looking at screens

March 4th, 2009 | Uncategorized

Sorry I’ve been AWOL again. I finished my review for the NYT Book Review*. My excuse now is that I’ve gotten an iPhone.

little screen2

In fact, the moment I left the store with it on Saturday, I sat down on a bench and got online to catch up on what you were all talking about here. (Kathleen Sebelius to Finlandia! Nice segue.) And as I sat there peering at my little screen, I was severely chastened to find Steph’s comment quoting Lamar Van Dyke in the final paragraph of Ariel Levy’s New Yorker article Lesbian Nation.

“‘Your generation wants to fit in,’ she told me, for the second time. ‘Gays in the military and gay marriage? This is what you guys have come up with?’ There was no contempt in her voice; it was something else – an almost incredulous maternal disappointment. ‘We didn’t sit around looking at our phone or looking at our computer or looking at the television – we didn’t sit around looking at screens,’ she said. ‘We didn’t wait for a screen to give us a signal to do something. We were off doing whatever we wanted.’”

Well, dang.

What if what I want to do is sit on a bench in a mall looking at the tiny screen of my phone?

Even though on the whole I thought Levy’s piece was pretty good considering its context, I thought Alex K’s comment was right on target.

Goddammit, Levy! Stop looking over your shoulder nervously to make sure you haven’t lost your ex-fratboy NEW YORKER reading audience! Stop throwing them suck-ass, favour-currying turns of phrase to reassure them that they won’t be seriously confronted!

That’s about all I have to say right now. I have to get back to Nanosaur 2.

*I think it’ll be in this Sunday’s issue. Or else the next one.

110 Responses to “looking at screens”

  1. indigirl says:

    am i the first?!

    you haven’t been awol that long. especially considering there was a new iphone involved… 😉

    & we’ve come up w/ a lot more than just gays in the military & gay marriage!

  2. Kate L says:

    I’m the second! 🙂 Hey, A.B., can you take photos with an iPhone? I keep imagining you holding up your computer and taking the pictures you post here with that! We’re going to miss Sebelius out here on the Great Plains. The old boys of local politics breathed a sigh of relief to see her head off to Washington.

    I gave my “Fighting Hegemony in the Outer Solar System” talk today in class. A few years ago, a team of astronomers discovered an object larger than Pluto in the outer solar system, about twice as far from the Sun as Pluto is. They wanted to name it Xena, and its smaller moon Gabrielle. The patriarchs at the International Astronomical Association not only refused the names, the did not even want to credit Xena with being a planet! By doing so, the IAA also ended the possibility that the largest asteroid, Ceres (named for the ancient Greek goddess of agriculture) would also get elevated to planetary status. AND, they demoted Pluto from being the ninth planet to being a “minor or dwarf” planet! The team that found Planet Xena retaliated, though. They named the larger object Eris, after the ancient Greek goddess of strife and discord, and its moon they named Dysnomia (daughter of Eris, and a name meaning “Lawless” as in Lucy Lawless).

  3. jfruh says:

    Is it churlish to note that, at the time that she said that line about screens, Lamar Van Dyke was working for Speakeasy, an Internet service provider?

  4. Diana says:

    Ariel Levy has a point, just not one completely thought out. Yes, there is an addictive passivity to today’s modes of communication and info dump. However, that will in turn lead to new forms of action. You’re quite right to point out that sitting and reading your iPhone or laptop CAN be doing something.
    Quick update: I’m teaching graphic novel again. This time our memoir text is Diary of a Teenage Girl. last time we sued Fun Home, this time it’s a recommended second read.

  5. Diana says:

    Sorry, that should be USED Fun Home, not sued. I’m afraid that for a teacher I’m not a particularly good typost.

  6. ravaj says:

    On the other hand, there are plenty of activists who use the portable versions of new connectivity to help gather and organise people on very short notice. This adds speed to responses and I think it is a good thing. 🙂

  7. Ellen O. says:

    I’m pretty into my iPod Touch, which is an immature iPhone or an iPod on steroids, take your pick. The Touch can’t take pictures, make phone calls, or monitor my heart rate, but it is still pretty cool.

    It’s been decades since the Walkman came on the scene, yet this is the first time I’ve had portable music (and photos and internet and email) I like listening to music on my walk home from the bus stop. A little Aaron Neville or Missy Higgins helps me transition. Also like podcasts on bus rides because I can’t read in a moving bus.

  8. Ready2Agitate says:

    (ahem, you DO mean your Walkmate, right Ellen? 😉 )

  9. Ellen O. says:

    The line that struck me was “We were off doing whatever we wanted.”

    I haven’t read the article yet, but there’s an underlying message of hyper-individuality in that last line (whether true in the Van Dykes real life or not) that sounds either quaint or irresponsible to me. I feel beholden to a larger community, both locally and globally.

    I also don’t know how people afford to do whatever they want and still earn a living. Maybe they forgo medical expenses and insurance and keep their fingers crossed they won’t need it.. Maybe they were just young and slept on floors and couches and lived off the kindness of others. Maybe life was cheaper and simpler then. Or maybe she just remembers it that way.

  10. Janine says:

    Uh oh. Alison is turning into Sydney. What’s next, eh? 57-inch big screen LCD television with blu-ray dvd player and surround sound? Eh? EH?? =)

  11. Jessica Bessica says:

    @ Diana: I’ve taught graphic novels a number of times in my secondary english classes. what level are you teaching? I’d love to know more about your curriculum.

  12. ladiesbane says:

    Diana mentioned “addictive passivity”, and my hope is that hand-sized computers (why call it a phone?) will cause people to become bored more quickly…hopefully to drop the devices and interact directly with the world, rather than the world as distilled through a looking glass (or pocket mirror.)

    Small things can be hard to stare at for long, when the field of vision allows distractions. This is the opposite of the wall-sized HDTVs, which are literally larger than life, and can show us Brady Bunch re-runs so often that I remember Jan’s birthday party better than my own.

    So I do have high hopes for the iPhone.

  13. MidSouth Mouth says:


    I, too, struggle with how much time I will spend staring into the light…

    a few shattered semi-serious reflections/refractions:

    that movie with the great soundtrack , Wim Wender’s _Until the End of the World_ with the people lost in introspection via iPhonesque things like dreams etc.

    the distraught character who was unhinged when per wristcom (iPhone or Blackberry analog) was crushed in Marge Piercy’s _Woman on the Edge of Time_

    Carol Anne from _Poltergeist_

  14. Jaibe says:

    I dreamed about you / Alison two nights ago. I was at one of those huge conferences with lots of parallel sessions in different rooms, and every session I went into Alison was either speaking or sitting in the front row. This was particularly weird because it was a serious biology conference and I was going to a weird collection of symposia (but sitting in the back.) I was thinking “this must be why she doesn’t have time for cartooning”.

    I don’t remember ever dreaming about you / her before!

  15. ksbel6 says:

    Without the computer or awesome internet phone I wouldn’t know about AB, so I’m pumped we all communicate this way.

    I’m thinking about getting the new Mac mini. Anyone have an opinion?

  16. regis says:

    hooray for iphones.

    i’m not quite ready to sign ‘mrs regis iphone’ all over my notebooks in girly script, but i’m pretty happy with mine. i use the level application (icarpenter) to butch it up.

    for a while, the expectation was that we were moving towards “cyberspace”, where we’d sit in dark rooms with VR rigs on our heads and data gloves on our hands and live in the aether. instead, what’s happened is that the electronic world has been teased out and now is part of the real world.

    there’s a huge drive to use technology to communicate with other people. for a while, every computer application would get more and more features until – finally – you could use it to send email. these days, every devices ends up needing to text.

    while most of us may use communications technology like email and texting and twitter for fun chatting, in other places, these are the essential tools of revolution and resistance. a student/journalist arrested in egypt managed to send a text message out to twitter before they took him away, and this was instrumental in getting people working on his release. in the contested ukraine elections a while back, phone text messages were how protests were organized and coordinated.

    on a more social level, when i was running the sappho mailing list (http://offhand.org/mailman/listinfo/sappho), a general women-only email discussion list, we got a lot of subscriptions from women who lived in places where there weren’t a lot of other queer women.

    so, don’t knock technology. particularly decentralized technology for communication, like the internet.

    *gets off soap box*

  17. Ginjoint says:

    I’m glad others have noted how technology can work in great tandem with activism. That was the first thing I thought when I read Lamar’s comment in the last thread, but I was way too lazy to type out any thoughts. Thanks Kate L for the info regarding the Xena planets! I had never heard about that! How cool that the team retaliated in such a sneaky way.

    I love to hear about the iPhone – I’ve been thinking of getting one. Or some such other device to help organize the
    morass that is my life.

  18. m. pigou says:

    Though I agree with Alex K’s outburst (‘Stop throwing them suck-ass, favour-currying turns of phrase to reassure them that they won’t be seriously confronted’), it would be nice if the more confronting wing of the community could also find the courage to stand up for those who just want to get married and want to fit in.
    Both groups seem to need some moral support from time to time – why not expect it from each other?

  19. ksbel6 says:

    @Ginjoint: the only problem with an iphone is that you have to use at&t and their coverage isn’t that great. I would still go with the enginerama Q9 🙂 I’m amazed at how many websites are now very mobile friendly. I don’t have the internet at my house, so I steal some from work, and then I use my phone. I’ve been cruising along like that for about 4 years now!!

  20. noominal says:

    Congratulations on the iPhone, Alison… You’re gonna have too much fun with that!

  21. hairball_of_hope says:

    @regis, et alia re: tech toys

    I think a quick look at the history of 20th century technology will reveal that “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” (The more things change, the more they remain the same).

    Think about the widespread adoption of the telephone. Horrors! Such informality! Gentlemen callers who would sweat nervously in the parlor talking to one’s daughter within earshot of the parents now had private unfettered access to the young woman’s attention. He could corrupt her morals! This is the end of the family as we know it!

    Think about the social structural changes wrought by widespread adoption of the personal automobile post-WWII in the US. Inner cities vacated, generations of families which once lived in close proximity to one another separated, ties to traditional communities and cultures vanished as people relocated to their ticky-tacky boxes in Levittown to breed a generation of Baby Boomers. This is the end of the family as we know it!

    Think about the infiltration of television into our lives. The first waves of criticism decried the passive and isolating nature of the medium. One comedian in the 1950s wagged that your neighbors came over to watch TV in a dark room with your family, there was no conversation, and when the show ended, you turned on the lights and said goodbye to one another. This is the end of the family as we know it!

    The widespread of adoption of multiple TVs in households in the 1980s lead to ever more cries of the isolating and corrupting influence of TV, children and adults watched separately from one another, spouses watched separately. One comic joked that it’s no longer punishment to send the kid to her room, there’s so much stuff in there to entertain her. “Forget it, you stay here, I’ll go to your room.” This is the end of the family as we know it!

    And so forth. Today’s doomsayers make almost the exact same arguments about current technology. How it isolates. How it corrupts. How it changes the social structure as we know it (nevermind how our social structure has changed since our parents and grandparents were kids).

    I’m sure someone must have made the same arguments in Gutenberg’s time. Inexpensive reproduction of the Bible and growing literacy were threats to the established power of the religious hierarchy, now people could read and interpret the Bible for themselves, and question those in power. The end of the world as they knew it!

    I segued to Gutenberg because I don’t see how sitting on a chair in a mall and websurfing via an iPhone is any more isolating than reading a book sitting in the same spot in the mall. And it’s no more threatening to the universe.

    They’re all tools folks. Get over it. It’s all in how they are used. Will they make profound changes in our lives and interactions? Sure. Will there be unintended and unforseen consequences. You betcha. Some will be good (formerly isolated niche groups, such as the folks on this blog, will find community), some will be bad (kids and parents texting each other from different rooms in the same house instead of actually talking to each other).

    Off my soapbox…

  22. hairball_of_hope says:

    Where’s Marshall McLuhan when we need him?

  23. ksbel6 says:

    @hoh: I mostly agree with you, technology for the most part makes society better, not worse. But, I have to say that as a high school teacher I have noticed a drastic change in the students over the past 2 to 3 years. The biggest problem is their lack of communication skills when in a group. I truly believe that because of texting/IM they do not understand when it is “their turn.” I can be answering a question, making eye contact with the student who asked the question, and several other students will interupt that answer with questions of their own (which may or may not actually be the same question I am already answering). Students have not been big fans of “raise your hand and wait to be called on” for most of my teaching career. But until recently, if two students began speaking to the class at the same time, one of them would pause…that no longer happens, now they will both just keep talking, and expect an answer when they finish!

    In comparison, when Kate L and I posted at the same time in a discussion a few topics back, she actually apologized for the repetition. The teenagers of today would not think twice about that.

    The other issue which I believe to be important is the amount of quality time kids spend with their parents (I know, I could be a republican at times). I seriously see many of my students for more minutes each week than their parents do. By the time they play basketball, get to piano lessons, do 4H activities (or whatever the group is), they are actually only in communication with their parents for a few minutes each day. It never surprises me when a parent comes in and says, “how could my daughter be pregnant, she doesn’t have sex!”…when as the girl’s teacher, I knew she actually started having sex with her boyfriend about 8 months ago!!

  24. Aunt Soozie says:

    Oh Janine, I think she already has the big tv… dunno about the blu ray or surround sound : )
    I love Ellen O’s definition of her iPod Touch!

  25. ladiesbane says:

    @ksbel6: loud cheers! But (@HoH), it is all in how its used…and it’s not always used to the benefit of the user. I love tech and certainly would not deprive anyone of the freedom to use it, but I do notice that people are more out of touch with one another’s reality even as they are overexposed to one another’s twittering. More quantity, less quality; dying of obesity and malnutrition at the same time.

    The growth of daily devotion to television really did have a deleterious effect on individuals, families, neighbor relations (“society” seems to big a word, but there it is) and manners. Television does require passivity, but it’s overexposure that is the real problem. Attention spans have suffered, as well as manners, and the ability to concentrate, think clearly, and communicate in complete sentences. Language is a tool, one more important than nearly any other, and people are losing the inability to use it other than as the crudest of blunt instruments.

    Meanwhile, should I be amused that so many people don’t know how to hammer a nail, play cribbage, make pancakes from scratch, build a fire, or add fractions, but do know how to operate highly evolved electronics? Or is it allowed to be just the teensiest bit concerned?

    (Since no one can hear my tone of voice, please know that I am speaking casually, and hope no one mistakes my rhetorical question for bilious trolling — nor mistakes my sincere disclaimer for gentle sarcasm.)

  26. bean says:

    as a librarian, i am familiar with the scenario: someone makes a modest critique of some tecnological thingy, and an entire industry comes down on them, calling them a luddite technophobe. it gets tiresome. newsflash: a Kindle just isn’t all that. and federated searching? I could live (and teach) better without it, thanks.

    equally tiresome, though, is the whole “we were so much more active in the sixties than you guys are now.” it’s not true, it was never true, and if you don’t believe me, try showing up at a social forum or a democratic convention or a wto meeting every now and again. because the tear gas is still flying, and the movements are still being infiltrated and political prisoners are still being taken, even if it doesn’t make the New Yorker.

    Even so, i ardently agree with the critique of the “we want gays in the miliatary and we want to get married” school of gay rights. i’d rather have some queer liberation, thanks. why did national gay marriage become the issue instead of national anti-housing and job discrimination? did you know, in many states you can still be fired for being gay, even if you behave nice like Ellen?

    finally, i just want to say, i’m not really sure i’m happy that lesbian seperatists are becoming this kind of weird media fetish object (how ironic is that??), now that the world thinks we are all dead, or at least not so dangerous anymore.

  27. Steph says:

    Hmmm, I have to say I really don’t get the sense that Levy’s piece is a ‘look at these separatist freaks – wasn’t that a crazy time in the 70s’ sort of piece. In a sense, what these women were doing with their lives really was anomalous, not only to how dykes live now, but as Levy mentions, but to how the majority of feminists and dykes were living then. That is kind of the point of the article, I think. These women were on the freaky fringe and isn’t that cool?

    What might of helped support the context of how and why the Van Dykes went on their journey would have been if the article had included more of a mention of how communes and other intentional communities were so much more common during this political period.

    It is interesting that we’ve had two recent articles about lesbian separatist communities: that article last month in the NYTimes and now this New Yorker piece. I think it is coincidental, but I wonder if cooperative living and intentional communities will be on the upswing during this recessionary period. I lived here (in Toronto) in a student housing co-op for several years during the recession of the early 90s. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a bit more of this housing structure burgeon again. Communes though? Perhaps not.

  28. erica says:

    Queers are between a rock and a hard place in terms of the aims of a Movement-with-a-capital, it seems. On one hand, it’s revolutionary in some parts of the country to even be out – no matter how timidly, no matter how assimilationist. On the other, being the queers next door is supremely unappealing to some on the other end of the spectrum. I think the challenge for my generation (am 24) of queers is to navigate being respectful of everyone’s manifestation of queerness while advocating for more expansive visibility and rights.

    That sounds pretty simple, but there seems to be a lot alienation around being “radical enough” or “selling out” or what have you. It’s a radical step in and of itself to be out for some, and for others being out is as simple as breathing. Before queers start to advocate for a greater agenda, I’d like to see an end to the backbiting. After all, we can’t expect to see queer marriage in a place where queer individuals are assaulted or killed.

    All that to say, I look forward to the review, but am sick as shit of the ivory tower telling queers what’s righteous.

  29. Diana says:

    In reply to Jessica: i teach at an art college. My students are undergrads, mostly sophs and juniors.

  30. hairball_of_hope says:

    @ladiesbane, ksbel6

    Seems like much of it boils down to quantity over quality.

    Reminds me of the infamous dig at Oakland from Gertrude Stein, “There is no there there” (apologies to Oakland, blame Gertrude, not me).

    The minutae of our daily lives are Twittered (verb?), but no real communication takes place. There are 1,000 channels on the cable system, but nothing worthwhile to watch (The Knitting Channel? The Mood Channel? QVC? Come on!)

    The lack of good manners (interrupting others) and failure to raise one’s hand before speaking aren’t new; my elementary school report card is testimony to that. What is different is that it has become accepted behavior for adults.

    Need proof of that? Turn on the hated TV and watch any panel “discussion” on any channel. Sports, politics, economics, it makes no difference. Fox, MSNBC, CNN, ESPN, CNBC, pick one at random. They are ALL interrupting one another and stepping on each other’s lines.

    In earlier times, that would have been considered rude and unprofessional interviewing/broadcasting/moderating. Now it is exactly the opposite, it is DESIRED. Broadacast executives seem to believe that this makes the shows livlier and more interesting.

    What’s really bad about the creeping rude and boorish behavior in a group setting is having to deal with it at work. Folks who never got the message as kids that this is not desirable behavior also don’t get it that this stifles others and hurts the business. It helps propagate a sort of Darwinian rudeness, where the loudest and most ardent win out, to the detriment of potentially better ideas/policies/solutions that are drowned out in the cacophony. In my opinion, it fosters “groupthink,” where the naysayers either stifle themselves or are stifled by others, oh so much easier to “go with the flow” instead of contributing a contradictory or skeptical voice to the conversation.

    Thus, it was interesting and reassuring to hear US Defense Secretary Robert Gates (a holdover from the Bush administration) compare the meeting styles of Bush and Obama on last week’s “Meet the Press”.

    Said Gates, “I think that probably President Obama is somewhat more analytical. And he makes sure he hears from everybody in the room on an issue. And if they don’t speak up, he calls on them. President Bush was interested in hearing different points of view but didn’t go out of his way to make sure everybody spoke if they hadn’t spoken up before.”

  31. Jan says:

    ksbel6: I have an old Mac mini, and I like it very much. I kept my old screen and trackball, but got a Mac keyboard so the function keys would match up (and because it looks so much better). After the mini, I became a happy convert. If you want a desk top and want to go Apple, the mini is an economical way to do it. And it’s cute. And quiet.

  32. bean says:

    response to erica, who said “After all, we can’t expect to see queer marriage in a place where queer individuals are assaulted or killed.”

    Kind of my point exactly. i think the issue of violence against queers is the most pressing one, and includes the issues that queers have in gaining access to reasonable health care in the face of such health crises as breast cancer and aids, among others.

    and, i didn’t mean to suggest that an end to housing and employment discrimination was inherently more “radical” than queer marriage; it’s not, really. It’s just that i don’t happen to care much about marriage (and did appreciate the challenge to the heterosexual status quo that being queer once was), whereas, housing and employment are issues that directly affect me, and most other queers, weather single, partnered, polyamorous, or married.

    the truth is that what are “queer issues” seems to have more to do with what the mass media decides are queer issues rather than what real people or activists decide they are. this is a shame, and is a reason, i think that we should examine articles like those being discussed extremely carefully.

  33. hairball_of_hope says:


    Lousy typist at work here too… although I’m currently blaming the tools at my disposal instead of myself (this is not my usual keyboard, and I’m not doing well in the touch typing department lately). I have cringed at my last few posts replete with typos… I *do* know how to spell minutiae, damn it! And livelier, and broadcast, etc.

    Thirty some-odd years ago I struggled to pass a typing test to get a job, and swore to myself that I would never have to type for a living. Fast forward a few decades, and now I spend a disproportionate part of my life pounding at a keyboard DESIGNED to slow down my fingers. And it doesn’t help that my fingers and brain seem disconnected at times.

    That segues into an observation about handwriting… I’ve noticed that my own handwriting has gotten much worse over the years as my reliance on keyboard input has grown.

    I heard a piece on NPR recently about the decline of penmanship in schools to the point where it is no longer taught in elementary schools. That seems scary, because the eye-hand coordination and muscle training/memory that goes into learning to use a writing instrument typically occurs during a narrow window in neurological development and brain maturation. It’s not a skill that will be easily picked up when a person is older, similar to how we pick up languages much more readily when we are young.

    So, teachers out there, what’s your take on handwriting and/or penmanship? The loss of that skill as an unintended consequence of technology seems harder to reverse than the bad manners in groups discussed above.

  34. Ready2Agitate says:

    sorry to annoy:
    “penmanship” = “handwriting”
    “craftsmanship” = “crafts-handiwork”
    (oh boy…)

  35. Alex K says:

    @AB: **blush** Thanks! Although, as always, on re-reading things I write when I’m angry, I’d put them a bit differently.

    @m.pigou: Whilst I admire desperately “the more confronting wing of the community”, myself, I’m one of “those who just want to get married and want to fit in”. Vermont 2000 for civil union (it wasn’t available in the UK then), now California 2008 for the Big M. Until someone in charge sighs and says, oh gahDAMMIT you can have your freaking marriage already, I bet we keep on keeping on… My respect and love for the confrontationalists is based on this perception: They stretched out the space that all of us had in which to be LesBiGay, and we who don’t go so far as they did, as, praise them, they still DO, are in the windbreak of their courage.

    In being angry at Levy, who is mugging and grinning — “Jeezo man, I’m, like, a lesbian, but you can feel safe around me compared to these separatist terrors!” — through much of her article, I am displacing my own anger against myself for not being so brave, so rigorous in my choices, as were / are the Van Dykes. They take the heat, break the rules, show the mainstream: You can, you MUST, live with us. I…want, still, to fit in.

    My non-hetero life is easier than theirs, and my ease feels not-yet-earnt.

  36. ksbel6 says:

    @Jan: thanks, that helps!

    @hoh: I’m going to guess that your level of expectations for your elementary students is different than mine is for my high school students (in regards to group behavior). I even have different standards for my freshmen as compared to my seniors. My concern is that kids today are rude, and they don’t know it. They just seem to be so unaware of anyone else. You are right though, most tv news shows are exactly the same way, so maybe I’m just getting old!

  37. minnie says:

    ksbel6 and Jan, I love my Mac Mini.

    Quiet? I’d never thought about it in terms of noise until I read Jan’s comment.

    I’d say silent. And it has never ever crashed.

  38. Duncan says:

    I saw that piece about the decline of cursive. I believe it also pointed out that teachers don’t have time to teach cursive, because they have to prep the kids for the standardized tests that were metastatizing through the school system even before No Child Left Behind.

    I don’t think that cursive is a big loss. Typing is faster, more readable, and just as ‘natural’ as handwriting. I taught myself touch typing in junior high school, on a typewriter (I dreamed for years of getting my own IBM Selectric) and quickly found it a way to get thoughts on paper — I could keep up with my thoughts better than I ever could by hand. My handwriting isn’t all that pretty, but it never was (and I was taught cursive in the 50s, which were not a golden age). I still do a fair amount of handwriting in my notebooks, though, so maybe I’m getting enough practice. They don’t make nostalgic old farts like they used to.

  39. lm12345 says:

    I’ve been reading this blog for a while, but haven’t worked up the courage to comment until now. First of all, Ms. Bechdel, I have long admired your Dykes; I must have read your collections at least 100 times.

    But I will mouth off for just a little, if only because the comment you quoted (on gays in the military and gay marriage) is so fascinating, as is the reference to technology.

    First of all, the Internet, unlike television, is an active medium. When I type things on my computer, I am typing them to people – real, living people. Here I am, mouthing off on a blog owned by a graphic novelist I admire, to be read by a group of strangers living all over the world. Yes, to a Luddite it looks like I’m sitting there staring at a tiny glowing screen. But what I am really doing is communicating – communicating with a large group of people who share my beliefs and opinions. This is unprecedented. Prior to the Internet, it was hard to get an underground social movement together. It was hard to publish something that the Powers That Be did not approve of. Now, Ms. Bechdel, as well as the rest of us, can sit in our respective living rooms, type whatever we want on our Internet gadget of choice, and it will be instantly published for the whole world to see.

    Mikhail Bulgakov, who wrote subversive books in Stalinist Russia, could not publish his works. He wrote them “for the drawer” – to be put away in a desk drawer, to never see the light of day. Think about how powerful it is that a subversive author in an oppressive regime does not have to do that anymore – all s/he would have to do these days is find an Internet-connected computer and set up a blog.

    As for gay marriage and gays in the military and the contempt expressed for these allegedly paltry goals – since the 1970’s, homosexuality has also become decriminalized (thank you, Lawrence v. Texas!); it has been removed from the list of mental illnesses in the DSM-IV; discrimination against gay people is becoming increasingly unacceptable; gay people are increasingly coming out and living normal lives, and coming out at younger ages; I think we’ve come a long way. And I am glad that we now have more choices than closet vs. separatist commune. I think that freedom – the freedom to live however you like, with whomever you like, in whatever relationship you like – is worth fighting for. Some people want to live in the mainstream community; and one may even argue that this choice demands more courage than the choice of cloistering oneself in a commune where everyone else is just like you, and where you’ll never encounter anyone who is different from you.

  40. Andrew B says:

    In Plato’s Phaedrus (fourth century BCE), he complained that the newfangled technology of “writing” was preventing real communication, which takes place only in spoken conversation. We know about this because he wrote it down. Go figure. Anyhow, people have been fussing about the deleterious effects of technology on human interaction for a looooooooong time. Somehow we muddle through.

  41. Diana says:

    As for cursive writing not being a big loss, consider this. When Neil Gaiman wrote American Gods, he wrote it all in longhand on yellow legal tablets. He then faxed the pages to his assistant, who did a daily digital transcription and emailed it back to him as he traveled the US writing the book.
    When asked why he chose to work this way on this book, he replied that different approaches sometimes yield different results.
    Judging by the success of the book, aesthetically and financially, I’d say he made a wise choice.
    To bring the argument home, would you like to see Alison replace her trusty nibs and ink with Photoshop?
    Before you reply, this comic was done in Photoshop:

  42. Anonymous says:


  43. m. pigou says:

    Not only do people come in different degrees of queerness and gayness, they also live their lifes in different degrees of visibility. The choice is not restricted to that between communal life and mainstream life, since living a mainstream life it matters a great deal whether you are a stay at home mom or the first openly lesbian president of a European country.
    President Johanna Sigurdardottir of Iceland certainly profits from the confrontationalists and their courage, but she has her own hurdles to leap. And though maybe for some of us it would be nicer if doing so she wore leather jackets and workboots, you can’t have it all.
    By the way, I don’t find this fitting-in-thing in any way easy.

  44. falloch says:

    All these new ways of communicating have their uses; but along with other posters here, I’m concerned about the speed of communication and how much gets lost along the way. I live out in the boonies, and the nearest movie theatre is 2 hours away. So we have a film club and show films in the village hall – once a month we’ve a Saturday matinee for the kids, and have shown primarily Pixar-type films – The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, etc. One month we showed an old Disney – 101 Dalmatians – and within fifteen minutes, the kids were talking, running around the hall, totally bored. It was a bit heartbreaking really.

  45. Falloch, that’s so wild about the kids losing interest in 101 Dalmatians! I actually frequently find myself getting bored with old movies–they’ll take ten minutes to hit me over the head with some bit of exposition that nowadays we’re used to getting delivered in a picosecond, and obliquely.

    Maybe a side effect of that is that our attention spans are deteriorating. But we’ve gotten so much more efficient at processing information. Our visual language skills seem to increase exponentially in sophistication by the decade.

  46. But wait…Pixar stuff tends to bore me too. There doesn’t seem to be any connective tissue to it, it’s just a bewildering sequence of little bits. It’s like trying to read one of the magazines at the gym…there’s no information in them that takes up more space than this comment box.

  47. ksbel6 says:

    Wow, I’m amazed AB, that you would be bored with animation, especially something like 101 Dalmations, which was all drawn by hand. I actually love the older Batman The Animated Series cartoons mostly because they were drawn by hand (on black backgrounds btw, which makes the scenes all look dark and grainy). The way the shadows can tell an entire fight scene, etc.

    On the handwriting thread…I haven’t noticed any difference in my students writing, but they are solving equations for the most part, and for some reason that type of writing never seems that hard for me to read.

  48. falloch says:

    But Alison, that’s what I mean! There’s so much ‘stuff’ in Pixar, that there’s not a lot of time or space to actually process what’s going on. It’s such an overflow of visuals that the important details can often be swamped – esp. when it comes to young children. There was a whole debate in the papers here last month about making school more ‘exciting’ and ‘stimulating’ because children were in danger of becoming bored. I’m all for excitement and stimulation, but children also need to experience boredom and just plain quiet; otherwise there’s no space for thoughts to emerge, no space for the creativity that comes about when you’re not being constantly stimulated.

  49. Ginjoint says:

    The first time I ever saw an opera, I found I was getting frustrated by how long they were taking to convey some information, whether it was to move the plot forward or to simply say, “I’m sad!” I had to make a very conscious readjust in terms of my expectations; once I slowed down and just went along for ride, it was more enjoyable. I guess I was too used to entire stories taking only 22 or 45 minutes to tell.

  50. Therry says:

    @AB, knowing what bores you is *HOT*. Remind me never to take you to WALL-E.

    @GINjoint, I think that perhaps your frustration at the exposition in Opera may be a byproduct of supertitles. The music should carry you away on waves of melody (or luscious cacophony) but if you know that what He is saying to Her is “You want fries with that, my only darling, apple of my eye?” I think it’s way too much information. We just saw Shostakovich’s “Nose” and the supertitles took away from the music and the singing and the divine production values. It’s such a balancing act, but that’s what you get with a gesamptkunzwerk, I guess.

    Oops, opera rant. Blog alert.

  51. Therry says:

    I have to admit that as an old het, when my friends starting talking about Freedom to Marry, I wondered why they wanted to do something so assimilationist. By friends, of course I mean Toni, and my friend Mark who regards the whole marriage thing with disinterest and scorn. Naturally, two tiny examples out of a great wave carry the day 😉

  52. Srfcrzy says:

    @Diane: What other graphic novels do you teach? I teach in an English Dept. at a University and have dreamt of teaching a course on gender and sexuality in graphic novels.

    My fav graphic novel is, of course, Fun Home (also loved AYA), but I scour bookstores and Amazon for more lesbian/women-centered graphic novels–often coming up short. I’m not as into the anime (sp?) style, but could be persuaded.

    I would love some recs if anyone has any.

  53. Srfcrzy says:

    Re: iphones….

    I am free of my Sprint contract as of this month (YAY!) and plan to buy an iphone next, but I feel like I should wait ’till the next generation (hopefully this summer).

    Has anyone heard anything about a timeline for the next gen iphone?

  54. --MC says:

    Ksbel6, it’s not the drawing but the pacing. Earlier ages were paced at slow and thoughtful levels; and as Falloch points out, the new animated spectacles are FLASH FLASH FLASH, everything happens at once and there’s no time for a leisurely pan over a cityscape or countryside.
    This is why people don’t find Laurel & Hardy or Buster Keaton films “funny” any more — they move slowly, setting up the gags carefully — how you gonna keep them down on the farm after they’ve seen the Three Stooges?
    Me, I love the art in “101 Dalmations” — I’m fascinated by the ragged quality of the line — Disney was trying out a system of photocopying cels, which gave the outlines a grainy texture ..

  55. judybusy says:

    I recently read most of a book which touches on much of the discussion here: Proust and the Squid, by Maryanne Wolf. She’s a professor of child development at Tufts University, and the book is about how we develop the neurological capacity to read. She specializes in teaching those with reading disorders to read and so a big chunk of the book is about how those brains are different.

    She mentions that Aristotle was also very concerned about the written word interfering with our ability to think profoundly, and Wolf discusses the impact of current electronic information processes on the brain.

    I would direct interested folks to the numerous reviews on Amazon. (I use them to suss out possible reading material, then get everything from the library.) I’ll admit that the book for me got a bit bogged down in fairly technical language, but I think I was in the mood for something lighter (which explains why I am consuming the Alexander McCall Smith Scotland Street books at a rapid pace.)

  56. married and registered in Massachusetts says:

    So what if we want to be married. Some of us even have (shock/horror) children with penises! I personally hated that lesbian seperatist, let’s listen to Holly & Meg and rip our shirts off (well, the last part was alright). I don’t like lesbian music, haircuts, or food. I personally am not a lesbian for any political reasons. My reasons are far more personal (don’t know the icon for one raised eyebrow and a wink!). In fact, I often feel that being a dyke is one of the least political aspects of myself. These days being an anti-zionist Jew is far more radical. And I’m glad that these days being a dyke doesn’t mean you have to embrace lesbian cultural touchstones. I also like the idea of marriage because I believe in our right to register at pottery barn(tm)– just like my straight sisters in Long Island!

  57. married and registered in Massachusetts says:

    PS: I’m so into my iphone! 😉

  58. Alex K says:

    @m.pigou — Thanks for that. I agree with everything you wrote — and I want particularly to chime in with your statement that the fitting-in isn’t easy. Certainly not for me either! Only a personal perception, really, that my fitting-in is easier, has been easier, than that of the trailbreaker Van Dykes, and if they and I sat down to compare notes, maybe I’d learn different.

    AB has talked / written, I believe, about self-definition as transgressive, and about differences between that aspect of self-definition in persons born in different five- or ten-year cohorts. I remember her as stating that she feels that younger persons are perhaps less likely to view themselves as — in respect of sexual identity — transgressive to the same extent as she views herself. (I’m a bit older than AB.) Her remarks on this point, if I haven’t mis-remembered them, still strike a chord. This ties in, I feel, with my respect for separatist ambitions and acts.

    Maybe Konrad Lorenz would say — no wonder you feel that way about them, they were the women you were imprinted on as soon as you hatched! I’d buy that.

  59. NLC says:

    From AB’s post at the top:
    *I think it’ll be in this Sunday’s issue. Or else the next one.

    I probably should have posted this earlier, but the review is not in this Sunday’s issue (8Mar).

    [One of the perqs of subscribing to the NYTBR is that you get your copy early in the week preceding the nominal publication date. If there’s anything interesting, I’ll let you know when I get next week’s issue.]

    And speaking of the Times:
    The NY Times announced that it’s introducing best seller lists for graphic books (by which I think they mean longform comic works and graphic novels), making the declarative statement that, “Comics have finally joined the mainstream.” […]

    After all, Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel Fun Home was released back in 2006, and made the NY Times’ Hardcover Nonfiction bestseller list (not to mention extensive mainstream media coverage and awards). […]

  60. Ready2Agitate says:

    @married and registered in Massachusetts: mazel tov! And thank you for your activism. Still, I can’t help wondering if perhaps you were born after 1980. I guess it seems more likely to me that one would “hate” past path-breakers who paved the way for certain types of identity dev’t if these definitions were less useful (or less present) in one’s own coming out. (I don’t intend this patronizingly/matronizingly, I’m just wondering aloud…)

    @judybusy: I took intro to child development with Maryann Wolf in 1984. It’s very cool to see that her work still brings a lot of meaning and value to today’s discourse.

    ps This is one of my favorite threads yet – I love hearing all the viewpoints.

  61. whatever says:

    I’m so glad you people have your I-phones. That will give me something comforting to think about when I check in with the unemployment office Monday.

  62. Ready2Agitate says:

    ouch. Sending you good vibes, r2a

  63. Diana says:

    graphic novels I’m currently teaching:
    Concrete: depths and heights (two books, really smart sort of superhero but not really stuff)
    M by Jon Muth (based on the Fritz lang film)
    Ode to Kirihtio by Tezuka
    Diary of a Teenage Girl by Phoebe Gloeckner
    Sudden Gravity: A Tale of the Panopticon by Greg Ruth (one of the strangest books I’ve ever read)
    I’m eager for Alison’s Love Life (the book) to come out so I can teach it too!

  64. Diana says:

    I agree with you to some extent. The stories in Pixar films were lacking until Monsters Inc. There has been a steady improvement since that time and a move away from the mean-spirited storytelling that dominated early computer animated features. Also, bringing Brad Bird, a director with a traditional animation background, on board may have saved the industry.

  65. Ginjoint says:

    “You people.” That phrase always sets off alarm bells in my head.

  66. whatever says:

    I just meant the people who usually write here. I mostly just read it, and if I don’t like what I read, I just keep quiet and don’t come back for awhile. But all the talk of $400 phones just got to me. Thanks for your positve vibes R2A

  67. Ginjoint says:

    I understand, and sympathize, and empathize with your situation. I have been there many times in my life, and it sucks. No doubt about that. But I also resent a snarky guilt trip being foisted on me just because I’ve managed to hang on to my job (so far). It smacks of cheap manipulation, and I don’t play those games. The times I was out of a job I didn’t go around making snide comments to people who were doing O.K. – what the hell good does that do? Good on ’em for keeping their heads above water.

    Having said that, I do wish you all the luck in the world in finding a job. I am so sorry this has happened to you. My most hated task in the world is looking for a job, and having to sell myself to people. Job hunting is exhausting, overwhelming, and often humiliating. I hope that you find a fantastic opening soon, and your worries cease.

  68. Kate L says:


    With regard to celestial events, something potentially Earth-shaking happened last night. NASA launched the Kepler space telescope, which looks a lot like the Hubble space telescope except that Kepler is specifically designed to look at several thousand nearby stars and has the capability of detecting any Earth-like planets (rocky “terrestrial” worlds, as I told my intro. geology classes on Friday) that might be orbiting them. Previously, only the very largest Jupiter-like gas giant planets have been detected orbiting other stars. http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/kepler/main/index.html
    We could be on the verge of determining if we are alone in the universe, or if our nearby stellar neighborhood might be as densely populated as Star Trek tried to portray it as being. If it turns out to be the later I only hope that a Subcommander T’Pol is out there somewhere (Star Trek Enterprise reference). That woman was HOT! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T%27Pol
    But I digress. This could turn out to be a really, really historic thing!

  69. whatever says:

    Got the message. This blog is no place for someone like me. I’ll just wait for Alison’s book. I hope the library will carry it.

  70. Kate L says:

    Sorry, Ginjoint and whatever, I posted my own celestial-related post without reading what immediately preceded it. I didn’t mean to ignore a discussion in progress. I’ve been in the unemployment line, as well, and I did not mean to marginalize or disregard what was being said at almost the same time that I was composing an unrelated post. And, with regard to whatever’s use of the phrase “you people”, I will say that it is easy (at least for me) to compose e-mails that give a different meaning than what I intended (even when I read my own words for myself later on).

  71. judybusy says:

    A few things: If anyone has seen Coraline, what do you think of it? I intend to see it a second time!

    Srfcrzy: Have you read the collected graphic novels by Marjane Satrapi, called Persepolis? It was also made into a movie. It’s about her family’s experience before, during and after the Iranian Revolution. Her style is very stark and powerful, and I learned a lot about Iran during that time. Also, French Milk was mentioned on this blog a while back; I am on the wait list for it at the library, so can’t tell you what I think of it.

    R2A, small world re Maryanne Wolf. I think I will check out the book again when I’m in the mood for technical writing.

  72. Jessica Bessica says:

    @ Srfcrzy: have you read “Potential” by Ariel Schrag? It’s one of four graphic novels that Schrag wrote–one during each year of high school. I don’t think she ever finished her fourth year and I think Potential is the only one that’s still in print. But, it’s quite good.

  73. Alex K says:

    @whatever: I post in this circus, now and again, sneaking under the edge of the tent rather than showing my iPhone to the woman guarding the Official Entry turnstile. I don’t have an iPhone to show.

    I’ve been wrong before, but I think this blog really is someplace for people like us. As well as for iPhone owners. Us and them, Mo and Sydney. Dynamic tension and… sparks flying. In a very fun way.

    I hope you read this, and stick around, and post some more. Don’t leave me alone / with no iPhone! **grin**

  74. m. pigou says:

    @whatever: I have an embarassing confession to make: I do not know what an iPhone is.

  75. Ian says:

    I seem to remember Mo espousng similar anti-gay-marriage and anti-gays-in-the-military views though with less assurance than Lamar! 😉

    I was interested in the fitting in aspect of assimilation referred to above. I tried for a long time to ‘fit in’ with mainstream society but I always felt (essentially) different. Whatever I tried it never worked so now I just decided to be me – barmy as a fruitcake. I used to work in very straitlaced offices and felt like I was wearing a mask to the outside world. Now I can’t bear to put that mask back on. In fact I can’t. I still haven’t found my little place in the world where I feel genuinely at home but life’s a bit easier.

  76. Dr. Empirical says:

    some russian…

    nobody at all…



  77. --MC says:

    Srfcrzy: I’m plowing through graphic novels at an accelerated rate now that I’m not working. I just finished “Castle Waiting”, which would seem to be more aimed at young readers but which contains enough Bullwinkleing to appeal to old folks.
    Whatever: I’m out of work myself right now, I have fifteen bucks in checking; but if I had the dosh to spend, I’d probably buy a costy electronic gadget. One of those thin Mac laptops, perhaps. So I don’t begrudge anybody their $400 phones. It gives me something to work toward.

  78. Ready2Agitate says:

    I finally read the full New Yorker piece. And one inspiringly cool facet had nothing to do with lesbian separatists at all (whose influence I deeply appreciate) — it was abt Van Dyke’s reunion with her birth-daughter Tina, Tina’s 2 kids, and Tina’s mom — they’ve been having an annual reunion/vacation together for over 14 years! (a trans-racial, trans-genderist/trans-sexual-orientation family). That just gave me hope. I thought it was beautifully portrayed and contributed to the “thought piece” aspect of the piece — although yes, I already oozed in the last thread over Alex K.’s perceptively witty remark abt the piece, too.

    @wev – hang tough. I think that sometimes naming privileges helps give a missing perspective. (In fact, your line could easily have been in a D2WO4 strip — Lois to Clarice, perhaps?) This blog is not the most diverse in many ways. Nor is it snooty and upperclass. I’ve loved it and found lots of room on the bus. Hopefully you’ll find a forum that feels good to you too, if not this one. And Ginjoint, I totally get your perspective too. We’re all family, in some ways, after all…

  79. Fatima says:

    Whoa – Maryanne Wolf was parents’ nextdoor neighbor growing up, and she used one of the stories I wrote in 2nd grade (“The Devil and the Baby Ghost”)as an example in her textbook on writing and child development.

    She’s great and Proust and the Squid is fascinating!

  80. Feminista says:

    To paraphrase Mo,scolding new intern Anjali at Madwimmin Books,”don’t whatever ME,you post-modern pubescent!”

  81. ksbel6 says:

    I can jump on the “I don’t fit in” band wagon. I can start with the fact that I am truly ambidextrious and just branch off from there. I really like to be in the “lefties are smarter, more creative, more successful, secretly taking over the world” camp, but I play all sports right handed. Unless kicking is the main point, then the left foot is definitely dominant. And that is the easiest part of my crazy existence to explain!

  82. Ginjoint says:

    “lefties are smarter, more creative, more successful, secretly taking over the world”

    I’m a right-handed person who believes this. And when they complete their takeover, I think the world will be a better place.

    Ready2Agitate, thanks for understanding my POV. Ginjoint don’t like to be played, emotionally or otherwise. Also, I don’t even make ten bucks an hour – but I think begrudging others who have more is a waste of energy. Why do we do that in this country? We’re driven to strive and strive for material success, and when it’s attained, there’s a lot of resentment. Like I said, it just seems like a waste of energy to me.

    My friend, who has travelled much more than I, said recently that asking someone what they do for a living right after meeting them is a very American thing to do. Here, we really define people by what they do for a living. I always thought it was just a good ice-breaker, but apparently there’s more to it. I’m such a grunt in so many ways.

  83. Kate L says:

    I’m a lefty. Oh, and I’m left-handed, too! 🙂 As Paul Simon said in a late sixties song, “That’s the hand to use, well, nevermind…”. Oh, and I just had a really creepy experience. Our geology department is in a little building set off by itself on a corner of the campus. It’s late Saturday night, and I printed something off from my office computer and sent it to the departmental office laser printer. I believe myself to be the only person in the building. Walking down from my office on the second floor to the departmental office on the first, I see that the lower part of the stairs and the entire first floor hallway are in darkness. When I’m halfway down the stairs, I hear the sound of scurrying feet running down the first floor hallway into the depths of the darkness. What to do? Not to be cowered (let’s all make the Revolutionary Sisters Salute), I walk down the stairs and into the darkness. Finding the hallway light switch by sense of touch, I flip it on: no one is in the short hallway, but the departmental office door is open although the office is dark. I step inside, turn on the lights, and see nothing amiss. Steping back into hallway, I shut the door. I then walk halfway down the hallway to the only side hall. I look down that hallway, expecting to see another faculty member in their office, but all the doors are closed. Just them, one of the doors clicks as if being shut.

    That was about enough for me. I go back up to my office, and call the campus police. They arrive a few minutes later, search the place and then question me and ID me. As far as they know, no one else was ever there.

    Right now, I’m looking at the Captain Kathryn Janeway refrigerator magnet that I’ve got on my office wall. I like to think that this is how Janeway herself would have handled a situation like this. In fact, I often ask myself, WWJD? What Would Janeway Do?

  84. Kate L says:

    I’ve finished my grading, and I’m headed home to my dog. It occurs to me that I did not think to check the building men’s room for a possible intruder, but I assume that the campus police did. I still think that I did the right thing in checking out the darkness at the foot of the stairs. My alternatives would have been to run back upstairs and cower in my office, or to run out of the nearest exit from the building.

  85. Ready2Agitate says:

    Yipes! You sure did, Kate L. I got the creeps just reading your email. Intrepidity be damned, girl, I’m glad you’re safe!

  86. m. pigou says:

    Fitting in, I feel, is not unequivocally related to social status and financial success. As I find you should always use yourself as a guinea pig to test your own theories, I can offer my case as an example. I live in Europe, am out as a lesbian, doing quite well professionally and I could afford to buy electronic gadgets (if only I knew what to use them for). All in all I seem to fit in. Still I find it really difficult to walk around passing as a lesbian, while feeling a dyke.
    Is this a luxury problem? Yes.
    Having found the guts to finally say something this month, I now retreat into the audience, and let all the admirably wise regulars talk some more about metaphysics, solar systems, 18th century British poetry and bacon. I don’t want to spoil this exceptional forum by overcrowding it.

  87. Calico says:

    Janeway – the great Kate Mulgrew. Aaaahhh.
    Does your Geo Dept. building have a ghost or spirit lurking around, perhaps? Do you know the building’s history?

  88. Kate L says:

    m. pigou,

    Dyke or lesbian, you are welcome here (if I may be so bold, remembering that this is actually the blog of a famous (nay, beloved) cartoonist from Vermont)!

    Yep, it’s Sunday and daylight, and I’m fine. Thanks, Ready2Agitate! Calico… yes, I DO know the history of this old limestone building! I’m actually part of it going back decades, because I was a geology undergraduate here in the 1970’s. Yes, I wore flannel shirts, jeans and hiking boots! Surprise! 🙂 And, last December, when we had a terrible ice storm that collapsed trees and cut power in my neighborhood, I pulled a Janeway and had my crew (Sandy, my 54-pound harrier hound) abandon ship and evacuate to the geology dept. building. I put some bed linen on a couch for myself, and put out food and water for Sandy, but neither one of us got much sleep that night because of the creaking wooden floorboards here on the second floor of the building. They creaked in sequence, making it sound as if someone was approaching from down the hall and trying to be stealthy about it. I went to look, and no one was there! I have the strangest feeling that I probably know most of the ghosts who might be in this building.

  89. Ready2Agitate says:

    >>and let all the admirably wise regulars talk some more about metaphysics, solar systems, 18th century British poetry and bacon.

    Don’t forget convos abt “I can has cheez,” Sex in the City, sci-fi, and bunches of other stuff I know nothing about (if not being completely on the outside of). Ahhh, but then there’s all the discourse on patriarchy, separatism, feminism, birds, cats, Nature, and let’s not forget – relationships! (monogamy, polyamory, commitment-phobic, etc.)- convos I just adore! I love this blog.

  90. Steph says:

    Hi @Srfcrzy.

    I have been amassing a nice little comic book collection over the years. Below I have listed books and series that I have loved and recommend that have interesting/nicely fleshed out women/girl protagonists:

    ·Skim by Mariko Tamaki. Local queer Torontonian. Her cousin did the illustrations. Bildungsroman.

    ·Whiteout series by Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber. Set in Antarctica. Queer protagonists.

    ·Love and Rockets (several collections including Maggie and Hopey) by the Hernandez Brothers. Again, queer protagonists.

    ·Strangers in Paradise by Terry Moore. Interesting love triangle, queer characters.

    ·Buffy Season 8 series. Joss Whedon continues Buffy saga in comic book form.

    ·We Are On Our Own by Miriam Katin. Holocaust memoir.

    ·Lucky by Gabrielle Bell. Vignettes of daily life and ennui.

    ·The Squirrel Mother by Megan Kelso. Short stories. The loneliness of childhood.

    ·Bone series by Jeff Smith. Very strong female characters in this series.

    ·Why I Hate Saturn by Kyle Baker. V. good at sister-sister relationship. Witty little bons mots.

    ·Fables series by Bill Willingham. Re-visioning of characters such as Rose Red and Snow White.

  91. Feminista says:

    La Perdida by Jessica Alba is a decent bilingual graphic novel with a fiesty feminist protagonist determined to discover her roots. She arrives in Mexico City dressed like Frida Kahlo & carrying a huge back pack.

    Ditto on Satrapi,books and movie, as mentioned earlier.

    And here’s a movie rec: Iron Ladies of Liberia,produced by Women Make Movies & narrated by a female Liberian journalist,is about President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and other women she appointed to top leadership roles. Liberia’s finance minister is especially brilliant,and there’s a Department of Gender!

    Feliz dia internacional de las mujeres/Happy International Women’s Day! Depending on what version you read,2009 is either the 98th or 100th anniversary of the celebration of working women which started in the U.S. However,it isn’t treated as a paid holiday here as it is in China,Cuba,Viet Nam,etc.

    We got March as Women’s History Month,due mostly to the hard,fine work of the National Women’s History Project,but still lack a holiday in honor of a specific woman. Some southern states still commemorate Confederate Pres. Jefferson Davis’ birthday (aak!),yet Susan B. Anthony,Sojourner Truth,Lucy Gonzalez Parsons, Sarah Winnemucca,et al aren’t yet recognized.

    Yes,according to the “what character are you most like” survey we took sometime in 2008,I’m a combo of Mo and Stuart. **Feminista gets off her soapbox,at least for a few hours.**

  92. judybusy says:

    Steph—thanks for the list. I printed it out for future reference. I haven’t actaully read that many graphic novels/works, so this looks to be a great start!

    I’m enjoying the discussion about fitting in. It’s incredibly uncomfortable when one doesn’t. For me, it’s been about finding friends who are similar enough. These days, for whatever reason most of my close circle are gay/lesbian. This has been particulary wonderful, since I’m am definitely the oddball in my family. Them: religious, rural, fairly conservative. Me: run-of-the mill, liberal, urban lesbian! What’s funny is my sis finds me incredibly “different” (ultimate Minnesota insult), but thankfully this hasn’t stopped numerous visits by my three nieces. The broadening of horizons for these kids has been fun!

  93. pmarie says:

    Adding to the above list *points to Steph’s list*

    Charm School by Elizabeth Watasin.

    It is SO GOOD. Dean, the Butch Vampire, is soooooooooooo dreamy. Seriously.

  94. Ready2Agitate says:

    Thank you Feminista! Las mujeres unidas jamás serán vencidas!

  95. m. pigou says:

    Kate L – yes, I’m aware of the fact that there is Intelligent Design behind this blog. I indeed forgot to say grace to the famous cartoonist from Vermont. Herewith, Alison Bechdel.

  96. Ginjoint says:

    Kate – you are way braver than I would’ve been, especially because my thoughts would have immediately gone to the supernatural.

    For the graphic novel list – I liked Guy Delisle’s Pyongyang, his story about his time working in animation in North Korea. Also, many years ago I bought a book (graphic novel) that featured an older British couple, and what happened to them after a nuclear bomb was dropped. Unfortunately, the book got lost in a move. I’d love to try and find a copy. Does anyone know the title or artist?

  97. hairball_of_hope says:

    History Month reality check, courtesy of the Guerilla Girls:

    Q: If February is Black History Month, and March is Women’s History Month, what happens the other ten months of the year?

    A: Discrimination.

  98. Feminista says:

    De nada,lista para agitar (R2A). La lucha continua!

    hairball–Yes,we still have discrimination,even with the above plus Asian-Pacific Islanders Month (May), LGBT Pride Day (June),Latin@/Chican@ Month (15 Sept.-15 Oct.),and Native Amer/Amer.Indian/Alaska Natives Month (Nov.)

    But we need to honor the victories,too, which is why I get excited about the Iron Ladies of Liberia,and Michelle B.of Chile,and Iceland’s new leader. Plus,I honor the brave women fighting for reproductive rights in Central and Latin America,and Afghani women working for literacy & basic rights,and the Filipina group Gabriela working to end sexual slavery.

  99. --MC says:

    Pmarie (is the P silent, as in Psmith?) — I second Elizabeth Watasin’s “Charm School”. Brilliant fun! The comics world has lost a lot with her defection to animation.

  100. Finsbury Parker says:

    @Ginjoint, pretty sure the book you lost is When the Wind Blows by the marvellous Raymond Briggs. Have you read his Fungus the Bogeyman?

  101. Ginjoint says:

    YES, Finsbury! That’s it! Thank you so much! Nope, I’ve never read anything else by him, but now I’m off to do a search, especially of the Bogeyman book…thanks again!

  102. Finsbury Parker says:

    Excellent! Great interview with him here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2008/aug/10/booksforchildrenandteenagers

    Fungus was massive when I was a kid – we took great delight in how absolutely disgusting he is!

  103. pmarie says:

    Hey –MC, It’s Peemarie, a nickname (lovely!)I know, I miss Elizabeth’s brilliance…did you ever read her story, “Radiate” about Bunny falling in love with Dean? *wistful sigh* Witches, faeries, vampires, werewolves, demons…all hanging out at Salem High. Yeah!

  104. Ginjoint says:

    Wonderful interview, Finsbury…now I’m looking for more!

  105. j.b.t. says:

    Yikes, Kate! I’m impressed. I’m unfortunately a big ol’ coward and would have run back to my office to call the police at the first sign of creepiness. Glad you’re safe!


  106. circiform says:

    This was an amazing set of responses to read.
    This is out of place given the topics above, but I’m looking for the name of a feminist cell cartoonist (well, usually 1-2 cells) who sold her stuff at Covent Garden market, London, in the mid 80s. Anybody know who I’m talking about? She had a few cool antisexist cartoons.

    Also, gratuitously: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=1484635787266506285

  107. That Fuzzy Bastard says:

    “ex-fratboy NEW YORKER reading audience”? Wha’ hunh? As far as I can see from the subway, the New Yorker’s reading audience is largely women, Jewish intellectual males, and liberals-not-lefties. Ex fratboys read The Post, the Observer, and the Economist when they’re trying to be highbrow.

    As for the Van Dykes, I think Steph, above, has a point about their anachronistic, well, individuality. What’s really striking throughout the article is how *parasitical* the Van Dykes are—for all their high-minded talk about becoming farmers, they never settle down and do anything, just eat crops that other people grew, panhandle, and live off new member’s alimony payments. The article didn’t make me want to emulate them so much as make me shudder at the profound selfishness of the whole Boomer generation, left and right.

  108. ladiesbane says:

    Mention in Andrew Sullivan’s blog:


    — continued congratulations on your word-fame, AB!

  109. ladiesbane says:

    And now the review itself: a gorgeous work in its own right and dang, I’m impressed. I’m shaking my head. Shamefaced to say it, but I’d rather read Anthony Burgess’s translation rather than Edmond Rostand’s original, and I’d rather read this review than the book. Apologies to Vandenburgh.



  110. straightallhyinDesMoines says:

    They made a Nanosaur 2?!?

    PS: Your book “Funhome” was absolutely amazing. My college English class decided all parents need to read it.