Monday, 27 October 2008
You're still here?
In the unlikely event that anyone's still reading this blog (or checking its RSS feed), three years after I put down the pen and stopped blogging, I've started up again at a new address. Let's see how long I last this time.
- Posted by Scott Forbes at 7:02 am. comments.
Thursday, 31 March 2005
Blogging has been light this past month (even by my standards) because real life has been unusually eventful — even by my standards. I don't normally blog about my career, except to mention in passing that I work in telecommunications… but as of last week I've left the company I worked for since 1991, and my lady-love and I are planning to depart Australia in the near future. Our next stop is the U.S. West Coast, at a city to be determined (probably San Francisco or Seattle, but we'll see) — and we have one other announcement to make, which I'll be calling people to tell personally before I spill the beans here.
Needless to say it's been an exciting month… just not one in which I've had a lot of time for blogging. Stay tuned.
- Posted by Scott Forbes at 1:16 pm. comments.
Sunday, 13 February 2005
The Doctor is in:
If it weren't for Howard Dean, I'd still be on the sidelines of American politics: Interested, but not involved. Dean's grassroots organizing, and his call to civic duty, galvanized millions of people around the world — myself included — and his pull-no-punches presidential campaign changed the tone of the Democratic Party. I always thought the Democrats of 2000-2003 were bringing an olive branch to a knife fight: Offering the hand of bipartisanship to an uncompromising opponent who sought their political destruction. On the national stage, Dean was the first and strongest voice to say Bush couldn't be trusted to put country ahead of party… and he recognized that you don't win elections by letting your opponent define you. You win them by standing for principles worth fighting for.
So, naturally, I'm delighted to have Dean as Chairman of the DNC — and I like this quote from his acceptance speech:
We know that we're the party for young Americans looking for a government that speaks to them… we know that we're the party for working Americans desperate for a government that looks out for them… and we know that we're the party for older Americans and veterans and members of the Armed Services expecting and deserving a government that honors them.
And we know that no matter where you live or who you are, what you look like or how you worship, ours is the diverse party that welcomes you.
But right now, as important as all of that is… it is not enough. We have to move forward. We cannot win if all we are is against the current President.
Republicans wandered around in the political wilderness for 40 years before they took back Congress. But the reason we lost control is that we forgot why we were entrusted with control to begin with.
The American people can't afford to wait for 40 years for us to put Washington back to work for them.
It can't take us that long.
And it won't take us that long… not if we stand up for what we believe in… organize at the local level… and recognize that this Party's strength doesn't come from the consultants down, it comes from grassroots up.
Amen. I don't expect miracles from Howard Dean, but I do expect him to fight the good fight more effectively: Where Terry McAuliffe was an effective fundraiser, Dean will be that and more. He'll be able to put the GOP on the defensive, to draw them out and draw their fire, and he'll give our candidates the time and money to define themselves before the GOP does it for them. For those of us who supported Dean as a presidential candidate, his second act as a DNC Chair is the best news we've had all month.
- Posted by Scott Forbes at 10:58 am. comments.
Monday, 24 January 2005
When I was growing up, we didn't have a World Wide Web like you kids today: We had the Marion Daily Republican for news about our friends and neighbors, and the Southern Illinoisan for reports from the outside world. Sometimes Dad would even splurge and invest a nickel in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, but mostly we read the hometown papers.
I don't remember which paper had the better comics page, but I do remember thinking they had a lot of dead weight in there. Strips like Hi and Lois or Blondie just recycled the same six jokes every week; maybe once in a while they'd hit the funny bone, but after the 83rd time Sarge punches Beetle the novelty starts to wears off. Gary Larson was a breath of — well, I wouldn't call it fresh air, but The Far Side was certainly unique — and Calvin and Hobbes's Bill Watterson was the best cartoonist of his time.
I read Watterson's tenth anniversary book, and what I remember most was his lament that commercial pressures were literally squeezing the comics. The publishers wanted to fit more comics on the printed page, and unless you had the clout of a Garry Trudeau (whose mostly-for-grownups Doonesbury strip often found its way to the editorial page), you had no choice but to try to draw into a smaller box. The size of the strip left only enough room for simplified drawings and limited dialogue; it was really only on Sunday that someone like Watterson could stretch his artistic wings.
The impression I received was that the comics pages were contracting, and that the only way a new artist can "break in" these days is if some other cartoonist retires. Watterson's retirement was a bonanza for Scott Adams, freeing up space in hundreds of papers for the up-and-coming Dilbert — but I really can't think of a cartoonist since Adams who's been nearly as successful, and I think part of the reason may be that there simply aren't any openings.
…all of which brings me to Michael Jantze's The Norm
. One reviewer described it as "the best comic strip you might not be reading," and I'd have to agree: Jantze's artistic skills are in Watterson's league, and his Sunday strips are a joy. The story centers on title character Theodore Norman Miller and his relationships with girlfriend / wife Reine (pronounced Re-NAY), best friend Ford, and other supporting characters — and with his own inner selves, who occasionally step out and take part in the action.
The Norm is the only comic strip I've seen that does regular fourth-wall jokes: Norm occasionally stops the action and talks directly to the audience, and sometimes has to adjust the "camera" so it's pointing in the right direction. (One week Norm was nowhere to be found, so the camera followed Reine around — who, of course, spent the week politely trying to shoo it away.) It's a strip that tells a story about the lives of its characters, and loyal readers have seen Norm go through relationships and breakups, jobs and layoffs, friends moving away and coming back home, and other milestones.
Until last September, The Norm was syndicated by King Features and appeared in about 70 papers nationwide — but Jantze decided to end his contract and strike out on his own, so he and wife Nicole are now distributing The Norm from their web site. They've gotten about 4,000 people to subscribe for $25/year, which is enough to keep them in pencils and web servers for the time being… but they're not going to get any new readers except by word of mouth.
About a year ago my other favorite new comic strip, Stephen Hersh and Nina Paley's The Hots, died an inglorious death from much the same causes: You can't earn a living drawing a syndicated comic strip these days. If you're an established cartoonist you can get by, but there's not enough room on the comics page — and not enough readers buying an old-fashioned newspaper — to let talented new artists establish a following.
So check out The Norm — and if you like what you see, tip the artist. Michael and Nicole Jantze are still working the kinks out of the non-members part of their web site, but hopefully soon you'll be able to preview the strip and find out what you're missing.
- Posted by Scott Forbes at 12:13 pm. comments.
Saturday, 22 January 2005
And now a word?
The management of A Yank in Oz is flabbergasted to introduce our first commercial sponsor, an advertiser who apparently believes this blog is about a New York Yankees fan swept away by a tornado. (Well, that's one possible interpretation of the blog's name.) I had given up on the idea that blogads were going to be a lucrative source of revenue — or even a source of revenue — given the utter lack of response thus far… but apparently someone looked at the sophisticated, talented audience of this blog and decided it was an opportunity they couldn't pass up.
And so a warm welcome to the fine folks from ticketsinaflash.com, who are here to provide for your American baseball ticket needs. I'll try not to spend in one place the glorious eight dollars I'm about to receive for this ad. (Let's see, two and a half years of blogging, maybe five or six hours per week, means I'm getting paid about… five cents an hour. That's more than double what my opinion is usually worth.)
While we're on the subject, why don't you all wander over to this site, sign yourselves up for some junk-mail offers, and then get yourselves (and me) a free Mac Mini? It's not like the junk-mail people don't already know where you live.
- Posted by Scott Forbes at 1:03 pm. comments.
Monday, 17 January 2005
Two worth reading:
- A commenter at The Peking Duck declares that what we now have in Iraq is "the equivalent of a kind of Vichy Government being set up," and that morally the insurgents are right to resist and the quislings are wrong to cooperate. Richard presents the opposing view with a powerful summary of why — in spite of all Bush's failures and screw-ups — we can't abandon the Iraqi people to the hands of the murderous few.
- Andrew Sullivan and Greg Djerejian take John Kerry to task for not denouncing Abu Ghraib loudly enough to satisfy them — and The Poor Man gives them exactly what they deserve. If you didn't hold Bush accountable for torture, then you can't avoid your share of the shame.
- Posted by Scott Forbes at 7:55 am. comments.