Tuesday, October 31, 2006


By the way, if you're as upset about the Marvel stamps as I am, don't e-mail them -- well, you can but they're just going to tell you to buy a stamp and send a real letter to:

Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee
Stamp Development
US Postal Service
1735 North Lynn St Rm 5013
Arlington VA 22209-6432
You might also want to mention what a spiffy-looking piece of postage She-Hulk would make:

Monday, October 30, 2006

Stamp Stuff

Back in July the US Postal Service put out a sheet of first-class (in both senses of the word) stamps honoring Superman, Batman and other DC Comics heroes. I loved the stamps (of course) and other than thinking they probably could have picked a better Wonder Woman picture I had no complaints.
Well now they've announced the new Marvel superhero stamps coming out in Summer 2007, and, hoo boy do I have complaints.

(You can get a better look at them -- along with all the 2007 commemorative stamps, including one honoring the joy of jury duty here.)

For one thing, is this the best the Marvel Universe has to offer as far as female icons? Spider-Woman was slopped together in a hurry because Marvel was afraid some other publisher was going to do something along those lines and they wanted to protect their trademark. She's never been well-done or popular. And Elektra isn't even a hero for God's sake, she's an assassin! She kills people for money; I don't think that should get you on a stamp. Why didn't they use Sue Storm, the Invisible Woman (Marvel's original super-heroine)? Or the Wasp? The Scarlet Witch, Storm, Marvel Girl, the Black Widow, the Black Cat -- even Shanna the She Devil or Aunt May Parker -- all would have been better choices than the two losers they selected.

(All right, I admit it. What I'm really disappointed about is that they didn't use my favorite 8-foot, green-skinned hottie, the She-Hulk. Now this would have made a hella stamp:)

And that's not the only problem. On the backs on the stamps they have information about the characters and artist credits -- only some are incorrect. The Sub-Mariner portrait is credited to Gene Colan and anybody can see that it's actually by John Buscema (well, anybody who's spent their life reading comics.) Captain America is credited to Johnny Romita but any fool can see that's Jack Kirby. John Buscema gets credit for the Hulk portrait and it's actually by Rich Buckler.

Speaking of the Hulk stamp, take a closer look at that one. Notice anything odd?

How about the fact that one earth's mightiest mortals has no muscles in his stomach. That's because when the genuises at the Post Office went lookingh for a picture of the Incredible Hulk -- one of Marvel's most popular characters, who has been around since 1962 -- the best one they could find was one where somebody is standing in front of the She-Hulk's cousin Bruce -- someone they digitally erased and then only halfheartedly touched up the abs. No six-pack for Dr. Banner.

Here's the original cover and the stamp:

Hey, Post Office, I suggest you put Archie and Jughead and the gang at Pop's Choklit Shop on stamps in 2008.

And I suggest you let me pick the pictures of Betty and Veronica.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

What poetry is not

It would be hard for me to pick which classic rock band I despise the most out of these three: Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, the Doors. Pink Floyd did the single worst song ever: "Another Brick in the Wall" and convinced people that there was something profound about not being to have your pudding if you didn't eat meat, or in recording Mr. Floyd calling (and hanging up on) Mr. Floyd. Led Zeppelin is just so overrated it's not funny; their best song is probably "Rock and Roll" and that sounds like a third-rate Ramones tribute band.
Then there's the Doors, and among the myriad of annoying things about them -- the name of the band, that damned organ, "Light my Fi-Yur" -- the most annoying has to be their fans, the ones who say "Jim Morrison, he was a poet, man."
No, he wasn't even a good singer. He sure as hell wasn't a poet. Poets understand the importance of making your pronouns agree. They would never write a line like "If they say I never loved, you know they are a liar."
I swear my ears just break out in a rash every time I hear that.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Book Covers

I might have mentioned my love for this book before. This book absolutely blows me away every time I read it, and I cannot wait to read it again. For me it beats Mark Twain, Fyodor Dostoevski, Harlan Ellison, Charles Dickens, Anne Tyler, Alan Moore, and all my other favorite writers. It is my favorite book of all-time and I didn't pick it up for a long time. It kept catching my eye but I didn't (and still don't) like the cover. So I kept putting it back, until one day I read the first couple of pages and couldn't stop, at which point the cover no longer mattered.

I'm not sure what my second favorite book is but it might be "Her Name Was Lola." (And if it's not my second it's definitely in the top five.) It's hard to say what this romantic comedy is about because it's about so many things -- opera, the I Ching, Hindu gods, music, love and destiny. It's heartbreaking and hilarious -- frequently on the same page. And I only picked this up because I liked the cover.

When I was a kid growing up in Richmond, Virginia, my goal was to read every book in the library. It quickly became apparent that was going to be impossible. Now I'm wondering how many magnificent, life-altering books I'm not aware of and wondering what -- if anything -- I can do about it. You can't read all of them and my experience with these two books proves once again that you can't judge a book by its cover. But how else are you supposed to judge it? And what to do about all the great ones that eluding us?

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Saddam and Bush - no difference

This is from the (London) Guardian newspaper:

Terry Jones

Tuesday October 10, 2006

Dear President Bush,

I write to you in my capacity as secretary of the World League of Despots.

It is with great pleasure that I am finally able to extend an official invitation to you to join our ranks. For many years, we have watched your efforts to fulfil the requirements necessary to join our number. From the start, we were greatly impressed by your disdain for democratic principles - the way you wrested power from the democratically elected candidate in the 2000 election, and again in 2005 when you managed to swing what was clearly going to be a victory for your opponent.

Contempt for human life has always been a priority requirement for membership of the league, and I and my fellow adjudicators were well aware of your record as governor of Texas when you quadrupled the number of state executions. But your record since seizing power has surpassed even our expectations. The thousands of innocent people in Iraq, who have died so that you could fulfil your declared political objective of establishing "an American force presence in the Middle East", attest to your eligibility to join our ranks.

I cannot, however, disguise the fact that we adjudicators were extremely anxious when you announced your intention to remove from office one of our most stalwart members, Mr Saddam Hussein. However, we need not have worried. According to a recent UN report, you have ensured that there are now even more human rights abuses in Iraq than there were under Saddam. No less than 10% of those in custody are being physically or psychologically abused. Well done!

Of course, your unstinting efforts to make torture an internationally accepted aspect of human life have surpassed everything we could have ever hoped for. I don't think there is a single member of the league who could have imagined, six short years ago, that our activities in tormenting our fellow creatures would once again be recognised as acceptable, civilised behaviour, as it once was in the middle ages.

Despite these achievements, we had, until now, felt unable to extend our invitation to you because you had been unable to fulfil one of our basic requirements: the ability to carry out arbitrary arrests, imprisonment without trial, secret torture and executions at will.

We approved of your attempts to establish the principles of arbitrary arrest under the Homeland Security Act of 2002, but unfortunately it was still restricted to terror suspects. We appreciate that you were hampered by the US constitution, but the restrictions this imposed on your arbitrary powers kept you below the threshold requirements for qualification as a despot.

Now, however, all that has changed. At the end of last month you persuaded the Senate to pass a bill regarding the treatment of detainees. Illegally obtained evidence can now be used against suspects, even if it has been gathered abroad under torture. Anyone you care to accuse can be thrown into prison without the right to a trial or the right to represent themselves.

Officially the legislation is restricted to "enemy combatants", but you have skilfully adapted this definition to include anyone who has "purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the US". This presumably means that anyone who publicly criticises your conduct can be defined as supporting hostilities to the US. You are now free to arrest and imprison anyone you don't like. You've got it in the bag!

It is with great pleasure that we in the World League of Despots note that you have now appropriated to yourself all the powers of arbitrary arrest and torture that Saddam once enjoyed. You are now one of us. Congratulations!

· Terry Jones is a film director, actor and Python www.terry-jones.net

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Speaking of media whores

I can't believe that Don McLean sold out to General Motors and let Chevrolet use the song "American Pie" in its new series of TV commercials.
And I can't believe Chevrolet would want it. I mean it's a great song but do you really want that image of people driving your car around knowing that one of the next lines is "This'll be the day that I die."?
(I don't think big business "gets" music anyway. Remember when Microsoft came out with a new version of Windows and used the Rolling Stones' "Start Me Up" to sell it? Yeah, the song about how you "make a grown man cry".)

More on Reginald Denny

Regarding my previous post, I feel kinda bad showing Reginald Denny in that picture where he's lying in the street bleeding because Reggie is definitely not a victim. But I looked all over the Internet and I couldn't find a nice non-bloody headshot of Mr. Denny. And actually that's another reason why he's my hero. After he became unwillingly famous he didn't write a book, he's not out leading forgiveness seminars, you won't see him on "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here" or any other reality show. He left southern California (he had to; the non-forgivers ran him out of town) and moved to Arizona where he became a boat mechanic (according to Wikipedia) which sounds like he retired -- I mean, how many boats are there in Aridamnzona?
The fact that he did not become a media whore is maybe even more amazing than the fact that he forgave the man who fractured his skull. I mean, I think I might get to the point where I could forgive someone for trying to kill me for no reason. But by God I'm going to get at least a book deal out of it.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Can we forgive the forgivers?

See that guy lying in the street in a pool of his own blood? His name is Reginald Denny, he used to be a truck driver in California and someday I hope to be the kind of person he is. He is my hero.
I started thinking about him last Sunday because we talked in church about the Amish and what an amazing people they are, how they are doing the unthinkable -- forgiving the man who murdered several of their children. Everybody agreed that this is the way we should be, we should all strive to be like the Amish in this respect.
I'm not spiritually evolved enough to do that, I don't think, but I hope to be someday. And I did think I should warm my fellow congregants that if you choose to forgive those who hate and harm you, most of the world -- including your friends and family -- will turn on you and harm you even worse than your enemies did. They did it to Jesus. They did it to Reginald Denny.
I guess if most people remember Mr. Denny at all today, it's because he became a symbol of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was driving his concrete truck through South Los Angeles when the Rodney King verdict came down and riots broke out. He was pulled from his truck and savagely beaten. Among other things a man named Damian Monroe Williams threw a concrete block at his head. All this happened on live television.
But I remember Reginald Denny from an appearance about a year later on "The Phil Donahue Show." He was there with the mother of his main assailant and he hugged her and held her hand. Reginald Denny did not just forgive the man who tried to crush his skull. He went to the guy's trial and asked the judge to do something for Mister Williams that Williams had not done -- show mercy.
And oh my God, the audience -- good Christian people all of them, the kind that would have been wearing WWJD bracelets if that particular piece of jewelry had been available in 1993 -- just ripped into him. How can you forgive a man who tried to kill you? they all wanted to know. That's just crazy. There must be something seriously wrong with you. One woman, I'll never forget this, said that for Denny to act the way he was acting (i.e. like Jesus) was proof that he had suffered major brain damage in the attack.
So, if you get to where you can forgive those that hurt you, God bless you. But understand that if you don't live in a community of forgivers, those around you are not going to be able to forgive you for forgiving.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

New Column

Once again the deadline for my column snuck up on me. I only had a couple of half-formed ideas about what I might write about. I got lucky again and I think this one turned out all right.
(I am putting this up the way I wrote it. Some changes were made by the editor before it ran, changes that I think weakened the piece.)

Do It Yourself

I’m not going to write a column this month. Instead, at the risk of running myself out of a job, I’m going to teach you the secret of how to write a column – or an essay or an article or a book even. The secret is that powerful.

And I know you don’t already know the secret. Know how I know? Because you have at some point asked a writer: “Where do you get your ideas?” You wouldn’t ask that if you knew the secret because that’s not the way it works at all.

Here’s the secret: Writers don’t write because they know all about a particular topic, they write because they want to know more about that topic.

In other words, writers don’t get ideas, they get questions.

Let me show you how it works. If I had written a column this month I might have written about why the Dixie Chicks were reviled for expressing their political opinions while Tim McGraw gets a pass for expressing remarkably similar sentiments. I wanted to write about this because I’m curious. Is it because the Chicks said what they said on foreign soil? Or is there some misogyny involved?

I don’t know, but I want to know. And somewhere during the writing, researching and ruminating I would have arrived at an answer that satisfied me and hopefully my readers.

I also considered – because I don’t want to give Jeff Remz another heart attack by writing about politics – a column about the song “Feed Jake” by the Pirates of the Mississippi. This is probably my second favorite country song of the 1990’s, despite the fact that it clearly makes no sense. Why am I so hard on some songs for exhibiting lyrical inconsistency and so enraptured by others? Bob Dylan probably would have come up in this one because he’s the king of dodgy lyrics. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

Why is that?

(Say it with me.)

I don’t know, but I want to know.

There you have it. Curiosity and a spell checker. You now have all the tools you need to become a first class wordsmith.

All you have to do now is practice looking wise and inscrutable when people ask you where you get your ideas.

Friday, October 06, 2006


Walking down Market Street today I saw a street musician tuning up his guitar. He had hung up a sign in his case that said: "FREEBIRD? Never Heard of it!" First it made me laugh, then it made me think -- maybe he's not joking, maybe he really is getting so many requests from misguided Skynyrd fans that he had to put up a sign to shut them up.
Or maybe he can actually play the hell out of Freebird and he's trying to draw you in. I mean, it hadn't occurred to me to shout "Freebird!" until I saw that sign.