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CCLaP Fridays: On Being Human: Warhammer 40K Space Marines


I continue my CCLaP essay series “On Being Human”, this week exploring the dark world of Warhammer 40K and the Space Marines.

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Of Muscles and Men: Essays on the Sword & Sandal Film, edited by Michael Cornelius


“Hercules!  Table for eight!” one of the bots says on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.  The feature ripe for riffage stars Steve Reeves, has sub-par dubbing, and copious shots of Reeve’s chiseled torso.  Of Muscles and Men: Essays on the Sword & Sandal Film explores the history, interpretation, and sexual politics of the sword and sandal film.  Michael Cornelius editorial acumen brings together numerous academic essays focusing on this particular film genre.  The first set of essays focus on the sword and sandal film (also known as the peplum, the name of the short skirt-like garment wore by the muscle-bound heroes).  These essays investigate the peplum film’s development and history.  The second set of essays focus on specific pop cultural products in the peplum genre, ranging from film to TV series to animation and parody.  The essay collection functions simultaneously as a précis and a convergence of numerous disciplines (film history, gender studies, pop culture studies, classical studies, literary theory, and others).  One can hope to see a more thorough investigation of the peplum genre that build off this initial essay anthology, either in the form of monographs or a tighter anthology refracted through one of the various aforementioned disciplines.

This Barthesian excursion into a much-maligned genre seeks to revivify it through reconnections with its classical roots and older waves of peplum films.  The genre originated in Italy with the Maciste films (one even had proto-fascist poet and adventurer Gabriele d’Annunzio as a screenwriter), being a modification of the “strong man” film genre.  The connection to d’Annunzio is further complicated by the Second Wave peplum films, those produced in the Fifties and Sixties with American bodybuilders as the “Hercules” figures and financed by Italian production companies.  (Also those routinely skewered by MST 3K.)  Maria Elena D’Amelio’s essay “Hercules, Politics, and Movies” posits that American stars and Italian funding helped viewers negotiate with the Fascist past.  As evidenced by plots involving the musclebound hero liberate an oppressed populace from a tyrant.  The peplum hero also works in a similar way to American Westerns, in that the liberator does not become the ruler, only as a means to restore the political status quo.  While Westerns have the White Hat Hero riding off into the sunset, the peplum usually has the hero heading back to his farm and reuniting with his wife and child.

Heteronormative fail.

On a similar note, several essays explore the problematic sexual politics of the peplum film.  The most notorious film, the recently released 300, had obvious heterosexual cheerleading and made the villains into gay caricatures.  (As one blogger snarkily put it, turning Xerxes’s armies into “a gay pride parade from Mordor.”)  Another essay, by way of counterexample, explores the intentionally problematic sexual politics of Pasolini’s Medea.  Pasolini received short shrift from contemporary film critics because of his status as a gay Catholic Communist filmmaker and poet.  The connection between heroic heterosexuality and conservative politics makes 300 a popular film among American conservatives, but also, predictably, at least given the clockwork-like predictability of Republican gay sex scandals, one of the most unintentionally gay films released in recent years.  However, film fandom operates in strange ways, perhaps giving rise to a resurgent gay fandom for 300.  The film’s ham-fisted sexual politics beg for audience mockery and derision.

The author is a child of the Eighties and grew up playing with and watching the Masters of the Universe TV series.  Michael Cornelius writes an essay finding parallels between the Masters of the Universe franchise and the gay clone subculture (e.g. The Village People, Tom of Finland).

In an overall worthy collection, it is the final essay that disappoints.  Daniel O’Brien’s essay investigating The Three Stooges Meet Hercules in terms of parody within the pepla genre fails not in content, but in execution.  The serious tone of academic writing clashes with the film’s comedic content.  Visual gags and the crazy plot get explained, but the ill fit occurs when O’Brien’s prose belabors the obvious.  Understanding parody and burlesque is instrumental in understanding the pepla genre, since it is another aspect of pepla’s multifaceted nature.  In the end, this reviewer kept uttering the phrase, “Well, duh,” while reading O’Brien’s anodyne explanations.

Despite the final essay’s shortcomings, Of Muscles and Men offers a variety of analyses into the pepla genre and its attendant pop cultural significances and problematic sexual politics.

The Hunger Games


Warning: This is not a traditional movie review, but an exploration of politics and pop culture within the Hunger Games movie universe.  Spoilers ahead!

 

“The spectacle is capital accumulated to the point where it becomes image.” – Guy Debord

Hunger Games fever is sweeping the nation!  Catch it!  The film adaptation, directed by Gary Ross (Pleasantville, Seabiscuit), focuses on the story of Katniss Everdeen, a coal miner’s daughter from District 12.  Through an act of selflessness, she volunteers to go in her sister’s place to the 74th Annual Hunger Games.  At the Hunger Games, children between the ages of 12 to 18 fight to the death in front of a national audience.

While this represents only the bare bones of the plot, the film itself offers a unique take on the collisions of politics and pop culture.  The nation of Panem had a nasty civil war where the poorer outlying districts fought against the richer central districts.  When hostilities ceased, a Truce was signed.  The Truce stipulated that two young children be selected from each district to fight to the death.  (A nostalgic film is played on a massive public screen in District 12.  This commemorative film eerily echoes Leni Riefenstahl’s Olympia(1938) with its chiseled heroic youths holding swords and striking sculptural poses.)  The process by which the children are drafted is named The Reaping, a term with agricultural and religious connotations.  During the opening text crawl, it is explained that the Reaping and Hunger Games are “penance” the former rebellious districts must pay to the victorious districts.

Susanne Collins vision is fascinating because she shows how a political ideology transformed into a pop cultural phenomenon.  After 74 years, what was once a weighty political ritual has become an empty sports spectacle, complete with sponsors, an opening ceremony, and betting.  Gary Ross is a nice fit for director, since his previous effort, Pleasantville, offers an analogous situation, with Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon trying to escape, then eventually trying to liberate, an entirely mediated space.  The Tributes fight in a similar mediated space, since personnel associated with the Head Gamemaker can easily manipulate its environment.

Akin to the modern-day Olympics, the Hunger Games seeks to depoliticize a painful political event.  Instead of killing each other for political or territorial control, the contestants kill each other in order to become victorious.  Prior to the actual game, the draftees are treated as media superstars, each getting interviewed by the Emcee Caesar Flickerman.

Manners are important.

The Hunger Games offers a fascinating blend of right- and left-wing authoritarianisms.  Like North Korea or Nazi Germany, there is mass spectacle.  Everyone watches the Games, the same way everyone listens to Big Brother’s instructions via television in Orwell’s 1984.  The economic gap between the districts has echoes of France’s ancien regime and the Occupy movement’s nefarious 1%.  The wealthy districts has a dolled-up citizenry with facepaint, make-up, and outrageous hairstyles.  (Cf. Jean-Paul Gaultier’s futuristic costuming in the Fifth Element).  The film is to be commended for making Elizabeth Banks ugly (she plays Effie Trinket).  Not ugly in the sense of Quasimodo or someone with physical deformities, but someone whose artificiality, arrogance, and unawareness make her simply vulgar.  The largest breach of decorum with her is not the televised murder or economic chasm between district, but “manners!”  In the end, manners are rituals and codes one must follow in a certain socioeconomic group.  Katniss is a threat to Panem, not because of her adept archery skills, but because her intelligence bespeaks a knowledge of codebreaking.  She is victorious as both a tenacious fighter and one who “games the system.”  (We live in an age where school shootings are commonplace, alongside stories of teenagers hacking formidable computer programs.  No wonder this movie and novel trilogy speaks to so many young people.)

When hope isn't contained.When hope isn’t contained.

As the games hit their dramatic peak, someone from a wealthy district kills Rue, a young girl from District 11.  This causes a riot in District 8 that boils over into other districts, creating a tense political situation.  During the ensuing debacle, President Snow talks with the Gamemaker, saying to the effect that “a little hope is good, but too much hope is dangerous.  Contain it.”  When I first heard those lines, I recalled last year’s Arab Spring.  For too long, the United States has spooned out hope in tiny portions to the peoples of the Middle East.  The United States would make constant promises about freedom and liberty, and then simultaneously prop up brutal dictatorships because of either their natural resources or their geopolitical position associated with the Cold War and/or War on Terror.  The Arab Spring was something the United States could not control and it scared us as much as an Osama bin Laden videotape.  One recalls how the United States simultaneously talked about supporting freedom yet made constant associations between Arab Spring protesters and Al-Qaeda.  Freedom and liberty are fine, control and commodities are more preferable.

It is not often that a Young Adult novel can so presciently capture the zeitgeist and offer up such lacerating commentary on our brutal, hyper-mediated culture.

Why Warhammer 40K?

September 21, 2011 1 comment

Short answer: Why not?

Only a few short steps to Warhammer 40K fandom.

Long answer: The reason I’m investigating Warhammer 40K mostly stems from my own biography.  As an 80s pre-teen, I enjoyed the pop culture of the time, especially if it was on TV and involved robots, vehicles, and weapons.  Transformers, Voltron, and GI Joe were my favorites.  (Although I owned a number of GI Joe toys, the TV show remained anathema in the house.)

I’m not sure when it happened or where, but it was probably a hobby shop somewhere in (possibly?) South Milwaukee area.  While the store had the usual hobby store staples – trains, models, kites, etc. – what caught my wasn’t a model car or a Lionel product, it was the Citadel Miniatures catalogs of 1991.  (And yes, I still have them.)  The monsters, demons, soldiers, and armored vehicles really hooked me.  In the terms of museology, I had a case of poeisia, the Greek term for wonder and awe.  In the end, my dad ordered not a miniature or model, but the catalog itself.

The catalog fetish still survives with me, since I enjoy buying exhibition catalogs for museum exhibits.  Nothing fuels my imagination more than a perusal of Forge World’s latest.

Besides the Citadel Miniatures catalogs, I also found a copy of Rogue Trader.  The illustrations, the hyper-dystopian mythology, and the ultraviolence appealed to my baser instincts.  Only recently have I discovered my copy, falling apart as it is, remains a collector’s item in high demand.

Rogue Trader, the Dune Encyclopedia, and the Star Wars VHS trilogy (pre-Lucas meddling) form a constellation of precious pop culture commodities I value as one would a saint’s bone.  Given the crypto-religious tone in Warhammer 40K, a reliquary for my Rogue Trader 1st edition doesn’t seem inappropriate at all.

Fast forward to the mid-2000s: I’m in the thicket of a grad school public history program.  (What is public history?  Short answer: The program you take when you don’t want to become a history professor.)  Grad school in the humanities involves lots of reading.  Lots and lots of reading.  Footnotes, Foucault references, using the words “discourse” and “space” in a sentence.  Heady, intellectual stuff, occasionally interspersed with writing as dense as a uranium milkshake.  I don’t regret a minute of it.

I preserved my sanity by rediscovering Warhammer 40K, this time in the omnibus editions of the Black Library novels I found in the local Barnes & Noble.  The hook occurred with the first sentences of Ian Watson’s magisterial trilogy The Inquisition Wars.  Now considered non-canon, it remains one of the best Warhammer 40K novels I’ve ever read.

The omnibus opens with a short story entitled “The Alien Beast Within.”  It concerns an Imperial Assassin infiltrating a cabal of Genestealers.  Pretty standard stuff in terms of space opera and military science fiction.  While the plot didn’t stand out, the language did.  Watson wrote the story in a gaudy pop decadence, a delicious fantasy reincarnation of French Decadent Joris-Karl Huysmans.  Here are a few opening lines:

THE GIANT EXERCISE wheel accelerated yet again while Meh’Lindi raced, caged within it. The machine towered two hundred metres high, under a fan-vaulted roof. Shafts of light, of blood-red and cyanotic blue and bilious green, beamed through tracery windows which themselves revolved kaleidoscopically. Chains of brass amulets dangling from the rotating spokes of the wheel clashed and clanged deafeningly like berserk bells as they whirled around.

I read on, blissed out on the verbal pyrotechnics.  Here is Watson’s description of the God-Emperor’s Palace on Terra in the novel Draco(1990; 2002):

IF VIEWED FROM low orbit through the foul atmosphere, the continent-spanning palace was a concatenation of copulating, jewelstudded tortoise shells erupting into ornate monoliths, pyramids, and ziggurats kilometres high, pocked by landing pads, prickling with masts of antennae and weapons batteries. Whole cities were mere chambers in this palace, some grimly splendid, others despicable and deadly, and all crusted with the accretion of the ages.

Following the Inquisition Wars, I read the Eisenhorn omnibus written by the impossibly prolific Dan Abnett.  The trilogy follows the eponymous Imperial Inquisitor and his rag-tag entourage across worlds.  What makes Eisenhorn different from the usual Black Library volume is it spends most of the time amongst the ordinary and everyday in the grim 41st millennium.  It was a nice re-introduction into this world.  Both Inquisition Wars and Eisenhorn are excellent gateway volumes for those interested in the Warhammer 40K universe.

One final note: I don’t play Warhammer 40K.  First, from the prohibitive pricing of just about everything in their inventory makes it financially detrimental to start an army.  Second, I don’t know many players who live in my area.  On the other hand, I continue to enjoy reading the novels and browsing the catalogs online.

Atlas Summer: Part III: Chapter X: In the Name of the Best Within Us


Atlas Summer: Part III: Chapter X: In the Name of the Best Within US


Pages: 1147 – 1168

Summary: Dagny, Hank, and Ragnar break into the secret facility and save John Galt.  Dagny confronts a guard and gives him a philosophical ultimatum.  At least that’s what Rand probably intended.  Unfortunately, it comes across like yet another dogmatic Abbot and Costello routine.

After saving John Galt, they fly back to Galt’s Gulch.  Kay Ludlow reads Aristotle, Judge Narragansett works on rewriting the Constitution, and Hank and Francisco discuss the creation of new locomotives and the high rates Dagny will charge.  (Women, am I right?)

Finally, John Galt prepares the path to re-enter the “outside world” by drawing a dollar sign on the desolate ground.

Sorry, this never stops being funny.

Lest we forget, Eddie Willers got stuck on a train in the middle of nowhere.  After numerous frustrations, he says the titular line of the chapter amidst yet another hissy fit.

Reflections: It’s been a long turgid road, but we finally made it.  We finished Atlas Shrugged before it finished us.  There’s not much to say except that this was the most overrated piece of garbage since The Phantom Menace.  At least the Phantom Menace had a pod race and a decent light saber battle.  If anything, Atlas Shrugged works as a primer of how not to write a novel.  Even leaving aside Rand’s childish philosophy and her bloated ego, the novel is entirely lacking in characterization and drama.  One needs those things in novel writing if the novelist doesn’t want to put the reader to sleep.

The philosophy itself is a failed attempt at cod-Nietzscheanism: Galt as the heroic Übermensch beyond the ken of ordinary looter morality; ferociously anti-democratic; and achingly nostalgic for Greco-Roman classical ideals.  (I would compare Ayn Rand to Leni Riefenstahl, Nazi propagandist and filmmaker, except that Riefenstahl had talent.)  In the end, Objectivism comes across like a gilded Satanism.  Like Satanism, Objectivism fuels a hackneyed rebelliousness.  Extolling the virtues of greed and selfishness may sound badass at first blush, but this is just worshipping gold instead of Satan.  (At least professed Satanists like Marilyn Manson have talent.)

What do you expect from a “philosopher” who names herself as a unit of South African currency?

Objectivism is as badass as Pat Boone donning a leather jacket and doing Metallica covers.  George Carlin puts it another way.  On the topic of feminism, he states, “Changing your name isn’t a radical act.  Castrating a man in a parking lot is a radical act.”  When one owns media conglomerates, has Congressional leaders in their pocket, and possesses extreme wealth, it is rather silly having one think of oneself as a rebel.

In the end, what Atlas Shrugged needed was a good editor … or two.

Finally, the calls for freedom and personal pleasure eventually lead to things like Dave Foley’s “Groovy Teacher.”

If Objectivism is about anything, it’s about doing heroin and having affairs with 18 year olds, or very mature 17 year olds.  That would explain the behavior of Silvio Berlusconi and Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

The band Karma Rocket from the TV series Party Down sings their hit “My Struggle,” voicing the pain and anguish of Objectivists in their struggle to act like greedy selfish babies.  What better way to end an analysis of this horrendous book?

Quotes:

  • “Calmly and impersonally, she, who would have hesitated to fire at an animal, pulled the trigger and fired straight at the heart of a man who wanted to exist without the responsibility of consciousness.”  Makes me think of that Austrian vegetarian and animal lover who had serious deficiencies in people skills.

  • “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of production and trade …”  Good to know Objectivists are in favor of slavery, child pornography, and heroin trafficking.  If it’s what the market demands …

 

Atlas Summer: Part III: Chapter IX: The Generator


Atlas Summer: Part III: Chapter IX: The Generator

Pages: 1126 – 1146

Summary: And now … torture!  John Galt, having refused the entreaties of shyster hooligan Mr. Thompson, gets stripped and strapped to Dr. Ferris’s electrical contraption.  The torture is horrendous until the machine breaks and the idiot operating it doesn’t know how to fix it.

In other news, Dr. Robert Stadler heads back to Iowa where the Xylophone is under control of effeminate fascist goofball Cuffy Meigs.  Words are exchanged, a melee ensues, and KA-BOOM!

Reflections: The torture scene comes across as dramatically puzzling and unintentionally funny.  What kind of sociopath tortures for laughs?  Oh, right …

The humor in the scene throws a giant monkey-wrench into the narrative’s tone.  Granted, the electrical apparatus breaking down proves Rand’s point, but to use the phrase of libertarians, “at what cost”?  Galt, the muscular genius hero guy, gets tortured by fat looter morons.  What’s so dramatic about that?  The characters, such broad caricatures of humanity, sap the scene of momentum and give it all the depth of a Tom and Jerry cartoon.  Hell, Rocky and Bullwinkle had better plotting, better characterization, and better jokes than this banal horseshit.

The only real explanation for this nutty scene is Rand needed to make John Galt into the book’s Christ Figure.  A rather odd thing considering Rand’s rabid atheism, although not that odd since cults of personality adopt the liturgical features of religion to suit the star’s egomania.  (Yet another similarity Ms. Rosenbaum shares with Uncle Joe.)

“Aw, come on, John, be our Economic Dictator.  Pretty please!”

For a former seminary student, Stalin cleans up quite well.

Compare this to the torture scene in 1984, written by British Socialist George Orwell.  In the novel, dissident functionary Winston Smith faces torture from O’Brien.  Winston thought O’Brien was also rebelling against Big Brother, when in actuality O’Brien belonged to the Inner Party.  Unlike the rotund dimwits in Atlas Shrugged, O’Brien uses a rat-cage that he attaches to Winston’s face.  No electricity involved.  It’s sustainable and has a small carbon footprint.  It’s also effective as hell.  Perhaps Mr. Thompson had difficulty attaining rat-cage-face-masks from Airstrip One, considering the United States is in transportation crisis in the novel?

In the end, Winston confesses and thus, 1984 becomes tragedy.  Dr. Ferris’s shenanigans just seem idiotic, especially since it is in aid of making John Galt their Economic Dictator and solving all their problems.  It’s a scene diametrically opposed to that of 19841984 is a critically acclaimed novel that attained its rightful place in the Western Canon, easily making 100 Best lists without breaking a sweat.  Atlas Shrugged, on the other hands, required market manipulation by hordes of crackpot cultists buying books in bulk in a facetious attempt at popularity.  That’s just sad.  But so is having the inability to break the $2 million dollar mark on opening weekend and coming in at a lame-ass #14.  In Glengarry Glen Ross, Blake challenges the real estate salesmen to “Always Be Closing.”  Second place is a set of steak knives, third prize is your fired!  What’s 14th?

Like the Left Behind series, Atlas Shrugged isn’t literature for the ages, it’s only appeal lies with a sliver of the population that buys into its nutjob theories and infantile views of economics.  In a word: marginal.  Here’s another one: Inconsequential.

Call me anything you want, Objectivists.  I’ll make sure to have a couch handy for you to jump on.

At some point, Scientology and Objectivism become indistinguishable.

One chapter left and we’re done with this overwrought literary abortion.  Huzzah!

Quotes:

  • “There was nothing beyond the lighted strip but the emptiness of the prairies of Iowa.”
  • “He [Cuffy Meigs] wore a tight, semi-military tunic and leather leggings; the flesh of his neck bulged over the edge of his collar; his black curls were matted with sweat.”  Jeremy Clarkson?

  • “We want ideas – or else!”

  • “Had enough?” snarled Ferris, when the current went off.  “Yes, end this book NOW!  Oh, you were talking to John Galt.”
  • “Don’t kill him!  Don’t dare kill him!  If he dies, we die!”  Whew, good thing somebody explained the stakes in the scene or I wouldn’t have understood what was going in.  Way to not insult the intelligence of your readers, Ayn.

  • “Galt burst out laughing.”
  • “Galt was watching them; his glance was too austerely perceptive.”  Or if someone with actual talent rewrote the sentence: “Galt watched them; he perceived them with a muscular austerity.”  Seriously, Ayn, use the money you made from The Fountainhead and take some creative writing courses at Columbia or the New School or something.  Your utter lack of talent is repellent, lazy, and childish.  “I’m here on a mission of mercy.  If it was up to me, I’d fire your fucking ass.”

Atlas Summer: Part III: Chapter VIII: The Egoist


“You do not become an author just by using the language to call a cabinet minister unfit for office.”

“There are writers who can express in a mere twenty pages things I sometimes need two whole lines for.”

Karl Kraus (1874 – 1936)

Reflections: The nature of fictional storytelling requires emotional and narrative pay-offs.  Starting with John Galt’s speech, Atlas Shrugged moves into the dénouement.  This is where all the deck-stacking and intellectual dishonesty of Rand’s project reveal the flaws and fractures within her attempted “philosophy.”

While all the characters get shuffled into place, John Galt prepares to escape the clutches of the evil looters.  The looters, in their idiotic desperation, call for John Galt’s help.  The tables are turned and the looters are revealed as having a bankrupt philosophy.

When Galt is finally detained by Thompson’s men in a section of the Wayne-Falkland Hotel brimming with military men, Galt still refuses to help.  Despite Galt’s two-hour speech, Mr. Thompson still doesn’t get it.

In this exchange between Galt and Thompson, we get to the essence of Atlas Shrugged, the very nubbin for why it exists in the first place.

“Okay, I’ll tell you.  You want me to become Economic Dictator?” [Galt]

“Yes!” [Thompson]

“And you’ll obey any order I give?”

“Implicitly!”

“Then start by abolishing all income taxes.”

“Oh, no!” screamed Mr. Thompson, leaping to his feet.  “We couldn’t do that!  That’s … that’s not the field of production.  That’s the field of distribution.  How would we pay government employees?”

“Fire your government employees.”

“Oh, no!  That’s politics!  That’s not economics!  You can’t interfere with politics!  You can’t have everything!”

Galt crossed his legs on the hassock, stretching himself more comfortably in the brocaded armchair.  “Want to continue this discussion?  Or do you get the point?”

Do you hear that?  It’s the sound of a balloon deflating.  This alleged confrontation distills the philosophies of both camps, yet it’s so … so … anticlimactic.  Galt is so perfect, smart, and heroic; Thompson is so conniving, weak, and contradictory.  It is the immovable Idealist versus the unstoppable force of the Looter Hordes.

Narrative sterility aside, the essence of Objectivism is now revealed as Rand’s distaste for the income tax.  The fucking income tax!  I read over one thousand pages for this!  Seriously!  (I feel like James Taggart, all exclamation points and apoplexy.)  Nevertheless, let’s take a step back, since I don’t want to give myself an aneurysm, least of all for this book.

Yes, yes, the gulags and purges were terrible, but look!  Don’t you see!  Their taking away my income!

Like anyone who has had to pay taxes, I understand the resentment and hatred people level at the Internal Revenue Service.  Money earned through hard work, etc.  But to write a 1100 page book against the injustice of the income tax is sort of silly.  Like building a cathedral to why Justin Bieber sucks.  It’s ridiculous and rather petty.  Added to this is the Randroid perception that this is the Greatest Novel of All Time.  (It would be, if you’ve never read any other book.  One would also think it the Greatest Novel of All Time as a natural and logical opinion.  Don’t worry, Objectivists, Scientologists hold the same opinion about Battlefield Earth.  They’re both good at buying in bulk and rigging literature polls.  But Objectivism is totally, totally not a cult.  ***Stifled laughter***)

The trick is buying the books in bulk.  Also works when selling subprime mortgages as loans.

Ironically, Rand’s philosophical novel resembles the logorrhea of Dave Sim, except Sim has talent as a comic book artist.  Ayn Rand (neé Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum) is just another paranoid megalomaniac who changed her name to sound tougher to her adversaries.  Wait a second … paranoid megalomaniac … name change … sounds a lot like this guy.

“Complain about the income tax all you want, I’ll be pummeling the Nazis into a slurry and sending the first man into space … with the occasional famine and purge.  Have to think of the bottom line in all this.  It’s not personal, it’s business.”

To adapt Stalin’s quote to the parlance of our time, “One unemployed person is a tragedy, a million unemployed people is a statistic.”