Saturday, June 24, 2006

You're Not Going to Want to Miss Bat-Thanksgiving THIS Year...

There's been a lot of excitement lately over which super heroes are and are not gay. While some may argue that anyone who would get dressed up in colorful tight leather/spandex and hit other similarly garbed people could not be anything but gay, let's assume that most are motivated by a genuine desire to fight evil and move on.

Of particular interest these days is the reintroduction of Batwoman as a lesbian (seen above). Now, lest this already send you into an uproar, be sure not to confuse this character with Batgirl (seen here in comic book and TV form).

Batgirl was Barbara Gordon, daughter of Police Commissioner James Gordon, who fought crime (often alongside Robin the boy/teen wonder) until she was paralyzed by a bullet from the Joker and became an aide to Batman from behind the scenes as "Oracle". She was played by Yvonne Craig on T.V. and rode a nifty motorcycle. She is not, and has never been, a lesbian (well, she may have experimented in college a little bit...)

On the other hand, the original Bat-Woman was someone who today would probably be deemed a mildly offensive character, a vivacious lass with a hideous costume who followed Batman around using such items as a "utility purse" and "charm bracelet handcuffs" and generally seemed more interested in getting Batman to marry her than in fighting crime. This was a character desperately in need of an update. Further complicating matters is the presence of two other "Bat-Girls", One a mute martial artist(really) and the other the boy-crazy niece of the original Bat-Woman, who chased Robin around in a similar fashion to her Aunt's pursuit of Batman.

All that bookkeeping aside, what does the reintroduction of this character mean? I don't believe that it is a cheap publicity stunt of the kind seen commonly on television these days, throwing in a gratuitious gay character to boost ratings. Comic books have often been on the cutting edge of current events. DC comics dealt front and center with counter culture issues such as drugs and civil rights in the late 60s and early 70s in books such as Green Lantern/Green Arrow and the Teen Titans. Marvel Comics similarly has dealt with the issue of racial discrimination for decades in their X-Men titles, and in its "Civil War" series, is presently attacking the very current issue of how much right the Government has to invade our privacy in order to protect its citizenry. (I think our founding fathers would probably say "none" but unfortunately they aren't around to ask).

So I don't have an issue with Batwoman "coming out". Except she's not really coming out. Kathy Kane, the Batwoman, has been a defunct character for around 40 years. If you want to make a statement, how about having Batman come out as gay? Or Superman? Or the Flash? OK, maybe it's too big a risk of the mainstream audience to take their flagship characters in such a direction. But did they at least consider giving Aquaman a boyfriend?

This could be a personal bias, since I always feel that comic books, and even T.V. shows, miss the boat when they're making a major change, hedging their bets, as it were. When they decided to kill off Superman (of course they brought him back), did they have the dastardly deed pulled off by Lex Luthor or Braniac, who had been taking their shots at the Big Red S for years? No, Superman met his fate at the demise of a hulking alien brute named Doomsday. When Bruce Wayne's Batman was taken out of the picture for a year, did the Joker mastermind the scheme? Nope, his back was broken by a musclebound clod named Bane. My point being that often these publishers are willing to take chances, but too often they're not willing to go all the way (Lex Luthor or the Joker could never really BEAT their arch nemeses, could they?)

While I applaud the efforts by major comics publishers to shake things up, I expect in the case of Batwoman, the press is making a mountain out of a molehill. If she even gets her own title, I imagine most of it will be about fighting the good fight, and fairly little about not being allowed to marry her significant other. Now that I think about it, that's probably as it should be.

Sunday, June 11, 2006


Well the World Cup is here, and I for one, couldn't be more excited. Which is unfortunate, because right now I'm not excited at all. Now, I apologize in advance to all the soccer fans out there, but this sport is just not interesting. A lot of people will say "well, you just don't understand it; you're a typical fast food nation American who refuses to appreciate subtlety." What subtlety? Just because there's no scoring in a game does not make it nuanced, okay? Auto Racing is not nuanced. You want to know a sport that is internationally loved, has tons of screaming fans, and no scoring? Dwarf Tossing. Which is not a fair comparison, because there's action in Dwarf Tossing. Seriously, soccer looks like it was invented for the Special Olympics. You can't use your hands, which is great for people who don't have any or are too developmentally delayed to know what to do with them. The clock counts up instead of down, and continues to run after the allotted 90 minutes until a referee seemingly arbitrarily decides that the game is over, and during penalty kicks, proper strategy is to protect your private parts.

I can see why we Americans are thought to be too barbaric to appreciate soccer. After all, if a coach gives a referee a hard time after a tough call in an American sport, the referee throws that coach out of the game, when as we all know, the proper, mediated, soccer response would be to KILL HIM. Here's the other thing about soccer. People in other countries go absolutely ballistic about this game. They literally kill themselves and each other over every goal. Why? Here's my theory: Penis envy. You heard me. You know how it seems like the guy who crows the loudest always has the least to crow about? How the most insecure among us feel the need to tout their accomplishments so everyone can hear? "Oh, you wish you were me, I'm having a great time!" That's soccer in a nutshell. These people know that American football is a far superior game. They just hope if they leave enough blood in the stands, no one will notice.

But the most offensive thing of all about soccer is how it forces me to stand with the traditional jingoistic "America Rules!" types that I despise. I'm the last person to blindly insist that America is superior to other nations because of our military might or economic strength. That's not who I am. None of that matters. America is superior to other nations because we get excited about cooler sports. Oh, and that First Amendment thing is good too.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Self Evident Truths

George Bush is going after gay marriage again. While it is clear to everyone that this is a last ditch attempt to curry some small bit of favor with the Republican party that he has tainted with his antediluvian policies by mobilizing the most intractable of his fundamentalist base for the midterm elections, it is still a little hard to believe that it is okay in the 21st century to run on a platform of discrimination and bigotry. It is even more ludicrous that people who respond positively to this kind of hate-mongering are referred to as "Values Voters." Let's put this very simply. If you favor an amendment banning gay marriage, you are a bigot. Period. There are three "explanations" for why a gay marriage amendment is necessary (and by the way, did you notice it's always Republicans who feel the need to screw around with the constitution since "activist judges" have an annoying habit of ruling according to its principles? Yeah, so have I.) each explanation more contrived and embarrassing than the next. They are: 1. Marriage is a cultural institution and we cannot allow our oldest cultural institutions to be tampered with. 2. Allowing gay marriage will be a gateway to unrestricted marriage and render the institution meaningless. 3. Gay marriage is undermining the sanctity of marriage and endangering marriages that already exist. I'd like to look at each of these in turn.

Marriage as a cultural institution must not be tampered with. This is Bush's favorite because it's the kind of vague doublespeak that has no meaning and therefore doesn't really need to be defended. Or does it? Here are a few other American cultural institutions with rich histories that politicians and judges did not want tampered with at the time:

Slavery (Jefferson had them!)
Whites-only country clubs (Chief Justice Rehnquist was a proud member!)
The Ku Klux Klan (Harry Truman and virtually any politician who wanted to get elected in the south!)

Gateway to unrestricted marriage. A lot of these right wing tv/radio garbage spewers offer this compelling argument. "If we allow gay marriage, pretty soon you're going to have men marrying fish! Women marrying bicycles!" Now, I'm as aware as the next guy of the rash of marriage crazed piscophiles waiting for the flood gates to open so they can become man and trout and flip off the world, but am I the only one that finds comparing homosexuals to fish more than a little offensive? I'm pretty convinced that the only reason these people understand that an amendment against whites marrying blacks is wrong is because they have the benefit of history telling them so. What would the reaction be if Bill O'Reilly came on TV and said something like "Whites marrying blacks! If we allow that, you'll have white men marrying monkeys in a heartbeat! Women living in sin with watermelons!" I suspect he wouldn't get away with it (although Ann Coulter probably would), but is it really any different?

Gay marriage threatens to undermine good marriages that already exist.This is a great example of right wingers taking pleasure in ruining the lives of people and somehow thinking they have saved their own way of life, even though they will never come into contact with these people. If your marriage can't withstand two people you don't know who live a thousand miles away and will never meet you also being married, you probably shouldn't have gotten married in the first place. The reality though, is that neither Bush nor his cronies are concerned one whit about undermining marriages. Do you disagree? Let me know when that amendment banning adultery hits the Senate floor, because I'm fairly confident no one can argue that THAT doesn't threaten to undermine marriages.

Now, I'm pretty sure I'm preaching to the choir about this, but I feel better anyway. If your ire has been raised, and you have more time to waste, check out They'll ask you for votes and money, but you can ignore all that and send out a one-click asking all your local elected officials to impeach Bush. It won't happen, but it's the thought that counts.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

What Are Friends For?

Joe Bartholdi is the new World Poker Tour Champion. After perusing the article by Richard Belsky about him in the latest Cardplayer Magazine, I've discovered that his main talent is in borrowing money: “I’d be broke, then get $100 from Dad" "I’d have all of this cash, and then I’d go broke in a big game." "I’d sit down and play well, but lose $1,000. Then, not being used to that kind of loss, I’d tilt out and blow another $4,000." "Dutch(Boyd) took his $80,000 winnings from the WSOP and funded (the crew, a team of players including Bartholdi), and Bartholdi was on board." "I just basically tilted off all that money. I felt sick about it.""Few things are worse for a professional poker player than going broke. Despite Joe’s familiarity with the experience, losing the $250,000 was a tough pill to swallow...Joe Cassidy was that angel investor who got Joe back on his feet." I've heard this story many times, of a star player losing hundreds of thousands of dollars and then getting a loan enabling them to recover. Frankly, I'm not impressed when a guy makes a few WPT final tables and then loses all that money in a cash game before the year is out. They say these guys are able to play like the money doesn't mean anything. Well, if you can get a pal to put you in the next $10,000 event as soon as you go broke, why should it mean anything? Show me a guy who had to get a job when he went broke and then won a million dollars, not a guy who hit up Doyle Brunson five or six times for cash. This does not stop these players from talking like they're the greatest poker players ever and everyone else is a donkey of course. But hey, if their friends have this much faith in them, why shouldn't they? It really dilutes my impression of some of these guys. That having been said, if anyone out there wants to be part of my personal cinderella poker story, now would probably be a good time.