The Intermittent

Why Are You Still Here?

Monday, March 27, 2006


More ten year old IR pieces that read as if written tomorrow. Up today, though sadly enough not on the web, The Security Dilemma and Ethnic Conflict by Barry Posen, who you may remember from such op-eds as this Boston Review piece. For those of you with access to a decent research library, well worth looking up.

The security dilemma is one of those theoretical shortcuts that has gotten surprisingly little attention during the past, oh, five years. The concept, in a nutshell: actors want to be security vis a vis each other, and the measure of this security is the ability to defend themselves against the other. To ensure his own security, one actor stockpiles weapons, or takes up an aggressive tactical position just in case trouble happens, or hoards resources. The other actor looks at the first, sees that the other actor now has an advantage; and confronts a question: does he trust actor the first? Because measured sheerly on capability, the first actor now has a power to hurt the second actor that wasn't there before, and the only thing which would prevent the first actor from using this power is his own good will towards actor two. It's thus not irrational for the second actor to take an action to ensure his own security, which in turn makes actor one less secure, which starts the whole thing over again. And in that kind of spiral, it doesn't take much for one actor or another to think that maybe, maybe, it could best ensure its security be getting rid of the other actor. Permanently.

So how does this play into civil wars? Like this (and really, Posen's article is much richer than this half-digested version I'm giving up here, and you really should go find it; in the meantime, here is a decent little explication of Posen's piece in a paper by Jack Snyder and Robert Jervis). Ethnic groups look at each other in a vacuum and have to gauge the relative likelihood that the other groups will, if in power, use the power of the state to persecute. If Group A might be persecuted by Group B, Group A is going to want to retain the ability to defend itself, or is going to want to keep Group B from gaining power. The ability to defend itself of necessity implies the power to hurt Group B. Group B in turn retains its arms to defend itself against the armed Group A, which in turn causes Group A to feel it needs a stronger option to protect itself against Group B. Each step closer to the brink makes it harder for to step away, as the ability to punish on both sides is now so great. Eventually a mistake happens; an incident is misintepreted, or blow out of proportion, and it all breaks loose: better to strike first, and we're racing off to the killing fields. The application to Iraq should have been obvious by now.

What makes this situation worse in places with ethnic conflict is that, very often, groups have good reason to distrust the intentions of the other; the odd bit of forced relocation, or ethnic cleansing. The kind of thing that makes it hard to forgive and forget.

Anyway. A strongly recommended read if you can find it, and remember: no one could have predicted that Iraq would fall apart.

See, just like I told you; now I can read something like this and, instead of taking the time to write a tedious pox-on-both houses counter that everyone would ignore anyway, simply refer back to this instead. Problem: solution!

Thursday, March 23, 2006


I wasn't expecting great things from this Duke team, at least not after seeing them play. But still: they teased me into, if not belief, hope. Hope, which has now been snuffed, or rather, spiked back into row three. It's especially galling inasmuch as the loss is as much to blamed on Duke going into mental vaporlock as it was superior play by LSU. Coack K has to shoulder much of the fault here, as the offense self-destructed(though of course the Tigers defense helped); both Redick and Shelden Williams gave up on their teammates and forced some truly, truly awful shots when giving up the ball would have led to something better. The spacing was much worse than you typically see off a Duke team. Greg Paulus continued to waste space. Just a poor showing all around.

And my consolation prize is gearing up to root for Greg Zoubek next year? Bah.

Oh well. At least they beat Maryland. Twice.

Kim Thompson, succinctly encapsulating everything I've been trying to say these past two years:

"There is no such thing as a cartoonist whom it is "wrong" to dislike, and boredom or exasperation with subject matter, pacing or style are completely valid reasons to dislike anyone. (There's a few highly praised European cartoonists I've never been able to read more than 4 pages of.)

Anyway, there is a useful distinction to be made between work that engages you personally and work that doesn't but whose qualities you recognize. POGO's wordplay and slick surface irritate me and I can never read very much of it but I'd still put POGO in the top five strips of all time. (And I'm proud and pleased to publish it.) I hate LI'L ABNER on pretty much every level and actually DON'T think it's any good, but I understand the qualities that its defenders are attracted to. I'm never particularly offended if someone hates one of my favorites, although I may get mildly rankled when he (rarely she) acts as if I'm an idiot for liking it. But I'm now old and rich enough to not care if my saying "DILBERT is a really funny comic strip" makes someone's head explode all over their keyboard."

There's nothing I can add, aside from an Amen.

Monday, March 20, 2006


Per this rather cryptic page at Top Shelf, Kagan Mcleod's Infinite Kung Fu is being issued as a graphic novel at some point in the near future. I dearly love Infinite Kung Fu and wish to read more of it, and thus rather selfishly urge you to pre-order the book, especially you, Mr. Lowery, as I suspect it's blend of warm-hearted ultra-violence will roll right up your particular alley. It's the kind of loving, well-executed homage that puts something like Kill Bill to shame, going right in all the places those films went wrong; its pursuit of the cool is organic rather than labored, the influence of old Shaw Brothers films a springboard rather than an anchor.

Plus it has zombies. And everbody loves zombies.

I haven't read but three of Tom Spurgeons Top 50 Comics of 2005; I haven't even heard of maybe a quarter of them, except in the most general terms.

Luckily, ignorance is more advantage than impediment to blogging. So I've still got that going for me at least.

Been reading talk in the near future about the (imminent/ongoing/possible) civil war in Iraq. A suggestion: before commenting, consider plowing through Chaim Kaufman's "Possible and Impossible Solutions to Ethnic Civil Wars." A quick read, pretty light on the jargon, and decidedly non-ideological. Also, incidentally, for those who really can't spare the fifteen minute it requires, pretty damn hopeless in its implications for Iraq.


Sunday, March 05, 2006


I've talked before about how I think kids really want material far, far more weird and disturbing than the material normally written for kids. Jog, reviewing the manga Apolalypse Zero, provides another data point for this theory. And really, what kind of blogger would I be if I didn't seize upon a random bit of data as evidence of my particular Great Theory?

The kind too lazy to look through my own archives for the other times I've gone on about my own theory, that's what kind. Lazy, but still sort of pretentious.

Clarifications and corrections, re: the post below.

Kevin Church is thirty-something, not twenty-something. Apologies.

Girls (and/or their mothers) evidently do sometimes want to read Wonder Woman comics. I did not know that. Inasmuch as having a Wonder Woman comic acceptable for little girls to read is good for comics, then hey: to the extent I actually care about the well-being of comics, I've got no objection to a Wonder Woman comic acceptable to little girls. Thanks to Dorian for the factual heads-up; and I learned long ago not to argue retail facts with a shop-owner.

Lastly, despite the fact that Church expressed his hate for the current Wonder Woman comic in a post dedicated to his personal taste in comics, Kevin explains in comments below that his hate is not intended to as rhetorical support for his own taste in comics (assuming, of course, that I'm reading his comment correctly); it was, rather, merely a general statement about how an all-ages Wonder Woman comic would allow for the sale of more comics and would, therefore, be a Good Thing. Which is fine, if a bit of a non-sequitur in Church's original post. Again, I've got nothing against selling people more comics, or against comics for little girls.

Bear in mind, though, that a definition of good for comics based on sales can have nothing to say about what a good comic is from an enjoyment standpoint; if, god forbid, Jim Balent comics sold, we'd have to conclude that his scary porn comics were good for comics, despite the fact that they're profoundly freaky and make me feel icky just typing about them. Or call it the Hillary Duff principle: she can neither sing nor act, but she can sell records and movies, so she's good for the movie and record industries. Right?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


The short story: searching, buying, closing, moving, building, painting, repairing, moving, selling, closing again. Holidays. Work and deadlines and pressure and changes at the top. Impending irrevocable changes in life, to be further explicated in tedious detail, as if no else's life is as special as mine.

But if Ken can start posting again, and if J.W. Hastings can start posting again, then surely I can get off my lazy can and post again. Plus now I can look down my nose at Otto and Matt Rossi.

Saw this today, killing a little time at work today between various emergencies:

"The fact that a 9-year-old girl can't easily read recent issues of Wonder Woman drives me up the wall."

Um, why? Why should this drive anyone up a wall?

I, mean, I assume that Kevin Church is not a 9-year old girl. And it's not like 9 year old girls are lacking in comics to read: a slew of manga titles, Archie comics, Bone, Akiko, heck, even, if the girl wants supehero comics, the various Marvel Age and DC Adventures titles. There are, in fact, lots of back issues of Wonder Woman from back in the (presumptively better) day. He can't be talking from a merely market-growth viewpoint, inasmuch as any of the preceding can be just as effecitve entry level titles for young girls as could Wonder Woman. What makes Church mad can't be a lack of comics for little girls; it must be, rather, a lack of Wonder Woman comics in particular that makes Church mad.

Which brings us back to: why?

Is Wonder Woman essential? If girls miss out on Wonder Woman do they grow up with a little hollow spot in their hearts? Is that why cutting is on the rise? Maybe manga doesn't supply the essential nutrients the kids need. And besides, it important that our children like the exact same things in the exact same way as did we as children. If they don't, it shows we have failed as a society.

Or is it merely that something created for kids must be preserved for the kids, whether or not the kids have any interest in its preservation? Let's assume that nine year old girls, by and large, don't care about Wonder Woman, and never will, even if we hypothesize Wonder Woman comics written specifically for little girls. What then? DC has an obligation to keep writing it for the seventeen nine year girls who still might want to read it? When do kids lose their claim on a character? What if DC can sell more comics to middle-age men than to nine-year olds; still an obligation to write for the kids?

Or maybe it just comes down to this: Church, a twentysomething man, doesn't like the current Wonder Woman comics because he simply doesn't like them. But that sounds so, so idiosyncratic; so open to debate. After all--other twentysomething men seem to like Wonder Woman comics (leaving aside the fact that the damn book keeps getting cancelled. But still). But if we think of the children! Ah, now that's a hard position to argue with. May be a rhetorical winner, that.

Even if it doesn't make any sense.

Link via the, as of earlier this month, Ancient One.

Bonus question: is a comic still bright, poppy, and joyful if it features the nuclear annihilation of the very real city of Montevidao? How about if it features the extended torture of Mr. Miracle? Is it still bright poppy fun when Dr. Doom asserts a right to rape a woman?

Just asking, is all.