and improving while committing to the core concept and disregarding what made the original work. The James Patterson The Shadow for example, ignores everything that made Walter Gibson’s Shadow click. DC’s 1990s Hawk and the Dove series, by contrast, radically changed things up but they kept it true enough to the Silver Age version.

I could probably think of counter examples, but overall I think Brevoort has a good point.

#SFWApro. Covers by Gil Kane, Carmine Infantino, Infantino and Rob Liefeld top to bottom, all rights remain with current holders.

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And you thought the worst part of the alien invasions was anal probes!

For me the worst part was sitting through these crappy films!

THE DARKEST HOURS (2011) s a routine thriller in which a quartet of young Americans in Moscow has to band together to survive when invisible aliens launch a war of the worlds. Tedious and uninteresting. “Is it just me or does Cyrillic look a lot like Klingon?”

SAVE YOURSELVES (2020) is an unsatisfying SF comedy in which a couple take a weekend in the woods to work on their relationship without much success (“You’re just substituting that notebook for your computer.”). Then they discover that while their phones were off, aliens resembling large tribbles conquered the world (“Look at all these text messages.”). The relationship stuff is incredibly tedious and the ending makes no sense at all. “She said the rats were taking over the city — and something about ethanol.”

SKYLINES (2020) follows up the ending of Beyond Skyline by revealing the human/ET hybrid leading our counter-attack made a bad call that  got hundreds of humans killed. Now, though, she’s once again heading into space to find the source of a deadly threat — but is the cause what she thinks? Too stock to work. “It was hard to stay in touch when you’re working for the people who are hunting me.”

THE RIM OF THE WORLD (2019) is considerably more watchable: four kids at a summer camp discover an alien attack has wiped out the adults or sent them running, they have a McGuffin that can turn the tide on their hands and a malevolent alien hunter is on their trail (having it come down to Earth on a crashed shuttle felt like a throwback to the Quatermass days). Unlike Aliens in the Attic this takes the realistic assumption that the best the kids can hope to do is run and stay alive; not A-list, but I’ve sat through worse. “I prefer the dog theory.”

BATTLE: LOS ANGELES (2011) opens with various members of a Marine platoon dealing with their personal issues — one guy’s impending marriage, staff sergeant Aaron Eckhart’s impending retirement — when aliens attack cities around the world with an army of cyborg ET warriors (the mechanized look is one I keep seeing in films but I can’t quite describe it) backed up by flying drones. When the Marines call Eckhart back to duty, can he lead them to victory?

This is very much a war movie with multiple tropes from that genre — inspiring speeches; dropping your guard in a peaceful moment only to pay a price; disparate individuals forming into a single battle unit (the big obstacle to unity is Eckhart’s rep for getting his people killed); and fighting against the odds as heroically as the Battered Bastards of Bascoigne. It’s unusual to have the military this effective against an invader; I find myself debating whether this is genuinely grimmer than ET invasions used to be or if it’s just that we get close enough to the platoons to feel it when Maries bite the dust. “In my experience, lieutenant, ‘heavy shit’ is highly overrated.”

INDEPENDENCE DAY(1996) makes my point about the military in Battle Los Angeles — here they fight valiantly but in the end it’s up to IT Whiz Jeff Goldblum and drunken crop-duster Randy Quaid to take down the enemy fleet (Goldblum also realizes the alien attack is imminent before anyone in government does). This is very heavy on manliness, emphasizing president Bill Pullman as a former fighter pilot (“The people elected a warrior and they got a wimp.”) and on sexism — First Lady Mary McDonnell literally dies because she didn’t listen to her husband. This shows a strong Star Wars influence, particularly in the climax as the good guys rush to destroy the ship before it can pull a Death Star and blow up are last forces (both this and Battle Los Angeles show massive ships in contrast to the smaller ones used by Klaatu or the War of the Worlds Martians). With Brent Spiner as a U.S. scientist, Will Smith as a cigar-chomping pilot, Vivica Fox as his stripper girlfriend, Margaret Colin as Goldblum’s ex and Robert Loggia and Judd Hirsch in supporting roles. “I really don’t think they flew 90 billion light years just to start a fight.”

#SFWApro. All rights to image remain with current holder.

 

 

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The Catholic hierarchy parties like it’s 1955 (and other links)

As you’ve probably heard, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has drafted a statement saying Biden should be denied communion for saying that regardless of his personal beliefs, abortion should stay legal. I find this weirdly ironic. Sixty years ago this was precisely the kind of thing conservatives muttered about JFK, that he would do the bidding of his church. Now the pissed-off old conservatives, many of whom participated in covering up the church’s history of child abuse, are asserting JFK’s opponents were right.

As Fred Clark says, it’s also “clueless arrogance” on their part: they still think their ecclesiastical authority gives them moral authority that the rest of America will respect. “This is what happens when you’re so sure you’re someone who can claim the moral high ground that you never notice you’re up to your ears in moral quicksand.” I see much the same state of mind in the Republican religious right, a conviction that they really are holier than thou so you should listen with respect if they tell you you’re a perverted sinner or an enemy of god. How dare you say their views on women or gays are immoral or point out all the Protestant predators. Or that Jim Bakker owes $156,000 to people he bilked with a fake miracle cure promoted on his show.

Clark also responds to Lauren Boebert’s assertion that Israel and the U.S. were created for the glory of God; apparently nobody else was. As The Friendly Atheist points out, if a Jew or Muslim had given their God credit for creating the U.S., we’d be hearing outrage on the right. But a lot of people love the idea the U.S. is more special than all the other nations (you may remember they freaked out when Obama said all nations are exceptional) — they don’t want us to do anything special, they just want the cheap grace of feeling superior to the rest of the world.

Peter Laarman says this is one reason religious conservatives hate talk of America’s history of racism: saying America has done bad things clashes with their view we’re God’s chosen country. They’d rather not admit that the Constitution sanctioned slavery. And just as they can’t be argued out of conspiracy thinking, they can’t be argued out of it until they choose to let go. That’s a problem.

While I disagree with the Southern Baptist Conference’s Russell Moore, he seems genuinely committed to tackling the misogyny and racism that surge within the SBC. As you’ll see at the link, a lot of people in the SBC would rather ignore that stuff than actually act in a godly manner (or decent manner, depending on your worldview). While the new SBC leader is very conservative, he’s liberal compared to the opponents who muttered about the SBC being too woke and (what else) Critical Race Theory! But one conservative activist is now fulminating about Who Counted The Votes.

And now some random links:

The word “justice” appears quite a lot in the Greek New Testament, but it’s translated into “righteousness” in most English versions. That’s unfortunate because justice implies change to the community and society; righteousness is about personal morality.

Several religious leaders talk to Vox about their faith’s view on creating a just, fairer world.

Right-wing bullshit preacher E.W. Jackson claims hate crime laws are just to protect gays who hit on straights. Which ties in with one of the standard defenses in gay hate crimes, that the homophobe freaked out because someone hit on him. But hey, I’m sure a misogynist like Jackson will be fine if women start beating up guys who hit on them …. I’ll come in again.

Jew-hating hatemonger Rick Wiles refused to get the Trump Virus vaccine and came down with it. His explanation: Chinese spies infected him and soon they’ll do it to everyone!

How American Christians used to have their own form of cancel culture.

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