Elayne Riggs' Journal (for Leah)

Saturday, January 31, 2004

Gorilla My Dreams

It is, of course, National Gorilla Suit Day. And naturally, Mark Evanier has all the details.
Silly Site o' the Day

John Byrne found a site that Robin thinks is silly but I just feel is kinda creepy. Draw your own conclusions. See, if I'm gonna get all kindsa of phallic, this (via Neil Gaiman) is more to my liking, and I bet Echidne agrees.
Human Wrongs

I'd been meaning to link to another tremendous post by Jeanne d'Arc entitled Amnesty, HRW and Humanitarianism as a Weapon of Mass Deception which about half of Blogtopia (y!sctp!) seems to have picked up on already. If you haven't read it yet, please do. Nice overview of where the two main worldwide human rights organizations stand on things like the US invasion of Iraq. (And thanks to Jeanne for her lovely plug of this blog!)

Friday, January 30, 2004

Friday Cat Blogging (™ Kevin Drum)

Well, at least they're finally eating together:

We're actually not supposed to be feeding any dry food to Datsa (which frustrates him mightily, as he'd gotten used to nibbling from the dry food bowl throughout the day, and it does seem like he's constantly hungry now) but the Crunch pieces are pretty tiny and Alan and Heather brought them all the way from England so it's a shame not to use them...
Online Bargins

Via Len Cleavelin, apperantley you can mayk a kiling if you trolle for misspelled items on eBay.
Formerly Questionable Milestones

My husband, who's much more into Beatles trivia than I'll ever be (Teresa, we do need to get him and Patrick together for a trivia-off one of these days), assures me that the upcoming 40th anniversary of the Beatles coming to America (mark your calendars, festivities start February 6) is indeed a major milestone, focusing attention on the group in an order of magnitude that skyrocketed their popularity worldwide, even in the UK. I thought that Avedon had led me to this article about finding Marsha Albert, the woman responsible for "triggering Beatlemania" in the US, but I couldn't find the link on her blog (so if it wasn't her I wanted to apologize to whoever it was for not mentioning them). However, she did lead me to this what-if-there-were-fan-blogs-in-1964 site whose conceit is that it's supposedly written by someone who looks and sounds like one would imagine a young Marsha Albert did. I have my suspicions, of course, since the top banner saying "Click here to read the whole story!" takes you to an ad for Bruce Spizer's book, so I'm guessing the blog is either Spizer or his publisher utilizing a clever way of promoting the book. Still, it's kinda fun to read, so I'm not complaining.

Surprisingly, neither can I complain about the NYC Subway Centennial, which at first I thought was as much of a misrepresentation as the 150th anniversary of Central Park. As I noted back in May of last year, that supposed anniversary "actually commemorates the city's endorsement of the idea of the park and subsequent beginning of the land buy-up 150 years ago, not the park's true opening in 1858." But no, according to the MTA's website, "In March 1900, ground was broken in Manhattan for an electric-powered subway... the subway opened on October 27, 1904." So we may be celebrating about nine months too early, but by gum at least they have the year correct this time (and hey, give us a break, it's cold here and we're kinda bored)...
The Neander Meander

Okay, Prof. Harvati looks legit, but something tells me the creationists are going to be all over this Neanderthals-weren't-related-to-us thing as "proof" that humans are somehow only a few thousand years old...
Silly Site o' the Day

The Human Clock, via Neil Gaiman's blog. It's not just thousands of photographs of people posed with signs and such indicating the current time (in both digital and analog mode!), it's a whole culture. There's a news archive, recent photos submitted from all around the world, reminds me a lot of David Chin's A Picture's Worth gallery. Well worth checking out.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Atrios: Threat or Menace?

Definitely threat. What a great collection of "threatening" pontification he passes on from the Center for American Progress' Imminent Semantics essay. Someone who's into That Sort of Thing should have a ball Google-linking to the Repubs using the word "threat."
Silly Site o' the Day

It's time to play Dress the Pres! Via Ken DeBusk at the last Firesign chat. Remember folks, Firesign Theatre fans meet online every Thursday evening, starting at around 9 PM Eastern time, to exchange riffs and silly sites and news and just plain have a grand old time hanging out. Upyernoz comments that Firesign refs seem to be popping up everywhere lately, so as extra incentive I wanted to remind folks that sometimes one or two members of the 4or5 do show up at the chat (albeit a bit late as they're on the Left Coast). See you on chat this evening!

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Recovering

Steve Gilliard made it through his heart surgery okay. Mark Evanier's keeping in touch with Julius Schwartz. And Ken and Mercy went to visit Dave Cockrum again and report via e-mail that he's started drawing a bit as therapy, which is great news; if the snow's cleared away by the weekend I might stop by there again.
Maintenance Note

I've fiddled a bit with my blogroll, eliminating a number of folks I never seem to get to which hadn't blogrolled me anyway, as well as couple which haven't had a new post so far in 2004; I've also added a few here and there (welcome back to regular blogging, Elaine!), and would ask that, if your sidebar lists my blog and I haven't reciprocated, please e-mail me so I can remedy that. Lastly, just an alliterative reminder that I'm still seeking Silly Site suggestions; thanks!
Ah, So They Are Female

And the Mars Rover sisters each have their own LiveJournal. Here's Spirit's and here's Opportunity's. Very cute. Thanks to Lis Riba for the pointer.
Brush Up Your Shakespeare

Maybe it's just the winter of our discontent (thanks again to my wonderful husband for walking me down the hill today - only 15 minutes late to work!), but lots of folks on my blogroll have been talking about Shakespeare lately. Some good posts to check out are this one from Peter David talking about how he, Kath and Ariel are reading through The Tempest (movies are following suit; Forbidden Planet was on again the other day); "And I, like a woman...," or Shakespeare's Shadow from PinkDreamPoppies at Alas, A Blog (great comment section too, as ever); and two from Shakespeare wonk Lis Riba about a sequel to Taming of the Shrew (and, you guessed it, Kiss Me Kate was on TMC last night as well, as part of their Ann Miller tribute) and a follow-up wherein she passes along the link to the full text of this sequel. And speaking of full text, here's your handy online guide to Shakespeare's complete works.
Silly Site o' the Day

Watch out, it's the Giant Microbes! Via Maru Soze. And speaking of strange creatures, I can't shake off the realization that you cannot spell "bloodbath" without Boobah. Thank goodness for that extra "h" (it's actually spelled "boohbah")! I watched a bit of one episode, which is kinda what a kid watches if she finds Teletubbies too taxing, and it lulled me into a nice little alpha state...

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Hit the Penguin Farther

My Yeti-penguin-baseball Silly Site link from Monday seems to be intermittently cutting out, so if that site's down you can play this version in the meantime, and hit the penguin farther! And that site takes you to this version, where you can hit it farther still!! (No high scores recorded on either of these two versions, sorry.) We are all sick, sick people, yes?
What's Cooking

Thanks to Terri I've just joined and made my first post to the group blog Knife-Wielding Feminists, all about cooking and eating. It's brand new so there's no comment section yet, and I seem to be the group loudmouth already judging by the length of my first post, but there you go. The whole area of cooking and food in general is one that I don't discuss very much here, although it's quickly becoming a favorite hobby (and will be even more so, I suspect, once I secure a job with decent hours and a livable kitchen and perhaps someday get The Food Network on my cable system), so I'm delighted to have a place where I can talk about it. Thanks for inviting me, ladies!
'Tain't Funny, McGee

From time to time throughout my adult life, I've pontificated about differing notions of what's funny and what it means to have a sense of humor. When I was younger and taking actual Comedy and Satire courses in college and frequenting local comedy clubs, I was a bit fresher at this but also tended to go on a bit much, so after all these years y'all get a somewhat truncated but more honed version of this speech.

It usually starts with Person 1 (usually a straight white thin guy) accusing Person 2 (usually not a SWTG) of having "no sense of humor" because Person 2 didn't laugh at or go along with a joke that Person 1 found "obviously" funny. About 8-9 times out of 10 the joke in question involved put-down humor directed against the societal group of which Person 2 was a member (i.e., it was sexist or racist or fatphobic or homophobic), and the incredulity of Person 1 that Person 2 wouldn't participate in his or her own societal group's minor humiliation. Very much the "lie back and enjoy it" school of thinking used in past decades to excuse or shrug off the "inevitability" of rape.

What this accusation does, of course, is allow Person 1 to set the terms of what's funny (in much the same manner as many conservatives have been able to set the terms of political debate by being first out of the gate with their various accusations and slurs, particularly against reasonable people who don't believe political debate should consist primarily of such slurs). Person 2 is put immediately on the defensive, and when you've suddenly been unexpectedly shoved it takes a few moments to even regain your balance, much less mount a counter-attack, especially when you weren't angling for a fight in the first place. It's the classic damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't scenario.

When I've been presented with this sort of situation hypothetically and asked my advice, I've often responded that the only way to "win" this game is not to play it. Ignore the idiots; you know very well the kind of comedy you enjoy, and it's not worth arguing with people who have no clue that "different sense of humor" doesn't equal "no sense of humor." But in reality, confronted with belligerent verbal bomb that demands immediate defusing, that's hard to do. I've found through the years that a response, like humor itself, is pretty much circumstance-dependent. Sometimes ignoring the idiot is absolutely the best course; sometimes it's worth a little time investment to educate folks or flaunt credentials ("published The Firesign Theatre's newsletter for 10 years" often does the trick for me) or even employ humor as a response mechanism (like agreeing with the accuser's absurd premise by admitting "I had a humorectomy in my last feminism class, it was required for a passing grade").

Of course, the world changes and we do as well, and what a certain consensus once considered funny may not be so any more. In those instances, it pays to be cognizant enough of the changes that you don't act like a schmuck. For instance, even before 9-11 it was considered poor taste at best to make jokes about hijackings or bombs while in an airport. And yet, even in this day of hyper-paranoia, people still insist on acting like schmucks. Via Anne Zook I learned of the case of Samantha Marson, a 21-year-old student arrested at MIA for telling a TSA official during a baggage security check, "Hey be careful, I have three bombs in here!" Scotsman opinion columnist Fiona McCabe is outraged, claiming Marson's subsequent detention is proof that US officials have no sense of humor, rather than even allowing for the possibility that in certain contexts some things just aren't going to be seen as funny and perhaps intelligent travellers really ought to know better than to be schmucks. After all, she cites as proof, look at what professional comedian (as opposed to clueless tourist) Aaron Barschak got away with (only he didn't). [Amazingly, Marson is far from the only ditsy Britsy airport schmuck - a 48-year-old from South Tynesdale "arrived late at Newcastle Airport for an easyJet flight to Paris this afternoon, and became aggressive when she was told she could not catch the plane," whereupon she "made threats towards staff that she had a bomb in her luggage."]

Even as "the funny" shifts with time and circumstance, it pays for professional comedians to remember certain universals. One of the more obvious is, if you do topical humor, you will generally get more laughs and therefore be more successful making fun of people in power (whether politically or societally) than you will supporting those people and making fun of the have-not sectors. The main exception to this seems to be what I'll call the Totie Fields Rule (if only because invoking the late great Madame Fields covers Jewish jokes and sexist jokes and fat jokes all in one) - you can get away with making fun of a societally-disadvantaged group to which you belong. It's why the women at Sequential Tart can use a pun like that to identify themselves but it didn't work the same way when Bill Jemas referred to them as "Sequential Whores." (And even exceptions can have exceptions - Jeff Foxworthy may be a redneck, but many other comics still consider rednecks fair game because, even though many Southerners are indeed financially disadvantaged and therefore unfairly disparaged, the stereotypical reputation rednecks have of white male bigotry persists, and another view of comedy holds it as acceptable, even imperative, to counter hatred.) But as a rule, if you're a white male comic and your schtick is politics and you don't want to be seen as an elitist schmuck, your job is pretty much to puncture the people in power. I just don't consider it appropriate to kick folks when they're down, and laugh whilst doing so.

Which is what makes the strange case of Dennis Miller so pathetic in the eyes of so many. For quite a few of us, Miller was the comedic equivalent of observant pundits like Christopher Hitchens - he never dumbed things down, so his rants made us feel it was okay to be smart and funny and politically astute. And then 9-11 happened and, as with Hitchens, Miller just seemed to become mean. And that shift hurt, it felt like a betrayal. Here was the guy who used to pal around with A. Whitney Brown on SNL, for cripe's sake, suddenly talking about all these radical right-wing loonies with admiration, as though they weren't making the world less safe after the tragedy via policies that incubated more terrorists. I saw it starting to happen back when he still had the HBO show, I watched disbelieving as the once-funny rants turned into righty-libertarian "I got mine, now shove off" manifestos. Miller hadn't had a lobotomy, you could tell the brain was still going a mile a minute - he had just decided to abandon the primary rule of political comedy, and firmly side with the haves against the have-nots. This undoubtedly makes him popular in the corridors of power, and as he's already well-off (and undoubtedly well-protected) he needn't fear for his personal and financial security at this point - but to me it also makes him tragic rather than funny. Mark Evanier has similar thoughts on what Miller has become. [Update: I also want to pass on what Mark Morford says about Miller's new show in his Morning Fix e-mail column: "Miller is a familiar figure from his years on SNL, HBO and Monday Night Football, but he will be in a different role on his daily show -- that of a total suckwad right-wing prickmonkey who's just a sad and miserable and crusty shade of his former self. This is the Miller who has appeared at fund-raisers for Bush, ridden with the president on Air Force One, sat in the gallery at last week's State of the Union speech and was even talked about as a Republican senatorial candidate in California. This is the Miller everyone used to think of as cool and articulate and hilariously hyperintelligent and able to dissect relatively complicated issues with deliriously inspiring rants that were able to sub-reference Nietzsche and Bela Lugosi and chaos theory usually all in one sentence. What a pathetic and moribund loss. What a sad blow to articulate thinking. What bilious and dank forces of right-wing fearmongering and neurosis and tax-break bullshit must've attached themselves like rabid leeches to Miller's seething soul to suck him so far over to the Dark Side. Dennis Miller, the new RushHannityStern of the Right. How sad. As if you needed another reason to ignore CNBC. "]

Mark Evanier also links to this interview with George Carlin, another comedian who seems to have shifted for the worse lately. Carlin's personal politics still appear solidly against those who wield power unfairly and screw ordinary citizens, but his on-stage shift has been away from the type of politically-related observational humor for which he'd been best known (like his anti-censorship routines) and much more in the direction of, again, hostility towards members of his audience, being what the article terms a "gleeful irritant." Says Carlin, "I don't like topical stuff. It's too easy. Anybody can make fun of Bush... That's like shooting fish in a barrel... The more resistance and discomfort I can feel from the audience, the better I feel, the happier I am... I do not care about changing anybody. Nobody. I go out there to show the rest of the Americans how badly they're doing." Sense a pattern here? Never mind that it seems pretty topical to "show the rest of the Americans how badly they're doing." The "comedy" of meanness and discomfort isn't funny to many folks; it's just bullying with a smirk, particularly when coming from an old rich white guy. And I say this as someone who still sees a lot of potential in some of Carlin's new material - potential that I just don't think is fully executed any more when his goal is to make his audience squirm rather than laugh.

Above all, it's important for even me to remember that comedy is subjective. I can articulate why I don't find Carlin as funny as I used to, or why I no longer find Dennis Miller funny at all, in the same way I can articulate why I still find The Daily Show and The Firesign Theatre so rewarding, why Ellen DeGeneris makes me smile, why I'm very psyched for Out on the Edge (I'm so old and out of touch with the stand-up scene nowadays, my "gay comic" markers are Kate Clinton and Robin Tyler, let alone Ellen or Margaret Cho). But I know better than to give an unqualified "this isn't funny" or "you have no sense of humor" to anyone. And so should y'all.
Silly Site o' the Day

I guess the Swiss really are neutral; there are Flash games here for both the pro-Bush forces (Bush Invaders) and, well, the rest of us (Throw-At, featuring Target Bush). Via Maru Soze.

Monday, January 26, 2004

A Modest Theory

Has anybody opined that there might have been a reason Peter Jennings asked Wesley Clark about Bush's AWOL status (okay, he actually didn't, he said "deserter") other than to try to discredit the Democratic candidate and raise people's hackles against Clark supporter Michael Moore again? I think, for a lot of mainstream reporters caught between a rock (the journalistic ethics many of them still remember and believe in) and a hard place (the reality of having to please their corporate bosses in order to keep raking in the big bucks), this is the only way they can raise the question at all in the national mass media debate, by bringing it up and, on the surface, immediately discrediting it. 'Cause see, people will remember that the question was raised more than they'll remember the snap dismissal. And maybe, just maybe, Jennings wanted his fellow reporters to start asking some questions they weren't asking four years ago. I know this theory assumes that not every mainstream reporter is a bought-and-paid-for enemy of democratic discourse, and that some are actually trying to do the best job they can under adverse circumstances; so be it, I'll cop to that assumption.
You Say Goodbye, I Say Halo

Watching Willy Wonka this past weekend, I giggled again at the opening shot of the reporter in the German tavern (about to congratulate Augustus for finding a Golden Ticket), positioned in front of a mounted moose head so it looks like the antlers are sticking out of his (the reporter's) own head. Nowadays, however, what used to be seen as a funny optical illusion has turned somewhat serious, as official photographers seem to be deliberately snapping politicians with what's come to be known as a "halo effect." The most egregious examples are of George W. Bush, who believes God talks to him anyway so I guess the cameras-that-be figure they should subliminably and clumsily reinforce that idea in the public mind. But other world leaders have been similarly caught (although frankly I think it's a bit of a stretch to regard all of these as halo shots), so we may have ourselves a trend. I'm glad there are sites out there collecting this stuff.
Silly Site o' the Day

Yeti penguin-batting, or something like it. Via Aziz Poonwalla.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Opportunity Knocks

Two down! And there are already lots of pictures from the second. Alas, I missed the live webcast, but I'll catch the highlights on tonight's update, which should coincide pretty well with the end of the Golden Globe Awards. Speaking of which, what's the deal with Brini Maxwell anyway? Is Ben Sander's character supposed to be like the new RuPaul only deadpan? Why does nobody on E! seem to get that he's making fun of most of them? Why is Richard Simmons looking like the most normal person on this pre-awards "countdown" show anyway? And how the hell did I get from Mars to Richard Simmons in the space of one short paragraph? I think I need to lie down again... Update: Tristero passes along some great close-up pictures from the Mars Express probe.
BoP Course Correction

Please note, the Blogging of the President: 2004 discussion on Minnesota Public Radio will be held tonight from 9-11 PM, not this morning as I'd previously thought. That darn tricky AM-PM thing again, someday I'll get the hang of it. Anyway, here's the site for tuning in via streaming audio, submitting questions, etc. Alas (as opposed to Alas), my attention will probably be otherwise occupied during that time.
Send Steve Mojo

Just learned that Steve Gilliard is back in the hospital - sending out get-well wishes once more. It's been a hell of a winter.
Silly Site o' the Day

Seems the president of the fast-(sea)food chain Long John Silver's has sent a letter to NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe, announcing plans to provide free Giant Shrimp to America if conclusive evidence of an ocean is found on Mars. Via Teresa Nielsen Hayden, who - to shift gears abruptly - also has this very serious and extremely important post about the Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saint community in Colorado City, AZ.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Mindsight is 20/20

Via Michele at You Will Anyway, who sometimes seems to post more substance more often than Atrios and Anne Zook and Julia H combined (no wonder I can't get through my blogroll most days!), this article about Mapping the Sixth Sense, which University of British Columbia professor Ron Rensink refers to as "mindsight." Rensink's new study claims that mindsight "is a distinct mode of visual perception and may be something all of us can learn to employ." I think it makes sense that it's related to the visual; after all, other senses intertwine (for instance, smell and taste are related [PDF]). Pretty cool finding.
Koufax Awards Voting Begins

The final nominees are now posted for the premier lefty blogger awards, courtesy of Koufax founder and organizer Dwight Meredith at Wampum. You can vote either by personal e-mail (my choice, since it only involves one posting rather than a dozen) or in the separate comment sections under each set of nominees. Having not even had my name submitted for any first-round nominations in the first place, much less made the cut for any category, I have no vested interest in the vote other than hoping it leads to a lot more good blogs being read. On the other hand, I'm psyched for tomorrow's red carpet fashions.
Falling Behind Again, Never Wanted To...

...what am I to do, can't help it...

So a belated happy blogiversary to Betsy Devine, I'll miss Ann Miller and Bob Keeshan terribly as well, and I'll keep slogging in the blogging, or roamin' through the gloamen, or something like that-- well, I'll keep trying to catch up on all my blog reading throughout the weekend, with apologies to the Liberal Coalition for the continued lack of blogarounds and to anyone whose milestones I've missed. Don't know what's wrong with me lately, between the cat and the almost-constant frigid outdoor temperatures and my monthly cycle this vacation week doesn't seem to have re-energized me at all.
Silly Sites o' the Day

I have no idea how I missed Laura Gjovaag's mention of this eBay item for sale. She also mentions a new game that's making the rounds called Blockus, aka Blokus, and Robin promptly found an online version. He's been doing pretty well with it, too. Oh, and speaking of cool online games, y'all have seen MadKane's State of the Disunion interactive crossword puzzle, yes? And Maru Soze found a site where you can build a sand castle online and where I can check out the B&Bs around where Robin's family lives if we ever have the money to travel to England again.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Dave Cockrum Update

I spent much of the afternoon in the company of Naomi Basner and Ken Gale as the three of met at the Bronx VA hospital to visit Dave Cockrum. I brought Dave a full-sized copy of Alan Davis' donation to the book Cliff Meth's putting together (Robin's since finished the inks, and it's lovely) as well as a get-well card Robin had made after speaking with Alan, which featured this Byrne/Austin panel on the front:

Dave smiled broadly at the panel as, indeed, he's far from dead. In fact, Ken noted that he's quite noticeably better than he was even two days ago. When we arrived he was sitting kind of slouched in a wheelchair holding the end of a thick blue breathing tube, and I think he took two more breaths out of the tube before putting it down pretty much for the rest of our visit, which was almost four hours. After about an hour he decided to have the orderlies move him back to the bed, where he seemed quite comfortably propped up (once we all got the hang of the raising and lowering controls) for the majority of our visit. While Dave wasn't particularly animated his Southern-drawled speech was lively and steady, quite strong (there were a few coughs here and there but mostly from a dry mouth, no coughing fits or anything), and we talked about everything from TV shows (both old and modern) to Marvel in the old days to household pets to his new home in South Carolina.

Dave got a few phone calls while we were there as well, one from a Herb (Trimpe, I believe), one from a fan who didn't give his name, and one from Cliff, who'd actually called to talk to me (don't ask). He's certainly well enough to speak with friends and fans if anyone cares to call; just bear in mind that his arms and hands are still shaky at this point and he needs both arms to hold the phone, so try to keep the conversations short so you don't wear out his upper body too much. He also welcomes visits (he reckons he'll be at the hospital at least a couple more weeks), even from folks he doesn't know, so fans shouldn't be shy if they can make it up this way to pay him an in-person call. He could use some fresh fruit (he was waxing almost nostalgically about fresh-cut pineapple from Shop-Rite) and decent yogurt drinks (stuff like Kefir), so don't come empty-handed! The usual stuff like cards and flowers would probably be good too. And someone get the man some tape so he can hang up the picture Alan drew. :)

By the way, anyone who's attending the Big Apple Convention this weekend should look for Ken; he'll have a card for attendees to sign (and sketch in) that he'll be taking to Dave next week.
Alternatives

Like to shop online? Why not Shop to Drop Bush? Link via The American Street, courtesy of Skippy.

Like Sunday morning pundit shows, but wish some of them could just once maybe involve people like you? So does Minnesota Public Radio, which will present a live radio special, The Blogging of the President: 2004, with many folks from the blog of that name, plus bloggers like Atrios, on Sunday morning from 9-11 AM Eastern. BOP says you can go to MPR's site for the streaming audio if the show isn't carried in your area (or if you're in the room with a computer and no radio).
Friday Cat Blogging (™ Kevin Drum)

Datsa's doing much better, and it looks like his system is actually processing his food correctly now, so we'll have good news to give the vet when we call him in a couple of hours. It's a little disconcerting to have to administer his medicine when I'm still half-asleep (we currently need to give him the pill twice a day a half hour before eating, and of course he's always hungry), but for some reason I can do it and Robin can't yet. Meanwhile, he still smells from the clinic and Amy hasn't yet recognized his scent so she's freaking out and hiding a lot:

The close-up on the left is her resting atop the highest shelf of my clothes closet, and on the right she's feeling more comfortable with Robin's puppet than with her fellow feline. I hope she comes around again in the next couple of days.

Cat news via Google includes Thomas, who's being "deluged with credit card deals and gym membership offers" in the mail; the results of a new UK survey on cats (maybe that's how Thomas got on all those mailing lists!); a cat's whisker makes for good fishing; and more than I wanted to know about civets and coffee beans. Then of course there's Neil Gaiman's latest blog anecdote about Fred the Unlucky Black Cat.
Change of Plans

Due to the bitter weather I won't be at the Big Apple Blogger Bash this evening after all, but I'll leave the link up on the sidebar until tomorrow. There are only a few things that could drag me out on a day like this (cranky and tired and still on vacation), and one of them is a sick friend. I'll be taking a short bus ride to visit Dave Cockrum at the local VA center this afternoon, and will try to report back upon my return, as I know Dave has lots of concerned friends and fans out there. As I mentioned Tuesday, there will be a tribute book and auction to help out Dave and Paty Cockrum financially, and I'm pleased to announce that Alan Davis and Robin Riggs will be contributing a sketch to it. [Cliff Meth, who's getting all this together, also wanted me to remind folks that his book god's 15 minutes is listed in February's Diamond Previews, with a signed/numbered edition (signed by Michael Kaluta and Harlan Ellison) available directly from him. Says Cliff, "Any extra press I can get on that project--which is now being neglected--would be appreciated."]
Silly Site o' the Day

Oh my god, it's the "maddest fucking cow you've ever seen." An absolutely hilarious animation by "Totally Tom." Via Dr. Headphones at last night's Firesign chat.
Our Slippery Language

Thirty years ago, when the members of The Firesign Theatre went on the David Susskind Show, Susskind couldn't quite figure them out, nor did they seem terribly eager to let him into their surreal world. At one point I remember Phil Proctor talked about how they "play with words, but the meanings keep slipping off," as he caused himself simultaneously to start sliding off his chair.

I'm still not sure Susskind "got it" by show's end, but ever since I saw the video of that program Phil's bit has stuck with me. I've always been fascinated by how people can use and twist language to whatever end, be it comedic or rhetorical or even sinister. The last usage has received a lot of press lately, and I'd like to recommend two very good bits I've found. The first is BuzzFlash's interview with George Lakoff, a professor of linguistics and cognitive science at the University of California Berkeley. (Yes, I'm biased, I majored in English and Linguistics at college, and I knew of Noam Chomsky from that field long before I ever heard of his political writing.) The interview's intro says Lakoff "is a specialist in the technique of 'framing,' a communication tool that creates a 'frame' for a message that defines the terms of the debate. Lakoff, like BuzzFlash, believes that the Republicans are experts at framing, while the Democrats hardly appear to understand how the technique works at all." The second is a post on The American Street by Jeff Alworth about this week's State of the Union speech, which borrowed a few terms from this article by Renata Brooks about Bush's "intentional use of language to dominate others." Both well worth reading.

And just to bring this back around to Firesign, someone on last night's chat said, "Did you know that 'bushing' is a term from a WA statute? It means to lure someone into a bad deal."

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Fun with PowerPoint

Via my friend Ken from the weekly Firesign chats (don't forget, the next one starts at 9 PM Eastern tonight!), the Democrats' Joint Economic Committee has put together a chart presentation on the Bush economic record. Great idea for those of us for whom ledger books are sometimes too abstract to grasp but who can relate much better to a visual format.
The Spirit is Willing, but the Signal Isn't Able

Damn. I hope they can figure out a way to rectify this. Maybe send Bush out there to fix it, he's itching for it so much? Update: Looks like it's back; let's hope it sticks this time!
Relearning Curve, Part 4

[See Part 1 here, Part 2 here and Part 3 here.]

The trouble with interviewing for my Dream Job is that the more things progress, the more nervous I become. With the last two jobs I've landed, I was interviewed by a few folks in the big boss' absence and pretty much hired immediately. With this particular position I have to work my way up, as it were. Today I went for my second interview, this time with one of my would-be bosses, an attorney who reminds me a lot of my doctor. Very composed, and she gave me lots of conversational space wherein I could express my desires and plans and hopes. And I think my brain just froze. And all the wonderful things I wanted to say to her about how much I wanted to work there, how I loved the area and atmosphere and admired the organization and I feel like I've not really had a chance to prove myself in the last few years even working hard under difficult and changing circumstances and that I know I'm competent and I'm a damned good admin assistant and I could be of so much more value there and most of all that I could do this job, really make something of it and help them so much... all of that kind of came out something of a jumble. Fortunately, she was interested in my extracurriculars, like this weblog, so with any luck she'll read it and find that some of the content makes up for any verbal stumbles I committed earlier in the day. If I'm found acceptable I'll be meeting the CEO next week. I'm not sure what to think at this point, I seem to have lost the ability to gauge how I did. So until I hear back one way or another, my current prospects are, like any chance of the local weather hitting above the freezing mark, on hold for the moment.
Monkey Business Scuttled


I was going to brave Chinatown even in this weather (today's the balmiest day of the week so far, but temperatures are barely climbing above freezing), but I woke up with a sore knee and other problems, so I think I'm just going to my second interview for My Dream Job, then maybe some sushi, but definitely the cheese shop and comics shop, then food shopping, then home. Yes, this is my version of "just."
Silly Site o' the Day

Everyone pretty much knows about Peter Anspach's Evil Overlord list, but he also has a page of Star Trek parodies. How can a guy this energetic be "too lazy to maintain his own Web page?"

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

As the F├╝hrer Dies Down

We've been watching a very interesting series on the Hitler History Channel this afternoon - David Halberstam's The Fifties, based on his book. Fascinating series, at least the majority of it that we've seen. Halberstam, a prolific author and historian, is interviewed a lot during the series, to great effect. So far we've seen the last four episodes: Let's Play House, which looked at suburban life through Sloan Wilson's "The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit" and Grace Metalious' "Peyton Place"; The Rage Within, which spoke of black invisibility in mainstream society and things that helped spark the civil rights movement like the Emmett Till murder and the Little Rock Nine; then The Beat, which examined youth culture (Kerouac, Elvis, Ginsberg, Brando, etc.); and finally, The Road to the Sixties (McDonald's, Harley Earl, the real Ralph Nader, the start of the space race, finishing with Castro and Kennedy).

The problem came during the commercials. You see, it's also Barbarians Week at the HC, and like just about everyone else lately they can't resist the temptation to compare apples and oranges. So not only do we get interesting historical overviews of actual races which were called barbarians in the past (yer basic Vikings and Goths and Monguls and Huns), some of which we watched and it was more or less interesting, but we also get the incessant trailer for "the worst that human nature has to offer" - Hitler, Stalin, bin Laden and - surprise! - Hussein. Oh yeah, and I kid you not, Targeted: Pineapple Face. I give them credit for starting by saying "Any boss will tell you, his worst enemy is a disgruntled former employee. General Manuel Antonio Noriega was on the CIA's payroll long before becoming Panama's strongman," which it would have been nice of them to lead with that about "our bastards" bin Laden and Hussein as well, but it's this apparent desperate (for ratings?) need to conflate selective still-living tyrants with historical dictators that I find rather disconcerting and not a little jingoistic (particularly during such a politically-charged week).

But that's how we seem to understand history, isn't it? We're slaves to analogy, even implied comparisons. We grasp at the familiar to explain the surreal. 9-11 felt like a movie. Ashcroft's America is reminiscent of 1984. And of course, all the Hitler-flinging that's been going on lately from both the right (mostly, it seems, rhetorical exaggeration for comedic and nastiness effect) and the left (mostly, it seems, perceived comparisons between current policies and classic Fascism). It's like if we can't say "what we're doing now is like something we've seen or read or experienced before," current events of major emotional and psychological importance become too new to comprehend and digest in and of themselves.

I'm not sure whether this concept of reaching for analogy in order to explain the terrible or unthinkable or unimaginable is a good or bad thing. It's probably a bit of both. History grounds us, gives us a starting point. Our national psyche seems to go in cycles (insert mandatory pendulum analogy here), and the more we know about and recall and discuss what's happened before, the better we can interpret the signs when it looks to be happening again. On the other hand, as Halberstam said at the end of The Fifties docu series, the decade "is not now and never was what it used to be." And there's also the danger of what the late Sam Phillips evinced when he observed "there will never be another time like it." How do we know this sort of thing in advance? We need to be open to any possibility, any newness, the idea that there will never (for good or ill) be another time like this one either, and work our way through that now and worry about slotting it in and judging it later, when we have the luxury of hindsight.
Quiz the Third

Following up on this post and this one about issue-oriented presidential quizzes, I just found another one courtesy of Echidne called President Match. I like this one a lot, except the "Next" button is on the top so you have to scroll back up after making your selections on each page. It pretty much gave me a 100% agreement with Kucinich, with Sharpton a close second, which sounds about right for me, and I liked the variety in the questions. Is someone out there compiling a list of all the quizzes, or is it just me? I must admit to being fascinated by how focused the blogosphere is with the actual issues, as the mainstream media makes itself look ever more foolish by concentrating almost exclusively on the stupid horse-racey stuff.
Going for the Gold

I didn't watch the SOTU last night - I'm sorry, I can't look at that smirking, arrogant face for more than a few seconds without shuddering - but I hear Bush said something about performance-enhancing steroids, which seems to have come out of nowhere and blindsided a lot of folks. So I decided to do a little fun-digging of my own. Now, fun-digging isn't investigative journalism, it's more like free associating via Google. Okay, steroids plus Super Bowl gave me this fun quote from News 24 in Houston about the condition of local roads, which are unlikely to be finished in time for the big game. Opined one Houstonian, "If they feed them enough steroids, maybe it'll happen by then." Oh dear, Crawford-to-Houston, we may have a problem. Then of course there's the Olympics coming up this summer, so I searched on Olympics + American + athletes + drugs, as you will, and it didn't take long at all to find an example of the latest American athlete facing possible Olympic disqualification due to drug use (her British husband has already been suspended for same!). So I'm wondering, bearing in mind that the Bush administration has been all about appearance over substance so far, is this somehow a ploy to make US athletes appear squeakier-than-thou this summer in Athens and thus score some sort of "oo-ess-ay" PR points with the Republican convention a few weeks thence and the national election looming a few months later? After all, even lefties like me love the Olympics and, while we may be against the War on Some Drugs, we value the idea of a level playing field and do tend to view steroid use as cheating, same as most folks. And if the American contenders quit now the drugs should be cycled out of their system by August without too much accompanying loss of the benefits they provided whilst those athletes were in training, and although you don't introduce new products then there's nothing says you can't introduce Steroids Are Bad Bush in January and drive the point home in August (in a "nyah nyah" sort of manner, at which this administration excels) when the whole world is watching. Besides, it'll distract attention from the whining excuses fact that our baseball team didn't even make the cut.

Like I said, this is just me free-associating. I tend to leave the serious analysis to others.
Silly Site o' the Day

Via skippy the bush kangaroo (who else?), it's Skippy the Goth Kangaroo!

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Bloggity-Blog-Blog-Hooray!

A very happy birthday to Laura Gjovaag, my tech wizard and guest blogger (the only person besides me with the keys to the Pen-Elayne car, as it were)! Laura, if the weather hadn't been so crappy and yours truly so afraid of walking on ice, you'd have had that Alan "Freakin'" Davis/Robin Riggs Aquaman sketch in time for your birthday. Hope the e-card makes up for that somewhat...
A Year of Changes


Datsa's home from the vet, having been - we were told - about 48 hours away from death had they not cleaned him out when they did. We also took home two medications (one in pill form, the other a liquid) that we'll have to administer him twice daily for the rest of his life to make sure his peristalsis works okay in the future. That means no more overnight trips without boarding him and Amy at $25/cat/day (which means $150 per cat for annual shots without which the clinic won't board), or finding a reliable and experienced pet-sitter. Just the first of many life shifts I'm expecting this year. My second interview for My Dream Job is Thursday; if I get the job that'll be the second big change. Stay tuned for more!
My Favorite Mentor

January is National Mentoring Month, so I thought I'd pass along an ad from the Harvard Mentoring Project, because it features one of my favorite people, Lone Ranger artist Tom Gill. Mr. Gill is one of the warmest and most knowledgeable men it's ever been my pleasure to meet; hey Steve, you still have that Lone Ranger he did for your 40th birthday? Anyway, it's great to see the man get his due. Robin's fondest memory of Mr. Gill - at a convention in White Plains a few years ago, he pointed out one of his "ex-students" across the room that he was going to greet a bit later, a "young fellow" named Joe Sinnott. Mr. Gill, a spry 90 years young, will be a special guest at this year's San Diego Comic-Con.

Incidentally, the second picture down on that White Plains con page is of Dave Cockrum, who Clifford Meth tells me is doing a little better but is still hospitalized - here's information on a tribute book that Cliff's putting together for the Cockrums. Cliff writes, "If you have access to other creators, please invite them to contact me. The current list of contributors (which keeps growing) [includes] Neal Adams, Murphy Anderson, Sergio Aragones, Dick Ayers, Mark Bagley, Charles Barnett, David Boswell, Chris Claremont, Gene Colan, Peter David, Diane Duane, Harlan Ellison, Mark Evanier, Neil Gaiman, Ron Garney, Tony Isabella, Bill Messner-Loebs, Steve Lieber, Stan Lee, Mike Pascale, John Romita, Marie Severin, Dave Sim, Walt Simonson, Mark Texeira, Roy Thomas, Lee Weeks, Len Wein, and Marv Wolfman. A benefit auction is also being planned." Cliff also asked if I could publicize god's 15 minutes, which features some amazing contributors as well as some writing from my best friend from college, Bill-Dale Marcinko; see my previous post about Billy here.
Besotted at SOTU

Via Maru Soze, at least now we can have fun this evening when Bush drives us to drink, with this year's State of the Union Address Drinking Game. Although I'm kinda with Melanie on this, I probably won't be watching the SOTU (too busy hugging my cat upon his return, if all goes well), but she has some good resources worth checking out. Meanwhile, Susie Madrak points to the Independent's "real state of the Union," a sort of Harper's Index of Bush's term so far. Update: South Knox Bubba's version of a SOTU drinking game has him donating to charity, which I think is terrific. Here's his very funny annual version of the SOTU So You Don't Have To. And here's Adam Felber's SOTU Drinking Game.
Monkey Business

It looks like this Thursday will be the least unpleasant day of the week weather-wise, so I'm hoping that's when my interview call-back is scheduled. Because the East Village isn't so very far from Chinatown, and I'd really like to celebrate the Lunar New Year there (it's the Year of the Monkey, if you haven't already heard), see the parade and maybe get a $8.88 prix fixe lunch, do a bit of shopping and help out the economy in the area as well. If you're interested, here's some other celebrating going on around NYC...
The Wide World of Blogs

For those who like this sort of thing, voting for the 2004 Bloggies (aka the fourth annual Weblog Awards) has commenced. I've even heard of one or two of 'em! Via Betsy Devine. I'm not even a twinkle in their eye, of course - hey, as I've mentioned before, I'm not even in the running in any Koufax category - but it's all right because my feminist karma has balanced all that. I was actually singled out, like majorly (along with Ampersand), in Christine Cupaiuolo's Bloggers We Love over at Ms. Musings - thank you, Christine! Friends of Lulu also gets a great plug, hooray! (Contrary to what many of my comics industry friends believe, I'm not really doing any work with FoL any more, but activity therein took a huge chunk of my time last decade so it's good to see it getting some new press.) Says Christine of her blogroll, "I'd love to hear from readers about other blogs and feminist media sites that should be added. Please keep in mind that with the overwhelming number of blogs out there, Ms. tries to keep the focus on issues pertaining to politics and news, technology and information, and arts and culture. Blogs by men are welcome, though the parameters are tighter: they’ve got to focus on gender and feminist issues." So drop her a line!
Silly Site o' the Day

Make your own damn band, courtesy of Rock Starter. From the folks who brought you Dancing Paul.
Light Blogging Ahead...

...at least, I think so. Datsa's in the hospital down the hill, having had his, um, plumbing unclogged at a cost we really can't afford (one reason I haven't taken the cats to the vet more often) but are of course going to pay anyway. I can't pick him up till later this afternoon, and my mind hasn't really been on Iowa or "then there were seven" or the SOTU address or even other blogs (even on vacation I feel like I'll never catch up) so, after this little blogburst, once I get back to sleep and for the rest of the day I probably won't be posting a lot. Wanted to acknowledge a milestone; though - best wishes to MadKane on the third anniversary of Dubya's Daily Diary.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Stand Up For Justice

Today counts as a vacation day for me, not a holiday; if I'm hired for this new job for which I'm going on a second interview this week, I get MLK Day 2005 as an actual holiday. Here's the Martin Luther King Jr. Papers Project, which appears to specialize in King's quotes on war and peace.
Silly Site o' the Day

Remember text adventures? Yeah, me too. I loved them, but I also sucked at them. So as you can imagine, I only got up to the part where Hamlet sees the ghost in the clever Hamlet text adventure. Good thing I read the original so I know how it all shakes out...

Sunday, January 18, 2004

He Yam What He Yam

The weatherman yesterday mentioned that the top of the Empire State Building was lit green in celebration of Popeye Day (spinach being green, and all), which of course sent me to Mark Evanier's blog and, sure enough, here's a great overview.
Silly Site o' the Day

Silly is as silly does. Some people think it's silly to drink latte, eat sushi, drive Volvos, read the NY Times, pierce one's body, and love Hollywood. Other people think it's silly that anyone would assume any of those hobbies are even related to one another, let alone evil. (Sushi, people? Sushi is not evil. Sushi is like unto the nectar of the gods! And what do you mean, I'm biased?) And other people think it's silly fun to mock ignorance with humor. Via Susie Madrak, if you're a Howard Dean supporter you can create your own postcard in response to the idiotic "left-wing freak show" ads.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Welcome to Hunting Camp Shoot-Down-Those-Checks-and-Balances

You know, if you and I were hunting buddies, and we both got jobs that required us to keep tabs on each other, I'd maybe stop hunting with you for awhile. Or, you know, try to excuse myself from the part of my job that had to do with you. Some of our Supreme Court justices do neither. Via Melanie Mattson come two interesting articles - Scalia-Cheney Trip Raises Eyebrows (I linked to the CBS News version because Melanie linked to the hunting-trip article in the LA Times, which is subscription-only), and an important essay by John Dean about The U.S. Supreme Court and the Imperial Presidency. As Melanie notes, John Dean "promises extensive coverage for each of these cases as they procede to oral arguments and final ruling," so stay tuned and see if our system of government spirals further into one branch or manages to maintain the three it nominally has now... (Speaking of the judicial and executive branches, has anyone used the pun "I Think He's Got It" yet regarding Bush's sneak "recess appointment" of Pickering? Or is that too obscure?)
Gentlemen Spies

There's always been something appealing to me about the concept of good-guy spies. It's a strange mixture of heroism and subterfuge that doesn't seem to exist outside of the cinematic world. But I was finally going through my fellow Liberal Coalition members' blogs today (no energy to really do a blogaround but I did want to welcome new member Wanda, and I know I've said this on the LC mailing list but I also want to say it here - get well soon, Stradiotto!) and came upon a very interesting post by Edwardpig, quoting the latest press release/memo from the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Safety, suggesting topics that Bush might include in his upcoming State of the Union address, and I couldn't figure out why the VIPS sounded familiar. Then I recalled (okay, via Google) fellow LC member Lilith wrote about them back in May, calling these former intelligence officials "patriots, who are outraged by the administration's mendacity" and adds, "VIPS members are no doubt putting their careers - and perhaps even their freedom - at risk by coming forward." More missives from the VIPS can be found here (PDF file). I don't think they have a website; I don't think they think that's a good idea, given the circles in which they've travelled. But they do sound like a class act, that gives me hope that even people engaged in somewhat disreputable professions can be heroes too.
Some Science is More Equal Than Other Science

The first fall-out of Bush's space-based grandstanding is starting to come to the fore. Via Barbara O'Brien, the news that NASA Cancels Trip to Supply Hubble, Sealing Early Doom. Dang, I just saw a show about the Hubble 'scope the other day, ever since it's been working properly it's been a real boon to scientific discovery. But we can't have that, can we? These days, just as with pretty much all their policies, the illusion that the government is supporting something scientific is far more important than the reality. Meanwhile, Get Your War On goes to Mars! "And we all have to wear purple hats and everyone gets a free basketball!!!" David Rees cracks me up every time.
Silly Site o' the Day

Via Ampersand, it's the brilliant Flash movie Behind the Typeface: Cooper Black. A very happy belated birthday to its creator, Cheshire Dave.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Friday Cat Blogging (™ Kevin Drum)

Datsa's feeling a bit poorly today, hiding away in my closet:

But I'll be home all week to take care of my Big Boy Beast, so I'm hoping he rebounds when the weather does.
Not Ex-ter-mi-na-ted

Via Laura Gjovaag - "A long-lost Dalek episode of Doctor Who has been returned to the BBC by an engineer who rescued the film from destruction in the early 1970s."
Silly Sites o' the Day

Again from my secret sauce source, it's "the world's first site about nothing but airline food." Tons of pictures, some of which even look appetizing! And in sort-of keeping with the theme, via Mark Evanier, here are some vintage supermarket photos.
Relearning Curve, Part 3

Robin likes to say, "Everything happens for a reason." For the most part I subscribe to that theory, but it's a little tough to remember when job-hunting with as narrow a window of opportunity as I've been given with which to search (basically, only those days when my boss is out of the office, preferably on vacation, and sometime before the company moves out of NYC and I won't be able to get into Manhattan very easily). But I also acknowledge I'm not the most patient person in the world, and I do begin to get discouraged after a few months and four agencies with no follow-up calls to set up interviews and three interviews with no call-backs and the clock ticking until the company move and the general economic situation in the country and the weather... well, you get the idea.

I didn't want to come into work today in this dangerous cold, but before going on vacation my boss FedEx'ed me a package that needed to be attended to ASAP so here I am, layered and organized and it's all taken care of when my husband phones saying I got a call to set up an interview. I called back immediately, and the friendliest voice in the world answered the phone. Singing! Oh my God, I thought, we're in Elayne Territory now! This is such a Good Sign! And they need to fill the slot and they want to find just the right person and could I possibly even come in today? I said as long as they didn't mind jeans, even though I suspected from what I know of the company that they wouldn't, and she said sure, come on by! So that became my lunch hour.

I'm not going to jinx anything by talking about the position or the company. Suffice it to say that, if I were given a computer and keyboard and asked to envisage my ideal exec assistant job, inclusive of everything from the type of boss to the salary and benefits to the work atmosphere to the location, this is the job I'd write up. It's possibly the first time in my entire career where I didn't feel like I was a round peg trying to flex myself to fit into a square hole (even at Lehigh, which I adored and where I worked for 14 years, the salary could have been a bit better). The HR and I had simpatico from the beginning, she's a beautiful round woman so right away the usual "I wonder if they'll be judging my weight" trepidation was put aside, and she used to read comics so we wound up discussing just about everything under the sun. And she said she'd look up my weblog, so if she's found me I just want to thank her again for a wonderful interview experience, and that I look forward to seeing her again next week. This is the sort of thing that makes an upcoming vacation-at-home a very pleasant thing indeed. The only down-side is that I fear I shall be somewhat heartbroken if I don't get the position, so I'll be keeping all appropriate digits crossed.

[Part 1 of Relearning Curve is here; Part 2 is here.]
Travelog Plugs

Since it looks like I'll be going nowhere next week during my time off work, not even - if this frigid weather keeps up - into The City to pound the pavement at Manhattan-based employment agencies, I find myself more enamored lately of folks with the means to travel and the eloquence to report on their unfamiliar surroundings. Two travel journals I've found fascinating today are by Bob Harris, who reviews his visit to New Zealand; and Sean Penn, who's gone back to Iraq in search of truth and a good lamb chop, and reports for the San Francisco Chronicle here and here.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

The Google Has Landed

Yeah I know, I'm not paying any attention to Bush's grandstanding either, but I still think it's cool that Spirit is off the platform and actually moving on the Martian surface now. So does Google:


Meanwhile here on Earth, the temperatures feel a bit too Martian in places. Check out what Neil Lareau, Summit Intern atop Mount Washington, has to say today. Lareau concludes, " There is the possibility, based on some of the model data, that temperatures will fall below our all time low temperature of –47F. This would not only break our record but also the official State of New Hampshire record. All eyes are on the thermometers!"
For Art's Sake

These 3D sidewalk paintings by Kurt Wenner are gorgeous. Michele, click here for the info on where they are and what their names are, as well as to see other Wenner works.
Silly Site o' the Day

The IRC Bible. Frankly, they had me at hello-- I mean, at "* Jehova has joined #tohuwabohu". Via Julia, Mistress of Links!
How to Deal with Rejection

I wish I were Margaret Cho. 'Nuff said.
Well, That Wasn't a Fun Commute

We're moving in a couple of months, and it's becoming clearer every day that we will no longer look for a place situated on a hill. It's bad enough clambering down and climbing up on the best of days; on a morning after it's been snowing on and off all night, and the consistency of the snow (due, I guess, to frigid temperatures) is such that even booted feet can find no purchase, and you can't even walk in the road because it hasn't been plowed and you're watching SUVs spin out right in front of you... well, it took me about 10 minutes of slipping and sliding the one block downhill and across an equally slippery intersection just to get to the bus stop. From where, on normal days, I'd be able to walk the five or so short blocks to the subway, but those blocks are mildly hilly as well and, again, nothing's been plowed or shoveled and it's tricky enough finding solidity on level ground! So I waited at the bus kiosk (which is never plowed even when everything around it is) with people who'd been there almost a half hour before the bus chugged up, and of course the metal steps leading up to the elevated subway station weren't shoveled either so I'm there gripping the railing with both hands like a friggin' mountain climber, and although Seventh Avenue across from Macy's was mostly slushy and solid and navigable the second you turn the corner onto 35th it's like being right back in Riverdale with the slippey and the slidey and the lack of shoveling and the HEY LADY! Sorry, where was I? Oh yes, only 20 minutes late to work. And heck with this, I'm taking a car service back home tonight and an extra day of vacation tomorrow and venturing absolutely nowhere until All This is over. Oh yeah, and I'm also feeling slightly chagrined and depressed because in my last post I said it didn't sound like Moseley-Braun was dropping out of the race and now just about everyone is reporting that she is.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

You Know You're a Geek When...

...you note to your husband that Ambassador Carol Moseley-Braun has quoted both Mr. Spock (complete with accompanying hand-gesture) and Paul Atreides in the same interview (on The Daily Show this evening). I'll tell you one thing, it sure didn't sound like she was dropping out of the race.
On "No" Meaning "No" and "Common Sense"

Very interesting post by Ampersand on the subject of rape avoidance, but please don't neglect the fascinating comment section that follows. It gets a bit hostile in places but this is obviously a very volatile subject so it's to be expected. What a pleasure to have Barry posting more regularly again! Alas, A Blog is one of my favorite places, I almost always learn or think about something new whenever I visit.
You Can't Make This Stuff Up
I keep thinking I can't be surprised anymore. And yet, this administration's capacity to surprise is apparently infinite. We wake up each morning and really, genuinely don't know what they're going to do next. This never-ending astonishment we experience, it is their gift to us. Tomorrow... we will once again put down the newspaper and turn to our significant others with and say, with voices tinged with amazement, "You're really not going to believe this."
That's from Tom Tomorrow; read the entire entry. I quite enjoyed this one.
A Dose of Stuart Smalley?

I want to start this entry by begging your pardon for any excessive self-indulgence and bitterness. But I don't deal with rejection very well, probably why I have a paralyzing fear of it. I just need to get this all off my chest, and I firmly believe that blogging about something like this is far better than developing an ulcer.

I got two rejections in the space of five minutes this morning. One was from Jackie Estrada, to whom I'd written after reading about her choice of judges for this year's Eisner Awards. I inquired, as I've done on and off for about the past ten years, as to when I might be considered for a slot as a judge. After all, I wrote weekly comics reviews for 4+ years; I'm a board member emeritus of Friends of Lulu (where I accomplished one of Lulu's lasting legacies by organizing the Women Doing Comics list, ironically with lots of input from Jackie); I have a 100% publication rate for my stories so far (4 for 4, albeit all for charity anthologies); I even broke two industry stories on my weblog last year (Alan Davis' X-men plans and the CrossGen non-payment situation, the latter determined by CBG to be the second biggest comics story of 2003 even though that publication all but ignored it - and by the way, as far as I know, CrossGen still hasn't paid any of its freelancers after almost a year!). I also read more comics, and a wider variety thereof, than just about anyone else I know. My credentials may not be good enough for my blog to be listed any more at ¡Journalista! - maybe I have to break three industry stories in 2004 to be considered worthy of blogroll inclusion again by Dirk Deppey & co.? - but I figured they were good enough to qualify as an Eisner judge. After all, Jackie's e-mail starts by outlining her category criteria, which jibes with what she's said elsewhere. But then she says, "You don't really fit into any of my judge categories." Frankly, given all that I've just written, I beg to differ.

The editor/wife of creator Batton Lash continues by explaining that I have a "conflict of interest" being married to a creator, which disqualifies me from even being on her potential judges list! Good thing past judges Anina Bennett and Janet Hetherington haven't had to get divorced! [/sarcasm] By the way, there's no "inker" category in the Eisners, just "penciller/inker combination," and it's not like Robin has a regular book or anything. (Publishers, please take note! Yes, at this point Robin and I are both looking for jobs...)

Jackie concluded by admitting she now has an "informal rule" not to have as a judge anyone who asks to be a judge. Ah, now it becomes clear. I would like to be considered, therefore I'm disqualified. I should have evinced no interest, like everyone else who becomes a judge because... they don't want to?

The other rejection wasn't nearly as final or as personal. It was from Kevin Hayden regarding me participating on The American Street. "Unlike OSP," Kevin explained, "I recruited enough folks for two people to post each day. In that process, 3 or 4 said they wouldn't even commit to their one day a week, but asked to post parttime. So... all the daily slots are taken. As I said before, though, since our underlying focus is about primaries briefly and swing states for most of the year, when non-regulars have something related to a state that'll help enlighten folks, let me know and I'll set you up so you can be one of our guests (that's what the 'Drive By Bloggers' spot is for on the sidebar.)" So I'm cool with that, actually - it just came after Jackie's punch to the gut so its worst fault was bad timing. I honestly can't blame Kevin for not considering me. New York isn't really a swing state, and my blog isn't focused on the political horse race - in fact, I don't actually consider myself a political writer or pundit anyway.

Which might be part of the problem, part of the reason I don't get invited to the group blog parties (although to be fair, I was accepted as a member of the League of Liberals and later as a member of the Liberal Coalition) or have my blog up for awards consideration (two people told me they nominated me for a couple Koufaxes, but Dwight and Mary Beth have pretty much listed all the initial nominees in every category and I'm nowhere to be found). I'm just not excessively focused on any one subject. I'm a little bit country, I'm a little bit rock and roll. Pen-Elayne isn't about anything in particular, it's a current events blog and a comics blog and a New York blog and a media blog and a silly sites blog and a just-about-anything-that-strikes-my-fancy blog. Not easily pigeonholed.

And of course, the elephant in my living room that I refuse to acknowledge is that maybe, just maybe, my writing simply isn't as good as those who are up for awards. And that my credentials aren't as good as those who are still doing comics reviews (which by the way I still am, just not regularly; I wrote at least half a dozen reviews for this blog last year), or who have the class not to ask to be involved in something. And that maybe I have no business even trying to be involved (in blogging, in comics, in whatever) given that I'm never going to measure up to people's criteria for inclusion. That the only thing I'm good for is grunt work. Even on the few occasions where I'm acknowledged it's like an afterthought; for instance, my 2002 Volunteer of the Year award from Lulu wasn't even mentioned in their press releases.

But you see, this is me feeling sorry for myself. This is me never being good enough. This is what rejection does to me. It makes me stupid and whinging for no good reason at all. This is me dismissing the Lulu award and being a Large Mammal in TTLB's Ecosystem and having a Blogstreet Influence Quotient of #150 even though I'm ranked 741st in popularity and drawing an average of 183 unique readers every day and mentioning inclusion in LoL and LC only as parentheticals, all because they don't fit in with my self-pity party.

And this is why, on the whole, I prefer to be other-directed. And why part of me actually welcomes the face-slapping rejections - welcomes the truth about myself. Because I know from rejection how unimportant and easily dismissed I am. And I know from my meager accomplishments how little they actually mean in the overall scheme of things. A little more than a week after I started this blog I talked about how blessed I am to have so many talented friends, how "I tend to go through life considering almost all my friends and acquaintances to be more interesting than me." I still believe that. If you're reading this, chances are you're more interesting and more talented and just plain more worthy than the person writing it. Yeah, sure truth hurts, but it also provides a much-needed dose of perspective.

None of the above is meant to fish for compliments or acknowledgements or anything else, by the way. It's just me blowing off steam and exorcising some personal demons and reminding myself again how important you all are (not only by comparison with me but in and of yourselves). Although I will confess, I'd still wouldn't mind if Dirk re-blogrolled me someday. :)
Silly Site o' the Day

Can you figure out this card trick? I thought it was brilliant. If you want to know the answer, check out the second comment under Brooke Biggs' post about it.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Ill Gill

Get-well-soon wishes going out to Steve Gilliard.
Yet Another Issue-Oriented Political Quiz

Following up on my post from January 7: via Ted Rall, it's Whack-a-Pol! My results pretty much echoed Ted's: "Suffice it to say that Al Sharpton lasted longest for me, but I lost him on the very last question. In the end no candidate did it for me 100%. I lost Dean over his support for NAFTA... I lost Kucinich over his desire to keep some of Bush's irresponsible tax cuts. When I put Dean back in by saying I didn't care about NAFTA, I lost him again on single-payer healthcare. I kept losing him--on defense, supporting Republicans, etc."
Silly Hats Sites o' the Day

As Eva Whitley says, "Apparently there's a following for wearing geographically-specific food on your head. Who knew?" Here's the link to get a Philly Cheese Steak hat. Not to be outdone, the Cheeseheads report on signs of intelligent life on Mars. Now, that's one cheesy PhotoShop! Or maybe hats made of meat are more your thing. And as an animal lover I'm not sure I want to go here or here...
On the Street Where You Live

Happy 51st birthday to Kevin Hayden, whose American Street group blog is well underway! And in the "dang, I just can't seem to catch up on my blogroll reading any more" department, a belated happy first blogiversary to Jeff Alworth's Notes on the Atrocities!