Monday, August 01, 2005

Opal City


Much like Robinson's "Starman" series, Lapham's "City of Crime" in Detective Comics and even Neil Gaiman's "Neverwhere", Grant Morrison's uses the city itself as a key character in his writing. Not only does his current "Manhatten Guardian" series play up the idea of the city as a living breathing organism but his "The Invisibles" uses it as a vital theme to introduce the series. "Starman" in particular uses the city not just as a setting but as motive force for the actions of its characters. While "Starman" does share the sense of sheer awe over modern archtecture that "The Manhatten Guardian" does, both "City of Crime" and "Neverwhere" play around with the thriving city beneath the city as does "The Guardian" as well.

General Amnesty

Blah blah blah, required apology for absence, blah blah blah, too bored, too busy, too annoyed, blah blah blah, you'll all be against the wall when the revolution comes, blah blah blah

Monday, April 25, 2005

China, Japan and the Historical Narrative


The protests and rioting in China is one of the clearest examples of the need for proper representation of history. While you cannot over-dramatize the events, no matter how harsh the event might be, you cannot marginalize or mitigate the event either. The Japan that produced such horrors as the 'rape of Nanking' is not the same Japan of today. Even so, recognition of one's past is the only way to prevent repeating that past. The difficulty, especially in the case of grade school textbooks, is in how the meaning of the event is conveyed. History is as much a narrative as any novel, the only difference being that historical narrative is based in evidence. But the meaning and impact of that evidence is a part of the narrative. When the evidence is given little attention or otherwise shuffled off to the side, the meaning is changed. Our own past of action against the Native Americans is representative of such marginalization in history.

Monday, March 28, 2005


Sin City

It's hard to get people, especially adults, to understand that comic books can be more than just four-color superheros and pirate tales. While most of the market is still dominated by the superheros there are many other tales that don't feature brightly-clothed and moralistic heroes as the main characters. Frank Miller started out in superhero comics with Daredevil and Batman and after making his mark on the field he moved on to tell a story that he always wanted to write. Neil Gaiman was allowed to write a comic book that has become a highlight for those, like me, who argue that comics are a genuine and worthwhile literary genre. Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Brian Vaughan and others all represent comic writers who both can write a good superhero tale as well as stories that go well beyond that sub-genre.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Splintering of the Right

Process Conservatives

It amazes me how quickly the Republican party violated their own traditional platform of state's rights in order to promote the right to life. This case is about quality of life and no matter what the radical conservatives claim, they are playing political football with a woman's life. More than that, the Republicans have also derailed any agenda to push a gay marrage ban and their own anti-abortion plans. By forcefully stepping into a state's rights issue the Republicans jettisoned a fundamental tenet of their party. Additionally, the previous platform that advocated smaller, less intrusive government, as well as the belief that people know best how to live their lives, is no longer viable. What I find amusing, if one can be amused in this grotesque charade, is that by departing from the Lockean idea that the individual knows best how to live their life, the Republicans has attachted themselves to the Rousseauean idea that the government has a right to dictate how one should live. That very same idea was later taken up by such illustrious figures as Marx, Lenin, Mao and Stalin, not to mention Hitler and Mussolini. So either the Republicans have decided their party will now become a socialist party or they have indeed turned toward a fascist-style of government.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

The Return of Conservative Philosophy

Wolfowitz and the World Bank

My question, in light of Bush's resistance to cooperate with the European powers in terms of global politics and economics, is when will the EU take a hard-line stance with the U.S.? The members of the World Bank could refuse to accept Wolfowitz's nomination and curry some favor with the anti-World Bank groups, however small that might be. Still, I'm not concerned with Bush's administration hailing a new age of fascism. That is, until they start talking about 'transvaluation' or a cultural revolution. More to the point, while the majority of Americans are on the right side of moderate, they are not necessarily as rabidly rightist as most Republican commentators would have you believe. The radical conservatives can only take this so far before the people get nervous.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Planet Heist

Adam Strange

Another comic that takes aim at the whole 'decompression' style of writing. It's pure candy with visuals incredibly well done on both the part of the artist and the colorist and inker. I'm just waiting for Diggle's "The Losers" to be optioned for a movie.

Friday, March 11, 2005

God is Red


Something about modernism, technology and the twentieth century that just gets me all frisky.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Rocks and Other Places

Loaded Language

I think President Bush is about to encounter a problem of his own creation: his own touted simplicity. President Bush's plan for Social Security reform is already facing an uphill battle from opponents in both parties and from the American public. The problem Bush is facing is that his plan is not simple and cannot be effectively conveyed or understood through simple language. Social Security reform is a big, complex problem and in order for Bush to make any headway he will have to abandon his badge of simplicity. Unfortunately, Bush has so surrounded himself with this aura of simplicity that any move away from it will complicate things for both him and the Republican party. Reality has a habit of breaking down the door and wrecking up the place if it is ignored for too long.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Guy Fawkes Day

V for Vendetta

I do hope the film adaptation does this graphic novel justice. But what interests me more at this moment is not the book "V for Vendetta" or even Rich Johnston's commentary. What interests me are the comments posted by the readers of Newsarama. Perhaps its the academic in me but the commentors who at least did not actively disagree with Rich did have some good arguments with evidence to base their claims on. I like evidence and live by the rules of evidence. In fact, all of the sciences, both hard and soft, live by the rules of evidence. They have done so for a few thousand years or so. What deeply disturbs me are the comments posted by those who disagreed with Mr. Johnston. Those comments consistantly lacked the evidence to support their arguments. I don't care who you are or what your politics are; if you don't ground your arguments then I am not going to waste my time. Those who argue without providing sufficient evidence or reason are simply propagandists.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Young Crooks of Texas

Pro Libertas - Pro Texana

What scares me about the Young Conservatives is not that there exists a group of people committed to promoting their views and shaping politics to fit their perceived needs. What scares me is there exists a group of people committed to destroying the values of the United States in the name of American values. A country built on immigration and they hate immigrants. A country based on freedom of religion and they want the federal government to stay out of their efforts to impose religion on the state level. What I love the most though is the apparent belief that the Declaration of Independence is an enforcable document versus the Constitution which, by the way, makes no reference to God.

Mythmaking in the Modern Age

The Basement Tapes

When I read the first collection of Neil Gaiman's Sandman I suffered a sort of pyschosis where I couldn't stop buying more issues. I think in this day and age of required sources and citations it's a little difficult to separate the story from the creator. Still, a great story will always live on and the names of those who had a hand in crafting the story will only be an afterthought. The great stories are those that will contribute to the mythology of a society and the superheros of modern comics are those mythic images.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Supreme Court Strikes Down Constitution, Takes Aim at Magna Carta

Secular Humanism

One would think the fact that the Ten Commandments were not included in the Constitution would be a sign that the Framers didn't intend to make them the foundation of U.S. law. Still, at this point I don't think context has much to do with the matter right now. Original intent can be discussed till you're blue in the face or throwing chairs across the room. What matters right now is how allowing such displays to remain might further erode the division between the Church and the State. If a court of law can claim that the Ten Commandments are representative of the foundations for the United States then how soon will it be before other religious laws are included? More to the point, how soon will the laws of the Ten Commandments be actively enforced by the courts such as not working on the Sabbath (which is actually Saturday), honoring your parents (no matter how abusive and sick they may be), or believing in one God and only one God (of course, by God the courts would mean a Judeo-Christian one and not one of those horrible eastern gods)? If you include the Ten Commandments with a set of other documents considered foundational to the United States and are enforcable as such then you implicitly claim that the Ten Commandments are enforcable as well. Finally, if such an inclusion is made then what of the current attempts by the U.S. government to bring American democracy to other foreign countries? What of the effort to bring democracy to Muslim nations already tense over the idea of seeing their governments toppled and foreign troops rolling in? Wouldn't including the Ten Commandments as an implicitly enforcable document also mean that 'American democracy' represents a distinctly Christian, or rather anti-Muslim, democracy?

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Beergarden Alliances

United States of Europe

It only makes sense that the states most frequently let down by France in the past century would be more than a little wary of relying on the mighty French army. Not that it was entire the fault of the French, mind you. Declining birth rates, the loss of a generation of men, the inability to challenge anyone economically before 1945 and the general fear of another revolution all tend to leave a country hesitant to act.


Identity and Language

It makes me giddy when my passions and current events collide like this. National identity is plastic as is the birth or rebirth of a national language. I wonder to what extent the new languages spoken and taught in the former Yugoslavian states are derived from the literary high culture. While language is a living breathing organism, it is typically the language of the administrators and officials (i.e. upper class) that becomes the official language of the nation.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Meaning as Use

Philosophy of Language

For all of the topics I am interested in language remains the most important to me. Strangely, or not, language also plays a central role in nearly all of the topics I devote my time to. Language is at the heart of the story, which in turn is at the heart of myths and comics. Language straddles the distance between logic and non-logic, thus making it a vital part of philosophy. And language plays a key role in how history is read, interpreted and written.

Irony of Ironies


Truth is something hard to neatly package. Something I find increasingly interesting is how media venues such as talk radio and blogs are generally the bastions of conservative opinions. What scares me about bloggers attempting to present genuine news under the banner of greater transparency between the event and the public is that few said bloggers (and talk show hosts, for that matter) have had any professional training in how to present and understand an event. Worse than that, even fewer possess the know-how to differentiate between the subjective and the objective. Perhaps I'm suffering from a momentary inability to remain objective but I just read something on fascist ideology that states "the fight against intellectuals and against the rationalism from which they drew their nourishment was a measure of public safety." This attitude that intelligence is corrupting and that morality is the one true gauge by which to interpret the world is being spewed forth by people comfortably isolated from the world by walls and opinion.

Monday, February 21, 2005

The European Front

Bush and the EU

I wonder how the individual nations of the European Union feel about the U.S. perception of Europe as a semi-unified whole? While greater cooperation between the European nations is a wonderful thing considering their violent past, my concern is whether nationalistic differences will rear its ugly head. I sincerely doubt that the nations of the European Union will soon consider their states as lesser or beholden to the Union. President Bush's efforts to soften his stance on Europe and to extend his support to nations that have not previously supported current U.S. actions does speak well for any multi-national effort in Iraq. It may appear as if President Bush is placating the European allies but at least he is acknowledging the need to remain allied with Europe.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

World of Production

On Ideas

A good story has always been magical in some way, or in many ways. A good storyteller picks on things that have always existed but put together in a way never thought of before. Stories are a little like taking a peek under the rug and seeing how the floor really looks. But you can never look directly and never for too long. Italo Calvino once said that a myth is opaque. The true subject is a Medusa that will turn you into stone if you gaze directly. So you must glance at it through a mirror. Even when the characters are screaming it out at you with the fury of Zarathustra come down from the mountain.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Comics and Sequential Art

Will Eisner

What has long been my fascination with comics is the movement of a story within the few pages allotted for a single issue. The physical medium is static. Yet the story told has to move from point A to point B by the end of the issue, however short the distance between may be. The arrangement of the images, word balloons and even the text itself is all directed towards movement. The first issue of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's We3 has a several pages containing nearly a hundred panels. Each panel presents only one image yet not only is movement conveyed between each panel but suspense and tension as well. The most apparent parts of a comic are the art and words but what drives a comic is all of the underlying elements such as the story, the structure and the layouts. It's the mix between the artistic visuals and the literary tales.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

The Politics of Orwell

State of the Union

It's unfortunate that the Democratic party, in the midst of a severe case of ennui, have decided to rescend any support to a cause that has long stood as a hallmark of their political acume. Social Security is in desperate need of repair yet not only have the Democratic members of Congress deigned such action unnecessary, they are willing to fight anyone who might attempt to do so. Instead of presenting their party and politics in this negative light the Democrats should turn the situation to their advantage. Support a plan to reshape Social Security and not only will the Democrats display their party's willingness to engage in bipartisan politics but also present to the nation a strong Democratic leader and platform. The Democrats need to take this issue to the public well before a Republican plan can reach the papers, tvs and blogs of the U.S. President Bush won this past election fairly and a conservative party will win again unless liberal alternatives are provided. By acting like such spoiled brats the librals of this country will not long remain in any kind of power and ergo, will not be able to affect any real change. Yes, conservativism fears the future by nature. But that doesn't mean liberals have to be scared as well.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Atlas Shrugged

Considering the Last Romantic

I loved Ayn Rand when I first read "Atlas Shrugged" but within six months I had already torn her premise of elite society apart. Her justifications for selfishness aside, Rand was writing nothing more but another rendition of the Nietzschean Übermensch. Elitism is a necessary element to society. Without an elite we wouldn't see the technological, artistic and simply human advancements that we have today. But where I differ with Rand is on the purpose and role the elite play. The elite should be like Nietzsche's Übermensch. The elite should be the masters of civilization and live beyond the good and evil of modern society. But being a master and living beyond traditional morality isn't so simple. Being a master means being a caretaker. You might hold dominion over lands and people but those same lands and people rule you. In a way, being a master is like the role government should play in the world. The government has only obligations to its citizens and the only rights a government has are ones necessary to fulfill those obligations. The only good and the only evil at this point are the good of life and the evil of death. Rand never mentioned anything about preserving life or the obligations of the master. Despite her love of the Romantics she failed to embody the artistic spirit that Nietzsche infused his Übermensch with. Creation was, and is, the ultimate good, if any good can be spoken of. Yet Rand was willing to lay waste to the world, much as the more bastardized versions of the Übermensch was meant to do.


Turkey and the EU

Once you move further east than the Aegean Sea it becomes difficult to determine where Europe stops and Asia starts. Cultures, civilizations, religions, and styles of government undergo a transformation until you reach a definitive example of a European or Asian or Middle Eastern state. I won't say nation since the word and even the idea of a 'nation' is artificial to some degree. Turkey does stand at odds with the rest of Europe mainly in its history but in part in its religion. The question of whether to grant Turkey entrance into the EU opens a Pandora's box of other questions: what constitutes Europe; whether former Soviet republics east of the Black Sea warrant entrance. Moreover, when do geographic concerns become moot in the face of cultural and governmental differences?


Neil Stephenson interview
Article 10: Critical Distance

While I have never read anything by Neil Stephenson he has come highly recommended for someone with an interest in 16th century English history. Most of his interview on Slashdot did not interest me except for his long response concerning literary criticism and the relationship between art and economics. Paul O'Brian presents a similar argument on critical acclaim and market forces in comics. Both Stephenson and O'Brian write for rather insular audiences. Still, both make strong points on the difference between literary, or high art, and the direct mainstream markets. What I find interesting is the idea that poor performance in the mainstream is constantly taken as a sign of the quality of the work. The academic-based critics hail the underachievers for being underachievers. Maybe my natural disdain for anything that comes with massive fanfare, no matter who the fan, prevents me from seeing the logic in this.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Warding off a Naked Churchill

9/11 Essay

It does depend on which end of the gun you are looking. The victim becomes the victimizer becomes the victim. I think it was Martin Luther King Jr. who said once that the essetial question now is between non-violence and non-existence. And it was Albert Camus, in the midst of the German occupation of France, who said that murder is never legitimate but sometimes necessary. Terrorists lack legitimate grounds for their actions but how different are their motives from that of the U.S.? The end of tyranny? Who's tyranny? Sacrifice for your people? Who's people? History may no longer be solely written by the victors but the victors are still the ones who are listened to.

Crisis in the Basement

The Basement Tapes

The long shadows of Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns" and Alan Moore's "The Watchmen" continue to affect comics in strange ways. It seems more often than not these days that the better writers out there are the ones who balance both the grim and gritty aspects with the bright and flashy ones. James Robinson and Geoff Johns have both renewed my passion for the bright colors and bright attitudes of 1930s and 1940s characters while Grant Morrison and Brian Michael Bendis continue to put those bright characters into dark and ambiguous situations. 'Realism' in comics is only good insofar as it shows both the good and the bad. The transition from Grant Morrison's "New X-Men" to Joss Weadon's "Astonishing X-Men" is probably the best current example of this balance. Morrison dirtied the cleanest characters by making them alive. Weadon, in turn, shows why those characters were clean in the first place.

The Car-Jacking of a Theory

Evolution Takes a Back Seat

What amazes me more than the teaching of creationism in schools is the complete and consistant lack of evidence backing creationism. As far as I know, belief alone does not prove anything. I think it was in the years leading up to World War II that several German scientists attempted to present a coherent argument proving how the race of Isaac was something less than human. Psuedo-science is still psuedo and a theory only says as much as it proves.

Monday, January 31, 2005

encapsulation of compression

Supercompression is a term coming into greater notoriety on the comic message boards these days. Charges of laziness and indolence have been leveled against those 'decompression' writers as what was once a story told within three to six issues is now stretch to twelve or more. Supercompression is an attempt to bring the story arc back to a more accessible form. Supercompression is also, in many ways, what I am attempting here. The problem is thus: how does one compress a critique, rant, exposition or other brief essay into a paragraph without losing all meaning? The least complex answer possible is usually the correct one. Bastardized Ockam quotes aside, presenting nuanced simplicity is my goal. Or is that simplistic nuance?



It's a comic about a cat, a rabbit and a dog and it nearly made me cry twice.

Collapsable History

'Collapse': How the World Ends

There's something about combining biological determinism and history that bothers me. This cat, Jared Diamond, claims that enviromental factors can explain the whys and hows of world history. The historians of the Annales school went down this route in the 1960s and even then geographic and enviromental effects were only included as another element in historical interpretation. To reduce the history of humanity to one cause ignores both humanity and history. Diamond's argument strikes me as a touch too teleological. It's one thing to claim that certain environmental conditions allowed for humans to exist and florish. It's quite another to claim that those conditions entirely determined how humanity would progress. There's a reason why the word 'inevitable' is anathema to historians.