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Category: Blogging

Like Steven, I’ve created my own solo (and probably non-comics) blog, surer tonic. I should begin posting there more regularly in August.

This will be the end of Peiratikos and I’ll be closing all comment threads once I get through the comments currently in moderation to make sure nothing legitimate got nabbed by the spam catcher. I know Peiratikos has been dead for the last year or so, but when it was an active blog it helped me learn to be clearer about my thoughts (sometimes) and responsible for my opinions. I made some lasting friends and many more ephemeral ones whose opinions and comments still matter to me. I’m grateful to have been part of the early comics blogging community, and Steven and I both benefited from our early participation. Thanks to all who made this possible and pleasurable, especially Steven. It was an interesting time and I’m a better person for having gone/grown through it.

Kiri (and a little more)

I take off tomorrow for my grandparents’ home, so I’ll be gone for the rest of the week. It will be interesting to see how I get by without regular internet access! Steven will still be around and, I hope, posting some of the thoughts he’s been talking about with me lately.

In addition to being helpful, I should have some time for reading and I’m bringing a knitting project with me, hoping I’ll pass through airport security with my needles. When I come back, though, I can promise at least one comics post. Tonight I finally found the notes I’d taken for Art Spiegelman’s first post-9/11/01 lecture, which he discusses in the introduction to In the Shadow of No Towers. (I probably shouldn’t have let Tom Spurgeon publish something so conversational and rough, but basically all that I said stands.) So that’s something I will accomplish, but I’ve accomplished more than just cleaning and packing this weekend.

Rose wearing the Kiri shawl I finally finished a shawl for my grandmother, Polly Outhwaite’s Kiri (free PDF format pattern). I had been working on this in early summer but put it aside when I was having trouble with my arm and only picked it up again in the last week to get it finished. The pattern was easy to follow and memorize and I think it makes a lovely shawl. This is yarn that my grandmother gave me, some sort of mohair blend I think in a pale, mottled brown. I think these cones I got are remnants from a closed knitting mill, but I’ll ask about them when I see her. She used to knit blankets from them and while I have the pattern she used, I’ve been sticking to smaller projects, shawls, scarves, and soon a sweater.

Rose showing the size of the Kiri shawl I used U.S. #7 needles and with such thin yarn the finished product is practically weightless when it’s worn. It’s about 58 inches along the top edge, 29 inches along the central spine that hangs down. I think each side has 11 points along the edge. I could have blocked it bigger, but my grandmother is not as tall as I am and I think this size will be sufficient. I blocked the shawl by soaking it and then pinning it out to the proper dimensions (I ran a piece of yarn through the top horizontal edge to keep it straight) and shape. Since I finished knitting at 11 last night, I ended up making adjustments until midnight and while exhausted, which probably wasn’t the best state of affairs.

detail of Kiri leaf lace pattern I do think it’s a lovely shawl, light and delicate. I like the repeated leaf pattern that covers it, especially in a light, natural color like this one (although my striped tank top detracts from any simplicity). I think it will be a welcome gift and it has the added advantage of looking more complex than it is. I would recommend this pattern to a first-time lace knitter and it can be expanded to a variety of sizes, from a tiny kerchief to a huge shawl. Mine is midsized, about what you would apparently get with two skeins of Kidsilk Haze, but I think it’s a good size for my purposes, and by this time tomorrow I’ll know!

Tim Berners-Lee on the Web

The BBC last week had an interview with Tim Berners-Lee about the World Wide Web, most interestingly about how blogs are closest to his original idea of a readable/writable web. I’m sure many of you have seen this already, but there were a few excerpts I especially like that I want to quote here….

The idea was that anybody who used the web would have a space where they could write and so the first browser was an editor, it was a writer as well as a reader. Every person who used the web had the ability to write something. It was very easy to make a new web page and comment on what somebody else had written, which is very much what blogging is about.

For years I had been trying to address the fact that the web for most people wasn’t a creative space; there were other editors, but editing web pages became difficult and complicated for people. What happened with blogs and with wikis, these editable web spaces, was that they became much more simple.

When you write a blog, you don’t write complicated hypertext, you just write text, so I’m very, very happy to see that now it’s gone in the direction of becoming more of a creative medium.

when you use the web, you follow links and you should keep bookmarks of the places where following links turns out to be a good idea. When you go to a site and it gives you pointers to places that you find are horrible or unreliable, then don’t go there again.

You see out there right now, for example, when you look at bloggers some of them are very careful. A good blogger when he says that something’s happened will have a point to back, and there’s a certain ethos within the blogging community, you always point to your source, you point all the way back to the original article. If you’re looking at something and you don’t know where it comes from, if there’s no pointer to the source, you can ignore it.

When [the web is] 30, I expect it to be much more stable, something that people don’t talk about. Really when you talk about an article, you don’t say, “Oh, I’m going to write an article on paper!” The fact that we use pen and paper is sort of rather understood.

Similarly the web will be, hopefully, will be something which is sunk into the background as an assumption. Now, if as technologists develop, we’ve done our job well, the web will be this universal medium, which will be very, very flexible. It won’t, itself, have any preconceived notions about what’s built on top.

One of the reasons that I want to keep it open like that, is partly because I want humanity to have it as a clean slate. My goal for the web in 30 years is to be the platform which has led to the building of something very new and special, which we can’t imagine now.

Exile in Guyville

Well, it had to happen someday. Someone’s finally asked about the existence of women comic book bloggers. And while the obvious response is that they’re all over LiveJournal, Elayne Riggs and Laura Gjovaag only name seven, including themselves. I had no trouble coming up with 20 non-pros off the top of my head, but maybe that just means I’ve been paying more attention to the issue. It’s not a community, certainly, but it’s not nothing and we’re not all invisible.

Where am I going with this? Nowhere directly, but it coincided with the first post by a woman at the new Comic Book Galaxy, although author Diana Tamblyn still isn’t listed among the official contributors. I wasn’t surprised to see that the new direction CBG would be taking included lots of writing from lots of white guys, but it was interesting to note that (by my count) 12 of the 25 contributors are also bloggers.

Before I go any farther, I’ll note that I was not one of the women approached by CBG to contribute and I have absolutely no interest in being involved with them anyway. What’s interesting to me is that so many other bloggers feel differently. I understand that many comics bloggers really want to break into comics writing and that there are already plenty of bloggers writing weekly columns (and arguably some of the best ones) for a wide variety of comics sites. I’m perfectly happy to write here and do nothing else because I get to set the rules and the parameters (in my case, in collaboration with Steven) and then write whatever I want to write. I gave up my dreams of writing professionally a decade ago, so this current setup is pretty much my ideal. So what is it that makes some of these new blogger/columnists consider shifting to a wider pop culture focus or confining comics reviews to CBG? I don’t really know beyond what they say there and I’d love to hear more because I’ve always been fascinated in why people write the way they do on blogs and what they think they’re doing with their blogs in the first place. But what do they think they’re doing with their columns and how do those replace or supplement their blogs?

And here’s where things get ugly or controversial, and I’m just going to say what I think with the caveat (which I hope would be obvious to all readers anyway) that obviously this is just what I think and I have no vested interest in whether or not others agree or want to implement my ideas. There’s no good reason I should matter to you, right? I think if CBG were a teaching hospital, I wouldn’t go in for surgery there. It’s a site that requires copious editing, and yet not all the punctuation ends up where it belongs. Sure, it’s a work in progress, but it’s not the second coming of anything. I have a reputation for despairing that there’s not more good writing in comics, a complaint that extends to comics criticism. While there aren’t many CBG columns I think are really badly written, I’m not getting excited either, not hearing new voices, just some guys on the internet. And the real, core problem is that they’re writing as if they’re not on the internet. This is a site that has three different columns analyzing and reviewing Ice Haven in the same week with not only no conversation between them but no links from one piece to another. In fact, if I hadn’t made those links for you, you’d be stuck doing what I did and puzzling through the commentary listing to try to find where the two that aren’t listed might have been. This is a comics site that talks about comics but not in a way that makes discussions readily available to a casual reader. The google search is effective but inelegant, to say the least.

Why give up the conversational possibilities of a blog for a closed system like this? Why write something online if it might as well be mimeographed? Why have three overlapping reviews and nothing synthesizing them, analyzing the connections and dissonances (and nothing to help readers do this for themselves)? And I realize that none of these CBG bloggers have closed up shop and I really don’t expect them to. I’m sure it brings them more prominence than their individual endeavors would and it must be great writing experience to be expected to deliver the same sort of writing on a regular basis (which is yet another reason this would not be the job for me!) and I don’t think these blogger/columnists have made a bad decision in getting involved here. I do think it’s a bad idea to think that this version of CBG is the apotheosis of anything. But I’m not the whole audience, though I’m a reader, and it doesn’t need to appeal to what I think it should be.

But for those keeping score at home, I think it should be more like a blog than a webzine with near-daily updates. It could be an active conversation between all these informed and verbal columnists engaging each other’s ideas rather than writing in a vacuum for an audience in the ether. It could be easily navigable with a link for the title of each referenced comic or creator connecting to any other uses of those names on the site. In short, it could be intertextual in a way that it’s not, and I think that lack is its greatest limitation. It’s not a galaxy with any constellations in it, just a collection of loose stars. And sure, constellations are in part the stories we attach to groups of stars, but it’s a lot of work for a reader to create those stories right now and there’s no way to see whether what I call the Big Dipper is someone else’s Great Bear.

Of course I think it would be good if there were more women writing for CBG if they wanted to and had things they wanted to say, but I also know that there are already women writing for readers who are willing to look and pay attention. We don’t all have the same interests or tastes in comics or in blogging and I wouldn’t expect a woman at CBG to speak for me just because we have ovaries, but I’d be interested to see what she’d say just as I’m interested enough to read women bloggers who are writing now. But if there are other women who don’t want to be part of the move to “put more ‘gal’ into the Galaxy soon” (especially given the way contributing editor Chris Allen discusses, views and interacts with real-life women) I don’t think that’s a problem at all. I’m just glad there are other venues where their voices can be heard, and I prefer those anyway.

“Careful! It’s razor-sharp.”

So I haven’t been here in a while, it seems. I’ve been sick a lot this winter, but also just completely worn down. I don’t know when either of those will relent for good, but I’ll aim for weekly posting and see if I can work up from there. If I have anything to say (and I do have a big post on identification festering, but it’s not written yet) I’ll try to get it up here somehow. For tonight, though, just a few quick truths with little analysis.

Vimanarama #2 made me cry a little, but only a little. Dig the Taj Mahal interior, though! I’m not sold on the coloring and I read a lot faster when the Fireborn are doing their thing. I wish this were going to be more than three issues long.

What’s up with the (potential) total depletion of other Kentucky comics bloggers? To make up for the gaps in my pseudopeer group, I’m pushing for a clique of comics bloggers who read manga in the bathtub. It looks like there may be some overlap with the comics bloggers who enjoy gin (a more casual grouping that exists only in my head, as far as I know) which suggests some clear options for socializing that I’ll bet we’ll never try.

Steven is on spring break and thus did a Wednesday comic run, which still seems sort of weird and obscene to me, but I hoped it would net us Project Superior, which the store had not ordered. They should have one for us next week, and I do realize that if we weren’t so passive and uncomfortable talking to people we would have had one now. So there was none of that and no manga for my bath, so I resorted to feminist essay collections. From Feminism Beside Itself, I liked Elspeth Probyn’s piece, “Perverts by Choice.” She writes of belonging/be-longing as “a loose combinatoire of being and longing, becoming and nostalgia, as composed of lines of desire that run along the singularities of sexualities, bodies, spaces and places.” (264) I quote this not to scare anyone off from drinking gin or enjoying bathtime manga, but because it’s something I’m going to be thinking about off-blog and possibly but probably not on-.

I know not everyone liked I ♥ Huckabees, but I think the mud sex scene was one of the most emotionally realistic portrayals I’ve ever seen in a movie. Anyone who disagrees is wrong, but that’s ok; I know beauty when I see it. I got the double-disc set as a birthday present (thanks!) and am looking forward to rewatching the film itself this weekend. I got very close to finishing a major in philosophy before dropping it, in large part because I hated so many of the other students, so I’m not sure if that means I’m more sensitive or less sensitive to dopey philosophy stuff, but nothing in Huckabees bothered me.

And continuing my trend of no real segues, I’m probably going to be teaching a class on sock knitting, so I’ve been doing a bit of it myself. I have a really hideous pair I made to test some techniques and a cotton/wool yarn (I’ll have to teach on larger than sock yarn, though, because apparently size 0 needles terrify new knitters) and I should probably put a picture of them up here so that the ugliness will be a good incentive to post something substantive to get it off the top of the page. The plus side is that they fit me perfectly and keep my feet warm when it is too, too cold in the apartment, which has definitely been the case over the last few nights.

I haven’t yet done any blogger interviews because I haven’t really done much of anything except work ridiculously long hours and try to sleep (well, and knit socks). I think I’m getting close to having my research done for the first, though. I’m hoping I live in enough of a shame culture that my commenting on this will push me to do it, but past performance has not been a positive indicator, to use work-speak. Maybe soon.

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17 February 2005 by Steven | Permalink | Comments disabled

Today’s Recommended Reading (from/for me!)

This is a day that will live in whatever the good version of infamy is. After great suspense, The Secret Friend Society is live, featuring Hope Larson and Kean Soo and their respective webcomics Salamander Dreams and Jellaby. I’m a bit sad it wasn’t more sinister content, but not really surprised and I’m looking forward to reading the two stories. But the real reason I’m obsessed with Hope Larson’s work is that I’m hard at work in my head designing a ham hat even though everyone I’ve told about my plans thinks it’s a bad idea. (Oh, and for Steven: “Pah!”)

It’s also the publication date for The World according to Mimi Smartypants, a novel in the form of online diary entries from the Mimi Smartypants website. I’d beeen reading entries occasionally and then in December and January gave in to the allure and read the entire archive. It’s something that makes me laugh, which is rare in written pieces. I’m sure it helps that we have at least minor things in common — a past history with the violin, a desire to keep making Greek jokes after college, really maybe not much more than that because she’s basically cool — but something just clicks. I’m looking forward to eventually reading the book version even if it will be repetitive, because I’m interested in this phenomenon of turning blogs into books. It wouldn’t work here!

And I feel like I ought to follow the rule of threes, so I’ll just add that it’s a great day when it’s 7:00 am and I’m not at work already! Variable schedules have their downsides, but right now I’m not feeling it.

Oh, but more important is Seaguy, one of my favorite comics from last year, is available in an eminently affordable trade paperback today. I intend to buy a copy when I get off work (which will be late, of course, to compensate for late starts) and curl up and read gleefully. At one point Steven solicited comments on it from my 13-year-old brother to counter the arguments that it was too difficult to follow, but I don’t know what ever became of them. I just recall that he was curious about who held behind-the-scenes power, what Mickey Eye represented, and whether there was going to be more. Also, did we have any other comics he could read? I think the only way we got him to talk about this one was by telling him we wouldn’t lend him anything else until he did.

Immodest Proposal

I’m planning to post about pleasure and reading, although I hope not to reignite the great reading debate of last fall, but tonight has been given over to simpler pleasures like gin and Gadamer and I won’t be finished with that until tomorrow. As an aside, though, I have decided I think it’s hilarious that people will say that a Batman characterization takes them out of the story in a situation where (and I don’t actually recall if this had been the case with JLA Classified as much as with Marvel books) any given pageturn could lead to loud, ugly, often sexist ads rather than a continuation of the story from the preceding page. I read some single issues last night and remembered why Steven and I are evil people who wait for trades.

But enough of that, because if I hide my point any farther down it won’t get read. At any rate, here’s the scoop. I did my first interview last fall and enjoyed the fun and the stress of it and would like to have another go. I’m not trying to dredge up new comics creators, but instead merge this interest with another one, philosophy of blogging. So if you’re a comics blogger and would like to answer questions from me about your work and your authorial intent and goals and blogging ideals and whatnot, let me know. These things take time and I wouldn’t do more than one a month or so, but I’d like to try to address some of the perspectives we have around here in more detail and depth. Plus I’m interested and I think it would be fun, which is decidedly a bonus.

I’m not sure where I’m going to draw the lines on who counts or anything like that, and if 500 bloggers show up from the ether and want to be interviewed, I’m not claiming I’ll get to them all, but I’m also not expecting anything like that. I plan to follow the same system I did in interviewing Mal, reading as much of my subject’s work as I can and then shooting off questions that interest me. I imagine this will seem awfully incestuous to people who don’t like blogging about blogs, but I don’t plan to take that criticism to heart because I think there’s a lot of space for anthropology of comics blogs and I’ve been wanting to move in that direction for a very long time. This is just a step and I’ll see where (if anywhere) it goes.

Peiratikos 2004: A Big Easy Lack of Review

Greetings from beautiful, noisy New Orleans! We’re honeymooning here until the end of the week, which is part of the reason you can’t comment right now (though we’re still checking emails at least periodically if you’re dying to tell us something). So don’t expect much in the way of posting, since I think I’ll be restricting my close reading skills to menus.

Anyway, I’m writing for a few reasons, one of which is to let you know that we’ll be moving to a new hosting service when we get back to Kentucky, which shouldn’t result in more than a little downtime, and that we’ll be getting a new look/structure soon. But also it’s been almost exactly a year since I started writing on the current incarnation of Peiratikos and it’s been an eventful year. The newer archive system will, I hope, be a little more reader-friendly, but I spent some time a few days ago reading through the current archive and enjoyed seeing how much we’ve written (not a lot lately) and how I’ve been able to interact with some of our readers and other bloggers.

When I started writing about comics here, I thought I’d focus on two topics that were close to me personally and theoretically at the time, what I called “creation of self through narrative” and the way that people feel justified in the rightness of the cruel and hurtful things they do. I did talk about these a lot, although never as much as I expected to, and I was more successful when ignoring things like that and talking about texts directly. That will be something to keep in mind as I start the next year, in which I also have to remember not to write so often about how much I hate fanboys.

But what I find really interesting is that the three books that would make my list for being the most moving in their respective categories aren’t really about creation of self and don’t deal with self-centered horribleness. Instead what Seaguy, Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life, and Enki Bilal’s Nikopol Trilogy share (at least as it seems to me now, though it may not by next January) is a naive or ignorant protagonist concertedly finding a path for himself in a well-realized world that is not our own. While a happy new marriage isn’t (I hope!) a bizarre dystopia or a video-game-fantastic reality, it’s an interesting start to a new year in which I plan to have lots of new things to say.

And last of all I want to thank all the readers who’ve responded to Steven’s or my posts (and who can’t now, ha ha!) and forced us to clarify our thinking or move in new directions or generally regret ever having written about Kill Bill, because there were plenty of times when I wanted to just stop writing altogether, and it was both not wanting to leave Steven alone on the blog and knowing that there were people who read and liked (or maybe also hated) me that kept me from being able to sever myself, and now I’m glad I didn’t give in. And I think the readers who don’t comment, some of whom I know and many of whom I never will, because much of the beauty of this whole endeavor is that it does let my words move out and make connections I may never recognize. While I’ve often been a bad blogger when it comes to regular updates, it’s been a good year, and I’m grateful for all the good parts and pushing for more good and more (good) blogging in the year to come.

… has gone before

I know I said I’d be writing something substantive soon, but indulge me for another post (or maybe a few). Steven and I watched Trekkies last night, and it got me thinking about community and connectedness. And yes, this has a lot to do with seeing things through my currrent lens, but I understood the interviewees talking about how they’d met each other through Star Trek and the kinship they share in being fans and all that stuff. Right now I’m getting over being totally impressed by the kind, supportive comments off all sorts of people I’ve never talked to away from this screen as well as all the live people who’ve been part of my life or Steven’s and who wanted to be with us as kind, supportive witnesses to our public commitment, which is really the only thing making it different from the private relationship we’d had previously (and, I suppose, still).

Anyway, that was me apologizing for getting a bit misty-eyed about Trekkies and about the comics blogosphere. It’s really an exciting feeling to belong in just about any situation. In college, I ran a support group for survivors of sexual assault, and I think for most of us involved the most helpful, important thing we got from group discussions was the real understanding that we had shared emotional experiences, that I could talk about something that made me feel alienated and have someone say, “Oh, yeah, I understand and for me it’s like this…” I don’t think comics bloggers are a support group, but they serve that particular function of creating a kind of connectedness or re-norming.

Part of the reason I’m thinking about this, though, is that connectedness isn’t absolute, and it has its limits. In watching, I said to Steven of one Trekkie, “The cross-dressing doesn’t bother me at all, but I can’t handle the filk,” and I was being entirely honest. Some things are just beyond the pale, and while I can appreciate that people I like enjoy them, they seem laughably bad to me. I know others think the same of me, and I still appreciate not being lynched for being unimpressed and annoyed by Eightball #23. I’ve always been interested in metablogging issues, and so it’s really fascinating to me to follow the different styles and approaches of the various comics bloggers, sometimes more than the blogs themselves. While it’s definitely fun that there are other bloggers writing analytically about mostly superhero comics — and more of them than when we began blogging here — I also read and enjoy reading writers whose aesthetic preferences have almost no overlap with mine. So while I feel a certain kind of kinship with other like-type bloggers and don’t always feel I quite fit in within the larger blogosphere (whatever that means) I get something out of all of it. And while I think I have more overlap with Steven than with anyone else probably ever, both of us appreciate having ppeople other than each other to talk to about these things we find intriguing.

But what I was really trying to get at in all that inanity is that I appreciate both the largely supportive culture and the lack of Geek Pride, which is way above filk in the list of things I dislike most. While plenty of the Trekkies seemed extreme in their dedication, they were all honest and at least a bit self-aware about their placement on the outskirts of the larger culture, whether they thought this was acceptable or not, versus their acceptance among other fans. What they largely avoided was the strange martyr complex I’ve found elsewhere, and which I haven’t noticed in comics blogging. There are geeks, and in my experience they’ve all been white men who publicly claim to be straight, and they make a lot of claims about being oppressed minorities. They say that geeks are the last acceptable stereotype (and “x is the last taboo” is also high on my hate list) and that they’re outcasts in society and that they need to reclaim the power that is rightfully theirs by somehow overturning the jocks, who will somehow recognize the error of their cruel ways. Or something like that. Since I’m a woman, I also get to hear the corollary that geek-friendly women have some kind of moral obligation to have sex with these men, since part of the curse of being a geek is that it’s hard to get a date by more standard routes. And all of this manifests itself in a whole lot of whining, not to mention complaining about other groups who supposedly benefit from affirmative action or feminism (or, uh, laws banning them from marrying their chosen partners, which is probably not the sort of thing that gets facttored in) and how it’s ok to be different in those ways, but that being a geek is both a choice and a calling and thus somehow nobler than more standard, intrinsic disenfranchisement. Yes, I’m whining about whiners, but I’m getting it out of my system so you won’t have to hear about it again.

And the point, as I keep claiming I’ll tell you, is that I really, really appreciate not having to hear that much if at all anymore. I like this current life in which I’m not supposed to be a judge at a Losers Contest. I’m glad to watch a show about people who idolize a show I’ve never seen, and it makes me think of me and of you poor readers, and all of us who are making tenuous connections and finding ways to make them stick and managing to build places for ourselves. I didn’t start blogging looking for affirmation, but because I’d been so depressed and troubled that I was almost physically unable to write, and so it waas painful practice, and also because Steven and I were far apart and wanted to be together and talking. And while it’s still really about us and what we find interesting and the ways our conversations with each other can be translated onto a bigger scale, I’m now very much in conversation with other bloggers and with non-bloggers who comment and even with a few brave friends of mine who don’t even read comics and yet have probably read every word of the post to this point because they care about me. And while in some sense I don’t care who cares about me, I care that I care and that there are these connections being forged and that in a year or so of blogging I’ve become someone who can write more easily, if not yet with total comfort, and can sometimes even be proud of what I’ve written. But I’m also proud that those who respond find meaning (or problems) in what I say, just as I’m proud of bloggers I read who are saying good, smart things even if they have no idea who I am or that I read their words. And I’m pretty sure this is my most self-indulgent post ever, so I appreciate that I expect to be forgiven my temporary lapse, which can be blamed in part on long-term lack of sleep I’m going to try to rectify a bit now. Thanksgiving seems to be coming to me late this year, but I assure you it’s entirely heartfelt. Now live long and prosper.