This has been a frustrating couple of weeks for me. Despite my being healthier than I've been in years and positively chomping at the bit to write, life's little duties and annoyances continue to come between me and my keyboard. I suspect TOT will remain in catch-up mode through the end of the year, but I'm still confident that I will have written and posted the three columns a week that I promised you on December 2. It might not be the biggest dream in the world, but it's mine, all mine.
The big news this week has been the capture of deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Given the ample coverage of this event, I'm amazed at the number of e-mails I've received from readers who also want me to weigh in on...WHAT IT MEANS.
All I have is a handful of largely unconnected thoughts, but, you're welcome to them.
I recall...with some pride...that my first thought on learning of Hussein's capture was "That's great news!" The thought of what it might mean to my country's presidential race didn't occur to me until several other thoughts had crossed my mind.
1. The Internet is really cool. I learned about the capture when I logged on Sunday morning and was getting updates every five minutes or so.
2. My immediate hope was that this would put American troops at less risk, but I soon realized that wasn't the case. There are people coming to Iraq just because they can find Americans to kill there. There are people loyal to Saddam who want to kill as many Americans as they can. There are people who hate Saddam, but who just don't want Americans controlling their country.
3. If we needed a reminder of the vast gulf between the way we Americans think and the way people brought up in other cultures think, we got it here. I can't conceive of any Iraqi citizen who wasn't part of Hussein's repressive regime not being ecstatic over the tyrant's capture. Yet there are clearly Iraqi citizens, even Iraqi citizens living in abject poverty, who took pride from their leader and his defiance of most of the rest of the world. I don't understand it and it scares me that the American leaders who should be able to explain it to me don't seem to have a noticeably greater understanding of this than I do.
4. This is when I got around to the Bush question. The one sad outcome of this capture is that it increases Dubya's chance of getting elected in 2004. Which doesn't mean than I'm not thrilled that Saddam is in custody. Which doesn't mean I wouldn't be even more thrilled if we got Osama Bin Laden, who is, of course, the guy we should have been going after all along, but, who, since he was not sitting on a buttload of oil, became a much lesser priority to the Bush mob. Okay, it wasn't just the oil. It was also that they had no idea where to find Osama.
5. The capture changes none of my opinions about Bush or his invasion of Iraq. Yes, Hussein was an evil man who deserved to be taken down. There is a moral clarity to that statement, which, I'm sad to say, gets foggy as we consider all the other evil men who we are not only NOT trying to take down but with whom we continue to do business. If we had cleaner hands, I could applaud the "rescue" of the Iraqi people, but we don't. We went into Iraq because that country had something we wanted and because there was no one around big enough to tell us we couldn't have it. It doesn't balance the scales for the American and all other lives lost or diminished in this war for oil.
6. Everyone with access to a blog, chat room, message board, newspaper, radio microphone, or television camera will have a great deal to say about the capture and its ramifications and 99% of them won't be worth listening to, myself included.
7. The capture of Hussein, especially in these circumstances, was gold for comedy writers. Jon Stewart and THE DAILY SHOW staff are knocking it out of the park nightly. David Letterman's writers have been cranking out Saddam-centric "Top 10" lists almost every night. Jay Leno continues to embrace an increasingly mean-spirited and right-wing-biased attitude in his monologues and skits. I've all but stopped watching THE TONIGHT SHOW.
8. Bar none, the funniest line I heard, which was repeated on THE DAILY SHOW, was when Terry Bradshaw, with nary a wrinkle of his sloped brow, proclaimed:
"Osama, my friend, you're next."
I shook my head in disbelief.
Maybe John Ashcroft and his goon squads should bring Bradshaw in for a little talk about his friend Osama.
9. Next to THE DAILY SHOW, no one has done funnier stuff about Hussein's capture and subsequent interrogation than Andy Borowitz. You can read his reports at:
10. We American honestly do laugh in the face of danger. On occasion, I feel uncomfortable about making light of the capture of a butcher like Hussein. But I laugh just the same. It's not even a nervous laughter. It's the laughter of a citizenry I do believe has good hearts and intentions...much better hearts and intentions than most of our elected and not-elected leaders...and simply won't be beaten by their own fear.
One of the things I find most distressing about the post-9/11 United States is how so many of my fellow citizens let their fear blind them to the excesses and incompetence of the White House and its allies. One of the things I find most heartening is that more Americans and asking more questions...and demanding that Bush and his cronies answer them. There may yet be hope for a good outcome in the 2004 elections.
Even if we end up with four more years of Bush, I hope to keep my faith in the American people. I think we are capable of making better choices for ourselves and our global neighbors. I think we will make those better choices, even if we don't make them quite as soon as I would prefer. The bottom line...
It's going to take more than the GOP to knock that cocky smile off *my* face.
I'm not in much of a reviewing mood today, so I'll continue to ramble on this and that. It's always hard for me to focus at this time of year. My Sainted Wife Barb *loves* Christmas, but she also lets herself get a little crazy getting ready for it. My children and I tread softly these days.
Barb and I went Christmas shopping a few days ago and, at one of our stops, a clerk absolutely made her week. Barb had written a check for our purchase and handed over her driver's license for the usual identity verification. The clerk commented on how much weight Barb had lost. I swear, the Sainted One's smile lit up the whole store.
I haven't mentioned this before...because I didn't think that I should spread my wife's business all over the Internet...but Barb has been going to Weight Watchers for about a year now and worked very hard to lose weight. She has lost over 75 pounds during that time, a remarkable achievement and a tribute to her dedication to the task she set for herself.
Naturally, I'm proud of her and tell her frequently how great she looks. But, that day in the store, hearing the compliment from a total stranger, well, it was a better Christmas present than any I could have put under our tree for her.
Which won't stop me from trying to come up with something that she'll like almost as much.
I changed my mind about writing any reviews today, thanks to my pals at Archie Comics sending me a Christmas card bundled with their very spiffy ARCHIE 2004 SIXTEEN MONTH CALENDAR ($10.95). The sooner I review it, the sooner I can hang it on my wall.
This is a fun calendar with big/bright/beautiful shots of the Archie gang by penciler Stan Goldberg and inker Bob Smith. There wasn't a credit for the colorist(s), which is a real shame because he, she, or they did a bang-up job adding the hues to the seasonal scenes. I can't decide whether to put this calendar in my bedroom to cheer me when I wake, or in my office to keep me smiling all the livelong day. It's a gorgeous piece of work.
Below the artwork, the calendar does what a good calendar is supposed to. It's easy to read at a glance, allows plenty of room to write reminders in the individual dates, and takes note of major holidays...including Canadian holidays, Jewish holidays, and even Chinese New Year. The one omission is Kwanzaa, but I'm gonna have Riverdale High student and artist Chuck Clayton speak to them about that in time for the 2005 calendar.
I love this calendar. On our scale of one to five Tonys, I'm giving it the full five!
This one isn't a review per se. If you don't know how I feel about Roy Thomas' ALTER EGO (TwoMorrows; $5.95), then you haven't been reading my columns for very long. Of all the comics-oriented magazines being published in this glorious age of comics-oriented magazines, many of them also published by TwoMorrows, ALTER EGO is my favorite. Just assume that every monthly issue gets five Tonys unless and until I tell you otherwise.
This isn't a review; it's more a notice of some of the wonders to be found in ALTER EGO #31, the most recent issue I've received. Best of show would go to the long Dick Ayers interview conducted by Thomas and Jim Amash. On the flip side of the mag, there's Harlan Ellison's original synopses for a duo of unforgettable 1970s Marvel Comics classics. In between, AE presents a variety of other fun and informative pieces, including the second half of Tom Lammers' examination/exploration of the so-called "Marvel prototypes" which have been commanding such high prices ever since that "exaltation" was bestowed upon them by an uncharacteristically bogus Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide...which blunt phrasing should be sufficient to indicate where I stand on the subject.
ALTER EGO #31. Another not-to-be-missed delight.
WHY I LOVE THE INTERNET
The shocking truth about Eddie and Kelly Isabella, the spawn of my loins, is that they sometimes fight like siblings have fought since the dawn of man, though, thankfully, neither has gone "Cain" on the other.
However, the other day, much to my dismay, a squabble between them resulted in the throwing of sofa pillows and the shattering of one of their mother's treasured Precious Moments figurines. Worse yet, it was a now-retired figurine that I had given Barb in 1983, the Christmas before we were married.
I wish I could say I didn't raise my voice. I did.
But, once I cooled down a bit, I immediately hit the Internet in search of a replacement. After a less-than-helpful visit to the official Precious Moments website, I hit GoCollect, which claims to offer "The Web's Widest Selection of Collectibles & Gifts".
Much to my delight, it only took moments to find the figurine I sought. Much to my further delight, it only cost about ten bucks more than I had paid for it twenty years ago. Even with gift wrap and second-day delivery, it was a good deal.
One transaction isn't enough for me to attest to GoCollect's claim of having the Web's widest selection, but I did bookmark the site for future use. I figure I owe them one.
Eddie and Kelly? They each have to pay a third of the total cost of the replacement figurine including shipping and gift wrap. (I "fined" myself the final third for losing my temper.) They were also grounded for two nights.
Then there's the embarrassment of having their father write about them for your amusement...
Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back on Thursday with more stuff.
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.
ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.
TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?
THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.
FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?
FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.
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