Tag: Corporate Greed

Don't Buy from med_express_sales

Hi, I'm the Frivolous Suit.  And I think Med Express is AWESOME.

I've never done business with Med Express. I can't speak to the quality of their products or services.

But, per Ken White at Popehat, I know enough to know I wouldn't do business with them even if the opportunity ever did arise.

See, Med Express is suing a customer for giving it negative feedback on eBay.

It doesn't dispute the substance of the feedback. And yet, it's suing all the same.

When notified of the problem, Med Express immediately offered to reimburse Nicholls for the postage due amount. Despite this offer, and before giving Med Express a chance to reimburse her, Nicholls on February 26, 2013, apparently as a result of the $1.44 postage due, posted negative feedback and comments for the transaction on Ebay's website and gave Med Express low ratings in the Detailed Seller Ratings section of Ebay's Feedback Forum, resulting in an unfavorable feedback profile for Med Express. In so doing, Nicholls falsely and deliberately slandered the good name and reputation of Med Express.

Well, okay, two things:

  1. Anyone who refers to written words as "slander" is clearly not familiar with even the basics of defamation law. Here, I'll let J Jonah Jameson explain:
  2. It's not defamatory if it's true.

Now, free speech attorney Paul Alan Levy tried to explain that to Med Express's lawyer. Here's how that went:

I contacted James Amodio, Med Express's lawyer, to explain to him the many ways in which his lawsuit is untenable. He readily admitted that, as the complaint admits, everything that the customer had posted in her feedback was true; he did not deny that a statement has to be false to be actionable as defamation; but he just plain didn’t care. To the contrary, he told me that I could come up to Medina, Ohio, and argue whatever I might like, but that the case was going to continue unless the feedback was taken down or changed to positive. And he explained why his client was insisting on this change — he said that it sells exclusively over eBay, where a sufficient level of negative feedback can increase the cost of such sales as well as possibly driving away customers.

So okay, that brings up another point:

You don't actually have a legal right not to lose business because of bad reviews.

Let's look at, say, the Rotten Tomatoes page for Olympus has Fallen.

David Edelstein calls it "a disgusting piece of work". Richard Roeper says it's "just too much of a pale 'Die Hard' ripoff."

You know what? People listen to those guys. Olympus has Fallen was seventh at the BO last weekend, a million and a half behind a movie that came out in 1993.

Hell, here's a bad review of this very website:

I was going to check your site out, but then you gave it that thoroughly unfunny plug. I'd actually read My damn site before I ever went to Corporate Sellout.

But did I sue Geothermal? No. Even though I never sold a T-shirt to anyone but my grandmother.

Because -- and this is kind of important -- it's totally legal to criticize things you don't like. Even if it hurts their business. Even if your intention is to hurt their business. Just so long as what you're saying is either (1) actually true or (2) a personal opinion rather than a statement of fact.

Here are some examples:

Statement of fact: Med Express sues its customers for giving it negative feedback on eBay.

Personal opinion: Med Express is run by immoral scumbags who want to wipe their asses with the First Amendment and use the Ohio courts as their own personal enforcement racket.

And then of course there's our good friend the Streisand Effect.

Yesterday morning I'd never heard of Med Express, and you probably hadn't either.

Now, you have and I have. And our opinion of them is not positive. In fact it's almost certainly a lot more negative than if we'd just seen a single bad review of them on eBay. Especially given that, for fuck's sake, their feedback is 99.3% positive. Seriously, would anyone have even looked at that one bad review? One of only two bad reviews compared to 300 good ones?

I imagine their search results would be taking a beating, too, if their name weren't so damn generic as to get subsumed in a deluge of other companies with the same name.


A note to Mr. Amodio and any other bullies or thugs who may be reading this: Everything I have said in this post is either (1) a factual statement which is true to the best of my knowledge or (2) a statement of personal opinion.

If I have said anything that is factually incorrect, let me know and, if I can verify your claim, I will correct it.

And if you drop the case, apologize to Ms. Nicholls, and offer her fair compensation for the trouble you have caused her, I will be willing to amend this post to make note of that. I will retitle it and add a disclaimer at the beginning stating that Med Express has done the right thing and all is forgiven.

Provided you ask nicely rather than threaten me. Seriously, you really should stop threatening people; it is not a very good way to make people stop saying bad things about you.

Monoculture

Well, I was all set to write a post filled with righteous indignation at Apple's nannying and censoring ways when I read that Saga #12 was banned from being sold through the iOS version of the Comixology app.

But then when I sat down to write it I found that Comixology is now claiming Apple never actually refused it, Comixology chose not to submit it on the assumption that Apple would reject it.

That makes for a bit of a different post.

But a lot of the major points remain.

First of all, the disproportionate market share enjoyed by both Apple and Comixology in the comics market is cause for concern. Monoculture is a bad thing, and when there's only one distribution point for a product -- or two, or three --, that puts the producer and the consumer at the middleman's advantage. And it can amount to censorship. Or price-fixing, or any number of other ills.

Additionally, even if this is Comixology's fuckup, it's the result of Apple's notoriously vague content restrictions. Even if Comixology played it too cautious on this one, there's still the story of what allegedly happened to French publisher Izneo just two weeks ago:

Two weeks ago -- on the eve of the long Easter week-end, the site IDBOOX notes -- the Izneo folks got an order from Apple to remove the "pornographic" content from their app. With no clue as to what Apple would judge to be pornographic, the Izneo folks immediately took down 2,800 of the 4,000 comics in their app, cautiously removing anything that could hint of adult content, including Blake and Mortimer and XIII, both of which are published in print in the U.S. without any fuss. Then they reviewed those comics and put about half of them back, but that still leaves 1,500 titles that aren’t in the app any more. Izneo took quite a financial hit on this; turns out comics featuring "Les jolies filles un peu sexy" are their top sellers. (This story, it should be said, came from an anonymous source.)

And even though that story seems to be apocryphal, stories of Apple's arbitrary app rejection and inconsistent treatment of adult content are legion. The first time I ever browsed the iTunes store, the title of Bitches Brew was censored. In the years since, many developers and publishers have expressed frustration that Apple rejected their submissions and didn't tell them why. And then of course there's Jobs's famous Orwellian "freedom from porn" stance.

Ultimately, I'm an Android user because I don't want a single company to be in charge of content distribution. It's not that I trust Google -- I really don't. I have plenty of complaints about Google; they're invasive, monopolistic, and generally evil and scary. But the bottom line, for me, is that they make it much easier to run whatever software you want on their devices -- and as far as I'm concerned, the choice between Android and iOS doesn't take any choosing at all.

Peter Moore Gives a Master Class in Bullshit Internet "Debate"

Yesterday, in a discussion about bullshit argument tactics employed by corporate mouthpieces defending bad policies, I quoted a bit of EA COO Peter Moore's asinine response to his company's commanding lead in the Consumerist's annual Worst Company in America survey.

I picked one particular bullet point, but really the entire thing is an amazing example of what I'm talking about. Logical fallacies piled on top of terrible metaphors wrapped in insults to the reader's intelligence. I think the whole piece really deserves a going-over, piecemeal.

The tallest trees catch the most wind.

That's an expression I frequently use when asked to defend EA's place in the gaming industry.

You know, I used to live in a house that had a tall tree out back.

It's true that it caught a lot of wind.

It's also true that that wind made it pretty fucking hazardous. One time during a storm, one of its branches broke off and smashed through a block in our fence.

We were lucky it just hit the fence by the alley, and not power lines or our roof or our neighbors'.

You know how it got so tall?

By digging around in shit.

Its roots grew down through our sewage pipes. The place had serious plumbing problems for years and years.

Finally, before we moved out, my roommate (the owner of the house) had the tree taken out. Then he dug a trench in the backyard, and had the pipes replaced. The long day of digging coupled with the exposure to sewage made him seriously ill.

So, you know, "The tallest trees catch the most wind" is one way of putting it.

Another way is, the tallest trees are dangerous, expensive, and may leave you covered in shit and physically ill.

And it comes to mind again this week as we get deeper into the brackets of an annual Web poll to name the "Worst Company in America."

This is the same poll that last year judged us as worse than companies responsible for the biggest oil spill in history,

I'ma stop you right there, Pete.

I mean, nice weaseling on the plural there, but you're talking about BP.

I wonder why British Petroleum didn't win the Worst Company in America poll.

the mortgage crisis, and bank bailouts that cost millions of taxpayer dollars.

Now, here Moore makes what may be the only reasonable point in this entire piece.

And that's, yes, it is fucking ridiculous to suggest that EA's the worst company in America.

It's not even in the running.

EA may be terrible, but anyone who tells you it's the worst company in America is stupid, lying, or both.

The complaints against us last year were our support of SOPA (not true),

Moore is technically correct here, but it's a bit misleading. According to techdirt, Sony, Nintendo, and EA never actually endorsed SOPA -- but they did sign on to a letter from the Global IP Center that suggested something a whole lot like SOPA.

and that they didn't like the ending to Mass Effect 3.

Yeah. That's why people are calling EA the worst company in America.

That and they hate gay people. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

This year's contest started in March with EA outpolling a company which organizers contend is conspiring to corner the world market on mid-priced beer, and (gulp) allegedly waters down its product. That debate takes place in bars -- our audience lives on the Internet. So no surprise that we drew more votes there.

Let me cut to the chase: it appears EA is going to "win." Like the Yankees, Lakers and Manchester United, EA is one of those organizations that is defined by both a legacy of success, and a legion of critics (especially me regarding all three of those teams).

Again, Moore makes a fair point that there's an echo chamber here. The kind of person who hates EA is exactly the same kind of person who likes to game stupid online popularity contests. EA keeps getting voted the worst company in America for the same reason that Time's list of the most influential people in the world spells out "KJU GAS CHAMBERS".

But once again Moore brings up an analogy that maybe works on a level besides the one he intended.

Because hey, Pete -- when people say they don't like Kobe Bryant, maybe it's not just because he's so goddamn good at basketball.

Are we really the "Worst Company in America?" I'll be the first to admit that we've made plenty of mistakes. These include server shut downs too early, games that didn't meet expectations, missteps on new pricing models and most recently, severely fumbling the launch of SimCity. We owe gamers better performance than this.

Moore may be willing to admit EA's made mistakes, but sure doesn't seem to keen on acknowledging what those mistakes actually are. Watch him trotting out the company line that the problem with the SimCity launch was that they didn't implement its always-on requirement correctly, not that the always-on requirement was the mistake.

Some of these complaints are 100 percent legitimate -- like all large companies we are not perfect. But others just don't hold water:

  • Many continue to claim the Always-On function in SimCity is a DRM scheme. It's not. People still want to argue about it. We can't be any clearer -- it's not. Period.

Oh boy, now we're getting into the real nutmeat of the bullshit here.

I covered this one yesterday, but to review:

  1. Yeah, it is a DRM scheme. It's the same kind of crap EA pulled with Spore's periodic authentication and the stories about players being denied access to legally-purchased copies of Dragon Age 2 for criticizng EA on messageboards, cranked up to 11. The always-on connection is not required to play the game, so why the fuck is it there if not as a DRM scheme? Which brings us to:
  2. Even if it weren't DRM, it would still be a terrible fucking idea that prevented people from playing a game they paid for. In fact, if it's not intended as DRM, then EA is even stupider, because they stuck an always-online requirement into a game that didn't need it for no reason instead of for a stupid reason.
  3. And finally: If you follow up the phrase "We can't be any clearer" with an argument that is literally just a slight paraphrase of "Nuh-uh!", maybe you should hire some people who can be clearer.
  • Some claim there's no room for Origin as a competitor to Steam. 45 million registered users are proving that wrong.

Okay, first of all, who is claiming that?

The problem isn't that Steam couldn't use a little competition. The problem is that Origin is a system whereby people's ability to play their legally-purchased games is contingent on whether or not a forum mod somewhere gets pissed off at something they say. Or possibly just gets pissed off when they ask Amazon for tech support.

Anyway, I'll get on the "45 million people can't be wrong!" fallacy in a minute. You had a little more mileage you wanted to wring out of it first?

  • Some people think that free-to-play games and micro-transactions are a pox on gaming. Tens of millions more are playing and loving those games.

Well, Mr. Moore, since you're the one who brought up banks and oil companies, let's talk about that for a minute.

A shitload of people still buy gas from BP and keep their money in Chase banks. Enough to make your "45 million" brag look like loose change in the ashtray of the car they're filling up with BP gas using their Chase credit card. And hell, speaking of ashtrays? Hundreds of millions of people are smoking and loving cigarettes, too. Does that mean everyone who thinks lung cancer is bad must be wrong?

  • We've seen mailing lists that direct people to vote for EA because they disagree with the choice of the cover athlete on Madden NFL. Yes, really...

I don't doubt it. The Internet is a big place. You can find someone who will say absolutely any kind of dumbass thing.

This particular rhetorical tactic is a close cousin of the strawman, with the added benefit that it allows people to act indignant when accused of invoking a strawman. "It's not a strawman! A guy totally said it!" All you have to do is point to the craziest person you can possibly find and pretend he's a representative example of everyone who disagrees with you, and presto!, you can just ignore all the people making well-reasoned and -informed arguments!

  • In the past year, we have received thousands of emails and postcards protesting against EA for allowing players to create LGBT characters in our games. This week, we're seeing posts on conservative web sites urging people to protest our LGBT policy by voting EA the Worst Company in America.

That last one is particularly telling. If that's what makes us the worst company, bring it on. Because we're not caving on that.

I love that one.

Seriously, it is a really tough call whether my favorite part of that bulleted list is the "It's not. Period." part, or the part where Moore straight-up implies that if you don't like EA, it's because you hate gay people.

On a related note: can anyone name an EA game that allows you to play as a gay character that isn't made by a subsidiary that was letting you play as gay characters before EA bought it?

We are committed to fixing our mistakes. Over the last three weeks, 900,000 SimCity players took us up on a free game offer for their troubles. We owed them that.

Ah yes, that would be one of the small, arbitrary selection of free games you made available, of which Ars Technica said:

It's a curious mix of titles, not least because only one of the games is likely to have any particular appeal to SimCity players: SimCity 4. And even that is an odd choice. Many SimCity players already own--and love--the old game, and many regard it as the benchmark against which all city-building games (including the new one) are judged. The problem is that those comparisons aren't necessarily favorable to the new game.

Seeing Warfighter on the list, one wonders if EA wants to be hated even more than it currently is. The game is a stinker.

But back to Moore:

We're constantly listening to feedback from our players, through our Customer Experience group, Twitter, this blog, or other sites. The feedback is vital, and impacts the decisions we make.

If you were listening to feedback, you would have cut this shit out after the Spore backlash. Or the Dragon Age 2 backlash. Or the Battlefield 3 backlash. Or the every single fucking game on Origin backlash. Or the other Battlefield 3 backlash. Or or or windy trees! Windy treeeeeeeeeeeeeeees!

But Mr. Moore, you've made yourself abundantly clear: EA does not give a fuck how many of its customers are dissatisfied, all it cares about is how many of its customers are still happily paying money for its games. As long as games like Spore and SimCity are bestsellers, EA has no incentive whatsoever to back off its terrible, anti-consumer policies.

...and after that there are two more paragraphs of Moore pretty much saying exactly that, another vague "we can do better" that doesn't actually acknowledge what they've done wrong, and a restatement of the thesis because Peter Moore learned in high school English that you're supposed to close an essay by restating the thesis. Fuck it, you get the idea, I don't need to go on.

Obfuscation

Continuing from Friday's post about a Microsoft employee's total disdain for Microsoft customers' concern about the next Xbox's rumored always-on requirement:

I want my game console to only be playable online, said no one ever.
Image via Quickmeme.
My Internet connection went down while I was trying to find it. I'm not kidding.

That's the crux of it, isn't it?

From a consumer standpoint, there is no benefit to an always-on requirement.

Now, people may try to obfuscate this point. They may list off all the benefits of an always-on option. And there are some! Cloud saves are pretty cool! So's online multiplayer! Having those things as options is great!

Making them mandatory, for all games, is not. And therein lies the disingenuousness of the argument.

EA COO Peter Moore recently shared this gem:

Many continue to claim the Always-On function in SimCity is a DRM scheme. It's not. People still want to argue about it. We can't be any clearer -- it's not. Period.

As difficult as it is to argue with the unassailable logic that is "It's not. Period.", there are two problems here:

  1. It's clearly DRM.
  2. Even if it weren't DRM, it would still be legitimately terrible game design.

This is one more case where a company representative is deliberately obfuscating the difference between a nice option and a good requirement.

The idea of an entire world of SimCities interacting with one another? That does sound pretty great! It's really a neat idea!

Is it integral to the gameplay?

Well, Peter Moore will tell you it is. Because Peter Moore is paid to tell you it is.

But it's turned out to be trivial to modify the game for offline play, and quite a lot of people have noted that the game plays just fine that way. The interaction with other players and cities is a nice option -- but it's not required to enjoy the game.

Indeed, it proved a pretty fucking considerable detriment to customers enjoying the game.

So beware this argument tactic -- "[X] is a good requirement to have, because of [features that could be implemented without making it a requirement]."

And its close cousin, "DRM is a benefit to the end user, because of [features that could be implemented without using DRM]."

DRM is never a benefit to the end user. No end user has ever said, "You know, this game is great, but it would be better if it had DRM."

Similarly, as the image above so succinctly notes, nobody has ever said "You know, offline games are great, but I sure wish they were as unreliable as online games."

Microsoft Doesn't Want My Business. That Can Be Arranged.

So in case you haven't been keeping score, apparently the next version of the Xbox will require an always-on Internet connection, even for single-player games.

As you might expect, some people are unhappy about this.

Microsoft's Adam Orth knows just how to treat concerned customers: by insulting and mocking them with disingenuous analogies.

Image: Adam Orth's Twitter feed, insulting his customers' intelligence and his own

Now, one of three things is true:

  1. Adam Orth is stupid.
  2. Adam Orth thinks you're stupid.
  3. Both.

I shouldn't even have to fucking explain this, but here goes anyway:

A video game console that doesn't work without an Internet connection is not analogous to a vacuum cleaner that doesn't work without electricity or a cellular telephone that doesn't work without cellular service.

Because, you see, a vacuum cleaner, by its nature, requires electricity to function. (Technically some vacuum cleaners get that electricity from batteries, but keep in mind, Orth's analogy is very very stupid.)

A cellular telephone requires cellular service to function.

You see where I'm going with this?

A video game console does not require an Internet connection to function.

Now, some games might. Complaining that, say, World of Warcraft requires an Internet connection would indeed be comparable to complaining that a vacuum requires a current and a cellular telephone requires cellular telephone service.

But -- fun fact! -- many video games are single-player.

Refusing to buy a video game console that requires an always-on Internet connection is not analogous to refusing to buy a vacuum cleaner that requires an electrical current.

Refusing to buy a video game console that requires an always-on Internet connection is analogous to refusing to buy a vacuum cleaner that requires an always-on Internet connection.

Concerning Tolkiens

A few weeks back, Tom Spurgeon had this to say:

[F]or some reason I ended up with this Christopher Tolkien Le Monde interview in my bookmarks folder. It's instructive to read something about a family wanting certain rights returned or better rewarded when most people really like what's been done with those rights as opposed to their either not caring or actively hating the result. One of the reasons a lot of our comics-related issue discussions remain unsophisticated is that we frequently choose to fight our battles along fundamental "I like it"/"I hate it" lines and then kind of furiously stare at the other issues involved until we can find a way to make them comply to our initial impression. It's no way to move forward.

He's not wrong. Given my established stance on creators' rights -- and creators' heirs' rights -- I'd be remiss in not confronting this conundrum.

Now, I like the movies. They're not perfect (The Two Towers, in particular, completely botches the narrative arc, overemphasizing the importance of Helm's Deep and an inexplicable new Osgiliath subplot while shunting the two actual climaxes of the book to the first act of the third movie -- and in one case, removing it from the theatrical cut entirely), but on the whole they're really pretty good. But yeah, there are some uncomfortable facts surrounding them.

To reiterate: my stance is that copyright law lasts far too long; in my opinion The Hobbit should have been public domain by now. But given that it isn't, we should respect the rights of the creators -- and given that, in this case, JRR Tolkien is no longer with us, we should respect the rights of his heirs. For legal purposes, the Tolkien Estate is JRR Tolkien.

But there are a couple of other factors at work here, too.

It was JRR himself who sold the film rights. Willingly, and with the intent to make sure his heirs were cared for financially.

That said, he was taken advantage of. Ever hear of the first ever Hobbit movie? It was made in a month, ran 12 minutes, and was only screened once -- because Tolkien's lawyers were incompetent, and left a loophole allowing the studio to retain the rights to Lord of the Rings as long as they produced a full-color film by a given deadline. Length and distribution were not specified; a 12-minute movie screened once satisfied the contract.

It wouldn't be the last time lawyers worked to game the system. Forty years later, Warner would produce the blockbuster Lord of the Rings film trilogy, and, through the usual Hollywood creative bookkeeping tactics, claim that it had not turned any profit and therefore they didn't owe any money to the Tolkien Estate. It took a lawsuit for the Estate to receive any money from the films.

(This is the point in any creators' rights debate where some corporate apologist inevitably explains to me that publicly-traded companies are beholden to their shareholders and therefore obligated to hoard as much money as humanly possible and do everything they can to avoid paying a single cent more than they have to. Why, it would be unethical for them not to try and get out of paying the Tolkien Estate! I welcome any such apologist to explain to me precisely how it was in Time Warner shareholders' best interest to expose the company to multiple lawsuits -- not just from the Tolkiens but from Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, who New Line also tried to stiff -- and trap The Hobbit in development hell for the better part of a decade, to the point where it appeared for quite some time that it wouldn't get made at all.)

And there's one more sad old saw that the apologists like to trot out: "Well, what did the heirs ever do?" That's one I see a lot in the conversations about the heirs of Jack Kirby, or Jerry Siegel, or Joe Shuster, et al.

I think it's a hollow argument. Creators do their work expecting to leave something for their families, and dismissing heirs outright effectively means giving luck-of-the-draw based on the age at which a person dies. (Do you believe Jack Kirby should have received money from The Avengers if he had lived to 95, and would have left that money to his children? If so, why do you believe his children don't deserve that money just because he died at 76? If not, then what the hell does it matter whether his heirs did the work or not, if you don't think the guy who did do the work shouldn't have been compensated for the adaptation?)

But even if you don't buy that line of reasoning, well, this is one case where "What did the heirs ever do?" is a pretty piss-poor rhetorical question. Because in this case the answer is "Assemble, edit, and publish about 30 of his books." Make no mistake -- Christopher Tolkien hasn't simply sat back and waited for checks to roll in; he has made it his life's work to get as much of his father's work into print as humanly possible. And it's not so simple as just finding old pages and retyping them -- many of the writings are fragmentary, and many would be incomprehensible without Christopher's extensive annotations. Without his work, Tolkien's body of published work would be far poorer.

Actually, that brings up another point entirely: the Hobbit movie isn't simply an adaptation of The Hobbit. It includes material from Unfinished Tales -- a book which I'm fairly confident Warner, MGM, et al do not have the movie rights to.

Now, I'm sure Warner's got very expensive lawyers on this. And maybe I'm misremembering -- it's been years since I read Unfinished Tales, longer since I read Lord of the Rings, longer still since I read The Hobbit. Maybe the LotR appendices have enough information about the Fall of Erebor, how Thorin earned the name Oakenshield, Gandalf's meeting with Thráin, and the White Council that Jackson, Walsh, Boyens, and del Toro can plausibly claim that they only adapted material from The Hobbit and LotR -- but if I were the Tolkien Estate's lawyers, I'd be poring over the movie right now looking for material from Unfinished Tales and any other posthumously-published Tolkien work that the studios never bought the rights for.

All that said? I like the LotR films and the Hobbit film. I'm sorry that Christopher Tolkien wishes they didn't exist, and I feel a little bad about that. I feel worse still about how the studios have treated the Tolkien Estate, and I believe it's genuinely unconscionable that they tried to stiff them out of compensation for the films. And yes, I suspect that the latest movie does adapt material from books it's not legally allowed to. (I'm also none too happy about the reports of union-busting and animal mistreatment, come to that.)

Stuff like this is personal. I believe that, for example, The Avengers hit a point where I couldn't in good conscience pay to see the movie; I believe that The Hobbit, despite the caveats above, did not. I believe the point that Tolkien's heirs do get a substantial amount of money from their father's work -- even if they had to go to court for some of it -- while Kirby's and Heck's heirs don't is a major reason for that. Spurgeon's point is intriguing -- but I really do like to think I've formed my opinions based on the circumstances of the dispute, and not simply looked for facts that made me feel good about seeing a movie I already wanted to see.

tl;dr I think The Hobbit was pretty great. There are some uncomfortable things going on behind the scenes and we should think about those. Personally I don't think they justify a boycott -- but everyone should be aware of them, consider them, and come to their own conclusions.

Business

Frank Zappa: Portrait of the Artist as a Businessman, by Rob Partridge and Paul Phillips, Cream, 1972. Courtesy once again of afka.net.

Frank discusses the business side of things. He was certainly a much savvier and more thorough businessman than most rock artists, then or now -- but his comments about what a good deal he has with Warner Brothers are an indication that he still had some hard lessons left to learn; he'd be singing a much different tune a few years later.

Simone Wants to Stick Around

The other night I pondered whether Gail Simone would stick with DC or go off and do her own thing. Well, per her tumblr:

I am not giving up on the idea of a major trans character in an ongoing mainstream title without a fight. I want a clear, unambiguous trans character in a prominent, unambiguous and unapologetic role THIS YEAR.

Sure sounds like she's planning on continuing with DC. Or, if not them, moving over to Marvel.

As I indicated the other night, I have mixed feelings about this. There's a part of me, a big part, that loves seeing prominent creators leave DC and Marvel behind and go do their own thing.

But on the other hand, DC and Marvel are still important, their characters are still important, and they're still well-known and accessible (well, commercially, if not narratively). Simone's made a career of bringing more diversity to the DC Universe, and the American comics industry is legitimately better for it.

It bears adding that the most prominent transgender character in the DC Universe right now is probably Shining Knight in Demon Knights, by Paul Cornell, Diógenes Neves, and Bernard Chang. Cornell's done a great job of picking up the baton from Grant Morrison, taking Sir Ystin in a different but altogether natural direction following his introduction in Seven Soldiers. Demon Knights is, itself, quite possibly the most diverse book in the entire superhero genre, but Cornell has pulled off the rather neat trick of making the cast feel organic; each character fits and none ever feels like a token.

(And, per The Outhousers, Cornell's also been one of Gail's most vocal defenders since the announcement of her firing.)

I've got no idea what Gail's got in mind with a book starring a transgender character. I wouldn't bet against a Shining Knight solo book at DC, but there are plenty of other possibilities. Given the Big Two's penchant for recycling characters ("Green Lantern, but black", "Blue Beetle, but Hispanic", "Batwoman, but a lesbian", or, for that matter, "Shining Knight, but transgendered") I'd expect it to tie into an existing brand -- maybe someone from the Batman or Superman family, though I'm thinking it would really be quite appropriate to have it be a character tied into Wonder Woman -- not only has Gail written Wonder Woman before, but Wonder Woman's been the superhero genre's beacon for nontraditional sexual mores since 1941.

It'll be interesting to see what she's got up her sleeve and whether she can get DC or Marvel to publish it.

But in the meantime, she does have some creator-owned work in the pipeline: the Kickstarter-funded Leaving Megalopolis with Jim Calafiore, and something called Field Trip with Amanda Gould, to be published by Mark Waid's Thrillbent.

This Will Probably Get Me Put on a Watchlist Somewhere

Dear Senator McConnell,

Hi, me again. You presumably recall my E-Mail of two weeks ago, where, discussing Senate gridlock, I closed by asking you, "Are you going to start filibustering your OWN bills now?"

For the record, Senator, that was intended as a joke. I meant it as an example of ridiculous hyperbole, the sort of crazy, offbeat hypothetical situation that a person of average intelligence would see as self-evidently ludicrous. The kind of thing where someone would read that and think, "Haha, filibustering his own bill. That is humorous, because no rational, sane human being would ever do such a completely asinine thing."

In other words, I was not actually seriously recommending that you start filibustering your own bills.

Despite the misunderstanding, I am absolutely flattered that you took my words to heart, and if I may have a moment of your time I have some more suggestions I would like you to consider.

  • Copyright -- please hire Derek Khanna, recently ejected from the Republican Study Committee, to address the subject of copyright reform. Unless you're as cozy with Hollywood lobbyists as your colleagues in the House, of course.
  • Corporate personhood -- please revert to pre-Santa Clara v Southern Pacific policy and clarify that the equal protection clause is intended to protect actual human beings, not abstract social constructs.
  • Science -- please acknowledge the existence of science, and pressure your colleagues to do the same.
  • Women, black people, brown people, gay people, and disabled veterans -- maybe your party could show some basic human decency to these demographics. Just a thought.
  • Filibuster -- please restore to pre-1975 rules, or eliminate entirely. The way the minority party has been abusing it recently is a joke. Literally.

Thanks!