Wednesday, February 13, 2002

Once upon a time, I WAS this guy:
"...This is hardly the only belief of yours with which I take extreme umbrage. I find particularly laughable your na´ve conviction that Hal's vulnerability to the color yellow damages the comic's storyline rather than adding excitement. Are you intentionally trying to miss the point with comments like, 'You would just have to shoot him with a yellow bullet'? Jumping fish hooks, how many times do I have to explain: NO, he can't use the actual BEAM to stop such a bullet, but he can GRASP solid things with it to use as a shield! And this is just one example! Think creatively, Douglas, or at least consult the Silver Age issues."

This is neither the time or the place, but one day I've got to exhume my circa-1976 correspondence files and post some of the self-righteously pissed-off letters I used to dash off very nearly every month -- sometimes under multiple false identities when I really wanted to drive home my aesthetic point! -- to the befuddled Legion Of Super-Heroes then-editor Murray Boltinoff.

(Anyone out there in the blogosphere remember the introduction of Tyroc -- Murray's misconceived effort to add racial diversity to a cast of characters which already included an assortment of unselfconsciouly green-, orange- and blue-hued super-heroes? Shortly after the patently offensive -- and quickly written-off -- character's debut, no fewer than three of my incensed alter-egos' critical LOCs were excerpted in the letter column! The poor man never knew what hit him...)

UPDATE: Test your Tyroc IQ here! Gee, I'd completely, mercifully forgetten that Tyroc's super-powers included the ability to make trees sprout tentacle-wings by shouting "IRRRRWWWW" at them. (I'm not making this up, you know.)

HOLD ME! TOUCH ME! The New York Times profiles Broadway's new Max Bialystock, the versatile British actor Henry Goodman. (Thanks to Gary Farber for the heads-up!)

Tuesday, February 12, 2002

QUICK THOUGHTS In the aftermath of Bush's "axis of evil" State of the Union address, one school of thought -- granted, one which is not gaining a whole lot of traction anywhere that matters -- is that "The world now thinks the U.S. has lost its mind." So says former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, anyway. Writing for the Toronto Sun, columnist Eric Margolis declares, on behalf of our wobbly allies, that Albright is "dead right."

In response, my esteemed colleague William Quick dredges up this unsettling visual image:

"This would carry a lot more weight with me if I could just get out of my head the picture of Albright wobbling and jiggling as she frantically rushed after Yassar Arafat to beg him to return to the bargaining table in Paris.

Okay. Call me an Albright Apologist if you wish. Cry to the rooftops that the Clinton administration spent its last ounce of political capital coddling terrorists, if you must.

But critics of the previous administration's foreign policy must understand that we can only now declare Arafat irrelevant precisely because Clinton and Albright already gave him every possible opportunity to rise to the challenge of playing Statesman and Peacemaker.

Had Albright not dragged Arafat back to the table, kicking and screaming -- so that he could later respond to Barak's "97% compromise" offer with Intifada II -- Powell would not now be in a position to give Israel carte blanche to defend its borders by any means necessary.

Where are we now? Arafat sits under de facto house arrest, and Israel's strategy appears to be that he will remain there until he names a successor. And yet, there's hardly a peep of outrage in the "Arab Street." The Palestinian sympathist opinion-makers may grumble at the margins, but they, too, know that Arafat is finished. That sea-change would not yet have begun to take place, except that Clinton-Albright forced him to the negotiating table where he could either succeed or fail spectacularly.

In short -- block this metaphor! -- the Bush-Powell foreign policy can successfully consign Arafat to the ash heap of history because the Clinton-Albright policy was to give him enough rope by which to hang himself. At least give them that much credit.

UPDATE: I completely glossed over the rest of Eric Margolis's anti-American screed, dismissing it as unworthy of the time it would take to properly skewer. Fortunately, Rand Simberg had no such reservations.

Monday, February 11, 2002

YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK: I wish this had turned out to be just another stupid Internet hoax, like the often-rumored pending tax on e-mail or the latest nonexistent missing child. But apparently, this is legit. Reports the tireless James Randi:

"The US Department of Energy's Office of Environmental Management (DOE) has now bypassed the required peer-review process and spent $408,750 of our tax money field-testing a "pollution-detection device" that relies on "the ability of a human operator to sense changes in magnetic fields."

In other words, a high-tech dowsing rod. Randi continues:

Gerald Boyd, the deputy assistant secretary for Environmental Management's Office of Science and Technology (OST), says that they often perform field tests of off-the-shelf technology but that in most cases, the product has already undergone substantive testing and peer review elsewhere. ... It's unusual, Boyd says, for the department to field-test such an "immature" technology.

How about for "useless" technology, Mr. Boyd? "This is an anomaly," he says.

James Randi deserves sainthood for the good work he is doing, exposing fraud and ignorance, week in and week out, always with a sense of humor. (F'rinstance, if I were to mention to his face that he deserves sainthood, he'd doubtless just rattle off a dozen historical instances of real, canonized saints whose "miracles" were ultimately exposed as either stagecraft magic or amazingly effective P.R. -- and then feign being insulted to have been lumped in with the likes of them.)