Saturday, February 12, 2005

This weekend, as you shower your loved one with Valentine's gifts, lawmaker Eliot Engle wants you to avoid showering them with chocolate. He says that in some areas of Africa, child slaves and child labor is used to pick chocolate, and we should boycott chocolate this year, to make the chocolate companies clean up their act.

As much as I would like to help out such a worthy cause, I'm afraid I'd be a lone voice crying in the wilderness. Every store I've been into has seven foot tall displays of Valentine's chocolate, decorated with pick stuffed animals and red stuffed hearts. These displays are a perfect example of the change in Valentine's Day, from day to tell someone you love them, to day to buy huge amounts of candy and a card! It's gone from celebrating how much you're feeling, to celebrating how much is in your paycheck.

Next up: Show the Mother in your life how much you respect them by buying them something. After that: Show the Father in your life how much you care by filling up a credit card! After that: Celebrate the birth of this nation by buying an Old Navy shirt with a flag on it! Then: Show your family how much you care by purchasing enough food to feed them for a week and prepare it all on Thursday! Then on Friday, show how much you love your family by maxing out your cards again! Oh yeah, and in the meantime, don't forget to buy new cars, appliances, etc.

Support Big Business! Make a purchase every single day!

Friday, February 11, 2005

Another reason Americans purchase SUVs is a beleif that their SUV can go off-road, and keep them from being stranded, or some such nonsense.

It is particularly amusing when this is proven not to be the case, as in this story. A Hummer got stuck in water, and its occupants had to be rescued by helicopter. Notice that the news story refers to the super-strong off road vehicle as a pickup.

Now if this had occurred in the Austin area, the local newscasters would have made sure to mention that the driver drove around barricades closing the low water crossing, or was unable to judge the depth of the water, and was swept away, all in a tone that indicated contempt for such stupid behavior, incredulity that anyone can be so stupid, and a stern warning to the viewer not to repeat the mistake. Austin news readers have really got that tone down pat, but that's a liberal town for you.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

I am a long-time comic book nerd. I've been reading comics since the Batman TV series in the 60s. Yes, I was a wee lad at the time, but I loved Batman! It wasn't until about 10 years ago when FX started running the Batman series that I got how campy it was, but then I liked it because it was campy.

I was reading comics about the time Neal Adams began making The Batman a creature of the night again, revitilizing the character. Robin went off to college,and joined the Teen Titans, and during the 70s and 80s, that's the way things stayed.

The Batman, as he is now known, became darker and more obsessed during those years. By the mid 80s, Gerry Conway, the writer at the time, realized that the Batman needed a younger partner to humanize him. So he created Jason Todd, a circus acrobat whose parents were killed by Killer Croc. Jason eventually learned the Batman's secret identity, and asked to be his partner. Finally the Batman agreed, and they began trying to come up with a name for Jason, and Domino was the leading contender. ("It's Batman and Domino!")

Coincidentaly, over in Teen Titans, written by Marv Wolfman and George Perez, Robin was having a bit of an identity crisis. For most of his life (and since the 40s for us), he has always been the Batman's partner, the last half of "Batman and . . .". According to the letter pages of the day, when Marv learned about Gerry's name troubles over in the Batman books, he decided to have Dick Grayson quit being Robin. He strolled into the Batcave, costume under his arm, and told the Batman he needed to figure out where Dick Grayson fit into the world, and Jason Todd became Robin.

In 1985, DC has restarted its universe in The Crisis on Infinite Earths and many things about the DC characters changed. For example, instead of suffering growing pains, Dick Grayson was retired from his role as Robin after the Joker almost killed him. The Batman didn't want to put anyone that young in danger, so Robin was no more. Then he found street punk Jason Todd stealing the tires off the Batmobile, and somehow decided he would be a perfect Robin.

No one liked the "new" Jason Todd. Amid fan hatred, Batman editor Denny O'Neil crafted a mini-series called "A Death in the Family." The first three issues would build up a fight with the Joker, and end with Robin in a tent that explodes! The fans would be able to call one of two 1-900 numbers to vote on Robin's survival. Much to Denny's surprise, the fans offed Robin.

A third Robin, Tim Drake, appeared who was well liked and popular, and he contiues to wear the costume to this day.

Meanwhile, Nightwing had left the Teen Titans and wound up in Blüdhaven, a city down the road from Gotham City. For the last hundred issues or so, he's been fighting to clean up the streets of the 'Haven. Now Scott Beatty and Chuck Dixon (Thank goodness Chuck is back!) are retelling the origin of Nightwing, and I have to relearn all this crap again!

This time, it seems, the Batman fired Robin because he was spending too much time in college and in the Teen Titans to be of much help in the Batman's war on crime! So Dick gets kicked out of the cave and Wayne Manor. In Issue #102 , Dick goes to visit Superman who tells him about a Kryptonian superhero called Nightwing. (In the first origin story, Dick Grayson mentions that the name came from Superman. In the second, written while Superman and the Batman didn't get along, he came up with the name all on his own.)

I'm only on the second issue of a six issue arc, and already the relationship between the Batman and Nightwing, as well as Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson, has changed again.

God, I hate getting old and have to relearn origins and stuff. But I won't quit reading!

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

A car bomb has exploded in Madrid, today. According to the latest reports, 43 people were injured, and, fortunately, no one has been reported killed.

"There is no place for [terrorism] in politics or civil society -- bombs lead only to prison," Spain's Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said.

However, last March, a terrorist group linked to al Qeada set off bombs on four commuter trains killing 191 people. In response, Spain dropped out of the international coalition in Iraq, as demanded by the group.

I wonder what the death threshold is in Spain that causes the government to acced to terrorist demands? Over 190 deaths and they get what they want? If Spain reacts like it did last time, there would be a Basque state.

You gotta love consistancy in policy!

Monday, February 07, 2005

I was at Wal-Mart yesterday. I searched for a parking space, and found one near a handicapped space. A late model Chevy pulled in, driven by a little old lady. The old lady got out of the car and quickly walked into the store.

Then I looked at the handicapped sign and noticed that the little stick figure was in a wheel chair.

When did a handicapped space become old people parking? What would a truly handicapped person do while all the old people are in their spaces?

Or, for that matter, me when I'm driving Dad's car. I love that little blue tag!

Sunday, February 06, 2005

I'm not the biggest fan of SUVs. I beleive that they contribute to air pollution, speed the wear on our highways, and don't get enough gas mileage to make economic sense.

Yeah, I know, I know! If you're in an accident an SUV will come out the winner. Case in point:

An 8-year-old girl was trying to elude some dogs on her bicycle when she darted out of a driveway and slammed into the front panel of a Ford Explorer on San Antonio's East Side. The girl was taken to a hospital with head trauma, but is expected to be OK.

When I read that, I realized the accident survival rationalization is true! Even when the SUV is parked it injures other people in accidents more than the driver.

Except when you are in a police chase.

At 1 am, Houston police officers tried to pull over the driver of a Chevrolet Blazer. The driver led police on a short chase before he crashed his vehicle when he tried to avoid another officer, who was giving another driver a ticket. That officer was taken to a hospital with minor injuries. The Blazer left the road, rolled over and hit a house. The driver was thrown from the vehicle and was killed. A passenger inside the SUV escaped the vehicle and fled the scene.

The moral of the story is, if you're a criminal in an SUV, it's better to be the passenger.