MonthOctober 2012

Interview With Study Group Comics’ Zack Soto

The Comics Reporter interview with Study Group Comics publisher / Secret Voice creator Zack Soto:

About 10 years ago, I was sort of helping Tom Hart with the brainstorming part of setting up his old Serializer site, which was part of this webcomics ring called Modern Tales. I think I was sort of supposed to be his assistant? I didn’t do much aside from a couple of site graphics, though. That was interesting to be on the periphery of something like the early days of MT, but it seems like a million years ago, which it sort of is in Internet time. For a long while, I really sort of ignored webcomics, other than reading the occasional Achewood or what have you. It wasn’t until the one-two punch of Dash Shaw’s Body World webcomic and Jordan Crane’s What Things Do site that I sort of “got it,” or more precisely, that the content of webcomics sort of hit my particular interest zone. Both of those efforts really seemed to get at what the medium could be in a way that spoke to me.

The Comics Reporter: CR Sunday Interview: Zack Soto

Also, The Comics Journal ran a piece on how the print version of The Secret Voice was reformatted for the web that includes a short interview. Here’s a sample comparison:

Print version of The Secret Voice "bucket scene"

Web version of The Secret Voice "bucket scene"

Critical Interview With Feminist Writer Hugo Schwyzer

Zahra Tahirah wrote a critique of feminist professor and writer Hugo Schwyzer, including an interview to clear a few things up. I’ve linked to Schwyzer’s work before, but I didn’t know anything about his abusive background (including his attempted murder of an ex-girlfriend):

I don’t think I’m a prominent voice for feminism, frankly. I’m much less well-known than women writers like Jessica Valenti, for example. Most of my articles deal with some aspect of masculinity, informed by my feminism. It’s not my job to explain women’s experience to them — that’s unacceptable. I’m trying to explain men to women and, perhaps just as vitally, to themselves.

I think it is dangerous to have men in positions of overtly feminist leadership. But writing about gender isn’t always explicitly feminist. I write mostly about men from a perspective informed by my feminism. That’s far from being a feminist leader.

Persephone Magazine: Deconstructing Hugo

Over Half of Native Trans People Have Attempted Suicide

Depressing: The Advocate reports on a survey by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and National Center for Transgender Equality. Among the findings: “Fifty-six percent (56%) of American Indian and Alaskan Native transgender respondents reported having attempted suicide compared to 41% of all study respondents.”

Full Story: The Advocate: Over Half of Native Trans People Have Attempted Suicide

Sam Harris’ Take Down Of Newsweek’s “Heaven Is Real” Story

Newsweek cover: "Heaven Is Real"

I had mostly written Sam Harris off (different story entirely), but this is important stuff regarding Newsweek‘s baffling cover story of Eben Alexander’s pseudoscientific (at best) claim that heaven is real:

As many of you know, I am interested in “spiritual” experiences of the sort Alexander reports. Unlike many atheists, I don’t doubt the subjective phenomena themselves—that is, I don’t believe that everyone who claims to have seen an angel, or left his body in a trance, or become one with the universe, is lying or mentally ill. Indeed, I have had similar experiences myself in meditation, in lucid dreams (even while meditating in a lucid dream), and through the use of various psychedelics (in times gone by). I know that astonishing changes in the contents of consciousness are possible and can be psychologically transformative.

And, unlike many neuroscientists and philosophers, I remain agnostic on the question of how consciousness is related to the physical world. There are, of course, very good reasons to believe that it is an emergent property of brain activity, just as the rest of the human mind obviously is. But we know nothing about how such a miracle of emergence might occur. And if consciousness were, in fact, irreducible—or even separable from the brain in a way that would give comfort to Saint Augustine—my worldview would not be overturned. I know that we do not understand consciousness, and nothing that I think I know about the cosmos, or about the patent falsity of most religious beliefs, requires that I deny this. So, although I am an atheist who can be expected to be unforgiving of religious dogma, I am not reflexively hostile to claims of the sort Alexander has made. In principle, my mind is open. (It really is.)

From there Harris proceeds to tear Alexander a new one.

Sam Haris: This Must Be Heaven

(via Brainsturbator)

This Week In Anonymity And Sexualization Of Strangers

A 15 year old girl committed suicide after months of harassment following topless photos of her circulating on the internet

A Tumblr was created to publish the identities of men who post “creepshots” to Reddit

Reddit finally shut the Creepshots subreddit down

Gawker unmasked Violentacrez, a Creepshots moderator who also started or moderated various other, shall we say “distasteful” subreddits.

RZA To Direct Adaptation Of Grant Morrison’s Happy!

With his directorial debut, The Man With the Iron Fists, less than a month away, RZA is continuing his push into directing.

The former hip-hip producer and frontman for the Wu-Tang Clan is teaming up with comic book author Grant Morrison and producer Reginald Hudlin to adapt Morrison’s latest comic, Happy!, for the big screen.

RZA is attached to direct and would produce with Hudlin, a producer on Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained. Morrison will write the script.

Hollywood Reporter: NY Comic-Con: RZA Teaming Up With Grant Morrison for ‘Happy!’ (Exclusive)

(via Wolven)

Douglas Rushkoff Announced Next Book: Present Shock

Present Shock cover by Douglas Rushkoff

Douglas Rushkoff’s next book Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now will be published March 21, 2013.

Rushkoff discussed the idea of present shock back in 2010 The Edge Annual Question — 2010:

By surrendering my natural rhythms to the immediacy of my networks, I am optimizing myself and my thinking to my technologies — rather than the other way around. I feel as though I speeding up, when I am actually just becoming less productive, less thoughtful, and less capable of asserting any agency over the world in which I live. The result something akin to future shock. Only in our era, it’s more of a present shock.

I try to look at the positive: Our Internet-enabled emphasis on the present may have liberated us from the 20th century’s dangerously compelling ideological narratives. No one — well, hardly anyone — can still be persuaded that brutal means are justified by mythological ends. And people are less likely to believe employers’ and corporations’ false promises of future rewards for years of loyalty now.

But, for me anyway, it has not actually brought me into greater awareness of what is going on around me. I am not approaching some Zen state of an infinite moment, completely at one with my surroundings, connected to others, and aware of myself on any fundamental level.

Rather, I am increasingly in a distracted present, where forces on the periphery are magnified and those immediately before me are ignored.

He also discussed some of these themes in an interview in New Inquiry last May.

See also: Alex Pang‘s idea of Contemplative Computing. Pang has a book forthcoming as well.

1 Member Of Pussy Riot Freed After Appeal, Others Still In Jail

The Guardian reports:

A Moscow appeals court has released one of the jailed members of anti-Kremlin punk band Pussy Riot, but ordered two others to serve the remainder of their two-year jail term in a Russian prison colony.

Yekaterina Samutsevich, the oldest of the three women at 30, walked free into the arms of her father, after serving six months in a pre-trial detention centre after being found guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred in August.

A panel of three judges accepted the argument of Samutsevich’s new lawyer that she had not participated fully in the group’s February performance of an anti-Putin “punk prayer” in a Moscow cathedral. Samutsevich had been kicked out of the cathedral shortly after entering, meaning she did not engage in the “aggressive movements” that had offended Russia’s Orthodox believers, she argued.

Full Story: The Guardian: Pussy Riot member freed after Moscow court appeal

(via Meredith Yayanos)

How Can Knowledge Be Preserved In Case Of Collapse?

Adam Rothstein on preserving tools and specialized knowledge (such as science and engineering) in case of a collapse:

Any number of aspiring futurists, science-fiction authors, preppers and Dark Mountaineers can present us with a point-by-point plan of how to survive a species-threatening cataclysm, the true effectiveness of which can only be judged in practice. So let us leave survival up to those who will need to hack it, and instead ask what can we do now to make things a bit easier for our post-apocalyptic children of the future?

We might bury useful tools everywhere in a strategy resonant with Philip K. Dick’s The Penultimate Truth, to make surprising archaeological Easter Eggs of power saws and streaming media tablets to the future’s struggling humankind. But without cellular data contracts and extension cords, these might not prove very useful. Far better to provide them with knowledge, argues Grassie, in order to kick start their inevitable journey back through scientific progress to re-learn the things we will lose. You can give a post-human descendant species-branch a CD-ROM and they can surf Encarta for a day. Or you can teach a post-human descendant species-branch to write objective secondarily-sourced encyclopedia articles, and they can have their own Wikipedia-esque debates about editing procedures for the rest of their brutish and short lives.

Full Story: The State: Satellites of History

Rothstein goes on to note some attempts to preserve knowledge for the future, and questions whether the endeavor matters.

The Secret History Of How Marvel Comics Went Bankrupt

Marvel Quarterly Report issue 1 Big Guns

For any comics historians in the room, Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics: The Untold Story has just been published. The Comics Journal has an excerpt dealing with Marvel in the early 90s and some of the decisions it made as it inched towards bankruptcy:

Bank’s concerns weren’t rooted in some naïve idealism about artistic purity; he worried about Marvel’s long-term business interests. Field representatives had gone out to nearly forty different stores, collecting sell- through numbers—the number of copies that retailers actually sold to readers, as opposed to the larger number of copies that distributors sold to retailers—for a dozen different comics over a three-issue period. The findings were stunning.

“Every time we did one of these stupid-ass covers that caused us to increase the price by 33 percent—say issue #475—we would have a 20-percent drop-off from 474 to 476. The numbers would spike for #475, but we’d actually lose readers from #474 to #476. It was consistent with every single example.”

Of course, none of this would have an impact on Marvel’s quarterly goals. Marvel’s bottom-line reports, which only reflected distributor-level numbers, would continue to show sales and profits going up, even as the readership began to cool and the retailers, who couldn’t return unsold copies, absorbed the costs. “In the meantime,” said Bank, “we were killing the stores that were feeding us.”

The Comics Journal: Marvel’s Bottom Line

(Thanks Ian!)

As it happens, I just read TCJ’s history of Image Comics last weekend, which details the role Image’s chronic lateness had on the retail business.

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