The River

Friday, February 27, 2009

Jack "King" Kirby Interview

From the interview: "I began to ask myself, everybody else has their gods, what are ours? What is the shape of our society, in the form of myth and legend? Who are our gods? Who are our evil gods and who are our good ones?

...I'm a guy who lives with a lot of questions, and I find that entertaining. If my life were to end tomorrow, it would be fulfilled in that manner. I would say, "the questions have been terrific."

Jack Kirby, a Comic Book Genius, Is Finally Remembered

By BRENT STAPLES, The New York Times

Published: August 26, 2007

The fear of being forgotten after death is endemic in the creative arts. In the case of the iconic comic book artist Jack Kirby, it happened while he was still alive. By the 1960s, Mr. Kirby had already revolutionized the comic book business more than once. Working as principal artist and in-house genius for Marvel, he created a voice and an aesthetic unmatched by any other company.

Marvel took his talents for granted and denied him the credit and compensation he clearly deserved. Worse, he was overshadowed by his loquacious and photogenic collaborator, Stan Lee, who became the public face of an enterprise that depended heavily on Mr. Kirby’s skills.

Mr. Kirby eventually quit, leaving behind characters like the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men and the Silver Surfer, and ending what was easily the most fruitful collaboration in comic book history. His long and ugly battle with Marvel over the rights to his original artwork galvanized the artistic community and raised his public profile.

Still, by the time of his death in 1994, he was clearly worried that Mr. Lee would eclipse him in public memory and that history would deny him the recognition he deserved for breathing life into a collection of universally recognized superheroes who would eventually become movie stars.

History was late to the party, but it finally arrived. Thanks to renewed interest in Mr. Kirby’s work — and shout-outs from novelists like Michael Chabon and Jonathan Lethem — he is more widely known today than he was in the 1960s. Back then, those of us who read him haunted newsstands and drugstores, ripping each new issue right out of the deliveryman’s hands. Two books, including a long-awaited biography, are in the works, and the reprint industry is threatening to resurrect everything Mr. Kirby ever produced.

He was introduced to a broader public just last month when the United States Postal Service issued 20 stamps depicting Marvel characters. The images seemed deliberately chosen to maximize Marvel’s marketing opportunities. Even so, Mr. Kirby is credited on eight of the stamps and could have been credited on several more. After all, he did at least some work on nearly every major character Marvel produced.

Mr. Kirby did a lot more than just draw. As the critic Gary Groth so ably put it in The Comics Journal Library, “He barreled like a freight train through the first 50 years of comic books like he owned the place.” He mastered and transformed all the genres, including romance, Westerns, science fiction and supernatural comics, before he landed at Marvel.

He created a new grammar of storytelling and a cinematic style of motion. Once-wooden characters cascaded from one frame to another — or even from page to page — threatening to fall right out of the book into the reader’s lap. The force of punches thrown was visibly and explosively evident. Even at rest, a Kirby character pulsed with tension and energy in a way that makes movie versions of the same characters seem static by comparison.

The frenetic action and the rooftop fighting so common on the superhero set did not just materialize out of nowhere. Mr. Kirby remembered much of it from his Depression-era youth on New York’s Lower East Side, where, he once told an interviewer, the incessant fights among rival gangs were often staged up and down fire escapes and during running battles across tenement rooftops.

In a recent interview, his friend and biographer Mark Evanier described Mr. Kirby as a man so obsessed with giving voice to the characters that he had to give up just about everything else. He put aside driving, Mr. Evanier said, because he became so distracted that he would sometimes run off the road. Once he got a book plotted in his head he’d sit at the drafting table around the clock if necessary. With a fixation like that, he easily outproduced even his most prolific contemporaries.

With interest in Mr. Kirby growing — and his characters already marching across the screen — a movie of his life is clearly in order. Properly handled, the film could give an abused and neglected genius his full due while offering a fascinating glimpse into one of the most vibrant and creative eras in pop cultural history.

Posted on YouTube:
"I love Kirby, and we owe him more than words can say. He was just a working class joe trying to put food on the table. In the process, he tapped into the primordial Force that drives human dream and imagination, which are defining features of humanity itself. He was a force of nature - a shaman, a showman, and a Sherpa. "

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Special Prosecutor for Bush, Cheney, and DOJ Attorneys

February 24, 2009

*Statement on Prosecution of Former High Officials *

We urge Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a non-partisan independent Special Counsel to immediately commence a prosecutorial investigation into the most serious alleged crimes of former President George W. Bush, former Vice President Richard B. Cheney, the attorneys formerly employed by the Department of Justice whose memos sought to justify torture, and other former top officials of the Bush Administration.

Our laws, and treaties that under Article VI of our Constitution are the supreme law of the land, require the prosecution of crimes that strong evidence suggests these individuals have committed. Both the former president and the former vice president have confessed to authorizing a torture procedure that is illegal under our law and treaty obligations. The former president has confessed to violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

We see no need for these prosecutions to be extraordinarily lengthy or costly, and no need to wait for the recommendations of a panel or “truth” commission when substantial evidence of the crimes is already in the public domain. We believe the most effective investigation can be conducted by a prosecutor, and we believe such an investigation should begin immediately.

Drafted by The Robert Jackson Steering Committee

[via Listics where Frank Paynter has a list of signatories.]

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Monday, February 23, 2009

Financial fiasco made easy

To enjoy this slide show, click on the rectangular box in the upper righthand corner (it has a smaller white rectangle inside it). This will enlarge the piece to full screen. To get back to The River, click on the "x" in the upper righthand corner.

subprime works

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Lansing, Michigan Mayor Virg Bernero provides the working man's perspective on the Wall Street bailout and the war on unions and workers. This is how it's done. Ignore the premises of mouthpieces, ignore them when they try to interrupt, and say what you have to say, until all they can say is, alright, alright (or "shut up" "shut up" in Bill O'Reilly's case), and cut your mic.

Another writer to peruse in full when I retire

After plucking The Nature of Generosity by William Kittredge (Knopf, 2000) off the shelf in the home office (yes, when working from home I have the Internet AND old fashioned print to distract me), I opened in the middle and started reading, including the bellow excerpt.

Could have been written yesterday, but then wisdom doesn't have a sell-by date. Also odd that it fit in with the comment in a recent letter from a friend that we're all overloaded with information. Well, here's a bit more. I hope it makes you feel less info-stressed, as only quality and discernment can.

Preindustrial cultures ran on human energies; ours runs on internal combustion engines, telephones, fax machines, aircraft that can’t be flown without help of computer chips, not to mention simple electrical circuits. The walled cities Annick and I walked through in Europe were illuminated by electric lamps unimaginable to the founders. Bankers in Burundi stay in hour-to-hour touch with the London exchange by messages sent via satellite. Meanwhile, just upriver in the jungles, Japanese loggers level the ancient forests and displace tribal peoples who have lived in them for millennia, and these people then move to the teeming coastal cities, where their purposes and cultures often dissolve in acrid homelessness.

The First World and the Third World coexist in Jakarta and Manila, Tokyo and Cairo, Mexico City and Berlin, Sao Paulo and New York, and Moscow and Vancouver, intermixed and segregated in the same taxicabs, driver and driven. As we move toward a global culture, which languages will survive? Which birds? Can we even dream of the future? Can we understand the possibilities?

It’s becoming commonplace to think we face crazy-making overcrowding, environmental disaster, and chaos. We hear talk of a “complexity catastrophe,” in which processing systems like human minds have to deal with more information than they can handle. A result is fibrillation, the quivering and purposeless state that results in collapse of the entire system. The end of the Soviet Union, as I understand it, was perhaps not altogether the result of a dysfunctional economic system, but was also caused by information overload in their bureaucracies.

The interlocked network of governmental, institutional, and corporate entities that is presently calling the global shots could be on the edge of collapse, capable of averting the end of business as usual only by refusing to think or operate except within a system of belief based on predictable response to every situation – namely, institutionalized greed. Any other response is considered irrational. It is a simplifying strategy, designed to ignore overload, to weed out information and settle for being ultimately destructive but organized, filtering in just the right amount of data to fit the system and thus maintain control.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Signs of the times

Decent arrested by the indecent.

British diplomat arrested over 'anti-Semitic' rant
Philippe Naughton, Times Online

Allegations that a senior British diplomat launched into an anti-Semitic rant in a London gym while watching TV footage from Gaza will not upset the "treadmill of diplomacy", the Israeli Ambassador to London said today.

In a curiously tongue-in-cheek response to a case that has provoked concern within the Jewish community in Britain, Ron Prosor added that the tirade did not reflect "the health and fitness of our relations".

The diplomat, 47-year-old Rowan Laxton, allegedly shouted "f***ing Israelis, f***ing Jews" while watching television reports of the Israeli attack on Gaza last month.

He is also alleged to have said that Israeli soldiers should be "wiped off the face of the Earth" during the rant at the London Business School gym near Regents Park on January 27. The tirade reportedly continued even after other gym users asked him to stop.

After a complaint from a member of the public, Mr Laxton was arrested for inciting religious hatred - which can carry a seven-year prison term - and bailed to reappear at a central London police station at the end of March.

In the meantime, he continues to work as usual as head of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's South Asian group, in charge of UK diplomatic policy in the region. In that job he would be expected directly to brief the Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who is himself Jewish.

The FCO refused to comment on the case while police inquiries are continuing, but Mr Prosor released a statement to The Times this afternoon in which he made it clear that Israel would let the Foreign Office deal with the problem as it saw fit.

He said: "The treadmill of diplomacy between our countries continues to run smoothly. The abusive tirade of this one individual should not be seen as a reflection of the health and fitness of our relations.

"From the nature of our work with the British Foreign Office, we understand that the unacceptable outburst expressed by a British diplomat does not reflect the official policy of the United Kingdom and we have been informed that an internal investigation is currently taking place.

"If the investigation concludes that the incident actually occurred, appropriate action will be taken [by the Foreign Office]."

Mr Prosor's sanguine response appears to be at odds with that of the Jewish community in Britain. Mark Gardner, deputy director of the Community Security Trust which monitors anti-Semitism, said: "There were an unprecedented number of anti-Semitic incidents during the Gaza conflict.

"This alleged case is particularly shocking, given the position held by the civil servant in question. We must not allow an overseas conflict to cause racism here in Britain and especially not among civil servants.

"The Jewish community will be rightly appalled to hear of these allegations against such a senior figure."

Man accused of thought crimes.

Holocaust-denying Bishop sacked from seminary

Ultra-conservative Society of St Pius X gives Richard Williamson until the end of the month to change his mind about the gas chambers

Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent, Times Online

The English Roman Catholic bishop who denies that the Holocaust took place has been sacked as director of a traditionalist seminary.

Bishop Richard Williamson was removed from his position at the Society of St Pius X La Reja Seminary, outside Buenos Aires, the Argentinean capital, at the weekend.

The move is unlikely to placate critics of Pope Benedict XVI, who recently lifted a decree of excommunication imposed on the bishop and three others from the ultra-conservative society, which has itself now given Bishop Williamson until the end of the month to change his mind about the Nazi gas chambers.

In an interview with Der Spiegel, a German weekly magazine, Bishop Williamson refused to recant and said he would not visit Auschwitz. He agreed, however, to "review the historical evidence."

The affair has created unprecedented division in the Catholic Church. Senior Cardinals in the Vatican who opposed the lifting of the excommunications are furious at the impression it has given of a papacy in disarray and out of touch.

German bishops have called for Bishop Williamson, an Old Wykehamist, to be re-excommunicated.

The sacking of Bishop Williamson by Bishop Bernard Fellay, head of the society, comes after he stated in an interview with Swedish television that he did not believe any Jews died in gas chambers during the war, or that any more than 300,000 died. The accepted figure of Jewish deaths alone is six million. The interview took place in Germany where denying the Holocaust is an imprisonable offence.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Blind leading the blind

Glenn Greenwald:

...Obama's 2010 fiscal year budget calls for $527 billion in defense spending (not including the costs of Iraq and Afghanistan). That is more than the U.S. allocated for defense in 2009 and equals what the Bush administration budgeted for 2010.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

War on Terror: This Time it's the Economy

Sorry, but so far the sequel sucks.

Paul Craig Roberts, our best critic, is unimpressed:

The discouraging fact is that even when faced with crisis in the economy and in foreign policy, the American political system is incapable of producing any leadership. Here we are in the worst economic crisis in a lifetime, perhaps in our history, and on the brink of war in Pakistan and Iran while escalating the war in Afghanistan, and all we get is a government made up of the very people who have brought us to these crises.