Elayne Riggs' Journal (for Leah)

Thursday, July 31, 2003

Postwar Checklist Report

I love this editorial strip by Steve Greenberg.
Restating the Obvious

Both Tom Tomorrow and Brooke Biggs have great comments on why the "terror market" was a grotesque and horrid idea. (Also read Lee Carpenter's responses in Brooke's comment section.) You wouldn't think they'd need to, but in today's world I suppose nothing should be taken for granted.
Where There's a Hook There's Often a Catch

Okay, maybe I won't get myself taken off the NYCBloggers/RNN mailing list after all. After all, judging by the comments sections in the last couple of days (and Mark's blog and Anne's follow-ups on hers), we all seem to be having a certain amount of fun with their poorly-phrased leading questions. And besides, I just heard back from Mike at NYCBloggers in response to my complaint, and I hope he doesn't mind me reproing his e-mail: "Yeah, I know... the problem is that we don't make up the questions, the TV people do. And they're used to people writing in on their message boards, not bloggers. And they're looking for sound bites, not essays. So it's maybe not the perfect fit. We're trying it out, though. Please keep the feedback coming, as it will help us make this better." Coolness!

Meantime, today's question is a doozy: Is Bush Letting the Saudis off the Hook About Possible Terrorism Ties? To be kind, at least the question implicitly acknowledges the longstanding and well-documented cozy relationship between the Bush empire and the country that spawned Osama bin Laden, Al-Qaeda and 15 of the 19 hijackers. But you know, if that's the case, why stick the word "possible" in there? I think I mentioned on someone else's blog that, given the publicity about that hand-delivered letter and all, I almost feel like the American media, and consequently the public, is being taken through a "good cop/bad cop" kinda deal here. "We can't release this info about our friends." "Oh no, we want them to see that we're innocent!" The "cops" here may be buddies with each other, but keep releasing statements designed to divert us from the realization that neither of them seems to be playing it straight with us.

Update: Wow, I was right, it is a good cop/bad cop thing. Via Mark Evanier (link at sidebar), this New Republic article that goes into a bit more detail about the content of the 28 pages. This is what I was talking about:
This week, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al Faisal flew to Washington for a hastily convened meeting with President Bush. Faisal publicly demanded that the 28 pages be declassified, but he had to have known in advance, and welcomed the fact, that his request would be denied--ostensibly friendly nations don't normally send their foreign ministers to meetings halfway around the world to be surprised.
Sounds pretty collusiveconclusive to me.

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

A Compromising Question

Every day, in every way, I inch closer and closer to asking NYCBloggers to take me off their RNN list (see here). Today's question was: Did the Iraq War Compromise the Hunt for Al Qaida? So many snide comebacks, so little time. "Does the sun rise in the east?" was rejected out of hand, as that's my default response and it's getting tired. "Compromise? It completely sidetracked it, because we had absolutely no reason to bomb Iraq and pretty much every reason to hunt down actual terrorists (which is not the same thing as bombing Afghanistan, by the way)" is probably too wordy and doesn't have enough zing. So I invite readers to submit their own snide comebacks to NYCB/RNN in the comment section on today's half-witted, pointless, discussion-stultifying, too-simplistic-even-for-Wolf-Blitzer's-website question. Yeah, RNN, I dare you to read this one on the air.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Hands Across the Water

Krugman's latest (NYT-intrusive-reg-free, as always!) compares the US and UK media in their treatment of their government's leaders. Always of interest to the binational Riggs Residence. And as a bonus, I'll throw in this surreal little NYT gem by Carl Hulse entitled Pentagon Prepares a Futures Market on Terror Attacks. Pretty much what it sounds like: "an online futures trading market, disclosed today by critics, in which anonymous speculators would bet on forecasting terrorist attacks, assassinations and coups." Step right up, ladies and gents, your money and their lives. Update: Anne Zook (link at sidebar) already had the story (hey, what can I say, another busy day at work, no time to go through the blogroll) and follows up with the news that the plans have been cancelled. Which is, I'm thinking, A Good Thing.
Blogathon Update

Robin just received an e-mail from Blogathon without the link for the charity, as some of them went out that way in error, so here's the link for donating to the Global Fund for Women. The e-mails say "If possible, make a note of the word Blogathon on your donation." (A good place might be the "How did you hear about the Global Fund?" space at the bottom.) Thanks again to everyone who helped raise the $519. Says the Blogathon website of overall donations from all sponsors, "Our final total (not yet adjusted for currency differences) is $101,753.80." Remarkable!
HB Wil

The happiest of birthdays to "Top Six"er Wil Wheaton (link at sidebar)!
Gay High

Dang, the way these NYCBlogger/RNN questions (see yesterday's post) are phrased is still bugging the hell out of me. Take today's: Gay High School: Good Idea or Waste of Money?

Why not just say "Spider-Man: Threat or Menace?" while you're at it? Way to go with those leading negative words!

Of course it's a good idea to have the choice of a safe-space high school available for any societally-disadvantaged group that's being harrassed and beaten up and, you know, killed or driven to suicide. It's not the end of friggin' civilization. It's not a waste of money to have historically black universities or parochial schools. Have these whiners learned nothing from the X-Men movies?

I'm sorry, this is one of those daily questions where the very asking seems ridiculous. So go for it, RNN, take my opinion for whatever you feel it's worth. Snikt, and all that.

Monday, July 28, 2003

Chatting With Ike and Bill

Matt Hawes posts to various message boards, including Comicon, an overview of recent conversations he had with Vice-Chairman of the Board of Marvel Entertainment Ike Perlmutter and the Publishing President and COO of their comics division, Bill Jemas. Interesting reading for anyone following the company's recent history.
Thanks For The... Well, You Know

As usual, Mark Evanier has a lovely reminiscence of the late Bob Hope.
Gun-Free Zones

You know, a little illusory fame is a dangerous thing. My site stats (visitors, referrals, etc.) seem to be up thanks to the Blogathon and, well, all of you, and now it's going to my head. NYCBloggers has this thing going with the Regional News Network (channel 19 on my local system) where they ask all us NYC bloggers a yes or no question and then we get to blog about it and RNN reads excerpts of our blog entries on the air. So far I've been a little frustrated in that the questions seem so leading and designed to result in rote poll-type responses which tend to shut down the idea of discussion rather than inspire it. But since I blogged last Wednesday about the shooting of NYC Councilman James Davis, I thought I'd take a chance and respond to today's question, which was: Should City Hall Be a Gun-Free Zone?

Well, now you see, I hate guns. I just do. I don't hate people who carry them, I can even sometimes understand their reasoning behind doing so, but I really wish they didn't exist. I'm kinda like Hawkeye Pierce in the M*A*S*H episode "Officer of the Day" back in '74: "I will not carry a gun.... I'll carry your books, I'll carry a torch, I'll carry a tune, I'll carry on, carry over, carry forward, Cary Grant, cash and carry, carry me back to Old Virginia, I'll even hari-kari if you show me how, but I will not carry a gun!" Plus, I'm told, you cain't git a man with a gun, but never mind that. There is absolutely no logic, to my mind, as to why City Councilcritters feel the need to carry around concealed weaponry - particularly if they're outspoken advocates of nonviolence, as Davis was. That's a rather "physician, heal thyself" deal right there. And now he's dead. And his ex-military creepy assailant is also dead because heaven forfend he be subdued any other way than by compounding murder with more murder. Of course, get the guns out of City Hall; these men should never have been allowed to bypass the magnetometer in the first place. And for God's sake get them out of the hands (or, better yet, never put them into the hands) of all these ex-military people who murder their rivals or go on serial killing sprees or whatnot. Mandatory psych testing, folks. There are, there must be, lots of sane people who know how to care for a gun without actually using it; so far they seem to be far outweighed by the wackos. So let's try to make City Hall both a gun-free and a wacko-free zone, 'k?
I Remember Doing the Time Warp

Back at work, and of course it's immediately as though my vacation never happened. Not only because it wasn't the ideal week off, what with the tooth extraction and the boobies and the Blogathon exhaustion and the ga-HEY, LADY!, but because nothing seemed to progress here while I was away. Everyone was just too busy, I was told. They all have this sort of wild look of exasperation on their faces, and now mine has one to match. In addition to getting through snail mail and e-mail (that was pretty much my morning) I've typed a last-minute itinerary from scratch, made two hotel reservations, one airline res, taken two dictations (finally got my hands-free headset!), spoken to three state licensing departments, sent out one courier package, recorded three messages for the office answering machine and I still can't shake the feeling that I'm slacking even though I've been going non-stop. But I'm thinking, if they had a whole week and did very little with what I left (and darned if my in-box wasn't more or less totally empty a week ago Friday), I'm not going to kill myself hurrying to finish this paperwork for which I need their direction anyway only they're too busy to give it to me just now, le sigh.

So with two hours left in my workday, I take a little breath and start to peruse the blogroll (to which I've added a few folks here and there based on the referrals section of Extreme's very cool tracking stats) and I find this interesting article via Cindy Roy (link at sidebar) dealing with the "ancient code of insult and revenge that is still prevalent in the American South." And if I think I'm in a time-warp going back to before my vacation, that's nothing compared to the warp that writer Paul Robinson (assistant director of the Centre for Security Studies at the University of Hull, who has also served as an intelligence officer in the British and Canadian armies) sees the US currently undergoing that echoes the Civil War era. So I guess everything old is new again. It does make one wonder when we're going to socially evolve into the 20th century, let alone the 21st.

Sunday, July 27, 2003

Blogathon 2003, Wrap-Up Post
And So To Bed
The sun is up, the sky is blue, it's beautiful and so are you. Thanks to Natasha C of Pacific View, Christine Cupaiuolo of Ms. Musings, Jo Fish of Democratic Veteran, Lane Dunlop of Eat Your Vegetables (links all at sidebar) and anyone else I've neglected to thank for plugging our efforts (no, not the royal "we," I'm talking about me and others like MB and Eszter and Jesse and Natalie and all the other amazing Blogathon participants). Please feel free to peruse all the posts below, folks, and whenever I'm back online I promise to check your comments. That may not be for awhile, though; as I mentioned a few hours ago, I have to go back to work tomorrow, and I plan on spending the last day of my vacation in a horizontal position away from the computer. All in all I could have wished for less pain (both during the Blogathon and for much of the past week; the area where tooth #16 was until Monday still hurts, my cycle was shortened by at least a week messing up my internal plumbing more than I'd anticipated, and my lower back is killing me) and less noise from upstairs (it's bad now, although they were fairly quiet for much of the Blogathon span), but this 45-year-old way-too-sedentary body seemed to weather it as well as can be expected – although it's unlikely I'll put it through another Blogathon, this is really a young person's game - and I have my earplugs in as I hit the sack. And hey, both Blogger and Haloscan held up well, no posting problems whatsoever! Particular thanks once again to my beloved Robin; I'll be taking him back to bed now. :) G'night all!
Blogathon 2003, Post #48
A Buzz About MadKane
Lastly, as long as I've mined BuzzFlash, congratulations to MadKane (link at sidebar), whose latest edition of Dubya's Daily Diary got a nice plug on their front page! Back in a half hour with the wrap-up!
Blogathon 2003, Post #47
Does Lance Armstrong Know About This?
How much uglier can America get in the eyes of Europeans? Oh, it can always get worse. Take the reaction at the Paris Air Show to Rumsfeld refusing to send US combat aircraft to the show. Again, via BuzzFlash (the Blogathoner's pal!).
Blogathon 2003, Post #46
Good Luck To 'Em!
Seems the Australian government is trying to ban Aussie-originated spam. Think they can send folks to Nigeria next? Via my husband, awake again (thank goodness) and cheering me on for the last hour and a half…
Blogathon 2003, Post #45
Dropping Like Flies
Did you know that Bush's nominee for Secretary of the Navy died on Thursday of a self-inflicted gunshot to the head? That one sailed right by me. Things just keep getting creepier. Via BuzzFlash (link at sidebar).
Blogathon 2003, Post #44
Shaken Up
Oh dear. Japan's currently digging out from strong earthquakes experienced yesterday.
Blogathon 2003, Post #43 ('Round About Sunrise)
As if Andrea Mitchell Didn't Have Enough Tsuris
…now Paul Krugman examines her hubby, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. I get the feeling he doesn't believe Uncle Al is the kiddies' pal… Jo Fish has more.
Blogathon 2003, Post #42
Pen-Elayne For Your Thoughts – SUPERMAN: RED SON #1 (Red Son Rising) and #2 (Red Son Ascendant)

Writer: Mark Millar
Penciller: Dave Johnson
Inker: Andrew Robinson
Letterer: Ken Lopez
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Editors: Mike McAvennie, then Tom Palmer Jr.
Published by DC Comics

Here's what I thought:

Warning: May Be Spoilers Ahead

But probably not that many spoilers, because it's too late and I'm way too off my game to discuss this in specifics (all due apologies to the fine creative team on this endeavor). 'S okay, wasn’t my plan anyway. This "what if" story (DC calls them "Elseworlds") takes a speculative look at what the Superman mythos might have been like had young Kal-El's rocket crashed in '30s Siberia rather than Smallville, and had the boy been brought up by the Politburo. The art makes terrific use of shadows, and Mounts' coloring is very complimentary to Robinson's light inks on Johnson (whose pencils remind me a bit of Michael Lark's). The real plot point I wanted to raise with this series, which I'm enjoying a lot overall (some nice twists and turns featuring familiar DCU characters), is Millar's de facto assumption that, as Superman (quite reluctantly, as it's shown) takes over the leadership of the Soviet Union upon the death of Stalin (the "Man of Steel"), there’s widespread underground protest against him basically bettering Soviet lives (in ways that Stalin obviously never did). I'm afraid I don't quite buy his logic. I know it's a take on the old "bird in a gilded cage" trope, and in a society such as the US (or even the UK to an extent) I can see where the idea of individual liberty would be so powerful as to overcome any notion that people can be cared for by a government. But in a socialist or communist country? I don't think so; I think most Soviets would have been enraptured at this fortunate turn of events, having someone in charge with the power and the will to truly carry out the wishes of the people and not put himself above them. In any case, I'd be curious as to what others more coherent than I think of this.

In fact, what did y'all think?
Blogathon 2003, Post #41
From Beyond the Grave…
Hey, whaddaya know? We do still have Tricky Dick to kick around. Jeralyn Merritt beat me to it, but what the hey.
Blogathon 2003, Post #40
Talk Amongst Yourselves #4
I'm so beyond verklempt, and because only mad dogs and Firesign fans must be up at this hour, I'll give you a final topic: What do you think is the best Firesign album from the last five years? I think my vote's going to Give Me Immortality or Give Me Death. Discuss. Oh, and in case I don't remember tomorrow (entirely likely given what I’m putting myself through and the fact that it'll be Back-to-Work Day), Happy Birthday, Phil Proctor!
Blogathon 2003, Post #39
Hubby Plug!
Four pages of Robin's recent work can be seen here and here and here and here. Sorry about all the popups. He's slated to do pages on another upcoming issue as well, which either he or I will be picking up on Monday.
Blogathon 2003, Post #38
But What About Young Tom Edison?
Jesse Taylor (link at sidebar) writes about his love for Encyclopedia Brown. Jesse, I'll see your Brown and raise you a whole passel of Happy Hollisters. Anyone else remember that mystery series? Sort of the Hardy Boys meet the Partridge Family, I guess. (Had to throw that Cassidy connection in there, didn't I?) Just looking at their eponymous website brought back a rush of memories. I think I originally got the books from my aunt when my cousins outgrew them, and I remember reading them voraciously, over and over, though I couldn't tell you any longer what they were about. Nor have I have any idea where they are now; I'll have to ask around at the next family gathering. I guess the books are all long out of print, as the site (which hasn't been updated in a couple years) prices them dearly indeed. Thanks for the flashback prompt, Jesse!
Blogathon 2003, Post #37
Will We Survive?
Via Yano, the Will You Survive the Blogathon? quiz. I got a 60% chance of survival, but I probably fudged the answers about chatting (I only IRC'ed a little) and having company (Robin's asleep but the cats are prowling) and snacking (I'm only drinking hot tea and have no real desire to raid the fridge) and being 100% healthy (I'm on my third Immodium dose). Yet here I am at 3 AM...
Blogathon 2003, Post #36
Oh, There You Are!
I'm too old for this. But apparently many of you aren't. Yahoo (no vested interest there) commissioned a survey which found that "Teenagers and young adults spend more time on the Internet than watching television." Hey, you young whippersnappers, get off my lawn!
Blogathon 2003, Post #35
Pen-Elayne For Your Thoughts – LI'L RED STITCH #1 (of 5)

"Red Feather Rides Again"

Creator/Penciller: Courtney Huddleston
Story: Leslie Nichols
Colorist: Mike Garcia
Editor: Vicki Suchanek
Graphic Designer: Shannon Rasberry
Published by Summertime Comic Books

Here’s what I thought…

Warning: May Be Spoilers Ahead

Lots of confusing androgynous names, so for those of us keeping score, Huddleston and Raspberry are male and Nichols is female. That out of the way, let me just say I've found another wonderful all-ages miniseries to love. My gosh, is this one good. Nichols sets the scene for the story's genesis: "When I was a shy and painfully awkward preteen trying to brave my way through a small-town Texas existence with bad hair and a pair of prescription glasses that darkened in direct sunlight and flash photography, I discovered a book in the Idalou Elementary Library that offered my imagination a safe refuge from the childhood battlefield. The book was the biography of a woman named Cynthia Ann Parker." That book led to a love of Texas lore and mythology that's sharply evident in this story of "a female outlaw who roamed the llano armed only with her bravery and a magical sewing kit" and the little girl who learns all about her and has a destiny of her own to fulfill. It's kind of a combination of Paul Dini's and J. Bone's Sheriff Ida Red, Indian legends and just about any American tall tale you'd care to name. And it's delightful. The writing is breathtaking, and the art (influenced by animators like Mike Kunkel but, thankfully, with the construction lines erased) is clear and easy to follow even when there are no words. I actually found the telling of this story as fascinating as the story itself. The first page, a splash, has one caption; page 2 and 3 are completely devoid of balloons and captions; pages 4 through 6 only have five small balloons between 'em; then page 7 actually brings us to the present with a conversation between the protagonist and her grandmother. After that we get two pages of only captions, then six pages of gorgeous illustrations with text on the bottom… and it all works so seamlessly that, unless you're a total wonk like me, you won't even notice all the experimentation. And the final pages are heartbreakingly beautiful. I can't say enough about this book (particularly at this late hour when I'm so relatively incoherent); just seek it out at your local comic store and buy it. And as an extra bonus, colorist Garcia gives us the first 8 pages of his story "The Spackle King" in "flip-book" style (i.e., flip the book around and there's another 8-page comic). My highest recommendation.

So, what did y'all think?
Blogathon 2003, Post #34
Need something to keep your mind occupied? You might want to go to Eszter's Blogathon page for her Match That Blogger Memory Game and her Flash-based Jigsaw Puzzles (three of them, here and here and here!). Neat stuff, Eszter!
Blogathon 2003, Post #33
Belated Thanks
Been so busy posting and trying to stay alert that, as mentioned about an hour and a half ago, I haven't been checking my e-mail regularly (as if my eyes still work). Thanks to Sasha for her sponsorship! That makes 15 sponsors and $509 total for the Global Fund for Women, on my first Blogathon ever! You folks are amazing, and make this all totally worthwhile. (I've now broken out the Firesign CDs, as I mention in the comments sections, and I'm just about done with Pink Hotel Burns Down...)
Blogathon 2003, Post #32
No, Not The Comfy E-Mails!
Via my husband, who's finally gone to bed after putting in a full day's work and supporting me by finding interesting news stories for me to blog about and keeping me company for the first 15½ hours and being just all-around above-and-beyond understanding: "Scotland on Sunday has been told that notes on the government's decision to 'out' Dr Kelly as the source for BBC claims that the case for war in Iraq had been 'sexed up' may have been taken during Downing Street’s daily 8.30am meetings of senior staff." Lord Hutton, who's heading up the investigation of Kelly's apparent suicide, is asking Blair to surrender "sensitive e-mails, paperwork and phone records which could draw the Prime Minister directly into the affair." More here as well.
Blogathon 2003, Post #31 (The Witching Hour)
IO My Wasted Time To…
As I mentioned back on June 19, we've upgraded our cable system to iO. And while we still don't get BBC America or the Food Network or a few others that seem to come with the basic package of most normal other cable services, all in all we're pretty satisfied with the new stuff we are getting. My favorite "new" channels to watch so far include: VH1 Classic , since (as I mentioned in the comments section on one of Eszter's Blogathon posts) I kinda stopped following music closely around the cutoff years for their play rotation (late '80s) so they’re right in my video comfort zone; the Travel Channel, although it's a bit too US-centric and seems to be to Las Vegas what The History Channel is to Hitler; MagRack, a very cool free service that features segments on various topics (this is where I get my cooking-show fix) that you can set to play whenever you want, and rewind or fast-forward or pause as you’re watching; Discovery Home & Leisure for another cooking-show fix, "Death by Chocolate" (btw, Eszter also reported earlier that someone’s Blogathon 2003 theme is chocolate, which I think is way cool); the Game Show Network, where I'm all but addicted to Lingo despite my usual low Chuck Woolery tolerance (although I haven't yet played along online because my computer and the TV are in separate rooms); Turner Classic Movies, the only "basic" channel that seems to show old musicals with any regularity; and, because we subscribe to HBO and apparently now Starz! we also get all their spin-off networks, which meant that I was able to flip back and forth last Thursday between Jon Stewart interviewing Joseph Wilson and Gene Kelly dancin' and Singin' In The Rain on HBO Signature West. So far we think the few extra bucks have been worth the upgrade, since we felt we were woefully underserved and overcharged previously. But honestly, it's a wonder that I even find time to blog any more. :)

Saturday, July 26, 2003

Blogathon 2003, Post #30
Real Time
As time gets more and more surreal approaching the midnight hour, and in response to a concerned e-mail which I didn't even read until I first checked my inbox at around 11 PM, I wanted to clear something up for the benefit of the folks running Blogathon 2003. I have done every single bit of writing that has appeared on my Blogathon entries today. Nothing has been "prepared beforehand." I have a general list of outlines that I flesh out (such as it were) when it's time to post, and I'm posting totally in real time, no automation here (are you kidding? I can't even change my blog's color scheme, I'm so non-techie!). Hope that clarifies everything (if the posts themselves haven't, as many refer to stuff pretty much going on around me as I post)! Oy'm a good girl, oy am!
Blogathon 2003, Post #29
Murky Channel
Via the Agonist (link at sidebar), this item from the Washington Post regarding the Justice Department's ongoing investigations (yes, plural) of Clear Channel. I guess I'd feel better if it weren't the Ashcroft regime vs. Bush's buddy Lowry Mays.
Blogathon 2003, Post #28
Talk Amongst Yourselves #3
Oy, am I getting more and more verklempt. Here, I'll give you a topic: What do you consider the most annoying and/or insidious television commercial currently airing? Discuss.
Blogathon 2003, Post #27
My God, What Have I Done?
Natalie muses, in one of the comments sections, that "I think I would feel better if I felt something was being accomplished" by participating in this Blogathon. Well, despite the fact that I have the luxury of doing this from our apartment, with Robin having kept me company for most of this so far, and where I can take frequent breaks to lie down or go to the bathroom or get something to eat, and I'm moderating the length of my posts for the most part, I can see where I'm already succumbing to the "time to make the donuts" auto-pilot mentality and start zoning out, desperate to find something, anything to slot in by that half-hour deadline. This can either be a good or bad thing, depending on how interesting I get when I start rambling. But in the end, I think each individual blogger is going to have to weigh the pros and cons of doing this for themselves. (At this point I don't think I'll be repeating it next year.) And most of us aren't making our living blogging, so if you're not having fun, it probably won't seem worth it. So far I've been having fun more or less, although I'm starting to get decidedly punchy. Check back with me later tonight, if any of you are still up…
Blogathon 2003, Post #26
Blogathon PR
Posted this at 8:30 originally but for some reason – probably trying to juggle Blogathon and my conversation with Leah – my 9:00 post wound up overwriting it (hence the previous entry being at 9:05), so here 'tis again. The Pulse has a very nice press release from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund mentioning the folks who are blogging today to benefit the CBLDF. Neil Gaiman (link at sidebar) links to it as well.
Blogathon 2003, Post #25 (Halfway There!)
Leah's Link o' Silliness
Just spoke with Leah Adezio, who may of course be excused for not knowing about yon Blogathon but I'm sure says hi to everyone. And she provided me with tonight's Link o' Silliness – the Happy Bunny. Thanks, Leah!
Blogathon 2003, Post #24
Pen-Elayne For Your Thoughts – HEROES ANONYMOUS #1 (of 6)
Session #1: The Angst of Attaboy

Co-Creator, Story and Script: Scott M. Gimple
Pencils: A.J. Jothikumar
Inks: Andrew Pepoy
Letters: Chris Ungar
Graphic Embellishment and Design: Serban Cristescu
Co-Creator, Additional Pencils/Inks, Editor: Bill Morrison
Published by Bongo Entertainment, Inc.

Here's what I thought…

Warning: May Be Spoilers Ahead

I have a soft spot in my heart for humor comics. What I think is cool about this one is not only its unusual duotone coloring throughout (the black and orange are all kinda Hallowe'eny, aren't they?) but the fact that the story itself works as both comedy and pathos. The conceit is that "a group of Gothopolis' greatest (and lamest) superheroes gather on Wednesday nights for coffee, donuts, imported nougat, and intensive group therapy!" In the premier issue, the session is interrupted by a hero and villain in mid-fight crashing through their window, and session leader The Blitz deems that a good enough reason to make the young hero in question, Attaboy, relate his origin story and how he came to be in his current predicament. The art is busy in places but effective, and Andy’s bold linework really makes Jothikumar’s pencils pop. (More humor and "bigfoot" comics would be well served by depth-of-field inkers.) The pacing is terrific, you care about Attaboy from the start even as you realize how absurd the story actually is, and there's even a happy ending! I just hope Gary Coleman has a sense of humor, is all I have to say.

So, what did y'all think?
Blogathon 2003, Post #23 (Hail Eris)
Dr. Dean Goes to Iowa
The President Has Misled Us. Oh really? Will the sun also be rising in the East? I need to know for my Dayplanner. (Seriously, it's good if hefty reading and he makes a lot of cogent Assertion vs. Truth points.)
Blogathon 2003, Post #22
Talk Amongst Yourselves #2
I'm verklempt (and dinner's on the way). Here, I'll give you a topic: What's your favorite mondegreen? Discuss. (Mine's probably the old CCR standby "There's A Bathroom on the Right." Robin’s is Desmond Decker's "Me Ears Are Alight.")
Blogathon 2003, Post #21
People, people, people…
I've been through my blogroll on a horse with no name, and I'm very disappointed with y'all. Not a single mention of this shocking showbiz bombshell? I mean, it seems to be news just about everywhere Rupert Murdoch looks. And even in a few places he doesn't! Tsk, is all I'm saying here. Just, just tsk. Well, okay, Stuart Hughes did a bit on it, but he's a bloody Welshman, for pity's sake. Now I'm off to order dinner and watch a bit of A Class Act.
Blogathon 2003, Post #20
New Character Enter
I may be spending the evening/night scouring my Favorites to see which blogs I've been remiss in adding to my blogroll. But right now I'm adding folks in dribs and drabs. The latest is Jesse at Pandagon, who's also doing a great job participating in the Blogathon. Also, I think it's very sweet that Ross is hopping about visiting all the Blogathoners to offer encouragement!
Blogathon 2003, Post #19
Pen-Elayne For Your Thoughts – AMELIA RULES #10

Written, Illustrated and Colored by Jimmy Gownley
Marketing and Promotion by Karen Gownley
Edited by Michael Cohen
Published by Renaissance Press

Here’s what I thought…

Warning: May Be Spoilers Ahead

This is one of the best all-ages comics that too few people have ever heard of. Gownley's characters are visually reminiscent of Charles Schulz' Peanuts gang, but the comic book format lets him explore them in much more depth than a 4-panel strip would allow. This issue, the final one before the October debut of the six-issue series Amelia Rules!: Superheroes, deals with (among other things) the theme of how misunderstandings and misconceptions lead potential friends to become enemies, and whether that enmity is reversible. Gownley avoids getting either too farcical or too maudlin, giving us (well, me at least) a readily-identifiable picture of childhood (with subtle hints of the adults these kids may someday become) that rings absolutely true. Plus, it's a darn funny story to boot, and paces so well that you don’t even need a scorecard to tell the players; it's all right there, and you pick up who's who as you go along. I can’t say enough about how warm and wonderful this book makes me feel. Highly recommended.

So, what did y'all think?
Blogathon 2003, Post #18
Robin's comp copies of Justice League Adventures #22 arrived a couple hours ago, so maybe that'll hit the comic shops this Wednesday, although DC's website has it coming out on August 6. After pulling a copy for Robin to autograph for me (yes, I still do that with every comic he inks), I proceeded, as is my usual wont, to remove the center ad pages and insert. The ad was actually a 12-page insert itself, a "secret codebook" advertising the new fall lineup of kids' cartoons on Fox (collectively labeled the Fox Box). The insert, however, advertised Topps' resurrection of Garbage Pail Kids trading cards. I immediately flashed back to my January 27 entry when I was discussing these with Micah Wright vis a vis fair usage parody. I can't believe they still exist, but hey, everything old is new again I guess. I think I'm going to give the three free stickers on the insert (Rad Brad, Juicy Jess, and Disgustin' Dustin, and yes, they're the same three stickers in every copy of JLAdv #22, I've already checked) to my brother next time I see him. Dang, I can still remember us decorating our dog's bed with them about 25 years ago…
Blogathon 2003, Post #17
The NeoCon Argument For War
Nice sum-ups here and here by Kevin Drum at Calpundit (link at sidebar). "The real argument for war," interprets Kevin, "was the neocon contention that the Middle East is an economic backwater ruled by medieval theocracies that has become a breeding ground for high stakes terrorism. Someone needs to set them on the path to democracy, tolerance, and economic growth, and that someone is us." If one actually attempts to see the modern US-led Crusade from the POV of the Crusaders, it starts to make a lot of sense. This analysis by no means negates the obvious conclusion that the execution is still faulty (nor tackles the tricky ethical questions of "why should this be our role?"and "who are we to judge?", but it’s not meant to).
Blogathon 2003, Post #16
Breaking Story
A group of armed men appear to be planting explosives in Manila's financial district. Lovely.
Blogathon 2003, Post #15
Talk Amongst Yourselves #1
I'm verklempt. Here, I'll give you a topic: Which of the emerging political scandals, if any, do you think will turn out to be the downfall of the Bush administration? Discuss. (Try and narrow it down to three if possible.)
Blogathon 2003, Post #14
First-Quarter Thanks
Just wanted to thank Tish and Jo (links at sidebar) for their kind words plugging my participation in the Blogathon, as well as thanking everyone who's continuing to respond in the comments sections. Next up: our first Talk Amongst Yourselves prompter, and a bit later another Pen-Elayne For Your Thoughts comic review. Whew, only a quarter of the way there!
Blogathon 2003, Post #13
Hot on the heels of the Shizzolator comes the T'inator. Try it on a text-heavy page, it adds pictures as well! Via Fred at Bureaucrat by Day (link at sidebar), damn him to heck.
Blogathon 2003, Post #12
Two Down, Fifty Thousand To Go…
Via my husband, two folks have been indicted in Houston for their role in a Nigerian e-mail scam.
Blogathon 2003 – Post #11
Since many of us will probably be navel-gazing today, I thought I'd alert you to Lis Riba's rambling of why she blogs.
Blogathon 2003 – Post #10
It’s Not Easy Being Green
Kudos to Jeanne D'Orleans (link at sidebar) for her entry about Green-bashing among Democrats. I'm so tired of people whining that Nader cost the Democrats the 2000 election. He didn't. Gore's weak centrism did, combined with the shenanigans of the Republican candidate's brother and his paramour (as well as some members of the federal government's judicial branch). That said, I can't say I'm that thrilled any more with the way Nader acts as a candidate. It's fine with me if he wants to continue believing there's little fundamental difference between most Democrats and most Republicans, but at least acknowledge that the Bushies are way, way to the right of "typical" Repubs. And geez, don't go around musing that you might run as a Republican; right away that tells folks that you may be more interested in personal power than party principles. (Thanks also to Jeanne for mentioning my participation in the Blogathon!)
Blogathon 2003 – Post #9
New Character Enter
I should have mentioned this before, but I’m queueing up my posts so I have enough to last me. Newly added to the blogroll: Eszter, who is also participating in the Blogathon. So’s Mary Beth Williams (link at sidebar), who’s doing an amazing job presenting a dazzling array of "blast from the past" news stories from the Bush I era that echo a little too resoundingly today. And Natalie Davis (link at sidebar) is managing to keep up as well, between (sans phone service) posting from her local library and Kinko’s, which absolutely astounds me. Great work, ladies!
Blogathaon 2003 – Post #8
This One's For Cat
Cat Simril Ishikawa, one of my sponsors and a good friend of long standing, used to work with Kalle Lasn at Adbusters. So I thought he'd like to know that tomorrow, while I'm probably sleeping off the effects of this Blogathon, Bob McChesney will be interviewing Kalle on Media Matters. It's on at 11 AM Vancouver time, Cat. Here's where you go to listen in. Via Lisa English, link at sidebar (who gives us a nice plug too, thanks Lisa!).
Blogathon 2003 - Post #7
Mean to Bambi
Via Jeralyn Merritt (link at sidebar), Michael Burdick has now been officially charged with a misdemeanor for promoting his misogynist paintball video "Hunting for Bambi" via pretending the hunts actually existed. I'm still not sure that making a sort of extreme mockumentary, if you will, is a punishable offense, but I can't really cry for the guy, y'know?
Blogathon 2003 - Post #6
Getting Chatty With It
There's actually a Blogathon chatroom set up. There seem to be way too many people in it (all strangers) for me to get that many words in edgewise. Particularly when the topic veers towards fanfic (as it did when I first logged on)...
Blogathon 2003 - Post #5
Sushi for Breakfast
That's right. Left over from last night. Wanna make something of it?
Blogathon 2003 - Post #4
Someday We'll See It, The Saudi Connection, The Lovers, The Dreamers, and Me
Well, it's classified, but at least people are talking about it. Although it would have been nice of the NYT to remind readers that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi.
Blogathon 2003 - Post #3
Pen-Elayne For Your Thoughts - BATMAN #615 and #616
Hush storyline, Chapters 8 ("The Dead") and 9 ("The Assassins")

Writer: Jeph Loeb
Penciller: Jim Lee
Inker: Scott Williams
Letterer: Richard Starkings
Colorist: James Sinclair
Associate Editor: Michael Wright
Editor: Bob Schreck
Published by DC Comics

Here's what I thought...

Warning: May Be Spoilers Ahead

There's a good reason this is usually the #1 selling comic book each month, and that reason can mostly be summed up in six letters - either "the art" or "Jim Lee," take your pick. Lee and Williams (whose inks fit Lee's pencils like a glove) set each issue's grim-but-fascinating tone from the get-go, immediately drawing you into the storyline and not letting go. Loeb seems to be the kind of writer who's often only as good as his artists and here, as with his collaborations with Tim Sale, he absolutely rises to the task and matches the visuals perfectly. All you need to know is stated succinctly on the first page - chapter 8 begins, "Tommy Elliot is dead" and throughout the issue you see flashbacks of who he was in life and what he meant to the title character, bringing you into the narrative even if you hadn't read the previous seven chapters. Chapter 9's second panel continues the theme, featuring captions that tell us in Batman's first-person voice, "For months now, someone has been... on the attack. Recruiting and educating my oldest foes in new and deadly ways." This compact deftness, and the feeling of solid character progression throughout for both protagonists and antagonists, goes a long way towards the ongoing storyline not seeming "dragged out" overlong. Nothing feels cookie-cutter, and yet for all its outside-the-box thinking and almost total absence of side borders (what some call "widescreen" art) it's at its heart very traditional storytelling. The flashbacks are stylized but never confusing, and you identify throughout with the good guys and want them to triumph, even as you're swept up in the mystery and intrigue and romance. Yes, romance - at the end of "The Dead" Batman reveals his secret identity of Bruce Wayne to sometime-thief (and now a pseudo-member of the "Bat family") Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman. One hopes, given the quality of this series, such development "sticks" for awhile vis a vis the other Bat-books, but these things are never guarantees given the vagaries of shared-world publishing among so many creators with differing notions. Sinclair's coloring does seem to follow Lee's and Williams' light source choices most of the time rather than working against them; and Starkings' lettering, while a bit eye-straining here and there (I do miss the larger font sizes of old!), doesn't call attention to itself overmuch. Just a really solid effort all around, and I look forward to more.

So, what did y'all think?
Blogathon 2003 - Post #2
About the Global Fund for Women
The charity receiving Pen-Elayne sponsors' kind and generous moneys is "a grantmaking foundation supporting women's human rights organizations around the world working to address critical issues such as gaining economic independence, increasing girls' access to education and stopping violence against women." Since 1987 they've provided $25.5 million to 2000 women's groups in 161 countries (over $4.5 million last year alone), enabling each organization to apply the funds to best address the specific needs of women in their communities. You can read last year's Annual Report here, and their newsletter (which I believe is quarterly) here. Of the dozen participants blogging on behalf of this charity, Pen-Elayne sponsors will be raising (so far) the second highest amount. Thank you again, folks.
Blogathon 2003 - Post #1
Welcome to the Camp, I Guess You All Know Why We're Here
Happy Blogathon Day! Today a number of folks will be blogging for 24 hours straight, posting every half hour or so, to raise money for various charities. It's a strange reflection, I suppose, on how relatively sedentary a culture we've become that an endurance event that, in the past, might have been accomplished only via in-person gatherings or actual exercise now consists of people from (theoretically) all over the world promising to stay awake essentially sitting and staring at their keyboards (which doubtless many folks have done anyway).

I'm not big on sleep deprivation, to tell you the truth. I didn't get as much sleep as I might have wanted last night, but no surprise there, I rarely seem to. Nor have I really prepared anything to discuss. I've brought in a few comics to review, I'll be inviting folks to discuss topics (if Haloscan behaves itself) a la Linda Richman, and I'll be perusing the links on my sidebar for inspiration. I've got the earplugs in for now, to be replaced by headphones (thanks to Robin hooking them up) once I slip the Firesign CDs into the computer, and I'm pretty much ready for anything. Join me, won't you? Thanks.
Blogathan 2003 begins at 9 AM today - thanks kbrinkmeyer, Eszter, Tish, Natasha and two Anonymous folks for your generosity! See everyone later this morning!

Friday, July 25, 2003

Blogathon 2003 is tomorrow - please support me (see top of sidebar). Thanks to ex-hubby Steve, current hubby Robin, someone who prefers to remain Anonymous, and Ampersand, who's got an additional offer to anyone else who sponsors!
Maintenance Note

I've added a section called "Columnists" on the sidebar, where the links are to archive pages for columnists of note. Naomi Klein was the only one in the Guardian's/Observer's columnist list to whom I wanted to link at the moment, although I'm open to suggestions for others y'all read often. (Terry Jones is apparently a guest commentator and doesn't merit an archive.) Not linking to the Krugman archives because, natch, you can't get to them without being registered at NYT's online site. The same probably applies to the WashPost and LA Times columnists. As I say, though, I'm open to suggestions. Whose columns can't you do without on a regular basis?
We Are Not Impressed

That about sums up Iraqi blogger Salam Pax's reaction to General Ricardo Sanchez' press conference on Wednesday.
And The Benefit of the Doubt Award 2003 Goes To...

...Mark A.R. Kleiman (link at sidebar) for his Semi-Innocent Explanation of the Facts in the Plame Affair. I think he's giving the Mayberry Mafia Cabal a bit too much credit, but he does make a lot of good points. It'll be interesting to see how the blogosphere reacts to Joseph Wilson's appearance on The Daily Show, where Wilson only referred, extremely politely and obliquely, to things being looked into that have been said about his family.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Ghost Stories

Via Jerry Bowles (link at sidebar), the full public text of the Congressional Reports: Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities before and after the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001. Undecided whether I'm going to slog through any of it to keep myself awake during the Blogathon (by the way, it's now T-Minus 2 Days, please support me, see top of sidebar), but I doubt I'd be able to get through 858 pages of any PDF. So if you've got a hardier constitution (small "c") than me, do let me know if you find bits mentioning those intercepted Al-Qaeda messages of September 10, 2001 which the NSA didn't bother translating until September 12, the ones saying things like "Tomorrow is zero hour" and "The match is about to begin." (Thanks to Dwight Meredith, link at sidebar, for the heads-up on that last bit, mentioned in the context of his excellent Who Burned Valerie Plume? analysis. Sic, as both Mark Kleiman and Kevin Drum, links at sidebar, spell her last name "Plame," as I think do most news sources. BTW, thanks to Kevin for letting us know that Plame's husband Joseph Wilson will be on The Daily Show tonight.)

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Steve Perry's Journey

Steve (link at sidebar) has published the essay portion of his "All the President's Lies" package. Says Steve, "I'll be posting the annotated list of lies, winnowed down to a mere 40, next Monday, along with acknowledgments to the many BushWars readers who contributed ideas and links to this project."
"He's a military guy, he'll calm down soon"

NYC Councilman Charles Barron quoting his late colleague, James Davis, when Davis introduced Barron to Othniel Askew, who fatally shot Davis shortly thereafter in the balcony of City Hall (and was himself then fatally shot by security), to a reporter from NY1. I highly recommend you follow the story at their website (which currently has this story only due to an obviously sudden increase in traffic). Barron also mentioned that, ironically, Davis was about to introduce a bill on workplace violence, and described Askew as "intense" and "strange." As you've doubtless heard re: this story, both gentlemen (like so many others) had bypassed the magnetometer (metal detector) at City Hall. (Davis, an ex-police officer and yet an outspoken advocate of nonviolence, was apparently also carrying a piece.)
Idiocy Not Withheld

I have practically no opinion on the whole Kobe Bryant sexual assault matter, but something in this article (via Jeralyn Merritt, link at sidebar) disturbed me. Not the salacious bits wherein "The alleged victim was at a party three days before the charges were filed and appeared to be in a good mood, '...bragging about it,' party host Steve Evancho told NBC News." and "The victim described Bryant’s anatomy when asked about it at the party, the host said." I mean sure, that's disturbing, but as the article notes surprisingly quickly, "Another friend gave a different impression of the victim, saying she was still 'shaken up' by what happened," so that lends doubt to its veracity. However, look a bit further up, where the article mentions how "Tom Leykis, host of a radio talk-show based in Los Angeles and aimed mostly at young men, began using her name on the air and told Reuters that he has no plans to stop." His reasoning? "We’re told that rape is violence, not sex, and if that’s true there’s no reason she should feel shame or embarrassment." So if you consider rape to be violence rather than sex, why are you playing this up before your mostly young male audience? Besides which, it's not only a shame thing that's at issue when you withhold someone's name. I regularly read the police reports in my local paper. If someone is a victim of an alleged crime, their name as a rule is withheld because they're the presumed victim, not the presumed perpetrator, scumbag. Update: Tom at TBOGG has more.
Blogathon 2003 - T-Minus 3 Days - Please sponsor me (see top of sidebar - thanks Jason Kimble!)
But What About Casual Fridays?

I am soooo glad I subscribed to Mark Morford's Morning Fix (see my entry here) or else I never would have known about The Anti-Porn Guy, who's actually pretty much the Anti-Everything Guy. I have no doubt this young man is for real; after all, truth is always stranger than any satire one could make up. The National Dress Code bit alone is hilarious.
The Killing Feels

I've been trying to figure out why all this "We killed Hussein's sons, yay!" stuff bothers me. Brooke Biggs (link at sidebar) echoes my unease to some extent in the first paragraph of her essay As Our Souls Shrivel. "This is what we have become, people. Not only a nation that commits political assassinations without compunction (and with merchandising spin-offs, like those most-wanted playing cards), but we have little parties in the streets when we succeed." She also links to this column by Dennis Roddy which raises a good point: "You don't kill the other team's captain because they might take it as license to kill yours." And I'm sorry, but all this "ding dong the witch is dead" celebratory bullshit is just barbaric. There are certainly people I've privately wanted to see meet their Maker sooner rather than later (although I certainly haven't gone on television to pray for their deaths!), but the idea of collectively applauding someone being killed is just too ghoulish to me, it makes it into little more than a Roman spectacle. And if you learn nothing else from superhero comics, you ought to at least remember that this is the kind of thing that makes Us no better than Them. All in all, I'd much rather see the assholes and criminals on either end brought to justice and perhaps left to languish in some horrid prison for the rest of their lives, ignored then forgotten, than see them become martyrs to their causes and fodder for our skewed idea of entertainment. Even Iraqi blogger Salam Pax, who has more reason than any of us Americans to have a grudge against the Hussein family, observes, "this is just the easy way out for them. they should have been humiliated in public, images of them handcuffed and being pushed around." Update: Jeanne also has some interesting thoughts on this. As does Natalie. And Terry. Y'all are doing this old gal's heart good, folks.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Blogathon 2003 - T-Minus 4 Days - Please sponsor me (see top of sidebar - thanks Cat, Lane and Anne!)
The Last Refuge

Paul Krugman asks, Who's Unpatriotic Now?. This link is, as ever, NYT-registration-free thanks to Google's news section. (Unfortunately, the Krugman archives aren't, or I'd link to them permanently.)
Spin Cycle

We just received notice in our mailbox yesterday that the NYC Department of Sanitation is once again recycling plastic bottles and jugs. "To save money," the notice reads, "NYC suspended plastic and glass recycling in July 2002. The City has been working to bring recycling costs down. With better recycling contracts now in place, the City can resume plastics recycling." Apparently the program started up again at the beginning of this month; it just took them three weeks to inform residents while we kept throwing away all those soda bottles and juice cartons and milk jugs. Now, I consider myself fairly well-informed, and if I didn't know about this until yesterday I have to wonder why Bloomberg's government is trying to keep it so relatively low-key. Possibly because the penny-wise-pound-foolish Bloomberg had no desire to reinstate the program after he slashed it, and only relented when he was shown how the city could collect at a profit (and we still don't have glass recycling back). The Gotham Gazette's got more on this story.

Monday, July 21, 2003

So Many Potential Jokes, So Little Time

So I'll go with an obvious one. If this turns out to be true, it looks like Robin's gonna have a clean bill of health for many years to come!
Kitty Blogging

Our cats have kept me very nice company so far; they do seem to have an instinct for when to comfort human companions who are feeling under the weather, and of course the health benefits of pet ownership have been known for quite some time. So in honor of my feline friends, some kitty goodness:
  • Every Friday is, of course, Cat Blogging at Calpundit, where last Friday Kevin Drum gave us three wonderful links and pictures of two beautiful kitties belonging to CalMom!
  • Also last Friday, Emma related the story of the cat that's come to be called Lost-and-Found.
  • Everyone please send best wishes to Peter David and family on the swift recovery of their kitty Pandora, who apparently had an adventure.
  • Does anyone have a link for Joel Veitch's VH1 kitty work? It doesn't look like he's updated his site since March (a contract with a cable network will do that to one, I guess), and as much as I love the Viking Kittens (and really, who doesn't?) I'm itching for new web stuff. I suppose Mata's Mittens the cute kitty (via Bean at Alas, A Blog) will have to do in the meantime, particularly when discussing politics with Snowdrop, who apparently has a drinking problem and is extremely gullible. Mittens has even been on safari (side-splitting even with what I went through today), but I still think he's no match for Kitty Cop.
  • One of the neat things about visiting Tiger Mountain at the Bronx Zoo yesterday was finding out that the daily scheduled "enrichment sessions" are voluntary - i.e., zoo personnel don't make the cats come play or eat. If they're feeling hungry or playful, fine; otherwise they just lay around and sun or digest (sometimes in the summer they only eat every few days; wish my cats did that!), which is of course what they did yesterday. (By the way, Lisa English - link at sidebar - has a great suggestion in yesterday's comment section, that NYC-area bloggers converge on the Bronx Zoo during their "winter wonderland of lights" this coming December holiday season. Anyone want to suggest that to The Week or NYCBloggers? Update: Julia, you will be included in this, I promise!)
    Well, I'd best go, Datsa (who, doubtless in solidarity, has just lost the last of his four canine feline incisors) is meowing for attention, and I really should lie down and let the Tylenol work already...
  • 31-derful

    I now have one less tooth in my mouth than I did an hour and a half ago. My dentist had warned me that my upper left wisdom tooth (#16, for those of you playing along at home) contained a fairly large nonfillable hole and might eventually crack and endanger teeth around it, requiring oral surgery and lots of icky stuff like that, if I left it in too long. So I chose the first weekday of my summer vacation to get it extracted, removed, taken out, pulled on like a mofo until I gagged and choked on bile and blood and... where was I? Oh yes, that lovely gag reflex. Came right as the tooth was almost out. Took almost half an hour for said reflex to compose itself enough for Dr. S to take an x-ray that determined yes, the tooth apparently came out cleanly but, whoa, there's still Something in there. She's apparently, eerily unconcerned about that Something, as she has pronounced my tooth Weird to begin with, but she'll be seeing me tomorrow anyway to make sure everything's okay, which means no trip down to Jersey to see Mom and Dad. I'd need an overnight for that, and I'd already scheduled my boobie-squeezing for Thursday - which ought to have been an annual joyride but between my company having changed insurance carriers twice in two years and a 6-month waitlist at the hospital that had done it the previous time, God Bless America, it's been over 2½ years since I've been able to get one... I get the feeling other women probably don't do this on their vacations. They all relax and eat bon-bons, don't they? I do my wool wash, gather the trash, get a tooth out, prepare one last update to the Women Doing Comics and Industrial Strength Women lists before handing them over to a willing dupe someone with possibly more time and enthusiasm for the project than I've been able to devote this past six months, and make tentative plans to organize my comics files. Oh yeah, and prep for Blogathon 2003 - T-Minus 5 Days - Please sponsor me (see top of sidebar). Like my now-gone wisdom tooth, I guess I'm just Weird that way.

    Sunday, July 20, 2003

    Blogathon 2003 - T-Minus 6 Days - Please sponsor me (see top of sidebar)
    Someone Told Me It's All Happening

    Like many New Yorkers, Robin and I aren't in the habit of taking advantage of some of the most amazing places in the world practically right in our backyard. So we're attempting to remedy this little by little, and today we took in the Bronx Zoo (about a 20-minute local bus ride away). Highly recommended - but get there in the morning (around 10:15 AM would be ideal) and do whatever walking you want to first before taking the Zoo Shuttle, which is fun to ride but pretty much just a convenience, you don't see a lot of animals from it (the Bengali Express is much better for animal-spotting, and you get a nice aerial view of flamingos and the occasional baboon from the Skyfari). The food's overpriced but we deemed it better than schlepping about our own. I was very grateful for the otter-headed walking stick that had belonged to Robin's mum, to the point where I'm now considering taking it to comic conventions where I know I'm gonna be doing a lot of walking. And now we're home and little Christian upstairs is being particularly rambunctious, so it's on with the earplugs and out of this room.

    Saturday, July 19, 2003

    Not Mincing Words

    Via August Pollak (link at sidebar), the link to Mark Morford's Recent Notes and Errata column archive, where you can also subscribe to his e-newsletter The Daily Fix. Morford's one of those columnists that, every time I read one of his pieces, I sit there shaking my head going "he can get away with saying it that way for, like, a major online paper?" And yeah, I guess he can, and that's A Good Thing.
    "Mousepads, Shoe Leather and Hope"

    One of the leading contenders for the Democratic Presidential nomination is in New York this weekend, and not one local online paper with a feed to Google's news section seemed to carry a story about it. I mean, nothing in the Times, even? Lazy gits. I had to go to the UK Sunday Herald to actually read about what was going on. (Of course, there's no denying the cool factor of linking to an article that's dated a day ahead of a blog's time-stamp.) I found it kinda geeky-cool that the first sentence describes Howard Dean (link at sidebar) as "the master of blog." And I like Dr. Dean's latest blog entry too (originally posted when he was guest-blogging for Larry Lessig). Glad to see he's discussing the digital divide, and he even knows from WiFi when I don't, so I'm impressed. And, as Maru Soze (link at sidebar) reminds us, Dean's homepage features a reprinting and audio file of his 16 Questions speech. (I also have Maru to thank for the link to Judicial Watch's expose on the Cheney energy task force, which itself links to PDFs of oil fields in Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that the task force circulated back in March of 2001.)
    Blogathon 2003 - T-Minus 7 Days - Please sponsor me (see top of sidebar)
    Caught in the Fallout

    The news of the apparent suicide of former UN weapons inspector David Kelly has the British government reeling. Kelly was widely believed to have been BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan's unidentified intelligence source who described a government file on Iraq as "sexed up'' to make a more convincing case for military action. More here and here and here. Is this the beginning of the end for Blair, or the middle of the end? (Via my husband.) Update: More analysis on this from Steve Gilliard in the Daily Kos.
    Retro Session

    Summer always seems like a great time for escapism. People vacation to beat the heat or just get away from their jobs (=grin=) or because, hey, the kids don't have school. And however badly things are going in the country (which reminds me, here's Krugman's latest, NYT-reg-free as is my wont), folks of all political proclivities do seem to enjoy retreating into fantasy or nostalgia. Whilst everyone who's anyone appears to be at San Diego (read Neil and Wil and Mark in the Top Six, or scroll down the sidebar to the Pulse and Newsarama message boards for updates from there), others blog about movies (like Betsy Devine on the Pirates of the Caribbean - love that poster! - or Emma Goldman on that movie and a few others (I particularly loved the Charlie's Angels observations). And if you're looking to recapture the sad, sad days of your youth with the electronic babysitter, you could do far worse than Retromedia (via Brooke Biggs).

    Friday, July 18, 2003

    Blogathon 2003 - T-Minus 8 Days - Please sponsor me (see top of sidebar)
    It's the FBI, Stupid

    Via Tom Tomorrow and Skippy (links at sidebar), Da Boys don't want you should read this article. 'Cause they might just come pay you a visit, you know what I mean? And you wouldn't want something should happen to those nice little civil rights you think you have. [As to the article itself, I liked the bit excoriating Murdoch and Ailes and Fox, oh my, but the rest of it sounded a bit like a shrill fishwife, or that character in Plan 9 sputtering in apoplexy, "Your stupid minds! Stupid, stupid!" It's one thing to observe that government/media propaganda is successful; it's another thing entirely to tell people taken in by it that they're dumb or intellectually challenged or lazy or whatever. They tend not to take kindly to insults, particularly ones couched in ivory-tower liberalese. Besides, smart people are duped all the time; I think it's rather in keeping with human nature to want to believe the best of others, particularly those who hold power over you.]

    Thursday, July 17, 2003

    Not Tanned, Not Rested, But Ready

    If you haven't checked my sidebar in a few days, you probably don't know that I've registered for Blogathon 2003 after all. I've grown less and less tentative as the week has progressed and I seem to be back up to around 3-5 entries daily, and as I said back on July 7 it falls at the end of my vacation week so the timing works out pretty well, and who knows? I might very well be rested by then. (Although not tanned, I assure you, I am of Eastern European "we don't tan we burn" stock.) So, please consider this my first official announcement and daily reminder. Please sponsor me in Blogathon 2003 by clicking the appropriate link which I've moved to the top of the sidebar. I'll also entertain all sorts of suggestions in the comments section on what to blog about during the 24-hour period.
    Cheesy Writing

    Via Gianna (link at sidebar), the announcement of this year's winners of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest for (deliberately) bad opening sentences to imaginary novels. I'm feeling a bit peckish already. You can read all the results - as well as a brief history of the contest - here, if you dare.

    The San Diego Comic-Con International is the biggest and most amazing comic book convention in the country. It's considered The Place To Be if you're into comics. It's also very exhausting and prohibitively expensive if you haven't saved up. We won't be there this year. At least three people on my "Top Six" will, however - check out the blogs of Neil Gaiman, Wil Wheaton and Mark Evanier for more specific plans of where they can be found.

    We had planned to attend a couple more conventions later this year, one in NYC and one in Ohio, but they're being held on exactly the same weekend (argh!) and we're already committed to the latter. We continue to be impressed with the way Wizard World has treated us in the aftermath of their Philly con (to which we plan on returning next year), and the announcement that they're planning a convention in Long Beach, CA next March has us interested (it's a week before my Los Angeles-based brother's birthday and JetBlue's airfares look pretty good), but as with everything else it's all finance-dependent. Meanwhile, I'm getting psyched to spend a vacation week pretty much at home (with the exception of a couple medical appointments and a possible overnight at Chez 'Rents).
    Your Daily Supplement

    My suggestion this week for the MadKane (link at sidebar) link to Humor I Wish I Wrote is the very valuable service provided by the Daily Show Web-Only Headlines.

    Wednesday, July 16, 2003

    Taking Back the Radio

    The latest successors to the grand Firesign tradigion of excellent political comedy/commentary are "American Stranger" (Don Waller) and "Symbolman" (Micheal Stinson), who invite you to their Take Back the Media Radio webshow. Good stuff! Now, when are they going to invite the 4or5 as guests? (Via Lisa English and Cowboy Kahlil, links at sidebar; thanks folks!)
    Wholly Fug!

    Via Avedon Carol (link at sidebar), this article from the NY Times - which I pulled from Google's news section because of, well, see the entry below - about the Fugs' latest album, The Fugs Final CD (released last week), and the gig they're playing tonight at the Village Underground on West Third Street. Dang, I wish I'd known about this earlier. Avedon's not the only one who's corresponded with Tuli Kupferberg; Tuli was a staff artist for my INSIDE JOKE zine in the '80s, and I even had the pleasure of visiting his apartment once. Based on the photo accompanying the article, he doesn't appear to have changed at all since I knew him, and looks damn good for 79!

    Tuesday, July 15, 2003

    Ooh Ooh That Smell...

    What is it? Burnt waffles? Mendacity? Maureen Dowd sniffs it out. Via Jenny (link at sidebar) and Google's news site so you don't have to go through the NY Times' overly intrusive registration process. Yes, my one-woman "subvert the Times links" crusade continues. [Here's Krugman's latest, NYT-reg-free.]
    None of Our Business

    Last night we caught the tail end of an AMC documentary about Hollywood and the Muslim World. Overall it was pretty informative, but contrary to Real Arab/Real Americans' breathless reassurance that "It's highly unusual for American television programs not to present an American point of view, but this entire one-hour documentary consists solely of Arab voices. No American opinions are expressed," the American POV was more than present in the narration, as "award-winning" documentarian Charlie Stuart seemed to intone "What he/she had to say really surprised me" a few too many times to make it 100% credible. Is Stuart, credentialed out the wazoo, honestly that provincial? Goodness, this is the same person who did Into the Shadows: The CIA In Hollywood, should any affect American culture has on the rest of the world truly surprise him? That it would surprise viewers may come as no shock, of course. American culture, which these days goes hand and hand with American business, is incredibly pervasive in many Arab countries. One eloquent young man said he thinks this inescapable invasion of secular capitalism (or, more accurately, capitalism as a substitute for spiritualism) was one of the main things driving many young folks toward a more fundamentalist mindset. Chew on that: our culture - more accurately, our way of doing business, whether it's show business or the shoe business - might be creating terrorists by its very ubiquity. If you can ignore Stuart's repeated "I was amazed!"s, this docu is very worth watching. [Robin is convinced that it was no coincidence to air a docu observing that, among other things, American movies crank out piss-poor stereotypes of Arab cultures, right before a showing of Midnight Express. "Muslim stereotypes are bad - now, here's a movie about a Turkish prison!"]

    Also musing about the business of America is Jeanne D'Orleans (yes, it's All Jeanne All The Time Day here at Pen-Elayne), who pretty much expresses how I feel every time I hear the phrase "American interests" (i.e., that whenever it's uttered I invariably assume the word "business" is implied between "American" and "interests").
    Intellectually Improper

    Via Jeanne D'Orleans (link at sidebar), a rethinking of her previous decision to give Bill Gates' philanthropy the benefit of many doubts, courtesy of the latest blog entry from Greg Palast (link now at sidebar under "Journalists" - thanks Jeanne! and thanks to Tim Dunlop, link at sidebar, as well!) discussing how the WTO's Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) rules actually serve to block low-cost medicines to tons more Africans than any charitable gestures or fancy promises in Bush's speeches will help.

    Monday, July 14, 2003

    Joyeux le 14 Juliett!

    Merci a Max Sawicky (link at sidebar) for reminding us all that today is Bastille Day! As MaxSpeak has taken care of reproing the English lyrics to the French national anthem, I thought I'd just link folks to Allan Sherman's immortal You Went the Wrong Way, Old King Louie.
    Not Exactly Gandhi's Footsteps

    Via Maru Soze (link at sidebar), India refuses U.S. request to send troops to Iraq. Wonder if this means the Bush administration will finally be criticizing the Indian government for the Gujurat pogrom?
    Why Does Bush Hate Science?

    Via Mark Evanier (link at sidebar), an article by Nicholas Thompson in the Washington Monthly entitled Science Friction which bolsters the claims of Anne Zook (link at sidebar) and others regarding the current administration's contempt for both academia and truth. I was particularly surprised to read the following: "Bush, for instance, has half as many Ph.D.s in his cabinet as Clinton had two years into his term. Among the White House inner circle, Condoleezza Rice's doctorate distinguishes her as much as her race and more than her sex. Consider also the length of time the administration left top scientific positions vacant. It took 20 months to choose an FDA director, 14 months to choose an NIH director, and seven months to choose a White House science adviser for the Office of Science and Technology Policy." This kind of thing certainly pushes me further towards Anne's theories! Update: Bush seems to hate schools too, particularly ones that are performing well. Jo Fish (link at sidebar) is on the story and observes, "Imagine that, President C-minus aiming for mediocrity."

    Via too many folks on my blogroll to mention (well, okay, Avedon Carol and Neil Gaiman and at least one other person but I can't remember who at the moment), this interesting profile of Christopher Hitchens from one who knows, Roz Kaveney. As far as I know she coined the word I used in the header, riffing on Henry Kissinger's old modus operandi, but it sounds like something Firesign would say too, doesn't it?
    Blogs of Peace

    Sometimes it's kinda nice that I'm enough under the radar (at slightly over 100 readers, from what I gather via Extreme's statistics) not to make Blogs of War's nasty little hitlist (mentioned today by Neil Gaiman, link at sidebar). I'm not going to link to John Little (appropriate handle, methinks), who makes Freepers look reasonable, but I do want to congratulate all the folks on my blogroll listed as "Loony Leftists on the Web," the folks his skewed view describes as "anti-war, anti-American, anti-capitalism, anti-Bush, or just anti-everything-most-Americans-value." I wasn't aware most Americans valued war or Bush, but then I have no idea what color the sky is in Penis Tiny's world either. Probably blood-red. Anyway, I'm going to use the list to add to my blogroll, so I thank Penis Tiny for his recommendations.

    Sunday, July 13, 2003

    Who's the Anti-Democratic Wimp?

    Via Dwight Meredith (link at sidebar), a terrific entry by Terry Welch (now blogrolled on the sidebar as well) entitled Democracy: It Isn't For the Weak. I don't usually applaud a macho stance, but I really like this one. Guy's got ovaries. :) [Yes, blogging kinda late today, keeping Robin company whilst he finishes inking the last seven pages of this...]
    The Latest Skein

    There are so many varieties of wool the Bush administration is attempting to pull over American citizens' eyes that it gets mighty hard to catalog. Thank goodness for the blogosphere. Ampersand (link at sidebar) has done a couple great entries on companies, Nike and Monsanto, trying to subvert the free market and hoodwink consumers by making false claims, bringing lawsuits, and generally acting scummy and getting away with it. On Amp's comment section, Evan mentions this entry from Mitch Ratcliffe discussing how the FDA has now lowered limits on food manufacturers where, "instead of having to be able to back statements with 'significant scientific agreement' (which is usually purchased with sponsored studies today), companies may make any claim and then must disclose whether anyone agrees... through the placement of a letter 'grade' (A through D, as defined by the FDA) 'evidence-based rating system'," a lovely little piece of doublespeak. He quotes the FDA Commissioner extolling the virtues of this nontruth-in-advertising scheme as beneficial and "protecting consumers by helping them get better nutrition information"! And he makes the astute observation that "The interesting phenomenon here is the way this language is couched in the same terms as the security pronouncements of the Bush Administration." Worth reading, even with the slightly fatphobic slip (some of us obviously don't agree with the statement "There's no doubt we're getting fat and that this is bad").
    Lies Our Leaders Tell Us

    Every now and then I like to catch up online with Glen Rangwala, one of my current heroes. Dr. Rangwala, who lectures on politics at Newnham College in Cambridge, was the alert Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal reader who spotted the similarities between the infamous "dodgy dossier" on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and this article by Dr. Ibrahim al-Marashi. (Incidentally, I found the MERIA Journal's response to the plagiarism highly amusing.) Occasionally I wonder what he's been up to, and thanks to Jeralyn Merritt (link at sidebar) I was able to read his latest (co-written) article in the Independent, 20 Lies About the War. A nice little summary, handy for future reference.

    Saturday, July 12, 2003

    Cultural Sensibility

    Emma of Late Night Thoughts (link at sidebar) doesn't blog nearly as often as I wish she did, but as the saying goes "what's there is cherce." I've never seen a bad or throwaway entry from her. Check out her latest on cultural sensitivity. "I don't care if this makes me 'insensitive' or 'incorrect' or whatever the hell moniker you're giving these days to those who make cultural judgments and find some cultures wanting. Women are valuable beings in their own right, and a culture that systematically victimizes them is not one that I consider worthy of survival. I don't care if it's based on the Bible, the Koran, the Upanishads or the Sixteen Commandments of UggaBugga." I love this woman.
    Political Goo-Goo

    Well, I promised Anne Zook (link on sidebar) I'd do a follow-up to my comments last month about anti-intellectualism, because she's been talking about it on her blog. What prompted all this was Anne's link to Justin Cartwright's somewhat paternalistic article, Rise of the new infantilism, in the Guardian. [Guess Cartwright's too intellectual to start his header with a definite article; maybe there's more than one Rise.] I suspected I was in trouble when the first paragraph contained stuff like "I stopped at a diner for breakfast, where everyone was eating generous combinations of kiddies' food: pancakes with syrup, eggs over easy or sunny side up..." Now okay, 12-packs of Pop-Tarts are kiddies' food, I'll admit that. But pancakes? Eggs? Has this Brit, like, never heard of farms? I mean, what the fuck is wrong with eggs?

    Well, we see it's not just eggs, it's what they represent. Rotundness, you see. "The puzzle... is why the popular mood has changed so radically from one of cautious self-restraint to a religious zeal for gratification. The demonstrable result of this change is the extraordinary number of obese people who lumber around our streets and presumably even more who stay at home because they can't lumber at all." A-ha! It's the fat people! How dare they leave their houses to "lumber around" - or, as less intellectual people might say, go for a walk and, you know, get some exercise?

    Oops, I'm sorry. Fat people don't exercise, do we? (Only walked a mile today, fat and lazy scum that I am!) And there's obviously no correlation between obesity and environment, is there?, so we shouldn't even consider investigating the chemicals and preservatives that go into our bodies. After all, goes the wisdom, fat is caused by overeating, period. And no thin people overeat, and all fat people do (as my skinny friend Jan and I used to note when we would order the exact same lunch.)

    Cartwright goes on to assure us "But over-eating is in a sense only the obvious and visible sign of a fall from grace, a sort of perversion of the sacraments." Because, again, in the World According to Justin overeating and obesity are the same thing. And the rest of his article is all about our love of instant self-gratification and quick fixes and pretty much what I was saying last week when I noted that "the reality of modern America tends towards multiple-choice questions rather than thought-out essays." But any points he tries to weave together were lost for me the minute I read his snobbish fatphobia, which had very little to do with anything else he said (despite his poor attempt at a segue) and just seemed to exist so he could trumpet his superiority.

    Look, I grew up being an educational snob, I remember what it's like. It's a sort of infantilism in and of itself, isn't it? It's a little security blanket you can pull over yourself to feel better about being a smart freak or geek when the bullies make fun of you. But see, I grew out of that (well, mostly) and ventured into the real world and met people of all kinds of backgrounds, good people and bad people, and it's just not always as cut-and-dried as "look at all the stupid people being duped in our country." Equating stupidity with gullibility is as faulty as equating being fat with overeating. There's undoubtedly overlap, but a lot of smart people are easily duped, and a lot of stupid people have more common sense than many ivory tower intellectuals.

    Okay, now please read Anne's essay linked to above. First off, she writes, "My reference to the (I think, very real) 'cult of anti-intellectualism' was, specifically, to the Republican Party's long history of dismissing the Democrats as, 'intellectually effete' as though the two were synonymous and bad. Intellectualism in this country is also linked (usually by the Right) to ineptitude. The clear inference is that to be intellectual is to be an incompetent wimp. It's as though you can either think or act, but you can't be good at both." Well, consider a minute. Who was President before Bush? A friggin' Rhodes scholar. Of course the idea of "smart people aren't to be trusted" is going to be one of the weapons in the Repubs' continuing anti-Clinton arsenal, particularly given the very real incompetence and obvious lack of smarts (both of book learning and common sense) of the current President. But look at Cheney, at Rove - heck, at Grover Norquist, one of the smartest intellectuals I've seen in recent months. It's the same-old projection pre-emptive strike at work - accuse your opponent of something you know you're doing before he can accuse you. Witness how Bush has begun repeating the meme "revisionist history" in attempts to throw people off the trail of his own administration's constant revisionism. This "I'm rubber, you're glue" tactic is infantilism at its worst.

    Anne asks, "When did the unspoken agreement come into place that what we want are politicians we'd like to have a beer with and discuss the All Star Game, instead of politicians with the education and smarts to understand incredibly complex issues?" Well, aside from the fact that most of the American public did not vote for this man ("millions of voters" weren't "turned off" to the perceived-boring, competent, smart Gore; but the equally smart and better-connected cabal pulled strings in a Bush-run state and the Supreme Court intellectuals sealed the deal), I don't think there's anything wrong with wanting our elected representatives to be nice people. I'd far rather have a diplomat with an every-man attitude in office than the boob currently alienating over half the countries in the world with his misguided policies. In my book, acting polite and civilized is certainly preferable to adopting a smirking fratboy attitude.

    I think Anne's main point might be "So, we need elected officials we can trust to be smart enough to have investigated ramifications and potential outcomes of the steps they take," but I don't consider this an issue of thought as much as one of forethought. And very few politicians, businesses, or anyone else in power appears to want to operate with anything approaching deliberation and forethought. Heck with the seventh generation, most people today don't look beyond the current quarterly report. And the need for this immediate self-gratification, the future be damned, is endemic to most people in power, no matter what their political affiliation. But doing stupid things, like being short-sighted, is not the same as being stupid.