Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Who is that...?

Matt Ames poses the question, "Who's behind our biggest problems?" Why, who else? The State! Thanks to Brad for the alert on this one.

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day 2007


Saturday, May 26, 2007

Dalton Trumbo's great antiwar manifesto

I can’t remember who first gave me a copy of Dalton Trumbo’s magnificent antiwar novel Johnny Got His Gun. But back in 1970, when I was a high school sophomore, copies were making the rounds all over campus. Everybody was reading it. It knocked me on my goddamn young Republican ass and changed my life forever. And every time I reread it — which I do from time to time — it still rattles me. As I wrote a few years ago, Johnny Got His Gun isn’t just a novel, it’s a friggin’ concussion device.

The book closes with the most powerful antiwar manifesto ever written, something that ought to be read aloud at family gatherings this coming Memorial Day:

“If you make a war if there are guns to be aimed if there are bullets to be fired if there are men to be killed they will not be us. They will not be us the guys who grow wheat and turn it into food the guys who make clothes and paper and houses and tiles the guys who build dams and power plants and string the long moaning high tension wires the guys who crack crude oil down into a dozen different parts who make light globes and sewing machines and shovels and automobiles and airplanes and tanks and guns oh no it will not be us who die. It will be you.

“It will be you — you who urge us on to battle you who incite us against ourselves you who would have one cobbler kill another cobbler you who would have one man who works kill another man who works you who would have one human being who wants only to live kill another human being who wants only to live. Remember this. Remember this well you people who plan for war. Remember this you patriots you fierce ones you spawners of hate you inventors of slogans. Remember this as you have never remembered anything else in your lives.

“We are men of peace we are men who work and we want no quarrel. But if you destroy our peace if you take away our work if you try to range us one against the other we will know what to do. If you tell us to make the world safe for democracy we will take you seriously and by god and by Christ we will make it so. We will use the guns you force upon us we will use them to defend our very lives and the menace to our lives does not lie on the other side of a nomansland that was set apart without our consent it lies within our own boundaries here and now we have seen it and we know it.

“Put the guns into our hands and we will use them. Give us the slogans and we will turn them into realities. Sing the battle hymns and we will take them up where you left off. Not one not ten not ten thousand not a million not ten millions not a hundred millions but a billion two billions of us all the people of the world we will have the slogans and we will have the hymns and we will have the guns and we will use them and we will live. We will be alive and we will walk and talk and eat and sing and laugh and feel and love and bear our children in tranquility in security in decency in peace. You plan the wars you masters of men plan the wars and point the way and we will point the gun.”

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Friday, May 25, 2007

"...and put an end to war"

Take away the gun
From ev-ry mother’s son.
We’re taught by God above
To forgive, forget and love,

The weary world is waiting for,
Peace, forevermore,
So take away the gun
From ev-ry mother’s son,

And put an end to war.

— Al Jolson, 1920


Thursday, May 24, 2007


A few years ago, our friend Kris, acknowledging my movie fanaticism, asked me to recommend some “classics.” At the top of my list was Carol Reed’s 1949 noirish thriller The Third Man, one of the few highly praised films in cinematic history that’s actually better than everybody says it is. A week or so later, Kris reported back. She’d rented the movie and loved it. “But you goofed,” she said. “Joseph Cotten isn’t in it. It stars William Powell.”

Third Man...Thin Man. OK, the mistake is understandable. But as wonderful as those old Powell and Loy films are, The Third Man is above and beyond, an entirely different beast.

Since I first saw it in college 33 years ago, I’ve cherished The Third Man. I can’t even guess how many times I’ve seen it — two, three dozen times? I adore it so much, in fact, that on the one occasion when Deb and I visited Vienna — quite unintentionally on the film’s 50th anniversary — we made pilgrimages to the movie’s most famous sites, including the Ferris wheel at the Prater amusement park and the very doorway in which Harry Lime (Orson Welles) makes his extraordinary first appearance. Remarkably, all those locations still exist as they did in 1949, except for the lack of post-war rubble. One afternoon that same week, I watched The Third Man on a big screen at Vienna’s Burg Kino arthouse theater, where it still screens several times a week. Very, very cool.

Well, this past Tuesday, the Criterion Collection released an upgrade of its earlier Third Man DVD. So I’ve been spending a lot of evenings again with Reed, Cotten, Welles, Alida Valli, Trevor Howard, and Vienna itself. (I’m craving a Sacher-Torte right now.) The new package is worth every penny, even if you have the previous Criterion release. It’s a two-disc set, which includes a gorgeous new transfer of the movie, every bonus that was squeezed onto the original DVD, plus a load of new stuff: two feature-length audio commentaries, the excellent 90-minute 2005 documentary Shadowing the Third Man, another 30-minute 1999 Austrian documentary commemorating the movie’s golden anniversary, a 1968 hour-long British TV program on novelist Graham Greene (author of The Third Man), and a new booklet of essays. This thing is fantastic.

Buy the DVD, even if you’ve never before seen The Third Man. Trust me. You’ve gotta have it, and you’ll watch it over and over again. And relish Welles’ remark to Holly Martins (Cotten), one of the greatest bits in movie history: “You know what the fellow said: In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love — they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Leading by example?

In a typical case of political “do as I say, not as I do,” California State Senator Carole Midgen, a Democrat from San Francisco, caused a three-vehicle smashup last Friday morning when she slammed her 2007 Toyota Highlander Hybrid SUV into the rear end of a slowing car. Senator Midgen, who voted last year for a law to impose a minimum $20 fine on drivers caught using a cell phone without a hands-free device, was, as you’d expect, busy chatting on her cell phone at the time of the crash.

Thanks, Mike Tennant, for the news tip


Caveat emptor!

Be warned: offers a paperbound volume “edited and published by Christopher D. Seely” that contains both New Libertarian Manifesto by Samuel Edward Konkin III and my own Agorist Class Theory. I purchased a copy and can report that it is incomplete and filled with typographical problems. For one thing, within the first page of NLM, I found entire lines and at least one paragraph missing; I ventured no further. For another, my introduction to Agorist Class Theory, explaining the source of the chapbook’s material, is missing entirely.

The definitive text of SEK3's New Libertarian Manifesto remains the 25th Anniversary Edition published last year by Victor Koman and available from KoPubCo. Most online versions seem to offer problems. The KoPubCo edition, by the way, also features valuable critiques of NLM by Murray Rothbard and Robert LeFevre. As for Agorist Class Theory, it’s offered at in a standalone edition, and Brad Spangler has a reliable free downloadable PDF available.

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

NEWS FLASH! Hell has frozen over!

J. Neil Schulman has called on President Bush to bring the troops home from Iraq and for the U.S. to mind its own business:

The presence of Infidels in the Middle East is what drives Islamic terrorism. We Infidels are still there because of remnants of a Great Game for domination of the Middle East that stopped making strategic sense when the British Empire collapsed, when the Cold War ended, and when Japan, China, and Russia became trading partners of America and Europe.

We don't need Middle Eastern oil. American energy independence is ours any time we decide to take it. Short-term we can pump and refine all we need from our own supplies in Utah and Colorado, and long-term we can switch to alternatives — everything from bio-diesel to solar-power satellites and — one of these days — Mr. Fusion machines.

We don't need to defend Israel from Syria or Iran. All we have to do is let the Sunni and Shia get back to killing each other instead of us — let al Qaeda fight Hezbollah.

Mr. Bush, you're the President who Won the War on Terror. Please brings our troops home from Iraq and declare a domestic State of Emergency that suspends the numerous federal, state, and local impediments to domestic oil and coal production and refinement.

We don't have to stop the Iraqi Insurgency for our own security, or for Israel's. We can accomplish that merely by doing what Americans do best: minding our own business.

Mr. Bush: Make Oil, Not War.


Saturday, May 19, 2007

Clarifying the term "antipolitics"

If there’s one thing I really hate, it’s being misunderstood. And an excellent post by Brad Spangler about revolutionary strategy and tactics has raised an alarm in my head. Is my habitual use of the word antipolitics, a term that dates as far back in this movement of ours as Karl Hess’s seminal 1968 essay “The Death of Politics,” being misinterpreted? Like many radicals, I often use the word as a shortcut to express my rejection of party and electoral politics (i.e., voting) as tactically inconsistent with libertarian philosophy and goals. But “antipolitics” may imply that I’m opposed to all political action. And that’s simply not true. As Samuel Edward Konkin III pointed out more than three decades ago (New Libertarian Notes, No. 23, July 1973):

“I do not wish libertarians to become anti-political, but rather anti-party. Politics includes revolution, coup d’etat, voting, assassination, philosophic ruminations on whether the State leadership should be changed or abolished, communicating this to others, demonstrations, agitation, propaganda, and even graffiti.

“Parties are a very small fraction of Politics, and can not only be dispensed with, a sustained attack on them will bring more libertarians into more productive political activities. ...

“The LP only pursues votes, eschewing the other 57 varieties of political activity. That leaves a lot of avenues remaining unexplored.”

Until a better word comes along, I’ll continue to use “antipolitics” as a verbal shortcut in the ongoing war against political parties and state elections. But I’m certainly open to suggestions for a less foggy term. Anyone?

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Friday, May 18, 2007


It’s three days until the first season finale of NBC’s Heroes, and already, a release date has been announced for the 7-disc DVD box set Heroes: Season 1. The package ships on August 28 and will include more than 10 hours of bonuses, including the original extended pilot, audio commentaries with cast and crew, deleted scenes, and several features and featurettes. And I’m betting even more will be added between now and late August. If you haven’t yet experienced Heroes, here’s your chance to jump onboard before season two begins next fall. At the very least, add these discs to your Netflix queue.

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Big news! Oswald may not have acted alone!

WASHINGTON (Reuters, May 18) — Bullet analysis used to justify the lone assassin theory behind President John F. Kennedy’s assassination is based on flawed evidence, according to a team of researchers including a former top FBI scientist.

Writing in the Annals of Applied Statistics, the researchers urged a reexamination of bullet fragments from the 1963 shooting in Dallas to confirm the number of bullets that struck Kennedy.

Official investigations during the 1960s concluded that Kennedy was hit by two bullets fired by Lee Harvey Oswald.

But the researchers, including former FBI lab metallurgist William Tobin, said new chemical and statistical analyses of bullets from the same batch used by Oswald suggest that more than two bullets could have struck the president.

“Evidence used to rule out a second assassin is fundamentally flawed,” the researchers said in their article.

And this is news to whom? The 70 to 80 percent of people, myself included, who have been convinced for four decades that there was a conspiracy behind the killing of JFK? Sheesh.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Maxim's Hottest Women in Comics

Maxim magazine has announced The Hottest Women in Comics. All of the Danger Girls are curiously missing. But Storm is there, along with gals like Vampirella, She-Hulk, Lois Lane, Witchblade, Shanna the She-Devil, Black Cat, Nancy Callahan (from Sin City), Power Girl, and Caitlin Fairchild (from Gen 13). Maxim’s hottest-ever woman in comic books is Wonder Woman, who I think is just so yesterday. She edges out my favorite, who came in at #2: Emma Frost, the White Witch from X-Men. Ah well. Maybe next year, Emma!

Going, going...GONE!

The broadcast TV networks are revealing their new fall schedules this week. And two of my weekly go-to’s are missing from the line-up. CBS didn’t renew Jericho, the post-nuclear drama, for a second season. That’s a shame. The show’s storyline started off very strong when it debuted, then sagged a bit mid-season before a pretty strong finish. But my biggest regret is that the CW has cancelled the terrific Veronica Mars after three years. Mars was one of the smartest, well-written, and well-acted shows on TV, and I’ll miss it tremendously. I guess I should be thankful that the producers weren’t given the green light to “retool” the series and reimagine the teenaged private investigator as an FBI agent, which they'd proposed to the network. I’d have hated to see dear Veronica work for the goddamn feds.

But there’s good news from NBC this week. Heroes, which may be the most compelling TV series of the last few years, has been renewed — no big surprise. But in addition, its occasional vacation periods during next season will be filled with Heroes: Origins, which I understand consists of standalone stories introducing new heroes, all set in the Heroes “universe.” This means that next year, we’ll have a total of 30 episodes (rather than 23) and fewer reruns of this great show.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Colonel Moran strikes again!

A friend has alerted me that a search for "Wally Conger" on pulls up a book (of "unknown binding") titled Shikari: Writings of Colonel Sebastian Moran. "Currently unavailable," says Amazon. "We don't know when or if this title will be back in stock again."

Shikari was a tiny three-chapbook project I produced on a Xerox machine for family and Sherlockian friends in 1985. The print run was probably 50.

The booklets presented "newly discovered" writings of Colonel Moran, who was Professor Moriarty's enforcer and who, in April 1894, attempted to assassinate Sherlock Holmes with the remarkable air-gun created by Von Herder, the blind German mechanic (see "The Adventure of the Empty House").

I'm not exactly sure how this little Sherlockian "game" of mine turned up on Amazon. But maybe I should look into reprinting the darn thing.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Listen to ANTHEM

Ayn Rand wrote four great novels. Anthem is the one too small to use as a doorstop. Unlike most people, my first taste of Rand was her non-fiction — specifically, The Virtue of Selfishness. But the first novel of hers I read, because it seemed less intimidating than the others, was Anthem. That was maybe 25 years ago. I liked the book then. I like it now. First published in England in 1938, then reworked and published in the U.S. in 1946, this little dystopic novella predates Orwell’s 1984 by a full decade.

Now, offers a fine reading of Anthem, unabridged, for free download. (I’ll forgive the narrator for mispronouncing Ayn.) At just over two hours long, it’ll get me from here to my sister’s house in Camarillo. Nice. I’m about due for a visit.

What's next for HEROES?

Every Wednesday morning, I check in with my pal Ray, owner of Captain Nemo’s, to pick through the week’s shipment of comic books. Our conversation always turns to Monday night’s episode of Heroes.

“Just two shows to go,” he announced yesterday. “Things really seemed to be dovetailing to the grand finale the other night.”

“Yeah. I’m gonna miss the show through the summer. I wonder where they’ll go with the storyline next fall.”

“I’m sure whatever they do, it’ll be great,” Ray said. “But what I really hope is that they finally dress everybody in spandex.”


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Spider-Man: a 43-year love story

A couple of days ago, my pal Brian commemorated the opening of Spider-Man 3 with both a terrific review and a reminiscence of his introduction to Spidey 44 years ago — Amazing Spider-Man #4, featuring the Sandman. I’ve already reviewed the new movie here, but following Brian’s lead, I thought I’d share my first encounter with the ol’ webslinger. Here’s the very first Spidey comic that ever fell into my hands...

It was given to me by Randy Weiner, a neighbor kid two years older who was cleaning out his comics collection. This was sometime in the fall of 1964, so Amazing Spider-Man #3 was “old,” and the series was already a good 17 issues further along by that time. But what I remember is this: I read and re-read this already tattered book until its cover had to be scotchtaped, then stapled back on. I adored this book. In those days, when I was a dumb 10-year-old who didn’t know any better, I threw away comic books as fast as I could read ’em. I never even thought to collect them. But I hung onto this debut of Doc Ock. I adored it.

Curiously, though, I didn’t purchase an issue of Amazing Spider-Man on my own until, oh, a year and a half later. I think it was June 1965. At the Thrifty Drug on Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks. Now, that was a red-letter day. My pals and I had just seen Goldfinger at the La Reina Theater, so I was just launching into my 007 phase (which continues to this day). Mom picked us up after the show, as promised, and we stopped at the drugstore for ice cream. That’s when I spotted this on a twirling rack of comics...

Whew. Classic Steve Ditko. I’d never seen anything like it before. Mom gave me 12¢ and I at once began collecting new books and digging through thrift stores for old ones. Today, when confronted with the old desert island question, I always say I’d be content with just the first 38 issues of Amazing Spider-Man (the Ditko issues) for entertainment.

Oh, OK...and maybe a couple of Milla Jovovich DVDs.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

SPIDEY 3 passes "the test"

Some reviews of Spider-Man 3 report that, with three badguys, two girlfriends, and more mayhem than ever before, the movie’s “overstuffed.” Even clocking in at well beyond two hours, they say there’s simply much too much.

Aw, phooey. Spider-Man 3 is the perfect summer film, especially for Spidey geeks like me who started reading and collecting the comics, well, longer ago than we might like to admit. Sure, it’s chock full. Sandman’s there. Venom’s there. There’s even a new Goblin in town. Besides the regular crew, Gwen Stacy’s been added to the mix, plus her police chief dad and a few new faces at the Daily Bugle. There’s a lot going on. But it all gelled for me. It works.

I loved the last film in the series — a lot — and it might very well be the best of them, all things considered. But this third entry is like one of those great old 25¢ Spider-Man Annuals that Marvel released every summer back in the ’60s. You know, twice the size as the monthly book, with plenty of extras. You didn’t just get the usual Spidey cast, you got the Sinister Six (six, count ’em, six villains!) or Doctor Strange or the Human Torch or whatever else Stan Lee could toss your direction. Spider-Man 3 feels like that. It’s loaded to its brim. And you know what? Sam Raimi still manages to tell a boffo story.

The movie also passed its biggest test: I can’t wait to see it again.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

DVD Review: .45

If Tarantino and Rodriguez ever make a sequel to Grindhouse (which seems very doubtful), they might tap Gary Lennon to contribute his writing or directorial skills. I’m not sure Lennon's first independent movie .45 ever played in theaters, but it’s now available on DVD. And it’s an excellent example of what you might call neo-grindhouse — edgy, ugly, brutal, in-your-face. A pretty straightforward revenge picture with attitude. And with fantastic — some might say surprising — performances.

OK, the big draw for me, initially, was Milla Jovovich. I’ll crawl across a floor of broken glass to watch Milla in just about anything. In .45, she plays Kat, who’s passionate about sex and guns. Her biggest passion, at least until the movie’s midpoint, is her violent, drug-dealing boyfriend Big Al (Angus Macfadyen). Al’s a real bastard. Kat finally catches on to that. And after Al delivers her a particularly severe beating, Kat decides to use her “girl power” to encourage three friends (Stephen Dorff, Alisha Tyler, and Sarah Strange) to help her get away from him so she can pursue a “better life.” There are twists. There are turns. But it’s Lennon's dialogue and the fine acting from Jovovich and her co-stars that make .45 much more than just watchable. I found the film compelling.

An impressive directorial debut from Gary Lennon. And a big thumbs up from Conger on this one.