Elayne Riggs' Journal (for Leah)

Friday, November 29, 2002

I'm Not Buying It

So the local news channel, she says, "Shoppers Welcome 'Black Friday'." And I'm thinking, wait a minute. This website about days says "'Black Friday' has been regularly used to label days of significance within the British culture. This was the name given to December 6 1745 in the British Isles. This was the day that information reached London (UK) that the Young Pretender had reached Derby (UK). The threatened General Strike was cancelled on 15 April 1921 affecting the stance of the British Labour Movement (UK). The Government (USA) flooded the open market with gold to bring down prices on 24 September 1869 ruining the livelihoods of many speculators in USA...Friday is believed to be a day of misfortune too for Buddhists and Brahmins." And wasn't Black Friday known to many as Valentine's Day? Or that horrid quake in India last year? Or a Steely Dan song? Or a Boris Karloff movie? Or a synonym for Friday the 13th? Help me, Dictionary.com! Ah, here it is: "Attended with disaster; calamitous: a black day; the stock market crash on Black Friday." Well, what about HyperDictionary.com? Says there as well, '(of events) having extremely unfortunate or dire consequences; bringing ruin; 'the stock market crashed on Black Friday...'" Most interestingly to me at least, according to this website, in the '80s "when squatters in the south German city of Freiburg were mass arrested, rallies and demonstrations supporting them and condemning the police state's eviction policy took place in every major city in Germany. In Berlin on that day, later dubbed 'Black Friday,' upwards of 15,000 to 20,000 people took to the streets and destroyed an upper class shopping area."

But no, this article insists that "The day after Thanksgiving, commonly called 'Black Friday,' is among the busiest shopping days of the year." Commonly called? Just which commoners are we talking about here? Could it possibly be those oh-so-common folk at the National Retail Federation, graciously making their spokespeople available throughout this weekend to spread the doctrine of the new meaning of Black Friday (which, internally, means the day retailers tally up their accounts to see if they've made it into the black for the year - thank you BBC!)?

Okay, a lot of good people work in retail, and far be it for me to castigate something that tries to put a positive spin on a phrase that's had a negative meaning for hundreds of years, but I'm sorry. This isn't Pollyanna, it's business looking out for business, and I don't buy it. In fact, if enough of us adhere to the idea of Buy Nothing Day, perhaps Black Friday will again be relegated to the honored position it's enjoyed lo these many centuries - as a harbinger of doom.

Happy Thanksgiving weekend. I'm off to have my dinner of bubble & squeak now.

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

The Lovers, The Dreamers, and Me

I'm shocked, do you hear me shocked, to read that there may actually be a Saudi connection to the events of 9-11! As Tom Tomorrow (link at left bar) says, "You know, the country that gave us fifteen of the nineteen hijackers." Anyway, the only thing kinda shocking now is that it's actually being investigated, finally. I must state for the record, however, that Robin and I have absolutely no familial connection to the Riggs Bank mentioned in the article. Darn it all, anyway; we could sure use the money...
I'm Sure Feeling More Secure!

The timer on our TV went off at 7 AM, and my bullshit detector rang about 15 minutes later, as Katie Couric interviewed Stephen Flynn about the Department of Fatherla-- I mean, of Homeland Security, the new megabureaucracy brought to us by the We Hate Big Government folks. "You're going to look him up on the 'net now, aren't you?" inquired a sleepy Robin. Well, um, yeah. I mean, the Council on Foreign Relations (where Flynn is the Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies) may be characterized as "centrist" by FAIR, but I admit to being a tad more skeptical. Flynn seems to be one of the nation's leading fearmongers; at least that's how I read this darling little speech he made before the US Senate's Committee on Governmental Affairs a month after the September 11 tragedy. Back in August he released a paper under the aegis of a group called The Century Foundation "analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of the National Strategy for Homeland Security," basically suggesting the Bush Administration throw more money at it, streamline it (oh yeah, a Cabinet-level department's sure gonna do that!) and suggests that the strategy "must also place special emphasis on forging partnerships between the public and private sectors, internationally." What's good for business, after all, is good for the continued erosion of our hard-earned liberties, or something like that.

Sunday, November 24, 2002

Does Whatever a Kikko Can

When both Mark Evanier and Tom Tomorrow (links at left bar) post links to the Kikkoman collection (not, we are told, affiliated with the actual company that makes the soy sauce), I have to figure something wacky has caught the zeitgeist. Will this be as big a phenom as All Your Base Are Belong To Us? Time will tell, I suppose. I love the music, but the ASCII art hurts my eyes.
Women Doing Web Comics

Chapter 2 of Justine Shaw's wonderful Nowhere Girl has just debuted. Justine warns, "There are various changes; for instance, you will notice that Greedo now shoots at Jamie first. Also, all hand-guns have been digitally replaced with young people in dark clothing holding walkie-talkies, and we have created an all-CGI Jamie to replace the original actor (believe me, we would have done this originally, but the technology was nascent at the time)." Forewarned is four-armed! And thanks to Scott McCloud who passed it on to Neil Gaiman (link at left bar) I've just discovered Dicebox and blogrolled Jenn Manley Lee at the left bar.

Saturday, November 23, 2002

Blogchicks!

A big and possibly wet & sloppy *mwa* to fellow female (can one be called a "fellow female?") blogger "Jeanne d'Arc" for wondering, in her Body & Soul journal (link at left bar), why The American Prospect only links to one female-done blog out of 27. I have a theory about this, of course. Even though historically (well, for as long as we've been permitted to learn reading and writing) diaries - which, come on, is what blogs are, diaries with hyperlinks - seem to have been more the province of women (if they were men I guess they were called autobiographies, on the "women were cooks but men were chefs" principle I suppose), I think the Internet itself is still pretty darn male-centric. Particularly the bits of it, like blogging, that are relatively new. (It's weird to talk about "newness" in netspeak, isn't it? Between my last job and my present one we've seen the explosion of the Web, message boards relegating Usenet to even further obscurity, Fark, the Onion, pop-ups... geez, just about everything except AOL being proprietary, it was always that. And I'm only talking like five years or so. It bloggles the mind, apparently.) I believe women my age and older tend to be a bit more reluctant to jump into new 'net stuff than their curmudgeonly male counterparts. So, although I'd be curious to see if any surveys have been taken yet, my instincts tell me that the ratio of female to male bloggers is probably around the same as female to male comics readers (a whopping 5%, last time anyone checked) or female to male gamers. In a way this is a good thing because not only does it leave room for mucho growth but it means that those relative few of us who are blogging will get all sorts of undue attention, and maybe candy and flowers for our birthdays in a week and a half-- oops, sorry, did I say that? Anyway, the down side is, of course, the paucity of female blog voices in relation to how many women are in the overall population, and the tendency of readers to expect women bloggers to speak with one monolithic voice, which naturally we don't do any more than any one male blogger speaks for all male bloggers. In any case, my-point-and-I-did-have-one was to thank Jeanne for not only plugging me in her rant (I'm the link embedded in the word "have" in the last sentence) and blogrolling me, but giving me a whole lot of gal-writing to check out now, as if my to-be-read stack wasn't high enough. :) And by the way folks, both Blogchick and Bloggles The Mind are available as journal names on Blogspot. You're welcome!
My Fabulous Evening

On Thursday night, while much of America was presumably watching the 90-minute Will & Grace, I was spending quality time with some why-aren't-they-ready-for-prime-time? real-life gays, lesbians and supporters at the LBGT Community Center attending OffCenter's presentation of a "Drawing Closer: Queer Representations and the Comics" panel. This was sort of the follow-up to the Denise Sudell-moderated "Gays in Comics: Crossfire" panel at the San Diego Con this year, which was kinda-sorta-but-not-really inspired (okay, depending on whom you talk to) by my "Writing the Other" panel at Heroes Con last year. Writer/artist Phil Jimenez, who sat on both panels, was on this as well, along with DC Comics editor and cartoonist Joan Hilty (the premier speaker at Friends of Lulu-New York's "Women and Comics" series this year), writer Ivan Velez Jr., cartoonist Jennifer Camper (who I dearly hope does a FoL-NY "WaC" discussion in '03!), Sequential Tart columnist Denise Sudell, and writer/artist Howard Cruse.

Joan deftly moderated the panel, starting off by recommending the work of Ariel Schrag, who'd been scheduled to attend but couldn't make it. All the panelists got to recommend their own work as well, but didn't have the benefit of hypertext like I do. So, going 'round the table, Joan's doing Bitter Girl over at Planet Q; Ivan's stories can be found in Tales of the Closet; Howard's latest graphic novel is Wendell All Together and he'll also be doing Barefootz Online at Serializer.net; Jennifer had copies of Rude Girls and Dangerous Women and subGURLZ with her; Phil mentioned that, after two years on Wonder Woman at DC he's moving on to New X-Men at Marvel as well as a fascinating-sounding book for Vertigo (to probably debut in '94) called OtherWorld; and Denise talked a bit about her Tart culture columns, including "Queer Characters: Hook 'Em Up, Then Shoot 'Em Down" and "Queer Characters, Revisited: Hook 'Em Up, Then Cancel Their Book." Joan mentioned she was pleased with the gender balance of the panel, as well as the fact that panelists covered the mainstream/indie spectrum, and regretted that Ariel couldn't make it to contribute a more youthful perspective.

Speaking of which, Joan's first round-table question was "How did comics influence your identity growing up and coming out?" Jennifer mentioned a crush she'd harbored on the women in the Li'l Abner comic strip - "The brunettes, not the blondes!" - while Phil told a touching story about how he'd wished he could be the only little boy on Paradise Island ("Wonder Woman's little brother") because of the qualities he'd admired in Diana and her Amazonian sisters, and Ivan blushed a bit as he recalled his reaction as a 3-year-old to Hercules movies. "In what ways," Joan asked everyone, "do you approach your current work through a 'queer filter'?" Howard noted, "I think it gives an artist more power when they draw on themselves." The discussion drifted towards how the Big Two mainstream (i.e., primarily superhero) comic book companies, Marvel and DC, deal with gay characters in their books, and a panelist observed that as a rule today's fans-cum-editors seemed to have a distinct lack of interest in rocking any social boats: "I don't think they care about what's going on in the world outside their editorial collective." Joan analogized the mainstream vs. independent treatment to "Will & Grace versus Queer as Folk" (I didn't have a chance to ask if she meant the British version or the American one). She noted that in comics, just as in most forms of mass entertainment "there's always subtext, both in the way you take it in and how you draw it," which led to amusing remarks about the gay subtext in the '60s Batman TV show, Wertham be damned (although personally I've always found Bewitched to be the gay-not-so-subtext TV show of that era). Also touched on briefly was the disturbing trend of censorship coming from within the gay corporate press as it's become more homo-genized (Denise's word, my dash) and seeks to almost desexualize its comic strip contributions; according to Jennifer, even established cartoonists like Alison Bechdel have been subjected to snippage.

Points were raised that mainstream comics has yet to establish a leading superhero gay character, with the exception of Wildstorm's team book The Authority (where the relationship of Apollo and Midnighter has varied in its portrayal from touching to mocking depending on the creative team), and when supporting gay characters take the spotlight and their sexual orientation isn't the focus of the book, often the words "gay" or "lesbian" aren't even mentioned (as in the miniseries Metropolis SCU, which featured an otherwise comprehensive look at Maggie Sawyer's life). It seemed that two opposing desires were in play simultaneously - clearly gay-identified protagonists but at the same time plots that weren't structured around those characters' gayness, or didn't treat them as stereotypes. Reminded me of a lot of discussions I've had about female characters in comics. :) Thing is, just as there are women in real life who are top-heavy or dress provocatively (i.e., who use sex as power), there are gays in real life who embody what many consider stereotypes. After the talk, Phil told me about how a gay couple who appeared in Wonder Woman were based on actual acquaintances of his, just as I'm sure Jack in Will & Grace must be based on actual men who, as Stan the Man might say, flount their fabulous flamboyance.

So it seems to me that, rather than just decry the overabundance of stereotypes (which does need to be discussed, as too much of any one thing - be it genre or a type of characterization - leads to an imbalance and the narrowing of storytelling possibilities), what's called for is more. More of everything. More experimentation, more reaching out to writers and artists who bring different life experiences to the table, more editors with different experiences (Joan noted that the Green Lantern gay-bashing storyline that's received much press of late was helmed in large measure by editor Bob Schreck, who identifies as bisexual), more people telling their stories (and being able to make a living doing so!). Joan asked about the future of comics, how it can appeal to young gay readers. Jennifer's response was that "People have to think there's a possibility for them to tell their stories," and Howard noted that "The industry as it exists is vastly underrating the appeal of the medium." Between mainstream and indie comics, and thanks to the relative cheapness of printing and particularly of self-publishing via the Internet, I think there's more variety out there than there has ever been. So I think everyone came away with a very positive view of things to come.

Undoubtedly the full transcript of this panel will appear sooner or later at Sequential Tart; I noticed both Denise and Phil brought tape recorders. I wouldn't be surprised if a review appears in Rich Watson's "A View from the Cheap Seats" column either, as Rich was in the audience, as was NYC Comic Book Museum director David Gabriel (NYC-area folks might like to take in the NYCCBM's free "Comic Books Fight AIDS" event on World AIDS Awareness Day), the vivacious Martha Thomases, former PR director at DC Comics, who introduced me to Howard's boyfriend Ed Sedarbaum (featured in "I Have To Live With This Guy!"), and Ed Douglas and Marc Wilkofsky from the Friends of Lulu National Board. It was enough to inspire me to plan my next storytelling panel at Heroes Con '03, which I'm hoping to co-moderate with Denise (with Phil as a panelist), so maybe we can have FoL and the Gay League co-sponsor. My tentative idea and title, pending approval from Shelton Drumm and of course Denise and Phil, is "From The Inside, Out: Characterization and Constraints." I'm open to suggestions on questions fitting within this purposely-broadly-named topic, and I'd also love to hear from industry pros who'd like to be on the panel (again, pending permission, yadda yadda). And if someone can tell me how they fixed it so Harry Connick, who presumably has a career, won't be a regular as Grace's new hubby (since Rob only saw the first hour of W&G), I'd greatly appreciate it.

Thursday, November 21, 2002

Non-Hiatus

As John Lennon said, "Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans." I honestly had planned on contributing to this blog regularly, but life's been happening this past week or so, mostly in the form of (over)work at the office, leaving me too busy to blog at work and too tired to do more typing when I get home or on weekends. Conspiracy theorists should feel free, if they wish, to interpret this situation as yet another governmental-led plot to keep citizens all too exhausted and stressed out to engage in effective political discourse, even in the form of blogwhining. Back soon.

Thursday, November 14, 2002

Froggy Goodness!

Here on yon free Blogspot they don't allow image posting or hosting or possibly even boasting, but Madeleine Begun Kane (link at left bar and one day she and I will meet; sorry we couldn't hook up for the Al Franken thing last week, MadKane, but my husband was on his last deadline!) and Skippy (link also at left bar) have begun bantering about labels, which of course I love. I type labels, I've spent the last hour labelling outgoing envelopes, hey baby labels are me!! Anyway, as many folks know Skippy coined the term Blogtopia (although I still kinda lean towards Tom Tomorrow's "blogosphere" 'cause it sounds more gosh-wow space-agey and "topia" always seems more associated for me with depressing sf novels that become even more depressing Ridley Scottish movies, or with James Gurney, but I digress), and Mad took it the next step and thought progressive-minded bloggers may as well refer to ourselves as ProgBlogtopia. Then I suggested in response to Skippy that we all have a mascot, the ProgBlogFrog. Which Mad seems to like, thanks for the mention Mad! Anyway, I nominate either August Pollak or Ampersand (or both! links at left bar) to draw the ProgBlogFrog and post it on their sites, since Tom's on hiatus (link at left bar even so) and he has a penguin anyway. I'd also have suggested my husband, but he's not as progressive as me politically (although I dare say he's probably to the left of Tony Blair, being old Labour rather than New Labour) and besides he's doubtless "frogged out" after this. I also think the ProgBlogFrog would look great on the left side of StandDown! (link at =yes!= left bar) to balance nicely with the right side's "Don't Tread on Me" snake. It's perfect for the blog ecosystem, after all; while larger snakes eat frogs (and of course other snakes sometimes), larger frogs also eat snakes. Yum, reptilian feasts abound!

Yes, darn it, I'm being silly and proud of it. It's better than being angry. Silly takes creativity, anger's just draining. Unfortunately, that's my PMS Surprise Symptom this month. Just about every month it's something else, usually weird body aches in peculiar spots like the fourth toe or left kneecap, or acne in inconvenient places (like the subway, ba dum bump), and occasionally the hystereotypical stuff. This PMS it's been bad depression and anger. And as I get older and more curmudgeonly I find I have less patience for strangers who make me angry in person, and have found myself physically shoving them! Me, like a total pacifist! A couple months ago I shoved this weirdo who was harrassing Silver Age great Ramona Fradon as she and I walked to a Lulu group dinner, starting the downward spiral. Now, the odds of this in NYC are lesser than one might imagine, considering commuting routes and all, but both yesterday afternoon and this morning I've shoved into the same guy both times, a total nimrod who decided he was going to stand perfectly still on a stairwell during rush hour reading a newspaper. So I gave him a push both times - which started his feet moving again, like a weird little wind-up doll - and called him an idiot and didn't look back to see whether he was actually mouthing the words in the paper. Just my luck, he'll be friendly with someone who reads this blog and then I'm totally effed. But I don't care, because grrrr, I'm angry! I'm livid about stupid things like Al Roker blogging about deciding to go public about his gastric bypass surgery like it was a sudden decision based on him being tired of all the tabloid speculation, when it turns out he's had a camera crew around recording everything from the beginning so he could talk about it on Today and Dateline and presumably be compensated. I have nasty little paper cuts from this envelope stuffing so it really hurts when I slap my hands with, well, with my hands, to prevent myself from typing nasty posts on the Newsarama and Pulse message boards because grrrr, every news item on there is pissing me off, usually for no reason at all! I'm so bloody furious I can't stand myself! GRRRR, I says!! (Sympathetic e-mails to Robin are much appreciated.) So yeah, all in all it's probably better to be silly than angry. Test me out on Firesign chat tonight at 9 EST. Seriously, trust me, you wouldn't like me when I'm angry.

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Clear as Mud

My bullshit detector (BD) went off pretty early this morning, during the Today Show's interview with Steve Emerson regarding the latest supposed Osama bin Laden tape. The program, which is practically a paeon now to Richard Effin' Butler (Matt Lauer even invoked his name five minutes later), has earned more and more of my healthy skepticism as their drumbeats for war grow ever louder. And here were Emerson and Katie Couric talking about how bin Laden was threatening retaliation if we attack Iraq! Huh?, I said. Aren't Hussein and bin Laden like mortal enemies? So of course I had to do a Google search on Emerson's name instead of, you know, getting dressed for work or something. And as I suspected, the batteries in my BD still don't need changing! Here's what FAIR has on him. Yeah, I always go to FAIR first because they tend to document faux journalists and expose "experts" best. But this idiot goes back further than 9-11; back on 11/5/00, Doug Henwood wrote this about him. Basically, the guy's a virulent anti-Arab, and my memory was refreshed as to where I'd initially heard his name - he was the first one to point fingers at Arabs after the Oklahoma City bombing in '95. Oh, and for those of you wondering, like me, why the Official US Government Translation says the tape mentions "our sons in Iraq" (or "our children in Baghdad" according to this translation) if there's no love lost between bin Laden and Hussein, the speaker is probably referring to this. Anyway, what Robin found most telling about this interview was how many times Emerson said "obviously" and "clearly" - if it's all so clear and obvious, why does one need an analyst in the first place? So that set us off on a Wallace-Shawn-in-Princess-Bride riff - "So you see, I can clearly not choose the war in front of me!"

Monday, November 11, 2002

National Expo - Day Two

The National was much quieter yesterday than it was on Saturday, but still a mess of fun. I generally don't care for Mike Carbonaro's "church cons" due to the close quarters, but this annual Metro Pavilion one, thanks in large measure to the participation of Allan Rosenberg (who used to run those fine and much-missed conventions at Ramapo High School in Spring Valley, where I first met more Silver Age greats than I could possibly remember), was quite comfortable in that the artists and roped-off panel "room" were on a separate floor from the dealers and media stars and Playboy models, and there was plenty of aisle room for those wanting to bypass the long queues for such luminaries as Sal Buscema. Allan was nice enough to give Rob table space for both days, the first day near a giggly and somewhat hypoglycemic Rod Ramos and fellow Bronxite Alex Simmons (whose students came to visit!) and opposite Jamal Igle and Jan Duursema (both Rod and Jan did lovely sketches for my sketchbook) and the second day right by the entrance where Sergio Aragon├ęs had been on Saturday, so we were in between the also-relocated Jamal and Scott Roberts, and opposite Ken & Mercy and the Lulu table. Leah Adezio, probably my closest female friend (and creator of Ari of Lemuria, which I co-write and letter but which is still so far the best comic never to have come out except for a 4-pager here), came into the city on Saturday for probably the last time before her imminent move to the wilds of PA, so it was neat having Monster Sushi with her that evening. I also got a terrific sketch from Dave Cockrum, about 5 years after his wife Paty had also done an amazing sketch in the same book. Billy Tucci stopped by to give me the URLs for the pictures of Deborah and William Alexander so I could edit them into yesterday's blog entry, and I had a lovely conversation with the distinguished Stan Goldberg, mostly about Barbara Slate. In addition to taking part in the "Art of 9-11" panel run by David Gabriel of the NYC Comic Book Museum (who took this neat picture of us and this one of Robin and the other panelists), Robin spoke with the son and ultra-adorable grandson of Joe Giella (who's now drawing Mary Worth), did a few sketches, and got lots of nice and well-deserved compliments on his work but no sales or definite job offers yet. So y'know, since Famous Pencillers like Billy read this blog, please check out Robin's inking portfolio and pass the word around. Baby needs a new pair of unagi! Okay, and to pay the rent, that'd be cool too.

Sunday, November 10, 2002

National Expo - Day One

Had a great time at the National today (Saturday), but I have to say my favorite moment happened in the ladies' room. Understand, until very, very recently there were no queues for the women's bathrooms at any given comic convention, even San Diego. That's how small the percentage of women at these events was. Well, today when Naomi Basner and I visited, we not only admired Jasi Lanier's way-cool platform shoes but Mercy Van Vlack and Deborah Tucci (wife of Billy and new mom of adorable William Alexander, whom she was cradling at the time) started talking about Mercy's lovely shirt, which she had designed in the style of Raoul De Keyser. It was surreal and amazing and wonderful listening to these erudite and fascinating women expound on Belgian art in a ladies' room at a comic con, and a great reminder of how far we've come in this business in just a few short years! Oh, and Christine Norrie won the Golden Panel Award for Breakout Artist of 2002; congrats, Christine! Day Two starts in about 10 hours, with two cool panel discussions in the afternoon sponsored by the New York City Comic Book Museum (which gave out the awards). At 1 PM Christine and Mercy's SO Ken Gale take part in a panel about "Comics in the Classroom," then at 3 PM Christine's husband, Andrew Lis, joins my husband what's-his-name and a few others to talk about "The Art of 9-11."

Saturday, November 09, 2002

WDC Notes

Off to the National Expo in a few minutes, but did a quick check of blogs and such before taking off to see what's up in the world of women and comics, since I'll be at the Friends of Lulu booth for awhile today. Some sad news first, as Mark Evanier's blog (see link at left bar) mentions today that writer Hilary Bader passed away last night after losing her battle with ovarian cancer. I never had the pleasure of meeting her but always enjoyed her comics writing. And Dirk Deppey's blog (see link at left bar) profiles Palestinian cartoonist Omayya Joha (whom I'll now be adding to my Women Doing Comics list, thanks Dirk!) as well as exerpting from the Pulse interview with Ramona Fradon. Dirk also has a brief calendar of comics events this weekend but I guess nobody told him about National. Me, I'm hoping August Pollak (see link at left bar) shows up, I really want to meet him! By the way, I keep a running tab on online articles about women doing comics in this thread on my Penciljack Forum, so if there's something I miss, please let me know and I'll publicize it. I continue to believe that visibility is the name of the game here; the more women doing comics are talked about, the fewer people will say "I didn't know women did comics!" And yes, there are still a lot of folks out there who have that reaction.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

Sheep in Wolves' Clothing

I can't say it better than August Pollak (link at left bar), whose two blog entries today cover pretty much everything I've been thinking about last night's election. Which basically boils down to, the Repubs didn't win as much as the Dems lost, and the outcome might have been very different had they stopped trying to out-Repub the Repubs, y'know? If people have a "choice" between a real Repub and a Dem moving the bar rightward to the territory Repubs have already staked out (and most people do believe that's their only choice, our one-party-masquerading-as-two is pretty entrenched in the American public's hivemind), they're going to go with the real thing every time, duh. I can only hope to live so long to see an actual opposition party again in this country.

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Personal Appearance Alert

Yeah, like I'm famous or something. Blogs are the ultimate fulfillment of Andy Warhol's prophecy in microcosm, aren't they? (Hang on, did I use that word right? "I do not think it means what you think it means." Heh, yeah, we watched The Princess Bride again last night.) At least until the next big-small thing. In any case, this coming weekend Robin and I will be attending the National Comic Book, Art, Toy and Sci-Fi Expo in the Metropolitan Pavilion, 125 West 18th Street. The website has the hours and other info. I'm slated to work the Friends of Lulu-NY booth from 12-2 PM on Saturday and 2-3 PM on Sunday, whilst Robin will be on the NYC Comic Book Museum's panel on "The Art of 9-11" at 3 PM on Sunday, in addition to hanging with the NYCCBM crowd the evening before at the first annual "Golden Panel Awards." Come on out and say hi, Robin colored my hair and everything! Sarah Dyer, who unlike me actually does interesting things besides her journal (see link at left), is also scheduled to be at this convention. And Alan Davis fans can get an extra treat, as Robin will have copies of finished pages with him from the two jobs he's just inked over Alan. Maybe we'll all hit Monster Sushi afterwards...
Standing Up For Standing Down

Thanks to Max Sawicky (MaxSpeak link at left bar) for adding me to the left-hand-side list of the new NoWar blog called Stand Down (link also at left bar). And just in time for election day! As soon as I read through the 3-page participation instructions (would I kid you? I'm near petrified now :) ) I'll probably go back over all my anti-stupid-Iraq-war-plans posts and put the links up there. Especially this one, 'cause like, duuuuude!

A bit of sad news: one of my favorite over-actors, Jonathan Harris, has passed away (see Mark Evanier's blog, link at left bar). Does that fulfill the Law of Threes re: celebrity deaths? (By the way, I highly recommend a Google search on "celebrity deaths threes," this is apparently a very well-travelled belief and it yields some fascinating results, but so far I haven't been able to find an origin for the superstition.)
Voting for Bonfires

In remembrance of Guy Fawkes Day, this site for Robin so he doesn't get too homesick. We can't burn "Guys" in our part of the Bronx today, lest someone think we're supporting Guy Velella effigies.

I'll probably vote Green today for statewide stuff - at least they have a female candidate for Lt. Governor, and I've actually heard of the gubernatorial candidate and like his positions. Given the way my head is spinning between the stepped-up propaganda PSAs of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America versus both the NY City Council and Tom "I'm a CEO running for governor using my own corporation's money rather than a politician using other corporations' money, but let's pretend I'm free of corporate influence and only wish to serve the public!" Golisano coming out in favor of reforming the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws, I was considering voting for the Marijuana Reform Party, but their website doesn't even profile their candidates. Not that it necessarily needs to, gubernatorial candidate Tom Leighton is the party's chairman and (apparently) founder, and he's been running for different offices since '97. Besides, it's not like any of these reformers deal with the real issues, like how in the world middle-aged women looking to relieve their PMS symptoms can actually procure the stuff when their only contact with the usual stoner crowd is via the Internet.

Meanwhile, this article from AlterNet notes pretty much the same thing I did here about unopposed candidates. The last line reads, "The voters of Iraq only had one candidate on the ballot because they live in a dictatorship. So what's our excuse?" Something to think about when elections not only fail to excite the voters but don't even inspire potential candidates.

Lastly, I hope everyone who gets Comedy Central is gearing up for Jon Stewart's live "Indecision 2002" coverage on tonight's Daily Show as much as we are. If you haven't seen their very funny spot-on parody of the Schoolhouse Rock cartoon shorts entitled "The Daily Show Rocks" talking about these midterm elections, you can grab it from their website while supplies, I suppose, last.

Friday, November 01, 2002

“So That’s Where He Got the Crown of Thorns!”

Now that Hallowe’en is past (and sadly, not a single trick-or-treater came to our door, another reason to step up our search for a house in a nice normal suburban neighborhood) and the leaves around us are finally turning and falling, I’m slipping once again into seasonal nostalgia mode. When I was a kid, we didn’t do Christmas of course, but even then it was becoming a de facto secular holiday thanks in large part to special holiday programming on TV. In those days before VCRs and the Cartoon Network you pretty much had to wait all year to see this kind of cool stuff, and it was even more interesting to me because it celebrated the most important day in a culture that was both alien to me and right next door.

[I could probably write at least one essay on growing up Jewish in a pretty fundamentally Catholic neighborhood, and maybe I will someday, but I’ll just digress into one anecdote. When the movie 1776 premiered at Radio City Music Hall, I was in 9th grade in an all-girl religious high school, and we went to see it as a class trip. But we weren’t allowed take our seats before the movie started because – as astute readers may have already guessed – the preceding stage show featured a Nativity scene. Naturally, this made us all the more curious, as we took turns pressing our noses to the small windows in the theatre doors and being shooed away by the rabbis who God forbid couldn’t be bothered to explain that there were other religions in the world. But then, I was the smart kid who was put in the dumb class because her parents weren’t Orthodox and her best friend was a shiksa, who eventually escaped to a secular high school despite everyone telling me I’d never last, I’d be back, and one rabbi even making a nasty response to my rote answer of a rote essay question that I recall read something like “How do we encourage our children to partake in Jewish culture?” Right next to the part of my response where I wrote “build more schools” he’d written in angry red pen, “AND MAKE SURE STUDENTS GO TO THEM, RIGHT MISS WECHSLER?” It was the first time I ever confronted a teacher over a major philosophical difference, and it felt great because I knew I was right and he was totally out of line sticking his little sarky opinion into his grading; it also sealed my decision to leave both the school and the organized religion and never look back. And aside from the occasional Yom Kippur fast or other personal cultural marker, I never have. Oh dear, that’s two anecdotes, isn’t it?]

My first viewing of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer – and this had to be ’64 or so when it was initially broadcast, sponsored by the Norelco company which featured Santa (and at least a couple elves, the hefty one and the one with the glasses as I recall, although nobody else on a brief web search seems to share that memory) sledding down snow-covered hills on their razors – is not only fondly remembered to this day (yes, a sob still occasionally escapes at hearing “There’s Always Tomorrow” and “Island of Misfit Toys”) but opened my eyes a bit to, erm, as it says on their website, “the enchanted world” of Rankin/Bass. What’s always fascinated me most this world is the writer of apparently most of it, Romeo Muller.

Fool that I am, I’ve always considered myths and folktales to be basically immutable things. Certainly, plot points and themes undergo variations and metamorphoses as they’re handed down through the generations and are translated and reinterpreted, but that’s to be expected, it’s in the nature of storytelling. However, modern media being such a cannibalistic beast, well, I don’t have to tell you about all the discussion that ensues on websites and message boards every time Disney “updates” a “timeless fairy tale.” Many folks go with the flow, others consider the studio’s inevitable softening to be close to blasphemy. For whatever reason, Disney never really bothered me in this respect but Rankin/Bass did. I think it’s partly because a number of their TV specials contradict each other, and kids naturally expect every story that has the “house look” of a particular company will take place in the same world and therefore have the same internal rules. But it’s also because of the smarmy, condescending way in which R/B specials twisted and presented the “facts.” The best example of this involved the conceit that made me grit my teeth, the old story-within-a-story device, where the storyteller (I think he may have been an “Animagic” version of Fred Astaire, voiced by him, as happened with a few of the other R/B specials, most notably the Easter ones) takes turns spinning the myth and fielding comments from the treacly kids surrounding him, who nod their heads at his gospel and make matter-of-fact remarks like “So that’s why he comes down the chimneys!” and “So that’s why he gives out toys!” One of my favorite jokes goes, if R/B ever tackled the life story of Jesus (they did the Nativity with Nestor the Christmas Donkey, I kid you not), doubtless there would be kids gathered ‘round an Animagical Fred pronouncing revelations like “So that’s where He got the Crown of Thorns!”

Yeah, I got issues with R/B. As I recall (and bear in mind, I don’t have any of these specials on tape any more, my ex-husband inherited them along with all the various versions of A Christmas Carol that we’d taped so I’m working from a somewhat faulty memory) the Santa in The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (based on the Baum book) and Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town and Year Without A Santa Claus and even Rudolph had the same look but wildly divergent origin stories. I felt somehow cheated that Rankin/Bass couldn’t keep their stories straight with pretty much the same writing team for everything – and that, moreover, their version (whichever they chose at the moment) of holiday stories was the one that came to be remembered as The Real Version, supplanting all other myths that had been handed down through the generations.

And yet, it’s a love/hate kinda deal, part of me still can’t get enough of the stop-motion and the silly songs and the guest voices by celebs (for whom R/B created look-alikes) long before it was in vogue to do it for The Simpsons or South Park and even the asinine sequels. Rankin/Bass specials are as fondly remembered from my childhood as are the shows of Sid & Marty Krofft (hey, I first learned about Cockney rhyming slang from watching The Bugaloos!) and hand-clapping games. So I expect when Rudolph comes around again this year I’ll be right there again, missing the Norelco Santa and rooting for Clarice. Because, you know, there’s always tomorrow for dreams to come true; tomorrow is not far away…
Falling Boulders

In his journal entry today, Neil Gaiman (link at left bar) mentions, "Some months ago I sat and signed a lot of letters from the CBLDF to various people, mostly people in comics, asking for help -- donations of money or time or artwork. The first person to respond suggested we auction off the panties of hot female cartoonists."

Now I admit, when I read this sentence the first thing I thought of was the very funny story that Colleen Doran related at her "Women and Comics" discussion about washing her delicates with a purple shirt by mistake prior to a trip to Puerto Rico, and finding said undies mysteriously vanished from her luggage upon return, because we all found it amusing. But it's one thing to relate a wacky personal anecdote, and a far different thing to submit a leering and immature fundraising suggestion to a board member of an organization already dogged by occasional accusations of sexism (i.e., that an overwhelming majority of their court cases seem to involve the rights of creators and publishers and retailers to make and sell materials that some perceive as pornographic and/or degrading to women) - moreover, a board member who obviously doesn't share this fellow "professional's" sense of "humor," as Neil has always shown the highest respect to his many female friends and fans, and is one of the few Lifetime Members of Friends of Lulu.

You know, I have a whole thread in my Forum on the Penciljack message boards dedicated to coverage of female writers and artists in the online comics media. I maintain two, soon to be three, lists of the women involved in doing comics on FoL's website. I consider myself a first-hand witness to the wonderful strides women are making in a heretofore heavily-male-dominated industry. But when I read stuff like this it feels like Sisyphus almost getting to the top of that mountain, only to have the boulder come crashing down again. This prevalent attitude among creators who really ought to know better is why the industry still needs advocacy organizations like FoL, every bit as much as the prevalent attitude among non-comics cognoscenti that "all comics are just for kids and should never deal with adult themes" is why organizations like the CBLDF are so vital.