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Category: Internet

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.

Comment Spam

Discovered in our comments queue, awaiting approval to be posted on the blog:

Brief History Of Linux (#13)
Wanted: Eunuchs programmers

Everything you know about the creation of the Unix operating system is wrong. We have uncovered the truth: Unix was a conspiracy hatched by Ritchie and Thompson to thwart the AT&T monopoly that they worked for. The system, code-named EUNUCHS (Electronic UNtrustworthy User-Condemning Horrible System), was horribly conceived, just as they had planned.

The OS, quickly renamed to a more respectable “Unix,” was adopted first by Ma Bell????????s Patent Department and then by the rest of the monopoly. AT&T saw an inexpensive, multi-user, portable operating system that it had all rights to; the authors, however, saw a horrible, multi-crashing system that the Evil Ma Bell Empire would become hopelessly dependent on. AT&T would go bankrupt trying to maintain the system and eventually collapse.

That didn????????t happen. Ritchie and Thompson were too talented to create a crappy operating system; no matter how hard they tried the system was too good. Their last ditch effort to sabotage the system by recoding it obfuscated C was unsuccessful. Before long Unix spread outside of Bell Labs and their conspiracy collapsed.

Browse Happy

Browse Happy: Download a good web browser today.

23 August 2004 by Steven | Permalink | Comments disabled

Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People

Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People: Dan Gillmor, author of We the Media: Blogging technology is transforming journalism and extending freedom of speech, but the government and corporations want to clamp down free speech with freedom-of-information restrictions and copyright abuses.

See also: We the Media

12 August 2004 by Steven | Permalink | Comments disabled

On Blogging

The Dark Secret

Just so you know, blogs are probably not the future of journalism. I don’t know if anybody actually said that, where Hector Reed heard it, but if somebody did say it then he or she is probably wrong.

Here’s the dark secret of blogging: most of us are arrogant enough to think people ought to be told what we think and that people will actually care what we think. This is quite obvious, when you think about it—why else would we spend so much of our time blogging? Most of us certainly aren’t getting monetary compensation. We must do it because we want people to read about what we think.

Here’s the dark secret of humanity: most of us are arrogant enough to think people ought to be told what we think and that people will actually care what we think. I think that must be why we created sophisticated languages that allow us to communicate complex and abstract ideas. Chimpanzees are happy enough warning each other about the large snake that’s about to eat them, but early humans wanted to brag about what great Mastadon hunters they were, or to give each other fashion advice, so they invented language. The problem in the past was that most humans didn’t have access to mass media, so their ability to communicate ideas was limited to the people within shouting distance, or the people whose addresses and telephone numbers they knew. Luckily, the Internet changed that. Today we can publish our thoughts for a potential audience of millions.


One big barrier to getting a web site is cost. It costs a lot of money to register a domain name and rent a web server from a hosting company. (It would cost even more to purchase and run your own web server, of course.) Luckily, there are plenty of businesses willing to provide free web hosting in return for placing advertisements on their clients’ web sites. When people in the mid- to late 1990s decided pictures of their babies and cats were important enough to share with the rest of the world, they got a Geocities web site.

Another big barrier is the technology. The web is extremely easy to use, but people still can’t figure it out. HTML and CSS, the common languages of the web, are simple and easy to learn, but many people with web sites consider learning them too great a burden. This laziness led to the invention of WYSIWYG HTML editors, which in the mid- to late 1990s were mostly junk. The vast majority of personal web sites consisted of horribly mangled HTML which produced ugly and illegible pages. The growing dominance of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer web browser hasn’t helped. Most web users use Internet Explorer, and many of them don’t care if their web site doesn’t work in other web browsers. Some of them don’t know that browsers other than Internet Explorer exist at all.

Luckily, the tools for helping nontechnical people get over the technical barrier to the web have improved in recent years, to the point that current blogging tools—Blogger, Movable Type, WordPress—are capable of generating basically functional and standards-compliant web sites that aren’t ugly. The legibility and aesthetic quality of personal web sites has improved dramatically since the days of Geocities web sites.

A final barrier is informing people that your web site exists. Putting your thoughts on a web site is fine, but how do you let people know your thoughts are available for their perusal? There are more than 40 million web sites on the Internet—the web has democratized mass communication so much that it’s easy for your own little web site to get lost in the crowd. This is certainly the largest barrier to running a successful and popular web site. Luckily, there are solutions. One is pinging. Pinging, in this context, means sending a small packet of information about your recently updated blog to a web server which adds your name to a public list of recently updated blogs. People who want to know what they should be reading look at the list, see your blog on it, and go to your web site. Whenever you update your blog, hundreds or even thousands of people may be notified. There are now dozens of pinging services for blogs. Peiratikos uses a metaservice called Ping-O-Matic, which notifies 14 pinging services every time we update.

The web hasn’t created a mass-communication democracy yet, but it’s getting there. Anybody with access to the Internet can create a Blogger account and start sharing his or her thoughts with everybody else (at least, everybody else who also has access to the Internet). A lot of people can’t convince anybody to pay attention to their thoughts, and a lot of people don’t have any thoughts worth paying attention to. (Unfortunately, too few in the latter group are also in the former group.) But it’s getting easier all the time to cultivate an audience of hundreds or even thousands for your own little personal web site.

In Conclusion

Hector Reeder, in his Reeder’s Digest 4 column, seems to find bloggers’ vehement reactions to dismissive critiques both amusing and inexplicable. I think it’s pretty straightforward, actually. When Heidi MacDonald said:

I have been reading a lot of blogs lately. And I have to say a lot of them are really dopey. (No names.) Give 1,000 monkeys 1,000 typewriters and eventually they????????ll write an issue of Night Nurse or create a blog. And, except for a very few sites, I realized they can pretty much be safely ignored. When you give everyone a voice, no one can hear everything. (Comics Buyer’s Guide #1591, p. 10)

she contradicted one of the basic philosophical points of the web. It’s supposed to be democratic, not elitist. Yes, we all know that there are a lot of dopey blogs that aren’t particularly worth reading. But the point Hector seems to miss is that criticisms of Heidi’s article were motivated not by a belief that “all writing is of equal interest to read,” but by a belief in creating equal opportunity for people to communicate with the rest of the world. (Whether this is actually a worthy political issue is another question entirely, of course, as is whether blogs are a good way of pursuing the issue.)

Hector is also amused by bloggers’ supposed insularity. Again, though, this is pretty straightforward. One of the dominant paradigms in blogging is one in which conversational social interaction is emphasized. This involves not only the comments systems commonly found on blogs, but also interblog discussions. Blogs are linked together into a loose conversation-based network using standard HTML hyperlinks as well as technologies designed to support conversational blogging, like TrackBack and Pingback. (Why bloggers choose to use blogs instead of other conversational technologies—chat rooms, message boards, telephones—is another question entirely.)

By the way, those interested in the origins of the term “blogosphere” may find the “Blogosphere” in Wikipedia enlightening.

Google’s recruiting strategies

Google’s recruiting strategies: Want to be an engineer for Google? Go to http://{first 10-digit prime number found in consecutive digits of c}.com.

13 July 2004 by Steven | Permalink | Comments disabled

gzip: well, sometimes it’s simple

gzip: well, sometimes it’s simple: Why Blogger web sites display garbage sometimes. It involves character sets (that's what I thought) and gzip compression.

Via: Mark Pilgrim
See also: Bugzilla Bug 241085

14 June 2004 by Steven | Permalink | One comment »

Tightening the Reins on Gmail

Tightening the Reins on Gmail: California's Senate voted yesterday to support a bill that restricts how Google's Gmail service will be allowed to implement its controversial advertisement targeting feature. The bill requires that Gmail work only in "real-time," not create records of email scans, and not collect personal information from emails.

28 May 2004 by Steven | Permalink | Comments disabled