Sunday, November 30, 2003

Department of the inconsequential

Today I caught the tail end of Moonraker on the absurdly named Spike TV.

I assume Moonraker is considered one of the worst James Bond movies, clearly attempting to milk the success of Star Wars (which was released two years before) with a science fiction story.

While not as unworkable a concept as it sounds (I only say this because of a great sequence in the Secret Agent Corrigan comic strip by Al Williamson and Archie Goodwin, which saw the titular spy traveling to outer space), but Moonraker fucks it up grandy, combining then state of the art space shuttles with laser beams, and a truly preposterous insane plan by the villain.

Anyway, it's a very bizzare film. I was moved to write this because of one scene I caught, in which Walter Gotell, playing a recurring semi-villian, Soviet General Anatol Gogol, presumeably a bigwig in Russian intelligence, is being briefed on the situation by either the Americans or the British. After he rants about holding the West responsible for whatever consequences result from the evil plan, the Western representative apologises for waking the General up. The general says it's okay, he was having trouble sleeping anyway.

It struck me as strange.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Today would have been Charles Schulz' 81st birthday. In commemoration, and in the spirit of self-promotion, here are two pieces I wrote on Peanuts, in the years bookending the end of Peanuts, and Schulz’ death.
I wrote this piece for my column in Iconoclast. I wrote it, and Schulz died the day after I submitted it. The editor asked me if I wanted to revise it in light of schulz' demise, and I declined. I did write an intro, which basically acknowledged Schulz' passing, and noted that Peanuts was my first exposure to the words "sarcasm" and "theology," but that wasn't included in the publication.


After fifty years a lot of people I know just wanted Peanuts to go away, and this year they got their wish. It’s impossible to read Peanuts: A Golden Celebration without mournfully reflecting on Schulz’ recent retirement. A problem with syndication and cultural ubiquity is being taken for granted, which is certainly what happened to Peanuts. That’s why it’s good to have a book like this, to remind how good and how special Schulz’ achievements have been. The tone for the strip is captured in the Sunday strip on the book’s last page, where Snoopy goes to windows barking, only to be rebuffed each time. He retires to the roof of his doghouse, reflecting, “You try to warn them that the world has gone mad, but they won’t listen…” A punch line that’s rueful, and sad, and funny and unfunny all at once.

This strange, sad, melancholy strip is at its heart about facing failure, with the emphasis on facing, not the failure, and that’s why the strangely adult characters are not losers. Sure, Lucy continually violated Charlie Brown’s trust by yanking out the football, but his rationalizations, year after year, are a powerful testament to the vagaries of faith. Or the choice of baseball, as the neighborhood team lost games by insane margins. Baseball in itself is a brilliant choice, as no other team sport offers the opportunity for most of the on-field players to watch in impotent despair as their opponents repeatedly hit the ball out of the park, or straight through Charlie Brown, knocking off all his clothes. But there’s an integrity in continually stepping up to face futility, and Schulz is aware of that. “A real loser,” Schulz writes in one of the many illuminating sidebars, “would stop trying.” I know I’m getting sappy here.

The strips in this book are well chosen, with even the crappy strips becoming worthwhile in the context of the whole. After Schulz hit his stride in the Sixties, the strip lapsed into a two-decade decline featuring innumerable repeated punch lines, Snoopy relatives, and witless encounters with the cat next door. But there was good even in the worst of times, and sub-standard Peanuts was, on the whole, better than just about everything on the comics page.. Luckily, that led to the Nineties. One fan has suggested facing mortality has pushed Schulz to his best work in years. For such an honest, melancholy strip, that’s a natural.

In its last years, we get to see the strip slip out of its formula. Sure, Charlie Brown never did kick his football, but he did kiss a girl, and he won a baseball game. Even Lucy, a Jungian Bitch archetype if there ever was one, developed an almost maternal attitude toward her youngest brother Rerun. Insights like that, as long as Schulz’ surprisingly insightful and self-deprecating commentary, make this A Golden Celebration well worth enjoying. If you think you hate Peanuts, think again.
I wrote this for The Comics Journal's year-end issue in 2001. It never ran, presumeably due to an editorial shake-up. But I did get a kill fee, so maybe the piece isn't totally worthless. There are a few errors, but I'm not going to bother correcting them.

It was originally about Peanuts: The Art of Charles M. Schulz, but the outgoing editor asked me to expand it considerably to include Jack Cole and Plastic Man: Forms Stretched to Their Limits, as well as two other books, which, considering what happened to the piece, I'm glad I was never able to track down. ">The Art of Charles M. Schulz was just released in paperback, with 32 new pages.


Pantheon’s new book Peanuts: The Art of Charles M. Schulz, is absolutely beautiful and needs to be purchased by every student of comic art in general and every fan of Peanuts in particular. This book is amazing in many, many ways. Some wags on the Internet have been predicting an inevitable Chip Kidd backlash after the recent Jack Cole opus, but it won’t come from this book, which manages an almost perfect meeting of both the material and the aesthetic.

The inside cover sports a sketch and autograph by Schultz that almost looks hand-inscribed. From there, we see marvels including a photo of Schulz’s drawing tools (although preserved exactly as he left them when he stopped drawing, which is sort of creepy), a high school yearbook page starring a ridiculously young-looking Charles Schulz (underneath a girl named Schroeder) and sketchbook pages dating from his stint in the army (which reveal a surprisingly white and crisp style). From there, we move on to the true meat of the book: reproduction of the strips from original art and ancient newspaper clippings, astonishing for their fidelity.

Peanuts: The Art of Charles M. Schulz elegantly conveys the experiences of looking at different presentations of the strip. Because the newspaper strips, the original art and the sketchbook drawings were photographed in situ rather than digitally scanned and restored, the reader experiences the works represented on the page as similarly as possible to the experience of seeing them in the original.

The amount of care and fidelity that went into the reproductions is amazing, bringing to mind the disclaimer that appears on compact discs, which warns, “… high resolution also reveals limitations in the master… including noise and other distortions.”

Those distortions, which in this case include dirt, smudges, creases, fingerprints and coffee stains, are part of what makes this book so poignant and so real. It would be a real pleasure and privileges to have the opportunity to page through Sparky’s sketchbooks, to touch his original art and sit in his workspace and eavesdrop as he created. Chip Kidd practically has had that, and has given us the next best thing: a book that replicates the experience.

The strips are not reprinted from the original art are reproduced from vintage strips clipped, mounted and preserved, and photographed as is for this book. It’s just like looking that original collection!

Not having seen any of Schulz’s original art, I’ll have to take it on faith that seeing the strips printed from the originals is JUST LIKE SEEING THE ORIGINALS THEMSELVES. Even if that isn’t the case, there’s a nice tactile pleasure to being able to see the edges from the paste-overs, or the brushstrokes in the blacks.

There’s more to the book than the propeller-head thrill of design and faithful reproduction, though. More than half of the strips date from the Fifties, many being reprinted for the first time. Much of what made Peanuts great in there in embryo. That should itself be a hell of an encouragement, to see these seminal pieces, in which Snoopy walked on four legs, Lucy was a baby and Charlie Brown was a spunky wise-ass. Even then, however, there is still a strip from 1951 about how no one likes him, which isn’t even remotely funny. Shades of the future. And it’s refreshing to see that even a genius like Schulz plagiarized himself within the first few years of the strip. Once Schulz hit his stride, take him decades to swipe wholesale from his best ideas again.

Hopefully, this book’s success will give the keepers of the flame reason to believe the public might indeed be ready and appreciative of the early Peanuts, and give some impetus to an orderly, complete reprinting of the greatest comic strip of the second half of the twentieth century.

To step down for a moment from foaming-at-the-mouth praise, Peanuts: The Art of Charles M. Schulz certainly has its flaws. Chip Kidd’s commentary has the air of an informed if hardly expert writer composing from memory, and so, mistakes are made. The biggest error I noticed (I suppose it was the biggest precisely because I did notice) was Kidd’s statement that Schulz wanted Peanuts to be titled Good Ol’ Charlie Brown. In fact, Schulz always preferred the title Li’l Folks. The mistake is particularly nonsensical when one considers the prominence other characters have always had in Peanuts. Also, if I know that, Kidd certainly should have.

More disturbing is much of what Kidd includes as "art" in addition to the strips. Admittedly, it is difficult to evaluate Peanuts overall without acknowledging the massive amount of merchandizing, shilling and selling out that have been part of the Peanuts experience from almost the beginning. But to title a book The Art of Charles M. Schulz is to call attention to the art, first and foremost, and it is hard to see tacky figurines of the more popular characters with spring-set bobbing heads as being "art" in even the broadest, most philistine sense.

The selection and ordering of strips itself has its ups and down. Kidd has arranged the strips in his own idiosyncratic order, roughly chronological in the sense that the early ones are near the beginning and the later ones are near the end, and focusing on the strips as art rather than continuity, which suits the purpose of the book. I suppose leaving this reader wanting more isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it still left this reader wanting more. But with something like 15,000 strips to choose from, it was unavoidable.

That said, I was driven nuts by Kidd’s habit of quoting from strips not reproduced. Anyone who has tried to describe a comic to someone inevitably fails to it justice, and Kidd shouldn’t have tried to do it here. Even that is understandable: there are few strips more quotable than Peanuts. And the strips he quoted might not have been what he was looking for visually. But still, annoying.

That’s just gripes, though.

It is understandable and forgivable in that this is not a work of scholarship. Much like Viking Press’ recent Jorge Luis Borges series, this is a work of appreciation and discovery. The aim is taking joy in exploring long out of print strips, and reveling in the gorgeous reproduction. There are no claims of definiteness or comprehensiveness.

I refer the reader to the foaming-at-the-mouth praise in the first two-thirds of this review, or better yet, to the book itself. The pleasure outweighs the pain by far. The reproduction. The sense of both discovery, and re-discovery. And the strips themselves. There is even a sketch of the little red haired girl.

In an unimaginative segue, this brings us more or less to Jack Cole and Plastic Man: Forms Stretched to Their Limits.

Many of the annoyances in the Peanuts book are present in Jack Cole and Plastic Man. So are many of its strengths, but in this case, they come close to sinking the whole thing.

The book contains multiple pleasures. Art Spiegelman’s New Yorker essay on Cole from 1999 is reprinted, five complete comic book reprints, including four Plastic Man stories, one featuring a solo Woozie Winks, his famous “injury to the eye” story “Murder, Morphine and Me,” and selection of his panel cartooning in Playboy. Strangely, even though Spiegelman points to Betsy and Me as the skeleton key to Cole’s suicide, only a few strips are reprinted. The rest of the book is filled with clippings, collaged and expanded and enlarged.

While this approach worked for Peanuts: The Art of Charles M. Schulz, it fails here. One reason for its success in the Schulz book is by virtue of the source material: a clipping of a four panel daily strip can easily contain the whole strip; a clipping of a comic book page will be necessity separate the panels from the others with which it was juxtaposed.

As a result, the focus here is much more on Kidd’s design. Which is too bad. The best way to enjoy comic art is in its context, and we have so little of that here. Continuity and page design are sacrificed in order to call attention to the caricature, grotesques and distortions Cole often committed to the comic book page, as if he were Basil Wolverton.

The story reprints are presented on browned and yellowed paper, the better, apparently, to capture that old feeling of reading the musty originals. There has never been any virtue to the crappy paper, off-register color and shrill melodrama, and Kidd does a disservice to the art form by trying to claim that is so. It is ridiculous to present the cheap ten-cent comics of a half-century ago as art objects, and if the stories themselves are to be viewed as art, they need to hold up on their own. If Cole’s stories, or anyone’s, of interest only as nostalgia, then they are of no interest at all.

The difference, at least between the Cole book and Schulz book, may be the difference between art in general and comic books in general. The overall effect of Kidd’s design of the Peanuts book is personalization. For something as personal and sentimental as Peanuts, a strip that is and has always been a part of the lives of just about everyone on the planet, this is an important thing, and feels like a gift. Peanuts justifies itself though its own depth and quality.

For better or for worse, Jack Cole’s lesser-known work is better served by being evaluated on its own terms, uncluttered by another’s visual verbiage. And it isn’t here. As a result, Jack Cole and Plastic Man: Forms Stretched to Their Limits is not so much a book on or about Jack Cole as it is a book inspired by Jack Cole. Luckily, Cole’s work is strong enough to lend itself to such translation, although the originals are better.

One element in Kidd’s design sense that has been flawless has been his endings. The closing pages of Peanuts: The Art of Charles M. Schulz brings a tear to the eye, and at a crucial point, Forms Stretched to Their Limits provokes a similar reaction.

The reprinted Spiegelman essay is excellent, one of the best prose pieces he has ever written. The piece is informative and engaging, telling the story of Cole’s life, explaining the importance of his work, and illuminating the historical context in which it first appeared. At the end of his essay, near the end of the book, Spiegelman notes, “As he climbed his ladder of success, up from the primal mulch of the comic books, he finally arrived at air that was too thin to breather: Jack Cole, a comics genius, died of growing up,” which Kidd follows with eighteen pages of blown up images clipped from Silver Streak Comics, Plastic Man, CRIME Does Not Pay and other comics, as well as Playboy, and Cole’s own obituary. Spiegelman’s word’s provide, in the end, touching lyrics bridging to an imagistic coda derived from the many themes discernable in Cole’s work. It’s heartbreaking.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

For a moment, I briefly considered announcing a permanent moratorium on Michael Jackson comments. But then I realized, I got nothing else. So, at least until I see Bad Santa, it'll most likely be the King of Pop, or nothing. I'm warning you.
According to Jim Treacher, this article about Michael Jackson has "broken the record for Most Prison-Rape References Per Paragraph of anything published under the Microsoft banner."
There just doesn't seem to be anywhere to go beyond Michael Jackson.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

I know I implied I didn't want to comment on the subject, but I heard a theory about Michael Jackson that bears repeating: when he commits suicide, or dies, or whatever, his face will tranform back into the handsome black man he used to be.
Okay, you've all heard about that Jessica Lynch sex tap making the rounds. Well, you can download it here.
I'm really sick. All this weak. Bleh.
So, I recently competed another art purchase. From my former assistant, Dorothy Rissman, who was clearly destined for greater things than having me throw hot coffee at her. She's really good.

Spiraling Galaxy
Saving me the trouble of both writing about this particular subject, and writing period while I'm sick and dying, here is a guest blog, from my old enemy Jason Probst:


Who knows if Michael Jackson will be exonerated after the police raided his ranch this week and announced they will press child molestation charges against him. Given the money and civil settlement that allowed him to buy off his last complainant in 1993, it’s hard to see him going to jail in this country. He has everything going for him. It’s not like he’s some street junkie getting a public defender. He’s not poor. And he hasn’t been black for several years. If anything, the sympathy factor in favor could be critical.

But the fact that he continued to welcome kids into his bed during regular sleepovers, after that same practice got him into such hot water a decade earlier, you wonder if the guy shouldn’t have just gone into the priesthood.

He loves being alone with kids, garish outfits, and imaginary worlds (dig the “Neverland” references where the alleged incidences occurred). Ditto for priests. They could’ve just transferred him to another parish in that case instead of letting the police get involved.

This shouldn’t be interpreted as some hateful screed about Jackson – he’s probably not going to go to jail, despite the fact that laws have changed since 1993 and the DA’s office, and not alleged victims of child molests, decide whether or not to press charges. High priced lawyers are like high jumpers – they look at how high the bar is, and know immediately if they can get over it or fail in doing so. Jackson will get the best, the kind of people who could get John Wilkes Booth off for shooting Lincoln with a jury of freed slaves.

But just imagine, for a second, that he DID go to prison. What strange things will unfold!

First off, he’s going to be fucked up in the ass, and he’ll be turned into the kind of cock gobbler that would make Rocco Siffredi blush. Sure, he’s got money, but tell that to a guy doing a life sentence seeing that sweet ass sashaying into the shower. It’s almost like fucking a white chick. You can’t buy your way out of that.

Status is accorded in prison to those who take the best-looking inmates into their possession as their bitches. Therefore, the battle over ownership of the world’s most “Dangerous” tush is likely to be fought between very tough people vying for a prize that’s unlike any they’ll ever see again.

In prison, turning Jacko into your bitch is as meaningful as scoring the winning touchdown in the homecoming game, and then running amok down Main Street with a pair of panties aloft after you break the head cheerleader’s cherry.

Prison culture is pretty basic and unvarying, and in Jackson’s case, he fails the first two tests. He’s not very physically intimidating, so he’s likely to get confronted, or “pushed up on” (more on that later), and two, his jail rep as a convicted child molester is the absolute lowest on the social scale for inmates. Confidence men, swindlers, and scam artists are generally regarded as the professional class of criminals, followed by typical violence practicioners like murders, along with common stick up artists. But being a child molester in prison is not cool. It’s like bringing ham to a friend’s briss.

Prisoners 1, Jackson 0.

Secondly, inmates are generally “pushed up on” by inmates of their own race first, as a sort of self-governing dynamic. Black newcomers being solicited for sex or targeted for bullying are generally approached for these by fellow black inmates – the same goes for Hispanic inmates, and to a lesser degree, white ones. The problem lies in classifying Jackson’s racial status.

Black prisoners are generally allowed much more leeway in violating white prisoners than vice-versa, so they might, under prison rules, be allowed to classify him as “white” for terms of leasing him out. It is generally considered bad form to allow white inmates to screw black ones, as it’s a regrettable metaphor for life on the outside – but Jackson’s disappearing pigment and Caucasoid transformation in recent years may result in black inmates shunning him, and therefore increasing the amount of people who will be leased out to. Typically this means a carton of cigarettes, or possibly two considering Jackson’s unique collector’s value. There could, in fact, be a menu of options available for additional price increases, such as making him sing during coitus, or don his famous Glove en route to giving a whimpering handjob in a darkened, roof-a-dripping maintenance shack.

Prisoner 2, Jackson 0.

All said and done, Jackson is facing a tough situation – his unwillingness to even molest children of his own race shows his self-hatred, too. These things won’t be good for him should justice, in its curious forms, decree him a guest of the state. It will be rough justice for man who has alternately billed himself as a “Thriller,” “Bad,” “Dangerous,” and “Invincible,” but will belatedly find out who the real bad guys are.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

So, what does everybody want for Christmas?

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

They're actually encouraging single straight couples to live together and form long-term relationships, with the benefits and social acceptance of marriage? Isn't that even weirder than gay relationships? It's like permananent roommate-hood. People like me who like living alone will be the ones discriminated against.

THEY'RE CHANGING THE AMENDMENT: For some reason, Ramesh Ponnuru's full account of the morass of the proposed "Federal Marriage Amendment" isn't online yet. It's in the coming issue of National Review. I've read it several times now and even someone like me who has studied this in some depth finds it hard going at times. (That's not Ramesh's fault. It's the amendment's.) The bottom line is that my and others' criticisms of the proposed amendment - that it would go further than banning gay marriage and would deny gay citizens any benefits whatever - seem to have struck home. The far right knows that its attempt to disenfranchise gay citizens for ever and to trample states' rights in the process is an extremist non-starter. So this is what they have apparently done. They've added a third clause to the FMA. Here's how Ramesh describes the new far right consensus:

It fell to Chuck Colson, the leader of Prison Fellowship and perhaps the most unifying figure among social conservatives today, to find a solution. On October 15, he succeeded in getting more than 20 groups to come up with a common position. They agreed that the amendment would prohibit gay marriage. It would also prohibit the states and the federal government, including both the courts and the legislatures, from providing any benefits to people that were contingent on their being involved in a sexual relationship outside of marriage. The amendment would, however, allow state legislators to extend the particular privileges of marriage to gay couples -- just not as gay couples. People not in gay relationships would also have to be eligible.

Re-read the penultimate sentence: "The amendment would, however, allow state legislators to extend the particular privileges of marriage to gay couples -- just not as gay couples." Huh? I think this means that the social right is now offering semi-marital benefits to anyone - gay or straight - so long as they're celibate in the relationship or pretend they're straight or act as if they're as intimate as most law partners. I don't know how any sane person could conclude that this isn't ridiculous. How could the government tell who's celibate and who's not, or who's gay and who's straight, or who's doing unmentionable things in their own bedrooms? Is a gay couple supposed to put on some act like they're bachelor buddies in some 1950s movie and the minute they're "presumed" gay, all their rights disappear? Or are we going to have federal videocams in the bedroom?Beats me. And this exquisite piece of precious social maneuvring belongs in the Constitution! So once you've trashed states' rights, deconstructed marriage and alienated gays and their families, what else does the religious right want to accomplish? Except give everyone else in the country a long, hard burst of the giggles?

Whether the amendment agreed upon by the groups at Colson's meeting would ban "civil unions," then, is not a yes-no question. It would allow civil unions so long as eligibility for them is not based, even in part, on the fact, supposition, or presumption that the people involved are having sex. The amendment would thus make it theoretically possible for gay couples -- and cohabiting straight couples -- to have any of the benefits of marriage, except for governmental recognition of their relationships as equivalent to those of married people.

Huh? This is dizzyingly confusing. And the way in which it empowers government to arbiter the minutiae of people's sex lives should be abhorrent to anyone to the left of the Taliban. What's more, it's a far more direct attack on marriage than anything that has yet been invented by the social right's opponents. The real problem with civil unions or domestic partnerships is that they provide an easy way-station for straight couples other than marriage. They don't demand the same kind of responsibility and commitment that marriage entails, and thus they weaken the important role of marriage in contributing to social stability. That's why I've long proposed cutting through the entire domestic partnership racket (I'd happily abolish all of it) and including gays in marriage, period - as the most conservative measure available. It still is. But the far right's loathing of gay people has forced them to adopt the most radical of the left's proposals - the deconstruction of marriage altogether into a meaningless French-style array of benefits for anyone and anything. Except they've added a new unenforceable twist - that these new benefits are conditioned on celibacy! And that celibacy applies to straights as well as gays. So this amendment will actually now threaten any straight couple in a domestic partnership or civil union - and demand that they stop having sex or have their benefits removed! If I had to come up with an Onion-style parody of the religious right, I couldn't do better than this. I'll leave you with the new improved amendment as it now stands. It is more eloquent than anything I could say about it:

Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this constitution or the constitution of any state, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups. Neither the federal government nor any state shall predicate benefits, privileges, rights, or immunities on the existence, recognition, or presumption of sexual conduct or relationships.

This is graffiti on a sacred document. The founders of this country would be horrified.
A note to all wanna-be populist demagogues: insisting you can't get a fair trial makes you sound like an uncredible nut.

Alabama chief justice faces ethics charges

MONTGOMERY, Alabama (CNN) -- Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who opposed federal and state orders to remove a Ten Commandments monument from a public building, faces a judicial panel Wednesday morning in a showdown between the state's top judge and top prosecutor.

More than two months after the 5,300-pound granite monument was removed from the rotunda of Alabama's Judicial Building, Moore will face charges filed by Attorney General Bill Pryor that Moore violated judicial ethics when he refused a federal order to remove the monument.

The Alabama Court of the Judiciary, which will hear the case, could remove Moore from office, suspend him, reprimand him or exonerate him. The hearing may last only one day.

Pryor filed the ethics charges against Moore after the chief justice refused U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson's order to remove the monument.

Thompson ruled the monument was an unconstitutional promotion of religion by government in violation of the First Amendment.

In August, after a protracted legal fight, the Alabama Supreme Court's eight associate justices had the monument moved out of sight. (Full story)

The U.S. Supreme Court on November 3 refused to hear Moore's appeal in the case. (Full story)

The Associated Press reported Monday that Pryor was seeking Moore's removal from the elected office.

In a pretrial brief, Pryor said Moore should be removed because he "intentionally and publicly engaged in misconduct, and because he remains unrepentant for his behavior," the AP reported.

Moore's lawyers said in a brief filed Monday that the chief justice was not guilty of any ethical charges and that the allegations against him were without merit, partly because the federal judge never charged Moore with contempt, the AP reported.

Moore, who was suspended with pay when charged, has expressed doubt that he could receive a fair trial. He said he is concerned that cameras will not be allowed inside the courtroom for most of the trial.

Republicans drop support

Moore's case became a magnet for religious conservatives around the country.

He and his supporters say the Ten Commandments are the foundation of the U.S. legal system and that forbidding the acknowledgment of the Judeo-Christian God violates the First Amendment's guarantee of free exercise of religion. (Moore interview with CNN)

But a lawsuit filed after the monument's installation argued the massive stone marker constituted a government endorsement of Christianity.

The First Amendment reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ... ."

With Thompson threatening to fine the state $5,000 a day for defying his order, Pryor and Gov. Bob Riley refused to support Moore.

Both men are Republicans and self-professed conservative Christians who supported the monument's installation, but they said Moore was bound to obey Thompson's order.

Pryor has been nominated to a seat on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by President Bush, who has been silent on the issue.

Moore was a circuit judge in Etowah County, northeast of Birmingham, in the late 1990s when he fought a lawsuit seeking to remove a wooden plaque depicting the commandments from his courtroom.

The legal battle propelled him to statewide office in 2000, when the Republican jurist was elected chief justice after campaigning as the "Ten Commandments Judge."

In suspending Moore, the Judicial Inquiry Commission charged Moore with six ethics violations.