The Intermittent

Why Are You Still Here?

Thursday, March 31, 2005

MST3K VS. STEVEN SEGAL FIGHTING A FAT MAN

A confession: I'm vaguely more depressed about the impending deluge of Countdown to Infinite Crisis commentary than I am about the title itself. I mean, I know it's likely going to be a terrible, terrible comic. Then again, I'm not planning on reading it; no glutton for punishment me. But the commentary will be a pain to avoid. Lots of blogs over the next few months are going to be in this race to craft the most righteously indignant post about it; hey look, we're off to the races already!

And not that I think that the book deserves better, but still...I mean, everyone writing these posts and damn near everyone reading them knows the book will be lousy. I can't imagine anyone buying this book in this post Sue Dibny world is under any illusions as to what they're going to get. No one is performing a public service here. This is simply dogpiling on the weak, though admittedly a weak book that is really asking for it. After a point the critical spectacle gets somewhat depressing. It's the blogging equivalent of bear baiting.

By way of comparison, and this is really a terrible comparison, mind, but it fits to me. So bear with me. There was this Steven Segal movie from his early days--Out for Justice or Above the Law or Straight to Video or somesuch--that climaxed with Segal beating up a fat man. And yeah, the guy was a drug pusher or some other variey of scum/villainy, but at some point during this agonizingly long fight scene--maybe the fifth or sixth minute of this (so-called) Aikido master kicking around this helpless fat guy--I realized: watching Steven Segal beat up a fat guy isn't very entertaining. What's the fat guy going to do to Segal? Wheeze at him? It's not like he could defend himself. The only drama was seeing if coronary disease would kill him before Segal. There was such a mismatch between force and target the whole thing just felt sad. Sordid. Moreso, even, than your typical Segal flick. Which is saying a mouthful, trust me. If you're going to put the man down, just put him down already.

This whole Crisis business tends bring out the worst Segalian tendencies of the blogosphere. Which should, I think, give us pause. The mismatch between the book and the vitriol just seems so, so....I mean, look at this. And I know that ADD tends towards the excitable. But even so. You'd think the book was written on human flesh rather than merely being the millionth bad comic to be published during my lifetime. You'd think the book was in his house kicking his puppy. Guy, ease back already. It's just a bad comic. Stop killing it, it's already dead.

Which is not to say that I want some kind of moratorium on bagging on the book. I just want it done with some panache. I do like me some snark. When done well (which is why this is largely snark free; I know my limits). You want to use a bad comic for comedic fodder? Fine. Hey, I sat through a whole lot of Turkey Days; I'll go dumpster diving for laughs. But I just don't want to feel dirty when I come back up, you know? I want Tom Servo; I don't want Tom Servo screaming obscenities at me.

And in my defense, regarding my admitted Segal watching: I was young. And this was the Dark Age of the kung fu media scene, at least as such existed in central Wisconsin. After Sho Kusugi, before Rumble in the Bronx. My options were Segal, Van Damme, and, shudder, Jeff Speakman. Under the circumstances, I can only plead ignorance.
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Tuesday, March 29, 2005

BOOKS AND BOOKS AND BOOKS AND BOOKS

A perfect memestorm over at Ed Cunard's, as two seperate book memes collide. I'd play, but man that list is a monster. I'd be combing through it until the weekend, and that's simply not going to happen. As an offering to the meme gods, though, I offer up this, my list of books read so far this year (excluding comics, graphic novels, etc):

Lloyd: What Happened, by Stanley Bing
American Ceasar, by William Manchester
Vineland, by Thomas Pynchon
Already Dead, by Denis Johnson
Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin
Clash of Kings, by George R. R. Martin

These latter two satisfied a long dormant fantasy itch that I've recently gotten the urge to scratch; any recommendations of similiar books would be appreciated. Fair warning, though: anyone who recommends a book by Terry Brooks will be on the recieving end of an electronic scowling of a terrible magnitude. Already Dead is high end noir. If not as profound as it dearly wants to be, it remains thriller (not a mystery, not really) both tightly plotted and as open ended as life. A series of random, inevitable events slowly turning a town against itself. Not sure if Johnson's poetry is of the same quality, and I missed the film version of his Jesus' Son, so no comment on that. I'm trying to talk myself into re-reading Crime and Punishment next, but frankly, that sounds like work to me right now, a literary obligation rather than a pleasure. Later maybe; I'm be spending a week away from wife attending meetings in Washington DC come May, and maybe I'll try and crank through it again then.

In other news, Sean Collins is scared beyond the capacity for rational thought. His mind has gone bye-bye. Alternatley, he's on a real Orson Welles tip. Either way.
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Monday, March 28, 2005

NO LOVE FOR THE NEW SCHOOL

Jim Henley, while taking a deserved bite of some of comics sacred cows, implies that Ed Brubaker enjoys some sort of high end critical-darling status. Maybe. But it seems to me that Brubaker's work is enjoyed in a sort of midlist, good for what it is kind of fashion; certainly Brubaker doesn't enjoy the same blanket critical adoration as do Moore, Morrison,and Gaiman.

In fact, I have trouble thinking of any semi-mainstream writer that has been inducted into the invisible pantheon since that trio ascended in the early nineties. Bendis? Matt Wagner? Joe Casey? James Robinson? Ennis? Warren Ellis? Greg Rucka? All have produced quality work, but work which resides on a critical plane below that of the holy trio. If there are debates as to which of these writers deserves enshrinement, they're going on at a volume I can't hear. Assuming I'm right (which assumption I gather is a bedrock privelege of blogging) I'm curious why no other writers have achieved that sort of critical mass as Moore, Morrison, and Gaiman. Is it simply that haven't been other writers since whose body of work is comparable? Is it resistance on the part of older critics to a new school of writers; a sort of modern day "no one does it as good as Kirby did"? Does the profusion of online chatter undermine the formation of a critical consensus?

In the odd chance that last is true, I'll best be shutting up now.
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Tuesday, March 15, 2005

VALUE SUBTRACTED

Via Fanboy Rampage, logic at work:

"This beckons to one of my favorite rants about what the REAL cost of a comic is nowadays. To wit: In the past, you would spend well, let's use the mid-seventies price just for devil's advocacy, say 25 cents for your average comic. Today, that same average book is about US$2.25. So that's 9 times greater over 30 years. But, in that 1970s comic there was a pretty good chance that you'd get a full story with a discernable start and finish. Today you get a small chapter of that same story drawn out over four to eight issues. Granted there are huge differences in artwork, production values, blah, blah blah. Fine, I get it. But if you think about it and use the four-issue model, that's really 36 times the cost of that same story in the mid 70s! Using the rule of 72, it's easy to see that this represents a rate of about 12.5% annually compounded over ther last 30years. Not a bad rate of return if you could get it! The eight-issue model represents more than a 25% annual compounded cost for that same comic's contents!"

So then, obviously, a comic with three eight page stories should be worth, what? Almost seven dollars! Six four page stories? That's nine dollars of value! Wait! What if we went to single page stories; now how much would you pay for your twenty two page funnybook? If you're paying less than forty bucks you're getting a deal, my friend, since that averages less than two dollars a story!

Clearly, the market awaits only a publisher savvy enough to see this market lapse. One not headed by Mark Alessi.
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OH THE PLACES I'VE GONE

Via Jim Henley, the latest meme.

Bold the states you've been to, underline the states you've lived in and italicize the state you're in now...

Alabama / Alaska / Arizona / Arkansas / California / Colorado / Connecticut / Delaware / Florida / Georgia / Hawaii / Idaho / Illinois / Indiana / Iowa / Kansas / Kentucky / Louisiana / Maine / Maryland / Massachusetts / Michigan / Minnesota / Mississippi / Missouri / Montana / Nebraska / Nevada / New Hampshire / New Jersey / New Mexico / New York / North Carolina / North Dakota / Ohio / Oklahoma / Oregon / Pennsylvania / Rhode Island / South Carolina / South Dakota / Tennessee / Texas / Utah / Vermont / Virginia / Washington / West Virginia / Wisconsin / Wyoming / Washington D.C /
Go HERE to have a form generate the HTML for you.

I've defined "been to" as two consecutive nights; sleeping on the floor of the Newark airport does not count as having been to New Jersey, the deathflu I caught there nothwithstanding. "Lived" are places where I've spent two consecutive months. What does this tell me? Well, that I've moved south over time; Wisconsin to Illinois to North Carolina to Florida. Give me another couple years, you'll find me in Tierra Del Fuego.
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Thursday, March 10, 2005

FAILING THE SAVING THROW VERSUS LOGIC

Per the IDF, those who play roleplaying games are securitiy risks who likely suffer from illogic and deficient willpower (in game terms, this translates to a -4 on all WIS roles). This perhaps explains why Henley is such a commie-pinko; his brain had been addled by too many roles of the dice.
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MAKING BEN VREEM PROUD

Like I said below, I've been passing over comics for books lately. After trying and failing in both high school and college to get through Vineland, I finally finished that book last month. An eerie read, that. Back in the early nineties, Pynchon comes across as a hippe jokester trading in paranoia to round out the mis en scene. Now, it reads as a descriptive adjunct to the evening news, as as addendum to any number of DOJ memos. And yet, at the same time, Vineland seems to me the most human of his books; the closing, in which a motley collection of strikers and scabs and hippies and the just scraping by come together is, I think a nice response to the sketch of government he developes. We always have the power to create our own worlds, at least in miniature.

I wish I could buy into the Emerson quote though; I'd sleep much easier if I could buy into a notion of cosmic justice. Emerson, as quoted by Pynchon:

"Secret retributions are always disturbing the level, when disturbed, of the divine justice.
It is impossible to tile the beam. All the tyrants and proprieters and monopolists of this
world in vain se their shoulders to heave the bar. Settles forever more the ponderous
equator to its line and man and mote and sun and star must range to it, or be pulverized by
its recoil."

Perhaps this explains why Dave Fiore is the way he is (in a good way, of course).

And on the subject of semi-pretentious modern lit, Dave Lartique asks if Haruki Murakami is worth the read. Oh yes. Yes, yes, yes. Yes. Though I would start with Dance Dance Dance rather than the Wind Up Bird Chronicle,though this latter is certainly a masterpiece in its own way. Murakami has an odd gift; he tells tales of the fantastic in very prosaic prose, and yet his stories always connect on an emotional rather than a intellectual level. You will believe a sheep man can cry. I realize this isn't selling his books very well. A better description. Picture, maybe Hal Hartley adapting Borges for the screen. Or in comics mode, Clowes' Like A Velvet Glove Cast in Iron with a heart nine sizes larger. Clowes' work is actually a good descriptive touchpoint; as in LAVGCII, most Murakami books center on slightly odd young men searching for missing women, and stumbling into worlds different from ours as a result. But Murakami is a humanist and Clowes a misanthrope. And while I've little desire to revisit Clowes except to admire the craft, I return again and again to Murakami. Really, I can't recommend Murakami strongly enough. Go, read.
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LAZYBLOGGING, PART NINETEEN

I have reasons for my blogsloth this past month or so. Work issues, computer issues; my power supply and my internet connection were both on the fritz, and solving the latter meant solving the former. Which took more time than I would have liked, but....Also, I've been busy trying to replant my yard; determining which plants best survive an environment of heavy shade and benign neglect. So far lakeview jasmine seems the clear winner, though the bleeding heart vine is gamely hanging on, no pun intended. The grass? Dead twice over, thanks, and soon to be buried under a layer of pebbles. So, yeah, I've been busy, but mainly I've just been lazy. I can't say my yard is so large as to make planting a month long project.

Part of the problem is that I haven't been in a very comics kind of mood lately. Given my dwindling time, comics have generally lost out to other media. I've come to the realization that I don't really love comics, not in the way that much of the rest of the blogosphere does. I mean, I love certain comics, but I certainly don't love comics as a medium, at least not to the extent of favoring it over any other. The proof is in the reading. Given stacks of books and a stack of graphic novels, I've spent the past two months essentially reading books. Maybe I've got the wrong OGNs in my stack, I don't know, but none of them screamed read me. I'd certainly be open to suggestions; my list of last years best is a pretty clear indication of my tastes, if anyone wants to lend a hand.

Also, the controveries of the day just don't really move me. I do remain amazed at the continued quest to find some moral imperitave requring people to create, sell, and read the right kind of books. If only more people would simply listen to their aesthetic betters, we'd be that much closer to utopia, with ponies for us all; I can only imagine the good fortune of finding out that one's tastes are enforceable against the great unwashed. My suggestion, as always, is more suggestion and less derision.

Catch up blogging to resume shortly.
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Monday, March 07, 2005

IF IT WEREN'T FOR BAD LUCK, WOULD'NT HAVE NO LUCK AT ALL

So, this Toronto Comics Arts Festival looks pretty sweet. Too bad it's not going on in late March, when I'm actually leaving the South to head up Toronto way. Is there maybe a three month time difference between Florida and Toronto? No?

Damn.
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RISING SUN IN THE RED STATES

Before two movies this weekend, Coke had an anime syle NASCAR themed ad playing; yes, the sport whose fans look down on Japanese cars is being packaged and sold using a Japanese style. I've said before that one of things that I think drives the manga boom is a yen not merely for more genres of comics but is instead (or perhaps in addition to) a product of a more general cultural trend which holds all things Japanese to be cool. Things like this Coke ad make me think that I'm right. If the trend is so deep that the Bubba crowd is embracing anime and expected to digest and appreciate its assorted visual tropes, we have some serious cultural penetration.
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