Elayne Riggs' Journal (for Leah)

Monday, September 30, 2002

Moron Words

Thanks to some blog-hopping I found the transcript of the very funny Daily Show exchange between Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert following President Bush's remarks about "embetterment" of the Palestinians. It's at Whitey Savage's In Arguendo. Enjoy. (Although I can't help wincing when I see Savage continually misspell "Palestine" with two 'i's; if you're going to make fun of another's ignorance, it helps to have some grammatical high ground.)

This morning on the Today Show I noticed the intro to yet another interview with some authority about the Iraq situation mentioned the weapons inspectors from four years ago leaving rather than being kicked out (see FAIR's site detailing how the "they were kicked out" thing is bullshit), but they're still not quite getting it right; now the claim is that Butler's team left "because of the cat and mouse game Saddam was playing" rather than because the US and Britain were about to bomb the area again. Ah well, as they said in Contact, "Small steps."

Friday, September 27, 2002

Catching Some Z's

So this subway ad catches my eye, it's for some tooth whitening/breath freshening product, and you see the lower halves (from the nose downward) of two faces - a black guy on the left and a white gal on the right. And their teeth gleam and all that. And the woman's licking her teeth or lips or whatever, can't have a guy doing that because, well, woman=sex and guy=consumer of sex or something. And there are two word balloons, each leading to the mouth/teeth in question, presumably commenting on how their mouths feel. And the one connected to the white gal says "Va Voom!" And the one connected to the black guy says "Fa Shizzle!"

"Fa Shizzle"????

As my husband says, "Isn't that Yiddish or something?" "Hey Kenye, fa shizzle iz nischt galantzedich! Iz nischt! Geschluffen!"

More and more, the older I get, it's like, "It's just me, isn't it?" I totally can't keep up with "the new lingo" or "that wacky slang those crazy kids all use, daddy-o." I'm still struggling with the difference between the adjectives "pants" and "ass" - I keep forgetting which one means "that's great" and which one means "that sucks." Heck, I'm not even past "phat" and "da bomb" yet, and it'll be years before "I'd hit it" makes any sense to me, even though I believe I've already used it in the correct context upon a number of occasions. ('Cause, you know, as long as Hugh Jackman is out there, I probably would hit it.) But gah - I mean, "bling bling" and "in da hizzouse" and "it's da shiznit" and all the other just-add-a-Z stuff, it's about as foreign to me as Spa Fon Squa Tront would be to a non-comics geek or common courtesy to my upstairs neighbors (yeah, they're busy dragging furniture across their bare floors again). And I feel particularly clueless when a friggin' subway advertisement gets there ahead of me.

Beyond that, of course, is the fact that "Va Voom" (which I suppose the viewer is also supposed to subconsciously associate with the woman herself) is even more of an old-fashioned expression than I'm wont to use, so I wonder if that ad is designed to subtly reinforce a feeling of "this woman is old and busted, this man is new hotness." See, I'm using The Lingo again. It's just sad, innit...
Pen-Elayne For Your Thoughts: Modern Tales Part One

Joey Manley was kind enough to give me a free subscription to his Modern Tales website, asking for feedback on their comics. As I'm busy uploading my old reviews to my website anyway I'm kind of in "review mode" anyway, so why not resurrect the column style for this blog, since it's all online now anyway? The reviews will be alphabetical by title; here are the first two.

Reflections on the Chinese-American Experience
by Gene Luen Yang
Updated every Monday

Here's what I thought...

First off, great design touch, running the title and byline to read up-to-down on the right side of the page, in "Asian-style" letters. I also love that the strip retells stories from probably the most famous Chinese legend, Monkey King; my friend Alan Davis, who loves this mythos and collects various versions of it, first turned me onto it about a year or so ago, and it's a lot of fun. In the prologue, Yang retells the story of Monkey King's battle with Tiger Spirit for control of his mountain amusingly and effectively, with lots of humorous panels and easy to follow visuals. Although as I recall, in the original the Monkey King knew very well who he was, and was never confused as to his own origin; in fact, his arrogance was the central theme of many of the stories. And indeed, Yang does away with this odd plot point in his follow-up in Chapter One, which retells a portion of the heavenly dinner party which Monkey King was barred from attending (although Yang left out my favorite part, where Monkey King gets even; thus, the ending is rather flat because it's not really the end of the story).

Chapter Two, which is currently on its eleventh installment, changes the pace as Yang delves into the realm of semi-autobiography, talking about growing up in San Francisco then moving to a mostly-white neighborhood and having to deal with the cruelty and prejudice of the other children. It gives Yang a chance to show how adept he is at serious stuff as well as the humorous, and it's shaping up to be a very touching and well-told story. Highly recommended.

So, what did y'all think?

by Jesse Hamm
Updated every Friday

Here's what I thought...

This is a retelling of the Snow White fairy tale, wherein Hamm delights in placing the pictures (done in a somewhat dark and gruesome style) in opposition to the narrative. For instance, the panel which reads "His first wife long dead, the king presently decided to search for a new one" shows a female skeleton dressed in royal raiment, hanging from a noose. It looks like Hamm spends a lot of time rendering his backgrounds, to the point where the figures look a bit sketchy, but I think the effect works nicely. Chapter One eschews narrative in favor of dialogue, some of which is quite witty (we listen to the royal stepmother bitching, then asking, "Tell me Mirror, how do you cope with it?" "Your majesty's self-pity?" the mirror responds). The Queen is portrayed as insecure as well as evil (or has her insecurity driven her to it?), addicting to smoking =heh= banana slugs; the Mirror with the long, hook-nosed face reflects as petty and vindictive towards her; and the Huntsman as a greedy, self-interested buck-passer. To say that "zany hijinx ensue" regarding the plot about the Huntsman being ordered to bring Snow White's heart to the Queen would be putting it mildly. As for Snow White herself, not to mention the dwarves - well, that would be telling. Hamm also graces his readers with some "work in progress" stuff, showing uninked pencils of various episodes underneath the finished product. I'm enjoying this one a lot. Even (or especially?) with the tortured "scruffy boy" Britspeak.

So, what did y'all think?

Thursday, September 26, 2002

To Happy Endings

So much of this is trial and error! Okay, on a whim (I get a lot of those) I went into my Archive Settings, changed them back to "archive monthly," then changed them again to "archive weekly," and lo and behold they should all be there now! (As of next week, though, I think I'll go back to archiving monthly, or that side bar will fill up fast!) And check out all of Franklin Harris' comments to the "Dancing Bear" entry - if I'm reading Jerry Pournelle's page right, the switch from "dog on hind legs" to "dancing bear" seems to have come from (or through) a John Irving book, which must have been where I got it, so at least I don't feel nearly as clueless now. Plus, I'm all caught up with everything my vacationing boss needed me to do. It's been a good afternoon, the northward-creeping remnants of Hurricane Isidore notwithstanding.
Things That Make You Go "Grrr, Argh"

Thanks to the folks (including Kafkaesquí Oseo and Bob Caceres) who've written to tell me I was misremembering Samuel Johnson's quote, to wit: "Sir, a woman preaching is like a dog's walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all." Now of course it's driving me crazy how I could have heard or recalled it so incorrectly. Am I the only one who thought it was always about a dancing bear? I mean, I retained the one about the fish and the bicycle, you'd think I'd get my feminist history quotes straight by now. Ah well, they do say short-term memory's the second thing to go...

Someone else pointed out that the blog archives only showed the first week of posts, and the last two weeks' stuff (between 9/8 and 9/21 for the most part) went bye-bye, so I reset my settings to "archive weekly" instead of monthly. Then when I tried to check to see if it worked, I couldn't get onto the site (it's a bit vampiric, not being able to see my own reflection; ah well, it's probably a bad hair day anyway). Finally I got on but I note that all the posts between 9/9 and 9/20 seem to be gone. If any techies can help with that I'd be grateful. I can get to them from my edit page (so I can save them to my hard drive, at least), and in fact have just gone in and tried to go in and republish them, but to no avail. (In fact, my latest try elicited an Error 104, for which Blogger's help file suggests going in and trying to republish old posts as the solution, rather than the problem. :) ) For anyone besides me who needs to see some of those entries, my wonderful husband has found this temporary cached page which contains blog posts from 9/17 through 9/24, so that's something at least. If I don't figure out how to make them appear in an archive, maybe I'll repost them as a "blast from the past" or something...

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

In Search of the Dancing Bear

I consider myself fairly adept at using search engines, but it seems like I'm completely stymied every time I try to look up a famous quotation. Today's example: don't remember who said it, but the context was women speaking in public sometime in the mid- to late 19th century, and a man observing the similarities between that phenomenon and a dancing bear, to wit, that one doesn't judge how well it's done, but marvels that it's done at all. If anyone can help me find the source of that quote and a website-ation, I'd be much appreciative.
Sunshine Superman

Today is Chris Reeve's 50th birthday. Click here to send him a free birthday card ("free" meaning "you have to give them your mailing and e-mail addresses") and have someone donate $1 in your name to the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation.

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

Identity Crisis

With all the sunshine and lollipops going on in the world, it's not my habit to dwell on the negative. Yet dwell I must, because it's my blog-spot and I'll schrei if I want to.

Today's Hang-Up, kids, is Screen Names and the Posters Who Use Them. Now, the Internet is a powerful force, anyone in the world with online access can potentially read any of our spewings. So I can see where offering dangerous opinions under your real name might intimidate some people (even though I still think if They really want to get you a pseudonymous firewall ain't gonna stop 'em). I can also see the fun of playing around with screen names, just goofing off in IRC or whatever, it's fun to pretend you're someone else, it's like a role-playing bit. So, I have no intrinsic problems with the concept of fake screen names.

It's the application that bothers me.

Maybe this is peculiar to comic book message boards (although I doubt it), but it saddens me how many people register under fake names seemingly for the primary purpose of lobbing cheap shots and insults and nasty insinuations at others. Now, I'm not immune to indulging in this behavior myself (although you'd think I'd outgrown it, but alas, we all have button-pushers), but when that happens, as much as I'm not proud of it, at least I take personal responsibility for acting like an a-hole. Not so these anonymous pseudo-trolls who sign on as comic book characters (there seem to be an alarming number of apparently male PTs registering with the names of female characters; I don't even want to get into the psychology of that one) or use other wacky handles just so they can say things like "So-and-so is a company flak and you shouldn't believe them" (and I should believe a PT instead?) or "everybody knows this person's work sucks" (everybody also consisting of a bunch of PTs, I suppose) or "this person is just plain evil and you're fools for being taken in."

The thing about all these accusations, beyond their inherent rudeness, is that they're meant as authoritative statements, but when you choose to use a pseudonym you willingly give up your claim to authority. And you undermine your credibility every time you don't offer any sort of actual identity when politely asked - particularly when your response is to turn around and attack the credibility or motives of the person asking. A number of pseudonymous PTs don't seem to understand the difference between someone calmly observing that fake names coupled with insulting words often present an uphill battle on the twin fronts of authority and credibility (certainly not an insurmountable one, but an uphill one nonetheless), and someone mocking them or berating them or talking down to them for their choice to throw shit whilst hiding behind a handle (in other words, engaging in the same behavior of which they're usually guilty). Or, heaven forfend, trying to censor them!

It's hard not to come to the conclusion that, of the many folks who employ online handles because they're fun and enjoyable, this probably-small subset that uses them in such a cowardly manner feels so highly insulted because deep down they know what they're doing ain't right. I'm just kind of amused that they take the observations so over-the-top personally if they're only, after all, anonymous personae.
Look, Up In The Sky!

I talked earlier about gravitating towards creative people and things. I find comic books to be one of the most potentially creative entertainment forms in existence. I love how the best ones combine words and still pictures into a seamless synthesis, engaging the reader's imagination to fill in the time and space gaps "between the panels." (By the way, if any wonk who doesn't read comics is interested in this sort of process anyway, you can't do better than visiting Scott McCloud's page and picking up his books Understanding Comics and Reinventing Comics, even though the latter is more speculation and opinion than fun academic treatise.) And I like that it's such a relatively young artform in its current incarnation (even though pictograms predate the written language historically) that its potential is still in the process of being realized. I don't know that anything yet put out in the comic book format qualifies as High, Lasting Art; but as mythic, epic storytelling some of the stuff out there is tremendous. I'm also blessed to be married to someone able to wonderfully articulate the thinking behind his storytelling, and to have friends who can do the same. And lastly, it's just plain fun pop culture to reference, even in the mainstream. Steve Premo, for instance, writes this observation: "When I drop your page down to the task bar at the bottom of my screen, the name gets shortened to Pen-El. That would make you Superman's ancestor or something." Definitely or something, Steve.
Aaron, Take My Staff

If you have a Yahoo account, you can specify to have Boondocks be one of the comics that pops up on your MyYahoo page. If you don't, you can read Aaron McGruder's daily strip here (be forewarned, there are pop-ups). This week's strips are particularly delightful, and remind me of some of the best stuff Garry Trudeau has done over the years with Doonesbury (the only other strip I designed for my MyYahoo page, and yeah, another pop-up on Trudeau's page, sorry). In the tradition of Trudeau characters like Mr. Butts, McGruder presents the return of Flaggie and Ribbon, out to whip up invade-Iraq support from the American people by any means necessary! Really terrific stuff, bound to be banned from many cowardly news outlets again; in my opinion, McGruder can never get too much praise.
Time, Time, Time, See What's Become Of Me

In another one of those odd coincidences that seems to crop up way too frequently in the Blogosphere, both Peter David's and Al Roker's journals (see left bar) talk about birthdays and aging today. Peter, whose birthday was yesterday, mentions how he doesn't really care to commemorate the day. "I don't make a big deal of it. Actually, I generally do my best to ignore it. All I do is reflect on people who should be celebrating birthdays, but aren't around to do so, and then I wonder why I'm here and they're gone, and then I just get even more depressed." Roker quotes a George Carlin routine about aging and how people view birthdays, including: If you're less than 10 years old, you're so excited about aging that you think in fractions. "How old are you?" "I'm four and a half!" You're never thirty-six and a half. You're four and a half, going on five!

And again I'm thinking, is it just me then? I think birthdays are keen. I think they deserve to be celebrated. It's a great time for counting blessings and taking stock. I'm still here, I'm still learning, I'm still experiencing new things all the time! Woo-hoo, I'm starting another year of my life, this is great!

And I still note my half-birthday. Don't celebrate it or anything, just make a mental note every June 2, "hey, I'm whatever-and-a-half years old today, how about that."

I think somewhere in my mind I'll always be 23, but going-on-45-this-December-2 is still a really cool thing to me. Much cooler, in fact, than when I was a kid and my birthday always seemed to fall either right after Thanksgiving (which usually meant any celebration was actually a family gathering for Thanksgiving, and I was the afterthought) or smack in the middle of Chanukah (which usually meant only one combined gift) or both. (Both my former and current husbands have December birthdays as well, and have told me similar things happened to them as kids, with the birthday being so relatively close to Christmas.) And I've seen how much joy an adult birthday celebration can bring, as I helped arrange a party for Hilda Terry's 88th this past June. So gimme more, I says! Give me lots and lots of birthdays! I mean, consider the alternative! Yay, I'll be celebrating again soon!
Michael Rennie was ill...

I have to figure the new and wacky spam I've been getting has been a direct result of this blog, because my Yahoo account was kind of quiet otherwise until about a week ago. Anyway, it's been a hell of a morning already, with me getting all snippy at someone who runs a comic book news site (my fault, not his, but I'm too stubborn to admit it) and watching the Today Show criticize Al Gore for actually acting like he's a member of an opposition party, then riding the apartment building elevator with one of the Upstairs Neighbors From Hell and suffering a particularly uncomfortable commute on the too-small seats of the "1" train with a Tourette's fellow across the way and a homeless woman berating riders for not paying attention to her (reminding me again of how I'd been treating the poor comics news site fellow), so I was in a sort of edgy, tense and self-recriminating frame of mind to begin with as I arrived at work.

And I check my Yahoo mail and delete the usual spam and I get the following presumably mass e-mail from complete stranger "Imaginal Diffusion Agency", addressed to "PlanetaryRescue," entitled "Planetary Renaissance & Galactic Intelligence Invitation," and it starts, "Galactic Security serves the will of the Galactic Alliance [yadda yadda]... Your planet has been in a state of confinement since that most tragic occasion one hominid generation ago, wherein one of your 'national' forces ignited atomic clusters over populated areas of another 'nation' [yadda yadda]" and on and on and "Hominids of Sol3, you have the opportunity to evolve into a Galactic civilization, or reduce yourselves to ashes on a burnt-out wasteland" and on and on and "You have a choice, Earthlings, to reconnect with the Galactic Alliance [yadda yadda]... Continue to blindly follow behind these military 'madmen' in their petty 'national' wars over resources and power, and you will be living in what you have described as 'Hell. Heal the disease of disharmony and hatred among your race, and your planetary garden will shortly be restored to what you have described as 'Heaven.' The choice is yours, for each and every one of you..."

And all I could think was, boy, Klaatu sure did this better and more succinctly fifty-one years ago. But then, I always wanted to be the Patricia Neal character.

Monday, September 23, 2002

Bastard Stepchildren

The thing that bugs me personally about the Emmys is that they rarely award anything to what they consider "genre programming." Somehow, cop shows and lawyer shows and political suspense shows don't count as genre. Only science fiction and fantasy. The exception seems to be made-for-TV movies - Dinotopia and The Mists of Avalon were good enough to garner nominations, and of course Gulliver's Travels earned a couple awards a few years back. But all the Star Trek shows, Buffy, Charmed, etc., are usually hard-pressed to win any sort of mainstream respect. Does sf/fantasy/occult automatically have to be relegated to cult status, the sort of shows all the critics will acknowledge are well done but which nobody ever really wants to vote for? Or is stuff like The West Wing really that much better?
Quality Programming

So I'm reading Al Roker's journal (see left bar), and he's basically bitching about the perceived unfairness of the Emmys, and how they ought to have separate awards for broadcast and cable (are the Ace awards still in existence?) because "if they can say and show and do things we can't, why are they in the same categories? It seems blatantly unfair." And I'm thinking, did we watch the same awards? Because I seem to recall shows like Friends and Everybody Loves Raymond and The West Wing (two of which are on Al's network) winning all sorts of acting and writing and what-have-you honors last night. Maybe his argument would hold more water if cable shows completely obliterated network competition, but they didn't. And for most of us with cable, It's All TV anyway. It reminded me a bit of the false schisms generated in the comic book reading community where "indie snobs" claim that work-for-hire, corporate-published comics can't possibly live up to the quality of creator-owned (and often corporate-published) ones, and self-published efforts are given short shrift at conventions which feature Major Names from the Big Two (Marvel and DC) so the playing field isn't level yadda yadda, and it all becomes an Us vs. Them deal, which those of us who read and enjoy all sorts of comics, both WFH and independent, find just a tad ridiculous. I'm sure this also happens with movies (major releases vs. indie/art house stuff) and sports (big leagues vs. minors) and music (big labels vs. indies) too. It's all kinda silly, if you ask me.

I believe independent entertainment of all sorts ought to be judged by the same standards as its equivalent big-name entertainment. Not lesser standards, not better ones. Do you like it? Do you consider it quality work? Did it entertain or inform or enlighten or touch you?

And I'm afraid I just don't buy the argument that content restrictions automatically equate to a dip in quality and thus an uneven playing field when it comes to awards. We can all cite examples of lowest-common-denominator entertainment that gets its jollies and rakes in the cash by sticking in "controversial" stuff like outrageous and over-the-top sexual situations or violence, and few would consider that an indicator of quality. We can probably also cite examples of, for instance, movies made under the Hays Code or comics published under the Comics Code which managed to put out high-quality fare "despite" those "restrictions" (some might even opine that the restrictions helped because the writers, artists, etc. couldn't "fall back" on cheap titillation or shock). My opinion is, quality will out, no matter the venue or the outside impositions.
Another Shout-Out

So Robin found this cool Referrers site and he suggested I add the appropriate coding to the bottom of the page (as if I know what I'm doing with HTML coding in the first place) to see which sites have directed folks to this blog. (Ironically, since javascript goes wonky on Robin's Mac/IE combination, he has to check these stats on my PC.) As of this morning, about 51 referrals came from Peter David's site (see left bar), so I wanted to thank him and Glenn again for their kindness, and welcome all the PADawans.

Sunday, September 22, 2002

Too Much Like Work

It's been a lovely weekend for the most part, the Upstairs Neighbors From Hell having mysteriously vanished sometime Thursday. As I write they've just returned (good timing, we woke from our afternoon nap about a half hour ago), but we had four days of almost total quiet. As Robin just noted, we tend to forget how noisy they actually are with their heavy footsteps, moving of objects, banging, dropping shoes, niece running about, etc. until they again make their presence known. In any case, because I haven't been desperate to escape the noise, I've gone a bit lazier than usual these past few days. We had all these grandiose plans to do housework, which have gone by the wayside because we haven't wanted to shuffle about and do stuff as a way of "combatting" their noise. So I've done mostly fun things. Except for the WDC.

The WDC is the "Women Doing Comics" page I started a few years back with Friends of Lulu then-president Jackie Estrada, and which I still maintain on the FoL website. FoL, for those not active on the comic book scene, is a national non-profit organization working to get more women and girls involved in making and reading and selling the stuff. So that there's, you know, more diversity and interesting stories and the industry does better all around. Anyway, the WDC is one of 3, soon to be 4, pages I maintain on the site. I also helped with their link page, which I can't remember when I last updated and I wish someone else would do. Then there's the "Industrial Strength Women" (ISW) list because some women were upset that I wasn't listing the non-creators - i.e., the people not involved in actually putting together a story - who also work in comics, like journalists and production folks and webmistresses and secretaries at the comic publishers (in other words, I had the feeling, they wanted to see their names on the list) so I said what the heck, let's create another catch-all for them. And the last, still in the process of creation, is called "Women in Comics 'Herstory'" (WCH) because yet more women, those who aren't currently doing comics but used to, asked why they weren't on the WDC, despite the fact that the word "currently" is fairly prominent in that list's introduction (and besides, it's a good idea not to forget Those Who Came Before).

In any case, between the near-impossibility of trying to be all things to all women, my work until this month as president of the group's New York chapter including updating the pages on the chapter site, and the fact that the national site underwent a massive style change last spring and I couldn't handle new input the way I used to (using Netscape Gold 3), I haven't updated any of the pages since like April, and haven't really gotten the proto-WCH to a decent debut point yet because I still need to go through my old Comic Book Index from '96 and pull every single tiny-type female name from there. In other words, it's Too Much Like Work.

Be that as it may, I decided to tackle the WDC today via GoLive!, which is what I've been using to create (i.e., reformat) and upload my old comics reviews onto our website - and there was just so much garbage on the page that I spent all day just re-italicizing credits, eliminating drop-boxes and resizing tables. And all the non-direct links have disappeared. (FoL, being a non-profit, decided awhile back that any direct, embedded link that led to a page containing ads was not acceptable, and a lot of these women - particularly those doing webcomics at Keenspot - couldn't afford space on a non-advertising site. But I wanted to tell folks where to find their work anyway, so I typed out their URLs, shrunk the size and stuck 'em underneath their names. Where they sat happily until the website updated.) So it's been like an uphill battle just getting the page into the shape where I can do something with it, and whenever a task becomes that much drudgery I seek to avoid it as long as possible. I feel bad for those women who've written to be added to the list or asked that their credits be updated in the last six months, but as nobody else is going to do these pages, they'll just wait until I'm ready to tackle them again. Everything Lulu-related almost always seems to do this to me - taking a lot more organizational skill and time to maintain than I'm comfortable with, requiring all sorts of redos after others have done something to complicate matters, and leading me to waste twice the energy fixing things and bitching about having to fix things, leaving me pretty well exhausted and grumpy - so it's not surprising I'm looking to curtail my activities with the group, online and otherwise. At this point, with all the external interference about which I can't do anything anyway and all the tension that causes, all in all I'd much sooner do something that actually energizes me, like writing for this blog and updating our website.

Saturday, September 21, 2002

Learning Curve

You know, the code works a lot better if you put it outside the arrow thingies that start with the exclamation point. Now I just have to figure out how to shrink the size of the "Comment" thingie, and position it so it adheres to the bottom of each post rather than the top of the previous one.

Oh, and for those of you who have AdsOff, remember to turn the program off when you're trying to post to Blogspot. *re-sigh*

Oh, my friend Peter David - well, actually, his webmaster Glenn - just "blogrolled" me on his blog (see left bar) too, and even mentioned my husband, which was way cool.

So Robin and I were talking about movies with longer-in-the-tooth male co-stars and ever-younger ingenue female co-stars (Tuxedo with Jackie Chan and Jennifer Love Hewitt being the latest example), and he's flipping through the TV Guide and sees Roman Holiday. So, you know, everything new is old again. Or old is young. Or "fool me once, shame on you, um er, can't fool me again." (Go to Jay Zilber's blog to download the Daily Show vidclip; thanks Jay, sick puppy that I am I've played it about 5 times already, and I saw it the night it ran!) Anyway, so I'm looking for something to take my mind off it and the Mets starting to lose another game (obviously marijuana is to blame), and stayed on Crossing Delancey for about a half hour. And then got a little bored, and flipped to-- Gigi. "Sank heaven for leetle gur--" Oh dear, everything old is actually Maurice Chevalier again. And I actually like that movie.
Pen-Elayne For Your Thoughts

So Ray and George and Jay Zilber all recommended HaloScan to me for the coding by which to add comments. Thanks, gentlemen! I put in the coding then checked my blog but nothing's popped up, so maybe it only works after I post something new...

Nope, just checked. Didn't work. Dang, I followed it all to the letter too... *sigh* The more I learn, the less I feel like I know...

It seems so much easier on Usenet and message boards. Back in the day, sonny, you know, when we walked five miles to school everyday, uphill both ways, I used to stick comic book reviews up on the rec.arts.comics groups and bang, just like that people would comment on 'em. At long last (seven years after I began them) I've started formatting those reviews (entitled "Pen-Elayne For Your Thoughts") for uploading to my and Robin's website, so if you have any interest in specific comics that came out in the mid to late '90s and feel like checking out the way I used to write, have fun. (Naturally, you can't comment on them now, unless you e-mail me.) And I dare you to find the "missing reviews" mentioned on the weekly list, bwaaahahaha...

Friday, September 20, 2002

Food for Thought of the Day

A popular opinion among other lefty-types vis a vis the 9-11 tragedy is "it shouldn't have come as a surprise given our foreign policy." I occasionally thought as much myself, and couldn't figure out why it seemed so, well, almost pat to me. Then one day last month, Mark Evanier (see the link to his journal at left) passed along this link to an article in the Wall Street Journal's online opinion pages by Lee Harris, entitled "Al Qaeda's Fantasy Ideology." Like Mark, I'm not sure I agree with all of it (and there are some fairly boring passages that can be skipped over, you'll know 'em when you get to 'em), but I think it's fascinating reading, and believe it takes the way we think about "the enemy" to an entirely different level. Subverting the dominant paradigm (even the dominant subversive paradigm) and all that. I hope some readers get as much out of it as I did.
Blogya, Tovarisch?

Wow, I've only had my Yahoo e-mail address up on the left bar for like a day, and a half dozen former-strangers have already written! I feel the illusion of misplaced self-importance shimmering at me. I'd better take a look at my checkbook or something.

Forgive me for not knowing the proper netiquette for when someone adds me to their blog links; is it mandatory to reciprocate, or can I just say, echoing Romper Room, "I've heard from Susan B and Frank Paynter and George Partington and Ray Sweatman and they all seem real nice and please visit their blogs but as Susan's and George's resonated with me right away I elected to put them on my list-at-left and besides they kind of all link to each other anyway"?

So anyway, I'm overwhelmed. I'm mega-whelmed, in fact. Seriously, I'm far, far beyond being whelmed, and I thank you.

Now, if only someone could teach me how to code in a "comment" section after each entry...
Tight Moccasins

So how would we react if there were suddenly a very powerful country, both militarily and economically, that decided they wanted to "oust" our president? They don't like the way we ignore the UN when it suits our purpose; they list all the crimes our government has committed against its citizens (the death penalty, the drug war, racial profiling, whatever) and other countries; they point out that we're the only country that's ever used nuclear weapons against another country and therefore those weapons of mass destruction should really be overseen by an international body since we can't be trusted and have already talked about making "pre-emptive strikes" (i.e., attacking countries first, countries who haven't yet done anything aggressive); and besides, our current president isn't even duly elected by the people (not to mention our system doesn't allow for direct from-the-people presidential elections anyway). So it's their right, by virtue of being so powerful, to "oust" him.

I mean, we'd be horrified, wouldn't we? Even those of us who don't care for Bush would see this as a gross violation of international law. You don't waltz your army into another country and oust their leader.

Does anyone besides me ever listen to what we plan to do to other countries, turn it around and imagine what it might be like if we were on the receiving end of such arrogance? I imagine that we'd be infuriated, and rightly so, were this sort of thing directed against us.

Or is it just too much trouble for most people to "walk a mile in another's moccasins," fearing they might find them a little uncomfortable?

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

A Name-Drop in the Bucket

As I mentioned earlier, I tend to go through life considering almost all my friends and acquaintances to be more interesting than me. I also tend to gravitate towards very creative folks, which only reinforces that view. Since I have fairly broad interests in entertainment (i.e., I've never been just a Beatles fan or a Firesign fan or a comics reader or a fantasy reader etc., I like all those and more), I often find myself at the nexus where a number of congruent circles of fandom intersect. And introducing people from the different circles of my life to each other has always been one of my delights. Those who can't do, facilitate, and I think I'm a good facilitator. It's probably why I took to the web as relatively quickly as I did, my life has consisted of linking to things in person and in print long before I could do it online with the press of a button. For instance, one of the cooler moments in my life was when I reacquainted Doug Smith - aka Ivan Stang, the founder of the Church of the SubGenius - with David Ossman from The Firesign Theatre, at a group trip I'd arranged to see a West Village production of I Think We're All Bozos on This Bus. Doug got his initial mailing list for the precursor to the SubGenius, BullDada Time Control Laboratories, from the old mailing list from the 1976 Natural Surrealist Party Presidential Campoon, led by David and others and on which Doug worked. They hadn't seen each other in a decade, so the reunion, particularly at a Firesign-related event, was really amazing. And that's just one example; stuff like this happens around me all the time.

So naturally, I love to talk about it because I find it so incredibly cool. And it's kind of hard to talk about people I know, people in whose creativity I delight, without mentioning their names. Thus, I develop a reputation as a name-dropper among people who, I guess, don't know these folks and therefore consider them, again I guess, on somewhat of a different level ("famous" or whatever) and therefore dropping their names belies some sort of ulterior motive the way talking about other friends who might not be well-known in these people's particular circles would not.

Or something like that.

You can see where this gets confusing. Is it more "okay" to talk about my friend Peter David and his cool books with Firesign fans, because chances are they won't know his work and he therefore isn't considered "famous" to them - and conversely to talk about my friend David Ossman with my comics-reading friends who've never been exposed to Firesign - than to mention these friends' names among their fans? I certainly get that feeling sometimes. And yet, I find that distinction hard to make. Some of my friends are more famous than others, depending on how each little circle defines "fame," but to me they're all friends first and I like talking about my creative friends. Don't we all?

So I just wanted to issue that little caveat for whoever reads this blog. Fame is relative. Friendship with creative folks is amazing and worth crowing about, so long as the focus is on how cool those creative folks are and how unbelievably lucky and blessed you are for knowing them. And there will always be those who Don't Get It. I'm totally nobody special, and yet these amazing, wonderful people are my friends and acquaintances. And they can be yours too. You just have to love the creative process enough to gravitate towards them, to want to learn from them, to share your love for the magic they do without being all sycophantic about it.

Being a facilitator, of course, always helps. ;)

Tuesday, September 17, 2002

All's Faire in Love, and War?

So, the icky war part out of the way first. So we're all like, "Hey, let weapons inspectors back in!" and they're all like, "Dude, you pulled out, inspectus interruptus was your idea from the last time you bombed, and you're like spying on us anyway!" and we're all like "Shyeah, as if, let us in or we bomb you!" and they're all like "This is sooo like just a pretext, we say yes and you'll find something else!" and we're like "No, dude, we swear, no pretext and we're serious and we have lots of bombs!" and they're all like "Let me talk to Kofi okay?" and Kofi's all like "Yo, yo, dude!, they mean business and they have bombs fer sher, we've seen 'em!" and they're all like "Jeez, okay already, your inspectors that you pulled out anyway can come in again" and now we're all like "Psyche, dude! Too late! Not good enough! Give us a minute to think of more demands before we bomb you anyway!" So like, what I want to know is, isn't that the very definition of pretext? Oh dude, I can't think straight any more, take me to RenFaire.

I've been involved with and on the periphery of lots of subcultures these last few decades, and the Rennies (apparently what Renaissance Faire regulars call themselves) resemble those fandoms in some ways - like the use of cute us-vs.-them language and filking - but not in others. The most remarkable thing I found about this past Sunday's Faire was the refusal of anyone to take themselves or the atmosphere around them too seriously, and thus a general inclusiveness to the whole affair. So it was much easier for us (and other non-initiates) to have a good time, and probably a major reason the RenFaire is so appealing to the mainstream. Well, that and, as Robin notes, "it covers roughly the period from Black Adder series I through III." By which he means, it's sort of a cartoon version of his homeland - and that, together with the fact that much of the Faire seems to resolve around drinking and boobies and assorted bawdiness, makes it his kind of thing. :) So despite the downpour we had a lovely time, and he's eager to return next year, garbed and all. Yes, of course we have pictures. No, they're not likely to go on the website.

Sunday, September 15, 2002

A Trip to the Faire

So we got up early this morning in anticipation of my friend Leah's arrival to drive us to the Renaissance Faire, and I immediately go check my list of must-read blogs - and Tom Tomorrow (see link at left) mentioned me! I've followed Tom's work since I was doing INSIDE JOKE and he was (to all intents and purposes) one of the "house cartoonists" of a great zine called Processed World with which I was utterly enthralled. So even though he now lives in NYC too and, both being involved in comics, we probably know a lot of the same people (although to my recollection we've never met), I still feel, like, "ohmiGOD!" Which doesn't come at all as a surprise to me, I get that way over a lot of people whose work I admire, friend and acquaintance and stranger alike. I kind of live by the adage that just about everyone in this world is more interesting than me, so I'm afraid anyone who reads this blog will be subject to occasional bouts of gushy-fangirl. And seriously, move along, nothing to see here. :)

Oh, before my number, I also want to add that the links I used in the "Richard Butler makes me feel ill" entry were to FAIR, Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, gotten in about two seconds from a simple Boolean search on his name, so honest, it's not like I did anything unusual. And I should add that I, not being politically connected in any way, don't know whether the odious Hussein threw out any other weapons inspectors for spying, the way his people are acting he very well may have and I do seem to recall reliable reports to that effect, but it's a moot point anyway because they were spying, weren't they?

Now, here we go. From the official Renaissance website, the lyrics to "A Trip to the Fair." If it's going to be going through my head all day today up in Rye, I may as well pull others along to suffer too. Just make believe I sing as well as Annie Haslam, as I pretended I did throughout college.

I took a trip down to look at the fair
When I arrived I found nobody there
It seemed I was all alone
Must be that they've all gone home


A trip to the fair but nobody was there
A trip to the fair but nobody was there

Voices of yesterday make not a sound
Even the roundabout stopped going round
I wonder just what it means
Is everything how it seems?


A creak as the dodgems came onto the scene
Wheels began turning I started to scream
A carousel swung around
My head spun and hit the ground


I close my eyes to disguise the fear from inside
Trembling within my own mind I find no place to hide
Stars of tomorrow shine through the grey mist that has gone
I wish that this trip to the fair had never begun

Suddenly thousands of faces I see
Everyone seemed to be staring at me
Clowns laughed in the penny arcade
What was this game my mind played?

I took a trip down to look at the fair
When I arrived I found nobody there
It seemed I was all alone
Must be that they've all gone home

A trip to the fair but nobody was there, but nobody was there
A trip to the fair but nobody was there, but nobody was there

Saturday, September 14, 2002

Late Bloomer

I seem to have always come into trends a bit late to ever be mistaken for being hip and in-the-know but early enough that it's still enjoyable (at least to me) and enough folks are involved that it's not been totally abandoned yet in favor of The Next Big Thing. So it was with most things online, from e-mail to Usenet to IRC to ICQ to MUSHing (aw c'mon, somebody out there must remember MUSHes) to message boards to website building and now, weblogging. (I'm obviously still getting the hang of it, but I've figured out just enough HTML coding to change my template settings a bit, add some links on the left, etc.) And, as with everything else I "discover," I find friends who've been there before me. So a shout-out and thanks to my buddy Ampersand for actually quoting a portion of this blog in his (see link at left) and getting back in touch with me in the process! I expect a still-steep learning curve ahead of me, but that's one of the things that makes this fun, right?

And I got my first blog-generated e-mail, a cute and funny one from someone telling me about cheap houses in some rundown area in the midwest. Guess she missed the bit about "easy commute to NYC" in my "dream-house" entry. :) We went to our first estate agent today - the learning curve is pretty daunting there too, but I did find out that once we do see something we like it shouldn't take nearly as long as I'd envisaged from "yes, I want it" to moving day. We got back to another couple hours of upstairs clomping, but now it's quiet again so time for a lie-down!

Friday, September 13, 2002

Red-Flagging It

This morning's Today Show set off warning bells earlier than I'd expected, as Katie interviewed Richard Butler, the government's answer to the wonderfully eloquent whistleblower Scott Ritter. Something about Butler just raised my hackles, particularly the moment he repeated (unchallenged, naturally) the lies about how his inspectors were thrown out of Iraq. So I checked, and I was right to be suspicious. Pretty much every major paper reported at the time (12/16/98) that Butler himself chose to withdraw his weapons inspectors (in anticipation of US-British bombing) without seeking permission from the UN Security Council that assigned him there; furthermore, "as Butler was drafting his report on Iraqi cooperation, U.S. officials were secretly consulting with him about how to frame his conclusions." Oh, and that spy accusation? The Washington Post reported in 1999 (1/8/99) that "United Nations arms inspectors helped collect eavesdropping intelligence used in American efforts to undermine the Iraqi regime." So, you know, even if Hussein had thrown 'em out for being spies (which he didn't) - well, they were. It's enough to make one's head spin this early in the day.

The other warning bell went off whilst Katie or Matt or Ann (they all kind of run together in my head sometimes, except for the wonderful Al Roker) mentioned Iraqi's "state-owned television." The ever-astute Robin immediately shot back, "Oh, you mean like the BBC?" Or like PBS, for instance? Corporate-owned American media enjoy spinning the myth that people like them are "independent." For obvious reasons, therefore, you'll never see the distinction phrased as between privately-held and publicly-held media - only implications that anything owned by the government of an Official Enemy is de facto evil and suspicious (and the corresponding implication that there's something wrong in general with the idea of public utilities, as the global corporate mentality salivates at the thought of privatizing even more transportation and phone and electric and water companies)...

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

My friend David does amazing things with LEGO figures. No, no, nothing evil. See for yourself. Just wanted to plug him. As it were.
It's unavoidable. Should it be?

Someone on the Comicon message boards passed on this URL. Oh, and this one too. Frankly, I think the sites are brilliant commentary on the media circus that the commemoration of one of our nation's most solemn days seems to have become, in just one short year. It reminds me of a magician's misdirection trick; whilst domestically our much-vaunted freedoms are being stripped away by the self-appointed (or Supreme Court-appointed) People In Charge, the lapdogs in the media bark "Look over there at Ground Zero, you can almost see the rubble still smoking! You can't? Here, let us show it to you again! And again!"

Because we are nothing if not a Media Bandwagon country, allow me to indulge in one of the biggest catch-phrase clichés making the rounds at present. I feel like every time I see the Towers, and our civil rights, being hit and crumbling, the terrorists have won.

I plan to watch no television tomorrow at all.

Monday, September 09, 2002

Got a House to Sell?

In the spirit of "My Dream Marriage" we bring you... my dream house! Version 1.0, of course.

I want a house where the doors and cabinets close. Don't laugh, the idiots who repainted our apartment before we moved in painted all the hinges, and as a result we don't have a single closet or cabinet that closes. Well, the large bathroom and the closet right outside of it, but we forced those and it wasn't easy.

I want a house with a kitchen where I can actually prepare and cook things, and with cabinets I can actually reach.

I want a house with three-pronged plugs for everything, not just the air conditioning and refrigeration units!

I want a house that's quiet. Quiet neighborhood, plush carpeting everywhere except maybe the bathroom and I'd even take that... pin-drop quiet. That's my main reason for wanting a house, blissful quietude whenever I want it.

I want a house in a 21st century area that has the capability for decent cable and DSL and cell phone range.

I want a house that's close to public transit and shopping (or public transit to shopping) so I can keep putting off needing a car. I need a house that's within reasonable commuting distance of New York City.

I want a house that can fit all our current stuff in it.

Beyond that, I'm not picky. So, y'know, e-mail me if you want to unload something at a reasonable price.
So, what's your excuse?

We all have them, you know. I have a number of friends whose excuse seems to be fear of failure, fear of success or both. They don't finish projects because everything sounds so much better as a concept; the execution can't possibly match the way they've talked up their ideas in their own heads. Execution is, you know, hard. It takes work and discipline. But ideas are just fun, they pop out all the time and you really don't need to do anything with them other than pass them on and have your friends say "Wow, what a great idea!"

My excuses probably encompass one or the other fear mentioned above, but they take the form of Practical Matters. A big one that's served my psyche well for the past few years is "I can't write stories because I can't form coherent thoughts with the constant interruptions around me." The True Excuses are always the best ones, but that doesn't make them any less excuses.

Because, you know, I write anyway, even with interruptions. I do message board posts, I do this blog now. I seem to find time to do the Fun kind of writing rather than the Disciplined kind of writing. So it's really just me saying, "but maaaaaa, I don' wanna go to work today!"

Of course, just as it's easy to come up with ideas and hard to actually sit down and execute them, it's equally easy to recognize our excuses but hard as all get-out to do something about them.

So, what are you going to do about your excuses?

Sunday, September 08, 2002

When the going gets tough, the not-so-tough among us make lists.

This is, unbelievably, my first entry made whilst the upstairs neighbors are at it. It's not so bad this morning, it sounds like she's cleaning in their bedroom (which is right above ours), not much more than some intermittent banging at 9 AM on a Sunday. It's been worse; every weekday morning they get up about 6:30, he showers, she sees to the baby, sometimes she stomps her feet into her boots, they both stomp back and forth repeatedly in the bedroom for the next hour or two (I'm gone by 7:30 but I'm told it goes on much longer) until they're out the door. They don't, it seems, know how to walk properly, or tiptoe, or do anything that would lessen the noise. Our last upstairs neighbors, a woman and her two teenaged sons, were a blessing. The workmen who renovated between tenants betrayed their presence only with construction sounds, not footsteps. Even the super is silent when he does work in the apartment. So it's not just the lack of carpeting at work here, it's the lack of consideration.

When we found this place we were given specific house rules which we've followed since (in fact, the rules were a major reason we decided to move here, as the situation with the new owner of the 2-family in which we'd previously resided had gotten more dangerously unlivable by the month due to the noise he and his belligerent family made), one of which stated very clearly that moving must be done during weekdays, 9-5. These folks moved in on weekends and evenings, sometimes as late as 3 in the morning; We've tried repeatedly with the co-op board and the landlord to have them at least get carpeting, hence the lists I mentioned above - to no avail. The rules are either unenforced or unenforceable. The stomping continues. We've tried to talk to them, and their response was immediately defensive, claiming "We're not malicious people!"

And they're not. What they are is completely uncaring about anyone else outside their cocoon of cacaphony. It's worse when their young niece visits from two doors over. Interestingly, our neighbors underneath that apartment don't seem to have nearly the problem we do; her father must forbid her from running in her own home, thus leading her to run around in her aunt and uncle's place, because after all they permit such noise. It doesn't matter to them who else is disturbed, who else is forced by virtue of having normally operating eardrums to know the details of their lives.

We are powerless, and I hate being powerless in situations where I have the ability to do something about it. I can't change my work situation; you know going into a secretarial job that you're in a position of servitude, and it would probably be no different elsewhere even were anyone to respond to my repeated resume sendings. I can't do anything about a commute on a subway line that squishes people into seats built too small for them. But I can change my comfort level the one place where it really matters to me. We start looking at houses next week.

Meantime, I've just broken in a new set of earplugs.

Saturday, September 07, 2002

This is my third attempt to get this blog to stick; this time I’m taking no chances and doing it on a word processor first...

I was one of those kids who always looked forward to going back to school in September. Maybe it had something to do with my Jewish heritage, commemorating the new year in the fall. Since this is the first of Tishrei, I figured it was as good a time as any to embark on a weblog.

I was born Elayne Tina Wechsler on 2 December 1957. This was going on then, as was this, but I don't know of too much else. Famous people born on that date include Britney Spears, Nelly Furtado, Monica Seles, Lucy Liu, Maria Callas, Gianni Versaci and Georges Seurat. I’m one of the many non-famous ones.

Still, that’s never stopped me from writing. When I was 13, in the days of 6¢ stamps, I had about 150 penpals. I wrote “Dream Marriage” stories (like they used to have in the bubblegum teen mag Tiger Beat) and passed them around in class, I wrote for the school paper and club newsletters. I started a diary and kept it, on and off, through the beginning of my first real courtship (which led to my first marriage), when I found someone I could chat with regularly. Even so, in my 20’s I self-published a zine (actually two, but this one was more specialized and not as seminal) and participated in lots of apas. In my 30’s I discovered e-mail and Usenet. Now in my 40's, I write the occasional comic book story (usually for a charity book) and post a lot to message boards. So I'm still doing lots of chatty in-print conversation and essays; only the medium has changed.

As I approach my 45th birthday later this year, I take stock (as I'm wont to do this time of year anyway) and find myself more or less happy. My first husband Steve and I went in different directions a few years back (although we keep in touch, having been friends before and after the marriage) and have both remarried. My current husband, Robin, is an amazing artist who teaches me something new every day. We live at present in New York City (up in the northwest Bronx on the mainland) but, due to my increasing inability to deal with internal apartment building noise, are taking the first steps towards house-buying, probably around where I grew up in New Jersey. My day job as a secretary to a "mercurial" CEO is never boring and helps pay the bills, but I look at it as more a means to an end than anything else. The worst part about it is the lack of privacy and constant state of interruption; between that and the noise from our upstairs neighbors at home, it's often hard to concentrate enough to form coherent paragraphs, and I'm sure as a result my writing ability has deteriorated somewhat.

But, coherent or not, writing to me is kind of like breathing, I'm always going to do it even if I come up a bit short after the daily uphill climbs. (Note to self: look for house that's not on a hill!) So that's the intro, and I hope I get better as this goes along. Thanks for reading!