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I've a long record in editorial work in book and magazine publishing, starting 1974, a variety of other work experience, but have been, since 2001, recurringly housebound with insanely painful sporadic and unpredictably variable gout and edema, and in the past, other ailments; the future? The Great Unknown: isn't it for all of us?

I'm currently house/cat-sitting, not on any government aid yet (or mostly ever), often in major chronic pain from gout and edema, which variably can leave me unable to walk, including just standing, but sometimes is better, and is freaking unpredictable at present; I also have major chronic depression and anxiety disorders; I'm currently supported mostly by your blog donations/subscriptions; you can help me. I prefer to spread out the load, and lessen it from the few who have been doing more than their fair share for too long.

Thanks for any understanding and support. I know it's difficult to understand. And things will change. They always change.

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"The brain is wider than the sky,
For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include
With ease, and you beside"
-- Emily Dickinson


"We will pursue peace as if there is no terrorism and fight terrorism as if there is no peace."
-- Yitzhak Rabin


"I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be."
-- Alexander Hamilton


"The stakes are too high for government to be a spectator sport."
-- Barbara Jordan


"Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule -- and both commonly succeed, and are right."
-- H. L. Mencken


"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
-- William Pitt


"The only completely consistent people are the dead."
-- Aldous Huxley


"I have had my solutions for a long time; but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them."
-- Karl F. Gauss


"Whatever evils either reason or declamation have imputed to extensive empire, the power of Rome was attended with some beneficial consequences to mankind; and the same freedom of intercourse which extended the vices, diffused likewise the improvements of social life."
-- Edward Gibbon


"Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his expectation, that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom."
-- Edward Gibbon


"There exists in human nature a strong propensity to depreciate the advantages, and to magnify the evils, of the present times."
-- Edward Gibbon


"Our youth now loves luxuries. They have bad manners, contempt for authority. They show disrespect for elders and they love to chatter instead of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants, of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize their teachers."
-- Socrates


"Before impugning an opponent's motives, even when they legitimately may be impugned, answer his arguments."
-- Sidney Hook


"Idealism, alas, does not protect one from ignorance, dogmatism, and foolishness."
-- Sidney Hook


"Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson


"We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization. We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about particular degrees of interest and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimized."
-- Reinhold Niebuhr


"Faced with the choice of all the land without a Jewish state or a Jewish state without all the land, we chose a Jewish state without all the land."
-- David Ben-Gurion


"...the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends also to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing, with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess and conform to it;[...] that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty....
-- Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson


"We don't live just by ideas. Ideas are part of the mixture of customs and practices, intuitions and instincts that make human life a conscious activity susceptible to improvement or debasement. A radical idea may be healthy as a provocation; a temperate idea may be stultifying. It depends on the circumstances. One of the most tiresome arguments against ideas is that their 'tendency' is to some dire condition -- to totalitarianism, or to moral relativism, or to a war of all against all."
-- Louis Menand


"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."
-- Dante Alighieri


"He too serves a certain purpose who only stands and cheers."
-- Henry B. Adams


"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to beg in the streets, steal bread, or sleep under a bridge."
-- Anatole France


"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
-- Edmund Burke


"Education does not mean that we have become certified experts in business or mining or botany or journalism or epistemology; it means that through the absorption of the moral, intellectual, and esthetic inheritance of the race we have come to understand and control ourselves as well as the external world; that we have chosen the best as our associates both in spirit and the flesh; that we have learned to add courtesy to culture, wisdom to knowledge, and forgiveness to understanding."
-- Will Durant


"Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?"
-- Herman Melville


"The most important political office is that of the private citizen."
-- Louis D. Brandeis


"If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable."
-- Louis D. Brandeis


"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
-- Louis D. Brandeis


"It is an error to suppose that books have no influence; it is a slow influence, like flowing water carving out a canyon, but it tells more and more with every year; and no one can pass an hour a day in the society of sages and heroes without being lifted up a notch or two by the company he has kept."
-- Will Durant


"When you write, you’re trying to transpose what you’re thinking into something that is less like an annoying drone and more like a piece of music."
-- Louis Menand


"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal


"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802.


"The sum of our religion is peace and unanimity, but these can scarcely stand unless we define as little as possible, and in many things leave one free to follow his own judgment, because there is great obscurity in many matters, and man suffers from this almost congenital disease that he will not give in when once a controversy is started, and after he is heated he regards as absolutely true that which he began to sponsor quite casually...."
-- Desiderius Erasmus


"Are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule of what we are to read, and what we must disbelieve?"
-- Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to N. G. Dufief, Philadelphia bookseller, 1814


"We are told that it is only people's objective actions that matter, and their subjective feelings are of no importance. Thus pacifists, by obstructing the war effort, are 'objectively' aiding the Nazis; and therefore the fact that they may be personally hostile to Fascism is irrelevant. I have been guilty of saying this myself more than once. The same argument is applied to Trotskyism. Trotskyists are often credited, at any rate by Communists, with being active and conscious agents of Hitler; but when you point out the many and obvious reasons why this is unlikely to be true, the 'objectively' line of talk is brought forward again. To criticize the Soviet Union helps Hitler: therefore 'Trotskyism is Fascism'. And when this has been established, the accusation of conscious treachery is usually repeated. This is not only dishonest; it also carries a severe penalty with it. If you disregard people's motives, it becomes much harder to foresee their actions."
-- George Orwell, "As I Please," Tribune, 8 December 1944


"Wouldn't this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If 'needy' were a turn-on?"
-- "Aaron Altman," Broadcast News


"The great thing about human language is that it prevents us from sticking to the matter at hand."
-- Lewis Thomas


"To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child. For what is man's lifetime unless the memory of past events is woven with those of earlier times?"
-- Cicero


"Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue." -- François, duc de La Rochefoucauld


"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it." -- Samuel Johnson, Life Of Johnson


"Very well, what did my critics say in attacking my character? I must read out their affidavit, so to speak, as though they were my legal accusers: Socrates is guilty of criminal meddling, in that he inquires into things below the earth and in the sky, and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger, and teaches others to follow his example." -- Socrates, via Plato, The Republic


"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower


"The term, then, is obviously a relative one; my pedantry is your scholarship, his reasonable accuracy, her irreducible minimum of education, & someone else's ignorance." --
H. W. Fowler


"Rules exist for good reasons, and in any art form the beginner must learn them and understand what they are for, then follow them for quite a while. A visual artist, pianist, dancer, fiction writer, all beginning artists are in the same boat here: learn the rules, understand them, follow them. It's called an apprenticeship. A mediocre artist never stops following the rules, slavishly follows guidelines, and seldom rises above mediocrity. An accomplished artist internalizes the rules to the point where they don't have to be consciously considered. After you've put in the time it takes to learn to swim, you never stop to think: now I move my arm, kick, raise my head, breathe. You just do it. The accomplished artist knows what the rules mean, how to use them, dodge them, ignore them altogether, or break them. This may be a wholly unconscious process of assimilation, one never articulated, but it has taken place." -- Kate Wilhelm


"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed."
-- Albert Einstein


"The decisive moment in human evolution is perpetual."
-- Franz Kafka, Aphorisms


"All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
-- Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho


"First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you."
-- Nicholas Klein, May, 1919, to the Third Biennial Convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (misattributed to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1914 & variants).


"Nothing would be done at all, if a man waited till he could do it so well, that no one could find fault with it."
-- Lecture IX, John Henry Cardinal Newman


“Nothing is more common than for men to think that because they are familiar with words they understand the ideas they stand for.”
-- John Henry Cardinal Newman


"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."
-- James Madison


"Those who are free from common prejudices acquire others."
-- Napolean I of France -- Napoleon I of France


"Our credulity is a part of the imperfection of our natures. It is inherent in us to desire to generalize, when we ought, on the contrary, to guard ourselves very carefully from this tendency."
-- Napoleon I of France.


"The truth is, men are very hard to know, and yet, not to be deceived, we must judge them by their present actions, but for the present only."
-- Napoleon I of France.


"The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know."
-- On the subject of torture, in a letter to Louis Alexandre Berthier (11 November 1798), published in Correspondance Napoleon edited by Henri Plon (1861), Vol. V, No. 3606, p. 128


"All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with; all else they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong, or deny to be possible."
-- George Santayana, Dialogues in Limbo (1926)


"American life is a powerful solvent. It seems to neutralize every intellectual element, however tough and alien it may be, and to fuse it in the native good will, complacency, thoughtlessness, and optimism."
-- George Santayana, Character and Opinion in the United States, (1920)


"If you should put even a little on a little, and should do this often, soon this too would become big."
-- Hesiod, Work And Days


"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
-- Eugene V. Debs


"Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself."
-- Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign


"All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written "al-Qaida," in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies."
-- Osama bin Laden


"Remember, Robin: evil is a pretty bad thing."
-- Batman



 

 
Gary Farber is now a licensed Quintuple Super-Sekrit Multi-dimensional Master Pundit. He does not always refer to himself in the third person.
He is presently single.

The gefilte fish is dead. Donate via the donation button on the top left or I'll shoot this cute panda. Don't you love pandas?

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And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world


[Blogroll now far below the sea line! Dive, dive, dive!]


You Like Me, You Really Like Me

Gary Farber! Jeez, the guy is practically a blogging legend, and I'm always surprised at the breadth of what he writes about.
-- PZ Meyers, Pharyngula


...Darn: I saw that Gary had commented on this thread, and thought: oh. my. god. Perfect storm. Unstoppable cannonball, immovable object. -- Hilzoy

...I think Gary Farber is a blogging god. -- P.Z. Myers, Pharyngula

...writer[s] I find myself checking out repeatedly when I'm in the mood to play follow-the-links. They're not all people I agree with all the time, or even most of the time, but I've found them all to be thoughtful writers, and that's the important thing, or should be.
-- Tom Tomorrow

‎"Gary Farber is a gentleman, a scholar and one of the gems of the blogosphere." -- Steve Hynd, Newshoggers.com

"Well argued, Gary. I hadn't seen anything that went into as much detail as I found in your blog." -- Gareth Porter

Gary Farber is your one-man internet as always, with posts on every article there is.
-- Fafnir

Guessing that Gary is ignorant of anything that has ever been written down is, in my experience, unwise.
Just saying.

-- Hilzoy

Gary Farber gets it right....
-- James Joyner, Outside The Beltway

Once again, an amazing and illuminating post.
-- Michael Bérubé, Crooked Timber

I read Amygdala...with regularity, as do all sensible websurfers.
-- Jim Henley, Unqualified Offerings

Okay, he is annoying, but he still posts a lot of good stuff.
-- Avedon Carol, The Sideshow

Amygdala - So much stuff it reminds Unqualified Offerings that UO sometimes thinks of Gary Farber as "the liberal Instapundit."
-- Jim Henley

...the thoughtful and highly intelligent Gary Farber... My first reaction was that I definitely need to appease Gary Farber of Amygdala, one of the geniuses of our age.
-- Brad deLong

Gary is a perceptive, intelligent, nice guy. Some of the stuff he comes up with is insightful, witty, and stimulating. And sometimes he manages to make me groan.
-- Charlie Stross

Gary Farber is a straight shooter.
-- John Cole, Balloon Juice

I bow before the shrillitudinousness of Gary Farber, who has been blogging like a fiend.
-- Ted Barlow, Crooked Timber


Favorite.... [...] ...all great stuff. [...] Gary Farber should never be without readers.
-- Ogged

I usually read you and Patrick several times a day, and I always get something from them. You've got great links, intellectually honest commentary, and a sense of humor. What's not to like?
-- Ted Barlow

One of my issues with many poli-blogs is the dickhead tone so many bloggers affect to express their sense of righteous indignation. Gary Farber's thoughtful leftie takes on the world stand in sharp contrast with the usual rhetorical bullying. Plus, he likes "Pogo," which clearly attests to his unassaultable good taste.
-- oakhaus.com

One of my favorites....
-- Matt Welch

Favorite....
-- Virginia Postrel

Amygdala continues to have smart commentary on an incredible diversity of interesting links....
-- Judith Weiss

Amygdala has more interesting obscure links to more fascinating stuff that any other blog I read.
-- Judith Weiss, Kesher Talk

Gary's stuff is always good.
-- Meryl Yourish

...the level-headed Amygdala blog....
-- Geitner Simmons

The only trouble with reading Amygdala is that it makes me feel like such a slacker. That Man Farber's a linking, posting, commenting machine, I tell you!
-- John Robinson, Sore Eyes

...the all-knowing Gary Farber....
-- Edward Winkleman, Obsidian Wings

Jaysus. I saw him do something like this before, on a thread about Israel. It was pretty brutal. It's like watching one of those old WWF wrestlers grab an opponent's face and grind away until the guy starts crying. I mean that in a nice & admiring way, you know.
-- Fontana Labs, Unfogged

We read you Gary Farber! We read you all the time! Its just that we are lazy with our blogroll. We are so very very lazy. We are always the last ones to the party but we always have snazzy bow ties.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!

Gary Farber you are a genius of mad scientist proportions. I will bet there are like huge brains growin in jars all over your house.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!

Gary Farber is the hardest working man in show blog business. He's like a young Gene Hackman blogging with his hair on fire, or something.
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog


Gary Farber only has two blogging modes: not at all, and 20 billion interesting posts a day [...] someone on the interweb whose opinions I can trust....
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog


GARY FARBER IS MY AROUSAL CENTER. -- Justin Slotman

Gary is certainly a non-idiotarian 'liberal'...
-- Perry deHaviland

Recommended for the discerning reader.
-- Tim Blair

Gary Farber's great Amygdala blog.
-- Dr. Frank

Isn't Gary a cracking blogger, apropos of nothing in particular?
-- Alison Scott

Gary Farber takes me to task, in a way befitting the gentleman he is.
-- Stephen Green, Vodkapundit

My friend Gary Farber at Amygdala is the sort of liberal for whom I happily give three cheers. [...] Damned incisive blogging....
-- Midwest Conservative Journal

If I ever start a paper, Clueless writes the foreign affairs column, Layne handles the city beat, Welch has the roving-reporter job, Tom Tomorrow runs the comic section (which carries Treacher, of course). MediaMinded runs the slots - that's the type of editor I want as the last line of defense. InstantMan runs the edit page - and you can forget about your Ivins and Wills and Friedmans and Teepens on the edit page - it's all Blair, VodkaP, C. Johnson, Aspara, Farber, Galt, and a dozen other worthies, with Justin 'I am smoking in such a provocative fashion' Raimondo tossed in for balance and comic relief.

Who wouldn't buy that paper? Who wouldn't want to read it? Who wouldn't climb over their mother to be in it?
-- James Lileks

I do appreciate your role and the role of Amygdala as a pioneering effort in the integration of fanwriters with social conscience into the larger blogosphere of social conscience.
-- Lenny Bailes

Every single post in that part of Amygdala visible on my screen is either funny or bracing or important. Is it always like this?
-- Natalie Solent

You nailed it... nice job."
-- James Lileks

Gary Farber is a principled liberal....
-- Bill Quick, The Daily Pundit


Archives:
December 2001 January 2002 February 2002 March 2002 April 2002 May 2002 June 2002 July 2002 August 2002 September 2002 October 2002 November 2002 December 2002 January 2003 February 2003 March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003 October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 February 2009 March 2009 April 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 December 2009 January 2010 February 2010 March 2010 April 2010 May 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 October 2010 November 2010 December 2010 January 2011 February 2011 March 2011 April 2011 May 2011 June 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011 December 2011 January 2013


Blogroll is Always In Progress:

Roger Ailes
Alas, A Blog
AlterNet
The American Street
The Aristocrats
Avedon Carol
Between the Hammer and the Anvil
Lindsay Beyerstein
The Big Con
bjkeefe
CantBlogTooBusy The Center for American Progress
Chase me Ladies, I'm in the Cavalry
Chuckling
Doghouse Riley
Kevin Drum
elementropy
Eschaton
Fables of the Reconstruction
Gall and Gumption
Gin and Tacos
House of Substance
Hullabaloo
The Hunting of the Snark
If I Ran The Zoo
Lawyers, Guns & Money
Lotus: Surviving a Dark Time
Matters of Little Significance
Nancy Nall
Charlie Stross bastard.logic
Daniel Larison
Afro-Netizen
American Conservative
American Footprints
Andrew Sullivan
Angry Bear
Attackerman
Attempts
Balkinization
Balloon Juice
Beautiful Horizons
Bitch Ph.D.
Brad DeLong
Cato-at-liberty
Cogitamus
Crooked Timber
Cunning Realist
Daily Kos
Debate Link
Democracy Arsenal
Edge of the American West
Eschaton
Ezra Klein
Feministe
Glenn Greenwald
Governing.com: 13th Floor
Hit & Run
Hullabaloo
Juan Cole
Kevin Drum
Lawyers, Guns and Money
List Project (Helping Iraqis who worked with us get out)
Marc Lynch
Mark Kleiman
Katha Pollit
Market Square
Matthew Yglesias
Megan McArdle
Metro Green
Mightygodking
Newshoggers
Orcinus
Pam's House Blend
Pandagon
Paul Krugman
Pharyngula
Philosophy, et cetera
Radley Balko
Sadly, No!
Shakesville
slacktivist
Southern Appeal
Stephen Walt
Steve Clemons
Ta-Nehisi Coates
Taking It Outside
Talking Points Memo
TAPPED
The Poor Man
The Progressive Realist
The Sideshow
TPMCafe
U.S. Intellectual History
Unfogged
Unqualified Offerings
VetVoice
Volokh Conspiracy
Washington Monthly
William Easterly
Newsrack Blog
Ortho Bob
Pandagon
Pharyngula
The Poor Man
Prog Gold
Prose Before Hos
Ted Rall
The Raw Story
Elayne Riggs
Sadly, No!
Snarkmarket
TAPped
TBogg
Texas Liberal
Think Progress
3 Weird Sisters
Tristram Shandy
Washington Monthly
Ian Welsh
James Wolcott
World o' Crap
Matthew Yglesias
Buzz Machine
Daniel Larison
Rightwing Film Geek About Last Night
can we all just agree
Comics Curmudgeon
Dum Luk's
Glenn Kenny
Hoarder Museum Juanita Jean
Lance Mannion (Help Lance!
Last Words of the Executed
The Phil Nugent Experience
Postcards from Hell's Kitchen
Vanishing New York
a lovely promise
a web undone
alicublog
alt hippo
american street
city of brass
danger west
fact-esque
fierce urgency of now
get fisa right
great concavity
happening here
impeach them!
jensscholz.com
kathryn cramer
notes from the basement
sideshow
talking dog
uncertain principles
unqualified offerings
what do i know
balkinization
crooked timber emptywheel
ezra klein
Fact-esque
The F-Word
glenn greenwald
governmentality
hullabaloo
Lifehacker
schneier on security
ta-nehisi coates
talking points memo
tiny revolution
Roz Kaveney
Dave Ettlin
Henry Jenkins' Confessions of an Aca-Fan
Kathryn Cramer
Monkeys In My Pants
Macadamia
Pagan Prattle
As I Please
Ken MacLeod
Arthur Hlavaty
Kevin Maroney
MK Kare
Jack Heneghan
Dave Langford
Epicycle
Onyx Lynx Atrios
Demosthenes
Rittenhouse Review
Maxspeak
Public Nuisance
Scoobie Davis
MadKane
Nathan Newman
Whiskeyfire
Echidne Of The Snakes
First Draft
Corrente
Rising Hegemon
NTodd
Cab Drollery (Help Diane!
Hullabaloo
Southern Beale
The Kenosha Kid
Culture of Truth
Talk Left
Black Ag=Q< Report
Drug WarRant
Nieman Watchdog
Open Left
Meet the Bloggers
Dispatch from the Trenches
Frameshop
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People I've known and still miss include Isaac Asimov, rich brown, Charles Burbee, F. M. "Buzz" Busby, Terry Carr, A. Vincent Clarke, Bob Doyle, George Alec Effinger, Abi Frost, Bill & Sherry Fesselmeyer, George Flynn, John Milo "Mike" Ford. John Foyster, Mike Glicksohn, Jay Haldeman, Neith Hammond (Asenath Katrina Hammond)/DominEditrix , Chuch Harris, Mike Hinge, Lee Hoffman, Terry Hughes, Damon Knight, Ross Pavlac, Bruce Pelz, Elmer Perdue, Tom Perry, Larry Propp, Bill Rotsler, Art Saha, Bob Shaw, Martin Smith, Harry Stubbs, Bob Tucker, Harry Warner, Jr., Jack Williamson, Walter A. Willis, Susan Wood, Kate Worley, and Roger Zelazny. It's just a start, it only gets longer, many are unintentionally left out. And She of whom I must write someday.










Amygdala
 
Friday, March 09, 2007
 
NEVER TRUST EYE-WITNESSES. People who don't give a damn about comics should likely skip this post: you've been warned -- scroll on down.

So I'm watching this little direct-to-DVD disk entitled Stan Lee's Mutants, Monsters & Marvels, which pretty much consists of Stan Lee and Kevin Smith sitting in chairs, while Smith asks Lee about his history, and how he created his characters, interspersed with various clips of the comics, and an occasional other clip.

And it turns out that what I had suspected before the movie arrived from Netflix would be the case turns out to be true, but about 1000% more than I expected.

That is: Stan Lee knows nothing about his own career.

Okay, I keed faintly, but only to the extent that we should replace the word "knows" there with "remembers."

I figured, based on having read innumerable interviews with Mr. Lieber over the years, that this would largely be the case. But it turns out to be almost entirely the case: pretty much everything he states as a fact, about his own career and characters, is wrong.

And Kevin Smith, the famous comics fan, owner of comics shops, writer of comics, writer and director of films about comics writers-artists, doesn't know enough about Stan Lee to catch any of even the simplest, most basic, errors of fact.

For instance: Smith asks Stan about the creation of The Fantastic Four; in describing the origins of Johnny Storm, the Human Torch, Stan of course mentions Carl Burgos' original Human Torch, who was a Timely Comics hero back in 1939, and when 17-year-old Stan was first hired by his uncle, Martin Goodman, in 1940-41.

Stan says "... and he hadn't been used for 20, 30, 40 years!"

Except that he was used right up through 1954; Stan created the "new" Human Torch who first appeared in 1961. Six and a half years is "20, 30, 40 years!" in Stan's telling; Kevin Smith blinks not an eye.

This isn't exactly a niggling error; Stan wasn't confused when this film was made (it came out in 2002) that he had co-created Fantastic Four in 1961 -- but for the character to have not been used since 1921 -- when American comic books hadn't been invented until 1933 -- would have been quite a trick. Even taking Lee's most conservative figure, 1941, would have pushed the "last time" the Torch had been used back before America entered WWII, which if Lee had thought about for half a second, he'd have realized made no sense whatever.

Smith actually doesn't really seem to be aware that Stan Lee started at Timely Comics in 1940-41, and was editor after a while, until he was drafted (Stan and Wikipedia say he enlisted, but I'm as apt to believe Fago's version, if not moreso), and Vince Fago replaced him as editor until Stan got out of the Army. Some of Smith's questions give the impression that he thinks Stan Lee first started at Marvel not long before he created the famous Marvel characters starting in 1961.

Incidentally, from the Fago interview, something I've never seen mentioned in any article about Elizabeth Hardwick:
[...] You ever hear of Elizabeth Hardwick? She started the New York Review of Books and was a pulp editor for Martin Goodman at the time. She came in on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

One day, she told me about a friend of hers from Kentucky. I met her friend and married her on April 1, 1943, of all days. Elizabeth Hardwick writes for The New Yorker magazine and we still see her.
Back to Stan Lee's Mutants, Monsters & Marvels: Stan next discusses Thor. Setting aside that Stan tells, with a deadpan face, an anecdote about his devotion to scientific accuracy because of how, rather than flying without any visible means, like Superman, Thor "flies" by whirling his hammer and then holding on after he throws it. Stan is obviously completely kidding about this as an "example" of "scientific accuracy," and breaks out into a laugh when he finishes, but Smith nods with as eager and accepting a face as he nods to everything else Stan says, with no sign whatever of recognition of Stan Lee's joke.

Setting that aside: Stan says of his comics character's Thor's hammer, Mjolnir, that "my brother Larry made that up, and it's just a made-up word, so feel free to pronounce it any way you like."

Except, of course, that there's not a word of truth in that. "Mjolnir" is the actual name of the actual Thor's hammer.

Ya'd like to think that no kids have listened to this, or to Stan talking about his characters, or that there's no difference between kids maybe taking the Marvel version of Norse legends as a bit more accurate than it is (which is: not so much), and Stan actually making claims about what's true and what isn't, but what the hell.

Anyway, back in reality, Larry Lieber made up calling Thor's hammer "the uru hammer," which was a completely made-up word. Years later, well, let's let Larry Lieber tell it to Roy Thomas:
[...] RT: Your first super-hero work seems to be Thor in Journey into Mystery #83. That came out in the summer of '62, so you'd have done the script in the Spring, if not before.

Lieber: One incident I remember with you and me was: I was in the office, and you came in. You'd been poring over Bulfinch's Mythology or something, and you said, "Larry, where did you find this 'uru hammer' in mythology?" And I said, "Roy, I didn't find it; I made it up." And you looked at me like, "Why the hell did you make it up?" You went and found the hammer's original name, Mjolnir.

RT: But I kept your name for it, too, because I thought "uru" could be the metal it was made of.

Lieber: I kind of liked it; it was short. It's easy on the letterer; they're going to be using it all the time. I don't know where the hell I came up with it.

RT: Stan said he always thought you got it from a mythology book. I'd been trying to track it down before I talked to you.

Lieber: I used to get names out of the back of the dictionary, from the biographical section where you have foreign names, Russian, this and that. I used to go to it and gets parts of names to put together.

RT: "Uru" sounds like a little town in Pakistan. There's probably an "Uru" somewhere. Even after all these years Mjolnir's been around, anyone who's ever read the old issues still knows "the uru hammer." By that stage, of course, Stan was doing the plots and Jack was breaking down the stories. Did you realize your career was entering a new phase with all these super-heroes, or was the Thor origin just another story to you?

Lieber: Thor was just another story. I didn't think about it at all. Stan said, "I'm trying to make up a character," and he gave me the plot, and he said, "Why don't you write the story?"
Anyway, Stan just goes on and on talking about his career and characters, and getting it all wrong. Kids, feel free to see this movie -- though you're really far better off Netflixing the hilarious An Evening With Kevin Smith, because Smith is a great story-teller -- but don't anyone believe a word in it.

If you want to learn something about actual comics history, try Gerard Jones, or Mark Evanier, or Ron Goulart, or Les Daniels, or a fanzine like Alter Ego, or Xero (link to relevant Roger Ebert piece on fandom here), or any of dozens and dozens (or more) of reliable sources and researchers.

Eyewitnesses, particularly decades after the fact, aren't worth so much. Even when talking about themselves.

'Nuff said.

Read The Rest Scale: excelsior!

ADDENDUM: 6:17 p.m.: After watching a bit more of the film, I've sufficiently confirmed to my own satisfaction my earlier impression: Kevin Smith, in fact, does not know the answers to any of the questions he asks Stan Lee. (For instance, if Lee was an editor when Martin Goodman was still around: !!!)

Needless to say, it's not generally considered a good idea, when filming an interview (just as in putting a witness on the stand in court), to have no idea what the answers to your questions are before you ask them. What an absolutely shitty interview technique. And I'm a big Kevin Smith fan. He couldn't have actually, like, looked into a few basic facts, before totally wasting the opportunity of asking Stan Lee anything he wants, for hours, on film?

ADDENDUM, 6:31 p.m.: Now Kevin says, talking about the "Silver Age" of comics (1961-8) that "this was the period before tv kinda takes over as much as it later does." To which I have to kinda gape. But, then, I actually lived through those years as a kid, going from 2-11, watching tv, whereas Kevin Smith wasn't yet alive (born 2 August 1970), so I'm kinda more inclined to go with my version, in which kids in America largely stared at tv for hours on end, while grown-ups wrote magazine articles about how horrible this was, in that time period, over Kevin's version, where tv wasn't watched so much by kids, thus explaining why comics sold profusely.

But, then, I forgot to mention Smith's earlier explained theory about how Marvel Comics were from "characters born in the atomic age, following the first atom bomb," and from "an age of science and wonder" and that what made them different from DC Comics is that whereas DC had, for instance, Batman, or Wonder Woman ("a Greek goddess" -- except she never was: she was an Amazonian princess -- Amazons aren't in the least "gods" -- they worship the Greek gods; Princess Diana, however, was molded out of the clay of Themyscira, and given to her mother, Minerva of the Amazons), Marvel characters, such as the Fantastic Four, or the Hulk, were "science-based."

Needless to say, if the first claim were true, that would explain the great successes Timely (Marvel/Magazine Management) had "following the first atom bomb," with new characters, in 1946. And in 1947. And 1948. And 1949. And 1950. And 1951. And 1952. And 1953. And 1954. And 1955. And 1956. And 1957. And 1958. And 1959. And 1960.

Oh, yeah, except that didn't happen. Kevin Smith's time sense doesn't appear to be too good, when he conflates 1945 and 1961 as basically the same era ("before I was born"). (It's as if one claimed that the success of something this year is due to the spirit of freedom inspired by the Berlin Wall having just fallen: wait, what?; each is only 16-18 years off -- no biggie.)

Then there's that great science-based character Thor, the Norse god. Or Dr. Strange. Or Sub-Mariner.

And the fact that the Silver Age DC characters were all re-invented in exactly the same time period. And were, in fact, not the slightest bit less "science-based" than the Marvel characters (Barry Allen, a police scientist, becomes the Flash after an explosion in the lab when lightning struck chemicals that spilled on him; Green Lantern is enlisted in a galaxy-wide corps of 1600, and is often off in other solar systems; Batman, with his personal lab in the Batcave, wouldn't seem to be the best example of not being science-based; etc.)

In other words, this theory of Kevin Smith's about how Marvel characters are different from the DC characters in being more "science-based" is simply wrong.

But aside from that, it's a good theory.

ADDENDUM, 7:56 p.m.: Incidentally, Wikipedia says, FWIW, that "Uru" may, among other things, refer to:
# Lake Uru Uru south of the Bolivian town of Oruro
# A collection of small villages on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
I fear I never noticed the existence of Uroc before now. I always love these sorts of standarized entries, because they result in lines like this: "Occupation: Enemy of Asgard" and "Affiliations: Glump, Kai-Ra, Karnilla, Rime Giants, Skoll, Ulik."

But, hey, any friend of Glump's is a friend of mine.
CLARIFICATIONS:
Glump should not be confused with:

* Glub, of the Mannites, @ Uncanny X-Men#372
Good to know!

ADDENDUM, 8:33 p.m.: Oh, dear, Stan's account of Jack Kirby's problems with Marvel in his late years is, ah, not particularly accurate.

This is, to be sure, like the rest of the errors made by Stan, indicative of nothing worse than Stan's simply apparently never having spoken directly, at least at length, with Kirby, about it, and knowing nothing more about it than what Marvel executives of the time told him; plus the usual memory problems [which Stan has long emphasized] and general vagueness; I'm simply noting, to emphasize, that no one should take the version Lee gives here as... I'll stick with "particularly accurate."

This is a version directly from Kirby, and friends.

Incidentally, the famous Captain America blooper, thanks to Mark Evanier.

I should also clarify that I'm not saying this DVD is worthless: I exaggerate when I say Stan gets everything wrong, of course; he retells his standard anecdotes well, and various of them give accurate flavor, and of course the general outline is true; if you think you'd enjoy that sort of thing, you'll likely enjoy the interview. It's also possible, I theorize, that, unlike me, there are people out there who haven't read and seen dozens and dozens of interviews with Stan Lee over the years, so his familiar anecdotes will be new to them -- and Stan, after all, has never been anything, if not personable and charming.

I'm simply noting that the DVD is not a terribly accurate source of information about Marvel or Stan Lee history, in anything resembling detail.

And god knows I'm getting relatively useless in accurately remembering stuff that happened in science fiction land, and that I personally lived through, or that happened to me, thirty years ago. Only thirty years ago.

Not to mention what I did in a particular instance last month, or maybe two hours ago, at times.

ADDENDUM, 10:26 p.m.: Just as an example of how bad Stan's memory really is, he's talking about the creation of J. Jonah Jameson, and he says:
I wanted to make the guy he [Peter Parker] works for -- in Superman, there was... Perry White, or something? SMITH: Perry White, yeah. STAN LEE:...who was probably a nice enough guy -- I didn't want this guy [J. Jonah Jameson] to be a nice guy.
And goes on to then accurately discuss how he wanted JJJ to hate Spider-Man, so as to set up the conflict, etc.

But, y'know, more than a few people have seen the George Reeves Superman tv show, and while there's no similarity between how Perry White in it feels about Superman with how J. Jonah Jameson feels about Spider-Man, no one in their right mind, who'd ever seen the show, and Perry White, could claim that he was portrayed as "a nice enough guy": Great Caesar's Ghost, his character pretty much yelled every line. (For that matter, George Reeves' Superman, and his Clark Kent, were both pretty cranky, but I digress.)

Just using this as an easy example of Stan's, ah, looseness about his accounts.

However, the little tour of Stan's house and memorablia, towards the end of the Spider-Man discussion, is kinda neat.

Final comment, having finished even the quite miniscule "extras": Stan Lee reciting his "original poem" (the very best kind, I hear), "God Woke" -- I fear this is used in Guantanamo.

The (silent, of course) home movies, though, are deeply charming, if unconnected from comics other than being home movies of Stan Lee's family (in the Fifties, I believe).

3/09/2007 04:01:00 PM |permanent link | Main Page | | 3 comments

3 Comments:

Love the entry. It's always interesting to me to run into another definition of 'the Silver Age'. I myself define it rather differently, but, well, it's a very subjective thing, apparently.

By Blogger Highlander, at Monday, March 12, 2007 10:04:00 AM  

One of Kevin Smith's other lines, that I neglected to quote, was to ask Stan: "it's called the Silver Age, but it really was a Golden Age, wasn't it?"


Which also struck me as a silly thing to say, but I'd hit him enough, so I didn't include it until now.

Anyway, I'd say that that "Silver Age" of comics refers to the period from the creation of Fantastic Four, and the other major Marvel heros of the Sixties, and the recreation of the DC heros, starting with "Flash of Two Worlds," and the rest, Green Lantern, the Justice League, etc.

There's certainly room for argument as to when precisely it closed, but really, I don't care vary much about that, myself.

My own personal such era closed with one of those classics: when I came home from summer camp and found that my father had thrown out my comics collection, which was almost as tall as I was. Comics cost $.12 apiece. I had already been collecting paperback books for a while, and I didn't have the heart to try to find all the early Sixties comics that my father had destroyed, so I thereafter put all my Vast Sums Of Cash into paperbacks.

As I said, it's a classic story.

By Blogger Gary Farber, at Monday, March 12, 2007 10:16:00 AM  

Uru, uru achim
Uru achim belev same'ach...

By Blogger Kip W, at Friday, March 16, 2007 8:25:00 PM  

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