La Perdida - Jessica Abel

Unfortunately, I didn't care for this impressively long book about a young woman, Carla, who moves to Mexico to establish some connection to a largely non-existent part of her heritage. The problem was that with one briefly appearing exception of Carla's little brother, Rod, every single character in this story is a completely immature, moronic, loser. It's really hard to keep reading about a story filled with these idiot wannabe Marxists, writers, DJs, whatever. And it takes 150 of the 250+ pages before a plot really begins and by that time I really don't care what happens next despite how exciting and intense it should be. I also felt that Abel's early use of subtitles for the spanish didn't really work for me, just have it in english and let me know what parts are suppose to be spanish. Sorry, but if I knew anyone like any of these characters I would just ignore them, so don't make me read about them. 

Capote

After reading In Cold Blood (and seeing the movie version) I was fascinated with how Truman Capote was able to accumulate such vast detail about the 1959 Kansas murders. With this movie, based on a book, I now understand how: the incredibly charming and brilliant writer ingratiated himself into the lives of just about everyone involved in the horrific murders (from townsfolk, to detectives, to killers), a fact completely missing from the so-called documentary fiction that Capote wrote. The truth, apparently, is that Capote was a manipulative bastard who used people heinously. This is not to say he didn't later regret his actions, as they tormented him enough to cause permit writer's block. This is not exactly a fast-moving film, and if you do not know the story behind In Cold Blood it is pointless to watch, but the acting is amazing and insight important. Capote

An Evening of Not So Quiet Despair with Satan - Satan

Ostensibly written and performed by Satan himself, I know this is really the self-declared “crazy white mother f*cker” or as I know him, Nick. The not quite one man show took place in the little theater I haven't been to in probably a decade and it is nice to see that it is still around. Nick goes all out dressing the part and performing funny, interesting, self-deprecating (well, for Satan) tales about how the so-called Prince of Darkness is at best, or is it at worst?, just a patsy for the big guy, but just happens to have been around to have seen it all. I enjoyed the performance, and would have even if I didn’t know the actor/writer, but that is not to say there isn't room for improvement. The play tends to fluctuate between reasoned historical reimaginings and angry rants (the first being the most enjoyable for me). As for the latter, while this seems to make perfect sense considering the subject matter, in terms of plays it eliminates the slow buildup to a crescendo of purpose. Let me try to make sense of that: the play starts out with plenty of cursing and shouting. Now that's fine, but the question is where to go from there. More cursing and more shouting? Better to build up to a specific point. Nick attempts to do this by having an uninvited guest appear towards the end. While clever, the unintentional effect is that the guest acts as a sort of confirmation (or denial?) of what has been said throughout the show. Up until this point we had to take the words of Satan on, well, faith. Which is much more fun and appropriate. As far as I know this is Nick's first play, so there's plenty of time and room for improvement and I hardly look forward to his next one. Catch this while you can by checking here.  

Privacy? Please...

In honor of Google’s new worrisome privacy policy and the news that the FBI may be using FaceBook and other social media to spy on Americans: Click to enlarge

In the Information age, data is power, and it should be no surprise that governments and companies want as much access to your personal information as possible. Because once you understand and can track someone’s behavior, you can keep tabs on them and/or sell directly to them. (I’m not sure which I fear more.)

Companies work hard to get a hold of your information. And while you may be willing to share some secrets in exchange for a product or service, you have no control over what is ultimately done with that information or who gets it.

It’s true that organizations are now required to disclose their privacy policies. But that doesn’t mean much, because if you actually read those policies, you’ll see that your rights are pretty limited. “Opting out” is always tricky or cumbersome. And even the most ethical company can change owners (and policies) at the drop of a hat.

But why should they have all the power? We’ve seen how far companies will go to protect their intellectual property. People need to start protecting their own intellectual property. In a world where data equals dollars, shouldn’t you be the one who decides how to buy and sell your info? I’m quite serious: I want a Constitutional Amendment guaranteeing the right to privacy. But barring that, I want to require companies to get my express written permission to use my information—every time they want to use it. More than that, I want a dollar every time someone downloads my data. If iTunes can do it, I should be able to as well.

Vada a bordo, cazzo!

We live in a world where people are quick to pass the buck, to claim it's not their problem, to blame others, to manipulate the truth, to lie. It might not be anything new, but I feels like it gets worse every year. The outraged that Italian cost guard commander De Falco expressed at the seeming cowardly incompetence of the captain of the Costa Concodia cruise ship gets to the heart of the matter in the one phrase: Vada a bordo, cazzo. Roughly translated, it means "Get back on board, you dick!"

Capt Schettino: But do you realize it is dark and here we can’t see anything…

Commander De Falco: And so what? You want go home, Schettino? It is dark and you want to go home?

It is always dark, it's always hard to see, and we always want to go home. Stop your whining, cut the excuses, take responsibility, do your job.

You'll be surprised how quickly the world becomes a better place.

Nothing to see here folks...

In the middle of the night the police move in to kick out the OWS protesters. The mayor said it was over health and legal concerns. Thank goodness NYC is run by someone who cares so much about health and legality that he gives no-bid contracts to drink venders in our schools and decides the law against running for a third term didn’t apply to him. Good thing it happened in the middle of the night too, I’d hate to think that there was anything underhanded about it. Here's an article.

Your Guide to the Budget

Your Guide to the BudgetClick to enlarge.

With all the talk of a government shutdown, you may be confused as to why tax breaks for millionaires are good for the economy, while funding the services necessary for a functioning society is bad.

The answer is: you get what you pay for. And by that I mean, if you can afford your own congressman, you too can funnel public funds into your own coffers.

Please note how, in all the talk of budgets, one idea never gets mentioned: raising taxes .* That's because we can't afford to piss off our betters.

Sure, ending the Bush tax cuts last year would have made the now eviscerated social services affordable, but that would have required having a Liberal in the White House (or at least a Democrat). Obama is unable or unwilling to stand up to even the most egregious money grabs. And given how far he's bent over to accommodate the Republicans, I can only imagine what happens with Social Security and Medicare.

*or cutting the bloated defense budget.

Comic originally published (in a slightly different format) Feb. 2010.

Revisiting: Mixed Media

Click to enlarge

It's astounding to me that "liberal" Hollywood is responsible for corrupting our minds, but vicious right-wing hate speech gets a free pass.

I'm not advocating censorship. But if you're going to take advantage of the right to free speech, you have to take responsibility for the things you say.

Sign of the Times

click to enlarge.

This one has been bouncing around in my head for years. I decided to do it now, upon hearing that The Washington Times was likely going out of business. No, it's not that the paper is no longer making a profit---it never has made one. It's that the Times' is losing its sugar daddy (the Unification Church).

The Washington Times was the "answer" to the "liberal" Washington Post. And because of its rightward leanings, conservatives have been willing to overlook its dubious heritage. To wit, the Reverend Sun Myung Moon---who (no shit) says he is the Second Coming of God---has owned and kept the financially failing paper afloat since its founding 1982. And as long as the paper kept beating up on Communists and liberals (because, really, what's the difference?), conservatives have been able to ignore the cognitive dissonance of being fed propaganda about the virtues of the American free market by a company that only survives through welfare from a foreigner.

Personally, I don't care what you read. It's a free country. But I don't know how anyone who writes for the paper can take themselves seriously, much less look themselves in the mirror.

Drawing Board

Thanks to Mark for help with the wording. I also (sorta) incorporated some of his thoughts on the pictures. Thanks to John for posing as the Yellow Peril. For more on the background, see the original Drawing Board Post.

Sleep Deficit Disorder

click to enlarge.

This one has been churning around my brain for a few months. And really, it could be used to call out conservatives on just about any issue that they conveniently ignored under the Bush reign; but deficit reduction is probably their most laughable hypocrisy. Plus it's easier to make a pun with.

And Obama (et al) are such pussies for caving so easily on this issue. Yes, we need to address the deficit; but let's get the economy moving first. Then it'll be much easier to pay down the debt.

Obama claims that, "like people, the government needs to tighten it belt," but that's exactly wrong. Unlike households, the government is in a unique position to drive the entire economy. Governments should step on the gas (spend) when the economy slows down and ease off (save more) when the economy is going gangbusters.

Remember the hole Reagan and Bush I dug for us? Remember the surplus Clinton left us with? What the rise of the internet did under Clinton, "green" tech can do under Obama if we just use the stimulus money in targeted ways.

Pick up your phone, Senators!

I tried calling my Senators today to get them to stop being a bunch of cowards and start acting like Democrats (you know, the majority party in a state that's largely democratic) and push health care reform.  I couldn't get through to Schumer (no voicemail? really?) and Gillibrand number sent me to Verizon (not that that mattered, all I need is Schumer, as she votes however he does). Anyway, if someone wouldn't mind giving them a ring. These are the numbers I got. Tell them to stop being pussies and give me health care. Senator Charles Schumer Phone: 202-224-6542 Senator Kirsten Gillibrand Phone: 202-224-4451supporting thin

How to stick your foot in your month in academia and thus destroy your career before it starts ~or~ What happens when you mention a known fact

Being that I have been asked in the past to promote the on-line evaluations at Queens College, and seeing that I'm both president of my student association and have been asked to join the Academic Senate's committee on redesigning student evaluations, it seemed a good idea at the time to promote this semester's evaluation process.The listserv post: "Your peers at LISSA would like to remind you that one of the few methods that we, as students, have to change the make-up of our MLS program is by ANONYMOUSLY filling out teacher evaluations. Ensure that the Queens keeps those great teachers with scholarship and real-world experience who are always ready to lend a hand, and help us get rid of those "teachers" who post our grades before we even hand in our final papers (over 10% of you have shared that pain with me). It takes less time than it took for you to read this email."

The result: Apparently absolute chaos! Word is the department flipped out, made copies of this email and was talking about it non-stop. One teacher called me into an office to discuss it, and another (who didn't see it) simply came up to me and asked what the "controversial email" was about.

The truth: There is nothing wrong here. No names were given. The professor who gave me a "talking to" was more concerned with trying to get students to come forward when situations like this occur so that something concrete can take place to solve the problem. S/he also though I must have been very angry when I wrote the post and was concerned for me (I wasn't upset in the slightest, but why argue?). The professor that asked me what the email was about actually laughed when s/he heard and failed to see why anyone would care. A couple other teachers I spoke to since the dreaded posting never even mentioned it and were their normal friendly selves.

The situation: There are some people in academia who suck. Some of them suck so much that they actually don't bother doing the work for their students that they are required and paid to do. I had to deal with it and so have many others, which is exactly why I wrote what I did. Here's another thing, there are some people in academia who rock. that's why I mentioned them first (everyone seems to forget about that part of the email).

The trouble: So many students are afraid that if they give a teacher a bad evaluation it will come back to them. They even believe that teachers check handwriting in order to find out who said what. Here's a reply I made to one such concerned student: "I've been teaching for ten years. 1] we get the student comments A SEMESTER AFTER THE CLASS, so there is nothing that can be done by the teacher! 2] the evaluations are on-line so a] there is no handwriting, b] don't you type all of your assignments? so how do they know your handwriting? and c] who are these teachers that are memorizing people's handwriting? you all look alike to us, and 3] the reason why there are so many crappy teachers in this world is because people aren't destroying them in evaluations, and so they get tenure!!! Our department is filling with adjuncts, now and only now is the time to make a difference." I could have written a ton more such as teachers don't memorize writing style either, but I was in a hurry and just threw down some thoughts off the top of my head.

The final point: (I promise, final point) If a department has even one teacher that isn't doing their required work, than that whole department should be outraged--not at the idiot who actually was stupid enough to write it down and send it in a mass email and thus be the focus of the venom of the secretly guilty teacher for all time--but at anyone who would dare drag down the department's reputation and belittle the hard work that is being done just because one member has the audacity to cheat (yes, it counts as cheating but is really robbery). The department should go out of its way to crush that teacher (or teachers, let's be realistic and, honestly, I was referring to more than one teacher--double outrage!). Queens College, the CUNY system, higher education itself, should thank me for having the courage to stand up to injustice and for the rights of the students (you know, the ones that are paying money for a service that some of them are not receiving).

You're welcome. Fallen_angel

Batman: False Faces - Brian K. Vaughan OR shut-up and let me read the comic myself

What not to do in and introduction: write about how crappy the stories are that you are writing an introduction for. Few things an author can do infuriates me more than when they are belittling their own work. And no, it's not that they are being open-minded to their flaws; you can do that without doing the equivalent of telling me not to read the work. If I then read it, suddenly I'm the idiot for reading sub-par work, or worse still liking it. When an author does this all they are really doing is either being unnecessarily defensive by beating the reader to the punch in terms of criticism, or, more likely, displaying such outrageous egotism that they have to inform their imbecilic readers as to what is wrong with the work as they couldn't possibly figure it out on their own. Really Mr. Author? The work you did at age seven isn't as good as the work done at forty-seven? I'm utterly shocked. You may have noticed that I have yet to write about the work this blog entry is dedicated to. I'm not going to.  If the author doesn't care for his own work, then why should I?

Evil of Facebook

I use Facebook, I like Facebook, but why doesn't it like us?

Facebook will put your photos in ads on other people's pages, and use your information in other applications etc. To avoid this: 1. Settings 2. Privacy 3. News Feed and Wall 4. Click on “Facebook Ads” 5. In the 'Appearance in Facebook Ads' box, click “no one”! Pass it on.

Thanks Cris.

A Brief History of the Last 8 Years

A Brief History of the Last 8 Years click to enlarge.

Drawing Board

Concept Anyone paying attention to politics and even slightly left-of-nutso should have no trouble understanding this comic. Those who don't are the ones I'm making fun of.

Of course, as bad as the right wing has been, the "left" probably will play nice. Let me say that I have no trouble with bi-partisanship (pre-Newt Gingrich), but it really irks me that the Dems allows the Republicans to set the agenda even when they (the Dems) hold all the cards.

Layout I was originally planning on more panels, but decided (once again) that less is more. In fact, this comic could probably be distilled down even further, but I'm relatively happy with the current panel count.

Drawing & Inking I tend to draw too big for smaller paper. So I've started using some 14" x 17" Bristol. Still, after I sketched this one out, I realized that the larger paper was probably overkill---especially for  drawing(s) without any backgrounds. On top of that, I got a smooth finish paper, and when I erased my sketch lines after inking (which was done in pen rather than brush), I pulled up a lot of the ink as well. Argh.

Lettering I'm less happy with the lettering. While I love that I'm able to do all the lettering on the computer, I'm getting a little tired of the LetterOMatic! and Arials fonts. Panels 1 and 5 are especially annoying to me. I wasn't sure how to do the "Obama wins" panel in a simple way. My first thought was to be all fancy with balloons and Obama graphics, but I decided that would detract from the point of the joke. Still, my solution seems overly dull.

Historical Illusion

The Bush Administration is spending lots of energy reminding us how important Iraq is (especially with an election coming up). Unfortunately, their historical allusions are really just hysterical illusions...

Click on image to enlarge.