Author: Mike Gold

As Is: Covid and Religious Freedom

You want to know how it will be. Me and him or you and me. You both stand there your long hair flowing, your eyes alive your mind still growing, saying to me “What can we do now that we both love you?” I love you too. I don’t really see why can’t we go on as three.” Triad, by David Crosby, 1970.

One of the many truly stupid reasons some people use to avoid getting the Covid vaccine (and, wait for it, the forthcoming booster shots) is that it infringes their right to religious freedom.

Well, so much for that “thou shalt not kill” crap. No needles for these hypocrites!

Be that as it may, the entire freedom of religion thing always is defined by whose ox is being gored. Often, this is an argument with severe limitations: people are really complaining about their religious freedom being infringed. Yours? Screw you, pal. Your religion is wrong, my religion is right, so go fry in my definition of hell.

You can’t reality-test religion – by definition, a person’s beliefs are a matter of faith and not proven fact. For example, there are religions that hold ritual human sacrifice to be part of their canon. Yet we here in America, as well as in several other nations, tend to frown upon ritual human sacrifice no matter what an individual’s belief structure might be.

How about polygamy? As far as I can tell, this, too, is frowned upon here in America, as well as in several other nations, even among consenting adults. In my book, religion has nothing to do with polygamy: if everybody is an adult and is completely consenting, it’s nobody else’s business. Besides, without the concept of polygamy we probably wouldn’t have Wonder Woman.

Nonetheless, various large religious groups sanction polygamy. Various Buddhist, Islamic, and Hindu denominations are perfectly okay with it. Of course, here in the United States and elsewhere, there is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a.k.a. the Mormons. They only “abandoned” polygamy in 1904 because they were being chased out of most of what was America at the time. Still, according to television reality shows, such multi-partnered relationships still exist among the faithful.

Sigh. So many men are afraid some other dude is gonna score on “their” pussy.

Okay. Having said this, perhaps you understand why this whole “getting the vaccine violates my religious freedom” thing is bullshit. We violate people’s religious freedom every hour of every day, usually by a perception of general acceptance. Blue laws violate other people’s religious freedom.

Covid is killing us. Covid-19 offed at least four million people worldwide. Covid-21 is rapidly turning back the clock. According to the CDC – which the anti-vaxxers consider a Socialist plot – 64,317 new cases of Covid were reported the week before last and the number is increasing rapidly… once again.

And that’s just the Delta variant. Imagine when we get up to Omega.

All this boils down to something quite simple. Some people who are refusing to get vaccinated are guilty of attempted manslaughter. Others, either knowingly, unknowingly or out of astonishing self-centered self-righteousness, are absolutely guilty of manslaughter. We should toss these people in prison and do so immediately.

Let’s see how long it takes for them to get the jab.

Brainiac On Banjo: Del Close! Holy Shit!!!

Back in the day I was involved in producing a comic book called Wasteland. This effort led to the one question I have been asked most often in comics, particularly by my fellow field laborers. That question is “how the hell did you get DC Comics to publish that book?”

I was surrounded by a lot of talent who are as incredibly gifted as they are unique. This is a matter of fact: they unleashed some truly brilliant, emotionally terrorizing stuff. Artists William Messner-Loebs, Ty Templeton, Don Simpson, David Lloyd, George Freeman, Tom Artis and Tim Dzon, Lovern Kindzierski, Timothy Truman, William Wray, Michael Davis, Rick Magyar, Tom Ziuko, Joe Orlando, Tony Salmons. Writers John Ostrander and Del Close. Associate editors Robert Greenberger and Brian Augustyn. And a cast of dozens.

Working with these folks was an absolute honor and a joy.

Now, there’s a documentary about Wasteland called “For Madmen Only: The Stories of Del Close,” directed by Heather Ross and written by Heather and Adam Samuel Goldman. No kidding. It’s got an iMBD page to prove it.

The whole idea of using Wasteland as the basis for doing a documentary about Del is, if you’ll forgive me, dazzling. Hey, it wasn’t my idea; I’m just in it. Heather’s the one who pulled it off and it took her years to do so. That requires a lot of energy with an attention span to match. Del’s been subject of several biographies that are quite good – in fact, Howard Johnson’s is quite great – but revealing the marrow of that man to a 2021 audience is no easy trick. His days as a performer, a Shakespearean actor, a teacher and a director are well noted, particularly his long association with Second City, the iO (a.k.a. improvOlympics), the Upright Citizens Brigade and Saturday Night Live.

I’ve long felt my pals in sweet home Chicago should build a statue of him and place it in Lincoln Park, close to Second City. Those of us who appreciate the history of American comedy would enjoy it, of course, and I think Del would appreciate his providing a place for the pigeons.

In order to have a documentary, you probably should have interviews with some of the people involved with Del (you’ll see just how they are involved in the documentary) and among those in For Madmen Only are Bob Odenkirk, Patton Oswalt, Adam McKay, Tim Meadows, Charna Halpern, Howard Johnson, Susan Messing, Alan Meyerson, Jason Sudeikis, Dave Thomas, Michaela Watkins, George Wendt, as well as John and myself. There are flashback scenes where Josh Fadem plays John, James Urbaniak plays Del, and Matt Walsh plays me. There’s a ton of real Del Close footage, as is only fitting as his name is there in the title, and much of that feature some of the other well-known legends that Del worked with, trained, and/or got into trouble with.

Holy shit. I just broke my own world’s record for name-dropping.

To be serious for the moment – don’t worry, it’s a one-time thing – this is an honor that shakes me to my very bones. Wasteland was, and still is, the most fun I’ve had in comics with my clothes on. I think we all knew we were walking a tightrope when we did the series, but I doubt many of us realized we’d finish falling up!

Plus… please allow me one more snatch of egoboo. Having Matt Walsh play me, for crying out loud, is mind-bogglingly amazing.

At the top of this piece I said I’ve been asked about how I got DC Comics to publish Wasteland. Well, it just so happens that this very Sunday, July 25th, at the San Diego Comic Con – which is once again on You Tube this year because of the Plague – I’m on a panel where I reveal exactly that. It airs starting at 10 AM west coast time, which, for those of you who can’t work a slide rule, is 1 PM eastern time and 2:30 PM Newfoundland time. Hey, you never know. The You Tube link ishttps://bit.ly/3xTQHqj; the long link is https://youtu.be/7Xddm_N-djo.

OK.

We’re ready for our close-up, Heather!

 

As Is With Mike Gold: Fuck ‘Em If They Can’t Take A Poke

As Is With Mike Gold: Fuck ‘Em If They Can’t Take A Poke

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! – Sandy Linzer and Denny Randell, Silver Spoon, 1971.

Last week, reported COVID infections went up 11%. That’s not entirely a bad thing.

Those new cases, according to published accounts, are almost entirely among the unvaccinated. 99.5%, according to the CDC, which is closer than “almost entirely.” If recent history is an indication, this particular subset of moronacy does not believe COVID infections went up 11%. Or, alternately, that COVID has ever been a problem at all. Or, on the mutant’s third hand, it’s all a Democratic Party conspiracy.

With respect to that last idea, they might have a point. Given the overwhelming refusal of many in the Confederate States to get the jab – no nanites for true American patriots! – they are killing off each other. Perhaps they believe the Democrats have bred a new strain of COVID, the Delta Variant (which is not the name of an X-Men graphic novel) that spreads much faster and with far greater efficiency than that which attacked the Atlantic northeast blue states a year and a half ago. To hell with ending gerrymandering, we Pizza Pederasts have on our side… oh, my god… SCIENCE!

The fly in that slice of paranoid pie is that the Democrats haven’t shown the ability to get their act together to organize such a feat since they ended Reconstruction with The Great Compromise of 1877. I continue to question the use of the adjective “Great,” but in those days the Republicans were what we call Democrats today and the Democrats were what we called Republicans – until the remaining, unpurged “Republicans” bent over and turned their asses towards the ex-president.

Be that as it may, all these death worshipping insurrectionists have been warned repeatedly, in every manner possible, throughout the lamestream media. No doubt they’re still busy looking for that Washington pizza parlor’s basement. It’s possible the Cult might have heard about it through their misinformation venues of choice: Twitter, Fox News, the Qanon sites, Breitbart, The Epoch Times, Infowars, Newsmax, One America News, Twitchy, the Washington Times, and a great many others. However, these ill-dressed goose-stepping Goebbels replicants seem to share a different interpretation of the word “vaccine.” They confuse it with “Zyklon B.”

I wonder. WWAR do? What would Ayn Rand do? That disgusting, lying hypocrite took social security, so perhaps she’d take the jab as well. The far right has a hard time letting philosophy get in the way of their own personal… growth. We know her fanboy eye doctor wannabe devotee Kentucky Senator Rand Paul thinks this is a prime example of government overreach. Saving people’s lives is not something in which any Right-thinking American should engage.

As a person who believes in democracy, egalitarianism, freedom of and from religion, and the American Dream, I say to these individuals “Keep on truckin’.” We’ll see if we can bury you under the statues of your favorite treasonous Confederate heroes.

And here you thought COVID was a bummer.

Brainiac On Banjo: Screw The Sick

When the men on the chessboard / Get up and tell you where to go / And you’ve just had some kind of mushroom / And your mind is moving low / Go ask Alice / I think she’ll know – Grace Slick, White Rabbit, 1965.

I will freely admit that when I first read about the medicinal uses for psilocybin, I was more than just a bit surprised. I had taken the stuff in 1971, had a swell time, found it to be an exceptionally intense and pleasurable experience, and never touched it again. No reason not to; it was just a sweet “been there, done that” kind of thing. My usage was recreational, if you define “recreation” as sitting in a wicker chair for four hours listening to the Grateful Dead’s Live/Dead album on an 8-track loop.

Ah, hippies. Lovable people. Really. And psilocybin was one of our generation’s many gifts to you young ‘uns. You’re welcome.

Lately, psilocybin has been receiving a lot of publicity as an effective treatment for a number of serious medical conditions and is being studied and even legalized for such use in an increasing number of states. Of course, the feds continue to treat it as the stuff nightmares are made of, just as they still do with cannabis. In these endeavors, the Biden administration continues to assert its anti-science role as the nation’s Morality Police, defining morality strictly in Billy Sunday terms. “Screw the sick,” they appear to be advocating. “We don’t want nobody getting cured if might make them feel good. The diseased must be punished for their crime!”

So it comes as no surprise that the DEA – the pathetically inept and life-ruining Drug Enforcement Agency – reached into its suitcase of clichés to site the most hypocritical and asinine argument.

Well, of course. Legalizing currently controlled substances despite their medicinal value will have one extremely negative impact on our society. It might put the useless, obstructionist and disgusting waste of taxpayers’ money Drug Enforcement Agency out of business. As Governor Lepetomane famously said, and I frequently repeat, “we’ve got to protect our phony-baloney jobs!”

So the federal busybodies are telling us limited medical access could boost the illegal drug trade. This, of course, is a pile of hypocritical bullshit that is 90 years past its expiration date. You may have noticed alcohol and tobacco are available over the counter to adults. Have these substances drifted down to the under-aged and the legally sanctioned? Why, yes, absolutely. Just like guns, cars, prescription drugs, marijuana (in over half of the nation), and people who are not “this high” to get on the ride. We have a word for those who break the law and deliver such joys to children. We call them “criminals.” Sometimes, we even bust them for doing so. That, too, is rare, but it happens. The fact that it is so rare underscores the hypocrisy of denying such medical treatment to those who need it. If it makes you feel good and is not represented by a well-healed lobby, you can’t have it. Nayh nayh nayh nayh nayh.

If, assuming its benefits are scientifically confirmed, I am prescribed psilocybin for whatever my condition might be, our government has no right to restrict my treatment unless and until they declare war on me.

Which they have. They’re quite good at it, too. Just ask any woman.

That great American profit Mojo Nixon wrote “we gotta help the sick and the addicted, but we’re killin’ ourselves with the new prohibition. Our government’s try to tell you what to do; decide for yourself what’s right for you. If ya go too far and ya get outta hand,
then ya take a little trip down to prison land!” (Legalize It, 1985)

That is truth to power, Brother Mojo.

 

As Is With Mike Gold: Bullshit at the Speed of Light

As Is With Mike Gold: Bullshit at the Speed of Light

I’ve had enough of watching scenes / Of schizophrenic, ego-centric, paranoiac, prima-donnas / All I want is the truth now / Just gimme some truth — John Lennon, Gimme Some Truth, 1971

Okay, I’m a history buff. Have been since I was knee-high to a silkworm. I will now share with you the most important thing I have learned:

Everything you know is wrong.

Not just you. Me, too. And those several people on the planet who are not reading this. In 1916, Henry Ford told the Chicago Tribune, “History is more or less bunk. It’s tradition. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present, and the only history that is worth a tinker’s damn is the history that we make today.” Whereas I am loathe to agree with anything that anti-labor super-bigot ever said, I think any careful examination will lend credence to this view.

A more commonly deployed reaction to “facts from friends” got its start in 1932 on The Ziegfeld Follies of the Air radio show. Vaudevillian Jack Pearl played the part of Baron Munchausen, classic teller of tall tales. When his veracity was questioned, the Baron replied in a thick German accent, “Vas you dere, Sharlie?”

Commercial radio, which hit its century mark this past November, greatly accelerated the spread of both Information and its sister, Miss Information. By then, newspapers were doing a fine job of spreading both, but even with the telegraph and seven editions a day news was reported a handful of items at a time. Sometimes — not often enough — corrections were noted in later editions, but we learn in our high school journalism class that whatever you read, hear, or see as “breaking news” has yet to enjoy the benefit of fact-checking, or even of knowing the full story. Today, if you hear something on broadcast news and they are claiming it’s a breaking story (and they claim everything is a breaking story), do not confuse it with the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

I read a lot of old newspapers, and I do not believe we are subjected to more incorrect and often wacky “news” today than we were a century ago. However, because “news” now travels unchecked at the speed of the internet, it seems like there’s a lot more truthiness because everybody knows something about the story, even while the body is still warm, so to speak. Unconfirmed stories gather credibility because all at once everybody seems to know about everything whether it’s true or not.

If feces is fertilizer for plants, then bullshit is the fertilizer for fake news. Reason goes straight out the window. What kind of idiot could actually believe that the Democratic Party is running a cannibalistic pederasty ring out of the basement of a Washington, DC pizza joint — that doesn’t even have a basement? Well, lots of idiots do. Perhaps millions. You don’t have to believe this particular Munchausen-on-crack tale in order to disbelieve the 2020 election, but there are plenty of other stories that thrive in this neighborhood of the absurd. The 74,216,154 Trumpsters can take their choice of such folderol. And they do.

Virtually everything that comes out of Tucker Carlson’s mouth is bullshit, and much of that is fantastically absurd. His moral comedy show attracts some four million viewers each night. Do they all think what he’s saying is true? Well, no, I’m sure there are some — perhaps many — who watch it because it is so ludicrous, like any other so-called “reality show.” Others are simply grateful the loon stopped wearing his bowties. But I think it is fair to assume that the majority of his flock is joyously lapping up his brain diarrhea. Continue reading “As Is With Mike Gold: Bullshit at the Speed of Light”

Brainiac On Banjo: No Lunch For Batman

Brainiac On Banjo: No Lunch For Batman

“Down on me, down on me; looks like everybody in this whole round world, they’re down on me.” Janis Joplin, Down On Me, 1967

Many years ago, the late and truly great Dennis O’Neil said that neither Bruce Wayne nor Batman had a sex life; he/they sublimated all such compulsions, folding them into the mission. Denny said that in the office that we shared, and, damn, it made sense to me. In fact, it explained a lot about the guy.

Mind you, as the writer or editor of a great, great many top-rank Batman stories over the course of five decades, I believe Denny knew more about what made Batman tick than Bruce Wayne ever could. However, this particular observation was not canonical. Bruce even fostered a son with his frenemy Talia al Ghul, and that child became the latest Robin — as of this writing, of course.

Let us now flash forward to the late summer of 2018 and the release of DC’s Black Label adults-only series, Batman – Damned. Created by writer Brian Azzarello and artist Lee Bermejo, the story ran three issues. It was the first volume that upset some people, as it had the briefest glimpse of a small part of Bruce’s penis. To be fair, it really wasn’t enough to be perceived as salacious by anybody but the most pathetically repressed — not unlike Janet Jackson’s nipple which evidently blinded tens of thousands of small children who were watching the Super Bowl but were thinking of dinner.

Oh, yes: it also bothered the bean counters at DC/Warner Bros/WarnerMedia/AT&T/Lucky Charms or whatever the hell they were calling themselves that week. Bean counters are the most paranoid people in the media businesses; it’s in their job description. People made such a big deal of it that the Batwang was, well, overly circumcised in the digital editions and in later reprintings. The parent companies were so offended that the whole thing had an impact on several careers. The whole thing had a short shelf-life as the object of snickering jokes on late-night television.

O.K. So “Adults Only” in DCland doesn’t include, you know, adult stuff. Lesson learned. And lesson repeated this month.

For over a year, WarnerMedia (now called Warner Bros. Discovery, at least as of this writing) has had this very expensive streaming service called HBO Max. It’s got a lot of original material, and much of it is generated by DC comics properties. These shows are not G rated, nor are they PG. Sometimes there’s a fine line between R and X ratings, and a lot of HBO Max’s DC stuff inhabits that zip code. This pace was set in the first episode of their first series, Titans, where Dick Grayson (a.k.a. Robin the First) shouts “Fuck Batman!” Holy Wertham, Batfans! WTF??

Titans survived and the third season goes up in August. Their second show, The Doom Patrol, has had actual on-screen sex, with naughty bits and more about Brendon Fraser than you might want to know. Their other Batman related show, the adults-only animated series Harley Quinn, is the most adults-only of the bunch, and the third season is now in production. But at least one scene won’t be completed — the one where Batman has oral sex with Catwoman. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: No Lunch For Batman”

As Is With Mike Gold: Kill Your Darlings

As Is With Mike Gold: Kill Your Darlings

God said to Abraham, “Kill me a son.” Abe said, “Man, you must be puttin’ me on.” God say, “No.” Abe say, “What?” God say, “You can do what you want to, but the next time you see me comin’ you better run. Abe said “Where do you want this killing done?” – Bob Dylan, Highway 61 Revisited, 1965

Global warming. Covid. Freedom. Yadda-yadda-yadda, to quote Lenny Bruce. Let’s call it what it is.

Filicide.

As a card-carrying septuagenarian, for me climate change most likely will remain little more than an inconvenience. But I strongly believe we must do something about it because, in one of my rare less-narcissistic observations, I love my kid, but I just don’t know how long she can tread water. We’re supposed to make sacrifices for our kids’ welfare, if for no other reason than that eventual quid-pro-quo.

I should think most parents feel the same way, but I have my doubts. This past week, the Republican Cult of Obstruction once again made it perfectly clear that anything having to do with saving the planet, and therefore our children, will not receive any attention in Congress. These same Cultists rejected, unanimously, the American Rescue Plan that has since saved America’s ass, for which these hypocrites are now trying to take credit. They’re a minority but given the fact that all too many politicians passionately believe that 50.01% does not constitute a majority, the zealots are both intellectually and instinctually challenged.

Perhaps I’m not being fair. The dogmatists seem to care about the concept of offspring – but only up to the moment the fetuses void the womb and mew their first sounds. I’m amazed these holy holy shitheads don’t demand their li’l bastards cut their own damn umbilical cords.

If you still have doubts, look at all the Republican Cultists who refuse to have their children vaccinated. Yes, I’m referring to the Covid shots, but many feel this way about other vaccines: chicken pox, HPV, diphtheria, measles, hepatitis, influenza, polio… to name but a few.

Oh, wait. We stopped polio, didn’t we? Well, yes, we did. In 1952 alone, over 58,000 Americans were disabled by polio, a third were left partially or fully paralyzed, and many died (source: Fox News; so there!). Today, that number is down to zero (one case was reported in 1993, brought in by an unvaccinated visitor). How the hell did we do that? Oh, yeah. Everybody got the polio vaccine! If you didn’t get your kid vaccinated against polio in the 1950s, you were considered by many to be a Communist.

These are highly infectious diseases. The Republican Cultists say “I have a right to refuse a vaccine.” Humm… well, I haven’t found any evidence we have a right to commit manslaughter. By extension, childslaughter is frowned upon as well. If you want to die, there are plenty of bridges around and their state of disrepair won’t matter. But, please, don’t shove your kids off first. As I like to say, when it comes to suicide, don’t be a dick. Continue reading “As Is With Mike Gold: Kill Your Darlings”

Brainiac On Banjo: Hey, Kids! VIOLENCE!!!

Brainiac On Banjo: Hey, Kids! VIOLENCE!!!

I’m a mean mistweetah, A wabbit feastah, And I pwedict, A bwoody Eastaw, A scuwowing shadow, And dah shadow was dis wabbit, And dah night aiwah echoes, Kill dah wabbit! — Bob Rivers, Kill The Wabbit, 2009

Felix The Cat was our first animated hero, making his debut in Otto Messmer’s Feline Follies in 1919. The plot: A stereotypical old lady goes out for the evening, leaving her house in the hands of her kitty, Mister Tom (played by Felix – look, just go with that). Being a tom cat, once the coast is clear Felix splits to his girlfriend’s house for an off-screen tête-à-tête.

Of course, while the cat’s away the mice will play. In fact, they’ll rip the old lady’s house apart. By the time Felix returns, the house is decimated but he’s too blissed out to notice. Then the owner returns, freaks out at all the damage, beats the poo out of Felix and slings him out of the house.

The slightly indignant Felix doesn’t care. He goes back to his girlfriend’s house and is greeted with open paws. Then about a billion newborn kittens, each looking exactly like Felix, swarms all over their papa. Evidently, cartoon kitties have a remarkably short gestation period. Be this as it may, it is now Felix’s turn to freak. He runs away, straight to the nearby gas field where he attaches a hose to an in-ground spigot and commits suicide.

Was there general outrage over Feline Follies? Was there an upsurge of kids running to gas fields to off themselves? Did anybody ban the sale of brooms to cat-owners?

Hell, no. People didn’t take this stuff seriously. It was a cartoon, not a documentary.

Was Messmer advocating violence by mice, cats or old ladies? Was he advocating unprotected kitty sex? Was he suggesting suicide was the best way to handle trauma? Again, hell no. It was a cartoon.

Because my brain is wired differently than yours, I thought of Feline Follies when I heard of a comics writer/artist being accused of being a fascist for working on a best-selling heroic fantasy comic book. Said writer/artist was accused by another writer/artist, who was no stranger to the concept of cartoon violence. If you labor in the fields of heroic fantasy, evidently, you are wearing an invisible SS uniform. Well, as Lenny Bruce pointed out, “Gestapo? I’m the damn mailman!”

Violence has been the cornerstone of heroic fantasy going back to the Year Gimmel. The line was blurry when the major source of such stories was in the realm of the religions that are now regarded as mythology as well as the religions that various warring factions today regard as gospel. But once it is removed from these trappings of conviction, fictional violence is just a plot device. If Elmer Fudd inspires your kid to want to get a shotgun, your kid needs professional help.

But once parenting became perceived as a science – which it is not; it’s an art form – “cartoon violence” had to be… edited. ‘Doilies for the mind’, to quote Mason Williams. The Three Stooges have been entertaining people since 1922, but their oeuvre became scissor-fodder in the early 1960s. How many of you have great-great grandparents whose eyes were poked out? Bugs Bunny is a latecomer, having debuted (as developed) some 80 years ago. He, too, has suffered the fate of a thousand cuts.

Entire generations of humans have been raised since we became smotheringly overprotective. Are we now a less violent society? Maybe you’ve never read a “newspaper,” but if your knowledge intake is limited to even the most anti-social of social media you should be aware that real-world violence remains a VERY Big Deal. Maybe we should deal with the real, physical issues that lead to such behavior instead of emasculating Wile E. Coyote and Larry Fine.

I have been known to toss the fascist tag around myself. I understand the definition of the term because I know how to work a dictionary. I try to use it appropriately, even when I’m being purposely offensive. Simply working on a heroic fantasy story that involves such violence does not make you a fascist, it makes you a storyteller. Batman could be perceived as a colloquial fascist, yet many of his better stories have been created by the late card-carrying liberal Denny O’Neil as well as by his opposite number on the right, Chuck Dixon. This does not make either a fascist.

Owning a gun, let alone writing about owning a gun, does not make you a fascist. Believing Smith and Wesson, Ruger and Colt should be in charge of our foreign policy just might – but any student of 20th century history should know better.

As Is with Mike Gold: Boob’s Job

I’m a loser and I’m not what I appear to be / What have I done to deserve such a fate / I realize I have left it too late / And so it’s true, pride comes before a fall / I’m telling you so that you won’t lose all — John Lennon and Paul McCartney, I’m a Loser, 1964.

At the risk of repeating myself — something at which I’m quite good — the reason why the 1938 cartoon “Porky In Wackyland” is my favorite is because it has proven to be remarkably prescient.

83 years ago director Bob Clampett and writer Warren Foster created a seven and-one half minute affirmation of Dr. Sigmund Freud’s declaration that humor arises from breaking taboos, an observation voiced by historian Steve Schneider in his 1988 book That’s All, Folks! The Art of Warner Bros. Animation. Clampett and Foster broke more societal norms than Bill Hicks on a dexedrine tear. Wackyland was a place so surreal that it could melt Salvatore Dali’s mustache.

It’s not really a fun place. Wackyland is quite scary, even by the laws of cartoon physics. In contemporary terms, the best corollary I can think of is the state of Florida.

To illustrate this point, I offer you the thousands of reports from our legitimate news media ever since the 2000 election, the one where their hanging chads led the Supreme Court to give, quite randomly, the presidential election to George W. Bush. Their present governor, the remarkably dangerous and morally obscene dictator Ron DeSantis who is gifted by Cult Leader and Presidential Loser Trump with new kneepads each week, is one of the most disgusting bigots of our current political class. If you think about that for a minute, that’s one hell of an achievement.

Student Riley O’Keefe, before alteration (L) and after (R). New York Times.

So it should come as no surprise that one of their public high schools has banned that tiny line in girls’ yearbook photographs that might indicate said girls were wearing a bra. I believe that line is referred to on The CW as “cleavage.”

WTF, you might ask? Yup. It’s true. At least 80 photos in the new Bartram Trail High School (just south of Jacksonville) were altered to eliminate any indication that these students had naturally maturing bodies. These alterations were made without the consent of the photographees or their parents. None of these particular students were male, but to be fair high school yearbook photos rarely include tight crotch shots… of male students.

Adrian Bartlett, the mother of a student whose visage was subject to the school’s reactionary computer molestation, told The St. Augustine Record her daughter’s picture was edited in her chest area to add more shirt coverage. “It sends the message that our girls should be ashamed of their growing bodies, and I think that’s a horrible message to send out to these young girls that are going through these changes.”

Bartram Trail High School

The school says these photos did not follow the policies dictated by their dress code. The parents of these girls say this is not the case in the least, and of course, the easily produced “before” photos stand as evidence to this point. Many of these censored portraits are quite easy to identify as the Photoshopping job often was done poorly and recklessly.

Not to mention needlessly. Their website states “all individual student pictures must be consistent with the St. Johns County School District Student Code of Conduct or may be digitally adjusted.” However, as noted, many parents do not believe those photos were in any such violation. Evidently, nowhere in their Code (which, in and of itself, is quite discriminatory) does it suggest teenage girls who possess bodies common to teenage girls must wear hazmat suits.

This is a new high bar in body shaming, done by people who obviously believe that teenage girls’ bodies are indeed shameful. If, young lady, you are not a slut your high school seems quite likely to show the world you are. Natural cleavage is bad and must be exorcised, at least at Bartram Trail High School in St. John’s Florida, where Principal Chris Phelps can be reached at (904) 547-8340.

If cleavage were to be forbidden in Florida, their tourism business would be destroyed. It is a deeply hypocritical moral Wackyland down there.

As for those of you who are saying to yourself “Well, sure, Mike, but it’s Florida and, like you said, they’re kinda weird!” I ask you this: if you really think this is happening only in Florida, check your local newspapers. If you’ve still got any. Check back around – oh, you know, prom time.

Brainiac On Banjo: Publish and Perish?

Brainiac On Banjo: Publish and Perish?

“I need you, but I hate to see you this way / If I were Superman then we’d fly away / I’d really like to change the world / And save it from the mess it’s in / I’m too weak, I’m so thin / I’d like to fly but I can’t even swim” — Ray Davies, (Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman, 1979.

You might have heard the news. It’s been bombarding El Casa de Oro all week, and it’s been blitzing the interwebs to the point where I’m thinking of upgrading my dial-up. But just in case you’ve been away chasing after the Perseverance Rover, I’ll make my journalism teachers happy.

This past weekend, AT&T sold control and most of their ownership of their WarnerMedia division to Discovery Networks, owners of the many, many Discovery “cable” channels, HGTV, the Food Network, TLC, ID, Animal Planet, the Magnolia Network, and the Discovery+ streaming operation. They call this stuff “reality programming” but, as we all know, reality is in the mind of the beholder. As far as I’m concerned, that million-dollar vaccine lottery is the only reality show.

AT&T had only recently bought what they now call WarnerMedia — Warner Bros, CNN, HBO, Cinemax, the Cartoon Network, TCM, TBS, TNT, and a bunch of other stuff. If you can read the six-point type, you’ll discover they own some publishing as well, such as whatever is left of Mad Magazine and the meandering DC comics. Ma Bell went into so much debt to do this deal that, upon reading the report, King Midas reflexively picked his nose.

After acquiring that Denali of debt load, AT&T came down with a severe case of buyer’s remorse. I’m sure the stay-home-or-die principle that governed most thinking humans these past fourteen months did not help one bit, but it wasn’t a very good deal in the first place. After all, what does AT&T know about running the Home Insurance Building of media (sorry; “I.P.”) companies? Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: Publish and Perish?”