Saturday, May 27, 2006

Spring Holidaze: Memorial Day Celebrations (amid everything going to shit...)

Well, the computer woes are ongoing, but that's no biggie. It'll keep my blog postings erratic in the coming weeks, until we get 'em all sorted out, so bear with yours truly.

What a wacked Memorial Day weekend -- vets (including my family) losing info to a theft of a Veteran's Administration employee's laptop computer; seams splitting at every corner of the current Administration every time one tunes in, however fleetingly, to the news; the country's fragile fiscal situation tipping as the inevitable mass foreclosures begin, yielding a fresh wave of homeless citizens on the cusp of a new hurricane season; etc. etc.

And amid all this (in just the past week, mind you!), it's bittersweet at best to acknowledge the sacrifices of our own, given the squandering of those sacrifices and ill treatment of our vets on so many levels, from Vet benefits and hospitals on dire skids to the daily influx of Iraq War vets unsung, invisible, calculatedly kept as under wraps as the Iraq War dead. Sorry to be such a bummer, folks, but --

OK, I'll play a little catch-up, from the benign to the malign.

With summer cruising in now, I'll steer you first to Alex Ness's Pop Thought "summer session" with myself, B Clay Moore, Mike Grell, Tony Bedard, Tim Truman, Barbara Schulz, Jason Copland, Michael May, Jimmy Palmiotti, Dan Abnett, Joe Hilliard, and Josh Ortega. That'll brighten your mood a bit before I dash it to pieces anew, and it's waiting for you
  • here.

  • ___

    I'm reeling from reading Alison Bechdel's momentous new autobiographical graphic novel Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, which I'll be writing up in depth here this week.

    I dumb-lucked into it this past week at the local Brattleboro bookshop Everyone's Books -- according to them, the book streeted a week ago today, from publisher Houghton Mifflin -- and I devoured it in one full day's reading. Alison's intensely personal masterpiece is essential reading, a new high-water mark for her and for the medium.

    Relevent to this very week, one of Alison's key chapters in her intimate saga of her family's 1970s trials and tribulations that so profoundly shaped Alison's existence is tied to the misfortunes of the Nixon presidency as the Watergate scandal brought the nation down 'round his ears. I couldn't help but wonder what familial apocalypses are taking place right now amid 2006's impending summer atrocities; in detailing her own life story with such lucidity and attention to the grander scope beyond "the narrow compass" of her father's (and her own) hometown, Alison makes explicit the uncanny ways in which familial implosions are tied to national upheavals, the threads in the great tapestry that includes us all.

    More on Fun Home in the coming days...

    There's also vet indy cartoonist/self publisher James A. Owen's
  • Here, There Be Dragons
  • coming up from his Coppervale Studios and bigtime publisher Simon & Schuster this fall, with the advanced reading/review copies now out and James's site up and running (hence the link). James writes:

    "The first Advance Reader Copies for booksellers and librarians and first dustjacket proofs were unveiled at the BEA in Washington D.C. The Jacket's gorgeous. They've got it on a nice heavy felt-finish stock - but the logo itself is embossed, and set in a gorgeous pearlescent foil map. Simon & Schuster is being very supportive of it; the 'Marketing' box on the back cover states that the initial print run will be 100,000 copies in hardcover, with a six-figure promotional budget.

    As part of the ramp-up to the book release, we'll be announcing a National signing tour for this Fall, beginning with a launch party and gallery show of the original art in New York City. All Dragons-related announcements will be going up on the new site, although I will continue using my online livejournal as more of a personal sketchbook, showcasing works in progress."

    Congrats, James! Can't wait to see it!

    BTW, you can stay tuned to James at his
  • Coppervale live journal.

  • ___

    And mention of Simon & Schuster immediately brings to mind Siegel and Shuster, creators of Superman.

    Cartoonists, let's honor our veterans, too.

    If there's a proper "Memorial Day" for comics fans, seems to me taking time to ponder the
  • plight of Joanne Siegel via her letters currently posted online,
  • concerning her late husband Jerry Siegel's relationship to his estranged son Michael Siegel is a necessity.

    In the year DC and Warner are ramping up the world for the new Superman movie, the real-life ravages of that iconic character's wake on those who first breathed life into that red and blue costumed superhero, and the sad legacy of its impact on their lives and those of their families, deserves at least a moment of consideration from one and all.

    Well, as I mentioned above, I'm dazed at how apparent the splitting of American seams are this week. The inevitables are catching up with us as a nation from all corners, and anyone denying the tell-tale landmarks does so at their own risk.

    Consider, for instance,
  • the suddenly soaring foreclosure rates here in the US of A,
  • one of the inevitabilities of the financial pocket-pool we've been playing to pretend all is well in the land of W. Bush economic la-la-land. The housing bubble gamble of refinance loans millions of homeowners embraced via low-interest, adjustable-rate mortgages is taking a terrible toll, and the msnbc report/analysis I've linked here (from Ron Mott) is required reading.

    Mott reports, "RealtyTrac, an industry organization that maintains a nationwide database of foreclosures, says mortgage defaults between January and March of this year numbered 323,102 compared with 188,122 during the same period last year — an increase of 72 percent.

    ...Indianapolis leads the nation, with one out of every 69 homes in foreclosure. Atlanta follows closely at 1 in 70 homes. Then Dallas — where the Edwardses live — at 1 in 99. Memphis is fourth at 1 in 101. Denver rounds out the top five at 1 in 105. Experts say it's those popular variable-rate loans that are helping drive the surge in foreclosures around the country, allowing buyers to purchase more expensive houses than they could otherwise afford."

    Of course, that's how President Bush and his 21st Century revisionism of Reagan's "Voodoo Economics" is plunging the US as a nation into the same dire straits, and he's pissing away more than one form of capital en route.

    It's amazing the rapidity with which the chickens (and I'm not referring to avian flu pandemics) are coming home to roost.

    Just a cursory glance at this week's breaking stories is sobering to even the most die-hard Iraq War supporter:

    * The foreclosures bloom in the same week
  • that President Bush & Prime Minister Tony Blair finally fessed up,
  • with Bush in particular staggering many with his admission that his arrogant swagger in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks -- Bush's “wanted dead or alive” description of Osama bin Laden, his taunting “bring ’em on” challenge to Iraqi insurgents -- were ill-advised.

    “In certain parts of the world, it was misinterpreted,” he said -- huh.


    No, I don't think so.

    Having thus publicly nibbled more humble pie than we thought possible whilst deferring any real responsibility, Bush uncharacteristically acknowledged that Abu Ghraib is "the biggest mistake that's happened so far, at least from our country's involvement in Iraq." He then said those responsible had been dealt with -- again, deferring culpability (and typically ignoring Rumsfeld's role in all this madness).

    Well, savor it, such as it is -- the dynamic duo still wear blinders.

    "There is no question the Iraq war has created a sense of consternation here in America," Bush said, citing "daily images on television of innocent people dying" (to quote AP's Terence Hunt & Tom Raum report of Bush & Blair's conference). But note that's acknowledged as an annoyance and diversion at best -- Bush (and Hunt & Raum) continued, "It affects the mentality of Americans," ...But he said a more important question now is, "Can we win? That's what they want to know."

    Oh, that's what we want to know.

    It's still about Victory -- the great lie of Victory Culture.

    This brings to mind two relevent quotes, one early Iraq War bon mot from Bush himself:

    "If we don't succeed, we run the risk of failure."
    - George W. Bush

    "The masters of the underground citadel are committed to a 'war' they cannot bring to an end, with weapons whose ultimate effects they cannot control, for purposes they cannot accomplish."
    - Lewis Mumford

    * That was Thursday night. By Friday morning,
  • the unfolding scandal over the alleged slaying of Iraqi civilians by Marines in Haditha,
  • what may prove to be the My Lai of the Iraq War. With other similar cases pending investigation, Associated Press's Robert Reid says "...present the most serious challenge to U.S. handling of the Iraq war since the Abu Ghraib prison scandal..."

    * Meanwhile, the
  • ongoing investigation by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald most recently culminated in the news that Vice President Dick Cheney "would be a logical government witness because he could authenticate notes he jotted on a July 6, 2003, New York Times opinion piece by a former U.S. ambassador critical of the Iraq war."
  • As any frequent reader of this blog knows, I've been advising one and all to keep tabs on Fitzgerald's work, but who would have thought that would be a minor news story this week?

    * The Cheney news was dwarved by the turbulence in Washington D.C. over the Bush Administration's treatment of American citizens finally spilling into the seats of power -- and prompting the outcry our House Republican and Democratic leaders were incapable of mounting when it was "just" the rights of mere citizens on the chopping block. After five years of letting Bush and his cronies wipe their collective asses with our Constitutional rights, the muckamucks are squealing like pigs as the first ears are twisted as the ripples of the Jack Abramoff scandal spills into hallowed offices and their sacrosanct dwellings. "Sanctuary!" they cry, and we're all in Duck Soup.

    Now, of course, it's a
  • very different scenario when its the FBI raid of House member’s office we're talking about.
  • Or, rather, they're talking about. It's almost comedic, the flashpoint and immediate shockwaves: “The Justice Department must immediately return the papers it unconstitutionally seized,” House Speaker Dennis Hastert (Republican, Illinois) and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Democrat, California) exclaimed in an atypical joint statement; adding, of course, that Rep. William Jefferson (Democrat, Louisiana) must cooperate with the Justice Department’s bribery investigation against him. Why the outcry? Can it be the K Street Republicans, seeing Democrat Jefferson thus treated, can at last see what's in store for them, too?

    Hastert (himself reportedly a recipient of $100,000 from Abramoff’s and his tribal client) was quick to add, "We’re not trying to protect an individual, we’re trying to protect the separation of powers... That was true during Watergate, it was true during Bill Clinton,” apparently forgetting (or hoping we would) his own role & bombast in the Clinton impeachment trial over an affair with an intern.

    * No sooner had that aired than we hear/read that
  • Bush ordered Jefferson's seized documents sealed to "cool Congressional anger."
  • Swift move, Fearless Leader -- prompting mere hours ago the news that
  • Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and FBI director Robert S. Mueller III are threatening to quit over the D.C. raid furor and Bush action.
  • According to today's The New York Times, Gonzalez was joined in raising the possibility of resignation by Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, who told associates that they had an obligation to protect evidence in a criminal case and would not be willing to follow a White House order to return the material to Congress.

    Whew -- and that, my friends, is just the tip of the iceberg.

    Don't forget, it's an election year.

    Don't bury your head in the sand.

    Honor the sacrifices of those who gave life, limbs and much more to defend our country -- with more imagination, wit and will than the jingoism of the war-mongers and despots would expect of us all.

    Happy Memorial Day Weekend, one and all.


    Anonymous Perry said...

    As if all that wasn't bad enough, there might not even be houses to foreclose on soon: Hammad Mir is one of the most objective and respected journalists in the world, even if he is Pakistan, and just about a week ago he has broken a story that has been utterly ignored by the US media. If you think the domestic situation is in ruins because of the Bush Mafia, wait till the nuke and dirty bombs go off -- check out World Threats. com for lots more, but, in a nutshell, Mir has said Al Quaida and Osama have secured some of the 54 "lost" Russian suitcase nukes -- as many as ten -- and have smuggled them into USA through canada. They await our impending attack on Iran, the day of which this happens from 7 to 10 America cities (Boston, New York, Miami,DC --a goog thing? -- Houston, Chicago, LA, St. Louis and a small Virgina town where the hardened white house hideout is (I forgot the name of the town) will all be targeted with devices in the 2 megaton range and/or radioactive dirty bombs. If this isn't chilling enough, or if one doubts this guy Mir, remember he is Bin Laden;'s OFFICIAL biographer and the ONLY JOURNALIST OSAMA HAS ALLOWED himself to be interviewed by. A Muslim cleric was stupid enough to issue a statement saying that ten million americans must die to achieve "parody" with the wrongs GW has commited. This fun puts the housing crisis and the ongoing horror of the Bush administration and all its endless criminal and moronic behavior, and its crew of truely evil men directly in the crosshairs of these nuke toting sleepers stationed here since before 911. Maybe not a bad thing?

    Blogger Marky Mark said...

    At last we agree! (actually we agree on a lot, but it's way complicated...)

    The Jefferson/Hastert etc thing - seems like EVERYBODY can agree that stinks to high heaven. I'll save my typing fingers and just cut-n-paste what Al said over at Cold Fury - a blog that is so "neo-con" you'll break out in a rash if you look at it - but at least we can all agree on this:

    If this story in the Wash Post this morning is true, the FBI and DOJ may have a humdinger of a public corruption case operating against Congress right now.

    You might need to register to read that. In short, anonymous federal law enforcement sources stated to the Post that Alberto Gonzales, Robert Mueller and Paul McNulty (the DAG, or Deputy Attorney General) all threatened to resign if President Bush orders the Jefferson papers returned to Congress. That’s a Saturday Night Massacre level-threat, over the WH reluctance to push a case relating to a #Democratic# member of Congress. If you found that puzzling, you weren’t the only one.

    It seems to me that were this an ordinary corruption case, they wouldn’t threaten such draconian action. I am with Insty, who thinks that the Feebs may have stumbled into public corruption on a scale that… that is grand enough that even Republicans are running scared and willing to jump to the defense of William Jefferson. My liberal friends insist that it’s a Republican culture of corruption, my Republican friends insist it’s a Democratic Culture of Corruption, and my conservative and libertarian friends tend to agree with me that it’s a centralized government culture of corruption. I guess we’ll know more within a couple months, and if the corruption is widespread and bi-partisan, you can expect to see a voter revolt this fall.

    I'm not sure about that last sentence. What kind of "voter revolt" option do we have? Toss out one pile of scoundrels and replace them with the next pile of scoundrels?

    Oh well, it's small potatoes next to what Perry said. I think blaming that all on Bush is pointless though. If it wasn't Bush, it would be Burger King ice cream lids. The Jihadists aren't going to be happy until we all bend over and take Allah up the butt.

    Anonymous Andrew Debly said...

    I heard the "don't succeed/run the risk of failure" quote years before Bush took office.

    It was actually a Dan Quayle quote.

    Anonymous Jon-Mikel said...

    I think it's worth noting that Hastert's defense of "separation of powers" is legitimate and vital. Especially with a president who's displayed the imperial tendencies that this one has, it's important not to allow the executive to bully, threaten or harass legislators with searches of their congressional offices.

    Further, no matter how broad Gonzales' case against Rep. Jefferson may be, he must be hurting for evidence to raid a congressman's office. After all - and this is important - THIS IS THE FIRST TIME THE EXECUTIVE HAS RAIDED A LEGISLATIVE OFFICE IN THE HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES.

    This seems like a pretty desperate move on Gonzales' part. I have little doubt that Jefferson, and most of his colleagues on both sides of the isle, are dirty and corrupt and probably guilty of engaging in all sorts of illegal behavior and selling the powers of their offices. However, the independence of the legislative branch is more important than any corruption case - it's too easy for someone like our would-be emperor to use claims of corruption to harass and intimidate legislators.

    Blogger Tharnax said...

    Stephen, I wanted to ask you about your work in the 80’s namely: Why did you ultimately leave Swamp Thing? Were you burned out? Did DC management play any role in your decision? Do you have any sales figures for those issues that you drew back then?
    I recently rediscovered my old Saga Of The Swamp Thing comics, My Dad bought my first issue for me (#19) when I was about 8 years old. So I take pride in telling younger collectors that I had the privilege of purchasing these issues as a kid. Your pencils combined with Totleben's inks were truly a revolution in comic art. I was inspired to draw from those issues and became a modestly good comic artist myself. I did not become a pro like yourself, but I still love to draw those characters. If you get a chance to send me an Email I would feel honored for you to critique my sketches, I have a tough time drawing Swampy’s upper torso and shoulders! From a true fan: Thanks for your awesome, inspiring work.


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