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Tim Lieder

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Books Read in 2015 #91-92 - so those were...um...interesting [Nov. 23rd, 2015|05:16 pm]
Tim Lieder
91. The Automobile Club of Egypt by Alaa Al Aswany - I do try to read as many books from other cultures as I'm comfortable with and while Egypt is pretty westernized, there's a whole history of Egypt that I don't really know too well. Granted, fiction is not the true depiction of the culture in terms of people and events, but it does help to communicate what kinds of concerns are going through the culture. And I must say that beyond my Egyptian clients who had me writing about Arab Spring about 3-4 times (with a definite comparison between the Coptic neighborhoods and Ferguson in that cops can kill people and then claim rioting), I really know Egypt mostly from the perspective of Israel. We went to war a bunch of times. Then Jimmy Carter worked out a peace treaty which was shaky for about three decades and only lasted because no one really wanted to go to war again, got dangerously close to breaking for a couple years (Hi Muslim Brotherhood!!!) and is now stronger than most relationships Israel has in the region (Hi again, Muslim Brotherhood!!! How's Hamas doing?) so a book about the era of British imperialism complete with a corrupt fuck-anything-that-moves king was very interesting (and a little odd since Israel actually isn't mentioned. The timeline is a little wonky - sometime between 1945 and 1952 when the British were still in charge of Egypt but the war was over - but neither the British nor the Egyptians were terribly eager to ignore Israel - not that I'm complaining. I can read my Facebook feed if I want endless discussions about the history of Zionism - pro or con).

Ok. I wrote a much more complete review of this book on Amazon since this is an Amazon Vine book which I am supposed to review. Lately most of my Amazon Vine books have been reviewed without being finished since you don't have to eat the whole egg to know it's rotten (I think that's from Shaw), but this one I actually finished which is actually a novelty. So I am trying not to repeat everything I said in that review here, but I did not know how much of this book was historical fiction and how much is metaphor for modern events. The Automobile Club is where many of the characters end up working and where some major characters mount their rebellions against the "father figure" servant of the king who frequently punishes them and beats them in order to maintain order for the British masters who are running things. Alku, the servant of the king and manager of the Automobile Club uses his position to maintain order but he is also under the order of Mr. Wright, the owner of the club who thinks himself above such petty concerns while justifying the actions of Alku to himself. Issues of privilege and rebellion and how most people react to revolution (they are against it and even if it would benefit them in the long run they still don't want to get their asses kicked) abound. But still, there's a subplot of one son getting into the prostitution by having sex with little old ladies that seems like it belongs in a different book. I was also not enamored with the author explaining that he has two characters speaking in first person because they came to him when he was trying to work. Yes, I get the metaphor of characters coming alive for an author, but it's still silly and not worth a chapter.

92. The Complete Alan Moore Future Shocks - Apparently Alan Moore is not as cranky about his name being on everything he ever wrote. Or maybe 2000 AD is less problematic when it comes to author's rights (I really don't know if I want to know the story behind Alan Moore being listed as "the author" on the Miracleman reprints that Marvel is putting out). The book also seems to be a little out-of-order which works fine since the first stories are fine stories about aliens coming to earth as dumb tourists, being sold a lot of land rights in a bogus fashion and then taking all these sales seriously and putting all humans into a zoo. The second story is stold in the form of a translation service for earth tourists where the phrases get increasingly crazy. These are the strong stories to almost make up for the dumb joke stories that follow including that variation on mocking that Twilight Zone standard of "I'm Eve. I'm Adam." with "I'm Adam. I'm Meredith." The last few stories are Abelard Snazz which seem like the earliest ones where the Sherlock Holmes type alien with four eyes and two foreheads increasingly fails to solve the problems while remaining arrogant (and getting out of trouble by raising the stakes). It's a fun book, but it's strange to see Alan Moore in a jokey "whacky" story telling mode.
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Books Read in 2015 #89-90 - Holy shit wow these are great books!!!!! [Nov. 17th, 2015|10:12 pm]
Tim Lieder
89. Love & Rockets New Stories by Jaime & Gilbert Hernandez - It's been a long time since I've read Jaime Hernandez. That's not to say that I don't like Jaime but I just needed to disentangle the complicated world of Gilbert Hernandez with Luba's rapidly expanding family and characters introduced at the end of the original Love & Rockets run. So for the most part, I don't know much about how these characters led by a girl who is still in high school relate to the characters that I've come to love including Maggie, Hopey, Ray and the rest. Thus far it seems like the swimming coach who wants the heroine to join the team is a wrestler and most connected with the rest of the characters. Jaime's writing gives us a story of a family of siblings coming together to testify against their mother who probably killed most of her husbands including their fathers. It's a strange and wild beginning and I look forward to more stories in this vein. By contrast, I am less enamored with Gilbert's material most because I have read so much into the world of Gilbert that the meager material in this book can only seem slight by the rest of the book.

90.Mind of My Mind by Octavia Butler - Now this is the kind of deceptively simple book that I adore. I have been endlessly fascinated by The Patternmaster when I read it even though I don't necessarily remember the details except for the "happy ending" where the protagonist takes his place as the new patternmaster by killing all the "mutes" (non-telepaths) in between himself and his father. This is the second book in the series where Octavia Butler gives us the origin of the Pattern while sowing the seeds for the prequel Wild Seed. Doro has been trying to breed telapaths to be more powerful than before but not in an X-Men way. In this world, the telepaths are mostly outcasts driven mad by the voices and the lowest of the low. Mary becomes the successful telepath who awakens to her potential while bringing more people into the pattern that she is weaving, but as the book goes on the pattern is very sinister as she takes over her neighborhood and use humans for servitude. At one point Doro is talking to the woman that has been his adviser for centuries and she notes that the telepaths are talking about humans as mutes and how that's just the word for n----. And this makes the schools where the younger patternists are raised by foster parents who love them, but mostly because they are conditioned to love them. So in the victory of the pattern in these people's lives, the human race becomes divided between telepaths and their slaves and there's really no choice anyone has in the matter.

This is a beautiful and disturbing book in many ways. I also have to add the fact that many of the psionics are the lowest of the low when they are found and there's a great deal of religious symbolism in that plotline since many of the faiths talk about how the least will be the most and yet it is also a little horrifying. Just read this book. Seriously. It's great.
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how to misinterpret things - the dating edition [Nov. 11th, 2015|05:17 am]
Tim Lieder
A few years ago, I again was desperate enough to go on Frumster (which is now called Jwed which is supposed to play off of Jdate like it's the Jewish dating site for serious people) and one woman liked my profile so much that she found me on Facebook. And to show just how isolated I can feel at times, I was pretty cool with this stalking but then again she was in Britain. Finally after some back and forth about calling on the phone and whatever she could do to call me and not pay international charges, she calls and we talk.

There are two things I remember from the conversation - even though she was claiming to be obsessed with me, she had absolutely nothing in common with me. Even when I asked her what she read, she said that she said that she only read romance books. I even tried to ask her what kind of romance books as if that would make for an interesting conversation. Of course, I thought that was weird, but looking back on it, I suppose I accepted it as legitimate because I have never been obsessively in love with any woman who had any of the qualities that would make a good match, not counting my very long time spent not getting over my ex-girlfriend. I can love women that I have a lot in common with, but when it comes to those obsessive crushes, it's always a case of self-loathing and my ability to lie to myself about what I want when I really just want to suffer. So I fall for girls who think that I'm too weird for them or women who turn out to be Libertarians or the cheerleader who sat behind me in high school math and copied off of my tests and had an eating disorder because she was a cheerleader and popular and seemed affectionate when she called me weird. You get the picture. It was a novelty to be the object of obsession rather than the obsessed even though it was uncomfortable trying to figure out the obsession.

Oh wait, there was a third thing which is talk of sex, but I don't even remember it. Like there might be the possibility of sex and there might have even been double entendres. So I guess, two and a half things I remember. I think at one point she told me that I shouldn't talk about sweating while doing yoga (I still have the DVDs. I can start again at any time) because it made her horny - but that wasn't during this phone conversation. And yuck.

But the main part of this conversation that still sticks with me long after I finally dropped her as a facebook friend and we got bored with each other (which came after some exchanges that I don't remember in detail but were pretty creepy in general), is the part where she found this blog (I doubt she is reading it now) and I had just posted a letter that I wrote to a very recent ex-girlfriend and never gave to her. That would be the emotionally abusive ex-girlfriend. It was a letter where I told C that even though I loved her, I was not going to deal with this constant anger and the feeling of walking on eggshells. I found the letter on a notepad and when I read it, I felt validated in remembering the relationship as abusive - full of gaslighting, anger to control things, statements like "the only reason I didn't walk out was because I wasn't yet certain that you would chase after me" and angry stares - but there was also baal tshuva extremism just for fun.

So I posted the letter on my blog, not out of revenge but because it was one of those pieces of writing from a time period when everything was raw but I had yet to admit to myself that I was in an abusive relationship and I was fascinated by how much I knew that things were shit and how much I was still laboring under the delusion that I could fix her with a stern but affectionate letter that expressed my feelings of walking on eggshells in a way that wouldn't make her mad.

Back to the conversation with the British Stalker - we were talking and she gets to reading this blog and I mention the abuse of that relationship and British Stalker says something that I don't understand. And when I ask her to repeat it, because it was obviously something that she wanted to say and didn't want to say at the same time, she goes "I just see that you are not over your ex-girlfriend yet."

I actually managed to talk to British Stalker for another 20 minutes at least, but it was just one of those things that is so fucking stupid that it kind of distorts reality - like listening to either Ben Carson or Donald Trump speak. But I don't think that is even the main issue. The main issue is that British Stalker was so self-involved and goal oriented that somehow she managed to take the subject of being trapped in an abusive relationship, realizing that one is trapped in an abusive relationship and not admitting it to oneself with all the past regret for getting into that relationship in the first place and get "oh well I guess he is still hung up on that girl"

And don't get me wrong, there were parts of C that were quite attractive and if she wasn't a psychopathic gaslighting asshole, I might have only remembered those aspects of her personality, but I wasn't talking about those things. I was talking about walking on eggshells and the ways that I became an accessory in my own abuse (or I sought out a woman who would treat me in the horrible way that I felt like I deserved to be treated).

It's like the flip side of that evil joke of "I just got out of jail for killing my spouse" followed by the punchline "So you're single!"
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Fucking sonofabitch shit. I was wrong about Richard Brittain. He DID smash a reviewer over the head. [Nov. 10th, 2015|04:16 pm]
Tim Lieder

Richard Brittain just pleaded guilty.


I thought the story was bullshit. I argued that the story was bullshit. I argued that the story was bullshit based on several factors.
1. We had only the victim's word for it.
2. Besides a story of an assault in a supermarket, there were no other stories about it that didn't come from the victim.
3. I expected that there would have been a story about the police seeking him for questioning, etc. especially since he was a minor celebrity who just talked about stalking an ex-crush.
4. He was mentally ill and this seemed like it was taking advantage of his illness.

That last one was the main reason why I defended him so vociferously and argued with people who outright stated that it happened. Except for Paige Rolland, we all were going on the same information. So I called a victim of assault a liar - and by this point was absolutely certain that she was lying since it took place a year ago and if there is no news of it then there is really not much chance of it being true.

But nope. He did it. And I have been jumping to the defense of someone who was completely guilty.

This is not as bad as my temporary defense of Roman Polanski based on the fact that age of consent laws are fairly puritanical and memories of being ready for sex (well I thought I was) when I was 13 - even though under normal circumstances I would say that 15-16 is probably the better age of consent. Ok, probably 16. But then someone showed me the actual case and I had to back the fuck off from that stance fast.

Shit. I need to apologize to some Goodreads reviewers.
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Trying not to impose my will on another artist [Nov. 8th, 2015|07:58 pm]
Tim Lieder
I have a friend who is a musician and she's a really good musician but she's also very much in that Anais Nin school of "pure experience" and "art is a calling for beauty" or whatever. In fact, when I met her I kind of dismissed her talk of being an artist as a flaky art type thing. Which is not so damning because 95% of all people who want to be artists tend to be talking about something that gives them dreams. There was once a point where I spit bile at all of those nanowrimo people because I probably noticed too much of my own pretensions in them. If you working temp jobs in order to barely pay the rent and not getting published, you get a lot of self-loathing and that self-loathing comes out in nasty ways (especially if you are male in today's gendered society and you have been conditioned to impose your bad feelings on the rest of the world instead of swallow them and work on them yourself. Emotionally honesty is a tough one). So I guess now that I make a living at writing, such as it is (95% term papers that no one but I and the client read) I feel generous towards those people who are playing guitar, filming home movies, writing for no-pay journals. I am not generous enough to go back to liking that musical Rent but I am generous enough not to get too ridiculous in pushing the "serious artist or GTFO" agenda that seemed to characterize many of my exchanges on the topic as recently as five years back.

The exception is when I think that someone is actually genuinely talented and they are approaching their art like an lifelong amateur. Of course, this friend is not just doing it as an amateur. She is getting gigs around town. She is networking and writing new songs. But at other times she declares that she doesn't want to make money at music. Or she's trying to start a literary journal or open a consignment shop. Basically she is doing things that are taking her away from actually doing what she's good at.

I don't even know why this bothers me. I suppose it's a personal thing. It took me a long time to come to the realization that anything I do besides writing is a hobby and a waste of time (even if I have to waste time paying the bills). And wow, that's a lonely fucking thing to say. So am I going to say that when I actually get married and have kids? Will I ever get married and have kids? Things seem kind of dire right now. But I guess I see a lot of my own time wasting in her actions and since I really like her music, I find it kind of tragic that she's trying to do anything but her music. And I know that this is her personality too and I accepted this before I started going to her concerts.

Do I feel like I have some proprietary claim? Am I competing with her friends who "knew her back in college when she played guitar in the dorm room" but as the influence that knows her as a really talented musician who can go far. Do I want to be that guy talking about how I used to watch her in the bars when she would have to fight with patrons and bartenders for attention?

I think that the majority of my feelings is knowing someone who is very talented and wasting that talent on bullshit. The same feeling that I get when watching the Amy Winehouse documentary and remembering just how fucking amazing Winehouse was when she wasn't working so hard to kill herself. But this is a more personal and smaller scale (since this friend is not much of a drinker so the main sad outcome is she wastes her time on dumb art projects and never plays guitar as anything more than a hobby).

Either way, I just told her that I was not going to participate in her journal because even if she could pay me, I wouldn't want to accept money from her because I believe that she should use her money for her music. Maybe that's all I have to say.

Then again, maybe I should just focus on my writing. I have drawn the line in the sand about getting paid and I have a few short stories that need to be submitted after being rejected (including that fucking Santa Claus story that I love and can't sell. And this is pretty much my last chance of selling it for another six months). There are thousands of talented singers and artists in the world. If one does not make it big someone else will.
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More topics I am avoiding on Facebook... [Nov. 3rd, 2015|05:38 pm]
Tim Lieder
1. There's a woman that I met at a New Year's Eve Party a couple years back and she seemed cool and she wrote and it was a fun conversation. So I asked her out. She said yes. Then she canceled. Then I asked her out again. Same story. And then I started reading her FB page and it's practically devoted to her dead boyfriend. He had a congenital heart defect. He died of a heart attack when he was 23. He never made it big as a writer. Or even medium. He should have written poetry. So I pretty much said "fuck that" to the prospect of competing with a dead guy. Apparently she did start dating a guy recently but I don't know how much that is going to happen. Today she mentioned that this dead boyfriend (who has been dead for 7 years) was such a part of her life that she was devastated a couple months after he died when a friend took her aside and told her that she should probably stop talking about the dead boyfriend. So now she is happy to have supportive friends who help to observe his yahrzeit.

But seriously, stop talking about the dead boyfriend. Sure, he was her first love, but all first love goes away. And if he hadn't died, he would have dumped her. Or she would have dumped him. Life would have moved on. Instead she is circling that drain of a good memory followed by a bummer. (Oh I see where this is my issue - even as I am rolling my eyes every time the topic of the dead boyfriend comes up).

2. A friend from high school (we actually weren't friends in high school but we are friends now which is the flip side of social media's main drawback which is finding out how many old friends whom you don't want to talk to) is now currently in a new relationship. I saw that many people were congratulating the both of them, meaning mutual friends and then I realized that all of these people are from my high school and that this friend is dating someone from high school. So all of these people are still in the same place and they might have left but they have been sucked into the same suburb of Saint Paul where they grew up. It just seems weird. I thought that the whole point of high school was to teach students how fucking far they need to get away from that shit and make their own lives in somewhere beyond their place. Now I sometimes feel like the only person who is so perpetually dissatisfied that I had to get away and remake myself. I know there is a Lou Reed song about how Andy Warhol grew up in a small town and the only thing he learned in that small town was to get the fuck away from that small town, but that seems to be it. There are people who have never moved away from their neighborhoods for very long and won't move away.

I thought that I was smug about that, but as I write it, I just feel confused. It's like when I got my invite to the high school reunion, my immediate reaction was who the fuck would want to go to a high school reunion - especially in this era when we can keep up to date with the high school friends that we still like on Facebook - but there were people who went. And I remember the last reunion I attended had people who married other people from high school - because they all kept running into each other at the same bar. I can imagine my teenage self knowing that and feeling the superiority but my adult self just finds it alien.
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Weird Custody Battles on Facebook [Oct. 25th, 2015|02:18 pm]
Tim Lieder
This is the about the best article I could find about the case - http://www.jta.org/2015/01/21/news-opinion/world/beth-alexanders-custody-battle-in-vienna-generating-international-uproar - basically I joined a group called "Reunite Beth with her sons" and at the time I joined it thinking that there were corrupt Chabad rabbis, abusive husbands, etc.

Long story short - women gets divorced and the custody battle is ugly. Husband accuses her for mental illness and tries to have her committed. She accuses him of abuse. The children are stuck in the middle of two parents who claim that the other parent is fucking Norma Bates (or Freddy Krueger).

But today, one of the members of the group who I turned out to be friends with (I think I joined it and he friended me) posted a "call to arms" so to speak against the rabbi who testified at the custody battle. Basically the Chabad is meeting in a big conference and he is stating that we should all complain to Chabad to isolate this rabbi and take away his smicha. Apparently this guy is the brother of Beth and so he's squarely in Beth's corner. And it's one of those things that I wouldn't care about except for the fact that everyone was making very emotional appeals such as "Why would a Vienna Court rip a child out of its mother's arms?" (like they were waiting for her to pick up the kids to take them away) and "we all know that the husband is a psychopath!" and "the children are being raised by NON-JEWS!!!!!!!!"

And that's when I looked up most of the articles about the case and they all seem like they didn't even bother to interview the father who lives in Vienna. Most of the articles are from blogs that want to make it clear that she is totally a fit mother and should have custody, but relying heavily on the xenophobia and mother-centric views of the readers. In essence:
  • She rushed away from a career to marry this guy after knowing him for three months.
  • She claims that he wouldn't let her go to the bathroom after dark
  • Filipino nannies are caring for the boys when the father goes to work
  • She felt isolated in Vienna because she didn't speak German.
  • She cries A LOT, like tons. Like every single news story is about her crying.
  • The father might have lied about her being at a beer festival on Yom Kippur (as in he might have said that or she might have been there - but if you take it at face value, the ex-husband/father made a bold assertion that she was somewhere else on Yom Kippur than in shul and it was contradicted by a witness).
  • The ex-husband tried to have her committed.
  • The Viennese courts found that there was enough evidence of mental illness (which is not bad in itself but if you are not getting treated, it's a problem - yeah I think this is the personal part where being raised by a bipolar mother really did a number on my interactions) to award full custody of the children to the father.
  • Rabbi Biderman (the rabbi who got the "fuck this guy" paragraphs that I read this morning that set me off on looking for more information) stated that the boys seemed healthy and happy in the school that he's running.
  • She claims that the boys are still in diapers, developmentally disabled and their teeth are rotting away.
More problematic is that the people are her side are 100% on her side like there is no reason to step back. And while the ex-husband COULD be the O.J. Simpson psychopath that they claim, he is oddly blank. There is nothing that he did which is egregiously a warning sign stating that he is an abusive shitheel. Sure, if he gave a statement that was off that would be something. If there was actual evidence of abuse beyond he said/she said definitely.

Now I could be wrong. He could be as evil as they claim, but most of the evidence for his evil seems to be things that she stated that if true are more weird than evil (such as forbidding her to go to the bathroom - she is a grown ass woman and there is no way she could have been abused so much in the three months of courtship leading to the marriage that she would follow it. Abuse takes time to wear the abuse victim down and make them think that they can't do any better and that it's just better to follow the abuser's orders so as not to make trouble.) And stating that the rabbi who states the kids are fine is evil, stating that children NEED to be with a mother and claiming that nannies are automatically bad for children is just weird.

Ok, this is one of those personal things - raised by a bipolar mother, normalizing things that should not be normal and seeking out women who would hurt me because that was more "passionate" (having to spend six months with an outright emotionally abusive girlfriend to even see what kind of damage that I was inviting) has made me kind of suspicious of a lot of the discourse being thrown around. On the other hand, I know women going through divorces and I believe them implicitly because i know them and not their terrible ex-husbands and if it was them I would be emotional too.

I don't know.

But it's weirdly one sided and the people making the case are making it among themselves so they don't need to prove to outsiders.
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Books Read in 2015 # 86-88 - When comic books are multi-character magical realism epics [Oct. 20th, 2015|03:07 pm]
Tim Lieder
86.The Children of Palomar by Gilbert Hernandez - So I think if I ever read these old entries, I will have to conclude that this is the year when I decided to read all the Gilbert Hernandez Love & Rockets in hopes of figuring out what was going on. I blame the Luba book which is a huge sprawling epic that does what Gilbert Hernandez dos best - write frankly about sex to the point of porn and then pull back and get serious about some of the underlying tragedy in these characters' lives. But more importantly, his stories all comment on each other and use the same characters in different contexts. Plot threads are left dangling and emotions and events are hinted at from different perspectives. They are picked up by later stories or reference earlier stories and it's all quite beautiful.

This book is a trifle but it's still a sweet trifle. Mostly this book exists to flesh out some of the stories of characters that we already know. You get two feral children running through the village and learn that they are Tonantzin and Diana and they are found by Pipo. A story about a weird experimental site that some of the children stumble upon (with Chelo mounting a rescue) ends with Gato explaining that everyone would see how they died and confusing the listener because he dies in a car accident while Pintar will have a car roll over on him (and Pintar is kind of the main character here which is interesting because he is usually just a presence in other stories, having died long before the events). And the weird baby monster is only visible to women who will never have children of their own (again Tonantzin is featured as she will one day immolate herself).

87.High Soft Lisp by Gilbert Hernandez - Even though Fritzi is the main character in this book, the narrator is often Mark, the self-help guru that she seduces when she's still in high school and who goes through five dysfunctional marriages. In the character of Mark we have a great commentary on how society wants women to be juvenile with Mark constantly berating Fritz about her weight and career, even as he ignores the way that her drinking spirals out of control. He is a strange character who wants Fritz to be his fuckbunny and can't deal with her as a woman with problems. In the last story when he meets her manager/boyfriend he basically cites the man as a sleazebag running her life and does not realize that he's the same kind of sleazebag, especially since his plan was to get her drunk and get her to re-marry him because he wants that old life back. Only she has stopped drinking and doesn't need him, so he wanders off with his delusions and his end in sight. The rest of the book is highlighting Fritz's lonely life as others use her and make her what they want her to be. One husband spent ten years after high school working out and masturbating to her picture and becoming what he thought she wanted even as she was fascinated with his dismissal of her complaints about women needing to look a certain way (as in "you won't date fat guys") and in the epilogue he has become a fat computer programmer (similar to the end of the Three Sisters where Fritz and her sister lose their control and become alcoholic and fat respectively but for that character it feels like he is accepting himself and not trying to be his ideal of her idealized man - we do a lot of stupid shit because we want to be what others want us to be - not really knowing what they want).

There are also some serious gallows humor in this one. The college public access show where a bunch of Halloween costumed college students (including Fritz in a cat suit) spout rightwing rhetoric. And then the main neckbeard realizes that he is going to lose the show so he shoots himself. And then the takeaway is that not even that end Fritz's obsession with guns.

88.Beyond Palomar by Gilbert Hernandez - Children of Palomar is a sweet trifle. This book is a six course meal. There are actually only two stories - Poison River - Luba's "origin story" with Maria running to the states, death squads, gangsters, a husband who runs a transvestite strip club and a complex back story that Luba only stepped into and never quite comprehended. The story ends with Luba moving the Palomar, certain that she would have to flee again at any time (unaware that most of the gangsters and political sleazebags ended up killing each other in her absence). Maricela is born and the picture is idyllic even when you know that Maricella is the abused daughter that leaves Luba and never talks to her again.

And then there's Love and Rockets X which picks up on Maricela's story after she leaves Palomar. Again we get a great deal of performance, with Maricela and Riri having rich inner lives and dynamics even as their lack of English renders them invisible to most of the rest of the cast. This one also has a band calling itself Love & Rockets who claim to be the real Love & Rockets because they got the name first - they got it from a couple of Mexican guys (so yeah that's some serious meta) with the douchebag leader being the love of Fritz's life. This one takes place in 1989 Los Angeles with a multi-racial cast of characters never quite getting the full impact of all the tensions or angst. The ostensible main character is Kris, the Iraqi teenage girl with the eating disorders and the gay screenwriting father (who keeps trying to fuck all of her friends). Characters previously seen in Love & Rockets move in and out of the narrative - including the stoner surfer dude who ends up in Palomar again after failing to impregnate Riri (who laughs at him).

Again I feel woefully inadequate writing about Love & Rockets since my immediate reaction is Holy fuck holy fuck holy fuck you gotta read this - I mean it's so fucking cool and these are all amazing characters and no one is a stereotype or lazy and the more the authors revisit the same time periods the more we get out of it. But yeah, Love & Rockets is fucking amazing. Just fucking read them all.
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More love letters from Facebook [Oct. 20th, 2015|11:16 am]
Tim Lieder
This one comes from Steve Schachman who wrote something really racist on a comment thread that was already racist (one declaring that in 1947 all the Arabs wanted to kill all the Jews - so good news Iraqi, Syrian, Libyan, Lebanese and other Sephardic Jews - you don't exist. The evil Arabs killed you all. So you don't have to deal with the indignity of hearing about your family getting kicked out of those countries in 1967) and I called him a stupid cunt who had no reason to be proud of his ancestry or anyone dumb enough to be his descendants.

Apparently he's a Jewish boxing instructor in San Francisco so that probably drives him crazy enough to make statements like All Arabs are evil and Kahane was the only one who knew how to handle these people.

Anyhow Steve Schachman wrote
You're mother is a sick cunt you coward loser! You're entire family should go live in Gaza you Jewish antisemite. Fuck you're entire family you piece of shit, go live in Gaza with your fellow animals
Poor dumb Steve Schachman (his name is actually close to the name of a shitty landlord I once had to deal with), doesn't even know how to use a fucking apostrophe. Poor Poor stupid Steve Schachman, I wonder if he googles himself.

Obviously, if one does NOT believe that killing all the Arabs (or kicking them out) that means that you are anti-Semitic and Steve Schachman wants you to go to Gaza, which was fucked internally and externally.

But fucking hell, this repetition of they just hate us is being used way too often, not by Steven Schachman who is just racist, but by other people who think that the only reason there are attacks in Israel is because of "incitement" and confusion over the Temple Mount and please pay no attention to the fact that there are millions of people within the Israeli borders who have been promised equal rights (one state) or sovereignty (two state) and have not gotten shit for almost 50 years. And yeah, I am a Zionist and an Orthodox Jew and I get that there is context. I have supported a lot of questionable decisions by Israel and I have been pissed many times over exaggerations and blanket condemnations of Israel. Don't fucking throw around words like genocide or ethnic cleansing for anything that Israel does, but this shit, this stupid shit is too much.

I suppose I react to things. Say bullshit about Israel that borders on antisemitic and I call you on it. Say bullshit about how all Arabs are just evil like stupid Steve Schachman the boxer from San Francisco and I react to it.

People are fucking assholes.
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Books Read in 2015 # 85 - The greatest science fiction anthology of 2015 (ok I'm biased here). [Oct. 18th, 2015|01:26 am]
Tim Lieder
85.Daughters of Frankenstein: Lesbian Mad Scientists, edited by Steve Berman - Ok. I have a story in this anthology. I have been talking about my story in this anthology for a long time, but I just cashed the check so this anthology just paid my electric bill. What makes being in this anthology so great is not just the fact that it's a welcome relief from heternormative narratives but also it's a story that I wrote in a month purely for this anthology and sent it off with a couple of revisions. And then realized that I had named the protagonist of "The Moorehead Maze Experiment" (which I like to refer to as "Like the Stanford Prison Experiment but funnier" - the -er on the last word having only garnered the disapproval of one particularly unpleasant person - everyone else pretty much gets the gallows' humor) after a couple of friends. And thankfully they were quite fine with it. Also Publishers Weekly claimed that the lesbianism was tacked on and that it was unsatisfactory so fuck you PW. Also Elana Adler and Sharon are an old married couple at the time of the fake documentary that I'm transcribing so it's not like I'm going to have them fingering each other over the kitchen counter like in Gemma Files' story.

And that brings me to praising everyone else in the anthology. These are great stories. These are fucking amazing stories. If you want to start a Hugo Slate (and who doesn't want to start a Hugo Slate) called Gay Puppies, start with this book. "Imaginary Beauties: A Lurid Melodrama" by Gemma Files is a story that rocked hard about a couple who decides to fund her research into regeneration by selling her sample pills on the street and then running afoul of the local drug dealers. Sure, when I describe it like that, you kind of know that there is going to be a zombie story but it's a wild sexy ride all the way through.

"Preserving the Integrity of the Feminine Mystique" is a very Wodehouse inspired story complete with miscommunication, invitations to parties and purposefully fake marriage proposals. There are also secret identities and delightfully droll writing styles.

I could go on just praising everyone and writing the longest livejournal entry I've ever written but I think I'll just stop with Tracy Canfield's "Meddling Kids" which is a great Scooby Doo parody that manages to bring out what everyone loved about Scooby Doo.
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Posting it here because I just don't want to talk about it on Facebook [Oct. 18th, 2015|12:18 am]
Tim Lieder
Oh hey, look Israel. How's it been going? Lots of random Jews getting stabbed on the street? Babies being stabbed and teenagers stabbing teenagers. Drive-by shooting happens at the beginning of the High Holidays and now Jerusalem is full of stabbing and everyone is scared. And now I have even more friends in Israel and so I worry about them. And out come the "kill them all" crowd and I can be sympathetic. Hell, "kill them all" is just one of many terrible solutions when people want to have simple solutions to complicated problems. Hell, one of the reasons why I went through a Kahane phase was because for all his racist bullshit, he did have one thing over the average Israeli pundit which was the fact that he didn't seem to think that if you ignore the problem it will go away. And he was not prone to viewing Palestinians as misbehaving children who could be placated with cookies and milk (with the obvious frustration when the cookies and milk gambit did not work). And there's a lot of frustration and anger on both sides. I get all that.

But fucking hell, 80% of the FB feed from my Zionist friends seems to focus on the Temple Mount. It's like they locked onto one thing that is true (Palestinians are very unhappy when it comes to possible restrictions on their holy site) and blew it up to something that could have some truth (Palestinians want to keep Jews from building the Third Temple) and fucking kept repeating it until it becomes a de facto straw man argument (Palestinians are ONLY concerned with Al-Aqsa Mosque and that's the ONLY reason why there is violence - pay no attention to the Settlers behind the curtain).

So now I am seeing "Palestinians are all wrong about the Temple Mount" posts all over FB with some articles going "Let's not pretend that it's anything else" as if there are no other reasons why Palestinians would be pissed off, frustrated and generally pretty cool with their psychopaths than everyone freaking out over the Temple Mount. In essence, they are saying that Israelis are justified over everything and that Palestinians are just religious fanatics.

And of course, there is the "moderate" position where people are writing "Don't talk about the underlying issues behind this current rash of stabbings. We are all too mad for that" and yeah, that SOUNDS rational, but somehow it sounds way too much like the standards NRA party line of "we find it really troubling that everyone is talking about us when everyone is way too emotional" after every massacre (or the sarcastic headline about Syrian refugees "We have to help our own first, says man who never helps anyone").

I'm just frustrated. And I know that soon I will see many people posting articles about how Israel is just genocidal and irrational and full or religious fanatics. But right now, Palestinians are being treated like misbehaving children who are freaking out over letting the Jews play in their al aqsa playground while their leaders are inciting them. I don't buy that narrative and I don't know how much I can continue to respect people who seem to believe it implicitly.
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Books Read in 2015 # 83 & 84 - Historical Fiction [Oct. 7th, 2015|12:24 am]
Tim Lieder
83.Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott - One of the constant questions of fiction is how much can you write about people outside of your particular cultural identity with honesty. With recent movements in criticism like RaceFail and advocacy multicultural literature, there is less patience with lazy stereotypes and token characters. In one particularly stupid viewpoint (advocated by Requires Hate/BS/Vanesa the Criminally Negligent Hotel Manager and Tumblr Freshmen) no one has a right to write about anyone but their own culture and while that's ridiculous, I do find more sympathy for the viewpoint when I am reading a comic like Nexus and the author references the character Judah being a Jewish convert and then after many months of not referencing his Judaism has a "funny" scene where he is fighting with vampires and the only thing he believes in enough to repulse vampires is money. Seriously, sonofabitch motherfuckers wrote that shit. Should it really be so difficult these days to avoid money grubbing Jews, "exotic" Engrish speaking Asians who bow all the time, black characters who speak like Stepin Fetchitt and gay characters who are only defined by whom they fuck? We have the internet these days. And I suspect that Mike Baron and Steve Rude met one or two Jewish people before they started writing Judah the Hammer.

So Ivanhoe. I don't know many Jews who were writing secular literature in the 19th century. The most exciting Jewish literature from that time was coming out of Chasidic stories like Nachman of Breslov whose stories symbolize something but the fuck if I know what it's about. The earliest Yiddish secular literature comes in the late 19th century. There are also Jewish folktales - some are copies of Grimm Fairy Tales but others are quite fascinating in their own right - but for the most part we get Isaac the Jew of York (I have taken to calling my friends named Isaac this) who is a wimpy scared Jew who is always getting robbed and his daughter Rebecca, the Jewish doctor who makes every man fall in love with her because she's got mad medical skills. Oh sure, there's also the Knights Templar and Robin Hood and Richard the Lionhearted both in disguise, but really I'm focusing on the Jews, because Isaac gets shit on every opportunities the goys get which kind of explains why he's so nervous and freaked out even if he says some howlers like telling Rebecca that it's forbidden to deal with non-Jews. Rebecca is more interesting and while she does function in the plot to save Ivanhoe and then get rescued in a trial by combat (which is a weird trial by combat since the Templar that kidnaps her and is roped into fighting against her just dies when he's first hit).

Mostly, I was surprised that I liked this book. There's a definite value to reading classics but an even better value to waiting to read the classics that have a reputation for being boring since that means that you need to have the patience to read these kinds of books - a patience that is transferred away from the patience that you have for the Piers Anthony books that you will one day grow to hate.

84. Crime Does Not Pay vol 9 by Charles Biro - Most of these stories are true but they do seem formulaic regardless. Criminals go on crime sprees and then they die. There's a Bonnie & Clyde story in there as well as a few 19th century settler murderers. There's a Lepke story and a story of the Benders who ran a Bed & Breakfast and killed all the guests. Lurid 1950s pulp writing was not subtle but it is definitely got a great spirit.
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Books Read in 2015 # 81-82 - Funny Picture Books [Oct. 4th, 2015|12:13 am]
Tim Lieder
81.Step Aside, Pops: A Hark! A Vagrant collection by Kate Beaton - I bought this one as soon as it came out. I actually pre-ordered it on Amazon. Yeah, I love this comic. Hell go to http://www.harkavagrant.com/ and enjoy it for yourself. It's actually pretty hard to write a review of a book that you loved since how many ways are you going to say how awesome it felt reading it? And since this is a blog, I tend to let my personal opinions work in concert with these reviews. I imagine that if I got paid to write a review of this book, I would say something like Kate Beaton cements her place as one of the shining lights of nerd humor, up there with The Onion and XKCD. With an eye for absurdity and a broad knowledge of history and literature. So there's the blurb.

Beyond that, I wish there was more Wuthering Heights. I love that book and I can see that she would want to do other things, but damn, her Wuthering Heights stuff was so funny (even the one-off joke where Katherine and Heathcliff smash up the Darcy picnic).

82.Buddy Buys a Dump by Peter Bagge - Somehow without warning, you realize that you're an adult. There are certain signs that just start adding up - both good and bad. You get more choosy about your friends. You stop just going over to hang out with any friends. You have responsibilities. You feel like a failure and you accept it. If you ask your friend to watch your cats while you go home to Minnesota for a week, you expect that's what is going to happen and if this friend never comes over, you will judge this friend as an irresponsible shithead - no matter how much you still like him - ever on.

So this is the third volume in the Buddy series - or the sequel to the Hate comics with yearly installments in which Buddy has gotten married to Lisa and is working at that nostalgia shop with his old friend Jay (who has been around since Meet the Bradleys with the story about Buddy going out of his way to go to what he thought was a great party but turned out to be just three people sitting around) and trying to figure out his life. Many of the stories are about picking up the refuse of the previous stories including trying to figure out what to do with Stinky's bones, Lisa trying to get a hobby or even just a rock band and dealing with children. The book ends with Bagge's libertarian bias coming through as Buddy dealing with city council declaring the hole in the back of the dump as wetlands. Lisa moves back to Seattle to deal with her dying parents and Butch is going on about future race wars (don't we all have those stupid relatives). This is a surprisingly mature counterpart to the rest of the Hate comics which were quite vicious in their depiction of the young adult lifestyle of kicking around and living with too many roommates and not trusting many of your friends. As your dumb friends fall away (while some stay around), you can't shake your family.

It's also funny in that Bagge way. Although now I am thinking that maybe someone will actually find Stinky's body already.
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Books read in 2015 # 79-80 - Sympathy for the Losers [Oct. 3rd, 2015|11:16 pm]
Tim Lieder
79. A Little in Love by Susan Fletcher - This is a YA book about Eponine from Les Miserables. Basically, it's her story and while I had "On My Own" playing in my head throughout the reading of the book and I found it much better than expected, it is still a book about a character that pretty much functions to die tragically and prove just how much the love story at the end of Les Miserables is meaningful. It is quite sweet and you really do love Eponine when reading this book. She does go through hell and the author does have to explain how the daughter of the asshole innkeeper grows up to be all right and rather moral and that happens quite nicely. I don't know what else there really is to say about this book. It's just one of those books that I will remember reading if I ever decide to look at this entry again.

80. The New Defenders vol. 1 by J.M. Dematteis et al - I tend to resist arguments about comic book characters being interesting or boring since these are characters who go through many hands and there are a lot of characters who may just seem boring because they have gone through so many inept hands that everyone has given up on ever getting a decent story out of them. Or people are just exhausted with one depiction. Batman was considered pretty dull before Frank Miller and Superman was boring up until they killed him and then somehow fun Superman stories starting coming out. Still, there are some comic book characters who fit the Red Letter Media condemnation of Phantom Menace, ie. if you were forced to describe them without their superpower or their looks or their function in the story, you would be lost. This book gives us some of the most boring Marvel characters - the three original X-Men who aren't Cyclops or Jean Grey, some bald woman who is supposed to be reformed, one of those Asgardian characters and some guy who looks like a gargoyle (that might be his name). What makes it worse is the fact that they replaced the original Defenders who are made up of the cool Marvel characters - Silver Surfer, Dr. Strange, Hulk and Prince Namor - the ones who are too weird to sell to the 12-year old boy demographic but should always have their own titles. There's a bullshit story about how the original team would piss off the wrong aliens and get earth in the cross-hairs of a nasty alien empire so they have to break up. But does it matter since they just get replaced by Beast, Angel and Ice Man(? - is that his name -?).

I suppose I could talk about those plots, but besides some bullshit about some super Patriot trying to avenge himself on Professor X, I don't remember them. And I can't even look at the book to find out. Way too fucking boring.
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This is the kind of bullshit that we are up against [Sep. 30th, 2015|01:43 am]
Tim Lieder
Erica Wilson is someone who wrote to me on Facebook and then blocked me. She really wanted to let me know that I was wrong about gay marriage in the most logical way possible. So I cede my blog to her -
Just read the comments on these Christian videos. it is not something I made up. homosexuals want to kill Christians. voice your opinion on on anything related to homosexuality and see how barbaric homosexuals and their supporters can be, Kim Davis has been getting death threats from this group. Homosexuals threatened to burn a Catholic church down because of a sign they had supporting marriage between a man and a woman, Homosexuals have the same mentality as those from radical Islam.
What's odd is the fact that she does not identify me as a supporter of homosexuals. I obviously said something critical of her bullshit videos. Or a bullshit video that she endorses.

And yet Erica Wilson will have me believe that there is a roving pack of Homosexual Terrorists just waiting to burn down every Christian institution in the world because they don't like homosexuality. Of course, she made sure to bring in ISIS - ok just kidding - she believes that all Muslims are also ready to kill all Christians. What a sad and scary life Erica Wilson must live.

But what's particularly disturbing about Erica Wilson's viewpoint is just what she is doing with it. She is trying to say that there are homosexuals who are going to burn down churches and kill Kim Davis with the implication - UNLESS WE KILL THEM FIRST. That's pretty much the justification for every act of terrorism from Hamas to the KKK. It's not just "we're dirt poor and shitty human beings" it's also "THEY are trying to kill us, so we have to kill them first and if that means blowing them up in their religious institutions and diners, so be it."

So yeah, Erica Wilson is a stupid woman but she's the kind of stupid woman who provides moral justification for murdering homosexuals and Muslims.
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Books read in 2015 # 78 - Poor Tonantzin [Sep. 22nd, 2015|10:54 am]
Tim Lieder
78. Human Diastrophism by Gilbert Hernandez - This is the book where the Gabriel Garcia Marquez influence comes out strongest as the main story Human Diastrophism has multi-generational fighting, the passage of time, evil monkeys and tragedies that hit almost all at once. Tonantzin has gone from the party girl of the village to a politically obsessed woman whose grip on reality is unraveling. Luba is abusing her children, particularly the oldest one and there's a serial killer stalking the village. The serial killer is actually the weakest part of the story since he kills people (or attempts to kill people) who don't really have much to do with the main characters. Instead he's like the Jeff Goldblum character from Nashville, just going through the village and letting everyone else play off of him. So when Chelo shoots Casmira's arm off and the killer is caught and Luba's oldest daughter leaves home - first troubled but then happy - it all comes into focus. Tonantzin setting herself on fire is depicted by the douchey photographer from a previous story (the one who wanted pictures of the Palomar citizens in rags and ugly for "realism") ignoring his girlfriend in New York as she watches it on television.

The rest of the book connects Luba's Palomar stories with the Los Angeles stories between her family and her sisters. Her mother shows up and there are mobsters involved as well as Gorgo the mobster who protects all descendants of Luba's mother (and seems notoriously hard to kill). Petra and Fritz are introduced in a story where they are neglected children and Fritz has every reason to think that Petra has died on the kitchen floor. To speak of this book in a blog post does not do it justice, but it will take years and many academic papers to fully unpack all the wonders of this series.
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Daughters of Frankenstein was reviewed in Kirkus!!!! [Sep. 16th, 2015|07:06 pm]
Tim Lieder

Also my story is mentioned. Not praised, but mentioned. The ultimate takeaway is
Standouts include a Lovecraft-evoking but ultimately intimate submission from Claire Humphrey (“This is Salem at its oldest and spookiest: cold fog off the ocean, daylight dimming early, gables and gambrels looming at odd angles.” [59]) and a wonderfully original piece by Romie Stott about a girl trapped by her father in a Faberge egg during the Bolshevik Revolution. A few fall flat, but they are in the minority, and the freshness of the voices outweighs the occasional lack of polish. The result is a rare combination of subverted gender norms and nostalgic pulp: sometimes provocative and generally fun. While the anthology’s theme may sound niche, the reading experience argues the opposite. Short fiction fans of all stripes will find much to compel them (and to scare, excite, arouse, and amuse them, as well).

So way to go, Romie!
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Grimdark Language or the limits of "Nice Bird, Asshole!" [Sep. 16th, 2015|10:47 am]
Tim Lieder
I am reading a fantasy book right now by Richard K. Morgan and for the most part I am enjoying the book. The plot is complicated and the characters are mostly compelling. The magic is pretty evil. But the language is pulling me out of the story every time. And mostly it's the profanity which is practically announcing "Hey guys! This fantasy book may take place in another era with barbarians and warfare that seems cool because the histories of the middle ages were written by the winners who totally dug sending armies against each other as opposed to the poor shmucks who lost their homes and families and lives but I'm totally writing it in the 21st century."

While language is fluid and we all get that in a fantasy novel they are speaking a language that is being "translated" by the author, it gets really obnoxious when one of the characters is going "I'm going to kill you, Faggot!" and there are only so many times that the Steppe barbarians can say "Fuck you" or "well that's bullshit" before it gets grating. This is similar to the phenomenon that Mamatas called the Teenage Boy syndrome where every character from 70-year old Tibetan monks to Victorian Suffragettes are going "That sucks!" or "Shut up, bitch!"

Granted, in a fantasy setting you can have people speaking however they want and no one wants to read the tortured prose that was so prevalent in earlier fantasy books which apparently comes from Victorian translations of the medieval poetry that jumpstarted the fantasy genre (as well as fascination in King Arthur). I love Evangeline Walton but I almost gave up on her because she was so stylistically Victorian. Furthermore, as the title suggests, one of my favorite scenes in a fantasy book comes from scott_lynch following up a long and serious flashback about how you do NOT piss off the bondsmages with an insult to the first bondsmage he sees. It's ballsy and glib and hilarious (and also part of a death wish). I doubt it would have worked if he didn't write it as "nice bird asshole."

But over the long haul, the insults and profanity can be just as overused as the thous and the thees and ornate sentences were overused in the early 20th century. I am wondering why a fierce and trained warrior (and one who is capable of beating our hero) is talking like a frat boy. More curious is why "faggot" is an insult in this world. Is the protagonist gay? Is it just something people say to each other? Since most of what I've seen of this world (and I admit that I am reading the third book in a trilogy so there may be more background information elsewhere) is warrior culture material, I am even more confused as to why homosexuality is taboo enough to be used as an insult.

The author is not so much using these insults without context, but using the context of 21st century western culture as a common ground in which to use the insults. The mistake here is thinking that you can just transfer them over and that everyone should accept that this culture has the same taboos and issues (even though it is a barbarian warrior culture with death gods and swords) as the modern world. But profanity is much more complicated than that; in fact, our culture dictates our profanity and how we perceive the users of such.

For example, most of the ways we describe forbidden words come from religious contexts - swearing and profanity both once had very clear meanings that no longer hold as much power. If you swear an oath and don't keep it, then you are a jerk but you aren't trampling over G-d's law (and in Gemara there are long discussions on how to avoid getting anyone to swear oaths or vows since once someone swears they are bound to their word and if it turns out to be false the whole convention caves in). And profanity means that you are fucking over a sacred rite. You can also watch George Carlin's Seven Words bit for the evolution of words like fuck which were once neutral but we kept putting so much anger behind it that it became the worse.

Same goes with ethnic slurs and insults involving sexuality. These are all culturally based and even if you don't buy Michel Foucault's thesis that we constructed sexuality when we created a language for it (forgive me if I got that wrong), you must get that calling someone a faggot (in order to mean homosexual - apparently there were different meanings in different eras) comes from centuries of institutionalized and religiously codified homophobia. In other spaces, we have ethnic slurs like Wop or Mick which no longer have the power that they had to hurt and insult because they are not built upon a foundation of anti-Italian or anti-Irish prejudice. You can call your Italian friend a Wop Dago Guinea Bastard and the only part of that phrase that has the possibility of causing offense is bastard and even that is based on the belief that people need to be married to have children. Go back in time and tell it to your friend's Italian great grandfather and he's going to fuck you up. Go back even further in time to his great great grandfather getting off the boat and he is going to swallow that anger and comply with your slur because he doesn't want to fuck things up for himself.

And if you read the Bible in any decent translation you will see "uncircumcised" being hurled around as an insult. This is not an insult we use today because frankly it's confusing. If I were to refer to Chad the Uncircumcised you might not get that I'm insulting Chad as a rank barbarian from one of those places where they don't have to deal with sand under their foreskins. Instead you would go "so he's from Europe?" or assume that I fucked Chad at some point and that I really have no sense of decorum.

So at heart, my objection to the profanity in a fantasy novel is really about lazy world building. I am not asking for a Deadwood style language class but in any world building the profanities should be acknowledged as part of a particular place and time. Faggot is not a universal insult. Words like whore, asshole, chicken fucker, etc. are about taboos in our society. While the reader might want the comforts of familiarity in an unfamiliar world, there needs to be a balance between 21st century profanity and the fantasy world's profanity. Ideally, an author should figure out the taboos of the society that they are creating in order to come up with profanity that makes sense to that world. If the author establishes that the world is one where magic is feared and gods like to possess dead people in order to give orders to the protagonist about his fate, beings live for thousands of years, etc. these elements should be reflected in the profanity. Temple Smasher, Food Waster, Goat Thief, Glyph Spitter can all be powerful profanities within the particular world (and hell, remember how you started saying grok after reading Stranger in a Strange Land? It doesn't take much to sell a language tweek). And if the author insists on using the word "faggot" at least lay some groundwork as to the sexual nature of anyone in the book. Because a book about manly men being all manly seems like it should be based in a milieu that not only tolerates homosexuality but encourages it.
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Books read in 2015 # 75-77 - Gilbert Hernandez takes over my weekend [Sep. 15th, 2015|11:39 pm]
Tim Lieder
75. Heartbreak Soup by Gilbert Hernandez - Ok, here's the deal. I read Luba and I forgot who most of these people were. Obviously I remember Luba but her sisters were new characters and her daughters were much less distinct. Also Pipo seemed a lot more important than I was figuring out. I have always been advocating reading Love & Rockets in whatever order you find them, but with Luba there is an entire sequel to a complicated multi-character epic that I can only begin to figure out. So Heartbreak Soup is one of the several comics that I put on hold because of trying to figure out Luba. The interesting thing about this book is that even though it's the first book in the Gilbert run, it has his trademark mixture of funny sex comedy, whacky characters and some of the most heartbreaking tragedy you can put in a book. Jaime took at least a book's worth of material before he settled into the HOPPERS gang stories. The title story gives us Manuel and Soledad, two friends (maybe lovers) who end up estranged over Pipo after Manuel seduces her (or is seduced by Pipo) with several characters who would make up future stories as kids. Much of the rest of the book is dedicated to the travails of Luba and Heraclio with everyone else showing up for their individual stories (including Jesus going to jail and Israel running off to have a great gay love affair). People die and they show up in stories in different time frames. Toco is the kid who dies (of laughter or the cough) in Heartbreak Soup and immediately there is a Toco story afterwards. And at the end of this book there is the story where Tonantzin is kidnapped and becomes a fanatic. That is the one note I don't really get. I think it's probably because I love Human Diastrophism (the story - reading the collection now) so much that I wish that there was a much more compelling reason for switching her character from the flighty weird girl who has sex with everyone to the religious fanatic who is getting steadily more disturbed. I wish there was more foreshadowing of her mental state. Granted this started out as a monthly comic book so it's very possible that Gilbert Hernandez decided at one point to make her into an extremist and flipped the switch - and unlike novels you can't go back and rewrite the early stuff to make things work.

76.Julio's Day by Gilbert Hernandez - This is one of those books that proves the value of graphic novels as an art form. The artwork is spare and compelling. The hundred pages tell of a lifetime and the character of Julio is a complicated and warm character - closeted homosexual born in 1900 and dying in 2000 - who builds a life that most think is lonely (and is lonely - especially since his love for Tommy is never outright stated as love until Tommy dies). There's also a disgusting "blue worm" story going through the book where Julio's father and then his brother die of the infection full of worms coming out of holes in a face, bloating and face explosion. There's also the creepy uncle and the people who break on the realities of life. Beautiful stuff all around.

77.Grip: The Strange World of Men by Gilbert Hernandez - What the hell was that? One of the interesting things about Gilbert is that he's very eager to just fuck things up. There are a lot of Love & Rocket stories which he inserts into the overarching story as "movies" starring his characters or the "true story" behind the movies. I don't think this one ties into Love & Rockets, but damn it's creepy. How many stories about men with lost memories are going to give you the plot twist of his body and his skin separating? And then there are cults and secret organizations to go along with it. Actually I feel reluctant to say anything more about this book beyond the fact that the main characters' SKIN AND FLESH SEPARATE AND GO THEIR SEPARATE WAYS because that's just fucked up already and I kind of spoiled the third chapter. But damn, Gilbert Hernandez can do beautiful understated books about life and death. And sometimes he does truly fucked up shit.
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Books Read in 2015 # 72-74 - Nostalgia Revisited [Sep. 13th, 2015|12:16 am]
Tim Lieder
72. Batman Legends of the Dark Knight, vol 3 - What the hell happened to Peter Milligan? I suppose if I read the Vertigo Shade the Changing Man I might discover that he didn't change after all, and it's another Frank Miller scenario where I just got sick of the bullshit, but I distinctly remember Shade being a cool trippy book about identity and alternative universes and whacky painful shit. I also remember losing interest and then really starting to hate the book. Since the original Shade I have briefly returned to read Peter Milligan books with increasing disappointment. Even though I only read one story in this collection and in the next one I'm reviewing, they were both the worst stories of the collections. In this one, he's writing a fairly lazy retread of the Dark Knight Rising plot with Batman losing all his money because of Ra'zal Ghul fucking with his company. So Batman decides to strip down to the guy running around beating people up that he always knew he could be. My favorite story was the one of the born loser who keeps screwing up and ends up as Penguin's catspaw to kill Batman. There's a long story about priests and Two Face not being the killer but being pretty ok with killing people anyhow. I do like the Paul Jenkins story where multiple perspectives try to figure out what was going on when Batman saved people from a villain who was going to blow them up.

73. Adventures of Superman vol 3 - In this comic, Peter Milligan's terrible story has Superman dressing up like another costumed vigilante and going around and actually putting the villains in hospitals. While this is a throwback to the Superman has a conflicted identity stories of the Silver Age, it is still fucking stupid. Not even giving him a Red Kryptonite excuse either makes it more stupid. But this one also has much better stories including one about a guilt-ridden Green Lantern and Jor-El's robot who Superman can sort of consider to be a brother. Max Landis gets a chance to pen a Superman story (kind of like with Kevin Smith was writing Daredevil) and he uses it to have Superman confront Joker who keeps changing throughout. It also kind of explains why Batman and Superman don't tend to mix villains. Oh sure Lex Luther bought out Gotham at one point and there was a point where Joke got Mxlplxtk powers but for the most part, they are distinctive characters with distinctive villains. So when Superman is confronted with the Joker, not only does he figure out where all the bombs are located and disables them, he actually laughs at the Joker's weird dad jokes. Oh sure, Batman was putting the Joker up to it and that puts a strain on their friendship but still there's a great deal of dorkiness in the tale. Most of the stories in this series shows just how much more interesting Superman has gotten since Batman. Batman is the dark brooding guy and while that was cool in the 80s, it is getting played out. With Superman you got to ultra-powerful dork who chooses to be an utter nerd when he disguises himself as human and believes in people. In some eras, Superman is a cheesy American propaganda whereas Batman is the real face of poverty, but in other points Superman is the genuinely decent person and Batman is a sociopath.

74. Buddy Does Seattle by Peter Bagge - I don't miss much about my 20s. Most of that decade was spent in self-doubt and confusion. I entered my 20s as a smirking asshole who was trying to become a Wiccan and I left my twenties as a broken-hearted shell of my former self who was attempting to embrace religious fanaticism as a way of getting over heartbreak (I mean at least I found the right religion but I was really being an asshole about it) and hate myself - under the rubric of hating my former self. But I still had fun. I had a long term girlfriend that I thought I would marry. For at least half of the time I was really skinny without effort. And the main thing I miss about being in my 20s was the hang out culture. At any point, I could just drop over to my friends' apartments and just hang out. It doesn't feel that way now. Yeah, I have friends and yeah, I love Shabbos and seeing my friends, but the notion that I could just go over to an apartment and hang out on the couch and just wait for things to happen or nothing to happen but I can still read books or listen to their latest compositions. And it was weirdly easy to both get laid and completely fuck that up for all time (note to Tim at 19 - telling a girl that you like her so much that she's the only one you think about when you masturbate is NOT romantic! No matter how complimentary you think you are being, it's not going to be read that way).

And one of my favorite comics had to be Hate where Buddy managed to fuck and drink his way through a very acerbic take on Seattle. Hell, I even loved the shout-out to Minneapolis as the Dyke Feminist Capital of the U.S. (it was the one U.S. city that almost passed the Dworkin/MacKinnon anti-porn laws). Even though there were dozens of semi-autobiographical comics at the time, the whacked out googly eyed faces of Buddy, Lisa and Valerie with Stinky perpetually on the make and George as the conspiracy theorist who writes a manifesto against Buddy as the angry white guy loser that Buddy wants to respond to but can't really dispute. There's also the band manager gigs that don't go anywhere and the shitty jobs like working in a book store or trying to make money off of collecting in a way that is funny and crazy. The book Generation X tried to explore these themes and failed to be all that interesting since why read a book about it when you can catch the live show at your local coffeehouse (same kind of went for Slacker but Slacker has its stoner charms). I don't know if I want to read the latter half of the series where Buddy moves back to New Jersey and keeps ending up with Lisa. Valerie and George getting together almost seems like a healthy choice instead of a "we're running out of combinations" move comparatively speaking. I do have the latest book where Bagge re-visited Buddy every year (with a story about digging up Stinky's bones) but the original Hate run is still wonderful in its own way.
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