Sunday, December 30, 2007


"Amandla", meaning "power", was a rallying cry against apartheid, as well as one of Miles' later albums. Amandla is also a character kicking the Jonathan Lethem/Farel Dalrymple Omega the Unknown series.

Previously I was reserved in my praise for this ten-issue thang, but it's only getting better. Part of the reason is the above-mentioned Amandla. She's young Alexander Island's only friend at Sammy Sosa High School, which has a pretty tough crowd. She's tutoring him in street life, for example advising him to keep his money in a sock. Ah New York, and the deglammed setting and characters are beautifully suited to Dalrymple's art.

And the Mink, a corporate super "hero" straight from the nightmares of Ben Edlund, is getting worse. Which is good.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Get this Riefenstahl chick on the horn!

Via Digby, one of Rudy's shock troops in New Hampshire throws out some red meat.

He's got I believe the knowledge and the judgement to attack one of the most difficult problems in current history and that is the rise of the Muslims, and make no mistake about it, this hasn't happened for a thousand years. These people are very dedicated and they're also very very smart in their own way. We need to keep the feet to the fire and keep pressing these people until we defeat or chase them back to their caves or in other words get rid of them.

And further...
In an interview with me, Deady confirmed that when he made the comments, he was referring to all Muslims.

"I don't subscribe to the principle that there are good Muslims and bad Muslims," Deady told me by phone from his home in New Hampshire. "They're all Muslims."

Well you can't say that Deady hasn't learned from the best.

Every Jew is our enemy in this historic struggle, regardless of whether he vegetates in a Polish ghetto or carries on his parasitic existence in Berlin or Hamburg or blows the trumpets of war in New York or Washington. All Jews by virtue of their birth and their race are part of an international conspiracy against National Socialist Germany. They want its defeat and annihilation, and do all in their power to bring it about. That they can do nothing inside the Reich is hardly a sign of their loyalty, but rather of the appropriate measures we took against them.

And more concisely
1. The Jews are our destruction. They started this war and direct it. They want to destroy the German Reich and our people. This plan must be blocked.

2. There are no distinctions between Jews. Each Jew is a sworn enemy of the German people. If he does not make his hostility plain, it is only from cowardice and slyness, not because he loves us.

Hot stock tip: If Rudy wins, put some money into the barbed wire trade.

(To be clear: I'm not saying that Giuliani is a Nazi. I'm just saying he's acting like one as a candidate, and may feel obliged to follow through if elected. The customer is always right, after all.)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Look at that bridge burn, man

Ted Rall is getting ballsy. The cartoonist/journalist has certainly cheesed off people in the past--partly by "denigrating" Pat Tillman and helping to expose his friendly-fire death--but tossing a grenade into the center of the art comics world is striking a little closer to home. His.

For the record, I don't agree with everything that Rall is saying here. I think I'd appreciate a few comics that Rall hates. But there is something to his comparison between "Nemo" and "The Far Side", in that Winsor McCay's work is lovely, but I remember Larson's jokes better than the details of McCay's stories. (On the other hand, if you're writing about dreams it could be argued that details that fade upon waking are to the point. I can see it either way.)

I sort of agree with the Comics Journal quote too.

Comics Journal critic Noah Berlatsky thinks the current crop of art comics stars are obsessed with trying to overcome some perception that the medium is all about caped superheroes like Superman and Batman. "Alt comics have a huge chip on their shoulders, and they have responded by rejecting everything superhero in favor of Serious Art--which, alas, often means seriously boring art."

Comics have been trying to prove themselves grown-up for well over two decades now. The purported maturity has tended to take the form of anhedonia in both mainstream and indy comics. And God knows it's helped to winnow out child readers, if you think uprooting the saplings is a great way to save the forest. But from what Rall reports here, the big growth in the adult market doesn't seem to be hitting.

Monday, December 24, 2007

A man ahead of his time

This just in. That wily bastard J. Edgar Hoover just couldn't get enought of those wacky authoritarian shenanigans. F'rinstance, he wanted to intern about 12,000 Americans he suspected of not being 100% in the Cold War. A man of vision, when you get down to it.

Poor guy missed out on a time that could bring him new glories. He and his boys could have a high old time in the Big Easy.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Ladies' Night

My friend Mark just gave me a mix CD with a lot of his favorite female artists. It's a pretty good deal. Some of them I already liked (Rasputina, Feist), others I didn't know. The band Over the Rhine, for example, I'd only heard about from him.

Gotta say, Amy Winehouse's "Fuck Me Pumps" is a funny song. She's one of many tabloid trainwrecks in the news now, but unlike most is actually contributing something to the class.

Update: Maybe the above statement could use some illustration.

Monday, December 17, 2007


Still here. I'll be back to blogging once I can get these things like "thoughts" into something resembling order. But for now, I attempt to distract you with a random picture of a flamingo plushie.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Whoaz Nellie!

Nellie McKay kicks off her new(ish) album Obligatory Villagers by crooning "Feminists don't have a sense of humor." Even if you're not familiar with her work, the priveleged fratboy sentiments she goes on to express may clue you in that there's going to be some tongue in cheek here.

It's a fun disc. Her last album, Pretty Little Head, wound up getting McKay bounced from Sony's roster for being too long. While I found it worthwhile overall, the evil corporation wasn't entirely wrong. There were some drags, and the fake tantrum about wanting a suicide pill wasn't really a keeper. By contrast, OV could easily tack on another 15 minutes without wearing out its welcome. It also feels like an organic whole. Actually its like she and a few friends put on a kitchen sink Broadway musical for curious onlookers.

Bob Dorough contributes some vocalese. I remember him as just a bill, sittin' there on Capitol Hill in the "Schoolhouse Rock" shorts. Some of those had Blossom Dearie too. Who'da thought those PSA's with their shaggy animation could teach kids to be fifties hipsters? Dorough, McKay and Nancy Reed trade lines on an enigmatically beautiful song called "Politan."

Oh well, here's a sample. Oh those nutty New Yorkers.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


After hearing about it for a while, we finally got new computers at work today. We being me and another guy. Flat screens. Big screens. Speakers, which I've never had before. And the monitor has more light, so I can actually see stuff. To celebrate I selected a weird Jason Rhoads flophouse installation work as my wallpaper. Figure it should be good to start a conversation or two.

My usually off-site supervisor stopped by to do the honors. Nice to see him because this is his last week. It's getting so I'm one of the ancient Galapagos tortoises of the place.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Cross purposes

Kaitlyn starts off with a money quote.
"The Catholic League wants Christians to stay away from this movie precisely because it knows that the film is bait for the books," said president William Donohue.

Books are a drug and if you're not careful movies will be the gateway drug? We're supposed to compete in the global economy with this attitude?

Three things to remember.

  • If faith has to be enforced, it's not faith. It's a five year plan.

  • There is no dignity in protesting books. None. People who read will see you as ignorant and provincial. People who don't will think you're swatting at imaginary flies (not counting those folks specifically on your team.)

  • Donohue needs to be ignored. Thanks to him, Catholics are getting tarred with the image of particularly knuckle-dragging Protestants. And that ain't right.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Can you picture that?*

Ja ever notice? Yahoo bought Flickr in 2005. Now, before that time, you could do an image search on Yahoo and get a pretty good range of pictures from a variety of sources. Now on just about any subject, the top layer of image results will be from Flickr. Which is a great site hosting many creative photographers, don't get me wrong. But if you're looking for a picture of an opthalmologist, it doesn't do you any good to see someone's vacation beach photo where they just happened to mention the word "opthalmologist" in the caption. It's another example of being synergy wise and use foolish.

*Also a wonderful song by Dr Teeth & the Electric Mayhem.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

What we have here is failure to communicate

Bellatrys has a good, lengthy* post up aobut combatting trolls and when to say when. I've read some of the work by the gent who inspired her to write this and found him to be the most amazing of mythical creatures: a self-constructed strawman. If you ever imagine an argument and find yourself saying, "Oh, but no one would be so stupid as to try and make that case," well, he may have already done it.

It started me thinking about communication, and why on the interweb it so often turns ugly.

  • In social terms, stupid people tend to have the advantage over smart people. This is because the actual point of a verbal fight is--most often--to be seen as holding one's ground. An intelligent person will try to respond to the other person's points and tailor their own for the occasion. A moron will--intentionaly or not--miss the point and go ballistic based on their misreading of what the other person said to them. Then an onlooker will say, "I might not agree with him/her, but they sure show character."

  • Even if no one else says that, a sufficiently ego-hungry person will imagine it.

  • A large part of communication in the real world (or should I be calling it "meatspace"?) is nonverbal, as we pick up hints from posture, facial expression, tears if all else fails... But this is lacking online, which can lead to misunderstandings even among people of good faith

  • Not everyone has good faith

  • In fact, even in face to face conversation, some people only self-regulate so that no one will take a swing at their teeth and/or balls. Message boards and blogs free them from thinking about that contingency.

Of course a lack of self-censorship can be a good thing. I think it is a good thing in the context of goodwill. But again, you're not always going to have that context.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

She can burn you up in bed just like she said

Some time ago I watched an episode of Saturday Night Live. Even then it was a distant rerun, from Jean Doumanian's ill-fated run. You could sort of tell things were going badly. The cast was kind of spotty, although the late Charles Rocket was always an underrated performer. Malcolm McDowell said in his monologue that he was only hosting to renew his work visa, and it was easy to believe him. The tone of the sketches was frequently off.

Doumanian did, however, get the Captain. That makes up for a lot.

Note that the "Fire! Fire! Fire!" thing was way before Beavis and Butthead.

A tidbit about me

That deep nasal twitch, you know the one. Like some gnat flying around in your nostril.

When I get that feeling* I can't not sneeze. And with me, there's no such thing as sneezing quietly. People at work found this out today, if they didn't already know it.

It's a family thing. Me old Nanna was much the same way. Could send sleeping birds flying a mile away.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Rarely imitated, never duplicated

Through messing around with that Google "I'm feeling lucky" button, I just found out that there's a recently made remake of Tod Browning's Freaks. Boy, does that sound like a bad idea. Anyone who's seen the original will never be able to accept a substitute, one where most of the freaks seem to be special makeup FX. On the other hand, those who've never seen Browning's movie--which is too close to its subject to be called exploitation--probably won't get it this way either.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Fun with a magic lasso

Hasen sketch courtesy of Wonder Woman Museum

After much buildup and delay, Gail Simone has taken over as the writer on DC's Wonder Woman monthly. The changing of the guard came with issue #14, which I think hit the stands the Wednesday afore last. Didn't buy comics that week, so I just saw it for the first time today.

Simone is--at least in recent memory--the first woman to take on scripting chores for Wondy on an open-ended basis. Novelist Jodi Picoult did write her for a few months recently, but that was always meant as a limited run, and wound up getting overshadowed by the soul-draining "Amazons Attack" storyline. Men can write the character well; any author should be able to take on characters different from themselves. But the fact that for most of her existence only men were writing/drawing/editing her has probably skewed the character.

The obvious question, of course, is how does Simone do? Quite well I'd have to say. #14 does take place in the framework of decompressed storytelling. And if you interpret that as "nothing much happens" you've pretty much got it. But what we do see shows that GS gets the character.

For instance, before going mano-a-mano with a unit of albino gorillas (and that phrase in itself should establish some interest) Wondy says, "You're fighing me to see if you can defeat Superman? I'm honored. Shall we?" It's cocky, but an unflashy kind of cockiness. Her Amazon warrior training appears to include minimizing tiresome bluster.

More importantly, after fighting the apes to a standstill, she talks to them. She comes to an agreement with them. They, in fact, wind up crashing at alter ego Diana Prince's apartment. This is the kind of action that should define her. Justifiability aside, breaking Max Lord's neck isn't characteristic of her, or at least it shouldn't be. So yes, raise a glass to strength and mercy, and let's hope it lasts.

Fans of the Amazon Princess may also be interested to know that Etta Candy has been worked into the continuity again. She's a fed now, apparently assigned as a kind of Internal Affairs shadow on Wonder Woman herself. In a way I wished the company had kept the obese chocolatier/therapist Etta that Grant Morrison introduced in his Zatanna miniseries. But this one is a little different-looking in comics context. She's frumpy-sexy (frexy?) in a kind of Midwestern way. She also susses out that Sarge Steel has more chemical dependencies than Pete Rose and Gregory House put together. Smart girl, shows potential.

There's also a scene of Hyppolita, WW's mom, back on Themyscira. As long as we don't go back to Amazons assassinating random ten-year-old boys, their involvement is a good thing.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Two shots of Todd and a chaser of Blood

Are video posts a lazy cheat? They sure are! But you know what? I've spent about a decade as an office temp in my life. You learn to look busy when you're not.

Here's the lovely(?) and talented Todd Barry in the ed-film role of a lifetime.

Now I like the number 7. Have to use it twice whenever I write my birthdate down. But you should know that the seven colors in the rainbow are a product of Isaac Newton's penchant for numerology, hence the resemblance between blue and indigo. Sh, don't tell the cops.

Here's a whole different side of Mr. Barry.

Ah yes, always exciting to see a healthy checking account.

And now for a tuneful palate cleanser, the intense maybe-bluegrass-maybe-not group Big Blood play their nation-sweeping hit "Oh Country (Skin and Bones)."

Now you don't see drummers playing like that every day. I like to think she's ahead of the curve.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Bold venturing

It's no secret that Hunter S. Thompson had a bone to pick with Garry Trudeau over his representation as Uncle Duke in Doonesbury.

Thompson also was the model for the character of "Uncle Duke" in the "Doonesbury" comic strip. But Thompson strongly disliked the characterization, once telling an interviewer that he would set "Doonesbury" creator Garry Trudeau on fire if the two ever met.

In later years, however, Thompson said he had made peace with the "Uncle Duke" portrayal.

"I got used to it a long time ago," he told Freezerbox magazine in 2003. "I used to be a little perturbed by it. It was a lot more personal ... It no longer bothers me."

And why not? Duke initially appeared in the strip as a fun-loving train wreck who wrote whacked outjournalism: a fair representation overall. But from the character's installation as governor of Samoa, he became increasingly tied to dictatorial power and Blackwater-style mercenaryism. Thompson was a true-blue Nixon hater, and had a sharp eye on the abuse of power, so as a character a clef Duke was pretty wide of the mark.

So what would Thompson react to Hunter Gathers, another character based on him, appearing a couple of times so far on The Venture Bros ? Hard to say. Gathers is a deranged spit and polish secret agent who teaches psychopathic regular Brock Sampson (given likeably dry voicing by Patrick Warburton) in the ways of the assassin/field agent, is an over-the-top shitkicker. He also winds up getting gender-reassignment surgery. On the whole the character arc is so hallucinatory I think the doctor would have to approve.

I got the season two DVD of Venture recently, and I have to say I'm enjoying it a lot. As with season 1, the hand-drawn animation is consistently top notch, even if the stories are hit-and-miss. The latter is probably related to the former, as it may take time for the creators to figure what they can draw well within budget and time constraints. But at the point the hits far outweigh the misses. The lead characters of Dr Venture--a venal and selfish super-scientist--and his weak reed sons remain compelling. And I'm now finding it easier to accept Dr Girlfriend as a woman, even if she does have the voice of a Jersey loading dock foreman.

My favorite episode of the series may be "¡Viva los Muertos!" There's a lot going on in it. Doctor Orpheus, a Doctor Srangely necromancer with a tan, has a South American guru giving his party the Castaneda treatment. Meanwhile the Mystery Machine rolls up, but the riders aren't the nice Scooby gang. No, Fred's a manipulative cult leader, Velma quotes The SCUM Manifesto, and while Shaggy does talk to the dog, he hears much the same thing Son of Sam did.

Of course semi-obscure pop references are all over the place in animation. Much of it ("South Park", "Family Guy") also goes for "Oh no they di'nt!" on a regular basis. But there's an extra level of satire here. Venture has created a zombie from an intruder Brock killed. He needs to make this zombie more docile and pliable to his commands. So he puts the stiff in a "learning bed" and shows him... a WTO-produced prop film promoting child labor.

It may not exactly be Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but it's pretty ballsy humor.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Disturbing the dust

I went to the library tonight to pick up a book I had ordered. A Brief Life, by Juan Carlos Onetti, and I hope it's good. At the very least it promises to be different.

One thing that gives me a slight feeling of accomplishment is taking a bbok out that hasn't been borrowed for a good long time. And the last due date stamped in this book is October 27, 1989. So I've struck gold. Okay, so George Bush was president back then, too, but still.

May I never lose the ability to be delighted by simple things.

Let's take a look

I'm having a glitch while trying to look at other blogspot blogs. Let's see if it's a problem within the host.

Update: Well, I was able to post those two sentences, but then couldn't see anything. But now I can. A happy ending.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Return to a slightly neglected blog

Haven't had much to put here lately. I wish I could say that it was an eventful weekend, but it wasn't. The lowlight was probably combing Rumford for an apparently non-existent address. Rhode Island geography: it's 90% of what inspired H.P. Lovecraft.

The highlight was probably seeing Art Spiegelman punch out Comic Book Guy while wearing a Maus mask. That there is what I call a bold touch.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The logical next step

While it seems like fifteen-odd people have been running for President since the dawn of time, we're still at the point where this is whimsical fun. By next summer it may so close to actual political advertising, only professionals will know the difference. I tell you, if the GOP finds a pointman as magnetic as that cute little lispy girl in the pink sweater, WE ARE ALL SO SCREWED!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Become a proctologist, you'llnever go broke

Just need to vent here for a second.

Was at Borders tonight, in the cafe. Now, I'm trying to concentrate on something, but this guy is talking on his Bluetooth, loudly. He's having a very repetitive conversation with his girlfriend, who ir I read correctly between the lines is making sure his unemployed ass is fed and sheltered. But I don't really care about their relatiohship. I want peace and quiet, or failing that, a more interesting conversation to overhear. No such luck. Wherever I go, I'm still in earshot.

Why didn't I confront him? No one and nothing would have had my back. As far as I know cell phone etiquette just goes one way, favoring the user in most cases. But I definitely plan to lawschool myself on the subject.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Dumont no dummy

Self-Styled Siren has a post up running through some of the great comic character actors from Ye Olde Golden Age. And yes, she gives due respect to Groucho's favorite foil, Margaret Dumont.

No tribute to comic character actors could be complete without mention of the great Margaret Dumont. She was, without question, The Greatest Straight Woman of All Time. Marx authorities ranging from Dick Cavett to Groucho himself all say Dumont didn't get the jokes, on or off screen, but the Siren doesn't buy it. Dumont had a long career as a comic foil, and face it, she is too good not to know what she's doing. To be a good straight (wo)man, it isn't enough to keep a poker face and ignore the lunacy. Kitty Carlisle, Lillian Roth and Kay Francis all do that, and they still get flattened. No, Dumont had something extra--the ability to broaden her characterization with each new joke. Her finest moments probably came in Duck Soup, where her manner is so impeccably grand she seems to have wandered in from some Ruritanian operetta filming on another soundstage. Groucho was one of the funniest men American comedy ever produced--and if you want to say THE funniest the Siren won't argue. But it takes nothing away from Groucho to state that he was never funnier than when he was bouncing joke after joke off Dumont's imposing figure.

I'd have to say that strikes me as exactly right. Because of typecasting, audiences could leave when the lights came up thinking that Dumont had no sense of humor. That's a shame, because it almost certainly isn't true. Being a straight man or straight woman is a skill, one that tends to be invisible to the audience. Bud Abbott, with a few exceptions, didn't say anything funny either. And yet it's hard to think of Costello working as well with anyone else.

Dumont was in the whole first run of Marx Brothers movies, only excepting the two postwar comedies they made. Groucho had many of his best scenes opposite her. Based on the evidence, she got their humor as well as anyone whose last name wasn't "Marx."

Been through the War

More people died in World War One--aka the Great War--than in World War Two.

How do I know that? Grandad, my maternal grandfather told me. WWI was over when he was just a child, although for years I'm sure that for years afterward it haunted the converation of the grownups. He fought in Two.

It was very like him to point out that fact. To specify that the war he fought in could have been bigger, could have been worse. He was a kind man, and also a humble and unassuming one.

These qualities can lead to one being taken for granted. And I know that back then I didn't fully appreciate him. But even though he wasn't in the US armed forces--rather he was a member of the British Royal Navy--he's the vet I'm thinking of thise veteran's day.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

About Dick and women (it's not what it sounds like)

A book I'm currently reading is Ubik, by Philip K. Dick. In the manner of his best books, it's funny and paranoid. I can only imagine how shaky I'd be if I read it on the same drugs he used to take.

Whatzit about? Well here's a brief synopsis. Glen Runciter runs a business employing "inertials." These are people who are able to counter the wild talents of others, like telepaths and precognitives and so forth. Joe Chip is a tester of inertials, and Runciter's most trusted employee. He's also dirt poor, a fact which matters slightly less when a new anti-precog named Pat Conley moves in as his mistress.

Runciter leads Joe, Pat, and an elite team of crack(ed) inertials to the moon for a lucrative assignment. This mission turns out to be a trap, and Runciter is killed by a bomb almost immediately. Except, evidence mounts that the rest of the team died, and only Runciter survived. These maybe-dead people face the decay of their physical world, the regression to earlier phones. So that, for example, a videophone turns into an old candlestick model, pre-dial.

Yeah, that's just a rough outline. It's got some twists and turns.

Dick first published in the fifties. Initially he intended to write suburban realist novels. These didn't sell, but his science fiction did, and took on some of the themes he had been exploring with his other work.

Science fiction at this time was not great with female characters. Alfred Bester's The Demolished Man had some fascinating concepts, but was undone by turning what should have been a key character into a simpering cypher. Most male authors, in fact, had trouble making women anything more than ornaments.

Dick is a weird exception. Yes, his own romantic history was troubled. At the Marin County divorce court, he was known as "hi Phil." Andy yes, a lot of his women are bitchy and/or pitiful. What they aren't is passive. His male protagonists often have trouble with ex-wives, or sometimes with mutual stalkers. The trouble stems from the fact that these women have their own interests and agendas, and know it. And the solution--if there is one--is not as simple as Ahnold putting a bullet in Sharon Stone and saying "Consider that a divorce."

Another thing I would say about Dick's fiction is that it's not that friendly to studio filmmaking. This despite the occasional interest Hollywood has taken in his work. (A Radio Free Albemuth is in production with Alanis Morrissette in the cast, and Paul Giamatti is interested in doing a biopic.) His novels and short stories are visual, yes, but what you "see" while reading is often cheap and shabby, not really conforming to the look of a summer blockbuster. The lead characters are often kind of schlubby too. Joe Chip, for example, might not be bad looking, but I can't picture an A-list star portraying him. Could be a personal reaction, but I think a lot of readers would share it.

One last note. That picture isn't on the cover of the edition I'm reading. It's from an old Finnish copy. But it certainly is evocative.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

¿Que es mas macho?

The inimitable Laurie Anderson quizzes her backup singers and triumphs over '80s hair.

This is kind of a filler post, as I have some thoughts that I don't really have time to pursue right now. But it is fun filler, isn't it?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


Say you're on a jury. The uy in front of you has confessed to bringing in smack from Afghanistan, selling it to third graders (he accepts rare Pokemon cards as payment) and blowing away one of their mothers in front of the crumb snatcher. Slam dunk case, right? Vote guilty, give him the chair, and be home in time for "Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?"

But wait. The defense counsel gets the lead detective back for cross examination. On cross, the detective reveals that the defendant only made this confession after the cops drownded him and pulled him out before he asphyxiated. Might that change your verdict?

I suspect it would change everything. For most people it would render anything the man confessed unreliable, when you look at it. But it doesn't matter. This is a form of interrogation meant for detainees who are never supposed to go in front of a jury.


The nomination of Mr. Mukasey was almost derailed by his refusal at his confirmation hearings to define as torture the interrogation technique known as waterboarding, which simulates drowning and is reported to have been used by the Central Intelligence Agency on a handful of Qaeda leaders since the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

In a letter to senators last week, Mr. Mukasey said the practice of waterboarding was “repugnant” but added that he could not judge its legality until he had been given access to classified information about interrogation techniques.

Don't know what kind of classified info Mukasey is waiting for, but thanks to Majikthise I'm privy to an insider's view.

2. Waterboarding is not a simulation. Unless you have been strapped down to the board, have endured the agonizing feeling of the water overpowering your gag reflex, and then feel your throat open and allow pint after pint of water to involuntarily fill your lungs, you will not know the meaning of the word.

Waterboarding is a controlled drowning that, in the American model, occurs under the watch of a doctor, a psychologist, an interrogator and a trained strap-in/strap-out team. It does not simulate drowning, as the lungs are actually filling with water. There is no way to simulate that. The victim is drowning. How much the victim is to drown depends on the desired result (in the form of answers to questions shouted into the victim’s face) and the obstinacy of the subject. A team doctor watches the quantity of water that is ingested and for the physiological signs which show when the drowning effect goes from painful psychological experience, to horrific suffocating punishment to the final death spiral.

Waterboarding is slow motion suffocation with enough time to contemplate the inevitability of black out and expiration –usually the person goes into hysterics on the board. For the uninitiated, it is horrifying to watch and if it goes wrong, it can lead straight to terminal hypoxia. When done right it is controlled death. Its lack of physical scarring allows the victim to recover and be threaten with its use again and again.

Call it “Chinese Water Torture,” “the Barrel,” or “the Waterfall,” it is all the same. Whether the victim is allowed to comply or not is usually left up to the interrogator. Many waterboard team members, even in training, enjoy the sadistic power of making the victim suffer and often ask questions as an after thought. These people are dangerous and predictable and when left unshackled, unsupervised or undetected they bring us the murderous abuses seen at Abu Ghraieb, Baghram and Guantanamo. No doubt, to avoid human factors like fear and guilt someone has created a one-button version that probably looks like an MRI machine with high intensity waterjets.

Yeah, they probably have.

If the Deomocrats were at all an effective opposition party, Mukasey probably wouldn't have been nominated. At the very least, he wouldn't have hedged on waterboarding. But he did, and thanks to Feinstein and Schumer, he's probably a shoo-in.

I'm starting to wish Cindy Sheehan would forget Pelosi's seat and raise her sights to the Senate.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Bundling up

What a day, what a day. A cold nasty rain and some strong winds came on the scene, albeit not the gale force winds they were predicting. Mind you, days like this are part and parcel of living in New England, andI like the variability of the seasons here. But still, kind of uncomfortable when the water gets into your shoes.

Got a little writing done at Starbucks when I stopped in there. So I was more productive in that than I entirely expected.

As for tonight, it's still stormy out. So it's a goon night to stay in, curl up with a good book, and listen to Sassy.

She had a gorgeous voice and--it seems--an empathic connection with the musicians working with her. I can't think of a singer who better personifies the throb of life.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The day after the Great Pumpkin came

Holy kwap, I forgot to blog on Halloween!

How could I forget? Well friends, I was sprawled out on the floor riding that sweet, sweet heroin. Okay, so it was really Alka Seltzer nighttime cold therapy, but the other way sounds more rockstar.

Halloween morning I saw something kind of cool. A teen boy was going to school dressed up as Alex from A Clockwork Orange. You know, white tunic, bowler hat, cane. Either his teachers have neither read the book nor seen the movie, or they have a high tolerance for black humor.

While we're on the belated subject, check out this 'toon. The Brothers Chaps tend to celebrate this time of year in style.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Good news and bad news in new comics

Trying something a little different here. Looking at new comics purchases from this week for an example of something good and exemplary. And then another example that isn't, so much.

The Good News: Moon Knight #13
Horror/mystery author Charlie Huston has taken an interesting tack on the bargain basement Batman in the past year or so. Marc Spector, aka Moon Knight, has been presented as a rumbling psychopath, and kind of a prick, and most of his former allies want nothing to do with him. Luckily, his enemies are even creepier. While Huston has approached the miserabilist superhero subgenre with a certain degree of humor, I as a reader have laughed at Moon Knight more than with him.

In his last issue on the series, Huston keeps this general approach, but allows Spector to get some of his own back. The Civil War aftermath means that he has to register as a vigilante or else retire. Things look bad for him during the psych exam, but he manages to psych out the shrink in a way that's fun to watch. It also looks like he finally gets the girl again, meaning Marlene Alraune. Of course there's a question of whether this is true love or somethin' Swedish.

The Bad News: Shadowpact #17
Bill Willingham created a nice little magical supergroup in the runup to Infinite Crisis, and good for him. And the Shadowpact should be an enduring property, unless someone really screws up.

Of course Willingham has stepped away from the book, at least for the time being, and handed the keys over to his prtege Matthew Sturges. And I'm not sure Sturges is ready for Prime Time. The family drama between villain Dr. Gotham and his equally Jedi-haired "son", the Protege has gotten old real fast. They have a racket sacrificing vestals who are into magic, and that's supposed to spice things up. It doesn't.

Their newest prey is Carla Aquista, known as the Warlock's Daughter. She's got power but she doesn't know how to control it. The Enchantress is trying to teach her, and the WD resents the way she's being taught. And she's being led astray by truly evil people. This is the same boring setup that made me stop reading Countdown.

Wish I could say I'm at least worried about the Warlock's Daughter, but I can't get invested at all. Not only is she in a bratty stage she looks too old for, but Tom Derenick draws her without pupils or irises. That means that even though she has the typical superheroine physique, her eyes are even more disturbing and unnatural than her tits. Yeah. Come back, Bill, and show 'em how to do it right.

The bold prophecy of Zager and Evans

Something I saw online this weekend had me shaking my head. It's this pop-evolution speculation that British biologist Oliver Curry Came up with.
London, Oct 28 (ANI): The human race will one day split into two separate species, an attractive, intelligent ruling elite and an underclass of dim-witted, ugly goblin-like creatures, a leading evolutionary theorist from the London School of Economics has said.

Oliver Curry has said that the human race will reach its physical peak by the year 3000, after which they will begin to regress.

These humans will be between six and seven feet tall and will live up to 120 years, he said.

"Physical features will be driven by indicators of health, youth and fertility that men and women have evolved to look for in potential mates," Curry said in his report commissioned for men's satellite TV channel Bravo.

He said advances in cosmetic surgery and other body modifying techniques would effectively homogenise mankind's appearance.

While men will come with symmetrical facial features, deeper voices and bigger penises, women will boast of glossy hair, smooth hairless skin, large eyes and pert breasts.

Racial differences will also become a thing of the past as interbreeding will produced a single coffee-coloured skin tone, he said.

But this won't be the end. Ten thousand years after humans reach their peak; reliance on technology will dramatically begin to change their appearance, he added.

The human race will split into two distinct species akin to the intelligent and wealthy Eloi, and the dim-witted, ugly goblin-like Morlock as envisaged in HG Wells' science fiction novel, The Time Machine.

"Medicine will weaken our immune system and we will begin to appear more child-like. The report suggests that the future of man will be a story of the good, the bad and the ugly," said Dr Curry.

"While science and technology have the potential to create an ideal habitat for humanity over the next millennium, there is the possibility of a monumental genetic hangover over the subsequent millennia due to an over-reliance on technology reducing our natural capacity to resist disease, or our evolved ability to get along with each other," he said.

"After that, things could get ugly, with the possible emergence of genetic 'haves' and 'have-nots'," he added. (ANI)

First of all, the funniest result here would be if HG Wells came back to life and hired a particularly bloodthirsty lawyer. But beyond the semi-plagiarism, there's a lot wrong here.

First of all, let's talk about the dicks. Big dicks have always been pretty popular, from what I understand. But natural selection has not thus far ensured that only foot-long guys would breed. That may be because we wear clothes, or because women prioritize other traits when selecting a mate. And Lamarck was wrong, so any effects from those happy love pills you buy on the Internet will not be passed onto your progeny. Same with perky breast implants.

Racial differences: well, race is something of an illusion to begin with. It is quite probable that medium-brown skin tones will increase. But racial characteristics are really just mix-and-match genetic traits. "White" people tend to have a lot of recessive traits. Regardless of who has what skin color, there will still be plenty of differences in hair and eye color, nose shape, chins, etc. If the people of the future are inclined to organize these into race, they will be entirely free to do so.

As far as the human race splitting into perfect but frail Eloi and big monstrous Morlocks, that seems kind of optimistic. My guess is that some kind of brouhaha would break out before we ever got to the point of species differentiation. Only one strain would survive.

One thing to remember is that in terms of geologic time, 1,00o years is just a blink. But when your talking about sociobiology, your dealing with society, trends, fashions. In that field, a century is too far to predict, and a millennium is forever.

Curry seems to have good intentions here, and his points about overreliance on technology is not entirely off target. Medical advances could eventually make the immune system atrophy. But this is a generality. The story is quite far from being factual.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Dangerously cool, handle with care

There's some stuff I could blog about, if it weren't really late. But it is, and I'm sleepy, so I won't. What I will do is link to this video. It's un-embeddable, and YouTube has been kind of weird about that this weekend anyway.

This team did some amazing jazz recordings in the late fifties. And the great thing about seeing them is that the eye contact and facial expressions make it a complete performance. I love the way Annie Ross looks at Jon Hendricks all wide-eyed, like "Whaa?"

Friday, October 26, 2007


Hey, you ever find yourself getting so tired and distracted that you just trail off in the middle of

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Went to the Rochambeau library this evening and consulted the reference librarian, who was right nice. First time in quite a while that I had asked anything of a reference libraraian, but I was doing research and didn't think an unguided websearch would be sufficient.

The question I asked was about rooftop construction. The story I'm working on takes place well above street level in a big city, so roofs play a part. Anyway, she tracked down a couple of books that may help me.

The story has some potential. It seemed for a while it needed more, but I'm beginning to suspect it needs less. Anyway, it'll be going out someime in the near future with the title

  • Winter Night

  • Without Fear of Wind or Vertigo

  • something else

Monday, October 22, 2007


As a reader, I find myself getting out of condition at times. You know, picking up a book for five minutes and putting it aside without really absorbing anything. When this happens, I go back and rejuvenate by reading YA and older children's books (not picture books, or at least not for this purpose.) There are a couple of reasons for this. Writers for young people know they have to deliver, to give up an interesting story and engaging characters. Writers for adults can slide on this. Also, reading kid lit reacquaints you with the 5 W's, and that basic framework serves you in many contexts.

For my most recent rehab project, I picked up Madeleine l'Engles Dragons in the Water. L'Engle, who passed away about six weeks ago, is a writer I didn't really know for a long time. As a kid I knew A Wrinkle in Time and that's about it. But she was one of the authors in a college class on Young Adult Lit, and that familiarized me more with her.

She doesn't write down to her audience. If you're in grade school, or even high school, some of her references may send you to the encyclopedia (or something like it). Of course if you're reading now as an adolescent, you're already in somewhat select company.

This book has some knowing touches of Faulkner, which I liked. The young protagonist--Poly O'Keefe is more a helper figure--comes from a declining Southern aristo family, and is actually kind of poor. Also, shady relative, connections to another cousin named Quentin. It's there if you look for it.

Actually I haven't described the book in any detail at all. And I won't but I can say the effect for me is like a refreshing dip in the pool.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Indian Summer?

Or is it just regular Summer still. It used to be pretty clear when there were 80 degree days in October, that yeah, this was IS. A last sloppy kiss of the dog days. With the just maybe possible existence of global warming, the issue is a little muddier. It's not that we haven't had any cool days this Autumn. But I haven't really sensed any frost on the pumpkin days.

The leaves are turning, though. We're getting that famous New England fall foliage. Guess it's more famous up in the Northeast Kingdom, but still. Anyway, I like the look of Fall. Sort of like the feel of it too. And of course the smell. So guys? Ready when you are.

Makes one curious

Antiwar founder Justina Raimondo, who used to call himself an objectivist but no longer does, has composed an interesting essay on the life and work of Ayn Rand. I must confess, this is one writer I haven't really read. I know her mostly by reputation, and since much of her reputation rests on the latter-day proponents he tears into here... Well, let's just say certain warnings are given off.

Raimondo engages with Rand as a writer of fiction, which suggests that there's something there. So I guess I'm more likely to take a look-see now.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Office talk

Kind of weird to see the emo bonding between Jim and Dwight. Okay, well, mostly Jim towards Dwight. Weird but not entirely unwelcome as a change of pace.

That is one weird cousin Dwight has.

Ultimate confessions

From Strange Horizons comes Tony Keen's articulate review of the Marvel trade editions of The Ultimates and The Ultimates 2. The Ultimates, for those of you playing at home, are an alt-universe, more "realistic" take on the Avengers. The series as published is less like an episodic comic, and has more the cumulative structure of a movie. Keen's review resonated with me even though I couldn't honestly say whether I agreed with it or not.

The reason I can't is that I haven't really kept up with the Ultimateverse. I did buy an issue once, where Henry Pym tries to rejoin the Ultimates, and, failing that, looks to a new group called the Defenders. Like the main Marvel Universe's Pym, this one is a wifebeater. Unlike that one, he's never been able to redeem himself. For this and other reasons, his former teammates either despise him or regard him with "keep it away from me" detached pity. As for the Defenders, they're poseurs with costumes (sort of) and essentially nothing else. Pym's one adventure with them nearly gets him killed by workady warehouse thieves.

Reading this, I knew three things about The Ultimates.

  1. The creative team was very gifted. (And in fact I think Bryan Hitch worked as a visual consultant on the revived Doctor Who.)

  2. This storyline would be hugely popular with contemporary comics readers.

  3. I wanted nothing to do with it.

Since then I've done some flipping through without buying (don't worry, the stores get their cut from me.) Seeing Captain America spear the big bad, and hearing that Hawkeye killed Black Widow in revenge, the third point still stands. By some criteria, this reimagined team may well prove themselves heroic. But for me they were a little too much like Blackwater employees of the month.

The appeal of the superhero genre for me is not really the powers. The very fact that Hollywood studios can now reproduce cosmic feats onscreen makes them somewhat mundane. And I don't necessarily want pure good versus absolute evil. What I do appreciate is the sight of people I like getting what victories they can while remaining decent. That might sound subjective, and maybe it is. But as Potter Stewart said of obscenity, I know it when I see it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Natural

Old athletes must hate steroids worse than anything. Babe Ruth was not a very wholesome character, but everything he did on the diamond was from his own strength and skill. Whatever chemicals he put in his body were not so much of the performance-enhancing kind. So if you played baseball in the forties, or even the seventies, you can't really admire Barry Bonds for breaking records when his DNA has started to mutate.

I'm starting to think it's the same thing with Christopher Hitchens and religion. in a recent interview, Hitch said

Religion makes people do wicked things they wouldn’t ordinarily do. It doesn’t make them behave better—it makes them behave worse. You couldn’t get people to hack away at the genitals of their newborn children if they didn’t think there was a religious obligation to do so. The licenses for genocide, slavery, racism, are all right there in the holy text.

And speaking of religion, here's an account of da man speaking at the Freedom from Religion Convention, by fellow nonbeliever P.Z. Myers (via Justin Raimondo:

Then it was Hitchens at his most bellicose. He told us what the most serious threat to the West was (and you know this line already): it was Islam. Then he accused the audience of being soft on Islam, of being the kind of vague atheists who refuse to see the threat for what it was, a clash of civilizations, and of being too weak to do what was necessary, which was to spill blood to defeat the enemy. Along the way he told us who his choice for president was right now — Rudy Giuliani — and that Obama was a fool, Clinton was a pandering closet fundamentalist, and that he was less than thrilled about all the support among the FFRF for the Democratic party. We cannot afford to allow the Iranian theocracy to arm itself with nuclear weapons (something I entirely sympathize with), and that the only solution is to go in there with bombs and marines and blow it all up. The way to win the war is to kill so many Moslems that they begin to question whether they can bear the mounting casualties.

It was simplistic us-vs.-them thinking at its worst, and the only solution he had to offer was death and destruction of the enemy.

This was made even more clear in the Q&A. He was asked to consider the possibility that bombing and killing was only going to accomplish an increase in the number of people opposing us. Hitchens accused the questioner of being incredibly stupid (the question was not well-phrased, I'll agree, but it was clear what he meant), and said that it was obvious that every Moslem you kill means there is one less Moslem to fight you … which is only true if you assume that every Moslem already wants to kill Americans and is armed and willing to do so. I think that what is obvious is that most Moslems are primarily interested in living a life of contentment with their families and their work, and that an America committed to slaughter is a tactic that will only convince more of them to join in opposition to us.

Basically, what Hitchens was proposing is genocide. Or, at least, wholesale execution of the population of the Moslem world until they are sufficiently cowed and frightened and depleted that they are unable to resist us in any way, ever again.

Or as Myers sums up:

This whole last third of his talk had me concerned about the first part. He had just told us in strong terms about the failures of religion and its detrimental effect on our culture, and now he was explaining to us how the solution in the Middle East was to simply kill everyone who disagreed with you. He didn't relate the two parts of his talk, which was unfortunate. I'd like to know whether he thinks the way atheists ought to end religion in America is to start shooting Baptists, or whether he sees other ways to educate and enlighten … in which case I wonder why he doesn't see any virtue in applying those same methods to Islam. I didn't ask the question since the line for the microphone was long, and I had a depressing feeling that the solution would involve sending the Baptists over to Iraq to kill and be killed.

Some people need a Falwell or Khomeini (dated references, but keepers) to tell them who and how to hate. Others just have the knack. Hitchens' talent is something to behold. Hell, I believe in God and I can barely fathom the man's bloodlust.

Maybe he's just warning the rest of us not to try following his footsteps through artificial means.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

No quarter

So I'm not a numismatist, or as hoi polloi would put it, a coin collector. Nonetheless, I have been enjoying the state quarters. Every few weeks, there's a new image, catching the light in a new way. Some are kind of dull, like Massacusetts, sad to say. But then there are those like Florida that actually seem to have a narrative. See, the pilot is flying low so that he can check up on his wife, a tour guide on the tall ship.

So anyway, where the hell is Utah? By my count it should have shown up at the end of August, or sometime in September at least. But while I see state quarters almost every time I get change, but the Beehive State is nowhere to be found. Are the Latter Day Saints hoarding them all? C'mon guys, you can let a few out of your sight.

Get well Marie

i just added (Pen-)Elayne Riggs to the elite blogroll. She earned her place with this worrisome but glad-I-know tidbit on Marie Severin. Severin is one of the relatively unsung hero(in)es of the comics worls. She started out inking and coloring at EC Comics, where brother John Severin also worked. Later at Marvel she became a penciller in her own right. She's had fantastic runs on both Sub-Mariner and Doctor Strange. If your track down the Batman Black and White
graphic collection, you can see her interesting take on the Caped Crusader. Hopefully she knows her fans are pulling for her.

As to the Randi Rhodes story, it appears that she was not assaulted. This is good, although I still hope she has a good reconstructive dentist on hand. Rhodes' colleagues, and some bloggers, jumped to some bad conclusions vis-a-vis right wing conspiracy. On t'other hand, a few right wing bloggers showed some ugly streaks of schadenfreude. So no one comes out covered in glory.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Everything you wanted to know about Rex but were afraid to ask

What. You think soap opera strips are boring? Dated and embarassing? And that's why there are only about 20 readers left?

Believe you me, there is plenty going on in Rex Morgan MD. Saucy and scandalous!
Update: I just want to point out that this redub was done by bats:[, a fellow denizen o Josh Fruehlingers Comics Curmudgeon site. I don't have a Flickr account. I do, however, have a Bickr account, where I can go to argue with my imaginary girlfriend. Life is good.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

And everybody felt the rain

Let's see. It's been a couple of days since I posted. And it's late, and I'm too dopey to get any other kind of productive writing done. So no time like the present.

The sky opened up a few minutes ago. It's raining, and like, what i mean! This kind of rain is impressive. The percussive thunder and the persistent hiss of the rain falling down. It sounds like making up for lost time.

You don't want to be caught out in a heavy rain like this. If you've found shelter it's kind of soothing, though.

If you're reading this, congratulations on finding shelter.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

A noice little chune

I like this song, "(Antichrist Television Blues)" and yes, the whole title is in parentheses. You got a problem with that? Anyhow, TAF aren't usually known as a funny band, but there's a definite slice of humor in this one.

That settles it

Jeff Foxworthy must the politest man in America.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Feeling all floaty

A number of people think of art as paintings of flowers and fruit, maybe the occasional statue of a guy on a horse. In this (caricatured) viewpoint, art is a boring waste of time because someone did it better 400 years ago.

Then there's the tabloid view of contemporary art: drip paintings made with menstrual blood, formaldehyded dead animals (an actual element in Damien Hirst's work). In this light new art can be seen as a repugnant waste of money, because there's no effort. Or at least no effort at beauty.

But interaction with actual new art can wipe away both of these stereotypes. Artists follow their own agendas, which sometimes involves material that people find offensive. And sometimes the artist knows how to exploit the controversy. But offending or baffling the viewer isn't the sole point of artistic creation.

"Jukai", Yumi Kori's installation at Brown's David Winton Bell Gallery, is an effective new work. The elements are very simple. You walk into a room on a wooden platform. There are balloons on the floor, suspended from the ceiling, piled on top of each other all around. Jungle-type environmental noise is piped into the space. A little light is provided by blue LED lamps, turned very low.

Repeat that part. "A little light." Otherwise, the room is something like pitch black. So dark that a student docent will give you a small flashlight to guide your way. But while the penlight will help you see where you're going, it certainly won't illuminate the whole room. And walking into a dark room, filled with vague shapes, while strange noises play triggers a kind of fear response.

This lessens over time, and of course your eyes also adjust to the darkness. But the normalization never becomes total, like in your room at night. The recorded noises mix with sounds that wander in somehow, creating a weird effect. There's a kind of heightened awareness accompanying the decreased sensation.

I found some of that effect lingering after I left, which may have been intended. Whatever this show is, it's not pointless.

Oh, and it's free, if you'll be anywhere near Providence in the next couple of weeks.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

The Alpha of Omega

Jonathan Lethem's revivial of Omega the Unknown received a fair amount of free ink. Some of it was, technically, bad publicity. "Omega" creator Steve Gerber was unhappy about another writer revising one of his creations while he was still alive. Refereeing the various interests of Gerber, the very respectful Lethem, and Marvel Comics is not my job, thank God, so I'll not dwell on that aspect of the work.

But my interest in the work was roused by previous enjoyment of both writers' work. Gerber's Howard the Duck series with Gene Colan was an off-kilter look at the Marvel Universe that remains way ahead of much of the "deconstruction" done in the next decades by Brihish writers. (Some were and are worthy successors, but that's a topic for another post.) And Lethem is the author of Gun, with Occasional Music, Amnesia Moon, and--ya know it, baby--Motherless Brooklyn. He needs no introduction.

Assisting him are co-writer Karl Rusnak (who I don't know) and the fine indie artist Farel Dalrymple. It's the kind of creative team you'd more expect on Dark Horse's late Amazing Adventures of the Escapist.

How do they do here? Well, they've done something different. Even the logo seen on the cover is a very different sort of block lettering, something that might appear in a Fantagraphics collection of early Popeye cartoons. The big O himself looks similar to his '70's self. He's got shorter hair and his costume now covers more of his chest. (He's not a slab of meat, dammit.) Dalrymple gives him a barely-superheroic bod and a quirky long face. If Jason Schwartzman ever plays a spandex hero, this one is all his.

The premise of the new series parallels the old one. James-Michael Starling, the kid who shared a symbiotic relationship with the title character, has been replaced by a boy named (symbolism alert!) Titus Alexander Island. Titus has been home-schooled, and also appears to be a high-functioning autistic. Now I can identify somewhat with a young person who's sheltered and asocial. But that also means there's also a lot of fluent Spock-ese spoken in the premiere issue. In addition to Titus, his ill-fated parents, the doctor assigned to his case, and the weird costumed scientist known as The Mink all throw a good deal of jargon into their verbose sentences.

There are two exceptions to this trend. Edie, a kindly nurse from Oklahoma, is taking Titus in at the end of the issue. And there's also a sleazy New Yawk cop tailing her and Titus. It would be good to emphasize these characters for variety's sake.

As for action, I can say there is some. Fight scenes don't take up much space, by mainstream comics standards. This is intriguing in itself, and indicates that Lethem and Dalrymple are working without a net. Of course, there's a reason so many work with a net. There are nine more issues, so wait and see.

Gerber may not be happy about Lethem being given the reins to his creation. By his own account, he probably won't read it. But if he does, he'll find that it's no travesty of his own work.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Ever notice this? Ever notice that?

Have you seen those trucks with the brightly lit video/lcd screens on the back? The ones that show a different still ad every minute or so? What's the deal with that anyway. Leave aside the absurdity of having motorized billboards when peak oil has peaked. It's not like I expect responsibility. It's more their manifest ineffectiveness as sales tools. The only way you'll get any prolonged exposure to the advertising is if you get stuck behind one of the trucks in a brutal traffic jam. Then you'll associate it with being pissed off and having a numb ass. Brilliant strategy, fellas.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Mall for one and one for mall!

What can I say? I love this town! It's just big enough to have those unexpected nooks and crannies. Case in point.

“It was wrong on a number of levels,” Bellini added. “It was certainly wrong in its irresponsibility. And it was illegal. It was like a person breaking into your basement or your car at night and sleeping there … [We] certainly feel violated.”

Mall security and the police say that the artists got into the storage room by manipulating the latch on the locking mechanism on the door. But Townsend insists that nobody broke in.

“I’m no lock-picker,” he said. The artists got into the storage room because the door was left unlocked and often even ajar, he said.

Police Maj. Stephen Campbell acknowledged that he and other police detectives were so intrigued by word of the apartment that they went over to see it for themselves.

“I was surprised at what he was able to accomplish,” the major said of Townsend. “But what he did was clearly criminal. That mall is private property.”

Well, no. It was illegal, not criminal. That's a distinction all of us should be ready to make, because we may need to make it on our own behalf.

Keep in mind, Townsend and his merry band didn't break in to mug senior citizens or rape albinos. They were building the adult equivalent of a kid's tree fort. So fine them, ban them, whatever. But if you've seen violation, you know this isn't it.

Man, I've probably walked past this place on the way from Hoyt's Cinema. How cool is that?

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Art is different, but the same. But different.

If the old avant garde is dead, what took its place?

Veteran indie pop band Imperial Teen come back after five years with a new release, and the cover looks like the poster for a Garry Marshall movie. Why did the band and the art director make this choice? Were they satirizing middlebrow Hollywood sensibilities? Maybe in part. But the cover also speaks in a trusted visual language. Whether or not they went to see The Runaway Bride, fans will get this image.

Consider artists making decisions along these lines with every work they put out. That's the subject of Johanna Drucker's 2005 book Sweet Dreams: contemporary art and complicity. Now, in contemporary culture, two years can be a long time. And there are other ways that it's always been a long time. One of the promising artists profiled here, installationist Jason Rhoades, died in 2006 at the age of 41. But I think Drucker's insights are still relevant and will continue to be so for some time.

Merrian-Webster defines "complicity" as "association or participation in or as if in a wrongful act." Thus saying that contemporary art is built on complicity sounds accusatory. But while Drucker sometimes takes issue with the claims that artists make for themselves, this is not a jeremiad.

The thrust of the book centers on a contrast between twentieth century avant garde theory and twenty-first century practice. There was always an assumption (per Drucker) that art existed apart from institutions of the broader culture, such as church, state, or capitalist enterprise. And it was also thought that artists could and should maintain a critical distance.

But what if art as administered now is an institution in itself? One that is intrinsically bound up in other institutions (church less now, but business and culture industry more.) What does this say about artists and their "distance?"

In Drucker's formulation, artists are not rebellious and critical in the way that modern or post-modern theories would have them be. They conduct trade with the broader culture, and benefit both economically and aesthetically.

Fine art operates in a formal dialogue with its own (many) traditions and the glut of visual culture's offerings. Imaginitive work is currently being created beyond the boundaries of policed aesthetic correctness, often in explicit dialogue with the culture industry. While visual culture seems poised to overwhelm fine art through its massively capitalized appeal and claim on the market share of public attention, fine art continues to challenge consensual norms through surprising means.

So there may be criticism, but it comes from within.

This book has theory, no doubt about it. And some of her judgments and interpretations are debatable. But the nice thing is that this isn't a book of academic formulae with a few artworks squeezed in to prove a point. Drucker, also a noted typographer, enjoys, appreciates, adn shows enthusiasm for the artists and works she describes.

And the fourth chapter limns several forms "complicity" in art can take. There are a few directions taken here. Some are more interesting than others. But the sheer variety is a hopeful sign.

I'll probably come back to this book a few times.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Clean bill of tooth

The dental cleaning today seems to have gone pretty well. Once the topical was on, I only felt pain like, twice. So that would seem to be a good sign. Of course the hygienist took a mess of x-rays, and I do have to wait and see how those turn out. But she didn't wince in horror and disgust, or mutter "Dear God." I would have been a little worried were that the case.

With that fascinating info shared, I now sign off. Remember to floss.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


I just called work. No one's there. Despite the West Coast time displayed on this page, it's getting close to midnight where I am.

So why did I call? To leave myself a message. There are 4-5 things I need to do tomorrow, and it's very possible I could forget one or two.

The act of speaking these things aloud creates a kind of muscle memory (larynx memory?) Basically you remind yourself by leaving evidence that you cared enough to remind yourself. Now whether I listen to the whole playback is of secondary importance, although it wouldn't be a bad idea.

I've done this before and I've neglected to do it. It does make a difference.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Daily dose of awesome

If you haven't heard this song before, be warned: It will not be denied.

Their love isn't in the cards, it's in the grids.

Here's a happy story. That much the moreso for me because I was able to solve it Sunday afternoon. Again, spoiler alert for Globe readers still working on it, but the answers to the puzzle manage to work in the names of both the proposer and the proposee. Because I had recently come across the fact that Winston Churchill's mother was named Jennie Jerome, I was prepared for that one.

BTW, did you know that Churchill's mother was from Brooklyn? His family's New York background most likely meant that he and FDR had social contacts in common long before they became war allies. That would give them a lot to talk about, and even more not to talk about.

Anyway, I'm cheered to know that there are a couple of smart nerds willing to take a chance on love. Best of (fortune, 4 letters.)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Better comics through chemistry

In the letter's section of The Umbrella Academy #1, editor Scott Allie says that he had never heard of Gerard Way's band My Chemical Romance, "as my musical tastescalcified around the time Gerard was born." Mine hadn't, as I think I'm only ten or twelve years older than the peroxide peril. And I was glancingly familiar with My Chemical Romance, although not really grabbed. In both voice and appearance, Way had always struck me as a fashion-android replicant of Billie Joe Armstrong.

Then there's the whole dillettante trend in comics, that Allie also alludes to. With some exceptions, this trend has been somewhat noxious. Virgin Comics has already blown whatever credibility they might have had by taking pitches from... Nic Cage? Deepak Chopra? neither of whom were willing to actually do the work of scripting. And while TV writer Allen Heinberg started well on Wonder Woman, his productivity on the book dropped to zero when he got the Gray's Anatomy gig.

So I was not predisposed to say, "A Gerard Way comic! Wow!" But, #1 has a good cover, which helped suck me in. And the comic book store cashier/daughter of the owner gave it a thumbs up. (She's more in MCR's target demo than I am, but was descriptive about the book too.) Having bought it, and read it, I have no regrets. In fact, whatever Way does or doesn't know about rock'n'roll, he understands the comics medium pretty well.

TUA is about... Let's start over. Plot elements in the book include a group of children who were born at the same time that a wrestler knocked out a space squid in a public match (happens every day.) Seven of them are adopted by an ecentric millionaire and Nobel-winning scientist who is secretly (not much of a spoiler as it's revealed on p.3) an extraterrestrial. Together they fight crime, or to be more specific, weird science threats. Of course, benefactor Reginald Hargreaves may have hidden some things from them.

This title puts into play some of the best things about comics. To elaborate in list form:
1. It takes out-there, potentially goofy ideas and commits to them. I think we've established that.
2. Two words: visual medium. That means it should be fun to look at The seven orphans, whom Hargreaves calls only by number, are shown wearing black domino masks as newborns! Later they adopt old skool boarding school uniforms, which gives it a Roald Dahl/Lemony Snicket feel. And their mission involves the Eiffel Tower coming to life and going berserk. All this is freshly rendered by Gabriel Ba, whose style is reminiscent of Kevin O'Neil, Alan Moore's artist on The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
3. Movement. Things happen in TUA, and you don't have to wait for the trade to find out what they are. It's billed as the first chapter in a six-part series, but #1 tells a satisfying story in itself, with a mystery opening out at the end.
4. Lightness. Oh there's a dark undercurrent to the story, but it can, and should be enjoyed on the level of wacky adventure.
5. A good bastard. Hargreaves, aka the Monocle, is cold, and really no kind of parent, but he's interesting. In this interview, Way identifies Grant Morrison as a prime influence, and I think Hargreaves has some of Morrison's treatment of Doom Patrol founder Niles Caulder. It will be interesting to see if he's ultimately good or evil. Or if he just is.

Remember how I said the story moved. Well, this issue contains a twenty-year time jump. That allows the team to show a gratuitous ass-shot of outcaste music prodigy #7 without engaging in kiddie porn. Gratuitous, but by that point they've earned it. Hopefully they'll continue to do so.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


Common themes.

Example #1: Nalini Ghuman. Musicologist. Lives in California. No one seems to have accused her of anything. No matter. She's had her visa revoked anyway.

Example #2 Andrew Meyer. The University of Florida student who was tasered in a doomed attempt to get John Kerry to stop being boring. Seems to have a good deal of exhibitionist in him. And no doubt even attendees who agreed with him would have appreciated him not pushing ahead of him. Still, this was a case for a good sergeant-at-arms, not potentially deadly force. That's not an exaggeration. If Meyer had been epileptic, he'd likely be dead.

In Homicide's reunion movie, Frank Pembleton comes back to investigate the shooting of his much-admired Lieutenant, Al Giardello. Captain Walt Gaffney, who has always hated Pembleton and is a major all-round tool, orders the no-longer Detective Pembleton off the case. Another ex-Detective, the long-retired Bolander, says that he'd better get out too. Gaffney replies, "No, you can stay. See, that's the great thing about power. It's arbitrary."

Very honest. You very rarely hear those words. But you see the actions. And the underlying message is there. "We can do this. We don't have to prove that we're justified. Maybe you'd be better off not asking. Power is arbitrary, bro."

If our country is to survive as any kind of democracy, citizens will have to recognize that this is what's being said. But not accept it as the truth.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Scene and heard

While out and about on Saturday, I strolled through Waterplae Park. This was a day belonging to a Waterfire night, and some vendors and performers had already set up, doin' their thing.

Among the latter was this group called (I think) Sgt Fifer's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Only part I'm not sure of is whether they included the "Sgt." Anyhow, this was an indie rock guy and a couple of buddies, playing songs from Sgt Pepper while his 8-ish daughter sang.

Rapt attention, man. Fr'real. When I first started to walk by, they were doing "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite." Very basic. The girl sang in an almost toneless voice, rising up for phrases like "In his way Mr. K will challenge the world." The musicians also kept to basic repetitions. But there was something fasinating about this performance I had trouble putting my finger on. Maybe just the fact that they were doing songs from one of the Beatles' most elaborate productions, and this wasn't elaborate at all.

Anyway, I was glad that I was able to stop for a while. Even if they skipped over "Good Morning, Good Morning."

Drums and Wires

Okay, I'm back online. And back here. I'd been off for a few days because I plum just couldn't get online. Well, today I called my ISP, Cox Communications, and told them the trouble. The guy I talked to sounded very nice, maybe a little baked. After trying and failing the Ip config, he concluded that it was probably a not-so-good ethernet cable. Well, lomg story short, I happened to have an ethernet cable lying around that I wasn't using. Why I stopped using it, I don't remember. But after running it between modem and computer, everything's back on track. This cable works until it doesn't, so I should probably get a bakup.

While fumbling around for a solution, I discovered the Sound Effects Manager in my control panel. It's kind of a neat toy. Basically you can manipulate any sound that comes out of your speakers, changing the tone and adding effects. For example, the first song on this page is an infectious love ditty with a Spectoresque wall of sound. If you use the "drugged" effect, it becomes a threatening barrage of noise, albeit one with a sweet tune running under it. Not something I'd want to listen to all the time, but it's an interesting way to change perspetive.

Must be a few Mac apps that let you do something similar.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Service down

Not currently able to do much updating. For the last couple of days, whenever I've tried to log onto the internet at home, I've gotten this "network cable unplugged" message. Despite the fact that everything I can plug in is well-plugged. So there seems to be a problem with the external line. Whatcha gon' do? So I'll have to get on the horn with Fox and tell them they needs to get fixin'. That's always fun.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A reflection on what will last, and what won't, by Dame Sitwell

Here in the fashionable quarters of the city,
Cold as the universal blackness of Hell's day,
The two opposing broherhoods are swept
Down the black marble pavements, Lethe's river,
First come the worlds of Misery, the small and tall Rag-Castles,
Shut off from every other. These have no name,
Nor friend to utter it... these of the extinct faces
Are a lost civilization, and have no possession
But the night and day, those centuries of cold.
Even their tears are changed now to the old
Eternal nights of ice round the loveless head
Of these who are lone and sexless as the Dead.
from "The Song of the Cold" by Edith Sitwell

Contemplating this kind of stillness. People will often try to scare you, rattle you with this or that worst case scenario. But they're just as ephemeral as you are.

The Anniversary: a Stray Thought

As every American knows, a lot of people died six years ago today. A lot of good people, I'm sure.

Think of your end. How do you want to go. (Nice idea, sir, but be sure to warn the young lady ahead of time.) And, how do you want to be remembered.

The dead of 9/11 are remembered, in a sense. Their families and friends definitely carry on their memory. In the public, individuals are named, but tend to be overshadowed by the event itself. Perhaps this is inevitable. But something is missing. A lot of he's and she's, really, are missing from the account.

In addition, there's 9/11 as a political prop. The victims are used to justify certain policies, their legacy invoked to make politicians look tougher.

Would they approve? It's impossible to say for sure. In all likelihood, some would and others wouldn't.

The fact is, though, that they didn't approve. We're not asking them. We're telling each other.

How to best respect the dead? Maybe by not pretending that we serve them.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Mixed response

Can't say I'm overjoyed about this. Not that I've always been Chuck Hagel's #1 fan. His closeness to the voting machine industry made him a little hard to trust. But he was/is an honest conservative, and an important voice of dissent. Rumor has it that the GOP are cracking down on dissidents, which is probably bad for them in the next election. However, it's not really good for democracy either. May say more about that later.

Thursday, September 6, 2007


Writer's block. What is it. How do you fight it?

[Cue Maury Povich sound effects]

Earlier this evening I sat down to do some work on a story I've been working on. When I started I felt a little lost. Sort of a case of the blahs, wondering if I could really shape these words into something interesting, or even get myself jazzed enough to really try. As it turns out, I did make progress, and then started thinking about a few things that seem to help.

1. Awareness/awakeness. If you're just jotting ideas down, testing out titles, or if you've got a few phrases that make up a wacky short poem, then okay, 1:15AM just before you collapse is as good a time as any. But for in-depth stuff like fiction or creative nonfiction, you have to have your wits about you. That's because things can change and you might have a better idea in two minutes, so you have to be ready for it.

2. Tension. Not a lot. Not enough to give you a headache. But being too relaxed can make you apathetic.

1 and 2 make 3. Sobriety. This is something I've noticed. It's hard to get worked up in your writing if you've been drinking. Even one beer or glass of wine can make you want to chill too much. Haven't smoked any marriage-a-wanna lately, but I would guess smoking a joint has much the same effect.

4. Concentration. Sometimes you have to make up your mind not to be distracted. You can make it easier on yourself. In an interview, I read Kelly Link saying that she does a lot of writing in coffee shops so that she doesn't get distracted by blogs and articles. That seems like a good example to follow. (Needless to say, if said coffee shop offers wi-fi, don't take it.)

5. Low expectations. Or maybe no expectations. I've found that if I sit down and say "This is gonna be so cool" or "I've got something to say"*, that's a form of self-sabotage. Better to say, "I'll let some words come out, and see where we go from there." And sometimes it does turn out to be kind of cool.

I'll stipulate that so far, my writing has only managed to entertain my parents and a few friends. But this is just a series of personal observations anyway. If anyone has others they want to share, feel free.

On a related note, if any erotica writers drop by, I'm curious. When you write a really hot scene, do you masturbate before, after, or sometime in the middle?

*If your "I've got something to say" is followed by "I killed your baby today", that's a different situation.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The place to be

How do you like that?

I just navidgated over to When Fangirls Attack!, to see if there was anything thought-provoking. And who do I bump into while there? Why, me, of course. My own post on The Spirit is the fourth linked item for September 5. Nice, and a little intimidating. I'm still in early stages here, so I don't have a big archive to look at yet. Um, unless you're reading this in the future and things have gone well.

Note 1. WFA is a great site that links to a lot of gender-issues-related comics articles that are nowhere near as boring as that might sound. David Bird has a neat look at Grant Morrison's Bulleteer (think a spandex version of "American Beauty" that's sympathetic to the wife) and I'm expecting to find more good stuff.

Note 2. Since the Spirit post, I've gotten better at links. Half of this is adding HTML capability. The other half is cribbing from this page. Credit where it's due, they know their stuff.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Moment of Zen

Just stumbled across this link and I have to say, "Point well taken." Yes, I know what it looks like. That's the point.

Happy Labor Night to all.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Spooky radio stuff

Through Old Time Radio Fans, I'm hearing an old thriller show called "Beyond Midnight." This particular episode is called "Something on his Mind", and involves a cuckolded husband who uses an earwig as an instrument of revenge. Yeah, it's a little on the naz-tay side.

But very stylish and cunning. It's a British show, and I notice a difference compared with American radio programs. It's hard to explain, but "Beyond Midnight" sounds like a film that's been deprived of visuals, and has knowingly adjusted. But I don't really know anything else about it. Anyone out there familiar with it?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

In brief, like a Catholic school skirt

Oh dear.

The panels that they show from this miniseries make me fear for the future of my daughter. And I don't even have any kids.

Sam Kieth has in fact had a distinguished career. He has been self-deprecating to the point of "Don't look at me!" on the subject of his co-creation of the Sandman, but his work on Preludes and Nocturnes is breathtaking and fun. He has some good credits in indie comics too. The hell was he thinking?

If he ran up gambling debts with Russian troikas, well, do a telethon.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

We've got Spirit, how 'bout you?

What to say about The Spirit #9? Well, it's got a nice cover. Ebony White reads an old hardcover with the title "Tales of Terror", his eyes shifting to one side as if he knows that there's something real bad around the corner. And quite literally, there is. A pallid zombie is right outside the window (a window that would not be out of place in Dr Strange's Greenwich pad.)

In fact, the story taken by itself is a pretty nice voodoo/zombie story. The tale revolves around the softer, more mama's boy of two sibling gangsters. When he's betrayed by his wife and killed, his mother sacrifices the two-faced bee0ch and brings him back to life. 'Cept of course it ain't exactly life, but undeath. And because he died in a struggle with Denny Colt, he's got a bit of a grudge against the man in the blue suit.

It's all very creepy and bloody, in the "Weird Tales" way it's supposed to be. My only complaint? It's a little too open-ended. The villain, El Morte, reminds our boy that "I swore to you a curse," and despite turning the Spirit's ribs into jelly beans, he makes clear that he's not done yet. The word "End" is right there on the last page. I only hope it's not a lie.

For a little background, the Spirit was created by Will Eisner back in the Golden Age, and stands as the earliest successful costumed hero to stay in the ownership of his creator. Eisner licensed the character to DC shortly before his death, although the Eisner family retains ownership.

Canadian artist/writer kicked off the new series about a year ago with a Batman crossover. He's done a creditable job. Ebony, a minstrelish character that eventually caused Eisner great embarassment, has been refashioned into a believable and not-too-trendy inner city teen. Cooke hasn't done much in the way of Eisner's socially conscious stories, but he makes it fun. And that's valuable. There's not much fun to be had in contemporary comics, particularly those emanating from the Big Two. If you've kept up, you know the symptoms. Decompressed storytelling, which usually translates to "nothing happened this month." Big events that will soon be overturned by other big events. A fixation on killing little heroes and making the big ones suffer. Superhero comics now seem to spend the majority of their time either setting up the premise or deconstructing it.

The Spirit, thus far, has been an exception. You pick up an issue, read the contents, and you get it. There are colorful villains, sexy femme fatales, and in general you like all these people, good and bad. Cooke seems to, as well. And to be plain, I'd like to see that continue. If DC demands that the title become more Countdown/Outsiders-like, better to quit soon. Kyle Baker also had a small good thing going when he wrote and drew Plastic Man. He tried going the decompressed route, albeit from a satirical angle. Again, he seemed to be indulging the powers that were. When he finished this story, Plastic Man was finished too.

So the point is, giving The Spirit a big angsty arc will not guarantee sales or survival. It would definitely not be a moral victory. And if we see Ellen Dolan being shoved'>">shoved into a fridge well, that would be a big defeat.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Well there you go

This post results from the event having happened right after I logged into Blogger.

Moths. They're related to butterflies, but didn't get the looks. And frankly, having a butterfly in your apartment would get pretty old toot sweet as well. So, as you figure, a moth hanging around your place is rather annoying.

Now, everyone knows that moths are attracted to light. So, common sense would seem to tell you that they'd find their way out by themselves. After all, you can just leave your lights off. During the daytime, it will be brighter outside. At night, there are streetlights and the lights on other people's houses. So Mr Moth will get bored and leave, right?

Wrong. The poor dull saps don't seem to have that much in the way of distance vision. So this one big ass moth had been in my bathroom for several days. The bathroom is usually dark. I generally don't even turn the lights on to take a shower. Tonight it left the bathroom, apparently disturbed when I used the toilet for what a toilet is used for. A while later, I noticed it was chilling on the wall over my CD player. This had gone on long enough.

Since you can't count on them leaving on their own, you have basically two options. One is to kill it. Problem is, if you swing a magazine at the moth and you miss, or don't hit it hard enough, you've just pissed it off. And while it can't really do anything to you, an agitated moth will be more annoying to you as well.

The other option is catch-release. Luckily, this is fairly easy. If you have an empty plastic food container and a lid, you're ready to go. Just wait until it's resting on some flat surface--wall or ceiling, say--or just near it. Bring the container down. Keep the lid steady, right near it. Silde the container over the lid, and seal it.

You then have a captured moth. You want to let it go outside. Best to go at least a block from where you live. Don't want it just circling around and going back through your window. Look for a streetlight, or a store that keeps some lights on after closing. Just to be on the safe side.

Here, we give you the household hints that Eloise is afraid of.