12 February, 2012

Valderee, valderaa...

As I write this, I'm just across from Riverside Drive in Historic Clarksville. Indiana, which is just across the Ohio River from the hotel I'm writing this in. I even found myself at Woerner Avenue.

I desperately needed time off from work, so events conspired to get me a 4-day pass. It took me almost two days to do anything, but I arrived in Louisville, KY yesterday evening. The traffic is miserable - clearly not a city built for cars - but some of the buildings are lovely. It's actually a town old enough to divide its buildings by eras. How quaint.

My pass is up tomorrow, so we'll see if I get to the Speed Museum or the other 'landmark' I found which made me decide on Louisville as a trip. I'm blanking on it and the itinerary is 20 stories below in the car. It wasn't the Kentucky Derby, it wasn't whatever Bourbon manufacturers are here. The steamboats on the river are docked just below my hotel so it wasn't them. Oh well. I did hit 4th Street Live last night (and possibly tonight) and visited a comic book store. I spent over 300 dollars there, and all I wanted was the latest issue of The Boys.

After 63 issues, we finally found out the name of the guy from Vought-American while the superheroes are beginning a coup of the government. In retaliation, the Boys are going to reveal every nasty secret they've been keeping for the right moment. Very interesting twists and turns as we near the ending. Now Butcher will release every dirty secret they've been hiding. The Deep made sure to take his contract with him, so he might wind up the long-term winner (what did Mallory say about a spy?) Annie will probably wind up hiding at Hughie's again and find the file he stole on Maeve.

Ennis plotted this as a novel-length story, 72 issues plus three six-issue miniseries. The third miniseries - the origin of Butcher - is complete and there's less than ten issues to go.

Speaking of ending, there's just under 9 months left until Obama's at best a lame duck. I think he's losing even the lock on the black vote, and without that he has no chance at all. None, zero, zip, zilch, nada. Four years of 'I had nothing to do with this, vote for me again' isn't going to win no matter how many thugs you employ.

I'd say we had to go through this, as a nation. We needed a full-public show of how the job is more difficult than we think.

[Several days later] I did not make the Speed Museum because I could not figure out where the parking garage was after a couple of passes. It wasn't where the sign pointed and everything else was for student/faculty parking. I hit another comic store (only a hundred bucks this time, but they had Neil Gaiman Miracleman's, old issues of MAD, even a shelf for locally-produced stuff. I was tempted - there are essays about comics in the one book I've finished, and the next one, well...

Louisville certainly had some nice buildings, but strangely Clarksville was the bigger attraction to me. According to Wikipedia, it was where Henry Clay duelled Humphrey Marshall. Clarksville was a popular place for Kentuckians to avoid the state's anti-duelling laws. While across the river, I did drive around a bit, especially on Fort Street.

Clarksville is the oldest town in the Northwest Territory [Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan] founded in 1783. The original outpost across the river was called Fort-on-Shore (1778) but within three years it was inadequate and Fort Nelson was built, against Indians and the British. Afterwards the town grew. I saw what looked like the main gate to Fort Nelson but then headed back across the river.

Strange to think that 220 years ago, Fort Nelson was the FOB of the USA. Very few were willing to leave even the relative safety of Kentucky to journey to a foreign land, much less step outside the fort walls. Of course people in general were tougher then, but the historical parallels continue.

The Cathedral of the Assumption, not too far from where I stayed (in the historical Galt House), served a good chunk of the American frontier by itself for a while. Father Stephen Theodore Badin, the first priest ordained in America worked the circuit in that church among others. The Muhammed Ali Center was right next to my hotel, so I drove by it countless times, and got a good picture of its 'float like a butterfly' mosaic from a window in the Galt House.

I didn't visit the Thomas Edison House because I knew there was something I'd seen when I had the initial idea for a visit and only remember it now that I'm looking up the details. I knew something was missing on the itinerary and didn't see Tom Edison on any of the lists I'd made or referred to. Damn. There's also the Speed House, designed by Thomas Jefferson that I also knew about before I went but forgot. On the way back, I also passed by Abraham Lincoln's birthplace but didn't stop there either.

I made damn sure to get a haircut before showing up to work the next day. I've settled back into a normal routine. War continues to loom. I would love to think we've managed to tie up most of our enemies physically in that location. Israel is the only ally in immediate danger and Syria provides a buffer from Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Saudi, etc. Who knows what we're at with North Korea these days now that Fearless Leader checked out?

The administration's attack on Catholics basically guarantees a loss this November, as if the economy didn't already do that. I don't think there's a chance of Congress budging to the left. It only remains to see how far it shall go to the right. Until this 'vegetarians restaurants must serve meat because protein is part of a healthy diet' thing, I thought there was still a good chance for Obama's re-election. The grapevine (the winds?) suggests that even blacks are disillusioned. I'm guessing it's through his inept executive ability. Yes, affirmative action can get you into the Oval Office. Now that we know that, what do we know? I doubt attacking religion will help there either, although their recent move was clearly directed at Catholics.

Not for the first time do I marvel at the wisdom of the Founding Fathers in restricting Presidential terms to four years. Long enough to *seem* like a long time, subject to renewal and enough time to catch abusers of the office. Just the list of alarms that should be going off about Solyndra means Obama would spend a second term fighting impeachment anyway, to say nothing of all the other 'green technology' boondoggles he's handed to cronies.

I'd like to speculate further about the religious backlash ("How many divisions does the Pope have?") but I'm not sure where it will go. On the legal arguments, the religious have some weak cards. A Catholic owning a business would abide by the same laws and regulations, a Catholic doctor or nurse must abide the same in their fields, whether or not they tithe or operate under any direct church connection.

In the public field, government triumphs over religion, but it's not where we live. Oliver Stone's son just 'converted' to Islam, but it remains to be seen if that's for anything more than publicity purposes (on the Iranians' part anyway). Religion crosses into public and private spheres, as well as implying/promising/explaining spheres more universal. Furthermore, it's just *there* no matter how much non-believers refuse to accept it, or use it for their own purposes.

Clearly the religious, particularly those who enter or are driven to excel at the medical profession will be 'going Galt', creating a massive shortage of doctors and nurses right when the government becomes the only game in town.

Religions have competitions. Government is organized violence and can't afford any competition in the location. The faithful would, uh, 'minister' to themselves (to pick a word) and avoid the government's radar entirely, except as targets for plunder and punishment, exactly what they are anyway. The King of England seizes the monastaries and declares himself the head of a separate church, just as a separate pope does much the same for the King of France in the Great Schism.

Separating church and state is desirable, but isn't possible. Citizens of the former have the right to participate freely in the latter and vice-versa. People are naturally quarrelsome, which is why government is needed to begin with. That's why the violence is organized as a military and police force for threats and dangers external and internal.

But this is targetting people for what they believe. It won't hold up. The administration is crumbling slowly but surely. They're still sticking with it so far, but it doesn't look like they'll break their record of caving in yet. The left also calls it caving in, but don't recognize that he doesn't need to win any of these battles. He just has to last long enough - one or two terms - to appoint the right people, ignore the right laws, abuse when he feels like it and so on and create lasting damage.

I think it will bounce back on itself but there's no evidence that isn't anecdotal. I notice last week's Doonesbury has had Joanie and Alex (grandmother and granddaughter) campaigning for a politician (like Alex' dad when he met his second wife). For some odd reason, Alex is feeling decisive enough about getting married to text her intended right now, telling Granny that if they talk about it, she might not do it. Nice. Joanie was probably in a similar situation, before she had kids [later retconned to one] and then ditched everything to go off with two college guys on a motorcycle, live in a commune and become a lawyer. To me, this is what's wrong with feminism, and thanks to the magic of the comics medium, one strip by two creators [Trudeau and his longtime assistant] it can be documented to that point.

In Louisville, I found a collection of Jack Cole's newspaper strip, "Betsy and Me". Cole had finally achieved his longtime dream of a daily strip in addition to the acclaimed cartoons he was doing for Playboy. But he shot himself a couple of months after the strip's debut. Comics historian RC Harvey speculates on why in the introduction (reprinted and expanded from something he wrote in The Comics Journal ages ago, I think it was a review of DC Archives' first Plastic Man collection.

Jack Cole was a brilliant artist who achieved distinction in multiple areas of cartooning, any one of which would still bring him esteem. With Plastic Man for Splash Comics, he developed an influential exxagerated cartoony style which (according to Harvey) was the first to be labelled "big foot". Plas became a fondly-remembered character, but nobody except Cole has been able to do anything with him. Kyle Baker's series was brilliant, but didn't find an audience.

While working in other comics, Cole also drew an infamous panel representing 'injury-to-eye' that drew the ire of Frederic Wertham for Seduction of the Innocent. Cole wasn't otherwise affiliated with horror titles, although he did work in crime comics. The introduction credits him with introducing all sorts of elaborate panel designs and camera angles, having finally given up on making a comic book page resemble a newspaper strip. This is strange because otherwise Harvey rarely shuts up about Will Eisner, who was closely acquainted with Cole during his comic book years. Cole had gotten his start in the Eisner shop, been one of the people chosen to continue "The Spirit" while Eisner was drafted and they were close colleagues.

When the comic book business finally died (for his purposes) Cole submitted gags to magazines and attracted the attention of Hugh Hefner. A cartoonist himself, Hefner gave Cole a place of honor and received fully painted watercolor cartoons that defined much of the magazine's early image. Simultaneously, Cole did another series of cartoons, the 'definitions', wherein a woman was drawn with as few lines as possible, in a pose that defined whatever word was given, 'finicky', 'romantic', etc.

Then he got the newspaper strip and his style became a stylized-yet-simplified graphical one. The narrative style is definitely original, a detailed novelistic style, down to the 'she said'/'he said'/'I said's around many of the word balloons. Many of the strips don't have punchlines, but there's a quirkiness that makes them work.

The pacing is utterly novel. The first month or so is spent getting the reader up to speed on the family, starting with Betsy and Chet (the narrator) meeting, falling in love, getting married, early married life, pregnancy, childbirth, the baby's development from the first few days, weeks, months, and eventually quick recaps until Farley is now five. He's a childhood genius. This is all interspersed with scenes involving the landlady or the store where Chet works as an assistant floorwalker.

Eventually they buy a bigger house which they can't afford and jokes extend to the long commute. Their friends had played a minor part also buy bigger houses and the middle-class rat race continues. In promotional artwork, Chet explains that he has enough story ideas to last until 6000 AD and considering the parts of their life that were barely scratched before Cole took his own, that doesn't seem to be hyperbole. They never mentioned Aunt Ann or the town meetings after this solicitation, barely scratched Betsy's hobby club or the town's social titans. Chet's job and the house purchase were subordinate to the couple raising the supergenius son in best cartooning tradition.

I have no idea why Cole killed himself, but if anything, this strip is a good example of being too good for its medium. It would never have survived the shrinking of the comics page like Peanuts (another graphically simple strip). That can't have made his life any easier.

Someone who did make his life easier was Milt Caniff, who produced "Dickie Dare", "Terry and the Pirates" and "Steve Canyon" in a heavily-inked style that meshed cartoon-like people with realistic backgrounds and details for adventure/soap opera. I like his art, but am not a big fan of those strips. An except to this is "Male Call", the strip starring Miss Lace which he produced during the war and also collected in a book I found in Louisville.

The Lace strips are great. Caniff made sure to keep the rights and produced gratis something that still holds up after 60 years. Lots of cheesecake and jokes about officers, how can you go wrong? When the war was over, she overheard ex-GIs talking about future plans and slipped back in the inkwell from whence she came.

Well, I guess that's enough of a post for the time being. I haven't decided what to do about the blog. It's tempting to use it to organize my Facebook posts for later compilation. At this point, I'm so bogged down in the editing that new material has to be considered with a view towards how much future work I'm subjecting myself to here and now. This is why people start charging. Or in my case, editing and then charging after publication.

Not sure what to post. Here's Sammy Hagar and Joe Satriani doing "Knockdown" from some NFL Music compilation. It's mindless and hard, heavy rock'n'roll, but it's Sammy and Satch of Chickenfoot and so much more.

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