Saturday, November 20, 2004

Cartoon Musings II

Back? Good, now prepare yourself for my disjointed and long-winded thoughts.

I find it interesting and amusing, but ultimately frustrating the mild stigma our society puts on cartoons as something almost synonymous with "childish." No one over the age of 15 would readliy admit to watching cartoons, except with the caveat that they are a parent and thus cannot escape them. As a high-schooler or college student, it's embarrassing to say that you like the Cartoon Network (though if you liked it in its first incarnation showing nothing but horrid, rejected Hanna Barbera cartoons that had not seen the light of day for 30 years than you should rightly be ashamed of yourself). Despite, everyone watched cartoons as a kid, and everyone likes cartoons, even adults, but most are too chicken to admit it. It's when everyone starts opening up about them, like in the comments on Tim Blair's site, you realize that everyone else enjoyed them at some point or still does enjoy them it's suddenly okay to admit your affinities for animation. Of course, if you're an Olympian wordsmith and cultural junkie like James Lileks, it's okay at anytime.

I consider myself lucky that by the time I was in college, it was cool to like cartoons once again, thanks to anime, Toonami, and Adult Swim. When you're sitting around with friends watching Sealab make fun of GI Joe, or Shrek skewering The Little Mermaid, suddenly everyone remembers all the Disney movies they loved as a kid, their favorite Looney Tunes shorts, and all their Transformers or Care Bears toys (the former for me, I swear).

As the comments progressed in that thread, they inevitably turned to lamenting the decline of cartoons after the heyday of Disney and Warner Brothers, not to mention their PC-ification (yet another thing to blame liberals for... okay, overreactive conservatives too). The height was "Duck Season/Wabbit Season," and even the Flintstones and the Jetsons, though they were more sitcoms than anything else, but soon the decline was clearly evident in Scooby Doo followed by the criminally bad cartoons (usually from Hanna Barbera) of the late 60s and 70s, inlcuding Jabberjaw and the Chan Clan, down to Captain Planet which was, without a doubt, rock bottom. Of course, this vile indoctination device was the spawn of Ted Turner himself (known for his association with other evil entities such as the United Nations and the Atlanta Braves), so perhaps the industry deserves a bit of a break. During the 80s, there were flashes of intelligence and entertainment, in episodes of Transformers, He-Man, Heathcliff, and some others. I believe, though, that the turning point for American cartoons was the release of Disney's The Little Mermaid in 1989.

Here was a truly family movie, in the spirit of Snow White and Bambi, with catchy songs that was also able to entertain the parents. And yes, I count myself as a fan of this movie, along with some of its successors. (Admit it, you liked this movie, too. You can hum some of the songs to yourself right now. Come on, the French Chef was too funny...) The Little Mermaid revived things at Disney, and they soon followed with Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, and Aladdin, some of the best movies they've ever made (though I never really liked Beauty). Unfortunately, Pocahontas followed and I don't think those movies have ever recovered (though The Emperor's New Groove was surprisingly funny). Despite the Disney movies' decline, US cartoons soon recovered, producing some real gems. This started with Tiny Toon Adventures, which was entertianing enough for kids, but clever enough for teenagers. This was followed by one of the best cartoon shows ever made, Animaniacs. The show was incredibly clever, had fantastic songs, and just plain funny stuff. It was followed by the less popular and clever Freakazoid, but I know many people who liked it.

It was only a few years after this that the Cartoon Network finally realized that their lineup was mostly Hanna Barbera garbage (though there was plenty of Looney Tunes, Tom & Jerry, and Popeye) and decided to showcase up-and-coming cartoonists in a half hour show named, "Cartoon Cartoons". At first I thought this was just a whole bunch of mediocre cartoons the channel got just to have somethign different, but in retrospect it's apparent it was really an audition for potential shows. Cartoons that appeared on that show eventually became CN staples, like the Powerpuff Girls, Dexter's Laboratory, which were both good, and then the more mediocre Johnny Bravo and the horrendous Cow and Chicken. Still, the good shows and even some of the bad ones became very popular and eventually took over the network. Though still producing some vacuous tripe like Ed, Edd, and Eddy, CN also introduced Codename: Kids Next Door and the very good Samurai Jack.

Between, the new CN shows and Animaniacs, though, the Saturday morning gurus did discover the power of a good story, good characters, and exciting shows in the various superhero cartoons that dominated during that period. Cartoons based on Spiderman and X-Men were very good, but the best of all was the re-imagining of Batman. Batman: The Animated Series is probably one of the best superhero cartoon shows ever. It did away with the campy nonsense of the 60s and went back to the Dark Knight. Using stories from the comic books and coupling them with some talented voice work, the show took off. I had never been a big comic book fan, but all of the shows engrossed me in these superhero stories, and I discovered something new and very entertaining, that even teenagers could like, and it was on Saturday mornings.

After the success of Batman, the same groups recreated Superman in the same way, but it was never quite as popular. Subesquent efforts fell short as well until Batman: Beyond and the revamping of Justice League. The original Justice League cartoons were absolutely horrendous (though they make excellent fodder for Harvey Birdman) but when redone in the mold of Batman: The Animated Series, they were simply outstanding. Another outgrowth of this is the new Cartoon Network show Teen Titans, which takes its inspiration from both these shows and anime and the result is quite entertaining.

And, of course, while all this was going on, some networks discovered that cartoons could appeal to adults, thanks to the smashing success of The Simpsons. I don't think I have to go into much detail here, but it certainly led to many, many attempts to duplicate the show's success, but few have succeeded. King of the Hill did well at first, but it has declined since (as has the Simpsons, unfortunately). One of the best animated shows ever, though, came in this generation: The Critic. If you haven't seen this show; you're missing out. It was one of the funniest, most topical shows of the 90s and I highly recommend you pick up the boxset. Later shows that tried the Simpsons thing did not do as well, such as Futurama and Family Guy. In syndication, though, they gathered a cult following and are now two of CN's highest rated shows, both for adults. Family Guy has become so popular that new episodes are being created and will air next year. I certainly count myself among the fans of both shows, which are extremely funny.

So, all in all, I think we're seeing a cartoon renaissance in this country, much of it centered around the Cartoon Network. This post has become exceedingly long, so I think I'll end here, but tomorrow or Sunday I'd like to continue to talk about Toonami, anime, and Adult Swim.

Hmm, maybe I just needed to write about something other than politics for a change.

Cartoon Musings I

On Thursday, Lileks wrote a Bleat about showing Looney Tunes to his daughter for the first time, starting with one of the all-time greats, "One Froggy Evening." If you don't remember, perhaps the line, "Hello my honey, hello my baby, hello my rag-time gal..." will jog your memory. If not, read the Bleat. (Well, if you're a good new media consumer, you should have read it already.) And if you still don't know what I'm talking about, you're missing out on one of the most classic cartoons of all time.

That Bleat led to this post and the subesquent commentary at Tim Blair's site (which I saw thanks to Lileks linking that in today's Bleat). I have to say that this is one of the most interesting and entertaining commentary threads I have read on the internet in a long time. Do yourself a favor and sit down for a while and read it or, if you're lazy, just read some of the highlights below. Then come back here for the rest of my thoughts.

Here are a couple of the best posts. Harry has this fantastic anlysis:

Wile E. Coyote is a mythic fusion of Sisyphus and Tantalus. He is doomed to labor eternally at a task that he can never complete, tormented all the while by the presence of the sustenance he craves (the Road Runner) just outside his reach, but close enough to see, hear, and even smell. He is continually subjected to agonizing pain and massively crippling injuries, but he can never die; instead, he heals instantaneously and is forced to continue his hopeless efforts.

In short, Wile E. Coyote is in Hell -- a Hell as cruel and sadistic as anything that Dante envisioned.
Lileks himself had this observation:
Man, I hate Tweety. If ever I came across a Japanese website selling crush videos where screaming Tweeties were skewered by high heels, I would bookmark that sucker so hard it showed up in the favorites list of browsers not yet invented. You have to feel for Sylvester, too - once he finally gave up on the bird, he settles down, has a kid, then spends his declining years plagued by hallucinations about a giant mouse. Poor bastard.
Of course, you cannot miss this analysis discussing political lessons in these cartoons.

Here's another gem.

Oh, and don't forget the case of Wile E. Coyote vs. ACME Company. Opening statement for the plaintiff. For the defense.

See the next post for my commentary (lest this one get out of hand). Also, I promise to not do this "see the next post" thing again for a while.

Lack of Blogging

Should I even bother to excuse my lack of blogging this week? Well, I'll make a lame attempt at it. I was busy and my job fortunes were up and down, plus I just did not feel I had anything to add to those commenting on the news this week. Just in case you forgot what happened: Marine shoots terrorist, Chris Matthews thinks America is a bad country, Condi and her two-faced detractors, Clinton Love Fest in Little Rock, Target boots the Salvation Army, Janeane Garofalo is an even bigger nut than I ever imagined, Arafat's still dead, the ACLU is still demonizing and trying to mkae life hell for the Boy Scouts, and the Dems still hate Tom DeLay.

Oh, and it looks like Specter's in. I'm sure Hugh Hewitt is happy. I just hope that things turn out like he thinks they will.

So, again, apologies, if they're worth anything at this point. I think more than anything, though, the real problem was that nothing particularly grabbed me to write about it. And again, after everyone else covers things so well, I usually have little to add other than to link to their observations. Perhaps I should try commenting on a news story before I hear and read too much about it, but I'm rarely early enough in the news cycle to do so.

Anyway, I'm really hoping that one I'm eployed and on a more regualr schedule I can be a better blogger. I have no idea if that's a realistic expectation, but we shall see.

In the meantime, I did find something that I wanted to comment on, so scroll on up to the next post.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Specter Controversy Winding Down

Lileks and Hugh Hewitt declared this controversy over on Hugh's radio show today, with Hugh and John McIntyre of RealClearPolitics asserting that the Republicans have played this exactly the right way: Specter got his wings clipped, but he still gets his chair. I can only hope that will make things better, but I'd still rather he was somewhere else.

NotSpecter hasn't given up yet, but even they admit that things will probably come to a head in the next couple of days. K-lo reminds everyone that Specter is still feeling the pressure, though.

BTW, don't ignore RealClearPolitics now that you don't need poll numbers anymore. They have lots more but what I find particularly useful is a selection of transcripts from the talk shows of the day.

Shakeups in DC

The big news today is that Colin Powell resigned as Secretary of State. Also resigning today were Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and a couple others. They join Attorney General John Ashcroft and Secretary of Education Rod Paige, who both resigned last week.

I have a great deal of respect and admiration for Colin Powell, but it was clear to anyone who was paying even a little bit of attention that he just did not fit in with this administration. I'm grateful for his service and was glad he did his job as well as he could with his beliefs clashing with Bush and Cheney.

Ultimately, though, this is a good thing for Bush's foreign policy, as Drudge is proclaiming that ABC is reporting that Condolezza Rice will be Bush's choice for the new Secretary of State. I love Condi and think she will be great for this job. I thin she deserves the nickname of the "Iron Lady" as much as Maggie Thatcher did. Further, there's a chance that Condi will clean house at the State Department and get rid of all the Clintonistas and Carterites who seem to have gathered there. Captain Ed called Hugh Hewitt's show to suggest that he thinks this is exactly what will happen.

My concern is who will replace her as NSA. Hugh Hewitt thinks that there won't be any problem getting a decent replacement, but more importantly, he says, like Henry Kissinger under Nixon, Condi will take most of the foreign policy power from the NSA to the Secretary of State and so she'll be doing a little bit of both.

Speaking of cleaning house, Porter Goss is clearing out the CIA, and this appears to be a very good thing. The CIA has been in trouble of one sort or another really since the Bay of Pigs, but its failures during the 90s were egregious, culminating in 9/11. Rocketman at Power Line is ecstatic about this, as are Rush and Hugh Hewitt. All say that the CIA is full of liberals and bureaucrats who have been at best unhelpful and at worst determined to undermine the president with leaks and 60 Minutes interviews.

I have to say that if Bush is starting out by clearing out the old guard at State and the CIA, he's off to a fantastic start.

Links for Monday

If you're looking for stuff to read today, here are a few things worth checking out.

Charles Krauthammer's column from last week explains why the "moral values" and "Jesusland" explanations for why the Democrats lost are nonsense. A crucial point is that the exit poll that gave this result splits the War on Terror and Iraq as separate issues, but I think most Bush voters consider them as one and the same. If those are added together, they add up to more than the moral values concerns. Krauthammer condenses them even further, though, and says that both the war and economic issues beat out moral ones.

Mitch Berg, of Shot in the Dark, was among the Northern Alliance bloggers filling in for Hugh Hewitt on Friday, links to a very interesting piece about America's First War on Terror. Coincidentally, the History Channel aired a documentary about the same subject in the last few days.

On the radio, Mitch also mentioned that he wrote a series of diaries about what might happen if the Blue states actually followed through on the moonbat suggestion to secede. Hilarity ensues (really). Make sure you read all 4 parts.

I have to say that the final hour of Hugh's show on Friday where Mitch, one of the guys from Fraters Libertas, Rocketman and the Big Trunk from Power Line, Captain Ed, and Lileks held celebrity show trials was one of the funniest hours of talk radio I have heard in a long time. Major kudos to all of them, but especially my man Lileks for indicitng Hugh on his Salmongram commercials. If you've listened to Hugh's show recently, you know what I mean. And if you haven't you're missing out.

Finally, if you haven't seen Cox & Forkum lately, make sure you go because they have some fantastic cartoons from the last week or so.

Reflections on Arafat

I'm sure like me most everyone has gotten sick of the fawning over Arafat, so here are a couple reminders of just what a "peaceful" guy he really was.

Andrew McCarthy explains how he is the father of modern terrorism and LGF points to this page by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) detialing Arafat's timeline of terror.

Read them both.

Others on Specter

I didn't really intend for that last post to become yet another long ramble, but I'm still trying to has out my thoughts on the place of minority views in a political party, and something I've always found is that writing helps me clarify my thoughts. Hopefully, my thinking aloud on the blog is interesting for others to read as well.

Anyway, there are more thoughts on the Specter situation that I wanted to bring to people's attention. First, Ramesh Ponnuru responds to Hugh Hewitt with an article of his own on NRO. I think Ramesh makes excellent points in rebuttal, certainly better and more succinctly than I have. I'll be curious to see Hugh's response to this, but I really think Ramesh is right here.

In the Corner, K-Lo posts an email about the Specter situation that makes more good points about why Specter is problematic.

Finally, Rocketman over at Power Line thinks that things will turn out exactly as they should and declares, "Mission Accomplished, I Think." I also think Rocketman is right, though I don't agree with him that Specter not getting the chairmanship would be a bad thing.

Yet More on Specter

I apologize for my lack of blogging the last few days. I had a good run there last week, and I'm disappointed I wasn't able to keep up through the end of the week.

Well, with that out of the way, on to Specter news. Hugh Hewitt wrote an article for the Weekly Standard last week, warning about becoming as intolerant as the Democrats with views outside of the majority of the party. He reiterates that "building majorities means tolerance for minority views on controversial issues--provided those minority views are committed to fair debate and closure." Hugh makes the further point that minority opinions keep the majority in check; in other words, it keeps them from running wild.

However, one would expect minority players in a political party to differ on a few major issues, or even on a whole subset of issues, but when people in a party disagree with almost everything that the party generally agrees on, one wonders why that person continues to even stay in that party. Many people switch parties when they realize that the party no longer represents the majority of their views on most subjects. Ronald Reagan is famous for doing so, and I have to wonder why some like Lincoln Chaffee and Zell Miller stay where they are. Well, Miller is more of a 9/11 conservative and he supported Clinton and Gore. I'm not saying that in Specter's case his views are completely out of syncc with the party, I'm just commenting on what Hugh said. My point is that there is a line that every person has, and when the party that that person belongs to is no longer on the same side of that line, it no longer makes sense for that person to expect the party to listen to them nor does it make sense for the party to expect that person to go along with them.

Like many people, my stances on issues come before party loyalty. It's because I agree with the Republicans on a significant majority of subjects that I chose that party and have been generally satisifed with it. I think it's a real strength when the party includes people with opinions as diverse as John McCain, Rush Limbaugh, George Bush, and many others who run the gamut from hardcore conservative to committed libertarian to borderline liberal. But for those borderline liberals, there must be a question as to whether they want to try to move the party to their way of thinking or to choose a new party based on their beliefs. Personally, I tend to think that its best to work on many issues within the party, such as spending, internet regulation, industry subsidies, and others (like Specter) because we agree more than we disagree. For people who are pro-choice, pro-defense cuts, pro-government-run healthcare, pro-gun control, anti-tax cut, pro-affirmative action, and pro-gay marriage, it seems to me that they disagree with the party more than they agree, and I would think they would want to reexamine their alignment. Now, someone could agree with many of those issues and still fit in well with the party, but for someone who agrees with them all, well, I'm not so sure the GOP is for them.

And that's really the key: does Specter agree with Republicans more than he disagrees? Again, we would not be kicking him out of the party, just denying him a chairmanship that is really crucial to the future of this country in light of his frustrating history with the party. The Republicans can be downright frustrating to people they don't support, like Pat Toomey, Jim Coburn, and others who have done things like oppose the Medicare bill and are stubborn about immigration issues. At its base, this issue is nothing new. What makes it so controversial is that it involves a high-ranking position of great importance for a senior member. It might annoy me to have Specter chairing other committees, but I don't think people would be making a big deal about it. But because this is the Judiciary Committee, with Supreme Court appointments imminent, an historic opportunity to reverse the trend of legislation from the bench, and we're fresh off a hard-fought electoral victory that has given us this opportunity, the fear is that Specter will frustrate rather than facilitate our efforts.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

WAC Article (An Outlook on Terrorism)

Recently I have been asked to look at terrorism from a variety of perspectives and make some recommendations based on what I believe might happen given the knowledge of basic military principles. The threat of terrorism is one that will haunt the United States and is something that we can almost never be fully protected against. One of the hardest parts about defending America is that we must be right 100 percent of the time whereas the terrorists only need to be right once. This makes the job of the men and women who defend our borders that much more difficult. If we look at some major attacks against America and how they have failed we see initially it is by sheer luck that we stumble upon them. 1 year before the USS Cole bombing a similar stunt was tried but the boat sunk because it was laden with explosives. In 2000 the millennium plot was broken up by the work of a cautious customs official who saw something suspicious in a car on the ferry from Canada. When she investigated the terrorist tried to flee and was apprehended. From there the cell was broken and a chase that lead from Seattle to Jordan to Vancouver to New York was found stopping the plot.
Make no mistake that our FBI and intelligence services are very good at what they do but the terrorist are adapting. We do not have superior human intel inside the terrorist groups and while the NSA is the world’s premiere signals intelligence group the terrorist have learned the dangers of cell phones and e-mail. Couriers are the new way to share information and without good human intelligence and man power we will have a hard time intercepting them. It is not just the fact that we need Arabic speakers but we need those of Arabic origins to infiltrate the terrorist units and while many brave Arab Americans are going through training now we need a great deal more.
Will the terrorists strike with planes again or will it be a different method. As they say lighting rarely strikes the same place twice so the chances of a plane while still there are decreasing as time goes on. We are on the look out for that particular move and will respond a great deal more vigorously then we have in the past. In reading a recent fiction book the idea of terrorists sneaking into this country and using automatic weapons to take places hostage was put into the plot. After thinking this over we sadly have no defense against it. The best way to stop terror is to go after it in the roots where it exists. We need to bomb the camps when we can locate them and fight the counterinsurgencies in places like Fallujah. It is time for the gloves to come off against a terrorist and to stop believing everything we see in the Los Angeles Times. When a Mosque is a storage house for weapons it stops becoming a untouchable building and turns into a target of war. If the enemy does not want their houses of worship blown up then they should not put weapons in them. As I look ahead to the future of terrorism I pray that our country will be safe and that the constant vigilance of those who defend us will continue to pay off and stop attacks against this country.