. . . Lynda Barry

. . .

It's nice to find out that Lynda Barry is a fellow member of the Class of Jimmy Carter. During that high tide of financial aid, my fancy-pants liberal arts college was pretty much as affordable as Northwest Missouri State. And though the shock of those first encounters with the upper crusts was painful, it was also way too central and complicated an experience to regret.

Not that anyone was waiting for my opinion to resolve its ambiguity. By the time I graduated, a few years of Reaganomics had ensured a shock-free campus whose incoming class seemed split between rich kids who wanted to be the heroes in Animal House and rich kids who wanted to be the bad guys in Animal House.

Which is how it should be, says Nicholas Lemann, who I quote:

I'm more with the American people on this.
mostly 'cause of the patrician tang of that old speakeasy password "the American people": Nicholas Lemann, the American people; the American people, Nicholas Lemann... Nicholas Lemann is the one with the suit.

Lemann is appalled that scholarship kids, in contrast to preppies, are so often intent on selfish ends. But if we drop that nasty pseudo-egalitarian testing crap, how do we decide who should be allowed four years of private school? Simple: we only pick those who have already successfully completed four years of private school!

You should make judgments about people not prospectively based on a score but in real time based on how well they perform the activity for which they are being selected.
Which makes sense as long as you never want anyone to learn anything new. And Plato says you can't really learn anything new anyway, so there you go.

. . .

Lyrics server

Eating overripe figs and listening to "Ring of Fire":
Now don't tell me
I've nothin' to do.
(Actually, that was a couple of years ago. Last night I instead drank a bottle of Shiraz, looked at Lynda Barry stuff, and listened to Johnny Thunders, but big diff....)

. . .

The reigning mistress of the cartoony cartoon, Nina Paley, finally has a website with an extensive archive. No matter how cranky her scripts, Paley's bendy bouncy lines imbue anything they surround with Funny! -- even a syndicated cat-and-dog strip.

On the far scratchy end of the spectrum, you probably don't need me to tell you this, but the best thing that Salon's ever done or ever will do is to publish Lynda Barry's utterly gorgeous "One Hundred Demons" in color more lustrous than paper can afford.

. . .

David Auerbach economically adds to our belly-down crawl around the thundering canon:

Can I make a simplifying statement that the missing element may be some sense of equanimity?

And speaking of which, please give Mr. Lethem a medal for his Salon Premium plug of today. He made better of a thankless task than I'd thought possible. His bait-and-switch of "It's not just that, but it's nothing more!" is some sort of inspiration.

Last, all I need from a novel is here.

For myself, it's wonderful to discover that, thanks to Salon Premium, I am now refusing to support Camille Paglia! (Admittedly, this is one of those "speaking prose all my life" thrills, but a thrill's a thrill.) On top of which, I can also actively not shore up the tottering incomes of Salon's CEO, editors, movie reviewers, and so on. Talk about win-win!

My attitude towards subscription might be a little old-fashioned, though, since I don't subscribe to newspapers but I was glad to throw some money toward the NosePilot kid and I'd be glad to pay Lynda Barry directly for her watercolors. What galls are the extravagently wasteful layers of plastic and cardboard pimping that wrap the product. The web doesn't need prejudging editors so much as postfacto pointers, and the web doesn't need high-salaried executives or designers at all. What the web (still) needs is a reliable way to handle genuinely micro micropayments and a reliable way to protect creators from being bankrupted by unexpectedly popular creations.

More than anything else, the Web means low-cost publishing with fast wide distribution. It's therefore not surprising that the Web is dominated by the sorts of publications that have traditionally only been held in check by cost or distribution worries:
  • Academic research
  • Fanzines and other publications created "for the love of it," including reprints of rare, low-interest material
  • Ego-driven essays, diaries, and artwork
  • Small press fiction and poetry
  • Non-marketing-driven comics
  • Publicity and advertising
  • Retail catalogs
  • Community resource guides
  • Public services, such as transportation reports and weather forecasts
  • Industry-specific magazines that are usually distributed for free
Since the Web is in essence low-cost, it's very hard for any given publisher to fight against that essence by seeking extra payment from its audience. Gross costs can be reduced by moving to the Web, but gross income is unlikely to appear. Thus, subscription services have only succeeded when they maintain fairly tight control over a much-desired service that could not be gotten elsewhere as easily: the fetishes of stock-market players and pornography addicts have proven particularly ripe for exploitation. On the other hand, a standard newspaper, magazine, or TV-style sitcom won't have much of a shot at bargain-hunting Web surfers' cash.

-- from Web Design Resources Directory, 1997, thus partly excusing the use of "surfers"

The dreadful commingling of the overpriced software industry and overpriced entertainment industry loaded huge amounts of unnecessary cost onto a model kept afloat till now mostly by inflated valuation and partly by advertising. Advertising alone can't come close to maintaining it. Good riddance in the long run, but in the short run, the tumbling mountains of garbage are, as is their wont, sweeping lots of great stuff away.

Services I would gladly pay to keep alive simply vanish without being given a chance, their wanna-be-like-the-big-guy owners using the same reasoning by which corporations are supressing the history of cinema: the copyright holders, not caring about what they hold copyright on, consider the cost-to-benefit ratio of giving permission too high to deal with. (You have to hire someone to give permission; you don't need to hire anyone at all to ignore requests. Suing for infringement, of course, is always worth the money.)

Instead of archiving and cataloging their own work, writers depend on crash-by-night magazines to collect and maintain material, when the realities of both print and online publication is that magazines work, at best, as initial publicity. Comics artists waste time on brain-dead Flash loops when they could be making full-color serials. Newspapers, rather than storing their articles as highly compressible dirt-simple text and collecting the small fees that would be otherwise fed to library photocopying machines, are closing access, increasing "reprint" costs to unrealistic levels, and publishing more material on expensive paper than on cheap diskspace.

After its jerrybuilt business district finishes collapsing, the web may find itself only set back five years or so. But even in the midst of the swirling dust, there are encouraging signs. Weblogging seems to have already spread to zine scene levels, without paper zines' constraints on further growth. And there are finally signs that some academics are ready to push against the utterly unnecessary waste of traditional journal publication....

. . .

Meanwhile, some excellent object lessons in how not to handle transitions between the urgent and the mundane are being provided by the East Bay Express. (For those outside the area, the Express is a even dumber, even uglier sibling of the SF Weekly. Way back in olden times, when Dave Eggers was just a lousy cartoonist, the SF Weekly and East Bay Express were separate, independent, free weeklies. Then free-weekly-conglomorate New Times bought the SF Weekly, dropped most of its strongest points, inflated most of its weakest, and otherwise New-Times-ized it. And just this year, New Times went on to do pretty much the same to the East Bay Express, which, being a slightly weaker paper to begin with, now plays UPN to the Weekly's WB. I can't imagine why they bothered -- they'd already inundated the East Bay with SF Weekly boxes -- unless for the sadistic pleasure of firing Lynda Barry one more time....)

This week's letters pages were filled with long angry reactions to last week's cover, which showed the late Judi Bari wearing an "Earth First!" T-shirt and holding an Uzi ("The article is a wretched, wretched mess"), closed off by the following:


Last week's cover story ("The Unsolved Mysteries of Judi Bari") misidentified Brian Willson as a former Beach Boy. The Brian Willson that Judi Bari was referring to is a peace activist who had both his legs severed by a train during a protest.

While this week's cover manages to be even more tasteless:

Fig. 3: East Bay Express, Sept. 19
Best of the East Bay

(On "Page 9," by the way, the reader will find only an editorial -- not even a "Long-Time Berkeley Resident Feared Missing" headline.)


Copyright to contributed work and quoted correspondence remains with the original authors.
Public domain work remains in the public domain.
All other material: Copyright 2015 Ray Davis.