Monday, January 30, 2012

snoop on paul

Snoop Dogg has endorsed Ron Paul.

Question 1: is the assumption that it must be (or that it is solely) due to Paul's stance on drug legalization legitimate?

Question 2: does this help or hurt Paul?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

müller on mary

If, moreover, we imagine a man to be from his birth surrounded merely by external objects destitute of all variety of colours, so that he could never receive the impressions of colours from without, it is evident that the sense of vision might nevertheless have been no less perfect in him than in other men; for light and colours are innate endowments of his nature, and require merely a stimulus to render them manifest.

~ Joh. Müller (1840) Elements of Physiology

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

manga editorial techniques

[This is a response of sorts to musings by The League on the abysmal relationship between creators and editors in the US comic book industry.]

In the summer of 1997, I spent six weeks in Tokyo interning at the publisher Kodansha. For the second half of that period, I worked in the non-fiction translated straight-to-paperback department. In the first half, however, I spent each week interning at a different "Magajin," or manga magazine.

One of the most interesting of these was Weekly Shonen Magazine, or 週刊少年マガジン. "Shonen" here means something like "young men's" (literally = "few years"), and I believe the readership was largely young men ranging in age from 15 to 30 or so. This experience was interesting partly because, at the time, Weekly Shonen Magazine was the best selling manga publication in Japan, selling significantly over 2 million copies every single week. Each issue of the magazine was something like 300 pages long, comprising 20 page episodes in serials by a different creative teams.

That's right, contributors to Weekly Shonen Magazine generated 20 pages of a story every single week.

At the time, the chief editor for Weekly Shonen Magazine was Ishii-sensei (I believe, I hope my memory isn't going out on me here, but if anyone knows differently, please correct me). Ishii-sensei had previously edited Monthly Shonen Magazine, and his particular editorial style had succeed in pulling that magazine out of a long term slump and rocketing it to relative popularity. This success prompted his promotion to editor-in-chief-ship of Weekly Shonen Magazine, and it was under his direction that the magazine moved into the most popular slot, against its long time competitor, Weekly Shonen Jump.

Now, what was Ishii-sensei's strategy for extracting 20 pages of story each from a large number of creative teams such that the combined product would be read by millions of young men every single week? The answer is of interest in the context of the present state of US comics as it involved intrusive and overbearing editorial oversight.

Of course, I didn't see Ishii-sensei himself engage in this process, but I witnessed it multiple times by his underlings in various meetings with manga artists.

First, the basic schedule. My understanding is that scripts were worked out one week in advance, and I assume editorial intervention worked the same way during that stage of the process, although I never witnessed it. The artists received the script at the start of their week. Two days later, they met with the editor assigned to their story. On the basis of these meetings, they'd spend the next couple days finalizing pencils, then perhaps go through a final meeting before spending the rest of the week inking.

(Yes, these artists worked hard! I remember talking to one who worked at home, but still complained he never got to see his kids. Editorial meetings with artists might happen any time of day or night, as needed to meet the deadline.)

OK, so what happened in an initial meeting? The editorial intervention was complete and domineering. Change the shape of the panels on this page; show an event from this angle, not that one; give us more of this kind of feeling (usually: excitement, urgency, passion, whatever). No aspect of what the artist had done was immune to editorial intervention. The 20 pages generated at the end of that 2 week period (one for writing, the other for drawing) was very much a team effort, as much the product of the editors' tastes and vision as of the writer and illustrator.

So, why is this interesting? Well, as The League has pointed out, a similar kind of editorial interventionism has been having a disastrous effect on US comics. Titles have been killed, good ideas shelved, bad ideas promoted—all because the editors put their decisions about comic book writing / illustrating on a higher plane than that of the creators.

OK, so what was different in the Weekly Shonen Magazine case, as opposed to (oh, I don't know, say) the current state of DC comics?

Well, the answer is really very simple. One thing which was patently obvious from observing the editors under Ishii-sensei at Weekly Shonen Magazine is that they were all themselves ultra hardcore manga fans.

I mean, these guys were hardcore. If not ultra-otaku, then some kind of refined badass version of the comic fan, high on his power. Not because it was mere power, but because it was power over comics.

I remember, for example, one afternoon, I was traveling around with an editor, and we had an hour to kill before a meeting with an artist. What did we do? Stop at a nearby toy and model store, so he could browse through large scale robot / godzilla / ultraman models. Here, work and play coincided.

Another incident, an editor (much less otaku, more badass) meeting with an artist at midnight in a cafe, then talking to her for hours about the comic, pushing her to improve the art, layout, the "kanji," or "feeling," conveyed by every single page.

Do you think Dan DiDio spends his spare time buying Giant Robot toys? Does he meet with creators in the middle of the night for as long as it takes?

So, I think the difference here is attitude. Interest. Caring.

The interventionist editors for Weekly Shonen Magazine didn't intervene on the basis of some idea about what would sell, or imagination about what goes on in the mind of a teenager. They intervened on the basis of their own fandom, on the basis of what they wanted to read personally, themselves, for real.

This does not seem to be the case for some of the "Big Two" editorial horror stories we've heard in the US.

Not that I'm entirely in favor of interventionism—I'm in general very much a fan of creator control, and letting the idea man (or woman) follow his (or her) vision.

But I also think editorial oversight can be good. Editors can make a novel—or a comicbook!—better . . . so long as their feedback comes from the right place (genuine knowledge and caring) rather than mere fantasy and greed.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

seen in philly

A large African American man selling girl scout cookies out of the trunk of a pristine black Lincoln town car.

oh, america

You bitch:
"The role of government is to secure for citizens the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In that order. It's like a filter. If the government wants to do something that makes us a little unhappy, or takes away some of our liberty, it's okay, providing they're doing it to save our lives. That's why the cops can lock you up if they think you're a danger to yourself or others. You lose your liberty and happiness to protect life. If you've got life, you might get liberty and happiness later."
~ more disturbingly realistic "irony" (= documentary) from Doctorow's Little Brother.

I bolded the naughty parts to help you out if you've drunk the koolaid. God help us all you fuckers if you don't see that this fiction has come true and we live in a fucking police state.

The most important point, though, is to notice where the flag waving happens: if you're pro Obama's shit-on-the-public-and-spend-their-money-in-Africa-beating-up-on-random-dictators-and-replacing-them-with-America-hating-Islamists stance OR you think beating up on foreigners is a higher priority than helping / feeding / employing American citizens in this hemorrhaging economy then you are equally anti-American in my books. Don't believe the Republican v. Democrat hype but look at actual differences (or lack thereof!) in policy.

The good Lord said, "first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye." We'd better get our own backyard in order before we get back to telling the rest of the world how to mow theirs.

Vote Ron Paul.

good news at last

Some evidence that God still exists. Now those shystering, crap-producing, freedom-hating, audience-cheating fucks in LA can join the poor, the lovers of peace, the African-Americans, and everyone else Obama made promises to during his campaign but whom he has since let down. Of course, unlike those groups, the producers of excrement like Jack and Jill don't have a legitimate complaint, but it's hard to see how this isn't good news.

If both SOPA and Obama lose, we might wake up in a slightly better (i.e. more American) country. I'm in a patriotic mood tonight:

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

lawyers for sopa

Guess who supports SOPA? In addition to the obvious suspects (e.g. Time Warner or the Screen Actors Guild), there appear to be a large number of law firms. I guess that tells you who's really going to benefit. The culprits:

Baker & Hostetler LLP
Covington & Burling LLP
Cowan, DeBaets, Abrahams & Sheppard LLP
Cowan, Liebowitz & Latman, P.C.
Davis Wright Tremaine LLP
Irell & Manella LLP
Jenner & Block LLP
Kelley Drye & Warren LLP
Kendall Brill & Klieger LLP
Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert LLP
Lathrop & Gage LLP
Loeb & Loeb LLP
Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP
Morrison & Foerster LLP
Phillips Nizer, LLP
Proskauer Rose LLP
Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi LLP
Shearman & Sterling LLP
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP
White & Case LLP

Do what you can to stop SOPA, however insignificant.

Monday, January 16, 2012

sane approach to terrorism

I'd never really believed in terrorists before—I mean, I knew that in the abstract there were terrorists somewhere in the world, but they didn't really represent any risk to me. There were millions of ways that the world could kill me—starting with getting run down by a drunk burning his way down Valencia—that were infinitely more likely and immediate than terrorists. Terrorists kill a lot fewer people than bathroom falls and accidental electrocutions. Worry about them always struck me as about as useful as worrying about getting hit by lightning.

~ Cory Doctorow (2008) Little Brother

Sunday, January 15, 2012