Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Dave Sim's blogandmail #177 (March 7th, 2007)


Fourteen Impossible Things to Believe Before Breakfast That Make You a Good Feminist

1. A mother who works a full-time job and delegates to strangers the raising of her children eight hours a day, five days a week does just as good a job as a mother who hand-rears her children full time.

2. It makes great sense for the government to pay 10 to 15,000 dollars a year to fund a daycare space for a child so its mother - who pays perhaps 2,000 dollars in taxes - can be a contributing member of society.

3. A woman's doctor has more of a valid claim to participate in the decision to abort a fetus than does the father of that fetus.

4. So long as a woman makes a decision after consulting with her doctor, she is incapable of making an unethical choice.

5. A car with two steering wheels, two gas pedals and two brakes drives more efficiently than a car with one steering wheel, one gas pedal and one brake which is why marriage should always be an equal partnership.

6. It is absolutely necessary for women to be allowed to join or participate fully in any gathering place for men, just as it is absolutely necessary that there be women only environments from which men are excluded.

7. Because it involves taking jobs away from men and giving them to women, affirmative action makes for a fairer and more just society.

8. It is important to have lower physical standards for women firepersons and women policepersons so that, one day, half of all firepersons and policepersons will be women, thus more effectively protecting the safety of the public.

9. Affirmative action at colleges and universities needs to be maintained now that more women than men are being enrolled, in order to keep from giving men an unfair advantage academically.

10. Having ensured that there is no environment for men where women don't belong (see no.6) it is important to have zero tolerance of any expression or action which any woman might regard as sexist to ensure greater freedom for everyone.

11. Only in a society which maintains a level of 95% of alimony and child support being paid by men to women can men and women be considered as equals.

12. An airline stewardess who earned $20,000 a year at the time that she married a baseball player earning $6 million a year is entitled, in the event of a divorce, to $3 million for each year of the marriage and probably more.

13. A man's opinions on how to rear and/or raise a child are invalid because he is not the child's mother. However, his financial obligation is greater because no woman gets pregnant by herself.

14. Disagreeing with any of these statements makes you anti-woman and/or a misogynist.


Here we are again in our










Oh, hey, here's the letter from Robin Snyder I thought I had lost. Dated 19 January:

Dear Dave,

Thank you for your order of 5 January.

You asked for "Ditko stuff and a sub to the newsletter." The check was in the amount of $123.67. I've sent you a package containing eight of our books. This amounts to $99. The postage and insurance came to $19.95 and that makes $118.95. I have enclosed a sample selection of recent numbers of The Comics!

This is the newsletter founded by Robin back in 1990 ("The original first-person history est. 1990 by Robin Snyder) where Steve Ditko and a number of other creators sound off on various subjects of interest. I hadn't realized that Robin's bank was going to take that much off of a Canadian cheque so this is his very diplomatic way of saying vis-à-vis a subscription "how much of a subscription do you expect for $4.72?" Which is a good point. The fact that he sent me four of them is definitely a deal for me, especially since they're from the last few months and include the first three parts of a multi-part essay by Steve Ditko entitled "An Issue, Question" that I'm still in the midst of reading (I find with Steve Ditko's writing, as I said before, I have to keep doubling back to make sure that I read what I thought I read and that there isn't more than one way to read what I read). Here I go using Ditko without permission again, but I think the first few paragraphs will give you an idea of the subject matter:

How is it that World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War were featured in the comics but the Iraq war is not?

A more basic question: Why are there no authentic heroes in comic books today when we had authentic hero comic books during WW II, less in the Korean and Vietnam wars?

What explains, answers, both questions?

The issue also has a deeper problem: An external war of antagonistic minds and bodies and an internal "civil war" among an individual's beliefs in his own mind.

Copyright 2006 Steve Ditko.

That'll start the ol' mental wheels a-turning, won't it? You betchum, Red Ryder. Very interesting experience to be reading Ditko's best absolutely current thinking. The third part of the essay is dated February, 2007. Having immersed myself in his work ranging from the early 60s to the early 90s it has the strange "super-reality" quality to it. Holy smoke! And here he is TODAY! This certainly calls for me to hang some more feeble Canadian paper in Robin's direction. Unless Robin is being diplomatic about your domestic currency, the subscription rates are $28 US or $35 foreign for 12 issues. Robin Snyder, 3745 Canterbury Lane #81, Bellingham, WA, 98225-1186.

Robin continues:

I rather enjoyed your letter and your thoughts on property, literature and, speculation. You have been thinking of these matters, haven't you? Not just off-the-cuff thoughts but doing some digging.

Yes, it's all part of the self-chosen job description. When you find yourself in the fortunate position of not having to go out and labour in the workaday world and, after thirty years, to still be able to say "I never had a real job" I think there's an implied obligation to take advantage of (make that: "make full use of") a life without traditional distractions and make a full bore effort to try to get to the bottom of the nature of reality and then try to convey that to others (however misapprehended the perception might be) (owing to the fact that there are different levels of distractions that we can never be consciously aware of and which always influence and distort our thinking? Food for thought?). If for no other reason than I sense that such a privileged life can be easily taken away if you don't make full use of it.

You write "I doubt very much that I understand what Steve Ditko is about."

Perhaps you are trying too hard. There is no need to read between the lines. The fundamental idea in the "The `Stolen Art Page' Problem and the Error of Non-Principled Thinking" is explained in the title. Ditko is writing of ALL pages not simply his own and, even more than that, all property. He defines property rights and observes that the owner sets the terms. And that only by adhering to rational principles can one determine how to address the problem of who owns what.

You may better understand Ditko after you read and study the material in the books you have ordered.

Yes, I think that's true. There are still areas of disagreement and I think that feeds the sense of misunderstanding: I'm such a fan of Ditko's work that I want to agree with him but he makes it clear that you can only do that on his own terms and in his own frames of reference. I think a lot of the Yahoos reading this will identify with that: they take offence that I describe them as Cerebus readers rather than Cerebus fans because the distance between my beliefs and conclusions is so dramatically separated from their own by such a wide distance in almost all cases. The same could probably be said that Dave Sim is a Steve Ditko reader rather than a Steve Ditko fan because of a comparable distance. The part of you that wants to be considered a fan bristles at that.

Because of my primarily Islamic faith, as an example, where one of the pillars of that faith is the zakat it is very difficult to rationalize that with Ditko's low opinion of the "non-productive" who (when not checked) can tend to bleed the "productive" white in an unrestricted welfare state. I know what he's talking about firsthand having lived through the nightmare of Bob "Norma" Rae's NDP Socialist rule here in Ontario back in the 90s. But I do think the zakat is sensible in that it establishes that it is God's Will that the poor in society have an entitlement to a percentage of the wealth in that society. Since we have no comparable idea in the West, there isn't a Western term that fits it. It isn't charity and it isn't alms-giving, per se, which I think would fit Ditko's perceptions more closely: it's my money and I decide how much or how little I give to the poor and, frankly, having decided in most cases that the issue is laziness and not deprivation, I choose to give little or nothing. In Islam, there is a minimum standard of 2.5% of total wealth (which is where it differs from tithing: it isn't based on income, it's based on total wealth – you have to add up the cash value of everything that you own and donate 2.5% of that amount every year) which the faith holds is God's declared amount to which the poor in society are entitled. Where it works best is a situation where you would thank a poor person for the opportunity to pay your zakat by giving him money. He's the one doing you the favour which is why "charity" or "alms-giving" doesn't cover the concept and are really diametrically opposed to the concept. In execution, it's far from perfect. There are a lot of extremist Muslims who view financing Hezbollah and other terrorist groups as a means of paying the zakat (because they have their social benefit arm in addition to their civilian homicide arm), but obviously I don't see that as invalidating the zakat as I understand and practice it. As it says in the Koran, "You to your religious and me to mine". We'll see what God thinks of your decision to finance anti-personnel mines in Iraq as part of your zakat come Judgement Day.

But, in reading the books, particularly Static and a lot of the Package material, it's remarkable how early Steve Ditko staked out his territory of what he considers right and wrong and how relevant it is today: particularly when it comes to liberal fence-sitting: finding a middle-of-the-road course between Good and Evil and taking up residence there. I can't think of anyone else who was that definitive in his belief that middle-of-the-road is still Evil and, in my own case, that was one of the first insights I had after 9/11, but it took 9/11 to put me firmly in that frame of reference. When I was first reading the viewpoint back in 70s when I was a liberal, I was appalled. So, it's always very impressive to see someone who saw reality that clearly years before I was able to work myself around to that very viewpoint.

I don't see any connection between Orwell and Kafka and Ditko.

Having read as much Ditko as I have at this point I would go along with except for some cosmetic aspects on the short stories in the first Package. Orwell and Kafka were leftists with a sense of futility as if someone can make all the right choices based on sound morality and still end up getting "the green weenie". I think Ditko's view (and mine) is that if you got "the green weenie" it's because you made wrong choices.

Max Brod was no friend of Kafka and was no competent executor. The "definitive course of action" for Brod was simple: Agree to Kafka's terms and act accordingly or disagree and bow out.

I would probably add: "or act contrary to Kafka's terms and suffer the consequences of doing so". I take it as a given that any act of bad faith (however ambiguous it can be portrayed to be – and I think the variety of good faith viewpoints people of intellectual integrity can hold and do hold regarding Brod's decision that it can at least be portrayed as ambiguous) means that the perpetrator is going to suffer consequences from it. If you're a God-fearing individual like myself that goes all the way up to and includes Judgement Day where that's apt to become capital "c" Consequences.

Who owned the material? Kafka? Or "literature"? Or "posterity"? Or modern readers who do not care for him? How much? How little? Who had all rights to the material? Kafka or some possible future reader who might or might not enjoy seeing and reading the work?

To me, the definitive answer is "Kafka" but I accept the fact that intellectually honest people can, in good faith, arrive at a different conclusion based on their own beliefs of what constitutes the "larger interest" or Larger Interest involved. Free Will is always the wild card particularly when coupled with questions of legality. Kafka owned the material and was its sole custodian, but by transferring oversight of custodianship to Brod he had to factor in Brod's "Free Will" as part of the equation. "Knowing Brod as I do, can I trust him to incinerate what I tell him to incinerate and spare what I tell him to spare?" Arguably, Kafka guessed wrong – what level of culpability is there in that? -- but (also arguably) even Brod didn't know that he would flinch when it came time, so you have two overlapping free will wild cards: Kafka's best assessment of Brod and Brod's existential dilemma when it was time to "pull the trigger". That raises another question: when Brod took the work to a publisher why didn't the publisher execute due diligence and research the legal state of the stories? If there was a written will specifying which works were to be spared and which works could be published, didn't the publisher have a legal obligation to say "I can't publish these: these stories were supposed to be incinerated." There you get into the problem of corporate mentality as construed in our society versus the ethical right of the owner of an intellectual property. A lawyer could argue successfully in that context that Brod was the legal custodian and by offering the work to a publisher and/or signing a contract was taking legal responsibility for doing so. It would require someone to sue on behalf of the estate to keep that from happening and, even there, the courts would probably indemnify the publisher and make Brod the fall guy because the courts are always going to err on the side of business against the individual.

Maybe there is at least a persuasive argument to be made for publishing a volume called The Valid Kafka which would include only the works that he had authorized Brod to retain and that would serve as a kind of litmus test separating the Kafka readers from the Kafka fans. If you're a Kafka fan you only read the works that he chose to be published and that's all that you read. It would be interesting to read an essay on Kafka's work based solely on what he wanted the world to see written by someone who used their free will to choose to read only those works and to draw their conclusions solely from those works. Question: does that become The Valid Kafka or The Kafka Façade?

Thanks again for your interest and your order.

Oh, no. Thank you and Steve Ditko. Here's my cheque for a subscription to The Comics.

Tomorrow: It's Wee Timmy Corrigan of Houghton, NY and a whole whack of stuff for me to review

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