The Voyage of Captain Obvious

Grading is satanic

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

A proposal.

I know that this is DOA from the start, but why not have a constitutional amendment to require a declaration of war to be recommended by the president, and approved by a national referendum? Give the president X number of days to deploy forces without this approval, and beyond that, pass a referendum, or bring the damn troops home. Require this to be re-approved every two years or something, to prevent long, drawn-out, unpopular wars from continuing. Let's take the damn oversight away from our incopetent Senate and give it back to the damn people.

Probably won't even begin to pass while iraq is still going on, but it's something to think about, I think... and of course, there is the problem of press manipulation, but you know the saying of Abraham Lincoln...

Thursday, February 23, 2006

So long, Roe v. Wade

It was good to know ya. Let's see what the Roberts court does with this. If it gets overturned, then it's time to remind everyone that there is no such thing as a pro-choice republican anymore. Ugh.

Via Bitch, Ph.D.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The X-Men

Sorry, dear reader(s), for the extended abscence. It won't happen again.

Today I wish to discuss the X-Men, whose third movie premieres this summer. In particular, I want to talk about why I think that, at least during the period when I was an avid comic reader, they are/were the best of the comics out there. If you wish to avoid the mega-super-├╝ber-dorkiness that is certain to follow, perhaps this is a post to skip.

Ok, here's my thing with the X-Men. They are truly super-human. Most other superheroes fail in this regard. They are typically presented as near-perfect ideals, definitely superheroes, but not necessarily really human anymore.

Superman, superdickery aside, is a perfect example of this. More often than not, the conflict in a Superman comic results entirely from Superman wishing to teach Jimmy Olsen a lesson, forgetting that he has almost infinite power, or not wishing to reveal his identity. Superman rarely makes a poor judgment or mistake (other than putting on that kryptonite suit). Like bill says, Superman is a real ideal, Clark Kent is a pathetic mockery of what a human is, his take on us. We are supposed to be astounded and awed by Superman, but we don't really, we can't really, identify with him.

Batman does better in this regard. He has a dark past, he grapples with real issues from time to time. But once again, he doesn't really falter, and doesn't really show weakness. A Batman story leaves one more in awe of his wealth and all of his fancy shit than it does make you feel for Batman. Further, there is the contrast between the Batman persona and the Bruce Wayne persona--much of the nuance is reserved for Bruce Wayne, and not for Batman, with his steely exterior. It makes him interesting, but not in the same way that most of the X-Men are--Batman is more a split-personality story than it is a reflection on humanity. Spider-Man has a similar contrast. Most of the internal conflict in those comics dervies from the fact that Spider-Man is so perfect and wonderful, but he's really just an awkward teenager named Peter Parker. This conflict is very well exploited in the Sam Raimi movies, and makes Spider-Man interesting, but once again, Spider-Man ends up deriving most of it's tension from there being two people that are seen from the ground--you can imagine a Peter Parker that gives up slinging web, and a full-time Spider-Man as well.

None of this works with how I see the X-Men. The story of the X-Men is the story for a quest to just be who you are supposed to be. It's why it was so easy to make a parallel between being a mutant in the second movie with being gay in real life. Just as Collosus is inalterably a mutant, some people are unlaterably gay. No matter how much society freaks out at it, whether it is by banning gay marraige or passing the Mutant Registration Act, nothing will change it. Furthermore, the heroes powers are their weakness, are their strengths, and are a key part of how they see themselves. They have alter aliases (except for Rogue), but mostly they serve as covers for them when they go out in the world. Further, every character's power creates gabs of irony.

Wolverine has the power to heal from nearly any injury, but that very power is what caused the Canadian government to run endless experiments on him, causing permanent psychological damage, but also giving him his primary physical weapon. Beast, givfted with extreme physical strength and agility, makes a special effort to be learned and knowledgable in a way that belies his blue fur and muscled appearance. Cyclops, the "visionary" leader, is unable to control his mutant power, and is doomed to never actually see anything. Flirty, feisty Rogue (teenaged Rogue is the main thing that annoyed me about the movies) is never allowed to feel the touch of intimcacy, lest she badly hurt the other person. Jean Gray recieved her powers only when she telepathically experienced the death of her best friend as it occurred right before her eyes. Her powers eventually increae to the point where she has to choose between allowing herself to die or losing control to the point where she destroys everything she knows and loves. And Professor X, despite being the most powerful of all of them (aside from Jean Gray during the Phoenix part of her life, of course), is confined to a wheelchair and the X-Mansion.

Each of them fights demons whose origins derive from their powers. Sometimes, you get the impression that most of them would rather not have their powers at all, and that's barring the fact that, in their world, many humans would rather just see mutants eradicated from the Earth. Their psyche is a lumped up, complicated mess that never really gets resolved, and they are usually stuck defending the humans that hate them from other mutants. The X-Men come off as truly human in a lot of ways that other superheroes don't. Finally, I always loved that, one-on one, most of the villians in these comic books would crush the X-Men, but together, they always ended up winning. I know it's a lame after-school special type idea, but I always liked that, individually, these characters really weren't all that strong. It made stories more interesting than yelling at Superman "HEY ASSHOLE, YOU HAVE EYEBEAMS! USE THEM!!!"

That isn't to say that there isn't a lot of stupid shit in these comic books. Arcade may be about the dumbest idea ever for a supervillian. You have to get past a lot of annoying racial/ethnic stereotypes (Banshee, Gambit, and Rogue can be kinda annoying in this regard) in the characters to get at their interesting parts. Oftentimes, they seem to introduce mutants just for the sake of introducing more mutants. Regardless, they always left me with the impression that they were the best superhero comic, and I still believe that.