Friday, July 02, 2010


The "Wondrous" Return of Comic Book Friday

Due to nothing but entropic anomie, an early feature at Ragged Thots -- Comic Book Fridays -- fell by the wayside sometime ago.  I'm not sure if this will lead to a more-permanent return, but a perfect moment has arisen to plunge into what was once known as the world of four-color pop culture. 
The last time that an event in a comic book garnered newspaper and cable TV headlines was the "death" of Captain America a few years back (yeah, surprise! after being lost in time, Steve Rogers has returned to the Marvel Universe). This week, the character making the headlines shares with Cap a certain propensity to donning the old red, white and blue.
Or so she did until this week!  
I speak, of course, of the Amazing Amazon, the Princess of Paradise Island, the one and only, Wonder Woman (and yeah, I know that, in fact, there's more than just "one" Wonder Woman -- don't try to out-geek me here)!. To celebrate the publication of her 600th issue -- and the debut of superstar/multi-field author J. Michael Straczinski -- DC Comics unveiled a brand new costume.  Gone is the iconic look of star-spangled hot pants and golden-eagle breast-plate/stylized yellow"WW." To say, the black-leggings/leather jacket combo, designed by artist and DC co-publisher Jim Lee, has generated some controversy would be an understatement. 
Deadline Hollywood writer Nikki Finke hates it.  Project Runway's Tim Gunn loves it.  Fox raised concerns about the cultural implications of a heroine being de-Americanized (right before Independence Day, to boot, uh, reboot)!. More knowledgeable comic fanzines wondered if we haven't seen this movie before. And, indeed, we have -- repeatedly. And, not surprisingly, the controversy has turned issue #600 into a huge hit (two days after it hit the stands).
Now, in all this, the only observation I have to make is:  Here you have two  iconic superheroes with origins stretching back to the World War II era.  Two heroes that are literally wrapped in the flag.  One is male; one is female.  To generate huge headlines, the publisher of the male character kills him off (for a couple of years).  To generate huge headlines, the publisher of the female character changes her clothes.  Maybe it's just me, but there's something vaguely, cynically sexist in this formulation.  I'm not making a judgment on the costume itself (why bother? as suggested in more than a few of the above links, a version of the original duds will return ere long, maybe with longer pants).  I'm just talking about what a publisher uses to "sell" something dramatic about a character.  Comic-wise Captain America and Wonder Woman are both supposed to be great warriors. Heck, classically, WW fought a contest among her fellow Amazons to get to be Paradise Island's ambassador to "Man's World."  She's a fighter.  
But, Cap is the one who dies in battle -- and gets the huge headlines in "the real world." WW? She gets Tim Gunn to comment on her new fashion sense.  
Somehow this just doesn't seem right.  
On the other hand, I'll be following the new storyline (Wonder Woman caught in an alternate timeline; geez, where have we heard that before?)! So, maybe DC knows what it's doing. 

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Dumbest World Cup Article Ever

In a previous life, Marc Thiessen and I were casual friends in the world of DC politics.  While we never worked together, he hosted a few conservative gatherings which I was fortunate to attend -- including an annual black tie event.  Anyway, he has gone on to bigger and better things -- speechwriter for Donald Rumsfeld and George W. Bush, an author, Washington Post columnist and AEI fellow.  In these latter careers, he's made a few controversial statements -- including on the nature of torture (he disagrees that waterboarding counts).

Anyway, he decided to weigh in on the World Cup  (waiting, it seems, until after the U.S. had been eliminated) and proclaim that soccer is a socialist sport -- explaining why it's never taken hold in America. This is one of the silliest arguments I've seen in some time.  

Marc's examples of the socialist proclivities of soccer are rather dubious:
Soccer is also the only sport in the world that has “hooligans”—proletarian mobs that trash private property whenever their team loses.
Right. And the US is a has cities where "proletarian mobs...trash private property whenever their team" -- wins (see Detroit, Los Angeles and College Park, MD)!!
Soccer is collectivist. At this year’s World Cup, the French national team actually went on strike in the middle of the tournament on the eve of an elimination match. (Yes, capitalist sports have experienced labor disputes, but can you imagine a Major League Baseball team going on strike in the middle of the World Series?)
The French team going "on strike" has more to do with the French -- and its pampered, bratty, team -- than it has to do with soccer itself.  As for examples of similar behavior among American athletes -- see Manny Ramirez quitting on the Red Sox two years ago.  Need a team example? Anyone wonder why the NBA has the "lottery" ball instead of a traditional "worst team drafts first" as nearly all other sports do?  Because, in the '80s, it became obvious that, at the end of the season, NBA teams were tanking their last games to insure that they ended up with worst record!  

But, more significant is Thiessen's parenthetical aside, "Yes, capitalist sports have experienced labor disputes..."  Understatement, anyone?!!? In the last fifteen years, two North American professional sports teams lost their post-seasons to labor strife (Major League Baseball in 1994; hockey in 2006).  The only time the World Cup has been cancelled since the first one in 1930 was because of World War II.  

And, let's not get started on the collectivist economics of US sports -- salary caps, luxury taxes (MLB), shared TV revenue (NFL), etc. 

UPDATE:  Congratulations, Flying Dutchmen!! 


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Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Media Hypocrisy Overload

Lot of journalist vs. journalist stuff of late:  Last week was the Washington Post's Dave Weigel quitting/being fired over the outting of messages about other journalists (and conservatives he was covering) that he posted on a listserv called JournoList.  Weigel, who is somewhat conservative (though admittedly more on the cultural libertarian part of the spectrum) responded to the controversy over here. The issue got even more messy when liberal Ezra Klein (who still blogs for the W. Post) owner of the liberal-filled JournoList noted that one of the outlets that exposed Weigel's emails was Tucker Carlson's Daily Caller -- not so long after Carlson asked to join JournoList and was turned down.  

Now comes Lara Logan, CBS News' Foreign Correspondent.  She was on CNN's Reliable Sources over the weekend and castigated Rolling Stone's Michael Hastings for, in her view, unethical reporting in his explosive scoop on General Stanley McChrystal and associates mouthing off about the Obama administration. 

"What I find is the most telling thing about what Michael Hastings said in your interview is that he talked about his manner as pretending to build an illusion of trust and, you know, he's laid out there what his game is," Logan said. "That is exactly the kind of damaging type of attitude that makes it difficult for reporters who are genuine about what they do, who don't -- I don't go around in my personal life pretending to be one thing and then being something else. I mean, I find it egregious that anyone would do that in their professional life."
Hastings also said that beat reporters -- reporters, like Logan, specifically assigned to cover the military -- do not publish negative pieces about their subjects in order to assure continued access.
"I think that's insulting and arrogant, myself. I really do," Logan said, "because there are very good beat reporters who have been covering these wars for years, year after year. Michael Hastings appeared in Baghdad fairly late on the scene, and he was there for a significant period of time. He has his credentials, but he's not the only one. There are a lot of very good reporters out there. And to be fair to the military, if they believe that a piece is balanced, they will let you back."
"Michael Hastings has never served his country the way McChrystal has," she added.

This would be the scoop that led to McChrystal being canned and President Obama handing over the Afghanistan assignment to Gen. David Petraeus.  In his Rolling Stone blog, Matt Taibbi eviscerates Logan for what he sees as her unhealthy -- and arguably journalistically unprofessional -- inclination to protect military sources such as the general and his aides:
When I first heard her say that, I thought to myself, "That has to be a joke. It's sarcasm, right?" But then I went back and replayed the clip – no sarcasm! She meant it! If I'm hearing Logan correctly, what Hastings is supposed to have done in that situation is interrupt these drunken assholes and say, "Excuse me, fellas, I know we're all having fun and all, but you're saying things that may not be in your best interest! As a reporter, it is my duty to inform you that you may end up looking like insubordinate douche bags in front of two million Rolling Stone readers if you don't shut your mouths this very instant!" I mean, where did Logan go to journalism school – the Burson-Marsteller agency?
Ground rules are ground rules and every organization has different ones with different media. However, as harsh as Taibbi is in going after Logan, he actually could have been even worse.  Why? It's in this lovely phrase that she underscored in the CNN interview:  "I don't go around in my personal life pretending to be one thing and then being something else. I mean, I find it egregious that anyone would do that in their professional life."

Oh, really?  This would be the same Lara Logan who put the "affairs" in foreign affairs correspondent.  While having a fling with CNN correspondent Michael Ware, she also had a relationship with State Department contractor Joe Burkett -- a liaison which allegedly broke up Burkett's marriage! Logan ended up pregnant, divorced her first husband and is now happily married to Burkett (they had their second child in March). 

Should a person's messy personal life matter when they're commenting on journalistic sourcing? Normally, no. But when said individual trashes another writer for getting a scoop (causing a major dramatic personnel change in the military, in the process) -- and suggest that she is completely above-board in her personal life, well, that's an invitation to examine the public record of her private life.  

Especially, when Logan, labels Hastings' professional actions as "egregious" -- which they, objectively, hardly are.  She cheats twice on her husband -- one with a married man, in an occupation that she is covering professionally.  Whether she's right or not about how Hastings presented himself to McChrystal and Co., she certainly has no standing to question anybody about ethics.  

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