August 1, 2003

Tinkering

Advance apologies if things look screwy over the weekend; I'm really going to try and make the effort to get some more work done on the site. I need to get around to submitting more comics too.

I'm starting to do research into merchandising options again. The first option, of course, is CafePress, which is likely going to be implemented in the near future for, at the very least hopefully, some Fighting Mother Teresas merchandise. There's also possibilities for a seperate press making up pins and stickers for me, but that's an issue of how much demand I can assume for them, since unlike CafePress stuff those would be made in advance via bulk order.

What's really going to be an issue, I worry, is the fact that of all the characters in my comics, the one the most of you have asked for on stuff isn't R.C. (much to my suprise, considering the joke being that I created him for the sole purpose of being marketable) but rather the Ghost of Adolf Hitler. Which leads to two issues: 1. I'm going to have to deal with that very carefully, and 2. you people have problems.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 11:35 PM

July 30, 2003

Go buy it now now now now now NOW

With a ridiculously incalculable thank you to Tom and his editor Keith Kahla at St. Martin's Press, I'd like to note that I recieved my copy of Tom's new book in the mail today.

The book is fantastic. Buy it right now.

Seriously, this is great for everyone: if you've never read a collection of Tom's work, the book covers everything in the This Modern World history. If you, like me, own any/all of Tom's previous books, you're getting more than your (and the book ain't too pricey, by the way. Makes a great gift and can easily be bought in multiple quantities for easy distribution among friends and Republicans) money's worth with stuff that's never been printed: aside from a 12-year selection of TMW's best, the book's got a color section with (finally!) reprints of all the great stuff he's done for the Prospect and the Village Voice (unless you lived in NYC like I did, odds are you never saw the "Sensation" and Impeachment full-pagers in glorious full-color before- now you can!) and even early pre-Sparky cartoons from a time when Tom's work could be considered "still in developement." Which is fantastic for me to relate to, since after four years I personally am still of a quality one would consider "still in developement!"

So, seriously, folks: buy the friggin' book. Or I'll come over to your house and kick you in the head.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 10:23 PM

And now, a brief clarification with visual aids

It's not a fence. It's a wall. Israel is building a wall around the West Bank.

Take that as you will, regardless of what side you're on, but seriously. That thing? In the picture? about a third the height of the barrier? Yeah, that's a tank. Fences are not three times the height of military vehicles. Walls are.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 9:53 PM

July 29, 2003

Words fail me. Weblog fails words.

I am amazed that, in the midst of the current president and countless conservative webloggers around today, Tapped, of all places, could top everything I've ever read online with quite possibly the stupidest thing anyone has ever said in their entire life.

Tapped has suggested that, "journalism," being a craft learned from experience and not just a task you process the instructions for in school, has no need to be an actual major or program at Texas A&M.

Aside from my father being a newspaper editor, my mother is an English major, who responded to me telling her this story with the suggestion that while they're at it, Tapped should just recommend that the English department be axed. After all, we all speak English, and it's not like you can't just pick it up during life, right?

I worked for four years for NYU's student paper. I practically felt guilty being the arts kids coming in every week with his comic and not having to deal with the amount of work journalism students devoted themselves to. My senior year editor was not only a journalism student, but actually directed a course in the journalism department on online journalism.

I took one journalism course at NYU, and I consider it probably the finest single course at the university: Prof. Mario Murillo's introductory journalism course, The Media in America. Despite the ludicrous implication made by Tapped that all that encompasses the teachings of the journalism major in college is the instructional steps toward writing for a newspaper, the Media in America introduced all the journalism freshman into the actual study of what American media is.

At least at NYU, the journalism major is not just an instruction manual into the newspaper process: it's an intensive study of the concept of media structure, media ownership, censorship, online content, broadcasting and the contrasts to narrowcasting, the study of the impact of technology and mass-media on the nature of delivering information to society, bias, corporate control, minority voices, and the first, fourth, and probably one or two other Amendments as well. All of that is compiled with the activity of researching, studying, writing, editing, and dispersing news and information for print media: a task which in itself is oafishly suggested by Tapped as something as easy as... well... posting a comment to a weblog. (In case we had to bring up this issue again, let's remind everyone: weblogs and newspapers both being called "journalism" doesn't mean they're equally easy to produce.)

I'm going on some assumption that the American Prospect's print staff is not the same group that gets paid to post to a weblog, because if so I don't see how they can hold themselves as credible journalists saying something like that. To say that one does not having to major in journalism to be a journalist is one thing: I have friends and family members in the profession of journalism who weren't journalism majors. But to imply that journalism is something that doesn't merit a field of study in an institute of higher learning is a statement that merits the staff of a certain weblog getting a serious ass-kicking from some students who are doing a hell of a lot more work than they are.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 10:39 PM

July 28, 2003

Okay, now these are the kids you protect your daughters from

Salon has a frightening article up right now about the latest highlights from the College Republican National Convention. (Day Pass required, click link and wait eight years for annoying flash ad to load)

College Republicans are the party's farm team. Stalwarts who got their start as College Republican leaders include Ralph Reed, former executive director of the Christian Coalition; Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform and right-wing strategist par excellence; and Rove himself. Rove's speech was largely a reminiscence about driving around the country campaigning for the College Republican chairmanship with his campaign manager Lee Atwater, later famed as a right-wing attack dog and head of the Republican National Committee.

Again and again throughout the weekend convention, speakers emphasized that the eager young people before them were the future of the party of Hoover, Nixon and Reagan.

If that's true, the Republican Party of the future will be one firmly indoctrinated in the belief that the opposition is illegitimate. "As conservatives, we share a zeitgeist that is not shared by liberals," said speaker Paul Erickson, an operative who runs the "Daschle Accountability Project," an effort dedicated to undermining the reputation of Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., in the 2004 campaign. Erickson has also worked for John Wayne Bobbitt, he of the severed penis, whom Erickson booked on a "Love Hurts" tour in 1994.

"As conservatives, we don't hate America," Erickson told his young audience. "The life of a liberal is hell. It is not possible to have a debate, a discussion, with someone who at their root, at their core, hates everything this country stands for but doesn't hate it enough to leave."

Erickson was followed by Jack Abramoff, a powerful right-wing lobbyist and former College Republican chairman, who exhorted the next generation to fight hard, lest "the ascension of evil, the bad guys, the Bolsheviks, the Democrats return."

That equation -- evil = communist = Democrats -- was nearly axiomatic at the convention. Ann Coulter's latest book, "Treason," which tarred virtually all Democrats as traitors, may have been denounced by conservative intellectuals, but its message has pervaded the party. Gene McDonald, who sold "No Muslims = No Terrorists" bumper stickers at the Conservative Political Action Conference in January, was doing a brisk trade in "Bring Back the Blacklist" T-shirts, mugs and mouse pads. Coulter herself remains wildly popular -- Parker Stephenson, chairman of Ohio College Republicans, calls her "one of my favorite conservative thinkers."

So, that's just the general impression of the tone of this shindig. Some of you might be imagining the event soon to include a massive chant and homage to the dark lord of some sub-etheral realm; the College Republicans are only happy to comply with such imagery:

...Warrior, an ex-WWF wrestler who has built a second career as a mascot for the right, took the stage that afternoon. Warrior -- that's his full legal name -- spoke at the Conservative Political Action conference in January, and has been one of the most requested speakers among conservative organizations ever since.

Dressed in a blue pinstriped suit, his long, dirty-blond hair pulled into a ponytail, Warrior explained why he'd left the world of wrestling. "When it became degenerate and perverted," he said, "I dismissed myself from pursuing it as a career anymore."

The speech that followed contained references to thinkers from Socrates to Tom Paine, and perhaps it would require a scholar of the classics to discern its meaning. "America was founded on that primary premise, that America would survive only as long as its people live up to their means," Warrior thundered.

"Knowledge of good and evil is the best fruit on the tree of knowledge."

The conservative movement, he declared solemnly, "needs people ready to actualize the entirety of their human potential."

One message that was clear was a hatred of nuance or ambivalence. To defeat the "pervasive degeneracy, ignorance and destruction of soul" that prevails today, he said, "you must live to judge and be ready to be judged ... extremism in defense of moral behavior is no vice." The saying "there are two sides to every story," he told his audience, "brings your loved ones closer and closer to tyranny and outright annihilation."

"Mankind survives by our leaders," he concluded. "All leaders are warriors. Mankind survives by its warriors. Our Republic will truly survive by them as well."

I'd like all of you to do me a favor and read that last passage again. This will save me the trouble of reading e-mails from you asking if you actually read it right the first time. Thanks.

So, the College Republicans are tittering with joy at the arrival and words of a former professional wrestler who is so insane that he legally changed his name to the moniker he used in the 1980's when he claimed to hail from "Parts Unknown." Oh yes, I was there glued to the TV when The Ultimate Warrior pinned Hulk Hogan for the WWF belt at Wrestlemania 6, and even as a bright-eyed seven-year old, I could remember my mother's caring words as she held me, tears staining my Poison T-shirt, and said to me softly, "that man's going to go completely apeshit and become a keynote speaker for aspiring conservative college student organization meetings someday."

But what of the Lil' Republicans themselves? Well, Salon gets to the heart of them. Okay, Salon gets to the lack thereof:

Ferruggia was sitting in the Capitol Hilton's lobby bar shortly after Rove's speech. There were three others with her -- another blond 19-year-old Georgetown student, Chris Sibeni, chairman of Hofstra College Republicans, and Jeffrey Chen, a recent Johns Hopkins graduate. Sibeni and Chen puffed on Fuente cigars.

"I'm a Republican because liberals make me sick," said Sibeni, spitting out the words. "I don't like whiny people and tree-huggers."

"You're a tree-hugger, but the tree you're hugging is the money tree," joked Chen, a jocular 22-year-old who plans to attend law school next year at either Boston University or Tulane.

Sibeni, who had spiky hair, glasses and a long face, is high-strung and given to rash pronouncements. He denounced assassinated civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. for "dividing the country" and trying to help African-Americans "advance over the white society," and defended American support of the brutal Augusto Pinochet regime in Chile. Chen, who went to high school with Sibeni in Great Neck, Long Island, is easy-going and quick to concede Republican mistakes, mocking his friend's more outr´┐Ż arguments.

While Sibeni declared that Bill Clinton had been more dangerous to America than Osama bin Laden, Chen defended the ex-president's economic program. "Without him," Chen argued, "we would not have had globalization. He took a Republican idea, used it as a Democratic idea, and used it to become the most popular president of all time."

Chen seemed so mild and centrist that at one point I called him a closet Democrat. Taken aback, he replied: "How am I a closet Democrat? I'm racist, I love guns and I hate welfare."

He wasn't kidding. "I'm racist against anybody who doesn't work for a living," said Chen, whose family comes from Taiwan. "We're in Washington D.C. You can guess who that is." He's no fan of religion, but says he's less bothered about paying tax dollars to faith-based programs than to "crack whores who have eight kids because it's easier than working."

"I wish there could be racial equality," said Sibeni, who, while in high school, refused to attend Martin Luther King Day celebrations. "The number one reason there's racial inequality is because of hip-hop."

"For young black men, it glorifies something they try to live up to, and they end up dead or in jail," says Ferruggia, sipping her drink.

Before the Supreme Court's decision upholding affirmative action last month, "I couldn't admit I'm a racist," Chen said. "They admitted they're racist, so now I can too."

I'm only going to continue with the rest of this passage because this part has a very special meaning to me. You see, I actually get proof that I am, yes, in fact, better than this prick.

All four of them believe they have lost opportunities to affirmative action. "I applied to NYU and I didn't get in," says Sibeni. "My SAT scores weren't the greatest ..."

"You were just another white guy from Long Island," says Ferruggia. "The only person you can really discriminate against anymore is white men."

Ferruggia, the daughter of a pharmaceutical salesman, was valedictorian of her Southwest Florida high school. "I had the highest SAT scores in between five and 10 years" at her school, she says, and feels affirmative action cheated her out of scholarships. "I watched minority after minority after minority accept these awards ... I'm tired of people whining that I'm taking away from them."

"A lot of poor white people in the trenches of Appalachia, they don't complain, they go out and work," said Ferruggia's blond friend, who sat quietly next to her for most of the evening. "Black people have been given a lot of chances ..."

"And they always screw it up," said Sibeni.

Hi kids. My name's August Johnson Pollak. You can read that name on my college diploma. From New York University.

That's right. I'm a middle-class white male. From the New York City area. Who got into NYU. And guess what? I wasn't even valedictorian. You think I had the highest GPA percentile in my school? Pfft! Art student, beeyotch!

Wait, wait! It gets even better! My sister? She went to NYU too! I just called her up to check; she's also white and from the New Jersey suburbs! And here's an extra one for you- because of the fact that (gasp!) colleges get more applications than they can offer enrollments for, you know what she did after she applied to NYU and got rejected? She got in next year after applying again and perservering instead of blaming black people and bitching like a stuck-up, racist, naive, delusional, right-wing brainwashed dickheaded asshat!

I'm glad we had that little discussion, students. It's good for you to hear advice every now and then from someone other than a mentally-unstable former steroid abuser. It's also important to get advice from worldly scholars such as myself. As Salon graciously reveals, you are, of course, still just little children.

Update: Well, so much for the aura of brilliance on my part. Tapped has, within the same hour of me posting this, not only noted the same Salon story, but made nearly similar quips about nearly the exact same passages of the article. I'm sure this happens to lots of people with weblogs, but you know how it works: it doesn't matter if the bigger site posts it after you, if they're the bigger site they posted it first and the only thing you can do is pre-emptively note that you, you know, didn't rip off the big site. Bleh.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 8:31 PM