Elayne Riggs' Journal (for Leah)

Thursday, October 31, 2002

Pointing out the Pachys

I believe I've identified one of my elephants (see previous entry). It's not a smoking gun so much as a jumping one. I have an annoying tendency (one among many, collect the set!) to speak too soon. Together with a leaning towards verbosity, it can be a lethal combination. For instance, it's stood me in no good stead at work, which I've made far more uncomfortable for myself this week than I've needed to. It's less unforgivable in the rest of my life, and certainly in this blog, as it transforms what would ordinarily be damage control into another chance to plug something. Therefore, I hereby blogroll Dirk Deppey and direct folks to Journalista's coverage of Marvel Comics this fine morning.

Today's elephant in someone else's living room is the media's shock, do you hear me shock, that the memorial service for the unabashedly liberal politician Senator Paul Wellstone turned =gasp= political! Oh my, whatever are we to do when people with partisan beliefs act all - partisan! (That's one of my Words of the Day after hearing it analyzed on last night's West Wing, a show I've just started watching but which has hooked me immediately because, darn it, it's way smarter than me and I like that sometimes. That kind of intelligence is not, by the way, to be confused with the intelligence displayed by the title character in another fine show, John Doe, which as my husband astutely pointed out is more the TV equivalent of a Google search.)

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Elephants, Yeah!

[Edited to update the header to something more appropriate and give Joel Veitch another plug - and Robin loves his Viking Kittens mugs! Have you seen where they've gone all Northern England scruffy now? Although to be fair the Kittens have stayed true to their punk roots. Wonder when Joel's bringing out Café Press Chicken mugs...]

One of my favorite current expressions, thanks to Tom Tomorrow (link at left bar), is "the elephant in the living room." You know, something that's real obvious to some observers but which never seems to be talked about by any of the players involved. Any media analyst worth her salt knows one needs to pay attention not only to how something is reported but to what's not being said as well. One recent example is the sad news about a couple in Queens who died of carbon monoxide poisoning. This morning the local NBC station had a report on things one can do to prevent CO poisoning, but nowhere did it mention what I always learned as a kid, about not operating unvented fuel-burning appliances in any room with closed doors or windows or where people are sleeping. Even the Consumer Product Safety Commission has it almost last on their list, after talking about getting a CO detector and using equipment properly. Maybe I see that particular elephant because I can't conceive of people not ventilating their homes by opening windows regularly, even in cold months. Although I do keep passing those open windows...

Another possible pachyderm goes by the name of either Harjit or Harjeet or even Harjee Singh - sources seem to disagree on the spelling of his first name (even by the same paper in different articles). He's this fellow from Bellingham, WA who apparently met accused sniper John Muhammed at a local YMCA , told the FBI that "Muhammed had talked about wanting to get a silencer for his rifle and use it to kill police officers" and was said to have provided additional information later on, but this article mentions that his story kept changing, which of course he denies. His most famous quote, which I caught a video of him saying, was "From the language they were using, it was clear they were anti-American." As far as I can tell, he's the only acquaintance to even say anything of this nature, which doubtless has provided fuel for anyone desperately hoping to manufacture a sniper-Al Qaeda connection. But Singh didn't elaborate on Muhammed's supposed anti-Americanism, at least not on camera. So I wonder what we aren't being told about the cred of this person who hung out at Muhammed's Y.

I like what I've seen so far of Dirk Deppey's new blog, and recommend it as indispensible reading particularly for people curious about internationally-based comic book creators and cartoonists (and he's already mentioned at least one female cartoonist I'd never heard of whose name will now go on my WDC list, and sweetie that he is he's even blogrolled me), but the pachy in his particular parlor, at least so far, seems to be mainstream, corporate-owned American comic books. Obviously none of us is obligated to blog about anything that doesn't hold our interest, but the publication hosting Dirk's blog, The Comics Journal, has also tended to ignore the output at Marvel and DC, and that bugs me personally not only because that's (with any luck) half my household income but because a lot of my friends are involved in making those comics, just like a lot of my friends are involved in making small press and alternative comics, and I find them all wonderfully creative. I happen to like good comics from all ends of the spectrum, and think that to talk about comics without covering what most people in our culture think of as comics perpetuates an implied "us versus them" viewpoint, and is counterproductive to a storytelling form and an industry that's become so marginalized in our culture to begin with.

So what I can't quite figure out yet is, where are the elephants in my living room?

Monday, October 28, 2002

Whistling Down the WAV

This year Robin and I have decided to treat ourselves for our 4 December anniversary, and will be going to see the Broadway musical Dance of the Vampires, primarily because Jim Steinman wrote the music and lyrics for all the songs. (And of course when one says "wrote" in the case of Steinman one inevitably means "auto-cannibalized," so at least I'll be able to hum along to all the tunes even if the lyrics have been slightly altered.) Peter and Kath David have already seen it in previews, so if you want an early review you can check out Peter's impressions. In any case, Rob's been on his latest Steinman kick for at least the last couple of weeks, it's terrific music to listen to if you're drawing (or writing or reviewing) comics, and I'm almost but not quite getting to the point where I'm Steinman'ed out. I mean, you can't get too Steinman'ed out when his website has all these wacky, grainy video clips, particularly "Love And Death And An American Guitar" which still cracks me up every time I hear it. So Robin's been duping and listening to CDs of Steinman-written stuff, including the songs from "Whistle Down The Wind," and amid the Boy George and Tom Jones numbers it occurred to me that, as nice as Donny Osmond's rendition of "When Children Rule The World" is (oh, hush and get over it, he's got a great theatrical singing voice), my favorite is still the Japanese version performed at the Nagano Olympics. So Robin did a quick web search for a WAV file of the song in its entirety, and came up with only two snippets, one 35 seconds long and the other 58 seconds, both kinda crappy sound. Anyone out there have this song as a WAV or mp3? I'd be much obliged, thanks!

Friday, October 25, 2002

And now Richard Harris has passed away as well. Oh dear.
Just found out from MadKane's site (link at left) that Sen. Paul Wellstone has been killed in a plane crash. I'm still reeling from the shock. For as long as I'd heard of him I'd always thought he was one of the goodguys, even though I wished his office would stop writing to me for money so often. My heartfelt condolences to his loved ones.
Of Little Chromium Switches

I've mentioned before about the incredibly cool people I've been blessed to know throughout my time involved in various fandoms. (Well, at least they're cool to me. But most of my friends are cool to me. Aren't yours?) Among the most amazing have been the "4 or 5 crazy guys" (their term, long story) in The Firesign Theatre. I suppose I can't really say that much more about Phil Austin, Peter Bergman, David Ossman and Phil Proctor than I said in 10+ years of publishing, under my not-so-secret former name, their fan newsletter Four-Alarm FIRESIGNal (link may not work, perhaps it's been "hacx0red"), but I wanted to make special mention of them here again because last night I checked out, as I try to every Thursday night at 9 PM Eastern time, the Firesign Theatre Chat and lo and behold both David and Phil A were there, which was very neat indeed. It's been awhile since I've been in direct contact with either gentleman, but they greeted me warmly like an old friend and that felt really ooky and special and I promised them that whenever they actually start contributing regularly to the Fireblog I'd blogroll it, as well as Phil Austin's own blog, but both ventures are fairly new and they're so busy with things like their show on XM radio - which may or may not be doing well, depending on which reports you believe, but then Firesign has always been a bit daring and experimental in choosing new formats (remember the CD+G format? yep, Firesign had the first CD+G disc published in the US) - and Weirdly Cool and just, you know, their lives that it shouldn't be surprising if blogging is way down on their list of Things To Do. Nonetheless, David promised some old unpublished George Tirebiter stuff if he can work out the tech aspects of posting to the collective blog. So we can all look forward to looking backward again, or something like that. Forward Into the Past! Wait a minute, didn't they say that on the other side of the record? They'd better check...

Well, someone's gotten to Blogger. I can't view my website from my editing page any more. I click "view web page" and it comes up with "http://www.blogger.com/hacx0redbyme". This wacky spelling of words like "hacx0red" (which I presume is a "kewl" variation of "hacked") is yet another symptom of what I talked about here, and of course it drives me nuts because it reminds me again of how "old and busted" I am. In any case, I hope the "hacx0r" sets things right but I'm not holding my breath because if he (these things are rarely the province of "she"s) gave a hoot about people's minor inconvenience (which in my case just means opening up a new browser window, lazy cow that I am) I suppose he wouldn't have "hacx0red" in the first place, and it does no good to remind him that Blogger isn't nearly as inconvenienced by this as are its users (who would probably applaud his ingenuity in other circumstances were it put to actual productive use).

Thursday, October 24, 2002

It's Just Play Money

Courtesy of a thread on Comicon, this link to Forbes' "Fictional Fifteen," their determination of the 15 richest fictional characters. The accompanying slide show's a hoot! Presumably this doesn't include EverQuest characters. (Yes, yes, link courtesy of Fark as well.)

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Too Much Fantasy

I'm like a gushy little fangirl all over again, Neil Gaiman actually posted and answered my response to his blog entry from earlier today in his latest missive (link at left bar). He didn't mention me by name, which of course has me pouty and utterly unable to prove it was me who wrote him, much less that I've actually corresponded with and spoken to him on a few occasions, but he's Big Ol' Famous Neil now (albeit still Incredibly Nice Neil) and I'm just a gushy little fangirl, so let it lie. In any case, he recommends I (and others) read Diana Wynne Jones' Tough Guide to Fantasyland, which either makes fun of or embraces fantasy clichés, I'm not sure which now but I'll have to put it on my to-read list because Neil Said So and whither he goeth, y'know. But before that, it occurs to me I need to catch up majorly on my fantasy reading. I'm reading through this thread on the Pulse message board and wonderful storytellers like Charles Vess and Colleen Doran and Carla Speed McNeill and Bob Morales are listing and discussing their favorite fantasy novels and it occurs to me that I haven't read or even heard of most of them. I stopped buying fantasy paperbacks when I started buying comics, I think, so I missed out on a lot of stuff after the mid-80s. But someone in the thread assures me I also missed out on a lot of stuff before that; a lot of the books they're discussing are apparently classics and I had no idea. I'm sort of depressed and elated at the same time. What I want to do is print out this thread and find a really good library near wherever Robin and I move, and just start going through the recommendations one by one. It's hopelessly daunting, but I love a challenge. Meanwhile Robin's sending me off to work daily with novels from his collection; I'm currently working my way through David Eddings' first 5-book series. Which, apparently, is filled with the fantasy clichés mentioned in Diana Wynne Jones' book. Which, um, I'll get to sooner or later. Did I mention I'm down to just one box of so-far-unread comics?
Another Compadre

Tom Tomorrow's blog, link at left bar, led me to August Pollak's blog, link now at left bar as well because wow, I really like this guy. He's erudite and fun to read and makes good common sense and is a fellow NY-er and appears to like and focus on a lot of the same things I do (today's entry, for instance, featured a link to a FAIR roundup of all that UN inspectors "they left, no they were kicked out, okay we lied they left but we're still not admitting they were spying" stuff the major media has been promulgating, which readers of this blog know has been one of my little side projects ever since my first post about Richard Butler giving me the skeevie-jeebies). His lettering on his cartoons could use a bit of work, but I hand-letter crappy too (which is why I prefer to letter using Freehand and one of Robin's home-made Fontographer fonts) and the 'toons themselves are worth reading and I think this guy can only get better as he goes along. I even like the look of his blog, except he doesn't have any sidebars or links (other than the ones which appear in his entries), which bums me out (good grief I'm old, I'm sure nobody even uses "bums me out" any more) because I'd love to see who's on his daily must-read list! My own must-read list is, alas, unavailable to me except in my template page, because I can't get to my own blog site at the moment. Guess Blogspot must be overloaded what with Garry Trudeau focusing on Our Wacky Blogosphere this week. Although my husband reports 'net stuff seems sluggish all over...

Monday, October 21, 2002

It's All So Eeeevil...

Proof that Elayne Riggs is evil. Keep refreshing the page for a new mathematical proof. Got the link from Fark, of course.
Moore Moore Moore, How Do You Like It?

Dueling reviews time! Haven't seen Bowling for Columbine yet, probably just as well since according to Michael Moore's e-mail dispatches it's gosh-darn hard to get into the theaters, at least it was on opening weekend. But here's Michelle Chihara's review from AlterNet, and (courtesy of a link from Franklin Harris) here's Brian Doherty's review from Reason Online. Like I said, I'm on MM's mailing list so I'm inclined to like the guy, but my husband listened to me read the missive about how he needed everyone to come see his movie opening weekend because "If it does poorly, I will have a difficult time finding the funding for the movie I want to make next" and said something like, "Hey, wait a second, if the guy's on the NY Times best-seller list 31 weeks running, and the book's in its 32nd printing, can't he afford to fund it himself?" So y'know, since I tend not to be a cinemaphile any more anyway, I'm probably going to wait for the DVD.
Viva Las Evanier!

Mark Evanier (see link at left bar) has just added a weblog links page to his site, and I'm on it! Thanks, Mark! Yikes, though, "perceptive critic of the comic book scene"... maybe I should write more about comic books in this weblog. :) But it's so hard to concentrate on that when you have Tim Russert explaining to Katie Couric that the reason we're not preparing to inva-- erm, pre-emptively attack North Korea the way we are with Iraq is because, um well basically, North Korea can actually fight back, and Katie not following up with the obvious "well, if Iraq couldn't fight back why are we bothering, doesn't that give credence to critics who claim they aren't a threat?" (kudos to Franklin Harris for mentioning that in his blog)... Anyway, Mark's own "News From Me" blog section is always fascinating, he seems to know (and actually think) more about showbiz behind-the-scenes stuff than anyone else of my acquaintance, and his musings today about "the real Bob Crane" are worth the price of admission alone (do click the PayPal button if you like his stuff). Because his interests are so wide-ranging, I find his site constantly entertaining and enlightening, and am hard pressed to think of such varied subjects as Laugh-In, cartoons, California politics and even Las Vegas without Mark coming to mind. (Although come on, Mark, I don't know anyone who'd assume having a computer w/ Internet capability in a hotel room meant the access was free, not when most telephone usage costs a buck a call!) And he makes everyone around him feel special, even when he doesn't link to their blogs, because let's face it, if you know Mark you've just reduced your Degrees of Separation to most famous people by about two or three.
It was only a matter of time before Doonesbury discovered blogs. Robin's comment, of course, was "I found it interesting he was using an I-Mac." :)

Sunday, October 20, 2002

Sherman's March

Thanks to Bill Sherman (link newly added at left) for his nice e-mail and this contribution in response to my Friday ramblings about "us vs. them" politics. Anyone who quotes Phil Ochs in his entry header gets an automatic smile from me every time.

Friday, October 18, 2002

There's Only You and Me, and We Just Disagree

A trip around the blogosphere today, as well as reading some comments to posts herein, have inspired me to write a bit about the political spectrum, strange bedfellows, yadda yadda. Through the years I've gotten used to responding to the question, "So, are you a conservative or a liberal?" by either explaining, "Neither, I'm a progressive armchair radical slightly to the left of the late great Abbie Hoffman and my POV is usually not even acknowledged as existing in most mainstream media" or, my preferred answer, "I'm an Elayne-ist." Which is to say, in the first place I don't know that every single political opinion I have can be neatly pigeonholed as one or the other, 'cause I think the range of officially-allowed opinion is awfully narrow for such a big gal as myself. And secondly, I've been known to change my mind as I've gone through life and encountered people whose ideas make me rethink things. I'm not all evangelical about it, like the people Tom Tomorrow (see link at left bar) mentions in his rant today, and besides I'll probably always hold progressive, open-minded ideals more than I'll embrace politically conservative, status-quo thinking, but I just have trouble viewing the people who do embrace that mindset as some sort of Axis of Evil or Vast Conspiracy. I see them as just people who believe different things than I do. I don't think of most of them as black-and-white, no-shades-of-gray monsters, you know? Well, Kissinger excepted, I've hated him for decades and I'm not about to relent on that. But still, I do impressions of him, y'know (it's basically Ahnuld slowed down with a bit of Elmer Fudd thrown in), and I think his "Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac" line was pretty spot-on. And he was a Jew in Nixon's cabinet, no mean feat.

But I digress. I can't, I won't waste energy blanketly despising most conservatives or even liberals just because of what they believe. Many members of my own family are of a conservative bent (BTW, happy birthday to my "baby" brother Jay, 40 years old today and doubtless tooling about in his Lexus SUV), and I've long since passed the point of deriving any pleasure from arguing with them. Mom and I came to a détente about All Things Israel about a decade ago, and our agreement to Just Not Raise The Subject Again improved our relationship enormously. Hey, we're none of us in this world alone, nor I suspect would we wish to be. If we're to grow together as civilized beings at all, we have to accept the fact that we're all coming at things from different views based on our different experiences and backgrounds. And sometimes we can convince each other, if all parties are open-minded enough, to see things in a new way. And sometimes we can't, and it needn't create an Us Vs. Them situation every single bloody time. The more we demonize people for not agreeing with everything we stand for straight on down the line, the more we become like the fanatics who self-justify doing sick and dangerous things. That's not how you grow as a person or a society.

So: I'm generally in favor of whatever helps us survive and get along better. I'm in favor of health, work that creates and maintains rather than destroying and pays a decent wage to people, the right to happiness and dreams and all that, courtesy, inclusion (I mean, I get positively pouty when I'm not included in someone's mindset, even language-wise, just because I'm A Gurl), peace and quiet, breatheable air and drinkable water and edible food, and stuff that just makes common sense to me. I'm against negativity and intolerant of intolerance. I support the idea of believing in any sort of Great Cosmic Being you want to as long as you keep it to yourself unless the topic comes up and don't hurt or kill other people who believe in a different GCB or have other feelings about cosmic stuff altogether. I believe that doing positive things and having talented friends creates energy, whereas spouting negative opinions and keeping high-maintenance friends saps energy, and I believe it would be really keen if I followed my own bliss more often in that particular area. And lastly, because I've probably blabbed too long anyway, I believe there's more on heaven and on earth than is dreamt of in any of our philosophies, and it totally wouldn't kill us to listen to each other more often before jumping to knee-jerk conclusions and labelling each other.

Thursday, October 17, 2002

A Blinded World

Heaven forfend I get through one morning of the first half hour of the Today Show without grumbling. :) Today's bitch is about the show's piece touching on Illinois governor George Ryan and the report of the Governor's Commission on Capital Punishment - which confused me in my relative sleepiness because that report came out a year and a half ago, but unfortunately I hit a dead end (pun unintended) when scoping out the Today Show's website to find out why they were suddenly talking about it now.

[Looking at that site is instructional in other ways, though, for people who delight in analyzing the slant of various infotainment programs. Stories receiving actual airtime include Sue Grafton's latest novel, which I thought was just a commercial (shown at least three times in that first half hour)... I'm sorry, political type stories include "In the Fight of His Life," a sympathetic-sounding headline for an interview with Jeb Bush, and "Food to Feed an Army," a puff piece designed no doubt to showcase another wonderful aspect of Our Beloved Armed Forces rather than questioning our fascination with the military, and what they actually do, in the first place. But I digress.]

This unabashed pro-death penalty piece didn't actually talk to anyone in Governor Ryan's office. Instead it concentrated on the families of murder victims, and how much they want the guilty parties to die. Not even a thought of affording the story some sort of balance by speaking with someone from the Illinois Coalition Against the Death Penalty or maybe, given the angle, Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation; the piece took as a given that people who kill people must of course be killed in return, period, and the only issue at hand was that the right people be put to death. Just seems, I dunno, callous and barbaric to me. I did note that my continued shouting at the TV, "But how does any of this stupid vengeance mentality bring back the victims? Doesn't an eye for an eye make everyone blind?" was conveniently ignored by Matt Lauer, darn him anyway. Just another day started in frustration that the gamut of official opinion seems to range, as ever, from A to maybe C.

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Too Much Information?

Wanted to call your attention to a thread on the Pulse comics message boards, wherein Jen Contino asks of the Virginia/Maryland/DC area sniper sicko, "Is TV adding fuel to the fire?" A very thoughtful response so far from Tim O'Shea.
Expert Livingstone, I Presume?

The appearance of Neil Livingstone on this morning's Today Show set off the same kind of warning bells as were heralded when I spotted Richard Butler on there. And so I went searching on the name and, sure enough, my bullshit detector didn't need a battery change or anything! As before, FAIR had the best overview of this wing-ding's "credentials," but I also liked what the Austin Chronicle's Lee Nichols had to say last November, both here and here. And here's a fairly scathing review of a book he co-authored about the PLO. But I'm also intrigued by this GlobalOptions LLC company that he heads up. "A multi-disciplinary international risk management and business intelligence company"? I think that gobbledygook means they work at keeping the world safe for American Business, but hey, who doesn't nowadays... In any case, he does seem to be one of those anti-Arab fearmongers whose every word should be taken with a copious amount of sodium chloride. But hey, judge for yourself next month if you live in the Scottdale, AZ area - he's the keynote speaker at the Emergency Preparedness and Response symposium there on November 14-15. Bet they pay him very well for that.

Tuesday, October 15, 2002


Haven't blogged in the last few days. Had a bit of a body breakdown and slept most of Saturday, spent Sunday going around to open houses with my brother and sis-in-law (I had no idea the process would be this exhausting, and we've just begun looking!), had an 11-hour work day yesterday (typing up and not finishing stuff my boss had written over the weekend, punctuated by dropping everything repeatedly each time he called for his coffee, his lunch, a phone number, etc.), and much of today has been catching up from the work I didn't get done yesterday. Together with the cooling of the weather (and yet no appreciable foliage yet, not even in Jersey) and Congress' capitulation once more to the Flimsy Pretext Administration, all this weirdness in the wind makes me want to stay put physically and retreat into childhood viscerally. So I expect I'll be doing some entries shortly covering such formative hobbies as clapping games and kiddie songs, Sid & Marty Krofft, and as promised Rankin/Bass. Already have the requisite sites bookmarked. Just gotta shake the exhaustion first, bear with me... Oh, I did see most of Moulin Rouge on HBO last night - the upstairs neighbors' niece-who-doesn't-live-there was running back and forth over our bedroom for about an hour during the flick, but it's amazing how much Ewan McGregor's loving, longing looks and bold singing voice offset the brat. And Kidman and Broadbent were terrific too, but Leguizamo creeped me out for some reason. Overall I liked most of it, although I could have done without much of the camera work, and agree that it was about as indescribable as everyone says it was. Robin kept making fun of me for following the plot.

Friday, October 11, 2002


My hard drive at work has just bit the big one, and I'm typing on the graphics computer in the next cubicle as our IT guy is configuring a new hard drive to install at my workstation. Fortunately, almost all my work data was saved to network drives (with the exception of some stuff that I needed to do in WordPerfect, which froze up every time I tried to open a file on a networked drive, and naturally the office no longer has that version of WP so I'm kinda screwed there). Unfortunately, it's been a long time since I'd thought to back up my Explorer "Favorites" folders, so they're gone too, and that was a lot of work-related stuff, including lots of links to stuff for my boss and his family. No way in hell am I going to be able to re-create it. Ah well, at least I've saved my blog links here... gotta go, the IT guy is now going to teach me Windows 2000 - yeeee!

Thursday, October 10, 2002

Inker-Boy Makes Good

My husband Robin is one of those reserved Brits who tends not to toot his own horn that much, even though I think he's one of the best comic book artists around (and a superb inker). Just my completely unbiased opinion, of course. ;) In any case, it's been frustrating to me that his work hasn't really gotten any appreciable advance publicity since the advent of comic book news sites. I'm sure this is not only because artists working as inkers don't tend to get a lot of press anyway, but in large part it's also because his major assignment for the last 4½ years has been on a book that, while it had its following, never seemed to make any big-splash news (until, naturally, the issue after Robin and the book's penciller left). Well, now he's working on a couple of issues of a story trilogy being pencilled by our friend Alan Davis, and it's the lead story on Newsarama today. (The headline is Avengers Stand-Off.) Just one more excuse, not that any are needed, to give my husband another virtual hug.
Paine in the Neck

Dr. Menlo at Warblogger Watch (which has one of the more intimidating comment sections I've seen of late) posted this gem from tompaine.com's website. Makes "common sense" to me...

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

But I'm Not The Only One

Jeanne d'Arc in today's Body & Soul entry (see left bar for link) reminds us that today is the anniversary of John Lennon's birth. I totally forgot in my sleepiness (the result of being out late last night with Robin and a visiting Colleen Doran - who gave a marvelous talk at Jim Hanley's Universe about How To Get Organized - and Heidi MacDonald and Leah Adezio and others, and thank you Sarah Anderson for the compliment on this blog!), and I'd much rather remember his birth anniversary than his death anniversary, which ranks second only to 9-11-01 in my personal "I remember what I was doing the exact moment" pantheon (I was alive when JFK was murdered and I'm sure they sent us home from school but I have no specific recollection of the day, and I wasn't yet politically minded when RFK and MLK were assassinated). On the evening Lennon was shot, I remember hearing something on the 11:00 news, then I fell asleep and woke with a start shortly after, and I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that at that moment he was gone. That kind of death-certainty has never happened to me before or since, and I hope to never experience it again.

But as I say, I'd much rather remember Lennon's life and his legacy, and since as I've mentioned before I like celebrating birthdays I plan to mark the occasion by re-reading the brilliant Spaniard in the Works and In His Own Write tonight. Lastly, I thought I'd pass along that only yesterday (as opposed to "Yesterday"), thanks to Robin, I was twigged onto the real meaning of "We Can Work It Out." I always thought it was this great song advocating compromise. But, as with so many things in which Lennon had a hand, if you look beneath the surface you realize it's exactly the opposite. The narrator cannot understand why - in fact, is practically indignant that - the person being addressed (i.e., the listener) continues to hold the opinion that he/she espouses, and warns that if he/she doesn't see things in the same way as the narrator, "we might fall apart before too long." All that "life is very short and there's no time for fussing and fighting" is just placating, to get the listener to "try to see things my way." A presage of things to come? One wonders.

HB, John. You're loved and missed and still have the ability to get people thinking, all these years later.

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Geometry Problem

Just added Zed and his MemeMachineGo site to the blogroll, largely on the strength of his link to this geometric chart listing different types of online activity. (Can someone please explain to me what the shape is called? I used to term it "concentric circles" but I know that isn't right, concentric circles are like what you see on a target. "Intersecting circles" and "convergent circles" don't sound quite right. I ask because it's very similar to the way I've always described the various subcultures in which I've been involved through the years, and how they often overlap.)
Et Tu, Jimmy?

No, I didn't watch the Resident in Chief make his case for warmongering last night. (I didn't even realize the three major networks didn't run his speech until I just read Franklin Harris' blog.) Let me guess: If we don't attack them unprovoked, then we're yella, and we cain't cotton ta being called yella. Am I close enough? Anyway, I was blogging this morning so I missed the beginning of the Today Show interviewing Richard Butler yet again. Didn't care to watch that either, "let me back in so I can spy on you again yadda yadda." So I do the channel-flipping thing, watch a bit of whatever CBS calls its morning show talking about the Serial Sniper (and thank goodness, I think, they've succumbed to Scintillating Stan Syndrome, True Believer), then flip back to see Katie interviewing former President Jimmy Carter. And I go, "ooh, he's my favorite living ex-President, I kinda like the guy, let's see what he has to say." And what he had to say was to reiterate the administration line about needing to strongarm the UN so we can get that pesky ol' resolution to allow unfettered access to people like, yes, the previous interview subject Richard Butler! Geez, I wouldn't allow that sleazeball unfettered access to a public park, let alone Iraq. Once again Jimmy breaks my heart...
Thoughts from Terry

One of the most rewarding things I did during my tenure as President of Friends of Lulu-New York this past year was getting to know Hilda Terry, a remarkable woman 88 years young and still vital and witty and writing every day. Susan B and I are trying to get her to start a blog, but so far she's just writing me lots of cool e-mails. Some of them have made it into FoL-NY's tribute page to this comics pioneer, and some of them I just like to pass along, like this one:

Dear Elayne –– I think we have to buck the fact that girls are mainly interested in boys and whatever the boys are interested, but I DEFINITELY believe we need to concentrate on persuading more girls to READ COMICS. How?

In trying to think of what girls would like to see in comics in comics, I went back to my own youth. I was then reading true romance magazines, and magazines that offered pen pals. I wrote to a cowboys hoping to find someone to love me.

Omigawd. Isn’t that what I keep getting on my e-mail? Teen porns looking to exploit girls looking for someone to love them?

In the early days of radio before TV, I used to hate radio stories in which men were always intrigued by nymphomaniacs. I know I was so convinced I had to be what the boy wanted that I once pretended to be having sex with a marijuana smoker (when they were really rare), to interest an alcoholic on whom I had a crush. I knew I was losing him because, having a sweet tooth, I just couldn't join him in what HE liked.

When I was doing my comic strip, I had Camp Fire Girls and got my ideas from them. When I read those strips today, it’s like reading someone else’s work, but I do recognize the young girls I was doing all those fun things with. If I was to do a comic today, I would make my girl a mental heroine, always outsmarting the boys, but being smart enough to let them think THEY were the smart ones. I think a lot of today’s girls, having been led into so much stupidity to be what they’ve been persuaded boys like, must hate that image of themselves –– they just might like to be able to relate with an image of not being as stupid as boys think they are. I LOVED it when I could run faster than the boys I liked, but I never liked violence. I could never relate to a female character who can whip the guys. I DO remember a brief period when I THOUGHT swearing was what boys liked to hear from a girl. I can understand girls who think having sex and then brushing off a guy –– reversing what men do to women –– but that's a double loser's revenge. Women's lib would really be successful when women can persude men to want to be what they want –– but only when they find out what it is they REALLY want. I don't know what I ever wanted before I was old enough to KNOW what I wanted.

My friend Heidi MacDonald, in her column for Comics Buyer's Guide, referred to the ever-ongoing discussions about how to get more people reading comics as "The Talk." Nobody talks The Talk in quite the same way Hilda Terry does. "Double loser's revenge" –– I love it...

Monday, October 07, 2002

Viking Kittens

Yes, Viking Kittens. Courtesy of Katrin Salyers, now blogrolled on the left bar. Bless you, Katrin! And speaking of felinity, Franklin Harris passes along a needed site that reminds us, "My Cat Hates You."

Friday, October 04, 2002

You Shall Be Upheld in More Than This

It's early October, which in many parts of the US (particularly on television and in mail-order catalogs) means Christmas season is well underway again. And with the publication of a comic book version of Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol (yes, you read that right, I'm incapable of making up something that bizarre), I'm awash in -- well, I dunno. Kinda tingly anticipation of it all. It's partly childhood nostalgia, but not entirely. First off, my family, being Jewish, didn't celebrate Chratzmich (I have no idea if there's a Yiddish word for Christmas but that's how my mom says it) so I kind of lived it vicariously through kids' TV, and cartoons that you only saw once a year were always special events. (I'll touch on this more in Part 2 of these ruminations.) I'm sure it's also my love of camp and pop-cult references. And I admit, in the case of Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol it's partly because some of the non-musical parts of the cartoon are a pretty decent adaptation of Dickens' tale. (Fortunately I'm not the only one who thinks this either; check out this overview from John Kenrick, about halfway down the page.) And the songs by Styne and Merrill are cute and sappy and I like that kind of thing sometimes, in its proper place, if it's not overdone. I'm sorry, "I'm All Alone In The World" still brings a tear.

Moreover, the Dickens classic itself fascinates me. I think it's a lovely, compact, well-told redemption story, and redemption stories are probably my favorite thematically next to hero's journey stories (one of the reasons the original Star Wars trilogy is so cool to me is that it features the Hero's Journey of Luke and the Redemption of both Han Solo and Anakin Skywalker). While it's full of references to the spiritual aspect of Christianity, contrast "witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on earth, and turned to happiness!'' with the pedestrian, heavy-handed, negative-dwelling "You were born a sinner." It's subversive in its own way, as is much of Dickens' writing for the people, sometime I needn't point out to fellow radicals who've had to deal with the last 20 years of "profits before people." And it contains some amazing, evocative, flowery language. "This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased...Slander those who tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse! And bide the end!'' Every other sentence seems to have such gems. I could quote it endlessly, and do seem to around this time of year, because that's when the TV stations gear up for the movies.

Here's a neat overview I found that Jerome Weeks wrote a couple years ago looking at some of the different ways in which the story's been interpreted, mostly for the theatre. I've seen two theatrical productions of A Christmas Carol, one with Robin and Steve (my first husband) at Radio City Music Hall which starred Roddy McDowell shortly before his death. And, like the line he flubbed, there was definitely "more of grave than of gravy about" him and this treacly musical production. The other one, also seen with Steve (who would check the book out of the Brooklyn Public Library where he worked every year, he was that into it), was a one-man show by Patrick Stewart on Broadway, which basically consisted of him reading the story verbatim and playing all the parts. That remains my favorite version of them all, because in my opinion (and in Stewart's, I would warrant, although the 1999 TV movie he made didn't at all match expectations) the truer you remain to the actual story Dickens wrote the better it is. The writing is that solid. It's all in there, it doesn't really need anything added.

Now, that's not to say additions and revisions always fail on their own merits. When Steve and I were married we amassed at least a dozen different versions of the story on video, not including the various sitcoms that inevitably did their own version of "Character Learns the True Meaning of Christmas" (which we deemed Sitcom Cliché #1 - no, we never did get around to listing and ranking the top 50 or 100 sitcom clichés before our lives diverged, so maybe I'll save that for a future blog). This site at About.com (yes, that means pop-ups, sorry) has what I think is a pretty complete list of most of the versions I know of. And this site claims the story has been filmed over 200 times, and plugs a book by Fred Guida called A Christmas Carol and Its Adaptations (which naturally you can buy from the site). I don't presume to step on Mr. Guida's territory, so I'll just mention some other cool stuff Robin found during a random search today, before giving my thoughts on the versions I've seen. Steve is currently in possession of the videotapes so this is all just impressions from memory.

· This biography of Dickens says the first filmed version was called "Scrooge: or Marley's Ghost" in 1901, directed by W.R. Booth. Various films using alternate titles have included "A Dickensian Fantasy" (1933, dir. Aveling Ginever); "Leyenda de Navidad" (1947, dir. Manual Tamayo) and "The Passions of Carol (1975, directed by Amanda Barton).
· Check out these pictures from the silent version filmed by the Edison Company in 1910.
· Hey look, "Shower of Stars" did a "live" telecast (I guess it was filmed in front of a live studio audience, therefore the quotation marks?) starring Fredric March, Basil Rathbone and a young Robert Wagner. Yowza!
· If you live in Edmonton, Alberta, you might want to take in this stage version in December. Original songs and everything!

Okay, here's the skinny on what I remember liking and not liking from some of the other versions I've seen:
· A Christmas Carol (1938) - Reginald Owen was far too melodramatic and wimpy a Scrooge for me to find the redemption believable. (I would loved to have seen Lionel Barrymore do it, as originally planned!) Owen didn't play it crotchety and mean so much as somewhat constipated. I loved that husband and wife Gene and Kathleen Lockhart played Bob and Mrs. Cratchit, and their daughter June (yes, Lassie's and Lost in Space's mom!) made her film debut here as one of the Cratchet kids. [By the way, the Missus is never given a first name in the original story; neither are the two siblings, a boy and a girl, closest to Tiny Tim's age. Only Bob (Dad), Martha (the eldest), Belinda (the second eldest), Peter (the oldest boy) and Tim. For those keeping track, that's six kids altogether, bringing the number of family members to eight - not very far-fetched in 19th century England! - so if you want to do a Christmas Carol drinking game, I suggest you take one swig for every number of Cratchit children the adaptation gets wrong.] It's been colorized, but is much better in B&W, even though the versions I've seen all look like they used too much gauze on the screen. An okay version, fairly true to the dialogue of the original. Leo G. Carroll is outstanding as Marley's Ghost.
· Scrooge (1951) - This is the Alistair Sim one, probably the best known one since it's the one they replay all the time, and doesn't look too bad colorized, but I still prefer the B&W. Sim is terrific and believable throughout. Hermoine Baddeley can do no wrong as Mrs. C. I liked the addition of the scene showing a younger Scrooge and Marley at their Enronian best. And the two wan winsome women characters, Alice (never given a name in the original) and Fan, are present here as well. Very recommended.
· The Stingiest Man in Town (1978) - The Rankin/Bass version, so I'll attend to that whole milieu later. Notable for Scrooge's snuff box, which he always carried around but never worked properly because, yes, he was too stingy to give away a good sneeze. Wince with me, boys and girls.
· Rich Little's A Christmas Carol (1978) - I only have vague memories of this, but I do recall it was fun and well done. He played Scrooge with a W.C. Fields impression, Bob Cratchit as done by Paul Lynde, Scrooge's nephew Fred as played by Johnny Carson... you get the idea. Probably worth seeking out. Instead of chains, Marley's ghost as played by Nixon lugs around 18½ minutes of tape. Okay, it's dated, but so am I.
· An American Christmas Carol (1979) - Henry Winkler with bad makeup. Can he now receive credit for jumping two sharks?
· A Christmas Carol (1984) - George C. Scott remains my favorite Scrooge, and this my favorite adaptation save the Stewart one-man show reading. I love the atmosphere. Captures much more of the spirit of Dickens' time than the letter of his book, but I don't mind. Frightening and heartwarming and brilliant in all the right places.
· A Christmas Carol (1999) - Patrick Stewart makes a fine Scrooge as well (how could he not, he's all but memorized the story after all those Broadway performances), but something was lacking from this, at least for me. For whatever reason I was expecting more, but as I recall they took more liberties than I would have liked. I'm determined to watch this again and perhaps re-evaluate my initial impression.
· A Diva's Christmas Carol (2000) - I know garlic wards off vampires, there has to be some herb you can ring round the windows (mistletoe?) to prevent this one from ever coming into your house again. Bland city, as to be expected from one of the whitest black women around. I couldn't even watch the entire thing, and seeing as how much I love the story that's saying something.
· The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) - "Light the lamp, not the rat, light the lamp, not the rat!" You'll not ever hear me say a bad word about this one. A lot of fun. And it's got Scruffy-Boy extraordinaire Michael Caine as Scrooge. Watch it again, you know you want to.
· Blackadder's Christmas Carol (1988) - Again, what's not to love? The twist here, for the half dozen of you who may not know, is that Blackadder starts out a wonderful, generous soul and by the end of the movie is shown the error of his ways and becomes a miser.
· A Christmas Carol (2000) - I call this "the real Scruffy-Boy Christmas Carol." It was as wonderful as the Williams one was bland. It stars Ross Kemp (from Eastenders) as a Eddie Scrooge, a nasty loan shark. It's almost a combination of Christmas Carol and Groundhog Day. It starts out a bit rough but it's worth sitting through and seeing it to the end; please do so if you can. And speaking of Groundhog Day,
· Scrooged (1988) - I found this just okay. Murray was fair but not all that terrific, and the last 15-20 minutes still make me wince. But you cannot beat the Carol Kane and David Johansen as, respectively, the Ghosts of Christmas Past and Present, and the rest of the stunt casting is equally eclectic. It's got Michael J. Pollard and Jamie Farr and Mabel King and Robert Goulet and Buddy Hackett and Lee Majors and Michael O'Donoghue and Paul Shaffer and Mary Lou Retton... it's kind of like an episode of the Love Boat crossed with SNL or something. Very weird.

Well, that's quite enough of that for now. Tune in soon for Part 2 of this (pre-)seasonal rambling, wherein I examine the myth-shattering Rankin/Bass, in a piece I like to call "So That's How He Got The Crown of Thorns!"
Comment/No Comment

Thanks to Kafkaesquí Oseo for helping me change my template coding so the comment part is finally the size and in the place where I wanted it, right before the byline. Yes, this is probably elementary to most of you (it actually consisted of just moving the Haloscan coding up one line in the template) but to me it's a Big Deal.

Thursday, October 03, 2002

Neil 1!

There's a reason Neil Gaiman is right at the top of my list of journal links on the left bar. I've adored his writing, and him as a person, for years. Today he won his court case against Todd McFarlane. Details here. Congratulations, Neil!
Striking Deep

I'm generally no fan of conspiracy theories except for amusement purposes, but there's an old expression, "just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you." Similarly, a conspiracy - you know, "An agreement to perform together an illegal, wrongful, or subversive act" - isn't all that far-fetched if it's real. Thanks to Tom Tomorrow (see left bar) for alerting everyone to this gem from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution outlining a frightening report called "Rebuilding America's Defenses" - which came out a year prior to the WTC/Pentagon terrorist attacks but just in time for our appointed president to take it to heart. You can even download the report in its entirety from the website. You might not want to do so while eating.
Free and Fair

Well, to their credit, the current administration hasn't been entirely hypocritical when discussing Saddam Hussein's legitimate claim to the presidency of Iraq. I mean, honestly, the Florida results and Supreme Court appointment being what they were (and Gore winning the nationwide popular vote anyway above and beyond all that), it's not like Bush has a leg to stand on with that kind of criticism. It's a matter of record that Hussein has been duly elected for, I believe, two 7-year terms now. Thing is, as noted independently, he's run unopposed, and is slated to do so later this month for another 7-year term. So that should certainly send up a red flag; even the Iraqi Communist party notes that unopposed candidates aren't really conducive to democracy, no matter who gets to vote for them (including women). So it stands to reason people should be equally pissed when incumbent Congresscritters run unopposed. But even though this year we have 46 candidates - so far - doing just that in next month's elections, I've heard nary a peep, have you? Maybe everyone's just glad it isn't 64 incumbents (like in 2000) or 95 incumbents (like in 1998). Or maybe they've concluded there's really not that much diff between the Dems and Repubs anyway, so what's the point?

Wednesday, October 02, 2002


If you, like me, watch the lead half-hour of network morning "news" programs whilst getting ready for work, wherein they usually set the tone for what they feel is newsworthy, you tend to notice certain trends in what I call "fear-mongering lite." Killer sharks, killer viruses (from anthrax to West Nile, far fewer people succumb to these than to things like the flu!), killer this-and-that. The way these subjects are covered seems calculated to increase the amount of anxiety on the part of viewers while providing comparatively little factual information or perspective. For me, they also tend to cheapen real emotions and tragedies, as with the occasional Parade of the Bereaved. God knows my heart goes out to anybody and everybody who's lost a loved one, but the umpteenth time a victim's family member (almost always accompanied by a lawyer!) sobs through an interview with Katie or Anne, it tends to desensitize me to the point where I wish they'd simply grieve in private, like the majority of folks out there who lose good people who don't happen to be whatever the media wants to characterize as "heroes" on any given day.

The latest "shark attack/parade of bereaved" type stories seem to be about child abductions. I can't think of anything more horrific (and ratings-grabbing?) than the thought of a child being kidnapped from the supposed safety of her home by a total stranger and subject to further unnameable abuse. And that seems to be what these shows bank on. Maybe they figure the more outrage they can whip up, the more people will stay tuned. In any case, the facts about child abduction tend to get lost in all the hand-wringing and plugs for John Walsh's show, so as someone quite concerned about the fate of our youngest citizens I thought I'd do a little looking around.

My first stop was the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, whose site helpfully provided actual statistics about child abductions, as gathered by the National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Throwaway Children, or NISMART for short. This gives a good overview of the numbers, and seems to conclude that incidents of abducted children have certainly not increased from the time when they weren't the focus of these sensationalized reports until now when said reports are ubiquitous, and there are some indications (although not conclusive) that these types of abductions may actually have decreased (but they're awaiting a fuller report next month).

Now I say "these types" because there are many different categories of missing children. This site outlines the NISMART breakdown - family abductions, non-family abductions, runaways, throwadays - and goes into more detail about parental kidnappings, which far, far outnumber kidnappings by strangers. This article from the journal of the National Naval Medical Center quotes the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) as giving pretty much the opposite advice as that implied on the morning shows - in other words, not to panic, because "Current NCMEC data indicates that the number of serious child abduction cases... are consistent with last year's numbers. However, the Center believes that these numbers are decreasing, projecting that there will be about 100 of these types of cases this year with nearly one-half resulting in the death of the child." So see, folks, that's only about fifty kids. Five-oh. Yes, that's still 50 too many, but from the way it's focused on by these shows you'd think it were far more, wouldn't you?

This disproportionate wolf-crying does everyone a disservice. And I believe it probably makes desensitized or needlessly-panicked viewers even less likely to donate to the good works or adhere to the sound advice of the NCMEC or the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children. Just another example of the opposite of "information" often being "television."

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

Sink or Swim

Speaking of babies, Liz Schiller, who's been sending me some wonderful pictures of her bundle of joy as well, has just resigned from the presidency of Friends of Lulu in order to devote more time to the growing sprout. Which leaves the organization somewhat rudderless at the moment, although with the good people on the Board I suspect someone will step up to the plate shortly. Nonetheless, I believe the attrition in both Board and non-Board members affords FoL a timely opportunity for re-evaluation of its goals. I know a lot of what I have to say about FoL is kinda like Monday morning quarterbacking (shouldn't that cliché be changed to "Tuesday morning quarterbacking" now that we have Monday Night Football?), but I'm a great believer in periodic re-evaluation, whether on an individual or group level, and I like to think and talk about it even when I don't have a hand in implementing it.

Since high school at least I've been into the idea of advocacy for progressive causes. I've been an unabashed feminist ever since I first joined NOW in college, and I've always had a keen interest in entertainment that acknowledged my existence by presenting characters with whom I could identify even on the most superficial level (i.e., decent portrayals of characters who shared my gender). I think consciousness-raising can be a very useful tool in helping move media (including entertainment media) forward to be more reflective of the population it should be serving. I follow reports about the lack of women in top media positions, and I read the mission statements of organizations like Women in Film and Sisters in Crime and various other women's entertainment advocacy organizations.

But the US comic book industry doesn't easily lend itself to the same type of advocacy practiced by "sister organizations." Besides various museums, the two other currently active and successful non-profits of which I know, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and A Commitment To Our Roots, pretty much operate on a case-by-case basis. The CBLDF raises money with the specific goal of building a war chest by which to litigate in First Amendment cases involving comics; ACTOR raises money with the specific goal of building a pension fund for industry veterans.

Friends of Lulu, on the other hand, has very broad (pun intended), general goals: "To increase the participation of girls and women in comics," by "working to change the stereotypes about comics" among other things. Even though the organization performs some very concrete and specific activities in keeping with these goals, most of it amounts to just talk (or writing). I like to believe the lists I maintain on their website (which are badly in need of updating) help increase the visibility of women doing comics and working in the industry, but I'm unsure of their concrete use beyond being reference tools.

And there's nothing wrong with reference tools. An online mentoring program, a PDF file of a handbook offering advice to retailers on attracting female customers, recommended reading lists, a convention presence including portfolio reviewing, annual awards - these are all neat (and, I feel, necessary) things. But I don't know that any of this has helped a single woman break into the business where she wouldn't have on her own.

Unlike other entertainment industries, the comics business has never had a successful union, although a number of good people have tried to start one over the years. Certainly in the last few decades, as its place in the pantheon of media choices has dwindled, comics has become very much an "everyone for themselves" kinda deal. Pros and fans alike talk a good game, but lasting institutional change seems to occur only when people in a position to effect that change achieve the power necessary to do so. That is, it's come from within, not from without.

So what concrete actions, if any, are left to advocates and activists who want to improve the situation of women in comics, but aren't in the business themselves? Are there options besides good ol' consciousness-raising and acting as an informational clearinghouse? How much does it "hurt the cause" to keep pointing out instances of institutionalized sexism to an industry that's well aware of these proclivities to begin with, and at a time when women's contributions are more visible than they've been in years?

I don't have the answers to any of this. I only know, in the context of an "everyone for themselves industry," what I'm doing myself, and what I'm no longer doing. I'm working on updating the reference pages, adding a new historical one, but I'm doing it at my own pace. I'm getting my own writing house in order again via this blog, reviewing, etc., in preparation for diving once again into the deep end that is actual storytelling as opposed to essay writing. (As Robin notes, "You want to improve the situation of women in the comics industry? Become one; write some stories!") And I'm continuing, through the reference pages and on message boards, to call attention to and praise the women already swimming in that deep end. What I'm trying not to do any more is bitch about the women waiting for their turn to swim because the pool is so full of men. That's the kind of counter-productivity that just makes the lifeguards (both male and female) shrug.
Mazel Tov!

By now, according to her Loobylu blog (see left bar), Claire Robertson should have had her baby (the caesarean was scheduled for today and it's almost midnight now in Australia). Congratulations and all good wishes to mother and child!