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Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Hearsay, But Depressing Nevertheless

A co-worker's husband sells heavy equipment of some kind. At a recent sales meeting, one of his clients said the following:

"I heard that Obama guy changed his name to sound more like a terrorist."

To which someone in the room replied,

"Yeah, I heard that too."


A Very Good Question

Dave, after I explained Stan and Jack's Mangog (a living prison for a billion billion tyrants, hell bent on drawing the OdinSword and cleaving the Realm Eternal in twain) to him:

"Did they know they were writing for recreational drug users?"

(image by Terry Beatty)


Thin Skinned Miscellany

1) In light of recent throw-a-cape-on-James-Brown comics blog dramatics, I'd like to point out that it is entirely possible to be both a wonderfully funny, graceful, entertaining writer capable of penetrating insight on a regular basis and a thin-skinned, occasionally downright cruel writer who likes baiting people but who can't stand being called on it. Some people can't help starting or at least fomenting the very arguments they claim they don't want to have. And everything else aside, when John Byrne has your back, it's time to take a long, hard look in the mirror. (full disclosure: I've been banned for, I assume, getting into a disagreement there.)

2) One of comics blogging's rightfully certified invaluable resources, Dirk Deppey, went off the rails yesterday in his criticism of Garry Trudeau's recent strips about right-wing use of "Democrat Party" as an epithet. Deppey:

Speaking of dumb-ass comic-strip controversies: According to Editor & Publisher, two comic strips (Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury and Darrin Bell’s Candorville) are riffing against the latest apparent attack on the Democrats by the Republicans — referring to them as the “Democrat Party”:

The use of “Democrat” Party is considered a slur, because it makes the Democratic Party seem, well, less democratic. And “Democrat” puts contemptuous emphasis on the letters “rat.”

Is this serious? Because I’m getting a strong “Mommy, he’s looking at me funny!” vibe from all this. Hint: If you’re going to comment on politics, it’s generally a good idea to convince people that you’re coming at the subject from a clever, superior point of view. Failing that, try to avoid giving the impression that you’re a thin-skinned jackass. Isn’t Garry Trudeau supposed to be smarter than this? (Above: Apparently not. Sequence from last Sunday’s Doonesbury strip, ©2007 G.B. Trudeau, age eight.)

As Dirk ought to know or could easily take the time find out if he's about to call Trudeau stupid and immature, the "Democrat Party” swipe so loved by W. these days has been used pejoratively by the right for decades--Hendrik Hertzberg traced it from the Harding Administration, up through Joe McCarthy and Newt Gingrich in a New Yorker piece last year:


As Hertzberg says, ““Democrat Party” is a slur, or intended to be—a handy way to express contempt. Aesthetic judgments are subjective, of course, but “Democrat Party” is jarring verging on ugly. It fairly screams “rat.” At a slightly higher level of sophistication, it’s an attempt to deny the enemy the positive connotations of its chosen appellation.”

Markus says it best in the Journalista comments: "the use of the tactic makes it very clear that your opponent’s antagonism is not rooted in a substantial philosophical (political) disagreement but instead simple disrespect for you as a person. The other side is indicating that you’re not worth talking to, which - back in the political field - pretty much equates to abandoning democratic principles in favour of simple mudslinging."

How is something like this not appropriate for a Doonesbury strip? It's in Garry's wheelhouse, for Christ's sake. Whether or not his execution was funny is debatable, but the pettiness and hypocrisy of the right aren't exactly new topics for the guy.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Comics and TV Authorship

During my month at Middlebury College teaching Intro to the Graphic Novel I had the pleasure of meeting Assistant Professor Jason Mittell from the American Studies and Film & Media Culture Departments. Jason is a media scholar specializing in TV, genre theory, animation and new media among other things; if our classes hadn't met at the same time this winter, I definitely would have been in his Cartoon Culture class discussing Simpsons episodes and Bugs Bunny shorts.

Jason runs the self-explanatory blog JustTV. Not long ago, using my favorite show Gilmore Girls as an example, he posted thoughts on the problem of authorship in TV--who can rightfully be called the "creator" of these programs, often put together by hundreds of people with help/interference from network suits and advertisers? I sent him a note about how this relates to the mainstream comics field, which he was kind enough to run as a post. Coincidentally, Steven Grant tackled the same topic with more insight about a week later in his column for CBR.

More recently, Jason has been involved in the discussion at Middlebury over the use of Wikipedia in the classroom (Midd's History Dept. recently banned the site as a research source), garnering a mention in the New York Times. If you have any interest in how TV is shaped by and shapes our culture, check out the blog.

Monday, February 26, 2007


I Have DNA Proof That James Cameron Is A Dimwat

All of the articles I've seen about filmmaker James Cameron's documentary (just in time for Easter!) about the supposed 20-year-old discovery of Jesus' remains (along with, for good measure, those of his entire family--including a son!) allege that this will provide ammunition for skeptics of Christianity. Tim McGirk of Time says it will "stir up a titanic debate between believers and skeptics." The BBC quotes Prof. Stephen Pfann as saying "sceptics, in general, would like to see something that pokes holes into the story that so many people hold dear."

I am only one small voice, but I can safely say that for this avowed atheist, all this "discovery" shows is that Cameron is an egotistical doofus. Which should come as no shock to anyone who has followed his Hollywood career. I suppose that this could provide ammunitions for cranks, but the entire premise is so stupid--what exactly is the "DNA testing" supposed to "prove"?

I understand that many people are compelled to prove things like this one way or the other. Anne, the boys and I are currently watching Michael Wood's highly entertaining 1985 BBC documentary In Search of the Trojan War in which Wood relates the attempts to discover the historical basis, if any, for Homer's Iliad. Wood himself is clearly driven by the belief that the poem must contain literal, historical truth, and that one of the ancient cities uncovered in the late 1800s at the Dardanelles is likely Homer's Troy. But as one scholar he interviews says, (and I paraphrase) who cares? The truth of Homer's poem is not something that can be archeologically proven. All readers collaborate with the poet to create their own Troy in their imaginations, rendering any historic truth irrelevant to the art. Conversely, the dig site on the plain at Hisarlik is intrinsically interesting and historically revealing without the need to specifically tie it to the events of the poem. Wood calls these comments "ambiguous", as they clearly don't fit his thesis, support the romantic conception of archaeologists or make for compelling TV.

Wood seems to want to show that the events of the Iliad really happened. The same impulse drives those who hunt for Noah's ark, the people who sell the "Jesus Never Existed' pamphlet in the back of The Nation and now Cameron. But aside from the obvious desire to make money off of the documentary, why? Can Cameron harbor any illusions that this tomb could actually "prove" anything? We're talking about 2,000 years of faith--faith that for many people, hasn't been shaken by the the most dramatic discoveries of science over that time, understandings of biology and the physical universe that directly contradict biblical assertions. We see now that some deeply fucked up right-wing Christians (is there any other kind?) think that the idea of a heliocentric solar system itself is a Jewish conspiracy going back to Copernicus himself. James Cameron and his ossuaries which may or may not be labeled with the common names that correspond to Jesus' family aren't going to put a dent in that. It's merely embarrassing.

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