Friday, March 30, 2007

Ode To An American Zombie

You ravished child of God, true, ugly

No lips to mourn Arcadia lost

No skin that won’t curl and fall like leaves

Forever cold, forever man-shaped

Forever gone from human passion

A landscape, empty, a sky, empty

A waste, a constant woe, could you speak

Would you just curse, or curse and say, too

Life is corruption, corruption life

That’s all till God’s fire eats corruption

Thursday, March 29, 2007

My Favorite Cannibalism Song

Throw down all your silver spoons
Eat all the raw meat
With your hands

Pick it up piece by piece . . .
Pick it up piece by piece . . .

Where are the bodies for dinner?
I want my food!

What if you were starving to death
And the only food you had was me
What would you say to the cannibal question?
Would your answer be perfectly free?

Your mother told you never to eat your friends
With your fingers and hands
I say you ought to
Eat what you will
Shove it in your mouth any way that you can

You think that I will come to your mouth
Looking for a home
But I get stuck sideways in your throat
Like a Godot chicken bone

Where are the bodies for dinner?
I want my food!

Stay out the kitchen children
The cook is cleaning his rod
He just got back from the open market
Shooting his food on the run

Your mother told you never to eat your friends
With your fingers and hands
I say you ought to
Eat what you will
Shove it in your mouth any way that you can

Sharpen your teeth for the family feast
Let all the hungry drool roll down your chin
Hide the human and bring out the beast
Let all the animal games begin!

Where are the bodies for dinner?
I want my food!

You could learn to dine on your friends
Pour their bones into a cannibal soup
Muscles like steak blood like wine
Save the brains to be in the stew

Your mother told you never to eat your friends
With your fingers and hands
I say you ought to
Eat what you will
Shove it in your mouth any way that you can

Scarlet juices oozing slow
Boiling in the human steam
Is it human dinner we’re talking about?
Then slice me tender arm meat

Where are the bodies for dinner?
I want my food!

Oily fingers can hardly wait
Bodies are slumped facing the plate
Wake up the drunks the coffee’s on
Fourteenth courses have come and gone

So long
All day sucker
Your candy has come and gone
Happy to love you with your mouth wide open

Just keep coming
Cannibals all

Cannibals all!

Grace Slick
“Silver Spoon”

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Basic Zombie Plot

The basic zombie plot is very different from the basic plot of most horror films, and most films in general.

At their most basic, almost all plots are mysteries that people solve. Something happens. The hero or heroine attempts to figure out what happened and who is behind it. Then the hero or heroine attempts to figure out how to put things right. Personality and character are tested and revealed by how the hero or heroine figures out what’s going on and how he or she makes things right.

Zombie films are wildly different. Zombie films begin with the hero or heroine in a bad situation. Then the situation gets worse. Then the situation becomes still more horrible. Finally the situation becomes grotesquely unbearable. Personality and character are tested and revealed not by how the hero or heroine figures out things and solves things, but rather by how he or she reacts when confronted with the escalating chaos and hopelessness engulfing their world.

These are, at their root, philosophical differences and those philosophical roots are growing deep within religious soil.

Even though the basic elements of plots are seldom discussed by consumers of films, or even critics in the modern world, everyone still reacts at one level or another to the philosophy and religion implicit and unspoken within entertainment. And I think that’s why zombie films generate such passionate revulsion from some movie goers and such passionate engagement from fans.

In normal entertainment, normal plots, the basic unspoken philosophical assumptions are that we can know what is going on. We can figure out what is going on. There are individuals we can isolate as the cause of our problems. We can take meaningful action to make our problems go away. We can fix things and make the world right.

These beliefs are not axiomatically true beliefs. They are beliefs people choose to believe. They are philosophical beliefs that grow, flower, from various religious assumptions about the world around us.

These are expressions of the basic schism in the Christian world about the City of God. Is it Man’s job to create the City of God here on Earth and then Jesus will return and rule from that City? Or is it Man’s job to keep himself right with God until Jesus returns bringing with Him the City of God that He will then open to us?

Do the answers to our questions, the solutions to our problems, lie here, within and around us, or do the answers to our questions, the solutions to our problems, lie out there with God?

For the first two or three hundred years of Christianity, Christians looked to God. Then, for the next few hundred years Man turned his attention away from God and to this world and to men and women. Then the Reformation fractured the Christian world and nothing has been sorted out since.

Today Dominion Theology in its “official,” codified framework and throughout the secular and ‘mainstream’ religious Establishments still looks away from God and toward man, still works directly to build the City of God for Jesus. Other Evangelicals (without any official label but often identified as Premillennialists in general) acknowledge that Man cannot Save himself or this world and rather must always look to God, and it is God who will cleanse this world and deliver His City to men.

This conflict—unstated, unspoken, unlabeled—defines almost all art and entertainment. Sometimes it’s almost invisible even if you look for it. Sometimes it’s bluntly obvious.

The basic zombie plot makes things pretty plain. And the intense, emotional responses zombie films inspire—for better and worse—testify to the deep-seated place the conflict holds in all of us.

Premillennialism Wiki Page

Dominion Theology Wiki Page

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

My Favorite Zombie Movie

Return Of The Living Dead #3” isn’t just my favorite zombie movie, it is also one of my favorite films of all time.

This film was directed by Brian Yuzna and written by John Penney. The heroine is played by Melinda Clarke and the hero is J. Trevor Edmond. (Melinda Clarke, of course, later portrayed Lady Heather on “CSI.”)

George Romero’s genre-defining zombie films all have had a political subtext. Most clearly, “Dawn Of The Dead” was set in a shopping mall and we see repeated images of the zombies continuing to stagger through the motions of consumer life. “Day Of The Dead” presents military men at odds with scientists while ‘regular’ people just try to make it through the day. Direct-to-video, low-budget zombie films usually follow Romero’s example and at least pay lip service to using the genre to make some statement about zombies as externalizations of the political corruption defining society at large.

Return Of The Living Dead #3” comes out of the blue and pushes aside genre conventions by delivering a coming of age, Romeo-and-Juliet story! All the typical elements of a zombie film are in place but the entire focus of the story is on a young man and young woman trying to find their places in life, making choices and dealing with the consequences of their choices.

It’s a classic tragedy, told within the trappings of government, business and social corruption and, of course, cannibalism.

It’s a great film that does all those things avant garde cinema is supposed to do. There are things to think about. There is counter-point imagery challenging any thought process at all. There’s emotional content that is sometimes underscored and sometimes undercut. There is tension and resolution without fakery, tragedy without pathos, a challenging viewing experience that repays the effort by delivering a unique assemblage of—to use words of the zombie lexicon—chills and thrills.

And the ending makes me cry every time I see it.

My favorite zombie movie: “Return Of The Living Dead #3

“Return Of The Living Dead #3” Wiki Page

Monday, March 26, 2007

Rave To The Grave: Return Of The Living Dead #5

I’m talking about this movie today just because I watched it over the weekend and it was not nearly as bad as I anticipated.

Necropolis: Return Of The Living Dead #4” was not just a bad movie—it was so bad it wasn’t even fun, totally without value. Apparently “Rave To The Grave” was made at the same time as “Necropolis” by the same director with much of the same cast but only recently released. That’s a bad sign.

However, “Rave To The Grave” is reasonably fun. It’s a bad movie, don’t get me wrong, but at least it’s a fun bad movie.

The heroine, Aimee-Lynn Chadwick, has a Tara Reid-like kind of pretty, inoffensive charm.

The DVD cover art is pretty cool. The Kari Byron-looking girl in the cover art, sadly, never appears in the movie. Too bad, because Kari Byron as an almost naked zombie would have made the film even more fun . . .

The special effects are generally adequate. There are a couple of terrible effects. Unlike many zombie films, however, “Rave To The Grave” builds to a large, outdoor conclusion, so at least there aren’t endless scenes of zombies staggering through corridors.

If you’re a fan of zombie films and if you enjoy fun bad films, “Rave To The Grave” takes this franchise back to the energy and fun of “Return Of The Living Dead #1.”

Tomorrow: My Favorite Zombie Film

Friday, March 23, 2007

Tiny Purple Fishes Swim Laughing

You thought the leaden winter
Would bring you down forever
So you rode upon a steamer
To the violence of the sun . . .

The colors of the sea
Blind your eyes like trembling mermaids
You touch those distant beaches
With their tales of brave Ulysses
How his naked ears were tortured
By Sirens sweetly singing
Now sparkling waves are calling you
To kiss their white-laced lips . . .

You see a girl’s brown body
Dancing through the turquoise
Her footsteps make you follow
Where the sky loves the sea
When your fingers find her
She drowns you in her body
Carving deep blue ripples
In the tissues of your mind . . .

Tiny purple fishes
Swim laughing through your fingers
She wants to take you with her
To the heartland of the winter . . .

Her name is Aphrodite
She rides a crimson shell
You fear you cannot leave her
For you touched those distant sands
With their tales of brave Ulysses
How his naked ears were tortured
By Sirens sweetly singing . . .

Tiny purple fishes
Swim laughing through your fingers
She wants to take you with her
To the heartland of the winter . . .

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Sasquatch And Anime Girl, #4

Anime Girl

Oh, Sasquatch, a construction manager at the new Virgin suborbital tourist spaceport says that soon I must get used to hearing only wind in these trees, because his work crews will round up all the wildlife and relocate it to a nature preserve!


Breath deeply and be at peace, Anime Girl! If any men or women in jumpsuits try to round up me and take me away from you their manager will need an orbital spaceship to collect the pieces of them that I don’t bother to eat.

Anime Girl

Oh, Sasquatch, your jaws can rip through flesh and bone like a person bites through toast, but when I touch your cheek you shiver like a kitten purring. I love you, Sasquatch.


And I love you, Anime Girl. I love you.

Sasquatch And Anime Girl, #1

Sasquatch And Anime Girl, #2

Sasquatch And Anime Girl, #3

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Enslaved by the evil ferret King Agarnu and his daughter Princess Kurda—slavers of shackled hundreds—the brave squirrelmaid Triss, along with Shogg the otter and Welfo the hedgehog, plans a daring escape by sea.

At the same time, far away in Salamandastron, three young companions, Scarum the hare, Sagax the badger and Kroova the otter, are driven to sail away from their mountain home, too, but for a different reason: they are seeking the adventures of their lives! Something far from family and home.

And in Mossflower Woods, a pair of wandering Dibbuns accidentally discovers the long-lost entrance to Brockhall, the most ancient hall of the Badger Lords.

The journeyers could not seem more remote from one another in pursuit or kind. Yet fate relentlessly draws them together when, in her flight from Kurda, Triss happens upon Redwall, and the abbey creatures discover a new hero in her. Someone brave enough to carry the sword of Martin and face the evil that threatens them.

Jacket copy from Triss
by Brian Jacques

I haven’t read all the Redwall novels. I read the first one, and one or two others. This is the fifteenth [!] book in the series.

The Redwall novels always make me think of the Tolkien novels and the American novel “Mrs. Frisby And The Rats Of NIMH.” (“Mrs. Frisby And The Rats of NIMH” isn’t just my favorite talking animal novel, it’s one of my favorite books of all time.) But Brian Jacques writes without the heavy, portentous seriousness of those books. The Redwall novels are fun adventures. Bad things happen, but there seldom is the shadow of an all-encompassing doom looming over the story. I don’t like to compare books and films, but in this case I think the tone of the Redwall books can best be compared to the original release of the first ‘Star Wars’ film, before that saga got all complicated and dark with the ‘I am your father’ crap.

I’m reading “Triss” just because I liked the sound of, ‘the brave squirrelmaid Triss.’

I like brave squirrelmaids. But I haven’t met a brave squirrelmaid for a long time. Until a brave squirrelmaid comes my way again, this novel will have to do.

Redwall Wiki Page

Redwall Official Site

Redwall Wikia

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Gloomy Bear

I understand that you began designing Gloomy Bear on postcards. Where did Gloomy Bear come from?

When I was a retained illustrator for a recruitment magazine, I was asked to draw a little girl holding a cute bear. I did it because it was my job, but I was thinking, “Bears aren’t really cute and cuddly...” and I doodled a small picture of a bear attacking a boy on the side. This eventually became Gloomy.

What is the story of Gloomy Bear? What is the message of this character?

If anyone really ran into a bear, they’d be terrified, right? If a real bear wandered into town, it would probably be shot. But in stuffed animal form, bears somehow become cute and cuddly. The same bear that we’d usually fear and kill. I convey the humor in this contradiction. There’s also the unfortunate fact that animals age faster than humans. I’ve always had pet dogs and cats, but they’ve all died. When the boy Pity finds Gloomy, he was still a baby bear. Another message I want to convey is that abusing animals is just as bad as abusing children who are unable to defend themselves. There are many messages within the Gloomy story and I can’t name them all, but each reader will probably understand it in his own way, which is the best way.

Mori Chack
quoted inI Am Plastic: The Designer Toy Explosion

Mori Chack’s Wiki Page

Gloomy Bear Net

Monday, March 19, 2007

RIP Brad Delp (June 12, 1951 – March 9, 2007)

I woke up this morning and the sun was gone
Turned on some music to start my day
I lost myself in a familiar song
I closed my eyes and I slipped away ...

It's more than a feeling (More than a feeling)
When I hear that old song
    they used to play (More than a feeling)
I begin dreaming (More than a feeling)
Till I see Marianne walk away
I see my Marianne walking away

So many people have come and gone
Their faces fade as the years go by
Yet I still recall as I wander on
As clear as the sun in the summer sky ...

It's more than a feeling (More than a feeling)
When I hear that old song
    they used to play (More than a feeling)
I begin dreaming (More than a feeling)
Till I see Marianne walk away
I see my Marianne walking away ...

When I'm tired and thinking cold
I hide in my music, forget the day
And dream of a girl I used to know
I closed my eyes
And she slipped away ... (She slipped away)

It's more than a feeling (More than a feeling)
When I hear that old song
    they used to play (More than a feeling)
I begin dreaming (More than a feeling)
Till I see Marianne walk away
I see my Marianne walking away ...

Brad Delp's Wiki Page

Tom Scholz Remembers Brad Delp

Brad Delp’s suicide note: I am a lonely soul

Tom Scholz Wiki Page

BOSTON Wiki Page

Friday, March 16, 2007

Surfacing Like Well The Loch Ness Monster

For the last few days thoughts of the Loch Ness monster

have been surfacing like well the Loch Ness monster

surfacing making an appearance then going

leaving nothing but the memory of a sighting

going without context and without evidence

except for this imperative to write these words

but it’s a deep imperative itself rising

from depths within me even deeper than Loch Ness

and were this imperative a Scottish monster

it would surface and it would look south toward Ireland

and it would say, “Happy Saint Patrick’s Day, Brenda!”

Thursday, March 15, 2007

“A Most Excellent Philosophy”

There was a crash of splintering wood as the prow of the enemy rammed the Gregory galley amidships. Already listing crazily, she careened to the impact; and as the water poured over her port gunwale, she began to sink, leaving her passengers floundering in the river and her slaves screaming in their chains; then the other galleys moved in to pick up the survivors.

D’Arnot and Helen were dragged into the galley farthest up stream, which immediately set out for Ashair. The other members of the party had drifted down stream before they were finally picked up by a second galley. Tarzan had swum beside Magra, encouraging and supporting her, while Gregory, Lavac, and Ogabi remained nearby. Night was falling, and it would soon be dark in the narrow gorge. When they were in the craft, they saw that Thetan was already there, having been picked up before they were; but Helen and d’Arnot were not there; and the boat in which they were prisoners was out of sight around a bend in the river.

“Did you see anything of Helen?” asked Gregory, but no one had.

“I could almost wish that she drowned,” he added. “God! Why did I ever undertake this stupid venture?”

“It would have been better had we all drowned,” said Thetan. “There is no hope for those who fall into the hands of the Asharians.”

“All that has happened to us so far,” said Tarzan, “is that we have gotten wet. Wait until something really bad happens before you give up hope.”

“But look at what lies ahead of us!” exclaimed Lavac.

“I do not know what lies ahead of us, and neither do you,” the ape-man reminded him; “therefore we might as well anticipate the best as the worst.”

“A most excellent philosophy,” commented Gregory, “but a strain on one’s credulity.”

“I think it is good,” said Magra.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


I’m not a pet person (except for Sea Monkeys, as in “Science” and “Cryptobiosis”). But if I were to attempt to keep pets, I’d try an AquaBabies container.

Unlike a full aquarium, an AquaBabies container is small and requires no air pump to be plugged in and chugging away constantly. Although the container is small, it attempts to create a reasonably complete eco-system inside. There is active gravel, with microbes breaking down waste products. There is a plant adding some oxygen to the water. There is a snail eating away at some of the growth that will form on the inside walls. And, of course, there are a couple of little fish.

There is no filter to maintain. In fact, the only maintenance is to feed the fish every couple of days, change a portion of the water now and then, and once or twice a year clean the inside walls.

The only thing that troubles me is that it is a very small container. Even though the fish are small, too, I wonder what kind of life the fish experience never being able to cut loose and swim a long distance or swim very fast.

I’m giving AquaBabies some thought. If I take the plunge and invest in an AquaBabies container and pets, I’ll post further. I’m thinking of getting an AquaBabies container with a couple of Cherry Barbs or White Clouds.* If I do, they could become this blog’s mascots . . .

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

* As I said, I’m not a pet person. When I was in high school, I had a five or ten gallon aquarium with neon tetras and angel fish. One morning getting ready for school I accidentally bumped against the little heater that kept the water warm. (This was in Chicago. Even indoors gets cold in the winter.) So I went off to school without realizing the heater was cranked up and later I got a call to report to the dean’s office. My mom was calling from home. She told me she had to unplug the heater because the aquarium was actually boiling and all the fish were dead. It was a pretty horrible scene when I got home, all those poor fish. (At least with an AquaBabies container if I screw up I won’t be committing mass murder . . .)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Real Life Shapeshifting

The quest for the biological roots of violence—and there may be others besides serotonin and noradrenaline—draws on a wide variety of research, including studies of insects, monkeys, reproduction, and heart disease, in addition to brain chemistry.

None provides a more vivid example of the environmental-genetic link to violent aggression than the Grand Canyon Tiger Salamander, nature’s version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

The salamanders live in ponds along an isolated rim of the Grand Canyon. When water and food are plentiful, the salamander is in its Dr. Jekyll form—a gregarious, peace-loving insect eater. But when the water begins to dry up, food becomes scarce and living conditions become unbearably cramped. Then some of the salamanders go through an amazing Mr. Hyde transformation.

Environmental pressures rapidly alter the function of some of their genes, creating changes in their physical shape and making them aggressive. Muscles enlarge to make their heads and mouths bigger and they grow a new set of huge teeth, adaptations that allow them to attack and eat other salamanders.

They become cannibals, but only for a short time. Once they’ve gobbled up enough salamanders to reduce crowding, they turn back into Dr. Jekylls. Their heads shrink to normal size, their cannibal teeth disappear, and they dine on insects again.

Ronald Kotulak
Inside The Brain

These paragraphs also are quoted
where I first saw them, in:

Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, And Survival
T. S. Wiley, with Bent Formby, Ph.D.

Monday, March 12, 2007

“Will Slime Molds Take Over Our Moon, Now?”

The last sphere having been planted he reflexively gathered up the empty carton and the small shovel, started toward the ship.

Following, Annette said, “Will slime molds take over our moon, now?” It occurred to her that perhaps this was part of Terra’s plan for conquest. But the idea did not ring right; this man had all the appearances of someone working in stealth alone. It was too much a Pare-like idea for her.

“You could do a lot worse,” Rittersdorf said laconically. He disappeared into the ship; after hesitating she went in after him, blinking in the bright overhead light.

There on a counter lay her lead-slug pistol; she had put it down when she was involved in filling the container with water.

Picking up the pistol Rittersdorf inspected it, then turned to her with a peculiar expression, almost a grin, on his face. “Yours?”

“Yep,” she said, humiliated. She held out her hand, hoping he would give it back. However he did not. “Oh please,” she said. “It’s mine and I laid it down because I was trying to help; you know that.”

He studied her a long, long time. And then handed her the pistol.

“Thank you.” She felt gratitude. “I’ll remember you did that.”

Philip K. Dick
Clans Of The Alphane Moon

Friday, March 09, 2007

Jack Chick

I don’t want to let a week about comics end without at least mentioning Jack Chick.

If you ask average comic book fans what company is the most influential comic book publisher in the world and what artist is the most influential comic book artist in the world, they’d probably say something like Marvel Comics or maybe Dark Horse, and they’d probably say somebody like Frank Miller or maybe Alex Ross. But measured against almost any criteria outside comic book fandom the correct answers would be Chick Publications and Jack Chick.

The special irony in this is that many comic book fans never even have heard of Jack Chick.

Jack Chick is almost unknown to comic book fans because instead of using his skills and resources to spread the unrelentingly depressing existential nihilism that is entrenched as something like religion in the modern comics world, Chick is an Evangelical Christian and since 1970 has been creating comics which promote the Sola scriptura, ‘Born Again’ Christian approach to Jesus.

Jack Chick creates those pamphlets, tracts, people always see scattered about.

Millions of people all around the world have come to Jesus through their exposure to the Gospel in Chick’s tracts. Unlike many preachers, Chick doesn’t promote this or that committee’s understanding of religion. He preaches Christianity as he understands it. He almost always lets the Gospel speak for itself, using comics to create an appropriate context for the Word.

Sadly, Chick’s zealous passion for Evangelical Christianity has allowed him to fall prey to almost every bizarre anti-Catholic conspiracy theory that has ever existed in the Protestant world. Among many Catholics, Chick is known not for his great work at helping lost souls find Jesus, but for the comics he has created encouraging people to separate themselves from all things Catholic. In the Catholic world, Chick has been so influential at turning young people away from Catholicism that the Church has mobilized against him.

Chick has created, all by himself, a fuss almost as big in the religious world as the EC Comics scare was back in the Fredric Wertham days. In our day which idolizes rebels, one would think this alone might have made Chick famous. But pop culture almost never shines a spotlight on a Christian rebel. (Unless he’s a bona fide nut like David Koresh.)

But Jack Chick’s career is a great example of the power of comics. He is one guy working alone—or with one or two ghost artists—and he has created a movement that has influenced millions.

That’s pretty cool.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Captain America Has Been Cut Down By A Sniper

“In a telephone interview yesterday, Marvel Comics editor in chief Joe Quesada dismissed suggestions that Captain America’s demise was staged to boost sales.”

Superhero’s death stuns the faithful
Don Aucoin and Joseph P. Kahn, Globe Staff | March 8, 2007

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Is Paris Hilton A Superhero?

Well, she has a cool pink uniform (and a sidekick, Tinkerbelle!). But having a signature outfit, a “look,” in and of itself certainly doesn’t make you a superhero. I don’t think many people would wonder if Tom Wolfe might be a superhero or not.

I am going to consider Paris Hilton as a possible superhero in one particular context.

Modern comics allow for supervillains who are complex, if tragically flawed, human beings. (I’m thinking here of “Lex Luthor: Man Of Steel” as the pinnacle of modern comics.) However, modern comics present superheroes as, typically, one dimensional and, often, not human at all. But superheroes exist not just in comic books. Superheroes got their start in literature with characters like Hercules and Beowulf in ancient texts and characters like Zorro and the Scarlet Pimpernel in more modern books.

I want to discuss Paris Hilton as a superhero in the context of the novel “Atlas Shrugged”.

“Atlas Shrugged,” in its own terms, is a grand-scale, operatic—that is, comic book-like—story of a smart, creative, energetic and good-hearted young man named John Galt who becomes disgusted with the oppression and corruption of the modern world. Instead of retreating into a Holden Caulfield-like funk, John Galt resolves to change the world. One by one, Galt identifies other people like himself—the smart, creative, energetic and good-hearted “movers and shakers” in the world—and talks philosophy with them. They come to see that by participating in the modern world they are enabling the oppression and corruption to continue and expand. So, one by one, the movers-and-shakers decide to withdraw, to stop participating, to go “on strike.” They go off by themselves and disappear from their normal lives in the world at large, leaving oppressive and corrupt people to fend for themselves, to turn against themselves and destroy each other. (There are also romantic entanglements and a convoluted religious sub-text but those are incidental to the larger events.)

John Galt’s best friend in the novel is a character named Francisco d’Anconia. Francisco has been described this way:

The wealthy and accomplished Francisco is a profoundly intelligent and highly successful man whose whole life is a paradox. He was the first man to join Galt’s strike and serves as its recruiter, living in two worlds as he tries to bring others over to the strikers’ side. Although he is a brilliant businessman, he deliberately destroys d’Anconia Copper and brings down the fortunes of many others with it. And although he has only ever loved Dagny, he plays the part of a promiscuous playboy as a cover for his real activities. He is enthusiastic and benevolent, although much of his strike-related activities cause others, especially Dagny and Rearden, to feel he is mocking and untrustworthy. Francisco has a profound effect on Rearden, whom he genuinely loves, even while knowing Rearden is Dagny’s lover. He serves as Rearden’s protector, arming him with the moral certainty he needs to battle the looters. He seems to appear at Rearden’s side when he is needed most, and saves his life in the mill riots.

“Francisco’s commitment to the strike is absolute, but he suffers a great deal for it. First, he must give up Dagny and allow her to view him as depraved and worthless. Later, he must endure Rearden’s hatred as well, when he is forced to betray him in a copper deal. And he must continually work to destroy the company his family built for generations. But the suffering is worth the price for him, because he is sure that he is right. Eventually, Dagny and Rearden come to understand and admire him, and the strike he devotes his life to works as planned.”

Rather than just withdrawing from the world, Francisco allows himself to appear as exactly what the oppressive and corrupt people of the world want him to be—a tool, a fool to be exploited. However, Francisco uses his skills to manipulate the oppressive and corrupt people themselves so that their machinations repeatedly crush their own enterprises and lead them again and again into greater and greater ruin.

Now, I am certainly not saying Paris Hilton is making a career of undermining the Hilton empire to prevent looters from exploiting it. I am not saying Paris is Francisco. But I am saying the example of Francisco’s “creative destruction” provides an intriguing backdrop against which to view the absurd, pop culture wreckage around Paris Hilton.

Characters like Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan began their public careers within the Disney empire. They were constructed and manipulated creations. They were designed and crafted to strip-mine money from children and adults foolish enough to believe in the Disney creations, or in such desperate denial about reality that they elected to believe in the Disney creations.

Paris put an end to that. Partying with Paris, characters like Britney and Lindsay revealed themselves to be all too human, revealed the Disney reality for the bogus sham it always has been. As sad as it may be seeing the real human beings behind the characters like Britney and Lindsay suffering personal tribulations, the destruction of the false images the pop culture industry had built around them was a genuine service to the world at large.

Shattering the Disney facade was a good deed. It was a good deed on a grand, operatic, comic-book-like scale. It was the kind of good deed a superhero would do.

Paris Hilton’s career, seen as repeated exercises in creative destruction after the fashion of Francisco d’Anconia, is consistent with what the career of a modern superhero might look like.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Is Paris Hilton A Supervillain?

Danny Bonaduce thinks so: “She's like Typhoid Mary. She carries the infection, but it doesn't affect her. Everybody she befriends ends up in rehab. Not her!

Judged against yesterday’s seven characteristics of supervillains Paris Hilton’s public image certainly measures up to some of the requirements. As an heiress to the generations-old global Hilton business empire Paris has access to vast wealth and power. And anyone who reads newspapers or watches TV or surfs the web knows Paris’s desire for publicity and fame is unbounded.

But what about the mentality of a supervillain? The sense of victimhood. The “wound” from which there is no recovery. At first glance the public image of Paris Hilton is remarkably free of shadows and real or imagined pathos. But it is possible to look more closely. A closer look reveals some intriguing inconsistencies and contradictions within Paris’s public image.

I’m going to put up a few quotes from Paris Hilton’s book, “Confessions Of An Heiress,” written with Merle Ginsberg. Of course, it’s impossible to say how much of this book Paris wrote and how much is the work of her co-author. But I looked for little things—attitudes and expressions of character—rather than specific facts or specific opinions. These in-passing glimpses strike me as the kind of insertions Paris herself may have contributed to the book. And they strike me as quite revealing.

  • For instance, on page 103, Paris discusses how much she enjoys having fun. “I like to have fun in almost any form. That is truly what being an heiress is all about. After all, hasn’t it been said that having fun is the best revenge?

    Having fun as “revenge” is an interesting justification. It’s all the more interesting because Paris never elaborates on who she is getting revenge on, or what she is getting revenge for. Righteous revenge is simply implicit to Paris’s thinking. Is that an expression of a “wound” from which she’ll never recover?

  • On page 5, Paris discusses sin and something worse. “There is no sin worse in life than being boring—and nothing worse than letting other people tell you what to do.

    First, Paris doesn’t say the worst sin is being “bored,” she says the worst sin is being “boring.” But she doesn’t say what group or type of person she is afraid of appearing boring to, or why their opinion not only drives her but shapes her very being. Second, Paris says that even worse than that—worse than the worst sin—is letting people tell you what to do. But here, as throughout the book, Paris provides no examples of anyone even trying to tell her what to do. What could have happened to her, and when, to have shaped her character this way, defined her by fear of ever taking direction from others coupled to the imperative to always appear “not boring” to others?

  • On page 24, Paris discusses her childhood with her younger sister Nicky. “When we were little, we’d fight over silly stuff—like if I would swear, she’d tell my mom. That made me so mad. I had to teach her not to tell. I would pull her aside and explain that it was us against them, that we two girls were a team.

    I note that Paris says “my mom” and not “our mom,” but what really strikes me here is that even as a child Paris was thinking of her life as “us against them.” Not her and Nicky against their mother. Paris uses the plural, “us against them.” And, like her desire for undefined revenge or the undefined “others” she wants to appease without obeying, Paris never tells us who the “them” refers to.

Contradictions reveal that people are either lying to us or to themselves. Or both. And blunt, bald-faced lying reveals a lot about a person’s charcter.

  • On page 20, Paris begins her discussion of her sister Nicky. “I was never jealous of Nicky after she was born. I was happy to have someone close.” But then, on page 29, Paris recounts, “Nicky’s godfather, Parviz, was my dad’s best friend. He would always give her a hundred dollars on her birthday. (Where was my hundred dollars?) I soon realized that if I got a toy Nicky wanted, I could sell it to her for the hundred dollars! She was sooo young and looked up to me, so she went along with it. Then I’d buy another toy for myself and keep her money.

    Paris wasn’t jealous of Nicky, except when she was. And they were “a team” except when Paris wanted Nicky’s money.

  • On page 137, Paris discusses the ethics of lying to men. “Try to be as honest as you can because you’ll always end up getting caught if you lie. They can tell when you’re lying. It’s been said that women have a sixth sense, but men have excellent intuition when it comes to girls lying to them. (I’ve learned my lesson the hard way on that one.) If they think you’ve lied, chances are they won’t trust you again.” But then, on page 140, Paris writes, “Always have a list of good backup guys in your head, and when you spot one of them—even if you’re with your boyfriend—smile at him with the look of “Who knows? You could be next.” He’ll get it. Just don’t get caught. And if you do, deny it. Heiresses are very good liars when they have to be.

    First, Paris recommends not lying not because it’s wrong but simply because “you’ll always end up getting caught.” Second, she recommends lying anyway.

But possibly the most interesting contradiction in “Confessions Of An Heiress” turns a spotlight directly on Danny Bonaduce’s issue with the people around Paris wrecking their lives.

  • On page 87, Paris discusses partying. “When I see people in embarrassing situations, I never laugh at them, because I always feel really bad for them. I know how they feel.” But on page 86, Paris had just written, “At parties, everyone always thinks I’m drinking—but actually I rarely drink. I live on energy drinks, basically. I LOVE Vitamin Water. I have cases in my house. I drink energy drinks and Vitamin Water all night. That’s how I manage to stay up late and never smudge my makeup or mess up my hair. ... But it doesn’t bother me when my friends drink. I think it’s fun to watch people who are wasted. It’s weird, to watch it all. You really read people a lot better. It’s funny to watch people and realize how dumb they look.

    Paris doesn’t “laugh at” people wrecking their lives. But she has “weird” “fun” “reading” people as they wreck their lives.


The purpose of these excerpts isn’t to prove Paris Hilton is a supervillain. Rather they are indications of a depth to her psyche, shadows not normally seen in her public image. And they are consistent with the mental characteristics of a supervillain, the mentality of victimhood along with the solipsistic selfishness of the supervillain against the world.


Tomorrow I will look at an altogether more complicated question. Having considered the supervillain role, I will consider the opposite. Tomorrow I will discuss, Is Paris Hilton A Superhero?

Monday, March 05, 2007

Seven Characteristics Of A Supervillain

  1. The supervillain has a selfish, antisocial mission. The supervillain seeks something—typically wealth or power, but often fame or infamy in addition—that will serve his interests and not those of others or the larger culture.

  2. Supervillains are superior to the ordinary authorities. They have cunning, genius, resources, powers or extraordinary abilities that render the ordinary agents of the social order helpless to stop them, or at least put the authorities at a distinct disadvantage.

  3. The supervillain’s dream reaches far beyond the acquisitive scheme of the ordinary crook. The supervillain is an artist whose medium is crime.

  4. The supervillain’s mania is what raises him above the common person and above the common criminal. It is this mania that permits the supervillain to view the epic criminal acts as art or as analogous to great accomplishments in other fields and also to accomplish (or nearly accomplish, as he is almost always stopped by the hero) his great scheme.

  5. The supervillain’s selfishness is absolute, solipsistic. He sees himself as the center of existence.

  6. This self-aggrandizement arises from a sense of victimhood, from a wound that the supervillain never recovers from.

  7. The supervillain’s wound prompts him to monologue, to sit the hero down—whether to dinner or in a death trap—and tell his story.

The Supervillain Book
Edited by Gina Misiroglu and Michael Eury

Tomorrow: Is Paris Hilton A Supervillain?

Friday, March 02, 2007

Happy Birthday Theodor Geisel!

Today is the birthday of Dr. Seuss! (Theodor Seuss Geisel, March 2, 1904 – September 24, 1991) Also, this year “The Cat In The Hat” is celebrating it’s fiftieth birthday.

I learned to read with Dr. Seuss. I’d sit in my Mom’s lap and she’d read the stories and point at the words. We’d do the same stories over and over and, soon enough, I’d be able to say the words by myself. I was one of those kids who could read before he even got to school, and I owe it all to Dr. Seuss. (And, I guess, my Mom.)

The coolest learning-to-read story I know is Richard Brautigan. His mother would take him shopping with her and he would look at the labels on packages of food. He learned to read by matching the kinds of food in the pictures to the lettering on the packages.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Mandelbrot Flirt

“Stop looking at me that way,” she said.

He’d heard it before. He said, “What way?”

She said, “Don’t tell me it’s all just play.
Undressing me with your eyes instead
of ripping fabric and tearing thread
still’s violence if I don’t say you may.”

Conversation’s a fractal display
with deep patterns inside to be read.

He said, “Sorry for my deception.
I’m not going to make up some lies.
Maybe we both can work out a plan.”

He phrased his desire as a question.
May I take off your clothes with my eyes?”

She giggled. And she said, “Yeah, you can.”