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Cleaning Out My Closet

Posted: September 27, 2004

By Kevin Forest Moreau, Editor-in-Chief

It's been a few months since I've sat down to write a real, meaty, issue-driven editorial. But that doesn't mean there haven't been ideas bouncing around my head like caffeinated Mexican jumping beans. In fact, sitting down to catch up on Shaking Through business, I'm confronted with quite a few Post-it notes and crumpled, beer-soaked napkins jotted with random thoughts. So let's get down to business, shall we?

1. Commentators everywhere are having a field day denouncing authorities for having denied The Artist Formerly Known as Cat Stevens entry into the U.S. "I certainly feel safer now, knowing that the TSA is keeping known guitarists off of airplanes," chirped one genius on the blog site Daily Kos. Never mind that the singer's current moniker, Yusef Islam, popped up on a federal watch list. Okay, maybe that was another Yusef Islam, but such a thing deserves a thorough checking-out, wouldn't you think?

Supposedly Mr. Islam's treatment is an example of how skewed our security priorities are, and thus how incompetent our federal watchdogs are. Yes, our homeland security measures could stand some improvement: No one believes we as a nation are safer, for instance, because of airport screeners who randomly select frail senior citizens for aggressive searches. But in this case, I'm not buying it. If someone who happens to share the name of a suspected terrorist, or even happens to be a suspected terrorist, is temporarily inconvenienced while officials make sure that person isn't coming into the country to commit a violent act against American citizens, well, frankly, I'm okay with that.

Besides which, I've got zero sympathy for Yusef. You'll recall that he spoke out in favor of the Iranian fatwa against the writer Salman Rushdie when the latter wrote the supposedly "blasphemous" book The Satanic Verses. Granted, he seems to have since backed off of that infamous statement, and is by most accounts a man of peace who deplores terrorism and violence in any form. So perhaps I should give the guy the benefit of the doubt. But if you're looking for a calm, measured column on this subject, you're in the wrong place. Call me reactionary, but I'm a man who's kind of slow to forgive, especially when it comes to religious types supporting any kind of restriction of, or punishment for, free speech. And I'm not even a fan of Rushdie's work.

Mr. Islam could convince Sum 41 to stop recording albums, get Donald Trump off my TV, cure all disease and deliver Osama bin Laden to the U.S. on a silver platter, and I'd still have a hard time embracing him. As far as I'm concerned, he gave aid and comfort to an enemy of the free world – much like protesters of the situation in Iraq are believed to be "giving aid to terrorists" in the eyes of Dick Cheney's minions. (Plus, let's face it: a lot of Cat Stevens' music was pretty damn sappy.) Hopefully his recent unpleasant experience will cause him to reflect on what life was like for Rushdie for all those years he lived in hiding. Personal note to Mr. Islam: Get over Yusef.

2. So Cynthia Nixon of Sex and the City is apparently dating a woman. For some reason, this is being treated as big news. I realize the celebrity-driven tabloids have to keep churning out sensationalistic copy, but is this something anyone really cares about?

Besides me, that is? Your humble editor happens to have had a crush on Ms. Nixon that stretches back decades. In fact, if I were single, I'd be writing something along the lines of "Cynthia, don't be hasty! I'm the man for you!" But I'm not, and so I won't. (My fiancée would kill me; she's already peeved that I got upset over a tabloid headline proclaiming that Sandra Bullock was about to tie the knot.) So let's leave Cynthia Nixon alone, shall we? If she and I can't be together, then she's free to date whomever she pleases -- man or woman, animal, vegetable or mineral.

3. It's been a surprisingly exciting summer for reading mainstream comics. I usually have to stifle a yawn through the big summer "events" thrown out by the major publishers, but not this season. Four issues into its projected seven-issue run, DC's Identity Crisis mini-series has so far lived up to its hype. Brad Meltzer has crafted a pretty harrowing tale that centers on the "secret identities" of the DCU's heroes and the vulnerabilities inherent in those secrets. The ending to issue #3 was as jarring as any television series cliffhanger in recent memory.

I'm a little less excited about Brian Michael Bendis' run so far on the Avengers comic, mainly because I'm now completely bored by his halting dialogue style. Maybe real people actually talk this way, but verisimilitude doesn't necessarily equal a better, more exciting comic. The "Chaos" storyline certainly has its share of gripping "Holy Shit!" moments, but Bendis' pacing and dialogue tics have so far managed to sap a little of the excitement out of those moments. And having seen what kind of Avengers team Bendis has planned on the other end of this arc (thanks to the magic of Previews catalogs), I remain to be convinced that the payoff will be worth the buildup. Frankly, I think Mssr. Bendis is getting a little over-extended, but I'm generally a fan of his work and I'll try to reserve judgment until the whole thing's wrapped up.

On the other hand, I have nothing but good things to say about Joss Whedon's work so far on the new Astonishing X-Men. His dialogue pops with the same finesse he brought to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and his story is intriguing enough to warrant shelling out a couple of bucks each month, rather than waiting for the inevitable trade paperback collection. (Coming from me, that's a big compliment.) John Cassaday's artwork, specifically his layouts, also deserves praise. But it's Whedon's moment, and the book is an almost perfect match of a writer's strengths with characters and situations that draw out those strengths.

4. I'm occasionally asked why we don't cover television here on Shaking Through. There are a couple of reasons for this, the primary one being that our writers are spread pretty thin as it is covering our four basic food groups. Besides which, TV is much more ephemeral than the other aspects of pop culture, although the increasing trend of collecting seasons of even unsuccessful series on DVD is changing that – these collections make it possible for us to consider a body of work, much the same way a comics trade paperback or CD box set does. And then there's the design and layout of the site: Even if we wanted to, I don't know where we'd fit TV coverage.

And frankly, none of us watches enough TV to make covering it worth our while. There are some good shows on, granted, but TV far and away occupies the bottom lowest rung on our collective pop-cultural totem pole here at Shaking Through World Headquarters. And none of us wants this site to turn into Entertainment Weekly, with us crowing about The Apprentice every week.

Having said that, though, nothing is written in stone. There have been instances in the past couple of years where one or the other of us has really been impressed by something on the tube: The Sopranos, of course, lots of HBO content, even network fare. I don't watch a whole lot of TV, but I happened upon the pilot for Veronica Mars last week and found it extremely compelling -- enough to sit through the repeat of it two nights later. If the quality keeps up, I may actually start making room for it in my weekly schedule -- we'll see.

What do you think? Is coverage of television something you'd be interested in, whether we're talking about reviews of DVDs or maybe guest opinion columns similar to our Rox Populi feature? Let us know: Your input, as always, is valuable to us. Who knows? This could be your opportunity to directly affect the future of Shaking Through.

And with that, I'll sign off for now. Until Dan Rather marries Britney Spears: Peace.

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Archived Editorials
December 03, 2006: Happy Feet
November 22, 2006: Half Decade Anniversary
October 07, 2006: Jessica Simpson
September 30, 2006: New Orleans and SNL
June 2, 2006: Dixie Chicks
May 7, 2006: Are Yahu Serious?
February 16, 2006: Bill O'Reilly & Brokeback Mountain
February 12, 2006: Totally '80s (Grammys)
January 31, 2006: Freyed Oprah
November 27, 2005: To Be Continued... (Bringing back movie serials)
November 21, 2005: Fourth Birthday
November 05, 2005: TV Remakes
August 13, 2005: Ten Commandments of Rock
July 05, 2005: Live 8
May 05, 2005: Term Limits (for Rock Stars)
April 29, 2005: Pearl Jam Redux
January 26, 2005: Oscar Grouching
October 31, 2004: Three More Years!
September 27, 2004: Cleaning Out My Closet
August 25, 2004: Shaking Through Mailbag
June 23, 2004: Summer Reading List
June 11, 2004: World Without Heroes (Bill Murray and Garfield)
April 23, 2004: Sold Out (Bob Dylan, Victoria's Secret, & Iraq)
April 08, 2004: The Day the Music Died (Kurt Cobain)
Mar. 17, 2004: Copping Out
Feb. 27, 2004: The Passion of Howard Stern
Jan. 30, 2004: Sex and the City
Nov. 17, 2003: California Über Alles
Nov. 7, 2003: Not-So-Terrible Twos
Sept. 19, 2003: Magic & Loss (Johnny Cash and Warren Zevon)
Aug. 17, 2003: Those '70s Shows
May 27, 2003: Patriot Games (Darryl Worley)
May 24, 2003: American Idol
Mar. 23, 2003: Non-cents-ical (Dixie Chicks-50 Cent)
Feb. 8, 2003: Where's the Love? (Pearl Jam)
Jan. 1, 2003: High Resolutions
Dec. 16, 2002: All I Want for Christmas
Nov. 27, 2002: Things to be Thankful For
Nov. 8, 2002: Near Wild Heaven (Nirvana)
Oct. 21, 2002: Happy Birthday to Us
Sept. 11, 2002: The Little Things
Aug. 20, 2002: King for a Day
July 9, 2002: Bill of Rights
Apr. 18, 2002: Celebrity Skim
Apr. 15, 2002: We Will Never Lie To You
Jan. 6, 2002: Something to Believe In
Nov. 3, 2001: Who We Are