“Webcomics” book review

I found Sean Kleefeld‘s recent book Webcomics very interesting reading, despite being a webcomic… critic? skeptic? curmudgeon? Probably that last one.

I’m not opposed to webcomics. I have read various, including the (NSFW and age-restricted) OGLAF. But I still think Strong Bad E-mail #181 was and remains persuasive in pouring cold water on webcomics.

All of which I bring up in order to establish that, for anyone aware that the author has been an online friend going back to the previous century, FYI I was not pre-sold on his new book.

Despite which Webcomics was still a worthwhile purchase, impressive and offering much interest.

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Kirby Memorial issue of Marvel Age

This is not an old and/or obscure comics post, for the simple reason that Marvel Age was not a comic book.

Marvel Age was, I guess, basically a house-produced fan magazine, something probably near 100% obsolete in the age of the World Wide Web. But these did exist, in the Before Time. (Other examples which come to mind are Nintendo Power and something from Sierra which may have had a couple of names over the course of its existence.)

Although Marvel Age shared the size and format of a typical comic book, it generally contained minimal actual comics content. Issue #138 was no exception. It did contain, however, about as much a formal memorial as the company published upon the death of its all-time MVP, Jack Kirby.

So let’s revisit that, 26 years later.

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Critical thinking amid a nightmare

Really feeling Kipling’s “If,” as another week of this nightmare commences. “If you can keep your head when all about you / Are losing theirs…”

This is difficult.

Today the Bill Moyers site published someone’s hot-take about how it’s time to rise up and resist physically instead of just crouching at your computer, and someone shared it on Twitter, and I read the article because I was curious about the inclusion of the word “strategically” in the summary. Unfortunately the article didn’t really mention any kind of strategic thinking at all.

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Ohio, America, and corrupted culture

It feels like our situation is deteriorating rapidly, in America.

Many eyes are on Portland, OR, and the challenging reality that the president of the United States is very explicitly dispatching secret police to beat up political dissenters and “disappear” them. The U.S. Attorney General now characterizes federal agents disappearing people in unmarked vehicles as “standard anti-crime” and “classic crimefighting.” This is really happening and it’s very bad.

Understandable that even my reasonably well-informed mother, three states away, barely heard of what seemed like a Vesuvian eruption within Ohio politics this week. I have already tried summarizing the scandal around Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, elsewhere, and perhaps the most relevant information in the big picture is that arbitrary and even ironic technicalities seem to have transformed massive corruption from business-as-usual into a scandalous crime.

The reality is that anyone paying honest attention knew, all along, that a big utility was using political spending to buy desired state government policy. The well-intentioned suggestions of reformers that “dark money” is the problem and that transparency is the solution miss the forest for the trees, I think. From what I can tell, transparency is in a real sense how Householder landed himself in legal jeopardy. Had he relied more on coded language and implication, he probably could have worked much the same scheme without meeting the absurd standard of a direct plain-language “quid pro quo.”

Reality is, purchasing public policy with money is business-as-usual in America and “transparency” is ineffective as a deterrent, because forces like shame and restraint are crumbling.

Householder has provided a second example of this, in the possibility that he may be able to shut down the Ohio House for an indefinite period. If it turns out that our rules and laws provide no resolution for a House Speaker whose arrest on public corruption charges prevents him from contact with many colleagues—and who refuses either to resign or schedule a House session during which legislators could remove him—the explanation will probably be that no one ever really imagined a politician would do something so grossly offensive.

Surprise, lots of politicians including very powerful ones are committing grossly offensive abuses of power, and it is unclear what can stop them.

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The Failed State of America

At some point here I would like to write about something besides the corrosive storm, rotting away the entire notion of a functioning United States of America.

But, what else would I write about.* This is a big thing, even if it’s ongoing. Meanwhile I’m not, e.g., traveling much beyond my daily hikes around western Lakewood.

On the other hand, it seems like there is little genuinely new to say about the corrosion and dysfunction of America, and even less which answers this fundamental summation: “Sometimes there is no tactical approach that will address the immediate problem—all you can do is focus on strategy and hope to survive long enough for your long-term strategic actions to bear fruit.”

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Preview: industrial civilization vs climate change

I can’t figure out now how I even found this thread. The thread itself made some more sense after I realized that it’s from an American Enterprise Institute hack, though I still don’t know how I encountered it unless Twitter coughed it up during one of its reversions of my timeline to “Top Tweets” before I shut that shit off like I always do.

That aside, I still think there’s significance in my initial reaction: the thread is a summary of industrial civilization’s response to climate change, past present and likely future.

The context of the Twitter thread is COVID-19 and America’s complete botch job of containing it. The corporate technocrat’s response is unhappy acknowledgment that current conditions are unacceptable, and that some kind of small shared sacrifice from everyone regardless of wealth would help, but the real solution is entirely a matter of waiting for technology to restore control over this disruptive natural phenomenon.

The entire thread also seems like a dismally accurate caricature of how the dominant culture reacts to climate change and is likely to continue doing.

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Corrosion, Dysfunction and Pushing on a Rope

Just about every day, now, I watch what’s going on in America with a kind of horrified fascination.

I definitely do not mean popular protests to insist that Black Lives Matter. That’s very good.

Not much else is. America completely mismanaged, is still mismanaging, a deadly pandemic. A recession is spreading throughout the economy, applying pressure to the enormous dominoes of state and local government budgets. Many cities’ police departments are pretty clearly feral. Industry is turning Earth’s climate toxic. Etc.

Beneath all of this, there’s a pretty glaring lack of effective solutions being implemented. I think a growing number of people sense this, to some extent. But I also think that very few are fully capable of conceiving how far we are, at this point, from even a fundamental degree of societal functioning which seems to be an unquestioned, popular assumption.

A lot of people seem like Captain Willard on the Do Long Bridge—demanding a response from whoever is in authority—before the penny dropped and he realized that the expected responsive system of authority simply didn’t exist.

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Social change and chaos

It’s definitely good that a lot of people seem to have, just about, woken up one day in late May 2020 and decided that racism, racists, and racial disparities—particularly in violent injury by police—are not okay and that these things need kicked to the curb promptly.

That is certainly good and an improvement.

We clearly have systems which suppress demands for change (issuing from below), however, and suppress it, and when eventually something gives, our systems are a disordered mess.

That’s a modest price to get real, material gains in justice and inclusion.

I just have to believe that some better way is possible. Someday. It’s true that few if any complaints, demands or proposals now enjoying new energy are entirely new. It would be good if we had a process—e.g. a functioning political process—where merit and effort could make headway without having to wait until the system resistance breaks up, then try to grab what gains are possible during a melee which could end as seemingly arbitrarily as it began.

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Millennium (TV series)

I have gradually worked my way through most of the late-1990s series Millennium, over the past year and a half. For various reasons I have skipped a few episodes, but I can evaluate the series from the pilot through the final episode.

Conclusion: good, interesting, holds up well. Might have gone in some very promising directions had it not been cancelled after season 3.

I remember the series from back then, and I caught some or all of a few episodes. Enough that I suppose it made some kind of impression on me, to be recalled more than a dozen years later browsing DVDs in the library. (I miss browsing in the library although I’m not going back any time soon.) The episodes I watched on the scratched-to-hell library DVDs interested me enough that eventually I asked for the complete series when trying to think of gift ideas, and here we are.

Millennium is/was obviously making-it-up-as-they-went-along fiction, which has various uses for a serialized work; viewed as a whole, the absence of any firm master plan is not really a strength, but is less of a fault than might have been the case, given the intentional themes of mystery, conspiracy and questioning what’s real.

Ultimately Millennium lacks firm answers or closure, in much of any form, because its fundamental story was pre-millennial eschatology and it was cancelled several months before the year 2000. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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Black Lives Matter protests

It is difficult to summon up what I really think about everything happening. Is that because stress hinders brain function, or because the pattern of events going back a long ways suggests that the only reliable expectation for the months ahead is centrifugal forces growing stronger?

Is there a practical difference between the two?

It’s weird to watch all of this from home. Not that I’m just watching. I’m making my contribution with related activism.

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