Elayne Riggs' Journal (for Leah)

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Follow The Peaceful Way

Yesterday Marvel Comics announced a new project entitled 411, a 3-issue limited anthology series which "pays tribute to [the] world's least-heralded heroes - peacemakers." Newsarama quotes EIC Joe Quesada: "It'll focus on things relating to people who devote themselves to finding peaceful solutions to problems, the kind of message Marvel ought to be involved in." Writer Chuck Austen adds, "the idea was to show non-violent solutions in a violent world, stories that reflected other possibilities other than more violence in response to violent acts." Pulse reports that, in addition to some well-known names from within the comics field (Austen, Phil Winslade, Mark Millar, Frank Quitely, Brian Vaughan, Leonardo Manco, Bruce Jones and Sean Phillips), "there will be text pieces and introductions from such real world figures as Dr. Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, who is writing the introduction to the first issue; 'Angels in America' playwright Tony Kushner; political cartoonist David Rees; and noted anti-war activist Dr. Helen Caldicott."

A fairly impressive list of text pieces and intros, to be sure! But what's piqued my curiosity the most is how well these stories will be able to succeed at a visual portrayal of the power of nonviolence. Mainstream comics rely on kineticism as their lifeblood, since we're essentially talking about still sequential pictures which convey the illusion of movement (with the mind's eye of the reader filling in what happens between the panels), and we know already that when it comes to mass market entertainment far too many people conflate "action" with "fight scene." The two don't need to be synonymous any more than "pacifism" and "passivity" need to be. I look forward to seeing how these folks manage to convey the power and potential of nonviolence, particularly to an audience which has shown a far higher comfort level with spandex-clad fisticuffs.

Update: Robin also reminded me that Mike Raicht, who's editing this series, was the person who came up with the format concept for Marvel's HEROES, the book which helped raise $1,000,000 for the Twin Towers Fund (okay Franklin, I linked to your article, maybe you can find me somewhere that's still selling copies) and of which Robin was honored to have been a part.

Monday, January 20, 2003

Preserving True Legacy

A number of bloggers (like Ampersand and August Pollack and Eve Tushnet and Dwight Meredith) have been talking about how certain conservative elements have coopted the famous line from Martin Luther King, Jr.'s speech, I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character, as some sort of "proof" that if he were alive today he'd be against affirmative action - conveniently ignoring the operative phrase "one day," which great level-playing-field day is, unfortunately, still a ways in the future. But Tom Tomorrow (link also at sidebar) points out another sin of omission, courtesy of an old article on FAIR's website in which Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon note, "The remarkable thing about this annual review of King's life is that several years -- his last years -- are totally missing, as if flushed down a memory hole... By 1967, King had also become the country's most prominent opponent of the Vietnam War, and a staunch critic of overall U.S. foreign policy, which he deemed militaristic. In his 'Beyond Vietnam' speech delivered at New York's Riverside Church on April 4, 1967 -- a year to the day before he was murdered -- King called the United States 'the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today'... Almost all of those speeches were filmed or taped. But they're not shown today on TV." The thing that struck me is that neither this article (which admittedly was from 1995) nor Tom's blog mentioned where you can read and hear some of these speeches, so I did a brief websearch. I love how the Internet is in many ways doing the opposite of what it may have been intended for - with just a little effort on the part of your average browser, it's very good at retrieving bits of history that might otherwise be ignored or forgotten. Here are some good audio excerpts courtesy of the National Radio Project, and here is some more info about King's anti-war activism from the MLK Jr. Papers Project. Here's the entire "Casualties of the War in Vietnam" speech, and here's the "Beyond Vietnam" one. Now more than ever, I think it's imperative that we remember and honor MLK Jr.'s anti-war stance as well as his anti-racism one. (Obligatory Canadian Comics Content just for Snagglepuss sngrfxz: Ho Che Anderson's first two volumes of King are available from Fantagraphics, which says here that he's currently working on Volume 3, of which they have a couple pages sneak-peek, and hopes to release it this year.)

Sunday, January 19, 2003

Reversion Therapy

In the midst of the upstairs-ogres nonsense, I sometimes wonder if I'll be able to again take up all the activities I've put on hold whilst the apartment shakes and the ceiling plaster loosens. This weekend the neighbors left us in peace all afternoon, both yesterday and today, and I found myself organizing my checkbook and paying bills, taking out boxes to the recycled-trash section in the basement, catching up on updating the Women Doing Comics list (give it a couple days for the webmaster to update, then please check it out, particularly if you're inclined to vote for female writers and artists in any comics awards that traditionally all but exclude women but allow write-in suggestions), and making an actual dent in my pile of unread comics. It's nice to dispel my personal doubts about being able to get back to normal after the nightmare, and I'm optimistic much of my usual energy will return come the Quiet Time.

Saturday, January 18, 2003

The Cult of the Recycled Celebrity

When I was younger there were a lot of celebrities who were famous for being famous. Sure, they'd once Been Somebody but the lustre had faded a bit and some looked a bit worse for the wear, popping up on Love Boat and Fantasy Island and Hollywood Squares and the occasional Burt Reynolds movie. I'd see them and usually say "Oh, good, they're not dead yet." I must not have been alone in this thinking - as David Letterman has been noting all week whilst mocking Arsenio Hall's "Hit me with the digits!" version of Star Search, "As you know, there's a terrible star shortage," and perhaps that's caused by the glut of almost-stars or former stars appearing at the peripheries of our mass cultural consciousness, out where the cathodes meet the anodes.

The latest incarnation of this phenomenon is illustrated in today's NY Times, in article written by Alessandra Stanley entitled "Forgotten Stars Show Up on Reality TV". (As it's in the Arts section there's a good chance you'll actually see it by clicking on the link even if you're not a subscriber.) As Linda Richman might say, "Neither forgotten nor stars; discuss." If these people were that forgotten they wouldn't be watchable - it's the "what the heck have they been up to?" factor that appeals to viewers in the first place. And if they were for-really, up-in-the-Tinseltown-firmament stars, they'd be all over the tabloids anyway and we wouldn't be wondering what they were up to. So the formula seems to be "had a hit career once, now doesn't, but might again thanks to this concept."

It's rather a win-win situation - the semi-famous lose some of their privacy (which they're used to from having been famous anyway) but, depending on the program, not necessarily their dignity; they become for-really-famous again (albeit now running the risk of "being famous for being famous"); the networks don't spend all that much dough to put on a reality TV show in the first place, and the celeb-curiosity factor will certainly draw viewers 'cause, you know, enquiring minds and all that.

I'm one of them. As I mentioned not too long ago, I'm the kid who used to memorize actors' names in the opening credits of TV shows because I thought they were much more important than their roles. I'm not ashamed to admit the one reality show I watch is The Osbournes, because Sharon has always fascinated me and I like the genuine familial warmth I perceive on the screen. Heck, I even liked that Lipton Sizzle and Stir ad campaign which featured luminaries like Sally Jessy Raphael, Chuck Woolery, Pat Morita, Little Richard, Loni Anderson, Mr. T, George Hamilton and Mary Lou Retton.

So the new show The Surreal Life is right up my alley. I'm even hoping they use as their theme song a parody of The Israelites (which Robin used to mishear as "My Ears Are Alight" as apparently did many others, but I digress). Perhaps after a few episodes the bloom will be off the rose again, but in a world where entertainment is consumed so rapid-fire that the collective side effects could include mild dizziness and indigestion, it's nice to know that some celebs can go double-or-nothing and turn their 15 minutes of fame into a half-hour sitcom.

Friday, January 17, 2003

Next Stop, Heaven?

I've been talking on message boards today about perspective. Answering a poster who asked, in defending the comics 'fanboy' mentality, "why is it, these days, that if anyone shows any real, intense interest in a subject, they need to 'get a life'?" I responded, "Because it indicates obsession and misplaced priorities, rather than balance and moderation, and most people believe a life that contains balance and moderation is more varied, interesting and healthy." I went on to say that I felt it applied in a lot of circumstances, not just fandom. And I know whereof I speak. It's a nasty world out there - maybe it always has been, but I feel like the last 23 years in particular have been meaner to ordinary folks around the world - and I'm relatively privileged to be able to afford food and shelter and have some disposable income left over much of the time. Things could be so much worse. And yet, I obsess over the idiots who live upstairs. Even knowing they're presumably gone by month's end and it will get worse before it gets better, I'm still unable to ride out this interim period with any sense of perspective. I'm constantly wearing earplugs and fleeing whatever room they're stomping above; I'm unable to relax even during the breaks from moving furniture and throwing or dropping things on their floor because I'm so busy anticipating the next interruption; I've stopped doing most home-oriented activities from cleaning to exercising because I'm just so tense and disoriented much of the time. That, my friends, is obsession. I've no doubt I'll return to normal when these rude, thoughtless people are finally gone, just as I did after we moved out of a similar situation in Bensonhurst (the rude and noisy ones there being our landlord's family who lived downstairs), but when you're living through a particularly discomfiting moment it's hard to remind yourself "this too shall pass."

Thursday, January 16, 2003

Need to Know Basis

Been working on so many work-related things during my very non-private days lately that I haven't had the organization or time for blog-hopping the last few days, and I just wanted to say that it's amazing how suddenly out of touch I feel when I don't get to check out everyone else's commentary on current happenings. It's like y'all are my actual water cooler conversationalists, folks. (We don't have a water cooler at work, and if we did they'd probably stand around talking about the latest sale at Macy's. Today's hot topic was Ben & Jerry's ice cream flavors. Not a bad topic, but nothing approaching "why don't people get that MLK's 'I Have A Dream' speech was about his hopes for a world in which, someday, character would be the way people were judged rather than skin color but that said day was a long way off?" or "why isn't anyone noting that Bush's 'Sanctity of Life' stuff has nothing to do with MLK Day or eradicating racism but rather with the anniversary of Roe v. Wade?" The blogosphere is where I get my fix of this incisive commentary, and when I don't get a chance to read it I feel kinda out of the loop. Amazing, isn't it, how I can miss something I was never even a part of until a few months ago...

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Sassy Sue Strikes Again

Giggled lots during Michael Moore's appearance on the Daily Show last night. That was about the spiffiest I've ever seen Moore look. Loved the bit about the Saudi Arabian elephant in everyone else's living room; I couldn't bear to watch, but I have the feeling Katie never got around to mentioning the phrase "15 out of the 19" anywhere in her interview with Crown Prince Abdullah. (Could wedding bells be in the offing? She brings quite the dowry, you know.)

When it was over we flipped to the local news, only to catch a brief PSA-type report read by co-anchor Sue Simmons. Now, let me preface this by saying that, on the whole, I don't know that any given local news or weather person is the smartest cookie in the jar. Basically their job is to look telegenic and reassuring and somewhat authoritative while reading teleprompters or repeating what other folks tell them in their earpieces. And for some reason, if they're female and in New York, it helps if their dads were musicians or moms were actresses. Sue's dad was a musician but that's neither here nor there. The thing about her is that she seems to constantly and uniquely flub the simplest of tasks. I think the times she fumfers easily outweigh the times she's gotten through a reading correctly, at least at the end of the show. And last night's was a good 'un. I forgot my usual desire to hurl a pillow at the screen shouting in mock-exasperation "Oh Sue, you're so sassy!" because I was too busy staring mouth agape. She'd just finished a report on a recall of exploding frying pans. Her copy read something like "The pans have "DESIGNED IN THE USA, GOURMET QUALITY, ULTREX DOUBLE WALL, STAINLESS STEEL, INNOVA INC., DAVENPORT, IA" engraved on the bottom." Which she'd dutifully recited as "Davenport, One-A." When they came back from commercial she sheepishly and coyly said, "Did I actually say 'One-A'?" titter titter. Oh, is that what those two little letters after the comma are? Did I actually miss the decision to abbreviate state names in that way? Why doesn't anybody send me memos on these things?

Give us strength.

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Kitchen Aid

You know, as anti-consumerism as I tend to be sometimes, upon occasion I enjoy shopping for stuff that I need or kinda need. I like catalog shopping, I like browsing in 99-cent stores, and I especially like walking around in office supply stores and household-kitchen stores going "ooh, that's cool but I don't need it and it's too expensive" or "ooh, I like that and it's cheap and I can actually use it, gimme!"

More often than not I had the latter reaction when I went to Lechter's, a store I dearly miss. The places they have now in Manhattan and the outer boroughs just don't seem to match it, outside of the way-overpriced Macy's Cellar (which is, okay, fun to look through but not terribly practical). Therefore, I don't know where in the heck I can just walk into some store in friggin' New York City of all places and pick up a nice cheap (under-$4) grapefruit knife. I refuse to buy it online; as a matter of principle I somehow can't justify paying twice as much for shipping as something actually costs. :) So the odyssey continues...

Monday, January 13, 2003

Month to Month

Things are looking up ever so slightly. My boss took off this evening for 5+ weeks Down Under; the neighbors will be gone in less than a month (true to form, they're breaking the house rules whilst moving out the same way they moved in, dragging furniture and such during evenings and weekends rather than 9-to-5 on weekdays when they're supposed to); and Robin just got a call from Joan Hilty to ink an inventory story so that's next month's rent taken care of. Small moves, small moves.

Sunday, January 12, 2003

Rocky Rhodes

Speaking of radio, I don't know if she's funny but from all indications Randi Rhodes is definitely cool, even if her site does feature an annoying pop-up. She apparently broadcasts in southern Florida and outstrips Rush Limbaugh's ratings numbers in Miami. Which, according to Skippy (link at sidebar), pisses Rush off to the point where he's threatened to leave the Clear Channel network (which employes them both) if Premiere Radio, their syndication arm, syndicates Rhodes' popular show. Could the fact that Rhodes is decidedly left-wing have something to do with this? Skippy thinks so, and in this blog entry he urges folks to come to her rescue. Says Skippy in a recent e-mail, doing his best ee cummings, "i am trying to start a grass roots effort to at least annoy clear channel, and let them know that there is indeed an audience out there for left wing radio." Now, I'm passing this along because I like Skippy, even when he's all lower case, but I'm of two minds about this. Yes, of course I'd like to hear more lefty voices in the mainstream media. Yes, Limbaugh can of course be an idiot. But you know, I've met one of Limbaugh's engineers, he's a big Firesign fan (got Limbaugh to play "Beat the Reaper" on his show, in fact) and a nice guy, and I've watched the pissing contest between Limbaugh and FAIR, and I gotta say, I just can't get that worked up about it all. I have no desire to listen to his show, but that's why there's an off switch. Still, if this is the sort of thing that bothers you enough, some activism towards Clear Channel probably wouldn't hurt.

Update from my January 9 post: Dad writes, "There are some inaccuracies about Romania which came from that website which you referenced. I lived there and can't imagine where they came up with these facts. Someday when time permits, I will tell you many more things about those times and my life." Thanks Dad!

Saturday, January 11, 2003

I Hear Something Funny

Thanks to Neil Gaiman's site (top o' the blogroll, Ma!) Robin and I found Radio 4's comedy website and listened to the first (or latest?) installment of "Innes Own World." Nothing like a bit o' cornflake philosophy on civilization. New episodes every Wednesday. Between that, the Firesign snippets on NPR and the old excerpts from their XM show, and Harry Shearer, I think I'm set for awhile with my radio comedy fix. At least until I get to hear myself (and Robin as H.G. Wells, I kid you not) in Seem Real's new release in a few months...

Friday, January 10, 2003

Points to Ponder

  • Do my upstairs neighbors have some sort of radar that allows them to zoom in on exactly the room I'm in for the purpose of disrupting whatever I'm doing with their noise?
  • If so, did they get it from John Ashcroft and am I now in trouble for even mentioning it?
  • Is "rage" a part of "courage" in the same way "rapist" is a part of "therapist," or in a different way?
  • "Is anybody there / Does anybody care / Does anybody see what I see?"
  • Can I take my earplugs out yet?
  • Is it really worth it to half-promise to oneself "a little something on the blog every single day in 2003" and then not really have that much to say?
  • Did I actually learn some HTML coding and get this bullet list to work properly?

Update: Heh, looks like, but I don't know how to erase the space between the bullet list and the rest of the text. Ah well, live and learn. Oh, and the neighbors are moving out at month's end according to the daytime super, so maybe then we can just go back to worrying about how to pay the rent on one income...

Thursday, January 09, 2003

Daddy's Girl

When I was in college I took an interesting course called "Your Family in History." As I recall (bear with me, it was 25 years ago after all, although I note the school still offers it) one of our assignments was to interview family members such as parents to find out how major world events affected them personally. It was the first time my dad and I really spoke about his experiences in World War II. No, he wasn't a combatant. His family was among the relatively fortunate Jews to live in Bucharest, the capital of Romania, and was thus not deported to the concentration camps. Notes this website, "The Jews of Bucharest were saved from extermination on August 23, 1944, after the dictator Ion Antonescu was arrested by the king. The German forces close to the city did not succeed in entering it. Adolf Eichmann, who was in Budapest and was supposed to go to Bucharest to begin preparations for the deportation of the Jews, postponed his journey when he learned that the Romanians had broken off their alliance with Germany. The immediate opposition of the Romanian army, and the entry of the Soviet Army on August 30, 1944, prevented Eichmann from ever coming and the Nazis from carrying out their scheme." According to my dad, King Mihai I (or more likely Antonescu) ransomed "his" Jews from Hitler, but I can't find any links to verify this.

In any case, as I listened to my dad recount the times he and his family huddled in bomb shelters as Allied forces flew overhead, dodged sniper bullets during food runs, and endured a horrid winter emigration by boat a year (or two?) after the war ended, it was both wonderful and weird, because it seemed like I was only first getting to know him as a person, but in a sense I was also speaking with a stranger. I also got this impression of "alien in the house" whenever one of his Romanian relatives would call and he'd suddenly switch from English - Dad tongue! - to what I called "the land of Bun Draga" (the only phrase that ever seems to stick in my otherwise-linguistically-inclined mind, despite Dad's best efforts to teach me Romanian even through the present day), or when he talks fast and pronounces his "w"s like "v"s (especially with words like "women"). And I'm grateful for these things, because they've been good lifelong reminders not to be so damn provincial; after all, I'm only first-generation American (as will be my children if I ever find that I'm not barren after all).

Maybe it's the culture clash that's fueled the many times my Dad and I have failed to see eye to eye. I don't know; I spent so much of my first few decades trying to figure all that out that I've long since given up. Like many, my Dad and I have achieved a pleasant detente, where familial love far outweighs our diverse views. I prefer to reflect on cool things, like the way he'd buy me a heart-shaped box of chocolates for Valentine's Day every single year, even after I was well into my first marriage. And how he loved to take us places as kids, everything from roller skating to the New York Botanical Garden to The Sound of Music at Radio City to Lake George every summer. And how excited he gets when he and Mom show us around whatever new casino has just opened in Vegas (where they now "snowbird"). I'm his only daughter, his Elkie, and he's my only Daddy, and I get teary-eyed just thinking about all this, and I have him to blame for it because I've inherited his sentimental streak.

Happy birthday, Daddy, from your "little punkie."

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

The Family That Blogs Together

I note that the latest entry in Wil Wheaton's blog (link at sidebar) is by his wife Anne, her first blog post ever. And I thought that was really cool. I want Robin to post on my blog, even if it does have my name on it. :) At least he posts in the comment section. Maybe if we switch the website to a server that has blog software, or I switch to Ex-Okay (still thinking about it, Leah R!) or Movable Type, or change my Blogger settings to Team (don't know if I can do that, but it's always worth exploring), somewhere down the line in The Astounding Years To Come. Till then, I guess we team up on comics. :)

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

Oi Luv, Fancy a Bit o' Pair-Bonding, Eh? Eh?

So we're watching this hour-long docu on TLC hosted by biologist Desmond Morris called "The Human Animal," which was originally produced for for BBC1 in 1994 as six one-hour television programs on human behavior, and won the 1995 Cable Ace Award for Best Documentary Series as well as the New York Festivals' World Medal for Best Script. (Not to be confused, or perhaps intentionally to be confused, with its sequel, 1997's "The Human Sexes," written and presented for TLC, again consisting of six one-hour television programmes on the relationship between men and women and nominated for a prime-time Emmy in the category of Outstanding Non-fiction Series. So maybe it was "The Human Sexes" and TLC decided to call it "The Human Animal." God, I'm confused.) Anyway, this installment was about the biological components of mating rituals. And we got all silly, as one does, conflating serious ol' Desmond with the Python "Nudge Nudge" sketch, hence the title of this blog entry.

Nonetheless, it was pretty interesting overall, talking about possible biological explanations for things like why human women's boobies aren't flat like ape boobies, what sexual signals blushing sends, how models' faces and bodies are airbrushed in certain ways as to emphasize sexual availability, etc. (I think I knew about widening the pupils to mimic arousal, but I had no idea they were able to lengthen legs! Now whenever a comic artist insists, "I take my drawings from researching what real women look like in magazines," I can explain why real life and magazines are often two different things.) Lots of titillating boobie shots, nipplege included, where for "parity" there was one very, very close-up shot of erectile function (more designed to elicit a "what the hell is that?" response than "ooh, look at the gazongas on that one!") and a bit where he talked about penis bones of some animals (in discussing how human males don't have one), but you're never going to get real parity and it was still miles ahead of the nothin'-but-titillation "Cleavage" program all-but-sponsored by Victoria's Secret that ran a couple weeks ago. And some fascinating looks at cultural differences in mating rituals, preferred body types, etc.

But when Morris got to how many familiar Western mating rituals are actually biological indicators of fertility readiness and good breeding stock, I slowly began to realize that I was probably born to be barren. (To the tune of the Steppenwolf song, natch.) When he showed parading rituals, all I could think of was how I never paraded as a kid. After a back injury, during my physical therapy (shout-out to my buddy and therapist Jan, whose birthday is tomorrow the 8th!) I had to actually consciously train myself how to sway my hips when I walked to distribute my weight properly because I'd never done it before, and I probably still don't do it well. I look at preview clips of "sexiest women" shows and most of them have boobies hanging out and I'm thinking, is seeing what others call "sexy" as simply "slutty" and belying a lack of self-respect somehow being anti-biology? I rarely even engaged in the usual in-person getting-to-know-you rituals once I was dating, as most of the close relationships I've formed over the years have begun via correspondence, and I've courted and been courted long-distance via audiotapes (when Steve was in the Navy) and the Internet (when Robin was still in England).

Now it's one thing to look at a Cosmo quiz or listen to the women in that Cleavage (which was actually Boobies) show talk about using boobies as sexual power, and think "I'm totally the square peg in this round hole, I can't wrap my brain around the idea of sexual submissiveness and conforming to a male gaze as being empowering for women," that could all be just my hangup or my upbringing or independent thinking or whatever. But when shows like this, backed up by hard science (and Morris may be a member of the Combover Club but he's credentialed out the wazoo), imply that something isn't quite right with me biologically and, therefore, perhaps my infertility is somehow my fault after all and not just the luck of the draw... well, it's somewhat unnerving.

Monday, January 06, 2003

Imagine It's Not In You

Apparently Dinotopia the series has been cancelled. I thought the miniseries was pleasant enough but I'm not weeping for the loss of the weekly program, which was almost a textbook example of how to more or less completely ignore a concept with tons of potential and very popular source material in favor of gosh-wow CGI, assuming nobody cared about anything resembling an interesting story as long as they could look at the kewl dinosaurs. Obviously Disney was wrong. I might have cared, except the couple of episodes I caught were fairly predictable and ultimately disappointing. One of them dealt with the visiting/trapped/whatever Scott family introducing the notion of competitive sport (in this instance, a boxing match) to a self-contained society that had never felt the need for same. Now, they could really have done things with this, examining why a civilization feels it might need sporting events, or why it has made the decision to forgo them. No such luck; it was pretty much all about how the Dinotopia (no, Skippy didn't coin that!) community publicly looked down on their noses at boxing but secretly started wagering and buying tickets to the grand event (which was some sort of stupid confrontation between a Scott son and a henchman of their extremely cookie-cutter villain, who looks like Xena if she'd been played as completely wooden, but I digress).

So since they weren't going to examine it, I thought I might as well ask myself (and therefore you): Are there any nations on Earth which do not engage in sporting events? Given the number of countries participating in the Olympics I'd estimate the number at close to zero, but if anyone knows of a good example I'm all ears. I'm curious as to what a no-interest-in-sports society would be like, because I'm pretty damn sure it wouldn't resemble the print ads with which ESPN has currently saturated the subways. These ads consist of five slogans, all beginning with "Without sports..." and designed, I guess, to make one believe that a non-sports-interested place would resemble a gulag or something. The slogans are:

"Without sports, there'd only be gum." (picture of a baseball card) - This struck me as not too objectionable. My brothers were into baseball cards. But honestly, if you need collectibles there are comic books, coins, stamps, all sorts of things that would more than make up for the lack of sports cards in this imaginary world. And Topps could always convert its business to crank out flash cards or non-sports trading cards (yes, they do exist).

"Without sports, they'd just be dancers." (picture of the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders) - Do I need to comment? Would I be allowed to call myself a cultural feminist if I didn't? :) Yes, cheerleading takes a lot of skill and athleticism, but dancing does too, plus it's artistic communication so it kinda rates higher in my book than booty-shaking alone. Cheerleaders don't need to be "just" dancers, if they really hanker to show off T&A they can always be pole dancers or Solid Gold dancers or Fly Girls or whatever is currently in vogue.

"Without sports, weekends would be weekdays." (picture of child, from the shoulders down, foot on a soccer ball) - This makes no sense to me at all, since sports are played all the time on weeknights, even on ESPN. And even if they are talking about the stuff they don't televise like local kids' soccer games, the kids go to practice during the week after school. So no, sports aren't what differentiates weekends from weekdays any more, not even close.

"Without sports, who would we follow?" (picture of some very stately and powerful-looking WNBA players, probably members of the New York Liberty team) and "Without sports, would anyone believe in miracles?" (shot of 1969 Mets) - I should think spiritual folks would object to these implications on religious grounds alone. Time was when we followed religious figures; nowadays of course we "follow" every sort of celebrity, from royals and politicians to movie and pop stars to people appearing on reality shows and Jerry Springer. But the miracle thing... I just shook my head at that. Even some of us who don't necessarily follow a fixed and organized religion tend to believe in "every-day miracles" that have zip-nada-zilch to do with sports.

So, all of ESPN's ad questions being countered, what would a world without sports be like? Less profitable for the corporations urging us to "just do it" and reminding us that "it's in you," I'd warrant. Probably a shifting of testosterone towards other endeavors, which might be a bad thing - but possibly less of an atmosphere that promotes "win at all costs" propaganda, so that might be a good thing. No Olympic thrills, which would bum me out since I generally like the Olympics, but maybe less pressure on kids to screw with the natural growth of their bodies in order to achieve "perfection." And maybe an emphasis on cooperative games rather than confrontational competition. That'd be cool, and I'm sure it's in me somewhere.

Sunday, January 05, 2003

Message Boards From Hell

Robin and I are both doing a bit of online organizing. I've switched my Archives to monthly (Blogger's a bit catch-as-catch-can with archives anyway, I often find many of them missing and have to republish) and Rob's purchased his finally-free eponymous domain and pointed it at our website, so maybe now that it's easy to remember family and friends will visit a bit more. :) He's also been looking into various webhosting sites, including ones that offer message boards and chat capabilities. Which of course leads me to all sorts of cool megalomaniacal thoughts; I like to think a Riggs Message Board would be pretty eclectic, with topics ranging from media (comics, music, Firesign Theatre, Rankin/Bass cartoons, Britcoms) to politics to feminism to tech to resources (perhaps inking how-tos, sites dealing with the K1 visa process and British food in America) to art and photography... a little something for everyone, I'd like to think. And it would be UBB-encoded, of course. :) More on this if it ever happens.

Saturday, January 04, 2003

The Persistence of Memory

So I was reading the comments to one of Peter David's blog entries about buying a Lord of the Rings toy (hope y'all remembered to raise a glass yesterday to the memory of J.R.R. Tolkein on the Eleventy-First anniversary of his birth) and his musing aloud, "Would people start crabbing that Two Towers is 'inaccessible?' After all, it makes zero effort to summarize the previous film. It just assumes you know what's going on." So I said of course it's inaccessible to people who didn't see or don't remember the first movie, although I don't think it's inaccessible to folks who didn't read the books, which I hardly remember anyway having read them umpteen years ago in college. (I also mentioned this entry of mine that talked a bit about how it's a chapter rather than a story and I'm still kinda amazed more people don't feel cheated that they have to pay up to $30 and wait a period of two years to get the complete story, but never mind that now.)

And someone responded, "To the people who say that they need to re-watch the first film again on DVD/video the night before they go and see the second one, to remind themselves what happened: you have serious memory problems. Seriously, if you honestly cannot clearly remember a film you saw a maximum of one year ago, check yourself into the care of a neurologist right away."

And this totally steamed me. How dare this person assume that people who don't commit every bit of entertainment to memory have neurological problems?!

Now I'll admit from the start, I'm probably in the running as a poster-adult for short-term memory loss. I don't remember specifics of what I've said and done on dates and family visits and such. But I do have in my head at least a few dozen names and phone numbers of people my boss wants me to call at a moment's notice that aren't on his speed-dial (and whose names he often can't recall), as well as airport codes and dental procedure codes, transit routes, how to do certain Word and Excel tricks etc. etc. In other words, I choose to remember the stuff I need to, in order to survive, retain my job, and so forth.

What I don't need to remember is entertainment. I'm moved by it, I'm delighted by it, I'm glad it's in my life, it has at times paid half my household income (although not at the moment, and did I mention Robin's inking portfolio and pages for sale and that he's one of the best in the business?). But I have no driving need to remember any of it after I put down the book or turn off the TV or finish the CD or leave the theater. In my opinion, the circumstances under which it is necessary to remember details of entertainment (particularly mass media entertainment) are very few.

If you're going on Jeopardy! or preparing for a trivia contest or playing TP, it's good to have this stuff in your head. If you're in school and taking a test that's dependent on you having memorized certain aspects of movies or books (do classes still teach learning by rote?), you better have done your homework. If you're producing entertainment - well, even then you don't need to keep track of everything, you just need to remember where your reference is so you can call upon it if need be.

But that's it. If you're just a consumer, an end-user, there's no requirement to retain this stuff. So I don't. Sure, I've watched some stuff so many times that it's stuck with me, I can pretty much recite any line in Star Wars or Rocky Horror or Wizard of Oz before the characters do, and as a kid (before I needed to keep a lot of real-life stuff in my head) I used to memorize the opening credits of sitcoms I watched every week 'cause I thought the actors' names were more important than the characters they played (still do). And I can still remember stupid jingles and such, thanks to the power of repetitive advertising. But I have a personal library full of books and comics and videotapes and CDs and LPs and DVDs. It's not going away until I choose to get rid of it. I can always go back to it and enjoy a bit of entertainment again. That's why it's bloody there. And sometimes, the less I remember from the last time I read or saw or heard something, the more I get out of it on the rebound.

I'm no expert in how the brain retains information but I'm willing to bet that there's nothing neurologically wrong with this conscious choice I've made not to retain things that I consider basically ephemeral and non-life-affecting. In fact, I wish more people were like that, they'd probably be a good deal less self-absorbed and self-congratulatory. As for me, I'm more than happy to rely on search engines, look things up as I need them, and rewatch the DVD of The Fellowship of the Ring before I see The Two Towers.

Friday, January 03, 2003

You Gotta See The Vampires Tank

Well, I'm still not apologizing for liking Dance of the Vampires, but Robin found this great review that rakes it over the coals wonderfully, and has Steinman & co. admitting all kinds of mistakes. Fun reading.

Thursday, January 02, 2003

Digby Does It

Apparently it's a big deal in the blogosphere that somebody named Digby now has a blog. He seems to be a very good writer but I must confess I have no idea who this person is or why he's so celebrated. The only Digby I know of is in Nova Scotia because my boss has visited there in the summertime. So if someone can clue me in I'd appreciate it, and I guess I'll be ovine about this and suggest people check out Digby's blog.

Wednesday, January 01, 2003

Resolved: A Cleaner Year

The upstairs neighbors stomped around from 8:15 AM to 12:30 PM today, ruining my hopes to sleep late once more, but they were gone pretty much all afternoon and have just now returned, so at least we had a relaxing time most of the day. I got to the point where I really missed wearing some of my blouses and couldn't stand them piling up on the ironing board taking up bedroom space, so I finished my ironing jag. Only about 20 shirts but I iron lousy so it took me awhile. Still, my first New Year's Semi-Resolution ("semi" is how I give myself an out in extenuating circumstances such as the upstairs neighbors making me too tense to do anything besides inserting earplugs, or my workday causing excessive mental exhaustion) is to try to straighten and clean things more often than I currently do, so with any luck the next iron-a-thon won't wait till springtime. Last week we got rid of all our expired medicine, which means I can now find what I need and close cabinets and drawers more easily. Also, as a few folks have asked about buying original art from comic books that Robin's inked, we've finally typed up the list of interior pages for sale; check it out here. He did inks on some and finishes on others; if you're interested in any specific ones I'm sure he can tell you which is which. You'll notice one page missing from most issues of the Supergirl run (at DC inkers usually get the first or last third of the book in art returns); now you know which pages we've given writer Peter David (link at sidebar).
White Rabbits!

Happy 2003, everyone.

Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Yet Another Meaningless Year-End Survey

I used to vote in "best of the year" polls, mostly for comics back when I was reviewing them. But with my increasing inability to remember what I had for dinner two nights ago, let alone what I read nine or ten months ago, I find I can't really do that too much any more unless I make lists beforehand or have can participate in a two-stage process that lets me nominate (if I happen to remember stuff I liked) as well as vote (on the stuff I recall liking the specifics of which other people remember better than I could). In general I'm better at lists than polls, but I haven't made a list of year-end blog polls yet (although silly person that I am I actually think that would be a fun thing to do).

What I have made a list of is Cool Quiz and Personality Test Sites I've visited or heard about this past year. Okay, this past few months since I've started blogging. Don't be so picky, geez. And since it's the end of the year, and I want to erase the damn document from my computer here at work already, I present them herewith. (I should say at least one other person has already done this, with the Barbarian’s Online Test Page, but these things pop up and get outdated so quickly it's never a bad idea to do another.)

First off, the thing about these online quizzes is that anyone can make 'em up. For instance, if you want to get all girly you can go to Quizilla and rifle through their lists of tests like “What Personality Disorder Do You Have?” and “How Silly Are You?” and “What Box Do You Get Put In?” (Found courtesy of Sarah Dessen.) SelectSmart has dozens to choose from, including "which comic creator are you?" and "which Supreme Court Justice are you?" but beware, lots of pop-ups! Other sites worth visiting might include “Fun” Personality and Love Quizzes and E Online, although many of these seem geared towards the type of folks who like to read tabloids at supermarket check-out counters. (Okay, fine, but I only look at the Weekly World News and the Sun where I can find it, and I don't actually buy 'em.)

When I started compiling the list, I soon decided - probably because of the ease of quiz creation - to eliminate the "which mass market entertainment character are you?" ones, because there are hundreds. Search on real popular stuff like Lord of the Rings or Simpsons or Harry Potter and you'll probably find at least a half dozen (I stopped at two each). I thought the ones that dealt with either historical characters or ideas were more clever. But there's just something strangely appealing about the Enneagram Test which seemed to cry out for mention. What the heck is an Enneagram, you might inquire? According to the site, Don Riso has defined the Enneagram as "a geometric figure that delineates the nine basic personality types of human nature and their complex interrelationships." While the Enneagram suggests that there are nine basic personality types of human nature, there are, of course, many subtypes and variations within the nine fundamental categories. Nevertheless, the assertion of Enneagram theory is that these nine adequately map out the territory of "personality types." The Enneagram is also a symbol that maps out the ways in which the nine types are related to each other. Aren’t you sorry you asked?

I confess I never got past the explanation on that one to actually take the quiz, but here's my Top 7 (in no particular order, I just came up with seven), together with the blogs where I first saw 'em:
1. What Kind of Christian Theologian Are You? (courtesy of George Partington, link at sidebar)
2. The F Scale and
3. the Gender Test (both courtesy of Jeanne d'Arc at Body and Soul, l.a.s.)
4. What Kind of Commie Are You? and
5. Which Founding Father Are You? (both courtesy of Franklin Harris, l.a.s.)
6. Which Science Fiction Writer Are You? (courtesy of Teresa Nielson Hayden at Making Light, l.a.s.)
7. "Which Mythological Character Are You?" (found this on my own as I recall)

In case anyone's curious, I took these seven quizzes, answering as truthfully as I could, and I'm:
1. John Wesley
2. A liberal airhead
3. Female
4. The Young Democrat
5. Alexander Hamilton
6. Isaac Asimov
7. A naiad

Next up, maybe someday, a list of cool interactive Flash bits, but Ampersand (l.a.s.) seems to have 'em all covered. Here's one called Fly Guy which he mentioned today. I'm loving it!

Only a few more hours till I get the hell out of midtown NY, as New York's Finest prepare to close the streets and pen in the pedestrians, not to mention taking other steps in the name of a police sta-- um, security. Buying cheap-ass champagne (Rob's sticking to his beer) and trying to imagine how Brak will go with Christopher Reeve... Have a happy and healthy end-of-2002-beginning-of-2003, y'all!

Monday, December 30, 2002

Ploughshares Into Swords, Part Umpteen

August Pollack (link at sidebar) reports today on how the scrap metal from the remains of the World Trade Center is going into building a special battleship called the USS New York. Now, I tend to disagree with August that "To look at a fallen girder and regard it as special or sacred is to create a ridiculous symbol, and that’s where I take issue." To me, the wreckage is symbolic and yeah, you could even say sacred. Not because of the buildings themselves, I always thought The Twin Towers were relatively ugly - sure, it's odd not to see them in the skyline any more, but no, it's not like they ever blended in appropriately and I'm not suddenly going to change my mind and pretend I liked them now that they're gone. What makes the wreckage more than ordinary scrap metal is the fact that it's mixed in with the remains of actual people, much of it powderized by the intense heat to the point where it's probably inseparable. Now, it's one thing for Mark Gruenwald's ashes to be mixed into a special edition of Squadron Supreme, that was a request made in his will. But I can pretty much surmise that few if any of these 3000 people would consent to having their ashes be used as part of an instrument of war. That's what I find, in August's words, utterly obscene.

Sorry if I'm in a bit of a morbid mood, but my boss' nephew was killed in a car accident a few days ago; he was a really good guy and will be much missed.

Saturday, December 28, 2002

State of the Comics

As I mention to The Guy With No Vowels somewhere in the Pen-Elayne comments below, I haven't written overmuch about comics lately. With Robin still "between assignments" despite having what little old biased me thinks is one of the best portfolios in the business, it's hard to look at comics or even publications or websites about comics and not be reminded of the sudden pinch in our household income. This, combined with the noise upstairs, has caused me to fall further and further behind in my reading; unread current titles fill 2+ boxes and I'm only just catching up on CBG. But others have been writing some fine stuff about comics, including Tim O'Shea, whose exploration of current humor comics can be found here on Pulse. This coming Thursday or Friday, whenever the shops get their haul after the holidays, look for Thor #58 to hit the shelves, featuring inks Robin did over pencils by our friend Alan Davis.

Wednesday, December 25, 2002

Peace on Earth

As 25 December is upon us, I take some small comfort in the belief that millions if not billions of ordinary citizens are wishing for peace on Earth, even if (or as) their leaders prepare for war, and I'd like to direct folks to the wonderful post on Escalating Nonviolence written today by Natasha (link now at left bar). Meanwhile, Peter Bergman takes on Clement Moore here and, with the rest of the Firesign Theatre, here.

We celebrated "National Jews Go to the Movies Day" (thanks, Daily Show) one day early, using our buy-one-get-one-free ticket from the Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring DVD to take in The Two Towers after I got out of work yesterday. We just made it, too, having been told to go to the wrong theatre in the Loews 34th Street complex (the one printed on the ticket I bought the previous day) and not following our instincts to search for a theatre with the LCD of the correct movie's name, which was two flights down - so we had to hurry down two escalators at the end of the oddly-chick-flick-oriented previews only to find a hell of a lot more people in that theatre than were in the audience for Two Weeks' Notice. :) As it was near-packed by that point, we had to take the neck-straining seats right up front, a bit too close for the screen for both of us, but other than that things were fine.

If you allow for the fact that it's a chapter rather than a story - i.e., that it really has no beginning or ending, only a middle (something that seems to bother fewer and fewer people nowadays, and doesn't actually bother me in this particular case as I couldn't see any other way to adapt the books, but I will probably maintain to the end of my days that Empire Strikes Back was the weakest of the Star Wars movies because they had no such excuse) - this movie was easily as well done as the first chapter, probably more so. I loved how, from the opening scene onward, the tone was set to portray an old man as immensely powerful (something I also quite enjoyed about the David Eddings books I've been reading from Robin's collection, the idea of age as an acquisition of potency rather than a sign of weakening). I adored how John Rhys-Davies pretty much stole every scene he was in, even more so considering how difficult it must have been to act under all those prosthetics (and he also did the voice of Treebeard, which I thought was cool). I got a real kick out of Brad Dourif doing the sleaziest character I remember him playing since he nailed the essence of Piter de Vries in David Lynch's Dune ("the good Dune," as I call it, but then I like shots of a young Sting's near-naked body so sue me), although I must confess that every time he came on screen I couldn't stop thinking, "It is by will alone I set my mind in motion..." Like Robin, I admired the way Peter Jackson was able to weave all the different story threads together. I thought the Ent scenes were fantastic, and Gollum beyond amazing. I shook my head at Sean Astin's occasional loss of fake accent, but was glad he got to do some great stirring speeches. I wept in all the chick-flick places I was supposed to weep, squinted and sometimes closed my eyes at the copious battle scenes (I don't care for fight scenes in anything, even if they are necessary to the story), scoffed at that silly Vin Diesel-like stunt that Orlando Bloom did (those who have seen the movie know what I'm talking about), and marveled at the lovely Rohan theme music. And of course I drowned a few times in Elijah Wood's eyes. :) All in all, very worthwhile, and we even got our Christmas cards mailed out from The World's Biggest Post Office afterwards.

Sunday, December 22, 2002

I Hear People Singing, It Must Be Christmastime

Robin's just finished the rough of the art on our 2002 holiday card - yeah, we're a bit behind in sending 'em out, but I figure as long as folks get 'em by the New Year it'll be okay. (This is the same logic that says I can send out Jewish New Year cards after Rosh Hashanah, as long as folks get 'em by Yom Kippur. Thanks Mom!) So as inspiration he's been putting on the Christmas songs. As I've mentioned before, I didn't do Christmas as a kid because duh, I grew up Jewish. But as I got older and aspects of the season became more and more secularized, I sort of adopted an "if you can't beat 'em join 'em" sort of attitude. Besides, what's so funny about peace, love and understanding? So during my first marriage, my personal rituals grew to encompass collecting the Rankin/Bass and other holiday cartoons by videotaping them off the TV when they came 'round, as well as our annual reading of Dickens "A Christmas Carol," about which I've also blogged earlier. (If you want to do the same, as I mentioned in that entry and which I'd highly recommend, you can check out this website for the full text.) But while Robin has a certain limited patience for my cooing "Oh cool, the Alistair Sim version is on!", he doesn't want to know from the animated Rudolph and Hermie - his interests lie more in the audio realm.

So it is I've found myself treated to Christmas songs I'd never heard before, or never really paid attention to, when I was younger. I know most of the sacred ones from having been in a college choral group, where you can't really escape them no matter how loud you protest (I'm my mother's daughter; back in the '60s she spearheaded successful efforts to open up my elementary school holiday singalong program to more than the Christian POV), and of course the rock-oriented ones from them being on the radio back when I was a voracious listener (roughly the '70s through the mid-'80s). But there are a lot of obscure, eclectic and/or British ones I didn't know until Robin started playing them, and now they're among my favorites. For instance, he's currently playing something by Tori Amos (or as he says, "Neil Gaiman's friend") that I'm sure he's played before but I forget from year to year. I think I might have known songs like 2000 Miles before but didn't really pay attention to their beauty as much before the Annual Change of Rotation as Robin reshuffles and reprograms the CD players every Christmas, queueing up the 20+ compilations in his collection.

And this year Skippy (link at left bar) is holding an ongoing "favorite Christmas song" contest on his blog, so even though it seems like I fall in love (again) every day with a new song on Robin's CD player, I contributed "Fairytale of New York" as my favorite 'cause it's just, you know, so goofy and scruffy-boy and real. (For the record, Robin's favorite is "I Believe in Father Christmas", which is certainly in my Top 10.) But the link I supplied Skippy to the lyrics wasn't working today, so I did a search and found this link. Which is working, but wrong. You know why? Because in the chorus - you know, the part where they're insulting each other? - it self-censored the vowel in "slut" (in the lyric "you're an old slut on junk") and replaced the line "you cheap lousy faggot" with "you're cheap and you're haggard." Now that, my friend, is the definition of "politically correct," that much-misused phrase that right-wingers and ignorant message board posters all seem to think means something like "people out to destroy tradition by opining that folks should be more inclusive and nicer to each other, the spoilsports." No no, politically correct is actually a lefty term, and means (or used to mean) nothing more than "gee, we like these folks and they're well-meaning and all but this is all just a little anal-retentive, don't you think?" Anyway, I think "cleaning up" the lyrics of a song where the participants deliberately insult each other for comedic and dramatic effect because you don't want to use a purposely-derogatory phrase like "slut" or "faggot" is a bit much. So you can go here or here for the actual lyrics to "Fairytale of New York," cheap lousy faggots and all.

Well, with Lou Reed over it's time for Stina Nordenstam. Can't get much more eclectic than this. Happy merry.