Thursday, May 10, 2007

Ax grinding! Processed food reviews! A couple of other things!

-Current raging storm in the blogoscape: Johanna Draper Carlson says comics aren't for women (um, make that superhero comics), so complaints about sexism in them are ultimately futile. Ragnell responds. Carlson responds to the response. This really seems to be about Carlson's ongoing vendetta against Marvel/DC more than anything. I think it's pretty clear Carlson wants to see these companies suffer, and any opposes any train of thought suggesting these companies could improve their products (in this case the suggestion that Marvel/DC could eliminate some of the more egregious examples of sexism). Take this recent post, where Carlson takes Tom Breevort to task for hinting at Marvel trying to attract some manga readers. I always suspect that Carlson's analysis of the "mainstream" is influenced by her husband's (apparently negative) experiences at DC (or maybe Marvel or maybe both--I can't remember). [EDIT: Or maybe she worked there too? I'm confused. Somebody help me out here.] I could understand if her position was "superhero comics are an inherently stupid and invalid genre, so the issue of sexism is secondary." But I don't think that's what she's going for. Consider the following statement:

"If 30 years of reading superhero comics and a master’s degree in popular culture focusing on fandom doesn’t give me some slack on 'knowing what I’m talking about' in terms of the genre, I don’t know what will."

See, this is trying to impose a descriptive framework on a prescriptive argument. No one is arguing that superhero comics aren't typically sexist*; they're arguing that they don't have to be. I think Carlson's trying to say that sexism is a fundamental aspect of superheroes as a genre, but this seems akin to an essentialist argument (eg, women are essentially caring, domestic creatures while men, evolutionarily designed for hunting, are better suited to hold positions of authority). I mean, Christ, these are genres written by humans, not the inexorable laws of physics. If we can't alter the parameters of something as artificial as "genre," what the hell is the point of human existence?

*I think Ragnell is arguing that superhero comics are not inherently sexist because they didn't feature overtly sexist art in the Golden and Silver Ages. I don't quite buy this, since female characters were written in an incredibly sexist way during these decades. In fact, I would tend to argue that the 1980s were the closest thing to a period in which sexist writing was in decline and sexist art wasn't quite as pronounced. Bear in mind I'm speaking in relative terms; in an absolute sense, these comics were undoubtedly sexist in both art and writing.

-I had no idea Duella Dent was such an obscure character (also see here). Well, I mean of course she's an obscure character, but I mean obscure by internet standards. I mean, I've heard of her, and I'm not particularly well-versed in late Silver Age DC. I wanted to say she was in that Mike Allred issue of Solo, and I even dug it out to confirm it. But I guess I was wrong. On the bright side, I re-read that Teen Titans party story, which was really a lot of fun. Why can't we have more stories like that? You know, comics featuring the four color process. That's a retro flourish I can get behind!

-Funniest review I've read all week: Jeff Lester on City of Others.

-More Trader Joe's reviews:

Gnocci Stuffed with Pesto and Cheese: I think I don't know how to cook gnocci. I boiled some water in our electric kettle and poured it into a pot with the gnocci in it. Maybe I was supposed to put the boiling water in the pot and then add the gnocci. In any event, I ended up with mashed potatoes with little swirls of pesto. I thought the pesto was maybe a little bland, though it did have nuts of some kind in it (which is better than a lot of commercially prepared pestos I've had over the years).

Dried Mangos Coated in Chile Powder: Like a sucker, I bought another product listed in the Trader Joe's advertising circular. Unlike the horrendous pomegranate cranberry bran muffins, however, this was very, very good. The slices of mango basically look like home style wedge cut fries coated in something spicy. They're fairly firm, giving them a nice bite. The chile powder isn't overwhelming either. I do feel compelled to refute the Trader Joe's circular writing staff's recommendation of eating these things with a cold beer. I found that this robs them of their flavor in such a way that they taste more like hot cinnamon candy, which isn't nearly as good as chile powder-dusted dried mango slices.

Frozen Mushroom Risotto: I really should have known better, but I wanted to pick up something fairly quick for lunch. This was not the right choice. The risotto had more or less the right consistency, but was creamy in the way that oatmeal is creamy. It was also very, very salty. The mushrooms were not especially tasty either.


Old-Timey Usenet Hack said...

Keep in mind that Johanna also had an ill-fated editorial intern position at DC, which provides additional ammo for her continuing petty hate-on.

Writing about Carlson is like writing about Fred Phelps -- you're just giving undeserved attention to a crank.

Mela said...

Johanna always annoyed me, and I think you finally hit the nail on the head - her semi-elitist mad-on for the Mainstream Two. Don't try to mask your anger towards two companies as some great intellectual statement, J.

Oh, and on gnocchi - you cook like any other pasta. Boil the water, add gnocchi, and cook to al dente. You have to watch it like a hawk so it doesn't explode, though, and it takes forever to adequately drain enough to not water down any sauces.

jlg said...

As I understood it, Carlson was arguing that since the majority of superhero comic readers (she puts particular emphasis on genre instead of medium) are male, or at least the marketing approach by the Big Two assumes they are, it's really going to be tough to try and change the status quo. As long as the money keeps coming in for DC and Marvel, they aren't going to change what they do. Take this and Grant Morrison's statement that internet criticism doesn't matter, and you get a pretty futile picture.

Dan Coyle said...

Although I do like Johanna sometimes and post on her blog, the title of that response to Ragnell's response says it all: "I'm not one of the gang."

Sometimes I wonder if her opinions are motivated by a pathological need not to conform- like on Usenet, where she'd nitpick Busiek's work to death, or tell everyone how awesome Ron Marz was. Or during Mutant X's final days, she'd praise it but start with, "the rest of you may not like this, but..."

Heidi M. said...

>>>-Current raging storm in the blogoscape: Johanna Draper Carlson says comics aren't for women, so complaints about sexism in them are ultimately futile. Ragnell responds. Carlson responds to the response.

DICK! WRONG! BZZZT! She said superhero comics aren't for women. I know you say this many times in the piece that follows but the incorrect statement of the premise at the top is WRONGO.

Johanna was not an intern, she was a paid emlpoyee, the first website person there. I don't remember her exact title, but she definitely worked in the new media dept.

I like your food reviews -- they are like my TUF recaps.


Dick Hyacinth said...

That might be my most terrible mistake to date, and I've made a lot. Wow.

Nobody's complained about me wasting valuable virtual space by talking about food. I'm still saddened to think that people are wanting to silence your work in promoting the great sport of MMA. BTW, don't know if you saw it, but your latest recap was plugged in comments at Zach Arnold's tabloid-ish blog. Here's the link:

seth said...

Yeah, I read some complaints about Duela Dent and thought the same thing. I knew who she was immediately (somehow) and I've never read any "Duela Dent comics".

old-timey usenet hack said...

"Johanna was not an intern, she was a paid emlpoyee, the first website person there."

Whatever she did, it was ill-fated. That was the key fact, not her position.

Matt Brady said...

Hey, Dick, I'm cool with your food comments. I'm not a vegetarian, but my wife is, so I sort of pay attention to them. We often shop at Trader Joe's, but it sounds like you aren't very satisfied with them (at least from this post; I don't recall what you might have said previously).

Oh, and it warmed my heart when you said you might like me better than the "real" Matt Brady in the comments to that Newsarama post. Thanks, man. That bastard Kevin Church labeled me as "Fake Matt Brady" on his forum. I'll never forgive him for that (sarcasm).

Dick Hyacinth said...

Here is the original Trader Joe's food review.

I like a lot of their food, but I'm maybe a bit too critical of their frozen selection (and to be fair, I generally dislike frozen food). I do like the single-serving eggplant parmesan, the gorgonzola walnut tortellini, and the pizza with goat cheese and olives. The naan and samosas (which might be discontinued, since I haven't seen them in a while) are pretty good if you can resist the urge to compare them to versions you get in a restaurant.

Kevin Church said...

I really like the Trader Joe's all-veggie-no-cheese pizzas as they're basically repackaged Amy's Kitchen-brand stuff. I can't do dairy, so they satisfy some, if not all, the cravings. (I'd love a good tomato sauce, for instance.)

Jack Norris said...

Any kind of pasta (this includes gnocchi, ravioli and other stuffed pastas, not just spaghetti & the like) should always be cooked by adding it to fully boiling water, or you're going to end up with a mess. If you're determined to speed up the process with your electric kettle, you still need, after you pour the water in your pot, to turn on the heat and wait until it's visibly bubbling again before dumping in the pasta.
When we were teenagers, a friend of mine* tried making spaghetti by putting the pasta & cold water in the pot, then turning on the heat, resulting in a fused mass, which earned him the name "pasta masta" for a few weeks afterwards.

*Comics-blogoverse point of interest: this was, in fact, plok/pillock of "Trout in the Milk"
( - I can't be bothered to make a proper link).

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