Friday, September 16, 2005


There are two movies about necrophelia opening today.

Something magical is happening in the online comic book community.

Wikipedia, as its name implies, is a an online encyclopedia edited by users. As is the case with many individuals, the site maintains a page on comic book artist John Byrne.

Byrne objected to some information in the article, and made a few edits. Compare the original page to Byrne's edits. He obviously had some objections.

You can get a good context of the rest of the developments at Fanboy Rampage.

Basically, what ensued was some kind of editing flame war. The articles were rapidly edited in quick sucession, eliminating and adding comments like, "He is currently working mainly for DC Comics, much to the horror of DC Comics fans who revile the way tha Byrne ruins characters left and right with senseless retcons and blatant contempt for any writer who isn't him."

And: Byrne is known for his egotism and his belief that only he knows how comics should be written, to th point that Byrne actively undermines and uses retcons to erase other writers stories from canon that Byrne dislikes. These have led to Byrne, in many fans opinions, to "ruin" numerous characters beyond all repair and are often called Byrne Victims by angry comic fans.

Byrne has also gained controveries for opinions ranging from his hatred for hispanic women who dye their hair to Christopher Reeves, who Byrne ironically used as inspiration for his controversial 1986 reboot of the Superman comic franchise.

Other accusations on the page: A controversial writer/artist known for his use of the "N-Word" and hatred for blonde latino women, Christopher Reeves (who Byrne believes should not be considered a "hero" for the way he dealt with his crippling injuries substained in a horse riding accident) and anatomically correct robots, Byrne is imfamous for his hatred for anything not done by him. Many fans blame his widely beloved Superman reboot for starting this, as John Byrne took on a jihad in the wake of the reboot's success to "fix" all comic books and comic franchises that didn't need fixing, leaving a trail of damaged characters, who thanks to Byrne's pointless meddling, have been rendered so utterly defiled so as to prevent any further writers from using them.

List of victims of Byrne (called "Byrne Victims") include:

* Donna Troy (erased from existence and replaced with a clay statue doppleganger)

* Vision (castrated, vivisected, mind erased)

* Wonder Man and Wasp (turned into mean-spirited bastards who plotted to destroy Vision and Scarlet Witch's marriage)

* Scarlet Witch (children killed by the devil who's powers were used to conceive them, driven insane, marriage dissolved)

* Spider-Man (past perverted, wife murdered off),

* Sandman (Marvel Comics version, revealed to have faked his turn to the side of good, which created such hatred from fans that Marvel imeadiately retconned Byrne's retcon so that Sandman was instead brainwashed into becoming evil instead of faking his reformation instead)

* Doom Patrol (purged from existence)

* The New Teen Titans (who had huge chunks of their history erased due to the team's past history working alongside the Doom Patrol members Robotman and Mento, and it's roster featuring former Doom Patrol member Changling)

* The Demon (all non-Jack Kirby storied declared never of happening), Wonder Woman (killed off)

* The second Spider-Woman Julia Carpenter (crippled)

* Mary Jane Watson-Parker (turned into an obnoxious bitch and killed off)

* J. Jonah Jameson (turned into an uncaring bastard, complete with huge chunks of his past erased from canon)

* Dr. Octopus (disfigured, backstory connected to Spiderman's), Vulture (given a crappy costume)

* The Incredible Hulk (turned into a murderer and had his backstory changed needlessly to make the Skrulls responsible for Banner becoming the Hulk).

In the world of John Byrne, only he knows what good comic books and has his own message board (Byrne Robotics) where he holds court and has a gaggle of twelve drooling fanboys syncophanticly worshipping him and buying into Byrne's hatespeach. Those who call Byrne out on his evil often are banned and any sort of non-company line discussion is promptly deleted into the void.

Byrne is currently working as artist for Action Comics, after his controversial Doom Patrol reboot failed miserably saleswise and a new Demon series, which has proven Byrne once again a fraud by featuring graphic violence, which Byrne has criticized other writers of doing in non-Byrne penned books.

This edit is priceless: John Lindley Byrne (born July 6, 1950) is a British-born now naturalised American author and artist of comic books. He is a God among men, he is a genius that rivals Einstein. He is an artist that would make Paul Gauguin give up children. He's a writer that would make Honoré de Balzac give up writing literature and put out a new series of Dr Seuss books, involving pants. He is a rock God. He is a guru. He is a legend. He is King baby. HHe was like a god walking amongst mere mortals. He has a voice that could make a wolverine purr and suits so fine they make Sinatra look like a hobo. In other words, John Byrne is the balls.

Also: A controversial writer/artist known for his use of the "N-Word" and hatred for blonde latino women, Christopher Reeves (who Byrne believes should not be considered a "hero" for the way he dealt with his crippling injuries substained in a horse riding accident) and anatomically correct robots, Byrne is imfamous for his hatred for anything not done by him. Many fans blame his widely beloved Superman reboot for starting this, as John Byrne took on a jihad in the wake of the reboot's success to "fix" all comic books and comic franchises that didn't need fixing, leaving a trail of damaged characters, who thanks to Byrne's pointless meddling, have been rendered so utterly defiled so as to prevent any further writers from using them.

Another small addition: Please bear in mind that John Byrne is a very, very silly man who is not to be taken seriously under any circumstances.

Later, on a much simplified page, Byrne's prose bibliography is defaced: John L. Byrne's Fear of blonde Latinos AND word bubbles Book (1988; ISBN 0446348147)

It's like Monty Python.

And it keeps coming: Known affectinately by his board members as "Johnny Redbeard", John Byrne has been known to host many a cocktail party at his "stately manor" where his predominantly male message board members can all relax with each other and discuss men in tights in the comfort of his sauna or pool.

Meanwhile, in an epic thread at Byrne's own website, as war is declared and battle come down.

Anyway, it's all good nerd flamewar fun. It's why I read the internet sometimes.

The best thing about this soap opera of penguin homo-amory are the names: If I were to write a children's story about two gay penguins, Roy and Silo would be the perfect names for them.

Edited to add:

It just occured to me. A great children's book about a couple of gay dogs would be The Adventures of Bingo and Chipp.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Sunday, September 11, 2005


The Pitch: A Series About Wacky Terrorists
By DAVID M. HALBFINGER, The New York Times

LOS ANGELES (Sept. 1) -- Here are a few highlights from the hottest Hollywood script you will most likely never see produced on a television or movie screen:

• Abu, Ahmed, Musab and Salar, a cell of Islamic terrorists sent to Chicago by a nefarious network resembling Al Qaeda, are getting chewed out by their murderous boss, just in from Afghanistan. (They have been spending the organization's money like crazy but haven't blown anything up.) Just then, two deliverymen knock on the apartment door, bearing a huge flat-screen TV.

• Ahmed, whose cover is a job as a bike messenger, falls in love with a neighborhood florist - who turns out to be Jewish - but can't get up the nerve to ask her out. "You're bright, you're funny, you're talented," Musab says, urging his comrade on. "Who made the best nail bomb in training camp? You did!"

• Abu blends in by joining a bowling team, and becomes a fanatic: "We will dance in the blood of the losers from Hal's Body and Paint Shop!" he vows. But he is a hapless terrorist. A fertilizer bomb in his trunk accidentally goes off outside when he is bowling for the league championship - toppling his last two pins and clinching victory.

"The Cell," as this exercise in envelope-pushing is titled, has been making its way through Hollywood for more than a year, cracking up development executives and their assistants, being passed from friend to friend like an underground newspaper behind the Iron Curtain, and winning its creators, Mark Jordan Legan and Mark F. Wilding, scores of meetings and three other writing assignments.

Sacha Baron Cohen, the star of "Da Ali G Show" on HBO, talked about producing "The Cell" for a cable channel like Comedy Central. An executive at Warner Brothers talked about pitching it to British television. The television eminences Warren Littlefield and Marcy Carsey raved about it.

"It was absolutely outrageous, it was smart, it was funny," said Mr. Littlefield, the former NBC Entertainment president. "When they said what the subject matter was, I said, 'Oh my God, how can they do that?' And they did - they pulled it off."

But the accolades invariably led nowhere.

This, it seems, is a comedic concept too explosive to touch.

Though a number of dramatic movies and mini-series about 9/11 are already being produced, executives who passed on "The Cell" told the writers they feared that Americans - particularly in New York and Washington - were nowhere near ready for a sitcom that could be seen as trivializing the attacks, even after four years.

"They always want you to think outside the box, then when you do, they say, 'What the hell's the matter with you?' " said Mr. Legan, 45, a Virginian.

"People say tragedy plus time equals comedy, but the timing is always iffy," said Matt Solo, Mr. Wilding's agent. "It's still too close to 9/11, and 9/11 can repeat itself. You'd be sinking money into it, and then at some point, there'd be a tragedy out there in the world. Imagine you're on the hook for tens of millions, and then you get a massive boycott."

Or consider the lag time before "Hogan's Heroes," set in a Nazi P.O.W. camp, came on the air in 1965. "They couldn't have done that show five years after the war," said Mr. Wilding. And "M*A*S*H," the antiwar sitcom that came out in 1972, was set in the Korean War, 20 years past.

With the fight against terrorism far from over, the clock may not even have started ticking toward acceptability for a satire like "The Cell," said Mr. Solo, of International Creative Management. "I think we just have to wait on this one," he said, "probably a generation."

While the script's heroes are ostensibly out to kill and paralyze Americans with fear, the running joke of "The Cell" is that they quickly fall in love with Americans and Americana. They order Domino's Pizza and heat up Hot Pockets, and get weak-kneed over super-sizes and double coupons and sexy college women. They become Chicago Cubs fans - these are hapless terrorists, after all - and derive their cultural literacy straight from television and the movies: their secret password is "Kelly Ripa."

And they love the lives they are living as Americans. Salar, under cover as a college student, becomes the teacher's pet. Abu, the bowler, becomes his team's emotional center. Musab, effectively the housewife, becomes a prize-winning cook thanks to the Food Network. Only at their supposedly deadly work are they miserable failures.

"It's the antiterrorist show," said Robin Schwarz, president of Regency Television, the maker of "Malcolm in the Middle," who said she had been casting "The Cell" in her head and still hoped to produce it for a network.

"It's a love letter to America," said Mr. Wilding, 48, from Connecticut, who is a writer on "Grey's Anatomy" on ABC. "It's about how these guys came to figure out how to live in the country and not hurt anybody."

The idea for "The Cell" arose in frustration. Mr. Wilding was writing for "Jake 2.0," the UPN series, and lamented that all its villains had to be terrorists. Mr. Legan, whom he met when both worked on "Dave's World" in 1994, flippantly suggested that they write a sitcom about terrorists. And the idea took hold.

Soon after, struggling to find a hook into the material, Mr. Legan was driving on Ventura Boulevard, the busy commercial strip through the San Fernando Valley, with every chain store known to man. "I was passing signs for Ralph's, double coupons; Sizzler, all-you-can-eat; filet of fish for a dollar - and I called Mark and said, 'This is the way in,'" Mr. Legan said. Mr. Wilding added that there was an element of truth to the material: "Even the terrorists who did 9/11, they were at Hooters and strip clubs the night before," he said.

With a draft in hand early last year, their agents shopped the script to TV executives, and, later, to film studios. "Invariably, the executives would say, 'We love it; who's doing it?' " Mr. Wilding recalled.

Executives at Fox, the writers and their agents said, countered that maybe the terrorists could be Albanians - or demons.

Mr. Baron Cohen, who could not be reached, proposed taking "The Cell" to British television. "We thought that in Britain it might be more palatable than here," Mr. Solo said. But then the London bombings occurred. "That's the case in point," he added. "It looks good till it looks bad."

The script is subversive in some gentle ways, poking fun at TV shows and even at the sorry state of television comedy. But this sitcom would have a tough time with a laugh track: When a gung-ho young suicide bomber is sent over to help them on a mission, the characters keep anyone else from being hurt, but the bomber is killed.

Ms. Schwartz, of Regency Television, said for this reason she believed the script might work best as an animated series, like "The Simpsons," because audiences will forgive outrageousness in cartoons that they will not in live action. Others have suggested a stage play, a short film or even a Web site along the lines of

The script's writers, meanwhile, have landed three assignments thanks to "The Cell": a feature for Universal about children's entertainers who double as burglars; a comedy about the worst hospital in America, for Ms. Schwartz at Regency; and a family time-travel comedy for Paramount. But they hold out hope that their pet project will find a fearless patron. And they are not alone.

"I can't imagine that an advertiser-supported broadcaster would be playing with this," said Mr. Littlefield, the former network president. "But at some point maybe someone will try it. I'm sure there would be a lot of people that said you can't do this, but that's what they told me about 'Will and Grace.' The things that scared us, more often than not, had the biggest upside."

Thursday, September 08, 2005

In 1791, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died of a heroin overdose at the age of 27. He is believed my many to be the first rock star, and the first rock star to die young. Marie de France, in her "Lay of Tyndall the Minstrel," wrote of a young lutist who died embarrassingly of autoerotic asphyxiation, but her story is largely believed to have been a factional invention.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Lest anyone think that the Bush Administration sat idly in the first hours after Hurrican Katrina hit, I thought I'd remind everyone about the assistance offered to the most vulnerable among us, a story that has slipped from the front page due to the subsequent carnage

Nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve to release some oil
By Sue Kirchhoff, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration Wednesday said it would release oil from a special federal reserve to help refiners hurt by Hurricane Katrina. The announcement relieved some pressure in oil markets, but gasoline prices kept soaring Thursday, and spot shortages developed.

The decision to let companies request oil from the government's 700-million barrel Strategic Petroleum Reserve came after Katrina knocked out 95% of crude oil production in the gulf. More than a dozen gulf refineries are closed or operating below capacity, and oil rigs, pipelines and ports are down.

Exxon Mobil will borrow 6 million barrels of crude oil from the government's emergency stockpile to allay shortages from Hurricane Katrina, the Energy Department said Thursday.

Exxon Mobil will borrow 3 million barrels of sweet crude and 3 million barrels of sour crude from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the department said.

Loan requests from other refiners were still being reviewed, the department said, adding it would announce any further loans as they are finalized.

Analysts and Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said the move would be of limited use. The main problem now is lack of refining capacity to turn crude oil into gasoline.

"It will probably help a little bit, but not materially," said James Rollyson, senior energy analyst at Raymond James & Associates. "Our inventory situation with crude is not in that bad a shape. It's refined products, and particularly gasoline; that's where we really need help."

Rollyson said a separate administration move that temporarily eases environmental rules governing gasoline and diesel fuel would probably do more for supply.

Bodman told the Associated Press that the reserve could deliver 5 million barrels of oil per day, more than three times the amount of lost gulf production.

Gasoline supplies tightened Thursday in markets that depend on shipments from Gulf Coast refiners and pipelines, and motorists increasingly faced pump prices well in excess of $3 a gallon.

Gasoline futures surged for the fourth day in a row on the New York Mercantile Exchange, sending prices 25% higher in less than a week. Unleaded gasoline for October delivery traded at $2.42 per gallon, an increase of more than 16 cents.

Oil held strong near $69 a barrel as crude oil contracts for October delivery rose 51 cents to $69.45 a barrel.

Complete markets report

The stockpile, stored underground in Texas and Louisiana, was last used after 2004's Hurricane Ivan. Companies that borrow from the reserve must pay it back, at a slight premium.

Bodman said he had approved the first request for oil from the reserve, but didn't know how much would eventually be borrowed. He did not disclose the names of firms requesting oil.

"Will it make a major difference in the price of gasoline? Based on the numbers that I see, probably not," Bodman told AP. "It'll help some, but we have significant refining capacity that is dysfunctional."

Red Cavaney, president of the American Petroleum Institute, told a news conference that opening the reserve was only a partial solution, but would provide stability to refiners that are operational: "You have to keep feed-stock going to them if you're going to have any hope of keeping them up and running."

Some members of Congress, including Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., had wanted a more aggressive release. Lawmakers plan energy hearings. Cavaney urged better conservation.

But analysts doubt much could be done in the short term. "You can't put (crude) in your car and go," said Sean Sexton, energy analyst with Fitch Ratings. "Don't drive, that's all your choice is."

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Troops begin combat operations in New Orleans

By Joseph R. Chenelly
Times staff writer

NEW ORLEANS — Combat operations are underway on the streets “to take this city back” in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

“This place is going to look like Little Somalia,” Brig. Gen. Gary Jones, commander of the Louisiana National Guard’s Joint Task Force told Army Times Friday as hundreds of armed troops under his charge prepared to launch a massive citywide security mission from a staging area outside the Louisiana Superdome. “We’re going to go out and take this city back. This will be a combat operation to get this city under control.”

Jones said the military first needs to establish security throughout the city. Military and police officials have said there are several large areas of the city are in a full state of anarchy.

Dozens of military trucks and up-armored Humvees left the staging area just after 11 a.m. Friday, while hundreds more troops arrived at the same staging area in the city via Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters.

“We’re here to do whatever they need us to do,” Sgt. 1st Class Ron Dixon, of the Oklahoma National Guard’s 1345th Transportation Company. “We packed to stay as long as it takes.”

While some fight the insurgency in the city, other carry on with rescue and evacuation operations. Helicopters are still pulling hundreds of stranded people from rooftops of flooded homes.

Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and police helicopters filled the city sky Friday morning. Most had armed soldiers manning the doors. According to Petty Officer 3rd Class Jeremy Grishamn, a spokesman for the amphibious assault ship Bataan, the vessel kept its helicopters at sea Thursday night after several military helicopters reported being shot at from the ground.

Numerous soldiers also told Army Times that they have been shot at by armed civilians in New Orleans. Spokesmen for the Joint Task Force Headquarters at the Superdome were unaware of any servicemen being wounded in the streets, although one soldier is recovering from a gunshot wound sustained during a struggle with a civilian in the dome Wednesday night.

“I never thought that at a National Guardsman I would be shot at by other Americans,” said Spc. Philip Baccus of the 527th Engineer Battalion. “And I never thought I’d have to carry a rifle when on a hurricane relief mission. This is a disgrace.”

Spc. Cliff Ferguson of the 527th Engineer Battalion pointed out that he knows there are plenty of decent people in New Orleans, but he said it is hard to stay motivated considering the circumstances.

“This is making a lot of us think about not reenlisting.” Ferguson said. “You have to think about whether it is worth risking your neck for someone who will turn around and shoot at you. We didn’t come here to fight a war. We came here to help.”