Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Another Potential Candidate for President

Representative Mike Pence (R-IN) made waves by winning the Value Voters Summit straw poll last week.  He’d been on the outer edges of my radar but this speech on the Presidency at Hillsdale College has really gotten my attention. He is someone to watch now.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Freedom of Speech in Peril… From the Media?

As previous posts on ACTA have shown, I’m not a huge fan of Intellectual Property rights as they are currently handled.  While there needs to be a way to make money for ideas, those ideas shouldn’t be perpetual money machines – that inevitably leads to a decrease in new inventions and works. A little while back I read about a problem with Righthaven, a group suing bloggers for daring to quote from their clients’ publications.  Quoting small amounts from articles is covered by Fair Use, or should be. 

Now it has turned into a big business for the lawyers of Righthaven and they are going after bloogers big and small including ones who don’t even make money from their blogs.

For a glimpse of what is going on that involves some heavy irony, please read this thread at Broadband/DSL Reports.  The discussion is interesting and takes quite a turn on page two.  Yes, Righthaven is suing over content posted by a user on the forums, not content put up on the website.

So now we have media companies shaking down everyone and anyone in an effort to get money.  Free speech isn’t even considered as these intellectually bankrupt corporations look to hoover every last cent out of somebody else’s pocket.  What’s worse is that it is working. They are making serious money with these take down and lawsuit threats.

The explosion in blogs and forums has allowed more information to be shared than ever before in history.  While it often seems the Internet is a cesspool of the pornographic and the trivial, information that actually matters has proliferated changing much.  From politics to economics to wrong doings of totalitarian regimes, people have been able to get their messages out. 

It is appalling to think that the United States of America, a country founded on freedom and inalienable rights, would become the home to persecutors of opinions using quotes to back their arguments.  This along with the ACTA treaty show that things have gotten very out of hand.

The O'Donnell Victory


In the above missive, Jonah Goldberg captures most of how I feel about what has happened in Delaware. But I'm going to criticize the mindless viciousness of her supporters because they are turning things into identity politics the way the Democrats do. From the women blindly supporting O'Donnell thinking that she was attacked for daring to be a woman to the ad hominem profanity directed at principled conservatives objecting to a fraud and a liar becoming the candidate (though in truth those descriptions apply to Castle as well), the attitudes remind me of how Obama's camp tore down Hillary Clinton in 2008. There was very little rationality involved and a great deal of emoting due to the desire to get rid of a RINO.

I've got news for people. Just because someone says all the things you want to hear from them doesn't make them the real deal. Anybody who made rent payments from their campaign contributions is not someone you want going to Washington to live off the taxpayer. Opposing a person like that doesn't make you a RINO or a puppet of the Republican establishment. Look deeper into the actions of those who say all the right things before opposing or supporting them. With the Republic itself dangling by a thread, this is not the time to be stupid and start a civil war amongst conservatives.

The consequences could be dire, for with a public sick of the Democratic and Republican parties, hating another party such as the Tea Party will be very easy. All it will take is getting the wrong people in and their screwing up. There is no patience in the electorate right now. As the Democrats have found, the anger that can sweep you into power can just as quickly sweep you out. People advocating a third party will find that it will fare no differently.

As for me, I wish a real conservative had been in the Delaware primary. I consider neither Castle or O'Donnell to be the real deal.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Smallville: Absolute Justice Review Part 2

The Justice Society of America is being stalked by a killer.  Will they survive or will they bring down the younger heroes with them?

Continued from Part 1.


Absolute Justice, Episode 2

Part two begins with Clark Kent awakening to find himself back in the museum owned by Carter Hall, aka Hawkman.  Alone, he removes the sheets from the cases and discovers exhibits of the gear belonging to the mystery group.  In the cases are items that thrilled the old comic book fan in me.  There was the Flash’s winged Mercury helmet,  Hourman’s hourglass, Dr. Midnite’s doctor bag, and Green Lantern’s ring with the railroad lantern shaped power battery. 


But the one relic of the old team that stood out was when Clark uncovered the case with Hawkgirl’s helmet in it. The lingering shot revealed that a horrific wound had been inflicted across one eye socket – the kind of wound someone couldn’t survive.  A pervasive sense of loss is further conveyed when the round table is uncovered that has the very patriotic logo of the Justice Society of America emblazoned on the marble.  Drawn to the painting on the wall, Clark uncovers it and surveys the team.  As he does, we see longer flashes from the archival film, this time in color serving as a recap from the first episode.


What follows is an argument filled gathering of the old and new heroes with Green Arrow once again being on the losing end of a fight with Hawkman.  Comic book fans are used to this as the characters traditionally don’t get along. A reluctant Hawkman agrees to an alliance but is vocal about his unhappiness with the incompetent newer heroes.

So now we have our lineup to face off against the Icicle:  The Blur aka Clark Kent, Green Arrow, the depowered Martian Manhunter, Hawkman, Dr. Fate, and Stargirl. That seems like a lot of firepower, but the killer is a professional and is hunting them.  One thing is certain, he is no joke like Mr. Freeze.

But the plot is about to get a great deal more complicated as Lois Lane (Erica Durance) enters the picture.  Someone sends her a package filled with information on how a group of vigilantes were framed for crimes they didn’t commit.  Her boss, Lex Luthor’s former protégé, Tess Mercer seems to recognize the checkerboard pattern on the package and acts strangely.


From there the episode moves to some strong character scenes including Chloe and Stargirl talking about the differences in the teams, Green Arrow and Hawkman insulting each other (the actors were having too much fun and it showed),  and Dr. Fate telling Clark about his destiny.  Fate can see everyone’s future but his own and his dialogue with the future Superman is positively mythic.

Oddly enough, that gets topped with a marvelous scene between Fate and Lois.  Every scene with Dr. Fate is magic, no pun intended and what could have been the hokiest character is instead the most appealing.  Not bad considering you can’t see his face.


The motivations of the Icicle and his affiliation to a secret government organization is revealed and this has repercussions still being explored in the series.  Amanda Waller (Pam Grier!) is playing both the killer and Lois in a dangerous game.  I said things were getting more complicated, but you haven’t seen anything yet.


Having gotten an idea of where they can find the killer, Dr. Fate and the Martian Manhunter bond while looking for the cryogenic hitman.  Both have tragedies scarring their lives and feel apart from the others.  What promises to be a budding friendship ends in tragedy.


In the aftermath, Carter and Ollie have a very blunt conversation and we finally find out Hawkman’s back story.  Once again, tragedy is at the core of one of the characters.  The heroes gather one more time to prepare for the final battle which is one of Smallville’s better efforts.


After the densely packed previous episode, the star of the show, Tom Welling, stepped in to direct the second with very little preparation time.  There is a definite change of approach; though the atmosphere is still dark there is a warmth to this episode that embodies what the JSA is all about. In the current version of the Justice Society of America the theme is one of family and of generations mixing so that the older hands can teach the younger rookies. Those themes are touched on repeatedly as the episode progressed and the hopeful endings really caught the essence of the JSA.  The younger heroes get the message that it is all about family at the end of the story.

Usually a special episode or story doesn’t carry over into later episodes, but Absolute Justice influenced the rest of the season and from what has leaked the last season to air starting September 24th.  The secret organization is still active and their motivations seem to cross many lines.  In fact a line at the end of Absolute Justice has turned out to be the setup for the big villain of the final season.

But did it live up to expectations?

For me, it exceeded them.  Somehow everyone involved managed to pack in an immense amount of comic book history, action, and actual character development into a good story.  No small achievement, that. I loved the episode and marvel at how emotional some of the scenes are, especially the ones with Dr. Fate. 

When iTunes put both episodes up as one download at the regular price for one, I jumped on it and purchased the HD version.  The screen captures are downsized from that and I have to say the show looks great. The effects were very good and it did have the feeling of a movie rather than a television show. 

I recommend renting the Season 9 DVDs from Netflix or your local video store/Redbox.  Smallville turned into a good show the final few seasons and the increased ratings show it.  Be aware there is some mild gore and one death in particular is rather nasty.

Some more shots from the museum featuring JSA member gear:


Wildcat’s gloves and tape.


Hourman’s hourglass.


Mr. Terrific’s belt.


Green Lantern’s ring and power battery.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Smallville: Absolute Justice Review Part 1

The Justice Society of America makes its live action debut. So how does the small screen treat the Golden Age heroes?


As a child in the 1970’s, I became a fan of the Justice Society of America (JSA) when they were revived for a run by DC Comics.  Back then, they hailed from an alternate Earth and there would be crossovers between the heroes created in the 1940’s and their modern counterparts in the Justice League of America. There was something about these old fashioned character that I immediately took too and over the years wondered why others didn’t. 

That all changed with the new century, as a revived and revised JSA became a top title in comic books.  Still, I never imagined I’d see a live action version of these heroes.  They came from an era of bright primary colors and spandex costumes.  But with the success of comic book writer Geoff Johns episode featuring the Legion of Super-Heroes in season 8 of Smallville, the producers of the show wanted him to come back.  His treatment of the JSA was so well received they expanded it from one episode into two, then ran them back to back as a special “movie” event.

Expectations ran high and I was eagerly awaiting the episode… And dreading it.

Absolute Justice: Episode 1

Things begin with resident super hero coordinator Chloe Sullivan (Allison Mack) on her cell phone leaving a message for Clark about tracking down the Kandorians (Kryptonian refugees and the main storyline of the season) while walking down a dark street.  Something begins interfering with the cell and all the lights in the street flicker before extinguishing.  Being an old pro at the whole danger thing, Chloe doesn’t hesitate to run when she spies a man holding a glowing staff on a fire escape watching her.  As she runs, a bright light follows her and then corners her in an alley.


The light dims and a scruffy man wearing a star spangled blue shirt is revealed.  He introduces himself as Sylvester Pemberton and that he shares something in common with her – they both are trying to put a team together.  Still uneasy, Chloe listens to the strange man as he explains that he knows her code name is “Watchtower” and how easy it is with modern technology to find out about people and that she is lucky that it was a friend who found out.  Not relaxing, Chloe makes a retort and notices that it is suddenly very cold.

With one hand, Pemberton picks her up like she weighs nothing and deposits her in a dumpster.  With the cover down, Chloe tries to watch through the mesh vents but only sees blinding flashes of light and sounds of violent fighting.  An icicle rams through the steel side of the dumpster as the chaotic sequence continues and eventually a scream of pain is heard.  The battle has ended.

Emerging from the iced over dumpster, the young woman finds a mortally wounded Pemberon on the ground.  With his dying words he warns her the people who came for “us” are coming for you next.  “Check…” he gasps and expires.  “Check what?!” an upset Chloe exclaims.

Cue “Save Me” by Remy Zero and the opening credits for Smallville.

You are probably wondering why I went into so much detail.  This two episode event is filled with everything but the kitchen sink and I might have seen one momentarily for that matter. Suffice it to say that watching Absolute Justice precludes doing your favorite hobby or chatting on the side.  For an old comic book fan, the references are nirvana.  But for new comers they will seem to be an organic part of the story and I really enjoyed how well that was executed.

The rollercoaster ride continues after the credits end and picks up with Chloe and Clark Kent (Tom Welling) talking in the emergency room of the local hospital.  As they discuss what happened, a blonde teenage girl shows up in tears trying to find out about Pemberton’s death.  In a moment that is very typical of Clark on the series, he tries to comfort the distraught girl.  The Daily Planet press badge catches her eye and tears turn to anger as the girl storms away.  Meanwhile, Chloe’s hacking skills are used to copy all the data from the deceased man’s cell phone.  The last call made was to a Wesley Dodds.


Cut to the apartment of Dodds.  It is cluttered with clocks of all types ticking away and Wesley is revealed sleeping in a chair.  He is dreaming the battle where his friend was killed and awakes with a weary look on his face.  Donning a strange gasmask, trenchcoat, and gun he looks in the mirror when the killer enters his apartment.  That is the last time we see The Sandman alive.

We’ve hardly begun and two members of the Golden Age JSA are dead!  While there are momentary flashes of humor in Absolute Justice, the tone is very dark.  As the story progresses, the themes of loss, regret, and sacrifice become more pronounced along with another theme that I will mention later.

Clark and Chloe separate to make investigations into what is going on with Miss Sullivan being assisted by Oliver Queen aka Green Arrow, an archery based super hero.  They find out Pemberton had a long criminal record and the teenage girl is a sophomore named Courtney Whitmore.  With Clark’s finding of Dodds’ body two further clues are discovered.  One was written by Wesley with his own blood, the letters “JSA.”  The other is found in the wounds of the victims – the melting ice has human DNA mixed in it.


We then get a clear look at our killer.  For some reason I immediately thought of Dieter on Sprockets, but I digress.  This is the typical serial killer going through the photos of his victims scene but well executed due to an interesting choice of lighting and sound calculated to put the viewer on edge.  Oh and a major clue is shown at the end of it.


Meanwhile, Clark and Chloe reunite in the archives of The Daily Planet where our intrepid reporter has unearthed more information about the victims.  It turns out they were part of a group of people arrested for embezzlement, extortion, and a host of other crimes but refused to testify against each other.  As they watch an old film reel (in B&W to evoke the 40’s feel though it looks to be the 70s or early 80s), Clark begins to suspect there is something fishy going on. These weren’t garden variety hoods, they were made up of CEO’s, professors, a heavyweight champion, and a woman who fed the homeless.  [That last one is Ma Hunkel, the original Red Tornado in a really obscure nod to the comics.]

Almost all the core members of the Golden Age JSA are named in their civilian identities and there is a palpable feeling of history conveyed through the use of the archaic projector.  That feeling of the past hangs over the rest of the story, adding depth to what would be just another super hero team up.  It also shows Clark demonstrating more maturity than Chloe as he evaluates what is happening.  His statement about the group’s loyalty, “This goes beyond honor” and growing suspicion shows how much the future Superman has progressed this season.


With information from Pemberton’s cell and the archives, Clark goes to the residence of Carter Hall (Michael Shanks), one of the surviving members of the group. It turns out to be a mothballed museum and Hall gives the reporter a very chilly reception. Also present is someone else from the film, Kent Nelson.  Present in body, at least, for he is shown to be a randomly muttering wreck talking to his bowling ball bag. Curious, Clark uses his x-ray vision to check the bag out.  A strange helmet is inside and to his surprise it turns in the bag to look back at him.



Hall gets rid of Mr. Kent and a discussion with Nelson follows. Shortly after that, Ollie has tracked down the glowing staff from the beginning and finds out that the cheerleader has stolen it.  Confronting her on the street doesn’t go well and Ollie is left empty handed and astounded by what just happened.  Rejoining Chloe, they find and search the car owned by Sylvester Pemberton, The Star Rocket Racer.  Old school comic books at their most charming.

It turns out he knew everything about them and the upcoming generation of heroes.  Not a good sign.  Back at the museum, Courtney has shown up and is arguing with Carter over avenging their friends’ deaths.  When guilt doesn’t work, the girl asks “What would Shayera have done?”  That stops him in his tracks.


A terrified Nelson is told by Carter that "We need him.” For a moment, he is lucid and remembers that he had a wife and a family once.  That being Dr. Fate took all that away.  Still frightened, he pulls the helmet out of the bag and it wraps itself around his head painfully.  Energy flows from the glowing helm and Nelson is transformed into Dr. Fate!


The costume is very close to the original comic book one and is surprisingly effective.  Hall approaches a wall that opens up to reveal the armor,weapons, and wings of Hawkman. “It has been a long time since I made someone bleed,” states the archeologist.


This costume isn’t quite as effective but does remain faithful to the look of the comic book if a great deal more practical. Some may knock the small wings but they went for practical effects rather than CGI and there is a limit that a man can carry while remaining on his feet!  It also hides the wire flying harness nicely.

All of this leads to a series of confrontations.  The first is between Clark and Dr. Fate in the hospital room of the father of the killer.


The second is between the now costumed Courtney (calling herself Stargirl) and Icicle.  This fight was very kinetic and one of the best in the nine years the show has been on the air.


The final confrontation is between Hawkman and Green Arrow that ends badly for Ollie.


With Clark missing and the JSA being far more capable than they realized, Chloe and Ollie decide they need reinforcements in a great little scene between the two. A phone call is made to Detective John Jones, the depowered Martian Manhunter!

So ends Episode 1 of Absolute Justice.  It was fast moving and never relented for a minute.  A sense of menace was ever present and the younger heroes seemed to be in over their heads.  So now we have the set up, will the story deliver in Part 2?

A few more goodies from this episode:


Ma Hunkel, The Red Tornado was a truly comic comic book character who wore a pot with eyeholes cut out, red longjohns, and a blue blanket for a cape while fighting crime.


Jay Garrick, the Golden Age Flash.


Alan Scott, the Golden Age Green Lantern.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Nine Years But It Feels Like Yesterday

Today is the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City.  For me, the memories are still fresh – especially watching the second airliner hit while the chattering heads weren’t paying attention.  Their slow reaction embodied the disbelief many had about the nature of what was happening.  But the moment I saw that plane hit, I knew it was Osama bin Laden behind it and we were at war.

There is a price to be paid for being well informed and that is to watch many train wrecks move in slow motion and being unable to do anything about them. I felt that way then and I feel that way now watching the Cordoba House controversy near “Ground Zero.”  For the record, one of the landing gear from the violent intersection of airliner and tower landed on that building, which makes it in the crash radius in my opinion.

While I believe the government has no say in whether or not a mosque disguised as a “cultural center” should be built there and should butt out of it, I also believe people should understand the heavy handed symbolism of placing a mosque in a place of Islamic terrorism.  Traditionally, Muslim conquerors build mosques over churches, temples, and mandirs of newly occupied lands.  This symbolizes that the land is now and forever Muslim no matter what happens.  Naming the “cultural center” the Cordoba House is a reference to the Muslim capitol of occupied Spain centuries ago.  That’s very pointed and symbolic; something that will resonate with Islamic radicals world wide.  It is a victory monument.

Imam Rauf is the man behind it and extolled as a shining example of moderate Islam.  However, he is on record as not just supporting sharia (Islamic law) in the United States but also has blamed the U.S. for 9/11.   Rauf was also a backer of the Iranian Revolution back in 1978. that put the mullahs in power.  Dig around and you find he is another example of a “moderate Muslim” who says one thing here in the West and opposing things to his Arab audiences. 

It is a great pity the ignorance of the masses and willful wishes of the political class allows such people to operate without showing their true faces.  A lack of understanding that cultures can and often are completely different in goals and attitudes compounds this.

The mosque should be opposed using our 1st Amendment rights of free speech, but I reiterate the government should keep out of this.  Don’t get me started on the idiots wanting to burn the Koran for publicity purposes masquerading as free speech statements. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

The simple truth is that nine years ago I knew we were in a war that would last decades if not generations. That war still continues today and goes well beyond the shooting in Afghanistan.  It is a clash of incompatible cultures and those clashes never end prettily. Sometimes they never end; we have the examples of the Middle East and South Asia to illustrate that.  I don’t see an end in sight or even possible.