2009 - %3, May

Important Superhero-Related News

| Wed May. 6, 2009 9:41 AM PDT

Last December, Rolling Stone published a profile of a Florida man who calls himself "Master Legend." Who is Master Legend? A man "hellbent on battling evil." RS's Joshua Bearman (whose name sounds like he's a superhero himself) explains:

When Master Legend bursts into a sprint, as he often does, his long, unruly hair flows behind him. His mane is also in motion when he's behind the wheel of the Battle Truck, a 1986 Nissan pickup with a missing rear window and "ML" spray-painted on the hood. He and the Ace head off to patrol their neighborhood on the outskirts of Orlando, scanning the street for evildoers. "I don't go looking for trouble," Master Legend shouts above the engine. "But if you want some, you'll get it!"

Then he hands me his business card, which says:

Master Legend
Real Life Super Hero
"At Your Service"

If there was a flaw in Bearman's awesome piece, it was that he didn't really grapple with the possibility that, as The Dark Knight and Watchmen taught us, the existence of real-life superheroes might lead to the emergence of real-life supervillains. Unfortunately for us mere mortals, I have some bad news: our worst fears have become reality. Mother Jones has learned (via io9) that a supervillain going only by the initial "E" has put a bounty on the real identity of Shadowhare, a Cincinatti, Ohio ally of Master Legend (that's him in the photo). There's not just one villain, either—"E" claims to be part of a Consortium of Evil. (Not to be confused with the Media Consortium, of which Mother Jones is a member.) The bounty is $10 so far (offered on Craigslist), but if we know anything about supervillains, it's that they have access to unlimited resources. This is probably just the beginning.

(Our extensive past coverage of superheroes includes this awesome photo essay. Check it out.)

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How Do You Say "Chickens Coming Home To Roost in Japanese"?

| Tue May. 5, 2009 4:55 PM PDT

Ah, technology animating the voices, and the sins, of the past.

Huffpo links to a piece on how Google has stirred up Japan's past bigotry (read: forced it to acknowledge it) simply by taking an interest in its history and uploading vintage maps from its past:

The maps date back to the country's feudal era, when shoguns ruled and a strict caste system was in place. At the bottom of the hierarchy were a class called the "burakumin," ethnically identical to other Japanese but forced to live in isolation because they did jobs associated with death, such as working with leather, butchering animals and digging graves.
Castes have long since been abolished, and the old buraku villages have largely faded away or been swallowed by Japan's sprawling metropolises. Today, rights groups say the descendants of burakumin make up about 3 million of the country's 127 million people.
But they still face prejudice, based almost entirely on where they live or their ancestors lived. Moving is little help, because employers or parents of potential spouses can hire agencies to check for buraku ancestry through Japan's elaborate family records, which can span back over a hundred years.
An employee at a large, well-known Japanese company, who works in personnel and has direct knowledge of its hiring practices, said the company actively screens out burakumin job seekers.

 

Iraqi Militias and a Hideous New Torture for Gays: Say It Aint So!

| Tue May. 5, 2009 4:52 PM PDT

 Please, please tell me I'm being punked. Please. From ThinkProgress:

Relying on an International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission translation of a recent Al Arabiya story, the blog Towleroad reports that Iraqi militias have been engaging in some particularly brutal tactics toward gay men in Iraq:

"A prominent Iraqi human rights activist says that Iraqi militia have deployed a painful form of torture against homosexuals by closing their anuses using 'Iranian gum.' ...Yina Mohammad told Alarabiya.net that, 'Iraqi militias have deployed an unprecedented form of torture against homosexuals by using a very strong glue that will close their anus.' According to her, the new substance 'is known as the American hum, which is an Iranian-manufactured glue that if applied to the skin, sticks to it and can only be removed by surgery. After they glue the anuses of homosexuals, they give them a drink that causes diarrhea. Since the anus is closed, the diarrhea causes death. Videos of this form of torture are being distributed on mobile cellphones in Iraq.'"

OK. It's a punkin'. Has to be.

The Alarabiya.net link leads to something or other in Farsi or Arabic (I guess?) which gives the vast majority of us ig'nent 'Mericuns any idea of what's going on.

For once, I'll be ecstatic to learn that I was gullible beyond belief. 'Cuz I just can't believe this shite. But these days, it's hard to calibrate our once-reliable bullshit-o-meters.

 

 

Racism as Ghost Story

| Tue May. 5, 2009 7:13 AM PDT

Ta-Nehisi Coates has some interesting thoughts on how racism cosmetically updates itself to accomodate modernity but remains the same at its core. He's riffing on the whole tea party phenomenon; here's the (longish) setup for the thought I found most interesting:

No Progress? No Nookie!

| Tue May. 5, 2009 7:05 AM PDT

Now there's a slogan!

The women of Kenya have gone Lysistrata on their do-nothing political husbands. Spurred on by Kenya's Federation of Women Lawyers, the Kenyan leaders' wives are being encouraged to cut their husbands off until a weeks-long political stalemate gets resolved:  "The boycott has been sparked by a feud between Mwai Kibaki, the president, and Raila Odinga, the prime minister, over who runs the government agenda in parliament."

So far, the Prime Minister's wife has joined the boycott. No word yet on whether Mrs. Kibaki will develop a blinding headache, but here's hoping.

Whatever works, right?

Bad as all the talk is of Michelle Obama's clothes, hair and arms, at least we don't have to deal with this.

Pete Seeger at 90: Surviving--and Winning--the Political Culture War

| Mon May. 4, 2009 6:54 AM PDT

After watching Bruce Springsteen and Pete Seeger lead Barack Obama and hundreds of thousands of others in singing "This Land Is Your Land" at the pre-inauguration concert at the Lincoln Memorial, I noted that the concert "was a moment of victory in the political cultural war that has gripped the United States since the tumultuous days of the 1960s":

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Nancy Grace Makes Her Own Gravy

| Sun May. 3, 2009 8:34 AM PDT

Though my girl Amy Poehler did her justice, there's really no need to parody Nancy Grace; nothing's worse than the reality. Except Grace's cluelessness as to her own need for a severe beating. Just watch her here, ripping David Smith's heart out.

He is, of course, the ex-husband of that Susan Smith (she drowned their kids and blamed, of course, a black man). I couldn't make myself watch it twice, but she's determined to know exactly how it felt thinking about his kids strapped into their seat belts so they could drown as lengthily as possible.

What a...witch. And a narcissistic one at that; if she wants to talk about it, then the topic couldn't possibly be a tad inappropriate.

Too bad I have a scruple or two. Otherwise, I'd be helming "Debra Dickerson: Beast From Hell" (whose own crew knows it).

Is Obama's Silence on Race Golden?

| Sat May. 2, 2009 8:57 AM PDT

Gary Kamiya, at Salon, thinks so and I agree. Obama has said virtually nothing about race in his first 100 days and I, for one, am glad he both chose not to and wasn't forced to by events. The simple existence of that magical family in the White House, with all our sappiness about Michelle's clothes and the new puppy, has given us all a chance to exhale. It's given us all a chance to be hopeful that we really are on the path, however potholed, to color blindness.

New poll data show that:

"two-thirds of Americans now say race relations are generally good, and the percentage of blacks who say so has doubled since last July... ."

Big, big improvement. Follow up interviews make it plain that Obama is the reason Americans have gone all kumbayah. But Kamiya gets it right when he muses that:

...it also seems to me that a big part of the reason that Americans are feeling better about race is because of how Obama has handled the subject -- or rather, not handled it. Obama has assiduously avoided the subject of race. His silence has allowed his actions and character to take center stage, rather than the color of his skin. We are a country used to talking endlessly about race but not doing anything about it. Obama is doing exactly the opposite. He is not talking about race, but that very fact, combined with his high popularity, has advanced racial harmony more than any utterance could do. His silence sends exactly the right message, the message preached by Jesus, Martin Luther King and every other apostle of human equality: The accidents of race, ethnicity gender and class do not define us.

It's maddening that minorities are still forced to go on reassuring whites that, once in power, we don't immediately don dashikis and commence to getting even. It's also necessary. No doubt Obama will smack headfirst into race before much longer. Here's hoping his instincts remain as finely honed when he does.

(And when he is ready 'to go there,' I vote for this symbolic act.)

Destination Recession: Put Your Vacation Where Your Money Is

| Fri May. 1, 2009 4:15 PM PDT

Just because you're unemployed and facing a retirement in gut-wrenching poverty doesn't mean you don't deserve a vacation. Pack the Igloo with bologna sandwiches and take the kids to learn more about how we got ourselves into this mess.

1. The Museum of American Finance, New York—The nation's only museum dedicated to "celebrating the spirit of entrepreneurship and the democratic free market." Admission includes willing suspension of disbelief.  Please check explosives at the door. And for $37, buy "Look Out Wall Street! The Stock Market Board Game," probably the safest way to play the market these days.

2. The Hobo Museum, Britt, Iowa—Visitors learn the difference between a hobo and a bum, along with tips on evading railroad police and building a bindle. The annual Hobo Convention is held the second weekend in August.  Be careful riding the rails to town, or you'll end up in the Hobo Cemetery.

We Are All Christopher Hitchens Now

| Fri May. 1, 2009 9:01 AM PDT

According to PEW, via CNN, the more religious you are, the more you dig torture:

The more often Americans go to church, the more likely they are to support the torture of suspected terrorists, according to a new survey...More than half of people who attend services at least once a week -- 54 percent -- said the use of torture against suspected terrorists is "often" or "sometimes" justified. Only 42 percent of people who "seldom or never" go to services agreed, according to the analysis released Wednesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
White evangelical Protestants were the religious group most likely to say torture is often or sometimes justified -- more than six in 10 supported it. People unaffiliated with any religious organization were least likely to back it. Only four in 10 of them did.

Itals definitely mine!

Let's hear it for us godless ones!