Elayne Riggs' Journal (for Leah)

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Not-So-Lazy Susan

Today is the birthday of Suburban Guerilla's Susan (link at sidebar). I love her entry, and I may swipe it for my birthday: "Notice there is no tip jar, no Amazon wishlist, no pleas for money on this site. The only thing Suburban Guerrilla asks is that you pay me annual tribute on my birthday, in the form of an email card." Well, my Amazon wishlists are on the sidebar for me to keep track of stuff more than anything else, but as you know I totally echo Susan's thoughts about not begging others to support our hobby, so I'm sending her a birthday card right now. Happy birthday, Susan!!
We Takes It And We Polishes It...

Yes, I've got Lord of the Rings on the brain, after Gerry Alanguilan mentioned on The Inkwell that the Return of the King trailer is out. Now Jeralyn Merritt (link at sidebar) points to this very clever Right-Wing Pundit Reaction to the Valerie Plame Affair. And of course now I can't get the infamous Gaiman-penned Smeagle-Gollum slashfic thingie (scroll down a bit to get to it) out of my head. Again.
I Hates Them Meeses to Pieces

Sometimes the Today Show just goes so far overboard it might as well be Faux News. Today they had Nadine Strossen of the ACLU on to critique Ashcroft's PATRIOT nonsense, and - get this - Edwin Meese to defend it! Too early in the morning for that kind of surrealism.

Monday, September 29, 2003

Following the Breaking Plame Scandal

Bill Connolly (link at sidebar) has a great idea, which I'd like to embellish. If you want the latest breaking news on L'affaire Plame, check out this Google news search (Bill's doing) and refresh it about every half hour or so (my suggestion). Update: Kos (link at sidebar) has inspired a fascinating conversation in the comment section to this post about whether reporter Robert Novak should be prosecuted. Up to 152 comments and counting so far!
Wacky Pictures

I think Blogger/Blogspot may have been hacked again. It's my usual wont to click down my blogroll for my daily reading, then hit the back button in between checking out the blogs. Twice so far, when I've hit my back button to return to my blog, a weird picture has come up as "background wallpaper" obscuring the text and such. The last time this happened was July 6 during the infamous "hacker contest" so maybe there's another one going on... In any case, refreshing the page should get rid of the uninvited wallpaper.
Two More

RIP Althea Gibson (nice eulogy from Ms. Musings, link at sidebar) and Elia Kazan. (Yeah, Kazan's cooperation with HUAC always bothered me too, but why excoriate him and not Ronald Reagan?)

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Like Moths to a Plame

L'affaire Plame - i.e., the illegal and politically-motivated outing (by someone in the White House) of Joseph Wilson's wife Valerie Plame as an undercover CIA operative in order to smear Wilson after he said stuff the White House didn't want to hear (vis a vis no evidence of Iraq wanting to buy uranium from Niger) - is being admirably covered around the blogosphere. For more details see Atrios, Joshua Micah Marshall, Jeanne d'Orleans, Jeralyn Merritt, and lots of others on the blogroll. I recommend you start with Josh's interview with Wilson, then go to his blog as well as Atrios, who has just reported that the scandal has finally made the mainstream news. We're talking felonies at the highest level of government, folks. Not that it's surprising, but this is probably the most corrupt administration since Nixon. And it's quite possible that the blogosphere will produce the new Woodwards and Bernsteins on this one.
A Cartoon History of Empire

Via Barbara O'Brien at Mahablog (link at sidebar), over at Daryl Cagle's page (see sidebar for Daryl's blog) David Horsey seems to have wrapped up his satirical history Empire Rising at seven pages. Might make a nice addendum to Larry Gonick's books...
RIP Donald O'Connor

Found out via Mark Evanier (link at sidebar). Here's the Washington Post obit. This fan of Golden Age musicals will always remember him fondly.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

Resources Without Humans

I'd like to recommend a brilliant entry by Emma riffing on a Financial Times article she read about why managers don't seem to understand more about how happy employees are more productive. According to Emma,
I would blame the pervasive managerial fallacy that places the worker on the debit side of the ledger. And you can pinpoint exactly when it happens in any workplace: when the personnel department becomes "Human Resources".

"Human Resources" places the worker in the same context as raw materials or office supplies. It allows management to indulge in "organizational transformation," through "redesigning of the human resources system," by "implementing organization development interventions" to "strengthen organizational relationships" with the goal of "improving effectiveness and productivity".(*)

I dare you to find the human being in that maze.
Her footnote translates the gobbledygook as follows:
(*)This means "we are going to downsize the staff by 20%, shove the work onto those who are left while cutting their benefits--and don't even think about a raise!. Human Resources idiots will hold a series of mandatory brown-bag lunch meetings (out of the goodness of our hearts we will provide sodas) to tell you how wonderful this will be to our bottom line. At the end of the quarter we will show a .5% rise in our stock and management will be voted million dollar raises by their buddies on the Board of Trustees, and next year we start all over again."
By the way, did I mention that I'm actively seeking a new job? E-mail me for my resume if you or someone you know in the NYC area would like to hire a damn good executive secretary.
"Get Out, Get Out, Get Out"

From Reuters (via my husband) - Tens of thousands of anti-war protesters staged demonstrations around the world today calling for an end to the US occupation of Iraq. If you're Fox News, of course, that translates downward to only thousands. Google has lots of related stories, and I'll be turning on EuroNews now... Yep, they showed it, and said there were about 100,000 in London (from their overhead shot of Trafalgar Square I can believe it!) and smaller demos in Belgium, Turkey (they showed scenes from Brussels and Ankara, mentioning during the latter that it was also marking the 3rd anniversary of the latest intifada), France, Greece, Spain, Canada and the US. Looking forward to seeing more domestic coverage about demos in San Fran and here in NYC (where apparently there's another round planned for tomorrow). And we were on time to catch the launching of the Smart-1 probe's rocket live!
Following the Money

More news on CrossGen Comics from Newsarama, as Matt Brady details the current legal and financial picture in a bit more depth.

Via Elaine Frankonis (link at sidebar), someone else has the same sort of reason I do for not being in synagogue today. Key sentences: "Services too often substitute for rather than encourage the soul-rending that needs to occur on these days. Religion, meant to be the soul's guide through the difficulties of life and living, becomes a substitute rather than aid and encouragement to spirituality." Besides, I can't stay awake, particularly during the usually-interminable Rosh Hashanah service that occurs on a Shabbos...
Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines

Isn't the commercialization of the Bognor Birdman contest bad enough without an American corporation starting a copycat contest of its own? Oh, and be sure not to drink and fly, while you're at it...
Ear to the 'Puter

In about half an hour (3PM Eastern, noon Pacific time), David Ossman from The Firesign Theatre will be hosting "Ossman's Audiola", a live, four-hour show on KSER radio in Everett, Washington. You can listen to it here via Windows Media Player, or open the player and set it to here. And hey, if you have two computers, Firesign fan Jerry Stearns will be playing "Peter Galaxy, Interstellar Envoy" on Sound Affects at 3PM Central time (4PM Eastern, 1PM Pacific) on KFAI in Minneapolis, which you can listen to via RealAudio here. But, as my Firesign alert says, "if you can't choose between them, you can pick up the Sound Affects show up to two weeks later in the KFAI archives." Me, I'll be lucky if I can take these earplugs out, considering the upstairs noise...

Friday, September 26, 2003

Fragile Dwellings

Via Johnny Bacardi (link at sidebar), Alan David Doane's Comic Book Galaxy website is no more, according to the site's blog. Considering this I'm tempted to make a remark about glass houses, but I do kinda understand the schadenfreude angle a bit so instead I'll refer folks to this entry and this one as well. I know Blogger is far from perfect but, y'know, it is free, and it's a very liberating feeling not to be dependent on the donations of others.
"It's time to crank up the TARDIS..."

Via Franklin Harris (link at sidebar): Dr. Who Returns to TV. Don't mind who the new Doctor will be as long as he's cute, but I wouldn't say no to Paul McGann again. And the gushy feminist in me would love them to cast a woman, but the gooey geek in me keeps trying to think if they've already found an "out" for that in the series' canon involving Gallifreyan physiology... and that's usually the point at which I shake my head at myself (good trick if one can manage it) and go "geez, it's just a TV show" and head off in search of a life.
Under Our Noses

Pardon me boy
Is that the President's escape train?
Track 61
He's getting ready to run...

Via Tom at TBogg (link at sidebar). All I have to say is, Teresa Nielsen-Hayden, you might want to add this to your link list of little-known info about NYC...
RIP George Plimpton

Damn. Great writer, and I think I'll remember him most fondly for this.
L'Shana Tova

Tonight marks the beginning of Rosh Hashanah (the "head of the year") 5764, traditionally a time when many Jews suddenly rediscover their consciences in the hopes that God will mark them down in the great cosmic plus column for another year. Kinda like some Christians remember to be good to people around Christmas and then conveniently abandon their altruistic impulses by the New Year. But there are always exceptions, and this year I'll be thinking wonderful thoughts about these brave pilots. May they, and all lovers of peace, be inscribed in the Book of Life this year.
The Bill Comes Due

I've never experienced the dubious pleasure of sitting through any of radical rightwing pundit crazyguy Bill O'Reilly's rants, but I still get the feeling that Atrios (link at sidebar) has him down pat. Lots of fun reading! Apparently the Horse (no permalink so scroll down about halfway, past all the sidebar stuff, and you'll see it) has declared it Talk Like Bill O'Reilly Day. Update: Blah3 has it down as well, and Terry Welch made me smile too.
Physician, Heal Thyself

Tish Parmeley (link at sidebar) has a nice haul-off on Dr. Phil, in response to Paul McAleer (link at sidebar) posting about the TV shrink. I have no patience for folks who are kinda robust-looking themselves but seem to get off on putting down fat people (Phil, Jay Leno, etc.).
RIP Robert Palmer

A heart attack in Paris, aged 54. Throughout the world, blank-faced models in tight dresses and high heels pretending to play musical instruments for male viewers to ogle and female viewers to roll their eyes and give up on MTV in disgust are in mourning.
Does This Site Get 400 Unique Visits Every Time I Type "CrossGen"?

Here's more CrossGen news from the Pulse which mentions - among other things - some executive firings, including COO Gina Villa (sister cousin of CrossGen head honcho Mark Alessi). Here's Newsarama's take on it.
Hoisted on Their Own Petard

Via Al-Muhajabah: Amina Lawal's conviction has been overturned by a judge with enough on the ball to throw the Quran right back at the people who twisted it in the first place. I mean, if you're going to abide by a literal interpretation of a holy book in order to achieve your sick misogynist power trip in the first place, you have to take your lumps when someone else uses that same method against you. I admit I don't know much about Sharia law, but its extreme practitioners smack of the same sort of woman-hating pick-and-choose hypocrisy as most other religious extremists, and the world would be far better off without these people in any sort of positions of power. And that includes the Knesset and the Republican Party.
Don't Call Us, We'll Call You

Now that the Do Not Call registry is dead in the water again, I imagine a lot of folks will be asking, "since when is commercial speech protected under the First Amendment?" This page should help a bit.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

RIP Edward Said

Here's the obit from Columbia University. Update on 9/26: I found the entries on Said by Aziz Poonwalla and Jonathan Edelstein, along with subsequent comments, to be very interesting. You'll probably want to check out links that Bill Connolly provides as well.
You Finally, Really Did It -- You Maniacs!

Via Maru Soze (link at sidebar): Shouldn't there be some sort of prohibition against giving the Charlton Heston Award to Charlton Heston? (I also love how it's going to be "given periodically when the AFI finds a worthy winner.") Yeah, I know Will Eisner wins a lot of Eisner Awards, but that's a yearly prize, not an occasional just-'cause-we-feel-like-it honor.
More Damage Control

So I went on JetBlue's website to check on my boss' flight today, and they had a direct link from their home site to David Neeleman's apology letter, where I learned that they "have retained the firm of Deloitte & Touche to assist us in making sure that we have in place all of the procedures to assure that such a mistake never happens again." I cannot tell you how much this fills me with confidence.
A Happier Day For Some Than Others...

Did I mention today was National Comic Book Day? Well, it is. And Mike Wieringo (link at sidebar, under "Kultcha") has a lovely announcement up on his blog today. The only thing that would thrill me more is if 'Ringo actually put in some permalinks... Also on the good news front, Lis Riba (link at sidebar) reports on an article in the latest Stars & Stripes about Chris Tarbassian, founder of Operation Comix Relief which sends comic books to armed forces serving overseas. I wish this had been around when I was sending Steve his weekly haul during his last years in the Navy. But it's not too late for Laura Gjovaag (link at sidebar), who's been faithfully sending comics to an Aquaman fan in Iraq, to take advantage of this organization's existence!
Worthwhile Links

I've been trying to find a permanent link to the archives of Walter Cronkite's new syndicated column. The Philly Inquirer, which I guess is the syndicator, isn't any help. Via Barbara O'Brien at Mahablog (link at sidebar), at least the Denver Post has an archive to the right of the page where his latest column appears, so that's better than nothing.

Via Al-Muhajabah (link at sidebar), I finally got to take an official online IQ test, but I only scored 131 so I'm slightly bummed out; I really thought I was somewhere in the 140's... maybe it's somehow a timed test and they subtract points if you take too long (which anyone doing the test in between office work is bound to do)?
The CrossGen Implosion?

I promised follow-up to my CrossGen-related posts of August 13 and September 23 (from what I understand permalinks may be "Bloggered" so you can find the latter entry on this page and the former in the August 2003 archive) as the situation with the company changed, and I have a doozy to pass on this time. By the way, happy National Comic Book Day, everyone.

From the comics news site Pulse comes the following, which I'm repro'ing in its entirety and I'm sure my friend Heidi MacDonald won't mind:
In a major restructuring today, financially beleaguered CrossGen underwent layoffs and changed its basic working structure, The Pulse has learned.

Creative staff, previously on salary as employees of the company, were switched to a page rate, resulting in a lower income, in most cases. In addition, they were given clearance to seek freelance work at other companies, another drastic change in the way CrossGen has traditionally done business. At least one artist, Butch Guice, has already quit the company.

In addition, there were a large number of layoffs in both the creative and business side, perhaps as many as 20-25.

Since launching in May of 2000, CrossGen's unorthodox set-up has won both praise and skepticism. While lauded for their ontime publishing schedule, high production values, and attention to genres that other companies weren't publishing, their studio structure--putting all the members of a creative team in an office together, with everyone from the writer to the colorist as a salaried employee--was viewed as risky. Founder and President Mark Alessi based the setup on his experience in the software industry, where he felt having a team working together created a creative atmosphere based on camaraderie. Alessi made his fortune at a software company that developed an early version of JAVA before selling the firm to Ross Perot.

While controversial, the studio system worked well overall, with most creators enjoying both the working environment and the benefits of being an employee.

Over the past few months, CrossGen's monetary problems have become common knowledge, as freelancers stepped forward with tales of not being paid, and the shipping schedule had to be altered to allow for the cash flow problems. CrossGen personnel have assured both the creative community and the press that more financing was on the way.

Today multiple sources confirmed the change in status for the creative team, some of whom have already picked up work at Marvel and DC. In addition, at least one creator, Guice, artist of RUSE, has quit the company outright. Guice also served as assistant art director .

It is unknown how this will affect CrossGen's overall publishing schedule moving forward.

CrossGen was not available for comment.
Which is somewhat remarkable considering that CrossGen has been one of the major sponsors of Pulse's site (Comicon).

The whole thread is well worth reading through (including Dirk Deppey's comments and the link to his blog's reporting of the situation); a similar thread has been started at the comics news site Newsarama but I haven't perused it yet. I'm half-expecting some deranged CrossGen fans to attack me and Robin as the proximate cause of the company's downfall rather than acknowledging the actual culprit - overextension precipitating a financial situation which included, among other things, the non-payment of freelancers that we brought to light. Heck, if I had that kind of power believe me I'd use it for good, not evil. I mean, sic me on Washington DC and Sacramento, y'know? Not a comics company whose books I touted and thoroughly enjoyed right up until they screwed my husband out of $1300.

However, as some speculate, this "restructuring" could be a prelude to Mark Alessi obtaining the next round of financing he's sought. If they get the bucks to continue publishing and pay all the people they owe, this situation could still resolve itself on something of a positive note. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

Back in the pre-digital era, the way many of us communicated creatively was through zines. While we strove for clarity of layout (well, some of us, it took me awhile to get to that point with INSIDE JOKE and arguably I never quite reached it in my zeal to cram the zine full of as much text as possible), we realized that content was the key consideration not only for us self-publishers but for our readers. Printing and mailing was expensive, even more so for specialized luxuries like perfect binding and color (heck, most print shops charged extra for stapling the things), so we made do with what we could afford. You didn't self-publish zines for profit, you did it because it was fun and a way to make friends and share creative endeavors and information, just like most of the best bloggers do today. Occasionally we'd ask our readers for a bit of short-term financial help if we found ourselves in a bind (certainly not to the level of some bloggers who push their tip jars in your face like subway buskers, implying it's somehow your obligation to support their hobby even though they could do it for free if they really wanted to, like I and lots of others do... but I digress), but for the most part we learned to budget x-amount of money for our hobby that we acknowledged we'd never see again, much as people who collect comics or CDs or other items budget money for their hobbies.

In other words, we tried not to be overly ambitious, and not to stretch beyond our financial means. And we shook our heads as those who did more or less failed miserably. I saw it happen twice to my Four-Alarm FIRESIGNal successors. Each gentleman who took over the zine decided to take what had been a successful 6-page, black and white photocopied, thrice-yearly mailed (and later e-mailed) bulletin on which I'd never lost a penny (I don't think I ever asked for donations and I think the "charge" was a self-addressed stamped envelope, but people gave me money anyway just because they liked what I was doing and appreciated Firesign news) and expand it into something perfect-bound with color pages and all slicked-up... and they wound up coming out with maybe one issue every couple of years, or losing tremendous amounts of money and then blaming me for telling them they'd have tons of enthusiastic readers. Well, I think they would have, had they pretty much kept to doing what I did. FAlaFal wasn't broken, it didn't need fixing or updating or slickening up.

I say all this as a prelude to an item brought to my attention by Pulse, regarding a would-be start-up magazine called Prophecy. Advertising themselves as being "at the forefront of graphic sequential art" and claiming "Our quality is unparalleled," with a stated mission "to transform the American perception of a diverse art form with a multitude of genres and styles for all people," it sounded like a great idea. I was a little skeptical of pronouncements like, "The magazine is targeted to both male and female demographics from the ages of 18 to 35 and will be distributed throughout the United States using mainstream channels to be announced. This distribution is a break from traditional comics distribution methods, reaching a wider audience than any other comics publisher," because again, it seemed like a way to circumvent a comics delivery system that (while a bit too much of a monopoly) isn't particularly broken, but we happily subscribed anyway.

That was over a year ago. On Sunday, publisher Ken Morgan apparently e-mailed the following to contributors and subscribers (although we never got it). I'll be "fisking" it throughout.
Dear Prophecy Magazine Creators,

I am writing to update you regarding the status of Prophecy Magazine and its launch and offer you a proposition regarding your work and participation in Prophecy.

I met with the investment bankers two weeks ago and shared with them our plans for Prophecy Magazine and Sequent Media.
Okay, right away this sets up warning bells. This magazine has been in the planning stages for over a year, and they're just meeting with investment bankers? Why are they even meeting with outside investors in the first place? Why aren't they sinking their own money into at least starting it up and proving they can actually publish what they brag about, then looking for investment on the basis of actual accomplishment? Why on earth are these people seeking handouts for something they haven't even done?? Call me anti-capitalist ('cause, you know, yeah), but this makes no common sense to me at all.
While they were incredibly enthusiastic regarding the project,
I'm reading this as "they said nice things to us and were polite and cordial."
they felt that, without stronger sales and revenues, they would not be able to entice investors to put money into the project.
Yeah, well it's hard to generate sales and revenues when you don't actually have a product yet, innit?
As we have said for months, the economy is still unstable both here and abroad. The hay day of multi-million dollar investment deals is soft for the moment, and most companies are struggling to get off the ground. This presents any new company with the very difficult task of making money without money so they can get money.
The economy was bleak when they started their venture; this is not exactly news. If the task is that difficult, even more reason to have the money in your possession to begin with, or don't start your venture until you do.
So, we are faced with the need to prove Prophecy’s viability as a project before we will be able to obtain any significant amount of funding.
No shit, Sherlock. You should have done that a year ago back when you were first making your grandiose plans! The best way to prove your product's viability is to actually produce the product, okay? My heart isn't exactly bleeding here.
As you may know, to launch a magazine of Prophecy’s size and scope is extremely costly, and it is simply impossible for us to do so without a large amount of capital.
Again, didn't you even consider this when you were trying to launch it over a year ago? And if it's so damn costly and you can't get the "large amount of capital" in a time when the graphic arts and comics industries are not doing well anyway and investors aren't generally going to want to throw good money after bad, why on earth didn't you scale back your ambitions and start small??
As such, we have had to make the very difficult decision of terminating the Prophecy Magazine project.
Like you couldn't see that coming. Fine, I'd like my $16 back please.

Okay, here's the part that I'd be rather angry about had Robin and I actually contributed to the magazine, which we were considering doing:
I know you are all then left with the question: so now what? Many of you have created work specifically for the magazine based on the promise that you would receive a page rate and publication in the magazine. Unfortunately, we can no longer honor those contracts and so you are released from any obligation to Sequent Media and all rights to the work return to you.
This strikes me as immoral at best and illegal at worst. "We cannot honor contracts signed by both parties, therefore since we're breaching our contract we release you from it." Come again? I'm reminded of World Comics' insistence, upon breaching a contract I'd signed with them, that "contracts were made to be broken." That would come as interesting news to all the folks who initiate and process lawsuits based precisely on contract breaches. It's small consolation to folks for whom time is money, which includes just about all freelancers, particularly artists who spend hours creating work for your high-end graphic endeavor, that you'll "release" them from being paid for that work.
However, all hope is not yet lost. Our staff has proposed an idea that would allow us to publish your work and pay you for it:
This forms the basis of my assumption that Prophecy has not paid the bulk of its freelancers.
as an alternative to terminating the entire project, we would like to publish two anthologies. This allows us the opportunity to actually get something out to the public and hopefully generate a steady revenue stream that will prove the viability of the project to our investment bankers. While we cannot offer an up front page rate, we will split the proceeds from the sales 50/50 with the Creators. What this means is that 50% of the net profit from the Anthology would be divided amongst the artists and writers who decide to participate. There will be a % value per page that, multiplied by the total number of pages you submit, will equal your percentage of the profit. Once we know how many creators will participate, we can tell you for certain what that percentage will be.
Emphasis mine. This falls squarely under the heading of "fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me." Nobody makes any money from "net profit." Considering they haven't brought out a single product (well, not technically true, they finally sent us the poster they'd promised a year ago, big whoop) it's pretty galling to ask people to essentially donate their work and cover the fact that you're probably never going to pay them by inserting some gobbledygook about percentage values per page. If you want creators to trust you, honor the contracts you've already signed with them, instead of dismissing those legal documents by "releasing" someone else from your obligation after they've held up their end of the bargain.
It seems fitting that it will ultimately be your decision as the true foundation of Prophecy, whether it transforms and continues or ends here and now. If we cannot amass the number of creators necessary to publish the Anthology, we will have no other choice than to close Prophecy down for good.
The sooner the better, I say. Life for freelancers is iffy enough without this sort of pussyfooting and whining. If someone says they're going to pay you for something, and it turns out a year later that they never had the money in the first place, that's poor planning at best and deception at worst. I really talked these people up when they first announced their plans; I more than take that back now.

I'm just really tired of this aspect of capitalism, begging outside sources for money before starting a magazine and signing on all these people with contracts promising to pay them set page rates and then, whoops, there's no money and surprise, there never was. It's a slap in the face to all those people who put faith in you that you were going to deliver as legally promised. Lately it seems that there's way too much of this going around in the comics community. Are people so inherently greedy that they automatically think their ideas will be so brilliant that folks will throw money at them when they haven't even executed those ideas? Did the dot-com bubble cloud their minds that much? What's wrong with you folks? It's a friggin' magazine, it's disposable income which people have less and less of and it's going to be a gamble, as publishing almost always is. Which is why you need to start with a sure thing. And that sure thing will never be the idea of what you want to do, it will be the money you bring to it and the actual execution. People don't want to read about a magazine as much as they want to actually read the thing itself. So unless you plan to publish within your immediate financial means, keep your ideas to yourself or shop them to a publisher who's already established.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Speeches in Context

Here's the full text of Kofi Annan's opening remarks at the United Nations General Assembly today.

Here's the full text of Lula's UN speech this morning.

Here's the full text of Bush's speech.

Here's Chirac, Mbeki and Berlusconi.

In fact, what the heck, here's all of them (note, Morocco's English link doesn't work). Still nothing up on the UN's site, however, in terms of the text of last week's General Assembly resolution regarding Arafat.
Six Degrees of Justification

Barbara O'Brien (link at sidebar) has put up a very nice point-by-point rebuttal debunking today's WSJ editorial that, by golly, there just has to be an Iraqi-al Qaeda connection, whine whine, the President and his friends wouldn't lie to us, whimper! Great job, Mahablog!
Damage Control

Looks like our hero Captain Equinox has been very busy! Maybe it's the time of year, or maybe it's the time of man, but here are updates on two stories I've been following closely:

  • Two government agencies are now investigating JetBlue, again not in response to CAPPS II (which after all is a government-generated spying-on-citizens program) but because it violated its own policy by giving 5 million passenger itineraries to Torch Concepts - which, while a Defense Department contractor, is still a private corporation. See my entries here and here for more background on this. You know you may be in trouble when even Tom Ridge's boys think you've gone too far.

  • Via Newsarama: CrossGen Comics spoke with Publishers Weekly about their financial woes. The relevant sentence seems to be the following:
    "We're in the process of finalizing a second round of financing," said Chris Oarr, CrossGen's director of marketing and sales. "My understanding is that you will be writing a very different story in about five days."
    As the wife of someone who's been owed $1300 from them for months, I sincerely hope this is true. Interestingly, the article says, "In July and August, several CrossGen freelancers went public with complaints that the company had not paid them for their work," but I don't know of anyone who went public before we did on August 13. In any case, Rich Johnston's rumor column contains the following additional info:
    MV Creations current imprint/publisher of He-Man comics for CrossGen, are in a slight pickle. There have been allegations from MVC that a previous publisher still owes them money for printing errors on their titles - an allegation a representative of that publisher implies is not correct. There seems to be a definite parting of ways between the companies on this issue.

    Either way, the much-reported financial problems at their current publisher, CrossGen, have definitely left them owed payments from that front. And a change in CrossGen scheduling may have delayed certain issues, with a knock on effect on cashflow. As a result, certain freelancers are getting partial payment or delayed payment. Certain titles are currently on hiatus and other titles may be delayed... CrossGen declined to comment. MVC's Val Staples would only add "I think it's fair to add that CrossGen has turned over purchase orders to MVCreations so we can start producing the books on our own while they sort out their current affairs. We're thankful for that, at least.

    "We have a lot of books that have been done for months just waiting to make their way to the shelves. Now it's time to get the titles and the payments to creators caught up."

    Naturally, CrossGen have been cutting a few corners here and there. Aside from their monumental convention displays of course... So where did CrossGen's financial woes originate?

    It appears that CrossGen borrowed a lot of money from a venture capital firm called Blue Ridge Investors II in Atlanta, GA - a company they have worked with a number of times. However, on the 9th of July, Blue Ridge and CG filed documents for an additional loan through to July 2008. Crossgen has also borrowed from IOS Capital and CIT Technology. The IOS capital loan is due to be paid back in 2006, so they need to start generating profits, or IOS can put a lien on their business. This also means that in 3.5 years, they have needed four infusions of venture capital to keep afloat (and are having trouble paying creditors when the fourth backed out).

    As of the beginning of this month, CrossGen had not yet found a new source of funding.

    Anyone who placed a call to the Crossgen offices on Wednesday the 17th got a message basically saying that the Crossgen staff had taken the day off to celebrate their "new beginning" and would return to normal business hours on Thursday.

    Maybe they've got some more cash?
    Well, as autumn is the season of turning leaves, let's hope both these stories have positive outcomes!
  • Monday, September 22, 2003

    Beep Repaired

    Via Lane Dunlop (link at sidebar), a cryptic warning care of Ms. D (whose blog seems cool enough to link to) passed along by her sister from a Cherokee woman who claims to converse with spirits.
    This Cherokee lady told my sister that the spirits she communicates with have told her that something bad is going to happen here in the U.S. in November. Something is going to go horribly wrong with the banking institutions and people should keep some cash on hand and water and food - enough for a few days. She said things would be okay again in a short period, but whatever it is, is going to be reallllly bad. Now I figured if I didn't tell you now, and then something happens, and I write... this lady told my sister that over a month ago, no one would believe me. Now, if it happens, you will all think... Ms. D warned us! And if it doesn't happen, by November you will all have forgotten I said anything anyway, and we can just pretend I never wrote this.
    Emphasis mine. Just so you know.
    The Emperor's Old Clothes

    Dwight Meredith, whose PLA blog is much misssed, has a great post up at LeanLeft, inspired by his wife, about how Bush uses 9-11 as his "little black dress". Always great to see Dwight's writing!
    On Holding One's Nose, Rather Than Cutting It Off

    Very nice, angry bit from Kimberley Fox (link at sidebar) in response to a comment on another blog where the writer in question vows, "If you succeed in using dirty tricks to topple Dean, I will not be voting in 04, and I know a lot of other Democrats who will join me in sitting it out." Yeah, not voting, that'll show 'em. [August Pollak (link at sidebar) also basically tells the whiners on all sides to grow the eff up.] One of my biggest problems with Emma Goldman (not the one linked to at the sidebar) was her insistence that "If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal." On the other hand, according to all the fine bloggers reporting on the various Diebold ballot-tampering scandals, including Mark Crispin Miller who finally has a blog (link at sidebar under "Journalists"), maybe all the rigging and ballot tampering is our modern equivalent of making voting illegal... Incidentally, if you do a Google news search on Diebold, the first four entries are press releases touting the machines' accuracy, rather than actual news stories. Fortunately, people like Dave Johnson (link at sidebar) do keep track.

    Sunday, September 21, 2003

    Worth the Itchies?

    Met my first husband Steve Chaput (link at sidebar) at about 11 AM to take in the NY Is Book Country street fair today; still haven't recovered. Lots of walking atop not that much sleep last night (poor Amy had a hairball that she just had to get rid of between 4 and 4:30 AM) rather wiped me out by 2 PM, and that included breaking for lunch. There's just no shade at that hour when you're in the middle of the closed-off Fifth Avenue with the bright sun beating down on you (not to mention your bookbag handle suddenly going bust). And while I saw a few folks I knew, I bought nothing; by the time we did the back-uptown trek all the signings were in full swing at the more popular booths and you couldn't even get near the books. Good job there's Amazon, I suppose. Overall I wasn't all that impressed, and that's saying something about a fair I used to anticipate for months prior. I tend to judge street festivals nowadays by how uncomfortable I know they'll make my arms afterwards - I get some sort of horrid itching attack on my forearms after I've been outside for awhile with them unprotected, and I have no idea what to even put on them because I have no idea what the itching is symptomatic of. Anyway, after konking for 2-3 hours upon my return I woke up this evening with a very bad case of the itchies, so I'd have to say the fair wasn't worth that, but seeing Steve probably was.

    Saturday, September 20, 2003

    Only 133-4? How's That News?

    Very few online papers, and no blogs I've visited so far, have talked about last night's lead story on the BBC World News - the 133-4 General Assembly resolution condemning Israel's public plans to "remove" Arafat. When I Googled for international reactions, almost all the ones that didn't begin "Israel Rejects" or "Israel Dismisses" were Arab media outlets. Of American papers, it seems like only the NY Post, unbelievably, puts the focus on the actual resolution rather than the hand-waving dismissals on behalf of two of the four countries to vote against it (the US and Israel, surprise surprise; the others were Micronesia and the Marshall Islands). Together with the news about the gathering in Berlin (which the Beeb described this evening as "welcoming Blair back into the fold"), this might spell a rise in international legitimacy for the UN once again. Nice to see all our heavy-handedness can't totally trash the idea of nations cooperating to try to make this a better world.
    Carrying a Blue Torch

    Here's another follow-up story about my favorite Mormon airline. Via Jeralyn Merritt (link at sidebar), JetBlue apologizes. Uh, for the CAPPS II thing, not the Mormon baptism thing. Neeleman wrote an e-mail to customers admitting "that JetBlue made a mistake a year ago when it agreed to a Defense Department request to provide the data to Torch Concepts Inc. of Huntsville, Ala., for a project said to involve military base security." A year ago! To a private corporation! And all in violation of its own privacy policy! (That LA Times link requires registration, by the way; the login name "corporatemedia" and password "stillsucks" might get you in.) Why haven't we heard any of this till now, when Wired picked up the story from Bill Scannell (whose website does seem a bit tinfoil-helmed but who apparently enjoys great support from online privacy advocates including the EFF)? Now that it's come to light, lt's hope someone with more journalistic cred than me can do a nice job of ferreting out info on Torch's management team and what their angle is. The NY Times take on the story mentions the following, "Torch Concepts...was hired by the Army more than three years ago to determine how information from public and private records might be analyzed to help defend military bases from attack by terrorists and other adversaries. While the company has insisted that the Army study was never intended to be used to improve security at civilian airports, there was clearly discussion within the company of whether its research might be of use to the Department of Homeland Security, which is responsible for airport security." Bet they were among the first in line for Poindexter's futures market, eh?
    Rather Great

    Thanks to Mark Evanier (link at sidebar), who's just discovered Joel Veitch's Spongemonkeys singing the Veitch composition We Like The Moon, I found out that Joel stopped by Rather Good in late July (I haven't checked the site in months, as his previous post was way back in March) to upload a FAQ which contains an audio tracklist for most of his little animations. As long-time Pen-Elayne readers know, despite my love for the Viking Kittens (whose first video seems to be gone from Joel's site now, although lots of folks have downloaded it, even including Freepers; maybe Zep complained, or perhaps it'll also wind up rotating on VH1 along with his new Ramones and Joan Jett kitten bits), my favorite remains Pavarotti's Elephant Song, done to La Donna e Mobile.
    "Zis Superman, He Must Be A Jew!"

    Supposedly the above quote is a word balloon "spoken" by Hitler in one of the WWII-era Superman comics, but I can't find the exact reference so I may be misremembering. In any case, a couple weeks back Neil Gaiman (link at sidebar) mentioned the cover article from the fall '03 issue of Reform Judiasm, How the Jews Created the Comic Book Industry, part 1 of 3, by MAD writer Arie Kaplan. If you buy the paper copy, you get a nice cover illustration by Jon Bogdanove. (Too bad the Riverdale Temple folks didn't hand me a copy on my blogiversary/Arrival Day sojourn up the hill to take in the street fair. And yes, I'll be wearing the "Super Jew" t-shirt tomorrow to NY Is Book Country, to show off to my friends at DC Comics.) I passed the link along to Yahoo's Jews in Comics mailing list, and it elicited an interesting back-and-forth between Leonard Rifas and the article's author Kaplan, who seems to have joined the list precisely to address Rifas' questions which I thought was cool. It's a fairly low-traffic list and the messages can be read fairly quickly and easily, so I'd recommend it to any interested parties, like Mike Sangiacomo who also plugged Kaplan's article on Newsarama today. Hey Budgie, when you gonna join?

    Friday, September 19, 2003

    Freedom of the Press Belongs To Those Who Own One

    Via Dave Johnson (link at sidebar), AOL Time Warner has purchased the New York Post's entire 1 million copy press run next Wednesday for the purpose of plugging AOL 9.0 and a free concert by the Dave Matthews Band in Central Park to benefit New York City public schools which AOL is underwriting. So glad they suddenly have that kind of money to throw around; maybe DC Comics can bump up artist page rates again? :) (Also via Dave Johnson, NARAL's very cute "Where's W?" game.)
    Spill the Water, Dig that Gentile

    Via Aziz Poonwalla (link at sidebar) - yet another reason to boycott the David Neeleman-owned JetBlue?
    Manufactured Holidays

    I ask you, how official can International Talk Like A Pirate Day be if it's not even on the list of September Bizarre and Unique Holidays? And how legitimate is a list like that one if nobody I know (and I know a lot of industry folks) has ever even heard of National Comic Book Day (which is supposed to be on September 25)? I suspect most of these are just completely bogus, made-up Days To Give Gifts. Please, won't you "give the gift of business" today? On the other hand, they certainly beat Patriot Day and the National Day of Prayer all to hell.

    Thursday, September 18, 2003

    Be Not A Raid

    It's already Friday the 19th in Iraq, and Riverbend (link at sidebar) is up early blogging about the time she witnessed the occupying power (that's Us) carry out a major raid against a neighborhood grandfather.

    Update: Pundit is skeptical; see his comment here as well. Frankly, remembering that this same identity "controversy" arose vis a vis Salam Pax and then quieted down rather quickly when a reporter ID'ed him, I'm inclined to take Riverbend at face value when she claims to be an educated Iraqi woman. It makes me wonder if people's suspicion is directly correlated to their own use of pseudonyms. As I've mentioned in the past, I usually have little patience for folks who hide behind handles without good reason. I consider "being an Iraqi under US occupation" to be a good reason, as well as "being afraid in John Ashcroft's America" and even possibly "not wanting my boss to find out I blog." I don't consider "adopting a fake name for purposes of smear attacks" a good reason. (Note, I don't believe this is what Pundit is doing, but I do think that his or her use of a pseudonym may serve to make him or her more suspicious of others.) But then, I haven't used handles since my old INSIDE JOKE days, when practically all my readers knew I was "Kip M. Ghesin" and "'Kid' Sieve" anyway.
    The Pakistani Snakepit

    Kimberley Fox (link at sidebar) has been doing a yeoman's job of following the 9/11 Pakistani connection, and today's entry adds a new piece to the puzzle. Says Kim, "You know what that looks like to me? It looks like circumstantial evidence of extortion, which would support my hunch that there was indeed a domestic connection to 9/11. It's pure speculation on my part, but it's starting to look more and more probable."
    Popping Up Everywhere

    Yahoo, Google and Blogger all seem to have bought into the pop-up syndrome. As of today, I'm getting "exit pop-ups" half the time I click on the outgoing links on my sidebar or do a Google search, and interim pop-ups appear about every fifth message on my Yahoo groups. How coincidental is this sudden ad attack, I wonder, with the recent start-up effective date of the National Do Not Call Registry?
    Mojo to Lisa

    Per Mary Beth Williams (link at sidebar):
    I just got off the phone with my dear friend and mentor, and a cornerstone of the Lefty blogosphere, Lisa English of Ruminate This. Lisa called to tell me her son is very ill, and they were being rushed via ambulance to the hospital. She expects them to be there for a while... please keep Lisa and her son, in fact, her whole family, in your thoughts and, if so inclined, your prayers. This will be a difficult time for them and they will need all the positive vibes we can offer.
    If you want to e-mail your good thoughts to Lisa, her address is clickable at the bottom of every one of her posts; she's also listed on my sidebar under "Da Gals."
    The Non-Existent Ceiling

    Another busy workday, so I hope all of yesterday's entries made up for the lack of entries today. Lord knows when this will finally post as, according to Blogger's status page, "the BlogSpot filer is having problems now." So I'll go with an easy one. The NYCBlogger/RNN question of the day is: Grasso Gone – NYSE Chairman Resigns: Your Reaction? Um, is "yay" too strong? Seriously, this post by Kevin Drum (link at sidebar) pretty much says it all. Except that I'm disappointed that so few people in this country are discussing the idea of a pay ceiling or maximum wage. I guess, like universal health care or municipalities operating not-for-profit utilities, that kind of talk is just unAmerican or something... Update: Via Julia H (link at sidebar), the question has now been raised in the Washington Post.

    Wednesday, September 17, 2003

    Maru's Roundup

    Here are two gems uncovered by Maru Soze (link at sidebar): this nice editorial from Joseph Wilson, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad from 1988 to 1991; and this doozy from the Washington Post about how a long-standing photo exhibit featuring "a historic progression of great diplomatic moments" has been removed from a busy corridor to the State Department cafeteria, replaced by "a George W. Bush family album montage of 21 large photos of the president as diplomat." Talk about revisionist history!
    The Gospel According to Affable Al and Dandy Don

    Today's BuzzFlash (link at sidebar) presents the Al Franken-written, Don Simpson-drawn Gospel of Supply Side Jesus. Them's comics! By the way, Don's also serializing his classic Megaton Man at World Famous Comics. I hope this means he'll be at Mid-Ohio Con, it's been way too long since I've seen him...

    Lisa English (link at sidebar) is back and going strong. She passed along a very disheartening bit of news that JetBlue Airways is replacing Delta Airlines as the "testing platform" for the CAPPS II spying on citizens internal border control system. This really pisses me off. I like the folks at JetBlue, with whom I've spoken a number of times to book flights for my boss, who swears by their amenities and reasonable fares. And I was looking forward to taking a JetBlue flight out to California for the first time early next year to visit my brother. But not if they're going to color-code my threat assessment! This really bites. I hope enough people put pressure on JetBlue so that they rescind their stupid offer.
    Silly Site O' The Day

    Via Lesley (link at sidebar), who has the little movie up on her site as well, the Penguin Bitch Slap, courtesy of Strange Cosmos. Although when I showed it to a coworker she said, "Oh yeah, I've already seen it, that's been going around for at least a year and has just started popping up again," so there you are.
    Signs of the Times

    Also via Jeralyn Merritt's TalkLeft, this site that's collecting photos of handmade protest signs found along America's highways and byways. There have to be more than this, so if you know of any won't you please pass them along?
    What Can You Do With a General

    Apparently, about an hour ago, former general Wesley Clark officially announced his candidacy for President of the United States. (Supposedly his site is going to have a blog, but there's nothing blog-like up there yet.) Now, generally (pun intended) when I have a choice of whether to vote for, say, a military guy and a doctor, I'll choose the doctor every time. Guy who kills versus guy who heals - not such a tough choice, really. Nonetheless, Barbara O'Brien at Mahablog (link at sidebar) presents a nice overview of "three presidents who went from a military career into the White House without having held any other elected office" which may be worth a look. (In any case, in terms of candidates whose words and actions most match my worldview, I'm still leaning towards Kucinich at the moment.)

    Update: Michael Moore likes Clark, but FAIR seems a bit more skeptical.
    Librarian War Stories

    Emma (link at sidebar) talks about how "the real heroes in the library world are the public librarians," and provides some examples. I heartily agree. My first husband, Steve Chaput (link at sidebar), is, like Emma, currently an academic librarian, but he was on "the front lines" as well for many years in the Brooklyn Public Library system. BPL is, as always, a sponsor of the NY Is Book Country street festival. Steve and I will be attending the festival together this coming Sunday, meeting at 11 AM around the Graphic Novel block platform at which Neil Gaiman (link at sidebar) will be signing at from 11:30 to 12:30; also, Peter David (link at sidebar), whom Steve somewhat resembles physically, will be signing at the Midtown Comics booth from 2-3 PM in the same area (49th and 5th). Should be a great day to honor librarians, anti-censorship efforts and reading in general.

    Update: Via Jeralyn Merritt (link at sidebar), the DNC has launched a blog and is also talking about front-line librarians, in response to John Ashcroft's stupid and catty remarks about librarians to the National Restaurant Association (because of course restaurant owners have everything to do with libraries). Also, be sure to read all the wonderful posts librarian Lis Riba (link at sidebar) has been making about this.
    After All, I'm Only Sleeping

    This featherweight study about body posture during unconsciousness is making the rounds of the local news shows as one of those "and finally..." segments, the last little "wacky" bit before signoff; it's also started to invade the blogosphere. As I'm told I toss and turn quite a bit in my sleep and the study doesn't appear to cover people who don't keep to one position, I find it fluffy and useless, but you might like it.
    Color Coding

    Lots of blogosphere comments lately about "red states" versus "blue states." For instance, I've just read this interesting bit by Kevin Drum (link at sidebar) conveniently reproducing a version of the "red versus blue" map made famous during Selection 2000 to illustrate how taxes paid by the blue states (i.e., states whose electoral votes went to Al Gore) are largely subsidizing services provided to citizens of the red states (i.e., states "won" by Bush). Not true across the board, but the map similarities are interesting. Now if I were prone to smear campaigns I'd begin asking why Republicans are red, as so many people still associate that color with Communism and therefore evil, but as a rule the province of the left is generally uncomfortable truths meant to counter smears (the province of the right, which seems to have an aversion to truth), so that wouldn't work. The thing I don't get is, people are talking about "red versus blue" like these states' voting records in 2000 are somehow immutable. Remember, Bush didn't win these states, Gore lost them due to a lackluster campaign and a muddled message that veered so far to the right as to be virtually indistinguishable from the Bush campaign's message (which is not the same thing as the Bush administration's actions; the campaign was certainly conservative but the messages were far more moderate than the radical policies that have actually been enacted). So I can't count these "red" states as automatically Republican.

    Nor was there any sort of Republican mandate in effect. In fact, a comment to Kevin's post pointed towards Brad DeLong's map of how citizens actually voted (as opposed to how the Electoral College and Supreme Court went). As Brad notes, "No islands. No sharp divisions. No yawning cultural and sociological gap--just slightly varying shades of purple, mixed blue and red. Only seven states in 2000 had a Republican presidential vote share more than sixty percent. Only five states in 2000 had a Republican presidential vote share less than forty percent. The first map is false advertising--the combination of our quirky system of electing a president with the tendentious arguments political commentators interested in maximizing perceived differences. The second map is reality." As we head into the 2004 campaigns we might do well to remember that.

    Tuesday, September 16, 2003

    Edwards' Official Announcement

    I'm not all that fond of John Edwards. He seems like a personable enough guy, but his position on the issues strikes me as wishy-washy platitudes at best, Republican-leaning at worst. Nonetheless, I think it's very cool that he announced his candidacy for the Presidency of the United States on The Daily Show last night. Unfortunately Edwards' people don't appear to agree. His blog (link at sidebar under "Politicos-US") links to Jon Stewart but only as part of "a number of national television appearances leading up to his announcement on Tuesday." (emphasis mine) So while he would have gotten points from me for having the balls to announce on The Daily Show, I have to take 'em all back now that his people aren't treating it as the official declaration.

    Monday, September 15, 2003

    Maintenance Note

    I have no idea what happened, but I can once again read Elaine's and Lis' blogs from my office computer, so I've re-alphabetized them in with Da Gals. I have decided to credit Laura Gjovaag, just because I can.
    Caught Unawares

    Via Susan at Suburban Guerrilla (link at sidebar), the Project Censored Top 25 Censored Media Stories of 2002-03 is out. Here's the link. Thing is, I'm starting to wonder. "The Primary Objective of Project Censored," says their About Us page, "is to explore and publicize the extent of censorship in our society by locating stories about significant issues of which the public should be aware, but is not, for one reason or another." But what's meant by "the public" or even "censored" nowadays, with all the Internet-savvy blogging folks out there? I'm pretty sure I've seen extensive coverage of most if not all of the 25 stories mentioned on at least a third of the news+views blogs listed on the sidebar. Are the terms, in the context of these formerly-hidden stories, becoming obsolete? Should we be patting ourselves on the back? Or do they need to be redefined/refined or implicitly understood as "the public who isn't us" (which, you know, sounds a bit elitist and all to me)?
    Here's One For Snopes

    The "jumbled letters meme" has spread all over the blogosphere like wildfire. I got it from Julia H (link at sidebar). It goes like this:
    Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by it slef but the wrod as a wlohe. ceehiro.
    Julia has "Cmabrigde" substituted for "Elingsh" but it's essentially the same meme. I was fascinated because English and linguistics were my two majors in college and because Robin and I have discussed the phenomenon of people reading words as essentially shapes, so it seemed to make sense-- only, curiously, a Google search fails to pinpoint the actual source of this particular bit of research. Language Hat points to Uncle Jazzbeau who thinks he might have found the source. I'd still love to see Snopes nail it, though.

    Sunday, September 14, 2003

    The Fixer

    Much thanks to Laura Gjovaag, to whom I gave a set of keys to the Pen-Elayne car, as it were, and who went in and tinkered with the template and repaired whatever the heck goes wrong with my page on many browsers, including the two I use at home and at work (and Avedon Carol's, as she mentioned at the bottom of this entry, and probably a number of others). What I hope this means is that I can post more pictures in the future without everything going haywire all the time. What I hope it also means is that Laura will consider guest-blogging for me from time to time, even though she has a fine blog of her own (link at sidebar).
    No Fly Zone

    If extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice, what would be the corresponding jingoistic quote for depriving a non-extremist of their liberty? Al-Muhajabah (link at sidebar) informs of a Toronto Star report on the detention and subsequent arrest of one of Canada's most moderate and respected clerics, "pulled off a plane Thursday and thrown in jail by U.S. immigration officials in Fort Lauderdale without any charges being laid...He has been declared a risk to national security." This is becoming an all-too-familiar pattern among the radical right cabal currently in charge of US policy. Eliminate moderate and sensible voices so the only ones left in the spotlight are fanatics and extremists like you. It's almost like they're trying to create the good-vs-evil, no-shades-of-gray worldview they've bought into so they can convince the populace it's really true and hope that leads to even more consolidation of powe-- geez, I feel like I'm ready for the tinfoil hat now. Hmm, unless, that's just how they want us to feel...

    Saturday, September 13, 2003

    The Soggy Fen

    If the header isn't the name of one of the many watering holes at the Renaissance Faire in Sterling Forest, it really ought to be. As this is closing weekend, Rob and I decided to head on up again as we did last year, primarily to see Leah and give her this birthday gift. She seemed to like it-- okay, she shrieked like an Alan Davis fangirl. And I should know from Alan Davis fangirls. :) In any case, we got pretty much the same weather conditions as last year. A tiny bit less rain, there were periods where we didn't need our brollies at all, but a lot more wasps, so it wasn't too much fun ducking them. Leah got "rogue'd" by lots of birthday well-wishers, and it was wonderful to see what a great support system she has in all these friends. All the excessive PDA, though, put me in mind of my days in science fiction fandom, and the tasteless reference to "mundanes" during the Rogue Show left a sour note as well. I suppose the group-hugs-and-kisses angle is actually kinda sweet, but the attitude of "anyone who isn't us is mundane" was a major reason I left sf fandom behind 20 years ago and never looked back, and it saddens me to see that it's still around. I'm sure there's tons of overlap between "rennies" and "fen" but I was kinda hoping it would be the good, welcoming kind of overlap, not the sectarian, dismissive kind. In any case, an exhausting and overall fun day; I think Rob's Mum would have loved it so I'm glad I brought her otter-head walking stick (which I think must have some of her spirit within it). And we're home and more or less collapsed. Sleep and blogroll catch-up tomorrow.

    Friday, September 12, 2003

    I'm Not As Think As You Geek I Am

    A geek would probably know that the above line is a riff on a bit of "Hot Lips" Houlihan dialogue from the M*A*S*H TV show (wherein a tipsy Margaret declares "I'm not as think as you drunk I am"). Alas, the Geek Test didn't pose too many questions about television dialogue, or I might have scored better (I only got a 17.75 or somesuch). Via Shawn on the inkers' list. Then again, I think the fact that I didn't score more than 20 points may be a good thing.
    More Krugman, NYT-Reg Free

    For whatever reason, the "corporatemedia" login and "stillsucks" password devised by Lis Riba (link at sidebar) no longer works to read NYT online articles, so I have to fall back on Google again for my Krugman fix. Here's his latest, Exploiting the Atrocity, printed in Der Spiegel of all places.
    Mister Geniality

    Back in the '70s I watched a lot of crappy TV, which is one of the reasons I don't catch most '70s shows on various nostalgia channels. It was pretty bad the first time around, I don't really feel the need to pretend it wasn't because it's now old and therefore somehow venerated. But like a lot of folks I had a few guilty pleasures. And one of them was Three's Company. I wasn't so into it that I can recall any actual plots, I don't really remember too many variations on the theme "guy moves in with two sexy girls and has to pretend he's gay so their landlord doesn't toss him, zany hijinks ensue," but I do recollect that I found it pleasant enough, mostly because of its affable star, John Ritter.

    I never particularly followed Ritter's career, but whenever I did catch him on a talk show or whatnot he was the kind of TV personality who always made me feel comfortable watching him. He seemed modest, had a great sense of humor about himself, and had terrific comic timing. He was almost the epitome of "taken for granted" geniality. And now he's gone, felled by a dissection in his aorta. And while I never knew him, I find that I cared about him a lot more than I'd realized. He always seemed so familial. My condolences go out to his friends and family.

    Thursday, September 11, 2003

    Stupid Tech Question

    Every single time I put up a picture on my blog, no matter how big or small, my word wrap fails. I don't know if you see it on your browsers (Robin's viewing the page just fine on his), but on mine the text is no longer wrapping correctly (well, at all), and I have to keep using the horizontal scroll bar just to read what I've written. Could someone who understands what I'm talking about (August??) please take a look at my source code and tell me what I've done wrong and how to recode it to fix the situation? Thanks.

    (By the way, Blogger's edit function seems to have been updated again; there's now a spell check, along with things you can click to the right of the edit window to designate Drafts and to Change Time & Date. Haven't tried any of the new stuff yet so I'm not really sure what it'll do...)
    Birthday Greetings

    ...to my dear friend Leah Adezio, as well as to parodist extraordinaire MadKane (link at sidebar).
    The Persistence of Memory

    The more we allow lies to stand, the more dishonor we do to the memories of all the victims of the tragedy of September 11, 2001. I encourage all bloggers to commemmorate this day by continuing to set the record straight as much as they possibly can.

  • The victims didn't "give their lives for freedom." They died, tragically lost when the flights they were on were used obscenely as weapons and buildings collapsed around them. Even the heroic firefighters, cops, etc. Nobody "gives their lives" in a circumstance like this. They were random victims of a horrible, brutal, almost unthinkable attack. Putting a "gave their lives" and "freedom" sheen on it is not only jingoistic to a disgusting degree (particularly when paired with "for freedom," an excuse also used quite often to justify making war on anyone we don't happen to like) but constitutes a strange way to comfort ourselves about something that cannot, should not give us comfort. Maybe it's the equivalent of telling a child "Fluffy's with God now" and an adult "Grandpa lived a full and meaningful life."

  • Or maybe it has to do with the discomfort the media feels in general with marking a tragic anniversary. We're a country used to upbeat holidays. Heck, the dominant religions in the US took a solemn occasion set aside to mark the Son of God being nailed to a cross and turned it into fluffy bunnies and chocolate eggs. Okay yeah, I know Maundy Thursday is actually supposed to mark Jesus' death and Easter his resurrection, but having grown up in one of the non-dominant religions I still find it hard to imagine anything similar happening around, say, Yom Kippur. In any case, when you see the confusion on the reporters' faces as they contend with sad, slow background music created just for the occasion amid their usual tendency toward rictus grins, it's probably not appropriate to giggle today.

  • Iraq has nothing to do with 9-11. They never did, they never will. Folks, we cannot repeat this often enough, particularly today. The only connection is that US actions in Iraq continue to strengthen terrorists, both by giving them more reasons to hate our government's actions (which, one more time, have nothing to do with "freedom") and by giving them a new breeding ground (not a "central front").

  • The tragedy was unforeseen by its victims, but not by our country's leaders, who chose to ignore a whole plethora of warnings.

    More 9-11 record-straightening as I think of it. Gotta head off to work now.

    Update: Lots and lots of very moving and informative posts all around the blogosphere, but I was especially interested in this article about unanswered questions (via Susan of Suburban Guerrilla, link at sidebar, who also links to the terrific Presidential resignation speech proposed by Greg Palast, link at sidebar).
  • Wednesday, September 10, 2003

    Scenes from a German Bunker

    With apologies to Billy Joel, but I had to get this out of my head even though I don't do it very well.

    Leni and Eddie were the popular steadies
    And the king and the queen of the bomb
    Riding around with the lens cap off and the radium on
    No Aryans looked any finer
    Than when captured on film at the height of Weimer
    They never knew they could want more than death out of life
    Surely Leni and Eddie would always know how to survive...

    Maybe MadKane (link at sidebar) can carry on from here, she's ever so much better at it...
    Hurting Day

    Not strong enough to blog at the moment. See this site for a clue as to why. I don't think I want to get any more specifics, as there are certain things which I'm just not ready to discuss. Bear with me, I should be okay shortly.

    Tuesday, September 09, 2003

    The Future Ain't What It Used to Be

    On the group blog Corrente (link at sidebar), the Farmer reminisces from the year 2092 about the Hubris Bat that struck Crawford, TX way back in aught-3. And I hope professor Peter Glavodevedhzhe (link at sidebar) finds it in his heart, or at least his encyclopedia, to forgive me for not plugging his blog In the Year 2525 more often. His most recent entry is about the fall of the American empire in the late 21st century.
    How Old is That in Non-Internet Years?

    Happy 5th birthday to Google. And an extremely happy 40th to Kath David!!
    Peaceful, Tomorrow

    One of my favorite pieces by Robin is a bit he drew and colored for the New York City Comic Book Museum's Heroes Among Us exhibit which we titled "Hope Takes Wing." It's not on the NYCCBM site, but it basically consists of a collage of the standing WTC husk on the upper half, with doves flying above it, and a hand at the bottom half, holding a vigil candle. (Update: You can see it here.) It encapsulated everything 9-11 meant to me at the time (and since), primarily hope and heroism amid sadness. So I was very heartened to read, via Pacific Views (link at sidebar), that the September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows invites New Yorkers to "commemorate the two-year anniversary of our loved ones' deaths on September 11. We plan to encircle the World Trade Center site with a candlelight vigil on the night of September 10, 2003. Gather with us in New York City or create a Circle of Hope candlelight vigil on September 10 or 11th in your own community and link it to other circles by" registering the event here. This seems to me a very appropriate way to combat the propagandistic spew about "Patriot Day."
    This One's For Heidi

    Via Eva Whitley (link at sidebar under "Kultcha"), Find Yer Inner Pirate, matey.
    Secure in Our Persons

    No, this has nothing to do with my last entry (below) but, come to think of it, it might make a good euphemism. Today's NYCBlogger/RNN question of the day is Has Security Improved in NYC Since 9/11? Well, certainly not around City Hall (see my July 23 entry), but I suppose that's beside their point. As I noted on May 4, visible "security" abounds, mostly in the form of National Guardsman patrolling all over the place giving the city a distinct feeling of a police state. But does this show of bravado actually make us feel safer? I'll stick with what I said back then: in my opinion, "they're not there to protect as much as intimidate, on the theory that a fearful population is a docile one." Do I have any better ideas on how to make NYC safer? Not off the top of my head, but then I never claimed to have the answers, and I don't think it's necessarily incumbent on someone to provide solutions every time they point out a problem, particularly if it's not in their particular area of expertise.
    Chock Full of Self-Love

    You know, I thought the Sunday Doonesbury strip was pretty darn mild, m'self. But, as chronicled nicely by Daryl Cagle (ilnk at sidebar under "Kultcha"), probably the best blog source for info about comic strip "censorship" and other goings-on, a whole bunch of papers were too squeamish to run something that contained the word "masturbation." Daryl doesn't have permalinks, but his September 8 entry with the strip and links to articles about the controversy is pretty near the top of the page - his big news today is that "The Washington Post has announced that Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist, Berkeley Breathed, will resurrect a new, Sunday only, comic strip starring Opus the penguin, from his old Bloom County strip." Also, via Johnny Bacardi (link at sidebar under "Kultcha" as well), columnist Pam Platt from his hometown paper, the Louisville Courier-Journal, uses the Trudeau controversy as a springboard for a great opinion column about the whole m-word thing in general.
    More Proof That Deregulation Sucks

    I had no idea that the tow truck industry had been deregulated! Mark Evanier (link at sidebar) has the whole sordid story, following up on his recent run-in. Until such time as nationalizing certain industries - in other words, putting the federal or (far better) local government in charge of an essential service because it's necessary for the public good, rather than having private industry and their insane profit imperatives in charge of it - is no longer seen as some sort of evil Communist plot, regulating these greedholes is the best we've got in this country. I remain unconvinced that any good for ordinary citizens (in terms of cost, service, whatever) has ever come out of deregulation.
    Might As Well Face It, You're Addicted to Blogs

    At least Iraqi blogger Salam Pax (link at sidebar) is, as he confesses in his latest Guardian column. I had to smile at "I was reading so many blogs I had to assign weekdays for each bunch, plus the ones I was reading daily." Sometimes it seems there are never enough hours to keep up with y'all!
    Triumph of the Banal

    Surely there is nobody out there with enough bad taste to opine that Leni Riefenstahl took one look at Lionel Chetwynd's noxious DC 9/11 (hey, anyone else remember when the working title for that one was The Big Dance?) and said, "Gott, even I couldn't get away with being that presumptuous, take me now!"

    Monday, September 08, 2003

    Monster, Will You Be My Friend?

    'Cause dang, these 12-hour workdays with no overtime pay are killing me...
    When In Rome

    Billmon (link at sidebar) has a great analysis of the State of the Empire in his latest Whiskey Bar offering.
    A Helluva Town

    September's one of the best months to visit New York City. Why, just on September 21 alone you have NY Is Book Country, the Dalai Lama in Central Park, the annual Medieval Festival in Fort Tryon Park, and the Broadway Cares flea market and Grand Auction - and that's on a Sunday! So just in time, it would seem, Teresa Nielsen-Hayden (link at sidebar) has some great observational tips for tourists, including good links to many sites that I'll probably add to my "New Yawk" section on the sidebar.
    This has been our strategeration all along...

    Fortunately, I had better things to do (reading) than watch the Resident in Chief lie again on national TV last night, but now it turns out I didn't need to anyway, as South Knox Bubba (link at sidebar) got his hands on a preview of the speech. Great work, SKB!

    Update: For something a bit more serious, I'd recommend (via Cyndy Roy, link at sidebar) Stephen Zunes' analysis of the speech on Common Dreams' website. A few key sentences:
    In linking the legitimate international struggle against Al-Qaeda with the illegitimate U.S. occupation of Iraq, it becomes possible for the administration to justify the president’s determination to “spend what is necessary” in controlling this oil-rich country and to depict those in the United States and elsewhere who oppose the occupation as being soft of terrorism.
    ...it is important to recognize that prior to the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, there were no car bomb attacks against UN offices, foreign embassies or places of worship. Since the U.S. takeover, however, Iraq has become a hotbed of terrorism. This raises serious questions as to whether invading other countries actually makes the world safer from terrorism or if such actions actually help create terrorism.
    It's vital to remember cause-and-effect here. What terrorists are now in Iraq are there because of us. Those Iraqi civilians attacking their occupiers in desperation aren't doing so because they're jealous of our freedom, but because they're desirous of their own. (None of this is to excuse destructive and violent acts, but you gotta understand where they're coming from before you can prevent their continuance, and answering violence with more violence just makes things worse, as any logical-thinking Israeli or Palestinian can tell you.)

    In this context, what I found the most interesting portion of Bush's speech that Zunes quoted was the Resident in Chief's advice to the Iraqi people: "Now they must rise to the responsibilities of a free people and secure the blessings of their own liberty." You know, just like we did in 1776, when we fought a war to oust the British. So as horrid as these acts are, could they not be interpreted in the same light, as Iraqis rising to their responsibilities and securing the blessings of their own liberty precisely by trying to oust the American invaders?