Sunday, May 31, 2009

And now the fury

I decided not to mar the below post on George Tiller and his memory with my blind rage at some of the reactions to his death. This post will serve the purpose.

This isn't good, boys and girls ... not good at all. This serial-killer piece of excrement will be held up by every abortionist and every lover of abortionists as the reason why the Secret Service needs to be assigned to guard every abortionist, every abortion mill and every lover of abortions in this country.

Obama is going to take advantage of this murder to sieze [sic] even more control over our society.
I would not even put it past them to commit this murder themselves, as an excuse to sieze [sic] power. Reichstag Fire, and all that...

When I first read this, part of me wondered if some liberal isn’t secretly behind this to get just the outcome you have listed. I used to not be so paranoid, until this surreal reality replaced what used to be. Interesting the timing of this, as it was recently released that according to polls a majority of Americans are anti-abortion/pro-life. Good way to discredit the movement and those beliefs - assassinate an abortionist.

Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue states, "George Tiller was a mass-murderer. We grieve for him that he did not have time to properly prepare his soul to face God. I am more concerned that the Obama Administration will use Tiller's killing to intimidate pro-lifers into surrendering our most effective rhetoric and actions. Abortion is still murder. And we still must call abortion by its proper name; murder.

"Those men and women who slaughter the unborn are murderers according to the Law of God. We must continue to expose them in our communities and peacefully protest them at their offices and homes, and yes, even their churches."

Listen, buddy, just because you said "peacefully" in front of "protest" does not undo the fact that you also said "and, yes, even their churches." We all know what you mean.

I don't really have anything penetrating to say about these people. They simply disgust me.

Meditation 17

"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were. Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee..."
--John Donne, Meditation 17

George Tiller is dead.

I am heartbroken, angry and sick at heart, all at once.I feel as though I've been punched in the stomach.

Tiller has long been a focal point of protest by abortion opponents because his clinic, Women's Health Care Services at 5107 E. Kellogg, is one of the few in the country where late-term abortions are performed.

"It's a terrible loss. I'm just really sad about the whole thing," said a former employee of the clinic who asked not to be identified. "He was a great guy. I understand people were against a lot of what he did, but for those who he helped, they'll never forget the kind of person he was."

He went through a lot to help those people:

Protesters blockaded Tiller's clinic during Operation Rescue's "Summer of Mercy" protests during the summer of 1991, and Tiller was shot by Rachelle Shannon at his clinic in 1993. Tiller was wounded in both arms, and Shannon remains in prison for the shooting.

The clinic was bombed in June 1986, and was severely vandalized earlier this month. According to the Associated Press, his lawyer said wires to security cameras and outdoor lights were cut and that the vandals also cut through the roof and plugged the buildings' downspouts. Rain poured through the roof and caused thousands of dollars of damage in the clinic. Tiller reportedly asked the FBI to investigate the incident.

I read about him somewhere years ago and I remember being shocked that anyone would have done such things to such a man and deeply grateful for his service. His story stuck with me ever since. As soon as I read the headline I was hoping that name was ringing the wrong bell, but to my deep sadness, I was right.

(The epigram, I know, is cliche and overused, but it encapsulates the way I feel connected to him and to this.)

As Digby said,

If you think that women should have to endanger their lives in order to give birth to a fetus with no brain, then you probably think this man was a murderer. For the women who went to him, and for whom he put up with a horrifying amount of harrassment and violence before they finally managed to kill him, he was a Godsend.

May he rest in peace.

Saturday, May 30, 2009


I love baseball. I love it a lot. What can I say, I'm from Boston.

Friday, May 29, 2009

I don't think I can answer that

Via digby:

I hardly know what to say. What’s worse: A healthcare system where someone is so desperate, he’d blow up buildings to pay for his brother’s treatment, or homeland security that thinks nothing of setting people up so they can claim they caught some “terrorists”?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Forget Quote of the Day

As far as I'm concerned, this is Quote of the bloody Week. Judah Grunstein:

I know that partisan politics comes before all else these days, but it's incredible how little gravitas or wonder remains with regard to Supreme Court nominations. Seriously, anyone who's ever read even a bit of constitutional law knows what awe-inspiring conceptual ground it covers. And only nine individuals at any given time exercise the office. Out of 300 million. It's a shame that the nomination process becomes a mudslinging contest, instead of the Olympian intellectual exercise it ought to be.

Uh oh, is your privilege shrinking?

Good lord, people are truly insane.

Tom Tancredo went on CNN and got pissy about Sonia Sotomayor's being a member of La Raza--you know, the major Hispanic rights and advocacy org--and called it a "Latino KKK".

Meanwhile, some douche factory at my school has decided that what the world really needs is a Men's Rights and Advocacy Group. Not kidding. Apparently the framework of our entire society wasn't enough for them. Think I'm exaggerating? It's called Men In Power.

I know it must be scary to have your 100% privilege encroached upon when you either are not confident of your ability to compete on a truly open field or are simply unaware of your privilege. It feels like oppression because it feels unfair, because it's never occurred to you that the way things have always been might not be fair. It worked well for you. But for the love of god, do these people hear themselves? It just makes me want to take a nap and wait for it all to be over.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


I must say, watching the reactions to the Sotomayor pick has been an almost beautifully predictable exercise in Kabuki politics. Observe:

Opponents’ first claim – likely stated obliquely and only on background – will be that Judge Sotomayor is not smart enough for the job. ... By contrast, John Roberts was described as brilliant and Sam Alito as exceptionally smart. The objective evidence is that Sotomayor is in fact extremely intelligent. Graduating at the top of the class at Princeton is a signal accomplishment. Her opinions are thorough, well-reasoned, and clearly written. Nothing suggests she isn’t the match of the other Justices.

Rod Dreher:
Given that we were certain to get a liberal justice out of Obama, I suppose one has to take comfort in knowing that Obama made a quota pick too, and did not choose a liberal justice who can match intellects with Roberts and Scalia.

Done and done.

What is incredible is that Dreher's sole basis for insulting Justice Sotomayor's intellect is the infamous Rosen hit piece that went up at The New Republic. I find it impossible to believe that Dreher missed the entirely warranted firestorm that followed the story, which was largely composed of anonymous gossip and amorphous "doubts" and concerns as well as flat-out falsehoods. That Dreher relied on a piece that even Powerline called gossipy suggests that he has given little if any thought to his opinion. He seems quite ready to buy into what Greenwald described as "the Jeffrey-Rosen/Ben-Wittes/Stuart-Taylor grievance on behalf of white males that, as Dahlia Lithwick put it, 'a diverse bench must inevitably be a second-rate bench.'"

Truly, deconstruct Dreher's statement for a minute. He said that Obama was bound to choose a liberal, and of his options he chose a "quota pick" who, for reasons passing understanding, therefore is necessarily intellectually subpar for the Supreme Court. I'm sure Dreher did not actually intend to say that any non-white non-male nominee would be likely to be below the level of Samuel Alito or John Roberts; what he intended to say, no doubt, was that this particular brown woman is seems to be below their level, and therefore must be seen as a quota pick.

But he's stuck in a circle here: he has no decent evidence to rely on when it comes to assessing her as indeed a less brilliant mind. The only evidence he bothered to cite is flimsy at best. So what I want to know is, how does he know she is a quota pick?

I won't attempt to answer the question. I don't know Dreher's mind. But I will say I do think he has what my roommate would call his judgment pants on.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A little night music

I haven't really been encountering new music I actually like much lately--not since the beginning of the quarter, really--but I just found this courtesy of TNC and I am liking it very much.

Passion Pit - The Reeling from phantomcolor on Vimeo.

It's downright infectious.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Oh for the love of

Look, I am not a big Maureen Dowd fan. She snarks well, but that's really not enough for me, and her retrograde gender assumptions and the way she applies them to, oh, national security rhetoric makes me want to break lots of things.

So when I heard she had apparently plagiarized Josh Marshall, I shook my head but I wasn't exactly devastated or shocked. It's always been a mystery to me how the woman ended up with a Pulitzer. She's just not that good a writer.

ANYWAY, I was interested to see what excuse they would come up with. I did not expect it to be this pathetic:

I didn't read his blog last week, and didn't have any idea he had made that point until you informed me just now.

i was talking to a friend of mine Friday about what I was writing who suggested I make this point, expressing it in a cogent -- and I assumed spontaneous -- way and I wanted to weave the idea into my column.

but, clearly, my friend must have read josh marshall without mentioning that to me.

Really? Your friend remembered JMM's point word for word, and then you remembered his or her wording perfectly while you were weaving your shimmeringly sarcastic tapestry column?

Weak, weak sauce.

I should note that in this column, MoDo did come out in favor of a Truth Commission re: torture and that I consider this a good thing. She should be congratulated. And it seems that Josh's point was actually integral to the shift in her opinion, for which he should be congratulated. This all could have been a wonderful episode in political discussion and multimedia journalism if somebody had been just a little more careful, wherever the breakdown was.

I am almost inclined to believe it was accidental just because it seems impossible to me that anybody could know what TPM is and not know that it is a huge deal, with tons of readers who also read the NYT. There's no way you would get away with it. I can't imagine how exactly this could happen, though. Any way you look at it this whole incident is just a big dollop of unnecessary stupidity marring what was in fact an important statement by a major opinionator, whatever I think of her.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

So good

Changing gender norms

Via Feministing, a small-scale survey of Bay Area high school kids on gender produced some fascinating results. Check it out.

Speechless again

Afghan schoolgirls possibly poisoned for daring to try to get an education.

Sometimes there really isn't anything to say.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Quote of the day

"You cannot show weakness in the face of this shamelessness. Maybe it's a long game and accountability is a dish best served cold and late. But what if there's always a reason in an endless war of occupation of multiple countries not to serve it at all?"

--Andrew Sullivan, re: torture.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Renaissance of specialists?

My first year in college, I read parts of Emile Durkheim's The Division of Labor In Society for a social science sequence misleadingly titled "Power, Identity, and Resistance" which was more or less a tour of the greatest hits of liberalism, starting with Adam Smith and going all the way up through Fanon, Hayek, and Joseph Stiglitz by way of Marx, Rousseau, Locke, and many others including Durkheim.

Durkheim was a dense read (I am to this day a member of a Facebook group bemoaning his prose), but I liked the book a great deal. A Kevin Drum post I read today put me in mind of a particular meditation of his: that the notion of the Renaissance Man was becoming unrealistic. There had been a time when every man (it was men) could call himself a natural philosopher or a scholar and reasonably be considered an expert, or at least well-informed, on a broad variety of subjects, from moral philosophy to the beginnings of economic theory, biology, physics. etc. By the time Durkheim was writing in the 1890s, the industrial revolution and the advances of each science and social discipline were making this impossible.

It seems undoubtedly clear that the view is gaining ground that the division of labour should become a categorical rule of behavior, one that should be imposed as a duty. ... The time is past when the perfect man seemed to us the one who, capable of being interested in everything but attaching himself exclusively to nothing, able to savour everything and understand everything, found the means to combine and epitomise within himself the finest aspects of civilization. Today that general culture, once so highly extolled, no longer impresses us save as a flabby, lax form of discipline.

Now for Peter Suderman, via Drum:

Reading on the web is almost certainly affecting the way we process information, but it’s not making us stupid. Instead, it’s changing the way we’re smart. Rather than storehouses of in-depth information, the web is turning our brains into indexes. These days, it’s not what you know — it’s what you know you can access, and cross reference.

In other words, books taught us to think like they do — as tools for storing extensive knowledge. Now the web teaches us to think like it does — as a tool for recall and connection.


Why memorize the content of a single book when you could be using your brain to hold a quick guide to an entire library? Rather than memorize information, we now store it digitally and just remember what we stored — resulting in what David Brooks called “the outsourced brain.” We won’t become books, we’ll become their indexes and reference guides, permanently holding on to rather little deep knowledge, preferring instead to know what’s known, by ourselves and others, and where that knowledge is stored.

Drum comments:

Kids who grow up on the internet may be great at looking up odd bits of information quickly, but my experience is that they often suck at figuring out what that information means and what conclusions it's reasonable to draw from it. That's because they don't know the context. They don't know the rest of the story. And that's because they don't read enough books.

I'm tremendously interested in this. I do think we are socially becoming more enticed by the notion of the mind as a sort of grabbing machine, pulling quotations, facts, arguments and experiences from a nearly endless store of information which is largely (though not solely) available through the internet.

But to do that, we need to grab from someone or somewhere. Somebody else has to go out and have experiences, say insightful things, collect facts--essentially, do their homework so everybody else can include them in their personal SparkNotes. An analogy might be the relationship of blogs to certain aspects of newspapers: Newspapers have, in addition to a lot of other less-valuable work, employed people to go and collect facts, have experiences, do research, and--in some cases--be expert. They've been paying people to do their homework while bloggers have taken on the ever more enticing, exciting, and vaunted function of sorting, filtering, aggregating, and sharing.

I don't know whose thought this originally was, but my father has repeated it to me a few times: no medium has disappeared entirely; each one just finds a niche that no other medium quite fills. We still use stone tablets for plaques, headstones, and inscriptions. Books will likely find their own uses, as will newspapers.

Will books remain the domain of the specialists, the conscientious nerds who read and annotated every part of the assignment, while blogs become the domain of the more casual population? And if they do--or if they are--are readers and writers of blogs dilettantes or generalists? I suspect we shall see both, and there will be a spectrum from generalism on a massive scale (Slate, for example) to specialization (Abu Muqawama) with much in between. But how are we to distinguish dilettantes--practitioners of Durkheim's "flabby, lax form of discipline" from the perfection found in wholeness? And how do such shallowly omniscient directories coexist with the focused, determined, and admirable specialists on whom they must rely?

Perhaps this last, at least, isn't really a question. After all, it's already happening. I would consider myself something of a Dewey Decimal-style mind with expanded sections for certain areas of personal interest to me, and I interact with more focused people all the time just fine in my personal life; I consume information provided by such people and store it exactly as Suderman suggested. It is neither difficult nor problematic.

I think the fear of specialist loss, so to speak, which has appeared in some discussions of the fate of newspapers, is a reasonable concern--I can imagine a dystopia of thousands of generalists all groping in the dark for information that isn't there. When no one does the homework, the entire day of class is useless. But I just don't see it happening. As much effect as media and technology may have on the way we process information, I think some people truly are predisposed to generalism, others to specialization, others to dilettantism, and some are polymaths. The distributions may shift but no category is ever empty. Just as books and newspapers (or something like them) will find their niche, so will the fact-finders and the experienced. We'll need them far too much to let them disappear.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Can it be?


A draft version of the Justice Department's internal investigation of Bush Administration lawyers who wrote memos authorizing torture has concluded that at least two of them are guilty of significant misconduct, two sources with direct knowledge of the draft said.

The Associated Press reported tonight that the draft version of the report does not recommend criminal charges against lawyers John Yoo and Jay Bybee. But the sources said that the report lays out, in exquisite detail, a significant number of exchanges between the lawyers and the White House as several of the memos were being crafted. The report includes excerpts from internal memoranda and e-mail messages.


The AP reported that an early version of the draft recommended that the California State Bar Association seek the disbarment of Yoo, now a Berkeley law professor, and Bybee, an appellate judge. A Justice Department official said that the final decision had not been made.

It's a sad world when I am getting incredulously excited at the prospect of disbarment rather than prosecution, but I will very sincerely take what I can get.

Sullivan raises the stakes:

The reason this is vital is that it gets to the core of the question of good faith in authorizing the elaborate torture program that Bush and Cheney constructed as their central weapon in the war against Jihadist terrorism. If we can see that the memos were transparent attempts not to explicate the law in good faith to guide the executive branch - but were emanations of the executive branch to provide phony and flawed legal cover for already-decided illegal acts, then we have a conspiracy to commit war crimes.

That's what's at stake here.

Good times

I am so beyond pleased to be from New England these days, what with gay marriage rolling through the region. Massachusetts' pioneer status on the issue has always been a point of pride (among many), but it's truly fantastic to see this sort of regional snowballing taking place. You can cross whole state lines within the U.S. now and still have your marriage count on the other side.

Of course, the longer this goes on the more bizarre and untenable DOMA becomes on a Constitutional level, but I'll leave that for another time. Right now I'm just happy.

Sunday, May 3, 2009


It seems the Egyptian government has decided to kill all the pigs in the combat swine flu.

Vigilantism in our politics, or: Mr. Smith suiting up?

It appears that ordinary citizens are declaring themselves superheroes--you know, masked vigilantes, citizen crimefighters, protectors of the innocent--in several American cities. Highest-profile is Shadow Hare from Cincinnati.

The linked article makes lots of fun of everyone involved, and I understand perfectly well why (not to mention it's from the UK Daily Mail). But I can't bring myself to just laugh outright. Maybe I've spent too much time with alternative comic books that investigate what superheroes signify, and with novels about comic books and superheroes, to take them unseriously. I've read far more in the metaliterature about superheroes (Watchmen, Kavalier & Clay, even Sandman to a degree) than I ever have in the actual superhero canon, and so when I think superheroes I really don't think flat (yet muscular!) characters in silly suits with unlikely adversaries and bad onomatopoeia for sound effects. I immediately think about mythology, cultural signifiers, narratives of good and evil, and perceptions of "the times we live in."

Along with that goes a certain affection for the notion of people who just decide "screw it, I'm dressing up and going out there." I'm not saying that such people, fictional or otherwise, are the sanest or best-adjusted; nor am I saying there is nothing laughable about them. But they do mean well in a much purer and easier sense, I think, than many other people who otherwise are similar. (Certainly they do in fictional cases.)

At any rate, via the video in the article it seems many of these people hang out at The World Superhero Registry, which has some rather forbidding language on its front page:

This website deals with the actual incorporation of the superhero archetype into daily life. As a consequence of the complex and ever-changing nature of the legal system and the diverse and unusual activities that may be involved in such alternative lifestyles, some of the activities described herein may be in conflict with local laws in some areas. None of the creators of this web page specifically condone any of the described activities or the possession of any of the equipment related to those activities. We are not legal experts and lack the expertise and resources to research the legality of any of the practices of our members, or visitors.

This does make one worry for their good intentions. (This is, of course, one of the eternal superhero dilemmas: don't we have laws for a reason? How can you be sure that your forces for good, once unleashed, will stay good? And what if there are disagreements about the good? But I digress.) I have no idea whether my reproducing content from the website would count as the sort of thing for which they require permission, as I am not a member of the press, but I'll avoid direct quotes.

I am fascinated by the Registry. There are three immediate requirements: costume (signifies dedication), heroic deeds (above and beyond your average concerned citizen), and motivation (personal, uncompensated, and spontaneous). The website has things you'd probably consider essential: tutorials, a forum, a map of superheroes around the world, and a place to request assistance. But there are also book and movie reviews, a photo gallery of self-made "gadgets", a support forum, a press kit, and a philosophy section. It is, in short, an online community not unlike special-interest websites that have been started before; it is actually eerily reminiscent of Glenn Beck's 9/12 project.

The similarity is no accident: I think there are some broad connections to be made between our politics and superhero fetishism and/or vigilantism (the two overlap but are not identical).

Firstly, I think the level of superhero activity--real and imagined--in this country at a given time is probably rather analogous to "right track/wrong track" polling: the U.S. is in a bit of a ditch at the moment and people feel the need to do something about it. Happily, not everybody expresses this impulse in the manner of Timothy McVeigh. Sure enough, the superhero map shows the highest concentration of superheroes in North America (by which I mean almost exclusively the U.S.), followed by South America, perhaps one guy in Finland, and a few in the UK. (Some of these people are clearly funning, but shhh. Some of them definitely are not, particularly in the U.S.)

Superhero mythology lends itself particularly well to clear-cut battles between good and evil (or at least the desire for such in the face of more difficult troubles), and particularly in the case of the Batman/Gotham storyline can be seen to be reflective of a notion of a tide of societal evils, venality and disintegration battering at the weakening bastions of order, justice, and virtue. I find it interesting that as far as I can tell, The Registry's superheroes are not interested in fighting terror--they want to improve the lives of the people around them. They want to improve their neighborhoods and (of course) themselves. The struggle here is not abroad, not Us (whoever We are) against The World, but Us against Ourselves.

One of the other major tropes of superheroics is, of course, transformation. Whether there is a paramount transformative moment (Peter Parker being bitten by the spider; the creation of Dr. Manhattan) or an everyday transformation (Bruce Wayne into Batman), or even a more essential transformation through which one discovers one's true nature as a mutant (X-men) or an alien (Superman), at some point the hero crosses a line from ordinary citizen to extraordinary activist. We are currently in a moment of intense economic upheaval; more than that, we are undergoing a profound national political unmooring in terms of conventional policy wisdom as well as our national self-definition on some key issues (torture, a social safety net, gay marriage, legalized marijuana). The increasing chasm between conservatives' and their opponents' views of what is currently happening in this country and what it may mean illustrates how much we are in free fall. We have found ourselves at what feels like an inflection point, and it seems necessary to redefine or at least investigate what it means to be an American as well as what it means to be a citizen of a democracy that has gotten so big, so delocalized, and so distant from its government. I give you Jim Manzi:

Suppose we had a 9/11-level attack with 3,000 casualties per year every year. Each person reading this would face a probability of death from this source of about 0.001% each year. A Republic demands courage – not foolhardy and unsustainable “principle at all costs”, but reasoned courage – from its citizens. The American response should be to find some other solution to this problem if the casualty rate is unacceptable. To demand that the government “keep us safe” by doing things out of our sight that we have refused to do in much more serious situations so that we can avoid such a risk is weak and pathetic. It is the demand of spoiled children, or the cosseted residents of the imperial city. In the actual situation we face, to demand that our government waterboard detainees in dark cells is cowardice.

On its face, this passage is about waterboarding and about torture, but it is also very much about American notions of citizenship and representative government. Notice the distinction so easily and, it seems, unthinkingly drawn between a Republic, which makes demands on its citizens, and an imperial city (no capitalizations), which cossets its residents. In that contrast alone are notions of environment, borders, locality, global standing, and the relationship between a state and its constituents. These are the sorts of questions we are grappling with.

Many of the Registered Superheroes may have suffered their own economic dislocation. Some of them may be social conservatives who think the entire country is on the brink of sliding into the political, economic, and cultural sea. Some of them may be people who have been dissatisfied for a long time and have been hoped and changed and grassrootsed enough to try to go on and do something about it. Indeed, the relationship between ordinary and extraordinary persons and their ordinary and extraordinary acts is an essential one in American politics: activists try to convince people (in oddly Catholic fashion) that they, the ordinary, by good works can be transformed into the extraordinary, while politicians allow them a Protestant claim of grace newly discovered (did I mention that we are the ones we've been waiting for?). Watchmen vs. X-men, one might say. Similarly, American exceptionalism and certain forms of cultural nationalism on the right exult in the sheer ordinariness of certain tropes as signifiers of an exceptional nature--it is through ordinariness, and its inherent virtue, that we are transformed. Some of our most beloved political bedtime stories, such as Mr. Smith's much-vaunted trip to Washington, can be easily seen as a sort of whitewashed form of vigilantism in which everyone is a winner.

Despite all of this complicated hot air, some of these superheroes are definitely 11-year-old boys. Not everyone thinks in these terms, nor should they (if you think the economy is bad now, hoo boy do I have a doomsday scenario for you). But I do believe in zeitgeist and in discourses, and these currents are in the air.

What I want to know is, have phenomena like this arisen at every moment of national freefall? Is this happening now because a national movement like the Civil Rights movement or the anti-war movement of the 1960s and '70s is so deeply absent? Did this work remotely similarly before the internet, and if not, how essential is the reinforcing presence of colleagues in crimefighting? How analogous is this to other, more sinister forms of vigilantism? How does it relate to acts of domestic terrorism like the uber-conservative attacks on liberal churches and groups we saw a few months ago? Are these different responses to the same broad stimuli (with different triggers, clearly)? Is the difference in degree, kind, or both? What's the explanation for the apparent concentration of registered avengers in the eastern half of the country (in an unexpected twist, they are evenly distributed between North and South)? Finally, I think this could make a brilliant case study for some of the conservative critiques of the delocalizing, isolating, and concentrating effects of communications technology on culture (such as can be found at Front Porch Republic). What can I say, I love giving out free tips.

On a less political note (I can't help myself): I'm fascinated that the press's gentle mocking of these gentlefolk seems to center around their lack of physical impressiveness. I don't think even those commenting on the superheroes realize that their criticisms are precisely based in the superhero mythology they find so ludicrous. One would think that in this age of technological advancement we would find it less necessary to have someone's moral strength be so concretely represented in his or her physicality, but I suppose our culture is still plenty body-obsessed--perhaps particularly at a moment of disorientation and dislocation. (Plus, they don't quite have the gadget gallery up to Stephen Hawking's level.)