Thursday, March 31, 2005



It was today revealed that America's spies don't know near enough about Iran and North Korea. That's disappointing, because we knew so much about Iraq.

Raise your hand if you're surprised. Then send me your credit card numbers and the PIN to your bank account.



Loyal reader and friend Jim Chadwick just commented that it had been a while since I had posted here, and he's right.

When Lent came, I promised I wouldn't do a bunch of things, as I often do (lapsed Catholic though I may be). One was to spend an excess of time online. Trying not to post from the office and stuck with my slow dialup connection at home, I found myself making copious notes of things about which I wanted to comment, but not enough time.

Then, two weeks ago, I was asked to stop coming back to the office. That was so startling I didn't know what to do about it for a few days, and I had nothing clever to say here about it.

I still don't, really. Here's the irony: I was trying not to go to the Internet from the office, but was fired for spending too much time on the Internet. Oh, and by the way, my job involved web work. My employer did have spy software installed on my computer, so he could view what I was doing, and he offered some Googling I was doing after I'd discovered images could be Googled. (Perish forbid, Rebecca Romijn of X-Men!) He was determined to let me go, and I was not in a mood to fight for my job -- I took it for fun and was having less and less of it -- so it's probably "all good" (as the young folks say) for everyone.

So... if you need someone to write any marketing materials, advertising, direct mail, or similar, let me know. Otherwise, I'll be sitting home during the day, using the spouse's slightly faster dialup connection, looking for work.

My other advice is this: Employers are going to more and more be spying on what you do with their equipment. Mirroring your computer screen, listening in on telephone conversations, going through your desk drawers. They have a right to do so; it's all their stuff. But ultimately that's the kind of management that's going to result in a staff just not committed to doing its job. At least, in my humble opinion.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005



Talbot Katz, former Interlacker and current Wall Street math guy (hey, Talbot, you should probably write for the spouse's magazine), forwards to me an article about comics becoming movies.

It's an epidemic these days, and while I am happy to have quintupled the value of my Marvel stock, film critics look at the trend and have begun to wonder when it will end. Just as the great unwashed seem unable to believe that not all animation is for children, film critics appear to be unable to recognize that a bad film adapted from a comic book is no different from a bad film adapted from a novel. There is no need to decry the end of the novel form if the film version of one fails, either critically or at the box office. So how does it follow that comics as a source for movies will be discarded after a flop like Elektra or Constantine?

It will be interesting to see how Sin City performs after it opens. It certainly looks to be visually unique. But we also live in times that fear black-and-white, so this film, which appears to be built in two-tone and muted colors, may be too challenging for the current moviegoing generation. And I fear the crap that will soon come with the Superman and Batman movies.

That said, good storytelling is good storytelling, and comics, like animation, have the advantage of being able to deliver any impact on the most limited budget. If only critics would stop segregating them.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005



I did not attend an Ivy League university, but I didn’t exactly attend Left Armpit Community College, either. I am a 1979 graduate of The George Washington University, a school founded to be the national college and, if I recall correctly, the oldest non-religious university in the country. It’s situated in Washington, DC, and, let me tell you, attending college just four blocks from the White House and a short walk from the Smithsonian and so many important monuments was a terrific experience.

And nobody knows my alma mater. Or, worse, they think I went to Georgetown, which itself is a decent school, but confusing GW with Georgetown is like confusing UCLA and USC.

Despite my antipathy toward big-time college sports, I have learned that the average guy thinks about college sports first when he thinks about universities, and more likely it’s college football.

In 1966, GWU dropped its football program in order to concentrate on basketball. The problem was that for many years, the program was mediocre at best. That changed in 1993, when GW made it to the Sweet Sixteen.

That’s going to change again this year or next. This year GW won its divisional tournament for the first time in the 29-year history of the division. And while it may not go far – if the Colonials defeat first-round opponent Georgia Tech (where my college roommate’s son attends — wonder whether Nader is rooting for GW or the Ramblin’ Wreck), they then will most likely face 29-4 Louisville — they will pretty much return intact in 2005-06.

So, I wanted to write this before the game on Friday. Who knows how it will go. But the team that ESPN called this season’s "it" team and which was recently responsible for two of ESPN’s top ten plays of the week has a bunch of exciting players who also seem to be good kids, and they’re easy to root for. I think they might be in until the last game or two next year. But try to catch them this year.

Because the more folks who know GW, the more folks who’ll think more highly of my degree. And that’s okay by me.

By the way, Friday happens to be the birthday of my friend Bobby’s daughter Katie… who happens to be finishing her freshman year at GW.

George Washington University men’s basketball website.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005



I nearly had a heart attack tonight. No, it wasn’t the peanut-butter-and-banana burrito I ate an hour ago. It was that I actually agreed with a Republican member of the House of Representatives. Even more amazing, he was from Texas.

Rep. Joe Barton, who sits on the Energy and Commerce Committee, said that Social Security information should not be sold commercially by credit agencies and other such companies — at least, not without the permission of the person whose Social Security Number it is.

"I've not heard anything that explains to me why we should allow that to go on," said Barton, who said he would probably carve out an exemption for police investigations.

In fairness, Democratic Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts has introduced a similar bill, and Seattle radio commentator Dave Ross once suggested that no information be allowed to be sold unless it had the written permission of the recipient.

All of these are wonderful ideas.

Too much information is now available, and more will be released into the world as soon as possible.

Even now, I routinely refuse to give my Social Security Number when asked for it. Someone who asks had better justify it and have a governmental purpose for asking. I do not sign my name electronically at cash registers where they ask you to do so. It’s easy enough to steal data without giving someone the ability to add my signature. I’ve even gotten to the point where I try to avoid other marking information, such as mother’s maiden name or birthdate.

Am I being paranoid? Maybe. But tonight my spouse asked me if she should sign up for Google’s new g-mail product. I urged her not to. Aside from all the other information already being zipped electronically from place to place, add Google’s plan to read all email to make better information for its vendors, and, well, you don’t have to be Rod Serling to see an unfortunate end to it all.

So I firmly support this way of solving the problem, even if it does make things a little more difficult for myself at work. After all, tomorrow I’m mailing 97,000 letters to potential subscribers asking them to sample our magazine, Technical Analysis of STOCKS & COMMODITIES.

As Pogo said…

Friday, March 11, 2005



"Comics, in their drive to attain respect and artistic accomplishment, abandoned children." So said Michael Chabon, the author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, at a presentation at the recent Eisner Awards. As with all great thinkers, he was able to put into words and transmit something that had disturbed me for some time.

Comics are no longer for kids.

I, naturally, had been complaining about the situation from the elephant's tail end of the problem: The comic companies were doing very little to draw people into the medium. Yes, they now have giant-sized movies about their characters (cheers to Marvel, and thanks for quintupling our still-too-late investment; had we bought when I first began to think about Marvel, we'd have octupled it), and you can buy nicely gathered collections at the Barnes & Noble at the mall near you, but the comic companies are doing nothing to make people walk out of movie theaters and go to their nearby comic shop. Or even go from the upstairs of the Barnes & Noble to the downstairs of the Barnes & Noble.

But Chabon got it. There are no more comics for kids. When I first read comics, they were titles like Timmy The Timid Ghost, Casper The Friendly Ghost, Richie Rich, Archie, Dot and the like. Later, when I was reading Justice League of America and Batman, there were still comics for kids.

Today, there's not enough of that.

I stopped reading comics after my two-year stint at DC Comics. There, in its marketing department, I felt I needed to read everything DC published, as well as everything its competitors published. My brain turned into banana pudding and oozed out through my ears.

But I also began to dislike comics. Buying one comic did not buy you a single story, but bits of a story arc. Miss one or two issues and you might as well stop buying the comic. Comics also got violent. I contributed to that; when we promoted Frank Miller's Rõnin, the first in-store poster was a big ol' blood splatter. It was a very effective blood splatter, but we weren't really promoting the world of the rõnin, were we? It's gotten much worse, since.

If I can have my Jerry Seinfeld moment, it's not that there's anything wrong with that. But there need to be comics that will make kids like comics, just like there are books that will make kids like books.

Of course, the other part of the problem is the 90% of the American market that sees pictures or cartoons and assumes they're for kids. They don't see the problem at all. And they're buying them violent video and computer games to play, anyway.

I'm not sure there's anybody left who can write entertainingly for kids and kids alone. My only hope is that someone who appreciated Finding Neverland is developing the knack.

Michael Chabon's website.