About Rex
Name: Rex Stetson
Occupation: Masked Avenger Type
Base of Operations: Washington, DC
E-Mail: rexstetson@yahoo.com
 Rex's Archive
07/20/2003 - 07/27/2003
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08/29/2004 - 09/05/2004
 Other Blogs of Interest
The Young Curmudgeon
Notes from the Lounge
Reason Hit and Run
The Anal Philosopher
Justice Junction
Perverted Justice
Mr. X
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Friday, September 03, 2004

Keep your fingers crossed for Bill!

It appears that former President Bill Clinton has been admitted for emergency bypass surgery in NYC!

There's a post GOP-convention joke in here somewhere... Seriously, though-hope he's ok.

UPDATE: it appears that Clinton is only getting "tests", possibly an angioplasty, with an eye to bypass surgery very soon- due to severe chest pains. That sounds serious, but thankfully not life-threatening.

Posted by Rex @ 1:14 PM

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Avoid Earthlink, Says Anal Philosopher

The ever-brilliant-and-insightful (if) Anal Philosopher, Keith Burgess-Jackson, offers his testimonial to the rotten customer service provided by Earthlink. I was considering going to Earthlink for my DSL but after reading about his experience, I won't any longer.

I hope word spreads all over the blogosphere about rotten experiences with companies like Earthlink. That's the beauty of the web, of democracy, of the free market, and of free speech. you can always go to a competitor which appreciates your business.

I know Keith's an atheist, but i'm sure he'd echo the sentiment that springs to mind: God Bless America!

Posted by Rex @ 3:20 PM

Best Political Ad I've Seen This Year! Vietnam Swift Boat Vets on John Kerry...

The new book on John Kerry, by the swiftvets that knew him... # 1 on Amazon.com

I usually don't devote too much time to election blogging, and I've already criticized John Kerry once today (about his economic policy) but I'm afraid I'm going to have to address his war record today too...

Finally... a great political ad! The best I've seen yet...possibly ever. John Kerry's Vietnam War Record as told by the men who served with him on the swift boat: Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

It's pretty Devastating.

Do check it out!

Also, you may want to visit the Swiftvets' web site.

Posted by Rex @ 2:54 PM

Rex Will Not Be Zombie Extra in Romero's New "Dead" Film Because of People Like John Kerry!

Bub, featured zombie in 1985's Day of The Dead. Romero's long awaited sequel, Land of The Dead is filming in Toronto and will presumably draw its zombie extras from the Toronto area.

According to this sad news the long-awaited fouth entry in George Romero's "Dead" series, Land of the Dead will not be filming in the Pittsburgh area, as Romero wished, as were the previous films.

Following the trend of many movie studios looking to cut costs, the production will instead shoot in Canada- Toronto, specifically. The recent remake of the second Dead film, Dawn of the Dead was shot in Canada (Vancouver), as was Romero's last film Bruiser (Toronto).

It's a pretty sad state of affairs when a George Romero zombie picture has to be shot somewhere other than the Pittsburgh area. Pittsburghians (or is it Pittsburghers?) bemoan this here and here. Explanations and spin from the Pittsburgh Film Office can be found here.

I can certainly understand why a lower-budget independent filmmaker would be so cost conscious- but what I don't understand (apart from why we tax and regulate the hell out of the industries that create jobs and prosperity) is why the Hollywood liberals can complain about "outsourcing" and "offshoring" jobs to other countries when iother companies do it to save money- but it's just fine when they do it!

Don't get me wrong-- I can see the benefits of saving money and improving your profit margins,and I don't condemn filmmakers for shooting in Canada, which obviously appreciates the economic stimulus of having all that production going on. I just can't see why we want to kill the golden goose (or force it to migrate North.)

If you want to keep jobs here in the US- fine. Give some incentives to the companies that create jobs here- in the form of tax breaks. That would "level the playing field" as John Kerry says. But Kerry's idea of levelling the playing field is to
"close the loopholes of these corporations that have a reward to take the jobs overseas."
He wants to eliminate the incentive to move jobs to other countries by raising the taxes on profits made elsewhere, rather than lowering them here!

Great, so the movie company ( and every other kind of business) is screwed no matter what they do. A simple tax break for any company who films in the US would keep most of the production here and the profits high- the companies would be happy, the shareholders would be happy, the workers would be happy... but wait- there wouldn't be quite as much money rolling into the government. Hm... I'm no economist, obviously, but wouldn't the Government get some or all of that "lost" tax revenue back out of the income and sales taxes from all the people in the US who had jobs and spent their pay on goods and services?

I really hope Schwarzenegger can do something about California's screwed-up tax situation and keep the film production there- I know he's read Hayek, and obviously he has a lot of connections in the film industry.

Posted by Rex @ 2:16 PM

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

John Shelton Lawrence Weighs in on Spider-Man 2

Dr. John Shelton Lawrence, the leading authority on the role and influence of superhero mythology and heroic fiction in American politics and culture (and a regular Rex Stetson reader), e-mailed to let me know that just yesterday he posted his own take on what Spider-Man 2 really says about the America of 2004.

Lawrence's essay tends to focus on the changing conceptions of "heroism" in their relation to the policemen and firefighters of 9/11, which themselves inspired comic books like Marvel Comics' The Call of Duty, not to mention any number of special issues of ordinary superhero books in which the fictional heroes paid tribute to the real ones of 9/11.

But it looks like the pendulum has swung back the other direction, according to Lawrence: "The current Spider-Man does offer a gesture of respect for ordinary heroism in a scene where subway passengers assist the struggling superhero. But in the end, his secret identity and full powers as superhero are needed to rescue New York from the grip of Doc Ock."

I see what he means, but Dr. Lawrence neglects to mention the moving scene in Spider Man 2 where a powerless Peter Parker rescues a child from a burning building, and gets admiration from the firefighters afterwards- which I took to be a comment along the lines of "man, those firefighters are the real heroes- they do this stuff everyday without the benefit of superpowers." I think Peter seemed more in awe of them than the other way 'round.

But interesting stuff, as always- and a definite must-read for superhero fans and for anyone who likes to analyze pop culture as anything other than pure entertainment.

It's been an interesting few years to say the least, and we've all had to reasess the meaning of heroism, duty, good and evil, risk, and reconcile these concepts to the post-9/11 world.

Unsurprisingly, so has our heroic fiction.

Posted by Rex @ 1:41 PM

Monday, July 12, 2004

Spider-Man 2: Foreign Policy Rorschach Blot?

Forget Fahrenheit 9/11. The big hit film about the War on Terror that everyone's talking about is Spider-Man 2.

My dear pal The Young Curmudgeon thinks it's a metaphor for America grappling with the consequences of finally standing up to face evil". He makes a pretty good case for Spider-Man's problems policing New York being analogous to America's problems policing the world: personal danger, resentment from the people you help, and unfriendly media that attacks him no matter what he does.

S. T. Karnick over at Tech Central Station also shares this interpretation:

The United States, of course, is routinely referred to as a Great Power, and Peter's dilemma is the predicament that faces the United States in the post-September 11 world. America can either turn its back on its neighbors, enjoy increasing bourgeois comfort and pleasures, and earn the affection of Europe, Russia, and the cosmopolites of the domestic media -- or do what most of us see as our duty and fight a lonely, dangerous War on Terror with uncertain outcome.

Frank Rich, at the NY Times, on the other hand, sees it from a more center-left prespective. He still has to acknowledge the "War on Terror" similarities, most notably recalling the "George W. Bush as Gary Cooper in High Noon" meme that was going around a while back:

Spider-Man wants to vanquish evil, but he doesn't want to be reckless about it. Like the reluctant sheriff of an old western, he fights back only when a bad guy strikes first, leaving him with no other alternative. He wouldn't mind throwing off his Spider-Man identity entirely to go back to being just Peter Parker, lonely Columbia undergrad. But of course he can't. This is 2004, and there is always evil bearing down on his New York.

Taking issue with the Iraq war- which the left generally sees as something very different form the larger War, Rich continues:
There's nothing triumphalist about Spider-Man; he would never declare "Mission Accomplished" after a passing victory, and his very creed is antithetical to the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war.

I said it's a "center left" take though:

But neither is he a stand-in for John Kerry. Whatever inner equivocation he suffers over his role as a superhero, he stops playing Hamlet when he has a decision to make. Nor does he follow Mr. Kerry's vainglorious example of turning his own past battles into slick promotional hagiography.

If anyone's a stand-in for John Kerry, it would be the John Jameson character- a decorated military hero figure, poised to get all the esteem of the media and the elites who benefit daily from Spidey's personal war on terror while they tear him down. But you can really read the film any number of ways.

In various comment threads around the web, I've heard this meme analyzed by people from all over the political spectrum, some calling Spider-Man 2 a scathing indictment of the media's complicity in giving aid and comfort to the enemies of America, others calling it a critique of the Bush Administration: "Spider-man doesn't accept collateral damage- he lets the bad guy get away rather than let innocent people be killed". "He tried taking the Dick Cheney/Halliburton route in the first film- trying to use his powers to make money". I even heard someone say something on the order of " Spider Man values his privacy, but John Ashcroft wants to destroy it"...which seems a bit over the top, honestly.

It's a bit of a Rorschach blot, really, like all good mythology. What people see in it is as often a reflection of their own beliefs and values, as much as it is any inherent "message" of the work.

That said, superheroes in general are inherently unilateralist, moralistic, and they see things in simple "black and white" terms of "good and evil". They don't look at polls to decide whether or not to fight evil that day. They may have the support of their community, as Spider-Man does in the film, but they will do what they do even without much support. Even when the media is against them, even when it's tough and there's a lot of personal sacrifices to be made. Sometimes they make mistakes, and should learn from these mistakes. I don't think they should be immune from criticism, but it should be constructive criticism, not the knee-jerk character assassination of the Daily Bugle.

Still, it's a mainstream movie- so it's not surprising that it takes a pretty middle-of-the road centrist view of things, even though it's Pro-unilateralism ( a trait in all heroic fiction, especially pronounced in American works like comics, westerns, crime stories, and of course the superhero genre). Most people in New York support the values that Spidey fights for, even if they don't like him personally for whatever reason: because he does too much, or not enough, or in a way they don't like.

Recommended reading on the American Monomyth, and how Superhero fiction reflects, informs, and influences America's role in the world:

The Myth of The American Superhero by John Shelton Lawrence and Robert Jewett

Captain America and the Crusade Against Evil - also by John Shelton Lawrence and Robert Jewett

Posted by Rex @ 12:12 PM

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

"A Vote For Bush is a Vote for Bin Laden"

That's the new T-shirt slogan that has The Young Curmudgeon so ticked off today.

I left a longish comment on it on his blog post about it, and decided that perhaps what I really wanted to do was make my own post/rant from those comments- so here, slightly adapted:

"a vote for bush is a vote for bin laden". Jeez. Like, I'm totally sure they agree on foreign policy especially. Both pro-Iraq and Afghanistan invasions, both want Washington DC hit with a suitcase nuke, etc. How moronic. At least he could have said something like "A vote for Bush is a vote for War/death/the rich/big oil" which would have been a more intelligent. I can only think that he must mean that a vote for Bush promotes anti-american sentiment that Bin Laden would capitalize on, which granted is a pretty complex statement to reduce to a t-shirt effectively. Still, it's a real oversimplification of one tiny part of the whole geopolitical picture.

He might have been making a comparison between Bush and Bin Laden's methods: they are both perceived to be wealthy religious people, politically motivated agressors who use blowing up buildings and killing people to achieve their goals. But this is even a flawed analogy. One might as well say "a vote for Churchill is a vote for Hitler" or “a vote for Sharon is a vote for Arafat" .. Assuming that Al Qaeda is even conducting a Clauswitzean war that is meant to achieve political ends "by other means" the way Bush is. I suspect it's more of a political "statement",an end in itself. Again, it's apples and oranges. Nonsensical slogans like that sound like those brave new world/v for vendetta/1984 "nightmare totalitarian future" brand of newspeak: freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength, etc

Even if what mr. t-shirt was saying was true, wouldn't the converse ( or is it inverse, I always forget) be true: would a vote for Bin Laden then be a vote for Bush?

If so, those lefties better start ramping up some aggressive support for the War on Terror/Islamofascism- so we don't all inadventantly end up supporting the far worse evil of President Bush! Maybe It's a slippery slope here, lefties- a little terrorist-sympathizing now could lead to a NeoCon/Bush win in November!! Horrors!

Maybe we can give the anti-Bush crowd a t-shirt that could read:

Posted by Rex @ 10:46 AM

Monday, June 21, 2004

Internet Vigilantes Take On... Nigerian Spam Scams?

Vigilantism is most popular in cases where the morality is the least ambiguous, such as in the case of sexual predators who target children. Another condition is the inability or unwillingness of the govenment or law enforcement to address the problem effectively. The same is true online, of course. A new target has emerged, however- the famous Nigerian E-mail scams, also known as "419" scams. Read about it here.

I don't know if e-mail fraud really meets the test of a crime that would sanction vigilantism, and not just because it's a crime perpetrated against the stupidest members of society. Somehow I doubt it will really resonate with people on a moral level. After all, the "victims" self-select themselves- they are motivated by greed and the allure of ill-gotten gains. They end up giving away money instead ( which makes absolutely no sense) or they end up having money stolen from them since they gave out their bank account information ( which again, is a moronic move).

If people would stop corresponding with these fraudsters, the crime would cease to occur. This is markedly different from say, muggings, burglary, drive-by shootings, kidnappings, and similar crimes where the victim has had no contributory role in the crime except for their own bad luck.

The new online group, www.419legal.org, actually goes after the scammers through law enforcement channels, trying to get prosecutions. There have been loads of unnofficial groups working the net for a few years- that don't do it for criminal justice- they do it for fun:

A lot of sites like to correspond with, jerk around, annoy and humiliate the scammers. Like these guys.

This site archives many of the scam letters.

And- my favorite site of all : www.419eater.com where they post goofy pictures of the humiliated scammers and tell newbies how to join in the fun of "scambaiting", including how to turn the tables on them and scamming the scammers!

That said, if there's any public support for this anti-scam effort, it will be based entirely on the high annoyance factor that most people have with having to read and delete scam spam all the time, rather than any deep sense of sympathy for the dumb and greedy "victims". Then again, apparently it's really fun to screw with these guys, so who knows... maybe it will catch on.

Posted by Rex @ 3:23 PM

Sunday, June 06, 2004

In Memoriam: Ronald Wilson Reagan, 1911-2004

There are loads and loads of tributes out there in cyberspace to the late great President Ronald Reagan, that are far more eloquent than anything I could come up with to say, so I'll keep this short.

Here's one of my favorites.

The best tribute I saw, though, wasn't online, it was walking back from breakfast this morning, when I saw a guy wearing this t-shirt:

Which is obviously in the style of those "Che Guevara" t-shirts. Kind of fitting (not to mention touching) since Reagan was such a revolutionary. The shirt is available at www.thosetshirts.com along with several others- including a similar shirt which proclaims "Viva La Reagan Revolucion!"

I've ordered one and plan to similarly pay my silent tribute to Reagan this week when it arrives.

Posted by Rex @ 4:38 PM

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