Tag: Corporate Greed

Joan Rivers

Zappa on The Late Show with Joan Rivers, 1986(ish?).

I'd definitely say his conspiracy theories on AIDS are a swing and a miss, but everything else is pretty solid -- and hell, given that this would have been right around the time Iran-Contra broke, I can't say I blame anyone for believing the Reagan Administration was engaging in sinister and wildly implausible dealings.


Vertigo isn't what it was.

Have they had a big hit since Y? I can't think of one. Fables is still ongoing (along with spinoff Fairest), and they put out a new edition of Sandman every two years (with a new miniseries coming!), but I can't think of a new series becoming a real barn burner since 2002.

Not to say there aren't series that deserve it. Northlanders, Scalped, DMZ, American Vampire, iZombie, and my personal favorites, Sweet Tooth and The Unwritten -- they've all been critical successes, and they've all stuck around awhile (the shortest run of the lot was iZombie's 28 issues). But for a long time I've gotten the impression that the bean counters aren't happy with the results.

From what I understand, Vertigo's contracts are a lot more restrictive than they used to be -- "creator-owned" in a technical sense but giving a whole lot of the rights over to DC.

And lately, they've been shutting down popular Vertigo series to reintegrate popular characters back into the DC universe -- Swamp Thing and John Constantine are the two biggest examples.

So when I read yesterday that Karen Berger was stepping down as EiC of Vertigo, it came as a blow but not a surprise.

It's not an exaggeration to say that Karen Berger changed the American comics industry. She put Alan Moore, Steve Bissette, Rick Veitch, and John Totleben on Swamp Thing; she brought Moore and David Lloyd's work on V for Vendetta into the DC fold and gave them the opportunity to finish it. And then she put Neil Gaiman on Sandman.

That would have been one hell of a résumé all by itself. But then: Vertigo. Sandman wasn't just an amazing and unique book -- it led to an entire imprint based on the premise of amazing and unique books. It reminded comics fans -- and showed new fans, perhaps for the first time -- that comics can be anything. And that "mature" can actually mean "mature" instead of being a euphemism for "blood and guts and cursing and maybe titties".

It's been just shy of twenty years, and Vertigo's influence -- and Karen Berger's -- can't be overstated. It changed the way people looked at comics and consistently produced some of the best comics on the stands and in the bookstores.

But I get the distinct impression that current DC management doesn't care. And I'm not talking about Didio, Johns, Lee -- I think they all like Vertigo just fine. But DC is, increasingly, not a company run by comics creators, or people who know or care about comics. Warner's in charge. Warner doesn't want critically-acclaimed books with mediocre sales, it wants crossovers and prequels and sequels and reboots and corporate synergy and brand leveraging.

So Berger's out. And on the one hand, it's a shame to see her go -- I really think the writing's on the wall for the entire Vertigo line at this point. Fables will keep going because it's a moneymaker; it won't change much except that it might get a DC logo on its cover instead of the Vertigo one. But every other Vertigo book? Well, I'm nervous as a reader and I'd be more nervous still if I were a creator.

On the other hand, Berger's already changed the face of American comics, and even if DC is no longer a place where she can innovate, there are plenty of other publishers that I'm sure would be thrilled to have her.

And not just publishers -- there's a very long list of comics creators who refuse to work with DC anymore but who have nothing but nice things to say about Karen. And I'm betting they'll call her before she calls them.


Christmas Creep has bothered me since I was old enough to really notice it. Christmas starts earlier and earlier every year, and there's ever more pressure to consume! To buy shit, to go places, to be with family even if all it's going to do is stress you all the fuck out and make for a less-than-appealing family memory. Too much stress, plus too much traffic making for miserable driving, breathing, and shopping.

For a number of years I'd spend the week before Christmas out of town, out of the city, off at my mom and stepdad's quiet little home in Chino Valley. Unplug for a few days, though I don't think that expression was vogue yet.

Haven't done that these past few years but man it's tempting.

It should come as no surprise that I am not a huge fan of this "Let's have Black Friday -- on Thursday!" trend.

I don't shop on Black Friday. I sure as hell don't intend to shop on Black Not-Friday. I hold any company that tries to lure people away from Thanksgiving for holiday savings! in the same contempt they so clearly hold me. And their employees. And their customers.

I heard on the radio that last year showed a sizable dip in early-December shopping, theorized as "shopping fatigue". I hope that keeps happening. I hope it keeps happening until they learn. But unfortunately I don't think they'll ever learn -- any more than the airlines will learn that their business is dipping because they have made flying a fucking miserable experience.

I also heard there are folks saying people should support local businesses on Saturday. If that helps local businesses, hey, that's great -- but I don't really put much stock in "Everybody do X on Such-and-Such-a-Day to send a message!" as a strategy. You know all those "Don't buy gas on Saturday; that'll really show Exxon-Mobil!" forwards your idiot slacktivist friends constantly send you on Facebook? Do you recall any of them ever really showing Exxon-Mobil? No? Well that's because it doesn't hurt Exxon-Mobil's business when everyone just fucking waits until Sunday to buy the same amount of gas.

So while I wholeheartedly endorse supporting local businesses, I really think you should probably be doing it more than one day a year.

Fuck, the whole idea that people should only be encouraged to shop on a single specific day is the problem here.

So support your local business. Saturday, Sunday, whenever the fuck you feel like it. Friday, if you must, though I don't intend to leave the house that day myself.

But if you actually go out and support those turkeyfuckers at Wal-Mart and Target in making their employees knock off Thanksgiving dinner early to come in and sell you shit? Well, look, I know the economy's rough and beggars can't be choosers. But I don't think you need that new TV that damn badly.

On a more cheerful note: there's a whole lot in this life I'm thankful for (for example: not being a retail employee on Thanksgiving), and I hope there's a lot you're thankful for too. I hope you keep that in mind today and enjoy your turkey and gravy and cranberry sauce and what-have-you.

But that's just one more thing that shouldn't be confined to one day a year. Stay upbeat. Keep things in perspective. Remember the good things each and every day.

Now, cooking an entire turkey dinner, on the other hand? That's probably okay to confine to one day a year. That is a whole lot of work.

Incredible Boss Mother

afka.net has a pretty solid selection of Zappa articles. Here's an early one: Frank Zappa the Incredible Boss Mother, by Don Paulsen, Hit Parader, June 1967.

"Top 40 radio is unethical, unmusical and it stinks. Classical music stations aren't much better. They all have very rigid, limited programming.

"The Mothers were created to fill most of the gap that exists between so-called serious music and the mass public. Really good music with advanced tendencies has been kept from the public at large. This includes classical and popular music. A filtering system of little old ladies selects the music played by symphony orchestras and on radio stations.

"Once some people get to the position where they own a nightclub or control the goings-on in a concert hall, they become critics and tastemakers.

"Usually they hate music. They love business and just want to make money. Whenever I have to deal with this kind of people, I always tell them that I hate music and I'm only doing this for the money. They slap me on the back and we get along fine. I tell them I wish I could drive a cab instead, but I can't get a license.

"The public knows nothing of what's really going on in the outer limits of music. There 'are kids writing music who think they've just made up the most fantastic things. They don't know that the best they can write today was already written and performed in 1912.

"A piece like Ameriques by Edgar Varèse, written in 1912, would scare the average teenager to death. Really scare him. Varèse lived and died in New York. The average American doesn't even know he existed, yet what he wrote has virtually changed the shape of all the music of the other composers who have heard it."

In later years, Zappa would come to believe that the younger generation of execs, the ones who thought they knew music, were even more dangerous and closed-minded than their square, mercenary elders.

But never mind that. I could pontificate on how things are different today (Top 40 radio ain't what it was) and how they're the same (American Idol ain't exactly much of an improvement) -- but the best thing I can do is demonstrate the kind of instant access to non-Top 40 music that we have in this here futuristic utopia of ours.

Here's Ameriques, by Edgard Varèse, performed by the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra in 1997.

Mostly Painless

Well, can't say that meeting was any more helpful than I anticipated, but at least it was short -- I was out within half an hour.

They want me to sign up for some website or another (currently down), upload my resume, and sign up for updates. I also got the paperwork to switch my unemployment over to deposit directly in my regular account instead of the Chase one they opened for me. I've been meaning to do that since day one but am much more keen on getting around to it since discovering Chase started charging me a fee for not using my unemployment account during the months I was employed.

Just so we're clear: I am the sort of guy who will close his bank account over six dollars in fees.

Because I fucking-well need that six dollars more than Chase does. As evidenced by the fact that it's the account where my unemployment checks go.

On the whole, though, it was a good reminder that, even unemployed, I'm not so badly off. I've got a family that supports me, emotionally and, when occasionally necessary, financially. I'm in better shape than a lot of the folks I saw who went in to DES just to use their computers to apply for jobs.

Anyhow, on the way home I found gas for $3.39 a gallon. I was pretty excited about filling up my tank for about $30. Up until a mile later when I saw it for $3.35. And then when I saw it for $3.38 a mile away from my house. Oh well; $3.39's still pretty good.

Rolling Over

Yesterday I praised the Republican Study Committee for putting out an excellent paper on what's wrong with copyright and how to reform it.

Today they pussied the hell out and retracted it under pressure from Hollywood lobbyists.

Who the hell do you guys think you are, Democrats?

My continued support and praise to everyone who still supports copyright reform. And a great big raspberry to all the craven little shits who backed down.

This isn't over.

Strange Bedfellows

I can't say I agree with the Republican Study Committee on many things -- among other things, their leadership is responsible for holding the budget hostage to pursue more tax cuts for the 1%. (At least they're willing to discuss cutting the budget for the military.)

But, per Cory Doctorow and Mike Masnick, they've put out a paper called Three Myths about Copyright Law and Where to Start to Fix It, and while so far I've only skimmed it, it looks pretty fantastic.

There is a strong conservative case to be made against modern American copyright law: it's a big-government handout to Hollywood that grants artificial monopolies, interferes with the free market, stifles innovation, and is clearly not what the Founding Fathers intended when they wrote the Constitution.

I'm not optimistic about the Republican leadership, or the Democratic, picking up the baton on this one. But I think it's a pretty big deal that people are actually talking about it -- and that some Republicans still remember that what "conservative" actually means isn't just "tax cuts for the rich".

All the major copyright landgrabs of the past couple of decades, from the DMCA to TPP, have been bipartisan efforts by lobbyist-owned politicians, with as little input from the voters as possible. SOPA/PIPA showed that while their support among politicians may be bipartisan, their opposition from an informed public is nonpartisan.

Even if nothing comes of this right away, I'm sure we haven't heard the last of it. Kudos to any politician willing to speak truth to power on this subject, regardless of party and regardless of disagreements we may have on other issues.

Hey Karl Rove?

My brother asked me the other night if I was voting for Goldman or Sachs.

That is largely how I feel about this race and about Obama. (I wound up going Stein, BTW.) But on the whole he's the lesser evil, and this is a victory for a number of reasons -- gay rights, taxation, healthcare, and, perhaps most importantly:

A big Fuck You to Karl Rove, Shel Adelson, Citizens United, SuperPACs, and all the plutocrats' best efforts to buy this election.

Sure, tomorrow we're back to gridlock, drone strikes, warrantless domestic surveillance, mass unemployment, high gas prices, impending sequestration, and a vanishing middle class. But tonight? Maybe I'll sleep a little bit better than those fatcats.

And then go back to looking for work while they count their money. But hey, I'll take what I can get.

From Straight to Bizarre

The trailer for the documentary about Zappa's independent labels. You can get it on Amazon but I'm not convinced it's legit. Seeing as how it refers to itself as a DVD-ROM and is listed under Books. Not sure where you can find a legitimate copy; if anyone does, be sure to let me know and I'll update this post.


Cut the crap.

Democrats, news media: quit pretending that it is some kind of shock or revelation that a Republican candidate believes half the population is made up of lazy good-for-nothings who just want handouts.

Republicans: quit pretending that that hasn't been the core of your party platform since the Reagan Administration.

This is not new. Bring up welfare or the Affordable Care Act in absolutely any political discussion and see how long it takes for somebody to espouse the very beliefs that people are pretending to be surprised to hear coming from a Republican.

About the only guy who's not being utterly disingenuous here (for a change) is Romney. Because he's refusing to apologize for being an amoral mercenary with absolutely no sympathy for anybody with less money than himself.

You know, a Republican.