The Intermittent

Why Are You Still Here?

Monday, December 29, 2003

BLAMING IT ON PRECIOUS

Some of the best things in life are, indeed, intermittent, but some of the beautiful things are still unwaveringly constant. I was there a few day ago when Mr. Intermittent and Mrs. Intermittent told friends, family, the State, God and whoever else would listen that they are in it for the long good haul. And let me tell you, the road ahead of those two is top notch: freshly paved and blessedly unending. When the stunning bride-to-be was escorted down the isle, I'm told the look on Dave's face was in the top 10 moments of a wedding already packed with soon-to-be classics (I desperately tried to subtly crane my neck to see around Dave Jon and the best man, but to no avail). Luckily I'm a kali-wielding tiger claw ninja man, because my tear-dabbing was as stealthy as it was girlish.

The previous night at the post-rehearsal dinner shindig the father of the groom, after getting us started with the toastmastering, was about to pass the mic old school to yours truly. Unfortunately, I only told him the forgettable/regrettable line of, "Aaw, I can't be first..." So I'm saying it now in a custom-made speech for the blog (with the benefit of not having to tone it down for Grandma): Dave and his lovely bride rock harder than AC/DC, are better friends than KG and JB and look better together than a really good collection of your favorite trade paperbacks. They are but mere mortals but their hearts and souls together transcend terra firma into the high country. For these two, ladies and gentlemen, in the words of so many great songs: everything's gonna be alright.

These last few days have been some of the best for me, and are made better knowing there are so many more down my muddy psychedelic moonshiner trail. Mine's a little narrow at the moment, without too much room for a hot little number to ride shotgun, but the wedding of those two did the lion's share of convincing me that it's time to start installing a rumble seat or something. I'm sure I speak for this blog's other shamefully oft-absent poster as well when I say: Congratulations and God Bless Casa del Intermittent!
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Wednesday, December 17, 2003

HIGHBROW ATTENTION OF THE DAY

The Economist names Persepolis as one of its books of the year, the only comic on a fairly upscale list. I think its fair to say that Persepolis has officialy joined Maus as a book we're supposed to give people to show the scope of the medium.

And I still haven't read it.
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MEET THE NEW BOSS

Saw the announcment on Newsarama that Tokyopop was going to start publishing original content. Given that Tokyopop seems intent on marketing to younger kids--and especially younger girls--I wonder what kind of material they want. Is something like GYO out? Will they take horror books? What about crime fiction?

You know, a smart publisher looking to diversify could probably do alright for themselves hoovering up more adult manga and pushing it to the bookstores. But smart comics publisher is the last surviving oxymoron, now that military intelligence got its reprieve over the weekend.

John Jakala and Shawn Fumo, as always, are all over this.
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DON'T CALL IT A COMEBACK

Ninth Art discusses comics covers. Alright, folks--deep breaths, and take a second before you post. Let's all hope we've learned something, OK?

Kevin Melrose got to this joke before me.
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SHREDDIN' COMICS, FILLING QUOTAS

Missed out on commenting on the whole Corner Comics mess while it was ongoing; and anyway, Dirk got to the law before I could. A sad situation indeed. But not a surprising one. The IRS is an enforcement agency. It measures success not by how many citizens it makes happy but by how many it pisses off via enforcement actions. Individual IRS agents make their careers by filling quotas; they don't make careers out of working with the public to help find solutions to tax issues. And given this, it is no surprise that the IRS took the stance it did. It did it because it could, because they knew Corner could not fight back. Why try to make quotas by taking on those who can fight back? That's work, man. Much easier to pick on the weak. This is the nature of the beast.
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SOMEWHERE UNDER THE WEATHER

The Flu has been having its way here at Intermittent World Headquarters. It is no fun at all; the muscle aches are particularily unpleasant, almost as much so as a Greg Horn cover. So to everyone out there, please take Alan's advice and wash your hands.
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Friday, December 12, 2003

EX ANTE APOLOGIES

Posting will be terribly scattershot for the remainder of the year, as I finally get married to the soon to be Mrs. Intermittent. Apologies all; hopefully, the holiday rush will fill the void my absence. If it doesn't, Game Show Network reruns will provide just as much entertainment and provocation as the average Intermittent post. Free tip.

This would also be a good time for my exceedingly lazy co-bloggers to pipe in. C'mon, start carrying some of the load, you lazy bastards.
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A CLARIFICATION

Sean Collins correctly notes that virtual child porn is semi-legal, per recent Supreme Court precedent. He also notes that "Cover 'er Breasts" Ashcroft, et al, are still agitated about the implications of that precedent. I don't think this is much a risk; the Supreme Court undercut most of the justifications that the Adminstration would use to try and reregulate virtual porn. Since there is no actual child placed at risk, there is no reason to take this speech outside the bounds of the First Amendment; and looked at under the prism of the First Amendment, the State doesn't have the power to ban a piece of material without first finding that the work meets the definition of obscentiy. And if a whole class of material is banned, it is very very likely overbroad and thus Constitutionall unsound.

Which leads to a final point. I said virtual child porn was semi-legal up above because, while it is not presumed obscene, it can still be found obscene on a case by case basis. Battle Royale might not be kiddie porn (at least not in the eyes of the law); but it might still be obscene in the eyes of a jury. Bookstores that stock the Battle Royale series should be very aware of the risks they're taking. Especially if those stores are in Texas. Or Missisipi. Or Alabama.
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Tuesday, December 09, 2003

HOW TO TALK LIKE A LAWYER

Marvel's last SEC filing listed, as is required, the various lawsuits it's engaged in. And Marvel, in that same document, said that all of these lawsuits were without merit, and would be vigorously defended.

Marvel said the same thing in prior SEC filings when it listed Brian Hibbs' case. The case was without merit, would be fought to the death, etc. Now look at the most recent Marvel SEC filing: Marvel is *cough* preparing to settle the claim. All that's left if for the Court to accept the settlement. And I would imagine that this settlement is different than that mentioned in this article. The settlement Marvel discloses talks about crediting the accounts of various shops: that means cash, folks. Marvel isn't getting off this based on actual returns, which is what is implied in the Comic Book Resources piece. Money will change hands, it looks like.

Granted, this is based on reading tea leaves in an SEC filing. And of course the fact that Marvel is settling doesn't imply Hibbs' case had merit; it might have simply made sense, as a business matter, to settle the claim rather than spend money and time fighting it. But is sort of funny to watch how a claim with no merit winds up turning into a cash settlement. Remember, no merit means it has might have some; frivolous means it likely has none.

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ADVICE FOR THE CLEAR THINKING

I read The Poorman everyday. And so should you.
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OOH, PUT ME IN COACH!

Jim Henley, along with half the libertarian blogosphere, are listing their favorite covers songs. And I want to play too; so without further ado, a short list of my favorite covers:

*The Breeders cover of "Happiness is a Warm Gun."
*Eugenius' cover of Beat Happening's "Indian Summer."
*The Gun Club's version of Leadbelly's "John Hardy."
*Nirvanna's cover of Leadbelly's "In the Pines." Hey, that Leadbelly could write a good tune now, hey.
*Jawbreaker's cover of the Pscyhadelic Furs' "Into you Like a Train."
*Mission of Burma's cover of Pere Ubu's "Heart of Darkness."
*Social Distortion's version of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire."
*Superchunk's version of the Magnetic Fields' "100000 Fireflies."
*Yo La Tengo's cover of "Here Comes My Baby."

And in a depature from the more punky, two albums of covers: John Hammond's album of Tom Wait's covers, Wicked Grin, and the Pine Vally Cosmonauts album of Bob Wills songs. Wills' songs are just aw shucks fun to begin with and catchy to boot, and the sheer love in the covers is just impossible to resist. Plus it features Kelly Hogan and Alejandro Escovedo; and really what more does need than Hogan, Esovedo, great tunes and love?
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A MAN OF WEALTH AND TASTE

Johny B says that "Baker's version of the Shadow is one of my all-time favorite series." See DC, between Johnny and me, you've got two guaranteed sales on a trade. Please?

This endorsement of course validates my belief in Mr. Baccardi's good sense.
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Friday, December 05, 2003

COMING ATTRACTIONS

Tomorrow is an all botanical day, as I work in the garden and hopefully post more thoughts on Yukiko's Spinach. I'm certain the anticipation will keep all four of my readers up all night.
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USELESS MORONS? YUSEF ISLAM? I COULD SWEAR THERE WAS A TERM FOR THESE PEOPLE....

To all the folks that consider themselves South Park Republicans: you do realize that you're a front, right? The happy band the GOP can trot out when Ralph Reed and Rick Santorum grind your lifestyle choices into the ground? The smiling fools who can prance about and disclaim the validity of a GOP platform that's, well, let's just say it isn't friendly to individual freedom? Do you really think that an ill-defined group with disparate common interests matters more to the Republicans than a highly organized and motivated Christian Coalition?

Isn't there a term for people like that? I know I've heard one somewhere....
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BANNED IN THE USA, I WAS, BANNED IN THE USA

Don't allow comments? But that implies that I have any idea how to code for comments on this page, which is clearly not the case....

In any event, John is likely right that my early post was bit of a cheap shot; there clearly is a difference between banning something outright and merely making it more difficult to engage in. But just as clearly, something can be made so difficult to engage in that it may as well be banned. The creation of “free speech zones” in many cases neuters speech, even though speech is nominally still free. If I was only allowed to blog at three in the morning, I’m technically still free to write; but I might as well not. And if everyone else is allowed to blog all the live long day, from my perspective at least, this starts to look a lot like discrimination. And discrimination on the basis of religion is unconstitutional, both for first and fourteenth amendment grounds.

Now, failing to give someone a scholarship to the seminary doesn’t do much to restrict the exercisercise of religion. But it isn't at all clear, at the outset, why generally available scholarship funds--presumably funded with tax dollars from, again presumreligiousligous folks as well as atheists--shouldn’t be available for when their kids want to go become priests. Kids are merely using generally available state resources to help further their own individual religious ends; the same as a Church applying for and receiving sewer service, or applying to the FCC for a license to own and operate a radio station. religiouseligous groups are allowed to take advantage of some general state services, why not scholarships? What is the principled distinction between scholarships and other taxpayer supported services?

The obvious counter is that the state is prohibited from “establishing religion.” Helping fund new priests smells like establishing religion. I buy that. But so does granting a church a license to broadcast a religious radio station. This latter is allowed. Again, why one and not the other? Even the Court’s own test for establishment jurisprudence is fuzzy; the Lemon test has no bright lines, just a bunch of mostly amorphous concepts to apply. And whenever a judicial test looks like that, it’s because the Court can’t think up a principled distinction and is simply deciding each case on the fly; the generation of law bintuitionand intution as to what feels right.

Now, to be honest, I don’t think that this is a bad thing. Life is generally too complex to be governed by bright line rules. And judging a case is as much art as science; if it wasn’t, we wouldn’t need judges. My own fuzzy sense of this is that using state scholarship money to fund seminary students is on the wrong side of the Constitutional line. In that, it seems I agree with John. But this conclusion is compelled not by the literal text of the Constitution, nor of the Lemon test; it instead grows out of my feelings as to what the Constitution means. To someone with a slightly different feel, maybe that use of state money looks legitimate. Out of this kind of situation are hard cases made; and this case is hard just on Establishment Clause grounds, even before you drag the allegations of discrimination into it. If I had to guess, I would say the Court allows it by the normal 5-4 vote, and both John and I are unhappy.
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Thursday, December 04, 2003

THAT'S PRETTY MUCH THE WAY IT ALWAYS IS

Special to John Jakala: that's pretty much just the way Justice Scalia always is. Typically, transcripts of oral argument don't identify the Justices; but you can always tell which questions are Scalia's by their sarcasm, arrogance, and the fact that he is the most willing to bully around the lawyers. The sad thing is, he's very often bright enough to get away with it.

Incidentally, I think John is too sure of the distinction between not supporting something and restricting it. The government provides many basic services, the lack of which has the very real effect of making an activity more difficult. The classic example, of course, is fire protection, or utility service. If the government were to fail to provide sewer service to a church, it makes it mighty hard to hold services--even though people are still free to meet and worship. Lithwick is right: this will be a tough one to decide, and it will be interesting to see how broad the decision the Court reaches will be.
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A HAT TIP, AND A CLARIFICATION

Sure, DC makes strange decisions as to what books to collect. But sometimes they get one right, even if it takes, oh, a decade or so. Case in point, the collected trade of Epicurus the Sage. Good stuff (worthy of its own post later) and welcome to have back in print.

Chris Puzak notes that DC may in fact trade the Vertigo:Pop books and also the Filth. Chris thinks we should maybe ask DC what their plans are before going to DefSnark Four. Ask DC? Hey, I can barely be bothered to update this page. Besides, I thought the whole point of this thing called blogging was to spout off in blissful ignorance; please don't dash my illusions on the propriety of my stupidity.

Chris also lists some other books from Vertigo's history he'd like to see collected. I'd agree with all of them (especially the Morrison/Fegredo Kid Eternity); I'd also suggest that Shadows Fall, Muktuk Wolfsbreath, and Millenium Fever are all also worth collecting. Outside of Vertigo, DC has bunces of series that deserve trading, many from that period right before Vertigo was spun off and creators had some freedom to do strange things with DC characters. Gerard Jones Martian Manhunter mini, for example. The Helfer/Baker Shadow, which is one of my favorite series of all time; a great mix of attitude and black comedy, with the best work of Kyle Baker's career. Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children, though DC may no longer have the rights to that series. Gilgamesh II, the last good work in Starlin's career. Veitch (Tom, not Rick) and Bryan Talbot's Nazz. O'Neill's Question.

A lot of good stuff came out of DC in that period; most of it is forgotten now. That's really too bad, both because this work was really important in pushing comics forward and also because much of it was, in fact, excellent. Too back it's all lost to history....

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Tuesday, December 02, 2003

WAY DOWN DOWN DOWN IN THIS...SUBACULTCHA

Hey look! A chance to bash an even more marginalized subculture: role playing gamers. Jim Henley, moonlighting at 20 x 20 room, considers various reasons why rpg's don't attract more players. Jim basically thinks it's because we're basically shy, a serious drawback in trying to grow what are fundamentally social games. This is likely somewhat true. But there are two other reasons Jim ignores; one obvious, one not so.

The obvious one is that gamers are a deeply creepy lot; not all, but certainly a significant percentage are people that need to shower in a most desperate way. Needless to say, many of these guys (and they are all guys) are also comics fans--which explains why an odor free comic/game shop is still an accomplishment. The last time I was in Phoenix Games, it smelled like a boxcar full of immigrants bound for El Norte. Yes, people are shy. But they're also obviously skittish about admitting partipation in a hobby that most folks understandably associate with smelly men in a basement sitting around talking about elves.

The less obvious reason is that rpg's are fundamentally about words. And words have a hard time breaking into the broader culture, unless they're backed by a really kicking beat. Most visual subcultures tend to make their way, eventually, into the mainstream. Graffiti art is font option these days; and comic style imagery is everywhere. In fact, I tend to suspect that the adoption of Manga imagery by culture vultures (shirts with manga graphics as fashion items, for example) has helped ease manga into American culture. The mainstream devours the symbology of the underground and the niche market. Tattoos, breakdancing, computer gaming. These all sneak into the mainstream via adaptation of their images. But there is no uniquely rgp image for the mainstream to adopt. Fantasy images don't resonate as rpg specific; they resonate as, well, fantasy images. Because rpg's depend upon words--and aren't amenable to being condensed into any sort of symbolic imagery--they aren't picked up by the broader culture.

Finally, a confession. I would gladly play CoC today, if my old friends were around. Those were good times.
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THE BEATLES INVENTED POP CULTURE, TAKE THREE.

Really, folks, please take six deep breathes and step away from the Grant Morrison interview. Remember, Grant is a pop star. He lies and dissembles for effect; and this is not a bad thing.

John Lennon was bigger than Jesus. Grant is bagging on Alan Moore, the saint of modern comics. Second verse, same as the first.
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Monday, December 01, 2003

A SYLLOGISM

Vanity Fair editors can't differentiate between liberation and occupation.

Many Iraqis cannot differentiate between liberation and occupation.

Therefore, many Iraqis are Vanity Fair editors.
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THE MONKEY WANTS WHAT THE MONKEY WANTS

ADD laments that there are so few good comics he can't spend all he wants to on comics every month. Alan has either a vastly different standards of goodness than do I or a vastly larger budget, becuase month in and month out I find good books to spend a substantial sum of money on. In February, for example, I'm looking at ordering the following books:

Wildcats v. 3.0 Full Disclosure
Rex Mundi 10
Daredevil v. 3:
Thor: Vikings
Scars: 17.99
The Pain v. 1
A bunch of Humanoids stuff

This is over a hundred dollars of comics. All of them are quality, with the possible exception of the Thor book; and hey, good wrong fun is its own reward. And this is not an exceptionally heavy month. In fact, February is pretty light for good trades. From my end at least, the problem isn't enough good comics; it's finding the time to read them all.

For those looking to economize, however, let me offer a lesson from mine own sorry life. When my shop first started giving out Previews, I was in hogheaven. There were lots of neat looking books in the indie section that I'd never have otherwise heard of. I ordered many of them. I felt an obligation to support struggling creators trying to do something different in the medium. I would be an informed consumer, dammit, cognizant that my purchases help shape the future of comics! I would reward the brave and daring with my money! Or something to that effect. And of course, many of these brave and daring and different comics were....crap. And many of the rest were books I'd put down with utter indifference; the same reaction I'd have to sitting through an episode of, oh, the Pretender (Note: this show might be off the air now. I don't care. It doesn't alter my metaphor). Eventually I realized that spending money on crap indie books was just as bad as spending money on crap mainstream books as far as my wallet was concerned; they both sucked up money I could use for useful things, like bratwurst or NFL Sunday Ticket.

So to those of you buying indie books that you know--just know--will be unbearably pretentious, or twee, or slapped together with no sense of design: stop. Thus endeth the lesson.
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BUT ON THE OTHER HAND, SOME GOOD TRADES FROM WILDSTORM

Per Rich, the slew of Warren Ellis mini's that came out this past year are getting the trade treatment; and as flipbooks, of all things. Since I like Ellis, and I skipped all of these mini's to gamble on the trades, I'm a happy boy indeed.

Assuming, of course, that it's true.
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