Archive for April, 2005

Oh, G-Word

Saturday, April 30th, 2005

So I wrote a couple of blog entries about religion, not in any particular support or aversion to it. Now all my Google ads are things like “God’s Political Mandate” and Passion of the Christ DVDs. Funny as they are, I’m not happy. But since they are funny, here’s some of the highlights:

Jesus Christ
Feel Good About What You Wear. Quality Christian Apparel For All.

Religious life
Date Catholic Singles. Meet Tens of thousands of Catholic members.

That said, I’m going to have to investigate Google’s blocking features tomorrow.

This is getting out of hand…

Saturday, April 30th, 2005

School Mistakes Huge Burrito for a Weapon

Issues in Cartooning

Wednesday, April 27th, 2005

I recently reread a cherished book from my childhood, the Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book, which as a child I only read for the strips. But this time I started reading the long introduction and was shocked. He opened the collection with a long diatribe about the state of the comics industry, his enormous problems with syndicates and licensing, and the untapped potential of the medium. Heavy stuff for a 10-year-old. His problems essentially stem from his struggle for the world to take his art as seriously as he does, and to recognize that licensing would cheapen that art. It is an expanded essay from his October 27, 1989 speech The Cheapening of Comics, at Ohio State University. (For a deeper background here is an interview from Watterson’s first year as a cartoonist where he comments that he’d like to continue forever.)

Watterson really is a fascinating individual, and loves (perhaps loved as his strip ended ten years ago and he has produced nothing since) the comic medium very deeply. Or at least the newspaper strips. I found myself outraged by one strip in the Tenth Anniversary Book. Calvin is reading comic books, and comments that his mother does not understand comics.

She doesn’t realize that comic books deal with serious issues of the day. Today’s superheroes face tough moral dilemmas. Comic Books aren’t just escapist fantasy. They’re sophisticated social critiques.

To this Hobbes queries: “Is Amazon Girl’s super power the ability to squeeze that figure into that suit?” and Calvin answers, “Nah, they all can do that.” The strip is fair and amusing in and of itself. It’s the captioned comments of the Tenth Anniversary Book that bother me:

You can make your superhero a psychopath, you can draw gut-splattering violence, and you can call it a “graphic novel,” but comic books are still incredibly stupid.

This I found unbelievable. Watterson, the endless crusader to have his work recognized as the great art he believes it to be, would undermine similar efforts by comic artists in other genres. Newspaper funnies are apparently art, yet comic book superheroes are necessarily garbage. I believe his reasoning is the lack of creator control, as he is a very heavy proponent that creators should retain the rights to their characters. He believes that strips should end with the retirement or death of their creators and should not continue by the pen of other artists and writers. However corrupt the system that allowed this to happen, great iconic characters are available to tell wonderful stories of a range of different values and emotions, and this should not be so easily dismissed by one who has fought so hard to have his art recognized.

Comics is a versatile medium capable of telling a variety of different stories very powerfully. While that point bothered me so I had to respond, Watterson hit the nail on the head with his critique of the newspaper industry and comics’ role in it. His reasoning was ahead of its time, and this is why I will not submit any of my work to syndicates in the immediate future.

*sigh* Stupid Technology

Tuesday, April 26th, 2005

I hate to keep making excuses for a lack of content, but there is something seriously wrong with my Wi-Fi adapter. I guess I shouldn’t have gotten the cheap one. The damn thing always finds the server, tells me I have a strong connection, and then it just can’t pull up a web site. I’m O.K. with technology, but networking is not my strong suit, so I can’t really imagine what the problem could be. I worked on this for two hours in Seattle and a half hour today, and this is really getting on my nerves. So with all this writing stuck on my laptop, I guess its going to remain there until I figure out a good way to get on the Internet. Sorry!


Thursday, April 21st, 2005

Well, even though I haven’t written about it all yet, I’m finished travelling. A month of travelling has left me broke and weary, but I’m still busily working on my account of the last month. I have a tremendous amount of pictures to go through, and I have several stories half-written, including the long-awaited continuation to the Denver debacle. Another problem is that Internet access is still intermittent, so I often just have time to read email (and not answer– I’m so behind on my email — sorry, I’ll write back soon if you’ve written me!) and check a few things out. All my writing and pictures are on my laptop, so rest assured I’ll be keeping my eye out for a hotspot here in rural Montana while I’m waiting to start my new restaurant job.

Anyway, just for kicks, here’s a list of the states I’ve traveled through in the last month:
New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana. Damn, 16 states in a month ain’t bad!


Friday, April 15th, 2005

I’m travelling again and I won’t have consistent access to the Internet for a little while, but I will endeavor to post every chance I get. There’s plenty more to talk about, so stay tuned!

Schiavo’s Passion

Monday, April 11th, 2005

I just wanted to point out that some of the ideas I was getting at in my post Compassion of the Christ were echoed by Frank Rich’s April 10 New York Times column, “A Culture of Death, Not Life.” In it he writes of an American affliction with death, which has been pandered to by the media circuses over Terry Schiavo and Pope John Paul II, and even television programs like CSI, giving Americans another grisly body to drool over.

Many Christians it seems have embraced this culture wholeheartedly. Rich writes:

These fables are of a piece with the violent take on Christianity popularized by “The Passion of the Christ.” Though Mel Gibson brought a less gory version, with the unfortunate title “The Passion Recut,” to some 1,000 theaters for Easter in response to supposed popular demand, there was no demand. (Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that at many screens the film sold fewer than 50 tickets the entire opening weekend.) “Passion” fans want the full scourging, and at the height of the protests outside the Schiavo hospice, a TV was hooked up so the assembled could get revved up by watching the grisly original on DVD.

Did they really do this? These men and women are assembled to protest a woman dying by watching another man die? Wouldn’t the “culture of life” rather focus on their savior’s life and teachings than on his torture and execution? From Rich again:

Once the culture of death at its most virulent intersects with politicians in power, it starts to inflict damage on the living. When those leaders, led by the Bush brothers, wallow in this culture, they do a bait-and-switch and claim to be upholding John Paul’s vision of a “culture of life.” This has to be one of the biggest shams of all time.

There has been some progress made recently as many Christians and even conservatives have broken with the party line on a religious basis. In another recent New York Times editorial, outgoing U.N. Ambassador John C. Danforth breaks with the Republican Party because he feels that initiatives to ban gay marriage, stem-cell research, and the politically charged efforts on behalf of Terry Schiavo are more steeped in religious doctrine than in conservative policy. He writes:

…the only explanation for legislators comparing cells in a petri dish to babies in the womb is the extension of religious doctrine into statutory law.

He also writes of the conflict inherent in a political party supporting a religious doctrine: individuals from throughout the political spectrum have used religion has a source of inspiration. Danforth again:

I do not fault religious people for political action. Since Moses confronted the pharaoh, faithful people have heard God’s call to political involvement. Nor has political action been unique to conservative Christians. Religious liberals have been politically active in support of gay rights and against nuclear weapons and the death penalty. In America, everyone has the right to try to influence political issues, regardless of his religious motivations.

So the Party of God doesn’t have such a monopoly on religious doctrine after all. So I reiterate: people on the left have to stop associating Christians exclusively with Republicans. And Christians have to stop mistaking their religion as justification for a fascination with intolerance, death and war. A stance against abortion does not make a “culture of life” when you support a bloodthirsty war against an unprepared people.

Ads by Google

Friday, April 8th, 2005

We’re going to try out the Google ads and see how they work. The nice thing here is that now if you click on the ads, I make money. So click those links and see what’s behind ’em! More posting later.

My Day in Denver, Part I

Thursday, April 7th, 2005

I stopped in Denver mainly to find what may be the biggest comic shop around, the Mile High Comics Megastore. I wasn’t quite sure where it was or how to find it though, so I checked in an ad in a comic book I had in the back seat. Problem was, that comic was from 1993, so I wasn’t sure if they had moved.

Denver’s roads in the northeast are fairly straightforward. They have a numbered avenue system that gets lower as you drive south. But it’s not so straightforward, the avenues frequently aren’t connected to one another, so you end up driving down a short dead end which begins at 1008 and finishes up at 1039 and looping around to find the other piece. This realization would come back to haunt me later.

I found the address I was looking for, in a residential suburb, and predictably they had moved. I ended up driving around the city for a while, going downtown and just circling around watching the college girls go by. Finally, I was compelled to stop at a gas station and I found a phone book inside.

I jotted down two addresses: the first address of three for Mile High Comics, assuming that if it was not the largest they would at least be able to tell me where to go. The other was an Internet cafe so I could update the blog.

The address for Mile High brought me to a place called Commerce City. This was aptly named, as the area was populated by massive offices and stores, truck loading, warehouses, and not a soul as far as the eye could see. The avenues had the same problem of not connecting, but far worse, to the point where they ran into each other, avenues were frequently skipped, or roads were called “W. 49th Ave.” but were no more than a residential cul de sac.

One avenue continued going and suddenly dropped at a 30-40 degree angle. I thought my car was going to crash when I went over it, and it barely avoided bottoming out. For sure I had driven off the road, and would not be able to make it back up the treacherous incline. But to my surprise, the drop was a legitimate area of the road, and an intersection appeared ahead for the next avenue.

Finally I found the address I had written down: a single unmarked door in a warehouse with a few telltale comics boxes that told me this served as some kind of office for Mile High. I tried to open the door, at least the persons inside may be interested in hearing my plight and directing me to the proper location. It was locked. I decided I’d move on to the Internet cafe. At least then I could be sure of where I was going.

The cafe was odd. It was fairly easy to find, in a suburb just to the west of Denver. I walked in and two small children look up and scream “HI!” Rarely do you get such an enthusiastic greeting at any establishment.

The woman at the counter was a disinterested Asian woman in her early thirties. She looked at me, with my laptop bag in hand, as if she couldn’t imagine what I possibly wanted.

“Hi,” I said.

“Hello,” she muttered back, with a keen eye on the children behind me.

“Do you have wireless here?” I asked.

“Yes,” she replied tartly, apparently unwilling to volunteer any extra information.

“Well… in that case I’ll have a cup of coffee and uh… these blueberry muffins look pretty good.”

“Okay,” she said. I paid her, then she said very frankly, “you get half an hour with your coffee.”

It seemed a little rude. Many coffee shops, with the exception of Starbucks with its needlessly complicated payment system, allowed you to sit for an undetermined amount of time if you bought a cup of coffee and a bite to eat.

“Oh. Do I get anything for my muffin?” I asked, wondering if she’d catch my sarcasm.

She told me no, but I could pay a reasonable price for extra time. I sat down and plugged in my computer. The kids were playing a game and becoming quite loud.

The coffee was terrible. Really terrible. It was weak, flavorless, and she didn’t offer me any cream or sugar. And since she was busy calming down the screaming children, I didn’t feel inclined to ask her for any. Besides, it was so weak the cream may have extinguished any coffee flavor remaining in the drink.

My laptop booted up. The Internet wasn’t working.

I won’t bore you with the specifics of how we tried to do it, but she and I tried to get the Internet running on that computer for the next half and hour, going through my software, her equipment, odd devices to plug into my computer, whatever. For someone who snapped payment limitations at me she wasn’t prepared for someone to actually use her wireless Internet.

I finished my terrible coffee.

Finally, we got it running, and I managed to check my e-mail, write a couple addresses down, and do some blog postings. Meanwhile, the kids were becoming louder and louder, and a friend of the woman behind the counter had come in and they were chatting, so she wasn’t so inclined to calm her children down any more. The whole thing was creating such a racket it was impossible to get any work done, and I’d left my headphones in the car. I yearned for some kind of light jazz music playing, and a relaxed comfortable working environment.

Finally it seemed that my half an hour was up, although I couldn’t be sure as I wasn’t sure how long it took us to get the damn thing running, so I left, without saying a word. The kids screamed “BYE!” behind me.

I went to my car door, right across the street, put my laptop bag down next to me, and shoved my hand in my pocket for my keys.

Oh no.

Part II later!

So it shall remain.

Wednesday, April 6th, 2005

Due to Internet Explorer not following standards and otherwise being completely ridiculous, this site will remain best viewed through Mozilla Firefox, even though its far less widely used. So nyah.