Friday, May 13, 2005


The New Curse?

Unlike the Boston Red Sox, something tells me it won't take the Yankees 86 years to exorcise the "Curse of the Giam-bino." But, here's a scary thought: Is the real "curse" around the Yankees actually Don Mattingly?

Around New York, it's sacriligeous to say this, considering how many Yankee fans love "Donnie Baseball," but look it up: Mattingly's first arrived with the big club in 1982, the year after the Bronx Bombers lost to the Dodgers in the World Series. The 1981 Series concluded a period where they made the World Series in four out of six years (going 2-2). They wouldn't make it back to the Fall Classic Series until 1996, the year Mattingly was replaced at first base by
Tino Martinez. With Mattingly gone off to retirment and Martinez holding down first, the Yankees won four World Series in five years (and narrowly missed making it five out of six, losing a seven-game heart-stopper in 2001). Martinez left after that year, replaced by $120 million man Jason Giambi.

Mattingly came back to the Yankees as a hitting coach in 2004 -- when the Yankees became the first team in baseball history to lose a seven-game playoff series after winning the first three (to the hated Red Sox to boot)!

Get rid of Jason Giambi by all means -- but maybe Donnie Jinx should hit the road too.

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Friday Comic Book Blogging

Sometime ago, putting up pictures of cute felines became a Friday tradition in the blog world. Was it Kevin Drum who started it? Figures that a namby-pamby West Coast liberal would want everyone to feel warm and fuzzy inside as the weekend kicks off.

Anyway, I'm sorry, but I don't own a cat. Don't get me wrong; I like cats. My first pet was a cat (ah, lovely little Tippy. Somewhere in cat-heaven now.). However, I live alone; I'm a slob. Putting a cat in that environment would be hazardous to its health. My neighbor Michelle owns a cat (Remi, a cute tabby kitten, is her second one -- the fantastic Bailey departed late last year). I'm the designated cat-sitter. Anyway, I considered sneaking in and taking surreptitious pictures of Remi, but thought better of it. I felt a bit creepy, sort of like turning my face white, having little boys sleep in my bed while singing "Beat it."

But I digress.

Anyway, I'd like to start a new tradition here at the old "Ragged Thots" (which celebrated its semi-official first month of publication this past Wednesday): Friday Comic Book Blogging.

Comic books are, of course, not quite as universally warm and cuddly as cats. Conversely, they don't cough up hairballs, either. They don't purr; on the other hand, they don't scratch or bite. They don't give you long months and years of companionship. No, scratch that. They do. As I've said before, I've been reading them for decades and look how well I've turned out! Yeah, I live alone. Hmmm...

Anyway, the inaugural FCBB will be (partly at the suggestion of reader Sub-Deacon, though it was actually a no-brainer) -- drum roll, please -- Will Eisner's The Plot: The Secret Story of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Why a no-brainer? For many reasons. It occurred to me recently that over the last ten or eleven months, the 20th century has been, literally, dying. What do I mean? Well, many individuals that can be considered titans in their various fields of endeavour -- real legends in their time have shuffled off the mortal coil: Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul, Saul Bellow. These were individuals who truly defined some of the major struggles, great and small, of the 20th century. They were true giants.

For those who believe that the illustrated literary field -- whether simple "comic books" or more mature "graphic novels" and everything that comes in between -- is a legitimate literary genre, then writer/artist Will Eisner, who died in January easily fits into that group of long-lasting unique giants. For those that disagree, well, generally speaking, Umberto Eco who wrote the introduction to The Plot, doesn't usually do that for hacks or people who just create "funny books."

Eisner's place in the world of comics would have been assured if only because of his creation of The Spirit, the tough-jawed masked defender of "the little guy" in 1940.

However, it was decades later, in the '70s and '80s when Eisner moved the whole medium forward. His 1978 volume, A Contract With God -- a collection of slices of life in the 1930s Bronx -- is recognized as the first modern graphic novel. In between, he either worked with or influenced a Who's Who of the comic world: Jack Kirby, Jules Feiffer, Jim Steranko, Neal Adams, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman.

The Plot is a dramatization of the story of an obscure 19th century French satire that was transformed into an anti-Semitic tract, circulated around the world and is, alas, still a source today for those who find comfort in the belief that the Jews are nefariously plotting to take over the earth.

It's nothing short of amazing that Will Eisner was able to still be productive and creative to finish this work just a couple of months before his death at 87. Not everyone will necessarily like this. It is a profoundly personal book. But it makes a statement that needs to be said now more than ever. Intolerance and bigotry take many forms. Just because one of those forms is in the form of the written word, doesn't mean that it can be ignored.

On the contrary, it must be confronted and exposed to the light. The world is fortunate that Will Eisner chose to use his considerable talents over the last few months of an already prostigious life to shine that light.

The world is also fortunate to receive one last gift as another masterful 20th-century creative spirit departs the scene.

UPDATE: As a newbie on the block, it would be most arrogant of me not give a shout-out to this guy, who's been doing the politics/comic book dichotomy for nearly four years now. Our politics may not overlap, but our love of the four-color medium certainly does.

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Thursday, May 12, 2005


NPR Warning!

Your RAGGED host shall be on "News & Notes with Ed Gordon" on Friday as part of the "roundtable" segment. Topics should include Condoleezza Rice's views on the Second Amendment. Check your local listings. In New York City, it can be heard during the 9 a.m. block.

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Extreme Makeover: Coulter Edition

Ambra spells it out for Ann! You go, girl! (Hat tip: Booker Rising.)

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RAGGED Randomness

1) I guess he really is Rick James, bee-yatch! Get well soon, Dave.

2) Oh, come on, Karol.
Rich is just following in a tradition quite well-established by founder William F. Buckley. It's what has kept NR cool all these years, standing athwart history yelling, "Don't bogart that joint..." On another note, I'm sorry that you don't like the Post . Finally, Miller's show flopped, not because political comedy can't work in a televised format. It flopped because Miller suddenly stopped being funny when he came "out" as a conservative. I'm not saying that conservatives can't be funny -- I know several who do funny stand-up (and no, I'm not talking about myself). But Miller's schtick worked when he was ticked off at the world. Instead, post-9/11, he decided that the best thing that he could do would be to become George W. Bush's best buddy. It's not funny when someone whose signature act is being anti-establishment decides to pledge his allegiance to and campaign for that establishment.

3) If
this hadn't happened Wednesday afternoon, would this cover story from yesterday's USA Today have been much more broadly discussed today? Just asking.

UPDATE: So, the White House (including the First Lady, the Vice President and his wife) and the Capitol are evacuated, but no one bothers to interrupt the president of the United States in the middle of his bike ride!! Are you kidding me? After all flack the administration took after 9/11 with the 7 minutes in the school and the "My Pet Goat" BS, don't you think someone should have realized that, yes, it is a good idea for the Commander In Chief to be notified that jets have been scrambled and there is a potentially serious situation developing! Are you kidding me!?!?!?

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Wednesday, May 11, 2005


Let No Good Deed Go Unpunished

You just can't stick your neck out for some people.

Exactly one week ago, I came to the defense of ex-MLB pitcher John Rocker. I thought that it was time to give the guy a break more than five years after he made certain intemperate remarks about New Yorkers. Especially, following five years where a combination of foot-in-mouth-itis and various injuries had left his career hanging by a thread playing for a minor league team on Long Island.

I thought that Rocker was perfectly fine telling a heckler to go #$%^# himself. Let everybody move on and let the guy have an opportunity to get back on his feet, show how much he has matured.

Well, so much for that. Don't I feel like a sap? Rocker now claims that not even Hank Aaron and Jackie Robinson had to endure the sort of abuse he has:

"I've taken a lot of crap from a lot of people. Probably more than anybody in the history of this sport. I know Hank and Jackie took a good deal of crap, but I guarantee it wasn't for six years. I just keep thinking: How much am I supposed to take?"

Hmmm...good question. Answer: As much as you have to until you learn to shut the f*** up.

Does Rocker have any idea how many extra years Robinson had to stay in the minors because of his race? Forget about Robinson and Aaraon. How about all the other black players that didn't have quite the strength of character that Branch Rickey saw in Robinson to take the risk to make him the one to break the color line. For that matter, forget about just the black players at the time.

Does Rocker even have a clue at some of the abuse Rocker's white teammates and roommates had to take because there was a N***** on the team? Oh, of course not. What an idiot. The only bigger idiot, of course, is your humble blogger for actually trying to give this guy a break.

Bye, bye, John, don't let the LIRR train door hit your ass too hard on the way out.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2005


Dick's Big Swinging Win

Well, Dick Cheney should be pleased. A federal Appeals court has ruled against a "strange bedfellows" Sierra Club-Judicial Watch suit filed to gain access to internal records of the Veep's energy task force.

I personally don't like the decision. I think more openness in government is better. I thought that when Hilary Clinton tried to keep her health care task force records secret and I think that now. The crucial difference, of course, is that Hillary's unique dual role as First Lady leading the task force made her run afoul of the law. The president's wife is not an official federal employee, thus making her an "outsider" running her own meeting.

A Republican in Washington with a good sense of history was ecstatic. He sees it as suggesting that the stars are being pushed back into their appropriate places in the firmament -- after being misaligned for decades (the following has only been slightly edited for spelling and the need to keep this site no more than PG-13):

Chalk one up for the restoration of executive privilege. Will Cheney's victory finally stop the erosion of executive privilege begun under Watergate and continued until the Clinton years? I see [this] as completing the Karmic circle. The Democratic Congress attacked and demagogued Republican Adminstrations and even their own Carter Administration from 1974 through 1992. (Bert Lance never knew what hit him.) And the Reagan years proved that if you file a thousand lawsuits and rake everyone you can find indescriminatly through the mud -- cue [exonerated Reagan Labor Secretary] Ray Donovan's "Where do I go to get my reputation back?" -- you can find a worthy scandal like Iran-Contra. Republicans, lacking any maturity, simply played "payback" from 1992 through 2001. The philosophy was blame the Clintons for EVERYTHING and ANYTHING you can find and SOMETHING will stick -- like lying under oath.

NOW, the courts (and it would be nice if the press and the American people too) said ENOUGH of the school yard s**t!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GOVERN!!! LEGISLATE!!!! DO YOUR DAMN JOBS!!!!!!!!!!! F***ing over peoples lives for the pure sake of power is not a sport!!!!!!

This particular result was expected after the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 last year that there was "paramount necessity of protecting the executive branch from vexatious litigation."

Bill Clinton must have gotten a pretty good laugh on that one.

Paula who?

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Huffin', Puffin', Blowin' Your House Down...

Just because I need yet another spot to rest my blog hat...I'm hanging out in my former boss Arianna's neighborhood! Come check out my first undefined contribution (yes, a sort-of Social Security joke). Conservatives, don't be afraid to check the site out: Some good folks like Wall St. Journal editorial board member John Fund, National Review contributor and former Cheers writer Rob Long, economist Kevin Hassett among others will be hanging out with various lefty intellectuals and assorted princes and princesses of La-La Land.

Oh, for those paying close attention, I did indeed refer to Arianna as a "former boss." I did some freelance work for her in the fall of 1993. I then went on to work in her husband's DC congressional office for a year. Yes, this means that I have been employed by Arianna Huffington, Newt Gingrich and Rupert Murdoch -- not exactly your average Tom, Dick & Harry.

Feel free to draw your own conclusions.

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Monday, May 09, 2005


Secret Identities

Look, up in the sky! It's a bird, it's a plane! No, it's another profound cultural analysis by The New York Times: Does it get it? Or not.

In his Sunday analysis of how superheroes have taken over the Hollywood summer blockbuster slot (X-Men four years, Spider-Man three years ago, X-Men 2 two years ago, Spider-Man 2 last year, Batman Begins this summer, Superman Returns next year), movie critic A.O. Scott makes this observation:

"Simply put, a superhero is not a movie star, and vice versa. Indeed, one might go so far as to say that as a cultural figure, the superhero is the opposite - the nemesis, the secret alter ego, the evil twin, the Bizarro-world double - of the movie star."

Maybe it's just me and that I happen to work for a major city tabloid newspaper, but it seems that that statement could be made about a broadsheet newspaper (like, oh say, The New York Times) and a tabloid publication.

The Times is the movie star; the tabloid is the "pulp-ish" superhero? Maybe I'm just projecting. Hmmm....

Alas, the online link doesn't do justice to the very nice illustration that accompanies this lead story in the Times' special Summer Movies section.

On a related note, your humble blogger gets the "D'oh!!!" award for forgetting that Saturday was
Free Comic Book Day! Please frequent your nearest retailer. Parents, comic books are good things. I read comic books all the time growing up (still do) and I turned out fine!!

Heh, heh.

At the end of this week, I will start a semi-regular feature (since I don't have a cat and my neighbor might freak out if I start blogging hers on Fridays) on some quality comics and graphic novels that some of you out there might want to peruse.

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Hmmm...Wonder What the Chechnyans Think About This?

"We will not repeat the mistakes of other generations, appeasing or excusing tyranny, and sacrificing freedom in the vain pursuit of stability. We have learned our lesson; no one's liberty is expendable. In the long run, our security and true stability depend on the freedom of others," George W. Bush, Riga, Latvia, May 7, critiquing the U.S.-Britain pact at Yalta with the Soviet Union.

Maybe Roosevelt and Churchill can be criticized for the deal that permitted the Soviet Union to consolidate its hold on Eastern Europe. They made the deal they felt they had to make. Sixty-year old hindsight isn't exactly the best. Considering that Churchill made the speech that created the term "Iron Curtain" little more than a year after Yalta, it seems evident that he understood early on the harsh compromise that had been made.

Still, neither Churchill nor Roosevelt, ever said
this about the Russian leader they were sitting down with:

"I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul; a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country. . . . I wouldn't have invited him to my ranch if I didn't trust him," George W. Bush June 16, 2001, on his first meeting with Vladimir Putin.

For that matter, considering how democracy has been marching -- backwards -- in Russia in the last four years, perhaps the question that should be asked is: Will the West still consider sacrificing "freedom" when an autocrat says that it is part of the "war on terror"?
(To my snarky friends on the left who might be visiting here, let me be clear: I'm talking about Putin in the last sentence, not Bush.)

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