The many flavors of Doc Savage: Pharaoh’s Ghost, The Man Who Was Scared, the Shape of Terror

One of the strengths of the Doc Savage series is its flexibility to move from SF to lost race yarn to pulp crimefighting. Consider this month’s trio, for instance.

THE PHARAOH’S GHOST is an “exotic” adventure set in Egypt. Johnny’s been abducted so the book opens with Doc, Monk, Ham and Long Tom capturing a stereotypically treacherous Arab, Hamamah to get him to talk. Hamamah babbles about the ghost of Pharaoh Jubbah Ned when a yellow stain appears on his face. He dies screaming for no discernible reason; Monk and Ham find their hands burning. It turns out a crime boss, Jaffa, had the tomb looted, and now the mysterious yellow spot is killing the looters, one by one.

The adventure that follows is descent, but not outstanding. It rises a little above the average by Jaffa’s big plan: use the loot from the tomb to buy corrupt politicians in nations newly liberated from Axis control, then appropriate the governments’ funds. Lester Dent also puts more work in than usual sketching out the Egyptian setting and detailing the history of Jubbah Ned, which like a lot of ancient monarchs is clouded with uncertainty (Johnny, an archeologist, discourses about it at length).

A curious point is one of the supporting cast, Bondurant Fain. A brawny redhead in flamboyant pursuit of a pretty girl, he resembles Henry Peace in The Freckled Shark so much I wondered if it were Doc again, but no. I guess Dent just liked the type.

One unsurprising flaw is that all the good guys and the top bad guy are white, with the Egyptians reduced to supporting and/or villain roles.

THE MAN WHO WAS SCARED is more of a detective story, and a pretty effective one for most of its length. It opens with a businessman “like the fellows the insurance companies always put in their advertisements” trying to reach Doc before the bad guys catch up with him. He’s poisoned but reaches Doc’s HQ long enough to gasp out a cryptic message about breakfast. The bad guys quickly improvise a scheme to distract Doc by making him think the victim was just an escaped mental patient. Investigating and digging for the truth takes up the rest of the book.

Again the scheme is bigger than ordinary crookery. The bad guys were using cereal made by the dead guy’s company to spread a bio-weapon across America. They’ve already bought up the entire supply of the treatment, so they stand to make millions, and they’ve rigged things so Doc will take the fall. Unfortunately the book is too short to really do anything with this: we go from Doc being a wanted man to busting the bad guy (surprisingly the brother of the villain in Pharaoh’s Ghost. More surprisingly, the two schemes are unrelated) in a very few pages. Still, it’s a fun read and pretty woman of the month Elma Champion is brave and capable in the Pat Savage hold.

A really weird bit is that Dent mocks his own past descriptions of Doc as a mental wizard and physical superman, asserting he’s nothing of the kind. He’s got good genes, he had his amazing childhood training — anyone who’d been through that would turn out just as awesome! This ignores that in Invisible Box Murders, Doc states that his training would have driven most people insane.

 

THE SHAPE OF TERROR is a spy thriller. Despite the cover below, about another Awful Egg; that egg’s just a tool for poisoning Doc at breakfast. The big threat is a Nazi McGuffin that’s never described. The story opens with some RAF officers taking Doc from dinner with Monk and Ham. The plane the officers and Doc depart on crashes and kills him. Digging for answers, Monk and Ham discover a conspiracy — at which point British intelligence fakes their death too. The hope is that the Nazis will think they’re out of the picture and relax. The Nazis have developed a weapon that can win the war; Johann Kovic, a Czech scientist locked in a concentration camp, has the concept for a counter-weapon that neutralizes it. Doc, Monk and Ham are to get the secret from Kovic before the Nazis torture it out of him.

It becomes immediately obvious the faked deaths haven’t fooled anyone. First comes the poisoning attempt. Then the Nazis dog the guys’ footsteps and block their path into occupied Czechoslovakia. Then hound them once they’re there. Some of them are trying to kill him; other Nazi factions want to throw Doc in the camp with Kovic to get the secret out of him, after Doc’s been dosed with a form of truth serum. Everyone they’re working with, in Allied intelligence or the Czech underground, has or could have a double agenda.

The result is a solid little spy story that gives Doc a workout without making him just an ordinary guy (as Derelict of Skull Shoal did)

#SFWApro. Covers by Modest Stein (I’ve got to say the Man Who Was Scared cover has little to do with the book).

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Free speech does not mean what he thinks it does

So in 2015, artist Julian Raven painted Unafraid and Unashamed, a worshipful, 16 foot wide painting of Donald Trump (and as an aside, people who admire a racist, sexist, sexual harassing liar and crook because he’s not ashamed are saying a lot about themselves, and it ain’t good). In 2017, he asked the National Portrait Gallery to display it for the inauguration. The director said it wasn’t very good (I agree; you can see it at the link); Raven sued on the grounds that by refusing him, the museum was denying him his First Amendment rights. He lost, but he’s appealing the case

As the judge who ruled against him said, museums selecting which works hang on their walls is not a First Amendment issue. Selecting artworks, or historical pieces, or dinosaur skeletons is part of their job. And yes, that includes rejecting works that are too political. Nobody has the right to demand their work be exhibited, even in a government museum. As Fred Clark points out, the museum is not suppressing Raven’s work: he displayed it at CPAC and he’s free to show it anywhere he chooses. What Raven wants to do is force the museum to put his poster up, in defiance of the organization’s own First Amendment rights (which include the right not to express a viewpoint or show a painting).

This is something a lot of people, and not just conservatives, have trouble grasping. Not providing someone else with a platform to speak is not, generally, a violation of their First Amendment rights and it’s not necessarily censorship. If Stephen Miller or Milo Yianopoulis (or for that matter Barack Obama) wants to speak at UNC, or Harvard, or on the lawn of my house, wanting to doesn’t translate into a right to speak there. They don’t have a right to have a book published; they don’t have a right to have stores carry the book if it is published; movie theaters are not obligated to show a movie hero-worshipping Donald Trump. Even if they’re doing it for political reasons, that doesn’t make it censorship.

I first ran into this argument in the early 1990s when Piers Anthony and another author were complaining that bookstores refused to carry their stuff because of its political content (I don’t know the specific objections, though with Anthony I can imagine) — censorship! Both said that would be acceptable if the books didn’t sell, but not for objections to their content. Which is to say they had more respect for someone who rejected their work based on cash than someone who rejected it on principles.

I disagreed strongly (not to their faces, though). If a company wants to make decisions based on ethical conduct, that’s certainly justifiable; nobody’s obligated to sell erotica, or porn, or Bibles, or Korans, or atheist manifestos, or sexist TV stars if they disagree with them. That’s true even if their decisions aren’t ones I’d agree with. Refusing a book because the lead character is gay, or there’s an inter-racial romance is a bad thing in my eyes — but that’s not because it’s a First Amendment issue, it’s because I disagree with the politics.

Which is true of most conservative posturing on this matter: the issue is their right to promote their own viewpoints, not free speech, but they don’t admit it. When Willie Robertson of Duck Dynasty was denied a speaker’s slot at a Christian event because his family had launched a wine label, the religious right didn’t protest; when A&E dropped his show for his sexist remarks, they were livid.

As Clark says, it’s not inconceivable Raven might win his case, given how hard the Republicans have worked over the years to staff courts with conservative judges. But if he does, it would not be a triumph for freedom. And certainly not for good art.

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Women, both heroes and villains: books read

It’s been a while since I checked in on Greg Rucka and Michael Lark’s Lazarus series, but I finally checked Vol. 4 out of the library (feel free to check out my reviews of 1, 2, and 3). LAZARUS: Poison has the Carlyle family reeling from the attack on the family head in the previous volume. War erupts, the new leader is petrified, but Forever Carlyle (the family “lazarus” because her healing factor resurrects her) does her deadly best leading the family forces in the field. Readable, but not buyable (I think I’m sticking with library copies) — the art is murky during the battle scenes and the ending twist doesn’t work for me.

BOMBSHELLS: Uprising has WW II’s super-women battling the sorcery of the Joker’s Daughter, fighting for control of Atlantis and handling a boatload of European refugees, not to mention meeting radical Renee Montoya and scrappy Latina news vendor Lois Lane. Fun, as always, ending on a surprisingly upbeat note — the equivalent of a TV series season ender that could wrap up the series (though there are more adventures to come).

HITLER’S FURIES: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields by Wendy Lower looks at the women who in varying degrees enabled or actively participated in the Holocaust. These included nurses giving lethal injections to the disabled, secretaries in SS office, leaders of women’s concentration camps and wives of camp commanders who took sadistic delight in killing or hurting prisoners or children. Lower shows how the motives that drove the various women she profiled included enthusiasm for Nazism, careerism, a desire to get off the farm or simply hopes of finding a husband by entering the Nazi bureaucracy. Only a snapshot, but a good snapshot.

#SFWapro. Cover by Owen Freeman, all rights to image remain with current holder.

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Captain Marvel, Orson Wells and more! Movies viewed

I finally found time to see CAPTAIN MARVEL (2019) and thoroughly enjoyed it. Brie Larsen plays Vers, an amnesiac Kree warrior whose efforts to stop the Skrull’s terrorist attacks on the Kree Empire lead her to 1990s Earth. The Skrulls have infiltrated us using their shapeshifting (it would fit perfectly into Screen Enemies of the American Way) and are searching for an ultimate weapon. Vers allies with Fury (Samuel Jackson with hair!) only to discover that being on Earth jogs strange memories that are quite impossible for a Kree warrior … This was a really good adventure film, and Larsen is immensely likeable as the lead (and I don’t mean likable as a euphemism for “hot” — Carol Danvers seems like someone who’d be fun to hang out with). The cast includes Annette Benning as Mar-Vell and the face of the Supreme Intellience while Jude Law plans Yon-Rogg (I can see why they didn’t name him until late in the movie, as that gives the game away to comics fans). “I’d say you’re delusional except we were just shot down by a spaceship and you’re bleeding blue blood.”

When Orson Welles died, he left behind his unfinished comeback film, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND (2018), which he’d been shooting for years. Now thanks to Netflix putting some money into it, we can see the finished version of Welles’ story, which combines surly director Hannaford’s (John Huston) 70th birthday party with scenes from his new art film, The Other Side of the Wind. The party scenes were watchable but didn’t work for me, a random assortment of snarking quips, gossping and hostile interactions; the film-within-the-film is a fun parody (however other reviewers have had the opposite reaction). The cast includes Peter Bogdanovich as Hannaford’s latest protege, Lili Palmer as an ex-wife, Susan Strassberg as a hostile interviewer and other famous faces such as Claude Chabrol. I’d suggest double-billing this with Robert Altman’s Hollywood-set comeback film, The Player, though that’s definitely the better film. “The camera doesn’t like an actor — it just stares at him.”


LIFE, ABOVE ALL (2010) has a twelve-year-old black girl in South Africa struggling to hold her blended family together after her baby sister’s death fractures them, a situation complicated by their stepfather’s death and Mom’s mysterious disappearance. A good drama. “Even in death, your mother brings shame upon this family.”

ASSASSINATION NATION (2018) that wants to say something about the dark side of social media and about privacy in the Internet age but as one critic put it, the film is buzz words offered up as deep thoughts. The protagonist is a restless, rebellious teen who in between exchanging insights with her friends, texting a mysterious lover, getting naked and smoking dope, watches as repeated hacks of her town’s secrets set citizens against each other. That has some promise (an updated version of poison pen letters, as in the movie Le Corbeau) but the movie’s just pretentious crap. “What kind of person sees a picture of a naked girl on the Internet and thinks ‘hey, I’ve got to kill that bitch.’

BATMAN: Return of the Caped Crusaders (2016) is an animated film that has Adam West, Burt Ward and Julie Newmar recreating their roles from the Batman TV series (there’s one scene where a dazed Batman hallucinates Newmar also becoming Meriweather and Kitt) for a story in which Riddler, Catwoman, Penguin and Joker join forces to steal a duplicating ray — which an increasingly erratic Batman then uses to take over Gotham City by cloning himself to infinity. More fun than I expected, with a lot of in-jokes, including most of the series’ Rogue’s Gallery showing up for one climactic fight. “I thought I dressed as a bat to inspire fear in the hearts of criminals — but in reality, I just like attention.”

#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holder. Ms. Marvel cover by Dave Cockrum.

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The taxman cometh! And so did the pollen!

Durham has heavy pollen this time every year. This year it got really heavy.Running down the gutters after a rain.

Washing off the driveway.

Even turning our dogs’ leashes yellow.

It got so bad that even though I’m on Claritin (to avoid rashes from all the grass pollen carried on the pups’ coats), allergies laid me low mid-week. This was a regular problem a couple of times a year back in Florida but I’ve never had it here before. No sneezing, just this insane draggy feeling that nothing in the world would be better than lying down and watching television all day (trust me, that’s not normally a thing I say). So that cost me a day and a half.

And then about two days went to taxes. I had almost everything figured out, but the state income tax form wouldn’t let me enter data on the computer so I had to print it up, then write it out. Then print it out again to fix my mistakes. I suspect it will come back to me: the NC Department of Revenue scanning system is much stricter in how it’ll take data than the IRS, so most years I’ve had to re-enter my return because of some technicality. But it’s done, so that’s good. We’re paying in this year, but that’s primarily because I made more money than I expected and didn’t have to pay estimated taxes, so we got socked with a bigger bill than usual. Ouch. And our printer is slow, which drew the process of printing the forms out longer than it should have. Next year I shall take steps to avoid that.

In the remaining time, I did some research reading for the Undead Sexist Cliches book and got some useful feedback from beta readers (one yet to come). I got a lot of work done on a redraft of Impossible Things Before Breakfast, though I still lack a good finish. And that was pretty much it. But taxes needed doing before Monday, like it or not.

Wisp has been an erratic presence on the deck. She’s still not showing up regularly for her meals the way she used to, and there’s another cat we caught eating at least one of the meals we put out. As Wisp has fought to drive off strange cats before, I’m guessing she’s getting food at someone else’s house and so can afford to turn up her nose at ours. Even though someone else might be better situated to take her in, I do feel a twinge of jealousy at the thought.

Trixie has had a hacking cough the past couple of weeks. It’s mostly faded, but we kept her home from Suite Paws day care this week just in case. Much as I enjoy a dog-free day, she’s pretty easy to handle when she’s by herself. But if the hack doesn’t go away, we’ll call the vet next week (I’m wondering if it’s pollen-based).

I’ve also realized that one reason I have trouble focusing after lunch is that Plushie likes to settle into my lap, then stretch out, rather than curling into a ball. This usually puts me in a position that, while not exactly uncomfortable, it strains my body enough that I have a hard time focusing (Trixie’s position on either side of me sometimes makes it worse). I like Plushie curling up in my lap, but I’ll have to position my legs so he can’t expand out.

#SFWApro. Photos are mine, please credit if you use them.

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Breadsticks!

So last weekend I made breadsticks. I’d never tried before, but TYG said she’d like some and her wish is, of course, my command. I found one recipe in my cookbooks, but on the day of baking I saw it was a bulk recipe and I wasn’t sure I could scale it down. I turned instead to Secrets of a Jewish Baker and found a more manageable size, though I did use some of the advice from the other book. The result:

They tasted great (I mixed some Parmesan and garlic powder into the dough) but looked a little pastier in real life than they do in the photo. A friend of mine recommended a vegan bread wash which should fix that next time.

#SFWApro. Images are mine, please credit if you use.

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No, clothes do not make the rapist

I’ve had Jessica Wolfendale’s law journal article on Provocative Dress and Sexual Responsibility on my desktop for a while. I’m glad I finally got around to it. The article covers a topic I’ve written about before (the myth a rape victim was asking for it) and does it well. Two points in particular jumped out at me:

1)Under the standards used in some states, a husband or boyfriend murdering his wife for divorcing him or taking out a restraining order could be classed as manslaughter rather than murder, on the grounds the killer was driven by overwhelming emotion. As Wolfendale says, this allows the man to rewrite the law: a restraining order doesn’t really restrain him. A woman’s right to divorce doesn’t entitle her to leave if he loses it.

2)The standard that a woman should expect rape if she’s “dressed to convey sexual availability” supposedly makes women responsible for what happens. In reality it takes away their agency: whatever they think they were doing (looking professional-but-attractive for work, wearing makeup because it’s expected, wearing shorts because it’s hot), their intentions are less important than what men think they were doing. By Rod Dreher’s logic, if a man thinks a woman looks like a hooker, it’s natural for him to rape her. Most women I know with tattoos don’t think they’re flaunting their sexuality; Dreher thinks they’re slutting it up. So presumably they’re asking for it, the jezebels. Much as Saudi women who cover up everything but their eyes can be punished for having sexy eyes.

And of course, women often look sexy because it’s a job requirement. And because they’re constantly being judged on their clothing in ways men aren’t.

In other news:

An older article from Time on sexism and school dress codes.

Jessica Valenti looks at comments on one article about anti-rape slutwalks.

Back in Steubenville, OH, two teenage boys raped an unconscious girl (they’d all been drinking) and shared videos with classmates. Think Progress looks at how the media took the boys’ side, for example discussing how hard it will be for them if they have to register as sexual offenders the rest of their lives.

A fascist endorses the idea that women should have to pay incels sexual reparations. And here’s an incel who thinks slave women had it easy because all they had to do was have sex.

Passage is a long-shot but I do like this Dem-backed bill fighting sexual harassment.

Another prominent harasser (whom somehow I’d missed hearing about).

“Older men are sex symbols” has been a fantasy for a long time (a fantasy in that while some older men are sexy, a lot of us are just old). It’s also a popular fantasy for incels who imagine themselves getting hotter with age while women wither up and become spinsters. We Hunted the Mammoth tackles the bullshit.

Trump cabinet member Alex Acosta broke Florida law as a prosecutor by giving accused serial sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein a sweetheart plea bargain. In a recent Congressional hearing, Democrats pummeled him for his decision. The standard Repub defense in these situations seems to be that it’s all politics, but that’s no excuse for Acosta (despite which, one Republican in the hearings hailed him for integrity).

Echidne of the Snakes parses out the complexities of what causes the gender pay gap.

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The Bird King and the power of setting

I like G. Willow Wilson’s comic books, and I really liked her first non-graphic novel, Alif the Unseen. I was confident I’d like her second novel, THE BIRD KING, but while it had its moments, I was overall disappointed. And I think the setting is a big part of that.

I don’t think articles about writing, particularly specfic, discuss setting quite as much as we discuss world-building, the ways we create and establish the setting. One’s a matter of craft and skill, the other’s a matter of judgment and taste. Perhaps that’s why it’s not discussed as much: it’s one thing to thumb down “as you know, Steve, our occult research project is devoted to mastering the laws of magic” as objectively bad writing (telling people what they already know) but the merits of setting are more subjective.

As noted at the Alif link, I liked that book partly because it had a setting I rarely see, inside a modern Middle Eastern nation (and focused on the country and its people rather than how they relate to the US). The mash-up of computer hacking with Islamic mysticism and folklore made the setting even weirder. And as someone who’s read several IT/fantasy mash-ups, I think it’s much harder to mix the two than it looks.

Wilson’s opening setting is great: 1491 Granada, a Muslim stronghold about to fall to Ferdinand and Isabella, creating a united Spain. Not that the ancient Muslim world is that unusual a setting but Wilson’s a Muslim and makes it feel fresher than most portrayals. The core characters are good, too: Fatima, a slave concubine serving the sultan and Hassan, a gay mapmaker whose maps can alter the world they portray. Like Lucy in The Twelfth Enchantment, Fatima is a formidable, capable protagonist without being at all anachronistic. She resents being a slave (Wilson discusses this in an interview) but at first it’s the best she can do. After she and Hassan go on the run, she’s determined not to be anyone’s property again.

They have to run because the sultan’s negotiating surrender terms. Luz, a point woman for the Inquisition, makes it clear that Fatima and other Muslims will have to convert or die; Hassan, as both a “sodomite” and a sorcerer of some sort, won’t be that lucky. They have to run.

And that’s where the book turned me off. Hassan and Fatima’s desperate flight isn’t as fresh as the scenes in Granada. They could just as easily have been Protestants fleeing Catholics, Catholics fleeing Muslims, or refugees fleeing a conqueror; the landscape wouldn’t change much. And despite the presence of a jinn, it’s a very low-level magical setting, close to a straight historical story. And I’m not fond of those (see what I mean about taste). The long slow journey across Spain to the Island of Birds drained the interest out of me. (It didn’t help that religious fanatics creep me out to the point reading about them makes me genuinely uncomfortable. Maybe it’s the result of living in the Bible belt much of my life. Maybe not). I also wish Wilson had played around more with the power of maps (I have an interest in maps), like the opening scene in which a general gloats that Granada is already part of Spain on the maps.

C. S. Lewis once wrote that setting is important because it shapes our expectations about the story. An attack by a knife-wielding Martian, a knife wielding Gold Rush claim jumper or a knife-wielding killer in a Los Angeles alley can all offer the same level of danger, but they engage us (or don’t) in different ways.  We can use setting to put a fish out of water, or to contrast with the story we tell; Peyton Place became a best-seller in the 1950s partly because it’s sex-and-scandal plot contrasted with the New England small town setting (I’ve discussed other angles of setting here and here). Even an old, familiar setting can be fresh with the right take. But Bird King‘s setting just wasn’t right for me.

#SFWApro. Cover by studiohelen.co.uk, all rights remain with current holder.

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Destiny turns on a dime — or a batarang

Recently finishing BATMAN: The Golden Age Omnibus Vol. 4 reminded me one of the things I love about the Golden Age Batman is the stories the series tells focusing on ordinary people.

Of course lots of comics, then and now, include ordinary people in the cast, as friends of the hero or as victims of the bad guy. What makes this era distinctive is that the innocents caught up in the story almost seem to have their own character arcs going on, into which Batman and Robin stumble.

The previous omnibus, for example, gave us Destiny’s Auction. A crook, an aspiring actress and an over the hill thespian all lose possession of their steamer trunks. A year later they buy them back at a seized property auction, but ooops, they get the wrong ones. Now they’re all entangled, and the crook is very willing to use force to recover his trunk. At the end of the story though, the two actors have both jump-started their careers. Even though Batman intervened to save them, it feels like their personal stories are their own, not just supporting Bat-characters.

Similarly, in Detective Comics #93, we have One Night of Crime. Crooks fleeing the Batman take a tour bus hostage. Various passengers get to work out their own crises in addition to the main plot.

Batman #33 has The Search for Santa Claus, in which three despairing men, take up roles as Santa for the Christmas season. By the end of the story, which involves crooked heirs trying to kill one of the Santa, they’ve all got a new lease on life.

Detective #94 gave us No One Must Know, in which the Dynamic Duo help out an escaped con whose happiness and whose son’s marriage could be ruined by a blackmail scheme.

Detective #112’s A Case Without a Crime has the employees of a small, tightly knit shop thrown into doubt when they discover one of them has sto-len $99 from the register. Can Batman restore their faith in each other, particularly when it becomes obvious none of them committed the crime? And why steal such an odd figure, anyway?

I still saw stories along these lines in the Silver Age but not as well done. And now they’ve faded away, for the most part.

The omnibus has lots of other good stuff. We have more stories of the Joker and the Penguin (Catwoman only gets one minor story), more war stories before moving into the post-war period, a few new villains such as the Blaze and plenty of ordinary criminals. Alfred gets his own series, four pagers in which he tries to be a detective and succeeds in spite of himself. And just as the previous volume focused on different specialty cops, this one gives us a look at the mail service and Gotham City’s graveyard shift.

And there’s a particular favorite of mine, from World’s Finest Comics #105, The Batman Goes Broke. After one of Bruce’s companies goes belly up from embezzlement, Bruce wipes out his fortune to reimburse the investors. Trouble is, without money the Dynamic Duo can’t pay for all the equipment they need. And working a day job to put a roof over their head will leave Bruce without the time to fight crime and train. It’s all over (spoiler: it all works out). It’s a good story and it amuses me that a couple of decades later, people considered Stan Lee a revolutionary for dealing with superhero money issues (Stan definitely did break a lot of fresh ground, no argument, but it still amuses me).

#SFWApro. Covers by Jerry Robinson, J. Winslow Mortimer and Jack Burnley (t-b). All rights to images remain with current holder.

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My state and other links

A North Carolina school insisted female students wear skirts to “preserve chivalry and respect among young women and men.” How does that work? “Visual cues” signifying this is not a boy and should be treated accordingly. Plus blather about teen pregnancies and casual sex, which as we all know never happen when women wore skirts.

Oh, and in North Carolina, once sex starts a woman can’t change her mind. It’s a 2017 story, but online research indicates it’s still the law here.

Now for something positive from NC: the Guilford County sheriff fired a jail chaplain who thought his mission included converting inmates.

Less positive: the Supreme Court told Texas must either allow inmates to have a spiritual adviser with them in the execution chamber, regardless of faith, or ban all spiritual advisers. Texas went with option 2.

Rod Dreher bemoans kids who’d sooner play online than get physical in the sports arena. Of course he never played himself.

If women have “daddy issues” why do we mock them instead of their fathers?

Donald Trump has decided Homeland Security shouldn’t focus as much on domestic terrorism. Timothy McVeigh, Eric Rudolph, Christopher Hasson, the prez has your back!

The problem with capitalism is often that capitalists suck.

Conservative Austin pastors unsurprisingly fight an ordinance that protects against firing for gender identity and sexual orientation.

How America sold out to Russian (and other) kleptocrats.

A pastor told his female parishioners God would bless them for submitting to his sexual demands. (hat tip to slacktivist).

The appeal of Satan-fearing paranoia? “Even if there isn’t a good guy, there sure as hell is a villain.” Or as Fred Clark puts it ” It was a lie that reassured them they were the good and virtuous and heroic people, distinct from and better than hundreds of thousands of their neighbors who were — in fact and, more importantly, by comparison — unspeakably vile and depraved.”

A-OC reminds us that tech companies and Big Pharma rely on government support for innovation and don’t pay much back.

In El Salvador, having a health crisis in pregnancy can get you 30 years in prison.

“But, being “not quite as bad” when it comes to gender discrimination isn’t enough for Democrats, not ever, but especially not now.” Which is to say Michigan Democrats are not doing enough.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (yep, that guy) is totally in favor of trans rights (the same way he’s concerned about the environment), but if we give them rights, couldn’t Trump declare himself the first female president?

White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney thinks it’s terrible that we don’t support anti-gay discrimination in other countries. The administration is also comfortable with overseas efforts to push women into having more babies. Unsurprising given our own alt.right movement is fueled by male supremacy. And Republicans have been courting the far right overseas for a long time.

Beware! Trump claims the noise from wind turbines gives people cancer. No More Mr. Nice Blog provides some perspective (it’s a fringe theory that the noise will keep people awake, which weakens their health).

National Review‘s Graham Hillard says it seems reasonable to respect trans people’s requests about which pronouns and names to use, but we shouldn’t! “A man is a man. A woman is a woman. Let us not pretend otherwise.” Remember, it’s the people who hate LBGTQ people who are the real martyrs.

A woman in West Virginia claimed she saved her daughter from an Egyptian-immigrant kidnapper by flashing a gun. She lied about everything.

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