Elayne Riggs' Journal (for Leah)

Friday, January 31, 2003

Looking Up Our Own

From the commentary engendered by my Feedback Loop entry, I think it's pretty clear that many of us like to engage in meta conversations - that is, we like to discuss process just as much as (if not sometimes more than) what that process is designed to do. I admit it, I'm a total process wonk, and like other blogs I'm opinionated, and we all know what opinions are like. I actually think self-administered proctology isn't nearly as harmful when it's bloggers talking about blogging or message board posters discussing board dos and don'ts as it is when, for instance, the news media decides to cover other news media rather than reporting on actual substantive news. (Okay, FAIR excepted because they're a watchdog group and monitoring process is the job of watchdog groups.)

I know there's a danger of self-absorption when you talk process too much, but much writing is inherently given to self-absorption anyway, and I don't see that many bloggers - at least the ones I read regularly, listed at the sidebar - neglecting to look out the window in favor of extended navel-gazing. Instead I've seen lovely bits like this one from Anne at Peevish, which makes a very good case that, while we bloggers certainly aren't claiming that regularly writing to an unseen audience out there in the aether makes us any better than the average citizen, it tends to make some of us better and more thoughtful citizens than we may have been had we not taken up our online diaries, partly because of the mental preparation that goes into organizing our thoughts and partly because of the discussion our entries engender. So this is a rather longwinded way of me saying "Hear hear!" to Anne's essay.

Thursday, January 30, 2003

It's Da Bomb

Look, I'm just saying. Are we so sure Dubya didn't mean (re-)development of a hydrogen bomb rather than a hydrogen car? I mean, after all, "hydrogen" is easier to pronounce than "nuclear." (As we predicted, even though Dubya said "nookyoolar" umpteen times, Jay Leno never made fun of his mispronunciation - because Leno has the same fault.)

Jeff Greenfield's theory on last night's Daily Show: It's safe and expected in a State of the Union Speech to talk up anything that's like 15-20 years away from practical application. Therefore, I'm requesting that in next year's SOTU speech Dubya please discuss funding research into personal jetpacks and (or leading into) personal transporter tubes. Seriously, I've been waiting for my promised jetpack since like 1973, and I'm getting impatient.

My husband's observation, a propos of nothing: Often when people warn about an Evil Empire, it's out of envy. As in, "Hey, we should be the Evil Empire, not them!"

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Going Postal

A couple weeks back Robin and I were talking with our short-bus-ride-away-neighbors Ann and Joe Lewis about NY2012's desire to build a new Olympic/NY Jets stadium on the West Side of Manhattan around the Javits Center. And Joe was saying something about Penn Station relocating to that area as well, and extending the subway lines so they go all the way west, but that didn't sound right because Penn just underwent a renovation at its current 7th Avenue location, and I couldn't see them moving it 4-5 blocks west just for this. As it turns out, the proposal is to extend the #7 line only so that it terminates at the proposed site rather than at Times Square (as Hell's Kitchen Online points out, "Giving priority to the extension of the #7 subway could kill or delay the long-delayed and much more essential Second Avenue subway"). And even though Penn has just been upgraded and the new NJ Transit concourse opened a few months ago, turns out they're not planning on moving it but they're going to be buying the post office across the street instead. That's right, kids, buying the World's Largest Post Office, and redeveloping a part of it into, as the legislation signed by Governor Pataki last year puts it, "a transportation and commercial center." Yes, even though we already have one of those, and even though it's just been expanded, and even though the Farley Station is an historical landmark. Here's a factsheet naming names. Here's some more info on what they're planning to do, including pictures. I admit Penn is a bit crowded, but I'm fairly surprised there isn't more protest against all this - not even a lot of public discussion about it. I guess some other stuff just takes priority here in the Big Apple. After all, it's not like we don't have the money for this.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Another Women and Comics Update

Haven't done one of these in awhile; curtailing my activity in Friends of Lulu in favor of better time management and the usual winter semi-hibernation has shifted my priorities a bit. But I did find a few hours to organize and send FoL webmeister Chris Kohler my updates for the Women Doing Comics list, which have now been uploaded. If you check the list and spot missing credits, bad links, or names that should be on the list but aren't, please e-mail me with the additional info; particularly since the priority shift, I rely heavily on the reports of others. The criteria for inclusion on the list should be clear from the page title, but for some reason people sometimes have trouble grasping it so here it is again:
  • The Women Part - You need to be female or female-identified (like Jeff Jones, for instance).
  • The Doing Part - Your work needs to be currently available, or else the list would read "doing and having done" or something like that. I've begun work on the fairly ambitious "Herstory" page listing all the women who've done comics in the past and are currently either doing something else or have left this mortal plane, but the additions are taking such a long time - and again, are rather backburner - that I don't see completing the first pass for awhile. (Nonetheless, if you spot a woman on the WDC page who should probably be on the Herstory page instead, please let me know.)
  • The Comics Part - Your work needs to be comics. I tend to be fairly inclusive here, webcomics and editorial comics and comic strips certainly count. Anything that involves telling a story or a gag. But I personally don't consider caricatures and illustrations and sketches and fan art/fanfic and oekaki and dojinshi to be comics, although they're often a good start and I applaud all the women currently engaged in those activities. If you're a woman doing admin work at a comic book company or writing about comics or selling comics - in other words, stuff that doesn't involve storytelling but is still industry-related - your name should be on the not-updated-quite-so-often Industrial Strength Women list, not the WDC.
    Hope that clears everything up for now.

    The other thing I'm finding interesting is the ramp-up of Prophecy Magazine, whose website I highly recommend not only to professional-level female comic creators interested in actually getting a decent page rate and good exposure for their work that doesn't happen to be superhero in nature, but to folks seeking a good read. Dirk Deppey mentions more about them, including linking to this thread on Tartsville which features a lot of give and take about the business end of the enterprise.
  • Monday, January 27, 2003

    Spotlight on Micah

    As promised, I followed up with Micah Wright regarding yesterday's blog entry, and here's his response. He gave me permission to repost it here.

    The beautiful thing about the posters created by the Office of Wartime Information is that our grandparents paid for them all through their taxes. The artwork on those posters was work-for-hire for Uncle Sam.

    In other words, they're all in the Public Domain. Even the Norman Rockwell.

    I know, a crazy thing, considering the stupid lengths that AOLTimeWarnUniDisSonyFox™ are going through to destroy the Public Domain, but it's true. All of the copyright extension laws in the world can't change the fact that those posters were created for the government and therefore belong to the American people. In addition, there is a strong First Amendment-derived parody law in this country which is supposed to protect the so obviously political speech that I'm creating with the revamps.

    When I started the project, I had no idea what the status of the copyright on these posters was and I didn't especially care... I knew the parody laws would cover what I was doing so long as I didn't sell any of the merchandise. It was only four months after I had the remix project up and running that I got into an email conversation with a professor at the University of Minnesota (who curates one of the largest collections of these posters in existence) and he told me that I should sell posters & t-shirts because the work is in the public domain. I did a little research and voila, he was correct.

    [In my opinion Kieron Dwyer] should have never sold any of the products with the Starbucks logo on it. Making the logo and printing it in a magazine were both fine and would have been clearly covered by Free Speech/Political Speech/Parody laws, but he went the extra mile and sold t-shirts and stickers and that's what doomed him. It was suddenly Commercial Speech, not Political Speech. Simply selling a comic book is not commercial speech... after all, newspapers had to be sold in order for Thomas Nast's great political cartoons of Boss Tweed to be circulated. Parody and Free Speech laws cover the distribution of said political parody... they just don't cover you when you sell t-shirts of it.

    Personally, I feel that corporations have way too much power in this culture already and that they should never have their obviously commercial speech rights trump the small guy's political/commercial speech, but I bow to the law of the land. In insisting that Dwyer never sell his comic book, however, I think they made a major misstep, one that resulted in their crossing the line from cracking down on the copyright infringement into censorship of Dwyer's political speech...

    [Re:] Stu Helm. I think Kraft's position was an extreme one, but one within their rights. This falls into the "Disney Sues Childcare Center for Having Bambi Mural on Wall" type of corporate lawsuit excess category in my opinion, but that said, from what I've seen of Helms' work, these guys have every right to be pissed off that he's using their trademark... he in no way disguised or changed it. Velveda is an astoundingly made-up word... it wasn't like he was calling himself "king cheese" and they went after him because they believe that they own cheese and macaroni. He was stupid and he deserves what he gets (up to a certain point).

    Adbusters, Wacky Packs and Garbage Pail kids all fall under fair usage parody laws territory, by the way. It's even legal to make money from them since they are so obviously parody. I'd love to see someone try and sue Adbusters... that would be like Corporate Vietnam. The Adbuster guys would sit in their caves, laughing and eating rats long after the corporations had spent themselves into the grave trying to stamp them out. I love the smell of Napalm in the morning.


    Aside from disagreeing with Micah about likening the use of a trademark to sell porn to painting a Bambi mural on a childcare center, I'm pretty much in Micah's court here, and I found the response regarding the posters to be absolutely fascinating. Hope you agree.

    [By the way, a propos of nothing, I think I found a new definition for "heterosexual male secure in his manhood," as Robin and I immediately switched from the end of yesterday's Super Bowl to watching the Gay Weddings marathon on Bravo.]

    Sunday, January 26, 2003

    Copyrights and Wrongs?

    As folks who follow comics industry news probably know, Kraft has "settled" its trademark dilution suit against CBLDF defendant Stuart Helm. The settlement is essentially that Kraft has won and Helm has lost, to which I say hoorah. Not because I mindlessly defend faceless corporations, y'all should know me better than that, but because I think Helm calling himself "King VelVeeda" and his porn-pic website "Cheesy Graphics" was a pretty clear-cut case of trademark dilution, and I believe the CBLDF was at the very least mistaken for taking on the case in the first place. The First Amendment, with a few exceptions, generally doesn't apply to commercial speech, and Helm (like Kieron Dwyer) intended to make money off a parody of a trademark someone else owned. As usual, Mark Evanier expresses this better than I ever could.

    Stuff like this, admittedly, leaves me torn. I enjoy when creative folks attempt to Stick It To The Man, as it were, but I consider this a good example of how the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house. In selling subversion and revolution rather than just creating it, in your parodic work becoming a commodity itself, the message isn't "see what I've gotten away with, aren't I a naughty lad?" as much as it's "see how I can profit from swiping others' work and ideas? Yours may be next and there's nothing you can do about it!"

    And I think the laws are all still murky on this anyway. How can Adbusters "get away with" what they're doing? They sell their subvertisement magazine, don't they? Is it that they're a non-profit advocacy organization rather than a commercial enterprise? Then what about MAD Magazine, or Topps with their Wacky Packages and Garbage Pail Kids? Are those somehow considered affectionate tributes rather than infringement or dilution of other corporate product? And how about writer Micah Wright's marvelous Propaganda Remix Project website (via Tom Tomorrow, link at sidebar)? The way he's subverted old propaganda posters is terrific, and I'm looking forward to the book, but don't the estates of those artists actually own the copyrights to their work? (I've written to Micah, who's also an activist with the Writer's Guild of America so probably knows his way around legalities, for clarification on this, and hope to talk about it more in a future blog entry.)

    Like I say, I don't cry for corporations. But I know how I'd feel if I spent a good deal of time and energy creating something and someone decided to make money from it without my permission. If copyright and trademark laws aren't enforced for the big guys, they sure as hell aren't going to be enforced for the little guys.

    Saturday, January 25, 2003

    If You Can't Stand The Heat

    Continuing on yesterday's television theme - I love cooking shows. One of the best things about visiting Robin's family is that British TV seems to tons of cooking shows. Here in the US, there's pretty much public TV and The Food Network, and some cable systems (like mine) don't carry the latter (*sob*). One of the things that always amazes me about the shows (to continue on another theme I raised this week) is how magical they seem, the way all the ingredients are in their nice little bowls all measured and chopped and waiting for the master. It's like the cobbler elves, little to no effort is expended on the part of the on-air personality. The old "here's one we prepared earlier!" ploy.

    So what I want to do is a cooking show for people who cook like I do. Folks who aren't necessarily telegenic (and I'm more or less as presentable as Lidia so it wouldn't be all that bad) and who live in an apartment with a tiny kitchen and who can follow recipes just fine but don't have sous chef elves. Folks who like to pretend they're doing a cooking show anyway during the few noise-free evenings they're able to prepare a meal from scratch rather than hide in the bedroom with earplugs in while the TV dinners are in the microwave, because it makes it more like a game and less like a process that needs five tedious steps done before the one fun on-air step (here's the ingredients all laid out, now put them together like this) can take place. And I like to include the "afterward" in the cooking show in my head - how I wash the preparation dishes and utensils and put stuff away while the food's cooking so I don't have to do it afterwards. Because you know, most kitchens don't have these secret compartments under the televised surface where you can leave the detritus for the crew to handle.

    Through this awful cold snap the apartment heat's been a blessing, but a mixed one as it turns out. The building's boiler apparently kicked in full-blast yesterday, and about 5 PM, just when the super went off-duty for the weekend, we developed a major leak in a corner of the living room. Robin's theory is that the increased pressure on the steam and the already-weakened pipes in this place, combined with the cold weather, caused the leakage. Good thing the window sill there is big enough to accommodate the bucket.

    Friday, January 24, 2003

    Idiot Boxing

    I'm a child of TV. My earliest memories are in black and white, until around the mid-'60s when they're recalled in living color, like an iconic peacock unfolding. In fact, this site is a pretty good snapshot of what I spent a lot of my time watching as a kid. The first mythological fact I ever learned was that Thursday was named for the god Thor, remembered because the Thor segment of the Marvel cartoons aired on Thursdays. (And yes, I know the theme songs to all of them, and it was Cap on Monday and Hulk on Tuesday and Iron Man on Wednesday and Namor on Friday so there.) My initial lesson in "boys and girls don't like the same things" was probably learned via angrily storming out of the room every time the Three Stooges came on and my brothers refused to change the channel. In my preteen and teen years I cultivated familial ties with the Nelsons and Stevenses and Bradys and Partridges - especially the Partridges. By the time I was 16 I'd been run out of about 3 David Cassidy fan clubs for daring to opine that we were all in love with a manufactured image - which suited me just fine, I had no plans to ever meet the guy and images were more than enough for me, but my media awareness seemed to bother the other girls who couldn't separate things quite as easily. My political consciousness came of age during the televised Watergate hearings.

    In college my dorm room was the one where everyone gathered to watch Star Trek reruns, then Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman and its sequel Fernwood Tonight (later America 2Night), and by senior year my best friend Bill and I and a few others decided to start our own version of the Martin Mull/Fred Willard classic using the school's AV equipment, and wrote and taped about a half dozen programs; I hope to God those tapes have long since been destroyed, and mercifully I can't even remember our show's name any more. By that time I was into Uncle Floyd, along with the rest of the "dirty 30," a few dozen ├╝ber-fans who'd travel to every personal appearance the cast members made. I started a newsletter dedicated to the show, which I called "Inside Joke" because so much of the program relied on in-joke running gags; IJ later branched out into a general "newsletter of comedy and creativity" which induced derision from the cast members but garnered me a small place in '80s zine history (if nothing else, IJ was the inspiration for Mike Gunderloy's Factsheet Five). I had a few uncomfortably groupie-ish dates with one of the guys on the show who lived in the next town over; and I once appeared on the show myself, performing a song I'd written about Floyd called "The Last of the Old-Time Clowns." (I guess I wouldn't mind so much if that tape were still in existence; I only have it on audio but as I recall I didn't do too badly.) Heh, me and the Ramones have something in common, we've both performed on Floyd's show. :)

    Last time I saw Floyd was in the green room of the late unlamented Don Imus show, where I'd been invited at the behest of Imus' other guests, Phil Proctor and Peter Bergman of The Firesign Theatre. (Bh that time, IJ had spun off its "Firesignal" section into another zine entirely, Four-Alarm Firesignal - this is a perfect example of the "my life is a Venn diagram" phenomenon I touched on here.) I got on the air briefly then as well, asking a question from where I sat with the rest of the studio audience. Went to Letterman tapings a couple of times too, back when he had that drill sergeant of a warm-up guy/announcer, the one who passed away but I didn't really mourn him because he treated the studio audience like fourth graders.

    During my first marriage my TV activity was heavily involved with videotaping. By the time Robin and I got together cable TV had finally come to Bensonhurst, and it's followed us here, but I find myself taping much less than before. In fact, because of the situation with the upstairs idiots, my TV watching has diminished greatly - it's hard to sit and enjoy something with constant (or even intermittent) stomping going on most every night above your head. So even shows that I'd made a point to catch have gone by the wayside, and thus I find myself not remembering to catch them even on the rare quiet nights because I've fallen out of the habit, so I wind up utterly befuddled at Peter David's Buffy and Angel recaps... and I'm left feeling kind of resentful that I'm missing it all.

    Despite how it's woven itself into my life, I'm not a slave to the tube. I spend far more time nowadays on the Internet and reading books and comics. But I miss the freedom of just being able to turn the set on and zone out on alpha waves in the privacy of my own home any time I want to. My headphones are good but they're awkward and uncomfortable, and they don't block out the upstairs noise nearly as effectively as earplugs do. I actually think that's the thing I look forward to the most when the idiots finally move out (supposedly one week and counting but I'm not holding my breath) - watching TV again like a normal person.

    Thursday, January 23, 2003

    Feedback Loop

    Haloscan seems to be down at the moment, which means I can't check to see if anyone has any comments on my entries from the last week or so (and nobody can make any new ones). There was nothing last time I looked. I'm tempted to launch into the bad "come on folks, I know you're out there, I can hear you breathing" standup routine, but I'd find that utterly unfair to you. Back in the days of apas ("does anybody remember apas?" she queried, all Plant-like) we employed the acronym RAEBNC, which stood for "Read And Enjoyed But No Comment," to let the writer of the zine we'd read know that we liked it but didn't have anything in particular we wanted to add, as a signal that they shouldn't feel ignored or passed by. Reading, like writing, is mostly a solitary venture, and I truly believe we should never feel obligated to comment on what we read, only inspired to. And even then, we lead busy lives, and we can't very well comment if Haloscan and the like are down. ;) So I just wanted to take this moment to say, to all the fine folks to whose blogs I've linked at the sidebar, that if you don't see anything from me in your comment section (provided it's operational), then RAEBNC. RAEBNC very much. (Actually to be pedantic, that would be RAEVMBNC, but let it pass...)

    Wednesday, January 22, 2003

    The Magic Behind The Curtain

    Something Ampersand said in his eulogy for Al Hirschfeld struck me: "Listen: the more you do an art form, the less magic it seems. My reading of comics and cartooning is nowadays much more in-depth than it was when I was a kid, but I'll never recapture the wonder again; just how completely magical the comics are, the miracle of how line on paper forms meaning. Because I can do it myself - maybe not as well as the cartoonists I admire, but I can do it - and I know how it's done. There's a technique to it. It's not magic." (He went on to say, "Well, let me tell you: Al Hirschfeld is fucking magic." but I won't keep quoting, it's worth it to just read the whole thing for yourself.)

    I can't draw (yet) but I can write and have written several published comic book stories. And I watch my husband and his friends draw comics every chance I get. And I gotta tell you, folks, speaking as someone who's lucky enough to hang with the men and women behind the curtain - it's still magic. To me, all creativity and all storytelling is and always will be magic, no matter how little or how much of it I might be able to practice myself. Every day of my life I glimpse the wonder of which Ampersand speaks. I don't feel like I have to recapture anything, because it never went away.

    I have to believe in the fantasy I'd indulged since childhood, that a prince from an ancient and faraway land who's meant to find me and only me would suddenly appear and turn my life around, because that's pretty much what's happened in the past half dozen years. And if I've been blessed to see that come true, who's to say all the other cool fantasies indulged by others can't be true? Maybe there really are genies and witches and other unseen little sprites dancing about the edges of our collective consciousness. I mean, who's to say? Can You Prove That It Didn't Happen?

    "Faith," said Doris Walker, "is believing in things when common sense tells you not to." I'm not about to cut off the soles of my shoes, sit in a tree and learn how to play the flute, at least not just yet. But I'm not doing anyone any harm by believing that magic exists, backed by faith and my own first-hand experiences of it. Maybe I just happen to have a broader definition of "magic" than some others.

    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.